Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Alternative. (1921)

From the March 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

The contention that under Socialism a miner for example will not desire to continue as such owing to the dangerous conditions attached to mining work, and many other objections raised in the working-class mind, necessitates a clearer conception of Socialism. Under capitalism danger in the mines undoubtedly exists, and will continue to exist, because the owners are not at all concerned with the personal safety of the miners. Replacements are always available from the industrial reserve. Knowing this, and being only concerned with realising profit, the owners do nothing beyond what they are compelled to do by law to eliminate the element of danger.

There is, however, no matter what conditions of life we find ourselves in, a certain amount of danger to human life and limb, but with the advance of science and its application to the elimination of risk most of the danger will disappear.

Under Socialism the greatest care would be taken of human life; the mines would be scientifically organised and operated, and every safeguard adopted to secure their workers against all threatening dangers.

While coal remains one of the necessaries of the community the knowledge of this will bring sufficient voluntary miners forward to produce all the coal that is needed. Why not ? Will not the fact force itself upon the workers' own intelligence ? No man is a miner because he is enamoured of mining! He follows his occupation in order to live, and because he was born and reared in the districts where the industry predominates. He understands, dimly, perhaps, that his power to labour is his only asset; he therefore proceeds to sell that energy at its highest marketable value. This he does without questioning whether he really ought to be a schoolmaster or a chief magistrate, and these remarks apply equally to the workers of all industries. Very few of the present generation of wage slaves have a choice in the selection of their trade—economic conditions and the competition for jobs, even among skilled workers, force them to seize the first opportunity. A few exceptions there may be ; the ruling class do not object to an individual incursion into their ranks : a Lipton here and there is a successful advertisement for the system.

In spite of red herrings of this description, members of the working class seldom rise much above the subsistence level, yet it is from them that criticisms and objections such as the foregoing usually emanate, showing that their knowledge of Socialism is very crude. The cure for this lamentable state of ignorance obviously is more knowledge. Get wiser! Analyse the case for Socialism. Criticise if you will, by all means, but reason the matter as well, fellow worker, for by so doing better understanding, greater knowledge, and a speedier establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth will result.

As the interests of the only two existing classes in society to day are in conflict, sooner or later the conflict must be determined. Therefore it behoves the working class, being the class seeking its emancipation, to be ready with its alternative.

And what alternative have they but Socialism ?
W. A. G.

Our Thousand Pound Fund. (1921)

Party News from the March 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

This being our Special Holiday Number we take the opportunity of issuing a reminder on the subject of our £1,000 Fund. Money is as urgently needed as ever, notwithstanding that we do not make a great splash about it in these pages. Any sympathiser who has a spare shot in the locker should send it to our Head Office, where it will be put to good use in the Class Struggle.

United they stand (1978)

From the April 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Like the man who is going to be hanged in a fortnight, the politician finds that an approaching general election concentrates his mind wonderfully. All over the country, there is a buzz of activity, as envelopes are addressed, supporters canvassed, programmes drafted and speeches written. The great task is to convince the voters that your party is better than the other lot, that your leaders will keep their promises and that in general you possess a greater store of energy, dedication and mindpower which can all be at the service of the electors.

Or at least it was once as simple as that. In the days when the Labour Party was in apparently endless opposition it was possible for them to argue that they had some real differences from the Conservatives. They could put forward programmes which, because there was small chance of them ever being put to the test, could be suitably adventurous. They could even, in a controlled and qualified way, talk about something they liked to call socialism. A substantial number of workers were impressed by it and voted, for or against Labour, under the notion that they were making an active choice between two basically differing points of view.

But now that we have had a substantial experience of Labour government, under a selection of Prime Ministers who have been left wingers in their time and who have “changed” just at the moment when their panting followers were rejoicing that at last the Promised Land had been reached, the task of the propagandists is rather different. Now, it is not so much to convince people that it is worth making a choice between Labour and Tory as to get them to think that there are any differences to make the choice about.

So we might expect to witness, over the next few months (assuming, as many political observers are, that the Callaghan government will not be able to hang on much longer than this autumn) an intensifying effort to find, and then emphasise, the smallest of points of dispute between the two big parties.

Customary campaign

In fact this has started already; the direct attacks on Margaret Thatcher by Denis Healey, in the Ilford North by-election and by Callaghan soon after the Labour defeat there, are part of the customary campaign all capitalist parties wage, to convince us that their leaders are better than the others. In this case, though, there were pointers to a possible trend in Labour Party propaganda in the election.

Both Callaghan and Healey accused Thatcher of stirring up trouble on the issue of race (Healey said she was acting as a recruiting sergeant for the National Front). The inference we are invited to draw from this is that the Labour Party would never fish in such dangerously muddy waters, that they are unsullied by the slightest touch of racism and that on this issue—emotive, explosive, destructive as it is—there is a genuine difference between the two parties. And the inference we are invited to draw from this, again, is that the Tories stand for a compromise (or perhaps even agreement) with racism and the Labour Party stand against it.

But this would only deceive a Rip Van Winkle, someone who had been unconscious of the recent history of British politics. It was, of course, the Conservative government who introduced the first Immigration Act, in 1962, in an effort to assuage the racist ideas which were growing as the early immigrants came to this country, to settle in places like Brixton and Smethwick and Southall. At that time the Labour Party thought the Tories had delivered to them a golden opportunity to scoop up votes and Hugh Gaitskell, who was then the leader of the Labour Party, immediately launched into a fierce assault on the Act, on the grounds that whatever excuses were made for it, it was a piece of racist legislation.

Well Gaitskell did not live to see the results of his campaign but it was pretty clear that they were not at all what he had hoped for. In the next general election, in 1964, the name of Smethwick was written into British political history when the Tory candidate overthrew Wilson’s prospective Foreign Secretary—Patrick Gordon Walker—largely by playing on the prejudices of the workers in the constituency who objected to the inflow of immigrants.

Readjustment

This, and the even worse blow when Gordon Walker failed to get into Parliament at his second attempt at a staged by-election, was enough to persuade the Labour Party that a little readjustment was needed in their policies. Naturally they would still mention things like the brotherhood of man and equal rights for all whatever the colour of their skin and so on. But at the same time they worked to implement, and to tighten up on, the Immigration Act which they had previously condemned in such forthright terms.

It was predictable, that they would eventually come out in the open with their own racist laws and sure enough, in the panic over the Kenyan Asians in 1968, frightened for their miserable lives at the polls by the rabble rousing of Enoch Powell and Duncan Sandys and the hysteria of the moment, Labour gave birth to its own Immigration Act which, to all intents and purposes, finished the argument that they had differences with the Tories over the matter.

The situation, as the military are fond of reporting, has now stabilised. Both the big parties, in their concern to hang onto their votes, are now ready to introduce further discriminatory laws and, as the hysteria grows, to think up new variations on them. These laws have nothing to do with easing pressure on resources like housing, social services, available employment; there were problems in these fields long, long before the first West Indian walked the streets of Brixton or the first Asian gazed at the gasworked landscape of Southall. They have everything to do with a desperate attempt to stop the sliding away of votes to the more openly racist organisations like the National Front.

Both Labour and Conservative Parties are trying to pre-empt the National Front, to undermine its progress by appearing almost as discriminatory as the discriminators. At the very best this is a dangerous gamble, as the Nationalists found to their cost in Nazi Germany. And it leaves the all-important question: when Labour or Tory have got power by pandering to racist prejudices, what do they do with, how do they control, those prejudices?

The essential unity of Labour and Tory over immigration controls will not prevent them, when the time comes, pretending to the voters that they have differences in principle on the issue. This should deceive nobody with any kind of memory for recent history and there are plenty of other examples to remember. It has long been a point of Conservative propaganda, that the Labour Party is a revolutionary party which, knowingly or not, would be responsible for overturning capitalism and substituting something like the state organised society of privilege (in fact, a variety of capitalism) which exists in Russia.

Myth

Part of this myth is that the Labour Party is dominated by the trade unions and allows them to have a decisive say in the government of British capitalism. And runs the argument, capitalism run under the influence of the likes of Hugh Scanlon and Joe Gormley is almost like capitalism in the Kremlin.

The reality is a lot more sober. By a mixture of threats, force, determination and negotiation this Labour government have shown that, far from the unions running riot under them, they are the party with the most hope of controlling wage claims. And all this without a head-on confrontation like the pitched battle of 1973 and 1974, between Heath and the miners or even the clashes which have marked the history of previous Labour governments. Perhaps Labour has learnt, since the days when they prosecuted striking dockers, the facts of life and economic power under capitalism—and have done a deal with them.

One of the important facts of capitalist life is that it is a class divided system, in which two groups of people, between them making up the population of the developed world, face each other in conflict over the ownership of wealth. The parties of capitalism try to hide this fact, by talking about a unity of interests, about everyone working for the national good as if the interests of the coal miner are the same as those of the stock holder.

But while they are saying this those same parties are themselves fighting the class war, but on the other side of the line. They stand for the interests of the ruling class, for the propping up of a social system in which a minority own and control the means of living with all that follows from that in terms of poverty against privilege, freedom against repression.

Any differences they may have are over the tactics to be used in that propping up and in fighting that class war. At times, as in 1973, a government may decide on the tactics of confrontation; at others they may use the policy of conciliation, of trying to persuade the workers on the other side of the struggle not to use any power they may have, to negotiate rather than use force in the sense of a strike or something similar.

And when it comes to an election they are again united, in their respective appeal to the political naivety of the working class who are open to be convinced that minor differences on issues like immigration or trade unions are worth voting for or against. One result of this is that race is now in the forefront of British politics and promises to be a dominating factor in the next general election. This should be a lesson to anyone who thinks it possible to make progress towards Socialism with a policy of compromise with political ignorance or of winning support on day to day issues.

Labour or Tory, capitalism rules and that is not O.K.
Ivan

Name and number (1978)

From the April 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

We all have a National Insurance Benefit number (as distinct from a National Health Registration number!). In prisons, as in the Armed Forces, you become a number; the Nazis tattooed numbers on their prisoners’ hands or forearms. Science fiction tells of horrible regimented ways of life in the not so distant future when we have all become digits in the ordering of things; no name—just a number. The intention in each case is to regiment, sort, file (and, in the process, dehumanise) human beings into so many units in the system.

It is with amused puzzlement therefore that one read an item in the Daily Telegraph of 15th February 1978. It appears that, in reverse to the majority of us, Michael Herbert Dengler of Minneapolis, Minnesota, wants to be known as a number—1069. He feels so strongly about it that he is fighting his case through the Courts. To date he has been refused permission because, as the Judge said “It would be an offence to basic human dignity”, although the North Dakota Supreme Court did give him permission to call himself “One Zero Six Nine” (a fine distinction!). Mr. Dengler on the other hand argues that his Social Security card shows him as “1069” and the Bank accepts cheques signed in this way.

Obviously this man feels he has to fight the system, although from the newspaper item we cannot tell what his purpose is and what winning his case would indicate to him. The personnel officer of one Corporation told him “you come here with a name and we’ll give you a number”. From this it is obvious that, like the majority of us, Mr. Dengler is a member of the working class. Whether or not, in the end, the Minnesota Supreme Court allows him to call himself “1069” will make no difference to his position as a member of that class. In ruling against him Judge Barbeau said: “I cannot in good conscience add to to-day’s inhumanity by giving you the stamp of judicial approval.” The Judge objects to the “inhumanity” of Michael Dengler changing his name for a number. However, he actively upholds a system based on the exploitation of the vast majority, including Mr. Dengler, to produce profits for the few, “entitled” to reap the benefits of their labour by virtue only of their ownership of the means of wealth production. While Michael Dengler continues to work for it, and Judge Barbeau helps to administer it, the inhuman system of capitalism will continue for all of us—whatever our name or number.
Eva Goodman

The Future is Socialism (1978)

From the April 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Throughout history, man has sought to increase his power, that is, his ability to act. The successive stages of social development have corresponded to the development of human powers and, the last four hundred years, the era of capitalism, have seen the greatest and most dynamic expansion yet of those powers. Now, as previously, mankind is progressively extending what it can do, but, with the exception of certain rare instances, man’s past development has been more or less in step with technological possibilities. At present, however, there is generally a vast gulf between what is technologically and humanly possible and what is actually realised and the contrast between the two and the question of how to reconcile them is the most pressing problem that confronts man today.

Concrete examples of this problem can be found daily in newspaper reports. They inform us amongst other things: —

  • that food is not produced in a sufficient quantity to relieve the starvation of millions—despite the fact that it is technologically possible to feed the world;
  • that schools, hospitals, factories, homes, etc., are not built in sufficient numbers to satisfy the need for them—despite the necessary materials and manpower being available;
  • that not enough of the many other items that are necessary for a pleasant human existence are produced—despite the existence of the requisite powers for their production;
  • that artistic and intellectual development, and scientific and medical research is limited—despite the vast human potential for such development;
  • that millions of people in the world (whether officially unemployed, or employed in uncreative jobs) are deprived of creative activity and the opportunity to usefully employ their talents—despite their desire for creativeness.
The news reports, however, are largely superficial—they record the effects of the problem but they do not generally look at its cause. The cause of the problem is not technological or human but social: it is the result of the way people relate to each other.

A society is an association of people for the promotion of a certain common function or purpose. These social functions are conducted within the context of a definite social organisation, that is, certain fundamental relationships between society’s members. Today’s society is organised on the basis of the minority ownership of the means of living (the factories, the land, the railways, etc.) while the majority of society’s members are deprived of such ownership and are therefore dependent for their livelihood upon the minority who own.

Because of their ownership of the means of living, the minority have an advantage over the majority and can generally use this advantage to promote their own interests even when they conflict with the interests of the majority. Thus while it might be in the interests of the majority for more food to be produced, more buildings to be constructed, more medical facilities to be provided, etc., it is not necessarily in the interests of the owning class—and if it isn't, the development of these things is limited. The main criterion for whether or not something is in the interests of the owning class is whether or not it will create them profits. Today, profits are made in the process of commodity production and are realized in the sale of the commodity (an item of wealth produced for sale) on the market. Thus where there are not the market conditions to make the production of a commodity profitable, that commodity will not be produced. It is for this reason that man's potential for abundance and development is not fully realized, as progress is restricted by the present social organisation and its market in which the general rule is NO PROFITS, NO PRODUCTION.

It is therefore class division, which is basic to the present form of social organisation, which today causes the great gulf between what is possible and what is actually realized in the field of wealth production. The solution to the problem of how to realize man’s full potential lies therefore in the replacement of the present social organisation with a new social organisation in which everyone owns the means of living in common—that is, Socialism.

As the means of living will be owned in common, so too the produce of society will belong to everyone. Each person will have equal rights of access to the social produce, each will determine her/his own needs and take freely from the common stock of wealth produced. This concept of wealth distribution is termed “free access”, and it means precisely that. For in Socialism wealth will not be bought or sold on a market, it will not be exchanged for money, but rather it will be made freely available so that anyone who needs it can take it.

Abundance

Because it will not be restricted by the market and the profit motive, production will be able to realize the abundance that it is technologically capable of. Production in Socialism will be of useful and necessary items, to satisfy society’s needs, not for profit. Further, because there will be no market, the work currently done by millions of people will become unnecessary. Socialism will not need the services performed by those who work in the vast finance departments of governments and businesses, or those who work in banks, insurance companies or building societies (after all, there will be no money!). Nor will it need the many policemen, security guards, ticket collectors and shop assistants whose essential task it is to ensure that wealth is only possessed by those who have “legally” acquired it. Also, Socialism will not require armed forces, legal and judicial systems, nor the vast propaganda organisations (e.g. the church) whose main tasks are the maintenance of the dominant position of the minority owning class in each national territory and the subjugation of the majority. Instead of doing these socially useless jobs, the people presently undertaking them would, in Socialism, together with those who are now unemployed, be enabled to be creative. They would be so enabled because they would own the means and instruments for such creativity which the present social organisation denies them. Thus Socialism will mean the liberation of mankind from such useless and uncreative work and the mobilisation of all human abilities for the extension of human abilities.

Work in Socialism will be on the basis of voluntary co-operation and the democratic administration of society. The production and distribution of wealth will be controlled by the whole of society. Just as at present there exists in Britain a national grid system for electricity, which, under a central board, assesses market demand for the product nationally, and maintains supply in all areas, so too, in Socialism there will be a sort of worldwide grid system for all wealth, which will assess people’s needs, regulate production accordingly, and maintain the requisite supplies to all areas. Socialism will also involve the rational use of resources and areas, using those resources and areas for the activities to which they are best suited.

Organisation

The social organisation of Socialism will be under the complete control of society’s members. There will probably be delegate assemblies and all administrators will have their functions delegated to them by society. However the exact form which democracy in Socialism will take, cannot be stated here, for that very form must itself be the result of a great and serious democratic debate. Further, the development of technology which could aid democracy is progressing; for example, in a relatively short time it might be possible for society to produce powerful computer devices in suitable sizes and in sufficient quantity to make them widely accessible, thus enabling a potentially vast expansion of readily-available information as well as facilitating mechanisms for the frequent registration of opinions. One thing is certain, however, Socialism will be the most democratic form of society possible, and, as the means of living will be owned in common, no minority will be able to enforce its will upon the majority by threatening to withhold their livelihood.

Because no one will be in a position to coerce others, all work in Socialism will be voluntary. Obviously in order to live people will need to produce wealth, but such production will not take place in coercive or exploitative conditions. Instead, each person will contribute to society as much of their talents and abilities as they are willing to give. Due to the fact that the producers will no longer be exploited (robbed of the full fruits of their labour) in the course of production; nor forced to work in conditions which are sometimes detrimental to their health; nor deprived of creativeness in work; nor forced to compete with one another for pay and promotion; nor forced to labour in circumstances which they don’t fully control; nor forced to divide their activity between employment and “leisure” (neither of which are fully satisfying)—work in Socialism will be a pleasure, a definite end and need in itself. Mankind will, for the first time, be in complete control of its circumstances, it will create and recreate its circumstances, it will venture to the very limits of its potentiality, it will continually extend itself to an extent that could never be achieved under the present social organisation. Mankind, in Socialism, will be revealed as the supreme creative artist, we shall constantly beautify and redesign our world, we shall perpetually increase our power, we shall continuously acquire more knowledge. In the future, having liberated itself from the restrictions of the present social organisation, mankind will mobilise all of its abilities for the extension of its abilities.

That future is Socialism, but it is no more inevitable than anything else which requires human action for its achievement. What is needed, is for all those who have an interest in introducing the new society (the vast majority) to realize that interest and to unite and organise with likeminded people for the purpose of taking the requisite action to change society.
Brian Phillips

Marx and Crises (1978)

From the April 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have been asked for the source of the quotation from Marx that "there are no permanent crises" on page 187 of the October Socialist Standard. It is from the Theories of Surplus Value. In the Lawrence and Wishart edition (Theories of Surplus Value, Part two, 1969, p. 497) the passage is translated as "permanent crises do not exist".

Rising prices and the EEC (1978)

From the April 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Before January 1973, when Britain joined the European Economic Community, and again in 1975 at the time of the Referendum, the interests in favour of joining and those opposed to it marshalled ail the arguments they could think of to influence the electorate one way or the other. Many were so flimsy that it is surprising anyone troubled to make them. Like the argument that entry into the EEC would mean more exports for British companies and more jobs for workers because it opened up a big new market: simultaneously people already in the EEC were being told that they should welcome British entry because it would open up the big British market to their exporters. It was obvious that while some British companies might hope to gain others were as certain to lose by the change.

There was, however, one consideration that appeared to have more substance. It was that entry into the EEC would push up prices in this country, especially food prices.

Opponents said that Britain would no longer be able to import food from non-member countries at the lower, world market price levels. The New Statesman's “Case Against Entry” used an estimate that this would raise British food prices by between 18 per cent and 26 per cent, this being the gap between world food prices and EEC prices.

The supporters of joining the EEC met this with two arguments. One was that British wages would rise to the higher levels of some EEC countries, notably Germany, and that workers would then be able to pay the higher prices. Whatever force there may be in such a trend towards common European wage levels, the onset of the depression and the Labour Government’s policy of checking wage increases put paid to it for the time being.

The second argument was put by the Conservative Party in their Guide for the 1975 Referendum Campaign. It was that as this country has to import half its food as well as much fertilisers and fuel it was important to have the dependable source of food represented by the EEC.
  It may not always provide us with the very cheap food available at any given time, but recent experience has shown how dramatically world food prices can fluctuate above and below Community levels, and how reliance on world supplies can leave us with shortages in time of need. It is therefore far better for us to rely on secure food supplies from our Community partners than to gamble on insecure supplies from the volatile world market.
The reason entry into the EEC was said to raise food prices was the changeover from the former British policy for keeping farming profitable to the different system used in the EEC.

The British system had been to fix guaranteed prices for lots of farm produce, and if farmers were forced to sell at lower prices because of cheap imports, the difference between actual and guaranteed prices was paid to farmers as subsidies. This kept food prices in Britain in line with world levels.

The system introduced in the EEC in 1962 was to set relatively high food prices for the whole EEC, reflecting costs of production, and to impose levies on imports from non-member countries. If actual prices fell below fixed “intervention” levels the Community bought the produce at the “intervention” prices, and stored it until prices rose, or sold it outside the Community, normally at a loss: or, as sometimes happened, destroyed it.

But this system had its problems. One was that costs of producing food are higher in some EEC countries than in others and a price level high enough to satisfy the least efficient farmers came up against the objections of factory owners and other employers who saw their costs being pushed up by wage demands to keep up with the high cost of living.

Another was that each EEC country controls its own currency. (It will be years before the aim is reached of one centrally controlled currency for the whole EEC.) So whenever one country, say Germany, up-valued its currency or another devalued its currency the whole European food market was disrupted, exports from low-currency countries capturing the market from high currency countries such as Germany.

To offset this and protect those farmers who would have been badly bit by it the system was devised of requiring the countries with depreciated currency to make compensatory payments on food imports and to levy charges on food exports; with the reverse arrangement for countries with up-valued currencies. But this would have called for drastic adjustments following the fairly frequent alterations of currency exchange rates. It was therefore modified and made less drastic by using, for converting Community payments into the currency of each country, not the actual currency exchange rates but agreed artificial rates which, for example, over-valued the pound but under-valued the German mark to the advantage of German farmers. These artificial rates are called green pounds, green marks, green liras, etc.

It is a complicated system but its practical effect can be seen in the recent 7½ per cent devaluation of the green pound forced by Parliament on the Government in place of the 5 per cent that it had proposed to ask for from the Community authorities.

This reduced by about 3p a lb. the subsidy received by Danish and Dutch exporters of bacon to Britain. The purpose of seeking the reduction was to help British pig farmers who had long complained that they were being ruined by cheap imports. If the Danes and Dutch actually raised their prices by the full 3p a lb. all bacon prices in the British market would go up by some such amount with a corresponding increase of the incomes of pig farmers. (Beef was also affected by the devaluation of the green pound).

It now remains to look at the original argument about British food prices being forced up by membership of the EEC.

In the first place it is questionable whether the New Statesman's forecast of an 18 per cent to 26 per cent rise actually took place. The Conservative Guide for the Referendum Campaign, quoted Shirley Williams the Labour prices minister as saying that “the overall level of food prices in the UK is not at present significantly affected one way or the other by our membership of the EEC”. She was not saying that food prices had not risen but that this reflected world price changes, not membership of the EEC.

But even if the New Statesman's forecast had proved correct what does it amount to? They had not risked claiming that if Britain remained outside the EEC no price rise would take place. They could hardly do so because between 1966 and 1972 (when Britain was outside the EEC) British food prices had risen by 47 per cent.

But those who still maintain that British food prices have risen because of membership of the EEC can point to the fact that between 1972 and 1976 British food prices rose by 100 per cent (up to date the rise is nearly 140 per cent). Does this not prove that membership of the EEC was responsible for the rise?

It is only necessary to look at the experience of other countries in the EEC to see that it cannot be the explanation. While British food prices rose between 1972 and 1976 by 100 per cent, the rise in Germany was only 27 per cent and in Denmark 53 per cent, both of them in the EEC. (For USA and Switzerland both outside the EEC, the percentage rise was 46 and 21.)

The major cause of the unduly big rise of British food prices, and British prices generally, is not membership of the EEC but the inflation policy operated by the Government (much speeded up after the Labour Government came into office in February 1974), in the mistaken belief that it would provide “full employment”.

Marx showed that an inflationary rise of prices inevitably follows from an excess issue of inconvertible paper currency. Though the level of production now is actually lower than it was in 1974, the amount of currency in circulation with the public has increased from £4,620 million to £7,830 million, a rise of 69 per cent.

If Britain had not joined the EEC the Labour Government would still have followed the same inflationary policy, with the consequent big rise of prices. (Under the guise of “reflation” they are likely to continue it.) Germany and Switzerland have resorted less to expansion of the note issue, hence their smaller price rises. (In the past two years Swiss prices have been rising at only about 1 per cent a year.)

It only remains to add that the solution of the workers’ problems is not to be found in membership or non-membership of the EEC, or in having inflation or not having inflation, but in getting rid of capitalism.
Edgar Hardcastle

An Appeal For Funds (1978)

Party News from the April 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have been appealing in the Socialist Standard for funds to help us meet the printer’s bill for the new edition of ‘Questions of the Day’.

We find that in addition we need at least £500 per month just to “keep the Wolf from the door’ and we are calling on all concerned to send the very largest donations possible direct to the Treasurer at 52, Clapham High Street. London SW4.

Readers are also urged to favourably consider arranging through their own banks to pay a regular monthly amount into the SPGB Special account No. 02823446 at the National Westminster Bank, Clapham North Branch (50 21 00) and advise the Party Funds Organisers. This can easily be arranged by your local Bank, or we will send you a Banker’s Order form upon request.

Natural and Supernatural (1978)

From the April 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

While many industries are suffering from the present slump, and their workers live in fear of the sack or short time, one business has never known better days: that is, the large contemporary industry dealing with ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night. It includes religion, and also much else besides. It has often proved its usefulness to the state, which means to the rulers of the state. For the more the ruling class can persuade the workers that they have a great time coming, if they can only wait till they’re dead, the less time they will spend thinking about the system which keeps their exploiters rich, or planning to end it. The more their attention is taken up with mysticism and occult tales and supernatural forces, the less energy they will have to learn about the natural forces here and now, which the members of the ruling class will continue to own and control for their own benefit at the workers’ expense. A valuable weapon in this ruling-class campaign is a book just published, Natural and Supernatural, by Brian Inglis (Hodder and Stoughton, £9.95). This first volume speaks up manfully on behalf of spooks of various kinds, plus crafty dodges like alchemy and religious miracles, in the centuries up to 1914. (And very effective alchemy was, too—not in transmuting base metals into gold, of course, but in transmuting the true believers’ money into the pockets of the alchemists.) Volume two will bring us up to date (if that’s the right phrase).

Gnomes Rule — OK?

Bernard Levin, The Times columnist, and a friend of Mr. Inglis, sees how vital it is to inculcate a spirit of credulity among the workers, and he went so far as to produce a column vindicating the book two weeks before it was published (The Times, 6.1.78). To defend a book as yet unpublished, from attacks as yet unmade, in reviews as yet unwritten, requires unusual skills, but Mr. Levin was equal to the occasion. Exercising simultaneously the gifts of clairvoyance and prophecy, he claimed to know what would be said by reviewers as yet unchosen, and he produced at least one argument to confute it (plus some abuse of the phantom army of projected assailants—no one who refused to accept supernatural happenings after reading Mr. Inglis’s book could be “fully sane”, he said in his temperate and judicious way.) This was the argument: the fact that some people reject telepathy and the rest of it “seems to me to go far towards demonstrating the validity of the very argument it rejects”. So there you are. If you reject the belief that cows catch an illness because elves have fired prehistoric flint arrow-heads at them (the disease was called “elf-shot” 150 years ago—it still is, according to current dictionaries—and the poor cow was “cured” by bleeding it), if you are unable to accept that leprechauns cause this disease, you are merely confirming that it does happen.

Mr. Levin gave his testimony for the magical powers of, for example, Uri Geller, and illustrated his article by a picture of the wizard in person, holding some shop-soiled cutlery, and looking inscrutable. Geller is an unfortunate choice as an example of uncanny doings and psychic powers. His pretensions to be anything other than a clever conjurer have long been exploded, both by impartial investigators from outside show-business, and, even more effectively, by equally clever fellow-conjurers who are indignant at the way Geller has hogged the publicity by magical claims for tricks no better than their own (see past issues of the New Scientist and of the American periodical The Zetetic, and also The Magic of Uri, by “Randi”, Ballantine Books, 65p).

All aboard for Paradise

Fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Levin, Geller, and Inglis, in this spiritual onslaught with so much material significance, are the progenitors of the heterogeneous religious sects which have sprung up in the last decade or two and have proved so successful in promoting the prosperity of their originators and the other-worldly passivity of the workers they have converted. Not only have the leaders of the old-established religions deserved well of the capitalist class; so have such men as the Rev. Sun Myung Moon (his name alone must be worth a mint in the religious game) with his various productive schemes staffed by low-paid devotees; the well-built little guru who runs the Divine Light mission, in the intervals of seeing the world in great comfort with highly congenial companions; and Lafayette Ron Hubbard, last heard of cruising in his yacht while his Scientology Church spreads the gospel and organizes the contributions. All of them take full advantage of the mind-shattering boredom in which most workers (inevitably under capitalism) are forced to spend their working lives, a boredom which provides fertile soil for the growth of miracle men.

Another in the same line of business is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (or Veririchi, as unkind critics have called him). His international H.Q. is in Switzerland, and he runs Transcendental Meditation. He has discovered (The Times, 4.1.78) that when one per cent of the people of a town or city meditate transcendentally (and if you don’t know what that is, only £60—for six lessons— stands between you and your finding out), the cumulative effects “will wipe away its urban deprivation, and give it invincibility, peace of mind, prosperity”, and so on; “illness, crime, and accidents, decrease sharply”. This has already been proved (no doubt it depends on your standards of proof) in towns as far apart as Cleveland, Ohio, and Glossop, Derbyshire, to name but two. The same experiment is at this moment being made in Hackney. So now it’s up to 1,925 inhabitants of that hitherto lack-lustre locality, that’s one per cent of the population, if they’ve counted right, to do their stuff. If you’ve been to Hackney recently, to see a place in the process of being transformed by the power of thought, you may well have come to the conclusion that the Maharishi’s thinkers have a lot of hard meditating still to do. Poverty, and crime, and urban deprivation, are not easy to shift; but if the transcendental meditators think they have shifted them (as in Cleveland, Ohio, and Glossop, Derbyshire) it will do the ruling class no harm, will it?

Flights of fancy

Even more to the point, on the subject of Mr. Inglis's second volume; only last year the Maharishi discovered that transcendental meditation enables its practitioners to fly. It’s a real bonus: one crossing to New York under your own steam, and you’ve already paid for your introductory lessons. The faithful practise flying every morning in the front room of the terraced house which spearheads the campaign to transform Hackney; but they modestly declined to demonstrate their powers when a journalist called. “We are not very good at it yet; still a bit unstable in the air.” So New York is out, for the moment. Still, even a few quick flights to the factory or office would avoid those rush-hour journeys, not to mention saving the fare. These revelations are not to be laughed at: the more people laugh and refuse to believe these stories, the more (by Mr. Levin’s argument) it proves that the meditators do fly.

Anyway, Brian Inglis could spread himself on that in his second volume. He might like to hear of another uncanny case of paranormal powers, if he has not already written it up. A couple of years ago Patrick Moore was appearing on Pete Murray’s Radio 2 morning show. He told his listeners that while he was speaking the planet Pluto would pass directly behind Jupiter, thus increasing their gravitational pull, so that here on earth people could jump in the air and experience a floating sensation. Minutes later, “the BBC switchboard was jammed with calls from people claiming the ‘experiment’ had worked. A woman holding a coffee morning said she and her eleven guests left the ground and floated round the room” (Sun, 2.4.76). Another man “said he hit his head on the ceiling”. Patrick Moore thought he was hoaxing people on April Fools’ Day (Jupiter and Pluto could play hide-and-seek all day, and it wouldn’t affect the earth’s gravitation), but there is obviously more to it than that. These witnesses who thought they could fly because P. Moore told them they could on the radio must surely reinforce those other witnesses who thought their spoons were bent because U. Geller told them so on the radio. Or are we to accept the apparent deductions that sometimes people want to believe something so much that they succeed in convincing themselves it really is true? To help divert the workers from the economic and political realities the magical powers of Moore and Geller and the rest have an important part to play, however much scoffers and cynics may sneer. After all, the more people laugh and refuse to believe it, the more . . . Where have we heard that argument before?

Without question, Mr. Inglis is doing a great job for the ruling class. We can only hope he never bumps his head on the ceiling.
Alwyn Edgar