Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Order of St. Catherine. (1921)

From the September 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

On July 22nd, the "Daily News" published the report of an interview with Professor Patrick Geddes, in the course of which he said: "A coming discount of women is imminently threatened, and is indeed in accelerating progress."

The same newspaper then asked Miss Margaret Bondfield, Secretary to the Federation of Women Workers, for her views on Professor Geddes' remarks. Miss Bondfield confirmed them and proceeded to show where she believes the remedies lie. "To perpetuate the idea that marriage is the sole aim of woman's life," she said, " is to court disaster. Many hundreds of thousands of women must make up their minds that there can be no marriage at the end for them. They must, therefore, be trained to take a real interest in their career. There need be no disaster if their instincts can only find a wholesome way out.'' (Quotations are from "Daily News" of July 23rd.)

Miss Bondfield suggests "social work" as the outlet, particularising child welfare, maternity work, and administration.

This is her way of meeting the emotional case. For the economic:
"One thing is vital—our young people must be sent back to school to learn discipline. The wickedest crime of the Government has been the shutting down of educational facilities and the curtailing of continuation school education at the present time, especially when unemployment is so bad. These young women are thus thrown upon the world unprepared. If it costs millions, they must be got back to school. The machinery is all ready. The Central Committee for Women's Training and Employment" (of which Miss Bondfield is a member) "has done wonderful work; it has handled many thousands of cases, and given training varying from six months to five years in different cases. The instrument is at hand, if the Government will only use it."
To which the "Daily News" adds this explanatory note: 
"The Committee to which Miss Bondfield refers was set up last year. It was allowed £500,000 from the National Relief Fund and £100,000 left over from the Queen's Work for Women Fund. It includes such names as Miss Mary Macarthur, Miss Violet Markham, Miss R. E. Lawrence, and Dr. Marion Phillips; and its function is to arrange for the training of women whose capacity of earning a livelihood has been injured or handicapped by conditions produced in the war. Application forms can be had at any Labour Exchange."
Now it is true that even in a society where no outside impediment existed, not even an inequality in the numbers of the male and female populations, every woman would not marry. Many in whom the inclination is strong are not so happy as to find the husband to please them: and in the chances of human sentiment it often happens that when the desired mate is found he is not to be won. There are, besides such disappointed women, others (as there are men) whose energies are bent upon the pursuit of an exceptional purpose, and who are not at all concerned with the business of sex and parenthood. The artist is the type of these. The world's history records the names of many such who are immortal. Miss Bondfield is right in thinking it neither possible nor desirable that women should make marriage their only goal.

Reference has often been made in these columns to the early scenes in mankind's social life, where arose the idea that women's only proper vocation was domestic. There, social production did not require women's labour; their service became a private service within, the family.

But modern industry has a use for the labour-power of women, and the view of what is suitable work for them has been much modified. Hitherto in the history of capitalism employers have encouraged the presence of women in the labour market : they constituted an abundant supply of cheap labour-power. But with the rising wages of women consequent upon improving organisation, and the falling wages of men resultant from widespread unemployment, the preference is rapidly being transferred to men.

And what value have Miss Bondfield's remedies ?

Suppose the fullest use of her Committee : what can it accomplish ? It can ensure that women shall compete on equal terms with men for such posts as are to be filled. But since in its normal workings capitalist production, never needs all the labour-power that offers itself, and since what it does need is relatively a diminishing quantity, all that the Committee can do is to change the personnel of the army of unemployed: substitute some hungry men for hungry women, incidentally providing the master class with better-trained, more serviceable material. And even of this excellent thing one can have too much, the employers think: do they need Miss Bondfield to point out the virtue of the "instrument at hand" ? Since it would appear that there is no lack of workers sufficiently well trained to do what is required of them, and no near prospect of such a lack, the shutting down of educational facilities is a measure of praiseworthy economy, from the capitalist point of view. And surely Miss Bondfield knows better than to expect another point of view from any Government? Whoever heard of a commercial concern spending millions to obtain a brand of commodity of which a sufficient supply was already to hand?

The awakened woman worker has a different word to say. It is this: That her only sure way to a happier life lies with the men of her class : that she does not benefit by readjustments of the common burden of subjection: that the only action for her is that which shall remove the burden altogether. And such is Socialist action. Suppose that triumphant, you have a world where no man is compelled to celibacy by want of means to maintain a family, and a woman need be neither man's huntress nor his rival.

May we suggest to Miss Bondfield that here is the cause to claim the devotion of working women. The poverty and degeneration which move the compassionate to throw themselves into "social work," are allied to the sordid snatching of one another's bread. They are features of the same evil system of social life. And the ameliorative measures which Miss Bondfield would like to see women administrating, being concerned only with isolated features, leave untouched such a sea of misery as must make a thinking "social worker" despair. To sweep away the source of it all: that alone is the work for the clear of sight.
A. Leslie

The Hope of the Unemployed. (1921)

From the September 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

The attitude of the vast majority of the unemployed is one of more or less patient waiting for something to turn up. Their hopes are based upon a revival of trade, an increase in the demand for commodities, particularly for that commodity they, individually, desire to sell, or are in the habit of producing, and consequently the possibility of a job. "It can't last much longer," is a phrase one frequently hears: "the wish is father to the thought ! "

Now what is the probability of the realisation of this great hope of the unemployed ? We were told that the "coal stoppage" came at the very moment when trade was beginning to brighten up. As soon as the miners went back to work the papers proclaimed the millenium. "Now for a good time," shouted one. ''No more bad trade, no more unemployment, if only the miners get down to it and the workers work with a will." But the man on the Labour Exchange queue is still looking for the good times.

We are at the present time passing through one of those industrial crises which have periodically swept with such devastating effect throughout the capitalist world. The first considerable crisis took place in 1815 in circumstances somewhat similar to the present one, viz., after a war. From then on till the end of the nineteenth century, these crises recurred at intervals of from eight to ten years, the tendency being for the intervals to decrease. All sorts of explanations of these phenomena were sought. One "economist," Jevons, earned a place in the capitalist pantheon by tracing them to spots on the sun. They were attributed to the anarchy of production. This was true, but only a part of the truth. The anarchy of production merely accounted for the character of the crises, not the crises themselves. What the real cause is will be made clear in the course of this article.

In the early years of the nineteenth century production was carried on by an immense number of small, independent, competing firms. None knew what the others were doing. As soon as a demand manifested itself there was a rush to supply it. This fact by itself would have been sufficient to produce crises in the acute form in which they took place during the last century. But in addition to this a large foreign trade was done.

Now, before the first successful Atlantic cable was laid in 1866, it took news as long to travel as the ship which conveyed it. The first steamship voyage across the Atlantic was made in the year 1825. But for many years after this, sailing vessels predominated, so that often months elapsed between the sending and receiving of a message. The effect of this was that from the time the demand for commodities abroad slackened cargoes would continue to be dispatched until the information reached home. Consequently, when the crash came it found many business firms with the bulk of their capital locked up in the form of unsaleable goods, hence inability to meet liabilities and wholesale bankruptcies.

Now all this is changed. Anarchy of production has to a considerable extent been done away with. In the cotton, soap, iron and steel, and tobacco industries huge trusts exist, and the production of these commodities which is not controlled by them is negligible. It was stated in a recent Government report that 90 per cent. of the soap production of this country was in the hands of a great trust.

Also news now travels with the speed of light; any falling off in demand is immediately known, and owing to the great centralisation of control the information is instantly acted upon. So that as a decrease in demand is immediately followed by a curtailment of production, we now have long-drawn-out slumps with intervals of brisk trade.

This all accounts for the change in the character of the movement of trade. What is the cause of the crisis? The cause is summed up in one word, overproduction. The powers of producing wealth increase enormously. Continually, labour-saving machines are being introduced, releasing large numbers of the working class to swell the ranks of the unemployed. Here are two recent instances. In an article which appeared in the "Daily Herald" (4.11.19), it was stated that the fitting of the "Aquitania" with oil-fuel burners in place of coal furnaces would save two-thirds of the stoking labour. Three hundred men constituted the stokehole staff prior to the change; slightly less than one hundred men were necessary to operate the oil burners. The utilisation of bunker space for cargo, the different method of loading the new fuel, merely connecting up pipes and turning on taps, instead of armies of coal porters being employed, are further economies effected by the change.

Another instance I cull from the "Evening News" (25.7.21). Their special correspondent at Worthing went to see the working of a tomato-sorting machine which the "Worthing Fruit and Flower Co." had installed. It is claimed for it that it will do the work of about twenty men in an hour for a cost of just under threepence. The writer goes on to say: "It was particularly amusing to see the tomatoes being bobbed from hole to hole until the right one was found."

Amusing! To whom? To the twenty men displaced by the machine? Let us hope it affords as much instruction to the latter as amusement to the correspondent, and turns their thoughts in the direction of their own emancipation.

This is going on in all branches of production. The productive powers of labour are growing. We were told recently that the boot industry in this country could supply the needs of the home market in six months. In the event of no foreign market being found for the surplus product, the boot operatives are unemployed for six months in the year. This, of course, in turns reacts on the home market, as, obviously, people who are only partially employed cannot buy as many boots as people who are employed the whole year round. What is true of the boot industry is true of all other industries; in all there is a huge surplus product which, if not got rid of abroad, chokes the home market.

Now, during the nineteenth century England's chief export was textile goods, but gradually textiles gave place to machinery. This means that foreign customers instead of buying their commodities for direct consumption from England, bought the machinery to make them themselves; later on they make their own machinery and, incidentally, bang goes that beautiful dream of England becoming "the workshop of the world.'' Not only do these countries produce their own requirements, but it is not long before they also have a surplus to get rid of. As Marx says (Communist Manifesto, p. 10): "It" (the bourgeoisie) "compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what they call civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image."

What is true, then, of English industries is true of industries of all the "advanced" nations of the world; the productive forces are enormously in excess of the home demand. It is patent that to the extent that the competitors grow, the markets relatively shrink and there is an increasing difficulty in getting rid of the surplus.

What is the cause of this overproduction ? Evidently overproduction is a relative term; what appears as overproduction from one point of view appears as underconsumption from another. The reason is that the working class receive in the form of wages a constantly diminishing proportion of their product. From generation to generation the working class, or the vast majority of them, merely get a subsistence, while the product per head grows by leaps and bounds. A simple illustration will show the proportion of his product which the worker gets.

About two years ago a football match, owing to a draw, had to be played in midweek at Sunderland. The papers in that district kicked up quite a rumpus about it. The reason being that the loss in "output and wages" was estimated at £100,000. The "gate" was, in round figures, 50,000. Fifty thousand sons of toil took half a day off and the result was £2 loss in respect of each. Assuming ten shillings to be the average half-day's pay—an extremely liberal estimate—get your ready reckoner and work out the proportions taken by the worker and capitalist respectively.

It is clear, then, that unless the capitalist class can absorb the surplus, which, in spite of really heroic efforts, it cannot do, there will be more commodities than the market can stomach. With the increasing productivity of labour this situation must become worse and worse.

Therefore, although the anarchy of production has virtually passed away, we still have the  phenomenon of  the commercial crisis, but in the form of  a prolonged slump.

To come from crises in general to the one which now prevails, and to the question we set out to answer, viz., "What are the chances of a revival of trade ?" Ordinarily the process of recovery from a crisis is a long one, and tends to become longer with each succeeding crisis. The present one has not yet reached its depth; the figures of unemployment published from time to time show a monotonous increase. In addition to this, the situation is aggravated by the "Peace," and the inability of the conquerors to agree about the division of the spoils of war, all of which decreases the possible market for English goods.

Then the ordinary process of substitution of machinery for human labour was considerably speeded up during the war. In fact, this was the war's most fundamental effect. There was a census of production taken in this country in 1907, and one was taken in the U.S.A. in 1909. A comparison of ten trades in both countries revealed the fact that whereas in England only 0.79 horse-power was used per worker employed, in the United States the horse-power used per worker was 2.62. This difference has now, I think, been considerably reduced, although the U.S. did not remain stationary in this respect.

Finally, Japan's export trade was four times greater, in money value, in 1919 than in 1914, while the same tale has to be told of the U.S. The "Times Trade Supplement," April 12th, 1919, says:  

"Compared with 1913 the exports have risen by nearly 150 per cent., and when it is added that last year's exports were equal to the combined pre-war export trade of the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, the stupendous nature of the figures becomes at once apparent."

We have then, firstly, decreased markets, secondly, a phenomenal increase in the productive powers of labour, enabling a given demand to be supplied in a far shorter time, and, thirdly, an enormous increase in international competition. It does not require a mathematician to work out the result.

The present situation is likely to remain unchanged for an indefinite period. In fact England is no longer the largest producer in the world, and the working class population will have to accommodate itself to the requirements of capital.

What a bright prospect ! Yet there is an alternative. The situation could be alleviated to-morrow and changed entirely in a few months if the working class but knew how and desired it. The means of production being owned by and operated entirely in the interest of a class, obviously the remedy is to deprive them of this ownership, socialise the means of life, enable every able person to take part in productive work, and, by that means, inaugurate an epoch in which the productive process—the mere grubbing to maintain an existence, which occupies most of our waking and many of our sleeping thoughts —take a relatively subordinate place, leaving our time and our thoughts free for the pursuit and enjoyment of art, science, literature, sport, etc.—that high enjoyment of life made possible only by millions of years of evolution in the means producing the necessaries of life.
T.  D.

Lazy Sunday Afternoon . . .

Just a bit of fun. 

At the time of writing, listed below are the most popular Socialist Standard articles on the blog from a particular year. It stands to reason that the longer an article or review has been on the blog, the more 'hits' it has, but that is not always the case. Some articles of a more theoretical bent have received successive waves of hits years after they were originally posted on the blog. Hopefully that's food for thought for current writers and editors of the Standard. (Yes, I know I'm contradicting myself a bit here.)

To access the articles below, just click on the individual years.

  • 1904: The Futility of Reform
  • 1905: Ishmaelites
  • 1906: "The Need for 'Intellectuals' "
  • 1907: Riot and Revolution: Speech by Rosa Luxemburg on Trial for Inciting to Riot 
  • 1908: The People
  • 1909: Sark!
  • 1910: Remember Tonypandy!
  • 1911: The Attempted Suppression of Free Speech in Islington.
  • 1912: A Christian History
  • 1913: First Steps In Socialism: Who Are the Working Class?
  • 1914: Jottings.
  • 1915: What is Patriotism? An Analysis
  • 1916: Scrag-Ends
  • 1917: "Ghosts"
  • 1918: The Call
  • 1919: What We Want
  • 1920: Our New Year Message.
  • 1921: The Wealthy Socialist
  • 1922: The Collapse of Capitalism
  • 1923: Socialism and the Fascisti
  • 1924: Ramsay MacDonald's Attack on the Workers' Struggle Against Capital.
  • 1925: Prohibition.
  • 1926: Who wrote the Communist Manifesto of 1847?
  • 1927: "The Recruiting Sergeant"
  • 1928: Trotsky States His Case
  • 1929: Another Life of Marx: Queues at Truth 
  • 1930: A Commentary on the Communist Manifesto
  • 1931: The Founding of The Socialist Party
  • 1932: Kreuger: A Product of His Time.
  • 1933: Marx and Lenin - Distorted Views 
  • 1934: Bolshevism: Past and Present 
  • 1935: The Socialist Party of Australia: A Splendid Election Fight
  • 1936: A Letter From Russia
  • 1937: The Popular Front: A False Issue
  • 1938: Why I Joined the S.P.G.B.
  • 1939: Kautsky’s Work for Socialism 
  • 1940: How Henry Ford Smashes Trade Unions 
  • 1941: B.B.C. Boycott of Socialists
  • 1942: Are Socialists Dreamers?
  • 1943: The Barbary Coast
  • 1944: The Scottish Workers' Congress: Curious Stuff from Glasgow
  • 1945: By The Way: Juries are Wiser To-day 
  • 1946: The Labour Government's Prisons and Detention Barracks
  • 1947: Gradualism and Revolution
  • 1948: Money Will Go
  • 1949: It's Laughable
  • 1950: Passing Comments: China
  • 1951: Reflections
  • 1952: The New Tribune—but the same old story
  • 1953: "I've always been respectable"
  • 1954: The General Strike
  • 1955: English Social Democratic Parties 
  • 1956: Anarchist Reformism
  • 1957: Drum
  • 1958: The Same Old I.L.P.
  • 1959: Room At The Top
  • 1960: Africa
  • 1961: The Spectre Haunting Kruschev 
  • 1962: The Colossal Waste of Capitalism
  • 1963: Branch News
  • 1964: Michael Harrington's The Other America
  • 1965: Christmas, past and present
  • 1966: Open Letter to the War Resisters' International
  • 1967: Obituary: W. Craske
  • 1968: Prejudice and Pride
  • 1969: Rosa Luxemburg and the Collapse of Capitalism
  • 1970: Listen, Anarchist!
  • 1971: Squaring the Circle
  • 1972: A Tenth of Marx's 'Grundrisse'
  • 1973: The Poison of Nationalism
  • 1974: The way to deal with Fascism
  • 1975: Spectacle out of focus
  • 1976: Why I Joined the SPGB
  • 1977: Free Speech: official cuts
  • 1978: Against the Left (Part 3)
  • 1979: Fighting the wrong class war
  • 1980: Karl Marx and the abolition of money
  • 1981: Ghost of Christmas Past
  • 1982: Letter From Europe: Bordiga and the Idea of Socialism
  • 1983: Japan: the courage of a few
  • 1984: Guru on the spot
  • 1985: Socialism and rock music
  • 1986: Then and Now
  • 1987: Socialism and Calculation
  • 1988: Poorest of the poor?
  • 1989: The Gorbachev cuts
  • 1990: Morris and Revolution
  • 1991: The Eileen Critchley Show
  • 1992: Sting in the Tail: Labour Sees Stars
  • 1993: Problem of sexism
  • 1994: The Death of Marxism?
  • 1995: What Future for Iraq?
  • 1996: A striking example of mutiny
  • 1997: Star Trek: First Contact
  • 1998: The Curse of Xawara
  • 1999: The Cult of Leadership
  • 2000: John Ruskin, 1819-1900: A Socialist Perspective
  • 2001: Who are the Socialist Alliance? 
  • 2002: The New Reformism
  • 2003: Robert Tressell and the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
  • 2004: Why Read Marx Today?
  • 2005: Guevarian Ideology
  • 2006: Driven From Eden? - Was the Neolithic Revolution entirely a good thing?
  • 2007: Unvarnished History of the Panama Canal
  • 2008: S-C-A-ISM minus O-I-L?
  • 2009: Who’s afraid of the BNP?
  • 2010: Tilting at windmills with a banjo
  • 2011: Djanogly – One Of The Family
  • 2012: Split
  • 2013: Digging up the Dirt
  • 2014: A Lack of Imagination
  • 2015: Scarce Resources
  • 2016: Dreaming of Ending Poverty
  • 2017: MMT: New Theory, Old Illusion
  • 2018: Space Oddity
  • 2019: The Destruction of Nature: by Anton Pannekoek
  • 2020: Liverpool Marxist Book Fair

Tories win again (1970)

Party News from the May 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Tories retained control of the Greater London Council in the elections on 9 April. Once again over three-quarters of a million electors had a chance to vote directly for Socialist candidates. As expected, in a low poll, only a thousand or so did.

This was the first large-scale election in Britain where Party names appear (not loo prominently however) on the ballot papers. Our 14 candidates used the description “The Socialist Party of Great Britain". We were in fact the only people to use the word “socialist" at all, a fact which should help our campaign to stop the Press and Tories referring to the Labour Party as such. A Party spokesman was also interviewed for three minutes on Thames Television on 24 March. This was the first time the Party case has been presented on television in London, though it had been put a number of times in other regional programmes. We have yet to be allowed a formal Party Political Broadcast or even an appearance on a national television programme.

Two other incidents are worth recording. In Camden, at a meeting on transport held on 23 March, the Labour candidate, Luke O'Connor, was the first to protest when he was mistakenly introduced by the chairman as the candidate of "the socialist party". At another meeting in Ealing on 2 April, in which all the parties in the election there took part, the candidates of the so-called Communist Party and Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement sat next to each other. This contrasts with the attitude the Communist Party adopted towards a meeting at Bristol University on 23 January which their candidate at the Swindon parliamentary by-election refused to attend on the grounds that the general secretary of the Union Movement had also been invited. It would seem to show that the Communist Party has come to realise that, as our speaker at the Bristol meeting pointed out, debating with fascists in no way condones their views but is in fact a way of opposing them.

In Haringey a group of anarchists put up six candidates for the three seats under such labels as the “Bread and Circus Party” and the "All Night Party" in order to demonstrate their mistaken view that elections are a fraud and a farce. Their candidates are shown as A in the results below; HBR means “Homes Before Roads", a single-issue reform group:

CAMDEN: O'Connor (Lab) 26,265, Collins (Lab) 26,140, Kazantzis (Lab) 25,731, Lemkin (C) 24,416, Townsend (C) 24,346, Mansel (C) 24,047, Calmann (L) 2,565, Peacock (L) 2,252, Benad (L) 2,208, McLennan (Comm) 1,692, Peacock (HBR) 1,311, Walker (HBR) 1,249, Jacka (HBR) 1,037, Cox (Soc) 391, Davies (Soc) 323, Grant (Soc) 299, Elliott (UM) 195.

EALING: Dobson (C) 43,219, Farrow (C) 43,130, Patterson (C) 42,904, Young (C) 41,608, Hughes (Lab) 35,206, Eckles (Lab) 34,983, Mason (Lab) 34,955, Newson (Lab) 34,299, Lewisohn (L) 3,195, Davies (L) 3,165, Hankinson (L) 3,026, Bailey (L) 2,804, Foley (HBR) 2,010, Greeves (HBR) 1,683, St. George (HBR) 1,626, Spence (HBR) 1,594, Tank (Comm) 1,190, George (Soc) 735, Wilson (UM) 708, Buchanan (Soc) 695, Rose (Soc) 392, Sawyer (Soc) 293.

HARINGEY: Bains (C) 26,716, Gilbey (C) 26,471, Malynn (C) 26,156, Chaplin (Lab) 25.625. Morrisey (Lab) 24.949. Gurr (Lab) 24,890, Fox (L) 1.997, Parker (L) 1,928, Edwards (L) 1,910. Morris (Comm) 1,337. Ramsay (Comm) 982. Hicklin (HBR) 461. Phillips (HBR) 458, Carter (Soc) 443, Buick (Soc) 374. Thompson (HBR) 353, Cooper (A) 234, Waite (Soc) 212, Borowski (A) 212, Whittaker (A) 154, Kibble (A) 149, Summers (UM) 145, Kerner (A) 133, Hood (A) 77.

LAMBETH: Geddes (C) 34,111. Grieves (Lab) 33,936, Crofton (C) 33,918, Livingston (C) 33,868. Gumbel (C) 33,774, Jones (Lab) 33,738, Chesworth (Lab) 33.645. Ponsonby (Lab) 33,045, Delaney (L) 1,952. Beaven (L) 1,847, Larkin (L) 1,784, Barker (L) 1,781, Grier (HBR) 1,186, Keelan (HBR) 1,100, Luckett (HBR) 1,004, Thomas (HBR) 956. Hope (Comm) 888, Styles (Comm) 745, Garnham (Soc) 620, Phillips (Soc) 536, Boaks (Ind) 366, Sansum (Soc) 337, Simkins (Soc) 295. Archer (UM) 293.

Cows massacred while people need milk (1970)

From the May 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

In accordance with the economics of capitalism. governments continue to finance the non-production and even the destruction of wealth in a bid to restore profit levels.

"Europe", claims the President of the Common Market's Agricultural Commission, “is drowning in a sea of milk and in a morass of butter”. (La Stampa, 8 February 1970). Even though butter stocks in the Common Market amount to one year’s British consumption it is not true to say that there is too much milk or butter in Europe compared with what people need. There are many especially in the immigrant shantytowns of France and Italy who lack enough of these basic foodstuffs. What Dr. Mansholt means is that more milk and milk products have been produced than can be sold at a profit

The only solution under capitalism, where production is geared to meeting market demand rather than human needs, is to get rid of the unprofitable surplus and to take steps to ensure that the productive system's capacity to produce abundance does not again disrupt the market and threaten profit levels. Accordingly, Common Market farmers are now being paid to destroy some of their cows and to feed milk to their pigs. Between 9 February and 30 April some 330,000 cows should have been slaughtered.

Left versus right (1970)

From the May 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

I have a friend, a professor of history at London University no less, who always has a criticism of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. It is that the process of attacking other parties and people on what is vaguely called the left is equivalent to splitting the ranks of the faithful and can only be good for the others, the anti-socialists.

It is an old argument, and one that we socialists have often had to deal with. It is one which is so clearly unsound that it should by now be impossible for anyone with an intelligent interest in politics like my friend to believe in it. But clearly it is still necessary to point out the fallacies involved. First, it should be obvious that the very concept of left and right in politics is now a figment of the imagination, whatever it was in terms of the seating accommodation in the Assemblies of the French Revolution. The concept of the parties being stretched out in a long line with the good boys who are eager to present Socialism to the long-suffering masses at one extreme, the left, while at the other you will find the die-hards and the reactionaries (more vague, hardly definable terms, of course).

This concept should surely never have survived the real life experience of the thirties. For what happened was that the two parties who were, according to the mythology, at the extreme ends of the line and never the twain shall meet, the Russian “communists” and the German Nazis, not only were able to meet but to embrace with as much fervent warmth as cynical, cold-blooded politicians can ever hope to generate.

In Germany before Hitler achieved power there were plenty of instances of the two extremes joining hands to dish their mutual opponents (Social-Democrats masquerading as socialists, Catholic Centrists etc.); while the notorious pictures of Ribbentrop and Molotov, the representatives of the extreme rightist Hitler and the extreme leftist Stalin, shaking hands with the utmost cordiality as they gave the green light for the Second World War with its slaughter of millions of workers the world over, will still be in the minds of many.

And before leaving this aspect, let nobody imagine that this handshake was a momentary affair which cooled after the two bandits had shared out the swag in Poland in 1939. On the contrary, as a recent letter in the Times mentioned, Stalin did not forget a year later to send his beloved Hitler his heartiest congratulations on his conquest of France, which meant that the whole of western Europe was in his hands — with all that that meant for millions of Jews and others (the others including, of course, “communists” who had faithfully supported Stalin in all his murders).

Indeed, the romance lasted forever and a day as far as the “communists” were concerned. Stalin was not so much the husband who is proverbially the last to know that his bride is faithless. He deliberately refused to listen to his own spies like Richard Sorge who gave him all the score of the music that Hitler was going to play in June 1941 so that the “communists” went on being faithful to the fascists right up to the time when the German ambassador told them the worst and Molotov asked what they had done to be treated like this !

It is clear then that the concept of a straight line is, if anything, a circle, so that although parties may move in seemingly opposite directions, sure enough, when the time is ripe, they find they have come round into each others’ arms. The Socialist Party firmly declares its implacable hostility to all other parties, all of whom are non-socialist (which means of course anti-socialist whatever the protestations, sincere or otherwise, of the individuals concerned). Any fragmentation which our activities may cause, wherever it may occur, on the so-called left or the so-called right, is not a matter for regret or shame. For what can possibly be wrong in socialists causing fragmentation of anti-socialists? Would that we were powerful enough to cause more such fragmentation!

Of course we are not unaware that this attitude seems harsh and unfair to many sincere but misguided people who would like us to play ball with them in their multitudinous efforts at improving the social scene with their piecemeal reform programmes. Recently I found myself involved in a long and heated argument with some students who had read some criticisms of their activities in the so-called anti-apartheid demo’s and were prepared to agree that there was some force in our contentions but nevertheless insisted that “the left” should stick together.

It is an attitude which flies in the face of all experience, much of it bitter. But it is one that seems to trap so many would-be socialists, old as well as young, professors as well as students and thus confuses the issue of Socialism, which can do with all the clarity it can get. And it may be worth a digression to mention that, in the same argument, I was told that the Socialist Party was not only to blame for attacking the left, it had compounded its sin by attacking the right! In debate with the fascists of the National Front.

We must be held guilty, it seems, because we deigned to attack them with words instead of with blows. We debated instead of using our fists (and no doubt knives and guns as well). This matter was ventilated at length in a recent issue of this journal but we make no apology for referring again to the vital issue of using free speech to demonstrate the superiority of the socialist case in front of a working class audience whom it is our job to convince.

We will only attain Socialism when the majority of the workers have learned to understand what it’s all about. And, for this, freedom of discussion is a must. Those who use their influence over the young to show that there are ifs and buts before this “must” are taking a grave responsibility for the atmosphere of intolerance they help to create.

Of course, to conclude, there is a line. A straight line. A line of battle. On one side are the people who stand for Socialism, the whole Socialism and nothing but Socialism as being the only way of ridding mankind of all the vicious social problems from which it suffers and of building a new world which is fit for human beings in the full sense of that term. On the other side are all the rest; whether they call themselves left, right, centre makes not an iota of difference. They are all on the wrong side of the line.
L. E.Weidberg

Letters: The Labour Theory of Value (1970)

Letters to the Editors from the May 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Theory of Value


I have not read in the Socialist Standard an explanation of the Labour Theory of Value, and since it is a theory to which objections are frequently made may I put to you the following four points.

(1) It is a basic .and apparently reasonable law of economics that when demand exceeds the supply the price of a commodity rises, and conversely, when supply exceeds demand, the price then falls. What role therefore does supply and demand play in determining value?

(2) Following from this it is suggested that if all the commodities used by man were supplied by nature either the intervention of human labour, and in the same proportions as they are now produced, then they would have the same exchange value as now. In other words if meteorites which occasionally fall, were really diamonds and could be picked up off the streets once in a lifetime, they would still have the same value, providing they were just as rare and could be obtained in no other way.

(3) Why should the value of works of art rise to such heights? An estimate of the value of the Mona Lisa puts its worth at nearly £36 million, and this can only be due to the painting’s rarity — the fact that it is unique, and the demand for it — the fact that it is one of the world’s most coveted treasures. The original labour involved was fixed for all time, and ought not therefore to have altered the value.

(4) Finally, does the capitalist by anticipating demand, and matching supply to demand. thereby reducing waste and needless expenditure of socially necessary labour, not contribute to the value of the commodity?
K. McCormack.
Belfast, 15.

It would be helpful to make a few definitions and give a brief outline of the Marxian Theory of Value before dealing with the points raised. By economics we mean the study of wealth production and distribution under capitalism. By wealth we understand useful goods and services (use values) produced by the application of human energies to the nature-given material of the earth. Under capitalism wealth is produced for sale with a view to profit, its unit being a commodity which in addition to use value also has exchange value. This form of society has not existed for all time but is the result of a long process of evolution. From the simple societies of pre-history where little or no exchange took place to the complex society of the 20th Century where activities are nothing but a continuous series of exchange transactions. Under capitalism the means of production are run co-operatively by the propertyless majority of the population whilst being owned and controlled by a non-working minority. The Labour theory of value not only shows what regulates the proportion in which commodities exchange but also the source of income of the owning capitalist minority.

As exchange is a social act value, which regulates this, is defined as a relationship between people which shows itself as a relationship between things. It has nothing to do with the physical properties (weight, colour, size, etc.) of commodities. It is the social labour embodied in commodities that gives them the common social property by which they may be compared. The value of a commodity is the amount of socially necessary labour required to produce it. Price is the monetary expression of value.

It is the working class who create value at the point of production. In order to get the necessities of life, they sell their labour power (skills and energies) to the capitalist. On average they get the value of their labour power: enough of the things needed to maintain themselves and their families (i.e. to produce and reproduce their labour power). But the value created by workers in production is more than the value of the labour power they have sold. This excess is known as surplus value and forms the source of the capitalist class’s income in the form of rent, interest and profit.

This brings us to the answer to question (4). A capitalist is someone who lives off rent, interest and profit. The capitalist does not play a role in trying to match supply and demand. This is done by workers, such as statisticians and market researchers, whose efforts are concerned with selling and maximising profits. Capitalism generates enormous waste over which neither capitalist or worker have any control. The only way a capitalist could contribute to the value of a commodity would be through being engaged in productive activities but as such would not be acting as a capitalist.

(1) It is price that varies according to supply and demand. When supply and demand are in equilibrium price and value are equal. Value varies according to the amount of socially necessary labour required to produce a commodity. Factors affecting value are the productivity of labour, and natural conditions like the fertility of the soil and ease of access to mineral wealth.

(2) This is an assumption we cannot accept. There is no commodity (wealth for sale with a view to profit) supplied by nature without the intervention of human labour. Air for instance is most useful to man and it is provided by nature without the intervention of human labour. It has no value or price and is not a commodity and is not private property. If everything were available from nature in the same way they would not be commodities.

As for meteorites, we know of none that have delivered anything useful that cannot be obtained here. For the sake of argument if it happened that a meteorite delivered “once in a lifetime" some useful material not previously known to man, there would be no means of applying theories of price or value (which deal with here everyday experience of capitalist production and distribution) to this. No doubt efforts would be made to reproduce the material synthetically. If successful, then the question of value would arise as we would be back to the familiar ground of labour power being expended in production. In the case of diamonds, efforts have been made to reproduce artificially what nature has produced naturally. For the capitalist it has proved better (cheaper) to have workers mining for diamonds, than making them artificially. If diamonds were to fall regularly as meteorites then their value would fall to the socially necessary labour spent in collecting them.

(3) As already explained the theory of value deals with everyday experiences of production in capitalist society. A commodity is not only produced once but is continuously reproduced. Works of art are unique and the prices put on them cannot be explained by economic theory. [That capitalism has to foul the things it finds most beautiful by putting prices on them is to be condemned.] The ‘Mona Lisa’ is no more rare than other paintings having much lower prices say the £500,000 recently paid for a Van Gogh. It will no more help us, if we could explain the conundrum of a price of £36 millions, than if we know the reason for Lisa's enigmatic smile!
Editorial Committee

Beyond Wages


Among the multitude of wage and salary slaves, there are few indeed who look beyond striking for higher wages and salaries to a solution of their problems. Truly, that hypocritical slogan “A Fair Day’s Work for a Fair Day's Pay” has a lot to answer for!

Does our modern wage slave, crawling painfully into the Seventies really think he has “won” or yet "broken even” at the end of his day ?

On the contrary, he has "lost” on each occasion he accepts his wages. Why do we say this? Once a worker has worked — once his labour power has been expended, it has created a value greater than its own. But what he has produced this concealed labour within a given commodity, is the legal property of his employer, the capitalist, who thus has increased his original capital with the surplus-value donated by the sellers of the labour power generated in their carcases.

Despite these facts, we daily witness appeals for higher wages as the be-all and end-all of working class aspirations.

Certainly they must strike to protect their living standards, so long as capitalism remains, but if they desire to put an end to their status as suckers for the capitalist class, they must organise for the abolition of the wage system and the establishment of world Socialism. This will be an overdue end to human beings hawking their abilities, which is a degrading business.
G. R. Russell

A socialist view of Austrian politics (1970)

Party News from the May 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

We set out below part of the address of our Comrade Albert Kurz, fraternal delegate of the Bund Demokratsher Socialister to the Easter Conference of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

We in Austria haven't a party with a long tradition as you have. And, Comrades, there is a great difference between the conditions you have here and we have. You in Britain have a long democratic parliamentary tradition. Though it is a bourgeois tradition, it is by means of this tradition easiest to spread the great idea of Socialism.

We in Austria, on the contrary haven’t that tradition. We have had one fascist government after another. People who were so-called reds, that means social democrats, were jailed in the year 1937. So they had to turn “blacks", that meant conservatives in order to earn their living. These were the years of the great depression. After the German invasion of Austria in 1938 both the reds and the blacks were jailed by the Nazis. They had to join the Nazi party to avoid persecution. After the year 1945 they were expelled from any public employment for having been Nazis. I don't want even to mention the time of the 19th century in which police spies put their noses in all affairs of public life.

So it is not a surprise that people in Austria haven’t faith in parliamentarians and democracy to the extent that a bourgeois government can be called democratic. So at least officially nobody is being persecuted for being a Socialist. Although many people arc afraid.

You see, these are the great barriers we have in our work.

People grew afraid of being mixed up with politics, for as I told you, they burned too often their hands.

In these conditions we have, we must do our best. We haven’t a paper for such a long time as you. For many years we had a duplicated paper which was published monthly. The last years we have a printed paper, but we can afford to publish it only four times a year.

50 Years Ago: Capitalism's darkest hour (1970)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

We used to hear much more than we do now about the awful prospects that awaited the peoples of the world in the event of their deciding to substitute Socialism for capitalism. Not only were we to wade to our goal through a sea of blood, but we were to find, when we reached our Land of Promise, that instead of being a land flowing with milk and honey, it was a stoney and sterile desert. Famine and rape would stalk the land; anarchy and chaos would overwhelm humanity . . . We are moved to these remarks by the awful spectacle of human misery which capitalism in her very prime offers to our eyes. For some days there has appeared in orthodox Press a most agonising appeal for funds to relieve the starving multitudes of what are now called the famine areas of Europe. In this appeal the Statement is made that five million children are in danger of starvation, and we read this tragic announcement:
  “News is just to hand that only those children between three and five can be helped; the mites under three must be abandoned to starvation, for there will not be enough food to go round if these are included.” 
and it is commented, “It has been necessary deliberately to select which children shall be saved and which must be left to die.”

Those who have with such cool effrontery declared that Socialism could not feed her populations have here something to think about. The present system, with all its wonderfully fertile means of production, is helpless to prevent catastrophes . . . nay, it is not merely that it is unable to prevent them: it produces them.

(From an unsigned article in the Socialist Standard, May 1920.)

Flying, spying and a new Cold War (2001)

From the May 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

For two weeks at the start of April, an American spy plane and its crew were held in China following a mid-air collision with a Chinese jet. The Chinese pilot crashed and was killed, and is now being hailed as a national hero, while the US plane was damaged and had to land at a military airfield. After a war of words, the crew were eventually able to return home, though the plane itself was left behind as a prize capture (and the US are demanding it back). The precise details of what happened in the skies are still not clear, but they certainly matter much less than what this whole incident shows about US-China relations and the possibilities of a new Cold War.

Many people may have been surprised to learn that the US was still spying on China in this way. In fact, up to a thousand surveillance flights, using aircraft packed to the rafters with sophisticated technology and electronic specialists, spy on China every year, mainly in order to find out what they can about China’s nuclear capabilities. This is in addition to satellite surveillance, listening in to radio transmissions, and the use of American agents on the ground. It is widely believed that China has infiltrated various US nuclear installations and so acquired a great deal of knowledge about how to design and construct nuclear missiles. Bush’s plan to build an anti-missile screen to defend the US is, at least in part, a response to this.

The incident graphically reveals the extent to which the US is the virtually-unchallenged world superpower. One can hardly imagine the furore in the US if a Chinese plane spying on American nuclear weapons had caused an American pilot to crash and then been forced to land in California. The US, however, believes it has the right to do as it pleases with regard to spying on other countries, and of course in capitalist terms it does have that right, i.e. it possesses the requisite military force.

A complicating issue in these matters is that of continuing US arms sales to Taiwan, the island regarded by China as an integral part of its territory. US-Taiwan military cooperation is also increasing. China’s security needs imply that Taiwan not have the military capability of attacking or threatening China, or of mounting a serious resistance if China were to invade.

In fact, it was not in the interests of either China or the US for the aircraft incident to develop into a major stand-off. Although so-called “hawks” in both ruling circles may have wanted to engineer a confrontation, both sides have good reasons for keeping on fairly friendly terms-or at least as friendly as rival capitalist states can ever be. For the time being, China is a useful trading partner for the US, while China needs overseas investment. As the Chinese Foreign Ministry puts it,
  “the development of friendly relations and cooperation between China and the US serves the interests of both sides and is of vital importance to peace and prosperity of Asia-Pacific and the world as a whole.”
President Bush is due to visit Beijing in October, and in March he met Qian Qichen, the Chinese Vice-Premier, in Washington – Qian’s visit was described by the Chinese government as “a great success”. But as its economy grows, China will become more and more a real competitor for global power, probably the only country really able to challenge the US.

This all comes as China is preparing for entry into the World Trade Organization. Most of the potential obstacles to entry have now been overcome, but it is still up to WTO members to decide on the exact timetable for China’s entry. Joining the WTO is bound to increase China’s integration into the global economy, in terms of both overseas investment in China and the growth of Chinese-owned companies abroad (of which there are over 6,000).

Military spending in many major countries is rising. The “defence” budget for 2002 submitted to the US Congress is for the staggering sum of $318.9 billion. China’s military spending is not in this sort of league, but the figure for 2001 still represents an increase of 17 percent over 2000. The Chinese rulers, mindful of the effect that ever-increasing military spending had on the economy of the Soviet Union, will surely not want to get involved in an arms race or a new Cold War. But on the other hand, they will not want the US to have it all its own way.

One big difference between the current situation and that between Russia and the US during the Cold War is the extent of economic involvement in China on the part of American and other multinational companies. China has more so-called export-processing zones than any other country, that is, areas where overseas companies, often via local intermediaries, employ workers in sweatshop conditions, with tax breaks and little if any regulation on working conditions. At least 18 million Chinese workers labour in such zones, producing goods for corporations such as Nike and Adidas and working upwards of sixty hours per week for appallingly low wages. At the same time, many global corporations are expanding Chinese retail operations: Wal-Mart intends to open a further eight superstores in various parts of China this year, while the French-owned company Carrefour, which is second only to Wal-Mart in world retailing, will be doing likewise. Coca-Cola, to take another example, have enormous sales in China, which they will not want to see jeopardised. In some ways, the Chinese market is still relatively underdeveloped: Wal-Mart’s total sales exceed US$200 billion a year, which is about half of the retail sales in the whole of China. So there is plenty of scope for expansion. Despite the readiness to welcome inwards investment, though, the Chinese economy remains in something of a mess, with increasing unemployment, largely caused by the reduction of government subsidies to industry.

So it is not a matter of which plane flew in the most irresponsible way or of whether the US apologised or merely expressed regrets. The current global boss and its most likely future rival have good reasons for now to work together (or at least not in blatant antagonism) at the governmental and economic level. Yet the rulers of both China and the US want to maintain and expand their respective positions, power and influence, and spy flights are just one sordid aspect of their mutual suspicion and hostility. The vast sums spent on the military are just another indication of capitalism’s waste and priorities.
Paul Bennett

Getting nastier (2001)

Book Review from the May 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘The Age of Access: the New Culture of Hypercapitalism Where All of Life is a Paid-for Experience’. By Jeremy Rifkin, (Penguin-Putnam, 2000, New York)

Rifkin is a writer, teacher, president of the Washington Foundation on Economic Trends, and has the reputation of being a trenchant critic of capitalism. The reputation is undeserved. He reports many unsavoury features of capitalism much as any capitalism-compliant journalist reports a natural disaster or an accident. He clearly has his preferences for, and aversions to, different types of capitalism, but he nowhere expresses any opposition to it as a system.

Rifkin’s main theme, briefly, is that markets are giving way to networking, sellers and buyers are replaced by suppliers and users and virtually everything is accessed at a price. Spelling this out, he writes:
  “We are making a long-term shift from industrial production to cultural production . . . commerce in the future will involve the marketing of a vast array of cultural experiences rather than of just traditional industrial-based goods and services. Global travel and tourism, theme events and parks, destination events and centers, wellness, fashion and cuisine, professional sports and games, gambling, music, films, television, the virtual worlds of cyberspace and electronically mediated entertainment of every kind are fast becoming the center of a new hypercapitalism that trades in access to cultural experiences.”
Much of this isn’t new. Rifkin spends a good deal of his book quoting the findings of others detailing the trends. But, like most reformers, he makes a show of seeking to set limits to the penetration of capitalism into every nook and cranny of our lives. He does this by inviting us to envisage what will happen if we don’t “imagine a world where virtually every activity outside the confines of family relations is a paid-for experience”. The way capitalism is going, this doesn’t take a lot of imagination because in many ways it’s already here.

Rifkin piles on the flesh-creeping pressure a bit more. “Think of waking up one day only to find that every aspect of your being has become a purchased affair, that your life has become the ultimate shopping experience.” Again, we don’t have to think too hard. Examples are all around us-thus a “common-interest development” (gated community) in South Carolina charges non-members $3 for the right to walk on its streets.

With all the chapter and verse of a nasty system that is getting even nastier, Rifkin could have outlined a plan for something fundamentally better. But he doesn’t. He anticipates an Age of (paid-for) Access which in many ways is already here. Socialists look forward to the Age of Free Access, which unfortunately isn’t here, but could be if enough of us resolved to work for it.
Stan Parker

Greasy Pole: Ted Heath—A disappointed man (2001)

The Greasy Pole column from the May 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

So. Farewell then, Ted Heath. You are leaving Parliament at the next election. Long-serving MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, Father of the House, ex-Chief Whip, Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury. We shall miss you sitting in your traditional seat below the gangway. All true-blooded English people know how important traditions are when it comes to Parliament. Where would we be without the Despatch Box and the Mace and the MPs using parliamentary language instead of swearing at each other. It was symbolic of our grand old country that you had exclusive use of that seat, where you could sit glowering and sounding off with opinions, like you did recently when you were overheard to say that William Hague is “a ghastly, vulgar little man”.

It is 50 years since the young Ted Heath, thrilled to bits, was welcomed to Westminster by the policeman at the door. He had been in the Army and at Oxford and then in the Civil Service. But his ambitions were always for a career in politics and at the appropriate time he set about wooing constituencies in his home county of Kent. Three of them turned him down (one told him bluntly that they were only interested in someone who would be in the Cabinet and clearly that wasn’t him) until he was successful at Bexley.

If any of those committees had doubts about him being a bachelor, at a time when having a wife was supposed to be pretty well essential to a man’s successful career in politics, they did not give voice to them. In fact there had been a woman in Heath’s life – “…a delightful girl… we shared many interests…” But soon after the war “…she suddenly let me know that she was marrying someone else. I was saddened by this”. Such a defended attitude would have been useful to him in later years, when his sexuality was not only a fertile source of malicious ribaldry but at times almost a political issue in itself.

Barely a year after he got into Parliament Heath was invited to become a Whip – his first move up the greasy pole. He had some doubts about this; it was promotion of a sort but it did not necessarily lead in the direction he wanted. The whips were under a pretty strict discipline; for one thing they were not allowed to speak in the Commons which, if the Tories won the election as they were expected to, was likely to hamper his prospects. Reassured by Churchill that such devotion to duty would not go unrewarded Heath took the job. He probably had no difficulty with the necessary personality change; no longer the convivial new Member with many friends, he appropriately displayed all the open-handed charisma of a Trappist monk. His preoccupations were party management, unity and the discipline needed to wage the phony war against a Labour government tottering towards its end.

As the years went by his personality hardened, he became more and more private and awkward, unable to reel off the small talk so essential to politicians, royals and other redundants. He developed a tendency for gratuitously offending or insulting other people, treating his critics with contempt and operating on the assumption that he owed nothing to his supporters. It was not the most likely way of nurturing a political career. A typical example was his reaction to the standing ovation which predictably followed a rousing conference speech by Iain Macleod who was his Shadow Chancellor. As Macleod basked in the Tories’ adulation Heath sneered to those around him “Well, I’m sure you understand economic policy a lot better now”.

Ironically, although this attitude was not well received among the party activists in the constituencies or to MPs doing a bit of quiet back-biting in the Commons Smoking Room, it favoured Heath at a crucial time. His predecessor at Number Ten, Alec Douglas-Home, had emerged as Tory leader after a spell of savage infighting which the retiring Premier MacMillan described as “the customary processes of consultation”. Home was a landed Scottish toff, easy meat for Harold Wilson in what passes for debate in the Commons. His victory upset a lot of hopeful contenders like Butler, Macleod and Hailsham. Heath supported Home and it was rumoured that this was designed to keep those rivals out of the job on the assumption that Home would not last long, allowing him to try for it later. It was only necessary for Home to lose one election – which he obligingly did – for the party to begin to look for someone of a completely different style and background to replace him.

In that situation the choice rested between Heath and Maudling and after the first leadership ballot Maudling withdrew. The Tories heaved a sigh of relief. Heath was the very model of a self-made man – the son of a small builder, who won a scholarship to grammar school and then went to Oxford where he became President of the Union. There was not a whiff of the grouse moor about him. What did it matter if he couldn’t glad-hand it in the bar, didn’t have a wife to embrace him after a conference speech. He was the future, a professional who would repair the damage done by the aristocratic amateurs.

It all seemed to be coming right when, against many expectations, the Tories won the 1970 election. This was supposed to be a new beginning for British capitalism. No more propping up “lame duck” industries with government subsidies, no more privileged access to Number Ten for the unions, and eventually no more attempts at controlling wages and prices either. It was all very simple: the market would be set free to rule how the economy would be run, everyone would be swamped in prosperity and the Tories would be in power for ever. Except that it was not that simple and Heath’s government was quickly exposed as no more able to deal with the crises of capitalism than those of the aristocrats. Under pressure, Heath’s personality was not so rigid as to prevent him modifying or abandoning the policies which had got him where he was. But it did stop him responding to the situation with the kind of nonchalance which had been so useful to people like Macmillan.

All that was needed was for Heath to lead the Tories to a couple of election defeats for the party to turn against him and, much as they had with Macmillan and Home, to decide that they needed a leader of a different style. “I don’t think,” said Willie Whitelaw some years later, “I’d realised quite the extent of the feeling against him in the parliamentary party. They’d had enough of him”. The time was ripe for the emergence of Thatcher, although before she became a real prospect she needed a little luck in the shape of a suicidal speech from Keith Joseph in which he effectively knocked himself out of the running. The Daily Mail thought that “…near panic has broken out amongst the party’s top people ” at the gathering momentum of Thatcher’s campaign. In the end only Whitelaw came within shouting distance of her.

Heath did not go along with the political convention about congratulating a victorious rival and assuring them of your undying support. He submerged himself in a deep, unrelenting sulk. When Thatcher came to see him, soon after her win, to ask his advice about handling the press he more or less told her to work it out for herself. He might have been persuaded to take the job of Shadow Foreign Secretary but Thatcher gave that to Lord Carrington. He later contemptuously refused her offer of ambassador to the USA, regarding it as the snub it probably was; if anyone knew about snubs he did. After the 1979 election there were plenty of raucously triumphant Tory backbenches eager to patronise or insult him. His bitter jealousy erupted when Thatcher herself became a victim of yet another urge to change the style of the leadership. He also tried to establish a role of significance in capitalism in his dotage, to show the Tories what they had been missing – for example flying to negotiate with Saddam Hussain during the Gulf War, but his standing did not improve. As he leaves Parliament, that is where he is at.

So. Farewell, Ted Heath. No doubt there will be the customary events to mark your passing from the parliamentary scene, when the commentators and the hangers-on will do their best to celebrate your career. The truth is that the only thing special about you was your iceberg personality. But it is not all so bad. You come out of it as a rich man, living in one of the loveliest city houses. That is much, much more than can be said for the people who were misled into voting for you.

Obituary: Harold Cottis (2001)

Obituary from the May 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Members will be saddened to hear of the death at the end of January of Harold Cottis, a stalwart member of long standing.

Harold joined Southend branch in 1941. Before that he had already been a conscientious objector to participating in the war, one of the few pre-war peace campaigners who actually did oppose the war when it came. At that time the declared war aims of Britain and France (America and Russia had not yet joined in) were openly admitted to be the defence of the empire and a dismantling of the autarchic trading practices of the Axis powers.

Harold, who worked for the Co-op, helped keep alive the branch there till the end of the 1960s, and was always active in the Southend area. Until recently he was also a regular attender at Conferences and summer schools. He had a Socialist Standard round in Southend which has now been taken over by his wife, Daphne. We express our sincere sympathies to her and to their daughter.