Monday, May 18, 2020

Beyond Their Empty Promises (2001)

Party News from the May 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Socialist Party is standing one candidate in the general election, in Jarrow. Here is our manifesto
By now, you will have had the chance to hear the various politicians in this General Election put forward their views as to how they intend to make our lives a lot better if we elect them. At every opportunity they will have quoted facts and figures, belittled their opponents and made the usual mundane promises.

Well, we may quote a few facts, but we’ll not attack our opponents or make you rash promises. All we will do is ask you to think, and perhaps encourage you to begin using the most subversive word in the English language-“why?”

This is the first General Election of the 21st century and the first real chance you will get this century to send a local MP to Parliament to fight for issues you think are important. So, is it not worth just pausing to recall the previous century and the empty promises it is littered with.

In spite of continual promises of peace from politicians, the last century witnessed two world wars and over 400 smaller conflicts, resulting in 220 million deaths. Some 30 conflicts still rage.

With great advances in food production in the 20th Century, politicians, in the 1970s, promised a world food summit that global hunger would be eradicated within 10 years. There are now over twice as many chronically malnourished people on the planet—800 million—and the World Health Organisation estimates that more people died of malnutrition between 1999 and 2000 than were killed in the two world wars.

In spite of breakthroughs in medical science and technology, UNICEF can still report that 1000 children die every hour from easily preventable disease.

In truth, we have entered the 21st century taking with us every social problem that plagued us in the previous one, yet still we give our support to a system in which a majority of these social ills are rooted. Crime, unemployment, drugs, war, homelessness, and environmental decay—these are still with us and in many cases accentuated, despite the myriad promises to solve them.

All the politicians will tell you they have the answers. But their answers continually fail to solve the problems society faces. Socialists say that if the politicians’ answers are worthless, perhaps they are answering the wrong questions. Maybe we are asking the wrong questions.

If we ask politicians why there is crime and unemployment, war and strife, homelessness and starvation, pollution and environmental destruction, they’ll prevaricate, change the subject or give an answer a mile off the mark. Very few will locate the problem in a wider social and economic context-in the way our society is organised for production : profit before needs.

But this is what the vast majority of our problems boil down to-the undemocratic control and distribution of the world’s natural and industrial resources and the fact that every aspect of our lives is subordinated to the requirements of profit. The golden maxim of our age is “can’t pay-can’t have". It is the logic that finds hundreds of millions living lives of abject poverty in a world of potential abundance.

In socialist society, the artificial constraints of profit will be removed and the productive processes will be used to their fullest potential and with the aim of satisfying needs first and in an environmentally friendly way.

Socialist society will mean a world without borders or frontiers, states and armies, exploitation and oppression. It will be a world devoid of monetary transactions in which people give of their abilities and take freely according to their needs.

We are not demanding the impossible. Our case is simple: our world would be a much better place to live in if we had a real democratic say in the decisions that effect us and real control over the means and instruments for producing and distributing the things we need to live in comfort.

We are not demanding the impossible. Our case is simple: our world would be a much better place to live in if we had a real democratic say in the decisions that effect us and real control over the means and instruments for producing and distributing the things we need to live in comfort.

John Bissett, Socialist Party candidate for Jarrow

A sixth form essay (2001)

Book Review from the May 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘Karl Marx: Hero or Zero?’ By Professor Colin Francome. (Carla Francome publications, 2000)

It’s almost trendy to write about Karl Marx these days and Francome’s book is an example of this genre. However, quite why this particular book was written and moreover who it was written for, is anyone’s guess. It fails to break new ground, has a weak sixth-form-esque narrative and contains a number of factual errors and omissions. It truly reads like a book without any real sense of purpose or originality.

This said, Francome gives Marx a favourable reassessment and this is to his eternal credit as, unlike many seasoned ‘experts’, he does not hold Marx’s ideas as being responsible for those tyrannical so-called ‘Marxist’ regimes which:
“did not have the kind of lifestyle that Marx proposed”(p8).
“it is ironic that a person whose work was directed towards producing freedom became identified as the enemy of freedom”(p6)
However, some of Francome’s mistakes are quite glaring. Perhaps from our point of view, the most significant one is the quote on page 1 allegedly from this very journal – only do not get too excited, it is actually from another organisation.

Another example includes the rather pathetic discussion of contemporary British ‘socialist’ history. He cites “four distinct major Marxist groups” (Communist Party, International Socialism/Socialist Workers Party, Workers Revolutionary Party and the International Marxist Group) completely omitting Ted Grant’s Militant group.

Francome then refers to the WRP splits which one should definitely never do unless painstaking research has been undertaken. Clearly this was not the case and in the throes of confusionism, Francome manages to mix up the notorious Redgraves of the Marxist Party with the faction still producing the Newsline paper. Not the crime of the century, but even so – do your homework Professor!

At the risk of labouring the point, his account on the rise of Trotskyism in the USSR borders on the banal and in discussing the destinations of certain sixties radicals it would be more accurate to describe a one Chris Harman as the editor of Socialist Worker rather than just glibly saying that he now ‘writes books’.

Indeed, this is a very disappointing book.
Dave Flynn

Medicine under capitalism (2001)

From the May 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard
  Politicians will be after your vote again soon, so they’ll be promising to save “your” NHS. Is it yours? Where did the NHS come from? And can politicians really save it?
With the general election looming, representatives of the various pro-capitalist parties will be grubbing about for your vote. The NHS is always a political battleground, and the major political parties often focus their campaigns on the issue because they think it is a potential vote winner. All politicians – whether Liberal, Tory, Labour or the Socialist Alliance candidates – agree, it seems. The NHS is in a dreadful state, and something must be done. What they propose must be done varies – spend more, move over to private healthcare, cut red tape, etc – but the unspoken assumption is that the NHS is a good thing in and of itself.

The NHS and public health are understandably and rightly matters of major public concern. They are the subject of public debate – to the extent that such a thing exists – precisely because they are of such vital importance to our present and future wellbeing. But this debate on the future of the NHS entirely focuses on how scarce resources should be allocated. It is accepted that the NHS and the practice of modern medicine is a “good”, but that, unfortunately, there is not enough of it to go round. Which leads to another assumption: that whatever the concrete problem, it is possible to resolve it within the contexts of the system, via parliamentary “democracy” and/or pressure group politics. All that needs to be done is for some trade union, for example, to “call on the Government” – to demand that the Government do something. But what could they do, and for whom?

No one doubts that the NHS has, for some time now, been in a state of crisis. This is not because of the failure of politicians. It is not the case that individuals are sabotaging what would otherwise be an all-right system. The crisis in the NHS is a reflection of the growing recognition that the increasing costs of medicine are not producing a commensurate increase in labour productivity – what the medical journals euphemistically refer to as “cost effectiveness”.

Contrary to popular belief, the NHS is not dedicated to satisfying the human need for health care, or the eradication of disease. Medical practice and research in capitalist society is strongly influenced by its role in maintaining a healthy labour force, and in socialising and controlling people in a class-divided society. The NHS keeps us fit for work so we can produce profits for our bosses. It is an integrative mechanism that helps hold class-divided society together.

The need of individual bosses to make as much profit as they can from us has to give way, to a certain extent, to the long-term needs of capitalist society as a whole. This is the basis for the idea that the state and the NHS are forces for “socialism”: legislation that protects workers from too much overwork and stress, provides education and basic health care, etc, came to be identified with “socialism”, rather than with the needs of developing capitalist society. (This view is defended to this day by the leftwing of capitalism, such as leftwing labourites, trotskyists, etc.)

In order to cut through this sterile debate, it is necessary to take a historical view. One cannot understand the NHS, or make sense of the waffle of politicians, by looking at a snapshot of it at one point in time, but by looking at how it came into being, the social context within which it operates, in whose interests it operates, and so on. Hospitals don’t fall from the sky.

In defence of capitalism?
From about 1870 onwards, there was a huge increase in the standard of life of most workers. Mortality rates fell, largely due to improvements in public health – such as clean water, effective sewage disposal and sanitation – and working class living standards improved. The widespread use of more complex machines over this period made possible an intensification of the labour process – workers were made to work harder – but on the other hand, this required a fitter and therefore more reliable work force. During the 20th century, mortality rates continued to fall. Capitalist development led to an increase in life expectancy for the whole population. It is facts like these that provide powerful support for the idea of the rationality and benevolence of capitalist society.

But at the same time, capitalism had to restructure if it was to survive. In the first decade of the 20th century, the Labour Party and the trade unions were vociferous in demanding social reforms. This increased level of working class organisation formed the background to the social legislation enacted by Lloyd George’s liberal government in the period from 1906 onwards. These reforms were not a gift from a benevolent state, nor were they merely a ploy to buy off working class discontent. They were an important element in the attempt to restructure British capitalism. It was starting to become clear that the quality of human labour was a crucial factor in capitalist development, and that capitalists must therefore invest in it just as they invested in the maintenance of machines.

Reorganising poverty
It was against this background that plans for a state-organised medical service were formulated during the interwar period, culminating in the publication of the Beveridge Report in 1942. This was received enthusiastically by almost everyone, from people calling themselves socialists and communists, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, to some of the leading capitalists of the day. One group that wasn’t so impressed was the Socialist Party. We published a pamphlet at the time entitled Beveridge Reorganises Poverty (a photocopy of this is available by contacting our Head Office), which made, rather brilliantly, many of the points I will make again here. As the pamphlet makes clear, Beveridge gave expression to a broad section of hardheaded opinion in the ruling class of his period. Beveridge was for social reform, so long as the existing structure of society remained fundamentally the same. As Harold Macmillan later put it:
  After 1931 many of us felt that the disease was more deep rooted. It had become evident that the structure of capitalist society in its old form had broken down, not only in Britain, but all over Europe and even in the United States. The whole system had to be reassessed. Perhaps it could not survive at all; it certainly could not survive without radical change … Something like a revolutionary situation had developed, not only at home, but overseas.
Increased state intervention came to be seen as crucial in the struggle to save capitalism – it was not the struggle for socialism, but its opposite. It was part of the postwar settlement between capital and labour.

To summarise the basic argument in Marxist terms, medical care is important for the reproduction of the forces and relations of production. The reproduction of labour power is provided for through the payment of wages – which enables us to feed, clothe and house ourselves at a historically and culturally specific level – but also through the state, which has, to an extent, taken responsibility for the collective reproduction of labour power by providing education, social security, and other welfare services. The development of the NHS was in part a recognition that a shift away from unskilled manual work to other forms of employment would require a healthier workforce and a more stable and qualitatively superior one. To put it more plainly, the NHS helps keep us fit for work so that we are forced to keep on selling the only thing of real value we own – our creative abilities – to our employers.

To recognise this is not to dismiss modern medicine as completely irrelevant or useless. Large-scale sanitation in the developed world, vaccines, and even the NHS itself, must be seen as gains for the working class in some aspects. It is, rather, to see through the “each according to needs” socialist rhetoric surrounding the NHS. The whole process of the foundation of the NHS was a contradictory one, serving the interests of capital and, as a byproduct, that of the workers.

The NHS also serves different sections of the capitalist class. This is to say that the medical field is itself a large and growing arena for the accumulation of capital, the most obvious example of which is the hugely profitable pharmaceutical industry, and the potentially hugely profitable emerging biotechnology industries. (Since the publication of the human genome project, speculative capital has been pouring into biotech industries, even though no one yet knows if anything will come of it.) The pharmaceutical industry justifies its huge profits by reference to the cost of the research and development it carries out, but it tends to remain silent on the amount it spends on advertising. Most of the information about drugs that doctors rely on comes, directly or indirectly, from the drug industry itself.

So what do we suggest? Although we cannot specify in advance a utopian blueprint for a socialist health policy, we can state that in socialism profit would no longer be the criterion for making decisions about production. Very different goods could then be manufactured, possibly using alternative technologies, with work organised in different ways, so as to reduce the possibility of ill health arising in the first place. And although it would be absurd to say that all disease would be abolished, we can assume that a real concern for the health of the population would be reflected in planning and decision making. Such a society is not a pipedream, but the logical outcome of the working class taking control of their own struggles against the current system, and redirecting their energies into an explicit attack on it.

The demand for a healthier society is in effect a revolutionary demand, since health-damaging aspects of production cannot be removed in response to political reform. This is because it is an inherent feature of capitalism that the interests of capital accumulation ultimately determine social and economic priorities.

But at the election, that is not the sort of message that you can expect to hear. Plenty of blather about spending on the NHS. Plenty of promises. The Socialist Party, however, doesn’t make promises. Instead, it can give a guarantee. Voting for a capitalist party, whether Labour, Tory, Liberal, or Socialist Alliance, will make no difference to your quality of life. Only your own actions – the “self-activity of the working class” – can change the world.
Stuart Watkins

Letters: Whose welfare? (2001)

Letters to the Editors from the May 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Whose welfare?

Dear Editors,

It seems to me the majority of workers are unable to see through the smokescreen of misleading language used by the “popular press”. I would love to see people such as us adopt simple accurate definitions instead of using their terminology.

Welfare is most discriminatory and applies only to the diminishing pittance of basic subsistence money reluctantly rationed out by government to the most needy. But all government spending benefits some group of people in our society. Although categorised under such heading as “defence, subsidies, grants, aid, law and order, etc, etc they are all really “welfare for the capitalist class”. As we all know, even education and health would never have been on any government agenda if a reasonably fit and literate workforce had not been required to exploit,. Cuts now on both health and education merely coincide with the decrease in demand for workers. It is uneconomical to bother keeping such a surplus in existence. However, all this government expenditure should be referred to as Welfare for the Rich.

In the West Australian newspaper of 23 October it was reported that Welfare for the Poor is being methodically cut by a government policy of penalising and fining recipients for trivial infringements . . . real or imagined. Three hundred thousand workers throughout Australia have been affected this past year and $17 million has been collected from the unemployed in Western Australia alone!

A recent Western Australia Telethon TV charity boasted that over 33 years the endless effort of any army of charity workers have collected a total of $55 million. Most of the money has provided special equipment for children’s hospitals. Not a penny of government welfare money spent here.

However, government expenditure for the two-week Olympic event in Sydney totalled $8,000 million (eight billion). Most workers were delighted with this circus and are still delirious over the 16 gold medals Australia won . . . costing $500 million each. Even more delighted must surely be the business world . . . raking in vast amounts of income while all the outlay was paid by the government. Sounds like Welfare for the Rich to me!
Ron Stone, 
Gelorup, Western Australia


Dear Editors,

As you know, socialists always have been fighting for proletarian dictatorship. When “Socialists” in Russia, Poland, Cuba, China, etc have got political power, they called it proletarian dictatorship. Nowadays people have not any good experience from the “dictatorship of proletariat” in Russia, etc and they hate any kind of dictatorship. Can you explain real “proletarian dictatorship”? I would like to know what did Karl Marx think about proletarian dictatorship? Is there any democracy and freedom for all social classes and all people under rule of proletarian dictatorship?
K. Jahandideh, 
London W8

Marx took the term “dictatorship of the proletariat” from the French revolutionaries he met when he lived in Paris in the mid-1840s. Only, whereas they saw this as being a minority dictatorship supposedly on behalf of the working class (or proletariat) Marx gave it a democratic content and saw it as the unlimited exercise of political power by the working class by and on its own behalf.

What existed in Russia, etc had nothing to do with what Marx envisaged, but was a naked dictatorship over the working class. No wonder they hated it—and they were right.

What Marx envisaged was a period between the end of capitalist political rule and the establishment of socialism (or communism, the same thing) when political power would be exercised by the majority working class within a democratic context. So, yes, he did envisage democracy and freedom of speech for all people, even capitalists and former capitalists, under his interpretation of the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. Engels referred to the Paris Commune of 1871 as an example of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and, although we can doubt that it really was a beginning of a transition to socialism, it was an elected council with competing parties—quite unlike Russia under Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.

Having said this, although we say that the working class should still organise to win control of political power and use it in the course of establishing socialism-and would call this the “dictatorship of the proletariat” if really pressed-we don’t envisage this as lasting for any length of time and think the term “dictatorship of the proletariat” to be so open to misunderstanding as to be counter-productive. We prefer to speak simply of the (very short-term democratic) exercise of political power by the working class.

Marx’s lapse

Dear Editors,

It’s ironic that you (“What is Capitalism?”, Socialist Standard, December) admonish protesting reformers for not knowing “exactly” what capitalism is, when you make an inexcusable error. Yes it is true that production under capitalism is motivated by profit. However, profit is not “the difference between this [the price of the products sold] and what they [the capitalists] pay, as wages and salaries, for the working skills they [the capitalists] purchase on the labour market”. Scientifically speaking, surplus value is the correct term. Saying that surplus value is profit is like saying that 11 is 12.
Thomas Alpine, 
Grand Rapids, 
Michigan, USA

If you want to be pedantic, surplus value and profit are not the same since surplus value is divided into rent and interest as well as (industrial and commercial) profit, but in being lax we are in good company. In his own popular explanation of his theories in Value, Price and Profit, Marx writes (Chapter XI):
“The surplus value, or that part of the total value of the commodity in which the surplus labour or unpaid labour of the working man is realised, I call ‘Profit’, and “In the remarks I have still to make I shall use the word Profit for the whole amount of the surplus value extracted by the capitalist without any regard to the division of that surplus value between different parties.”

Capitalism and apartheid (1970)

From the May 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many political analysts of South Africa have seen in the Afrikaner based National Party the political representative of landed interests with the mainly British United Party and the more radical Progressive Party being concerned largely with the mining and industrial interests. This view has usually been developed along the negative line, of what a capitalist-orientated party would not do. It is suggested that since apartheid, the acclaimed ideal of the Nationalists, would be disastrous for the economic prosperity of South Africa in today's industrial and viciously competitive world, it could not possibly form the policy of a capitalist party.

True as this statement is, it is only of minor relevance to present political realities in South Africa. Firstly it should be noted that fully fledged apartheid (separate self-governing states for each of South Africa’s ethnic groupings), is treated by the National Party in much the same way as the Russian Communist Party treats communism. It is an ‘ultimate’ aim which stays far from achievements, whether the year is 1948 or 1970: a conscience absolver whose only practical evidence is a scattering of Bantu reserves constituting one seventh of South Africa’s territory in the worst and most backward areas.

The National government proves as well as anyone the impossibility of reconstituting the old tribal institutions amongst Africans in the reserves, for they have long since been smashed through the combined effects of military conquest, Christianity and urbanisation. It makes no attempt beyond social discrimination to constitute the Indian, Coloured, Malay or Chinese derived sectors of the population into self-sustaining territories. The situation is well summed up by this extract from the 1967 Unesco report on apartheid.
  In spite of the ideology of apartheid, in spite of the uprooting of thousands of families, the complete separation of peoples into tribal ethnic groupings in South Africa has proved impossible. The closely integrated economic structure. the location of all the major industries, ail the mineral wealth, all the important harbour facilities, and all the best arable land in that part of South Africa which was outside the reserves in white ownership, meant that Africans — as well as Coloured and Asians —remain dependent on the town and farming complex of White South Africa for a livelihood . . . In fact, whatever the stated policy of the Government, there has been an increasing number of Africans admitted to urban areas.
While early Afrikaner nationalism could be more easily attached to the interests of a land owning farmer class distinct from mining and industrial capitalists, drawing as it did nearly all its support from the country districts or plateau land, this is not the case with the National Party variety. The Nationalists certainly captured the plateau land vote, but their rise to power really came through the impetus from the urban working class.

In particular the Thirties depression, together with a severe drought which drove thousands into the towns looking for jobs, in competition not only with the skilled British workers but also many industrially trained non-Europeans, provided the political base from which the National Party grew. These Afrikaner workers carried with them many of the out-dated customs and political prejudices of the country and incorporated them into a political ideology which grew from the discipline of urban industrial life.

Once established, the National Party was able to detach quite a large section of the British working class vote that had formerly gone to the racist Labour Party. Electoral pacts were made between the two organisations and the first National Party government relied for its power on the balance held by the Labour Party members. Having used the Labour Party to get into the seat of power it then discarded it. The Nationalists had the racism and anti-capitalist slogans of the Labour Party; the Unionist and later the United Party had its British patriotism, so the Labour Party quietly faded away, having nothing better to offer.

The British industrialists have long supported, vocally and financially, the United Party rather than the Nationalists and the latter have made propaganda of this among both urban and country workers, but this in itself does not brand the Nationalists as anti-capitalists in the general sense. Afrikaner nationalism saw itself being attacked on two fronts. Firstly, by the colonialist interference of British imperialism and secondly, by the opposing nationalisms of the African and Indian. To deal with the first it was seen as essential to build up a strong industrial South Africa, and to deal with the second to develop apartheid. Here was the Nationalists’ dilemma, for the first policy inevitably came into conflict with the second. The result was a compromise of sorts; strict apartheid was thrown out, but there were increasing measures of social discrimination in housing, health and political rights.

Having said that the National Party is not establishing strict apartheid, which would be disastrous for industrial development, it still remains a fact that policies pursued by the regime have not helped the development of South Africa’s industrial potential. In particular they have, through a combination of Pass laws, segregation in residential areas, repression of trade unions etc., bolstered with state power the system of migratory labour. This system was common during early industrialisation, but unusual and highly unsuitable to the commercially complicated and automated structure of modern capitalism. Such a structure requires a trained, disciplined and reliable work force and this can only be approached where workers are permanently resident in urban areas, settled in their family relations and having the inducement to involve themselves in industry. The migratory labour system prevents this by herding workers together in all male compounds, or male ghettos, by denying them political right in urban areas, and by turning their attention back towards their small patch of land on the reserve. The result, as H. R. Barrows has explained, is that:
   Though the traditional structure of the African family and tribal life is disintegrating because of its inadequacy when brought into close contact with the developing exchange economy with its implicit wage system, its breakdown is being protracted by the system of segregation and migrant labour. The social disadvantages of sudden disruption have been avoided at the cost of delaying specialisation. As a result, there is to-day no self supporting peasant economy, no permanent agricultural labour force, and no stable urban population.
Labour turnover in South African industry is enormous, compared with similarly industrialised areas elsewhere in the world. The Tomlinson Commission recorded turnovers of 117 per cent in a period of ten months in Johannesburg around 1948 and Sheila Van der Horst a figure of 138 per cent in East London generally, with 600 per cent in the building industry around 1957.

The National government is committed to the further industrial expansion of South Africa, but it is hampered by an out-dated political ideology, which it can only enforce by a massive system of state repression. It is a capitalist party since it governs a country completely dominated by capitalism, and a long way from the agricultural economy of the old Boers. Afrikaner farmers have themselves invested in industry, merging more and more into a common capitalist class, and there has been a significant growth in state corporations, and state financed industries under the Nationalists. While the removal of all racial barriers in employment and political rights might well advance industry in South Africa tremendously, such a course should not necessarily be expected in the immediate future. Further repression might lead to a bloody revolt, yet it may well be the fear of the existing native white ruling class in South Africa of such a revolt that causes them to support National Party policies. Capitalism would not fall through such a revolt but the existing capitalists might well be turfed out. Even the United Party is aware of this and has retained from the days of Smuts’ leadership a less rigorous policy of “separation” of the different ethnic groups. Only the now dissolved Liberal Party has openly demanded a multi-racial society, and in this they have only really represented the hopes of foreign capital for a greater field of exploitation in South Africa.
Mike Ballard

'Anti-apartheid' denounced (1970)

From the May 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Anti-apartheid was denounced as a slogan of British imperialism at a meeting in Conway Hall, London, on 16 March addressed by I. B. Tabata, President of the Unity Movement of South Africa and N. Honono, President of the All-African Convention (a constituent organisation of the Unity Movement).

The South African ruling class, argued Tabata (what follows is only a summary of his arguments not an exact report of his speech), was split over how to govern the millions of African workers and peasants on whose labour the South African capitalist economy rested. The bulk of the industrial wealth of South Africa was owned either by capitalists from Britain or the English-speaking section of the White population. British imperialism had come to realise that it was no longer necessary to govern places like India and Africa by means of direct colonial rule. They had learned that it was cheaper and less inconvenient to rule through “independent” governments. However the bulk of the South African electorate, made up of White workers and farmers, was Afrikaans-speaking and traditionally opposed to British imperialism. They followed the lead of the Nationalist Party which preached that the only way to govern the Africans was by police methods. Brutal apartheid was the implementation of this policy of suppression. This the British capitalists and their counter-parts in South Africa, like gold magnate Oppenheimer, regarded as unnecessary and even dangerous in that it could provoke unrest and violence that would endanger their investments. They would prefer to rule through the White opposition parties (with their policy of less rigid segregation) or even, if necessary through organisations like the African National Congress. The “anti-apartheid" campaign by obscuring the class struggle of the African peasants and workers against capitalist exploitation and oppression, served their interests. As the Unity Movement put it in their pamphlet The Revolutionary Road for South Africa:
  In terms of the South African set-up, anti-apartheid means anti-Afrikaner Nationalist Government. It means the return to power of the English speaking sections. It means the entrenchment of imperialism in South Africa and all that that connotes for the exploitation of the mass of the Black population.
This is an analysis which the Socialist Party of Great Britain would largely endorse and is one reason why we do not take part in single-issue campaigns such as “Boycott South African Goods” and "Stop the Cricket Tour”. It is in fact in line with what we ourselves have long argued: that the rigid apartheid imposed by a government drawing its support from a farm-orientated electorate is a hindrance to the development of capitalism in South Africa and is against the interests of both the South African capitalist class and the international capitalists who have investments there. We have always rejected the facile view that apartheid is imposed by these capitalists in order to protect their investments.

The Socialist Party is of course opposed to apartheid, but to separate the struggle against apartheid and other forms of oppression and discrimination from the general struggle for Socialism (which will mean the emancipation of all mankind, irrespective of race or sex) is to play into the hands of that section of the South African ruling class that is opposed to apartheid.

We also have fundamental criticisms of the programme and policy of the Unity Movement, which is heavily influenced by obsolete trotskyist ideas about Russia and China being “workers states”, about leadership and "transitional demands” and about guerilla warfare. Nevertheless, on the issue of anti-apartheid, we concede that they take up a basically correct position. Wc doubt however whether their supporters in this country, who include Tariq Ali, really understand the full implications of this line of argument.

Another look at law and order (1970)

From the May 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the next few months we shall all have to exercise considerable patience and understanding. All our politicians are going to be under a great strain. Everything they say will have to be assessed with due regard for the fact that a general election is not far off. They are all looking for a vote-catching Election Issue.

The Conservatives are probably rather happy about the votes they hope to win over the issue of Law and Order. This is a fine, upstanding, majestic phrase which has the added advantage of meaning almost anything the user likes. The Fascists use it to mean cracking down on coloured immigrants, with the implied conclusion that this would at once clean up all the brothels and drug-pushing. For the Tories, Law and Order is a convenient political weapon to use against the government. Quintin Hogg recently displayed their policy, like a salesman showing his samples, when he said, and at the same time did not say, that the Labour government is responsible for a higher crime rate.

It is so widely accepted that crime is increasing that to question it seems almost as crankish as questioning whether the earth is a sphere. As the criminal statistics come out they show an average annual increase in indictable offences known to the police of something like 7 per cent. The overall picture shows that, after a period of relative stability at the beginning of the century, the crime figures rose steadily; between 1915 and 1930 by an average of 5 per cent a year, between 1931 and 1948 by 7 per cent. For the years 1949 to 1954 there was an overall decrease, then the figure starts going up again. Between 1955 and 1965 it was 10 per cent; after a levelling off in 1967 it fell to 7 per cent in 1968 but for last year it is likely to have reached 10 per cent again. About 37.000 people are at present in prison, borstal or detention centre — and again this figure is rising, despite the attempts, for example the introduction of suspended sentences in the 1967 Criminal Justice Act, to cut the population behind bars.

So we have the popular hysteria that England, which was once tranquil and law-abiding, is now become a paradise for layabouts, junkies, sexual deviants, violent gangsters, all supported by massive handouts from the Welfare State presided over by sloppy penal reformers. Wc might expect that the judiciary should be in the vanguard of this reaction. Like Mr. Justice Eveleigh. wondering at York Assizes earlier this year whether "our attitude to crime and the criminal” was partly responsible for the increase in crime and violence. The judges are usually closely followed by the police in such sentiments. Robert Mark, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, recently complained (The Guardian 26/3/70) that the criminal law acts now as a frustration to the police instead of their ally.

However, a cold eye cast upon the crime wave may see it rather differently. Something like 3 per cent of recorded crime can be called serious. Sex and violence offences are never more than 5 per cent of the total. There are three or four homicides for each million of the population each year. As a whole, this country is reasonably peaceful. Old ladies — even judges — can sleep safe in their beds.

This leads to a more fundamental questioning of the crime statistics. First, let us be clear that the figures record only crimes which are known to the police, which means that almost certainly they are an underestimation. They are also susceptible to many other subjective influences, like a change in the method of recording or a temporary campaign by the police, energised by a chief constable with a zeal for hunting down a particular crime, or by a decline in public tolerance of it.

Legislation can itself also have an effect on the crime figures. On one side of the balance, an Act can reduce a crime rate by simply legalising something which was previously illegal. On the other side, a new law can create a new crime, as rationing spawned the black market and as the Theft Act widened the definition of indictable crime. Somewhere in this field is the example of the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933. This Act provided a gentler method of dealing with juveniles before the courts and this is widely held to be the encouragement which led to the rise in recorded juvenile crime after 1933.

What do the statistics, so widely quoted, so freely used, really register? Crime is not a static thing, to be related to a sort of moral index which eternally condemns some actions as criminal. It is an activity which can only be socially defined. So how do we define it, how do we measure it? Here we meet the first problem, because any definition or measurement might be dealing with some other social breakdown or development which is expressed in crime. It might be dealing with a slump, a war, the growth of towns — even something like an increase in hire-purchase trading.

One example of this is in the rise of the self-service store and the supermarket. These have vastly expanded the opportunities of the shoplifter and one well-informed source has it that a fall-off in shop-lifting causes some supermarkets to question the attractiveness of their displays. So what does an increase in shoplifting really register? An increase in criminality among foreign students and depressed, middle-aged women? Or more skilful marketing snares by the shop management?

Supermarkets are another step in the process of town development, which goes back a very long time. There were periods of intense growth; for example during the years 1821 to 1831 the population of Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds grew at least four times as fast as England as a whole.
There are plenty of accounts of what happened then, as the people poured into the towns, looking for somewhere to live and something to live on. In a word, they placed a strain on the social structure which it was not equipped to resist. Crime which was suited to an urban setting — prostitution, pocket-picking, shoplifting — flourished, and was checked only by urban organisation against it. One account of London in 1829 says:
   Street robberies have multiplied in the metropolis to a dangerous extent, and are perpetrated in the most daring manner. Gentlemen have frequently their watches plucked out of the fob, or their pocket-book or purse snatched or cut away, in the most crowded thoroughfares . . .
At the same time, to complete the picture, the towns supplied the resources to support their crime — a network of receivers and the notorious rookeries, where criminals could take refuge among the dense maze of festering alleyways and courtyards.

This is one example of the growth of crime in fact measuring some other social pressures. Another, more up to date, is in the increased possession and use of those drugs which the law defines as dangerous (there are plenty of dangerous ones which are legal; and although some of the illegal drugs are extremely dangerous it is another story, why the law legalises some dangerous activities and forbids others.) The use of drugs, in most cases, is a symptom of a dissatisfaction with society. Perhaps it is a matter of a massive frustration — a common enough thing in the suppressive, insecure world of capitalism. Or perhaps a sharpened sense of alienation from human priorities — of the boredom and futility of a lifetime of employment and the prostitution of our abilities to the one aim of getting and holding down a job.

The magistrate who cracks down on the cannabis smoker is not required — and rarely shows any sign of wanting — to consider such aspects of the “offence". In this, he is expressing some of the popular hysteria over Law and Order. We might expect, as in most cases where moral stands are taken up, to find some double standards. Few people can claim not to have offended sometime against capitalism’s laws — not to have bilked on fares, or kept money they have found, or not told the shop assistant who has given them too much change. Then there is the vast amount of “white collar” crime — fiddling expense accounts, “adjusting” the petty cash book — which goes undetected or, if discovered, is hushed up.

Capitalism, like other social systems, erects its own morals on its economic basis. The morals of capitalism are those of private property and as property is essentially a matter of minority privilege it follows that the unprivileged majority are all potential offenders against those morals. One thing which can be said with certainty is that about 90 per cent of crime consists of offences against property. This is not to say that criminals, whether hardened or petty, are a threat to the property system. They are as much in favour of capitalism as any dogged Tory; they are only interested in adjusting the balance of possession in their favour and are ready to break the rules to do so.

The phrase Law and Order illustrates that one is considered inseparable from the other. (In fact some actions — for example smoking pot — can be orderly but illegal and others — for example a war effort — can be legal but disorderly.) By order capitalism means an acceptance of its own social structure, morals and priorities. It means that the vast majority must accept their inferior status as wage slaves, keeping any efforts to defend or improve their conditions within defined limits. It also means that industry and transport can pollute, even destroy, the environment in the name of profit, with virtually no legal method of preventing them doing so. It means that politicians can break their promises, or adopt policies for which they have never asked for a mandate, and all this must be accepted. It means that everyone must conform to the pattern of a docile, respectable zombie who may have boiling frustrations but who never allows them to spill over.

If we accept that there is now more crime than ever before, this is another way of saying that capitalist society exerts a fiercer pressure than ever before and that the lives of its people are more unsatisfactory than ever before. Only a small part (about 3 per cent) of crime is the organised work of professional criminals. Most of it consists of actions, or gestures, which are the result of acute deprivations or alienation. In capitalist society, with its family structure and its wage labour system, with its privilege and suppressions, it is all too easy to fall into the sorry ranks of the deprived or to become a cast-out, unemployable and therefore unwanted.

This is a social problem, as virulent as any of those the reformers claim to have eradicated. It is usual for such problems, at some time in their lives, to become material for vote-catching politicians. So it is with Law and Order. Craftily, the government have pushed through measures like the abolition of hanging and the Misuse of Drugs Bill some time before the election, in the hope that such provocations to punitive workers will be forgotten when the votes come to be cast. Equally craftily, the Tories harp on the theme, encouraging the idea that crime can be reduced by the imposition of harsher penalties. (If it were that easy there would be a lot fewer ulcers in the Home Office.)

This may be all very well for the politicians but the rest of us are left with the unpleasant fact that Law and Order, like racialism, is a bandwagon which once rolling will be difficult to stop. At all events it will do damage along the way — and not only capitalism’s criminals will suffer under it.

Free transport in London (1970)

From the May 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the more obvious examples of the waste of capitalism is the common practice of making people buy a ticket before they can travel. Under this absurd procedure men and women are employed to issue pieces of paper for other men and women to punch holes in. People who cannot afford to pay for these tickets cannot use the buses and trains, while those caught travelling without one are liable to be brought before the magistrates and fined.

In a socialist society on the basis of common ownership travel, like everything else, would be free. Buses and trains would be provided for people to use as and when they wanted to.

Faced with this common-sense proposition many people are at a loss and can think of no sensible objection. They often do not know that even under capitalism public transport is provided as a free service in some places. Such people must have been thoroughly confused during the recent Greater London Council elections. For here there were Tories and Liberals, Labour and Homes Before Roads candidates, all saying that the GLC should run London Transport as a free service.

For instance, the “Homes Before Roads” group who stood in most boroughs declared:
  We believe that within the next ten years we will have to consider the idea of free public transport as a feasible solution to the congestion and pollution caused by the private motorist.
But it was not only amongst the minority party candidates that this was canvassed. In Islington, the idea had an able advocate in Councillor John Szemerey, a Tory. He wrote:
  It is six years since I first proposed to Conservative Central Office that public transport in London should be provided free as a public service, financed jointly from the Exchequer and from the rates. With all the resultant savings on manpower and machinery, increased mobility of labour and utilisation of public transport, and reduction in travel by private car, I still think there is a good case for this. (North London Press, 6 February).
When asked how much it would cost to provide free public transport in London the Tory GLC leader replied that “the abolition of fares on London Transport’s red buses and Underground trains would be equivalent to a rate of 3s. 4d. in 1970, or approximately £30 a year for the average householder’’ (North London Press, 6 March).

Szemerey’s Labour opponents in Islington were delighted. They challenged him to say he stood for “a 3s. 4d. a rate increase to make travel free on all the London Transport buses and Underground trains”, an obvious appeal to what they thought were popular prejudices against the idea. In Camden, incidentally, the same challenge was made to the Liberals by a Tory — a revealing illustration of the sham that conventional party politics is.

Szemerey replied, arguing in effect that even from a capitalist standpoint his proposal could be justified:
  My point was that the savings from having no tickets (savings in manpower, materials and machines) put together with the savings on road maintenance and improvements (many more would use free public transport and leave their cars at home) might well justify a totally new look at public transport policy and treating it as a public service paid from local and national taxation (rates and Exchequer).
  The statement by the leader of the GLC that free red buses and undergrounds in London would cost a 3s. 4d. rate or some £30 per year for the average householder, if paid entirely from the rates underlines my point. The balance of payments from rates and Exchequer still needs to be worked out, but even if paid entirely from the rates £30 a year per household would present an actual saving for most families . . . And for the old, who nowadays have to think twice before spending 6d. on a bas fare, it would open a new life. They could visit friends, go to the shops, make outings to museums or parks all at no direct cost to themselves (Islington Gazette, 20 March).
Because abolishing tickets was proposed by a conventional politician it got this serious hearing. Nobody suggested that, with free access to transport, there would not be enough seats for everyone. Or that the buses and trains would be jammed full of people travelling nowhere in particular just because it was free.

Free travel on London Transport has nothing to do with Socialism, as the fact that it finds such a keen advocate in a Tory shows. It would merely be another reform which, with class ownership and the wages system continuing, would exert a downward pressure on wage levels.

It is the implications of some of Councillor Szemerey’s arguments that are of particular interest. He argues that resources would be saved since there would no longer be any need for tickets, ticket machines, ticket collectors or accounts, and that people who now cannot afford to travel too often will have this restriction on their enjoyment of life removed.

But these arguments can be applied with equal validity outside transport. Think of the saving if other things like food and clothes and housing were to be provided free. There would be no need for any cashiers or accountants or bank clerks or security guards or rent collectors or salesmen. The list is almost endless since very many people are employed in jobs which have to do with the buying and selling rather than the actual production of wealth. There would be no need either for cash registers, safes, counting machines or sales ledgers. The saving would be enormous and could go some way towards providing the extra things that people would ask for if prices were abolished.

What an indictment of capitalism it is that there are old people who, as Councillor Szemcrey admits, “have to think twice before spending 6d. on a bus fare”. These same people also have to think twice before spending money on the food and clothes they buy and on the rooms they rent. The abolition of price-tags really would open up "a new life” for them.

Of course free access to wealth according to need is not possible as long as a privileged few own the means of production. It would first require a real social revolution changing the basis of society from class to common ownership, as opposed to the comparatively trivial reform Councillor Szemcrey proposes. It is up to him to explain why his proposal to abolish prices is restricted to transport. He must say why he wants to go on wasting society’s resources on the trappings of buying-and-selling and why he still wants to force old people to pay for the food and shelter they need.
Adam Buick

A Knight Errant. (1921)

From the September 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

The apologists of the capitalist class are hard put to it to explain away the contradictions of the system manifesting themselves in the enormous production of wealth on the one hand, and industrial crises, unemployment, and unrest on the other. Underlying and outcropping here and there in their speeches and writings is the endeavour to throw the blame for these phenomena on the workers. Any reason but the correct one is given; yet if the workman who reads the effusions of such apologists will carefully examine the words and phrases embodied in these speeches or writings, the fallacy of the "arguments" will be fully exposed.

In the "Birmingham Weekly Post" (26.6.21), Sir William Joynson Hicks, M.P., enters the ring and lays about him with his bladder of wind as follows: —
   Among the main causes of industrial unrest—and most of them, when examined, are found to be quite elementary must be placed the fact that the workers of this country generally fail to realise that Great Britain lives internationally and not nationally. 
If this means anything at all, it is that the workers are restless because they do not realise that trade is international. Well, when they do realise this, is it seriously put forward that unrest will disappear? The history of the growth of capitalism is against such a conclusion, for this worldwide development has, by bringing countries into communication with one another, unfolded to ever-increasing numbers of the workers of the world their identity of interest as an exploited class. Sir Joynson Hicks must try again: his ''elementary cause" (not worthy of an elementary schoolboy) is not a cause, but just nonsense. He continues : —
  If destiny had made these islands self-supporting in regard to food and raw materials, we should be able to pay as high wages as anyone could ever desire without fatal consequences. The only result would be that the purchaser would have to pay highly for everything he ate, drank, or bought.
"If" is a very useful word, and many an argument has been balanced on it by word-conjurers; but as Destiny has evidently set about her task indifferently, it would be better for the knightly champion to erect his defence of the capitalist system on a more substantial basis. However, for the nonce let us accept his assertions as quoted above. There would, then, be wages under this "if"; and it must also follow, that there would be profits, with the further conclusion that classes of exploiters and exploited would be in existence. In short, Sir William has merely formulated on a small scale the capitalist system of society, a system which he apparently looks upon, in general, as the absolutely final form of social production.

It seems as though Sir William has a difficulty in discovering a theory which will stand the test, and hides this deficiency behind a shower of verbosity.

Let us follow the adventurous knight into the depths of his argument.
  But we are not self-supporting either in regard to our food supply or in regard to the raw materials we require for our industries. That fact entirely alters the case. We are a nation of manufacturers and traders, and wages here are determined largely by conditions in other countries.
There is just one addition necessary to the above; after "manufacturers and traders" should follow "wage slaves." However, as this country is not self-supporting, and "wages are determined largely by conditions in other countries," it appears that he is making out a fine case for international unrest; but of course that is not his intention, for if the British unrest can be exorcised by falsely showing the foreign workers as enemies of the British workers, then he will have done his bit and earned the reward of fidelity from his masters. While our knight admits that Great Britain lives internationally and not nationally, he desires, and those whom he upholds desire, that the workers will, think nationally in terms of competition against the workers of other nations, and accept this competition as a permanent law. The possibility of such a culmination is inconceivable to anyone who gives a moment's thought to the subject, yet, nevertheless, there are many people who are influenced by the spurious arguments of the supporters of the present system.

Continuing, Sir William tells us that—
"The laws of political economy have to be taken into account." 
As to what those laws are, we are enlightened more or less in the next sentence : —
  We have to remember that Nature still rewards the unskilled labourer with only just sufficient to provide him with the bare necessities of life. The unskilled worker to-day is no better off than before the war ; he is still subject to the same inexorable laws which ruled our rude forefathers after they left the Garden of Eden.
The admission that the unskilled worker is no better off to-day than before the war, is noted, but it would seem almost unnecessary that the statements before and after the admission should have to be attacked at this period of scientific literature and research. But, unfortunately, verbosity in speech and writing is accounted something by numerous people who do not critically examine the phrases of men professing to be the friends of the workers, but who are in reality their enemies.

Now, what is generally understood when we speak of the laws of political economy? We mean those laws which underlie the production and distribution of wealth. Hence, as the parliamentary knight professes to be concerned with these laws within the present system, why are we carried back, to the "inexorable laws" of Nature?

From the time our progenitor, savage man, discovered how to make fire, to fashion and use the club, the spear, the bow and arrow, etc., we have travelled further and further away from the "inexorable laws" which are such useful phrases in the armoury of the capitalist economist.

With every improvement of tools and weapons, with every fresh invention and discovery, man has found himself better able to cope with natural forces, thus nullifying, so far as mankind is concerned, the tendency "to multiply beyond their means of subsistence" ("Descent of Man," page 94). Under the present system, based as it is on the private ownership of wealth, the necessities of life can be produced in a shorter time and in vaster quantities than in any previous system. The machines socially operated have been socially produced, and the commodities piled up in the factories and warehouses are the embodiment of social labour; it is, therefore, the mission of the working class to convert the privately owned instruments of production into the property of the whole community.

But Sir William Joynson Hicks would have us believe that wealth sufficient and ample for all cannot be produced, and that it is a law of Nature which "rewards the unskilled labourer with only just sufficient to provide him with the bare necessities of life."

After the Garden of Eden the valiant knight arrives immediately at the machine ago, for he continues: 
  When machinery comes into use the skilled man holds an advantage over the unskilled, but he is still in competition with underpaid and more efficient labour in other countries. That of itself prevents his wages rising beyond an economic level, beyond a level which similar work commands elsewhere.
Now in reference to the above, it is hardly necessary to say that it is only as long as the work of the skilled man cannot be done by a machine that the skilled man holds an advantage, but there are very few trades at the present day which have not been affected by progress in machine construction and in the division of labour, thus causing special skill and strength to become superfluous. This development makes it possible to replace the labour of men by that of women and even children. With the introduction of machinery begins wholesale exploitation of the most helpless, who fall victims to revolting ill-treatment and spoliation. The capitalist system of production effects an enormous increase in the number of workers at its disposal, and there is also an ever-increasing productivity of human labour in consequence of the progress in technical improvements and inventions. Further, capitalist exploitation increases also the possibility of using the labour power of the individual to the highest degree by speeding up the workers.

The laws of political economy—and there should be no need to emphasise this—are quite different from the "inexorable laws" of Nature. Competition amongst the workers for the bare means of subsistence has no law of Nature basis, neither has capitalism itself; and the system, with the competitive struggle which it entails, can only continue so long as the workers, fail to realise the necessity for changing the whole basis of society from private to social ownership.

After discussing the cost of coal and iron, claiming the necessity of cheaper production of these, Sir William says: "To my mind there are only two ways of reducing our cost of production: either we must work longer or we must work cheaper." This is a rather interesting statement, as there are included, apparently, the diligent knight and his capitalist friends; but he slipped: there is no likelihood that they will show the workers how to do it even to the extent of working one hour, much less "only seven hours a day."

Our capitalist apologist says: "Very few politicians care to tell the public the truth, but here I have stated no more than the bare truth."

Of course, it is no news that politicians, find great difficulty in telling the truth, and one must compliment the knight on his endeavour to become master of a great accomplishment. He is under the impression that he has succeeded where others failed, and does not, perhaps, realise that he distorts the truth by arguing from a false basis. He has a great respect for Trade Unionists, and appeals to them to apply "their common sense to get us out of our difficulties''; and he whines that "the Belgian worker puts in eleven hours to our seven." Brave little Belgium! It seems that every British worker must have been seized with a "desire for doles" instead of a "greater desire for work" ; but may I suggest that the markets were supplied with the commodities required for the time, and that unemployment arises from the capacity of the working class to produce vast quantities of wealth and the inability to buy commodities to the extent of the values produced. The capitalist class, on the other hand, cannot immediately squander all of the wealth of which they rob the workers; therefore, arising from these facts, the markets of the world are periodically glutted with goods, an industrial crisis sets in, and millions of workers are unemployed. These crises occur more often than formerly, and embrace a wider area, so that for politicians, Coalition or Labour, to tell the workers to work longer or work harder amounts to directing them to worsened conditions, a fact with which they are generally well enough acquainted.

There is one thing more to be said: the time is not far distant when the words with which Sir William concludes his case, "unless a man work, neither shall he eat," will be fulfilled. And that will be when this system has been placed in the museum of antiquities, and capitalists and their henchmen have ceased from troubling; a tune when men will no longer be, as the poet finely puts it:
"Even as the slaves by force or famine driven Beneath a vulgar master to perform A task of cold and brutal drudgery, Hardened to hope, insensible to fear, Scarce living pulleys of a dead machine. Mere wheels of work and articles of trade That grace the proud and noisy pomp of wealth."

Agricultural Industry. (1921)

From the September 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the "Labour Gazette" for July,1921, some interesting facts are brought to light. We are told that the Agricultural Wages Board appointed a Committee in December, 1920, "to inquire into and report upon the extent to which the Unemployment Insurance Act might be made applicable and beneficial to agricultural workers." This report has now been completed, and in their comment on same we are told: "There was a time when the distress arising from unemployment in agriculture, at least in certain years, was considerable. During the latter half of the 19th century, however, changes in the methods of farming and the extensive introduction of machinery, caused a great reduction in the number of men employed on farms, with the result that the smaller number who were now employed enjoyed greater stability of employment." Here are some of the figures re-quoted from the report by the "Labour Gazette": —

The point it is desired to show once again is that, with the development of the forces of production under Capitalism, there follows greater insecurity of life for the worker. To those who happen to qualify for employment—generally the more skilled and efficient—there follows corresponding intensity of conditions arising from the manipulation of the intricate machinery brought into being to increase the output per hour per man. The writer repeats, therefore, that which has always been insisted upon in these columns, that so long as the means and instruments for producing the requirements of the community remain the private property of the capitalist class, the conditions of the workers must inevitably tend to get worse. The only remedy is Socialism, the common ownership of these means and instruments for producing wealth.

The above illustration shows the need for the worker to study his position in capitalist society and organise for the establishment of Socialism. Under that system every device invented will shorten the hours of labour necessary for the production of the requirements and comforts of the human race. As Paul Lafargue so brilliantly puts it: —
  Mechanical production which, under Capitalist direction, can only buffet the worker to periods of enforced idleness, will, when developed and regulated by a Socialist administration, require from the producer to provide for the normal needs of Society, only a maximum day of two or three hours in the workshop, and when this time of necessary social labour is fulfilled he will be able to enjoy freely the physical and intellectual pleasures of life.
   The artist then will paint, will sing, will dance ; the writer will write, the musician will compose operas, the philosopher will build systems, the chemist will analyse substances, not to gain money, to receive a salary—but to deserve applause, to win laurels, like the conquerors at the Olympic games—but to satisfy their artistic and scientific passions; for one does not drink a glass of champagne or kiss the woman he loves for the benefit of the gallery.
O. C. I

In the House of Commons. (1921)

From the September 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

Thursday, 7th July, 1921.

Vote on Expenses of Mines Department.

In the discussion Major Barnes, putting forward a criticism of the Government's policy, gave an interesting explanation of the cause of the coal dispute.

Under Government control, coal during the war was exported to our Allies cut off from other sources of supply, at monopoly prices which reached an enormous figure. This was safe and exceedingly profitable while war continued, and for a considerable period afterwards, but it had effects, unforeseen by those responsible for the policy, but simply disastrous for the coal owners. Not only did it become cheaper for France to import from U.S.A., but also great importance was given to the demand for coal from Germany under the reparation clauses of the Peace Treaty. These factors soon brought about the almost complete destruction of British export trade in coal, which was the immediate cause of decontrol and the lock-out. Major Barnes' contention was that the Government should have foreseen and prepared for what was, in the circumstances, a natural development. Their reply did not dispose of his arguments, nor disprove the charge of failure to look ahead.

Sir Robert Horne admitted that the date of decontrol was deliberately advanced from August to March 31st in order that resistance from the miners might more effectively be met, and quoted from a speech made by F. Hodges where the latter had remarked on the weakening of the miner's position consequent on this manoeuvre.

Mr. Gould, shipping owner, held high wages and low production responsible for the ruin of "our export trade," but was very pointedly reminded of the huge and unnecessary shipping freight rates during the war. Mr. Adamson also showed how the productive power of the miners had been lessened by the hardships of war service.

o  o  o

Although the Government had spent approximately £20,000,000 in coping with the emergency situation arising out of the lock-out, Col. Spender Clay admitted "that with very few lamentable exceptions there was a complete absence of disorder in every mining area."

When a request was made for an amnesty for political prisoners sentenced under E.P.A., Mr. Adamson (Labour Party) assured the Chancellor that "there is no section of the members of this house who fight Communism more bitterly than the members of this Party." 

o  o  o

Mr. Kidd made the suggestion that lasting industrial peace could be secured only by the Miners' Federation investing its funds in the industry and abandoning political notions. Every man would then become capitalist, producer, and consumer. There is a whole heap of brilliance of this kind in the House of Commons. 

o  o  o

One cannot help wondering why the miners send representatives to Parliament when they talk like this: —

R. Swan: "Although our men have returned to work, it is not because we have been convinced that the settlement is just, but largely because we are anxious that this nation shall hold its own. We want to see our country, which we think the best in the world, prosperous. . . . We are as loyal subjects, every one of us, as any other member of this House of Commons. . . . I want to see England once again the premier nation of the world." 

o  o  o

Friday, 8th July, 1921. 

War Pensions Bill.

The intention of this Bill is stated to be the securing of economy in administration, but not at the expense of any pensioner, "for that is a policy to which I would never be a party" (MacPherson). Ministers have, of course, been known to change their policy, and the insistent repetition of their love for the ex-Service man is almost sufficient ground for a suspicion that a reduction of pensions is contemplated; but for obvious reasons such a move requires careful preparation and a tactful approach. Wages having been brought down without any serious difficulty, pensions must follow. There is for the Government the comforting thought that pensioners die off fairly rapidly, the number amounting to 46,000 already, but that is too slow a process.

There are in all, including 917,850 children and widows, 3,500,000 persons on the pension list. Much of the necessary work has been in the hands of local War Pensions Committees, which although costing £20,000,000 were virtually independent of the Ministry. By centralising and economising, the staffs of the Committee are to be reduced by one-third at a saving of from six to twelve million pounds.

Almost all of the speakers emphasised their determination that pensions should not be touched; but with reservations that conveyed a somewhat different impression.

Major Entwistle: "No one ever dreams, of course, of attacking any money that is expended on pensions" but "there have been experiences of irregular payments. There have been experiences of some Committees which have paid a great deal more than others, and I am sure the House does not desire that. " . . . "You ensure that undeserving people are prevented from getting that to which they are not entitled. "

Of course the House did not desire "that," but if it had been proposed to remove irregularities by standardising upwards instead of downwards, it would have been found that the House did desire "that" very much.

Col. Fremantle was more candid. "We have always excluded the question of pensions as being naturally outside the scope of possible economy, and we now have to eat our own words, and reconsider our declarations on the subject of economy . . .  and we shall have to go before the country and say we are considering economy in the matter of pensions, too."

The Major showed, too, another indirect way in which pensions will be reduced. Fear of losing his pension at a future re-examination may induce a disabled man to accept a lower amount because it is made permanent. "This clause will result in the saving of administrative expenditure and a saving in the disbursement of pensions within the next few years, because there are a great many people who would much rather have a permanent pension of a slightly reduced amount, if necessary, than a larger pension for a short period of six months. "

o  o  o

Remembering how much potential fighters were in demand in 1914 and the "salvation by khaki" that was then preached for those who had transgressed capitalist laws, but who could and would shoulder a rifle, it is interesting to note the present attitude of our rulers.

Those ex-soldiers who think they have a right to recognition from the owners of the country for which they fought are "undeserving people" now.

Lt.-Col. Fremantle : "We went into the highways and hedges and swept them in, and so long as they could pass the physical test by hook or by crook . . . there was no question about their moral or other worth."

The Lt.-Col., however, with the nobility of character for which the Empire and its officer class are justly famous, finds means of dealing with these "weary Willies." He has spies (no doubt of equal "moral worth" with himself) who stand by their comrades by acting as informer to their employer. I have in my employ, I am glad to say, two men . . . who keep me informed of some . . . of the tricks that go on."

o  o  o

The Labour Party, as one would expect, was supporting the Government in this measure, although suggesting amendments such as the lengthening of the period during which applications for pensions could be made.

In accordance with their customary policy, they are always at hand ready to assist the capitalists to cheapen the cost of administration, until finally, having won their confidence, the whole task shall be entrusted to a Labour Government; unless in the meantime the workers find out that this economy is not their business, and the party interested in it not their party, and decide to abolish the system instead of trying to improve it.

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People who believed the assurances given from time to time that various ex-service men's organisations were non-political, etc., would do well to note the following remark made by Major Cohen, Treasurer of the "British Legion."
"That Legion is out to help the Government, and not only this Government but any future Government, with no conditions whatever. They are out entirely for constitutional Government."
Edgar Hardcastle