Friday, June 19, 2020

Victorian values or socialist freedom? (1983)

From the June 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Impotent and desperate in the face of the bleak, chaotic mess of Britain in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher grasped at the social values of the last century—the “values” of naked capitalism. It is a sick morality of a rotten system, dressed up as a glorious past and served on a plate to the impoverished: yesterday's ideological garbage recycled for modern consumption.

Let us sift the ideological muck-heap in the Thatcher mind and see what kind of values our rulers would like us to live by:
  We were taught to work jolly hard. We were taught to prove yourself (sic). We were taught self-reliance. We were taught to live within our income. You were taught that cleanliness is next to godliness. You were taught self-respect. You were taught always to give a hand to your neighbour. You were taught tremendous pride in your country. All of these things are Victorian values. They are also perennial values. (Interview with Peter Allen. LBC, 15 April. 1983)
Thatcher's tutor evidently has much to answer for. In what ways do these values help to perpetuate the capitalist system?

“Work jolly hard"
Plenty of jolly hard work for the propertyless nine-tenths of the population means plenty of jolly big profits for the jolly old parasites who monopolise the means of producing and distributing wealth. The work ethic is inculcated into the majority of people because labour power is the only commodity of any value that they have to exchange. But the rich and powerful minority who control the means of life are not in their positions because they worked hard. The richest one per cent of the British population, who own between them more of the accumulated wealth than the poorest 80 per cent, live in luxury because the propertyless majority "work jolly hard to keep them".

"Prove yourself’
How are children born into poverty, brought up in slums, educated in comprehensive schools and often destined to years on the dole queue, supposed to “prove” themselves? Capitalism is unable to provide the majority with any genuine incentive to rise above the mediocrity of daily existence. Those young workers who are persuaded by the advertised illusions of the system and try “to go for the top" are usually forced in the end to submit to the norms of traditional poverty. Capitalism is packed with junkies, alcoholics, broken gamblers, prisoners and cynics who tried to “prove themselves” and failed. For many unemployed kids, “proving yourself' means beating up blacks in empty streets — or doing it the legal way, and pulling triggers in the service of someone else’s interests.

“Live within your income”
For millions of people it is simply not possible to live within the pittance they receive. Ten thousand pensioners died of hypothermia last December alone: could The First Lady of the Treasury teach those careless spenders how to keep alive within their incomes? Let Thatcher and the capitalists try “living” on the basic supplementary benefit, a disability allowance or £70 a week with three children to feed and clothe. For the majority of British workers, whose annual incomes would not buy a decent new car for a member of the parasite class, existence is some way short of living.

“Cleanliness and godliness”
It’s easy to be clean when there are servants to do it for you. But what hypocrisy it is for a class which pollutes the air we breathe with its industrial waste, because it is presently cheaper to have a dirty urban environment than a clean one, to deliver lectures about cleanliness. What is “clean” about war, which throws grown men into the filth of bloody combat so that the perfumed gentlemen of leisure can expand their economic power? Thatcher may have clean fingernails, but she has blood on her hands.

“Self Respect”
Capitalism teaches its wage slaves to respect others: teachers, experts, leaders, generals. priests, politicians — even invisible gods. The self-respecting slave is a rebel; he or she will be branded by Thatcher and her cronies as subversive, wreckers and revolutionaries. Capitalism demands deference, because only those willing to remain on their knees can be deceived into believing that the ruling class is mighty.

“Give a hand to your neighbour”
Is that why armies and weapons of mass destruction are pointed at our global neighbours? The politics of international militarism has nothing to do with loving thy neighbour and everything to do with the competitive jungle of the profit system where all who are not part of “the group” must be seen as economic rivals.

“Tremendous pride in your country”
All very well for those who have a country; but having means possession, and most workers in Britain own about as much of “our country” as they do of any other: none at all. Why be proud of mansions that you have built, but cannot afford to live in; cars you have made, but cannot afford to drive; newspapers you have printed, but have no control over; food you have manufactured but cannot afford to buy? As Marx and Engels wrote, when accused of desiring to abolish countries and nationality: “The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got” (The Communist Manifesto). Workers are taught to have “tremendous pride in your country” because, without a massive campaign of patriotic indoctrination, men and women would recognise their common interests.

The London Standard's front page headline about Thatcher’s LBC interview stated “THE GOOD OLD DAYS". The days in question were those between 1837 and 1902: Victorian Britain. It was an age in which there was a consolidation of power by the ever-confident industrial capitalist class; an age of massive economic development; an age when the British ruling class had an Empire and the City of London was seen, in more than one sense, as the Capital city of the world. Historical distortion has created more than a few myths about those “good old days”. There was little crime, we are told; everyone knew their place and the masters looked after the employees well; public charity provided for people's needs, for the Christian rich could not allow the poor to suffer without aid; morals were good and pure, and thoughts of sex were neatly repressed until god had given the legally sanctified green light. Let Thatcher continue the fairy story:
  Many of the good things, the improvements that were made, were made voluntarily in those times. For example, people built hospitals, there were voluntary hospitals. Many of the Church schools were built during that time. You don't hear so much about those things these days, but they were good values and they led to tremendous improvements in the standard of living.
These “eternal . . . perennial values” are the ones Thatcher holds dear. Let us examine them not as professed ideals, but within the context of their practical, historical implementation and in the light of what we know about history. The "good old days” of Victorian capitalism were days of unrestrained ruling class oppression and widespread working class deprivation. This "golden age" of the capitalists, which was a bleak nightmare for the workers, is recent enough for there to be abundant evidence of what Victorian values meant.

Giving testimony before a Royal Commission on the condition of workers in Manchester in the late 1830s, Dr. Hawkins stated that
  I believe that most travellers are struck by the lowness of stature, the leanness and the paleness which present themselves so commonly to the eye at Manchester, and above all, among the factory classes . . .
Class exploitation was not discriminatory on the basis of sex, as may be seen from the Factory Inspector's Report of 1844:
  Among the female operatives there are some women who, for many weeks in succession, except for a few days, are employed from 6 a.m. till midnight, with less than two hours for meals, so that on five days of the week they have only six hours left out of twenty-four. for going to and from their homes and resting in bed.
Indeed, far from preserving the institutions of the family, K.A.Gerlach has written that working conditions in Lancashire "often caused husbands to take over the duties of the household, and wife and children were the breadwinners at the factory”.

The same process of turning humans into the appendages of machines whose sole function was the production of surplus value, was going on in many parts of Europe in the last century. Villerm√©, in France, described “the good old days" in terms that reflected the harsh reality rather than idealised memory:
  One should see them coming into the town every morning and leaving it every evening. Among them are large numbers of women, pale, starving, walking barefoot through the mud . . . and young children, in greater numbers than the women, just as dirty, just as haggard, covered in rags, which are thick with the oil splashed over them as they toiled by the looms.
Children of ten and under were sent down the mines to pick and haul coal. It was on the exploitation and dehumanisation of defenceless children that the economic success of "the good old days" was based. William Cobbett, a capitalist reformer, stated poignantly in the House of Commons that
  . . . at one time he had thought that the navy was the great support of England, at another time her maritime commerce, at another her bank. Now it was to be admitted that our great stay and bulwark was to be found in the labour of thirty thousand little girls, or rather, one eighth of that number. Yes, because it was asserted that if those little girls worked two hours a day less our manufacturing superiority would depart from us.
On the sweated labour of helpless infants the British capitalists consolidated their unearned privilege. Many of those who are sitting in comfort today do so only because of the wealth inherited from the legalised exploitation of those children.

The Victorian wage slaves passed what parts of "the good old days” were their own in dwellings generally unfit for human habitation. Lord Shaftesbury described Frying Pan Alley in Holborn, London:
  In the first house that I turned into there was a single room; the window was very small and the light came in through the door. The young woman there said, "Look there at that great hole; the landlord will not mend it. I have every night to sit and watch, or my husband sits up to watch, because that hole us over a common sewer and the rats come up. twenty at a time, and if we did not watch for them they would eat the baby up.”
Irish immigrant workers were usually forced by their poverty to live in even worse conditions than the slums reserved for the native English wage slaves; in his brilliant account of working class life in Victorian Britain, Frederick Engels refers to such housing conditions:
  It often happens that a whole Irish family is crowded into one bed; often a heap of filthy straw or quilts of old sacking cover all in an indiscriminate heap, where all alike are degraded by want, stolidity and wretchedness. Often the inspectors found, in a single house, two families in two rooms. All slept in one, and used the other as a kitchen and dining room in common. Often more than one family lived in a single damp cellar, in whose pestilent atmosphere twelve to sixteen persons were crowded together (The Condition of the Working Class in England).
Like the housing, “the clothing of the working people, in the majority of eases, is in a very bad condition . . . The Irish have introduced . . . the custom, previously unknown in Britain, of going barefoot. In every manufacturing town there is now to be seen a multitude of people, especially women and children, going about barefoot, and their example is gradually being adopted by the poorer English.” (Engels, pp. 99-100)

Worked like horses, inhabiting slums, clothed in rags, the urban majority in "the good old days" of Thatcherite values could only afford access to food that was cheap, unhealthy and unvaried. Then, as now,
  those who sold and produced cheap food had increasingly taken the opportunity to make larger profits by adding other substances. Milk and beer were watered down, boiled potatoes mixed with flour and baked into bread, chestnut or ash leaves added to tea, sand to sugar and so on. Pure cheap food was a rarity in the leading towns by the 1850s because so much was adulterated in ways like these (D.T.J. Arkell, Britain Transformed).
Many thousands of workers perished, victims of the so-called free market. In the age of Victorian values, what options were open to those who could not earn a wage or could not keep themselves on the wage they earned? For many workers, begging in the streets was the only chance of an income:
  Such a man usually goes about with his family, singing a pleading song in the streets or appealing, in a speech, to the benevolence of the passers-by . . . Or the family takes up its position in a busy street, and without uttering a word, lets the mere sight of its helplessness plead for it (Engels. P-119).
And was it from the fat wallets of the Christian ruling class that the destitute beggars received their pennies? After all, Thatcher did say on LBC that "part of the sense of duty was if you were getting on better, you turned yourself to help others." Alas, the Victorian capitalists did not exhibit the benevolent values attributed to them by their admirer; they employed police to kick the beggars off the streets, just as the Indian capitalists do with their beggars today. Dr. Parkinson, the Canon of Manchester in the 1840s, testified that
  The poor give one another more than the rich give the poor . . . the total sum which the poor yearly bestow upon one another surpasses that which the rich contribute in the same time (Quoted in Engels, p. 154). 
Violent crime was widespread in Victorian cities. Thousands of women and teenage girls were compelled by economic hardship to walk the streets and sell their bodies to those rich enough to buy their sexual services. The pretence of universal moral decency did not extend to the lives of the wage slaves. The only values the capitalists required from the working class were the surplus values which were the hallmarks of legalised robbery. Victorian values meant excluding a majority of the population from any claim to human dignity — an exclusion which allowed the rich to have “good old days” while the poor suffered, largely in pathetic silence.

Victorian values meant that if workers needed medical attention, education, disability or old-age support, or any other basic social services, they had only three ways of obtaining them. The first was by paying — which most workers could not do. Many a Victorian parent had to watch their children die of illnesses that could be cured simply because they were too poor to pay the market price for health care. Secondly, they could depend on “self-help” schemes, which ultimately amounted to a system of welfare where the less poor wage slaves subsidised the poorer ones. In the nineteenth century, trade union Friendly Societies helped to redistribute wealth within the working class. But workers' subsidies could only aid a fraction of the destitute in Victorian Britain. When Margaret Thatcher proposes “self-help” she is saying that workers' destitution should be a problem to be solved voluntarily by workers taking charitable collections. Perhaps she forgets that the class which she represents are the biggest recipients of charity in the history of humanity: the profits of labour don't add up to pennies, but to many billions of pounds.

The third option for the Victorian worker was to appeal to the exploiting class for charity. Some conscience-stricken capitalists did offer a fraction of their money to the poor, either through benevolent trusts or the Church. “Giving to the poor" was not such a generous act; after all, they were only throwing back crumbs from the cake which the workers had made. Providing charitable services to "educate” workers and keep them fit had a very useful economic purpose: by teaching skills to young wage slaves and ensuring that the wealth producing class was in a good state of repair the capitalists were investing in their own increased profits. Literate and numerate wage slaves produced more profits than ignorant ones; the fitter they are, the more you can work them; the better their housing the more rest they will get and the more efficiently they will work the next day; the more consumption goods they can be presented with the more incentive there will be to work hard. Furthermore, charitable crumb-throwing helped to defuse the threat of political discontent. The workers who benefited from the charity of their bosses were taught to be eternally grateful. The exploiters felt that they were living morally; the exploited were taught to admire such morality.

What is striking about Victorian Britain is not how different it was from now, but how similar it is. It is true that some of the worst features of working class poverty then are less widespread in Britain today, although they still prevail throughout much of the world, often in worse forms than those which existed in Victorian Britain. On a world capitalist basis, poverty is as great now as it was in the 1880s, and in many ways it is worse. But even in the more “affluent” areas of world capitalism workers are still deprived, are still often compelled to beg and steal and sell their bodies, are still forced to seek charity. Since the passing of the Victorian period the capitalist class has tended to organise public charity or "welfare" via its executive committee, the state. The social services which are now provided by the state are partly in existence because their absence would lead to working class political discontent but, principally, the function of the “welfare state” is to ensure the smooth flow of capitalist production. The Labour Party and other legislative reform bodies exist to convince the capitalists that it is in their interest to pay more tax into the state in order to redistribute poverty. The only grounds on which the reformists are able to justify increased state welfare expenditure is by equating "humane” policies with profitability. Frequently such an equation cannot be made, and that is why governments — including Labour governments, professedly committed to helping the poor — often cut back on state welfare spending, leading to tragic social consequences which are all too evident at present.

In supporting state-administered capitalism, the Left is not being particularly radical; it is certainly not working for socialism. The statists are simply responding to the old Victorian values of nineteenth century capitalism with new policies for running the same iniquitous system. The welfare state has been, and inevitably will be, totally unable to eradicate the poverty and inequality which is inherent in the profit system.

Neither Victorian values nor state "welfare" can make a system of exploitation run in a way that will be pleasant for the exploited majority. Margaret Thatcher, the mouthpiece of conservatism who cannot get to sleep at night without dreaming of “the good old days" when the old and unemployed were confined to workhouses, employees worked like horses and obeyed like slaves, and the rich need only pay to keep the paupers at the request of their consciences rather than the Inland Revenue, is the dreamer of a class which has lived on beyond the appropriate time for its death. Thatcher's vision is one of naked self-interest for the ruling class. Socialists will not waste our time criticising this vision on moral grounds: we urge the workers of the world to apply the principle of naked self- interest to themselves, as a class. There were no "good old days" for our class; for the wage slaves, the good times are yet to come. Only when the wages system has been abolished, along with the pernicious values on which it rests, will men. women and children be able to value one another as part of a united human family in which equality and freedom are the principles of social existence.
Steve Coleman

Oil: the greasy politics (1983)

From the June 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Oil has been used for a very long time. More than 5000 years ago, Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians took advantage of large seepages at Hit on the Euphrates. In the early centuries AD Arabs and Persians developed an interest in crude petroleum and its distillation into illuminants and it may be that this technique was carried to Western Europe from the 12th century onwards through the Arab influence in Spain. In North America the Indians used oil as a medicine and the early explorers found seepages in what are now the states of New York and Pennsylvania. Up to the start of the 19th century illumination in the United States and other industrially advanced countries was little better than that of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The increasing development of capitalist industry brought new needs for additional sources of oil. By the middle of the century kerosene or coal oil. derived by distillation of coal, was in common use and the need for yet cheaper and more convenient sources of lubricants and light grew more pressing. In 1859 in western Pennsylvania the first well specifically for oil was drilled. Before 1900 oil field discoveries in the United States covered 14 states and there were finds also in Europe and the Middle and Far East.

At the outset of the 20th century the use of refined petroleum and lubricants ceased to be of primary importance and the industry became a major supplier of energy. In 1980 oil and natural gas together supplied two-thirds of the world demand, with the use of approximately 80 million barrels a day. This does not mean that oil is a satisfactory fuel from an ecological viewpoint: it is a heavy pollutant and when it is burned many valuable chemicals are wasted. Such bad effects have to be really serious to figure in capitalist calculations, when cheapness, availability to the consumer and profitability to the producing interests are always the main considerations.

Reliable estimates about oil reserves and new resources are difficult to obtain because the relevant information is in the hands of the oil companies themselves. Where these firms are government owned, as is the general rule in so-called communist countries, such estimates can be state secrets. OAPEC have stated [1] that about half the known reserves in the Arab states have now been extracted. However, excluding unavailable figures for China, it was estimated in 1974 [2] that about 850,000 million barrels of oil remain to be found, 40 per cent behind the Iron Curtain. In the Soviet Union, Middle East, Canadian Arctic Islands as well as the unknown Chinese contribution these discoveries can be expected mainly on land; elsewhere the great majority will be offshore. There is still a lot of oil over which to fight.

It is because oil is such a vital source of energy that it poses considerable problems for capitalist administrators. The interests of those who profit from its production are clearly to obtain as high a price as possible, just as those who are users of petroleum products strive to keep their costs as low as they can. In such circumstances the state usually has to intervene to regulate the conflict in the interests of the ruling class as a whole, as happens with other important industries. In general, capitalist governments have found oil interests very hard to handle. The industry is vastly profitable, it very soon took on a multinational character, and its products can now be carried quite easily all over the globe. To try and straightjacket the industry might lead to an interruption of supplies which, even temporarily, could have serious repercussions. Also in many states, particularly in the Middle East, it is the producers who are the dominant, indeed virtually the only, capitalist interest.

This apparent lack of interest has led observers such as Anthony Sampson to state [3] that capitalist governments have evaded the problem of the control of the oil companies. It is true, and not particularly surprising, that at certain times oil lobbies have by corrupt means gained undue influence over capitalist governments. Such was the case in the United States in the 1920s when the Teapot Dome Scandal rocked Washington and probably contributed to President Harding's death in office. However, capitalist politicians all over the world are nowadays at their wits end to find a way to regulate the situation. To take a cricketing analogy, Sampson's insinuation is rather like accusing bowlers of not trying to get Geoffrey Boycott out because statistics show that he is rarely dismissed. Sampson deserves credit for the diligence of his research, but unfortunately suffers from the reformist delusion that capitalism can be made to work in the interests of the whole population. He does however state that “any agreement over oil implies a first step towards some form of world government". We shall return to this later.

The first big manifestation of oil politics occurred in the United States in the closing years of the last century. Many of its features are still to be seen today world wide. John D. Rockefeller, using mainly borrowed money, established himself in the refinery business and by 1870 had brought Standard Oil into being. He then combined with some of his competitors to fund a Central Association with himself as president. Such a combination of capitalist concerns to pursue a joint interest is known as a cartel. This provoked the producing interests to try to form a cartel of their own. Rockefeller's cartel was boycotted, and an agreement was reached to stop new drilling and sell as a fixed price. However the temptation to undercut each other proved too much, the bottom fell out of the market and Rockefeller had won. He was contemptuous of the efforts of the producers, explaining [4]: "The dear people, if they had produced less oil, they would have got their full price”. This success led to a number of refiners selling out to Rockefeller, giving his trust a monopoly. His success and that of other trust barons, however, alarmed other capitalist interests and eventually led Theodore Roosevelt's administration to use anti-trust legislation against him. Standard took the fight to the Supreme Court who ruled in May 1911 that it must divest itself of all its subsidiaries.

This exposed the difficulties cartels have in sticking together in face of competition between individual members. If these capitalist interests cannot maintain such limited agreements, how can we expect joint action on a global scale to take steps towards world government? Yet Sampson sees this as a necessary condition to control the oil industry. The Rockefeller example shows the cartels and trusts in turn provoking counter attacks by the state in the interests of the majority of the ruling class, although this took longer to come about than would probably be the case today. The crushing defeat suffered by the producers at Rockefeller's hands is less typical.

The United States were fortunate at that time in having their own native oil supply. Underwater exploration had yet to materialise. Britain and other West European countries had no supply of oil and, as World War I approached, were only too well aware of their vulnerability. Where, for example, was the Royal Navy to obtain oil? Attention was directed towards the underdeveloped parts of the world where the vital fluid was to be found. Burmah Oil, formed to exploit discoveries in Burma, produced an offshoot, Anglo-Persian, based on newly acquired concessions in Iran (then called Persia). Only three months before war broke out the British government, prompted by Winston Churchill, acquired a 51 per cent stake in this company, later renamed British Petroleum (BP). Eventually the American firms, unable to meet increasing demand from home supplies, were also forced to look overseas. Saudi Arabia was to become an American sphere of influence with an organisation called Aramco, jointly owned by four oil companies, to run the concessions. These new relationships, so similar to those between imperialist nations and their colonies, contained the seeds of future trouble. As native ruling classes developed in these territories, leading eventually to the formation of their own governments, so complaints began about the profits which the oil companies were making at "their expense”. These nationalists looked for ways to obtain a larger slice of the cake. Attempts by Mexico in 1938 and by Iran under Dr. Mossadeq in 1951 to nationalise “their” oil industries were eventually defeated because competing customers were able to combine and enforce boycotts. However, nationalist feeling in the oil producing countries continued to gather momentum and the stage was set for the formation in 1960 of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

OPEC would probably have formed itself in any case, but the act was triggered by price cutting by Exxon (ESSO), one of the giant companies popularly known as the “seven sisters". They reduced their posted price by 10 cents a barrel in August 1960. The other six “sisters", although none too happy, eventually felt compelled to follow suit. There was an oil glut at the time and, as happens periodically, Russia was threatening to flood the market at discount prices. This cut helped to unite the producing nations. One month later, on September 9, representatives of five of them, who were at that time collectively responsible for 80 per cent of the world’s oil exports, met in Baghdad and OPEC was formed. Eventually membership grew' to 13 — Algeria, Ecuador. Gabon, Indonesia. Iran, Iraq. Kuwait. Libya. Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. From the start OPEC made it clear that they were, in the words of one delegate, "a cartel to confront a cartel”. [3] Their main object was to raise their revenues. The reaction of the oil companies was to encourage production outside OPEC, a situation which accelerated the coming of North Sea Oil.

OPEC's fortunes have fluctuated with the current state of the oil market, contrary to ideas that the industry is a "special case" somehow exempt from the normal operation of the forces of supply and demand. The oil glut persisted during the 1960s and OPEC was relatively ineffective. After an attempt by the Arab nations to impose an embargo following the Arab-Israel six-day war in 1967 had failed because the non-Arabs did not give their support, the Organisation of Arabian Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) was formed by the Arab states who nevertheless remained within OPEC. By the 1970s however things had changed. Demand for oil was running considerably ahead of previous forecasts, and the glut was subsiding. The Libyan crisis of 1970 was the first sign of this. Following the deposition of King Idris, Colonel Gadaffi's regime threatened 21 companies which held Libyan concessions that unless they raised the price paid to Libya he would sell oil to Moscow. There were now so many competitors in the field that the oilmen could no longer enforce the type of boycott which had toppled Mossadeq in 1951, and eventually they had to agree to a price increase of 76 cents a barrel.

In this situation many OPEC members negotiated “participation" agreements allowing them part ownership of the companies' concessions. By September 1973 the price of oil on the spot market rose above the posted price for the first time since the formation of OPEC. The following month the Yom Kippur war broke out between Israel and the Arab nations. In Kuwait later that month OPEC decided to raise prices by 70 per cent and simultaneously OAPEC announced an oil embargo involving a 5 per cent cut in production each month until Israel withdrew from the territories it had occupied in June 1967. By the time the dust had settled the price had quadrupled in just over two months. The general political uncertainty in the Middle East helped to keep prices up and during 1979-1980 the Khomeini take-over in Iran and the Iran-Iraq war caused some panic among the oil companies; prices nearly trebled during this period. In an attempt to form an effective counter cartel to confront OPEC, members of 21 oil importing nations agreed to form the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The current slump has meant that such price rises could not he maintained. Demand for oil inevitably fell off. Sales of smaller cars picked up appreciably in the United States. The development of sources outside OPEC meant that the latter’s share of the market was declining. OPEC’s combined oil revenues [5], which were $275 billion in 1980, had declined to an estimated $205 billion in 1982. In April 1980 Japanese oil industry executives refused to pay the National Iranian Oil Company $35 a barrel. Iran was now only exporting 1.5 million barrels a day as opposed to 4 million under the Shah. Differences which had always existed within OPEC came to the fore. The main one was between those nations led by Iran, which have large populations and need money quickly, and smaller nations who can take a more relaxed, long term view. The latter are led by Saudi Arabia, with estimated reserves twice those of Iran. The Saudi oil minister and spokesman — Sheik Yamani, suave and Harvard educated — became a world figure in the 1970s and for many typifies OPEC.

The Saudi group need to retain trade into the next century. They were moderates on price in 1979-80 for fear that by going too high they might stimulate alternative energy projects which could drastically reduce their business. Now, while sharing the OPEC desire to avoid a price slump, they are restless about the restrictions on production required to underpin the price. In contrast the Iran-led group have claimed that the high price is good medicine for the importers because it forces them to practice conservation and look for other sources of energy [6]. Equally hypocritical is the claim by OAPEC [7] to be acting in the interests of non-oil Third World countries. The lie to this is given by figures showing [5] that OPEC’s current account surplus rose to around $110 billion in 1980. A fraction of this surplus was invested in less developed countries, but a large slice was added to bank deposits. The Saudi led group at OAPEC has always found difficulty in finding profitable investment channels for its massive oil income. Despite the trappings of wealth Saudi Arabia remains a backward area which still punishes petty "theft" by cutting off a hand, in a ceremony largely unchanged since the days of Mahomet.

The term “price war" has been used almost exclusively for periods of price cutting such as the present. The current round started in February, when posted prices in the United States were marked down by about $2.50 a barrel, and non-OPEC Russia and Egypt reduced export prices. The British National Oil Corporation, a government owned body set up to deal with British North Sea Oil. then cut its price by $3 to $30.50 a barrel. An OPEC meeting in January having failed to agree. Nigeria unilaterally reduced its price by $5.50 to $30 a barrel. This was the background to the London meeting of OPEC in March which eventually produced a fragile looking deal under which prices were cut by $5 a barrel and a production ceiling of 17.5 million barrels a day was set. The immediate outlook for OPEC is far from rosy. Its fortunes will clearly continue to follow market fluctuations and serious splits, perhaps withdrawals, are likely.

Many workers foolishly believed that the discoveries in the North Sea heralded a cheap oil bonanza for everyone in Britain. In fact there was no chance of the working class gaining any benefit. Even if prices did go down sharply, this would have effectively reduced the price of labour power and thus led to a corresponding reduction in wages. Only the owning capitalist class can benefit from North Sea Oil, and their reaction has been mixed. British industry’s need for cheap energy remains but the ruling class are now also in the oil exporting business. Rising oil prices were held responsible for an upward surge by sterling on the exchange markets, hitting other British exporters. This prompted the famous comment by British Leyland's Michael Edwardes that if North Sea oil caused such problems it might be better to "leave the bloody stuff where it is". On the other hand there are obvious benefits for the capitalist class in being self supporting in oil, even if only temporarily. At the moment 26 fields are operational in the North Sea [8]. Another 30 are discovered but future developments are uncertain owing to high operational costs and low recoverable resources. The general fall in oil prices is a further disincentive. It is expected that North Sea oil production will tailback after 1986.

Gross exchequer revenue from North Sea oil is about $7 billion. 6.4 per cent of total central government taxes. Capital intensive projects such as oil exploration and the development of alternative energy sources are based on certain assumptions about future prices and a slump can destroy their commercial viability. However, BNOC is under some pressure from customers who have not yet finally accepted their new price, hoping for further reduction. There are renewed reports [9-10] of Russian oil being dumped on the market. It looks as though the downward pressure will continue for a while yet, with an uncertain outlook for British North Sea oil.
E. C. Edge

[1] Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) Bulletin, Vol. 8, No. 7. July 1982.
[2] Encyclopedia Britannica, 1974 Edition.
[3] Anthony Sampson: The Seven Sisters, Hodder and Stoughton 1974.
[4] Ida M Tarbell The History of the Standard Oil Company. New York, 1904. Vol.1.
[5] Unsigned article "The Implications of Cheaper Oil". Petroleum Economist, March 1983.
[6] Remarks by the Shah of Iran in 1973, quoted in Ref. 3. p259.
[7] Editorial in Ref. 1 entitled "Aid to the Developing World in Surplus Oil Market".
[8] Article by Alexander G. Kemp and David Rose (University of Aberdeen) in Petroleum Economist, March 1983.
[9] Rod Chapman (Energy correspondent), The Guardian. 9 March 1983.
[10] Roland Gribben (Business correspondent), The Daily Telegraph. 23 March 1983.

Whitewash at the Maltings (1983)

From the June 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Sizewell Public Inquiry which opened at Snape, Suffolk, on 11 January, and is expected to last well into the Autumn, is considering the proposed siting of the first Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) nuclear power station in Britain. The energy problem needs to be seen in the context of the workings of the capitalist system as a whole. Under capitalism, it makes no difference whether power stations are privately owned or state run, as is the case with most power stations around the world. The interests of most capitalists obviously lie in obtaining electricity as cheaply as possible. Most Industry today is electric-powered and the proposed PWR at Sizewell Site B will, of course, supply electricity. Obviously the minority of capitalists with a stake in the actual production of electricity, such as the contractors who supply materials and labour towards the building of power stations, don't see things like that; they naturally want as high a price as possible for their “services”. It is the job of governments, in this case through the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB), to see that the best deal is obtained for the ruling class as a whole. This is by no means as easy as it sounds, particularly in these days of large multinational companies and the ever increasing diversity of their interests.

At the moment, leaving aside hydro-electricity which is of somewhat limited value outside certain geographically favoured areas, there are three main methods of generating electricity. All are based on raising steam to drive turbines: burning coal, burning oil (or natural gas) and nuclear fission, the splitting of heavy elements. For the workers in these industries, all three mean unpleasant and dangerous working conditions with a high risk of premature death. All three are unsatisfactory from the ecological point of view. Sulphur dioxide is produced when oil and coal are burned, and a more rational use for these fuels would be as raw materials for plastics. However, the dangers to health and the environment from continued use of nuclear fission are all pervading. Despite this, ecological considerations have so far entered only marginally into the decisions and only a really serious environmental disaster would alter this.

Many interesting alternative power sources are available which are either ecologically benign or present in abundance, or both. These will be mentioned on numerous occasions during the Sizewell Inquiry but none will be sufficiently developed in time for British capitalism to consider them as options. And so the prime considerations remain cheapness, competition and profit. The Inquiry thus appears to have only three options to consider, as it is reasonable to assume that some kind of power station will be built on the Sizewell site. These are: a power station using coal or oil; a different type of nuclear installation; or building a PWR as at present proposed.

It does appear from the available evidence that the government has, through the CEGB, already made up its mind that it wants the PWR, so that the Inquiry appears to have only a rubber-stamping role. The New Statesman reports (7 January 1983) that the pressure vessel has already been ordered from the French company Creusot Loire, and cancellation now would invoke penalty clauses. As early as April 1980 the CEGB issued a letter of intent to the National Nuclear Corporation (NNC) which, in effect, placed a manufacturing order for the nuclear core. Site clearance for the PWR commenced last summer, while Sir Frank Layfield, chairman of the Sizewell Inquiry, was holding preliminary hearings a few miles away. Sir Frank said he had no power to stop it! Further evidence in the same issue of the New Statesman confirms that the government wants a biased, white-washing “investigation” in the hope that its supporters will be appeased and the various objecting groups become dispirited. The journal quotes from leaked minutes of the critical 1979 Cabinet meeting at which the decision to hold an inquiry was taken. Apparently the government saw “a danger that a broad-ranging inquiry would arouse prolonged technical debate between different representatives of scientific opinion”. After reading this prize piece of cynicism we are left wondering why they bothered to hold an inquiry at all, thereby giving at least some opportunity for the expression of informed opposing opinions. After all, without any debate the go ahead has been given for two new advanced gas cooled reactors (AGR) at Heysham in Lancashire and Torness in Scotland. The Windscale inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Parker in 1977 neither increased confidence in judicial impartiality in these matters, nor led to any lowering of the protesting voices. A similar predetermined effort on Sizewell seems likely only to intensify the effect.

The deliberate bias built into this Inquiry shows itself in a very large imbalance of resources between the applicants and the objectors. The CEGB has produced a massive amount of documentation which will require about eight weeks to read into the records. At the time of writing the proceedings have gone “underground" while this task is performed. The boredom induced by this monumental effort of social irrelevance will assist in putting the objectors off their stroke. “Without sufficient funds to employ lawyers and specialist scientists, the objectors will find it hard to sustain an effective presence”, comments the New Statesman (ibid). Since then the chairman has ruled that the applicants can both initiate and wind up discussions on a particular issue, but that the objectors can only do one or the other.

We can now briefly examine the credentials of the two sides. For the applicants, the CEGB lead the way. British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. (BNFL) is responsible for the supply and removal of enriched uranium fuel rods. The Nuclear Installation Inspectorate (NII) will issue a site and operating licence. The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) will give “evidence'’ on the hazards of accidental radioactive release (no facts please, must be their motto.). It is planned that the National Nuclear Corporation (NNC) will construct the reactor. The Department of Energy will be supporting the CEGB, even though Sir Frank Layficld will be presenting his final report to the Energy Secretary, Nigel Lawson. Other government departments will be chipping in with supporting views. Also listed among the applicants but not actually present, are two USA nuclear corporations, Westinghouse and Bechtel, who have designed respectively the steam raising core and the associated power plant of the PWR. It will be noted that these applicants, despite their number, are a pretty united bunch. All will be playing their part in trying to convince the British ruling class that they are doing their job.

How convincing is the applicants' case? The CEGB’s main claim throughout has been that nuclear power would be cheaper. In pursuance of this aim the AGR, which is considered to be somewhat “safer" has been abandoned in favour of the allegedly cheaper PWR. However on 14 February last the Electricity Consumers Council, which might have been expected to give its support, published a critical report which, according to The Guardian of that date, said that the economic benefit case had not yet been fully made and suggested a closer look at other methods. Then, on 1 March, the CEGB itself published a pamphlet, reported in The Guardian the same day, admitting that the PWR is not, after all, the cheapest available prospect but still arguing that it represents the best overall prospect. While a blow, this could still be considered acceptable as nuclear power is strategically more secure than oil. However, the cornerstone of the nuclear power strategy has been the plan to move eventually to a series of “fast breeder" reactors (FBR) but this has now been shelved, apparently indefinitely. The USA had earlier held back from further FBR development. The FBR throws off as a radioactive waste product Plutonium 239, one of the deadliest substances known, with a half life of 22,400 years. Undoubtedly the American decision to halt has been taken because the environmental hazards of the FBR are unacceptable. even by capitalist criteria. The Sizewell applicants clearly have their work cut out to justify themselves and would appear to need all the coddling that the Inquiry seems certain to provide for them.

In contrast to the applicants, the objectors are a motley lot, presenting a variety of viewpoints, which by no means complement each other. This disunity will make it easier for the court to brush the opposition aside. One common factor will be that all will be propounding alternative capitalist strategies. Working class interests are not considered in such arguments. Bodies like the Suffolk Preservation Society would probably be satisfied by a decision to site the PWR elsewhere. Arguments that nuclear fission is environmentally unacceptable even to capitalism highlight the criminal social irresponsibility of the capitalist class in suppressing this evidence over a period of nearly 40 years. The Greater London Council will present interesting evidence on the risk to Londoners from the transport of nuclear waste through the metropolis, while pressing the case for falsely labelled ‘employment creating alternatives' such as conservation or combined heat and power stations. The Friends of the Earth, the National Union of Mineworkers and the Anti-Nuclear Campaign will argue against the PWR, trying to present evidence that the government does not wish to have a fair hearing.

A body calling itself Ecoropa recently published a leaflet entitled Nuclear Power, The Facts They Don't Want You to Know. This leaflet has sufficiently worried the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) for them to publish a counterblast pamphlet entitled Nuclear Power, the Real Facts. In a preamble to their leaflet Ecoropa make clear their concern for capitalism’s welfare, so they cannot be accused of anti-capitalist bias in presenting their arguments. This they do in question and answer form. The UKAEA reply repeats these questions and answers and then gives a reply of their own. Ecoropa embarrass the nuclear lobby by drawing attention to the way nuclear power has failed to live up to its early promise and recall the days when we were told that electricity from this source would be “too cheap to meter”.

The track history of the PWR is not a good one. We need only recall the emergency of Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania where, on 28 March 1979, the cooling system of the No.2 reactor malfunctioned, and a catastrophic melt-down of the reactor core was only narrowly avoided. A partial evacuation of the area's pregnant women and pre-school children, lasting eight days, was ordered by the State Governor. Since then the same type of valve failed in another PWR at Crystal River. Florida. The British nuclear industry categorically refuses to publish its safety statistics. Ecoropa point out that since 1977 only one nuclear reactor has been ordered in the United States. In their reply UKAEA acknowledge this but say that “this is due to economic conditions" in the hope of blaming the slump for this inconvenient fact. Yet the same economic necessity is being advanced in this and other countries as a reason for pressing ahead with the self-same design. The real reason for the United States slow-down is a re-think by the ruling class on their nuclear strategy in the light of their disappointing experience to date. This leaves Westinghouse and Betchel with the problem of reducing their losses by selling their wares elsewhere: hence their involvement with British and other European authorities. Suppression of important facts has to be a big feature of such a sales drive.

Ecoropa has also asked: “Has an evacuation due to accidentally released radiation ever happened”. The answer given is “Yes, apart from Three Mile Island. In 1958 an accident at a nuclear waste dump devastated a huge area of the Urals in Russia: the names of 30 communities have been removed from the maps. In spite of conclusive evidence from US satellites, the nuclear industry here and abroad managed to keep the news concealed for 21 years!” This is confirmed in the Britannica Book of the Year 1980: "The US CIA released previously secret documents in 1977 which confirmed that a massive nuclear explosion did take place at that time near the town of Kyshtym. . ." (p.366). If the answer were not so screamingly obvious, we could have asked why the CIA waited so long before releasing such good anti-Russian propaganda. The UKAEA attempted reply begins with “The news was not concealed in this country: an accident involving radioactivity in the Urals was reported in the London Evening News, 18 March 1959”.

The Sizewell Inquiry will in due course complete the job for which it was set up and rubber-stamp the Thatcher government’s plan. Yet doubts over the future of nuclear fission even in the capitalist environment persist, particularly in view of the virtual halt to development in the United States. The British authorities have, in effect, pleaded guilty to knowing the ecological facts and deliberately acting against them. But lies, distortion, bias, half-truths, innuendoes, white-washing, have long been part of the capitalist stock-in-trade. The facts are against us — suppress the facts has to be their cry. Total ecological benignity is of course an impossible dream, but in socialism full discussion on all aspects will democratically take place before decisions on such matters as fuel and power, which have such all pervading implications, are taken. With the competitive drive for profits removed, there will no longer be any incentive to produce untried products, such as PWRs, whose long-term or even short-term effects are lethal.
E. C. Edge

The Blood-Red General Election. (1918)

From the December 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fellow Workers,

After four and a quarter years of unparalleled slaughter of the working class; after, according to some present estimates, about 12,000,000 men have been killed, and about 60,000,000 crippled, maimed or ruined in their constitutions, the Government suddenly announces a General Election.

Why this hasty decision to consult an electorate that has been ignored for eight years ?

The Conservatives claim in the words of Lloyd George that—
"It is a moribund Parliament. . . . We must get a mandate immediately. Somebody will have to go to the Peace Conference with authority from the people of this country to speak in their name. "—"Daily Telegraph," Nov. 18th, 1918.
What cant and humbug! What "mandate" had they from the people to declare war? In whose name did they introduce D.O.R.A.—the most gigantic piece of oppressive legislation the capitalist class ever devised? By whose authority was Conscription—Military and Industrial—placed upon the working class ? 

The same speaker indulged in his old clap-trap when, referring to the recruiting statistics, he said—
"I was appalled to find there was a much higher percentage of physical unfitness in this country than in France, Germany, or any other great belligerent country."—Ibid.
Proof of the speaker's hypocrisy is shown in his previous statements. Speaking at Birmingham, on October 26th, 1906, he said:—
  "Here you have been tinkering for generations with reform, and the end of it all is slums, pauperism and great want in a land of plenty."
He then went on to say that if the Great Liberal Party did not remove these conditions in three years they deserved to go.

In 1911—two years after the Liberals should have left office on the above contention, Mr. Lloyd George speaking at Cardiff, said:—
  "To-day you have greater poverty in the aggregate in the land than you have ever had. You  have oppression of the weak by the strong. You have a more severe economic bondage than you probably ever had ; for grinding labour to-day does not always guarantee sustenance or security. At any rate, that condition of things was foreign to the barbaric regime of the darker ages." —"Christian Commonwealth," Jan. 17th, 1912.
Not only had the Liberal Party failed to remove the conditions of poverty and misery, but, as admitted by Lloyd George, these conditions had become worse. Yet this man retained his seat and office in spite of these facts.

In a preface to Mr, Rowntree's pamphlet on "The Labourer and the Land," written in May, 1914, Lloyd George stated :—
  "More than half the wage-earners in the most ancient, the most worthy, and the most vital 
of our industries, are living on wages which do not allow them and their families the same amount of nourishment which they could obtain in a workhouse or a prison."
This after eight years of Liberal Government, and five years after they should have left office according to Lloyd George.

And he has the brazen effrontery to say "he was appalled" at the amount of physical unfitness in the country after bearing witness himself to the existence of the conditions causing it. Well may the public house sign at King's Lynn of "The Honest Lawyer" show an individual with his head out off.

With equal cant and hypocrisy Mr. Asquith opened the campaign on behalf of the official Liberal Party at Caxton Hall on 18th November. Referring to the fact that, owing to the short period allowed for the Election, large numbers of soldiers will not be able to vote, while the majority of those who will be able to vote will have no opportunity of learning the candidates' views. He said :—
  "A House of Commons brought into being at such a time by an electorate so truncated and mutilated will of necessity lack the moral authority to speak and act on behalf of the nation as a whole." —"Daily News," Nov. 19th, 1918.
What "moral authority" had the Liberal Government, with Mr. Asquith as its leader, "to speak or act on behalf of the people as a whole," when they plunged this country into the most colossal war on record, places us under  D.O.R.A.,  and passed conscription ? None whatever. Later he said—
  "The restrictions upon personal liberty and the freedom of speech, or even to compulsory military service, for which I was as much responsible as any man in the country. They must come to an end." —Ibid.
When ? If he meant when Peace is signed, then his remarks are a waste of words, as the particular Acts referred to already provide for such ending. If he meant before the Election so as to allow of free expression of opinion in the contest, why did he not move in Parliament for the abolition of these restrictions ? Either case convicts him of hypocrisy, but then what else was to be expected of one who, when Home Secretary, sent soldiers to shoot the miners at Featherstone, and held office as Premier when the military were used against the workers at Llanelly, Tonypandy, Dublin, etc.

With significant unanimity Liberal and Tory papers unite in placing the responsibility for this hurried election upon Lloyd George. In this matter real "unity" has been attained. Its purpose, of course, is to conceal the real authors from view and delude the workers as to the powers operating behind the scenes. To imagine for a moment that the job-hunting lawyer from Wales possessed such power would be absurd.

Behind this mountebank marionette stands the Imperialist section of the capitalist class, composed of both Liberals and Tories, who are striving to extend their dominion and power of robbing the working class, over larger areas of the globe. It was to protect their interests that this country entered into the war. When two years ago the military situation looked serious for the Allies this section looked for a more pliant tool to take charge of the Government. One was at hand possessing a glib tongue, always ready with large and extravagant promises, quite unscrupulous, and able to sway crowds with his clap-trap. A dirty political shuffle took place and Lloyd George became Prime Minister.

Of course he wishes to retain the office. He wishes to pose as the head of "the Government that won the war," and wishes to be at its head when it "Reconstructs the Empire." He put his wishes into words at the Central Hall when he said :—
  "All the life of a nation has got to be reconstructed and reorganised for war, and I claim that if the Government could do that for war, it could do it for peace."—"Daily Telegraph," Nov. 18th, 1918.
Not his wishes, however, but the interests of the Imperialists, whose agent he is, demanded this Election. The signing of the Armistice has brought an immense relief after the long strain of the war, accompanied by a great thankfulness at the cessation of the horrible maiming and slaughter.

On this wave of feeling and relief the Imperialists hope to ride into full power, and to be able to carry out their economic schemes.

Not that they are quite sure of the result. The nervousness and anxiety of all the capitalist parties from the Conservatives to the I.L.P. is revealed in their official statements.

Despite all his swagger and bounce Lloyd George screams out for "unity of every party, every section of the community," in the Coalition.

His programme is so wide, so varied, so contradictory, that even the "Daily Mail" (18th November, 1918), usually so regardless of either logic or consistency, is afraid the fraud may be seen through, and says: —
  "The programme is just a little too comfortable. It adjusts the views of the extreme Tories and those of the advanced Liberals. It is a counterpane that covers everybody, and it does not quite carry conviction."
Mr. Asquith shows his nervousness when he declares that even if the Coalition is returned to power it will "lack moral authority"—which he so highly prizes when out of office.

At the public meeting, held at the Albert Hall, on 14th November, by the Labour Party after their decision to withdraw from the Coalition, speaker after speaker voiced the fear that the Labour Party would lose some of its seats as a result of this withdrawal—a clear confession that they hold these seats by permission of the Liberals and Tories.

Philip Snowden in the "Labour Leader" (7th November, 1918) says:—
  "The action of the Tories in taking an election in 1900 was a mild offence against public morality compared with the action of Mr. Lloyd George in forcing a General Election under existing circumstances."
The reasons for this nervousness among the capitalist parties are easy to see. Over the Continent of Europe a wave of Revolution is passing. Beginning in Russia, it has spread to Bulgaria, the Austrian Empire, and even to iron-drilled Germany. Its echoes are heard in Holland, Denmark, Switzerland, and other countries. While it is true that a Revolution seldom, if ever, occurs in a country just victorious in war, factors of unrest exist here to a degree that render the outlook distinctly uncertain. While prices of necessaries are still rising thousands of munition workers are being discharged, tens of thousands are working short time, and, according to Lord Curzon—
"In a few weeks' time there would be a million people out of work." —"Daily Telegraph," Nov. 21st, 1918.
And this is only the beginning. Further unemployment is bound to occur, while such demobilization as will be carried out will add to the number vainly seeking work. Wages will fall as a result, though prices may remain up for some time, and poverty and misery will increase as a consequence through out the land. The scandalous treatment of discharged and disabled soldiers, over 100,000 of whom have not received a penny piece in either pension or allowance, and the way in which the wives and widows of soldiers have been dealt with, add to the seething discontent and unrest now existing. These factors tend to have a cumulative effect, and there is no special virtue in the English channel that can prevent the wave of Revolution reaching here if the conditions on this side are ripe. There is at any rate the likelihood of widespread trouble, with riots, perhaps, breaking out in many parts.

It thus becomes important for the master class to have a "mandate" for the purpose of meeting the crisis. As Bonar Law put it: —
  "We are going to be faced with problems the nature of which we cannot foresee . . . and we ask you to give us authority to deal with them, not as delegates, but as representatives of the people of the country." —"Daily Telegraph," Nov. 18th, 1918.
Hence the hurry of this Election. Before the deluded workers awake to a realization of how they have been duped, despite their "victory" over Germany, the master class wish to be in possession of a "mandate" so that they can claim the allegiance of the armed forces should it be considered necessary to use these forces against the workers during troubles or disputes, as when aeroplanes were used to drop bombs on the workers in Italy when they asked for bread. One strong reason for the Coalition's expectation of being returned is the fact that, outside the ranks of the Socialists, no effective opposition is placed against their programme.

The only difference between the Coalition and the Liberal programmes is that the Coalition programme promises more than the Liberals.

Speaking at the Albert Hall on Nov. 14th, 1918, Mr. Adamson, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, stated that the first and most important plank in the Labour Party's platform was :—
  "That the men who did the fighting and are broken should be treated justly and humanely, and their wives and children should be cared for."
The Coalition programme promises this just as strongly.

Mr. Snowden, Mr. W. C. Anderson and Mr. Ramsay MacDonald have all issued manifestoes on behalf of the I.L.P. The nearest approach to a definite statement in these manifestoes—apart from the appeal for money—is that of Mr. Anderson when he says:—
  "We make war on slums, on pauperism, on poverty and slavery—on the cause of these evils—land monopoly and capitalist monopoly." —"Labour Leader," Nov. 14th, 1918.
There is here no threat of a war on Capitalism, but only on monopoly. Every Liberal is against monopoly—or says he is—while Lloyd George's Limehouse and other speeches are quite as strong a protest against "land monopoly" as Mr. Anderson's. There is no real opposition in these manifestoes to the Coalition programme.

Against all these supporters of Capitalism the Socialist Party of Great Britain wages war.

We fight to abolish the CAUSE of poverty, the CAUSE of wars, the CAUSE of our enslavement, namely, THE PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF THE MEANS OF LIFE.

While the capitalist class own these means of life the working class are their slaves. The capitalist class retain their mastery of society so long as they control the political machinery, the real instrument of their power. Once deprived of this they become themselves subject to those controlling that machinery. Hence their frantic appeals to the working class to vote them into Parliament. Look at the sinister unanimity of all these parties upon the necessity of maintaining the existence of the capitalist system. Mr. Lloyd George appeals for unity in face of the grave perils ahead. Mr. Asquith states that though he is a Liberal—
  "That will not prevent me, nor ought it to prevent anyone, from giving hearty support and fullest co-operation to any Government, by whatever name it is called, which grapples with the problem of reconstruction on progressive and democratic lines." —"Daily News," Nov. 19th, 1918. .
Mr. Ramsay MacDonald says : —
 "Now Europe has gained peace through, destruction, and the nations threaten to stagger out of war into anarchy. We are again called upon to help and save what is good in the remnants and rebuild on good foundations." —"Labour Leader," Nov. 14th, 1918.
Who is calling upon the I.L.P. ? When were they called before ? We are not told, but their avowed opposition to Revolution shows their friendship for Capitalism.

Fellow-workers. Every vote given to the candidates of these parties—Coalition, Liberal, Labour, or I.L.P.—is a vote cast for the retention and extension of Capitalism, in support of the cause of wars, and therefore of their recurrence in the future, despite all the lies told about the League of Nations. It is a vote given for the continuance of poverty, of unemployment, of want in the midst of plenty, for the working class.

The Coalition programme, the Liberal platform, the Labour Party's pronouncements, the I.L.P.'s manifestoes and President Wilson's points of peace are all schemes to steer the capitalist system safely through the stormy seas ahead. Therefore the working class should REFUSE TO VOTE for any of these candidates.

For this Election the Socialist Party are unable to put forward candidates. But the workers can still vote for Socialism if they desire it. Let the workers go to the polling booths and write "SOCIALISM" across their ballot paper as shown on our front page.

True ! this will not prevent the master class from being returned to power, but it will indicate how many are desirous of obtaining Socialism. It will surprise and wake up the scattered and unorganised Socialists to the need for joining the Socialist Party, to assist in its work, to extend its sphere and influence, and so make it possible for us to run candidates at another election.

We claim the WORLD FOR THE WORKERS and call upon you to fight for SOCIALISM.

The Executive Committee of 
The Socialist Party of Great Britain,

28, Union Street, London, W.1. 
December 1st, 1918.

Armistice — And After. (1918)

Editorial from the December 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard

With a suddenness only equalled by that of its starting the vast slaughter machine of the capitalist world has come to a standstill as far, at least, as the chief opponents are concerned.

While the strain imposed upon Germany became apparent to all when it was seen that she was unable to spare men or material to help Bulgaria, the strict censorship, combined with the skilfully conducted retreat of her armies on the Western front, prevented outsiders from realising how near the breaking-point had been approached internally.

Innumerable rumours are flying about concerning the conditions in Germany, but the amount of reliable information is small possibly due as much to the English censor as to the lack of correspondents on the spot.

In some aspects the experience of Russia in 1917 is seemingly being repeated in Germany. A so-called Socialist cabinet has been formed consisting of three members of the Social-Democratic Party— Ebert, Scheidemann, and Landsberg—and three from the Independent Socialist Party—Haase, Dittman, and Barth. The last is claimed by some papers to be a member of the "Spartacus" group of the "Independents," but other papers deny this.

It would appear that a conflict is already raging as to whether a Constituent Assembly shall be called or a Soviet Parliament on the model of Russia shall be set up.

That the Scheidemann group should have seized the opportunity to take office is quite in line with their previous actions. In outlook and conception of social forces and developments they stand on about the same level as the Labour Party of this country, who have always been ready to assist the capitalist parties and hope for offices in return. Thus the Scheidemann "Socialists" gave their whole-hearted support to the prosecution of the war by the German capitalists, just as the Labour Party here placed its "whole services and party organisation" at the disposal of the English capitalists for the prosecution of the war by them.

The position of the "Independents" is not quite so easy to follow. That Bernstein and Kautsky should have "wobbled" on this question of taking office in such a Cabinet is not surprising, though it completely stultifies their action in withdrawing from the Social-Democratic Party during the war. But it certainly seems strange that Franz Mehring, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, and the like should have agreed, as they appear to have done, to this step being taken.

As far as can be judged from the information to hand, the only grounds upon which Socialists in Germany could take office at the present juncture would be for the purpose of arranging for a general election to be taken as soon as possible, based upon adult suffrage without property qualifications. In such an election the Socialists would, of course, stand solely for the establishment of Socialism and so would apply a real test as to whether the working class desired to establish Socialism.

If they desired to do so then a majority of Socialists would be returned. Failing this it would be quite clear that, due either to apathy or ignorance, the majority desired to retain capitalism. It would show the need for further Socialist propaganda being carried on until a sufficient number became convinced of the need for, and set to work to establish, the Socialist Commonwealth.

Socialism, that is a system of society based on the social ownership of the means of life, cannot be established till those who produce and distribute the wealth of society decide that it shall be produced and distributed socially for the benefit of all. Any attempt on the part of a so-called Socialist Cabinet to use the positions the peculiar circumstances of the moment have placed in their hands, for the purpose of establishing "Socialism" from above must end in a fiasco.

And greater than this internal question stands the huge powers outside. It would be the height of folly to suppose that the two greatest capitalist countries in the world, America and Great Britain, entered into this gigantic struggle to abolish capitalism. On the contrary, it was to maintain and extend that system that the unparalelled slaughter has taken place, and these nations will take all the steps necessary still to be taken for the achievement of that object. Let the working class attempt to take possession of the means of production, even in the indeterminate manner that they have done in Russia and as soon as they can be spared armed forces will be sent to ''restore order" and "establish peace."

The significant terms of the Armistices granted to Austria, Turkey, and Germany show clearly the end in view. Turkey is to be allowed to retain sufficient forces to "preserve order" in Armenia. The cold-blooded cynicism of this arrangement after all the howling of the capitalist Press about "Armenian massacres by the Turks," shows to what depths of foul hypocrisy the capitalist class can descend.

Austria is to retain twenty divisions under arms, While we are not told the number of men assigned to a division, a moderate estimate would give over 300,000 men under this clause. The people of Austria have thrown over their royal family and its relations, and the Allies are afraid that in the confusion existing there the working class may fail to appreciate properly the beauty and benefit of fully-developed capitalism. So the 300,000 are left for the purpose of persuading them to adopt a right view. In the case of Germany, while the Allies have demanded the surrender of sufficient guns and munitions to render the reopening of the war by the German army against the Allies quite hopeless, that army is allowed to retain as much of the war material remaining as they can carry across the Rhine inside the period of the Armistice. Here again the need for "preserving order" and "safeguarding property" is the reason behind the "concession."

The formation of Soldiers' Councils by the men stationed in various parts of the country is already arousing anxiety among the master class. The capitalist Press calls upon these councils to exercise a "moderating" influence upon the extremists, who are said to be "Bolshevist agents." Doubtless we shall soon hear of Russian gold being used to corrupt the Germans!

According to the correspondent of the "Daily News" (25.11.1918)—
 "Order may be preserved in Germany if the troops can be got to their homes quickly and disarmed, and if the respective federated Governments have courage and energy to master the Soldiers' and Workmen's Councils."
The idea behind this suggestion is not difficult to discover. Evidently the capitalist class is hoping that a sufficient number of officers and soldiers may be found still holding "patriotic" and "nationalist" views, who can be persuaded to take orders from the master class for the purpose of "saving society." If these "loyal" troops can be selected quickly, and if— as the "Daily News" correspondent suggests—the others can be rapidly returned home and disarmed before serious conflicts arise, the capitalist class of Germany may hope to steer through the troublesome times ahead without disaster to themselves. And if they fail ?

The answer can be seen in Russia. Allied troops have entered both on the Eastern and the North-Western frontiers. Further detachments are now being sent to the latter district from the Western Allies, while according to the "Daily Telegraph" (25.11.1918) the Japanese are claiming "recognition of the Japanese necessity to preserve order in Siberia to protect the integrity of Japan." In August 1914 the Socialist Party of Great Britain issued its War Manifesto, which was published in the September issue of the Socialist Standard. Therein we stated :
"The capitalists of Europe have quarrelled over the question of the control of trade routes and the world's markets, and are endeavouring to exploit the political ignorance and blind passions of the working class of their respective countries in order to induce the said workers to take up arms in what is solely their masters' quarrel.
"These armed forces, therefore, will only be set in motion to further the interests of the class who control them—the master class—and as the workers' interests are not bound up in the struggle for markets wherein their masters may dispose of the wealth they have stolen from them (the workers), but in the struggle to end the system under which they are robbed, they are not concerned with the present European struggle, which is already known as the BUSINESS war, for it is their masters' interests that are involved, and not their own."
The S.P.G.B was the only party in Great Britain who laid down the Socialist position when the war began and told the working class the truth about the situation. We have been the only party to maintain that position through the four and a quarter years of slaughter.

Overwhelming proof of the correctness of our attitude is now available in the terms of the "secret treaties" that have been published, quite apart from those known to exist but whose terms are still secret, in the action of the Allies in seizing the German colonies, in the various peace terms that have been formulated, in the declarations of "economic war after the war," and in the claims now being made by the various countries of the Allied group upon territories and "spheres of influence." Deceived by the delusion so sedulously spread by the master class that their "national existence was in danger," that "civilisation trembled in the balance," and so on, the workers have slaughtered each other by millions—and for what ? That the chains of wage slavery may be more firmly rivetted upon themselves the world over.

This applies as much to the victors as to the vanquished. While the capitalists have made huge fortunes out of war contracts the workers, despite "bonuses," "allowances," and increased rates, have been worked longer hours driven harder, and exploited to a greater degree than in the time of "peace'' preceding August 1914. Speeding up of machinery, improved methods of organisation, greater "hustle" in the works and factories, further sub-division and "dilution" of labour processes, premium bonus schemes and extension of piecework, have resulted in a greatly increased output during the war.

On the return of "peace" conditions these methods will be extended and elaborated, resulting in still greater "driving" and intensification of toil with its consequent increased profits for the master class and greater misery for the workers. The urge of "patriotism" and "helping the boys in the trenches," will be replaced by the more deadly, if more stealthy, whip of hunger. Schemes have been prepared and discussed for this purpose, and one set of such schemes has been critically examined and analysed in the Socialist Standard for April and May, 1917, under the heading "Promises and Pie Crust."

The vast army of demobilised workers—from both military service and munition works—will supply a staggering number of unemployed which the masters can use to beat down wages and to impose stricter conditions of employment. The reconstruction of industry and the re-building of shell-shattered towns in the war area will afford but a relatively short, and by no means complete, respite from the operation of these conditions. Their application will be world-wide, affecting "new" as well as "old" countries where capitalism rules.

The contradiction and antagonism between the increasing powers of wealth production faced with a relatively decreasing capacity, under private ownership of the means of life, on the part of the majority of society to absorb the products, will grow greater year by year. This growing antagonism, coupled with the inability of the capitalist class to control the effects of this vicious system, will drive the workers to realise that not national boundaries but class barriers are the matters for them to study. Then they will see the sound and impregnable truth of the closing lines of our War Manifesto, where we say—
"Having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our fellow workers of all lands the expression of our good will and Socialist fraternity, and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism."
Make no mistake about it; the capitalist nations of the globe will unite to form a solid phalanx in defence of their properties and interests the world over. The huge war just finishing is rapidly being overshadowed by the vaster CLASS war, moving into the last phases of the greatest of all struggles the world has ever, seen—the war over the ownership of the means of life ; the war to decide whether the producers shall be SLAVES OR FREEMEN.

In the great war now closing various races— black and brown, white and yellow—were marshalled against each other by the master class. In the final phases which we are approaching, of the greater war between the classes, race, colour, and sex barriers will be swept aside, and humanity as a whole will line up for the last great struggle of the human race—the struggle for the emancipation from Capitalism—for the establishment of the Socialist system.
Editorial Committee

By Which Means? Revolution or Evolution? (1918)

From the December 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard
"The difference between evolution and revolution is simply a difference of time."
Thus spake a "brother" at a recent trade union branch meeting at which this scribbler was present. The fallacy shall be conscripted and made to serve a useful purpose in these columns. And it is the more welcome because it raises an important point at an opportune time.

Before we go any further it may be pointed out that the idea that evolution and revolution are one and the same thing except so far as they are differentiated by the time factor is really at the bottom of all the political activities of the "Socialist" reformists, so far, at all events, as they are not the outcome of deliberate and calculating treachery. The line of argument is, of course, that evolution being but a slower form of revolution, or as the reformists would prefer to put it, revolution being just evolution with "some move" on, "Socialism by evolution" — Socialism by reform, that is—is the line of least resistance, and therefore the correct policy to pursue.

If the premise that the only difference between revolution and evolution is a difference in time were correct the rest would be fair matter for argument; but the fact is that evolution and revolution are entirely different movements.

By social evolution we mean a gradual change in society by a process of development of the existing form. Revolution is a change by the destruction of the old social structure and the substitution of a new one. Hence it is seen that in reality the time factor does not enter into the matter at all. The difference is fundamental.

The question, then, resolves itself into this : is it possible for the present social system to evolve into another system—to pass, that is, by gradual change into a system different in all its parts ?

A social system is not a mere accidental aggregation of social customs, relations, and institutions, springing up haphazard side by side. It is a co-related whole, arising from a definite basis or foundation. Nor is this foundation a product of chance.

If we compare the present social system with say the feudal system of the Middle Ages we find a great difference in the main group of social characteristics. First, the working class of the present day sell their labour power in order to live, while the serf and peasant of mediaeval times lived by the direct application of his labour power, still under his own control, to the land and material in his own possession, and through instruments that were owned by him. Secondly, the whole of the wealth by which men live to-day is produced as objects to be sold, while under serfdom the people lived by wealth which was produced for use, and only the surplus of which was sold.

These differences in characteristics are of vital importance. The first means that the position of the worker has changed from that of the serf (and later the peasant) working for himself to that of a wage worker working for another, and therefore the whole life of the vast balk of the people has changed. The second means that the whole purpose of production has undergone a change, and instead of bread being produced to feed people, and clothes to cover them, and houses to shelter them, these things are produced for profit.

The thing I wish to emphasise is that these conditions of the respective ages are closely connected. How this comes about is easily seen. When the peasant works on his own land his first object is to produce food and clothing to satisfy his own needs ; such things are produced primarily for use, not for profit. If, now, the stage of development of the means and methods of production have not advanced sufficiently to enable the peasant to produce much more than enough for himself (as was the case in medieval times), then any extensive production for anything but use is out of the question. On the other hand, when a man pays money away as wages, he does so, in the modern world, in order that that money shall return to him plus more money. He records his action in a book, starting with the money he lays out and ending with the money he gets back. That increase is his object—it is his profit—it is that for which the wealth has been produced.

If we examine any of the main relations in present-day society we shall find that they are based upon the ownership of the means of living (land, mines, factories, machinery, railways, and the like) by some of the people. The effect of this is plain. Society must, first of all, be a society divided into classes—a propertied class and a propertyless class.

In savage society the land belongs to the whole tribe, who use it in common for hunting and seeking their wild fruits and grains. In such a society all have equal rights in the means of living, and there are no classes.

The whole character of society is thus seen to rest upon the property condition upon which it is based. Class society, with its social inequalities and class antagonisms ; production for profit, with its cut-throat competition, its swindling and sham and adulteration and shoddy produce ; wage-slavery, with its overwork and unemployment, its sordid and depressing poverty for the vast bulk of the workers ; these things make up the most important part of the social world from the workers' point of view, and they all are based upon the ownership by a class of the means of living.

We have said that in savage society the land was owned by the whole community. The reason is not far to seek. Agriculture was either not discovered or not developed. The land was only useful as a hunting ground, and therefore as the common land of the tribe.

When, however, the means of producing wealth developed, through the discovery and progress of the arts of agriculture and domesticating animals, to the point where labour was capable of yielding' a surplus of wealth beyond what was necessary for its maintenance, the way was open for chattel-slavery. Accumulated property became possible, and this forming a basis for a dominant class, the old democratic social system broke down, and class society, based on private property, made its appearance.

What we learn from this is that it is the development of the means of production that is the cause of social change. This is easily understood. As the industrial relations are the basis of society, and those industrial relations (which men enter into in making their living together) must be determined by the means which bring men together in industrial relations (the means of production), it follows that as these means develop social changes must take place. Let us see now what part evolution and-revolution play in these changes.

There are two movements to consider— first, the advance of the means of production ; secondly, the change in the social system.

As regards the first, no one will pretend that this is the outcome of any conscious effort of man striving toward social change. Improvements in the means and instruments of production, and in methods, are forced upon the controllers of industry by the competitive nature of their industrial system. This development goes on unceasingly, and is a true evolutionary process.

But mark this—however much these means and instruments of production may evolve, that evolution cannot of itself change the social system.

For instance, the unconscious development of machinery was not sufficient in itself to evolve society from a basis of peasant-proprietorship and handicraft to a basis of wage labour. Before men could be reduced to wage-slavery it was necessary to deprive them of all other means of livelihood— they had to be divorced from their holdings. In like manner, all the evolution in the world of the modern means and processes of production will not change their character of implements for the production of profit through the exploitation of wage labour. Their gradual advance may, nay does, prepare the way for their conversion into common property, but it does not shift in the least degree the ownership and control under which they exist. When these means of living ceased to belong to those who operated them they became the property of a class, and in spite of all their evolution they are still the property of that class.

No, evolution and revolution are not the same thing with a difference of time. The evolution of the technical resources of man it is true renders necessary certain changes in the structure of society, but such changes are always consciously wrought by the class which gains by them. They take the form of readjustments through revolution. As they are consciously achieved by the revolutionary class, so they are consciously opposed by the reactionary class—which means, of course, that they are realised through a class struggle.

To-day the instruments of labour have evolved to the point where they are ripe for their ownership and contrcl by society. As, generations ago, they divorced the workers from ownership, as a necessary condition of their further advance, so now they have banished their capitalist owners from all participation in the necessary operations of production. The type of capitalist to day is the shareholder— as such an absentee, a superfluity, who can be dropped out without creating any "aching void" or causing any disruption. Every operation of a productive character is performed and supervised by hirelings—members of the working class. The work of evolution as a preparatory force on the technical field is completed. Its further progress can only be coercive and educational.

At no time in history have the productive processes made an advance at all comparable to that of the past four years. The difficulties with which this is going to confront the capitalists of the world are foreshadowed by their wild clamour for a league of nations. The increased productivity of human energy resulting from the speeding-up and the tapping of lower stratas of labour-power (female, for instance) has produced a condition that fills the master class with apprehension. The surplus wealth—the product in excess of wages— which is about to be poured forth in all lands presents a problem of markets that is appalling, and from which the master class shrink in fear. So, in a frenzied attempt to escape the logical outcome of the evolution of their technical processes—war unceasing for markets —they endeavour take the step of "arrangement" through a "league of nations"—-a resource which logically leads to the regulation of industry.

As a matter of fact, along this road lies the only lengthy respite for the capitalist class. They themselves will be forced to try some method of controlling output (as for years they have done in certain directions, for example, the organised destruction of cotton by the American planters) as the alternative to war—which offers temptation to revolt. It is here that the danger of the theory that revolution and evolution differ only in time is most apparent. For the necessary accompaniment of the attempt to control production is to modify the wages system and produce a State slave system. To which end the reforms of the "evolutionists," who imagine that to "nationalise" is to socialise, are not antagonistic.

The social basis cannot evolve. To "nationalise" the railways, for example, is not to make them the property of the whole, but simply of the State—in other words, of the capitalist class. If they are run for profit, then the profit goes to relieve the master class of certain burdens which they would otherwise have to meet through taxes. If they are run on a "free service basis," then the workers, having no railway fares to pay, can work for that much less wages, and will have to. The same applies to housing. Free rent simply means that the capitalists stable their human cattle through the State instead of through the private landlord. And as with each of these "reforms" the ruling class will add some substitute for the lessened power of the whip that drives the workers into the labour market, the more of these "reforms" the "evolutionists" achieve the nearer are the workers to that State slavery in which the capitalists may attempt to find refuge from revolution.

Once again, the instruments of labour are the subjects of evolution—conscious as far as their increased productivity goes, unconscious as regards their effect on the social relations. The social edifice is, however, the conscious product of men. It is established and safeguarded consciously by the class which dominate under it, using all the forces, military and otherwise, at their disposal to delay the readjustment called for by the evolution of the means and methods of production. It becomes, therefore, a conscious struggle between classes—a class struggle between classes conscious of their interests.

What is indicated, therefore, is that the working-class fight for emancipation must be based upon the principle of the class struggle—which means that there must be no compromising, no political trading, no obscuring of the line of class cleavage. It must be based, further, upon a class-conscious proletaiiat—a working class conscious of their true interest and aim—a politically educated working class. It must take the form of a struggle for the control of the political machinery, since it is through that that the armed forces are controlled.

All these considerations point the way to the working-class voter at the ballot box. He must have nothing to do with any reform-monger. Only the accredited candidate of the Socialist Party—the man put forward and guaranteed by the political party of the working class, standing for the Socialist revolution and that alone, and asking for support on no other ground whatever—only such a candidate is any good to the workers. And no such candidate is to be found in any part of the Kingdom.

Nevertheless, every voter may cast a vote for Socialism by writing "Socialism" across his ballot
paper, and such a demand for Socialist candidates will not be made in vain,
A. E. Jacomb