Friday, June 26, 2020

News in Review: Take-overs and Big Money (1962)

The News in Review column from the June 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

Take-overs and Big Money

In big business, in many spheres, the mergers go on, involving sums of money large enough to be quite remote from any working class reality.

Beer. Whitbreads is bringing off a £47 million merger with Flowers, one of the first firms to go into the keg beer market. Whitbreads already hold some shares in Flowers and have a trading agreement with them. In the past, they seemed content to leave it at that. But last December, in similar circumstances, they took over Tennants: that, and the latest merger, seem to indicate a change of policy at Whitbreads. Month by month the brewing firms get fewer and bigger. The Flowers take-over might be followed by a hot battle for the remaining independent companies.

Food. Nestlé, the big beverage and chocolate firm, have set up a £16 million company by taking over the Swedish frozen food group Marabou-Findus-Freia. Nestlé already own the Crosse and Blackwell tinned food concern and the Maggi soup business. The latest merger puts them into the British frozen food market, to challenge the sixty-four per cent. hold which Unilever have on it at the moment. The sales of frozen food in this country have leaped from £13 million in 1956 to £57 million a year today. Nestlé will be hoping that they will live up to expectations and reach £100 million by 1964. If this does not happen, Nestlé will not go broke: The Guardian reports them as one of the ten largest companies in the world.

Building. Twenty million pounds was involved in the merger between the Rugby Portland Cement Company and Eastwoods, the brick firm. Rugby, who have subsidiaries in Australia and the West Indies, have not taken over any firm for the last sixteen years. Their latest profit of over £2 million was a record for them, although like so many other companies their margins are under pressure

As Capitalism gets older it gets bigger and more concentrated. As it does so. the worker grows more remote and personally insignificant. This is what Karl Marx, said would happen, over a century ago. Nobody listened much to him then and nobody listens much now.


Terrorism

The official peace in Algeria hangs upon a slender thread.

The FLN control the countryside except for the oilfields, where the Europeans strongly support the Secret Army Organisation. In the cities the OAS continue to run riot, killing and provoking.

The popular theory, that if the French government could capture Salan they would finish the OAS. has been disproved. Events have shown that the nationalism of the colons has deeper roots. The colonels, said to be more ruthless than Salan, have taken over with reported sighs of relief that the ex-general no longer impedes them in the business of really serious terrorism.

The Moslems are suffering fearful provocation and strain coupled with chronic unemployment and. for some of them, near starvation. So far their obedience to the FLN policy of restraint has been remarkable, but it is anybody's guess how long it will hold out. The FLN leaders are themselves divided on the issue, with some of them sticking out for moving the Algerian army into the cities to clean up the OAS.

Algeria, in short, is a horrible mess. The original reasons for the conflict seem to have been somewhat blurred. Basically, they are: the Algerians want to run the country themselves, under their own ruling class, who will own the country's resources and exploit its workers. The French, who used to do this themselves, want to hang on to their possessions and rights.

For the workers on both sides no interests nor benefits are involved in this struggle. It should not concern an Algerian worker, nor a French one, that there is about to be a change in the nationality of the class which owns and exploits Algeria.

But nationalism, patriotism and simple ignorance can persuade workers all over the world to join in Capitalism's bloodbaths.

They can persuade them to perform disgusting acts of terrorism. They persuaded the FLN to do this and they persuaded the OAS as well.


Homeless

It is a long time since the late Aneurin Bevan promised that the housing situation would not be an issue at a future general election.

As usual with a politician’s snappy phrase, it is difficult to get at Bevan's exact meaning. He may have been saying that, whatever hardships the workers met in their housing, they would forget them when the election came along. This is not an unsound assumption; working class voters forget many worse problems. That is one of the reasons they keep Capitalism in existence.

But perhaps Bevan meant that during the few years after 1945 the housing problem would be solved. If he did his promise, like so many others, has been discredited by the social system he tried to administer.

The London Council Council now has seven hundred and eighty-two homeless families, made up of 3,726 people, in its care. This is the most ever. The figure has been climbing steadily since the turn of the year; at the end of January the homeless families numbered six hundred and forty-seven.

This situation has forced the LCC to go back on its decision to close the emergency accommodation provided in places like Newington Lodge and Luxborough Lodge. These buildings came in for some heavy criticism a few months ago: they are old and exceedingly depressing places. The emergency centres will take only women and children, which means that, on top of their other worries, the homeless families are split up.

Here is a very bitter problem, which is not untypical in the sense that it is at the very heart of the degradation which poverty brings to the entire working class.

This is the class with a housing problem, because their living, and their

standards of living, depend upon their wages. Capitalists, who get their living from their ownership of society's means of production, are simply too rich to suffer bad housing.

Working class poverty is an inescapable part of Capitalism, which means that housing will always be a sore spot for the workers

Lots of well-meaning reformers have tried to solve this problem and have been beaten by it. So have quite a few, perhaps less well-meaning, politicians.

Fallacies on the Left (1962)

From the June 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

Commenting on the Socialist Party contesting the recent Municipal Election in Glasgow, the Scottish Daily Express called us “a far left group.” This is indicative of the childish view of the political scene held by the Press and by many workers.

According to this view the political parties in this country line up something like a football forward line with the Fascists at outside right, the Tories at inside right, the Liberals at centre forward, the Labour Party at inside left, and on the left wing C.N.D.’ers, Trotskyists, Communists and Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

Yet for all their differing programmes these organisations are united by their desire to operate capitalism. From the so called right wing to the out and out “left-wingers” you will find nothing about the abolition of the wages system appearing on their programmes. It is left to the Socialist Party of Great Britain to point out that only by the abolition of the wages system and the introduction of a society based on common ownership can the problems of war, unemployment, and poverty be overcome.

Since it is from this “left wing” of the Trotskyists and Labourite rebels that the claim to be Socialists is most often heard let us look at their policies and actions, bearing in mind that because a group calls itself Socialist it doesn't necessarily mean that it is. We saw a good example of this recently in the Daily Mail :
 A spokesman in Seoul for Dr. Rhee's Liberal Party (now leaderless) said to-day it planned to change it's name to the "Democratic Socialist Party’’—but it would remain Conservative.
Every time the Socialist takes the “left-wingers" to task for the anti-working class policy of the Labour Party he gets the reply, “ Ah, just wait until the next conference. The left will triumph. What the Labour Party needs is left-wing leadership." Which shows quite clearly that the left wing shares the right wing's view on leadership and that although it claims to understand politics, it thinks the working class too stupid to comprehend the complexities involved. Instead, it sees them as a troop of boy scouts who need a left-wing scoutmaster to lead them to the promised land.

Socialists, on the other hand, say that not only can the working class understand Socialism, but that only by their understanding and organising for it can Socialism be brought about. Socialism is a new social system where there will be no buying or selling, where men and women will co-operate to produce wealth to the best of their ability and take according to their needs. Without the majority understanding what Socialism is, it is an impossibility.

Their emphasis on the importance of leadership shows that the left wingers do not understand the nature of Socialist society. In a society based on co-operation rather than coercion, the majority must willingly participate. Men cannot be led into Socialism.

Another aspect of the left wing that illustrates its anti-Socialist attitude, is the prevalent idea of gradually changing Capitalism into Socialism. This “creeping Socialism" they say, is more practical than the revolutionary proposition. Now bearing in mind that Socialism will have no private property and no money, how does this “creeping Socialism” stand up to examination? How is our gradualist going to abolish money? This week do away with the penny; the next the shilling; the next the half-crown; and so on? If such is the “creeping Socialist” concept he no doubt applauded the disappearance of the farthing.

Socialism may be gradual, in that the working class will gradually adopt Socialist ideas, but we realise that once the majority understand and desire Socialism they will revolutionise society by democratically taking hold of the State machine, declaring private property illegal, and instituting the common ownership of the world by the whole of society.

A favourite argument of those "left-wingers” who say that Socialists are wasting their time by remaining outside the Labour Party, is that the Labour Party can be converted into a Socialist party by “left-wingers” boring from within. Let us have a look at this argument.

The S.P.G.B. was formed in 1904 by people who realised that only an independent Socialist party, restricted to those who understand Socialism, could be an efficient instrument of working class emancipation. Those who called the early Socialists “impossibilists" elected to bore from within the Social Democratic Federation and the Independent Labour Party. The S.D.F. is now dead and buried and the I.L.P. is to all intents and purposes dead if not yet buried.

The Labour Party has been subjected to over fifty years of boring from within,. but with what effect? Today even the vague claims of some of its early members to be Socialists appear to be dyed-in-the-wool revolutionary in comparison with the respectable, staunch support of Capitalism that the Labour Party now offers. It would be as difficult to find a Socialist in the modern Labour Party as an Anarchist in the League of Empire Loyalists.

The left wing of the Labour Party, in attempting to show they are less reactionary than their comrades playing at inside left, point out that they are in favour of more nationalisation, rent control, improved welfare facilities, and the rest. This is the same old rag bag of reforms that have been proffered by their other colleagues in the past.

The theory that nationalisation is Socialism, or a step towards Socialism, is patently absurd. Even in countries such as the United States, where no pseudo-Socialist party such as the Labour Party has been in power, Capitalism has found it necessary to have state control over some industries. If those who favour nationalisation are Socialists then such people as Churchill and Mussolini must be classed as such.

There is in reality no right-wing and left-wing in British politics. All the reformist parties, whether they be Fascist. Communist or Labour, stand for Capitalism. We have no more sympathy with the left-wing of the Labour Party than with the inside left. For the Socialist there is only one attitude towards the Labour Party, whatever position they elect to play in, unqualified opposition.
Kelvin.

Who is in Charge? (1962)

From the June 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

The government is now well past its halfway mark and soon it must start thinking about the timing of the next general election. Whatever date it decides on, we may be sure that it will be the result of a careful calculation. A time like the present, with bye-elections running against it and with signs of internal strain, is not likely to be chosen. Mr. Macmillan—if he is still Prime Minister—will try to wait until he can feel surer of victory. This does not mean that he will leave it until the last minute, which would give him little room for manoeuvre. It does mean that, as in the past, the next election will almost certainly be held some time before the government’s term expires in October, 1964. This time next year, then, the decision may not be far off.

Whenever they are called upon to vote, the workers in this country will display all the bemused docility which we have grown accustomed to. They will concentrate on the wrong issues, at the wrong time. They will allow themselves to be misled by the government’s claim to have been a sage, responsible administration and by the clamour from the opposition parties that they are the men to put fire into the belly of British capitalism. The workers will not pause to consider the futility of it all and to compare the anomalies of Capitalism with the obvious impotence of the political parties to deal a with them. As a whole, they will not even toy with the idea that it might be a good thing to abolish Capitalism and to have Socialism instead.

We can say all this with some confidence, because experience has taught us that the working class prefer to take Capitalism on trust to what must be the painful business of thinking and remembering and comparing. The election policies of the Tories, the Labour Party and the others always amount to a claim that they are able to control Capitalism. As each of Capitalism’s crises blows up, there is no lack of political leaders to make speeches which state their solution to it. City Editors are prolific with schemes which put the politicians straight. Nobody seems to notice that some of the schemes are not very different from those which are being blamed for producing the crisis in the first place and that some of the bright ideas contradict others which have been offered before as the solution to our problems.

Let us, for example, consider the recent reversal of the government’s policies of last July, when Selwyn Lloyd pushed through his emergency Budget. The main provisions of that Budget were the increase of Bank Rate to seven per cent., the increase of some taxes by ten per cent. of the previous rate and the imposition of the pay pause. These policies were necessary, said the government, because we had all been living too well. The working class forgot to ask themselves when Capitalism had ever allowed them to live anywhere near as well as some of the people who make speeches about the Budget. They grumbled a little about it, but in the main meekly accepted it. The Budget was sold to them as essential to save British Capitalism—and there is no higher task to which a British worker can feel himself called.

Since then, apparently, British Capitalism has been saved, because the emergency Budget has gone. Bank Rate has come down steadily until now it is lower than it was last July. The pay pause, formally at any rate, is finished; workers who ask for higher wages have some other reason given to them for the employers' resistance to their claim. The ten per cent. increase in taxes has been dropped; some taxes, in fact, have been even further reduced. The entire tax structure has been somewhat simplified, which may be a clue to a new theory hatching in the Treasury—that British Capitalism would work better if it imposed a uniform sales tax upon its Capitalist class instead of the various purchase taxes which apply at present. There is, of course, no evidence to support this theory and in any case it has nothing to do with working class interests. But never mind; the experts at the Treasury must cultivate restless minds to keep up with Capitalism and it all makes good copy for the election programmes.

Perhaps the experts would feel more confident about the effectiveness of their remedies if they could all agree on them. But this they cannot do — is it any wonder then that mere inexpert Socialists should have so little confidence in them? Each time a Chancellor slaps restrictions on — or takes them off — the economy, there is a chorus of dissentients who assure us that he is too late or too early, too bold or too timid, or just plain wrong. In July, 1960, for example, the government reverted to the sort of credit restrictions which they have been imposing for years, on and off. This was met with anything but unanimous applause. The Guardian commented on July 5th, 1960:
  The past week has brought fresh support for those who questioned the need for the Chancellor's latest round of credit restrictions. The Board of Trade's admission that hire purchase sales in May dropped below last year's level simply confirms the view, expressed by many manufacturers and traders, that the boom in demand for consumer durable goods had already slackened off . . . the Government ought to have been congratulating itself on achieving a desirable new balance in the economy, rather than imposing new restrictions.
Newspapers, of course, need only comment upon the muddle which political parties get themselves into when they try to run Capitalism. Happily for the press, they do not have to involve themselves in trying to sort out the muddle. Even so, newspapers may sometimes hit upon the basic features of a crisis. There is an obvious question which is provoked by the continual upsets which Capitalism's economy is heir to, and by the contradictory policies which are put forward to settle these upsets. Do the politicians, the economists and the Chancellors control the economy? Or does the economy control them? As we have seen, The Guardian thought that the Chancellor in 1960 was trailing a long way behind events. And this is what Samuel Brittan, the Economic Editor of The Observer — who thought the pay pause was a good idea — wrote on September 3rd, 1961, about the effect of the Lloyd policy:
  The Government's hand will be enormously strengthened in the coming months by a marked change of trend in the labour market, which actually began as early as June . . . unemployment has since been creeping up and unfilled vacancies have been declining . . . labour should become a good deal easier to obtain in the coming months.
  At the same time manufacturers will find orders on the domestic market fewer and further between; and with profit margins under pressure they will offer fiercer resistance to wage claims . . . All this was without Selwyn Lloyd, who has administered a cold douche to an economy that was probably already coming off the boil even without his efforts.
Current Trends
What this means is that the Chancellor's policies are only a desperate attempt lo straighten some of the wilder zig-zags of Capitalism. They do not run counter to the current trends in the economy; they do not try to deflate a boom, nor to shake out a slump. They do not, in fact, have any considerable effect upon economic conditions, but only reflect those conditions, usually some time after they have passed by. Samuel Brittan's rival — Mr. Rees-Mogg, the Political and Economic Editor of The Sunday Times — summed it up for us all on July 30th, 1961: “. . . what Mr. Selwyn Lloyd has produced is not a policy, it is a reaction.”

We can now consider the conditions which make the Chancellor's policies for him. Two of the industries which The Guardian mentioned as being in difficulties were those making cars and domestic appliances. These were among the industries which cashed in on the post war boom; they built great factories, often in old depressed areas of the country. They invested tens of millions of pounds in their productive machine and up to a few years ago this all seemed to be paying off. They were riding high. Times have changed since then. The motor car firms have suffered violent ups and downs some of them have gone altogether and others are sickly plants.

Similar conditions have hit the domestic appliance trade. A. J. Flatley, a washing machine, drier and refrigerator firm which suddenly sprang up in Manchester a few years ago, to expand at great speed, has recently gone bankrupt. Hoovers are busily cutting their cloth to suit a severely restricted coat—last year they took a fifty per cent. cut in their profits. Hotpoint—part of the mighty Associated Electrical Industries—have recently reduced their washing machine prices to catch sales in a hardening market. We all know what has happened to the price of refrigerators over the past few years, and to some of the firms which make them.

Now why does this happen, to these industries and to others? In August, 1960, the Economic Review, published by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, drew attention to what it called the “over capacity” of the durable consumer industries. This “over capacity” was largely the result of the enormous investment which was placed when consumer durables were booming. When the boom slackened the extra productive power became an embarrassment—stocks of machines accumulated, production had to be cut and workers laid off. That is the immediate, at any rate, explanation of a slump.

The fundamental explanation goes deeper. What could the consumer durable firms have done to avert the decline? Should they have held off their investment when the boom was going strong? Of course, they could not. At the time, intense investment was not merely a good idea, it was an absolute must for a company which wanted to get its share of the market. Could they then have correctly gauged the market, foreseen how long it would hold and so forecast the slump? This is something they have never been able to do, nor ever will be able to. The Capitalist class train up expensive experts and economists, but still they are caught napping by the disappearance of a market.

For Capitalism's slumps, like its booms, happen because its wealth — whether it is motor cars, washing machines or anything else — is made to be sold. This means that the market is the key to Capitalism's fortunes. And the market is a capricious, unpredictable, anarchic thing. It sums up Capitalism, that its fortunes should rest in such uncertainty.

So we know that as fast as one policy is knocked from under him, the Chancellor must come up with another. They all will be equally ineffective, but that will not stop him groping for another palliative, another stopgap, another lame horse to sell to the working class. Rees-Mogg put it bluntly in his article when he said, “The Chancellor is not in charge of the economic machine: it is in charge of him.”

Sadly, this will almost certainly pass the working class by, when the next election gets under way. Then there will be many lame horses on display at capitalism’s political market place. The voter, will prod them over, examine their mangy hides and finally plump for one or the other. A depressing prospect? For humanity, yes. But for those who pocket the proceeds, no.
Ivan

Finance and Industry: The Stock Exchange (1962)

The Finance and Industry Column from the June 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Stock Exchange

The Stock Exchange has spent some time over the past years in trying to improve its public image, which was so badly mauled by the slumps between the wars. About eight years ago a Visitors' Gallery was opened, from which anybody can watch the Exchange at work. The Secretary's department is eager to answer any enquiries and will send a list of brokers on request. And now. although they have always frowned firmly and finally upon any broker advertising himself, the Stock Exchange is itself launching out on a publicity campaign.

The theme is that the work of the Exchange vitally affects us all and that without it we would all be a lot worse off. "Without investment,” says one advertisement, “ British commerce would just cease to exist. And without the Stock Exchange, investment would be next to impossible.” Vintage ad-man's stuff, this. Capitalism always took care to develop the machinery which its property basis needed, but that does not make that machinery socially desirable or useful. The Stock Exchange was developed to organise some of Capitalism's investments, but even without it there would still have been a Capitalist class who would have grown very rich from the work of the rest of us. So when the Stock Exchange pats itself on the back they are making a social virtue out of an anti-social necessity.

Who are the advertisements intended to influence? Presumably the Capitalists, who have the money to invest, already know all about the Stock Exchange. This must also apply to the trustees and the funds' organisers whose job it is to invest other people's money. Could the ads. be aimed at the worker who has a little money which he would normally put aside in the Post Office, for his holiday or something similar? A small gamble in stocks and shares would be enough to convince many workers that they were Capitalists and so make them loyal supporters of Capitalism. But many workers who play the shares find that for everyone who wins on the Stock Exchange somebody else must lose and that, although the Capitalists can take these losses, to lose is a different matter for them.

So we exclude ourselves from the scope of the advertisement's claim, that the Stock Exchange is ". . . helping us all to live as we want to.” Socialists want lo live in a free world, which is owned by its people. The Stock Exchange does not help us to live that life: in fact, it does just the opposite. By misleading workers into accepting Capitalism as a dynamic, logical, beneficial system it prevents us all from living not just the lives we want but the lives we desperately need.


How few own how much?

There are certain essential facts about Capitalism upon which we have always based our case against it. However the system may change in small ways, these facts are as relevant today as they always have been.

One of them is that the overwhelming mass of the world’s wealth is owned by only a small proportion of its population. That, like all property societies, Capitalism is made up of a small number of owners and a vast majority who own nothing or virtually nothing.

Equally important is the fact that this pattern has remained fundamentally unchanged over the years.

As long ago as 1904. Sir Leo Chiozza Money showed that about one-third of the country's total income was taken by only 3 per cent. of the population. In 1908, he estimated that about half was taken by 12 per cent.

In 1913, Sir J. C. Stamp calculated that no more than 36,000 owned about one-third of the total national wealth and that 400,000, or a tenth of the population, owned two-thirds of it. Another investigation by Daniels and Campion showed that in the same year one per cent. of the population owned 70 per cent. of the total capital and that 5 per cent. owned between 85 and 90 per cent.

The same investigators estimated that in 1924 one per cent. owned 60 per cent. of the national wealth and that 5 per cent. still owned 80 per cent, of it.

How has this position changed at the present time? In spite of all the talk of the "affluent society" and "you’ve never had it so good,” hardly at all.

The Economic Editor of the Observer has recently calculated that 27 per cent. of total personal wealth is accounted for by one-half of one per cent. of the people; 35 per cent. by one per cent: 42 per cent. by 1½ per cent.; and 52 per cent. by 2½ per cent. He adds that all these calculations probably under-estimate both the total of wealth and the inequality of its distribution since most of its owners have already taken steps to avoid the full effects of death duties (his figures are based on Inland Revenue estate duty figures).


And in the United States.

As chance would have it, a similar enquiry about the position in the United States has just been published. It reveals that in 1953 a minority of 11 per cent. owned 60 per cent. of the total American assets. These figures are again based on estate duty returns and would appear to under-estimate the true proportions as with the U.K. figures.

We hope to get hold of the book in due course to see what other information it gives about wealth ownership under American Capitalism, but even the sparse details quoted above make it clear that the position is basically similar to that in Britain.


Omission.

The paragraph on the railways in last month's issue unfortunately omitted to mention the amount of interest still paid out yearly on the £1,000 million of government stock handed over to the former railway owners by the Labour Government in 1946. The figure is £30 million.

Almost £500 million has therefore since been paid out in interest by a concern which is now so deep in the red that nothing will apparently save it. And this interest will continue lo be distributed year in and year out unless the government should one day decide to redeem the stock. Should this happen, the lucky bondholders will be paid out at par to the tune of the full £1,000 million.

No doubt about it. Whatever our Labour Government did not do, they certainly did the railway owners proud.
Stan Hampson

Islands in the Doldrums (1962)

From the June 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard
Oil and sunshine 
Keeps the Yankees looking fine: 
Oil and sunshine, 
With a glass of local wine
Oil, sunshine, and Yankees. Perhaps the composer of this recently popular calypso was more interested in the local wine, but he summed up the importance of the West Indies in the modern world neatly enough.

Trinidad’s oil is the most important mineral product of the West Indies. Sunshine and a satisfactory rainfall allow crops (the most important being sugarcane) which form the basis of most of the islands’ economy. Lastly, the American Government keeps a stern, albeit paternal eye on the Caribbean as an important “outpost of democracy” and guardian of the eastern approaches to the Panama Canal.

But what are the West Indies? The term is in fact little more than an abstraction. To British people they mean those collections of islands forming the West Indies Federation. The French refer to les Antilles and mean particularly the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique and French Guiana. Then there are the islands of the Dutch West Indies, the ’‘independent” island of Cuba, the American Virgin Islands, the twin “independent” states of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and the American satellite state of Puerto Rico. And what about the neighbouring mainland countries: British Guiana and British Honduras, Dutch Guiana (Surinam), and the Central American states bordering on the Caribbean? Do not their strategic positions and trading potentials label them as parts of the West Indies?

The truth is that the West Indies are a widespread collection of islands (Jamaica and Trinidad are 1,000 miles apart), possibly associated with countries on the South American mainland, with different cultural backgrounds, with people speaking many different languages, and having different economic affiliations to European and American colonial powers.

Little wonder that a succession of fact-finding committees and international committees of experts, have been sorely tried to propound a solution, within the framework of capitalism, for the ills of this economic, cultural, and political hodge-podge. And, as we shall see, problems there certainly are, especially for that section of the West Indian population which must seek an employer in order to live—the working class.

If the West Indies’ future is uncertain and unpromising, at least their past may be described with some accuracy: a past that exemplifies colonial expansion, capitalist accumulation of wealth, and the subjugation of a working class, with all the romance and colour of a Hollywood movie.

Search for Gold
The recorded history of the West Indies starts with their discovery by Columbus at the end of the fifteenth century. Columbus believed, and claimed, that he had found islands off the coast of Eastern Asia—hence the name West “Indies.”

The islands were already inhabited by tribes of aboriginal Indians, the Arawaks and the Caribs. These unfortunate Indians (the only "original” West Indians, despite Negro nationalist propaganda) were either destroyed or subjugated by the European settlers.

Following Columbus' various expeditions, the then strong Spanish crown founded a Spanish empire in the Caribbean and South America. Cuba and Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) were the bases from which forces sailed for the conquest of Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the lands in South America.

The driving force was the search for gold. More and more Spanish settlers arrived in quest of this, bringing with them the Spanish form, of municipal government (the cabildo), vestiges of which later continued under British rule. They also brought agricultural stock—rice, citrus fruit trees, bananas, and, most important of all, sugar-cane. Local crops were limited, the most important being maize, cassava (bread-stuff), and tobacco.

The search for gold proved fruitless on the whole but in the words of Parry and Sherlock, “The story of sugar is a continuous thread running through the whole history of the West Indies.” Because most of the West Indian islands are hilly and therefore have limited areas of arable land, the only economical crop was found to be one which gave a high yield per acre and a high price; it was mainly
because of these factors that sugar and not cotton became the staple crop. Furthermore, sugar can be grown by unskilled labour and does not exhaust the ground.

The shortage of labour (both skilled and unskilled) to grow, harvest, mill, and process the crop (sugar-cane must be milled and processed soon after harvesting) became a pressing problem for the Spanish land-owners: there were virtually no “free” labourers, very few “forced” labourers, and the Arawaks and Caribs were either extinct or unfitted for life as agricultural labourers. The first batch of Negro slaves from the West Coast of Africa to supply these labour needs were shipped by the Spanish to the West Indies early in the sixteenth century.

The forty-year period of economic and territorial domination of the West Indies by Spain was broken by the outbreak of war with France in 1536, and from that date France, Spain, Holland, and England were in more or less constant conflict over possession of the islands, trade routes, and trading rights. Admirals Drake and Hawkins were the most illustrious of England’s band of official pirates. Unofficial pirates, or buccaneers (the most famous being Captain Morgan), operated with the approval of colonial governors against Spanish settlements and shipping, and were paid by booty.

Islands were captured and re-captured. Barbados was the only island taken by England which never changed hands. Jamaica was taken by the British in the middle of the seventeenth century; this was a great prize, for a contemporary described Jamaica as “lying in the very belly of all commerce.” Trinidad was captured from the Spanish by the French, and by the British from the French in 1797, during the Napoleonic wars. Eventually, mainly because of superior sea power and possession of the only two naval dockyards (Port Royal in Jamaica and English Harbour in Antigua), Britain became the dominant imperialist power in the Caribbean.

The growth of the trade in sugar and the trade in men went hand in hand.

French and English settlers soon discovered that, along with cotton, West Indian tobacco (which was found to be inferior to the Virginian type) were not profitable crops; for reasons already given, and because the demand for it in Europe was growing steadily, sugar became the main crop.

Considerable capital was needed to establish a sugar factory, and a plantation had to be large enough to keep the factory supplied with sugar-cane; it is thus easy to see why the small sugar-cane holdings were soon swallowed up by large estates and why eventually the industry fell into the hands of a few capitalists. Today, for example, all the large estates and ail the factories in Trinidad are owned by Tate and Lyle.

Indentured Labour
There was soon a cry for labour to work the estates and the factories. First of all, indentured (“free") labourers were brought from Europe, with the promise of smallholdings at the end of their contracts (if they lived that long). When virtually all the arable land had been swallowed up by the large estates, the supply of indentured labourers rapidly dwindled. Political prisoners (“Royalists" and Irish) and convicted felons were shipped: these were dubbed “white slaves” by the Negroes and were treated as badly as, if not worse than, the Negro slaves. But these were not enough to satisfy the needs of the profit-hungry sugar owners and so, like the Spanish and Portuguese before them, the French and English planters had to buy slaves, mostly Negroes from the West Coast of Africa.

The slave traders were as anxious to sell their human commodities as the plantation owners were to buy them. By the middle of the seventeenth century a steady stream of slaves was leaving Sierra Leone, the Niger Delta, and the Slave and Ivory Coasts to face disease and death in the overcrowded slave ships, and an uncertain future of back-breaking toil at the hands of the rapacious sugar planters. Barbados had a few hundred Negroes in 1640, but by 1645 there were over 6,000, and in 1685 no less than 46,000.

There were few white sugar owners and overseers to control this rising black tide of resentful, sullen and undisciplined slaves, many of whom came from warlike tribes. Soon isolated uprisings caused severe penalties to be imposed; typical of such repressive acts of legislation was the French Code Noir.

The slave trade was one of the most profitable enterprises of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—for the owners of the slave ships. The death-rate among the crews of the “slavers” was usually about the same as among the slaves they carried. Although the Spanish started the slave trade, eventually four countries (Portugal, Holland, England, and France) gained control. There was much competition between the various powers over the monopoly of such a lucrative business and to put a stop to keen Dutch competition Charles II of England granted a charter to the “Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading into Africa” in 1663. This slave-trading organisation later became the Royal Africa Company, about which Parry and Sherlock say: “Several members of the royal family were shareholders in this enterprise, which was to supply the English sugar colonies with 3,000 slaves a year at an average price of £17, or one ton of sugar, per slave. The purchase price in Africa at that time was about £3.”

The first European war to be fought over the West Indies began in 1739 between England, Spain, and France. It was frankly called a “war of trade,” and was dubbed “the war of Jenkin’s ear” after an English sea captain who complained to parliament of Spanish hindrance to his trading activities in the Caribbean. From this time the three powers fought intermittently until the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, and many islands changed hands. For the English ruling class, this was a golden opportunity to cripple French sugar production by destroying both crops and machines and by capturing slaves. This period of imperialist skirmishing (which included the Seven Years’ War) was influenced, to the disadvantage of the English ruling class, by the American war of Independence, which drew English military and naval reserves from the Caribbean.

Plantation System
Despite wars and rumours of wars, however, for the sugar owners in the West Indian islands, the eighteenth century was probably the period of greatest prosperity. But it was also during this peak period of “plantation economy" that the seeds of future economic problems were sown, problems which teams of economic “experts,” government committees, etc., are attempting to solve to this day. The most important defect in the plantation system was monoculture, the growing of one crop. Other features were slavery, absentee ownership (most plantation owners lived in England and left the running of their estates to bailiffs), and the dependence of the traders on markets in the outside world.

To make matters worse, economic problems in the Caribbean have periodically been accentuated by natural disasters (hurricanes, droughts, and epidemic disease, such as cholera and yellow fever), from which some islands have taken years to recover.

However hard the planters tried, they were powerless to prevent their slaves learning about the world outside the slave compounds. It was thus inevitable that at the turn of the nineteenth century “leaders” emerged from, the ranks of the slaves: men who had heard the rallying cry of the French Revolution. “liberty, .equality, and fraternity,” and preached that this slogan should apply to slaves as well as to the plantation owners.

Slave Labour
Unrest and rebellion spread among the slaves and in 1791 the slave population of the northern plain of Saint-Domingue (later to be renamed Haiti) revolted, systematically firing some fields and houses and murdering the white inhabitants. Out of this bloody rising, during which both sides acted with the utmost savagery, arose the first Negro slave leader to prove himself competent both as a military commander and as a politician—Toussaint "L'ouverture.”

Movements for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade had for some years before the uprisings also been gaining strength in liberal circles in Britain. Various governments declared the slave trade illegal between the years 1808-1820 and slavery was abolished in all the West Indian colonies, except the Spanish, by the middle of the nineteenth century.

The erstwhile slaves soon found that they had exchanged one form of slavery for another. As one historian points out, “the Act which abolished slavery did not emancipate the slaves . . . As a social institution slavery disappeared . . . and it came back as a system of industry, the negroes . . . having to work as slaves for so many hours a week.”

Slavery was also a very mixed blessing for the plantation owners. It is true that the owners were reasonably assured of a constant supply of labourers who could not leave the plantations: following “emancipation” many ex-slaves left for more congenial work or to run smallholdings. But slave-labour was not very productive and the slave owners were bound to feed, clothe, and shelter their slaves. Sugar farming is largely seasonal. but the owners could not dispense with their slaves after the crop was harvested and processed as they now can with their wage-workers.
Michael La Touche

[To be concluded]

What—Again? (1962)

Party News from the June 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

Yes. Afraid So. This is another appeal for funds. If you want our work to continue, we must have more money—and quickly.

In the past year or two, there has been an all-round spurt in our efforts. Big and successful indoor meetings have been held and more are planned. Two new pamphlets are on the stocks and will appear shortly. A drive is under way to increase the circulation of the Socialist Standard.

But that is not all. Our Glasgow members have contested a ward in the recent municipal election there, while just across the sea, the comrades in Ireland are limbering up for yet another go at the polls. We must not be caught napping, either, if a general election takes place in Britain—as it could do at any time. So even now, as much of our election literature as possible is being prepared.

This is all very welcome activity but it needs money, and bags of it. We have never been a rich party and our only source of income is the money given by members and sympathisers. Our bank balance is looking a bit sickly and we must fatten it up to meet the heavy demands expected in the near future.
So please send as much as you can to:—E. Lake, Treasurer S.P.G.B., 52, Clapham High Street, Loudon, S.W.4. Do not delay. The need—as always —is urgent.



Frank Buchman's Secret (1962)

Book Review from the June 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Geoffrey Williamson wrote his assessment of Moral Rearmament in 1954, he certainly was not exaggerating when he complained of " excessive adulation," of the founder, Frank Buchman. He had this to say:
  His followers revere him, rush to do his slightest bidding, and quote his most commonplace utterances as if they were fraught with inspired meaning . . .
Well, Dr. Buchman died in Germany at the beginning of August last year, and now comes the latest book about him, Frank Buchman’s Secret, by Peter Howard (Heinemann). The spiel on the dust cover tells us the book is not concerned with praise, but don't you believe it. Posthumous adoration oozes stickily from practically every page. And although Mr. Howard's opening words positively assert that there was a secret in Frank Buchman's life, he does not seem inclined to share it with us. In spite of close and diligent attention, we are not, in fact, much wiser at the end. than we were at the beginning.

We can, of course, guess at this secret. Was it perhaps the shrewd knack which Buchman had of finding chinks in the emotional armour of those who "came to scoff but stayed to praise”? There are any number of stories in the book pointing to this. Or was it, as Williamson has put it, that the Doctor had a flair for publicity and a gift for inspiring others with a zeal often more fanatical than his own? Probably we shall never really know, but the man was clever without a doubt.

There is nothing really new to learn from this latest book—nothing which has not been told already in the countless works published on MRA. In a series of anecdotes, we are taken over the same old ground covering Buchman's early days as a Lutheran Minister in USA, his quarrel with the governors of a boys' hostel and his visit to England, where many years later in 1938, he launched his movement. It is claimed that its support is now numbered in millions, although no reliable figures are available because MRA does not keep an official membership roll.

No doubt MRA has had some influence in World affairs, and during his lifetime Buchman rubbed shoulders with all sorts of statesmen and politicians. But we would have to let our credulity get really out of hand to accept the sweeping claims which are dotted here and there throughout the book. Were you aware, for example, that Buchman and his boys have ". . . played an unseen but effective part in international agreements," helped decisively to settle the Cyprus, Congo and Moroccan problems, stopped the 1960 Tokyo Youth Riots, and brought about “the new accord and understanding between Germany and France." All this on a diet of "God Guidance," and absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness and love.

The truth is, of course, that the world is pretty much the same now as it was when Dr. Buchman arrived on the scene. Despite Mr. Howard's hollow optimism and MRA's political dabbling, it is still very much a Capitalist world with all the rivalries and hatreds associated with it. One crisis is settled—at least for the lime being and with or without MRA's help—and is quickly succeeded by another in gruesome procession. These are the uncomfortable facts MRA and its founder have always ignored. Right to within a few hours of his death, Buchman was repeating his empty catchwords, “ I want to see the world governed by men governed by God. . . ." The possibility of a world without governors of any kind never occurred to him.
Eddie Critchfield

50 Years Ago: Industrial Unrest (1962)

The 50 Years Ago column from the June 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

An interesting debate took place recently in Parliament, in which Liberals, Tories, and Labour members took part—albeit it was somewhat confused. The subject under discussion was the industrial unrest and the disappointing tone of the King's Speech. Mr. J. Ramsey MacDonald started the ball rolling by moving an amendment regretting "that having regard to the existing industrial unrest arising from a deplorable insufficiency of wages which has persisted notwithstanding a great expansion of national wealth, and a considerable increase in the cost of living, your Majesty’s gracious speech contains no specific mention of legislation securing a minimum living wage and for preventing a continuance of such unequal division of the fruits of industry by the nationalisation of the railways, mines and other monopolies.”

After various contributions to the discussion, such as profit-sharing, nationalisation, minimum wage, and all the resuscitated “remedies,” Lord Hugh Cecil (Tory) submitted the following comments: -
  “If the Opposition could not agree to the remedies proposed by Labour members it was not because they were indifferent to the sorrows and sufferings of the working people. Low wages were the result of competition, and the nationalisation of industries would not remove competition but merely shift the arena. People were paid not what they deserved, but they got what the rarety and desirability of what they had to sell would bring them.”
Mr. J. M. Robertson (Board of Trade) “ questioned whether the nationalisation of railways would put an end to Labour unrest or would provide more adequate remuneration,” pointing out that in countries whose railways were nationalised there was considerable unrest.

Thus proving that at bottom the
representatives of the master class 
understand the economic position of 
the workers, and that in certain
circumstances they are betrayed into
giving expression to that knowledge.
From the Socialist Standard, June 1912.

Mr. Hawtree (1962)

From the June 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is with regret that we learn of the sudden death of Mr. Hawtree of R. E. Taylor & Son Ltd. For many, many years he has closely co-operated with us in getting out the Socialist Standard every month. Always exceedingly helpful, he will he sorely missed. To his family and colleagues we express our deep sympathy.