Saturday, July 4, 2020

Labour and the work ethic (1997)

From the July 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard
  In the aftermath of that great non-event that was the general election we can soon expect to see what measures the new Labour regime has in store for us in its mission to make British capitalism yet more ruthlessly "efficient" and exploitative.
One person who should know is Labour’s own "Prince of Darkness”, political gangster- extraordinaire Peter Mandelson (Minister Without Portfolio). In BBC 1's On The Record programme (11 May), amid the waffle and lying (and his claim that economic growth could bring “prosperity for all” is a twenty-four carat lie), he dropped us at least one very interesting clue. More than once Blair’s whizzkid identified as a key Labour objective the reinforcement of the work ethic and in so doing signalled the government’s commitment to further putting the screws on the working class.

The “work ethic” has a history as long and as horrible as modern capitalism. With roots in the Calvinist Protestant variety of religion it was swiftly seized on by the capitalist class as a powerful ideological weapon. At the time of the industrial revolution it was all the bosses could do to make their workers knuckle under. Only recently driven off the land by enclosure and made completely dependent on working for a wage, the new working class was not used to the regimentation demanded by industrial capitalism and resistance to it was widespread.

The bosses’ response, alongside the removal of all means of living independently of the wages system, the threat of mechanisation and naked repression, was to hammer home the belief that work for the sake of work was a great and noble thing. From being simply a means to an end, the work ethic held up work as an end in itself, to the point of becoming the meaning of life. This was a convenient ideology for the capitalists as the labour of those forced to work for them was the source of their wealth and power. More convenient still was their success in grinding this belief into the population at large, so that the exploited not only accepted their exploitation, but became more or less enthusiastic about it.

This process has continued to the present day, with the lesson continually drummed into us at every stage of our lives that giving up the bulk of our time and energy to the creation of profit for the ruling elite in jobs we usually hate is somehow a desirable way to live—indeed the only way to live. “Education” in schools and colleges is only the most obvious way we are conditioned (or brainwashed) into accepting the work (or slave) ethic and our subservient position in the system. It was after all no accident that the departments of education and employment were merged.

It is hardly surprising that Mandelson should than have expressed such zeal for reinforcing this ideology. Capitalism likes us to be as cheap, obedient and eager to knuckle down to the job as possible and this has become ever more so as the “global market" and suchlike has forced national economies to get rough, tough and more mercilessly exploitative than ever.

In a world of "flexibility", short-term contracts and job insecurity the work ethic may be more important than ever to the ruling class in securing a working class resigned to the anxiety of slaving away in whatever employment the system chucks at it. That firm bosses' favourite the Job Seekers Allowance is an attempt to cut social (in)security expenditure, but also to ensure that the unemployed are "actively seeking" work, i.e. are firmly locked into the treadmill of work by being forced by sheer poverty to search for absolutely any job going, even when such jobs are non-existent.

At the back of the Minister’s mind may be the fear that capitalism's restructuring and long-term mass unemployment has led many people to lose their identification with a certain “career” and even with the whole world of employment: many people are sensibly asking themselves whether wage and salary labour is really that desirable after all.

To counter such developments, we can expect the Labour government’s commitment to the work ethic to be reflected in their education, social security and law and order policies: in other words a continuation of the Tories’ policies of heightened regimentation, austerity and repression. Whatever they do though they will not be able to stop more and more people seeing how criminally unnecessary this system of exploitation, pressure and misery is in a world where a few voluntary hours a week enjoyable, useful activity is all anyone need contribute to supply what is needed for everyone to lead a comfortable, fulfilling life. Down with the work ethic—a tool with which capitalism has stolen our lives, our energy and our world.
Ben Malcolm

50 Years Ago: The Labour Party Conference (1997)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

If the 1946 Labour Party Conference can be described as a “victory binge”, then using another metaphor, this years might be said to be the hangover. Undoubtedly another year of Labour government has cleared away any intoxicating fumes. It was this perhaps that gave to the conference the somewhat depressing and jaundiced air of those who have at least sobered up and are beginning to see things as they really are. “Things as they really are” being Conscription, continued Austerity, Power Politics, etc. (...)

The Labour Party has undoubtedly proved an inestimable boon for existing capitalist interests. British capitalism, weak from the emergence of a great war coupled with the recession of the traditional hold over the workers, exercised by the older political parties might have found the process of recovery and rehabilitation a grave problem.

The Labour Party, in securing the support of the workers by their claims to be able to run capitalism differently from the older parties, have not only strengthened the hold of capitalism over the working class but have facilitated its recovery. Looking at the Labour Party Conference one is almost inclined to paraphrase Voltaire by saying that if the Labour Party did not exist it would have been necessary for capitalism to have invented one.

(From front page article by EW,
 Socialist Standard, July 1947)

Free Trade Claptrap (1997)

From the July 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

In February of this year, a World Bank press release on Africa boldly declared: “Economic performance has improved considerably with over 24 countries posting growth figures of over 4 percent—above the rate of inflation . . . this success has given ground for cautious optimism" (New African, May 1997). "Cautious" indeed.

What the Bank failed to point out is that when you are on the bottom, the only way you can go is up. As always, World Bank reports continue to confirm they suffer what critics have termed the bikini syndrome—what is revealed is interesting; what is concealed is more so.

We are not told, for instance, that of the 174 countries listed on the United Nations Human Development Index, 25 of the poorest 30 are in Africa, and that 44 African countries are ranked below the 100 figure. Neither will you hear of Zambia spending 35 times more servicing multilateral debt between 1990 and 1993 than on primary education.

Again, we are no more likely to hear of the 47 percent of sub-Sahara African children not attending school than we are to hear them report their share of the £400 million in interest and capital repayments transferred from the "Third World” to the West every day between 1982 and 1990. Such revelations will only ever portray the big financial policemen of the World Bank and the IMF as the corrupt and self-serving profit-mongers that they are.

The World Bank and the IMF can often be heard saying that the cause of Africa’s mis-development are its leaders and the failure of its economic policies, neglecting to mention that it is they who make the Mobutus wealthy and that it is their structural adjustment programmes that makes economic stability preclusive. Thanks to the assistance of these multilateral organisations. Mozambique debt in 1994, as a percentage of its GNP, was 450 percent.

Mozambique, still suffering from a devastating civil war and a GNP per capita of £60, the lowest in the world, hardly needed the IMF-imposed privatisation measures which are aimed at reducing inflation of 15 and which the country was advised to adhere to if it wanted further loans.

It is understandable that the IMF and the World Bank have every reason for wanting others to believe their propaganda. The 1980s are painful times to remember. It was then, that having loaned so much, they were faced with a growing unwillingness to repay. When Mexico and Peru threatened to renege on repayments, they were only cowed back into line by having their repayments rescheduled. Today, there are undoubtedly concealed but real fears that many countries might come to the conclusion that being so poor they’d be no worse off for withholding cash earmarked for the IMF and World Bank.

It was perhaps this realisation that brought the IMF, World Bank, various commercial banks and governments together last September to hammer out a new initiative to reduce the debt burden on the HIPCs (heavily indebted poor countries). This might have sounded promising but for the fact that this new venture has been put on hold for a few years. And of course, there are the usual preconditions. Countries wishing to qualify must be "well behaved" and prepared to commit themselves to further structural adjustment programmes. The hair-of-the-dog remedy indeed.

Though they will try to deny it, the power of the World Bank and the IMF is increasing. Like the colonial regimes of old, they have power to influence which government is elected, what is produced and the size of a country’s health service. In short they have power to decide who lives and dies.

In fairness, the World Bank is the lesser evil of late, going so far as to insist that public expenditure cuts should not hit health and education, prepared to accept criticism and supposedly taking heed of voluntary agencies and the UN. Of course, there is method in their madness, so to speak. They are all too aware that in the longer term a healthy and educated workforce means increased profits and an increased chance of debt repayment.

Conversely, the more powerful IMF couldn’t give a damn. It preaches a pay-up-or-else creed, is less accountable and has erected a higher temple to the god Mammon, even going so far as to oppose, in recent months, World Bank plans for the building of schools in Mozambique.

There is a third pillar supporting the global economic order—the World Trade Organisation. As the enforcer of the GATT "free trade" agreement, it is likely that many African countries will be dragged into the mis-named "free trade global economy” by the WTO and in Darwinian fashion only the fittest will survive.

The supposed logic behind this "free trade" clap-trap is that with barriers removed, the world economy functions at the height of efficiency and to the benefit of all. We can immediately ask. however, how African countries are supposed to compete with the 500 mainly western companies who control over 70 percent of world trade, or the likes of Cargill, the giant grain conglomerate whose income is higher than that of the poorest 10 African countries. Already, of the 47 countries deemed to be “too slowly" integrating into the world economy, 21 are African.

It goes without saying that the only real benefactors of free trade are the multinationals.Their power is such that they can control not only the fate of national currencies, but also force governments to tailor their economic policies to their own interest. In addition, they face little host government opposition when they destroy a country’s environment. Witness Shell in Nigeria. Like sharks scenting blood they are drawn to countries where there will be tax concessions and where they will be exempt from local labour laws. And it is not uncommon for them to have non-union policies and to take advantage of low-cost economies with poor health and safety standards.

This then is the reality of the "free trade" Africa will benefit from. This is the reality of the "new dynamism" the World Bank claims is taking hold in sub-Saharan African.

From the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean coup and conflict are commonplace. From Mali to Mozambique, homelessness and hunger exist alongside illiteracy and unemployment. This on a continent potentially the richest on Earth. And all of this in the name of profit.

We can at least offer a little consolation to the pessimistic. In the last year the seeds of socialism have been scattered around Africa and are already taking root. Workers in Uganda. Gambia and Sierra Leone have already joined us in our struggle to rid the world of capitalism and to replace it with a world of free access. Others await in Zambia and Namibia. At last something of real world significance is germinating on the fertile land of the poorest continent on Earth.
John Bissett

Greasy Pole: An Ex-Prime Minister is Missing (1997)

The Greasy Pole column from the 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Has anyone seen John Major? We are referring to the man who, until a couple of months ago, was leader of the Conservative Party, Prime Minister of Great Britain, Her Majesty's First Lord of the Treasury and much else besides but who seems to have disappeared without trace. This is especially peculiar because the said John Major was also a staunchly courageous man who always stood up for what he thought was right, who never ran away from a fight, who thrived when the odds were stacked against him.

We know all this because John Major often told us so himself. He told us when he defiantly said that Britain would stay in the ERM because he knew, as Prime Minister, that it was in all our interests that this should be so—and again when, shortly after, he bravely left his Chancellor Norman Lamont to inform us that it was important to us that Britain immediately left the ERM. He told us as one after another of his ministers and supporters in Parliament were revealed as venal and devious, when he steadfastly denied that they had broken the rules only to abandon them to their fate when their exposure became too obvious. And finally when, with breathtaking bravado, all through those long days up to 1 May, he assured us that he would be leading the Tory Party to another stunning electoral victory and a fifth term in office—until, when he saw the size of the Labour majority, he abruptly resigned the leadership to leave what was left of his cabinet to scrabble over the succession.

And since then we have neither seen nor heard anything from the man. None of the contenders in the struggle for the Conservative leadership seemed to think it worthwhile to ask for his opinion or for his endorsement (did they, it is reasonable to ask, fear that Major’s support would be the kiss of death only much more rapid?). Perhaps more to the point, Major himself did not intervene in the contest, although he was once so certain that some of the candidates stood for policies which would be seriously damaging to the standing of British capitalism.

Remember, for example, the time when he memorably described the likes of Peter Lilley and John Redwood as “bastards”. When he sneered that whenever he got close to colleagues like these he could hear the flapping of white coats. At the time, this was supposed to be John Major being brave and scathingly witty. But if he thought like that why did he not speak out during the fight for the leadership, to warn the Tory MPs of the perils of voting for someone who was mad enough to stand for policies which Major considered insanely damaging to British capitalism?

Of course one explanation is that Major is concreted into a prolonged sulk, bitterly angry with his party for making his life as Prime Minister so miserable and then catapulting his government into so historically huge a defeat. There are one or two comments to be made on this possibility. First of all, what kind of parliamentary leader is it, who can react in this petulant way to the give and take of political life? Would he, in one of his more misanthropic withdrawals, have sulkily decided to press the button to start World War Three? Or sullenly decide one day to go down to the House to own up to the facts about what capitalism does to its people and about the impotence of all its political parties to control the system?

Fed up 
Secondly, if Major were so enraged in his dissatisfaction, what was he doing leading the Tory Party into the election, trying to persuade us to vote them back for a fifth term and obstinately declaring, until the votes had been counted and the enormity of their defeat was undeniable, that they would win and he would be back in Number Ten? He wasn't sulking when he wrote in the Conservative manifesto that the Tory government since 1979 were ". . . among the most successful in British peacetime history"—forgetting that some of the ministers in those governments were "bastards" who should have been carted off to psychiatric hospitals. He wasn’t sulking when he signed his name under the slogan “You can only be sure with the Conservatives”—although he did not elaborate on what we could be sure of.

Perhaps Major is simply fed up with politics, with the bump and grind of it all and of recurrent, insoluble problems. Perhaps now he fancies offering himself for one of those posh jobs in the City or those part-time directorships which pay a lot more than what a minister gets. (Of course one problem in this is that what with all those suddenly unemployed Tory ex-MPs the competition is a lot sharper than it used to be.) He would not be the first.

Norman Fowler, for example, resigned in order, as he famously put it. to spend more time with his family—or should he have said "while the going is good”? As it turned out Fowler spent more time in various boardrooms and is still to be seen doing his bit to influence the running of the Tory Party. Nigel Lawson, after his "boom" had been exposed in the anger and despair of thousands of people who had been seduced by the false dream of capitalism in endless prosperity, symbolically lost a lot of weight and audaciously cashed in by writing a book on dieting—which some of those workers who had had to tighten their belts may have found grimly amusing. It is difficult to imagine what Major would do. Could he go back to the bank? That might work provided his job did not involve any economic forecasting. Try again to be a bus conductor? What with cuts in funding and in wages there aren’t many of them left. Go back to the obscurity of Brixton? Perhaps—if they'll have so spectacular a failure.

And that really is what it is all about—politicians who talk to us so confidentially about their ability, their unique schemes, to control capitalism but who are found wanting when their facile assurances are exposed. John Major is a historical example of this. Has anyone seen him? Has anyone seen one of the more wretchedly exposed politicians of recent times?

Letters: Labour without illusions? (1997)

Letters to the Editors from the July 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Labour without illusions?

Dear Editors,

With reference to your reply given for my letter published in the June Socialist Standard I believe you have misunderstood my reasons for supporting Labour. While I support most of the aims and values voiced in your pamphlet and readily accept the shortcomings of the Labour Party's limited vision I also support progressive change. Your pamphlet goes into great detail about the contradictions of the Free Market and erroneous capitalist system but actually offers very little in terms of practical alternatives. In effect it produces propaganda as opposed to political commentary and discussion. Let us imagine that the SPGB had swept to victory in the election. What would they do? Economic policy is a highly complex science. An immediate change from capitalism to socialism would have devastating effects. The system would be almost impossible to regulate and the beneficial effects would not appear for many years by which time a new government would be elected. Radicalism does not, and never has worked. You openly criticise the former Communist regimes in Europe and Asia (and rightly so) but how would you go about it differently? How would you form a fair government?

I do believe that one day we will have a socialist government but I do not believe we are ready for it yet. Switching from one political system to another causes devastating political instability and often war. Such a change is always temporary whereas a gradual change can create a permanent (stable) system. If we are to embark on socialism seriously it must be done in union with other nations (from both the developed and the developing world), not in isolation. Otherwise all we are left with is National Socialism—another contradiction in terms. We are clearly not yet ready for such a change. However opinions are changing and not only are we not at war with former enemies but we are at the negotiating table with them (albeit for capitalist purposes).

The introduction of a socialist government today would only limit its future successes—just ask an eastern European what he thinks of Communism. Today’s climate (political) is such that a socialist state can only fail. It can, however, win support by arguing its case by means of discussion—not propaganda.

I did not vote for Labour as a "knee-jerk" reaction against the Tories. I am under no illusions that the Labour Party will introduce socialist measures. I do however think you are wrong about the election result making no difference. With new foreign aid, immigration, anti-hunting and anti-smoking legislation being passed New Labour have shown that compassion and humanitarian respect can be used in government—that morality is not decided by market forces. Surely it is a compassionate state, fair and equal that is a founding principle of socialism? OK it is still essentially capitalist government but is it not a move in the right (or left) direction?
Dominic Linley,

It seems you have one or two misunderstandings about our definition of socialism. First of all, there will be no such thing as a socialist government. A "Socialist State" is a contradiction in terms. Although we are in favour of using the parliamentary system to establish socialism, the new society won't be run by a government. Instead it will be democratically administered. Governments are, and have always been, the agents of administration of the ruling class. They are not in existence to run capitalism in the interest of the majority, whatever the intentions of individuals in those ruling bodies may be.

Socialist society will maintain and modify, as necessary, those inherited institutions (health care, road maintenance, education, transport systems, etc.) which are necessary for the running of its affairs and set up new ones as appropriate. It will have dismantled all the coercive elements of the state, such as the armed forces, police, judiciary, etc. It will also have to address the productive methods prevailing at the time, stopping all harmful production, and dealing with the rest in the same way as with the political institutions outlined above.

Before socialism can be established there has to be the agreement of the overwhelming majority of the population on how it will be run. Because there are so few socialists at the present time, it is difficult to lay down detailed plans on how it will be run. As socialist ideas spread, there will be more and more input of ideas of how this will be done. Socialism will not come out of nowhere, it will be the culmination of the spreading of socialist ideas, of workers reinterpreting their experience of capitalism and coming to the conclusion that the present system does not adequately deal with their needs. We would not be entering it "cold".

Socialist society will not be an economic society, in the sense that the word is used today. Economists talk about managing scarce resources, but what they really mean is artificially scarce resources. We say that socialism could feed, clothe and house the world's population on a sustainable basis. Socialism would not be "almost impossible to regulate". In fact, it will be much easier to run. because the complexities of capitalist market forces and the drive for profit will have gone. There will no delicate balancing acts between producing goods to sell for profit and matching peoples' ability to pay. With commerce and all its trappings gone, we would be able to get on with producing goods and services, solely for use. If there is a need for something, and it is deemed realistic to produce it. then it will be produced. Instead of people sitting down and working out the cost of producing in terms of money, it could be decided by the amount of labour necessary to do the job. and whether or not it might be damaging to the environment.

You accuse us of negative criticisms of capitalism without offering any practical alternatives. Have you read our pamphlet Socialism as a Practical Alternative? This includes chapters on Democratic Decision-Making, Organisation of Production for Use, Choice of Productive Methods, Conserving Resources, etc.

Your reference to gradualism smacks of a patronising attitude to the working class, implying that they cannot grasp the concept of a world community of common ownership but have to be spoon-fed the idea, through incremental steps. We in the Socialist Party have become socialists without a "guiding hand" and we are not special. We have looked at the world and made our own evaluation of it, based on our experience and the experience of others.

You are quite right that to establish socialism workers of the world would have to act in concert. Socialism would be impossible to establish in one country alone because capitalism is an interconnected world system in economic terms (but not politically—various factions of the capitalist class may well be at each other’s throats) and no one country would be able to opt out of it.

Unfortunately voting for Labour "without illusion" is of no use to the socialist movement. The capitalist class and its government will just read it as another endorsement of their system and it will have the effect of boosting their confidence to run it.

Reformism rejected

Dear Editors,

I was searching for a party that was a Marxist party but not Leninist, because I oppose Leninism. Trotskyism and Maoism.

When I was introduced to the Socialist Party I became very happy that this party was only Marxist, but when I inquired into the Socialist Party's ideas I realised that the Socialist Party of Great Britain is parliamentarist and does not believe in revolution by workers, therefore I lost my hopes.

You believe that workers must not use force against the government and that they must not seek power through civil war. because this is the road to a "blood bath". The idea that you advocate is to gain political power to establish Socialism through parliament. You argue that if the majority of the workers were Socialists and voted socialist delegates into the parliament they would establish Socialism without the capitalist government and their armed forces doing anything.

The workers do not believe what the Socialist Party advocates because it is not possible. The capitalists are not as kind to the workers as you think.

Marx strongly believed and advocated class struggle, the use of force and violence by workers. I referred to Marx's books again and again but I could not find Marx talking about setting up Socialism by voting delegates into parliament. Besides, everybody knows that the police and armed forces are there to protect capitalism against workers. All the different parts of the police and armed forces are always ready to punish and suppress any protest against capitalism. We can see it every day in 
different parts of the world.

How do you expect capitalist governments to tolerate Socialism and the workers' movement and their power? When the 90 percent of workers and other people accept Socialism as the best community, the other 10 percent will fight to keep their private property and never allow workers to get power through parliament.

The workers and poor people are combating and struggling but the police are arresting them and torturing them and killing them. They have made the world "bloody" already. We are living in a "blood bath" right now. can not you feel or seee it?

The Socialist Party has a fear of our violence against capitalism because it does not like a "blood bath”. You do not believe that the capitalists have already made a "blood bath" in the world. You obviously forget that thousands of people are being killed in Iraq. Rwanda. Somalia. Iran. Turkey. Afghanistan. Ireland and so on.

Every second capitalists kill us by worsening the economical and political situation. Not only does capitalism make a "blood bath",but it has made a “sea" of blood.

Marx believed and wrote that workers must arm themselves for a revolution, to gain power by force. He believed that right after establishing Socialism the workers need to exercise a dictatorship to keep their government and fight the capitalists.

To abolish capitalism the workers need force and the majority of workers must be armed in the Workers' Rcvolution. Without violence (blood bath) the workers can not defeat capitalism. The experience of the Paris Commune alone is enough for all the workers. The workers in Britain must arm themselves the same as the workers of the Paris Commune did and as in Albania too.

The workers of the world need to arm and organise an International Communist or Socialist Party for victory and freedom. They can never gain power and Socialism by parliamentarism because parliament belongs to capitalists and workers must be against parliamentarism.

The Socialist Party's ideas about parliamentarism have wasted the energy of thousands of Communists in the last 100 years and the workers have no hope to succeed against capitalism with a parliamentary policy and parliamentarist party in the next 100 years.
Ismael Jahandideh, 
London W9

We are certainly aware that capitalist ruling classes in some parts of the world routinely torture and murder tens of thousands of people. That is one reason why we are against capitalism and want socialism.

If we don't advocate violence and civil war against capitalism it is not just because we want to minimise the occurrence of any violence in the course of the changeover from capitalism to socialism. It is also because we hold (I) that it wouldn't work and (2) that it isn't necessary.

Violence wouldn't work because what keeps capitalism going is not just the capitalist class's monopoly control of the means of violence: the capitalist class is not holding people down against their will. It is above all the fact that most people see no alternative to a social system based on class ownership, working for wages and producing for profit; they don't think you can abolish classes, privileges, private property, money, banks, armed forces, nation states.

Violence cannot overcome this lack of socialist consciousness and. if tried by a minority, even if successful could not lead to a democratic, classless society. It could only lead— and. historically, has only led—to the replacing of the previously existing ruling class by some new minority which in time evolves into a new ruling class.

On the other hand, once this lack of socialist consciousness has been overcome and a majority has come to want Socialism (as it must before Socialism can be established and then function) then violence is not needed. If, to keep with your example, 90 percent of people wanted Socialism it would be quite impossible for any capitalist government to continue governing.

This is because governments depend on a minimum degree of consent to function. Once this is withdrawn—and especially if it is replaced by a determined desire for Socialism—then their game is up. Even supposing that the pro-capitalist minority was as large as 10 percent, it would be suicidal for them to try to use violence to maintain capitalist rule. Of course, if they did, the socialist majority would have to deal with them—we are not absolute pacifists and we don’t suppose a future socialist majority would let a handful of pro-capitalist nutcases stop them establishing socialism.

The best way to minimise violence is for the socialist movement to proceed in a peaceful and democratic way. Hence our advocacy of using existing semi-democratic institutions including parliament. Incidentally, this is not "parliamentarism", which is the illusion that Parliament can be used to gradually reform capitalism into socialism. We are not saying workers should elect people to Parliament to reform capitalism, but only socialist delegates mandated to formally abolish capitalism.
Finally, you are wrong about Marx's views. In the Communist Manifesto he and Engels did indeed say that the only way the workers could win political control was through a violent insurrection but that was in conditions where political democracy did not exist. When they went into exile in Britain they supported the Chartist's demand for "one man. one vote" on the grounds that, if achieved, this would be equivalent to potentially placing political power in the hands of the working-class majority. Later, at a meeting in connection with the Congress of the International Working Men's Association in The Hague in 1872. Marx went on record as saying “we do not deny that there are countries, such os America and England, and if I was familiar with its institutions. I might include Holland, where the workers may attain their goal by peaceful means". Again, in 1880. he helped to write the preamble to the programme of the French Workers Party which declared that to obtain the collective control of the means of production workers in France should use “all means that are available to the proletariat, including universal suffrage, which will thus be transformed from the instrument of fraud it has been till now into an instrument of emancipation". Both these quotes are to be found in K. Marx. The First International and After. Political Writings Vol. 3 published by Penguin Books.

What socialists should do depends on the assessment by the socialist movement of the contemporary situation and its possibilities. This was Marx's position too and why he didn't stick dogmatically to the view he expressed in 1848 when and where conditions had changed.

Letters: Reformist charities (2011)

Letters to the Editors from the July 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reformist charities

Dear Editors

I’ve tried before to convince the reforming charities such as Oxfam and Friends of the Earth that their idealistic pleadings will not influence the inevitable, dominating drives of capitalism. They are doomed to failure. Getting governments to change is impossible. The fact is ‘government’ is not understood – they presume its function is to act in the best interests of the people when it just the executive control of capitalism.

Even though it is quite possible to ‘green’ the planet and feed everyone they do not understand the fundamental reason why this can’t happen today – someone has to make a profit from it. I cannot get them to understand the nature of commodity production, buying and selling and money and profit prevent attaining the world they want. Both are ‘middle-class’ petty bourgeois do-gooders and reformers who think futile reforms will achieve their aims. These reformist positions must fail, the only real change can be by changing the very social system of which these are just symptoms.

They probably assume they are radical and energetically pursue these reforms but, for the ‘respectables’, consideration of the real alternative is “Steady on, you’re going a bit too far in wanting a total revolution, and end to money, profits, commodity production, wage slavery and government itself.” No, they are for too nice and sensible, they think appeals and tinkering with the present system is far enough. What a waste of energy.
Stuart Gibson, 
Wimborne, Dorset

World War Two

Dear Editors

Regarding your reply to Simon O’Connor’s letter about the Socialist Party’s stance on the Holocaust (Socialist Standard, May), some political commentators thought certain members of Britain’s wartime coalition government would not intervene on the premise “The more Jews Hitler kills now the less there will be trying to get into Palestine after the war.” It will be remembered the British sought to curry favour with the Arabs to maintain the flow of oil to British industry.

When the Partition vote on Palestine was carried in the United Nations in 1947, some governments voted in favour because they didn’t want Jews in internment and refugee camps coming to their countries. This included Canada whose prime minister was the notorious anti-Semite Mackenzie King. The probability was the capitalists whose interests they represented feared competition from Jewish businessmen. This was the reason for the Aliens Act enacted by the British government of 1905, restricting the immigration of Jews fleeing the pogroms sweeping through eastern Europe. All of which goes to prove that, where the interests of capitalism are concerned, people’s lives count for nothing.
Steve Shannon, 
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Plain English

Dear Editors

Can I make a plea for the use of plain English in articles in the Socialist Standard. Whilst it is obviously in the interests of capitalism’s representatives in the press and politics to use euphemism and understatement to cover up the unpleasant facts of the system, surely we should be aiming to do exactly the opposite, namely to highlight its shortcomings and excesses.

In the article “Class against class”, in the June Standard Standard, I counted the word “issue” used no less than 7 times to mean either “problem” or “question”. An “issue” (at least among socialists) that a lack of money in the capitalist world is nothing less than a major problem for the vast majority of the population suffering from the affliction. The word “issue”, like “challenge”, seems to be in vogue at the moment and has apparently crept in from America, where people “have emotional issues” (i.e. “are upset”) or “have weight issues” (i.e. “are overweight” – in many cases to a point detrimental to their health). In a recent TV comedy, a script-writer friend of mine included a scene in which a character asked the company psychologist ‘Do you want me to discuss my what we’re supposed to call “issues” these days?’ When I complimented him on this line, he told me that he felt strongly enough to include it because “my kids are growing up a world in which they never hear the word problems”.

“Sackings” is another word which has been discarded by the capitalist press in favour of any number of euphemisms, evidently because the term is a lot more graphic than “downsizing”, “rationalisation”, “reorganisation” etc. Likewise, bosses use newspeak like “double-hatting” and “extra-skilling” to distract their staff from the fact that what they are really talking about is “making people do more than one job” and “retraining people to do additional work”?

I’m all in favour of neologism and changes of usage, provided that these are necessary or useful, but we mustn’t let that stop us calling a spade a spade. If we don’t tell it how it is, who will?
Martyn Dunmore, 
Brussels, Belgium

Anyone know a lifestyle anarchist? (2011)

From the July 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard
  Keep a look-out for people who are chock-full of undirected, ill-informed revolutionary gusto, but empty of any desire to organise their views into a coherent critique of the world.
Are they easily bored by drab Marxian theory, with its ‘materialist conception of history’ and its ‘labour theory of value’? Do they feel guilty because their parents managed to scrape a bit more out of capitalism than the average wage-slave? Do they feel the need to rebel against daddy’s ‘inbuilt patriarchal mentality’ and mother’s lack of ability to cut the apron strings? Perhaps they like to wear bands around their wrist bearing slogans like ‘make poverty history’ or even better ‘make poverty herstory’. They might feel a sudden urge to grow dreadlocks, wear low crotched shorts, and backpack around the world. They may feel the need to say every damn thing as if it was a question, constantly inserting the word ‘like’ while offering self-righteous homilies about how they ‘just really want to like help the world?’ and how ‘we’ve like got to find like a new way of living?’

They may, in short, be on the verge of becoming a ‘lifestyle anarchist’.

Lifestyle anarchism can best be described as the malformed grandchild of that senile old bat, the sixties hippy movement. It sits in an uncomfortable position somewhere between Che Guevara and Ghandi, Bakunin and the Dalai Lama. Lifestyle anarchists like to engage in what they pretentiously call things like ‘grass roots happenings’ and ‘autonomous eco-resistance.’ To be a lifestyle anarchist you have do things like ‘dumpster diving’ or ‘skipping’ basically taking egotistical pleasure in a society that reduces you to eating out of a bin.

Don’t let a lifestyle anarchist hear you complain about the rent, it’s much cooler to ‘squat’ or even better ‘couch surf’. When university tuition fees get raised again or the trees in the park are chopped down in order to build yet another supermarket, it wouldn’t do to put it down to the shitty social system we live under and then actively encourage fellow workers to help get rid of it, oh no. For the lifestyle anarchist it’s much better to ‘occupy’ a lecture hall or chain themselves to an oak. That is of course until they get dragged away by a policeman, at which point they can really impress all their lifestyle anarchist mates by telling the copper what a ‘brutal like fascist like pig’ he is ‘working for like the man like that’.

Ah yes ‘the man’, is this the start of an understanding of what us socialists mean when we say the capitalist class? Not really, the enemy to the lifestyle anarchist is some sort of white European male, intent on keeping us all in a little box by flying planes into world trade centres then blaming it on really nice guys like the Taliban who only ever wanted to fight oppression. These are just some of the reasons among many why the lifestyle anarchists score very high on the rest of the working class’s bullshit radar.

Many lifestyle anarchists don’t ever seem to work at all, raising the question: when the squats get evicted and the ‘skipping’ is getting harder, where does all the money come from? One lifestyle anarchist I met was very vague about how she actually kept herself financially afloat, for the year or so she had spent hitch-hiking around Europe, preferring to answer the question with a patronising ‘you don’t actually need lots of money you know’. ‘Yes.’ I felt like saying, ‘but then you didn’t find your two iPods and your laptop in a skip now did you?’ I never found out what her parents did for a living, (or didn’t do in the case of the capitalist class). I was forced to leave it, we were ‘couch surfing’ in her house at the time and I suspected that if I really chose to assert my kindly granted ‘right to free speech’ it wouldn’t be long before she asserted her ‘right to private property’. It is for this reason that I am tempted to make my first experience of ‘couch surfing’ also my last.

What other anarchists think
Trotsky once described anarchists as ‘liberals with bombs’, whereas the lifestyle anarchists would be better described as ‘liberals with bins’. Trotsky of course had good reason to dislike anarchists, like Bakunin for example who for all his faults provided some very useful warnings about the dangers of authoritarianism in the working class movement, warnings a lot less applicable to Marx than to the likes of Lenin and Trotsky. While the lifestyle anarchists are keen to point out how ‘free from dogma’ they are, their complete lack of theory means they are prepared to uncritically help in the campaigns of any pseudo-socialist, Leninist party going.

It is of course unfair to equate lifestyle anarchism directly with the anarchist movement as a whole. For all its faults at least most strands of anarchism attempt a class analysis. At least some anarchists see the problems inherent in society as stemming from the fundamental features of that society, i.e., wage labour, production for profit, class rule, and the solution lying in the abolition of these same things. Indeed it is interesting to see the old dog anarchists’ reaction to this silly and incessantly annoying puppy chasing its own tail. On the one hand they like to encourage it for its ‘direct action’ and ‘grass roots defiance’ but even they are compelled to comment on the futility of it all.

Of course we socialists have nothing against people who want to raid through supermarket skips in order to help cut down on food bills. Having done it myself I can honestly say it’s incredible what supermarkets chuck away.  I once found a bin bag full of popcorn that was only a week out of date in a Marks and Spencer skip.

Nor do we have anything against those that choose to squat.  It’s another example of the ridiculous nature of capitalism that perfectly good homes should stay unoccupied while people sleep on the streets, just so a landlord can wait till the property prices rise. Where we have a problem is that for all the talk that lifestyle anarchists and others like them make about their actions being a means to an end, it invariably becomes an end in itself – people preferring to pose with their heads in skips or faces wrapped in kaftans without ever trying to actually understand why the world is the way it is.
Johnny Mercer

Film Review: Jumping the Broom (2011)

Film Review from the July 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

Jumping the Broom is a black (and you can bet there’s no pun intended) comedy about class distinction in America’s black community.

Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton) a successful lawyer, from a wealthy family, falls for Jason (Laz Alonso), a Wall Street wiz-kid, whose mother Pam (Loretta Devine) is a postal worker. Tensions flare the day before the wedding, when the two families meet for the first time. Pam feels ultra defensive, especially when she observes the Watson’s home on Martha’s Vineyard, which she compares to the Kennedy compound. When she says grace at supper, the evening before the wedding, Pam sets the tone for the movie by being blatantly insulting.

The crux of the matter becomes her insistence that the ‘Happy Couple’ “Jump the Broom” This dates back to when African slaves were not allowed to marry and jumped over a broom, which was the equivalent of a ceremony.

Mrs. Watson (Angela Bassett) is totally opposed to this on the grounds that it was a slave ritual. She informs Pam that her family had never been slaves and, in fact, once owned them. That blacks themselves, sometimes, had black slaves is a little-known fact of American history. Class distinctions and the hostilities they create reach boiling point, causing family secrets, such as Sabrina’s real parentage, to be revealed. Disgusted with everything, the bride refuses to marry and flees the scene.

This is where the movie, which is Salim Akil’s directional debut, breaks down. When everyone’s been rubbed the wrong way and all hitherto concealed feelings are in the open, it becomes kiss and make up and “lets give the audience a happy ending” time. This is hardly believable of any family in such a previously volatile situation. What is believable is that, if capitalists invest in anything, they will want as good a return as they can get. If it means giving the public an unrealistic ending, they will do so.

There is nothing new about class distinctions based on money, nor hereditary titles among America’s black community. In 1948 when Nat King Cole married Maria Ellington, her wealthy aunt, Dr. Charlotte Hawkins, shunned him because, although wealthy at the time, Cole came from a poor family. Dr. Hawkins, coming from a more prosperous one, had founded America’s first finishing school for African American ladies and boasted of her friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt. When the happy couple returned from their honeymoon, Hawkins paid for a banquet in their honour as she considered it her duty, but refused to attend.

Capitalism is as divisive as it is corrupting whether the community be black, white, red, yellow or any other colour, economics will always cause distinctions between people.
Steve Shannon

The Archbishop is Right (2011)

From the July 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard
“We are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted” (The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams).
He is right. The government is implementing policies for which no one voted, or would vote for. No one voted to cut care services for the old and the disabled. No one voted to close hospital departments or to delay repairing schools or to close libraries and sports facilities or to reduce rubbish collection. Yet this is all happening as a result of what the government is doing.

It’s what governments always do when capitalism goes into one of its periodic crises. If nothing else this shows that capitalism is not a system geared to improving people’s lives. If it was, this sort of thing would never happen. As productivity went up (as it does slowly but surely each year) then society would be able to produce more and so be more able to provide better care for the elderly and better amenities for everyone.

That is what the increasing surplus of wealth over and above meeting basic needs would be used for. Under capitalism, however, it takes the form of profits, and competition between profit-seeking enterprises forces most of these to be reinvested in production rather than in improving people’s lives. Any government that tried to do this by diverting profits from capital accumulation would soon find itself in economic difficulties. Governments that have tried have been forced by capitalist economic reality to do a U-turn and give priority to “growth” as they call capital accumulation. But this growth is not a steady process but a series of fits and starts, of periods of booms ending in a crisis and a slump when amenities and living standards have to be cut as a way of creating the conditions for capital accumulation to resume.

Which is where we are now. People getting what they didn’t vote for also shows that capitalism is incompatible with democracy as an expression of “the people’s will”. This is not because there are no procedures in place for people to decide what they want, but because the way the capitalist economy works prevents some of these decisions being implemented. Capitalism is not geared to doing what people want. People want the problems they face to be solved but capitalism simply can’t do this. And no amount of making the decision-making process more formally democratic can alter this because that’s not where the problem lies. It’s that capitalism is a system geared to making profits and accumulating capital irrespective of people’s decisions and needs.

This is not happening just in Britain. In some other countries it’s even more blatant. In Iceland a law was passed during the financial bubble guaranteeing the savings of depositors, whether from Iceland or abroad, in Icelandic banks in the case of a bank failing. No one expected that banks would fail but they did. The Icelandic government didn’t have the money to hand to honour this promise so the British and Dutch governments stepped in and sent the bill to Iceland. The government there told these creditors that it would find the money by drastically worsening the life of the people in Iceland. And did so. The people of Iceland have voted twice in referendums to reject the terms of the deals. To no effect. In the end the Icelandic government will have to pay up and cannot reverse its austerity programme.

It’s the same in Ireland where the government had given a guarantee to underwrite bank losses. Fintan O’Toole made a valid point in the Irish Times (3 May) when he criticised the twisted logic used to justify making things worse for people there:
  “The basic proposition is that ‘the Irish’ borrowed loads of money and ‘the Irish’ must pay it back. Each and every citizen of a particular nationality is responsible for the misdeeds of others who hold the same nationality. National identity trumps everything else. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t borrow the money or that you had no way of knowing what decisions private banks were making. You’re Irish, the banks are Irish, so you’re all guilty. (…) so the nurse in Ennis and the factory worker in Portlaoise have to pay it back.”
The Irish government will have to honour its guarantee, and nurses and factory workers and others will have to suffer. The Irish voted to kick out the previous government but that hasn’t made any difference. The new government will have to continue doing the same, as will the new government in Portugal and as the old government in Greece has been doing. It’s what managing capitalism – whichever party or coalition of parties is in office – involves at the moment, what the Archbishop (who seems to be rather perspicacious) described in his article in the New Statesman (9 June) as “managerial politics, attempting with shrinking success to negotiate life in the shadow of big finance”. He described this as “not an attractive rallying point”, but that’s all that’s on offer and can be on offer.

In other places it’s yet worse still. The government of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean decided recently to float its currency against the dollar as “essential to cut the country’s ballooning budget deficit and stabilise the economy” (Times, 6 May). As a result “almost overnight, the price of staples such as rice and bread soared by 30 per cent”. Hence the news item’s headline: “Violence in the holiday island intensifies as food prices soar.” The opposition party there is trying to use the unrest to get back into office but even if they succeed they would still have to attempt to negotiate life in the shadow of capitalism. This is all governments everywhere can do.

People don’t take this lying down and, rightly, try to resist their lives being made worse. But if government action cannot overcome the iron laws of capitalism, neither can strikes, street demonstrations or riots. The most these can do is slow down the worsening a little but not reverse it. The cruel fact is that within the context of capitalism, as Mrs Thatcher said to the archbishop, there is no alternative. That’s the case for socialism.
Adam Buick

Anarchist free-marketeer (2011)

Book Review from the July 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

Property is Theft! A Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Anthology. Ed. Iain McKay. AK Press. 2011

Proudhon came to fame in 1840 through a pamphlet What is Property? in which he declared that “property is theft”. Actually, this wasn’t as radical it might seem since what he was criticising was the private ownership of land. This was something which, later, supporters of capitalism such as JS Mill and Henry George also criticised and proposed to remedy by, respectively, land nationalisation and a single tax on rent. Proudhon didn’t even go that far; he advocated access for everyone to an equal amount of land.

Anarchists see him as their founding father as in this pamphlet he declared himself to be an “anarchist”, but by this he meant that he was opposed to government, even a democratically-constituted one, making rules about the production and distribution of wealth. He was (and remained till he died in 1865) a free marketeer, bitterly opposed to “communism” in the same terms and language as other free marketeers.

He has been called an “anarcho-capitalist” but this would be going too far as he was opposed to capitalism. “Anarchist free marketeer” would be fairer. His opposition to capitalism, however, was in the name of self-employed artisans who capitalism was reducing to working for wages for an employer. His proposed solution was that these should unite in “associations” (basically, cooperatives) which should exchange their products at their labour-time values. To this end he proposed a Bank of Exchange which would issue labour-money against products as well as providing interest-free loans to workers’ cooperatives it judged viable.

Iain McKay in his 50-page introduction puts a positive spin on this by stating that “Proudhon was an early advocate of what is now termed market socialism – an economy of competing co-operatives and self-employed workers”, adding “some incorrectly argue that market socialism is not socialist”. Some do indeed, but correctly. “Market socialism” is the economic equivalent of a square circle. But it gets worse. Proudhon envisaged his system coming into being gradually as the workers’ cooperatives, aided by free credit from his Bank of Exchange, conquered more and more sectors of the economy. He was opposed to strikes. In other words, he was a gradualist as well as a currency crank.

After being initially impressed by him (who he met and discussed with in Paris in 1844) Marx eventually realised that Proudhon, for all his insight that under the wages system the producers were exploited, was on the wrong track. When in 1846 Proudhon published his Système des contradictions économiques ou Philosophie de la misère, Marx wrote (in French) a reply La Misère de la philosophie, translated into English under the title The Poverty of Philosophy, the first public exposition of his views on economic matters.

Large extracts from Proudhon’s book are included in this anthology, with McKay’s sometimes tendentious footnotes. But McKay is on to a loser here. There is no way that Proudhon can be presented as a serious exponent either of the way capitalism works or even of the history of economic thought, certainly not when compared with Marx. Today, in fact, most anarchists accept Marx’s analysis of capitalism if not his politics.

Some anarchists might find this 800-page anthology useful. Those of them who are communists will discover, as they plough through his rambling writings, that Proudhon was a life-long and bitter opponent of “communism” and of the principle “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”. If they still want to regard him as one of their founding fathers that’s their prerogative. For us he’s an anti-socialist.
Adam Buick

Alladin's Lamp. Another Conjuror Fails. (1919)

Pamphlet Review from the August 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

"The New Way. To Pay Old Debts. To Find New Money, and Reduce Taxation." By John T. Day, Editor of the "Shoe and Leather Record."

The Sign of the Loose Jaw
In the above pamphlet Mr. Day, like most capitalist writers on economic subjects, makes quite a number of ill-considered statements, easily seen of the to be false or absurd. Most of these statements are unsupported by evidence of any kind, and no reasoning whatever is attempted to justify them. Sometimes in a further statement the author even supplies evidence, unconsciously, that exposes his previous utterances, as, for instance, when he says that "Money is only counters," and further on explains that "When we send money abroad in settlement of international balances, it goes as metal and not as money. It may or may not have been minted into sovereigns, but if it has it is more likely than not to be melted down at the end of its journey."

Surely this is direct and conclusive evidence that the metal contained in a sovereign is equal to the value stamped on its face. All Mr. Day's subsequent jeers at the gold standard, therefore, fall flat, because gold as a standard of price is real value, and the sovereign, being the unit of measure, is exchangable for other forms of wealth in multiples or fractions of itself.

The Frailty of Bradburys.
For the same reason our author's statement that "paper money is as good as any other for internal purposes" is only true up to a certain point and under favourable conditions. But why a difference between internal and external purposes ? If it is lack of confidence which makes gold international money, then lack of confidence in the home government, industrial crises, or financial panic, will transform credit notes into mere "scraps of paper," and gold immediately asserts itself as the only general equivalent embodying value—the only equivalent desired because its value is the result of embodied labour, which, of course, is the only source of exchange value. Credit in all its forms is only the acceptance of a promise to pay in the recognised medium of exchange. Neither commodities that are unsaleable, nor businesses that are redundant, are acceptable as equivalent or as security.

A Definition of "Tick."
The credit system, therefore, depends for its stability on expanding trade. Directly markets show signs of failure to absorb the increasing mass of commodities flung indiscriminately upon them, up goes the bank rate. If this does not restrict production, a certain proportion of commodities become unsaleable, prices fall, small capitalists, unable to pay the high rate of interest or push their sales by extensive advertising, are the first to go to the wall—hence their agitation for "cheap money."

The Finger of Gord.
Mr. Day, as a champion of the smaller fish in the capitalist sea, is desirous of saving these smaller fish from the cannibal greed of the bigger fish, who in every industrial crisis scoop them up wholesale through bankruptcy. He, therefore, calls upon the Government to nationalise the Bank of England and provide State credit, i.e., provide the smaller capitalists with the necessary capital to carry on production in spite of a falling market.

But the large capitalists reply, in the language of Malthus, that the world is for the fittest, and when the world's commerce is convulsed with repeated shocks that shake down business houses in every crisis, a divine purpose is revealed because the big concerns, with their wider scope, can effect economies in production and cheapen commodities for all mankind. To the small capitalists, as to the large, exploitation of the workers is natural, and is a necessary part of what would be the best of all possible systems, if they could only retain the plunder.

The predicament in which the small capitalists find themselves is due entirely to the natural development of the capitalist system. Competition between capitalists for a limited market must necessarily result in the success of those who operate with the largest amounts of capital. We see this truth emphasised daily, large concerns acquiring others in competition with them and amalgamating into groups with the object of controlling entire industries or markets.

The extinction of the small capitalist is no concern of the workers. Their immediate concern is how to escape exploitation altogether. If they side with him and endeavour to stop the progress of the big concerns, their action must be as futile and foolish as was that of the Luddites, who sought to hinder the march of machine production by smashing a few of the machines. It is no more possible to arrest the development of a social system than it is to reestablish the conditions of a former period or system.

In the United States a movement against the trusts has been on foot for years. A number of Acts have been placed on the Statute Book and, as one writer put it, "there is a growing hostility towards wealth"; but the power of the trusts has not diminished, and the amalgamation and absorption still go on.

In this country men like Mr. Day, instead of agitating against trusts, invent wonderful schemes for providing unlimited credit. Much more marvellous than the slave of the magic lamp, who only created wealth from nothing, he would transform the national debt—which is on the wrong side of nothing—into its equivalent of assets, or real wealth, by a magic systena of book-keeping all his own.

Briefly, Mr. Day's idea is 
"that the Bank of England should be nationalised. That the Treasury should offer to exchange outstanding war bonds for what might be called national credit bonds, bearing a higher face value, but carrying no interest. These would be received at the Bank of England, and credit given for them at their face value. Thus the Bank and the Treasury would be as it were two pockets of the same garment, and when and whether the debt was paid to the Bank would be of little consequence. The whole transition would be merely a matter of book-keeping. No money would pass. Consequently, the entire debt might be quickly wiped out, in form as well as in substance, without a penny being raised by taxation."
If the matter were as simple as this the question might well be asked, why did not the Government print credit and treasury notes for the payment of everything they needed to prosecute the war ? Mr. Day's scheme is the same in substance, the only difference being that he defers its adoption till after the war and increases the face value of the bonds by three per cent.

Those capitalists who availed themselves of the offer would gain the three per cent., but in doing so would renounce the interest periodically due to them, while at the same time their opportunities for investment would diminish as the amount withdrawn in this way increased. It must be obvious that no bank would receive and pay interest on credit or treasury notes unless a large percentage could be profitably loaned by them. The result would be a diminution, and possibly the disappearance, of interest on deposits. Mr. Day would, in any case, have not only cheap money, but, as the experiment progressed, vast quantities of idle money.

Of course, the scheme could never get as far as this. Some of the small capitalists, already tired of their five per cent. patriotism and hard up for capital, might avail themselves of it, but the vast majority would hang on to their five per cent. until they could see opportunities of using their capital in the ordinary way of exploitation for a higher return.

Mr. Day's new way to pay old debts, etc., so far as he is concerned, is an "Arabian Nights" dream. It must remain a dream because the big financiers and capitalists, who in group form control the political machinery in every country, actually use the bank rate as a brake on production. When the world's markets are saturated with commodities and demand begins to slacken, they beat the smaller capitalists out of the market with their high rate of interest and ensure for themselves the bulk of the trade.

But who gets the trade, or who pays the taxes, or the national debt, is of small interest to the working class. They can neither pay out of wages based on the cost of living, nor obtain anything more from trade than such wages. Their obvious course is, therefore, to understand why it is that, although they produce all the national wealth, their share is a bare living wage.

Large and small capitalists are united in one class to exploit the working class. The elimination of the small capitalists, or the more equitable distribution of trade, or capital, among capitalists generally, matters nothing to the workers. The more closely the latter examine all such questions the more convinced will they become that, for them, the one question that transcends all others is their exploitation as a class. Their "New way to pay old debts" should be to gain control of the political
machine, and to use the power they thus obtain to take from all capitalists, nbig and little, the right to exploit.
F. Foan

More about the S. P. of A. (1919)

From the August 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our June issue contained a brief statement upon the so-called Left Wing of the Socialist Party of America. Later information reveals developments of an interesting and somewhat dramatic character.

The National Executive Committee of the S. P. of A. at its session held in Chicago from the 24th to the 30th of May, expelled, without granting them a hearing, the whole of the S.P. of Michigan, comprising about 5,000 members, on the ground that their opposition to a reform programme is a violation of the Party constitution.

Following on this, the Russian, Lettish, Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian and South Slavic Federations within the S.P. of A., which support, the “Left Wing” movement, were “suspended.” All told, the Federations number about 30,000.

Naturally the Left Wingers are up in arms and refuse to recognise these actions of the N.E.C. They, moreover, accuse the N.E.C. of deliberately plotting to retain office by: (1) elimination of the Left Wing votes, cast by the expelled and suspended members, for the new N.E.C. and Party officials, the returns of the recent elections for which are being held up and kept secret; (2) excluding the delegates from these “Left Wing” groups to the Party Convention to be held on August 30th, at which the Left Wingers hoped to carry everything victoriously before them.
R. W. Housley

By The Way. (1919)

The By The Way column from the August 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is often urged by opponents of Socialism that the workers have not that superior mental ability necessary to control society which, it is alleged, is possessed by members of the capitalist class and their professional hirelings. Even working men themselves engaged in highly skilled occupations take up the same cry that the workers are unfit mentally to run society. They have imbibed these things from early youth, and never seem to question the veracity of such obviously foolish assertions.

Turn in any direction you like and see who it is that to-day do the necessary work of society—run the railways and the ships, producing them also; obtain the coal from the bowels of the earth ; in short, do all the necessary work in producing food, clothing, and shelter, and then ask yourself whether it is the overfed capitalist, with his wonderful "directive ability," or his slaves, the working class, who perform all the useful services in society.

If, then, the working class do all these things to-day, surely when they see the need for another system of society and unite to bring it about, they will have also the intelligence to control the society which they seek to establish.

Evidence abounds on every hand to show the bungling and incompetence of the ruling class to-day. Could, then, the workers, with their inexperience in controling society, and their lower standard of education, do worse ? Emphatically, no !

During the war there was the spectacle of the Antwerp expedition, the ill-starred Dardanelles campaign, the horrible treatment of the sick and wounded recorded in the Mesopotamia Commission Report, and sending sand to Egypt, to mention just a few instances relating purely to the military side. Other examples abound. 

The food question offers another instance of mismanagement. Tons of foodstuffs have been destroyed at a time when the world was crying aloud for food. When we produce for use instead of for profit such cases as the following could not happen while the populace was clamouring for sustenance.
  "The fish glut continued at Grimsby yesterday, and after manure manufacturers had taken all their plants could deal with, tons of wholesome fish food were carted away to be thrown on the land for manure." —"Sunday Express," July 13th, 1919.
The workers to-day have sufficient intelligence to produce a superabundance of wealth which they hand over to an idle, parasitic class. When they equip themselves politically they have at hand the necessary weapons to secure their emancipation and institute a system where social production will be accompanied by social ownership; in a word, Socialism. Join up and work for it.


"Never again !" and we are going to make "England a land fit for heroes" may be good stunts for a while, but the day of reckoning must come. Have I not scriptural authority for saying "Behold, what a man soweth that shall he also reap ? And in order to stave off the day of reckoning Lld. George and his gang are obliged to resort to camouflage and smoke screens in quick succession. One day it is a commission to try and pacify the miners ; then on the subject of labour unrest and the high cost of living he steps into the shoes of Old Moore and kids his audience that all will be well in the Summer. To quote his own words—"By the Summer I hope that the cost of living in a working man's household will have gone down by about 4s. a week." Then we get the theatrical performance in the Commons about the Kaiser to be tried. Once upon a time he was to hang! Almost every week some sort of show is arranged in order to divert the attention of the masses. Cavell and Fryatt processions are arranged. Trafalgar Square is decorated for Joy Loan week. Inspections of the troops seems to be a very important item now that "we have crushed this horrible nightmare of Prussian militarism."

And so the game goes on, and side by side with it come the illustrations which go to show that the speakers who give utterance to the phrases quoted in the beginning of the previous paragraph, are talking with their tongues in their cheeks. I have newspaper extracts from various sources which would fill a whole issue of this journal relating to the way capitalism rewards its heroes.

One organisation recently founded for the benefit of ex-service men, states in an announcement concerning its activities, that—
  "Over 36,000 soldiers had been invalided out of the Army with nerve trouble, and nearly 6,000 were in pauper lunatic asylums, due to war service at the beginning of the present year. Since then the number has very largely increased, and it is still increasing daily.
"The country is teeming with ex-service men suffering from physical and mental instability, who are in danger of becoming derelicts. In many cases they must ultimately drift into asylums unless they are taken in hand at once. I am convinced that nothing equal to the emergency will be done by the Government alone."—"Daily News," July 11th, 1919.
That the discharged and demobilised men are beginning to realise that they have been spoofed is evidenced by their refusal to take part in the various "peace festivities" and in the resolutions passed in various parts of the country protesting about the treatment meted out to them. It all helps.


One other case from the same newspaper and in the same issue—
  "After serving in the Army, John Smith was discharged a few weeks ago. His efforts to find work as a porter were not successful and he was picked up in Greenwich by the L.C.C. Ambulance Service in a deplorable state of destitution and starvation."
The newspaper account goes on to say that after receiving attention he was taken to the infirmary, where "everything is being done to make him comfortable." This beautifully illustrates how safe the world has been made for democracy. After fighting for freedom this soldier's only reward is the freedom to starve.


"People who say there will be no more war are mistaken: You must keep up drill and a keen spirit, as you will be in the fighting next time."—Col. Methuen, D.S.O. (Rhodesian forces) to Cadets at Acton.—"Evening News," June11th, 1919.


In the days of yore Mr. C. B. Stanton used to proclaim himself "a Socialist and a member of the old red international." Whether he ever really understood anything about Socialism is gravely open to doubt. Like many other labour leaders, he mouths the phrases in order to catch the votes and support of the unwary. Judging from recent events one might definitely say that he had joined the black international. According to newspaper reports the name of Mr. C. B. Stanton was attached to the letter accompanying the memorial against coal nationalisation, which was sent to the Prime Minister. 


Our democratic King held a democratic garden party when most democrats were engaged in the democratic business of producing wealth. Anyone who read the account of those present, together with the description of their apparel, would readily realise this. However, as we who toil were unable to be present, we were "represented" by such stalwarts of the labour movement as Mr. Will Crooks and Mr. Stanton. Concerning the latter I read—
  "One of the most interesting things at Friday's Garden party was the King's meeting with Mr. C. B. Stanton, whom his Majesty recognised at once. They had a long talk together, particularly about Labour subjects, and his Majesty was delighted with the frank and easy way in which the M.P. addressed himself to each topic raised. A little later Prince Albert saw the member in a crowd and begged someone to introduce him. "I know all about you," the Prince said, and am delighted to meet you."—"Sunday Express," July 13, 1919.

Peace ! What an air of unreality there is about the official celebration of what our masters are pleased to term the peace. With a state of turmoil existing between the railway men and the N.E.R. Co. over the question of the eyesight test, the miners demanding the nationalization of the mines, and the Government increasing the price of coal by 6s. per ton, not to mention what one might call the hundred-and-one minor industrial troubles, the bosses order us to cease work for half-a-day, proclaim it a bank holiday, and a large number of us will receive capitalist generosity to the extent of being paid for a few paltry hours absense from the grindstone. Bells are being rung and sanctimonious humbugs and thieves are giving thanks to God for giving "us" the victory after millions of creatures "created in His own image" have been defacing "His handiwork" !


It is, of course, common knowledge that the great Powers have been engaged in a war for freedom and democracy, though I must confess that I should not have detected this sublime truth had not the papers and capitalist politicians told me so. In the matter of freedom the following extracts from the text of a Bill, reintroduced by Senator H. S. New, of Indiana, and which breathes freedom in every clause, was recently taken in the sixty-sixth Congress, with a view to suppressing Bolshevik activities in the United States, are illuminating.
  "That the display, exhibition, or appearance of a red flag, red banner or red emblem, or a black flag, black banner or black emblem at a meeting, gathering or parade, public or private, held for the purpose of political, governmental, social, business or religious discussion, is hereby declared to be unlawful and illegal. 
  That the advocacy, by speech or writing, of the overthrow, by violence or any other unlawful means, of the representative form of government now secured to the citizens of the United States, and the constitutions of the several States, is hereby declared to be unlawful and illegal. 
  That the organisation of, or attempt to organise, any association or society the object of which is to advocate the overthrow of the existing form of government of the United States by any unlawful means whatsoever, or the renting of any assembly hall or meeting place, with or without compensation, for the organisation of any association or society, the object of which is to advocate the overthrow of the existing form of constitutional government by violence or unlawful means, is hereby declared to be unlawful and illegal. 
  That any person or persons convicted for violating any section of this act shall be fined not more than $5,000, or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both." —"Christian Science Monitor," May 30th, 1919
From the foregoing, noted in conjunction with similar steps being taken by other governments, it would seem that the international capitalist class are getting the "wind up." It is necessary, then, for the workers the world over to study their position in society, to realise that the day is fast approaching when they must cross the line either to take their stand with that ever-increasing army of class-conscious workers desirous of ushering in the Socialist Commonwealth, or of actually opposing it. The class war is on. Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.


In a leading article of the "Daily News" (4.7.19) dealing with Lloyd George's presentation of the peace treaty to the House of Commons there occurred amongst other matter the following statement and question, which are worthy of repetition here—
  "The argument that German colonies should be held by trustees responsible to the League of Nations because in many cases Germans have ill-treated natives may deserve consideration. But are there no records of ill-treatment of natives by Belgians and Portuguese ?"
And I would add, as our contemporary appears to suffer from forgetfulness, is England free from guilt in this matter ? Let the cocoa scribe, together with the news writers of what is often termed the Yellow Press, take a peep back into history, and re-read what Dr. Conan Doyle says in his "Crime of the Congo." Speaking of British responsibility in this matter he says (p. 13):
  "More important, however, is Article VI., both on account of the issues at stake, and because the signatories bound themselves solemnly, "in the name of Almighty God," to watch over its enforcement. It ran: "All the powers exercising foreign rights or influence in these territories pledge themselves to watch over the preservation of the native populations and the improvement of their moral and material conditions of existence, and to work together for the suppression of the slave trade." That was the pledge of the united nations of Europe. It is a disgrace to each of them, including ourselves, the way in which they have fulfilled that oath. Before their eyes, as I shall show in the sequel, they have had enacted one long, horrible tragedy, vouched for by priests and missionaries, traders, travellers and consuls, all corroborated by a Belgian commission of enquiry. They have seen these unhappy people, who were their wards, robbed of all they possessed, debauched, degraded, mutilated, tortured, murdered, all on such a scale as has never, to my knowledge, occurred before in the whole course of history, and now after all these years, with the facts notorious, we are still at the stage of polite diplomatic expostulations."
And yet nations so severely condemned by Conan Doyle for being untrue to their trust are to be entrusted with mandates for the administering of colonies and native populations !
The Scout.