Thursday, July 30, 2020

Letters: Self-employed workers (2010)

Letters to the Editors from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

Self-employed workers

Dear Editors

I am writing in response to Tony Trafford’s letter (Socialist Standard, May) regarding self-employed status. I agree fully with the Editors’ response and analysis of the matter but wanted to add a couple of points.

As a self-employed skilled labourer in the engineering and construction industries, I do not fit in Marx’s capital-owning definition of the shop keeper and I think there is a clear definition to be made between self-employed small capitalists of the kind described by Marx and those of more modern times, like myself and indeed the subject of Tony Trafford’s letter, who merely supply their labour.

As such a person, I am in a similar if not worse position than an ‘ordinary’ employed person. I am not entitled to sick or holiday pay, my employment is not guaranteed down to a daily basis and all my costs for work (fuel, tools, telephone, etc) are my responsibility. As for exploitation, I neither employ and therefore exploit, any others and am contracted to be employed by others and therefore my labour is exploited by capital in the traditional sense. In reality my so-called ‘self-employed’ status merely refers to how I pay my taxes rather than any social or deeper economic definition.
D. Humphries, 

Pete Seeger

Dear Editors

Concerning Roy Beat’s letter (June Socialist Standard), I (mis)spent the 1960s immersed in the Folk Movement and recall nothing positive vis-à-vis the dissemination of Socialist knowledge. Politically the scene was one Leftist/Nationalist mess. Significantly Roy Beat fails to produce any contrary evidence.

The banjo’s early multi-racial history is common knowledge. However in the wake of the Minstrel Shows its image to many Negroes was tarnished and seeing one in the hands of yet another “condescending white, liberal Yankee” arriving to “emancipate” them was further aggravation.

The significance of the inverted commas around “good causes” appears to have evaded him. Socialists recognise the serious limitations of the Civil (and Woman’s, Gay etc) Rights Movements and how at best they can only aspire to parity with their white, male, heterosexual Working Class counterparts within Capitalism. The solution, of course, is Socialism. Who would need “rights” where common ownership and free access prevailed? Likewise, the anti-Vietnam War Movement dealt only with the specifics of that event; not the underlying causes of war at large. On what possible basis therefore could criticising all of this be deemed “sectarian”?

I have much time for Pete Seeger both personally and musically: politically, I have little.
Andrew Armitage, 

Ballots or bullets?

Dear Editors

Your candidate (for Vauxhall) in the election was to my mind only propping up the outdated evil system with money.

It would have been far better to have spent the cash on leaflets informing the people whatever party they vote X for it will not be in their interests.

The state will never give over power to the workers – the mass of the people have to take power. If one wants something in this life, you have to fight to get it.
R. Bloomfield, 
London SE5

It is true that we did have to forfeit our deposit of £500 and that that went to the capitalist state but, as a party contesting the election, our election address was distributed free by the post office to 56,000 households in Vauxhall. Besides arguing the case for socialism, the leaflet did make the point you mention about the other parties.

We agree that if you want anything under capitalism you have to struggle for it, if that’s what you mean by “fight”. If by “fight” you mean take up arms we don’t agree. It’s just not true – for instance, workers can and do get higher wages and better working conditions without taking up arms. We do think that socialism can be established peacefully but getting there will have to involve a determined political and ideological struggle –  Editors.

Tiny Tips (2010)

The Tiny Tips column from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

 Only 14 of the world’s 1,000 billionaires are self-made women, and only seven of them had no help from relatives, a new list has found…

Food prices are set to rise as much as 40% over the coming decade amid growing demand from emerging markets and for biofuel production, according to a United Nations report today which warns of rising hunger and food insecurity:

Slovak voters have dumped their government, prompting one nationalist firebrand to warn that the country would now be run by “homosexuals and Hungarians,” the Slovak news agency TASR reported:

An Emirati woman who had complained to police that she was gang raped by six men is being tried for having consensual sex with one of them, The National newspaper reported on Tuesday. The prosecution told Abu Dhabi’s criminal court that the 18-year old woman had in effect consented to having sex with one of the six men, an Emirati friend of hers, because she agreed to go for a drive with him on May 2, the English-language daily said. The paper, citing the prosecution, said the 19-year old man had sex with her in his car and then invited five of his friends — four Emiratis and one Iraqi — to join them:
[Dead Link.]

$350G Lexus LFA supercar: A car so ‘hot’ you need to get ‘approved’ by the company to buy it:
[Dead Link.]

This baby, called the Rising Sun “is currently co-owned by Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation, and David Geffen. The yacht is the 5th largest in the world with a length of almost 138 meters (453 ft). It reportedly cost over US $200 million to build,”, the boat’s very own fan site, reports. The boat comes complete with onyx countertops, a gym, spa, sauna, wine cellar, private cinema and basketball court:
[Dead Link.]

Tebogo, aged 25, is a security guard in Johannesburg, earning just 11.38 [£1.02] rand an hour. Improperly classified as “self-employed”, he gets no paid holiday, sick leave or other benefits. By dint of working a 12-hour day, 25 days a month, he manages to earn 3,400 rand a month. Out of this he has to pay 250 rand rent to a friend who allows him to live in a one-room shack in his yard, next to seven others. Their 15 occupants share a single pitlatrine and outside water tap. Tebogo pays his employer 390 rand a month for transport and 98 rand for the uniform he is obliged to wear. Another 350 rand a month goes on maintenance for his six-year-old daughter. He also gives about 800 rand a month to his parents, who have no other source of income. In a good month that leaves Tebogo with about 1,500 rand for himself and his studies:

“What do I enjoy? I enjoy the gun.” AWIL SALAH OSMAN, a 12-year-old soldier in Somalia’s army:

A six-story-tall statue of Jesus Christ with his arms raised along a highway was struck by lightning in a thunderstorm Monday night and burned to the ground, police said:
[Dead Link.]

Obituary: Harry Hill 1939 - 2010 (2010)

Obituary from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

Glasgow branch with regret record the death of our comrade Harry Hill. No matter what anyone may say Harry was “a character”. Even inside a Glasgow branch of the sixties that was full of characters Harry was unique. He had left school at 15 years of age, but long before he had met the Socialist Party he had already seen through the nonsense of religion. In fact the first time we went to Harry’s home, just round the corner from my own hovel, we were astonished at his collection of ‘The Thinker’s Library’. Harry was a unique person. One of his great loves was taking “the piss” out of religion although he once said, “even better is taking the piss out of atheists. They think a world without religion but based on property would work.”

Harry was only officially a member from 1964 until 1974 but long after that he would attend our indoor and outdoor meetings and was a whole hearted supporter of the SPGB. He was particularly adept at arguing the basic party position with new contacts. A measure of Harry’s support for the ideas of world socialism can be gathered from the fact that although he was suffering from a long-term fatal illness he attended our joint Edinburgh/Glasgow day school in May a couple of weeks before his death. To his beloved wife Lydia and all his comrades and friends Glasgow branch extend our sympathy. We have lost a good man.
Glasgow branch

50 Years Ago: Eichmann: Who is responsible? (2010)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is impossible to condemn too strongly the terrible brutality of the killing of millions of people, Jews and others, of which Adolf Eichmann is accused. The majority of people have reacted to the press reports with a demand for his punishment. Learning of Eichmann’s deeds, they take the short-sighted view that to deal with him as an individual is enough. But Eichmann is the end product of a vast process; he arose from the inhuman conditions of capitalist society. The very people who condemn him are content to leave those conditions untouched.

 The working class, not only in Nazi Germany but in post-war Germany—and throughout the world—blindly support capitalism. None of them can escape responsibility for the consequences. For the power wielded by the rulers of world capitalism is a reflection of the political ignorance of the working class everywhere. It is absurd to blame one man, when he is only the instrument of a policy supported by millions. (…)

 War is caused by the struggles between national capitalist Powers over markets and economic resources. This can only be cured by the abolition of capitalism. As long as workers support this system, so will they be vulnerable to the racial theorist who, on nationalist grounds, gets support for his programme of mass murder. The dictators of yesterday, and the dictators and leaders of today, with their frightening military machines, only reflect the preparedness of their workers to ignore the bloodshed of two world wars and still to die for capitalism.

 It is futile to punish an individual whilst ignoring the vicious conditions which made him possible. Eichmann was involved in some terrible things—but the exterminations which he so methodically organised are only a part of the greatest atrocity of all—the capitalist system of society. As the movement for a classless world—for Socialism—takes root and spreads, so will the possibility of inhuman murderers like Adolf Eichmann decline and die.

(from the editorial, Socialist Standard, July 1960)

Running Commentary: Sports Aid (1986)

The Running Commentary Column from the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sports Aid

From "Sports Aid" to "Neil Aid", and the continuing story of the Labour Party’s attempts to win support on any basis apart from their policies. They have however, moved on from pop stars in an attempt to appear more sensible, as illustrated by their Partly Political Broadcast for the Regional Council elections in May. Elsewhere in Britain viewers were treated to Glenda Jackson among others, but in Scotland it was a much more serious affair with the appearance of the Labour Party’s new signing, that expert on housing and local government, John Colquhoun. Now for those of you who do not know already, John Colquhoun plays for Hearts FC and knows a thing or two about selling dummies, so naturally he is now trying to sell us the shadow cabinet in return for our vote.

Don't mention Albert Kidd . . .
And what did John Colquhoun. the only left-winger that Neil Kinnock doesn’t consider an electoral liability, actually say — “I’ll be voting Labour. I hope you do too", or some such pearl of wisdom. He could even have said he would be over the moon if you would vote Labour, but this viewer couldn’t say for sure — it's difficult taking notes when you are lying in hysterics on the carpet in front of the TV.

More important, though, is what is being suggested here by the Labour Party — forget about your problems of poverty, unemployment or housing, and don't bother trying to relate them to the promises of the Labour Party. Instead just vote according to how some guy who earns his living by kicking a lump of leather around a field, says. Well, they do say that footballers have their brains in their feet.

So what can we expect next? Ian Botham on the government's anti-drugs campaign? Frank Bruno on law and order. . .?

Victorian values

Sweat-shops have never really disappeared from Britain or other parts of the world. Now, however, they look set to be brought back from the fringes of legality into the fold of respectability. Just as Victorian values are once again in vogue, so it seems are Victorian working conditions. The government has just produced a White Paper aimed at the ’de-regulation'’ of small business. The aim is to make it easier for owners of businesses to make profit from the labour of their workers without having to be bothered with the inconvenience of the health and safety of employees or workers' legal rights to employment protection.

If the proposals become law then the following will be some of the effects:

  • Workers will be deterred from going to an industrial tribunal after being dismissed "unfairly". by a requirement that they should pay a £25 fee before charging the employer with ’unfair" dismissal.
  • Workers will have to have worked for two years with a company, rather than six months as at present, before the employer is obliged to give detailed reasons for dismissal.
  • Firms with fewer than ten employees will no longer be obliged to allow a woman to return to work within 29 weeks of giving birth to a child.
  • Restrictions will be introduced on the functions union officials are to be allowed to perform or to attend during working hours to only those trade union duties formally recognised by the employer.
  • Part-time workers will have to work 50 per cent more hours a week before they are entitled to the main employment protection rights. Those working between 12 and 20 hours a week will only qualify for employment rights after five years working for the same employer.
These legal rights were not granted by the capitalist class without a struggle. That they can so easily be removed now, at a time of economic recession when trade unions are weak, shows the fragile nature of workers’ ’’rights" in capitalism.

Your life in their hands

Recently, as a result of a government report on efficiency in the Health Service, general managers have been appointed to run the NHS. The idea behind the move is that productivity can be improved by using measures not dissimilar to those that might be used in running, say, United Biscuits. The problem is that while cost-benefit analysis might work in assessing efficiency in a biscuit factory, it has somewhat bizarre, or even tragic, consequences when you try to apply it to human health. For example, given the limited resources available for health care under capitalism, how do you decide in strict cost-benefit terms how to allocate those resources? How is productivity to be measured? By the turn-over of patients each year? By the number of operations performed? Should you go for "quantity” — keeping as many people alive for as long as possible no matter what their state of health — or "quality" — maintaining people in good health in the short-term? Do you opt for expensive operations like heart transplants on young people who have still got a number of years left as potentially exploitable workers? If so, what about the huge numbers of elderly workers whose quality of life could be drastically improved by relatively simple and cheap operations like hip-replacement surgery even though they are no longer of use to the labour force?

These are the kinds of decisions that health workers and administrators are faced with, given the lack of priority accorded to people's health and well-being under capitalism. The appointment of general managers will do nothing to change this. Clearly the attempt to run the NHS along the lines of an efficient capitalist enterprise is proving too much for even successful entrepreneurs like Victor Paige, who recently resigned as "Chairman of the Board" of the NHS. But "middle management" is also showing signs of strain. Freddie Lucas has also resigned as general manager of Central Birmingham Health Authority. (A former army brigadier, one would have thought that he was better qualified to make decisions about killing people rather than keeping them alive but then again we don't know what his terms of reference were). He complained that members of the Health Authority didn't "have the good sense to stand back and let management manage" (Guardian, 7 June 1986). Health authorities contain too many vested interests to inspire much confidence and given the choice between the BMA and the army to decide health service priorities, we would obviously do best to opt for a social system based on human interests.

Divide and rule (1986)

From the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

The ruling South African National Party's attempts at reforming apartheid have arrived too late, and are too little, to permit an orderly transfer of political power to the limited democracy of majority rule. Anger, fear, hostility and resistance have now made that process almost impossible — sentiments that are a direct result of the entrenched attitudes of the Afrikaner ruling class, and their strategy of divide and rule. For apartheid — based as it is on division not unity — has exacerbated other divisions within South African society, divisions potentially even more explosive than those between racial groups.

As administrative structures have broken down in the townships a power vacuum has been created which black groups are now competing to fill. Firstly there is intra-black political conflict between three main groups jockeying for position. The largest of these consists of the exiled African National Congress (ANC) together with its internal partner the United Democratic Front (UDF) — a loose umbrella organisation of about 600 heterogeneous local and national groups and the main federation of black trade unions — Cosatu. The UDF was set up in 1983 to oppose the new tricameral constitution, but now increasingly acts as the domestic wing of the ANC. The ANC's strategy uses three tactics: armed struggle which, although it receives high priority has had very little impact; organisation within South Africa itself which has proved highly successful; and activities abroad to extend foreign recognition of the ANC.

This alliance is challenged by the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) together with its partner the National Forum — an organisation of black consciousness groups. Azapo and its allies differ from the ANC/UDF on the question of the role of whites in the struggle against apartheid, but share similar goals and tactics, although it is relatively weak on the ground.

The third black political group is Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha movement based in the Kwazulu homeland. Buthelezi is reviled by the ANC, UDF and black consciousness groups and regarded as a collaborator with apartheid. He commands the support of six million Zulus and is encouraged by white businessmen because he opposes disinvestment. But his power base is essentially regional and tribal, located mainly in the rural homelands rather than in the townships. A group of trades unions supporting Inkatha has recently been formed to rival Cosatu which is likely to lead to a still wider gulf between the Zulus and other blacks.

However these political, tactical and personal divisions between black groups have, in recent weeks, been over-shadowed by divisions between blacks within the townships. In an attempt to foster the illusion of a degree of black self-government, local councils were created on which blacks had representation and responsibility for certain aspects of local administration — an attempt, some argued, to shift the burden of running apartheid to blacks themselves. As a result a faction of blacks grew up — councillors, local officials, small businesspeople, police — who felt that they were getting something out of the apartheid system status, and relative material well-being. Not surprisingly they were regarded with suspicion and hostility by township residents because of their close identification with "the system". In the present state of turmoil most of these councils (33 out of 38) no longer function and by June last year 240 black councillors, officials and mayors had resigned. Some have been the victims of violent attacks as punishment for their collaboration. Others have tried to fight back in a futile and misguided attempt to defend what they think they have. As a result in many townships two loosely structured, but opposed, groups have developed popularly known as the "vigilantes" and the "comrades". Violent clashes between them have contributed to the death toll of 1,500 over the past 19 months (although the majority have died at the hands of the South African security forces).

The “vigilantes" tend to be older, more conservative — the black "establishment" who have organised to defend what little they have and who are fearful of more militant activists. Initially vigilante groups emerged in the homelands in response to popular resistance against authoritarian and corrupt local administrations. More recently they have developed in urban areas in response to similar opposition to township councils. Increasingly there is evidence that their activities are condoned and even assisted by the security forces. At the Crossroads squatter camp recently, 32 people died and over 20,000 were left homeless as a result of vigilante activities assisted by the security forces who, it is alleged, provided both weapons and protection so that the forced removal of the squatters could be achieved.

Opposing the vigilantes are the "comrades" — an even more loosely structured group of mostly young, more militant township residents who have closer links with the ANC and UDF. Their activities are often organised in open defiance of the black establishment and, as township councils have collapsed, they have stepped in to provide an alternative power structure through the setting up of street and area committees responsible for organising everything from rent collection to rubbish disposal. They also deal with what they see as the crimes of alleged informers and collaborators, meting out summary punishments as severe as those handed out by the vigilantes. The blazing "necklace" has become a hallmark of the comrades' treatment of alleged informers.

The tactic of divide and rule was consciously adopted by the white ruling class in the hope that a stable, conservative, black "middle class" would emerge in the townships to administer apartheid on their behalf and to deal with more militant elements. The present activities of the township vigilantes are still, in some senses, advantageous to the ruling class, since they justify the maintenance of the security forces in the townships and violent factionalism among blacks is also used as a justification for the continuation of apartheid itself. South Africa, it is argued, is too fragmented for a unitary, democratic system to be workable. Ultimately. however, the security forces and the government can't win — they have applied the divide-and-rule strategy for what it is worth and now it is beginning to work against them. They created the divisions within the townships; now that they are becoming violent and the townships become increasingly ungovernable they use more repressive tactics to control the situation; more repression only serves to add to grievances.

But if political tactics are failing Botha's government, so too is the ideology of apartheid turning on its own. For Botha's feeble attempts at cosmetic change, which have done nothing to satisfy the blacks, are viewed with alarm and a sense of betrayal by some Afrikaners. The ideology of white supremacy was used to divide South Africa's working class. That ideology ensured that white workers were relatively affluent, had a protected position in the labour market and constituted an "aristocracy of labour". Many accepted this ideology believing that their privileged position meant that they had no interests in common with black workers. But the apartheid ideology, now recognised by significant sections of the capitalist class as an anachronism, a fetter on the expansion of wealth production, created a group of white workers who not only felt no common class interest with black workers, but who hardly even regarded them as human. Botha's attempts at reform have, therefore, bolstered the fortunes of a number of even more extreme right-wing groups, while his own National Party is itself breaking up into factions.

There are two main parties on the far right: the Conservative Party, founded after the last general election in 1981, which has 17 seats in the South African legislature, and the Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP) which has one. But this lack of seats disguises the level of support in certain areas of the country for extra parliamentary, neo-Nazi groups such as the Afrikaner Volkswag (the people s guard) headed by Carel Broshoff. former leader of the Broederbond — a secret society dedicated to Afrikaner supremacy, and the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) the Afrikaner Resistance Movement — led by Eugene Terre' Blanche. It was this group which was responsible for the breaking up of a National Party meeting in Pietersburg recently. The AWB has a swastika-like emblem and openly supports racist violence Terre' Blanche encourages his members to join the security forces and he wants an armed vigilante group to protect whites. Ultimately he seeks the re-establishment of the old Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State as a white "homeland".

Many business people, professionals and political liberals want apartheid to go. They want to replace the old racist ideology which is now causing so many problems but without basically changing the distribution of political power, hence the present attempts to introduce power-sharing without having to forfeit overall political control. Some liberals have given up and left South Africa, others, especially the young, have attended meetings supporting black political rights. Some young whites have refused to serve in South Africa's conscript army and risk six years' imprisonment. Some whites have even joined the ANC's military wing.

Clearly it is no longer possible to see the situation in South Africa simply in terms of a conflict between black and white. Class conflict, always present but to some extent disguised by the racial division, is becoming more obvious as workers and trade unionists exploit the weak position of South Africa's ruling class to press home demands for changes in working conditions and levels of pay. Within the capitalist class itself conflict is apparent between industrialists who need the more flexible labour force that an end to apartheid can provide, and the old. mainly Afrikaner, land owning class who fear the cost of such a change for the semi-feudal system by which they run their farms. These divisions are real, representing a true opposition of interests. Those created by the ideology of apartheid are not. They are illusory, representing artificial distinctions based on the ambiguous concept of racial difference, or mistaken beliefs about where your true interest lies.

Apartheid must collapse. The tactic of divide and rule has divided not only blacks but also whites and the white ruling class may well find that the absence of a single black political movement with whom it can do business is a greater threat to its existence than they had imagined. To head off black discontent the government has tried to win over blacks through a process of gradual reform to remove "petty apartheid". It has not only failed but in so doing it has now outraged its own supporters who believed the racist ideology of white supremacy. At the same time those reforms are seen by blacks as cracks in the facade of white rule, adding impetus to the pressure for change.

The white ruling class is also under pressure from capitalists who are threatening to withdraw investments from South Africa. Firstly because of the combined effects of the fall in value of assets and dividends caused by the collapse of the rand; secondly negative publicity because of their South African involvement from anti-apartheid organisations. which it is feared will affect their sales. The capitalist class as a whole is not concerned about the morality of apartheid, how humane or democratic the system is, but rather whether it is stable and can provide the environment necessary for the production of profit.

The extent to which Botha is losing his political grip is evident in the raid launched by South Africa on alleged ANC bases in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. No doubt the raid was intended to reassure the whites at home that the regime was not going soft on blacks, despite the reforms. And no doubt too Botha thought that since America had used a similar justification (rooting out terrorists) for the attack on Libya and got away with it there would not be international outrage if he conducted a similar exercise. But America is clearly recognising which way the wind is currently blowing in South Africa (some US politicians have already started calling ANC "terrorists" "freedom-fighters") and expressed hypocritical moral outrage at South Africa's attack, as did Britain. Botha clearly has few political friends either at home or abroad. He is in a classic "no win" situation as a result of the contradictions of an archaic political and social system in a modern capitalist state. A move in any direction is likely to bring the whole citadel of apartheid down around his ears. The more interesting question that we should now consider is what is likely to replace it?
Janie Percy-Smith

Circuses and "bread" (1986)

'See you, suckers . . .'
From the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Just as the cheers from steamy-hot Mexico fade away, and you've just about succeeded in shaking the dronings of the World Cup commentators out of your dreams at night, it is time for another little bit of "entertainment". Once again, there will be a fair measure of patriotism in the air, in fact quite a strong whiff of British nationalism. A chance for the Royals to speed up their breeding patterns. But they would have to work pretty hard at it if they were hoping to become as numerous as the non-Royals. The Royal Wedding is a chance for millions of workers who are deprived of real lives to sit back and gaze at the dazzling spectacle of something even less real. Like the actors in Dallas, the characters in the Royal Wedding spectacular soap are basically ordinary, boring, fairly soppy, very wealthy people. "Andy" and "Fergie" happen to be members of a rather special club. A club for social parasites, who are quite prepared to use the most violent and murderous forces of the state to defend their inherited wealth, power and privilege.

Since the happy young couple have been the subject of such a cruelly penetrating limelight, let us instead focus on some of their fellow members of that club, otherwise known as the British section of the world's capitalist class, who between them own and control the world's productive resources. In its June issue, the Illustrated London News featured an article on Britain's Richest Men which serves as an excellent guide and profile. By way of introduction, we are reminded of Paul Getty's famous (alleged) statement that if you can count your money, you are not rich. The richest individual in Britain is, in fact, almost certainly the Queen, with personal wealth of between £2 billion and £3 billion. The article referred to contrasts some of the older established capitalist families with the newer dynasties based on high-street retail companies. In this context. Terence Conran of Habitat is quoted as "designing" this pearl of artistic wisdom: "Retailing is about making people want things". Then there are the Sainsburys. Tim. with shares worth over £200 million, is a Tory MP and government whip. His cousin David, with shares worth £719,680,000 and a dividend income of over £30,000 per day. supports the SDP.

Land is still an important starting point in considering the class division of capitalism. Research by D. Massey and A. Catelano. published in 1977. estimated that 1,500 families own nearly one third of the country. This would include people like the Duke of Westminster, with over £2 billion, much of it in land, or the Duke of Buccleuch. who owns more than 300,000 acres of Scotland.

Other capitalists featured, with their respective fortunes, include the following: Edmund Vestey with £1,500 million. James Goldsmith with £500 million, Lord Cayzer £500 million, Gerald Ronson £300 million, Robert Maxwell £235 million, Paul McCartney £250 million, "Tiny” Rowland £135 million, and so on. Against some of these, the £25 million made by Andrew Lloyd Webber from shows like Cats and Evita seems a paltry little sum. And yet even that amount will generate an automatic weekly interest income of about £50,000!

Socialists do not have any bitter personal hatred for these few bloated individuals, who cannot even control their own system. We have a far more ambitious and stimulating aim to work for: the world's resources for the people of the world. But it is worth bearing in mind these staggering financial sums as you watch the crowds of workers who have been conned into rushing towards the gates of Buckingham Palace on the day of the parasitic nuptials. Just one of the capitalists listed above would own far more than the collective property of the entire crowd of people outside those gates and right down The Mall. The Royal Family, with all its militaristic pomp and ceremony, is just a florid figurehead for the British section of the international capitalist class. And the economic needs of the capitalist class stand at loggerheads with the needs of the working class, which the rest of us belong to, and at loggerheads with the interests of humanity itself. It is their wars we fight, their pollution we breathe, their nationalism, divide-and-rule.

Today, the trumpets might be blaring to announce a Royal Wedding. Tomorrow, the same trumpets might be calling the same workers to extend their blind loyalty to the “nation" on to the battlefield. That is where such loyalty starts and finishes. And the next battlefield may not be like the Falkland Islands, just a few hundred innocent young men neatly butchered and drowned thousands of miles away. The next battlefield may be the last. And yet these conflicts do all have the same common cause, at root. The world-wide capitalist system itself is a daily battle, in which the economic conflict between rival national groups of owners can easily pass from economic to military warfare. And today, capitalism is becoming increasingly one universal battlefield as the distinction between "civilian" and "military" targets continues to be blurred.

To remove the cause of this conflict in the world is to get rid of the capitalist system of class division between owners and non-owners. Then we can get on with living our lives freely and comfortably, without being driven mad with the love life of Andy and Fergie. So let us turn our backs on these insulting circuses for the workers. Let the "Royals" stand and wave at each other; we have a world to win.
Clifford Slapper

50 Years Ago: Should we join the 
Labour Party? (1986)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr Reeves in his innocence (or is it guile?) asks if it has ever occurred to us that the capitalists might provoke a bloody revolution after a socialist working class has gained control of the political machinery. We can but answer with a similar question. Has it ever occurred to Mr Reeves that, if a minority tried to provoke a bloody revolution against the politically organised majority which has control of the political machinery, including the armed forces, that rebel minority might get very badly hurt?

The rest of Mr Reeve's letter lumps together a number of contradictory ideas, which need sorting out. He presents us with the alternatives either of being in the Labour Party or of trying to lead the workers "into the shambles." We are opposed to both. The task of spreading knowledge of socialism, and of organising for the conquest of power has nothing in common with the stupid policy of leading non-socialist masses into civil war. (On this point may we refer our correspondent to our Declaration of Principles?) On the other hand, our alternative to suicidal armed revolt is not the Labour Party policy of minor reforms of capitalism, but the quite different policy of organising for the conquest of power to achieve socialism In passing it may be pointed out that it is Labour Party gradualism which includes dragooning the workers into the shambles of capitalist war.

[From an answer to a correspondent, Socialist Standard, July 1936]

Animal rights? (1986)

From the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Every day over ten thousand animals die in laboratories in Britain. They are burned, blinded, scalded, poisoned, cut up, and many of the other unpleasant things you can think of. Eighty per cent of the experiments take place without anaesthetic. This is what is known as "vivisection".

Recent times have seen the rise of vociferous campaigns against this and against other forms of animal cruelty. Today, we not only have the RSPCA and League Against Cruel Sports, but also an active National Anti-Vivisection Society, Animal Aid, Compassion in World Farming, Greenpeace, the Animal Liberation Front, and others. Nothing — not even the nuclear threat — is more calculated to fill the postbags of newspapers than the appearance of a letter or article on the subject of animals. When my own local paper recently published a letter about the use of animals, readers wrote in in large numbers. The writer of the original letter had said that his wife had died of cancer and had more experiments been allowed to take place on animals, a cure may have been found and she might still be alive. He went on to say that campaigners against animal experiments were killers because their efforts to limit such experiments were condemning many sick people to death. One of the replies, from Brian Gunn, General Secretary of the National Anti-Vivisection Society, showed that the writer had little to fear. Gunn pointed out that new parliamentary legislation against vivisection was leaving the situation very much as it had been since the first Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876. It would not stop the experiments at present taking place. The main difference in the new (1986) law is the fact that it grades experiments from one to five according to the intensity of pain they cause. And in one sense, say the animal campaigners, the new law is worse than the old one as it no longer insists that animals be killed after they have been experimented on but allows them to be used for a second experiment if they are still in fit condition.

Brian Gunn also mentioned that animals are not just used for medical purposes but figure on a large scale in tests on cosmetics, alcohol and tobacco and in warfare and behavioural and psychological tests. And if we look a little more closely, we can add to the animal-tested list innocuous seeming products like oven cleaner, candles, shampoo, polish, anti-freeze and detergents, as well as the cosmetics which the campaigners frequently condemn and which they are trying to combat by their own list of "cruelty-free cosmetics".

But the campaigners' concerns stretch further than just vivisection. I recently received through the post a letter from the Save the Seals campaign of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which graphically described the clubbing to death of baby seals. It appealed for a donation and asked me to pledge myself to boycotting Canadian fish products. In the letter was a small folded brochure showing Canadian fishermen killing baby seals. A notice on the outside said I would find the scenes "extremely disturbing". and I did. Not long before, I had received a similar request from Greenpeace to help its work of trying to save the whales from extinction. And when the Socialist Party debated with the local Animal Rights group last year in Swansea, it was this kind of literature our opponents gave out as well as material on vivisection.

Different pro-animal groups have different methods. The more conservative try putting pressure on governments, firms and educational institutions by letters to the press and MPs and organising petitions. Others picket fur shops, circuses and research establishments. The most "radical". like the Animal Liberation Front, favour "direct action" such as "liberating" animals from laboratories, damaging equipment and sabotaging hunts. One thing that unites them all, however, is the idea that, since animals cannot organise their own protest, they must be protected by those who can. "We are the voice for the voiceless", as they put it, and it's hard not to be sympathetic to that voice and indeed to the millions of tortured creatures it speaks for.

But can the voice be an effective one? The animal campaigners point in particular to the other methods of experimentation that can and already are being used. First there is the use of cell and tissue cultures which avoid the direct use of animals and can utilise human samples taken from such sources as placenta and parts of the uterus removed during hysterectomy. The human cultures are said to be more reliable for research into illness since animal bodies often react differently to drugs than human ones and examples of animal-tested disaster drugs like Thalidomide and Eraldin are easy to find. Cultures have already been used for work on cancer, diabetes and arthritis and the production of vaccines, hormones and enzymes. Then there are a number of computer assisted techniques, in particular the mathematical modelling and quantum pharmacology methods, which have already been used. Finally, among other methods still in their early stages but being developed are chemical analysis by mass spectrometry, genetic engineering, and scanning by sophisticated photographic techniques.

Why then, given the existence and use of other methods, are animals still dying in their millions? The answer is quite simply that animals are cheap. Since the aim of research in today's world is not primarily to alleviate suffering but to yield products that can be sold on the market at a profit (or at least to smooth the overall running of the profit process), then clearly the single most essential factor is cheapness. No firm producing drugs, cosmetics, oven cleaner, or detergents will pay for research without the prospect of a product they can sell at a profit. And since it must also be assessed whether the amount of resources being put into a research project is worth the profit it will finally produce, research sponsors will inevitably want the work to be carried out as cheaply as possible. And if cheapness means using animals rather than other methods that may be available. then animals will be used, regardless of their suffering.

The Animal Rights movement's literature often recognises that profit is the driving force of animal exploitation. But. curiously, they never seem to look beyond the profit system for a possible solution to the problem. They would like "compassion" to enter into the production process (the organisation. Compassion in World Farming, encapsulates this in its title), but if the driving force of production is profit, is compassion for animals likely to come anything but a poor second? Especially when we consider that compassion for humans comes a very poor second to profit. Every year millions of human beings are killed, maimed, ill-treated or driven from their homes in the wars and power struggles associated with the pursuit of profit in many parts of the globe. Every year millions of human beings are allowed to die of starvation because they can't afford to buy food at a price that would allow its production or distribution to be profitable. Every year millions of human beings, even in so-called civilised countries like Britain, are set at odds with one another by profit society's competitive ethic and hostile social environment. Many are victims of material want and mental distress leading to such problems as violence, theft, drug addiction, suicide and death by hypothermia. Can we expect compassion for animals on any significant scale in a society whose social organisation so militates against compassion for human beings?

The necessary change is to a society where production is for use not profit, where people co-operate voluntarily to produce what they need and enjoy free and equal access to what they have produced. What we are talking about is a society without wages and salaries, without buying and selling, without money and banks and stock exchanges. It may seem a tall order, but it's certainly less of a tall order than emancipating animals in the framework of the present society, and in fact socialism is entirely within our grasp once the majority of us decide we want it and are prepared to take democratic political action to bring it about.

How will the position of animals be different in such a society? It is hard to imagine that, just as the peace and security of socialism will change people's attitudes towards their fellow human beings, their attitudes towards animals will not change too. In a truly human society, compassion for other living creatures can hardly fail to be something that will concern us. On a practical level alone, many of today's experiments will simply be unnecessary. For instance, weapons won't be needed, so animals won't be used in their development or testing. Many of the drugs used today will probably not be produced, since so many illnesses are produced by the conditions we live in rather than by intrinsic human factors. Socialism will not be a society of tranquillisers, antidepressants or pain killers. Nor will it be a society in which today's killers — cancer and heart disease — are widespread. According to Philip Churchward, "it is widely accepted that cancer is a largely preventable disease. Seventy to ninety per cent of cancers are caused by environmental factors, with smoking and diets high in animal fat as the two main offenders".

But wouldn't animal experiments be needed for the remaining 10-30 per cent of cancer victims? And what about the production of candles, weedkiller, polish and (if we still use them) cosmetics and tobacco? Well, first of all in a society where there are no cost factors to be placed above human need, all methods of research that exist will be used in preference to making animals suffer. Then, even where there seems to be no alternative to the use of animals for a particular purpose, we will think carefully before condemning other sentient beings to suffering or death. When people take their democratic decisions on such matters (and all decisions in socialism will be democratic), they will have to weigh the benefit to themselves and to the community as a whole of using animals against the debasement of humanity this involves. They will have to ask themselves whether the benefit to humanity is so vital as to be worth causing defenceless creatures to suffer. This writer's guess is that it will rarely, if ever, be.

In their letters to the press, the anti-vivisectionists have the habit of signing off with a "Yours for Human and Animal Rights", and in so doing they highlight the similarity of their position to the countless other organisations campaigning not for animal reforms but for human ones — Shelter, Help the Aged, Oxfam, Amnesty International, War on Want, Child Poverty Action and so on. And both sets of "rights” campaigners have the same dilemma. They are campaigning for rights within the framework of a system where any such notion must always be subordinated to the needs of profit. In other words, they are fighting to get rid of problems without aiming to get rid of the system that produces the problems. Their fight must always therefore be a losing one. Calming the symptoms is the best they can hope for, because as long as the root cause of the pain is still there, then the pain will keep coming back, and indeed will break out in other places too.

The answer, as perceived by the anti-vivisectionists themselves, is political. But not political in the sense of demanding, as they put it, "open government", or of appealing to governments to act in the interests of animals and against the interests of profit. Political in the sense of our taking the situation into our own hands and peacefully and democratically voting to get rid of governments, to get rid of the profit system, and with it to get rid of the bottomless pit of problems, for both humans and animals, that it inevitably produces.
Howard Moss

Animal cruelty (1986)

From the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Vivisection means literally "cutting alive" and is a worldwide practice involving millions of animals. Live animals are used in experiments to further scientific knowledge, to manufacture drugs, to test the safety of cosmetics, household and industrial products. Many of the experiments are unnecessary, unpleasant and involve varying degrees of suffering to the animals. These experiments have been taking place since the seventeenth century and today the treatment of animals in the course of such activity is the subject of concern among many welfare groups who campaign for an end to experiments on live animals.

Beauty Without Cruelty oppose commercial exploitation of animals especially for cosmetics and furs. Animal Aid would like to see abolition of all live animal experiments. The Humane Research Trust aims to promote essential research in which the use of animals will be replaced by advanced techniques. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection have minimum demands for a ban on alcohol and tobacco experiments as well as cosmetics, warfare and behavioural/psychological experiments. All of these organisations have in common a desire to alleviate animal suffering and some act as pressure groups seeking legislative change. Obviously it is an emotive subject among those who take a moral stance on the issue of vivisection and argue for animal rights.

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is the most militant of these groups and has pointed out that
  For many decades, people have attempted to stop these atrocities through legal peaceful means such as petitions, leaflets and writing to politicians. Sadly, these methods . . . have failed . . and the situation for animals has got gradually worse.
Therefore, their policy is to take
  direct action in rescuing animals from . . . cruel establishments and also causing damage to property belonging to animal abusers . . . and financial ruin to those who persecute defenceless creatures. . . ALF is bringing the day closer when all cruelty to animals is ended. (ALF leaflet)
They neglect to mention exactly how they aim to go about ending cruelty to animals other than by episodic action just described which, since it is thought that one animal dies every six seconds in a British laboratory, can have very little effect.

Around 80 per cent of animal experiments are related to medical research drugs. However, of the 40,000 drugs on the market the World Health Organisation regards only about 220 as essential. Most are duplications of already successful products. Nevertheless manufacturers must test each one for possible side-effects and as a protection against claims for damages which could ruin a company. The most controversial tests in this respect among animal rights groups are the LD50 and Draize tests used to test the safety of drugs, household and industrial products.

The LD50 test represents the single lethal dose required to kill 50 per cent of animals involved in the experiment, the purpose being to predict the drug's lethal dose and to recognise the symptoms of overdose. The Draize test involves dripping solutions such as perfume or shampoo into the eyes of animals. usually rabbits, to ascertain safety of use for human beings.

Such tests are not infallible. Some studies have claimed that animal drug tests predict only one side-effect in four. Thalidomide, for example, cause deformities in human babies but was harmless to most animals. Insulin does not harm human beings but can deform baby rabbits and mice while penicillin poisons guinea pigs. So the value of such tests can be questioned on two counts. Firstly, many are used to produce unnecessary duplications of already successful products and are therefore simply an attempt by drug companies to grab a slice of the lucrative market. Secondly, such tests do not always predict correctly.

Apes and monkeys are widely used for psychological research. This type of experiment is carried out to find solutions to some of the problems created by the type of society in which we live. Monkeys are turned into drug addicts and alcoholics, force-fed sweets for dental research and are used as victims in car crash tests. In military research monkeys and apes are used to determine the effects of nuclear radiation and along with other animals to test the effects of weapons and chemical and biological warfare such as nerve gases and viruses.

The ruthless exploitation of animals for experimental purposes is another vicious effect of the profit system. Groups like AI.F have gone some way towards recognising the futility of reformist action but have stopped short of the socialist conclusion. The fact is that capitalism maltreats animals because it has a vested interest in cruelty.
Cathy Gillespie

Libertarian attack (1986)

From the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

A great deal of abuse is heaped on the Socialist Party by David McDonagh of the Libertarian Alliance, described by his organisation as a "libertarian writer and lecturer". McDonagh has filled the first issue of The Libertarian Student with stuff about the SPGB.

It consists of an "Address to Birmingham branch of the SPGB on the Virtue of Libertarianism or (Classical) Liberalism" and an article entitled "The Last Socialist Party". The first offering may have been all right as a talk but as a written piece it's disjointed and doesn't have a clear thread. John Rawls's theory of the "Original Position" keeps popping up and may be the key to the whole thing. But the explanation of it lacks clarity and this doesn't help the argument. We might expect better than this, because the Anarcho-Capitalists (or Libertarians) have a genuinely interesting case which can't be lightly dismissed. Unfortunately. McDonagh's piece makes you want to do just that because it's full of silly jibes that spoil and disperse the argument rather than give it weight. There is no need to repeat them but we can stick to the serious points which, with some effort, can be abstracted from the insults.

The basic argument is that you can't have socialism — a world moneyless society of free access without the market and without prices — because such a society would have no way of allocating what will always be scarce resources. "We would not know", says McDonagh "what to do without the market signals". And even "superabundance", he argues, would not solve the problem since the possible lines of production are infinite and "we cannot do all things at once". So, the argument goes on, even if water, for example, can be superabundant, "we could always be doing something else" and only the market can tell us the correct economic thing we should be doing. According to McDonagh, therefore, the practicalities of organisation make free access society impossible and what we should go for instead is a free market system operating throughout the world without states and with a single world currency.

McDonagh 's objection to socialism is one, he says, that the Socialist Party made no effort to answer till 1984 when it published an article in its bi-annual international journal. the World Socialist. The article didn't satisfy McDonagh but, for accuracy's sake, it should be said that a previous article on the topic had appeared in the Socialist Standard (December 1982), that other articles had dealt with it implicitly and that the Socialist Party has, since 1979, been debating with Libertarian opponents publicly and putting on public sale or hire tape recordings of these debates. And if before 1979 the Party had not dealt explicitly with the Libertarian point, this is because only since then has it started to be put to us. It may, as McDonagh tells us, have been around since the 1850s and been argued most strongly by Mises and Hayek in the 1920s. But if we didn't hear it. how could we answer it?

One thing is certain however. The Libertarians do have a serious argument which has to be answered. The best way to answer it would be to set out a blueprint for socialism showing exactly how resources can be efficiently planned and allocated without the market as an economic calculator. But this we cannot do: firstly because it would be quite undemocratic for the small minority we are now to think we can lay down detailed plans for how the majority must organise their democratically established society in the future; and secondly we have no way of knowing what the level of technology and expertise at the time of a socialist majority will allow in terms of planning and organisation. What we can do, however, and what we are doing is to put forward informed suggestions as to how a socialist majority, if it inherited the present level of technology and expertise, might decide to co-operatively organise the world's resources on the basis of production for need. It's probably true, as McDonagh suggests, that we don't have enough data to do this with any accuracy. However, this is not because the data can never be available but because capitalism, working as it does through the market, does not give the impetus for the large social task of assembling that data to be undertaken. A growing conscious majority anxious for socialism will have the impetus to undertake that task and will certainly make detailed democratic plans ahead of taking political power about how socialist society will be organised.

The speculative work we are doing at present on the details of socialist organisation won't of course satisfy the Libertarians' demand for a blueprint. But then it's not meant to be a blueprint. It's meant to be a move towards demonstrating in a practical way that it's well within the skills, the techniques, the intelligence and the powers of organisation of collective humanity to run the planet in its own common interest.

More about this is to be found in the recent pamphletFrom Capitalism to Socialism: How We Live and How We Could Live and in the soon to be published Socialism as a Practical Alternative. All Anarcho-Capitalists should read both.
Howard Moss

Letters: Red Wedge (1986)

Letters to the Editors from the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Red Wedge

Dear Editors.

With reference to your article Rock Bottom (March) I should like to make the following comments. I attended two Red Wedge concerts and was also present at a "Day of Action" in which Billy Bragg and the "Wedgies" were questioned about their motives for the tour and I feel that your article gives the wrong impression.

The tour was not thought up or arranged by the Labour Party but by Billy Bragg, Paul Weller and other left-wing artists; in fact, your first line is incorrect as Red Wedge is not just a campaign by rock musicians but also by comedians, cabaret artists, actors and writers who have been or will be on the road with their own tours.

Propaganda did not come from the stage but MPs — and a certain (ex) GLC leader — were in the foyer to be approached only if so desired. The theme of the tour was to make young people aware that politics is something that affects everyone, and also to get young people to register to vote —whatever party they may vote for, as many young votes had been lost in the 1979 election due to "punk" apathy.

In all. socialism was more the issue than the Labour Party, and at one concert Joolz stated that "no mighty thing" called the Labour Party would change anything — only the people can do that.

Amongst the leaflets left on chairs were ones on behalf of CND and the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Socialist Worker and Militant papers were for sale (where was the Socialist Standard?) and even the slogan on the official T-shirts, like the songs of the artists involved, advocated socialism, and I don't think that is a thing to be knocked.
Yours faithfully.
Philippa Britton

It was an omission on our part to refer to Red Wedge as including only musicians; it does also include comedians and actors. It is, however, definitely a pro-Labour movement, even though it is officially independent of the Labour Party. During 1985, Billy Bragg performed some fifty concerts as part of the "Jobs For Youth" campaign in conjunction with the Labour Party. That tour led directly to the founding of Red Wedge which declared itself, from the start, "committed to a Labour victory at the next election". Needless to say, the "Jobs For Youth" campaign had not made great play of the fact that Labour policies have proved as hopeless as those of the Tories in trying to control capitalism: every labour government since the 'thirties has left office with unemployment higher than when they were elected.

It may be true that Labour Party propaganda has not been featured on stage, but the performers would not have to tolerate the politicians “in the wings" if they did not wish to. It would be rather surprising if, come the next election, Red Wedge performers such as Robbie Coltrane, Paul Weller and Billy Bragg were to withhold their votes from the nationalist and fundamentally pro-capitalist Labour Party, and, of course, they make no secret of this. Indeed. Billy Bragg tried to defend his active canvassing for Kinnock in a Sunday Times article of 26 January 1986: "Anybody who cares about politics has their part to play, and that's best done as a local party member". He went on to say of earlier protest singers, "All that generation came to nought. They thought if they joined hands and sang Imagine the world would change" Of course, it is essential for people to think critically and to organise politically; but when John Lennon asked people to "imagine ... no possessions”, was that not more challenging than Bragg's sad badge of slavery in Between The Wars. "I'll give my consent, To any government. That does not deny a man. A living wage"?

Meanwhile, the political hacks were gloating. In the Sunday Times article referred to above, Andy McSmith, co-ordinator of the Labour Party's Jobs and Industry campaign, was quoted as saying "Billy is worth his weight in gold to us”, and Eric Heffer comments: "It is a good thing that an ordinary working-class lad like Billy should identify himself with the Labour movement".

It is fair to conclude that Red Wedge does not exist purely to encourage young people to vote and to think in any way they might feel like, but to vote and think Labour. The T-shirts might refer to "socialism", but this would not be the first time this term has been used for its popular appeal. Perhaps some performers are being "used" by the politicians to some extent, and any comments they might make about young people thinking for themselves can only be supported by socialists But it is contemptible for artistic popularity to be prostituted to the sale of stale and second-hand ideas for an alternative brand of "people's capitalism".

The Socialist Party did produce a leaflet which has been distributed at Red Wedge events, which we quote from here:
  Enjoy the music, but do your own thinking. Beware of the smooth talking leaders who are waiting in the wings to sell you their sterile ideas. Workers are capable of building a future which might now seem like a dream. That future has nothing to do with swapping the inhabitants of Ten Downing Street It is about establishing a society of common ownership, democratic control and production for use — a genuine socialist society. You owe it to yourselves to consider the case, not for the Labour Party, but for socialism.

No reform

Dear Editors,

Central to your position is the belief that capitalism cannot be destroyed piecemeal; the struggle must be for all or nothing. I agree that most reformist campaigns are futile and ultimately counter-productive However, I believe that there are exceptions to this rule.

I have in mind the following campaign proposal: "In order to safeguard the National Health Service private medicine should be abolished. Only when those who control the nation's purse-strings are compelled to rely on the NHS will they ensure that it is properly funded Quite simply, medicine is too vital a service to be bought and sold in the market-place".

Such a campaign can surely be seen only as a first step in persuading people that they would benefit from the common ownership of all resources. I am also convinced that it would gain widespread support. Even Sun readers would see through crude propaganda of the "freedom of choice" variety. In short, the prospect of the rich waiting their turn for treatment has very wide appeal.

Of course, a similar case can be made for the outlawing of private education.

Socialism remains the only answer to humanity's problems. It's time we took that first step.
A. Beckett 

A. Beckett is correct in asserting that central to the Socialist Party's position is the belief that capitalism cannot be destroyed piecemeal and that reformist campaigns are futile and counter-productive. But A. Beckett takes the view that some "worthy causes" are exceptions and can be reformed within capitalism.

The National Health Service does not represent a step towards socialism: the 1944 White Paper proposing such a service was presented by Henry Willinck. a Conservative Minister of Health, because it was necessary to give credibility to the concept of "fighting for a better Britain '; a centrally administered service was more efficient; a fitter workforce was needed for post-war reconstruction; it was feared that workers' agitation would break out again after the war if concessions were not granted.

Although health care is centrally funded the supply of drugs, equipment, provisions and construction have remained in private hands and the state in its role as employer has been just as ruthless in holding down wages as any private business concern.

To suggest that privileges can be given up by abolishing private medicine, without removing the causes of privilege and the exploitation of one person by another, is to invite failure Like all institutions under capitalism health services facilitate business interests which explains their growth when labour is in short supply and needs to be conserved, and the cut-backs imposed when unemployment causes a surplus of labour. "Non-producers" such as the elderly, the young, disabled. mentally handicapped and long-term mentally ill are kept short of resources even in a time of prosperity and expansion because they no longer contribute to the profitability of capitalism which overrides social needs.

The incidence of ill-health and premature deaths are higher for the poor than the wealthy and health services, however sophisticated, can only treat the symptoms of poverty instead of tackling the causes. Therefore, to campaign for better health services while leaving the causes of ill- health intact is to collaborate in the continued, and often unnecessary, ill-health of the workers. The same objections apply to A. Beckett's concluding view, that a similar case could be made for the abolition of private education. Indeed, once on the reformist road a case could be made for campaigning against destroying food; pollution; racism; sexism; nuclear weapons — all of which are doomed to failure or at best only limited success while we have a social system based on profit. Instead of enduring the frustration of trying to change a piece of capitalism we invite A. Beckett to join with socialists in building a moneyless society which puts people first.

Observations: Two steps forward; two steps back (1986)

The Observations Column from the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Two steps forward; two steps back

Well over twelve months later, and the Band Aid-Wagon keeps rolling on . . . US Aid for Africa, Live Aid, Fashion Aid and Classical Aid have all occupied a lot of publicity, not to mention time and energy. In the course of this they have raised a sum of money immense to the average reader of the Socialist Standard, but insignificant when placed alongside the priorities of capitalism. For example, the amount of money raised (over £100 million), is still a fraction of the one billion pounds spent in Europe every year to keep the food mountains frozen and stored. And what else could you spend the whole proceeds from the various charities on? How about one-and-a-half Buccaneer fighter planes, such is the logic of capitalism.

The lunacy of the buying and selling system is such that while Live Aid is trying to get more food to Africa, a similar fund-raising concert. "Farming Aid" is trying to reduce the amount of food being produced.

Bob Geldof recently warned that two-and-a-half million people will run out of food in the Western Sudan, and that the situation in Ethiopia is as bad as it was before Band Aid started. And just as the problem will not go away, neither it seems will the spectacularly futile attempts to deal with it. The latest event, which of course, must be sufficiently entertaining to satisfy the media's hunger for good pictures, is Sports Aid. which has had everyone running round in circles to raise money to send food to Africa while it is money and markets which stop the food from reaching the hungry in the first place.

In the course of such campaigns as Sports Aid — which try to deal with the problems of capitalism while leaving the cause intact — reformists always end up tying themselves in knots: the Save the Children Fund ended up at the end of last year asking that food should not be sent, as it would cause "economic chaos" in Sudan . . . it 's all very well peasants suffering but not the market, seems to be the suggestion. The Oxfam report on "Sudan: the roots of famine" gives the same shortsighted solutions with the ludicrous request to Western governments to prevent "the dumping of surpluses such as sugar on to world markets', when it is in fact the buying and selling system that can produce poverty amidst plenty. starvation alongside "surpluses”.

Now most people are aware of the contradictions between starving millions and the food mountains like the beef, cereals and skimmed milk in two hundred warehouses around Britain. But, so the argument goes, we must "do something now". The same was said for the famines in the Seventies in Biafra and elsewhere, and now, ten years on, the charities, the politicians and the bureaucrats are back where they started. Whether we shall be in the same position in another ten years' time — with a world of even greater productive capacity, and world hunger falling in the TV ratings depends on whether we start running society sanely, or just end up running on the spot.

Police accountability

The Labour Party has frequently offered "accountability" as a solution to the problem of abuses of power within the police force. Currently this is being down-played a bit as Labour tries to rival the Tories in its attempts to court the Police Federation (who are playing hard-to-get), woo the electorate (with promises of gifts of burglar alarms and window-locks) and convince us that they too are "a party of law and order ", in time for the next general election.

The limits of accountability as a strategy for curtailing the activities of the police were made plain recently when Douglas Hurd, the Home Secretary, announced that chief constables could over-ride the decision of their local police authorities and obtain stocks of plastic bullets, water cannon, and CS gas. At present police forces are, in theory, local in that they are answerable to a police authority which oversees spending. Police authorities have in some areas (especially Greater Manchester, West and South Yorkshire) been reluctant to allow the police to increase their para military hardware through the acquisition of these items. Chief Constables are now going to be able to side-step the authorities to which they are supposed to be accountable in order to get the equipment that they want and which the Home Secretary clearly wants them to have. So much for police accountability!

Whose house?

More and more workers have been persuaded to buy their own homes because of offers they can't refuse: no more council house building and existing council houses being sold to tenants at knock-down prices; building societies offering 100 per cent mortgages to just about anyone who wants one; and the lack of privately rented housing forcing people to "buy" whether they really want to or whether they can really afford it.

Owning your own home has long been sold to workers as a mark of status, a sign that they've made it to the ranks of the "middle classes". But those workers who bought that line when they "bought" their home are in for a nasty shock. The government is about to give them a reminder that they are workers after all with the same interests and problems as all workers under capitalism.

This blow to "middle class" pretensions comes from a proposal announced by Norman Fowler, Social Services secretary, that unemployed home-owners will lose their right to claim Supplementary Benefit to cover half their mortgage interest payments. These changes are likely to affect 90,000 claimants at any one time, forcing them to renegotiate mortgage repayments with their banks or building societies. This comes at a time when the numbers of people in arrears with their mortgages has increased rapidly (as have repossessions of houses by building societies because of non-payment of mortgages) as a result both of unemployment and the policy to force people through lack of choice to take out mortgages they can't really afford.

This change, if it is accepted, can only lead to more workers being evicted from the homes they thought they owned — a sharp reminder of how little workers really own under capitalism.

Postal code

An item in the Mail on Sunday on 1 June 1986 reveals that the Post Office is recruiting two stress counsellors to combat illness amongst harassed staff. Professor Cary Cooper of Manchester University Science and Technology Institute, who is helping to select the counsellors, believes improving the general well-being of the work force will help boost productivity and overall performance at work. He adds "When you overload people it has an adverse effect on production and leads to bad decisions and absence through sickness". What you might call putting capitalism's stamp on your health.

Voice From The Back: Brazilian Genocide (2005)

The Voice From The Back column from the July 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

Brazilian Genocide

Brazil had an estimated six million indigenous people when the Portuguese arrived in 1500. Today there are 700,000 out of a population of 183 million. Indian tribes have been frequent victims of massacres and agents from Brazil’s National Indian Foundation fear that more tribal groups are in danger of genocide. They base this on a local court ruling lifting the protection order on tribal lands that allows loggers and ranchers new access. “A boom in prices for South American beef, soy and timber has sparked a surge in land grabs directed against indigenous groups by ranchers and loggers in other parts of the continent as well.” (Times, 18 May) More profits equal more deaths, it was ever so.

The Crazy Society

Only capitalism with its rapacious drive to make money could produce the following crazy situation. “White wristbands sold by the Make Poverty History coalition were made in Chinese factories accused of using forced labour, it has been disclosed. The fashionable white wristbands, worn by celebrities and politicians, including Tony Blair, were made for a coalition of charities as a symbol of its 2005 campaign to end extreme poverty.” (Independent, 30 May) As long as there is a couple of bucks to be made, there is nothing the owning class won’t stoop to!

The New Elite

“South Africa’s mining magnates and millionaires have been meeting in the imposing Rand Club in downtown Johannesburg for more than a century. … Built on the wealth of the largest goldmine in the world and the sweat of black labour, the club’s membership was, until a few years ago, closed to South Africa’s blacks. But these days, there’s a new breed of tycoon walking the club’s wood-panelled corridors and sipping whiskey in its stuffed leather chairs. A black elite has crossed over from politics and the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Rand Club members over the past few years have included Cyril Ramaphosa, 52, one of South Africa’s richest men, who was once touted as a possible successor to Nelson Mandela, and Tokyo Sexwale, also 52, another politician turned capitalist.” (Time, 6 June) The result of all those years of sacrifice and effort by workers to get rid of apartheid has come to this! 

Rich Pickings

The gap between the rich and the rest of society is widening all the time as the research in the USA by The New York Times indicates. "A new breed of fabulously rich American is leaving the rest of the country far behind, in part because of President Bush’s tax cuts. The “hyper-rich”, 145,000 taxpayers earning an average $3 million (£1.65 million) a year, have seen their earnings soar while their tax burden has decreased significantly in recent years. Their share of the national income has doubled in the past 20 years while 90 per cent of taxpayers have seen their share fall.” (Times, 6 June) The report goes on to give some examples of the wealth of these capitalists – Bill Gates, Microsoft owner $48 billion, Warren Buffett, investment magnate $41 billion, Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder $20 billion and five members of the Walton family (Wal-Mart owners) $18 billion each. Land of the free?

How The Other 5 Percent Live

As you worry about paying the rent, the mortgage or your payments on the credit card think about the owning class and their problems. “Mrs Wildenstien told her lawyers; during a cruise in the West Indies, the family’s yacht was caught up in a storm. The crew tried to enter ports in Haiti and San Domingo but these were too small for the vessel. Finally, they struggled into a bay in one of the Virgin Islands. To mark their lucky survival, Daniel bought the island.” (Observer, 12 June) See how lucky you are, fellow workers. You don’t own a yacht too big to get in to Haiti or San Domingo, do you?