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.
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.
Ballots or bullets?
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.
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.