Friday, September 11, 2020

60 Years for Socialism (1964)

From the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Original front cover of the September 1904 Socialist Standard reproduced on page 2 of the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

News in Review: Maurice Thorez (1964)

The News in Review column from the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Maurice Thorez

Maurice Thorez, who led the French Communists when they were the largest political party in France, died last July. His career is a classical example of the Communist technique of forming alliances of conveniences, of employing any means to achieve their ends, of compromising and of plain double-dealing.

Thorez’s early years followed a familiar pattern of agitation and imprisonment. In the middle of this he was elected to the French Parliament and in 1930 became the party's Secretary-General. Then came these highlights in Communist history:—

  • 1934. French Communist Party join the Popular Front Movement, in alliance with Leon Blum’s “Socialists” and Daladier’s “ Radicals.”
  • 1936. Communists refuse seats in Blum's government, back strikers against the government.
  • 1939. Communists support Russo/German Pact of non-aggression and friendship. Deladier declares Communist Party illegal. Thorez called up but deserts to Russia.
  • 1940. Thorez and Duclos sign appeal which attacks the “warmongering French Bourgeoisie ” urges overthrow of Leon Blum. but omits to condemn the Nazi occupiers of France. Communist Party tries to obtain permission of German Occupation forces to resume publication of the banned paper Humanite.
  • 1941 German invasion of Russia. French Communists join forces with de Gaulle, who excuses Thorez’s desertion and makes him Minister of State. 
  • 1946/7. Thorez serves as Minister of State in governments under Gouin, Bidault and Ramadier until alliance between Communists, “Socialists” and MRP breaks down under the strain of Indo-China war.
Since then, the fortunes of the French Communist Party have declined. No longer are they the country’s largest party, no longer have they any prospects of filling important ministries in a government.

One of the men—Bidault—they once supported as an act of Left Wing expediency is now the darling of the Right-Wing extremists. Another—de Gaulle—is virtually dictator of France.

One thing, however, remains. The French Communists still trim their sails to catch the lighter breeze from Moscow, still recast their policies overnight to suit the interests of the Russian government.

This is established Communist policy all over the world. The Communists defend it by arguing that it is intended to gain working class support, and to elect a Communist government which will then introduce Socialism.

This policy has always been theoretically wrong and has been shown up as hopeless in practice. In many countries it has been exposed and France, where Thorez left a party in the depths of impotence and futility but still churning out the the old confusion, is one of them.

Meaning of affluence

One of the myths which have helped to buoy up British capitalism over recent years has been the great illusion of Affluence.

This “Affluence” has had some gaps in it glaring enough to be spotted by even the most deluded worker. Equally obvious should have been the mean standards by which working class conditions have been judged.

A cramped, nondescript little house which is being bought on a lifetime’s mortgage; a mass produced car at the kerbside; a television set. These are what add up to “affluence.”

How the ruling class—or the more perceptive of them—must chuckle at this massive deception! Because they are the people who know what affluence really means. They live in style, in what may fairly be described as houses. They do not fear the prospect of sickness, or unemployment, or old age, as do the “affluent” working class.

Consider, for example, the case of Mr. Michael Fitzgerald Heathcoat-Amory, ager 22, address Oswaldkirk Hall, Yorkshire. This young man’s income at the moment is £11,000 a year—interest from a trust fund left by an uncle who was killed in the war—and what the Daily Telegraph described as ". . . a large sum from other sources.”

But there has recently been some rearrangement in the affairs of Mr. Heathcoat- Amory. As the result of a High Court ruling, he will now receive a lump sum of about £175,000, which is around 65 per cent. of the original trust fund. The balance— about £85,000—will remain in trust, accumulating interest to be inherited by any children Mr. Heathcoat-Amory may have.

Now this is Affluence. And nothing done for it, by the young man or his children yet unborn, except to be conceived in the right womb, and born in the right room at the right time.

We have, of course, come across Mr. Heathcoat-Amory's name before. He is the nephew of the Mr. Derek Heathcoat-Amory who made his name as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who fed the pigeon on his window sill on Budget Day. The Chancellor’s job partly consists of trying to keep British capitalism prosperous by urging the workers not to press wage claims.

It is obvious that the Heathcoat-Amorys know it all—about poverty and affluence and about where they come from.

The Stock Exchange

What's that you're reading son?

It’s an ad. about die Stock Exchange- jolly interesting.

What’s it say?

Well Dad, it's written like a chat between a boy and his father. The boy’s doing some lessons at school on the Stock Exchange and he’s asking his Dad about them.

School, eh?

Yes Dad, and a posh one it sounds, too —boys called This Minor and That Major and their fathers are jobbers and things like that and I know that’s posh because the ad. says they're the people stockbrokers buy shares from and sell them to.

That’s real interesting, son. Anything else?

Well, it says the Stock Exchange benefits us all, Dad. And we all invest in it I know you pay the insurance man every week but you never told me that that makes you an investor. We must be posh! Think I’ll add Major to my surname.

Hang on, son. That isn’t why I take out an insurance. I couldn’t care less what they do with my premiums; I’ve got to pay them because on my money I’ve got to put something by for when I’m sick or when 1 retire. If there weren't insurance firms I’d probably keep it in an old sock or something.

You’re not like the fathers in this ad., then?

That's it, son.

Anyway, I suppose if you were an investor getting all those profits you wouldn’t really need an insurance policy or anything?

As they say in this ad., son, you’re catching on quick.

What’s it all about then, Dad?

Well, it’s true that I can invest in stocks and shares if I want to. It’s like the old song; if I didn’t eat I’d have money to burn.

But you might get dividends, Dad.

I might. Three or four per cent of what I’d invested, perhaps. I might even make a bit of money buying shares when the price was low and selling them when it was high . . .

But that cuts the other way. If 1 may say so, Dad, you might buy when the price was high and sell when it was low—so you’d lose money.

Correct But whatever happened I could never expect to make very much. How much can I afford to invest? And what sort of dividend or capital gain, as they call it, would I make on it? How long would that last if I got the sa . . . sorry, if I became redundant?

Not long. Who does make money on the Stock Exchange, then?

Just like in any other form of gambling —the big gamblers. But the dividends come from the profits which are made by people like me going out to work for an employer. And you, when you’re old enough to work.

What else comes out of the profits?

Well, an employer has lots of things to pay out of them—rent, interest on loans, perhaps, government taxes, and so on.

So where does the Stock Exchange come in, Dad?

Well, it only deals in the stocks and shares, which are the legal documents which give the right to the dividends. And if a company or something needs more money the Stock Exchange can organise it, by selling lots more of those documents. But this doesn’t alter the fact that profit comes from the exploitation of the working people.

So the Stock Exchange isn’t really necessary?

Well, Son, I suppose that as far as capitalism goes it isn’t a bad idea. Something's got to do the work of the Stock Exchange, just like something’s got to do the work of judges and policemen and insurance salesmen and the rest If they didn’t exist, capitalism would have had to create them, in a manner of speaking. But this makes no difference to you or me, or to anyone like us. We’d be better off in a world which didn’t need all those things.

So the Stock Exchange isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in this ad., eh, Dad?

Well, Son, like I've always said, don’t believe all you read in the papers.

Rachmanism revised

Fears that Rachmanism still stalks the borough of Willesden have edged the Council there into setting up a permanent rackets watchdog to probe housing scandals. (Kilburn Times, July 10th, 1964).

Social researcher Mr. Peter Whittaker has drawn up a Black Dossier to be studied by the Milner-Holland Committee. Labour Alderman Reg Freeson says that the rackets are still increasing in the borough; “Every housing racket we investigate we get the terrifying feeling that just around the comer there is another racket we cannot put our finger on.”

Councillor Winnick was even horrified to see fresh rackets on the council list this year. This was capped by Conservative Councillor Miss Wallis, who said, “Wherever there is a shortage you will find the spivs.”

Capitalist parties have always told us that they could manage the problems of society by just a little oil there, a tightening of a screw here; no need to get rid of private property, the profit motive or the wages system. Far too sweeping they said; it may be alright for later on, but we must deal with this or that problem right now. In Willesden they are not only still dealing with the immediate problem—it appears to be getting on top of them.

Shortly these same parties will be padding from door to door cadging for votes. They will point to their glowing records of social service and endeavour, and promise to cure what they promised to cure at the last election and the one before that, and before that, and before that . . .

M.Ps. who have been conspicuous by their absence from their constituency will soon be seen smiling concernedly on street comers, knocking on doors enquiring about the needs of their electorate. They do these things because they need the workers’ votes to give them power to run capitalism as they think best

While the workers support capitalism, the problems of poverty, rackets, bad and short supply, housing, crime and unemployment will continue. In its struggles on the international field, capitalism will often produce a war of some sort or the other.

Capitalism is one big Rachmanism. Since when have even the most pious of property owners been free of the taint of exploiting others? When the Rachmanites apply strong arm methods on a small scale on their tenants, isn't this what the Big Boys do on a large scale when they wish to annexe or “ protect ” someone else’s possessions overseas?

Rackets do not begin and end in Willesden.

The VC10

The VC10 affair was one of the government’s more publicised mistakes.

Aircraft are always newsworthy objects— nothing pleases a patriotic British worker more than reports that a British ’plane is selling well abroad. He enthuses over the aircraft’s sleek lines, over its tasteful livery. To him it is a lovely object, a thoroughbred—unlike American aircraft which, he thinks, are slipshod jobs whose engines are always going wrong and whose wings cannot be relied upon not to fall off.

So it came about that the VC10 carried a lot of hopes, including those of the government and the British aircraft industry.

But the clouds gathered quickly about the new airliner and rumours grew thick until BOAC’s new chief, Sir Charles Guthrie, in the unkindest cut of all, clearly indicated that the VC10 was not the aircraft he would choose if his airline was to run at maximum profit.

The government, falling between the two stools of its own support for the new ’plane and its unequivocal instruction to Guthrie to run BOAC as a purely commercial undertaking, compromised by cutting BOACs order and holding up some of the other aircraft already on the way.

This has made the Ministry of Aviation look rather foolish.

Everyone now knows that the VC10 was expected to be a winner because it needed shorter runways than its American rivals— and could therefore land at places which were closed to the Boeing and the Douglas —but this advantage has been wiped out by the smaller airports lengthening their runways especially to take the big American jets.

Everyone now knows that the British Aircraft Corporation originally recommended building an aircraft almost identical to the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC8, but were overruled by the Ministry: who thought that an aircraft which looked different would sell better.

Everyone now knows that the VC10 was spectacular gamble and that it is Mr. Amery’s bad luck that it did not come off. But if the opposite decisions had been taken on the aircraft’s design they would also have been gambles, with no better chance of success than those which have collapsed about die government’s head.

All of capitalism's investment and production is a gamble, depending for its success upon the caprices of an uncontrollable, unpredictable market. This holds true for a barrow boy buying up a job lot of apples and for a great aircraft firm building a glamorous liner.

The VC10 will not be the last project, heavy with national pride and vested optimism, to crash before it leaves the ground

Race riots

In Harlem and in Rochester in the United States, in Singapore and in British Guiana, there are race riots—ugly, bloody affrays in which human beings suddenly descend to frantic animals.

In Germany the trials of the guards of the concentration camps, which were the obscene fruition of racial theories, drag on, revealing their sickening evidence of men at their most degraded.

In South Africa the Nationalist government continues its dour, inflexible policy of apartheid, while riot simmers beneath the thin crust of surface peace. The Australian government refuses permission for a Burgher family from Ceylon to land because they are not “. . . substantially of European origin,” but it does not say exactly what this means.

All over the world, racial strife continues. In many cases it needs only the most trivial of incidents to spark off a storm of violence and counter violence which seems almost to have no end.

Racial theories are a chronic sickness, holding back the progress of the human race to a sane and harmonious social system. Even more, they are based on the absurdest of fallacies, are shot through with inconsistencies and are usually inspired by the most primitive of suspicions.

The interests of working people in all countries are the same. Society's crying need is for the international unity of the working class to abolish capitalism and substitute for it a cooperative world of abundance and freedom.

It is the need for dignity, for progress, for survival. The people of the world can have Socialism if they want it or they can choose, in one way or another, extinction.

“Young Socialists”

Our recent feature “Labour's Young Lions” has provoked the usual sort of reaction from the Young Socialists.

The June issue of Young Guard, their paper, offers the customary sneer about ". . . the revolutionary virgins in the Socialist Party of Great Britain . . .”, but carefully avoids any attempt at dealing with our criticisms.

The Socialist Standard has replied to this, inviting Young Guard to send us a reasoned argument, which we will publish with our reply.

But the young lions are silent, and still. So far (mid-August) they have not replied.