Monday, May 31, 2021

About Socialism (1988)

From the May 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

1. What is the Socialist Party of Great Britain?
It is a political party, separate from all others, Left, Right or Centre. It stands for the sole aim of establishing a world social system based upon human need instead of private or state profit. The Object and Declaration of Principles were adopted by the Socialist Party in 1904 and have been maintained without compromise since then. In other countries there are companion parties sharing the same object and principles, and they too remain independent from all other political parties.

2. What is capitalism?
Capitalism is the social system which now exists in all countries of the world. Under this system, the means of production and distribution (land, factories, offices, transport, media, etc.) are monopolised by a minority, the capitalist class. All wealth is produced by us, the majority working class, who sell our mental and physical energies to the capitalists in return for a price called a wage or salary. The object of wealth production is to create goods and services which can be sold on the market at a profit. Not only do the capitalists live off the profits they obtain from exploiting the working class, but, as a class, they go on accumulating wealth extracted from each generation of workers.

3. Can capitalism be reformed in our interests?
No: as long as capitalism exists, profits will come before needs. Some reforms are welcomed by some workers, but no reform can abolish the fundamental contradiction between profit and need which is built into the present system. No matter whether promises to make capitalism run in the interests of the workers are made sincerely or by opportunist politicians they are bound to fail, for such a promise is like offering to run the slaughter house in the interests of the cattle.

4. Is nationalisation an alternative to capitalism?
No: nationalised industries simply mean that workers are exploited by the state, acting on behalf of the capitalists of one country, rather than by an individual capitalist or company. The workers in nationalised British Leyland are no less the servants of profit than workers in privately-owned Ford. The mines no more belong to "the public" or the miners now than they did before 1947 when they were nationalised. Nationalisation is state capitalism.

5. Are there any “socialist countries”?
No: the so-called socialist countries are systems of state capitalism. In Russia and its empire, in China, Cuba, Albania, Yugoslavia and the other countries which call themselves socialist, social power is monopolised by privileged Party bureaucrats. The features of capitalism, as outlined above, are all present. An examination of international commerce shows that the bogus socialist states are part of the world capitalist market and cannot detach themselves from the requirements of profit.

6. What Is the meaning of socialism?
Socialism does not yet exist. When it is established it must be on a worldwide basis, as an alternative to the outdated system of world capitalism. In a socialist society there will be common ownership and democratic control of the earth by its inhabitants. No minority class will be in a position to dictate to the majority that production must be geared to profit. There will be no owners: everything will belong to everyone. Production will be solely for use, not for sale. The only questions society will need to ask about wealth production will be: what do people require, and can the needs be met? These questions will be answered on the basis of the resources available to meet such needs. Then, unlike now, modern technology and communications will be able to be used to their fullest extent. The basic socialist principle will be that people give according to their abilities and take according to their self-defined needs. Work will be on the basis of voluntary co-operation: the coercion of wage and salary work will be abolished. There will be no buying or selling and money will not be necessary, in a society of common ownership and free access. For the first time ever the people of the world will have common possession of the planet earth.

7. How will socialism solve the problems of society?
Capitalism, with its constant drive to serve profit before need, throws up an endless stream of problems. Most workers in Britain feel insecure about their future; almost one in four families with children living below the official government poverty line; many old people live in dangerously cold conditions each winter and thousands die; millions of our fellow men and women are dying of starvation — tens of thousands of them each day. A society based on production for use will end those problems because the priority of socialist society will be the fullest possible satisfaction of needs. At the moment food is destroyed and farmers are subsidised not to produce more: yet many millions are malnourished. At the moment hospital queues are growing longer and people are dying of curable illnesses; yet it is not "economically viable" to provide decent health treatment for all. In a socialist society nothing short of the best will be good enough for any human being.

8. What about human nature?
Human behaviour is not fixed, but determined by the kind of society people are conditioned to live in. The capitalist jungle produces vicious, competitive ways of thinking and acting. But we humans are able to adapt our behaviour and there is no reason why our rational desire for comfort and human welfare should not allow us to co-operate. Even under capitalism people often obtain pleasure from doing a good turn for others; few people enjoy participating in the "civilised" warfare of the daily rat-race. Think how much better it would be if society was based on co-operation.

9. Are socialists democrats?
Yes: the Socialist Party has no leaders. It is a democratic organisation controlled by its members. It understands that Socialism can only be established by a conscious majority of workers — that workers must liberate themselves and will not be liberated by leaders or parties. Socialism will not be brought about by a dedicated minority "smashing the state", as some left-wingers would have it. Nor do the activities of paid, professional politicians have anything to do with Socialism — the experience of seven Labour governments has shown this. Once a majority of the working class understand and want Socialism, they will take the necessary step to organise consciously for the democratic conquest of political power. There will be no Socialism without a socialist majority.

10. What is the next step?
Many workers know that there is something wrong and want to change society. Some join reform groups in the hope that capitalism can be patched up, but such efforts are futile because you cannot run a system of class exploitation in the interests of the exploited majority. People who fear a nuclear war may join CND. but as long as nation states exist, economic rivalry means that the world will never be safe from the threat of war. There are countless dedicated campaigns and good causes which many sincere people are caught up in, but there is only one solution to the problems of capitalism and that is to get rid of it, and establish Socialism. Before we can do that we need socialists; winning workers to that cause requires knowledge, principles and an enthusiasm for change. These qualities can be developed by anyone — and are essential for anyone who is serious about changing society. Capitalism in the 1980s is still a system of waste, deprivation and frightening insecurity. You owe it to yourself to find out about the one movement which stands for the alternative.

If you have read this set of principles and agree with some or all of them, contact the Socialist Party with your questions and ideas about what you can do to help speed the progress towards Socialism. 

Running Commentary: Cheap at the price (1988)

The Running Commentary column from the May 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Cheap at the price

The latest figures for crime in London — or at least that part of it which the police get to hear about —offer encouragement to neither the hangers and floggers nor the carers and tolerators. Overall, recorded crime in the capital fell by four per cent last year although violence against the person (not the sort committed by the police) street robberies and other robberies rose by between 11 and 13 per cent. Parliament's refusal to re-introduce the death penalty, even with the offer of the then Tory MP Peter Bruinvels to be the public hangman in his off duty days, did not set London's killers on the rampage; murders fell from 210 to 195.

The Metropolitan Police, despite its self-image as the elite force compared to which the rest are bumbling wallies. manages a detection rate of only 16 per cent. As there must be an intrinsically high rate of detection for some offences, such as murder and rape, this means there is a strikingly low clear-up rate for other crime. Obviously, the Met. will not be in the running for the Sherlock Holmes Trophy for 1987.

The figures for London, like those for other areas, provide no evidence to support the claim from all types of reformers to have a policy for the elimination of crime. The hangers and floggers argue that harsh punishment would stamp out the problem, ignoring the fact that it did not work that way in the past, when the crank, the treadmill, the quarries and the Pentonville style of repression brutalised prisoners rather than reformed them. The do-gooders look for the cause in social or personal disabilities, blind to the fact that this social system must always produce such problems and they have no idea of what to do about that.

Crime is an aspect of capitalism's basic conflicts and inadequacies; while this society lasts it is inescapable. The property rights of capitalism — which is another way of saying its denial of access to wealth to the majority — are so comprehensive that it is practically impossible not to offend against them. With the majority denied free access to the wealth we have produced, while the privileges of possession are extolled as the ultimate social cachet, it is not surprising that there should be a widespread effort to grab some of the wealth in ways not legitimised by capitalism.

The privileged hold their position legally; the laws say that their right to the wealth and their right to exploit the rest of us must be protected and enforced through a system of police, courts and prisons. So every day courts throughout the land are crowded with people who have been restrained after offending against capitalism's laws, to be dealt with according to the whims and prejudices of whoever happens to sit in judgement on them that day.

This is a hugely cumbersome, hugely expensive, affair (it costs an average of around £250 a week to keep someone in prison — an experience unlikely to re-build their respect for capitalism s morality). But for the job it has to do — to assert, defend and emphasise the fact that this is a society divided into the exploiters and the dispossessed — it is cheap at the price.


Fortresses

Social Security offices, which have never been friendly places where one could enjoy a confidential, therapeutic discussion of one's financial embarrassments over a relaxed cup of coffee with a helpful counsellor, threaten to become like fortresses amid bedlam as the new DHSS regulations take effect.

The Thatcher government will always be remembered for the sleight of hand with which they have distorted the current reality of poverty. The unemployment figures, for example, can easily be reduced by drawing up regulations which force out-of-work youngsters into what the government calls training but what the youngsters call sweated labour. State benefits for the unemployed, the elderly, the sick and the disabled can be cut by rearranging the rules which govern them and then calling the whole thing by a different name.

So it comes to pass that what was once Supplementary Benefit is now Income Support; what was once a Single Payment is now a loan from the Social Fund. The intended effect, with time, is that many workers who depend on state benefits for their survival, will have much less to survive on.

Another effect — unintended but foreseeable — will probably be that violence against DHSS staff, already running at an alarming level, will get worse. If this happens, the government's response will be to call conferences where bureaucrats will gravely discuss the stresses which their underlings are subjected to; to fortify the offices even more; and to provide for stiffer punishment for those who. in their impoverished frustration, go for the staff, smash the windows, kick in the doors. . .

The government are hoping that charities will fill the gaps opened up by the new regulations. Some people may think this is taking Thatcher's version of Victorian morality too far; in any case what happens when the charities are unable to help? Will they too have to bolt down the furniture, install toughened glass, erect protective screens around their workers?

The loud protests which the poverty lobby launched against the new set-up was understandable, for benefit-dependent workers, at the lowest end of the poverty scale, need a cut in their payments like a hole in the wallet. In spite of their valuable work of research and indictment, the poverty lobby draw the wrong conclusion — that the workers' poverty is rooted in an inability to be employed and that it can be eliminated through higher state benefits.

Poverty afflicts the working class whether they are in work or out; it is an unavoidable consequence of the class ownership of the means of life. A working wage keeps a worker generally at the level of reproduction of their energy; not to be able to get a wage can mean falling below even that miserable standard.

This is the fundamental social condition which must be dealt with. Then the poverty lobby can stop pummelling the statistics — and the claimants can stop taking it out on the DHSS clerks.


Run out?

With the passing of time — with a widening waistline and narrowing achievements — Ian Botham has changed from everyone's Boys' Own hero into a rip-roaring public villain. Headlines no longer boast of his deeds with bat and ball on some sun-soaked cricket field; the preoccupation now is with his offensive behaviour in public places and fights in dressing rooms.

But of course Botham has always been what the media hacks love — a sporting character. Nicknamed Guy after the gorilla — he was always ready for pavilion japes like placing his hot spoon on some team mate's arm just after stirring his tea.

Most of his feats, which have been written into cricket history, have been inspired by Botham's all-consuming ambition always to be on the winning side. Now this sort of drive is among the most prized of personal attributes in a society which esteems nothing higher than a determination to get to the top no matter whose neck gets trampled on the way up. In industry, commerce and social standing the equivalents of Ian Botham receive respectful adulation while the rest are of little consequence.

Capitalism glorifies its heroes and heroines as examples to us all, as living proof that anyone who is an insignificant member of the working class has only themselves to blame for their situation. Of course the heroes and heroines sometimes misbehave — or rather behave in a way to be expected of someone under the constant stimulation of the media spotlight. But that need not be a disadvantage since it often serves to heighten public interest, sell more newspapers, push up the ratings and box office receipts.

It requires a super-powerful effort to resist these pressures — to act like an everyday worker while all the expectations of capitalism demand otherwise. That is why the entertainment and sporting business is littered with examples of the Ian Botham disease. the principal symptom of which is the realisation that headline-hogging behaviour has reached the depths of tedium.

This brings a pathetic conclusion to what set out as famously glorious. Botham's sacking by his cricket employers in Australia may have its repercussions in this country, for it is said that he is too disruptive an influence for any team to want to have him. Who would be to blame for this sorry end of the golden boy of English cricket? The man himself? Or the interests which depend on building up prima donnas in order to attack them for it?

The French Non-Revolution (1988)

From the May 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Twenty years ago this month students were erecting barricades and battling with the police in the streets of Paris. Over nine million workers were on strike. Industry was at a standstill with most factories occupied by strikers.

This social explosion had started at the beginning of May when the government, hoping to stop the student unrest that had been growing over the preceding months from getting out of hand, ordered the police to arrest certain student activists including the most prominent. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, known as Danny-le-Rouge. The result was to provoke the very thing they had been hoping to avoid. Barricades went up in the student quarter on the left bank of the river Seine and fierce street battles took place on the night of 10-11 May as the police tried to reconquer the area, dispensing indiscriminate brutality to all who got in their way.

To protest against this police brutality against the students the trade unions called a one-day general strike for the following Monday 13 May. Many workers — wage and salary earners had their own grievances against the government, which had been treating them in much the same way as Thatcher has been treating workers in Britain since she came to power — did not return to work the next day or came out again later in the week and a full-scale general strike, with factory occupations, which was to last several weeks, spread throughout the country.

Some thought that France was on the brink of a revolution that would sweep away capitalism and usher in workers' control of society. But this was an illusion. In the absence of a socialist-minded working class, the most that could have happened was the collapse of the Gaullist regime and its replacement by some left-of-centre government of capitalism similar to that then in office in Britain under Harold Wilson.

De Gaulle himself had come to power as a result of an army and settlers' revolt that had begun in Algeria ten years previously. In terms of the then existing constitution — that of the Fourth Republic — the way he came to power was perfectly illegal but such changes of regime by extra-parliamentary means have been a frequent feature of French history since the French revolution of 1789. Since that time there have in fact been a number of such changes — France has had five republics, two empires, two monarchies in addition to Vichy France under Marshal Petain — and this is what the term revolution has come to mean in French politics.

Such a "revolution" — resulting in the restoration of the Fourth Republic or in the establishment of a sixth one — was indeed a possibility in May 1968 but would have had nothing in common with what socialists mean by revolution — a change in the basis of society. From a socialist point of view, a change of political regime carried out by action on the streets is no more relevant than a change of government carried out by electoral means. Both are merely ways of rearranging the political administration of capitalism. Both leave the capitalist basis of society unchanged.

In any event the opponents of the Gaullist regime — from the student activists to the left politicians — underestimated the determination of De Gaulle and the solidity of his regime. When at the end of May he disappeared from Paris, opposition politicians thought that he was about to go and began to stake rival claims to the posts they would like to occupy in the new government. De Gaulle had in fact gone to Germany secretly to meet the leaders of the Army. On his return, on 30 May he immediately went on radio and TV to announce that a general election would be held in June in which the issue would be: maintenance of the Gaullist regime or a left-wing government dominated by the French Communist Party (which was at that time indeed much stronger than the non-Communist left). Faced with this choice, in the election which took place on 23 and 30 June, the voters gave De Gaulle a landslide victory. The May events had resulted, not in the overthrow of the Gaullist regime but in its consolidation. Of course they also brought university reform and wage increases and other benefits for the workers but as an attempt to change the political regime in France by extra-parliamentary means May 1968 was a complete flop.

This wasn't evident immediately, at least not to the student and extreme-left activists. They argued that it would have succeeded if only the workers had taken the next step and instead of just occupying the factories had started operating them without the bosses or if only the French Communist Party (PCF) and the trade union centre it controlled (the CGT) had not betrayed the revolution by taking up a moderate, constitutional line. The Trotskyists put on their scratchy old gramophone record about the revolution having failed for want of a vanguard party to lead the workers. More interesting was the attitude of Cohn-Bendit both at the time and later.

In a book written with his brother Gabriel in August 1968. entitled Leftwing Radicalism. Cure for Communism 's Senile Disease (an obvious play on the title of Lenin's pamphlet Left wing Communism. An Infantile Disease which the PCF quoted against him and other "leftists"). Cohn-Bendit argued that the Gaullist regime could have been toppled on the night of 24-25 May if the student demonstrators who had moved over to the right bank of the Seine had stayed there after burning the Stock Exchange (or rather starting a fire inside it since stock exchanges, being built of marble, don't burn easily) and had gone on to capture the ministries of Finance and Justice a few streets away instead of returning to the left bank.

Today, however, he argues that what the opponents of the Gaullist regime should have done in May 1968 was to have called for a general election in mid-May at the height of the factory and university occupations which he reckons they would easily have won. He has even gone on record as saying that the biggest mistake he has ever made was "not to have called for an election sooner in 1968" (The Economist 14 February 1987). In other words, Dany the Red, the student revolutionary, now says that the way to have overthrown De Gaulle was through elections. As a member of the German Green Party he now actively participates in electoral activity and has even been their candidate for the post of mayor of Frankfurt.

As a matter of fact this is not all that much of a U-turn since, even in May 1968, Cohn-Bendit was well aware that the student movement, despite its revolutionary rhetoric, was in practice struggling not to replace capitalism by socialism but to replace Gaullism by some left-wing government. So it is not really a big change, that he should now be saying a better way to have achieved this would have been through the ballot box. When he spoke about "revolutionary action" he did not mean action to overthrow capitalism but merely street demonstrations, seizure of public buildings and strikes to overthrow De Gaulle. This emerges clearly, for instance, from the interview the pretentious philosopher and ex-PCF fellow traveller Jean-Paul Sartre had with him in the middle of the events and before his expulsion from France on 22 May as an "undesirable" alien (his parents came from Germany) and which was published in Le Nouvel Observateur on 20 May. Here he stated clearly that the aim was "the overthrow of the regime". explaining that in his view:
  A radical change in the structure of our society would only be possible, if, for example, a serious economic crisis, the action of a powerful workers' movement, and vigorous student activity suddenly converged. These conditions have not all been realised today. At best we can hope to bring down the government. We must not dream of destroying bourgeois society (translation in The Student Revolt, Panther. 1968).
But to say that all that could be done in the circumstances was to bring down the government without destroying capitalism is tantamount to saying that all that could be done was to replace one government of capitalism by another. Cohn-Bendit did not shrink from this conclusion:
  Suppose the workers hold out too and the regime falls. What will happen then? The left will come to power. Everything will then depend on what it does. If it changes the system — I must admit I doubt if it will — it will have an audience, and all will be well. But if we have a Wilson-style government, with or without the Communists, which only proposes minor reforms and adjustments, then the extreme left will regain its strength and we shall have to go on posing the real problems of social control, workers’ power, and so on.
So Cohn-Bendit was lucid enough to recognise that, in the circumstances obtaining in May-June 1968, the only possible alternative to the Gaullist regime was some left-wing government. In the end this did come but 13 years later, when Mitterrand was elected President and appointed a Wilson-style government with PCF Ministers. As was inevitable, since capitalism can never be made to function in the interest of the wage and salary earners, this government failed miserably to solve working class problems — just as it would have done had it come to power in 1968.

This being so, it is pertinent to ask if raising the issue of a change of regime was not a diversion from the economic objectives of the general strike such as higher wages and better conditions. Actually, the French working class behaved in a remarkably intelligent way: refusing to get themselves killed in an attempt to replace the Gaullist regime by a government of left-wing politicians, which would have brought them no benefit, they profited from the momentary weakness of the regime in place to extract higher wages and a number of other concessions.

Naturally the student and political activists (Trotskyists. Maoists and other assorted followers of Ho Chi Minh. Che Guevara and Castro) found this a rather timid attitude and blamed the trade unions for betraying the workers who, according to them, were waiting for a lead to take action to overthrow both Gaullism and capitalism. But it is clear that it was the unions who were more representative of working-class opinion and had the more realistic if less exciting attitude. Workers are not as stupid as Leninists imply in their contemptuous dictum that ’’left to themselves, workers are only capable of acquiring a trade union consciousness". Trade union consciousness alone is indeed far from socialist consciousness but it is far in advance of Leninism. As one wit has put it, it would be more correct to say that, left to themselves, students are only capable of acquiring a Leninist consciousness.

May '68 was, however, rather more than a general strike for economic ends sparked off by student riots. It also had a deep and lasting effect on social attitudes in France — decline of authoritarianism and paternalism in all fields — and it led everywhere to an interest in radical social ideas. Books by and about Marx as well as Rosa Luxemburg, Anton Pannekoek, Paul Mattick and other radical thinkers became readily available (alongside, it is true, less helpful works by Trotsky). All sorts of ideas came to be discussed. Tariq Ali. who saw himself as the British equivalent of Dany-le-Rouge. even declared in June 1968 on a television programme about the student revolt "we believe in the abolition of money". Naturally, with such ideas springing up spontaneously, socialists were able to get our point of view over much more easily than normally. The revival of genuine socialist ideas may prove to be the most lasting historical effect of May 1968. In any event, we are still working to ensure that it is.
Adam Buick

To The Workers of France (1988)

A Classic Reprint from the May 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard
  We reprint a manifesto adopted by our Executive Committee in May 1968 which set out our attitudes to the events in France.
We address you not as citizens of one country to citizens of another but as world socialists to fellow members of the world working class.

We reject frontiers as artificial barriers put up by governments. All men are brothers and the world should be theirs. All men should be social equals with free access to the plenty that could be if only the means of living belonged to a socialist world community. We oppose governments everywhere, all nationalism, racism and religion, all censorship, all wars and preparations for war.

Workers! We support your class struggle for better wages and conditions against the employers and the government. But do not be taken in by the ease with which you have occupied the factories. They allowed you to do this because they know that in time you must give in. Political power is always in the hands of those who control the machinery of government, including the armed forces and the sadistic CRS. Do not be misled by those who say that universal suffrage is a fraud. Learn from your masters. You too must organise to win political power if you want a new society. Do not let cunning politicians or the discredited Communist Party return to power on your backs. Ignore those who would be your leaders. Rely on your own understanding and organisation. Turn universal suffrage into an instrument of emancipation.

Students! We share your distaste for the indignities and hypocrisies of the present order. We share your wish for a new society with no exploitation of man by man. But do not underestimate what a task it will be to change society. It will be a hundred times more difficult than changing the government. A democratic world community, based on common ownership with production for use not profit, can only be set up when people want it and are ready to take the steps needed to get it up and keep it going. Democratic political action is the only way to Socialism. There are no short cuts. We must have a majority actively on our side. Do not be misled by student demagogues, those who praise Bakunin, Trotsky, Mao or Che Guevara, who would use you for their own mistaken ends. They think that an elite should use unrest to gain power and then set up a classless society. What dangerous nonsense! Look at state capitalist Russia where a new privileged class rules, with police intimidation and censorship, over an increasingly restless population. Look at state capitalist China where power-hungry bureaucrats cynically manipulate the people in their own sordid squabbles. Learn the lessons of history: elite action leads to elite rule. No Socialism unless by democratic political action, based on socialist understanding.

The task you face in France is the same that we face in Britain and our brothers in Germany, Russia, the United States and other countries: to build up a strong world-wide movement for Socialism. What is needed more than anything else in this period of social unrest is a clear, uncompromising statement of the case for a socialist world community.

If you agree, please write to us. We will be glad to help you ensure that the voice of Socialism is again heard in France.

Workers of the world, Unite!

Blogger's Note:
This statement from the SPGB's Executive Committee appeared in the July 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard.

I was there in '68 (1988)

From the May 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

I was studying for my finals exams at Hull University when it started to happen. Thousands of students on the streets of Paris — then the workers on strike too. Law and order was breaking down. That's what the newspapers and the radio told us, and we saw bits of it on our black and white TV screens.

Then it came over here. Or sort of. Demonstrations and sit-ins at colleges and universities all over the country. What sparked the one at Hull — if it wasn't just the Paris events — was the authorities dragging their feet over student representation on university committees. Before most of us knew it, general meetings were being called and resolutions passed. The administration building was occupied.

A hundred students sat in. Then two hundred, then five or six hundred. The administration was at a standstill. I was involved too. I'd never been a "militant", but I'd always supported the Labour Party and had a gut feeling for the underdog. What actually drove me in there more than anything else was seeing a silly detestable bugger of a student on my course standing outside the administration block wearing a large badge with the words "I'm backing Brynmor" (Brynmor Jones was the university's vice- chancellor). I called him a rat and walked into the occupation.

Once you were in there, you became more and more convinced your cause was a just one. Student "leaders" addressed meetings. and spoke persuasively. We were determined to see it through. There was an atmosphere of . . . what was it? — freedom? . . . community? that made you heady. It was what the activists called "radicalisation" and you put your case with conviction and enthusiasm to other students you met outside.

How long was it going to last? On campus there were rumours about goings-on in the sit-in. The local press picked it up. Offices were being vandalised, so they said, student records carried away, orgies held. I never saw any of it — and at the time wondered what I'd missed. But I did see people's resolve gradually slipping away and the sitters-in become fewer and fewer until only a few die-hards were left. The University weren't using a heavy hand. They were playing a waiting game, which they knew they would eventually win. And as they played the game, a group of "moderate" students used the students' union constitution to call an emergency general meeting with the proposition that the occupation cease forthwith.

It was the biggest gathering of students I'd ever seen — about 1.200. Those in favour of the motion spoke first and were frankly pathetic. The speakers on our side were cool and logical, and some of them brilliant. If there was any justice, we should have won. But we didn't. The vice-chancellor was allowed to address the students and showed himself, contrary to reputation, to be an extremely clever man. He was conciliatory. He said he sympathised with the demands for change, promised that reforms would be made to give the students more say in the running of the university but that in the meantime, in the name of moderation and responsibility, we should go back to our books so that the reforms could start to be discussed. We filed through division doors. Our side had 400 votes. The opposition had 700 plus. We'd lost. Or had we? For procedural reasons another vote was needed to finalise the matter. The left-wing "agitators" whom many people said had fomented the whole thing in the first place — maybe they had — tried to prolong the debate as much as possible in the hope that enough "moderates" would drift off for the vote to swing the other way. But. though a few people left, when the final vote was taken at six o'clock, there was still a decisive majority against the occupation.

It was the same story up and down the country. The various demonstrations and sit-ins came to an end. It was the same in France too. When the agitators died away. De Gaulle called an election and won hands-down. As for Hull. I left that year so I don't know whether they ever got the reforms.

I never really understood at the time what had gone on — either here or in France. People said that we'd been close to a socialist revolution. I only started to understand two or three years later when I came into contact with The Socialist Party. I asked the members I met what they thought of the events of '68 and was shown a copy of the July 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard with the cover "How close was France to a socialist revolution?". The answer it gave was a revelation to me and. if you can still get hold of a copy, it's just as much worth reading now as it was then.
Howard Moss

CND at 30 (1988)

From the May 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

For their own sakes it is to be hoped that the marchers on CND's 30th anniversary trek this Easter did not think they had any reason for celebration. They were repeatedly urged not to be nostalgic, for as Pat Arrowsmith, who was on the first march in 1958 and has been on unnumbered protests since, put it. "The issues are still alive and the young people here today are fighting an even harder battle than the one we began 30 years ago". Wait a minute: issues still alive, after 30 years? Harder battles than ever? CND was formed, and launched its protests, on the theory that huge public demonstrations were the quickest and most effective method of persuading the government to get rid of nuclear weapons. This was, in 1958, an urgent matter, to be dealt with before we could turn our attention to any basic changes in society. If something was not done quickly things would get a lot worse; why, there could be submarines cruising the oceans capable of firing nuclear missiles while still submerged; or missiles which could slip through radar screens by a low-level flight to their target; or a galactic nuclear conflict as the super-powers strove to disable each other's missiles out in space.

Early optimism
Since 1958 we have had four changes of government and numerous CND marches. The governments have been unmoved; the situation has got worse. Not only have the disowners failed to remove the problem quickly but what effect they have had — or can now hope to have — can be assessed by the fact that they still feel a compelling reason to protest and that another of their veteran campaigners can say, in 1988:
 But although we know atomic weapons will never disappear, it is clear that their development is being intensified against all political claims of disarmament. (Liz Baker, Observer, 3 April)
In spite of that rueful admission that CND never had a hope of persuading the government to change its mind and, whatever the other powers did, throw away its nuclear weapons, it is true that the early CND marches encouraged a measure of optimism. In June 1960, after observing the march that year, a contributor to the Socialist Standard could write:
  Yet there is some comfort in this march. After the barren years of the delinquents, large numbers of people seem to be getting active in a movement of protest against a social problem.
That was a reaction, not so much to the promise of CND as to the frustration of confronting years of complacency among a working-class who seemed popularly to agree with Harold Macmillan that they had never had it so good. Especially galling was the fact that this cynicism was so apparent in young people, who excused it with the assertion that social problems were peculiar to, and the fault of, an earlier generation. CND was significant for puncturing that complacency and. by focussing the unease about nuclear destruction, encouraging young people to question what capitalist society was all about. A few youngsters even got the answer right, left CND and joined the movement for a socialist revolution. Many of the rest could not surmount the reformist obstacle of a preference for massaging symptoms rather than excising their cause.

Changing tactics
But misplaced enthusiasm can breed only confusion and CND was quickly blundering from one desperate expedient to another. There was a heavily publicised split over the emergence of the Committee of 100, much of whose appeal was that they had attracted Bertrand Russell to their ranks. Surely, someone who could write all those clever books on philosophy couldn't be wrong about the way to get rid of nuclear arms? The Committee's argument was that the government would take little account of orderly marches and rallies; what was needed to make them sit up and take notice was a lot of people sitting down in the middle of the road. The resultant disruption and publicity would soon bring the government to its knees, willing to throw away its nuclear armoury rather than subject the motorists of London to another moment's delay in a traffic jam. What actually happened was that the police were sent in to lug the demonstrators out of the way and to arrest those of them who particularly did not want to be removed. Meanwhile. far away from the scene of it all, the production of nuclear weapons continued its uncongested way.

Since then CND has changed its line often enough to satisfy the most erratic of reformist tacticians. At one time it was into direct action, by which it meant diverting a few of the more athletic demonstrators into attempts to storm Regional Seats of Government. If CND expected a great howl of outrage at their revealing the existence of these places they were badly mistaken; a more likely response from the working class was one of gratitude, that the government should so thoughtfully provide somewhere for what was left of British capitalism to be administered after the nuclear holocaust. There was another spell, when CND seemed likely to cease being a single-issue movement and join itself to the long list of organisations which campaign, day in and day out. about wages, housing, poverty, health and the rest. It has tried high-profile leaders like Joan Ruddock and Bruce Kent and low profile, like the present. One tactic it has not considered: a campaign against class society as the cause of war and all weapons, nuclear and conventional.

Courting Labour’s leaders
Much of CND's energy — its enthusiasm and its despair — has gone into its long battle to win over the Labour Party. To some extent this was understandable, since so many Labour leaders have been keen to be associated with them. The most prominent of these, Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock, have been at the head of many a march, and Foot told the rally at the start of this year's march:
  I came to the march in 1958 with a different dog but with the same wife. This march is a sign that the campaign will go on until nuclear weapons are wiped off the face of the galaxy. It has nothing to do with nostalgia.
A strong, ambitious way of imparting the same message of failure as Pat Arrowsmith and Liz Baker. But there is one very important difference. Not so long ago Foot, as Labour leader, was bidding to become prime minister, to lead a government whose party had in theory committed it to unilaterally getting rid of British nuclear weapons. How strong, how ambitious was he then? Well, at Labour's 1982 conference he was arguing for multilateral nuclear disarmament — for all the nuclear powers doing it at the same time — which was a long way from CND policy. Foot's words then might just as easily have been in the mouth of Reagan or Gorbachev or of any Tory claimant to a policy of peace and disarmanent:
  The greatest task which this Labour Party will have to take (sic) is to carry out our policy for securing nuclear disarmament in this country, and throughout the world.
During the 1983 general election, pushed into a comer by Tory propaganda that a Labour government would eagerly abolish the military power of British capitalism — a myth which won the Tories a lot of misinformed votes — Foot firmly pledged a "strong defence (his word for it) for Britain and Britain's allies" and a continuing adherence to the nuclear armed, American dominated, power bloc of NATO. Asked about Labour's commitment not to abolish British nuclear arms but only to get rid of one kind of them the Polaris missile — Foot was clumsily evasive: "Read the statement carefully and read the manifesto carefully and clarity will descend on all quarters".

CND’s “successes”
What did not descend on all quarters was the assurance that a Labour government would be be less resolved to keep a British bomb than would a Tory one. Foot was trying to juggle with his misled party activists on one hand and the voting British working class on the other. The activists were of course let fall. By 1983, with Kinnock in the leadership, the confusion was less; Labour's election manifesto was quite clear that a Labour government would keep the bomb while trying to start negotiations to remove some of the weapons from Europe as a step, they argued, towards them being abolished together, all over the world — much the same as the recent deal between Russia and America over the INF missiles.

Which brings us to what CND claims to have been its successes. The "success" of the 1963 Test Ban Treaty can be gauged against the subsequent developments in nuclear warheads and delivery systems, not to mention the increase in the number of weapons in the world since then. It is a strange sort of remedy, which is followed by the complaint getting worse. Last year's INF treaty should remove some of the less powerful weapons from some places but it was followed by the nuclear powers scrambling to plug the gaps which the treaty opened in their armouries. It is a peculiar type of success, which looks likely to leave us worse off — more threatened, less secure — than before. In any case CND had mixed feelings about each of these "successes", fearing to make too much of them in case they convinced too many people that the cause of nuclear disarmament had won the day and need not be supported any longer.

Foreseeable failure
In human beings the age of 30 is seen as an important threshold, when workers have a rough idea of how the rest of their lives will be spent — what type of exploitation they will get their living at, how long they will be chained to their mortgage, what they feel about the people they have agreed to spend the rest of their lives with. Personal horizons, over which we disappear when we die, can be described, albeit a long way off. Failures, mistakes and prospects can be evenly assessed. CND at thirty might try the same exercise, asking themselves why all that well-intentioned energy has been so sadly misplaced. Is their fear of nostalgia more a morbid suspicion that their failure must extend into the foreseeable future?
Ivan

Olympic invitation (1988)

From the May 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many commentators were taken aback by the apparent volte-face conducted by China and Russia when they recently accepted South Korea’s invitation to the 1988 Olympic Games. This seemed particularly odd since their regional ally "Communist" North Korea, bitterly opposed participation on the grounds that it amounted to a virtual recognition of the US-backed Southern regime.

The confusion over these manoeuvres stems from the mistaken belief that leaders determine foreign policy in line with their ideological interests. In opposition to this view, the materialist analysis of international relations holds that there are underlying economic forces which determine, over the long run, what actions leaders take. Seen in this light, the "mystery" of the Olympic acceptance is soon resolved.

Following the enforced division of the Korean peninsula by the United States in 1948, Russia and China maintained a seemingly implacable hostility towards the South and lent their support to the Northern regime's drive to re-unify the country. The importance of the North to China and the Russians was dramatically enhanced by the bitter conflict which erupted between these two states in the 1950s and '60s. North Korea occupied a critical strategic position, flanking vital industrial and military regions on both sides. Ritual denunciation of the Southern regime became an important weapon in the struggle to secure the support of the North's dictator. Kim I'-Sung.

The situation began to change in the late 1970s and early '80s. when the stagnation of the Russian and Chinese economies galvanised their respective party bureaucracies into an enforced process of economic modernisation. A necessary condition for success was a massive injection of western capital and advanced technology, which required a downgrading of cold war hostility and an opening up to the United States and its allies through the process of detente.

South Korea occupies a key position here. It is located in the fastest developing economic region in the world and is growing at a more rapid pace than Japan. Its per capita GNP is $2,900, at least three times that of the North. Furthermore, South Korean industry has direct access to the latest technology from the United States and Japan and its manufacturers have proved themselves adept at integrating aid, successfully utilising their advances as, for example, in the development of the four megabit DRAM computer.

The Chinese were the first to attempt to tap into these resources. In the early 1980s they established trading links with the South through Hong Kong and between 1983 and 1985 two-way trade rose from $285 million to over $800 million, exceeding China's trade with the North. More recently a covert direct trade has begun to develop. South Korean businessmen have visited China, and in 1986 the Daewoo Corporation spearheaded the first ever joint venture with a Chinese company, producing television sets in the Fujian province.

The South Koreans have been anxious to encourage these links since China has a lot to offer them: cheap labour, low corporate taxation and an alternative to the increasingly protectionist United States market. President-Elect, Roh Tae Woo, has promised to develop the South West province of Challa as a free trade zone to exploit these possibilities.

The Russians have been more circumspect in making openings to South Korea, principally because of the strategic benefits they derive from naval facilities at Cam Rhan Bay in the North, as well as overflying rights for their military aircraft. The importance of these assets has diminished, however, as the Soviets attempted to create a stable regional environment in which they could pursue economic modernisation. This involved seeking a rapprochement with China and increasingly dissociating themselves from Kim I'-Sung's wilder demands for a military solution to the division of Korea. The last thing the Russians wanted was a clash with either China or the United States, which would have diverted resources away from economic development and threatened the flow of Western technology and capital. Consequently the Russian leadership has moved to relieve tensions with China and has tacitly accepted the present division of Korea as more or less permanent.

These shifts have resulted in the downgrading of the relative importance of the North in Russian thinking. For example, in the early 1980s they were notably reluctant to supply North Korea with advanced MIG 23 fighters, and did so only in response to United States' introduction of F-16s into the South. This reassessment was reinforced by the financial burden to the Russians of supporting the North. Kim I'-Sung's attempts to build an "independent" economy had resulted in an efficient and aging heavy industrial base patterned after Stalin's programmes of the 1930s. The North today has a trade deficit of $465 million and has consistently failed to repay its loans, much to the irritation of some Western capitalists who are now exceedingly reluctant to extend financial or technological assistance. In pursuit of economic self-sufficiency. Kim I'-Sung has also refused to join COMECON and integrate the North more fully into the Russian empire. This has remained a constant source of tension. The Russians are already overextended economically with their commitments in Vietnam, Africa and Afghanistan and strategic returns from their investment in North Korea no longer seem worth the immense cost.

For both China and Russia ideological hostility towards South Korea clashes with the demands generated by the need for economic modernisation. As Marxists would expect, this contradiction is resolved by bringing the ideology into line with changing economic circumstances. The acceptance of South Korea's invitation to the 1988 Olympics is an important part of that process.
Andrew Thomas

Socialist Standard price increase (1988)

Party News from the May 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regret to have to inform readers that as from June 1988 the price of the Socialist Standard will be increased to 40 pence and the cost of an annual subscription will be increased to £6.50. This is the first price rise for five years. The Socialist Standard is still an excellent buy and we look forward to the continued support of readers and subscribers for our distinctive journal combining as it does hard-hitting commentary on politics, economics and current affairs with penetrating socialist analysis.

Sunlight. (1922)

From the December 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

You know, fellow-workers, that we live in a democratic age. The great ones of the earth walk without ceremony amongst men. You have perhaps heard, and in part believed, how the Prince of Wales at the Royal Garden Party did not wear, but merely carried his gloves ; how the Queen permitted two amateurs to take her photograph, and Prince George laughed at a Punch and Judy show. It may be, too, that at your annual beano you have rubbed shoulders with that aristocracy of wealth which, except at these hallowed seasons, you apprehend but dimly as the beneficent power that feeds, clothes, and shelters you —sometimes; have been privileged to return a respectful answer to a man-to-man query, and to cheer when the gentry departed in its car. But with all this I wonder if you quite realise how democratic we have grown? Do you know that several thousands of our brothers in toil, by the scheme of co-partnership which operates at Port Sunlight, are knit with both the plutocracy and the royal family—united in the exalted purpose of serving human need and a pressing need at that—soap! Well, they are.

“The Marquis of Carisbrooke” (the Star told us one evening), “eldest son of Princess Beatrice and cousin to the King, has joined the Board of Lever Brothers, Limited. . . It is not generally known that many members of the Royal Family have very substantial holdings in Lever Brothers.” Now then !

See what advantage there is in being born in the era of capitalism. Formerly you might as well have sought admission to the circle of seraphim as to the royal circle. There are records of such things, of course, but the terms were much harder: wounds, hunger, and more than a sporting chance of death. You remember Henry the Fifth’s words to his army :
  “For he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition.”
But nowadays, bless you, you have only to get a job at Port Sunlight, and you automatically become a partaker in glory, although, as our friend Uriah would say, “only a very ‘umble one.”

Oh, the ennobled ones appreciate the honour ! Indeed yes ; and some other things even more than the honour. For example, there was an enthusiastic meeting in July of the ‘umble partners of Lever Bros., to hear presented by Lord Leverhulme a new scheme of benefits intended to be introduced on October 1st. The arrangement, briefly, provides half-pay when there is no work, the same during four weeks of sickness or longer at the discretion of the company, and a free life insurance. And the Star, reporting, and rubbing its hands over the excellence of the scheme, declared: “Labour and capital together can produce the means for these and greater benefits if we can once eliminate the theory that they are antagonistic. Pulling together they could make the whole world one huge Port Sunlight.”

Be sure they could ! One slight alteration will render the Star quite correct. For “eliminate the theory” you must read “disguise the fact”; for the theory of the class-war has a way of realising itself in everyday experience. With this reservation, its truth is evident. Given the present great and potential greater productivity of labour; if the capitalist will only be a little patient for his dividends, and the worker will overcome his foolish prejudice against going on half-rations during sickness and slack trade, the thing is done. You can have a docile and industrious proletariat, a rich and unharassed master-class, an absence of trade disputes, a smoothly, running industrial machine; in short, an ideal capitalist world—a huge Port Sunlight.

And if that is what you want, fellow-workers, well and good. But—I wonder just why you should select for yourselves a life of labour and for your co-partners a life of ease: for yourselves a modest level of comfort and culture, for them the utmost of luxury: for you the cheap cap and the ready-made suit, for them the silk hat and the coronet. In what does Leverhulme or Carisbrooke differ from you? They look much like you; sleeker, perhaps, but not so handsome as many a workman at Port Sunlight. Can they be more brainy than the men who planned the factories and designed the plant? Put them down in the wilderness : could they any better than you preserve and provide for themselves? Only by virtue of one advantage do they enjoy the best of what the partnership produces: they are the owners of the factories, of the machines, of the product. Such a collaboration resembles that of the fox and the wolf. You recall the wolf’s daily chant? “Red Fox, get me something to eat, or I will eat you.” But the fox had an eye to his own interest. When the opportunity came he took it—and good-bye wolf; whereas Lord Leverhulme’s scheme, the Evening Standard tells us, was “enthusiastically adopted.” Ah, but the wolf was less wise than Leverhulme. Instead of “Get me something to eat or I will eat you,” he should have said: “Brother fox, little partner, to provide you with meals is the first aim of our enterprise. I am the director of it. Feed me well, therefore, that I may the better discharge my beneficent mission.” He might then have been able, like Leverhulme, to say: “I have always had the good fortune to be supported.”

Here the prince of soap, candles, margarine, fish, and several other things, may certainly congratulate himself: for without: the support of the employees of his many companies, he would stand no higher than they stand themselves. Their support it is that has lifted him above them, placed him in luxury and increased his power. “I was supported,” he tells us, “by a sweet lady who consented to be my wife . . . all through her life she supported me. I am now supported by my son and my colleagues on the board.”

Excellent, my lord: and you, your amiable wife, your son, and your colleagues (royalty included), have all been supported by whom? . . . The pillars of the glittering edifice are they from whose profitable labour your fortunes are drawn. Fifty years ago you were able to gather your father’s whole staff in the room above his grocery shop in Bolton. From that gathering to this at Port Sunlight in July last, your career is a business romance ; and what has been your rĂ´le in it all ? You have been the bringer together of human labour power and means of production: you have also been the appropriator of the product. To your employees you have allotted, first, the cost of their keep and reproduction, that you may have a plentiful supply of workers always at call; second, a fraction of your profits, that they may have an interest in keeping them high; and now such provisions as, making away to some extent with the insecurity of their modest livelihood, shall further bind them to you in content and loyalty. The first for your own sake you must do; for the two last the resulting high level of production amply recompenses you. In this you are the type of the far-seeing capitalist.

In so far as you have personally directed your concerns, you have done useful work, you have produced value: but you will not pretend that your fortune represents the value of your services alone. It has been built by the unpaid labour of those whom you employ. The worker may not blame you. So long as we leave the organisation of production in private hands, we can look for no other kind of co-partnership. But we are slowly learning that the “captain of industry” can do nothing which we cannot do better ourselves. A little while now, and “Sceptre and crown will tumble down,” and many an immaculate “topper” with them. When that day comes, my lord, directive genius will be used in the service of the people, and rewarded by the people, not allowed as yours is to-day, to reward itself. Make the most of your time !
A.


Blogger's Note:
I'm not sure why but I still just sign these articles as 'A.' (as they appeared in the Socialist Standard) when it is plainly obvious now that 'A.' was Alex Anderson. I do now have Anderson included in the labels and when I'm not such a lazy git, I will at some point go through all the 'A' articles and relabel/re-sign them as Alex Anderson. He should be properly remembered. 

Election Reflections. (1922)

From the December 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

The General Election is over and, according to the spokesmen of each party, everybody is satisfied—even Lloyd George is reported to have said that the result is as he expected. Curiously enough, in the “Daily Chronicle" (22/11/22) he contends that under proportional representation his group would have done better, and suggests that the question of representation is an important matter that should occupy the new Government. Strange he uttered no word of this in 1918 when a similar thing happened—he waited until it affected him adversely before he said anything on the subject.

The Coalition swept into victory with a large majority in 1918, and now with the swing of the pendulum the Coalition has been swept out of office.

It is the workers who have mainly accomplished this feat. They have done so because they lack the particular knowledge that would enable them to see how hollow are the pretensions of every candidate who put up, and how futile it is, from a working-class standpoint, to change Tweedledum for Tweedledee. As a matter of fact, the same party (Conservative) that had a majority in the last Parliament has the majority in the new, but they have now knocked the word “Coalition” out of their title—that is the essential difference ! As we pointed out in our election manifesto, the change of Government was an excuse to make certain changes of policy more suitable to the Imperialists who control affairs. 

According to the returns over 13,000,000 people voted in this election ; that is, over 3,000,000 more than in 1918.

As in 1918, so now—the Liberals endeavour to cover their sweeping defeat by claiming that under proportional representation their figures would have been higher. There is no guarantee that such would be the case, as under proportional representation all parties would be represented in each constituency, which might alter the whole complexion of affairs in almost any direction. There was no Socialist candidate put forward in this election, but still, as in 1918, we can claim some consolation prizes.

For example: Dundee has given Winsome Winston the noble order of the boot. In 1919 C. B. Stanton was hoping for “the resumption of the pre-war Royal Garden Parties where their Majesties met members of the House of Commons.” Now, alas! his luck was out and so is he (although he ran as a Liberal against Labour)—no more Royal Garden Parties for him for awhile.

Havelock Wilson is another “failure,” as South Shields turned him down. Colonel Claude Lowther, some time Chairman of the Anti-Socialist Union, got less than a third of the votes at Carlisle and also failed to get in.

Lieut.-Col. John Ward and the Rt. Hon. G. H. Roberts have risen to the distinguished position of running as Liberals against their former Labour associates.

That celebrated strike seller, emigration and military tout, Ben Tillett, squeezed in by a majority of 19 (a minority of the total poll) at Salford, and a chip of the same block, Dan Irving, “worked the oracle” again at Burnley. Bill Thorne also turns up once more.

The voting in the elections was roughly as follows :—
Conservatives    5,500,000
Liberals              4,000,000
Labour               4,250,000
Other Parties        400,000 odd
In other words, 13½ million people voted against Socialism the other day in this country, and many hundred thousands were too indifferent and apathetic to vote at all ! And yet there are people who lately waited on the tiptoe of expectancy for revolution to stalk abroad in the land at any moment.

The Labour Party is jubilant over their large return of 142 members. How was it obtained? A glance at the list of members returned on the Labour programme reveals how very respectable the Labour Party has become. K.C.s, Rt. Hons., clergymen. Army officers, doctors, and other professional place hunters, together with landowners and successful business men, figure in the list.

The entrance of the lawyers is highly significant. They are usually found where there is a promise of plums, and their support of the Labour Party’s policy suggests that this policy promises to be fruitful— with a particular brand of plums !

It is worth noting, in passing, that over fifty Labour candidates were returned by a minority of the poll in three-cornered contests, so that the majority of their constituents are not in favour of such candidates. It is also worthy of note that Labour candidates received a considerable amount of Liberal support. The “Daily News” advised its supporters to vote Labour where there was no Independent Liberal, and backed in particular such candidates as H. Gosling, Emil Davies, and Holford Knight. A further point is that in this election the Labour Party put forward far more candidates than ever before.

When these points are weighed along with the increased vote at the election, and the nondescript nature of the Labour candidates, it takes some of the edge off “Labour’s Victory.”

The Liberals find such a similarity of outlook between themselves and the Labour Party that they can forget their own wounds in rejoicing over the “success” of Labour. For instance :—
  “There will undoubtedly be a real Parliamentary Opposition in the new House, for both Labour and the Liberals have secured the return of many of those leaders whose exclusion robbed the last House of distinction.”—Daily News, 17/11/22.
These “leaders” who have returned to adorn the House of Commons include Ramsay MacDonald (who supported the War) and Philip Snowden (who justified the use of military in strikes).

The Labour Party were determined to have these “adornments” replaced, so they scoured the country for “safe” constituencies. Blackburn, Leicester, and Woolwich were cold-shouldered and Glamorgan and Colne Valley “honoured” by the choice. The “New Leader” (17/11/22) states : “My first day in Colne Valley convinced me that here Philip Snowden had found the right constituency.” Yet although Snowden and MacDonald were returned in each case, they only succeeded in obtaining a minority of the poll. Further down the author of the above quotation makes the following illuminating statement: “I had the relative satisfaction, in the absence of any Labour candidate, of voting for a Liberal woman who opposed two particularly unsympathetic Tories.” The dear, sympathetic fellow ! This further illustrates how short is the step between Labour and Liberal.

Finally the “Observer” (19/11/22) very shrewdly summed up the position as follows :—
  “In summary, it may be said that the Labour Party has at last become national as distinct from class. And one may sleep comfortably in ones bed because the moderate reformers enormously outnumber those who would raze the social structure to its foundations.”
The “Observer” is quite correct. The capitalist class have little to fear and the working class little to gain by the return of the “Labour men” ; the past records of many of them are convincing enough on this point.

There is one important fact, however, to which we must draw attention in connection with the large “Labour” poll. The Labour Party put forward over 400 candidates, out of which 142 were elected. Of the number elected 72 were for seats gained. A glance over the list of places where seats have been gained would reveal the fact that they are just those places where a strong industrialist propaganda (propaganda against participation in Parliament) has been carried on, and where the disastrous effects of “direct action” have been experienced. For example: Aberavon, Merthyr Tydvil (2), Swansea, Neath, Abertillery—all in the South Wales coal area, the beloved “red” area of the Communists. In Durham, out of 11 constituencies the Labour Party gained 7, held 3, and lost 1! Accrington, Newcastle, Rutherglen (Lanark), Wallsend, and Whitehaven are other illustrations of Labour gains in coal areas.

Taking these facts along with the further fact that over 70 per cent. of those on the register voted, some idea will be obtained of how the pendulum is swung back from “direct action” to constitutional action.

In the case of W. Adamson, G. H. Hirst, G. Barker and T. W. Grundy, the other parties combined to make them a present of their seat. This is particularly significant in the case of G. Barker (a pet of the Communists and Plebs leaders), who played a part in the miners’ betrayal last year.

The Communists put up two candidates (W. Gallagher and J. T. Walton Newbold) officially, two others were put up in disguise (J. Vaughan and Walter Windsor), one was put up by the unemployed, of which they did not hear until afterwards (Geddes), and they backed another (S. Saklatvala), who was not a member of their Party. It will be interesting to observe the “State machinery smashing efforts” of their only successful candidate, Walton Newbold.

The Moulders of Public Opinion. (1922)

Pamphlet Review from the December 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

Observant readers, who are not aware of the forces behind the Press, must have often wondered why the same company will sometimes run Liberal and Tory papers or, more significant still, why the same paper will at one time support one party and at another time support the opponents of that party. An important array of facts and figures explaining these and many other apparently bewildering actions of popular daily and weekly papers, is given in the exceedingly useful pamphlet issued by The Labour Research Department, 162, Buckingham Palace Road, under the terse title of “The Press.” Why one set of papers will change with every alteration of the political weathercock—except when they change oftener—while another set remain steadfast to a given policy year in and year out, is explained here in the cold, calculating terms of finance and figures. Altogether this excellent publication, at the price of 6d., is well worth the study of every worker, whether man or woman.

"What We Want and Why." (1922)


Book Review from the December 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

The above is the title of an attempt on the part of six leading lights of the Trade Union world to hide their lack of any common definite object, save that of misleading the workers from the road to emancipation. We are obliged to tell the publishers [Collins] frankly that they have issued a rather expensive 7s. 6d. article. None of the contributors are particularly clear as to what they want, while as to why they want it, they are vaguer still.

The ambitions of Mr. J. H. Thomas would, apparently, be satisfied with an efficient railway service, to be secured, presumably, by “nationalisation.” He is very keen on convincing his readers that he is not out for “aggression.” “Peace and economy” are his watchwords. The interests of the railway servants take second place with him, even if they can be said to have a place at all. He shows the waste going on under such relics of the competitive system as exist, but fails to show how the elimination of that waste would assist the employee ; and keeps dark the fact that economy under capitalism simply means getting the same amount of work done with fewer men. The concentration of the railways in the hands of a capitalist State is only a means to the accomplishment of that end. For this reason it is somewhat difficult to follow Mr. Thomas when he asserts that, “with State ownership we could see a possibility of improving the general condition of the worker” (p. 17). As he himself points out (p. 24), where State ownership exists, as in several countries on the Continent, the chief beneficiaries are the business firms who obtain concessions.

Mr. Thomas attaches very great importance to the machinery of conciliation between the workers and the bosses, yet on page 26 we are told that “no machinery can have the slightest value unless it is operated with good-will on the part of both interests.” Why should good-will obtain between parties whose interests are diametrically opposed to one another? To that question Mr. Thomas provides no answer.

He shows that the workers by strict observance of the companies’ rules could practically “stop the service” (p. 28), but “I should personally never favour such action.” He leaves it to his colleague Bromley to point out that the companies are not so squeamish. They have no hesitation in using their rules to send a man to prison if it suits their purpose (p. 176). It is the old story. The workers are advised to be peaceful and to leave their case to their leaders what time the bosses do as they like. And this is the gentleman who poses, and is accepted by the workers, as their champion !

Robert Williams, of the Transport Workers’ Federation, would have us believe that he is a Socialist, yet does not condescend in the space afforded by fifty pages to give us a clear definition of Socialism, nor any hint as to how it is to be brought about. He appears to be much more concerned to excuse and justify the treacherous activity of the leaders of the Triple Alliance, on the ground of trade depression and increasing unemployment. Although the workers were organised in much greater numbers than ever before, and he admits that the need for militancy was just as great as it ever had been, he pretends that the rout has been nothing more than an inevitable retreat carried out in an orderly manner. He fails to show that the real cause of the trouble has been the lack of understanding and mental solidarity on the part of the workers themselves; for which he, Robert Williams, and his colleagues are, in view of their opportunities, largely responsible by default. Williams advances some timid criticism of the Labour Party’s association with the Coalition during the war, and attributes their defeat at the General Election (1918) to this cause. The logical process by which he arrives at this conclusion is somewhat obscure. In any case, the Labour Party’s policy from the date of its inception has never been guided by any intelligible principle, so that Mr. Williams has only himself to blame if he has been disappointed in it. If he really wanted Socialism he would abandon the Labour Party to its inevitable fate, dishonour and disruption !

Tom Mann, in “The Case for the Engineers,” provides a little variety, inasmuch as he makes some pretence at analysing the existing order and offering an alternative ; yet here, again, the alternative is not defined with any degree of clarity. “Economic change” is mentioned, but its precise character is not stated; while as to the means whereby it is to be accomplished, we are referred vaguely to “industrial action.”

“The Politicians,” by whom, presumably, Mann means the Labour Party, are superficially criticised. Their faith in Parliament and constitutional methods is attacked, but their political treachery and duplicity are not mentioned. Mann appears to be utterly oblivious of the fact that Parliament controls the armed forces of the nation and is not likely to stand meekly by while the “men in the workshop” do as they like. The political machine is the only means whereby the workers can give public and effective expression to any common aim and purpose which they may develop as a class. For that reason the Socialist advocates its use. To leave it in the hands of the masters is sheer criminal stupidity !

Coming back to the engineers, Mann endeavours to illustrate the power of industrial action by instancing the hopelessness of asking for a rise in wages from Parliament. He fails to see that the same workers who are asking for a rise have sent their enemies to the seat of government. Are people in such a mental condition ready to emancipate themselves by any action, industrial or otherwise? Further, how can struggles on the industrial field over wages, hours, etc., lead to freedom from wage-slavery? Mann appears to hold that the industrial organisations will gradually assume control of the worshops and pay all wages, etc. Are the masters, therefore, going to surrender their profits. And, if not, what advantage will the worker obtain by drawing the price of slavery through his branch secretary?

Real control centres in the possession of the means of production, and the fight for that possession must take the form of political action. Capitalist property will exist just so long as the capitalist class are left in control of forces which protect that property.

Mr. Noah Ablett illustrates from details of his own experiences the destructive conditions under which the miners toil. When, however, he deals with remedies he becomes extremely confused. He condemns private ownership on account of the antagonism of interests which it involves, and yet advocates a programme of reforms which will become meaningless as soon as private ownership is dispensed with. One is thus driven to the conclusion that by the elimination of private ownership he simply means “nationalisation,” which, for reasons already stated, can offer no gain to the workers. In order to make this clearer, let us proceed to Mr. Bromley’s article.

Mr. Bromley covers much the same ground as J. H. Thomas, but gives a more definite description of what “nationalisation” amounts to. On pages 186-7 we read, “two unions very carefully drafted a Bill for the complete nationalisation of the railways. . . . It proposes the purchase of railways stocks and shares through the medium of Government Stock . . . charged on the State railway undertaking and the Consolidated Fund, which shall bear such a rate of interest as would enable it at the time of issue to be realised at par.” Thus “nationalisation” simply transforms the capitalists . . . concerned from shareholders in a private concern into Government Stock holders still living on the workers by means of the rate of interest !

Mrs. P. Snowden deals with the competition existing between the sexes in the working class. Her “ultimate ideal” is the “payment for work, irrespective of sex, of such a wage as no man or woman would be afraid or ashamed to accept” (p. 214). Albeit, she has previously pointed out that the existing “industrial system does not scruple to play off women against men in attempts to lessen the costs of production by reducing the wages bill” (p. 212). She wants the capitalist system minus one of its principal and essential features, the subsistence level of wages. Curiously enough, on page 261, discussing the necessity of finding work for an ever-increasing number of women, she says that “This can only be done satisfactorily when the social system of the present has given place to a new order, in which all the instruments of labour are in the hands of the community as a whole.” The force and significance of this admission do not appear to strike her, however, as she proceeds on the next page to propose all sorts of ameliorations in the worker’s lot without the slightest hint as to how they are to be accomplished. Further, she advocates the technical education of women and girls, apparently blind to the fact that hundreds of technically trained men are at the present moment searching in vain for a purchaser of their labour power. She fails to point out that the women, no less than the men, of the working class need to realise that they are slaves. This is the essential preliminary to any improvement.

So long as the capitalist class control the means of life, every economy and every improvement in the education, health, and technical ability of the workers, male and female, only results in their becoming more productive slaves. The fruits of their increased productivity go to the masters and not to themselves. This is the central fact ignored or obscured by these so-called leaders of labour.

Whether the workers follow the Labour Party “to nationalisation” plus reforms, or the Industrialist leaders to “workshop control” plus reforms, they are doomed to disappointment. The only road to emancipation is the conversion of the means of life into the property of the whole people. To this end we call upon the workers to organise consciously, and politically for the capture of the machinery of government.

Socialism, undiluted and unadulterated, is what the Socialist Party wants. As to why we want it, only look around you. Millions of willing producers are compelled to be idle while they need food, clothing, housing, etc., and the means exist ready to hand whereby they can produce them ! Generations of workers have put their faith in legislative reforms and strikes, but we are as far away as ever from economic security. 

The Social Revolution offers the only way out. Muster, then, under our banner, with a view to its speedy accomplishment.
Eric Boden

Election Manifesto. (1922)

From the November 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

When, in 1918, the “Hang-the-Kaiser— Make-Germany-Pay” Election was being fought, the S.P.G.B., in their Election Manifesto, warned the workers of the line the development of the then existing conditions would take, and the real reason for an election at that moment.

It was pointed out in the Manifesto that :—
  “While prices of necessaries are still rising thousands of munition workers are being discharged ; tens of thousands are working short time, and, according to Lord Curzon, “In a few weeks’ time there would be a million of people out of work.” And this is only the beginning. Further unemployment is bound to occur while such demobilization as will be carried out will add to the number vainly seeking work. Wages will fall as a result, though prices may remain up for some time, and poverty and misery will increase as a consequence throughout the land . . .

Before the deluded workers awake to a realisation of how they have been duped, despite their “victory” over Germany, the master class wish to be in possession of a “mandate” so that they can claim the allegiance of the armed forces should it be considered necessary to use these forces against the workers during troubles or disputes. “
The plan succeeded. The people “who made the mess” were returned “to clear it up.” They had, however, less trouble with the working class than some of them anticipated.

Weary of the war, and thankful for the relief of the Armistice, the workers accepted wage reductions and worse conditions with a minimum of protest. Wherever resistance was offered it was of a sectional, and often spasmodic, character, that the masters were able to defeat with comparative ease. It was not so much lack of will or courage to resist, as ignorance of the fundamentals of their class position, that was responsible for the attitude adopted, for the majority could see no way out at present, and little hope in the future.

Freed to some extent from fear of trouble at home, the sections of the capitalist class among the Allies found more time to fight out their quarrels over the spoils of the “Great Victory.” These quarrels reached a crisis in the Near East. Two sections of Imperialist financiers came to grips over the routes, areas and resources of the East. One section controlled the British Government, while the other section controlled the French Government. The situation, however, was somewhat awkward. Officially Britain and France were still Allies. It would be difficult openly to come to blows over the difference of interests in the booty, so each side put forward a “catspaw” for the purpose of pulling the chestnuts out of the fire. The British Government put forward the Greeks, while the French Government supported the Turks.

It would be sheer folly to imagine that the British Government had any regard for the Greeks’ “lawful aspirations” in Asia Minor, or the French Government any noble ideal of helping the Turks to their “freedom.” Only those ignorant of the workings of the capitalist system could imagine such a thing. Whichever side may be acclaimed the winner, it will find that it can only move, organise and govern as its paymasters decide. At the moment of writing the Greeks have been driven out of Asia Minor, and the British section of Imperialist financiers have suffered a setback. Of course, the people concerned keep in the background. It is not they who will be blamed for the expense and trouble in the East. As a matter of fact, they always keep in the background, and allow their tools and puppets to take such praise or blame as may be coming in any given crisis. More, they are quite indifferent as to the fate of these puppets, once they have served the turn required.

The Imperialist financiers have always crowds of job-hunters waiting to take office as soon as any particular occupant is turned out. In the present case, almost all the mouthpieces of the capitalist class are united in putting the blame for the shaky situa­tion in the East upon the shoulders of Lloyd George; but not one has whispered whose orders he obeyed when he made such “blunders.”

In December, 1918, we described the position Lloyd George occupied in the following words :—
  “Behind this mountebank marionette stands the Imperialist section of the Capitalist class, composed of both Liberals and Tories, who are striving to extend their dominion and power of robbing the working class over larger areas of the globe. It was to protect their interests that this country entered into the war. When two years ago the military situation looked serious for the Allies, this section looked for a more pliant tool to take charge of the Government. One was at hand possessing a glib tongue, always ready with large and extravagant promises, quite unscrupulous, and able to sway crowds with his claptrap. A dirty political shuffle took place and Lloyd George became Prime Minister.

  Of course, he wishes to retain the office. He wishes to pose as the head of the “Government that won the war,” and wishes to be at its head when it “Reconstructs the Empire.” . . .

Not his wishes, however, but the interests of the Imperialists, whose agent he is, demanded this Election. “
And, now, having failed to carry through their scheme successfully, Lloyd George is “sacked” with as little ceremony as an ordinary day labourer, by the Imperialist gang. He will be the “scapegoat” for the failure and will form a useful figure upon whom to put the blame, not only for the immediate trouble in the East, but also for the bad trade, unemployment, the chaotic exchanges—and the atmospheric storms that hindered the astronomers from making full observations to test Einstein’s theory !

The great advantage of such a “scape­goat,” is that the attention of the mass of the workers will be diverted from studying the facts of the situation, into dwelling upon personalities. Yet even the sacrificing of a notorious tool can hardly conceal the emptiness of the alternatives offered.

The Liberals are far from anxious to take office, as is shown by the statement of the Daily News for October 20th, 1922 :—
  “Whatever Government succeeded the Coalition could not but be an improvement, and in that one respect the events of yesterday are a matter for unreserved congratulation. “
While further on in the same article we are told : —
  “There are obviously the gravest possible reasons against an immediate General Election “
It is easy to see from these paragraphs that the Liberals would prefer to let the Tories handle the muddle that exists.

The Tories seem clear on only one point : That public expenditure on any “unnecessary” legislation and administration must be reduced or abolished. Thus the Daily Mail, October 23rd, 1922, says :—
  “The country is anxiously waiting to hear from him [Mr. Bonar Law] what relief it may expect from the heavy loads which the late Government has laid upon it. and from the anxieties in which recent divagations of policy have placed our country. “
The Daily Express, October 23rd, 1922, which claims to be independent and “bound to no party,” declares that it:—
  “Intends to support that Conservative Party during the course of the General Election and to recommend the electors to return it to power.“
Among the reasons given for this attitude we are told : —
  “Mr. Bonar Law can be trusted to pursue a safe and saving course at home as well as abroad. There would be an end of those ambitious schemes which cost millions, tax industry, depress credit and end in a financial fiasco.“
To prevent confusion, however, the same article hastens to remark :—
  “In saying this the Daily Express shows no hostility to Liberalism.“
And Mr. Bonar Law, himself, at the meeting of the Conservative Party that elected him leader, is reported as saying :—
  “What the country wanted was quiet and a reduction of our commitments, with little interference from legislation and administration” Evening Standard. 23/10/22.
But Bonar Law is no less a tool than Lloyd George. The Imperialist gang will give him orders as to their requirements, and he must take those orders or go. Already some of those orders are beginning to be formulated in such a way that even the man in the street can see their trend.

Thus the Observer, October 22nd, 1922, under the heading “Russia Still the Acid Test,” says :—
  “British policy ought to throw the whole weight of its influence into the scales in favour of full Russian participation. If we do that our policy will prosper. It will never look back in the sphere of foreign affairs either East or West.

   Incidentally, the commercial cause of agreements, like the Urquhart Concession, would be promoted to the gain of employment. Otherwise, economic chances still open to ourselves would be transferred to foreign powers.

  If the new Government did not resolve to settle fully with Russia, that issue would soon play its big part in sweeping them out. We desire to put that warning on record.“
On the same page it is also stated that :—
  “Henceforth our only substantial security for any legitimate British interest connected with the Straits is friendship with Turkey and with other nations.”
These points are supported by the Daily Mail, Daily News, Daily Express, Evening Standard, etc.

Here, then, the instructions are beyond doubt. Commercial relations with the East must be established, full and soon, to pre­vent British oil and shipping interests being beaten by the Americans and Japanese. A General Election will afford a good means of introducing this change of policy and of getting rid of a tool who has failed to carry out their orders as they wished.

So an Election is arranged for November 15th. The Tories put forward the pro­gramme referred to above. The Liberal Party make numerous promises as usual, and vaguely refer to “Liberal Principles” without running the risk of defining them. The Labour Party promise to show the people how to save money by spending it, for in their official programme they say :—
  “Labour attaches the utmost importance to economy in the public administration. But we do not believe in starving the public services.”—Daily Herald, 26/10/22.
Especially those that have provided so many jobs for Labour Leaders. Another staggeringly original statement is :—
  “Unemployment and low wages, caused largely by the policy of the Liberal and Unionist Government, have brought distress to the bulk of the working people.“—Ibid.
Had such “unemployment and low wages” been caused by the policy of a Labour Party, are we to assume there would have been no “distress?” One of their remedies for unemployment is “the national organisation of production,” but they attach “the utmost importance to economy in the public administration.” National organisation of industry should certainly be more economical—that is carried on by fewer workers per unit of service—than organisation by private individuals. So the remedy for unemployment is to reduce the number at work by “national organisation !” Seems to be a catch somewhere ?

All of them, however, are united in condemning Lloyd George. In this they are assisted by the Communist Party, who, with their usual blindness to facts and their ignorance of the real forces moving in Society, follow the capitalist press in placing responsibility upon Lloyd George. In the Communist (September 30th, 1922), is a certain cartoon on the front page wherein the workers are advised to ”Dump Him,” and on the centre page we are told “David must sweat for this.” In their issue of October 14th, 1922, a displayed paragraph warns us to “Watch Lloyd George,” and we are told :—
  “His one hope of saving his position, his place, and his emoluments is a war.“
Five days later this terrible, powerful person, who could “make war,” is tumbled out of his job neck and crop.

To-day, Lloyd George is trying to gather around him the remnants of his scattered crew to form a “Party” that, unhampered by any fixed principles or programme, will hold itself free to support or oppose any Government or Cabinet, till it can once more, it hopes, secure recognition from the chiefs of the capitalist class. One of his most rabid supporters—J. I.. Garvin—pro­mises him this recognition, with greater power than ever, if he will only wait a few years. But a flare fire wants continual re­plenishing, and a very few years would see the slimy Welshman snuffed out of political life.

Whichever Party contesting this Election obtains a majority, it will leave the workers in their present state. The unemployment, want, hardship, and insecurity of existence that afflict the workers in all capitalist coun­tries, will not be abolished either by war with Turkey or peace with Russia; by changing Lloyd George for Bonar Law or A. Henderson ; by voting for Tory candi­dates instead of Coalition ones; or for Labour candidates instead of either.

Because these things are not the CAUSE of the workers’ misery. That cause is the private ownership of the means of life. Under capitalism the master class owns the raw materials, the means of transport, the machinery and factories requisite for wealth production. As a result they own the wealth that is produced. Hence the workers are a propertyless class, and can only live by permission of the capitalists. To put it shortly, they are SLAVES to the owning class.

This is the crucial test. Liberal, Tory, Coalition, or Labour Parties all stand for the retention of capitalism—therefore, for the continuance of the slavery of the workers. With the developments in machinery and the increasing applications of science to industry, with the elimination of competition by the further formation of Trusts and Combines, the effective demands of the world’s markets are met with a constantly decreasing number of workers employed to produce a given amount of wealth. Hence, apart from temporary fluctuations, unemployment is bound to in­ crease.

Peace in the East, business with Russia, cannot result in more than a temporary fillip to trade compared with the world’s production. Reduction of taxation is of no concern at all to the workers. The only solution to their troubles is the abolition of the cause—the private ownership of the means of life. Until they decide to carry this abolition through, their position as a whole is bound to grow worse by the operation of the factors given above.

To abolish their slavery; to establish the common ownership and control of the means of wealth production and distribution, the workers must first seize the governing machinery of society. This is the political machinery, with its centre in Parliament.

At any General Election the workers can do this, because they have the vast majority of the votes. But behind the vote is needed knowledge. Only when the majority of the workers understand they are slaves will they be in the position to end their subjection. Until then they will remain slaves.

In this election how few are the workers who understand their class position is shown by the fact that not a single Socialist candidate will be seeking election.

This will not prevent those desiring Socialism from voting for it. They can go to the polls, write Socialism across the ballot paper, and thus add their quota to the factors making for working class en­lightenment.

When a sufficient number are enlightened then we shall see the workers organise into the Socialist Party, putting forward their delegates and voting them into Parliament. With this control they will be able to enter into possession of the means of life, and end not only wars, Eastern or Western, but abolish the misery and hardship of the pre­sent system, and replace by the system that will secure comfort and happiness to all— namely, SOCIALISM.

Executive Committee.
Socialist Party of Great Britain,
October, 1922.