Tuesday, May 11, 2021

At Home and Abroad . . . (1971)

The Home and Abroad Column from the June 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

At Home

One of the enduring fallacies of capitalism is that the troubles of the world can be attributed to overpopulation. There are plenty of statistics which give some superficial support to this notion, figures which show an increase in people and which the “experts” (and sometimes the not-so-expert) can use to prove that if something is not done soon we shall all be suffocated under one vast pile of squirming humanity.

The suggestion that a Ministry of Population be set up was tailored to play up to this fallacy. The leader writers had their fun, with predictable forecasts that we are drawing nearer 1984. They all missed the point, which is that the modern world is capable of supporting many times its present population but is prevented from doing so by the insane organisation of capitalism.

It is not overpopulation which destroys wealth while millions are starving; which stops the production of building materials while there is a desperate housing problem; which puts people out of employment while there is a crying need for more, not less, wealth. These contradictions arise directly from the basic nature of capitalist society; they conform to its essential needs.

A new, separate ministry will not affect those problems but it will probably persuade enough voters that solutions are in the offing to make it, from the point of view of the politicians, worth while.


Part of the massive swing of the electoral pendulum which gave the Labour Party so many seats in the local elections can be put down to the fact that they were reversing many of the freak results which came out of the lowest days of the Wilson government and which cost them councils they should never lose. This time, for good measure they had their freak wins—in London, for example, they won Merton and Bexley. These results indicate a heavy dissatisfaction with the Heath government and it is fair to wonder why this should have happened at this time.

Heath won power (and there is nothing new in this) on the discrediting of the Labour Party and some empty promises to tackle the problems which capitalism is currently visiting upon the British worker. Of course they are failing in this aim—did any government ever succeed? Yet so far the government have followed their stated intentions fairly closely and, politicians though they are, they might be feeling aggrieved at the speed with which the voters have turned upon them. Or did they too fall for their own propaganda and believe that they would end up governing for ever ?

Meanwhile, across the benches, there were more stories of plots to unseat Wilson as Labour’s leader. These intrigues are never ending in their fatuity but are the stuff of politics, especially left wing politics. The plotters are angry at Wilson’s handling of the party’s affairs, particularly of his timing of the election. That, of course, is the nub of the matter; they judge their leader in terms of how successful they are at the polls, how successful he is at deceiving the working class and gathering in the votes.

If they win and the leader is thrown out, what happens? another takes his place and the whole wearisome business must start again—the deception, the promises, the tactics, all with the object of perpetuating the capitalist system on the uninformed votes of the workers.

Perhaps the plotters, who must get a lot of excitement from their dramatic comings and goings, think that all of this is worthwhile. If so, they might spare time to look around at the world, at the poverty, the fear, the destruction, and congratulate themselves at playing a part in keeping the whole sordid mess going.


The negotiations for Britain’s entry into the Common Market were said to be going well. After “our” representatives had nobly exhausted themselves in a bargaining battle which had gone on into the small hours they emerged proclaiming success. By that they meant that the many conflicting interests of the powers involved had been managed into a compromise. The underlying conflicts are still there and will not be removed by joining the Common Market, which is itself full of disputes between the member capitalist nations. That is the extent of the “success” of Rippon and his team.

Any worker who takes sides in the great Common Market controversy should ask himself what it matters to him and to other members of his class. Such trading arrangements are only an attempt to mollify — in other words an expression of — the basic anarchic conflicts of capitalism. Workers’ problems will only end when the cause of these conflicts ends; to solve the anarchy of capitalism we must abolish the system itself and entire.

Any doubts on the conflicts, or on their craziness, must have been dented by the news of Europe’s latest currency crisis, this time involving the German Mark. This time, the financial experts told us, the trouble was that the Mark was too strong; it used to be that the pound was too weak. We were all invited to take an interest in the price movements of the currency, as if such events had ever had the slightest effect upon working class fortunes. The German workers were told that they must suffer for this "strong” currency and tighten their belts. As the song says, it’s the poor what gets the pain.

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