Wednesday, February 3, 2021

A danger light on the horizon (1944)

Editorial from the February 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

After each major war there has been a period of discontent and upheaval. In the wake of the last war there came a spark that travelled round the world— Bolshevism. From whence will the spark come after this war? For assuredly there will be a centre of extreme foment. The possibilities appear to be France, Spain, the Balkans and India.

Austria is unlikely to be the source of immediate explosions as it is too closely bound up with Germany. Poland is suffering from expectancy and is not sufficiently closely knit. Italy has been suppressed and dragooned too long to provide any important uprising in a hurry. Russia is at present satisfied. Finland, Norway, Denmark and Holland are too small to give birth to anything world-shaking. England and America are unlikely, as victors, to breed immediate trouble on a large scale as turmoil comes first from the vanquished and suffering where the pressure quickens the mind and incites the emotions to the verge of explosion.

Of the four possibles, the Balkans are so split up with internecine strife that they do not appear capable of setting on foot anything important. India is likely to be both victorious and vanquished. It has possibilities, it is true, but its backwardness may be a hindrance. Spain, like the Balkans, has serious internal strife that was shown up clearly during the Spanish Civil War. It hardly seems capable at present of developing a unified movement though it may produce turmoil. There remains France, which, on many grounds, seems the most likely to produce the spark with international reflections. It is populous, advanced, widespread, vanquished, has suffered much and its emotions have been stirred by underground movements whose fighting content have been workers. It is seething with trouble, and the attempt of an emigre government to fasten the old conditions on the country will probably lead to explosions, the resort to force, and another chimerical panacea for the troubles of the world's workers.

If the workers would escape the futile and time-wasting expenditure of energy that brought so much bitterness And disillusion after the last war, they must be wary this time and give no uncritical support to leader sponsored emotional upsurges that have already cost them so much and put back the clock of working-class emancipation.

More nonsense on Marx (1944)

Book Review from the February 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard 

To the Finland Station, by Edmund Wilson (Secker A Warburg.)

Of the making of books on Karl Marx there is no end! It has become almost a business. And yet, despite this deluge of books, there is seldom anything worth reading. Few, indeed, of these pretentious authors have done more than skim through Marx's work, and their learned observations, in the main, are based on a study of the simplified and more readable “versions" of certain alleged authorities. When Marx’s works first appeared they were ignored by capitalist circles, but later on, when this silence could no longer be preserved without some embarrassment, they vented upon him all the calumny and abuse of which they were capable. Since then he has been made to suffer from every possible kind of misrepresentation. Thanks to the efforts of Labour socialites and "left-wing" literary gentlemen, Karl Marx has become almost persona grata to the “cultured" section of the capitalists. He is no longer abused; he is even praised. Edmund Wilson in his book, “To the Finland Station," is most certainly generous with his compliments, but one feels that praise given to Marx by people who do not understand or distort bis work means absolutely nothing. As a serious effort in exposition of Marxist ideas this book is utterly useless. One does not really know whether Mr. Wilson is trying to write a novel, a badly jumbled biography, or a study of scientific interest. Seemingly he attempts everything, and succeeds at nothing. He does not even trouble to make his own Aunt Sallies; he borrows them from Max Eastman. In fact, the whole book is nothing more than an elaborate piece of bluff. Here are some of the chapter headings: “Karl Marx: Prometheus and Lucifer," "Karl Marx Decides to Change the .World," “Myth of the Dialectic," "Karl Marx: Poet of Commodities and Dictator of the Proletariat." . . . Could Tod Slaughter do better?

Throughout the whole book there is a subtle and insinuating disparagement of Mark, his character and his work. On page 165 there is a particularly vicious sentence: "nor was he able to refrain for long from reminding self-educated thinkers who had lifted themselves out of the lower classes, as Proudhon and Weitling had done, that they were not doctors of philosophy like himself. . . ."

On page 311 he says, with reference to "Das Capital": "Thus, in attacking the industrial system, he is at the same time declaring his own tribulations, calling the heavens— that is, history—to witness that he is a just man wronged, and damning the hypocritical scoundrel who compels others to slave and suffer for him. . . ." There follows a string of purple quotations from various works for the purpose of proving that Marx’s criticisms of capitalist society were inspired by ill-health, poverty and carbuncles.

Says Mr. Wilson, "If we isolate the images in Marx— which are so powerful and vivid in themselves that they can sometimes persuade us to forget his lack of realistic observation and almost produce the illusion of a visible and tangible experience—if we isolate and examine these images, we can see through to the inner obsessions at the heart of the world vision of Marx." (Page 312.)

But further back, on page 151, when he feels like giving Marx a pat on the back, he remarks, “he had a character that could not be sidetracked by the threats or baits of bourgeois society."

So this man who could not be sidetracked by the baits of bourgeois society, who surrendered the rewards of a comfortable career in the law courts or the universities to keep his intellectual freedom, this man is also declaring his own tribulations to high heavens in a scientific work on political economy! It would have been more appropriate if Mr. Wilson, instead of making fantastic excursions into the realms of psychology, got down to the hard job (for him) of examining the objective import of Marx's writings. Whatever physiological or psychological reasons may explain a man's work, they cannot invalidate his ideas. Mr. Wilson admits this, nevertheless he spends many pages (half the book probably) on futile and boring "psycho analysis."

He keeps producing time-worn criticisms of Marxian theories, all of which have been thoroughly gone into by Engels, Hyndman and others, with the triumphant mien of a conjurer who is going to bring a couple of lions out of his hat. His method is to give these anti-Marxist criticisms in detail, but he takes good care not to give a full and comprehensive Marxist refutation. What he really does is to provide an unopposed platform for anti-Marxist critics, and he does it with the pose of an earnest and impartial seeker of the truth.

It is easy to see that Mr. Wilson has a rather untidy mind. There are too many bits and pieces flying round bis book. He starts on one subject and then drifts on to another before the first one is settled. The impression one gets of the book as a whole is a picture of complete mental chaos.

Mr. Wilson is so naive that it is sometimes astonishing. In the chapter, Marx—Poet of Commodities, he says : “On the one hand. Marx is telling yon in Das Capital that a certain historic development, indispensable for the progress of the race, could only have been carried out by capitalism; and, on the other hand, he is filling you with fury against the wickedness of the people who performed it.” (P. 293.)

To begin with, Marx did not set out to fill his readers with "fury" at the “wickedness" of the capitalists. He regarded them as a product of social evolution. Nor were they more "wicked" than the workers were more "good.” Quite obviously, they can only live one way, the capitalist way—on the profits made by exploiting the workers. It is true that Marx described the poverty of the workers with lavish detail, but he did this in order to establish the existance of their poverty as a FACT. In answer to the men who said that capitalism could be reformed in the interests of the working class, he showed that with every advance in industry there must be a relative deterioration in the workers' position. The real point at issue is not so much that the workers are poor, but that they have to keep poor as long as capitalism exists.

For example, Mr. Wilson says (page 321): "Here in the United States, our social groupings are mainly based on money, and the money is always changing hands so rapidly that the class lines cannot get cut very deep.”

What piffling rubbish! In America, the concentration of wealth is simply staggering. How the Morgans, Rockefellers and Mellons must be trembling at the fear of losing their money! . . . Yes, it is true that money changes hands, but it very seldom gets into the hands of workers in any quantity. Indeed, why shouldn't Marx stress the hopelessness of working-class life if Mr. Wilson himself is seemingly oblivious?

Elsewhere, in dealing with Value, he says (page 296): "Thus the value that was supposed to be derived from labour appeared as a purely abstract conception which had nothing to do with prices and relative profits, and which indeed exhibited a character almost mystical inasmuch as it was an essence inhering only in farm and factory labour. ... In order to prove that this value of labour had any objective reality, it would have been necessary to show that the total profit realised at a given moment was equal to that part of the combined prices on the market of the total amount of goods produced which was appropriated by the manufacturer after he had paid his workers—a calculation that Marx never attempted."

Really, he might just as well have invited Marx to stand on his head or climb the Eiffel Tower. It would have proved just as much. What the manufacturer appropriates after he has paid his workers represents only a portion of the value of the goods. Some of the surplus value finds its way to merchants, agents, exporters, etc.

As Mr. Wilson appears to understand little or nothing about Value, a simple lesson might do him some good. Commodities, as we know, are goods produced for sale at various and varying prices. The question that Marx set out to solve was, what determines the rate or proportion in which they exchange? He showed how their value is determined by the socially necessary labour embodied in their production.

We can see that commodities, whatever the different uses they perform, have one very important quality in common— labour. Labour, therefore, is their common denominator. But sooner than admit that labour is the source of value, the economists point to demand as the determinant of value. Marx showed that the interplay of supply and demand merely causes prices to fluctuate, and that these fluctuations eventually cancel one another. The point about which the price of an article turns is not determined by supply and demand, but by its value. This value is not altered by supply and demand, though the price is: therefore price and value do hot always correspond—things may sell above or below their value. Even when goods sell permanently above their value or permanently below, labour-time is still the governing factor, as the capitalists show by their efforts to keep reducing it. Looking at the matter more closely, we can see that it is value that exercises a powerful influence upon demand. It is no mere whim which induces a hard-headed capitalist to part with £2,000 in exchange for a Rolls Royce car when he could buy a Ford car for a £100.

Whatever the subject he handles, whether economics, philosopby or history, Mr. Wilson betrays the same slip shod thinking. He is evidently convinced that the people who read his book are not likely to study Karl Marx for themselves. In a hundred and forty-nine pages on Lenin and Trotsky he tells you as much useful information about the Russian Revolution as you could learn from any popular Labour journal.

It would be difficult to give a systematised criticism of such a ribald mish-mash, but here are certain passages which effectively illustrate Mr. Wilson's abysmal ignorance of the subject he is trying to handle:—
Marx was incapable of imagining democracy . . . (p. 324).
. . . the government which Marx imagined for the welfare and elevation of mankind—though he sometimes spoke of democratic institutions inside the new dominant class—was an exclusive and relentless class despotism directed by high-minded big-wigs who had been able to rise above the classes, such as Engels and himself (p. 325).
He was closer than ho could ever have imagined to the imperialistic Germany he detested (p. 197).
Mr. Wilson seems very fond of using the word "imagine.” He, too, can imagine things

He is almost desperate in his effort to give the impression that Marx and Engels failed to reply adequately to their critics, but, strange to say, he nowhere exerts himself to prove why and how they failed. He says on page 337: "It is ironic and characteristic that Engels should in the end have been left holding the bag, as we say, for the two most questionable features of Marxism: the Dialectic and the Labour Theory of Value."

Well, we have been also holding the bag for quite a time, and, what's more, we are prepared to defend the contents against Mr. Wilson whenever he feels more qualified to touch them.

An insight into Mr. Wilson's mentality can be gathered by his remark on page 209: "In any case, there is no question at all that Marx's antipathy to writing for money was bound up with almost maniacal idealism."
Kaye.

“Local Boy Makes Good,” or “Alone He Did It” (1944)

Pamphlet Review from the February 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

A very great war produces, out of profound social tragedy, its mordant satirical humorists. This one is no exception; in addition to biting ironists of the Nat Gubbins school, "Yaffle," and others, we may now acclaim one Reginald Bishop as the wittiest cynic of the day. With elephantine solemnity, Mr. Bishop has turned out a little booklet on “Soviet Millionaires” ("Soviet Millionaires," Russia To-day, pamphlet, 2d.), in which he playfully pretends that he is "explaining" that they are the result of "the establishment of socialism in Russia in 1934 " (p. 12).

The result is the funniest piece of satirical writing since this war broke out. For this we thank him very much.

How to do it! Mr. Bishop chides those who are shocked to hear of millionaires in Russia, and "to whom the very word millionaires represents an evil influence in society." He points out that Russian millionaires are “only" rouble millionaires; they do not possess the equivalent of a million pounds sterling (p. 3). "But even were a rouble millionaire possessed of as much money as a sterling one, it would still not be anti-socialist . . . because in the Soviet Union tho millionaire has acquired his roubles by his own toil" (P- 3).

"In all countries the law smiles upon the acquisition of wealth/’ says he (p. 3). (Our italics.)

It all started when the Society for Cultural Relations with Russia published that troublesome little pamphlet reporting how a few rich farmers and priests had "presented" (or lent) millions of roubles to the Russian Government. “ One, Berdyebekov, was publicly acclaimed as a millionaire" (p. 4). "Perhaps it is easier to understand how Soviet millionaires are made by studying the career of Berdyebekov than by any amount of abstract and theoretical discussion" (p. 4).

Just as simple as that! Like those physical culture adverts before the war—"You, too, can have bulging biceps in 10 minutes; send 2s. 6d."

In the new "Bishop" version of the classical figure of bourgeois political economy—the imaginary single individual—the Robinson Crusoe, who, on his uninhabited isle, becomes a "self-made" man. That same "Robinson Crusoe’’ who is the butt of Karl Marx’s scornful lash in Vol. I of “Capital"—not that Mr. R. Bishop would know anything about that!

And our Soviet millionaire really started from nothing. He was "an agricultural labourer" (p. 4).

It is rather handy that we’re not having any nasty old "abstract," "theoretical" discussions, because on the next page (p. 5) "17 other Kayak farmers also made similar gifts"—that is, seventeen more millionaires have popped up in the same neighbourhood, “who twenty-five years ago were more poverty stricken than the Russians themselves" (p. 5).

However, we’ll stick to Millionaire No. 1—Berdyebekov. This is how he did it. "In 1929 his village organised one of the earliest collective farms in Kasakstan ” (our italics) (P.4). "They (he and his family) have been collective farmers for close on fourteen years " (p. 4).

“The family had worked hard; the farm is prosperous; the family has accumulated savings, entirely the fruit of their own labour’’ (p. 4).

But on the same page: “In part, this prosperity has been due to the work and initiative of the farmers themselves, and in part, too, to the enterprise of the Soviet State, which developed cotton growing in that territory to an enormous extent’’ (p. 4).

So you see, the "Revolution gave them the land," “the village organised the farm." and "the Soviet State developed cotton growing" (p. 4)—that is, the Government supplied machinery and equipment, transport, etc., produced by social labour of the Russian working class—but—the one million roubles is STILL the fruit of the millionaire and his family’s own labour—just like Henry Ford, Tommy Lipton, and Lord. Nuffield.

No wonder Joe Davies, the American Ambassador, liked it so much!

Mr. Bishop says the Berdyebekov family have been farmers (really cotton growers) "close on fourteen years." Let’s give ’em fifteen years and see how much they’ve accumulated per annum. One million divided by 15 years amounts to 66,000 per annum, which is nearly 200 times as much as the average wage of an industrial worker per annum. (3,447 roubles in 1938—Daily Worker, February 13. 1943.)

Mr. Bishop tells his readers that it is quite wrong to think that a class of rentiers is being created in Russia—because they have to lend their money to the Government on "hard" terms. These terms are that only one-third of their investment bears interest by way of lottery prizes—two-thirds is redeemed at face-value (p. 8). Interest at two per cent. is open to organisations only, that is, collective farms, etc. But citizen Berdyebekov is the "chairman" of a collective farm, and therefore controls funds invested by it. He also has personal investments to the tune of one million roubles. Mr. Bishop tells us that the number of subscribers to the State Loan has grown to 60 millions, the amount to 41,000 million roubles. Mr. Berdyebekov, our millionaire, may draw interest at 2 per cent, on 300,000 roubles', that is 6,000 roubles a year. What chance a Russian factory worker has of investing in Government stock on a wage of under 300 roubles a month may be well imagined.

But Mr. Bishop, gifted artist that he is, saves his piece-de-resistance to the grand finale: brushing aside as mere trifling chicken-feed the "misunderstandings’’ about lieutenants in the Russian Army getting 200 times as much as a private, and a colonel 400 times, "and so on for the higher grades’’ (p. 13) (maybe "Marshals" are millionaires!); you see: "it’s their careers" (p. 14). Yes, they’ve even got those in Russia, too, the "successful ones are entitled to more" (p. 14), just like home. Oh! and even a private in the Russian Army gets "free travel’’ (p. 13).

Why all this fuss about farmers, he says. "As is well known, the Bishops of the Orthodox Church . . . vied as to which could make the most generous contribution. But the contributions made by the Church dignitaries do not represent the only effort of the clergy ” (p. 10).

Stevanov, priest of the Moscow Church, donated his life savings (73,000 roubles) to the Defence Fund last year. He wrote to Stalin:
  "As a shepherd of souls I deeply mourn the fate of our brothers and sisters. ... I have deposited 73,000 roubles in cash at the State Bank ’’ (p. 11).
We must admit that Mr. Bishop has us there. After all, if a master cotton-grower can’t claim to have produced a million roubles worth of cotton by his own hands—who shall gainsay a "shepherd of souls’’ his 73,000 roubles. Perhaps he is a "Stakanovite" soul-saver, who has stepped up his output to world record heights during the war. Our "study’’ of the Soviet Millionaire does not seem to be very successful so far. Perhaps we’ve been studying the wrong book. Maybe if we leave the modern humourist Reginald Bishop—and turn to another satirical writer of the last century—who was sometimes "theoretical’’ and "abstract’’—Karl Marx, it might help.

In the "Handbook of Marxism" published by Mr. V. Gollancz, and edited by one of Mr. Bishop’s colleagues, Mr. Emile Burns, we read in an extract from Vol. I of "Capital" on page 376:
  "This primitive accumulation plays in Political Economy about the same part as original sin in theology. Adam bit the apple, and thereupon sin fell on the human race. Its origin is supposed to be explained when it is told as an anecdote of the past. In times long gone by there were two sorts of people; one the diligent, intelligent and above all frugal elite; the other lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living. The legend of theological original sin tells us certainly how man came to be condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow; but the history of economic original sin reveals to us that there are people to whom this is by no means essential. Never mind ! Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly though they have long ceased to work. Such insipid childishness is every day preached to ns in defence of property."
There was a man in Russia once, generally known by tho name of Lenin, who wrote a little booklet (abstract and theoretical) called "The Teachings of Karl Marx," wherein he quoted the following from Vol. Ill of "Capital":—
  "The transformation of rent in kind into money rent is not only necessarily accompanied, but even anticipated by the formation of a class of propertyless day labourers, who hire themselves for wages. During the period of their rise, when this new class appears but sporadically, the custom necessarily develops among the better situated tributary farmers of exploiting agricultural labourers for their own account, just as the wealthier serfs in feudal times used to employ serfs for their own benefit. In this way they gradually acquire the ability to accumulate a certain amount of wealth and to transform themselves even into future capitalists. The old self-employing possessors of the land thus gave rise among themselves to a nursery for capitalist tenants, whose development is conditioned upon the general development of capitalist production outside of the rural districts." (Handbook of Marxism," p. 58.)
Leu in said that this theory of Marx, "of the evolution of capitalism in agriculture," was of especial importance in its bearing on backward countries such as Russia” (p. 558, Handbook of Marxism). It might even apply to cotton growing in Kasakstan.

We agree with the Daily Worker, wherein Mr. W. Holmes averred that Reg Bishop has done very well in dealing with statements by "Hyde Park spotters," that in Russia to-day the social system is one based on wage-labour and capital. The "Hyde Park spouter" is the Socialist Party platform, and Mr. Bishop's pamphlet is so good that it can be confidently recommended to any political sap who still swallows the guff about Socialism in Russia
Horatio.

A Modern Fairy Tale: Palace in Blunderland (1944)

A Short Story from the February 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

Once upon a time there was. a strange world called Bluuderland. In this world there was a palace in which there lived Baron Butrich. He wore the most costly clothes, and adorned himself with bejewelled rings on his fat fingers, and a sparkling tie-pin in his expensive necktie. Neither by hand nor by brain did he toil, yet bags of gold he had in plenty. The choicest foods and rarest wines were served to him by an under-nourished man-servant. His pet dogs, too, were fed with the richest morsels.

Baron Butrich owned many large buildings in which were huge machines. He called these buildings his factories and boasted that he derived his many bags of gold from them.

But Baron Butrich told a lie when he said it was his factories and machines that brought his riches, for the machines were worked by hundreds of poor people who lived in small, old and crumbling houses, and it was really these people who made the Baron’s wealth.

These people had no bags of gold to buy the food they needed, and they would have starved, but Baron Butrich said to them:

"Come into my factory and work my machines, and make with them the costly clothes that my wife and I will wear. Make, too, the shoddy suits and dresses that will cover your thin bodies. Come and make the beautiful expensive toys that will amuse my children. Create, also, the cheap, trifling little gadgets with which your offspring will play. Come into my factory, and, from the pulp of rags, make the newspapers that will bear praise to me, and glorify the things that give me, Baron Butrich, my favoured place in this world. Do all this and 1 will give each.of you a piece of gold with which you will be able to buy bread to eat, clothes to wear, and will pay for the hire of a place to dwell in."

And to the poor there was nothing to do but go into Baron Butrich’s factory and make the many things that were needed by the Blunderian people. Only in that way could they get the money that would pay for their food, clothing and shelter.

So the poor went into the factory and worked the machines. Beautiful and costly raiment they created for the Baron and his wife; cheap and shoddy garments they made, too, and knew, as they were not rich enough to buy the sort of garb worn by the Butrich’s, that they were fated to wear these inferior clothes. Expensive and intricate toys they made for the Baron’s children; simple little gadgets for their own offspring.

Pulp was made into paper, which was turned into newspapers that told on their pages how rich and grand was this world of Blunderland.

For six days the poor worked in this way, and at the end of that time Baron Butrich said to them:

"You have worked for six days, and here are the pieces of gold I promised you—one piece for each person. Tomorrow you need not work m my factory, but the day after to-morrow come and work for me for another six days and I will give you another piece of gold.”

And the workers took home their pieces of gold and rejoiced that they could now buy food and clothing. But before they had bought all the things they needed they found that their money was spent. And so, to get the gold that buys these needs, the poor were forced to work in the factory for another six days.

So it went on, and priceless things were made for Baron Butrich, who called a small number of new workers to his side. And to these new workers he said:

“Sell these goods for me—sell them for as high a sum as you can get, and I will give each of you a piece of silver."

And the articles were sold, and Baron Butrich became richer and richer.

As for the workers, although they received their pieces of silver each week they did not get any richer, for the silver was gone by the time they had paid for their food, clothing and shelter. But these poor Blunderians were simple folk, and did not realise that nearly all of the great riches they made were being taken from them by the Baron.

Indeed, they praised and blessed Baron Butrich, who lay in his beautiful bed, and grew fatter and fatter.

And in the castle there were to be seen even richer carpets and costlier furniture, whilst an even greater number of jewels flashed upon the fingers of the Baron as he said to the Baroness:

“How lucky we are that the Blunderians are simple people. Let us reap a rich harvest from their toil, for one day they may discard their simplicity, and there will be nobody to make our wealth.”
F. Hawkins

A new way to cure strikes (1944)

From the February 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Dr. Sanderson-Wells says, “I am convinced that on a proper diet there would be no illness and no strikes or labour disputes after two generations.” (Star, 21 July, 1943.) He backs this up by quoting experiments at the Rockefeller Institution, where vitamin B deficiency was shown to lead to apathy, irritability and finally non co-operation.

He, of course, does not mean that workers are underfed under Capitalism, certainly not, but only that their otherwise "sufficient’’ food lacks vitamin B. 

Therefore, workers, when your master wishes to lower your wages, increase your hours or otherwise make your slavery more irksome, don’t enter into disputes and strikes; go out and buy vitamin B tablets and everything will be well. You will be happy and your boss will be happy. Then you can co-operate with him and perhaps suggest a further decrease in your wages.

If the claims for Carter’s little liver pills could be substantiated they would prove a useful adjunct. They are supposed to remove liverishness (a conveniently vague term covering causes that could not all be due to liver disease). It is claimed that they do not act as a mere purgative, but induce the flow of that two pints of bile necessary to clear the system, giving you a bright clear skin. ”It cures depression.” (How useful nowadays.)

It is doubtful whether the flow of bile would produce this result, but experiments on animals show that these pills "produce,” in the words of a contribution to the “British Medical Journal," September 25th, 1943, "no increase in bile flow.” If these claims are substantiated it would seem that the good effects of these pills are due purely to autosuggestion or the healthiness of mankind.

The "B.M.J.” states that this work points to a distant goal: the unbiased examination of all patent medicines and their claims.
Saul Lenton

The alternative to Thatcher (1983)

Editorial from the February 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard 

With each passing day the dominance of Margaret Thatcher over the British political scene grows wider and more powerful. To the surprise of many observers, she is proving vastly skilful at the disreputable trade of creating and using opportunities to monopolise the attentions of the news-seeking media. Her recent visit to the Falklands was an example; while she was there firing cannon, flirting with exultant soldiery and encouraging the Islanders, the other parties, for all the publicity they got, might not have existed.

On her return home, apart from one or two embarrassing facts such as the dole queues and the ever more stringent poverty of the increasing numbers of workers who rely on state handouts, she professed to be able to see nothing but sunny days ahead. She trumpeted the news that the official index says that prices now are not rising as fast as they were. Over many years of propaganda, from Labour and Tory governments, workers have been persuaded that the level of prices is a matter for their concern. A Prime Minister who can claim to have controlled prices is regarded as the leader of a successful government.

Thatcher's popularity rests on a reputation for putting things, and people, in their place. She overshadows the rest of her government, who are banished to boring conferences on the EEC regulations for potted geraniums or are left to squirm through potential scandals like the Franks Report and the police trying to execute the wrong man in a London street. She has put General Galtieri firmly in his place; he is now an ex-President with little honour to his name. She has brought the unions to heel, with even the coal miners shrinking from a fight at the cost of leaving their posturing President Scargill looking more ludicrous than before.

All of this, and much more, Thatcher achieves by a simple, well tried technique. She ignores any inconvenient reality and substitutes for it a fantasy cunningly fashioned to appeal to the distorted perceptions of the working class. This fantasy she then propagates, come what may, as the one rocklike, eternal truth which will save us all. In this way Thatcher assumes the image of a resolute leader who knows what is good for us and who cannot be swayed from what she knows is right. Thus she is able comfortably to revive the crasser sentiments of patriotism which many people thought had finally died, after a long decline, in the trenches of 1914/18. She is able to mislead workers whose acquaintance with history goes no further than skin deep that this is the new Elizabethan Age which was supposed to start in 1953 but is in train now that she is queen.

With the Labour Party in disarray and the SDP recovered from the excesses of their first flush of optimism, do we face the prospect of the Tories being in power for ever more? Thatcher haters can take heart; there have been many examples — Baldwin, Churchill, Macmillan. Wilson — of leaders who were once judged to be invincible but who were abruptly brought down. (It is an interesting side-fact that such leaders have a propensity for living a long time afterwards, to write their memoirs and act the Elder Statesman. Such physical toughness is demanded of top politicians; Thatcher all too apparently has it in good measure.)

The likelihood, then, is that if the Tories have their way the next election will be fought on the personalities of the respective leaders. Thatcher will be presented to us as the best Prime Minister in British history; the SDP are already puffing up the florid Roy Jenkins as the most successful Chancellor of the Exchequer since the war, which is probably as startling for Jenkins as for those who remember his spell at the Treasury; and the Labour Party will have to say that Foot is, well, perhaps the finest thinker in the history of Hampstead.

An election in that style — and we have not so much as caricatured what may well happen — would further obscure the fact that what is happening now in the world has historical and social roots and that beside that reality leaders count for very little. The problems of capitalism 1983, as ever, can be dealt with only by reference to, and an understanding of, those roots. In this, which in other words is a development of consciousness among the working class, leaders are unwanted and irrelevant. The superficial, day-to-day patch-up job on capitalism’s ailments which are the policies of these leaders and their parties is equally beside the point.

To look at the roots of the capitalism’s problems is to consider the case for something more fundamental and permanent than a party programme hashed up to win votes, or the plastic personality of some leader. It means to weigh up the case for the abolition of capitalism, for the dispossession of the ruling class and the substitution of socialism — the society of common ownership and democratic control of the means of life.

Socialism will be a democratic society in which everyone will have free — and therefore equal — access to the world’s wealth. The basis of common ownership of the means of production and distribution will nurture the roots of social relationships which are radically different from those we suffer under today. Socialism will be privilege free, its material and moral processes fashioned by human co-operation for the production of abundance.

That is the real alternative to the Iron Lady and to her surroundings — the sordid parliamentary sham fights, the insidious political campaigns, the slick media promotion of leaders as super-human or sub-human, according to taste. Socialism needs, and will have, an informed, conscious commitment on the part of the world’s working class before it can be established. And that will characterise its morality — one not of blind submission but conscious participation.

Running Commentary: Austerity for Spain (1983)

The Running Commentary column from the February 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Austerity for Spain

After France and Greece, Spain is the third Mediterranean country to elect a "socialist" government. Actually, of course, the new Spanish government under Felipe Gonzales is no more socialist than its predecessors. The PSOE, despite its name of Spanish Socialist Workers Party, is a reformist party which has been elected to run the affairs of Spanish capitalism; and it has already announced that it will do so in accordance with the economic logic of capitalism: profits for the capitalists, austerity for the workers.

A few days before he was appointed "super-Minister" for the Economy, Miguel Boyer revealed to the Madrid correspondent of Le Monde (27 November) precisely what the new government's approach was going to be. We reproduce his words without comment:
  There is no other solution for this country but to pursue a policy of austerity. To want an immediate reflation without first curing the economy and while the international situation is against us would only delay the reckoning and in a year oblige us to in the end take even more severe austerity measures. There will be no reactivation of the economy in Spain without wage moderation, without refloating enterprises and without giving priority to controlling inflation.
  Our priority is not to increase internal demand since we would only succeed in upsetting our balance of payments as the example of France has shown. We must first of all relaunch investment. then exports, and there is only one way to achieve this: the profits resulting from the increase in productivity must remain in the hands of the heads of enterprises so that they decide to invest. The workers, to begin with, will have to be satisfied with the maintaining of their purchasing power at its present level.

Unfair cops

Home Secretary Whitelaw and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Newman are supposed to be organising a police force to prevent public disorder so it is very embarrassing for them when a group of policemen irresponsibly shoot a man in the street. It is of course even more embarrassing for the policemen who fired the shots who may have been expecting the usual commendation for bravery for approaching a highly dangerous criminal if they had shot the “right" man.

The event has strengthened a number of dark suspicions, that the police in London are issued with guns too easily, which conditions them to use them too freely. The uproar which followed the shooting promises to rumble on for a long time. A number of prominent public figures are striving, in the name of our safety, to wring some advantage from it all. When it is over there may be some minor changes in some obscure regulations, which will be presented to us in triumph, as an insurance against it ever happening again.

So far, then, the debate has been off target. There have been demands for the police to be more efficient in catching criminals so that they gain more public confidence and therefore do their job even better. There have been, again, calls for the police to be more “accountable”. One Tory MP made himself unpopular by saying that the people attacked by the police were associated with crime, implying that perhaps it was all right to try to kill them after all.

The basic facts of the true function and role of the police have been passed over. They are there to protect the rights of private property; the man they set out to catch that day was wanted by them because, they said, he has committed some determined robberies and is, therefore, a personified threat to property rights.

In this job the police, as well as the other arms of the coercive state machine, will be as ruthless and as efficient as they need to be and are able to be. If this means that they must roam the streets with guns, then that is what they will do.

It is nonsense to demand that an organisation like that should be accountable to the very people they are in business to repress. Property rights need not be protected against the ruling class, since they possess them already; it is the dispossessed working class who must be resisted.

It is members of the working class who commit the vast majority of offences against property; it is members of the working class too who arrest the offenders and, when they are punished, it is workers who carry out the court's orders.

That situation exists by virtue of workers' acquiescence; they are accountable to themselves for their degraded position in society and the repression and violence which they wreak on themselves.


OPEC not OK

For almost ten years the oil states in OPEC have been cast as the world's villains, responsible for starting the present recession. It was in 1973 that the international price of oil surged upwards, as the cartel clamped on restrictive production quotas.

This gave the Heath government a convenient explanation for the economic crisis — one which fitted in with an established tradition that such difficulties are the fault of avaricious, untrustworthy foreigners. It was in that tradition that the Labour Party blamed the crash of the 30s, which swept them from power, on to a foreign bankers' ramp. After the war, the Attlee government grumbled that most of their worries were due to the dominance of the American economy. Harold Wilson’s dramatic plans for prosperity through technological progress were, we were darkly told, laid waste by the gnomes of Zurich.

An essential part of the tradition is that the villains, like plump vultures, are themselves invulnerably prosperous and secure. No gnomes arc expected to be seen, begging in the streets of Switzerland. No oil sheik is reported to be down to his last desperate million.

Well, whether OPEC triggered off the slump or not (the real explanation of the cause is a lot more fundamental) they are now themselves suffering in it. One result of the recession is that the oil market is glutted. This has severely damaged the unity on which OPEC relies to make itself felt, as member states cut their prices below the agreed levels or produce above their set quota.

This disorderly behaviour is threatening the very existence of the cartel. The process is being aggravated by the oil producing states outside OPEC — notably Britain and Mexico — who are carefully keeping their export prices “competitive”.

Combines like OPEC are attempts to introduce a permanently profitable order into the chaos of capitalist production and commerce. OPEC could operate for as long as conditions allowed but it cannot escape the fact that oil is a commodity and that it will not be produced unless it is profitable to do so. It cannot avoid the reality that capitalism passes from boom to slump and back again in an uncontrollable cycle which takes no account of any assumptions that it can be brought to order.


Saviour for civilisation

Workers who worry their way along the dole queue about whether the pound is worth what it used to be will be comforted that the new governor of the Bank of England, Robin Leigh-Pemberton (which is the sort of name not usually to be found in a dole queue) regards ". . . sound money as fundamental to civilisation”.

Of course Leigh-Pcmberton is bound to have some ideas about money because he has a fair bit of it himself. He had an expensive schooling at Eton and then, like a lot of pubescent members of the ruling class, he became an officer in a fashionable Guards regiment.

He is sometimes known as a farmer, which doesn't actually mean that he gets up in the small hours to milk the cows or comes home tired and smelly after a day with the muck-spreader but that he owns a couple of thousand acres in the lush county of Kent.

Leigh-Pemberton has been getting £78,000 a year for being chairman of Westminster Bank and it seems that his new job might mean a wage cut of about £3,000 a year but, if he is typical of most members of his class, he will regard that as a worthy sacrifice in the cause of sound money and civilisation.

So we should all be grateful, even if we are trying to survive on the dole, to have such a man at the top in Threadneedle Street. From the heights of his privileged origins, his inherited wealth, his effortlessly accumulated positions of power. Leigh-Pemberton will be able to lecture the lower orders about the profligate living habits they acquire through their lifetime of being exploited.

Workers who are scraping by on their wages, watching their livelihood run through their fingers like sand, or those who are barely existing on what are called state “benefits" may be willing to heed his words in the cause of sound money.

Others who are more sensitive, more aware, will know that such issues are of no account to them and will feel themselves insulted as well as exploited.

Which way euphoria? (1983)

From the February 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Twenty years after it was first discerned as a threat to what are still known as civilised standards, the black image of drugs persists. There are still nightmares about heroin-crazed addicts terrorising the land in a frantic search for their next fix. Anxious parents watch their composed, ambitious children for the first signs of descent into the pit of addiction from which the only escape is premature death.

What substance is there to these fears? Some drug addicts do lead excessively unhappy and disordered lives, inflicting on themselves awful illnesses like hepatitis, septicaemia or gangrene and losing parts of their limbs. Very often they resort to crime to raise the money for their drugs and their very recklessness leads to a high death rate. Heroin addicts are 30 times more likely to die than anyone else in a comparable age group.

But it must also be said that too often the debate on the issue is heavily misinformed. For example there is the myth of the instant and progressive addiction, the dread process by which the first whiff of cannabis fumes leads inexorably to the syringe surging with heroin. It is truer to say that those who pass from soft drugs to hard do so because the soft ones are unable to answer their demands. In fact, for most people the first experience of a drug like heroin is very unpleasant, like being sick after the first few cigarettes. Immediate addiction happens very rarely, if at all; as one addict put it, “You have to work at it".

Of course the addicts’ self-image is anything but black; to them drugs offer an ecstatic release. One describes using heroin as like “golden fire running through your veins”, another exults "This is what men go to prison for and it’s worth it”. The opiates, especially heroin, act on the central nervous system to blot out stress and anxiety and replace it with euphoria. A doctor’s description is: "The addict feels he has eaten to his heart’s content, experienced full sexual satisfaction and eliminated all anxieties . . " It is reasonable to ask why relief and pleasure should be regarded as a threat to society and be subject to heavy legal penalties.

The answer of the everyday, law-abiding, hard-working traveller on the Clapham omnibus is, of course, that drug addiction is unhealthy and there is plenty of evidence which apparently supports that opinion. But it is arguable that the more degraded aspects of the addict's life are caused by the social reaction against drugs rather than by the substances themselves. Up to a point heroin in itself need do little organic harm to the body; much of the damage commonly associated with it is due to the context in which it is used — the dirty, sometimes communally used needles, the dilution with water from the bowls of public lavatories, the adulteration which illicit supplies are vulnerable to, the malnutrition caused by the high prices for drugs on the streets. None of these factors would operate, were the drug not legally controlled and restricted. Not all heroin users descend into filthy, shambling addicts; in the House of Lords on 13 December 1955 Lord Amulree confessed: “I like my little drop of heroin: it works very well for me. I have taken it for 25 or 30 years but have not yet become an addict".

Addictive drugs have existed for a very long time but it is only comparatively recently that they have been defined as the cause of social problems. Morphine was first isolated from opium in 1804 and was widely used as a painkiller and in patent medicines. Heroin, a derivative of morphine, was discovered in 1874, when it was hailed as a new wonder medicine, non-habit forming and free of morphine’s undesirable side-effects. Amphetamine was first produced at the end of the 19th century. During the war the stimulant benzedrine was supplied to both German and British troops; 72 million tablets of it were issued to the British forces to be taken, according to the official instructions, when the men were “. . . markedly fatigued physically or mentally, in circumstances calling for a special effort”. In Japan the widespread use of stimulants during the war led to a serious post-war problem of dependence. Cannabis — not addictive and a very different substance to the opiates and amphetamines — has been known medicinally for thousands of years although its uses were not opened to the western world until 1839. It was a popular medicine for the wounded during the Crimean War. In 1933 the effects of marijuana on American troops in the Panama Canal Zone were assessed, with the official conclusion that “. . . no recommendations to prevent the sale or use of marijuana are deemed advisable”.

The Pharmacy Act of 1868 laid it down that opium and its derivatives, on which Victorian medicine heavily depended, were poisons and must be controlled. The Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920 took this a step further, defining heroin as illegal unless prescribed by a qualified doctor. In 1925 the Geneva Convention internationally outlawed the non-medical use of cannabis, morphine, heroin and cocaine. Heroin came under further threat in 1955, when Health Minister Ian Macleod announced his intention of prohibiting its manufacture. This provoked stormy opposition from the doctors, who were commonly prescribing the drug to case the discomfort of terminally ill people. The government backed down, as governments usually do when they are in conflict with the medical profession, and there the matter rested for a while. There were then few known addicts — about 300 or 400 — and most of them were either elderly people who had formed the habit through medical treatment or nurses and doctors whose addiction originated in their working association with drugs. The situation was controlled with regular prescriptions; the Brain Committee on Drug Addiction produced in 1961 a reassuring report.

It soon became clear, however, that the Brain Committee had misread the situation. At the very time they were sitting an unprecedented boom in drugs was in existence. Its origins are obscure; one investigator traced it to a burglary of opiates from a pharmacy in 1951, others thought the immigration of the 1950s brought a lot of regular users into the country, or that the stringent anti-drug laws introduced by the Canadian government in 1958 caused a flight of addicts to England's easier legal climate. Whatever the truth, it was clear that a new element had come on the scene — the non-medical use of drugs, by young people, for pleasure. Officially the demand for drugs was still catered for through GPs but such was the demand that a black market flourished as addicts discovered that prescriptions were more readily obtainable from a few pliant doctors who were prepared to sell them to their clamouring patients. These doctors became publicised as the heartless, avaricious villains of the drugs boom; some of them flavoured the media hacks' outpourings of righteous indignation by having foreign-sounding names like Petro and Frankau. They were hounded, prosecuted. struck off, imprisoned. One of them is now in Broadmoor.

The Brain Committee, having got its breath back, reported again in 1965, by which time the number of known opiate addicts had risen to 927. A new Dangerous Drugs Act came into operation in 1968 which drastically changed the scene. Drugs such as heroin could now no longer be prescribed by GPs but only by specially licensed doctors mainly operating in drugs clinics attached to hospitals. These doctors were often qualified psychiatrists, which implied a secondary function that they would treat the addict out of dependence. In most cases the clinics attempted to supplant heroin with methadone, a synthetic opiate which has an active span of 24-36 hours (in contrast to heroin’s 8 hours) which in theory allows the user to function in a more stable way — in other words go to work, pay the bills and so on. Some doctors became very enthusiastic about methadone and there was a boom in it during the 70s. as the patients wheedled for an over-prescription which they could sell so that they could buy illegal heroin.

Another requirement of the 1968 Act was that doctors had to notify the Home Office of all addicts of drugs like cocaine and heroin who came to their notice — an enforced breach of medical confidentiality which had hitherto been applied only in the case of contagious diseases. For the first five years of the Act’s operation the numbers of known addicts hovered around 3000. From 1973 it began to climb steadily until 1978, when it really took off:
1973 1974 1975 1970 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981
3023 3252 3425 3474 3605 4116 4787 5107 6157
For a number of reasons, these figures do not give a true picture. Many addicts are not known as such to their GP and they avoid contact with the clinics, preferring to hustle for illegal supplies or to wheedle prescriptions for drugs like diconal from doctors who are prepared to “treat" them as private patients in need of a sedative. The physical consequences of injecting diconal can be horrible — limbs swollen like purple balloons, massive fiery ulcers and sometimes death. This is the reality behind such estimates as that of the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence, that the official figure of known addicts in 1981 of 6157 masks a true figure of about 30,000.

In such ways are the pronounced intentions of Acts of Parliament frustrated. Such laws are formed on the assumption that a problem can be easily defined by legal draftsmen and a gaggle of MPs in a debate. It can then be controlled, equally simply, by prescribing punishments for anyone who steps outside the law. But the definitions, the prescriptions — and the problem which starts it all — are not immutable. Fashions in drug abuse change in response to influences like availability. The end of Prohibition in America led to the outlawing of the social use of marijuana, as the liquor interests feared the effects of the drug on what they hoped would be a post-Prohibition boom in sales of drink. The people who were prosecuted in the famous Operation Julie had been occupied in making a lot of very pure LSD. The Customs and Excise recently said (Guardian, 6 January 1983) that a lot of high grade heroin is now on sale in this country, which cuts down the risk of illness and death because it is pure enough to be sniffed or smoked rather than injected.

Cohorts of psychiatrists and social workers probe and worry about the cause of drug addiction. Most of them agree that the addict has a personality inadequate to cope with everyday crises. As the first experiments happen typically in adolescence, the observers are able comfortably to ascribe it all to the rebelliousness of puberty, to an immature desire to shock parents, teachers, bosses. Well, the function of psychiatry and social work is to patch up casualties, not to prevent war; they leave untouched the vital questions of why personalities are deemed inadequate and why the adequate (which of course includes the psychiatrists and social workers) are expected to cope. Commando-like, with persistent crises. They pay no heed to the structure and the role of the family, school and the employing class.

A more useful approach recognises that the casualties in the drugs world come from the casualty class in society. The recent Pullitzer divorce case in America showed that the other class can easily support a drugs habit without spiralling into ragged destitution. The same applies to this country. Standing outside a picturesque village in Southern England, in acres of lush meadows and barbered gardens, is a large medieval manor house where anyone who can afford the mountainous fees can take their addiction to be expensively hidden, soothed and nursed. Any worker who is mistakenly accepted there is rapidly diagnosed as untreatably psychopathic and discharged to the nearest NIIS hospital.

What hope is there, in this sorry situation, from the addicts? Some of them pretend to some insight into their difficulties, offering “social pressures" or some other easily available cliche. But what is this “insight" worth? The great amphetamine boom of the 60s and 70s was a pathetic attempt by youngsters who hated their job or were bored at school to prolong their leisure time by staying awake — which obscured the fact that the real, accessible problem was in the fact that they needed to be employed and to be trained for employment. The disarray of capitalism is not to be seduced into order through any pill or syringe. Capitalism devotes an enormously disproportionate effort to stamp out the illicit, uncontrolled use of drugs and it does so because it is determined that workers shall experience euphoria only on capitalism’s terms, as the reward for constructing a secure job, a modest mortgaged home, a regulated, aseptic nuclear family.

As a social system it rests on a leucotomiscd acceptance of the disciplines of wage-slavery. It can be ended, and social euphoria achieved, only as the work of brains which are free of any kind of junk.
Ivan

50 Years Ago: Lloyd-George on Capitalism (1983)

The 50 Years Ago column from the February 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sometimes in old buildings which have stood firm for centuries a little insect enters the woodwork and gradually eats away its strength. To all outward appearances for a long time it seems as solid as ever but the mischief is gradually reducing the core of the timber into dust.

Our economic system is crumbling, not from external pressure but from inside. Can Mr. Baldwin persuade the deathwatch beetle to stop nibbling at the rafters for three whole years? Time is pressing. Governments are too dilatory and easygoing in dealing with this tremendous emergency. Whatever happens there must be fundamental changes. No one doubts this. They are in process now of being effected; everywhere the old order is passing away; nay, it has passed away already. What will take its place? Are statesmen thinking out that problem?

The existing industrial, financial, and economic order with its bland and cruel greed, with its extravagance and its poverty, its luxuries and its miseries, its waste and its chaos, with its tens of millions of honest workers reduced to eating the bread of charity whilst the riches of Providence are rotting in the fields because they are not permitted to reach the needy; with its slums where no humane man would house his cattle, with its nations organising to starve and slaughter each other — this system has been tried and found wanting.

(From a speech at Carnarvon on Thursday, January 19th. Manchester Guardian, January 20th. Reproduced in the Socialist Standard, February 1933.)

Can’t Pay — Will Pay (1983)

From the February 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Tebbit’s Green Paper on “union democracy” has been greeted with howls of indignation from the bureaucratic stooges who dominate the trade unions in Britain. Indeed, the trade unions are quite right to tell the Tories to keep their capitalist paws off independent working class organisations. Workers do not need lessons on democracy from a party which openly exists to preserve minority class privilege.

It cannot be denied, however, that the Green Paper's recommendation that the system of paying the political levy to the Labour Party be changed from contracting out if a worker does not want to pay to contracting in if one does, is in the interest of trade union democracy. It is a fact that very many workers — possibly hundreds of thousands — currently pay the levy because it is too much bother to contract out. In short, the Labour Party is receiving regular payments from many workers who do not vote for it or support it in any way. Attempts to contract out of the levy, which involve no more than signing a form, can be made difficult by those union officials who resent their members’ unwillingness to pay for the Labour Party. Many workers are simply paying the levy for the sake of a quiet life. If this were not so the Labour Party would not be so worried about the prospect of workers having to volunteer to pay. What kind of a party is it that can only survive by conning workers — many of whom oppose it — to supply its funds? Any attempt by the unions to abolish the levy and let workers volunteer dues to whichever political party they wish to support would be democratic.

Seventy-five per cent of Labour Party money is acquired by means of union political funds. In 1927 the Conservative government introduced legislation forcing the contracting in system on the unions. The result of this legislation made clear the real degree of willingness within the unions to support the Labour Party: the number paying the levy fell from 3.3 million in 1926 to 2 million in 1928. By 1934 only 1.85 million union members volunteered to pay the political levy. In 1946 the Labour Party passed a law permitting a return to the undemocratic procedure of contracting out. This led to a sharp increase in those paying the levy from 2.6 million in 1946 to 4.3 million in 1947. Was this because nearly two million trade unionists had been converted into Labour Party supporters and wanted to give it their money? No: it was due to a change in the law initiated by an anti-working class party in order to increase its own funds.

The function of trade unions is to defend and increase the wages or salaries of their members and to attempt to improve conditions of employment. Trade union action is strictly limited by the social laws of the profit system and can never lead to working class emancipation. For unions to support pro-capitalist parties, financially or in any other way, is manifestly against their interests. In supporting Labour’s policies for capitalism, trade unions become involved in disadvantageous deals to make the system work more efficiently. The business of running capitalism is not the political concern of workers: the working class can only advance by abolishing the wages system.

Prior to the 1979-General Election several unions increased their political donations to the Labour Party: the GMWU gave £100,000: the TGWU £150,000; the NUM £100,000; the AUEW £102.400; and the ASTMS £50,000. This was on top of their regular political payments. Were the members of these unions balloted before this money was given away? No, they were not — and they will not be when union funds are wasted once again on helping the Labour Party to deceive the workers in the next General Election. Socialists refuse to pay the political levy and many of us make efforts in our unions to end affiliation to the Labour Party.

The Labour Party’s financial crisis is not unique. Long bankrupt in the field of political ideas, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CP) is apparently on the approach road to financial insolvency; its daily newspaper, the Morning Star, has launched an appeal fund to keep it going. The Star's precursor, the Daily Worker, was the first newspaper in Britain to greet the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as an admirable event. Posing as a friend of the working class, the CP’s newspaper has a long and disgusting record of supporting the dictatorship in Russia, from the days of Stalin to the present. Of the 30,000 Morning Stars printed daily, approximately 15,000 arc sold in Eastern Europe (where workers must be very interested to read about a Communist Party which actually encourages strikes rather than locking up workers who participate in them). This means that the CP is selling only 15,000 Morning Stars in Britain — less than the claimed membership of the CP: 20,000. The CP is appealing to trade unions, such as AEUW-TASS and the TGWU, to buy shares of up to £10,000 in the paper. If these unions provide such aid will they first ballot their members?

The CP has faced grave political problems in recent years, with rival factions (Stalinists v. Eurocommunists) pulling in different directions. It seems that the Stalinist wing (known within the CP as the “tankies”) arc opposed to the occasional criticisms of Kremlin policies which expediency has compelled the CP to make. Mick Costello has recently resigned as the CP’s Industrial Organiser because of his opposition to certain official CP policies, including its involvement in CND which is thought by the “tankies” to be “too anti- Soviet". There are strong rumours around the CP that their next Congress in November will remove the present General Secretary, Gordon McLennan, and appoint a new. more pro-Russian leadership. The effect of all these “vanguard manoeuvres” on the working class will not be very great. Indeed, if the CP goes out of existence it can only be to the benefit of the movement for socialism. Meanwhile, the CP's Gerry Cohen has been given the job of taking the begging bowl around the unions to canvass funds from bureaucrats with a liking for the Kremlin autocracy.

The Tory Party, of course, is never short of a few bob when there is capitalist propaganda to be put out. Its funds are not the result of dues and collections taken by its members; only just over £500,000 a year is paid into Tory funds by its constituency branches (Financial Times, 7 October. 1978). A substantial proportion of Tory funds comes from companies which make political donations either to the Conservative Party itself or to allied bodies which exist either largely as front organisations for Tory political aims. For example, in the financial year before the last General Election. Rank Organisation gave £30,000 to the Tory Party plus £1,000 each to the Centre for Policy Studies and Aims; United Biscuits gave £20,000 to British United Industrialists (BUI); Tate and Lyle gave £10,675 to the Tories, £5,000 to the Centre for Policy Studies and £3,000 to BUI; Taylor Woodrow gave £15,000 to the Tories and another £15,000 to BUI; Allied Breweries gave only £2,310 to the Tories, but then gave £26,500 to BUI. So what are these front organisations? BUI raises approximately £500,000 a year for political purposes: at election time most of this goes into the Conservative Party campaign. Aims was previously known as Aims of Industry and existed as a “pro-free enterprise" pressure group made up of several Tory MPs. The Centre for Policy Studies, of which Margaret Thatcher is President and Keith Joseph Chairman, is a Tory think tank which contributes more than thoughts when election fund donations are required. It causes far less public embarrassment for big companies if they are able to channel their support for Toryism through these front organisations.

Some big businesses are now turning to the latest capitalist party, the SDP. There is some hope that investment in the latest political con-trick will yield returns. At present the SDP is keeping quiet about where it gets its funds from; of course, the millions of pounds worth of media publicity given to the new product — even when it only consisted of four members — was absolutely free.

It remains to be stated that the only Socialist Party in Britain has no grants coming in from trade unions or rich companies; it has no front organisations to collect its money surreptitiously; unlike the so-called Workers Revolutionary Party it has no film star leaders (or leaders of any description) who can afford to invest thousands of pounds in it; there are no foreign governments subsidising the SPGB. Of course, millionaires with nothing better to spend their legally stolen money on are most welcome to donate large amounts of it to us; but we shall not hang about waiting for them. The fuel for the coming workers’ revolution must be provided by the working class itself — there is no better cause. 
Steve Coleman

Obituary: Charles Wooster (1983)

Obituary from the February 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are very sad to have to report the loss of our comrade Charles Wooster, who died of a brain haemmorrhage late last year. He became a socialist as a young man during the 1930s, and remained, as his father had been, committed to exposing the contradictions of capitalism throughout his life. He was actively involved in Party meetings in Wood Green and Haringey, and at the time of the Second World War refused, like many other socialists, to fight in the interests of British capitalism. He became the headmaster of a primary school in order to avoid the more obviously exploitative nature of work in industry. The principles Charles stood for were reflected at his funeral, where simple speeches from those who knew him replaced the pomp and ceremony of religious hypocrisy. We express our condolences to the family of this dedicated man, who will be remembered for his compassionate affability.