Thursday, May 6, 2021

Wisdom from the past (1923)

 From the November 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard
“It may be laid down for an undeniable truth, that where all work nobody will want, and to promote this would be a greater charity and more meritorious than to build hospitals, which very often are but so many monuments of ill-gotten riches, attended with late repentance.”
Wm. Petty, 1699.

Letter: The Capital Levy (1923)

Letter to the Editors from the November 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

To the Editor of the Socialist Standard.


In response to your invitation to continue the discussion, it seems to me that there are three fundamental differences between us.

Firstly I hold that among the “economic forces” which under a capitalist system determine real net wages (i.e. the purchasing power of money wages) must be included the power exerted by capitalists through their possession of war loan. You apparently exclude this factor.

Secondly I hold that a levy on capital is a step towards ending the present system of wealth distribution which enables some individuals to live in idleness on the fruits of others’ exertions. You apparently think, either that it would not be a step at all, or that it would be so small as not to be worth taking.

Thirdly I envisage the capital levy as one of the several reforms which will not only improve the immediate position of the workers, but will at the same time help to build up the new order of society necessary to take the place of the decaying capitalist system. You, I gather, regard such efforts at best as futile, and at worst as buttressing up the capitalist system and delaying its overthrow.

If I have correctly stated our respective standpoints there is nothing further to be said.

Yours, etc.,

Mr. Pethick Lawrence says that “the power exerted by capitalists through their possession of war loan” is apparently excluded by me from the economic forces which determine real net wages. Now I readily agree that within the framework of the State, and subordinate to political control, which is the ultimate source of power, the accumulated wealth of the capitalists is an important factor in the struggle about the level of wages. But I do not see that it matters one jot whether that wealth exists as war loan, or whether it take some other form.

Lest it be said that this huge debt is the cause of present unemployment, let me recall two things : (1) that before the war we had some permanent unemployment, as well as protracted periods when it was acute; and (2) that France, with a like indebtedness, and a much worse financial position generally, has no unemployment.

If the Capital Levy meant a real appropriation of a large part of the wealth of the capitalists, there might be something in the argument, but in Mr. Pethick Lawrence’s own words, “Payment of the levy will, in effect, be carried out by means of a reshuffling of the title deed’s of wealth among-wealthy persons. …” (Forward, May 5th,. 1923).

This brings me to his second point. I still fail to see how this “reshuffling,” which leaves the total wealth of the capitalist class untouched, and merely changes the form of some of it from war loan to industrial capital, can at the same time be a step towards the ending of the present system of wealth distribution. If the capitalists lose nothing, from what source do the workers, gain ?

As for the last point, Mr. Pethick Lawrence has not yet answered the charge that the levy, if successful, would buttress up the capitalist system. Assuming that a capitalist state were in dire need of some measure to re-establish its financial stability, then it seems obvious to me that a capital levy which served this purpose would strengthen the hands of the capitalist class, and give new life to the system on whose continuance their privileged position depends.

Actually I think that it is unlikely that the British capitalists can now have any use for the levy. At the time, just after the war, when it might have proved very useful to them, they were not ready to accept it, and now the need has largely passed.
Edgar Hardcastle

To the Executive Committee. (1923)

Party News from the November 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

October 16th, 1923.

Dear Comrades,

At a meeting of Hackney Branch, Friday, September 7th, a member of the branch reported that he had attended at a propaganda meeting of the Central Hackney Branch of the I.L.P., at Queen’s Road, Dalston, on the previous Monday evening.

At that meeting the statement was made by the chairman that the S.P.G.B. had been challenged to a debate the week before, but had refused to accept. On hearing this statement, the aforesaid comrade intimated to the chairman that he would accept the challenge on behalf of the S.P.G.B., subject to the ratification by his E.C.

On receipt of the above report the Hackney Branch instructed their secretary to write the I.L.P. secretary, asking him to confirm challenge and state if the debate was to receive the backing of their Executive Committee, and further, to suggest time, place, title, and general conditions of debate. The branch instructions were carried out, and the I.L.P. were written on Tuesday, September 11th.

On October 1st the Hackney Branch received the following reply :—


October 1st, 1923.

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 11th ult., asking for a debate between our party and your organisation was dealt with by our E.C. on Friday last, and their decision was that no useful purpose would be served by the holding of such debate.

I am, yours faithfully,

William G. Love,

Voice From The Back: Sport in a sick society (2005)

The Voice From The Back Column from the May 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sport in a sick society

“To amuse or recreate oneself, by active exercise in the open air; to take part in some game or play; to frolic or gambol.” The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. That is an adequate description of sport before the advent of capitalism, it is wholly inappropriate today. Jose Canseco the former batsman of the Oakland Athletics tells all in his expose of modern baseball, Juiced. “Why did I take steroids? The answer is simple. Because myself and others had no choice if we wanted to continue playing. Because Major League Baseball did nothing to take it out of sport,” he wrote. “Before they were sworn in, the committee heard emotional testimonies from parents of promising young baseball stars who had killed themselves while taking steroids. Health officials say that suicidal tendencies are one of the side-effects of steroid use” The Times (18 March). Just another example of capitalism destroying everything it touches, even baseball.

Blessed are the poor

“A bishop in eastern Spain has cut his parish priests’ stipend by 30 per cent after his dioceses lost up to €10 million (£6.8 million) on the stock market. He advised them to find the difference by putting collection boxes in their churches” The Times (1 April). Really good thinking, Bishop. But how does that fit up with the usual homilies you give the poor about “do not thirst after the material things of life”. It seems that it is a good idea for priests to tell punters but not necessarily a good one for the punters to tell the priests.

Welcome to these refugees

A great deal of publicity is given to desperate workers travelling half the world to get a job in the UK but little is said of another group of immigrants who are welcomed with open arms to these shores. “Seven of the top richest billionaires in Britain come from overseas, according to the Sunday Times Rich List out tonight. The survey reveals that foreigners outnumber Britons at the top of the list, with steel tycoon  Lakshmi Mittal topping the table with an estimated wealth of £14.8 billion. Chelsea Football Club owner and oil magnate Roman Abramovich drops to second place, but his wealth has held steady over the year at £7.5 billion” The Scotsman (3 April). Why do we never hear about restrictions of movement or of the introduction of Identity Cards for these people?

A nice little earner

The death of the Pope was supposed to fill the world with grief according to the newspapers, but there was one group of entrepreneurs that were rubbing their hands in glee. “With Pope John Paul II’s funeral expected to draw up to 2 million people, at least one consumer group is accusing cafes, restaurants, grocery stores and hotels near St Peter’s Square of boosting prices to gouge tourists and pilgrims. … Orlando Salvio, a waiter at a restaurant near St Peter’s. said businesses  are eager to cash in.  ‘Here everyone is happy – they’re sad in a way, but happy in another,’ he said. ‘Obviously, the business owners are the happy one'” Yahoo News 4 April). A papal death can be good business for some.

Now he tells us

Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said Wednesday that oil was one of the reasons for the US-led invasion Iraq, a Swedish news agency reported. did not think so at first. But the US is incredibly dependent on oil,’ news agency quoted Blix as saying at a security seminar in Stockholm. ‘They wanted to secure oil in case competition on the world market became too hard'” Canoe network: Cnews (6 April). So eventually a spokesman for the capitalist class gets round to saying what socialists have been saying all along.

Dying for profit

“The drug industry received a pasting this week and it wasn’t entirely undeserved. MPs accused it of cultivating a reliance on medicine in the UK by over-promoting products and trying to find new markets by categorising more and more people as in need of treatment. … we have been sold the idea that a drug is miraculous, only to be scared silly months later and told that might kill us. The recent withdrawal of anti-arthritis drug Vioxx, once hailed doctors as safe and now linked to thousands of deaths, is a case in point” The Times (9 April). “Over-promoting” and finding new markets” is looked upon as good marketing strategy inside capitalism. few deaths is hardly going to stop the drive for bigger and bigger profits. Sorry about your mother, by the way.

Editorial: What about the real issue? (2005)

Editorial from the May 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

By now you will perhaps have heard a fair bit from the mainstream candidates in this  month’s General Election. They will have waffled on about services, jobs, crime, and how things will improve, if only they are put in power.

They all talk about money – spend more, spend less, tax it, borrow it, lend it, find it – but they never talk about where it comes from. They never talk about the basic rules by which it is used. They just assume that money is being made, and that they can adapt their policies to the rules of the money-making game. That is, they assume capitalism.

They defend a society in which the majority of the population must sell their capacity to work to the tiny handful who own most of the wealth. They defend a society in which things can only happen if there is a profit to be made. In short, they subscribe to the law of no profit, no production.

One thing is certain, and perhaps you’ll already be of this opinion. Whichever candidate or party will win brings about no significant changes to the way things are. And in between elections we have little or no say in the important decisions, the ‘real issues’ that concern us. 

Politicians are fond of telling us that we must take responsibility for our own actions and that we must see to it that our world is a fit place for our children to grow up in. But how can we seriously do anything about it when the real decisions are not in our hands? Because of the way things are organised at present, none of us are allowed to take part in the really important decisions that effect us – the ones about our schools, about health and housing, peace and pollution, and the distribution of wealth.

What the Socialist Party urges as the alternative to this insane set-up is a truly democratic society in which people take all of the decisions that effect them. This means a society without rich and poor, without  owners  and workers, without governments and governed, a society without leaders or the led.

In such a society, people could cooperate voluntarily to run all of the world’s natural and industrial resources in their own interests, freeing production from the artificial constraints of profit and establishing a system of society in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation. Socialist society would consequently mean the ending of buying, selling and exchange, an end to borders and frontiers, an end to force and coercion, waste and want and war.

Today we have the technology, the resources and the know-how to satisfy everyone’s needs. That fact is well established. However, we cannot utilise society’s assets sensibly because of the profit-driven requirements of the market-system. In a society in which the fundamental need of production is profit, our needs will always come a poor second. The profit system exerts such an  influence in society that it impinges upon every aspect of our lives, and you’d really be hard pressed to think of some service or product that is not balanced against cost – something to muse on when you’re waiting for the bus, the police or visiting the local shops.

You may consider that the society we urge sounds nice, but that we are demanding the impossible. In truth all we are asking is that you, as members of the waged and  salaried class, think for yourselves, value yourselves and your fellows higher, expect more for your children and grandchildren. Is it not the case that our world would be a better place to live in if we had a real democratic say in the decision-making process and real democratic control over the means and instruments for producing and distributing the things we need to live in comfort? Is it not high time that we took back control of our destiny from the profit-mongers and the masters of war?

The 50th Anniversary of the Warsaw Pact (2005)

From the May 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

This month marks the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Warsaw Pact, the political and military alliance of the so called ‘socialist’ countries in Eastern Europe. Signed on 14 May 1955 it bound together in a ‘defensive alliance’ Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria and Albania. East Germany joined in 1956, while Albania started distancing itself from 1962 onward and withdrew altogether in 1968.

The Russian government claimed that the Warsaw Pact was established as a response to the incorporation of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1955. In practice, however, it acted as a facade for maintaining political and military control over East European countries ‘liberated’ from German occupation and a cloak for intervention in the affairs of its ‘allies’ (in effect its satellites), as occurred in Hungary and Poland in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Norman Lowe points out that for many writing during the ‘Cold War’ era, NATO was “the West’s self-defence against communist aggression” (Mastering British History, p.529). But while there was great tension and antagonism after the war the notion that Russia was waiting for the opportunity to invade Western Europe, an action that would have achieved nothing short of total self-annihilation, must be viewed with scepticism.

President Eisenhower, for example, consistently held the view that the Russia posed no military threat to Western Europe. Instead, he saw NATO’s primary role as to ‘harden’ European people in their opposition to ‘communism’ and “to corral its allies and to head off neutralism, as well as deter the Russians” (Frank Costigliola, Kennedy’s Quest for Victory, p. 244).

In 1999, the Guardian reviewed newly declassified British government documents including a 1968 Foreign Office joint intelligence committee analysis. Its summary of the analysis states: “Russia had no intention of launching a military attack on the West at the height of the Cold War and in stark contrast to what Western politicians and military leaders were saying in public about the ‘Soviet threat'” (1 January 1999). But if the Russian military threat didn’t really exist what was the basis of the ‘Cold War?’

An important pre-condition for the perpetuation of capitalist class dominance is the unconditional ‘obedience’ of ordinary working people. In a non-authoritarian society perhaps the most effective way of sustaining obedience is by inducing fear of a perceived external threat that intimidates ordinary people into giving unquestioning support to their governments in return for protection from the apparent threat. Western governments conceived the ‘International Communist Conspiracy’ and the ‘Cold War’ as elaborate fairy tales, grossly exaggerating the threat of Russian military intentions to instil fear and intimidate Western public opinion.

These fairy tales have their origins in the Russian Revolution of 1917 when the Bolsheviks seized power and established state capitalism masquerading as ‘socialism.’ This event made conflict between Russia and western capitalism inevitable and within months of this seizure of power fifteen countries invaded Russia in what was hailed as a heroic mission inspired by a desire to secure self-determination for the Russian people. But on examination the motive behind this invasion had little to do with altruism, being instead driven by pure self-interest epitomised in three principal concerns. Firstly, the revolution had rendered a vast area – in excess of 15 percent of the world’s landmass – ‘off limits’ to Western capitalist expansion. Second, the new Russian State represented a dangerous example of an alternative to free market capitalism that threatened to inspire people to engage in struggles to establish ‘communism’ in other countries. Thirdly, the new Russian regime practising state capitalism would inevitably challenge free market capitalism in future spheres of influence.

Free market capitalism
The United States emerged from the Second World War as most powerful nation in the history of the planet and set about shaping a world in which capitalism and particularly US capitalism could flourish unhindered. The US State Department and Council of Foreign Relations constructed an image of the post-war world that comprised the regions “strategically important for world control” to be subordinated to the needs of free market capitalism. Each region was assigned a role with emphasis placed on Middle Eastern oil and on the economically underdeveloped countries to be permanently assigned the role of a source of raw materials, cheap expendable labour and markets. Vital to this vision was that post-war reconstruction should install foreign governments willing to embrace the ‘right’ business philosophy; a requirement that brought Western capitalism into conflict with the state-controlled capitalism of Russia and its newly-conquered Eastern Europe territories.

An expanded Russian Empire represented an unacceptable challenge to western capitalism and its plan for hegemony. The annexation of Eastern European countries barred free access of capitalist powers to whole regions expected to provide raw materials, investment opportunities, markets and cheap labour in precisely the same way as the 1917 Russian Revolution had frustrated earlier intentions to exploit pre-revolutionary Russia itself. State capitalism was an unacceptable constraint on capitalism’s free development, fostering an unwillingness to co-operate or complement capitalism in the established industrial countries. Its centralised  ‘command economy’ was incompatible with western and particularly US plans to construct a global model based on private investment and ‘free markets’ dominated by corporations. Free market capitalism prefers a stable, unrestricted world where countries are ‘open’ to the free movement of capital and conditions conducive to unfettered worker exploitation and the maximisation of profits.

The threat of ‘communism’
The existence of a ‘Soviet Bloc,’ claiming to be the ideological antithesis of capitalism was an anathema to the capitalist West. The source of concern lay not in Russian military strength, but rather the fear that working people might be seduced by the propaganda appeal of ‘communism’ and attempt to establish Russian-style state capitalism in other countries that would exclude Western capitalism and remove further territorial from their control. As US strategic planner George Kennan put it in October 1947: “It is not Russian military power that threatens us, it is Russian political power” (Strategies of Containment, pp.356-57). The ideological underpinning for a perpetual conflict was expressed by the United States National Security Council in its resolution 68, which constructed a vision of a world divided into two diametrically opposing forces representing ‘absolute evil’ on the one side and ‘absolute good’ on the other. ‘Communism,’ it asserted, was unimaginably evil, intent on world domination and must be everywhere challenged to defend the ‘free world’. The US was given responsibility for leading this struggle, thereby granting itself the absolute right to defend or advance the interests of free market capitalism anywhere in the world under the pretext that any intervention would be another phase in the struggle to prevent the ‘cancerous spread of communism.’

The ultimate objective of western governments was to force Russia and its satellites to return to their economically underdeveloped status, leaving vast new territories, raw material and cheap labour ripe for exploitation. But until this could be achieved the struggle for economic domination would continue in the undeveloped countries and the need to combat the evil of ‘communism’ would serve as a justification for action against any movement that might gain control over large masses of people, as happened in Vietnam. Such movements are dangerous to western capitalism if they are indicative of a preference for capitalist development independent of western control.

Limiting western aggression
Russia also represented one further challenge to free market capitalism. As well as excluding the ‘free market’ from its territories, Russia, like its western counterparts, seized every opportunity to exploit potential targets regularly using Warsaw Pact countries to offer support to targets of US subversion. These Russian ventures imposed unacceptable limits on Western aspirations in undeveloped countries, attracting widespread condemnation from Western politicians and media and excellent propaganda to sway public opinion against ‘communism’ and to reinforce the belief that US ‘protection’ was necessary to combat the Russian menace.

Essentially, the ‘Cold War,’ of which the Warsaw Pact and NATO were the visible symbols, set the parameters on a system of joint global management. The myth of the ‘Cold War’ enabled each of the two capitalist superpowers to control its real enemy – its own working people – by intimidating it with news of the transgressions of the other and as a justification for repression in its own sphere of control. But beneath the ideological rhetoric there was also a tacit understanding that each should be left to control its own sphere of influence. So while free market capitalism led by the United States would wage war and expand into what became known as the ‘Third World’, the Russians would maintain control over its East European satellites. This accounts for the West’s refusal to assist the people of Hungary and Poland in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, and explains why the Russians made no great effort to aid Vietnam or to assist the emerging nationalist groups that challenged US domination in Latin America. Despite the rhetoric, the alleged ‘war’ between the two power blocs was theatre, orchestrated to control public opinion.

Though the reasons for the final collapse of the Russia are complex, it was evident that by 1980 internal problems and economic stagnation were heightening and control over the Eastern European countries was rapidly dwindling. When the rotten edifice of Russian authoritarianism started collapsing in Eastern Europe in 1989 the facade of the Warsaw Pact shattered and officially dissolved in Prague on 1 July 1991.

The ‘Cold War’ ended in a perhaps inevitable victory of free market capitalism over state controlled capitalism. But while the ‘Cold War’ ceased to be a valid pretext, Western capitalism has been quick to discover new pretexts, of which the ‘war on terror’ is simply the latest, for a continuation of policies that are nothing more than an expression of its institutional needs. So though the justifications have changed the real struggle, driven by capitalist class interest, to secure the free movement of capital and unrestricted access to markets and raw materials continues unabated with working people everywhere the undisputed victims.
Steve Trott

Cooking the Books: Islamic Bankers (2005)

The Cooking the Books column from the May 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the measures announced in Gordon Brown’s pre-election budget was a concession to Islamic banks.

“Under Islamic law”, explained the Times (17 March), “the receipt and payment of interest is forbidden, so Sharia products are structured differently. Islamic deposit accounts are operated on a profit-sharing arrangement, under which the bank invests customers’ money in Sharia compliant investments and then shares profits with customers”.

This meant that the money received by depositors was taxed as a dividend. Gordon Brown’s concession consists in treating it from now on, for tax purposes, as interest.

The Christian Church, too, once used to condemn interest. Or rather, it condemned usury since the word “interest” derives from the Mediaeval Latin word “interesse” which was one of the ways round the ban: “interesse” was the compensation that could be charged if the money lent was not repaid on time.

R. H. Tawney, in his book Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, explained that what was condemned was “that which appears in modern economic text-books as ‘pure interest’ – interest as a fixed payment stipulated in advance for a loan of money or wares without risk to the lender . . . The essence of usury was that it was certain, and that, whether the borrower gained or lost, the usurer took his pound of flesh”.

This is exactly the position preached by backward Islamic clerics today, as is one of the get-out clauses: No man in mediaeval times, wrote Tawney, “may charge money for a loan. He may of course take the profits of partnership, provided that he takes the partner’s risks”.

It is on this basis that Islamic banks operate. They pay depositors a share in the profits made from investing the money deposited. But, economically speaking, that is what the interest paid by non-Islamic banks to their depositors largely is anyway. Under capitalist conditions, “interest is simply a part of profit”, as Marx showed in Volume III of Capital (the beginning of chapter 22). What else could be the source of the money to pay interest on investments than the surplus value produced in the profit-seeking section of the economy?

Islamic law is quite compatible with capitalism as it does not condemn making profits, only sharing them in the form of fixed payments. It only objects to bondholders not shareholders.

The Death of John Paul II (2005)

From the May 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard 
  The Pope’s funeral drew the devout from around the world and deification now seems likely. But how much of a sinner was this potential saint? John Bissett investigates the dark side of Pope John Paul II
Being brought into a discussion on the death of Karol Wojtyla, alias Pope John Paul II, with a few elderly ladies while waiting for a bus, I commented that they would be wiser contemplating the hundreds of thousands he had sent to their deaths than mourning the passing of this enemy of their class. The ladies were visibly shocked, said I was out of order and that I shouldn’t speak so irreverently of someone so holy. I tried to explain my remark, but they were having none of it.

Like countless millions in all countries, they had undoubtedly been caught up in that media-generated flood of sentiment that swept around the world when news of the Pope’s death was broadcast; ready to defend the claims made by announcers on the TV news and in the 20-page papal death exclusives the press was churning out, that a living saint had died. One hundred and fifty world leaders were going to Rome to pay their respects to one of the “greatest men” who had lived, so I was in no position to pass sacrilegious judgement. 

Days later the Pope’s funeral was reported as the biggest in history. It had attracted 70 presidents, dozens of prime ministers, the leaders of fourteen religions, nine kings and queens and countless other dignitaries. Joining this farcical parade of the infamous were 4 million devout followers of the Catholic Church who had descended on Rome from all over the world.

The very fact that 150 world leaders, the heads of the executive body of world capitalism, were keen to attend this funeral must have suggested something. Karol Wojtyla was on their side and was clearly perceived as being a man who promoted their case. Had he been a critic of the profit system, had he publicly criticised the world’s corporate elite and the governments who defend their interests by any means, they’d have spat on his grave. As it turned out, this was like a big mafia don’s funeral at which the gangster fraternity had turned out to pay their last respects to a fellow enemy of law and order.

John Paul’s 28 years in the Vatican were certainly controversial. He lived through interesting times, as the saying goes, and like any Pope worth his salt involved himself in world political affairs when it was convenient to do so and made acquaintances with many world leaders, yet rebuked none of them. 

He, for instance, referred to Chilean dictator, Pinochet, and his wife as “an exemplary Christian couple”. When this enemy of Chilean democracy, who had killed tens of thousands of his opponents, was arrested and charged with crimes against humanity, the Pope waded in on his defence demanding his release, stating that as a Chilean leader at the time of his crimes he was entitled to immunity – a kind of papal infallibility for fascists. 

Throughout South America, John Paul sided with the forces of reaction, supporting right wing elites and restraining any priest who saw themselves as on the side of the impoverished masses. The papal nuncios to the Chilean and Argentinean military dictatorships he promoted to cardinals. In Central America, he reproached members of the clergy who had sided with the Sandinistas and promoted to the status of cardinal one archbishop who had opposed them.

Few news reports on the Pope’s death did not refer to his time in the Vatican during the dying days of the Kremlin’s empire. Some reporters were even bold enough to claim that it was his intervention in the Polish political scene in the 1980s that eventually led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The rise of Solidarity and working class militancy in Poland at the beginning of the 1980s panicked governments around the world. The ‘communists’ of eastern Europe feared a growing threat to their rule, while the governments of the West saw the mobilisation of an angry section of society that could only inspire militancy in their own countries.

While John Paul wished to see the end of Stalinist rule, he was keen this should not be via violent revolution and, moreover, at the hands of left wing sections of Polish society, but by the right. Here he had the backing of the USA. In 1980 John Paul granted an audience to a group headed by Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and in the coming years the Vatican would find tens of millions of dollars to finance Solidarity’s struggle. Make no mistake; the Vatican was not openly supporting the demands of the workers in their struggle against an undemocratic, unaccountable Stalinist bureaucracy. After all, what was the Vatican if not undemocratic, unaccountable and bureaucratic? Instead, its aim was to contain the movement, to see it had the guidance of nationalistic and right-leaning Catholic ideologues and to ensure its confrontation with the Polish leadership did not get out of hand and win larger international support from workers.

Many news commentators referred to the 473 beatifications under the JP papacy, a figure that is twice the number of saints made in the previous 400 years. One can only assume that with more social problems facing humanity than at any time in its history the Pope thought we needed an increase in the number of saints to pray to for help in solving them.

However, among those beatified and elevated to the ranks of the saints by John Paul II was the anti-Semite Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius XII, the latter being the same Pius who collaborated with the fascist regimes in Spain, Italy and Germany. Pius XII ordered the Catholic Church in Nazi Germany to steer clear of political activity, to close its political parties and to stifle its newspapers. Hitler would refer to this Papal move as “a great achievement” and of enormous advantage in the “fight against international Jewry”. Under Pius’ watchful eye, the Catholic Church went on to collaborate in the “racial certification” of all Germans and refused to openly condemn Hitler when it was known that millions were being sent to the extermination camps.

Also elevated to sainthood was Josemaria Escrivç, the founder of the hierarchical and clandestine Opus Dei in Madrid in 1928, and described by Hitler as “the saviour of the Spanish church”, along with Mother Theresa who, when questioned on how her opposition to contraception in Calcutta was leading to unnecessary infantile deaths, countered that even a child who breathed only a few hours meant another soul for heaven. For Mother Theresa, suffering was a blessing from the almighty, for it enabled carers to reveal their love for the afflicted.

One scandal the press tended to steer clear of – and one humiliation John Paul was keen to ride out on behalf of Catholicism – was the sexual abuse scandals concerning priests and Church officials. Since the 1950s, 4,450 catholic clergy in the US alone have been accused of molesting children. The allegations have persisted down the years in spite of a Vatican decree in the 1960s which threatened anyone exposing child sex abuse within the Church with excommunication. John Paul continued the cover-up, issuing an edict demanding Church secrecy in child abuse allegations. The Pope’s ruling on the matter was felt to be so conclusive that one leader of a Spanish seminary persuaded his scholars that he had the Pope’s blessing to masturbate them.

John Paul’s complicity in attempting to conceal sexual exploitation in the American, Irish, Austrian and other Churches, and his undermining of the importance of the allegations once they had come to world attention, merely emphasized the Vatican’s double standards on issues of sexual morality.

While covering up the excesses of a sexually frustrated clergy who found it impossible to adhere to the vow of chastity, John Paul was ever ready to pronounce papal verdicts on homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, divorce, abortion and the use of birth control.

In recent years, in spite of a growing Aids epidemic which now infects tens of millions in impoverished countries, the Vatican withdrew its support from those organisations that distributed free condoms. The head of the Vatican’s office on the family, Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, propagated the lie that the Aids virus can pass through microscopic holes in condoms, and John Paul referred to the use of condoms as a ‘culture of death’. In El Salvador, after a long struggle by the Church, packets of condoms were printed with the warning that they did not protect users from the spread of HIV and, in Nigeria, the archbishop of Nairobi proclaimed that condoms actually caused Aids.

Undoubtedly, millions who looked to the Catholic Church for guidance, who declined the use of protection during sex, were handed a death sentence. Perhaps millions of women were forced, by fear of the flames of hell, to bring young families into a world of abject poverty and early death through disease and hunger.

Whilst many saw JP as a champion of democracy and human rights, a one-man Amnesty International as one commentator suggested in the press, the truth is he was a conscientious defender of the established order of western-style class privilege, even if he did once refer to elected governments as the spreaders of “nihilism”. He might have lambasted as an atheistic dogma what many refer to as “socialism” (state capitalism) in the Encyclical Centesimus Annus, whether it existed in Eastern Europe or Central America, but this seems to be his only reason – “socialism” was associated with atheism and therefore was a serious challenge to rule from Rome

More importantly, the Pope headed an organisation with 1.3 billion followers who were encouraged to put their trust in a god and to pray to this god to solve the major problems of the day, thus diminishing people’s faith in their own ability to sort out their own problems and undermining the likelihood of workers uniting and organising with a common objective.

Accordingly, the Pope became just another reactionary agent of oppression, like all of his predecessors. And the Vatican’s reactionary credentials are nothing recent. Indeed, it has been part of the foundation of reaction since the start, whether it was urging the masses to obey the Caesars, supporting the feudal hierarchical order, opposing the Protestant reformation or siding with the capitalist class against the workers, determined always to stifle the anger of the oppressed with promises of reward in heaven for their sufferings if they struggle on uncomplainingly, and an eternity in the sulphurous pits of hell if  they organised to better their lot.
John Bissett

Red Snapper: Sound bites and unsound nibbles (2005)

The Red Snapper column from the May 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

A moustachioed demagogue.
Labour MP Oona King’s election team on George Galloway. Guardian, April12th.

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“The tension, the atmosphere [in Israel] looks like the eve of the civil war. “
Ariel Sharon on the current situation in Israel. Independent, 12th April

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“All my life I was defending Jews, now for the first time I’m taking steps to protect me from Jews. ” 
Ariel Sharon again, Independent, April 12th

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“I love a fight…I love coming out to Tories’ seats and roughing them up a bit. That is what elections are all about.  “
John Prescott, Guardian, March 19th

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“You can walk down the street and see who’s working class and who’s middle class. It’s in the way we drive, the way we are, the way we dress. I am not getting back into whether I am middle class – clearly I am! “

John Prescott again, Guardian, March 19th

2005 General Election: Vote Effective – Vote Alternative (2005)

From the May 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard 

In May 2005, this is the most important general election ever. Or was that in 2001? Or in 1997? Or 1987? The big political parties want to convince us about this because we may then be persuaded to vote for one or other of them, under the impression that by choosing between them we are making a difference to this social system. Vote for this party and our future is secure; vote for the other party and we put everything at risk. Here, for example, is Neil Kinnock in 1987:
  “Every election is a time of decision. But this General Election … faces the British people with choices more sharp than at any time in the past fifty years”. 
To which the “British people” sharply responded by emphatically rejecting Kinnock and his party.

Here is John Major in 1997: 
  “British people now have the opportunity of a prosperous future. But that prosperity cannot be taken for granted…  If we relax for one moment, our hard won success will slip away again”. 
By “relaxing” Major meant voting for the Labour Party, which was what the “British people” did, ensuring that Major himself slipped away into well-merited obscurity. Finally, here is Blair in 2001:
  “This general election is in many ways even more important than the last…Now is the chance to build the future properly…”
Blair did not say why, after four years of Labour government, the future had still not been built “properly” but he obviously did not need to elaborate in that way because the electorate returned his party to power by a hefty margin. So how are things now, after the threats and the promises? Whether in gratitude or fear, the workers will vote for capitalism again with the only uncertainty the pattern of their voting.

Blair and Howard
One factor which is likely to affect that pattern is the developing awareness that there is no significant difference between the Labour Party and the Tories. Because of this, solid Labour supporters who helped elect Blair in 1997 and 2001 now feel themselves disfranchised. Another factor is that, like so many of his predecessors, Blair has been exposed as a trickster and a liar, so that he is no longer the easeful vote harvester he once was.

On the other side, Michael Howard is looking more and more like a man who is desperately trying to throw off his past; for example wearing his customary oily smirk he urged us on TV to “Let the sunshine break through the clouds of disappointment we all feel”. The problem for Howard is that his time as a Tory minister is not remembered for being at all sunny.  As Home Secretary he was in the habit of using his time at the rostrum in Tory conferences to excite the ugliest of prejudices – and not just about crime. In this election, as Tory leader he has tried to exploit racist neuroses about immigration by promising to establish a Border Control Police, forgetting the time in the 1990s when, according to the Public and Commercial Services Union, he actually hampered immigration controls by slapping on a recruitment freeze. Howard has told a heart-wrenching story about his mother-in-law dying of an infection she picked up as a hospital patient but during the last Conservative governments all was not well with hospitals for there was a shortage of nurses and doctors and waiting lists – for anyone unable to afford anything better – were a problem then as they are now. Schools also suffered, being cut back on their teachers, books and other equipment. The last Tory government, under John Major, descended into such chaos that  when they were defeated in 1997 it was almost an act of mercy by the voters.

The economy
However those who voted in the Blair governments have no more cause for satisfaction. There have been Labour Home Secretaries who have exceeded Howard in their punitive response to those crimes which capitalism places outside the law. A succession of Criminal Justice Acts has tightened the screw on offenders while nourishing the ambition of those Home Secretaries to become party leader.

Detention – imprisonment – without trial, or even being told the reasons for being in prison, has become established. Blair’s sound bite about being tough on crime and on the causes of crime has been discredited as the causes of crime – poverty, stress, alienation, social disability – remain. Blair’s claims that under his government the British economy has been in controlled health have been exposed by the collapse of the Rover car company. The company was losing millions of pounds and cars are not manufactured in order to provide the workers with a wage stable enough for them to make assumptions about their future. The bottom line – to use an irritating, although apposite, phrase – is that if there is no profit there is no employment, even if that mean thousands of workers being transferred from a just tolerable level of poverty to one of abject degradation. That is the basis on which capitalism organises its wealth production and no government can affect it.

Blair’s popularity has been seriously eroded by the exposure of his lies over the causes of the war in Iraq. But this was by no means the only example of a politician lying because none of them could readily admit to their impotence to control the events of capitalism. For them the only way out is through deception, at times to the extent that they begin to believe their own lies – as, it is rumoured, is the case with Blair. What this amounts to is that there is a basic unity among the parties which stand for the continuance of capitalism, which can only be solidified by every vote for those parties. But there is no need to waste the vote in that way for we have the means of basically changing society so as to eliminate the problems which now disfigure it.

The Socialist Party is standing alone as a party which aims at the capture of political power by the  working class, to abolish capitalism and replace it with a society based on common ownership of wealth production and distribution and making that wealth freely available to everyone. That is Socialism – the only alternative to capitalism and its political parties.

2005 General Election: Our Candidate’s Manifesto (2005)

Party News from the May 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

As is our usual policy, we are standing one token candidate in the general election, in the Vauxhall constituency in South London, to challenge all the pro-capitalist parties and ensure that the voice of socialism is not entirely lost amidst the recriminations of the professional politicians about how to run capitalism.

The Socialist Party is contesting this election as a part of our campaign to establish a new system of society: one based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

That is our sole object. By common ownership we don’t mean that everyone should have to share a toothbrush, but that in a society built upon our mutual effort, we should all benefit and have a say in how it is run.

We currently live in a system of society based on a tiny number of people owning the productive wealth of our world, organised and run by a handful of bosses for their benefit. Their profits come first, our needs come second.

In Vauxhall nearly half of all workers are employed in  administering business as compared with only a quarter in social services and looking after ourselves (derived from 2001 Census).

It seems we’re so busy taking care of business that we don’t have time to take care of ourselves.

Because of this we have endless problems of poverty, poor services and all the issues politicians love to
spend time telling you they can solve, if only given the chance.

We don’t believe any politician can solve these problems, as long as the flawed basis of our society remains intact. In fact, we believe only you and your fellow workers can solve these problems.

We believe that it will take a revolution in how we organise our lives, a fundamental change. We want to see a society based on the fact that you know how to run your lives, know your needs and have the skills and capacity to organise with your fellows to satisfy them.

You know yourselves and your lives better than a handful of bosses ever can. With democratic control of production we can ensure that looking after our communities becomes a priority, rather than something we do in our spare time.

We all share fundamental needs, for food, clothing, housing and culture, and we have the capacity to ensure access to these for all, without exception.

If you agree with this aim, then we ask you to get in touch with us, get involved and join in our campaign to bring about this change in society.

Together, we have the capacity to run our world for ourselves. We need to build a movement to effect that change, by organising deliberately to take control of the political offices which rule our lives, and bring them into our collective democratic control.

Our candidate makes no promises, offers no pat solutions, only to be the means by which you can remake society for the common good.

Danny Lambert
The Socialist Party Candidate

The commons of South London (2005)

Book Review from the May 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

Down With The Fences: Battles for the Commons in South London. 36 pages, ú2; Past Tense Publications, c/o 56 Crampton St, London SE14, November 2004.
“The law condemns the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But lets the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.”
Most of the text of Down With The Fences was the basis of a talk given to the South London Radical History Group. Many of the open spaces in London – commons, woods, greens and parks – exist because they were preserved from development by collective action: by rioting, tearing down .

According to the pamphlet, between the 16th and 19th centuries, much of the open land, commons or woods south of the River Thames in London was enclosed for development, usually by rich landowners, or sold off for house building. Despite its name, the common land was rarely if ever actually land held in common. It was almost always land owned by the Lord of the Manor, on which over time local people had come to exercise some rights. But these rights often had no legal weight; they were just part of an unwritten social contract.

Of the “commoners”, the pamphlet notes that some of them “could become wealthy individuals themselves. Thus later struggles sometimes developed into struggles between different local rich persons. Gradually as capitalism developed, slowly replacing a society of complex vertical social obligations and customs with one based entirely on profit, the impetus was on for landowners to replace traditional land use with intensive agriculture. This demanded the clearing of woodland and the exclusion of the poor from the commons.”

This process did not take place without massive upheavals. The enclosures increased resistance. The pamphlet describes the wave of rebellion for Sydenham Common, and the conflict on Westward Common in Barnes. Richmond Park, Streatham Common, Woolwich Common and South Lambeth Common are also mentioned. As late as the 1860s, there were struggles over access to Wimbledon Common.

By the l850s, reformers were articulating the need for urban parks, to “relieve the stress and overcrowding of the city for the millions (of workers) packed into built-up areas”. It was also hoped that by converting some open spaces and commons into landscaped parks, they would be made respectable “for the aspiring working classes”. For example, “In South London, Battersea Fields, until the 19th century a place of bawdy working class recreation, including animal fairs, stalls, drinking, etc. became Battersea Park. Local vicar Reverend Fallon proposed building of the modern park to encourage the poor to reform and ‘become orderly’. As part of the process in 1852 all persons ‘trespassing’ on the park with animals or barrows were ordered to be nicked.”

Stockwell Green was used for local recreation, often rowdy, until a local toff bought it and built railings round it. Wandsworth Common, as part of the wastes of the Manor of Battersea and Wandsworth, was largely enclosed and reduced in size, and split in three by the new railway lines the 1840s. The pamphlet mentions numerous other open spaces, commons and parks in southern London, and the various battles and conflicts over their ownership and access. It notes, however, that the struggles described in South London were not unique. Through the 16th to the 19th centuries there were thousands of local battles against the enclosure and development of open spaces. And although not mentioned in the pamphlet, it should be noted here that in a socialist society all the land, and not just commons or parks, would be the common possession of society as a whole.
Peter E. Newell

The Yes Men (2005)

Film Review from the May 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Yes Men, Cornerhouse, Manchester, (now available on DVD)

Less overtly manipulative than Fahrenheit 451 but in a similarly subversive vein, The Yes Men is an attempt to wake up the public to all the corporate crap that is going on around the world in the name of the WTO. The film shows Andy and Mike, The Yes Men, impersonating or “correcting” the identity of their targets, turning up the volume’ on the aims of the WTO by exaggerating them to ludicrous extents. This is illustrated perfectly by their brief rundown of the rise of the textile industry in 19th century America thanks to “involuntarily imported labour” in the South, or by their proposal that the poor eat their own shit via recycled burgers.

The publicity blurb is promising enough, and the stunts are well represented but a lot of coverage is given to redundant talking-through, lengthening the introduction and giving more background detail on the preparation for the corporate leisure suit with huge phallic appendage than was strictly necessary. The first half of the film is taken up by the Yesmen’s talk at a textile conference in Tampere, leaving the camera to trail unevenly along to two other events which are less well covered in the second half.

This unevenness of treatment is a shame, because the idea behind the Yesmen is a good one, and could be an effective way of breaking through the hard capitalist coat of unthinking obedience to The Market. Of course, it is vastly entertaining to follow Andy and Mike as they prepare to take on a textile conference in Finland, stopping off in Paris to pick up little extras like the finishing touch for the manager’s leisure suit, and as they meet up with fellow activists around the States for other stints.

The underlying idea that subterfuge in the form of chameleon-like parodies will challenge those in power in the economic arena, or at least wake up a few conference goers, is laudable but hard work; in the capitalist world too many of these expensive conferences’ are attended by too many real yesmen’ and, unsurprisingly, there are few hostile reactions to the outrageous proposals that Andy and Mike make. Even the appearance of Andy on CNBC masquerading as GATT representative Granwyth Hulatberi,’ spouting about the might of the rich compared to the poor who are wrong “because they are poor”, fails to ring any alarm bells with the producer, even after the broadcast has gone out.

The one moment of hope comes when the Yesmen go to Sydney to address a meeting of the Certified Practicing Accountants Association of Australia. Andy, speaking again as a WTO representative, has gone for the serious approach, telling it its wrongs by helping people, not business. The accountants lap it up and seem genuinely excited by this prospect and eager to do their bit. Although this interest from such a normally conservative crowd could be explained by the uncritical reaction that the Yesmen’s parodic interventions usually get, it could also be more proof that humanity would embrace a more humane society, given half the chance.

Greasy Pole: The Dark Side of Sunny Jim (2005)

The Greasy Pole column from the May 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is not entirely clear why the late Lord Callaghan should have been known as Sunny Jim because there was a lot more to him than a supposedly genial, unflappable favourite uncle. While there are people who are grateful for his care for them when they were in trouble there is also a significant number who remember him as a thug and a bully. These are the people who came to know that beneath the surface Sunny Jim concealed an iron determination and excessive venom against anyone who crossed him.

Hugh Dalton, who was the first Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1945 Labour Government, at first assessed Callaghan as “first class though with no manners and ruthless ambition”, an opinion which he modified later to “obviously a trimmer and doesn’t seem to have any deep convictions”. Roy Jenkins, another Labour Chancellor, described him as “an aggressive pike eating up the minnows, with a brooding air of menace”; Barbara Castle, who was grievously mauled by him over the proposals for trade union “reform” in In Place of Strife, saw him as a menace on dry land: “a snake in the grass”. What all these opinions, sometimes contradictory, add up to is that Callaghan was clearly well suited to a career in politics at the highest level. And so it turned out, because he held all the major governmental jobs – Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and finally Prime Minister. This was pretty well unique, although that cannot be said about the fact that, by the standards which judge capitalist politicians, he failed in all four jobs.

Import duties
Callaghan was not unique in his politician’s readiness to reel off sound bites which he came to regret. One of these was his assurance that, after one of the more minor crises, the outlook for the British economy was set fair: “steady as she goes” was how he put it. This was intended to remind everyone that he had once been in the Navy and to comfort them with the image of a great liner being nudged into safe harbour, with captain Sunny Jim placidly in control on the bridge. What actually happened was that when, only a couple of days after the election, it became clear that British capitalism was in one of its recurring crises Callaghan’s response was typical, desperate panic. One of the wheezes he hurriedly implemented in October 1964 was a temporary 15 per cent increase on some import duties which, far from solving the trading problems of British capitalism, provoked outrage and threats of retaliation abroad. In response the British government had to promise that the surcharge was only temporary and then, a few months later, to reduce the rate to 10 per cent. How calm  and collected was Callaghan through all this? In November 1964, at a conference of ministers at Chequers, George Wigg recalled “Jim Callaghan’s lips quivered, his hands shook, he had no idea what hit him.” Prime Minister Wilson commented “I’m having to hold his hand. His nerve isn’t very good these days”.

Another wheeze, thought up by the unpredictably fertile brain of Callaghan’s advisor on tax Nicky Kaldor, was the Selective Employment Tax (SET), reputedly a measure to re-distribute labour in a structural reform which would eliminate all those nasty problems which had bedevilled the British economy for so long. The SET was a tax on employers for every employee; manufacturing industry then received a rebate plus a premium for every employee. Agriculture received a rebate of the tax while the service industries did not get anything. This complexity was imposed in a hurry such as to belie its stated purpose of permanently reshaping British industry. One minister described its introduction to the Cabinet: “… bewilderment and  consternation. Nobody could quite follow what he (Callaghan) was saying.” In any case SET was virtually abandoned as part of the measures taken in conjunction with devaluation in 1967.

Devaluation was supposed to be yet another radical step to improve the international trading position of British capitalism; after the event Harold Wilson declared: “It will be a relief to our people…they will feel that at last we have broken free…” But the Cabinet had been arguing about it almost since the day Labour got into power. Callaghan’s attitude was uncertain but he warned: “we must not underestimate the catastrophe of devaluation. It would be a political catastrophe as well as an economic one.”

Ten days later he announced that the catastrophe had arrived; the pound was to be devalued and soon afterwards he resigned. This has been misconceived as the act of an honest politician accepting responsibility for a mistake. In fact Callaghan had wanted to give up being Chancellor for some time and in any case he was careful, and tenacious, enough not to resign from the Cabinet. What he did was to swap jobs with another member of the Cabinet, moving to the Home Office while Roy Jenkins took over as Chancellor. Directly Callaghan became Home Secretary in November 1967 he was up against the problem of a prospective large intake of immigrants from Kenya who had the right to come here because they held British passports. Immigration controls on people from the British Commonwealth were already in operation, having been introduced by the Conservative government in 1962. At that time the Labour Party strongly resisted the Act, as proclaimed by Hugh Gaitskell as far back as 1958: “The Labour Party is opposed to the restriction of immigration as every Commonwealth citizen has the right as a  British subject to enter this country at will.”

This appealed to some Labour supporters as a principled stand but it quickly crumbled when it was confronted with the threat of losing votes on the issue, so that during the 1964 election Labour made it clear that they would keep the 1962 Tory Act in operation. The issue came to something of a climax in that election when Labour lost Smethwick, and with it their prospective Foreign Secretary Gordon Walker, to a Tory who ran an openly racist campaign. By the time Callaghan got to the Home Office plans were already under way to rush through legislation to overturn the historic right of British passport holders to enter this country freely. Labour’s Commonwealth Immigration Bill went even further than the 1962 Act; it was clearly an attempt to appease any racism among the voters, as it protected the right of entry of most white Commonwealth citizens while denying those rights to Kenyan Asians. This cynical piece of racist legislation was effortlessly seen through Parliament by Sunny Jim, who did not see any reason to resign over this latest example of a policy reversal.

In spite of all that had gone before, in his early days as his Prime Minister Callaghan seemed to be almost invulnerable. With amazing sleight of hand he kept his government going although it was in a minority in the House of Commons. In line with the policy of depressing working class living standards by holding wages down he saw off a strike by the firemen and persuaded the miners to accept a pay deal without a fight. There seemed no end to what he could accomplish by way of disciplining the workers in the interests of their employers – and all this, according to one aide, without trying to “break into the Guinness Book of Records for the amount of work done in twenty-four hours”. But of course this could not, did not, last. The so-called pay policy went a step too far with an attempt to impose a limit of 5 per cent on rises, which was particularly hard on the lower paid workers. Denis Healey, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, later admitted that “we in the Cabinet should have realised that our five per cent norm would be provocative as well as unattainable” – and that was how it turned out.

Road haulage and oil tanker drivers went on strike for 25 to 30 per cent increases; local authority manual workers claimed 40 per cent and the Ford Motor Company agreed a rise of 17 per cent. This was followed by the series of strikes written into history as the Winter of Discontent. Callaghan called the election of 1979 “a sea change” when in fact it was an expression of disillusionment with the Labour Party, bringing the Thatcher government to press on with policies which Callaghan and his ministers had begun.

Victory for what? (1985)

From the May 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard
  It is now fairly commonplace to read that the First World War was a useless massacre in which millions died for nothing. This is much less commonly admitted in the case of the Second World War, perhaps because the war time propaganda which billed it as a "war to defend democracy" has not yet worn off. Yet the Second World War was just as much a business war as the First World War. in that its primary cause too is to be sought in a clash of economic interest over markets, raw materials, trade routes and investment outlets between two rival blocs of imperialist powers.

  This was well brought out in a carefully-researched book written in France during the war, but not published until 1945. by Henri Claude entitled De la crise économique à la guerre mondiale (From the Economic Crisis to the World War) After showing how the 1930s crisis had led to the division of capitalist countries into two groups pursuing different economic and trading policies ("liberalism" and "autarky") depending on whether or not they had access to gold (as a means of international payment) and raw materials. Claude goes on:
The economic crisis thus led to an opposition between two antagonistic forms of capitalism: liberal capitalism and authoritarian capitalism. This antagonism has been too often seen as "ideological" for us not to show that in reality it was solely a conflict of material interests.

What, in fact, was the real meaning of this world liberalism?

It had a very precise meaning at the beginning of the industrial era when England began to export its manufactured products. As England was at this time the only industrial nation all that was required for it to find external outlets was that no customs barrier should "artificially" stop at frontiers its products whose costs of production were lower than those of the rest of the world. Originally liberalism meant, crudely: "The world for English products". "Economic liberalism" thus expressed perfectly the interest of British industry. Later, when England was forced to struggle against the industries which came into being nearly everywhere, it partly gave up this "liberalism", but did not however cease to demand its application by the others; for the fate of its industry, trade and banks depended on the freedom which the other nations granted it. The wealth of the City remained linked to the free play of supply and demand, to the open market, to world trade. Everything that restricted the freedom of exports and the commercial and financial operations of the City caused it a serious prejudice. The policy of autarky which banned its commercial and financial expansion into certain zones and which fixed prices without paying attention to “world” prices was thus its most redoubtable enemy.

What would become of the London market if the appetite for autarky was to gobble up the major part of the planet? Thus one of the members of the Stock Exchange. Mr Maguire, rightly insisted, in a speech at the Bankers’ Institute, on the necessity, for England's interests, of maintaining as far as possible the freedom of the market in other countries. "The whole history of the Stock Exchange", he declared, “is tied to the principle of the maintenance of the free and open market where the law of supply and demand operates without hindrance".

The United States also felt the same need for liberalism amongst others. The mass production of manufactured goods and the extremely developed industrialisation of its agriculture allowed it to beat all its competitors on the world market, provided that this market was free. It therefore considered all measures of economic nationalism taken by the other nations, and in particular autarkic measures, as an obstacle which hindered it from selling to the extent of its productive capacity and of its low production costs. "Freedom of trade", President Roosevelt was to say. "is essential to our economic life. With the victory of totalitarian conceptions the system on which American society is based would be compromised" (speech of 28 May 1941, Le Temps, 29 May 1941). This did not prevent it practising a rigorous protectionist policy to defend its own market, but “this contradiction" in no way goes against the logic of imperialism which seeks to push aside all that obstructs it externally, without ever making any self-criticism.

Neither could the US accept the system of bi-lateral agreements for, unlike Germany, it was an exporter of both raw materials and manufactured products, which ruled out it concluding compensation agreements with the agricultural countries. It had to be able to sell manufactured goods to the agricultural countries and agricultural products to the industrial countries. It is thus that is to be explained the policy of Cordell Hull (US Secretary of State) in favour of commercial treaties signed on the basis of "economic liberalism" and of what is called "the most favoured nation clause", a policy which was the exact opposite of Germany’s and which openly worked against it. In fact the American leaders did not fail to underline the opposition and permanent conflict between their commercial methods and interests and those of Germany. In January 1939 Mr Landon. former Republican presidential candidate, noted that an intense struggle "to the death" was going on between the democracies and the totalitarian countries. "It is", he said, "an economic war based on new methods of economic penetration" (Information, 24 January 1939). On 10 April 1939 a Havas News agency wire from Washington was even more explicit:
  The disastrous economic and social consequences of the extension of the zone of influence of autarkic commercial methods are insisted upon here. According to the White House and the State Department, the whole world is rapidly heading towards a conflict between two irreconcilable economic systems. In presenting the problem from its economic angle, the White House spokesmen wish to make American public opinion aware that the menace, pointed out many times by Mr Roosevelt and again on Saturday evening by Mr Cordell Hull, is ceasing to be remote and that the time could rapidly come when the whole economic and social system of the United States would be endangered
England and the United States thus temporarily had the same industrial, commercial and financial interest to fight autarkic imperialism.

All the other countries whose financial power was based on gold necessarily found themselves on the same side of the barricade. Common financial interests were the real cement that bound the democracies together and not. as some would have us believe, the fact that they had the same political regimes.

Statements by statesmen and economists on the "war aims" of the Allies afterwards provided a brilliant proof of this. The British Prime Minister, Chamberlain, declared at the beginning of the hostilities in a speech on the economic reconstruction of the world after the war that full freedom of trade must be restored and that autarky and the methods arising from it must disappear from old Europe. A few hours after this speech. Mr Cordell Hull declared on behalf of America that he was in full agreement with Mr Chamberlain (L'Oeuvre, 2 February 1940). Commenting on this speech the Tribune de Lausanne wrote: "One can thus reasonably hope that autarky, which is an instrument of combat, will be cast aside along with the canons, the tanks and the machine-guns when the war economy gives way to the peace economy” (quoted in Le Temps, 4 February 1940). At the same moment, Paul Reynaud (French Prime Minister) declared at the opening session of the Société d'Economie Politique that the ultimate war aim of France and Great Britain was a return to liberalism, particularly economic liberalism (Le Temps, 7 February 1940).

The great financial expert. Mr T. Jenny, wrote a few days later:
   In practice only one thing could threaten — temporarily — the value of gold. That would be a development leading all countries to retreat behind insurmountable barriers, reducing exchanges between nations to the rudimentary system of barter, where there would no longer be any need for an international means of payment because there would no longer be international payments properly so-called. But are not the Allies fighting precisely to spare the world this return to barbarism, to allow peaceful exchanges between the various countries to resume their growth tomorrow? (Le Temps, 12 February 1940).
  If France and England were thus making war to maintain their financial power, it is quite obvious that the United States, whose stock of gold had been increasing unceasingly since the outbreak of the war, would be led to line up beside them. Commenting on the growth of this stock of gold in May 1940 the New York Times wrote: "Many American bankers and economists have already announced that this enormous metal holding will become useless if the totalitarian dictators are victorious" (quoted in Le Petit Purisien, 24 May 1940).

During the war the financial and price stabilisation methods, similar to the totalitarian ones, proposed by the economist Keynes and Major Attlee were rejected as "contrary to the very principles for which the Allies are fighting" (statement by Sir Robert Kinderley. Governor of the Bank of England, Le Temps, 15 January 1940) and as "not only alienating from the war those who were supporting His Majesty's Government by their loyal effort" but also as "tending to exclude any possibility of US intervention" (statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sir J. Simon. 25 August 1940).

The nature of the links which united the Western democracies against the totalitarian States can thus be clearly seen.

On the other hand, Germany, Italy and Japan were in the same camp because these countries found themselves facing the same economic obstacles. The creation of the Asiatic Bloc and of the European Autarkic Bloc had the same irreductable opponents: England and the United States.

Also, Germany, Japan and Italy were linked by common methods. The mark, the yen and the lira had the same common enemy in currencies based on gold and not subject to exchange control. Germany, Italy and Japan had the same commercial and financial interest to reduce, by extending the autarkic areas, the zones where the pound and the dollar reigned; for the capital which had accumulated in the hands of German. Italian and Japanese industrialists from public works, rearmament and the production of substitutes had no value and could only be invested within the limits of the autarkic areas. Hence the necessity for capital called "national" to extend the space where it kept its value to the detriment, evidently, of capital called "international", i.e.. foreign capital based on currencies and gold.

The capitalist world thus found itself divided into two blocs whose commercial and financial interests and whose methods of expansion were constantly coming into opposition on the world's markets. As a report by the Economic Committee of the League of Nations noted in 1938:
  Efforts to penetrate export markets have contributed to accentuating the contrast between the commercial system based on a free currency and the commercial system based on a controlled currency By the former is to be understood the system in which the money received in payment for exports can be freely employed and in particular can be used for purchases in third countries. By the second, on the other hand, is to be understood the system in which the foreign currencies received by traders are blocked and can only be employed for purchases in the countries to which the exports went. The Committee is of the view that everything should be done to reduce the clashes between the countries with a free currency and those with a managed economy.
It is this split in the capitalist world, this antagonism between forms of expansion, methods of financing and monetary conceptions which, superimposed on the classic struggle for markets, distinguishes the Second from the First World War.

In 1914 German capitalism and English capitalism were not only of the same rank and nature; they wore the same clothes. Mr Bethman-Holweg dressed the same way as Lord Grey.

But while in 1938 Mr Eden's elegance was still very 1900ish, German imperialism wore a brown shirt and boots. This difference in dress revealed the break in the unity of the capitalist world brought about by the economic crisis of 1929. While the Second World War was, like the First, a consequence of the necessity for capitalism in general to find "external" markets and for each imperialism in particular to expand at the expense of its competitors, this fundamental struggle was doubled this time by secondary conflicts which gave to this war a particular face and features: struggles of gold against barter, of secured currencies against controlled currencies, of the free market against autarky, of "international" finance capital against "national" capital, the antagonism was everywhere, in the expansionism as well as in the forms of expansion.

The essence of the conflict was thus economic, and nothing but economic. It did not result at all from the difference of political institutions, any more than the alliances resulted from the similarity of regimes.

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  It only remains to add that, although the Allies' original "war aim" of restoring economic liberalism on the world market ceased to be so frankly proclaimed as the war dragged on as it had been by the British and French Prime Ministers in 1940 (after all, restoring world economic arrangements which benefited the capitalists of the Allied powers was hardly an issue on which to appeal to people to kill and get killed), it nevertheless remained the Allies' over-riding reason for wishing to see the defeat of Germany and Japan. Plans for the post-war reconstruction of liberal capitalist trading and financial arrangements were discussed from as early as 1941, even if out of the limelight. These discussions culminated in a Conference held in Bretton Woods, in New Hampshire. in July 1944 at which the IMF and the World Bank were set up as the main institutions of a post-war liberal international payments system to be based on currencies tied to gold at a fixed rate. The outlawing of the "autarkic" trading practices of pre-war German and Japanese imperialisms was confirmed in 1947 with the drawing up of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

  Thus was ensured the continued domination of the world by the capitalist powers which benefited from liberal world economic arrangements, and in particular American imperialism. However, in allying themselves with a power which practised the same economic and political methods as the German and Japanese enemy, American, British and French imperialism conjured up another challenger to their domination of the world: state capitalist Russia, which obtained as its war prize an Empire in Eastern Europe. So the struggle for world domination between "the old and fatter bandits". and their younger and more vigorous rivals continued as it will for as long as capitalism is allowed to last.