Sunday, January 30, 2022

Sting in the Tail: By-election Fever (1992)

The Sting in the Tail column from the January 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

By-election Fever

The Scorpion has just suffered three by-elections on one night, it was a TV extravaganza where a load of toadies tried to get their snouts Into the Westminster trough.

"Its a good result for us", says Nigel Preservative. "It proves what we always said", says Hamish McSporran. "Another nail in the government's coffin” says Trevor Lickspittle. "Its the turn of the tide", says Walter Camera-Angle.

"Its the turning of my stomach", complains Scorpion, crawling off to bed suffering from an over-dose of cliches.

A Slap Up Meal

Should you happen to be in the London area on the night of February 13 and find yourself a bit peckish here is a bit of good news for you.

Instead of going to Joe's Greasy Eats Cafe for a salmonella sandwich, go a bit up-market and visit the Park Lane Hotel. It will be a splendid affair. You will be rubbing shoulders with famous politicians, writers and the odd film director.

This dazzling nlght-out can be yours for only £500-a-head. The organisers of this gala night out? None other than those champions of the proletariat — the Labour Party!

The Mad Professor

In the May issue we reported that Professor David Marsland had won the Margaret Thatcher Foundation annual award. This genius had won this great honour for such progressive ideas as abolishing social workers, ending unemployment benefit and recruiting 11 year old kids for defence training corps in schools.

Continuing the good work the Professor has turned his cool analytical mind to solving the civil war in Yugoslavia. Writing In the New Statesman (1 November 1991) the good professor proposes that Britain should go to war with Serbia!
"British aircraft flying from Cyprus and Austria could destroy the Serbian airforce and fleet in one day. Tanks and military formation could then be wiped out at leisure from the air without much difficulty. Within a week, Croatia and freedom could be saved."
This modern day Napoleon has a day job; he is a professor of social science at the West London Institute of Higher Education. Higher Education? Scorpion is just thankful he left school at 15!

Dry Eyed Farewell

The gloom of 1991 was lifted a little by the news that Marxism Today had ceased publication. Over the years it's Marxist content was probably slightly less than the Dandy or the Beano, so it was good to see another voice of confusion silenced.

BBC2 (5 December 1991) decided to mark the death of Martin Jacques' rag in The Late Show with a slot entitled the ABC of Marxism.

Naturally it was up to the usual high standard of The Late Show. C Is for Castro ... L is for Lenin ... the usual junk.

At P is for periodicals we saw flashes of various obscure left wing journals. Of course we did not see the Socialist Standard. This journal has been consistently putting a Marxist view for only 87 years, and we don't expect the terribly well informed BBC types to have a programme about Marxism that actually deals with Marxism.

Dim Stars

Hollywood is well described as "the dream factory" but it surpassed itself recently when Oxfam America staged the "Hollywood Hunger Banquet" to promote the plight of the world's hungry.

Movie stars Mel Gibson, Cybill Shepherd, Dustin Hoffman, Whoopi Goldberg, etc., drew lots for the privilege of sitting on the floor to eat just rice and water. The luckless losers had to make do with salad, chicken, dessert and wine.

One observer of this farce said:
It's a typical manifestation of these people's blind obsession with themselves —- as If they could actually make any real difference.
The Guardian 18 November
The banquet organiser hoped the event would show . . . "that there's totally unequal distribution of food In the world and capitalism isn't working". Well stated, but pulling stunts like this does nothing to reduce world hunger and leaves intact the loathsome system which spawns It.

Lenin — Some Guy

Bonfire night on the village common, families parading with Chinese lanterns behind a Guy destined for the flames, but what's this? The Guy is wearing a fur hat and brandishing a red flag!
Organisers of the village club's fireworks party had decided to give this year's celebrations a political theme and mark the fall of Communism In Eastern Europe by burning an old-style party leader.
Maidenhead Advertiser 8 November 
When Lenin scathingly earmarked capitalism for "the dustbin of history" he little dreamt that the mighty organisation which so slavishly worshipped him would itself become history to the extent that it could be burned In effigy as a stand-in for Guy Fawkes.

Vive La Difference

Many people insist that socialism means we would all have to conform while capitalism opposes this and encourages individuality.

The visit to Britain by Jean-Marie Le Pen gave us some examples of how capitalism opposes individuality.

The Guardian (6 December) quoted some Britons who share Le Pen's desire to repatriate coloured immigrants. One said 'The point is, they don't behave the way we behave”, while another deplored ” . . . the failure of immigrants to Integrate Into the customs of the host society”.

And look at the disapproval most people show when they see youngsters with purple hair or wearing "outlandish" clothes. What chance would someone have if he / she turned up for a job Interview dressed as a Punk-Rocker? Nor does the public exactly welcome the different sexual preferences of homosexuals.

The truth is that capitalism dislikes individuality and loves conformity.

Let's Talk About The World (1992)

From the January 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

Look, I don't believe in Utopia. My ambition is firmly rooted In reality. All I want is a decent, secure job that pays enough to guarantee a reasonable standard of living, sees the mortgage paid, runs the car, gets us a bit of a holiday every year . . . Well, you know what I mean . . . I suppose I would like the kids to get better opportunities than me . . .

That's not a lot to ask . . .

No, It's not, I suppose, but hold on, there are a few other things . . . Peace. I'd like to know that there'd never be war again and that all the violence that is now so much a part of our lives was ended. Mind you, I know that for me and my family to be happy other problems, like world hunger, would have to be ended. Not Just because it's obscene, which, of course, it is, but because it creates a dangerous situation, if you know what I mean. I suppose, when you think about it, the only way the prosperity and security of the individual can be secured is by having prosperity and security for everybody.

Do you think present society can guarantee the reasonably decent life you want?

Not guarantee. No, not when you think about It. I've seen too many people doing OK and then, through no fault of their own, some outside factor . . . recession, competition, bankruptcy — even, as we saw last year In the Gulf, war — and, whoosh! you're on the dole and the house is being repossessed!

That's a good point to start from. So you agree that our present way of organising society, the capitalist way, just cannot guarantee you — apart from everybody else — the material basis of a full and happy life?

I have agreed that, I suppose. It's a Jungle. We're all fighting to survive. And yet capitalism has improved things in many respects. Sometimes I marvel at the way the system has developed. We can turn out all sorts of complicated machinery . . . cars by the millions, washing machines, fridges, TV's videos. Even the agricultural techniques have been revolutionized to the point where we have to destroy foodstuffs and restrict food production. We can send people to the moon . . .

But we have not solved the simple problem of saving the life of a starving or sick child, whose parents have not got the money to buy the food or medicines which you, quite rightly, say capitalism can now vastly overproduce.

It's incredible, but it's true. But that still does not take from the fact that capitalism has developed the means for producing enough for everybody. I hadn't thought of it before in those terms but it is surely the means we employ to distrlbute the things that capitalism produces . . . If there were some other way . . .

You're right, of course. Capitalism has solved the question of production. It has created the potential to produce in abundance the things everybody needs but its method of distribution, the money system, denies the great majority of people throughout the world the opportunity to avail of the fantastic wealth which can now be produced.

But, if we solved this problem of distribution . . . You say it's the money system. Well, Just suppose we find another method that would allow everybody to benefit from the present techniques of production. There must be some process we could devise.

We could have free access. Everybody being free to take what they need.

As I was speaking I thought of something like that but It wouldn't work. There're a lot of reasons but the main one would be that you would need some method of restricting people. A form of rationing of some sort, and look at the problems that would bring.

Why? Haven’t we agreed that the productive techniques exist now to produce abundance?

Yes we have, but how would you prevent people taking more than they need?

Well, in the first . . .

No! Hold on — I think I've got It! No money means that people wouldn't want to take more than they need because . . . well, when they wanted more, they could get it! Yes, I see that, at least. We'd take only what we need because we would know that when we needed more it would be there for the taking. So everybody would be on the same social level.

Correct. No classes. It simply means that we would co-operate in producing the goods and services we need. Everybody who was fit to do so would have to be afforded the right to contribute in some way. I appreciate that this may create problems for some people when we remember that at present all real wealth is produced by a minority of workers.

A minority of workers? Surely workers are the majority of the population?

Yes, of course, workers form the overwhelming majority of people but only a minority are involved in producing socially useful goods and providing useful services. The majority of work performed today by workers is only necessary because of the way society is run. The buying-and-selling way: shops, banks, insurance, financial services, arms production, armed forces, crime . . .

I think we're on to something. This is a bloody great idea. There'd be no poverty or unemployment and all the waste that would be cut out, destruction of foodstuffs and all the fantastic wealth that goes into armaments and war, and cutting out all those useless tasks — everybody could be well fed, well housed and secure with less effort than it takes now. But there must be a snag! Why don't some of these experts, businessmen, economists, why don't they suggest this?

Because their training and their interests are concerned only with capitalism.

I think we're really on to something. I really do. The whole bloody thing is so logical! The implications are tremendous. Everybody would have a direct stake in society. The world would belong to us all; things like vandalism would disappear. A world without money! Without money and without class — and without wages, too, because there’d be no need . . .

And, of course, we are only scratching the surface.

A world-wide society where everything would be owned in common by everybody. Obviously we'd have to divide out the work as best as possible to give everybody a chance to contribute to production — but, of course, people would develop in other ways . . . education, travel, art . . . The interesting thing about this idea is that in such a world there'd be no incentive to corruption. Of course, it would have to be voluntary . . .


Yes, democratic. You just couldn't force this idea on people. To bring about a change to this way of living, to make it work, I mean, people would have to understand it and . . . opt for it politically. There'd have to be a political Movement, wouldn't there? Yes, and we'd need a name for the idea . . .

The Gulf: one year later (1992)

From the January 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

With the dust from Kuwait's burnt oil-wells barely settled, the race is on for UK companies to beat their rivals back into the Gulf, with rich pickings on offer from reconstructing Kuwait's war-ravaged economy and the return of local dictators to their old playgrounds. And just to show that the pursuit of profit knows no boundaries of race, religion or nation, British companies are again climbing into bed with the “bloodthirsty mullahs" in Iran, as they too seek to rebuild a country laid waste by Iraqi bombs and missiles— also supplied, of course, by US and British companies.

Last May, just three months after the Gulf War finished. US business announced the resumption of its offensive when Al-Ahlia-Gulf Line, bottler of Coca-Cola for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman, commissioned the first modern, high speed multi-packaging machine in the Middle East. According to company general manager Jim Hill, this followed “extensive tests over the past 12 months in the local Dubai market". So even as US bombs fell in neighbouring Kuwait and in Iraq, the sharp suits from Coke were planning their own offensive on the pockets and teeth of Middle Eastern youth.

British companies could not take this sort of thing lying down. The massive participation by Britain in the Gulf War—where it supplied the second largest Allied contingent—was undertaken not for protecting Kuwaiti sovereignty, nor out of particular concern for its oil. British troops were in the Gulf to stop the domino-like internal collapse of Saudi Arabia and the other four states of the Gulf Cooperation Council—Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE and Oman—which could easily have followed an Iraqi victory and a triumphalist Saddam calling on the people of the region to rise up against their corrupt and despotic rulers.

And why this touching concern? Because British trade with the Gulf states is currently worth well over £4 billion a year, according to figures compiled by the Department of Trade and Industry. Last year, as the Gulf crisis was unwinding. British, companies did some £2 billion worth of business with Saudi Arabia alone. So now the British government is anxious that its support for the local dictators during the war results in adequate rewards for the British companies it is there to represent.

The first post-war move came from the Birmingham Chamber of Industry and Commerce, which organised a tour with the DTI of 32 British companies to Saudi Arabia, which returned in triumph with over £3.25 million in confirmed orders. “This was the most successful mission in 25 years of overseas promotion work,” Birmingham Chamber of Commerce leader Mike Turner proudly announced. A vast amount of restocking was taking place in the parts of the kingdom most affected by the war, a process being exaggerated as Saudi businessmen pump supplies into Kuwait, said Mr Turner. Interestingly, he also reported that members of the Kuwaiti elite, unimpressed by the money making opportunities in their shell-shocked native land, were to be seen wandering neighbouring states transacting all sorts of business there. Mr Turner’s advice to recession-struck companies in the UK was to visit the region in person—"the rewards are there for companies taking the trouble”.

Business interests
The government was not slow in taking up his suggestion. Whatever accusations have been laid against the DTI for “inaction" during the domestic recession, the same cannot be said for the way it sprang forward as the champion of British business interests in the Middle East, loudly announcing a Britain in the Gulf 92 exhibition to be held in Dubai at the end of April.

Any interested readers—and particularly those about to lose their homes through mortgage or rent arrears—should apply by the end of this month at the latest to take advantage of the very generous level of support being offered by the DTI. “Eligible British companies will recieve a 50 percent subsidy on the cost of a standard, 15 square metre stand”, proclaims the DTI's promotional literature. "This will include company name, carpet, flower arrangements, furniture (1 table. 3 chairs) and stand cleaning"—the latter presumably undertaken at competitive rates by some of the tens of thousands of Palestinians or other "foreign” workers expelled by the Kuwaiti leadership since its return from a heroic exile. In addition, the DTI offers a "subvention” (not a subsidy, you understand) to cover one third of the not inconsiderable costs of up to two representatives per company.

"In the aftermath of the Gulf War, Anglo-Gulf relations have never been better", enthuses Britain in the Gulf 92 News. "The DTI attaches the highest importance to sustaining and enhancing the level of British trade with the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council”. And it is not only the DTI which is involved in pushing British business in the region. “The campaign began in December and includes reports and special programmes through the BBC Arabic Service and the Central Office of Information". So much for BBC's lofty claims to "independence”—“Nation Shall Sell Unto Nation" should perhaps be its motto in the Middle East.

The Gulf War victory by the US and its allies has ensured that Dubai remains a safe place for UK business: "The pro-business policies of the government arc reflected in the liberal regulatory environments which include no taxation on profits or incomes, nor foreign exchange controls”, says the DTI. The good citizens of Dubai earned the undying respect of the DTI by ignoring the crisis enveloping the region last year and buying 13 percent more from the UK, bringing total exports to the UAE as a whole to £R600 million in 1990.

International Conferences and Exhibitions Ltd, which is jointly arranging the Gulf 92 exhibition with the DTI, was the only exhibition organiser in Dubai to carry out its programme of events during the Gulf crisis. And the response of a grateful Dubai business class to having their skins saved by British tanks, was to endow British firms at the Opportunity in the Gulf exhibition—held in Dubai three months after the ending of hostilities—with a further £20 million worth of orders, with the same amount again anticipated for the near future.

Gulf elites
And business opportunities in the region now extend much further that the basic construction, power and transport contracts of yore, argues the DTI. The Gulf elite clearly feels secure enough to enjoy the better things in life again:
The high level of government expenditure is fuelling a boom in private sector investment, reflected in a spate of new high rise office developments, five star hotels, apartment blocks, sports clubs, shopping malls and luxury villas, all of which require a full range of luxury fittings.
It also generates the need for a whole lot more services essential to the well-being of redundant oil workers, refugees and displaced peoples throughout the region—things like "printing, advertising and financial expertise”.The children of the rich are also back to unrestrained consumption, it would seem, with consumer spending being "stimulated to record levels on items such as clothing, domestic appliances, cars, food and drink, jewellery, sports equipment and overseas travel”.

A list of companies so far enlisted for the DTI's Gulf 92 extravaganza tells its own story. Starlite Chandeliers, for example, is exhibiting a range of crystal chandeliers and light fittings, while Gainsborough Silver Collections will be displaying "a selection of pieces from its comprehensive range of silver plated tableware”. The list goes on to include limousine converters and Moores of London's "corporate jewellery in solid silver and gold plate", and so on.

Finally, what of the Iranian connection?
The carefully planned visitor promotion campaign for the Britain in the Gulf 92 exhibition will cover the six Gulf Cooperation Council states and also extend to Iran, a country with which Dubai has close trading ties.
Could this be the same country the British government sanctimoniously severed diplomatic ties with after its leader issued a death threat against Salman Rushdie which has still not been withdrawn? Yes indeed, and here is the reason:
In addition to the massive rebuilding programme planned for Kuwait, reconstruction schemes in neighbouring Iran, only 40 minutes flight from Dubai, are also arousing unprecedented interest on the part of UK exporters.
So if the government starts to backpedal on its stance against Iranian state terrorism—by banning demonstrations by Rushdie supporters, for example, which it actually did in November—you will know the reason why.
Andrew Thomas

They said it in 1991 (1992)

From the January 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard


The first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1901, since when about 100 million human beings have been killed in wars—Army recruitment advert.
We no longer take American Express. Things are not what they used to be—Baghdad hotel receptionist.
Only God could have got rid of Margaret Thatcher—Ian Paisley.


Rationing of health care is nothing new: the NHS has been doing it for more than four decades—Robert Craig, NHS manager.
We are the ones who have been given a special mission by God—Major Mohammed Abu Amnah. Saudi Army.
We are depending on God—Saddam Hussein.


Americans can move forward to lend, spend and invest—George Bush on the end of the Gulf War.
Luxury is buying a dear brand of toilet paper—Wife of an unemployed man, Crewe.
It does sometimes strike me that we are a privileged place—Eton schoolboy.


I have too much. Its a terrible bind to be in charge of controlling and investing money—Duke of Buccleuch.
There's one law for the rich, one for the poor—Marquess of Blandford, after being disqualified from driving.
When I pass a belt I cannot resist hitting below it—Robert Maxwell.


1. The world produces enough food to feed all its inhabitants. 2. a child dies from starvation every two seconds—Christian Aid advert.
We didn't go to war to form a democracy. We never said one American was sent there to make Kuwait a democracy—US Government official.
I shall not stop making speeches—Margaret Thatcher, in Moscow.


Like many other parts of the capitalist economy, such as property developers, banks do well under Labour-—John Willcock, Guardian financial columnist.
If you’re given the choice of being born either rich or smart, my advice is to be born rich—Professor Stephen Ceci. 
Organisers of strikes are breaking the law. Strikes interfere with Poland—Lech Walesa.


The sort of people you step over when you come out of the opera—Sir George Young, Minister of Housing, on London beggars. 
He was only there in the first place because they had oil—Mavis Cole, grandmother of soldier killed in the Gulf.
Of course we play the stock market fairly heavily—Canon Dennis Green. Ely Cathedral.


The ousting of Gorbachev was just politics, but business is business—Western business executive in trade with Russia.
I'm quite surprised because most of the people here don't seem to be affected by the recession—Visitor to Country Landowners' Association game fair.
I know the dangers, I‘ve been raped at gunpoint. But I need the money—Samantha. London prostitute.


It feels as if someone is trying to break us— Marie Pender, mother of four children, living in bed and breakfast accommodation.
I am not proud of the part I played in this affair and I shall exercise some modesty in advising a later generation on what they should be doing today—George Matthews, ex-assistant general secretary of the Communist Party, on their subservience to Moscow.
You see families counting out the pennies to see if they can buy a tin of beans. I thought it went out with Dickens—Molly Woodhouse, Meadowell Estate, after the riot there.


I don’t accept there is a class system in this country. There are gentlemen and women with good manners no matter where they are in society—Sheila Lawlor, Centre for Policy Studies.
In a capitalist country a classless society isn't possible—Marquess of Blandford.
A standing ovation without a speech. Isn't that marvellous—Margaret Thatcher on her arrival at the Tory Party conference.


We're talking hundreds of millions in lost business—Sidney Barthelemy, Mayor of New Orleans, on racist primary candidature of David Duke.
When it comes to freedom there were certain shortcomings in the Soviet Union—Russian spy Peter Kroger.
No farming system is sustainable unless it makes a profit—Derek Barber, President, Royal Agricultural Society of England.


When I'm hungry I have a cup of tea— Single mother of three on ITV's First Tuesday.
Life is difficult and tough—Norman Lamont.
Well, I miss me too—Margaret Thatcher at New York diplomatic dinner.

Letters: Professor rebuked (1992)

Letters to the Editors from the January 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

Professor rebuked

Dear Editors,

Congratulations on the discussion and debate section in the December Socialist Standard, in which Steve Coleman repudiates the defence of capitalism by Professor David Marsland of the West London Institute.

It really is quite incredible that anyone with professorial status can say that property, wage-labour. competition, economic inequalities and money are part of the human psyche, and imply that any alternative to the capitalist mode of organising society is not consistent with human nature. The sad thing is that many are easily swayed by such arguments, spurious as they are. We live in a society in which those concepts and values are paramount, and we are, therefore, conditioned to act and think in a manner which make those values seem to be part of our nature.

Of course, jobs and wages are a natural consideration in our lives—we can’t live without them; of course we are competitive—we are taught to be so as soon as we leave the cradle; of course we regard economic inequality as inevitable because that’s the way things must be in capitalist society; of course money is important—we can’t do without it. and thinking in monetary terms becomes second nature to us. But. to say that these things are part of our natural make-up; that inherent in our genealogy is a crying need for money, wages, or social inequality, is to talk utter nonsense.

The status of professor implies the role of educator, leader of rational thinking. I think that Professor Marsland should be ashamed of himself for trying to lead us down a path of such false reasoning.

During the second world war I served in the Royal Army Medical Corps with the Middle East Forces. I was stationed in the desert in a base hospital about 60 miles from Cairo for 5 years. Thinking back on those days I am moved by the wonderful spirit of comradeship and co-operation that grow up in those circumstances. We all had a job to do. We all depended on each other. At the same time when off duty, we were free, and when circumstances permitted we were given generous leave to travel wherever we wished—it proved a wonderful opportunity to understand something of earlier civilizations. Travelling was no problem and quite free—all one had to do was go to the main road and thumb a lift. Money was of little importance and most members of the unit voluntarily chose not to draw full pay, saving it for spending on leave. Clothing, food, accommodation were, of course, freely provided. We became a close-knit community. Individual talents emerged and were used to develop educational and cultural activities for the benefit of patients and unit personnel.

Why do I tell you all this? Well, certainly not because I believe in wars, or want to suggest that society should be organised on army lines: no, simply because I think it helps to belie Marsland’s assertion of the implausibility of an elastic human nature. I think it shows that given a common objective we can strive for a better way of life, and work in harmony without monetary considerations.

There is one simple truth that the professor cannot deny and that is that capitalism's mode of production and dissipation of wealth is not designed to meet the needs of the people—all the people. That is why the socialist alternative is imperative.
George Pearson 
London SW20

BOB POTTER. Hove: We will reply to your letter on IQ tests in the next issue.

South-East slump

Dear Editors,

An item in the Observer (24 November) vividly demonstrates the tragic situation in which many workers now find themselves.

Two thousand would-be wage slaves queued for up to twelve hours, for just 127 jobs as packers and maintenance workers for around £300 to £400 a week, at Courages brewery, in Reading. Many of them, before becoming unemployed, had been company directors, former tradesmen and even university lecturers. Few, no doubt, would have considered themselves to be members of the working class, dependent on their abilities to sell their mental and physical energies in order to live.

“Welcome to Reading, Boom Town of the Eighties, Gloom Town of 1991", commented the Observer. Unemployment in Reading has more than doubled in the last year; more than 5,000 have lost their jobs. The picture is repeated across the south-east. It is the same in Crawley, Milton Keynes and even Tunbridge Wells. Here in Colchester, the so-called prosperous First Recorded Town in England, the position is much the same. Over the last few years, hundreds of workers have been made redundant from Paxman’s, Colchester’s largest factory. Only this week, the Essex County Standard reported that the Eastern National Bus company is to cut another 35 jobs. The redundancies will affect staff across the board.

As I write this (1 December), the same paper reports that "recession-hit traders in Colchester said yesterday they were seeing the first tentative signs of the much hoped-for Christmas rush". And the Co-op said there have been the first “nibbles". Nevertheless, as one walks around the Town, large numbers of shops, big and small, can be seen empty and deserted. The owners have gone “bust”, bankrupt.

Colchester Youth Enquiry Service says that they will be collecting warm clean bedding for the many young homeless people in Colchester. They cannot actually find homes for these people (although, as elsewhere, there are many empty properties in the area), but the homeless can go and "ask for advice, help and a blanket".

The situation is not, however, just local or regional, or even national. Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are in dead trouble; and the United States has been in recession for some considerable time. And France too. A woman friend of mine in Paris has been unemployed, except for two short periods, for just over twelve months. Indeed, three million workers are officially unemployed in France. And it’s getting worse.

Will it ever end? Is massive unemployment here to stay?

Tragic as it is for those who lose their jobs or, if young, are unable to get a job in the first place, booms and slumps and unemployment, are a "normal” consequence of our present production-for-profit, capitalist, system. The owners of wealth-production will only invest, and employ us, if they think there is a good prospect of making a profit. And at the present moment, most capitalists prefer not (or are unable) to invest. Sooner or later, business will pick up. People will be taken on again, although in my view I think that large numbers of unemployed workers (a “reserve army of labour") will continue to exist, possibly well into the next century.

So, is there a way out? A solution?

Socialists say that workers, employed or unemployed, in Colchester or Reading, in Britain or Russia, or the United States, or France and elsewhere throughout the world, can solve the problems of not just periodic unemployment. but also poverty in a world of potential plenty, by organising to establish a new and completely different form of society of production of wealth solely for use and the satisfaction of needs. Such a society would not be Heaven on Earth, or Utopia; but it would soon tackle, and solve, the basic problems thrown up by capitalism. And that is more than enough.
Peter E. Newell
Colchester, Essex 

Dear Editors,

On the article in the December issue 'What Do We Mean By Class'. I would like to say that you can’t always leave your job if you don’t like it because of low wages, boring work. etc. Unemployment is so high that many people, if they are in their 40s or 50s, feel they will not get another job if they leave their employment. I have been in my job for 3 years. It is a job I hate. The first month that I worked there I wanted to leave, so any available time off I have looked for another job. I’ve had various interviews, but no luck.
Leslie Everard 
Borehamwood, Herts

Socialist Party Meetings (1992)

Party News from the January 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Interesting Case of Sir Richard Acland, M. P. (1941)

From the January 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the October issue of the Socialist Standard,  some remarks were made about Sir Richard Acland’s views, based on a letter written by him to the News-Chronicle. In a subsequent letter to the Socialist Standard Sir R. Acland suggested that instead of criticising his brief letter to the News-Chronicle we should consider the full statement contained in his book, “Unser Kampf” (“ Our Struggle ”—Penguin Edition, 6d.).

The argument of “Unser Kampf” is that the war against Germany will be long and costly unless the military weapon is backed up by propaganda that will appeal to the German people. It is of no use, he says, to threaten the dismemberment of Germany as this would rally the German workers round Hitler. As he proposes instead that we should proclaim “common ownership” as our “new order” it may appear that he has reached the Socialist standpoint. When, however, the book is examined it is found that though the author imagines he has broken with capitalism, his alternative, far from being the revolutionary one he believes it to be, is a naive, impossible scheme for imposing radical reforms on the capitalist world.

Sir R. Acland can see some of the features of capitalism, the inequality of incomes, the restrictions on production, the monopolies, unemployment, etc., but he gives no sign of understanding that the monetary system, the production of goods for sale, the system of wage-labour, the existence of property incomes through exploitation, and the competition for world markets are all part and parcel of capitalism : he does not see that if the capitalist private property basis is abolished and common ownership is introduced all the rest go too. If Sir R. Acland can contemplate “common ownership” without this necessary consequence of it, the reason is that he does not really mean common ownership. His scheme is that industry (in the first place banks, insurance companies, railways,, mines, steel, and a few other industries, p. 145) shall be taken over by the State and that the owners shall receive compensation on a graded basis providing a maximum annual income of £3,000 a year (p. 100). This would be for the life of the shareholder, but with the alternative of a somewhat smaller income which shall continue for the life of his children too. This payment of compensation he justifies on the ground that it would be both unwise and unfair to leave the former owners “to fend for themselves in the labour market like anyone else” (p. 98). This is a curious argument. Sir R. Acland does not appear fully to realise that property incomes, including these compensation incomes, can only exist through the exploitation of the workers who produce the wealth. And if this “ new order ” really offers to the whole population a satisfactory life, why should it be “unfair” to the capitalist that they should enjoy its blessings too?

What is still more revealing is that Sir R. Acland believes that “common ownership ” exists in Russia (p. 76). He says nothing of the vast inequalities of income in that country but claims that “no one in Russia sits back and draws income in respect of the ownership of property ” (p. 91). He does not seem to have heard of the enormous National Debt in Russia running to thousands of millions of roubles, through which investors can sit back and draw investment income. Or perhaps he would argue that this is not income “in respect of the ownership of property”? Yet it is not essentially different from investments in State loans in other countries where the capitalist State has industrial undertakings under its control.

He envisages that under his scheme there will be “for at least the first century or two ” better pay for “ better work or more skilful or responsible work ” (p.110). In other words, like the Bolsheviks. Sir R. Acland wants the retention of a privileged group. He fails to offer any justification for this, and does not consider the kind of methods that would have to be used to force an enlightened working class to accept it. Does he imagine that the low-paid hewers of wood and drawers of water in Bolshevik Russia willingly consent to the arrangement by which the Party men, technicians, administrative officials, writers and artists, and other favoured groups receive incomes dozens of times larger than their own miserable wage? If he wants to enforce the same system he will need the same forcible methods to compel its acceptance. He does not state a reasoned case for wanting this inequality to be perpetuated.

“Common ownership” as used by Sir R. Acland is a term that he also finds it possible to associate with Nazi Germany. He thinks it likely that the German army leaders and the Nazi Party leaders may “deprive the German owners of their swollen profits and of their grip on industry” (p.90). Then “there would,” he says, “ be common ownership in the hands of the Nazi Party." Well may the workers say that if "common ownership” means what exists in Russia, and what is possible under the Nazis, they do not want it.

One curious omission from the book is any denunciation of the State capitalist concerns that exist already in this country. Is Sir R. Acland unaware that the workers in the Post Office and in the London Passenger Transport Board are treated in essentially the same way as workers in any other capitalist concern? Yet when he is denouncing capitalist monopoly (p. 45) and gives a lengthy list of instances, he does not mention these. On the other hand, he writes approvingly of the Post Office (p. 105), and has no criticism of Labour Party plans for State capitalism except their speed of application.

For the conduct of international affairs Sir R. Acland wants an international armed force (p. 135). He does not get down to the vital question how, under conditions as they will actually exist after the war, of a continuing fierce struggle for markets and capitalist groups are to be persuaded or forced to for the control of strategic points, etc., the interested accept any international control unless it falls in with their interests. On his own showing the adoption of what for him is “common ownership” will not solve the problem of war, since he accuses “common ownership” Russia of aggression against the Finns "as damnable” as the German invasion of Poland (p. 148). He even accepts the possibility that Russia may enter on a “ Napoleonic stage ” of attempted world conquest and expansion (p. 85).

In short, as Socialists, we can only say that the solution for all the problems that Sir R. Acland takes in his field lies in Socialism, i.e., a system of society based on common ownership in the real meaning of the term. This cannot be achieved by some swift campaign to get the population to accept “the new morality” (p. 144) and change the Government (p. 139), but only by the steady, thorough winning over of the working class internationally to Socialism.

In order to remove any misunderstanding it must be pointed out in conclusion that Sir R. Acland is quite wrong in his acceptance of the view that “the Russian doctrine” is “ Marxism ” (p. 91).

It will be interesting to see where Sir R. Acland's well intentioned and courageous, though misdirected, investigations of capitalism will lead him. At present he is a Liberal whose conceptions are likely to be as unacceptable to the Liberal Party as they are to Socialists. The Labour Party will not like his independence and the Communists denounce his criticisms of the Russian onslaught on Finland 
Edgar Hardcastle

The Flimsy Basis of Race Prejudice (1941)

From the January 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

The racial question has become an urgent problem in political controversy in recent years owing to the significance given to it in Germany, where appeals to race prejudice have been used mainly to promote discrimination against the Jews. Antagonism to the Jews is also showing signs of developing in quite unexpected quarters. It is therefore worth while devoting a little space to a brief examination of the question.

In the first place what does the word “race” really mean? Immediately we ask this question we realise into what a morass we have stepped, because the term is used to cover quite different meanings. For instance, the “Black Race,” the “Brown Race,” the “Yellow Race,” each covers groups of people in varying stages of culture and with contrary attributes apart from the colour of their skins. The “American Race,” the “British Race,” the “African Race,” applies to the inhabitants of a particular territory. The “Mohammedan Race” and the “Jewish Race” is a religious distinction. The “Celtic Race,” the “Aryan Race” and the “Semitic Race” refer to particular types of language.

Here, then, are four different meanings commonly applied to the term “race,” and there are many others including those that apply to the shape of the head and to the nature of the hair.

The meaning that it is attempted to foist upon the word “race” is that there are certain groups of people to-day who, like the thoroughbred horse, have kept their blood free from alien mixture for hundreds of years.

At the outset it may be pointed out that there are no physical distinctions that can denote purity of blood. People from this country who spend most of their lifetime in the Colonies develop physical characteristics that mark them from their relatives who have remained at home. In a book by Brunton entitled “Kings and Queens of Ancient Egypt” there are a number of coloured illustrations of Ancient Egyptian women. If one covers the headdress of many of these women with a piece of cardboard the features and colouring are the replica of many present-day English women who have a murky heredity. The reader can multiply instances from his own experience where a black face, apart from its colour, is the facsimile of white faces of allegedly pure blood. Every physical characteristic that one seeks to use as the hall-mark of a particular “race” bristles with exceptions. There are all varieties of white, black and red faces. It is therefore obvious that neither the colour nor the contour of a face is evidence of racial purity.

It may be added that round heads, long heads, and nondescript heads are associated with all varieties of colour, hair and facial characteristics, and even differ in the same family.

Again, place of birth is nothing to go by, as man has been on the move for thousands of years, and the most important geographical unities is inhabited by a vast assortment of mongrels. England is an example in point where one meets many who proudly boast of their “British Nationality” in strange accents. Think, also what a hotch-potch America is where nationals from all over the world have gone into the melting pot, and British and other film stars and “famous” people have recently become “American citizens.” Again, consider the people abroad whose fathers and grandfathers were born abroad, and yet the present generation still calls itself English—they look to England as their “country.” Consider also the varieties of people of alien origin born in England.

These facts banish place of birth or country of origin as a criterion of race.

The fact is that man’s wanderings over the earth have promoted such a mixture of blood that there is no such thing nowadays, even in remote places, as genuine blood purity. Twenty-five thousand or so years has bred many varieties of the human species and will go on doing so. A name may be carried down for generations, but the blood associations of that name through the female side are beyond calculation. Many a fine name has a bundle of skeletons in the cupboard.

Language is also no guide to purity of ancestry. The most diverse people speak the same language now, and did so in the past. For example, at one time Latin was the language of both Roman and Barbarian. To-day Spanish is the language of native inhabitants of South America as well as the people of Spain. English is the language of that mixture of people occupying England, South Africa, Australia, America, Canada and other places. Here we come to another point—the question of “Aryan Race.” But Aryan is a language and not a blood connection. The Aryan-speaking peoples, like the Celtic, were of mixed descent. The barbarian hordes that flooded Europe in the middle ages and mingled with the population destroyed any possibility of racial purity existing in our day.

There is, in fact, no single scheme of classification that will satisfactorily cover the different types of human beings in existence. Alpine, Nordic, Mediterranean and other strains are present in varying degrees in all the peoples of Europe.

The human race comes into the world naked, and clothes with habits and traditions the result of social circumstances. Different sections of the human race rise and fall in culture or importance according to the nature of the social environment, irrespective of colour, language or religion. Egypt, Greece and Rome were each at the top of the cultural scale and each has come down since the time of flowering.

In the long run the social environment blends people of different stocks into one type, with similar habits and outlook. In modern times the United States is an excellent example of this.

The people that to-day are regarded as representative of a low cultural stage may, under favourable social circumstances, rise to supremacy tomorrow. The Australian Maori, not long ago looked upon as at the bottom of the cultural scale, is imbibing the arts of civilisation at a remarkable rate, and may soon be equal to the highest product of civilisation.

In mankind purity of race is impossible, even if it were desirable. Even among domestic animals the greatest care can only guarantee purity from a certain point. The classic example, the thoroughbred racehorse, is only thoroughbred from the already mixed Arabian strain that was introduced into Europe two centuries ago. On the other hand, mixture of peoples has been synonymous with cultural advances from the time of Babylon and Egypt to the present day. Peoples which have not been subjected to the invigorating influence of alien blood have, like the Chinese, stagnated.

The Jews, over whom race-prejudice has been revived in a violent fashion, are of mixed origin, and represent a type with a religious basis and a particular historic tradition. It may be noted that a people that has been battered and hunted for centuries is liable while, and wherever, those conditions exist, to display the characteristics of the battered and hunted—distrust, clannishness and cunning.

Throughout the middle ages the Jew was ruled out of practically every occupation except finance, and consequently they became adepts in that business. Since then, as other occupations have been thrown open to them, they have brought into the new spheres the single-minded concentration forced upon them by their social history and have consequently excelled. This ability has produced distinguished workers in music, literature, science and the art of war. Jews are also as generous, brave, cowardly, self-seeking as other types of people who are proud of their nationality. These “virtues” or “vices,” it may be remarked, have really nothing to do with race, but depend to a great extent upon age, health, sensitiveness, knowledge and circumstances, and vary as much in one type of people as in another. It may be added that they also depend upon the point of view of those concerned.

While, in certain circumstances, the rich Jew is fair game for the rich non-Jew, the poor Jew is always fair game for both under capitalism.

Finally, the Jewish question is not really a race question at all but an economic one. When other excuses fail it serves, as in Germany, to hide the real source of the misery of the mass of people of all colours and creeds. If it is not submerged by the mixture of races by that time it will certainly be solved by the advent of Socialism, under which there will not be economic crises, stagnation and poverty for millions that require a scapegoat to explain. Also there will not be either the competition for markets or for jobs that breed the unnatural fiends of envy, pushfulness and callous brutality.

In conclusion, it may be remarked that we all use the word “race” loosely for want of better terms. But this does little harm as long as prejudice is not tied to it.

Perhaps it may allay prejudice in the mind of the reader of the above if it is mentioned that the writer is of “pure” Irish stock for several generations back—or else the skeletons have been very effectively hidden.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Letter: Capitalist Rewards and Responsibilities. Is the Worker Free? (1941)

Letter to the Editors from the January 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following letter has been received from Mr. Maurice Hely-Hutchinson, M.P. : —

House of Commons, S.W.1. 
November 30th, 1940.



I write to thank you for your courtesy in sending me a copy of your issue of November, 1940, containing an article entitled “Incentive Under Socialism” over the signature “H.,” in which the writer points to some actual and some apparent exceptions to a general statement of mine that “there must be a hierarchy of incomes if there is to be a hierarchy of responsibility.”

The article is all the more stimulating because it is both pleasantly and temperately stated. I do not know to what extent it may be your policy to open your columns to a reply, but may I say at the outset that as the “truths” of “Capitalism” rest on an empirical rather than a doctrinal basis, then if, and to the extent that they fail in practical application, they call for qualification.

As a background to a reply, here, in very condensed form, are some of these “truths” ; and it will be apparent that each one of them falls short of universal application. Indeed, as I think Aristotle taught, the only abstract truths are mathematical; in life itself, there can be no such thing as truth and justice except in relation to a set of facts.

The fundamental human urge is parentage. The unit of society is the family, not the individual or the State; and, as the late Pope declared, “The Head of the Family is above the State.”

The bias of capitalism is towards personal rather than collective responsibility. Some form of reward is necessary to induce people to accept increased responsibility. Hemmed in as most of us are by pitiless circumstance—and this applies not only to the poor—this reward must be in most cases, to a great extent, material. This does not exclude other forms of reward. It is possible, for example, to give instances of persons who have refused Cabinet Office not directly on account of the loss of income involved, but because that loss of income would have involved sacrificing their children’s education: otherwise they would gladly have accept the lesser income.

The maximum of satisfaction is likely to result from leaving people free, as far as possible to contract for their own goods and services, to their own best advantage as they see it (undoubtedly this will not prevent some people being dissatisfied with the result), and to take the consequences of their decisions, e.g., of rating their goods or services so high that they fail to sell them. It is undesirable that an Officer of the State should be the judge of individual advantage, for tastes differ.

Enterprise and invention are essentially qualities of the individual. The State is only a fabric of organisation, it has no personal life. While many activities, especially those which have themselves become standardised can best be conducted—and are so conducted—by the State, improvements and extensions, and new activities are most likely to come into being as a result of individuals using their own initiative in pursuit of what they conceive to be their own advantage.

As Henry Maine wrote, the history of emancipation is the story of progress from “status” to “contract.”
As a result of freedom of contract many anomalies appear. But no substitute which the wit of man can devise will ever prevent strong men and beautiful women from getting more than their neighbours. Is this a bad thing? Admittedly it is easier to grieve with the sad than to rejoice with the glad—but that is because of the universality of jealousy. It is untrue that all men are equal; nor is it desirable that either they or their circumstances should be; there must be a difference of potential if the current is to flow ; nor can it be said that social justice will be achieved by seeking to make all men lie on the bed of Procrustes.

It is not possible to conceive of productive property save in conjunction with the idea of management, and of responsibility therefor. There can be no such thing as wealth without intelligent direction; the tests of intelligence must, from the nature of things, be empirical rather than theoretical; there is no mechanical substitute for judgment. It is because of the association of productive property with management that the State has from the earliest times recognised and supported the testamentary power, to ensure the continuity of management and therefore of production; and parallel with the growth of forms of property divorced from the responsibility of management, e.g., stocks, shares and particularly debentures, taxation of unearned income and on property passing at death has progressively increased. As to the concentration of large, or relatively large amounts of property in individual hands, this is to the advantage of the community if the owner’s capacity for management is above the average. If it is not, nothing can long prevent a fool and his money from being soon parted. Bankruptcy and the sack are the safety-valves of capitalism. The noise of history is made by the clatter of the wooden sabots going upstairs and the “frou-frou” of the silken petticoats coming down.

Finally, Sir, let me acknowledge the truth of what Taussig, the American economist, once wrote. So long as life presents to one man the chances of battle, of reward for accomplishment, of great prizes for the taking of great risks or the exercise of great talents, while to another it presents nothing but the intolerable prospect of hopeless competition with better equipped superiors, so long will the endless debate as to the relative merits of private enterprise and Socialism continue.
Yours faithfully,
Mr. Maurice Hely-Hutchinson.

Our correspondent, Mr. Hely-Hutchinson, covers a great deal of ground in his letter, so much, indeed, that it is impossible to deal with each separate point. There is, however, a general observation that can be made on the whole letter. While giving an account of what are described as the truths of Capitalism, and explaining why they are only partly applied, Mr. Hely-Hutchinson does not explain what is the ultimate basis of these “truths.”

Is the ultimate basis nature, including human nature ? Or is it, as Socialists perceive, the particular form of private ownership known as the Capitalist form? If these “Capitalist truths” are merely the ways of adjusting industry to the needs of the privileged class, then it is necessary for our correspondent to go farther into the question of having a different basis (common ownership) for which these adjustments will not be required.

While it may be highly convenient, under Capitalism, to make some approximation to relating the wages of grades of workers to their degree of responsibility to the Capitalist for the safeguarding of his property, no such need will exist when Socialism replaces Capitalism, and there is no longer a wages system. Socialists do not agree that human beings cannot and will not accept responsibility except on the condition that it carries a higher income. All kinds of voluntary activities carried on now show this to be untrue. Mr. Maurice Hely-Hutchinson will readilv recognise this in the conduct of voluntary political organisations (the S.P.G.B. among them), and in the field of amateur athletics, dramatic societies, choirs, music societies, expeditions of exploration, etc. A very large part of the population habitually accept responsibility in some activity or other for which they do not receive an additional income.

Conversely, and this is vital for the apologists of Capitalism, a willingness and capacity to accept responsibility has exceedingly little to do with the ownership of property to-day. At one time the apologists would have maintained that Capitalists are “self-made men,” and that this demonstrates their superior right to own property. Nowadays, this is utterly untenable since it is common knowledge that the great bulk of the wealth of the present generation of Capitalists is inherited. Mr. Hely-Hutchinson offers instead the plea that “nothing can long prevent a fool and his money from being soon parted,” but this, again, does not now accord with the facts. The wealthy “fool” has his investments spread over many concerns, and has at his disposal paid advisers who are not fools.

Again, personal responsibility for the management and direction of industry is becoming the exception. Personal responsibility is merged into the collective responsibility of companies, corporations, etc., and it is not true that “there can be no such thing as wealth without intelligent direction.”

In the concluding paragraph of his letter, Mr. Hely-.Hutchinson quotes a passage from the American Economist, Taussig. If Taussig meant that the propertyless workers are always at an enormous disadvantage as compared with the few who own the means of production and distribution, and that out of this arises the workers’ growing interest in Socialism, Socialists can agree. But there is nothing to indicate that either Taussig or our correspondent really appreciates the truth about the workers’ disadvantageous position. Elsewhere in his letter Mr. Hely-Hutchinson refers to Henry Maine’s theory that “the history of emancipation is the story of progress from status to contract.” It is interesting here to consider the words used by Maine in his “Ancient Law” (end of Chapter V). He says: —
  “Starting . . . from a condition of society in which all the relations of Persons are summed-up in the relations of Family, we seem to have steadily moved towards a phase of social order in which all these relations arise from the free agreement of individuals.”
He goes on to say that “the status of the slave has disappeared—it has been superseded by the contractual relation of the servant to his master.”

The important point to notice about this is that Maine thought he could see “the free agreement of individuals.” Socialists point out that there is not, and cannot be, any such thing as “free” agreement of workers and employers, because the workers are without access to the means of production and distribution, except by the consent of, and on the conditions laid down bv, the owners. The progress envisaged bv Maine has only run half its course. Socialism will finish it and achieve actual emancipation.

Briefly replying to other points in the letter, it is surely wrong that “the fundamental human urge is parentage”—before it comes hunger. And the unit of Capitalist society is not the family—the State applies its penalties to the individual in the main.

Also, though, perhaps, this is a matter of taste and opinion, is it really true that all our Capitalists are “strong men and beautiful women”? Who are these company directors and millionaire captains of industry who frequent the spas ? And is Lady X——? really beautiful?
Edgar Hardcastle

The Mixed Blessing of Big Canadian Wheat Harvests (1941)

From the January 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

On November 19th two newspapers, the Manchester Guardian and the News Chronicle, both published some observations on the bumper harvest in Canada. The Guardian had a letter from Mr. Robert Tasker, M.P., who asked that “in the midst of our thanksgiving for the home harvest let us hold in grateful remembrance this year the bounty of the Empire crop. . . . All told, Canada will have about 730,000,000 bushels of wheat this season, as against 591,000,000 a year ago.”

In the News Chronicle Mr. Reuben Hogg was not quite so certain as Mr. Tasker. He wrote at length on the necessity of prompt and drastic steps to deal with this bounty. It will mean, he wrote, “that Canada has an exportable surplus equal to the entire world’s peace-time needs for about 14 months. But actually only about a quarter of Canada’s surplus is likely to be exported before her next harvest. A very large quantity will have to be carried forward . . . .”

Here enters problem number one, for the Canadian banks “are naturally hesitant to advance money for wheat that may never be marketed.” So the Canadian farmer will be the first to curse the superabundance of wheat.

Then there will be repercussions on British agriculture—”Farmers at home cannot see these surpluses accumulating with equanimity. Remembering the collapse in British agriculture that followed the last war, they are wondering more and more if things are not beginning to point to a repetition of that sad event.” Then there is the Argentine : —
 “The Argentine faces a similar problem with maize, for which a surplus of 25,500,000 quarters is anticipated next April. Unsold feeding stuffs are also piling up elsewhere, particularly in parts of the French Empire. It is said that Indo-China alone has a million tons of feeding stuffs held up and unsold.”
So although the bumper Canadian harvest may make it easier to supply the demand in Britain during the war, it looks as if Mr. Tasker’s thanksgiving for Nature’s bounty will not be shared by quite a number of people.

Capitalism is indeed a curious system of society.
Edgar Hardcastle

No Compromise (1941)

From the January 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent successful operations by Greece and Britain against Italy have given rise to a feeling of optimism amongst the unthinking section of the proletariat: one frequently hears the opinion expressed that the war will be over very shortly, or that it will not last beyond the spring.

A moment’s reflection enables one to see that the wish is father to the thought: there are as yet no signs of the end; everything points to the fact that hostilities are only just beginning.

It is to be noted that the Prime Minister is extremely cautious when he speaks on recent events. He infers that the situation is hopeful, but this is unaccompanied by any prophecy indicative of a knowledge of something likely to bring about a quick finish.

The Radio and the Press are supposed to supply us with information in regard to what is transpiring, and one would have thought that the recent wonderful improvements in the methods of communication, etc., could be of great service in this connection, but, alas! though much is written and spoken, very little is said. That which appertains to the real position is for the initiated to know; a wise ruling class sifts the news and decides what shall constitute the mental pabulum of the wealth-producing section of the community.

The working class in the main think in accordance with what their masters have put into their heads: so long as the wage slave views life from the same standpoint as the exploiter, he will dance to any tune his master cares to play; he will work, fight, join the ranks of the employed or unemployed at the word of command, and justify or explain his conduct as his tutors have decreed he should.

This war is said to be a fight to a finish between Dictatorship and Democracy. We are not indifferent in regard to the issue, but we are not so enthusiastic as we are told everybody else is. It is plain that under a Dictatorship you are robotised: you do not think, you obey; under a Democracy yon imbibe ideas, carefully fostered, which result in causing you to believe you are following your own inclinations when safeguarding ruling class interests.

We much prefer a Democracy to a Dictatorship. We have been brought up that way, but when we see the dangling carrots held in front of the donkey to induce him to pull the load, we are wise to the game. In peace or war, so long as Capitalism shall last, the wage slave is doomed to drag his weary burden, and to receive as a recompense just about sufficient to enable him to do so. The promises regarding the improvement to be made in his lot after the war are on a par with those made to his predecessor.

“The proletariat cannot raise itself without the whole of Society being sprung into the air.” Even were our masters desirous of increasing our wages or improving our standard of living, they could only do so within certain limits. If they can get more out of us when on the job, they can put a little more into us. They can improve the quality of labour power and get more production and—increased profits.

Relatively, the wage worker’s position declines, though his standard of living may be higher than that of his grandfather. Man is a social animal, and those now living should have their lot judged in accordance with the times in which they live; the future of the upper strata of Capitalist society is being safeguarded now as far as is humanly possible; that of the lower is left to the future winds of chance. There is no outspoken demand outside Socialist circles for the common ownership of the means of life : the henchmen of our masters never even hint that such a change is desirable; all the propaganda emanating from the master class, and even from platforms of the Labour and Communist Parties is designed to induce the working class to give up their Socialist birthright in exchange for a mess of Capitalist pottage. Why is State ownership pedalled as Socialism if not to trap the minds of the unthinking and the unwary? The crimes of Dictators smell to high Heaven, and the hypocrisy of the leaders of Democracy arouse disgust amongst those to whom working class interests are paramount. Now, as never before, we must hew to the line. Amidst the chaos and confusion, the greed and the graft which Capitalism entails and the war intensifies, we must stand for Socialism. Capitalism has its own economic laws which work in defiance of the decrees of governments or the platitudes of politicians : things are not going to be better after the war if the system is maintained, but a jolly sight worse, no matter which gang of exploiters happens to be in control of the reins of power.

The war will undoubtedly shake Capitalism to its foundations, but unless the working class organise to abolish the wages system, the mechanism of exploitation will survive the struggle, and this means that the relative positions of wage slave and Capitalist will be maintained, and labour power remain in the category of a commodity.

When a Greek sticks a bayonet into an Italian fellow-worker on an Albanian mountain side, one may ask what induced both of them to go there ? The reply, obviously, is that one was sent by the Greek ruling class, and the other by Mussolini; the latter was desirous of subjugating Greece and sent soldiers for that purpose; the Italian working men were driven back by Greek working men. The property of Greek Capitalists was safeguarded by those who do not own it. If the invasion had succeeded, the Italian working class would have derived no benefit from the enterprise. War, from the standpoint of working class interests, is a ghastly tragedy; it is the price we pay for the luxury we are supposed to enjoy under Capitalism. Mussolini has not hesitated to use the most brutal methods to attain his ends; he has been ruthless, he has mercilessly exploited the Italian people for his own self-aggrandisement. Force, however, has its limits. Those rulers who rely solely upon this means of subjugation will shortly realise to the full the truth of the maxim of Napoleon, “You can do anything with bayonets except sit upon them.”

King Winter is just commencing his yearly reign. He will be followed by King Famine and King Fever. Millions will suffer from cold, starvation and disease. Countless numbers are already doomed to agonising deaths. Although we in this country may be relatively fortunate in this connection, we shall not escape those horrors which war brings upon the working class of a country involved in a war.

The policy of Britain in Europe is the maintenance of the Balance of Power. The ruling class of this country will never allow any single nation to dominate the European Continent. To do so would be to pave the way for the dissolution of the Empire. Consequently, we may expect our masters to stake everything on the outcome and fight it out to a finish. As the resources which Britain can command are greater than those Germany possesses, or can obtain, in the view of the writer the latter is doomed to defeat.

There is, however, no peace under Capitalism, and if the system is allowed to continue, the overthrow of vampire Hitler does not mean the abolition of war. Neither Russia, Japan, or any other Capitalist nation has the slightest intention of beating their swords into plough shares. Russian “Communism”‘ German Nazi-ism, and Italian Fascism are different sects of the same religion, which is not, as the followers of Hitler would describe it, “National Socialism,” but can only be defined correctly as National Capitalism.

Although Britain can be expected to win the war, the people of Britain cannot expect to win the peace, no matter what is attempted by the ruling class in the way of social reform. In a Capitalist sense this country is handicapped; her natural resources, except coal, are practically exhausted; she has few natural means of producing power cheaply, and in a competitive world she is thus in a bad position as an industrial nation. Trade may be expected to move westward, the Pacific Ocean will probably supersede the Atlantic as the highway of commerce. After the war, the workers of Britain will be fighting a rearguard action, trying to defend a declining standard of living. The working class in a country where Capitalism is developing, where new means of production are being produced and operated, are relatively in a favourable economic position, and are therefore able to win certain concessions from their exploiters; they act and save the movement from stagnation.

As for us, who are seared with the brand, let us remember, at all times and under all circumstances, that the class struggle is the guide to tactics: we rejoice in the fact that thousands of Italian workers are refusing to fight for Mussolini, and we look forward to the time when all who live by selling their labour power will refuse to support those who run Capitalism, and organise for the express purpose of transforming the present social order into something nearer to the heart’s desire.

It is quite true to state that the present issue is an issue between a Capitalist Dictatorship and a Capitalist Democracy. We freely acknowledge that we prefer the latter, because, under a Democracy, there is a better chance for the laws of social evolution to work themselves out without unnecessary violence.

On the class issue, however, we are adamant. Our slogan is, “No Compromise.” We extend the hand of comradeship and fraternity to all workers in all lands who, like ourselves, stand without equivocation for Socialism.
Charles Lestor

Sacrifice and the Influence of Money (1941)

From the January 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Constant appeals are being made to us for war savings. We are asked to save to the limit. Sir Robert Kindersley says : —
 “Pennies, sixpences, shillings, pounds—all are needed to reach the goal. Let us hold nothing back that we can spare. And when I say “spare,” I mean by saving to the point of sacrifice.”—(Sunday Express, November 17th, 1940.)
When we read these words addressed to workers we wonder if people in the economically sheltered position of Sir Robert Kindersley have any real conception of the workers’ position and social circumstances. The workers are always saving to the point of sacrifice if they have a penny over at the end of the week after paying for absolute necessities, which include some minor means of enjoyment. In fact, they have to go without many things that are really necessities because they have not the money to pay for them, and they suffer accordingly.

When one compares appeals like that with contemporary actions, one is struck by the overwhelming influence of private property and profit making on the actions of people even at a time of self-confessed dire national crisis. The very same paper that reports the above appeal also has a few paragraphs on ”Ramp in Leeks,” from which it appears that on account of the onion shortage a ramp in leeks is starting, and four-pence worth of leeks now costs three shillings !

A further illustration of the evil influence of money is provided by an instance that has been brought to the writer’s notice. Although all London traffic is under the control of the London Passenger Transport Board, which appeals to the public to stagger hours and do what they can to ease the transport difficulties, yet a person holding an underground season ticket from Baker Street to the Bank may not use the alternative service of the buses unless the underground is out of action—because he has paid for a ticket on the underground. If he goes by bus he must pay again. One sees here how, even under the fiction of public control, and even though the buses be nearly empty and the underground packed to suffocation, people are still only allowed to use the particular service they paid for. Sacrifice does not enter into the question, money is the all-important guiding principle.

Again women and children of the poor are urged to evacuate from London to areas where they are less likely to suffer the horrors of bombing. Among the reasons that prevent them from going some women have pointed out that one of the principal obstacles is providing the necessary warm clothing and boots required by children in country districts. A magnanimous government has informed them that they can be supplied with these necessities, and instead of paying for them all at once, payment can be spread over a few weeks—like the hire purchase arrangements with which the poor are only too familiar. As these people cannot even afford to adopt such a procedure it has not apparently occurred to the authorities that the solution of the problem is to supply the article in question for nothing—a simple and reasonable way out of the difficulty. Why ? Because the idea of giving something for nothing is repugnant to the system we live in to-day—unless that something is profit.

Another instance which appears in the same paper (the Sunday Express), illustrating the chasm between poverty and riches, the privilege of having money and the penalty of being without, is contained in the report of the case of Captain Marenday, imprisoned for taking an unauthorised photograph. In his story Captain Marenday made the following statement: —
“Later they put me in a bay of the prison (Brixton) and I was given the special privileges of a remand prisoner. All of us there were able to order our own food from restaurants outside. Always providing we were ready to pay for it.”
So that privilege even extends to prison, and the remanded rich man can eat luxuriously while the remanded poor must keep to prison fare. A queer twist to the idea of freedom and democracy and one born out of the power of money.

Notes by the Way: Workers Sacked for their Opinions (1941)

The Notes by the Way Column from the January 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Workers Sacked for their Opinions

A case came before the Court recently in which three workers claimed that it was illegal, under the National Service Act, for their employers (a Co-operative Society!) to sack them merely because they were conscientious objectors. The magistrate, quite properly, confined himself to the legal position, and refused to express any opinion on the action of the Co-operative Society, but his judgment made it clear that not only under that Act, but also at Common Law, it is quite legal for an employer to dismiss his workers because he does not like their opinions.

The following extract from the judgment of the Huddersfield Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr. W. R. Briggs, is taken from The Manchester Guardian (October 29th, 1940): —
 “The evidence was, and he had already found as a fact, that each complainant was dismissed because he was a conscientious objector. No man was bound to employ another of whose opinions or conduct he disapproved, and provided that he gave the proper amount of notice an employer might dismiss his employee for any or no reason.  
  It was possible that there might be employers who would dismiss a man because he was a Conservative or a Communist, a trade unionist or a non-unionist, a Roman Catholic or an atheist. Such action might or might not be reprehensible— he expressed no opinion on that point—but if the proper notice was given it would certainly not be illegal. Similarly in his opinion it was not illegal either at Common Law or under the Act to dismiss an employee because his religious beliefs made him a conscientious objector. For these reasons he was of opinion that the prosecution had failed to establish the commission of any offence and all the summonses would be dismissed.”
The defenders of Capitalism will say, of course, that the wages contract is a free contract between worker and employer, and it is free to the worker to leave because he does not like his employer’s views just as it is open to the employer to dismiss the worker. The notion of equality before the law is nonsense. The worker faces the loss of his livelihood, while the employer is at most slightly inconvenienced if a worker leaves.

The absurdity of the law can be seen from another angle, the activities of the National Institute of Industrial Psychology and similar bodies. For example, in the April, 1940, issue of their journal, “Occupational Psychology,” is a report by two investigators who used various tests to discover why a number of unemployed girls came to be out of work. The investigators studied the “intelligence” of the girls in the light of various intelligence tests (The so called “Dotting Test,” under which “the subject” ims through a slot at a number of paper discs fixed on a rotating plate, is worthy of notice by “Beachcomber”). The investigators and the Institute are no doubt thoroughly reliable, there is no trouble they will not go to, and no field of inquiry is closed to them— well, no field except one. Never on any occasion are they called in by the workers to conduct Dotting Tests or any other tests, on the intelligence, diligence, nervous stability, etc., etc., of the shareholders, directors, or other bosses in the concern. Nowhere do they ever conduct intelligence tests based on the principle that the more intelligent the worker the mere he or she resents the privileged position of the propertied class and the crass stupidity of the present industrial arrangements for which the latter are responsible.

Among all the very clever people who conduct investigations, including all the bright brains known as captains of industry, and the thousands of inventive geniuses, not one can rise to the slight insight and imagination required to see that industry could be (and will be under Socialism) run on a basis which will separate working from getting a living. Every one of them accepts it as a kind of inescapable law of nature that the worker (but not the Capitalist) shall only get a living if and while he can get an employer to approve of him (and his opinions). They fondly imagine, if they ever think about it at all, that unless the threat of the sack is always held over the heads of the workers, work would cease and all would die of starvation. They do not understand the obvious fact that the cult of dislike for work is itself simply a product, on the one side, of the Capitalist’s snobbish contempt for those who have to work because they are propertyless, and on the other, of the workers’ resentment of the conditions under which they have to work. Socialism will have its problems, but this will not be one that will be of dimensions sufficient to cause anyone the slightest disquiet.

* * *

A New World Order for Millionaires

New world orders are all the rage to-day, though some of them do not look very new. On the day that the Press published an account of Mr. Herbert Morrison’s outline of his new world order, the Ministry of Information issued a pronouncement from which it seems that the new order is already in being in the British Empire. When the Ministry claims (Daily Herald, December 12th, 1940) that “This is the only kind of World Order worth having—the only guarantee of security and happiness when the war is over,” they are very optimistic if they think that it will look so attractive to the populations of countries outside the Empire. The Daily Herald wants the Government to issue a statement of war aims, “making it clear that we are fighting for a new kind of world” (December 12th), but at the same time it wants the statement to be one “to which every party subscribes, and which carries the endorsement of the whole Commonwealth.” What sort of statement is it going to be if it fulfils the condition? Plainly, if it has got to be endorsed by the Conservative Party, it will be about as new and attractive as the kind of new world produced after the last war. It will certainly not be the only kind of new world worth having, a Socialist world. In his speech at the Dorchester Hotel, Mr. Morrison wanted an end to social insecurity and of a state of things “where millions go in need while supplies are deliberately kept short, or prices high, so that profits may be safeguarded,” but if the Daily Herald report is correct, he nowhere pointed to the cause, the class division of society. Had he done so, it would certainly not have been possible for one of his audience, Lord Nuffield, to say to the Chairman, Lord Nathan, afterwards, “I agree with every word of the speech—and I am a millionaire.” (Daily Herald, December 12th.) Another sidelight on the meeting was the statement attributed to Mr. Morrison by the Evening Standard (December 12th): ” I want change so big that I do not like to tell you about it.”

* * *

War has a Logic of its Own

Molotov has been reported to have said, recently, that war has a logic of its own. This is something worth considering by anyone who thinks that war can be waged under all kinds of restrictions designed to curb its ferocity. The following passage is taken from General de Gaulle’s “The Army of the Future “: —
  “If war is, in essence, destructive, the ideal of those who wage it remains, none the less, economy, the least massacre with the greatest results; a combination of forces making use of death, suffering and terror in order to attain the goal as quickly as possible, and so put an end to all three.”
As Alexander Werth says, in the Manchester Guardian (December 3rd, 1940): “Except, perhaps, for the last few words, the German Generals would no doubt fully subscribe to these sentiments.”

* * *

Mr, Maurice Webb Makes a Discovery

Mr. Maurice Webb writes articles for the Daily Herald. He shares their political views, and supports the Labour Party policy on war. That is to say, he has for years preached that it was necessary to “stand up to Fascism,” even if that meant waging war against the Fascist countries. He believes that there was no other way of securing peace and Democracy for the world’s workers. He not only held these views, but he took it upon himself, in the columns of the Daily Herald, to teach these things to others, who, in his view, had not grasped the truth about world affairs. Now those who set up as teachers are in effect assuring those who listen to them that they have learned before teaching and have fully considered the consequences of what they say should be done. But Mr. Maurice Webb, it seems, did not do this. It is only now, when the war is well into its second year, that he has begun to notice what war is, and what it does.

At the beginning he was full of that curious belief that we were all very friendly towards the German workers, and that the war was being waged not only for us but also for them. We would, he thought, just strike a blow to remove their oppressors, and then, all free men joined together in amity, we would set the world aright. Only Mr. Webb had quite forgotten to study war, its consequences, and the way it has to be waged. So now he has had a shock. He wrote an article, in the style that his readers adored at Christmas, 1939, only to find that this Christmas his readers, or many of them, have moved on and don’t want that kind of stuff any more. They have been bombed and they think differently.

He still thinks in terms of “Peace without vengeance.” They want vengeance, and plenty of it. In the Daily Herald of December 7th, he reproduces extracts from their letters. For them the German people are snakes in the grass, “and must be ruthlessly exterminated.” Likewise the Japs The German is “a loathsome beast.” Emphatically, “there are no good Germans.” “Grind them down to misery and poverty for a million years.”Wipe the damned lot off the face of the earth.” Poor Mr. Webb says, sadly, “there can be little doubt that the majority of Britons are beginning to nurse very bitter feelings towards the German people.”

Now Mr. Webb is in a quandary. If we are to have permanent peace, there must be no vengeance after the war, but the Allied Statesmen will not be able to succeed in that task, he says, if they have at their backs “hosts of envenomed ‘clean sweepers’ urging them on to suicidal and ruinous policies.” It looks, indeed, as if Mr. Webb is almost convinced already that the kind of peace he says we must have is just the kind of peace his readers decidedly will not accept. They have had a bitter dose of war, and the consequence is just what everyone expected who had seriously taken note of what modern war is and what it does. But Mr. Webb was not one of these. He did not share the Socialist view that war sets in motion all sorts of destructive forces which make it impossible for war to be the kind of benevolent, constructive agent he thought possible.

If Mr. Webb is now learning his lesson and taking a responsible view of things, perhaps he will let us have his second and more useful thoughts. We would like to hear from Mr. Webb what he now thinks about his past notions.

* * *

The Profiteer

Socialists want to see the end of the profit system altogether, and have always thought the popular attitude to what is called “profiteering” an odd one. If it is good and necessary to encourage the making of profit, why try to limit it? Can there be too much of a good thing ?

Logical or not, war always brings a popular outcry against what are called profiteers. But when this war broke out, all the newspapers and politicians were agreed that it would be run on different lines from the last. Never again would there be big increases of prices, and emphatically not the making of big profits.

The following, however, is taken from the Sunday Express (December I5th, 1940): —
  “The food profiteer is among us. He is making a lot of money. Last week hundreds of complaints concerning the swiftly rising prices of all kinds of unrationed food were received by the Food Ministry.

  They alleged unfair distribution of food and “illegal conditions of sale” imposed by some brokers and wholesalers upon shopkeepers.

  Another charge was that fixed price orders were being sidetracked by unscrupulous buyers.

   Lord Woolton, the Minister, has now stated that anyone found imposing “conditions of sale” or buying over the fixed price will be prosecuted. Reports by his investigators will be placed before him to-morrow.

   This much has been established. Huge profits in food are being made by someone, or some group of people, at present unidentified.”

* * *

Who Will Civilise America ? 

Mr. Robert Lynd, in a review of a book called “America, Our Ally,” by H. N. Brailsford, summarises Mr. Brailsford’s views thus: —
 “He advocates the liberation of India as the best way in which to impress America of the sincerity of British professions, and he urges America to throw herself wholeheartedly into the war, to send men as well as money, in order to establish a civilisation that will ensure to all belligerent peoples security and work.—(News-Chronicle, December 2nd, 1940.)
Mr. Lynd finds himself in agreement with the author of the book, but what simplicity lies in their hopes. They assume that India (does this mean the Indian peasant and workers?) will be “liberated” through a change in the relationship of the British Empire. Yet they must know that such a change, even if it meant complete severance, would still leave the mass of Indians enslaved to their own native-born ruling class. Next they assume that a desire to impress American opinion of their sincerity is a factor of vital importance to the British interests that stand for the retention of India. Why should it be? Equally flimsy is their expectation that those who at present control the United States will be concerned with establishing a new and better social order for the benefit of the populations of the European countries at war. Before inviting these rulers of America to put Europe right, Mr. Brailsford might have asked what the same gentlemen have done to America. In a recent issue of the Daily Telegraph (August 9th, 1940) it was reported from New York that there are in the U.S.A. more than 50 persons whose yearly income is £200,000 or more, and according to the Manchester Guardian (November 21st, 1940) a mere 13 families in that country control as part of their fortunes £540 million worth of securities in 200 of the leading corporations. This information was published in a report by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, and the same report disclosed that this colossal wealth represents only a part of the total possessions of the 13 families.

Among the 13 are Fords, with upwards of £120 million; Du Ponts, with over £110 million; and Rockefellers, with £80 million or more. This, be it noted, is after eight years of Roosevelt’s administration.

The necessary accompaniment of this accumulation of American resources in the hands of these and other industrial and financial barons is the existence of extreme poverty in the ranks of the workers, millions of unemployed, widespread undernourishment and all the other evils of capitalist civilisation. One aspect of this has again been brought to light when conscripts were called up under the compulsory military training scheme. According to the New York correspondent of the Daily Telegraph (November 28th, 1940), “much surprise has been caused by the large proportion of men called up …. but rejected by army doctors. Although these men had been passed as physically fit by a medical examiner who assisted the local selective boards, many who are now reporting for duty are being sent home again, principally on the grounds that teeth or eyesight are not up to army standards. It is estimated that rejections are roughly at the rate of one in four . . . .”

Before Mr. Brailsford concluded that the Fords, Du Fonts, Rockefellers and their like are to be the civilisers of Europe, he should have wondered when the American workers are going to begin a little job of civilising at home.
Edgar Hardcastle