Saturday, March 26, 2022

Odds and Ends: What They Said (1957)

The Odds and Ends column from the March 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

What They Said

Looking through old pamphlets and journals can be quite an interesting pastime. For example, the Communist Review for April, 1953, wherein Harry Pollitt refers to “ Comrade Beria,” Andrew Rothstein writes of Beria as “Stalin’s old comrade-in-arms ” and John Eaton tells us that Stalin “through a period of three decades showed himself to be the greatest economist of our times,” and that he was “. . . the most profound, most creative thinker of our time in the science of political economy . . ." etc.

Unfortunately, for the Communist Party, it now appears that Stalin was a terrorist who murdered Russian Army officers, and who “made serious mistakes in connection with agricultural policy . . .” (Harry Pollitt, Daily Worker, 24/3/56). And Beria turned out to be an agent of British Imperialism after all! All this must be very hard even for Communists to swallow. But, then, if one puts faith in leaders what can one expect?

The Socialist—who knows what he wants, and how to get it—needs no leaders to think for him: he thinks for himself. There can be no Stalins, Berias—or Kruschevs in the Socialist movement

Communist Party Opposes Strikes

It is believed by many that the Communists always advocate and support strikes; that the Communist Party consistently support the workers in their struggles for higher wages and better working conditions. But this is not so. During the last war (after Germany attacked Russia) the Communists opposed all attempts by workers to improve their wages or conditions.

In a pamphlet by W. Wainwright entitled Clear Out Hitler's Agents, published by the Communist Party, he writes:—
 “ Again they [‘left wing’ opponents of the Communist Party] use the trick of waving a red flag. They talk about the boss’ profit. They try to take the heart out of the work. ’Why slave when you are only piling up money for the boss?” they say.

“They want you to go slow, not to give your best work, to be misled by their talk of strikes and the boss' profits into sabotaging our troops and the Red Army.” (Page 9.)
And in March, 1944, the South Wales miners came out on strike. Although the Communist paper, The Daily Worker, admitted that the miners “have a powerful case ” it told them to “go back to work.” (11/3/44).

The Communist Party is not a working-class party, it is. in fact, a not very successful mouthpiece for the Soviet Government in this country.

Has Socialism Failed?

In the 1951 General Election the Conservative candidate in North Battersea was one Ian Percival, and in his Election News he wrote:—
“Britain has tried Socialism, and it has failed. At home it has meant shortages, rising prices, high taxation, and one financial crisis after another. Abroad it hat meant a lowering of our prestige, and therefore a weakening of our influences for peace."
Of course, Socialism has not failed. It has not been tried. During the period that Mr. Percival writes of Britain was ruled by a Labour Government—and the system was a Capitalist one; not Socialist. It is Capitalism that has failed—failed to solve the problems of war poverty and crises. And it is only Socialism that can solve these problems. Labour Government has nothing in common with Socialism.

Wives or Automobiles—or Both

Middle East potentates used to collect scores of wives for their harems—some still do; but it appears that civilization (and oil companies) are coming to the desert King Saud of Saudi-Arabia has ordered more than 60 Cadillac cars. The King's order will only cost a mere £357,140 or so. Some of the cars will be fitted with jewelled cigarette-lighters. Some will be air-conditioned; some will have one-way window glass, so that the passengers can see without being seen. And others have armour-plate and special machine gun mountings. . . .

Who says that kings are not useful to the community? Do they not provide work for automobile workers? And are not 60 cars more useful to a King than 60 wives—or are they?

Rock, Everybody, Rock

At the time of writing Bill Haley and his Comets have arrived triumphantly in Britain; his latest film, “Don’t Knock the Rock,” is being shown on the circuits and the Rock ’n’ Roll craze seems to be at its zenith. Scores of Bill Haley Concerts are being held up and down the country; and some newspapers, particularly the Daily Mirror and the Daily Sketch, are giving more space to Bill Haley than to Prince Charles, Princess Grace or Jayne Mansfield’s vital statistics—for the time being.

Still, it’s all good fun. The “cats” are happy; the newspapers are happy with their new gimmick; and Bill Haley and his backers and agents should be happy “coining the loot.” For is not Rock ’n* Roll the greatest money-maker that “Pop” music has produced in a couple of decades?

So while it lasts . . . Rock, everybody, rock!!

God's Own Country!
Baby Doll: Elia Kazan film, bated on a typical Tennessee Williams play about sex, seen against a brutal background of an illiterate, run-down colour-conscious community in the Southern United States. The characters are mostly brutal, ignorant and animal and the story is about a mentally arrested girl, her repressed husband and the Sicilian who seduces her for revenge.”—(What's On In London, 25/1/57.)
Peter E. Newell

A History of Turkey (1957)

Book Review from the March 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

A History of Turkey” by M. Phillips Price, M.P. (Published by George Allen and Unwin).

An interesting book. A condensed version of the history, of Turkey, from the early days of the Osmanii tribe, who started the Turkish Empire, to the present day Republic. This is not intended to be a profound work but for those requiring an introduction to the events which have taken place in Turkey since the early empire, this is the book. It is the sort of thing that has come to be associated with travelling journalists, M.P.’s, etc., well written, easily read and with enough facts to make it interesting. The bibliography published at the end of the chapter is extensive and should aid the interested student of Middle-Eastern affairs.

Turkey as a bulwark against Russian Imperialism 
Despite its superficiality, the book brings out the importance of Turkey to the Western Powers as a bastion against the Imperialist designs of Russian Capitalism. For the contemporary Capitalist set-up in Russia is just as keen to get control of the Black Sea Straits (at Turkey’s expense) for trade, strategic and other reasons, and to roll back the Russo-Turkish border, whenever and wherever possible, as was Czarist Russia.

Turkish Agriculture—Feudal Aspects
Turkey still has its Feudal aspects, despite its Capitalist visage. The “Metayer” or sharecropping system, still exists, although it is not the prevailing mode. The Metayer is “based on the principle that the annual crop is" divided between landlord and cultivator.” . . . (Page 184). Also dealt with is ownership of land in Anatolia, of “34½ million acres of cultivated land in Anatolia, 32 million acres are owned and worked by cultivators of an average of not more than 16 acres, two millions by persons with an average of 300 acres, and only half a million with an average of 400 acres.” (Page 182). 

Labour Conditions and the T.U. Movement 
There is a brief chapter on Labour conditions and social legislation. Mr. Price points out the lack of a trade union movement in Turkey, until comparatively recent times. The Trade Unions, such as they were, were early suppressed, which was quite understandable in a semi-feudal economy. 1920 saw some serious attempts to get Trade Unions going. “The Kemalist Government of the National Revolution set itself the task of industralising Turkey, and consequently became concerned with having a contented working class which would run these industries. ..  .” (Page 197, our italics). But despite the needs of Turkish Capitalism it was not until 1947 that a law was passed legalising Trade Unions. The author says that Trade Unions are “not instruments of the State or of a Party dominating the State, as in Communist countries.'’ ... (Page 204), but one can fairly say (despite this statement that Trade Unions in Turkey as in Russia and many other countries are part of the State machine. The fact that the T.U. movement in Turkey was initiated by the Government, that strikes are illegal, and that Trade Unions have to get Government permission to join International organisations is more than proof of their subservance to the Turkish State. Referring to the matter of joining International organisations, Price says: “The Turkish Trade Union leaders seem to see nothing very wrong in taking their lead from the Government in matters of this kind, and indeed to wait for Government initiative in such matters." (Page 202).

A free Trade Union movement to better the lot of the Turkish working class is something which has yet to be fought for; and then only in the light, that it is, at its best, reformist activity aimed at getting the best out of Capitalism for Turkish workers, and that it will not alter the basis of Capitalist society.

Only Socialist understanding can solve the problems of all workers, and this is something that the Turkish working class must aim at acquiring.
Jon Keys

Homes and hovels (1957)

From the March 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children may be an admirable institution in the eyes of those who fail to realize its limitations: namely, that it is powerless to prevent the poverty stricken unhappy home conditions arising from a social system whose “mainspring" is profit, and where the amount of rent paid determines the quality and quantity of the shelter that is sold. Pay eight guineas a week and you can live in comfort; pay eight shillings a week and you can live in misery.

There’s the rub—the quantity of wages determines the quality of shelter and there is no escape from this state of affairs, so long as shelter and the workers’ labour power both exist as commodities.

Slums always with us
Without tiresome reminders of the slums that are still with us, despite their “abolition" on paper over the years by Governments of the day, surely it must be obvious that if Capitalism produces them, through the inability of its wage slaves to afford decent homes, the only solution is to abolish the wages system, which is the real stumbling block to the so-called housing problem. Despite the foregoing, we constantly read statements, such as the following, culled from the Liverpool Echo of 30th November:—
 “Lady Celia Noble, wife of Sir Humphrey Noble. High Sheriff of Northumberland and mother of two sons and a daughter, told the annual meeting of Blackpool branch of the N.S.P.C.. yesterday that a happy home life was the surest way of preventing misery and delinquincy in children.
“ ‘The child who is secure and has affection is not the child who goes into the juvenile court,' she said.” (Our italics.)
This statement is illuminating merely because of what it does not tell us, namely, about the child who is not “secure” and whose quota of comfort and affection is on a diminishing ratio in relation to the degree of misery and degradation of the particular slum environment he or she inhabits.

Can Lady Noble, who has been fortunate enough to bestow on her offspring the degree of comfort in her home which she deems necessary to prevent the misery she mentions, inform us how to provide all children with similar desirable home conditions in a class divided, buying and selling world? Socialists continually point out that the abolition of the wages system is the only possible solution for the miseries which spring from production for profit.

Our Mansion and Hovel World
In passing, the following quotations have some bearing on the subject:—
 “In a society in which there is war and its consequences the conditions do not exist for active life mellowing into old age. In cities built haphazardly, the mansion and the slum are corollaries. Where the horror of street upon street of back-to-back hovels is tolerated, there is unlikely to be any appreciation of the need for parks and open fields. As long as the individual worker is the most cheaply replaced component of industrial stock, his welfare is not likely to he the first consideration in production: factories will continue to be built and mines sunk to satisfy other reasons than the dictates of life and health. The production of goods and food geared to any other motive than their consumption by the producers must lead to the insanity of food being burnt and production restricted when there is widespread malnutrition and want with all their consequences on health. Morbidity and mortality directly arising from poverty and social mismanagement in a society that has technologically solved the needs of production, present to medicine not a problem, but an outrage.” (Arnold Sorsby'sMedicine and Mankind.” (Our italics.)
The illusion that the vast mass of the working class can somehow “hoist" themselves out of their poverty and degradation by such means as “home buying" on a mortgage system is a popular fantasy held by those who fail to comprehend the underlying cause of slums and poverty which is that the working class have to sell their labour-power on the market.

The Snare of Home Ownership
Whilst on the subject of home ownership—Lewis Mumford, in his work, Culture of Cities, has this to say— 
  “The failure of decent housing to obtain capital through competition in the market has led to widespread attempts to foster home-ownerships among the workers: under the guise of offering security, those who have fostered this movement, including Government agencies, have sought to burden the worker with the risks: risks whose returns are not sufficient to attract the necessary capital from the more wary. This diversion of the worker's meagre budget to housing not merely undermines his standard of life: it lessens his freedom of movement and, during a financial crisis or a local shutdown often results in the complete loss of his entire investment—and the roof over his head as well.” (Our italics.) 
The problem facing the world wide working class is one of poverty caused through wage slaverythe solution lies in abolishing the wages system and establishing Socialism. So long as these facts are ignored by the majority we shall continue to read in the Daily Press the empty speeches of the defenders of King Capital, whether well meaning or hypocritical.
G. R. Russell.

"The Missing Millions" (1957)

From the March 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Where are the Missing Millions? This is the great lament of all the sports columns of the daily newspapers. They take sympathetic view on behalf of the monied people interested in the prosperity of Football Clubs, Boxing Promotions and Race Meetings, big and small throughout the country for this falling-off of attendances doubtless affects their profits. Especially in football, where since the end of the war they have been experiencing yearly record-breaking profits. But tnow no more of those “fabulous gates,” no more of those “astounding transfer fees.” Of course they are not alone. The Churches of this country for so many, many years now, have been faced with the self-same grim decline. Try as they may, with their Missions here, Missions there, Missions everywhere; they simply cannot win back the deserters.

The Cinemas and Music Halls would appear to have contracted this illness as well. Fewer long queues or ”full-house” signs to be seen these days. And the theatre, ballet and opera, have their black spots and dull moments.

Not only are entertainments affected, but more serious interests. Trade Union meetings, lectures of all sorts, and political meetings, do not seem to arouse any concern in the people at all. Communists. Conservatives, Labour and Liberal alike, they find it harder to hold successful meetings today, except when a big crisis turns up.

We all know that partly to blame is that bugbear Television. Fagged-out after another day's wearisome toil and an equally tiring journey home, no doubt it is more than a temptation to slump into the nearest chair after some food and remain there glued for the rest of the evening, reading, listening, talking, viewing or more likely ... dozing.

Hark then! this question of the "Missing Millions.” Is it because of Television? Or, lack of spare cash to spend on entertainment? Or the time and trouble in rushing home, swallowing a meal, racing about preparing yourself, etc., etc., and then eventually getting out in time to enjoy those amusements, interests, hobbies, studies, or duties?

Socialists would say that it is all of these, combined with a host of other difficulties. Mind you! it could also be a yearning to participate in new and fresh ventures so different from those of the pub ... the pictures . . .. or the dancing. But, alas! it isn't to be. This brings the everyday ritual into the scene, you know, how much? Can we afford it? Can we spare the time? Must we rise early next morning, or can we lie in.

But there positively is something you can and should make time for, something really well worth the effort; something you ought to start helping to bring about, something we all need badly and this is the “System of society called Socialism.”

Under Socialism all would be doing a useful job and not just clipping tickets on buses and in the underground, or wasting away in Armies, Navies, Air and Police forces.

Thousands of clerks who just fill in forms and fuss about with little rubber stamps in Labour Exchanges, Town Halls, Ministry of this, that, or the other. Doing much the same in banks, insurance offices and building societies. Yes! these useless stupid jobs! ! !

Just look; what can be produced these days even with all this waste of manpower and materials. With the complete abolition of all this pitiful junk like, guns, battleships, warplanes, bombs, military uniforms, barracks and the rest . . .

Just stop and try to imagine what could be done' and enjoyed by every man, woman, and child, if all the able bodied were doing something truly vital. To serve their own and everyone else's needs for the wealth would be the common property of the whole of society, for the free use of all.

Then for the first time there would most certainly be the real prospect of having plenty of free time to do all you desire—with all amenities accessible to all the whole world over.
John Moore

How to study socialism (1957)

From the March 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Readers of the Socialist Standard and listeners at our meetings will have realised that we attach great importance to the workers having a knowledge of certain basic principles and being able to apply them to the questions of the day. That is how Socialists are made, and it is the only way. The worker who wishes to save himself from taking in and acting upon the theories and policies of the various Capitalist parties must himself get to understand the economic and political problems which face him. This requires a certain amount of study, but it is well within the reach of the average worker. It is less difficult than many of the technical studies which workers have to pursue in order to get and keep their jobs in the employers' factories, workshops and offices. The study of economics and politics from the working class viewpoint is not only interesting in itself—something which can be said of all systematic expansion of our knowledge of the world we live in— but it has the additional attraction that it touches at every point the actual conditions of the life of the working class. That is to say, it is a study which, so far from being divorced from action, leads directly to the adoption of policies in line with our own economic interests. Knowledge of Socialism colours the everyday thoughts and actions of the Socialist, enables him to understand and appreciate at their true value the social forces with which he has to deal, and gives him that confidence which is indispensable for the organisation of the working class, the conquest of the powers of government, and the building up of Socialism.

How is such a study to be undertaken? What books should be read, and how are the students’ difficulties to be dealt with? These questions are in the minds of all who approach the task for the first time. To the limit of our present resources we hold meetings, and arrange study classes and discussions at Head Office and in the branches. The student should attend these meetings and classes.

He should read the books advertised in these columns. They are works which we can recommend, and we shall be pleased to advise as to the works which a beginner should tackle first.

But above all there is the Socialist Standard itself. From month to month over a period of 26 years, Socialist principles have been applied to current problems, every aspect of Capitalism has been examined and explained, every policy presented to the workers has been criticised and its value assessed, every anti-working-class party has been exposed. Hundreds of well-informed articles have made accessible useful knowledge from almost every field of study, and hundreds of students' difficulties have been answered.

The Socialist Standard is not like a “news” journal, out of date almost as soon as it is published. It is a record of the past history of working-class movements, packed with invaluable information on their failures and on the false theories and policies which made failure inevitable. It is no exaggeration to say that there is no other comparable source to which the worker with his limited leisure and means can go for reliable guidance in the study of social problems. It is to meet this need that we offer bound volumes for sale. They are well bound and are sold at a price which leaves only a small margin over the actual cost of binding and postage. We cannot too strongly urge members and sympathisers to order one or more volumes and get down to study during the winter months.

(Reprinted from the Socialist Standard, December 1930.)

Party News Briefs (1957)

Party News from the March 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Paddington Branch has had a full programme for the past few months. Now, once every month, an evening is devoted to critical discussion on the current Socialist Standard. At a prior meeting individual members choose a particular article which they will closely study in the meantime. Then, on the appointed evening both the effectiveness and shortcomings of the chosen article are gone into thoroughly. Paddington Branch hope that in this way they will be contributing to the improvements of our journal which so richly deserves a wider readership.

With the dual aim of making the Party's point of view known and improving their own knowledge, the Branch have invited several representatives of significant non-Socialist organisations to visit the Branch. Mr. E. S. (Solly) Sachs, the former General Secretary of the South African Workers Union, whose opposition to the division of the South African Trade Union movement on racial lines was one of the reasons for his virtual exile from that country, spoke on the history of the South African working class. On another occasion a local Communist came to face the Branch's passionate condemnation of his Party's record.

The Branch will certainly continue their efforts to stress the world-wide nature of Socialism when a Movement of Colonial Freedom representative visits the Branch to be followed soon after by someone from Argentina. Members are themselves encouraged to address the Branch, giving a Socialist slant on the fields in which they have especial interest. Two notable occasions were Comrade Warlow’s talk on automation and Ian Jones's on the social significance of the plays of Bertold Brecht.

Chelsea and Fulham Branch. Owing to the illness of two or three members of the Branch and the transfer of another, and the difficulties of others to attend Branch meetings, all activity was suspended for the latter part of last year and the first weeks of this year. The Branch is now meeting again on the first and third Thursdays in the month at 8 p.m. at 34, St. George's Square (Com. Wilcox, top flat), S.W.l. The Branch Secretary is Comrade Newell, to whom all correspondence should be addressed at Head Office, 52, Clapham High Street, S.W.4.

Lectures and discussions are being arranged and the Branch hopes to commence outdoor meetings at Gloucester Road and Earls Court in the beginning of April. Members, sympathisers and readers of the Socialist Standard will be welcomed to all the indoor and outdoor meetings.

Obituary. We regret to learn of the death on 28th December last, of Comrade Donald Fincham at the age of 79. He was a member for many years and staunchly put the Party case on every possible occasion to his workmates. We extend to his family our sincere sympathy and condolences.

Meeting. At the Peace Pledge Union, 6, Endsleigh Street, W.C.l, on Thursday, 7th March, at 8 p.m. Here our Comrade Read will talk on "War, its Causes and Remedy.” Admission free, Questions and Discussion.
Phyllis Howard

50 Years Ago: Progress (1957)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

(From the “Socialist Standard," March, 1907)

The 1905 criminal statistics recently issued from the Home Office show that while there is a decline in convictions for drunkenness, manslaughter, bigamy, and malicious wounding, there is nevertheless a significant increase in burglaries and crimes against property with violence. Sir John Macdonell says in his summary “The enormous preponderance of crimes against property is remarkable; nearly nine-tenths of the whole fall every year within that category.”

Indictable offences have increased from a yearly average of 51,612 during 1896—1900 to 61,463 in 1905. While, instead of drink being the cause of crime, drunkenness has declined while crime has increased.

#    #    #    #

The above figures on the not very large increase is the number of indictable offences between 1896 and 1905 need to be compared with the staggering increase since that date. In an address to the Edinburgh Rotary Club in 1955 Sir Sydney Smith, formerly of the Department of Forensic Medicine at Edinburgh University, had this to say:—
". . . members of the community showed far too little interest in the serious problem of crime. In 1900. he said, there were 50,000 indictable crimes, compared with 500,000 in 1953. Crimes of violence had risen from 3,500 to 23,000, housebreaking cases from 77,000 to 400,000.” (Report in Manchester Guardian, 18/2/55.)
In the article in March, 1907 the Socialist Standard writer related the increase of crime to the “greater distress and unemployment among the people.” While these factors play a part the enormous increase during the post-war years of very low unemployment show that the rest of the pressures, tensions and frustrations of Capitalism at peace and war, have combined to make the 1905 figures almost insignificant.

Review: February 1972 (1972)

The Review of the Month column from the March 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

At Home

As the miners ended their strike in victory, it became clear that there had been a widespread miscalculation. The strength of the strikers — their solidarity, the effectiveness of their picketing — was underestimated by the government, by the press and, incidentally, also by the Socialist Standard. This strike was an example of effective trade union action; it was solid and well directed so that it demanded a rapid settlement. For the government, this defeat of their wages policy may be a chance for them to regroup and consider their next field of battle. The high level of unemployment is not the only similarity between the present and the twenties, when an apparently victorious miners’ strike preceded the General Strike and a victory for the capitalist class over the workers.

One of the most cynical statements on the strike came from Labour leader Harold Wilson, who supported the miners because they are a special case. It is not so long ago that Wilson was Prime Minister in a government which fought bitterly against strikers, whether their case was “special’’ (whatever that may mean) or not. In perhaps the most famous strike of Wilson’s time as Premier, the seamen were also said to be “special”. Their wages were comparatively low, they worked long hours often in unpleasant and dangerous conditions. And, like the miners, there was a large fund of goodwill for them, in memory of their particular suffering during the war. Wilson’s reaction to all of this was to oppose the seamen and, in one of his most wretched speeches, condemn them as misled by a small band of politically motivated wreckers. There is no reason to think that he is sincere now in his support for the miners; he is simply hoping to drive another nail into Heath’s well-studded coffin.


President Nixon took off for his visit to China, which will probably do him no harm in this election year, declaring that he went with the object of talking about peace. The fact that the admittedly capitalist America can find common ground with the allegedly socialist China is proof that both countries have the same social system. In fact, what Nixon went to talk about was war. The subjects the leaders will discuss will be the clashing interests of their two capitalist powers in the Far East, how to carve up that piece of the world, how to establish more contact between the two states so that the processes of capitalist diplomacy can be more smoothly carried on. These are the superficial issues which spring from the conflicts of capitalism which are the cause of modern war. Whatever settlements Nixon may negotiate it is safe to say that other conflicts will emerge, if not between China and America then perhaps between the two in alliance and some other line-up. The plain fact, which is often overlooked amid all the emotion and the lies at such times, is that capitalism is a society of conflict and that war is its normality.

In Rhodesia the Smith government showed its racist teeth again in the imprisonment and ill-treatment of the Todds. The Smith government imprisons people without even the right of a trial, which most capitalist governments allow and which is a valuable safeguard, because it is a racist and therefore an openly repressive regime. But this type of imprisonment is a common method under capitalism. In the dictatorships of Eastern Europe it happens all the time and over this side of the world, the British government has of course used the same method in Northern Ireland. What this means is that a capitalist state will fight ruthlessly when it is threatened and that none are above using such methods.


The government’s narrow majority on the Common Market caused a tremendous uproar, mainly from Labour M.P.s who were screaming with fury like the baby whose bottle is stolen; they saw themselves robbed of a chance of power over British capitalism by the votes of a few Liberals who had done no more than vote in the way they had always said they would vote. This puts the vote, and the so-called debate which preceded it, into its proper perspective — another piece of the great, boring, futile game of capitalist politics.

One who always played that game in an especially petulant style finally chucked it in. Ray Gunter, ex-Minister of Labour, left the Labour benches with a characteristically illiterate letter. Gunter used his position as a Minister to fight working class wage claims tooth and nail. He was a strong advocate of tougher controls on immigration and a supporter of the racist laws passed under the Wilson government. He sent his resignation at a time when he was staying at a posh hotel in Durban, as a guest of the racist government of South Africa. All of this, from a man who calls himself a socialist— and who got away with it because he was in a party which also takes that name while standing for capitalism with every inhumanity that implies.

Criminals or victims? (1972)

From the March 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

In recent months so-called British Justice has frequently been called into question. The main points of contention have been the trials of OZ, Jake Prescott and Ian Purdie of the ‘Angry Brigade’, Pauline Jones, who kidnapped the baby Denise Weller, and the ‘Mangrove Nine’, a group of black immigrants living in Notting Hill. These trials have caused quite a stir in the Press, and several valid points were raised and questions asked by some of the newspapers. For instance, in the OZ trial Judge Argyle said that as the convicted men were not rich a fine would not be relevant, and therefore a prison sentence would be more in order. Some of the newspapers came to the realisation that by this token someone with money could bribe his way out of a prison sentence and that capitalist society was on the side of money, not people!

Jake Prescott was found guilty of conspiracy and sentenced to fifteen years in gaol. His actual crime was addressing three envelopes which contained letters informing the police that certain explosions were the handiwork of the self-styled Angry Brigade. In the Press, especially the underground press, the length of Jake Prescott’s sentence was contrasted to the sentence of two to three years meted out to two youths for throwing a fire bomb into a West Indian party and severely injuring ten black people. The fact that the punishment for the Angry Brigade bombings (which were directed against property) was harsher than the punishment for the injury to the West Indians only goes to show that under capitalism property is always more important than people, as we learned with the thirty year sentences some of the Train Robbers received, while murderers are sometimes freed before serving ten years.

Pauline Jones was sentenced to three years (now reduced to twenty-one months) imprisonment for kidnapping a baby while under mental stress. The Press was quick to point out that this punishment could not benefit the parents of Denise Weller, the kidnapped child, or in any way compensate them for their anguish, or rehabilitate the disturbed Pauline Jones. The papers did not go as far as to say, though they should have, that no one has ever been helped by prison sentences, and that capitalist “justice” is always obsessed with punishment, not rehabilitation, in a crude attempt to protect the position and the property of the ruling class and to keep an innately unworkable system stable. The philosophy is that anyone causing an inconvenience to the maintenance of a profit and property motivated society, whether ideologically, as in the case of OZ, or Prescott, or unknowingly, as in the case of thieves etc., must be restrained as cheaply as possible.

In the early days of capitalism it was simple; people were hanged for all sorts of petty offences. The capitalists could not afford prisons or orphanages to fit the requirements of the age, so destitute adults or children could be hanged for stealing a loaf of bread, or in some cases for vagrancy. Since, however, modern capitalism has found it necessary to engender an educated and versatile working class these old methods are no longer acceptable. Prison and Borstal are the punishment for those whose behaviour is fashioned by their deprived circumstances; for remember, it is rarely that members of the ruling class find their way into penal establishments.

The Mangrove Nine were charged with various offences from assault to disturbing the peace, for their part in a demonstration in Notting Hill. There were allegations of police brutality and deliberate incitement of black people. While many journalists were able to write that perhaps the relationship between the police in Notting Hill and the black immigrants of the area “left much to be desired”, apparently no one realised that this was just another manifestation of the old capitalist maxim “divide and rule”, for while white members of the working class are arguing and fighting with black members of the working class, the working class as a whole will not concentrate on the real problem of abolishing capitalism.

While many valid points were raised in connection with these trials, as is to be expected, the real vital questions were not asked. For instance, there was no enquiry into the role of “justice”, and while the press often sympathised with the accused, no one asked “Why are these people criminals? Is not society to blame in some degree?” As already shown, the role of “justice” is merely to keep the present corrupt system running as smoothly as possible. Although the alleged obscenities of the underground Press are no more than amusing or deliberately sick, the fact that so many of the younger generation spend a good deal of time actively and overtly mocking and rejecting the values of the society they find themselves in, is symptomatic of the fact that that society is in a state of decadence.

When one considers the case of Jake Prescott, one must look again at the environment of the society in which he lives. Although no Socialist could condone bombings as a constructive revolutionary activity, he could quite easily understand what motivates someone of Prescott’s background to unreasoned violence. Prescott has spent his entire life being shunted around from orphanage to foster home to Borstal, to prison, and so on, a victim of the fact that capitalism cannot or will not take care of those who do not fit readily into the normal pattern of things. Capitalism’s need for a mobile working force is not met by the “extended families” and pattern of semi-communal living of the old rural economy and this has given way to the more insular and mobile nuclear family, consisting solely of man, wife and children. Naturally enough there are many who cannot fit into the scheme (the unmarried, old age pensioners whose children have grown up, orphans, illegitimate children), and capitalism being what it is, they have to suffer for it.

Pauline Jones is another victim of the family structure which has been instituted by capitalism. She became pregnant while unmarried; the stigma of this in a nuclear-family based society is enough in itself to cause the greatest anxiety. She then lost the baby through a miscarriage. The resultant psychological instability led to the kidnapping of Denise Weller, and capitalism’s solution to the whole sordid business is to incarcerate Pauline in gaol! The disturbing fact is that, despite the unusually large publicity given to these people, their cases are by no means exceptional. Britain’s gaols are full of people who, like Jake Prescott, have never been given a chance by capitalist society. Britain’s other prisons, the mental asylums, are also full of people for whom the system has been too much. In fact, no one is safe from the corrupting influence of capitalist society. Any child born into a working class family stands a very good chance of facing the authorities charged with some petty offence at some time in his life. Many people will be driven into mental asylums because they cannot fit into society’s “norms”. Sexual deviants, unmarried people, women who are sterile yet would love to help rear children, are all subject to neuroses deriving from their treatment at the hands of capitalism.

Most crimes are directly concerned with money or want, neither of which would exist in Socialist society. Freed from the strictures of the economic unit that is the nuclear family Man would become a far more social animal, and become, in the words of Marx, “Truly human for the first time”. The loneliness, bewilderment with, and hostility towards, society would not exist, and would not therefore, give rise to the many neuroses which lead to crime today. Capitalism is a dangerous system from which no one is safe — the “criminals” of today, including those discussed in this article, are more sinned against than sinning.

"Darling Kaunda (1972)

From the March 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have always been a lone voice when we have said that the struggles of subject peoples of Africa for national independence are a fruitless waste of blood and effort. The fact is that at present all peoples are subject peoples; those of England, Russia or Cuba, just as much as those of Kenya, or Zambia who were until recent times under the rule of British imperialism. And now that the hated British have gone, all that has happened is that the mass of the peoples of black Africa have changed white rulers for black ones. But it would be a bold man who would now say that the change from a foreign to a native ruling class has meant any real gain for the ruled.

The rulers of black Africa make a great hooha because the Tory government has come to terms with the Smith regime in Rhodesia before the achievement of that great desideratum — one man, one vote. Now Socialists are the last to decry the necessity of democracy even under capitalism. On the contrary, we realise that when the time comes that the working class understands the meaning of the need for Socialism, then it is by the exercise of the vote in a democracy, that the new society will be won. In the meantime, the sheer hypocrisy of the African rulers is quite mind-boggling. If any racialist doubted the equality of black with white, they must at least be convinced that a black politician can be every bit as obnoxious a liar and a humbug as his white equivalent. The leading opponent of the deal with Smith is Nyerere of Tanzania who sheds his crocodile tears over the lack of votes and other rights of democracy in Rhodesia for the black inhabitants of that unhappy land where most of the population is disfranchised and the leading spirits of would-be opposition parties are kept in detention without trial.

Yet none knows better than he (who compounds his felonies with the impudent claim to be establishing Socialism in his country — but then that specious nonsense is repeated in all the most unlikely places, Egypt, Israel, India et al) that the same lack of democracy exists in his own country. It is true that the blacks have equality of voting rights: But Nyerere has made sure that the vote is worth nothing by banning all opposition so that in practice you have a vote without a choice. Which is just as much a sordid farce in present-day Tanzania as it was in Hitlerite Germany (or as it is, of course, in Russia or China). And in Tanzania, just as much as in Rhodesia, the place for political opponents, for those who dare to suggest there should be freedom to vote for some other party than Nyerere’s is in gaol. Black political prisoners have, in fact, been languishing in gaol in Tanzania just as long as in Rhodesia.

In neighbouring Zambia, the president, “my darling Kaunda”, as a New Statesman haridan, Naomi Mitchison, once called him, has decided that the faint vestiges of democracy that were discernible (under a microscope) in his country were no longer supportable and he was graciously giving his people a new constitution. A one-party democracy. (And don’t imagine that this square circle is always recognised as such even here. The allegedly liberal Guardian, for example, has often sent its creepy-left reporters like Steele and Adeney and Gott to sing the virtues of Nyerere’s Tanzania and has used the phrase “one-party democracy” without a blush). It seems that a former comrade of Kaunda’s called Kapwepe, had the temerity to use the existing constitution to form another opposition party. Constitution be damned, said that lovable democrat Kaunda and preceeded to shove over 100 prominent supporters of the infant new party where he thinks they belong in liberated Africa. In clink. But still he wasn’t satisfied. It’s not enough that he throws members of an opposition party into gaol. He must also make sure that they have no paper right to form an opposition party at all, which is why he wants to change the constitution. The poor devils who wish to have a little of the freedom the African nationalists were always prating about must be wondering why he bothers. They will rot in gaol either way.

Perhaps to rub in the anti-racialist lesson that white political crooks and black ones are birds of a feather, Kaunda is not satisfied with playing the role of an African Hitler, he must emulate Stalin as well. It is always difficult to form an opinion as to which particular piece of murderous villainy of Stalinist Russia was the worst, but one that was extremely gruesome was, at the time of the infamous pact with the Nazi beast, the handing over to the Nazis of German Communist leaders who had taken refuge in Russia — Stalin’s own dear comrades. We don’t know whether these victims appreciated the change of scenery as they were taken from a Communist concentration camp to be butchered in a Nazi one, but the episode was one to make a Borgia cringe. And where does our gallant Christian and “socialist” Kaunda come into this? Well, as is well known, his great enemy is the white-fascist-beast, his neighbour Smith of Rhodesia. So what does he do? He rounds up black “freedom” fighters in his own country. And does he gaol them (without trial, of course)? It seems that wouldn’t suit his book. He actually hands them over to the white-fascist murderers, the self-same villains that cause him to inveigh against our wicked Tories (they are undoubtedly wicked enough, including of course that fat cynic Lord Goodman who used to have the nerve to call himself a socialist. Presumably still does). And of course Smithy gratefully accepts the gift and does what Kaunda expected him to do. Sentence the poor bastards to death.

No doubt you heard the screams of protest from the assembled leftists as they smashed the windows of the Zambian legation to draw attention to this monstrosity. And then you woke up. There hasn't been as much as a resounding tinkle. Exactly the same as in the good old days when Stalin was murdering Russian workers by the million, including his own Bolshevik comrades. Some, one must say, did demur. A quarter of a century later when Khruschev came out with the news that honest people knew perfectly well at the time. The Guardian did report these grisly goings-on. But there have been no screaming leading articles denouncing Kaunda for the way he treats black men. Yet they are so ardently concerned with the freedom of black people that hardly a day is allowed to pass without denunciation of Vorster and Co. (who are indeed grim enough in all conscience).

And what does all this add up to? Surely, that all the energy that millions of people, black and white, put into reforms such as nationalism, not to mention all the heroism and sacrifice in places like the Mau Mau jungles, all this simply leaves the capitalist jungle intact. And it therefore follows that all the jungly things go on and the sufferings of mankind go on with them. Roll on the day when the working class of the world, black, white, brown, yellow, decide that only the cutting down of the capitalist jungle will serve. Because until that day dawns, humanity will have to live with horror.
L. E. Weidberg.

Marxism (1972)

From the March 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marxism argues that human behaviour arises from the way society is organised. Men’s attitudes and actions reflect the social relationships they form to produce wealth. Thus, for instance, from the Marxist standpoint, war arises from the struggle for profits and can be abolished when capitalism (the system of profits) is removed.

The capitalist class and their story-tellers cannot accept such a proposition. War for them is something apart from society, which arises from the brutal and selfish nature of man. In order to give their system an air of permanence they have to concoct myths about men being naturally greedy and war-like, so that all the violence and inhumanity can be accepted without endangering capitalism.

No other theorist has been so often debunked and has so persistently returned to be debunked again. It is a tragic irony that the very people whose cause Marx so ably championed have ignorantly mouthed the notions of their masters against him. But even this can be understood, for Marx knew that the prevailing ideas in any society were the ideas of the ruling class. The working class were bound to get caught up in the mythology of their capitalist exploiters in the process of developing their political consciousness with a view to ultimately changing society.

Any argument has seemed to suffice to down Marxism, even the fact that he lived and wrote during the nineteenth century. He must be discredited from any claim to relevance in the world of to-day. An understanding of Marx’s ideas about economics and history is a dangerous thing to the capitalist class. If those ideas can be twisted into the advocacy of Soviet-style dictatorship, or dismissed as theories belonging to the past, then Marx’s uncomfortable concept of the class struggle and the transitory nature of capitalism can be conveniently forgotten. It speaks volumes for the unscientific thinking of capitalism’s apologists, that they believe that capitalism is transitory only in Marx’s imagination and that the class struggle will go away if they pretend it isn’t there.

Marx did not invent the class struggle, he simply drew attention to it and made certain logical deductions from it. Just as the facts of evolution in biology were there to be discovered even if Darwin had never lived, so the facts of historical and economic evolution are there whether they please the capitalist class or not.

The great merit of the work of Marx and Engels is that it recognises the unity of knowledge, that is to say the inter-dependence and inter-relation of all branches of science. By making their starting point the productive activity of man in society they make it possible to understand and explain the social relationships and the ideological superstructure of any given stage of history and to link together ideas and movements which otherwise appear isolated and inexplicable.

Modern capitalism with its hideous means of mass destruction and its ever increasing contradiction between wealth and want, can only be understood when seen as a period of history, a phase which because of its own internal contradictions, will be superceded by Socialism. Here it is important to understand that Marxism does not envisage blind or abstract “contradictions” changing society by themselves. We are talking of men in society and the consciousness they develop of and in society. It is the working class whose world-wide majority consciousness and democratic political action will abolish capitalism.

Marxian economics shows that the whole structure of capitalism rests upon the exploitation of wage-labour, not the quest to “allocate scarce resources” as taught to unwary students to-day. The further economists get away from this fact and concentrate exclusively on “inflationary spirals”, share-price movements, and the like, the more mysterious capitalism seems to become.

Economics then appears as a subject for academic study in order to try to manipulate and stabilise the trends in this crisis-ridden system. The actual mechanics of the wage-labour and capital basis, are taken as natural. It all becomes a question of adjustments and regulation. The idea of getting rid of this base is not even considered.

Profits are the mainspring of capitalism. When profits clash with human interest, it is profits that come out best. It might be thought that sometimes profits retreat and human interest prevails. But the class which lives from profits knows that it can be damaging to its long-term interests if the profit motive falls into disrepute, and that it is wise to appear to concede a point and survive for greater plunder another day.

The capitalist class and its political servants are well aware of the public relations aspects of their system. A gloss has to be applied, and the myth has to be maintained, that the big business edifice of modern capitalism is there to supply and to serve us. The consumer is supreme. This is the blatant humbug dished up in the name of economic theory by the “learned” pundits whose unsavoury task is to justify capitalism.

The fact that most consumers are members of the working class, who spend their lives ekeing out their wages, is played down. Where are the modern capitalist economists who regard the wages system as a barrier, restricting the distribution of wealth to what it takes on average to maintain the wage earner in working order and provide replacements? They are so buried in a morass of market trends, charts and diagrams, and so bewildered by their own complex terminology, that they spare hardly a thought for the quality of life in terms of what is consumed.

Having coined the phrase “consumer - sovereignty” they seem quite satisfied. The fact that much of what is consumed is rubbish, or dangerous to the user, or damaging to the environment, is beside the point. It is outside the scope of the economists to busy themselves with such trifles. Let the ecologist worry about the environment. Let the psychiatrist worry about nervous and mental disorders and the soaring suicide rate. Let the surgeon or the researcher worry about the connection between cancer and food adulteration. The economist is concerned only with producing more cars and expanding the GNP ! When cancer and mental illness become so widespread that absenteeism hits output and profits suffer from lost production—that is when it becomes necessary to balance money spent on hospitals against money lost through illness.

The economists would have us believe that what is good for capitalism and its profits, is good enough for all of us. Another of their myths is that there is a ‘national interest’ and we are all in it together. Unfortunately for them, capitalism the world over abounds with examples of the antagonism between wage-labour and capitalism, and of profits having priority over human beings.

No wonder the politicians use glib phrases. To sound lofty is the best they can hope for. If the intricate workings of capitalism bamboozle the “experts”, what can ordinary workers do except abandon themselves to their fate ? This is another subtle ploy of the ruling class. The workers must always be discouraged from thinking that they themselves can effect a solution. No matter how rife the chaos and the turmoil, our lives are in the safe hands of those who know what is best for us —even if they do disagree among themselves and constantly contradict each other.
Harry Baldwin

It may indeed! (1972)

From the March 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard
Unhygienic, cumbersome, expensive to renew, money is rapidly going out of fashion. The credit card, that magic wand of purchasing power is taking over, bringing with it new problems. A Stanford Research Institute economist believes that thefts and other forms of misuse could drive the credit card companies into bankruptcy within 10 years unless they install equipment to stop the abuses. In New York a stolen card now sells for anything from $75 to $200 depending on its status. The typical loss on a card known to have been stolen is somewhere between $5000 and $7000. To foil the thieves will require devices that can link a document with its true owner by voice, fingerprint or some other physical characteristic. The economist sees nothing for it but to set up a nationwide computer system to check every purchase against the card-holder’s normal spending pattern—and. of course, how much he’s got in the bank. The bewildering assortment of hardware required (including new microwave or satellite networks to transmit the data over long distances) could produce a new industry to handle it. And it isn’t as if that will be the end of it. We shall have to guard against the crooks who invade the computerised hierarchy to funnel off private fortunes from so many credit sources at once that no one will know where the money has gone. How absurd the whole business has become. “To each according to his needs . . ." may yet be the only answer.
Ariadne, The New Scientist, 13 January, 1972.

50 Years Ago: High Prices, Low Prices (1972)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

The International Labour Office, acting upon the instructions of its governing body, instituted an enquiry as a result of a meeting held at Genoa in June 1920. At this meeting a representative of the employers’ group said: - 
‘The cost of living has increased in every country to an alarming extent; this phenomenon is due to many causes, but under-production is certainly one of these causes.’
* * *

The enquiry was entrusted to Professor Milhaud of the University of Geneva and the first volume of the ‘Enquiry on Production’ is now to hand and forms the basis of the article ‘An Enquiry into the Causes of the Decrease of Production’ from which we quote.

There are two lengthy quotations from well-known capitalist representatives, such as Mons. Millerand and Mr. Herbert Hoover . . . both of whom during 1919 and 1920 delivered speeches in which they called upon the workers for increased efforts towards greater production.

* * *

Then follow several lengthy extracts from the report showing the fluctuations of prices during December 1919 and June 1921 . . . which, reaching the highest price point in May 1920, fell considerably between that date and June 1921.

We insert this point because what follows shows that the writer of the article in question must have favoured the demand for increased production, for in commenting upon the great fall in prices he (or she) asks as follows: 
‘Was not this fall in prices just the very remedy of which the whole world was in need? Was not the general high level of prices the scourge under which the whole world had been groaning? Was not the return to normal prices the factor from which increased production was to be expected?’

* * * 

The main point of the article to which we draw attention is, that with the fall in prices the writer seems very disagreeably surprised to find that something else had happened, and with an air of injured innocence he laments: 
‘The fall in prices gave rise to a crisis in production such as the world had not yet witnessed’.
Strange! For it was then discovered that the crisis brought forth a universal restriction of production, a huge systematic plan for all over the world to hold up the production of wealth and thus maintain high prices.

(From an article ‘Capital’s Stranglehold’ by Bob Reynolds, Socialist Standard March 1922.)