Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Finance and Industry: A tax on wealth (1963)

The Finance and Industry Column from the April 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

POLITICS

A tax on wealth

Time was when the Labour Party paid lip-service at least to the idea of dispossessing the capitalist class of its wealth. Only a few years ago they were pushing the panacea of nationalisation, that travesty of Socialism, though they were prepared even to dilute this by liberal helpings of compensation.

Now, nationalisation, even of this milk-and-water variety, has become a dirty word. The latest idea is a wealth tax—nothing too sweeping, you understand, an annual levy on say all wealth over £20,000 to bring in perhaps £200 million in extra taxation.

Mr. Callaghan, Labour’s shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, was deputed to fly the kite. But he was careful not to go too far nor to frighten anybody. ". . . only one person in every 100 would be affected,” he said, pointing out that such taxes on wealth already operated in many countries, including Sweden, West Germany, Belgium, Norway, Holland, India, and Denmark—nothing at all ‘‘revolutionary ” about the idea in fact.

Of course, the idea is not revolutionary. But since when has anybody thought that anything emanating from the Labour Party has the remotest connection with revolution? And, even on the Labour Party's own shallow terms, what feeling can anyone now have, other than contempt, for its latest line?


INCOMES

Who earns what?

If only for the record, the latest income figures from the Inland Revenue deserve mention.

Last year, they report, the number of people earning more than £100,000 a year jumped from 63 to 81. There were similar increases in all the top income brackets. Here is the full table (number the previous year in brackets):

Contrast this with the bottom end of the scale where 1.3 million earned about £500 a year; 2.6 million, £600; and 2.2 million, £700. In addition, another 2.1 million earned hardly enough to pay income tax at all.

There are still people who believe in the myth that incomes are being equalised. These figures should shake them, for they show not the slightest evidence of a trend towards equality.

Of course, some will agree that the details relate to figures before tax and that it is only after this has been deducted that the comparison should be made. Agreed, the gap becomes narrower when this is done. But our “equalitarians” must really be simple people if they think this shows the true picture. Even as regards income, there are still many ways —and not illegal ones, either—of evading the tax net. “Expenses on the firm ” is only the most well-known device for doing this, there are others.

But let us come down to fundamentals. Income is any case dependent on wealth—it is ownership of wealth that really matters and all the wishful thinking in the world cannot wish away the fundamental fact that the pattern of wealth ownership has remained virtually unchanged. Roughly 10 per cent. of the population still owns roughly 90 per cent. of the country’s wealth.

And that is the fact that matters.


BUSINESS

Mergers and takeovers

There have been fairly frequent comments in these columns recently about the growing trend towards concentration in industry. Hardly a day goes by without an announcement somewhere of a merger or takeover. Sometimes the takeovers involve really big business, as with the abortive attempt by I.C.I. on Courtaulds; more often it is the big concerns swallowing up the medium and small fry, or the medium ones taking over their lesser brethren. Mergers tend to take place between equals, to avoid competition between themselves or to make themselves strong enough to resist bigger rivals.

All this is well-known. But just how far has the development gone? Exactly how much concentration is there in modern British industry?

The Conservative Bow Group has recently mads an effort to answer these questions in a pamphlet called Monopolies and Mergers. Taking the three biggest firms in each industry, they have calculated what proportion they account for of the total output. Some of the results can only be taken as broad guides, but here are their findings:

There are really no surprises in the list —artificial fibres, oil refining, tobacco, sugar, dyestuffs, margarine and soap, are all well-known as being mainly in the hands of a few prominent firms.

We should add that the figures relate to 1958 and some of the percentages may actually have risen since then as the result of further takeovers or mergers.


INDUSTRY

Stranger still

In last month’s Standard we mentioned that the French subsidiary of the U.S. Remington office machinery firm had recently been closed down and production transferred to the factory in Holland. This was followed, a few days later, by the closing of the typewriter side of the company in Glasgow and its transfer, again, to Holland. Altogether, a nice example of the international workings of present-day capitalism.

We also discussed in the same issue the surprise and secret takeover by U.S. Chrysler of the French car firm, Simca; adding that 25 per cent. of the shares in the Simca concern were actually owned by one of its competitors, Italian Fiat.

The latest development in the story is the news that the former Remington factory in France may soon be taken over by, guess who? Yes, you’re right. Fiat.

What Fiat intend to do with it if they buy it has not yet been disclosed. But whether it has to do with cars, or typewriters, or something quite different, we can be sure of one thing—there is the prospect of profit in it somewhere.

All we need to really complete the story, of course, would be able to say next month that the former Remington factory in Glasgow had also been taken over in its turn—by Simca.

Who knows? Capitalism is fast becoming nonsensical enough for anything.
Stan Hampson

Letter: This Money Business (1963)

Letter to the Editors from the April 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

This Money Business

Sir,

Socialists must be “suckers” if they swallow the half-baked stuff written by Dick Jacobs in the December "SS”.

Money is indispensable in a complex industrial society such as ours. It represents a claim on society, which should be everyone's right. In a society that genuinely believed in the brotherhood of man. this would be recognised.

What is wrong is that anyone should have to work for money in order to live, for this today turns him into a slave. It is unnecessary. Today, with mass-production and technology, fewer and fewer people are actually needed to do the necessary work of society. The rest have to find unnecessary work through industries designed to induce people (with or without money) to acquire unnecessary wants, or in expensive war preparations etc.

Dick Jacobs definition of money—a "'medium of exchange and measure of value” is only something he has read out of a book! Money—whatever its form—is the country’s credit.

Today, this is mostly manipulated by the Joint Stock banks for their own profit, when this function should belong to society. Hence, what should be free, accumulates as debt, with interest. This, with our huge National Debt, leads to inflation.

While shells, gold, or anything else that is scarce, can be used as currency—in Europe in 1945 cigarettes filled the role—paper does just as well if there is confidence in it. It is costless, and in a properly organised society it can be scientifically adjusted to society’s actual needs.

Common ownership of wealth doesn’t touch the problem, let alone solve it! That way can only lead to another tyranny! It is society's control over its own credit that matters. For then, but only then, will it be possible to make everyone, unconditionally, and as by right, a shareholder in Great Britain Ltd. And whether we call that “Capitalism” or “Socialism ” won’t matter two hoots!

This is neither more nor less than practical Christianity.
L. Knight
Guernsey, C.I.


Reply:
You criticise the article in the Socialist Standard for December, 1962, and attempt to show why money will continue to be necessary.

Both on grounds of historical accuracy and of theory your arguments are quite unconvincing.

Your first contention is that money is indispensable because we live in a “complex industrial society.” You omit to say which complexities you mean. They are of two kinds (a) the technical complexities of production and transport and (b) the financial and commercial complexities of capitalist private property.

Of course, money is indispensable to the latter. But equally the existence of money is not related to the complexities or absence of complexities of production and transport. This you know very well because you accept that money functioned in primitive communities where there were no such complexities.

Your second line is that “money—whatever its form—is the country’s credit yet, as you know, it functioned when and where there was no credit system and no banks.

As a side line you link up inflation causally with the existence of a huge national debt. It is no more true than its converse. The currency deflation in Britain in the nineteen twenties was carried out alongside a huge national debt.

We accept (we have been saying it for half a century) that with capitalism removed the production of socially useful articles and services could be vastly increased, so that a Socialist world, with people taking freely what they need, is a practical proposition. But you, without giving any reason whatever, still want the consumption of these articles to be dependant on the possession of money.

You actually use the phrase that living by right should be “unconditional,” yet you want it to be conditional on the possession of money.

You manage to discuss the existing social system without mentioning its fundamental basis, that the means of production and distribution are privately owned and concentrated in the hands of a small minority. It is precisely because you turn a blind eye on this basic fact of capitalism that you can pretend that the difference between capitalism and socialism is a mere matter of words.

It also leads you into the absurdity of supposing that armaments exist to provide work for redundant workers. The armed forces exist for the purpose, very necessary to the capitalists, of protecting their ownership against the dispossessed class at home and foreign capitalist groups abroad.

Our contributor was quite right; and it is not Socialists who are (to use your word) “suckers” but those who cannot see the realities of capitalism.
Editorial Committee.

Branch News (1963)

Party News from the April 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Annual Conference of the Party takes place in London, at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 12th. 13th and 14th. Fuller details are shown elsewhere in this issue Following Conference, in London on April 18th (Thursday), Paddington Branch are holding a meeting at Hampstead Town Hall. Haverstock Hill, N.W.3 at 7.30 p.m. The title “After Aldermaston. What?" It is many years since the Party has held a meeting in Hampstead and much work is being done to ensure the success of this meeting.

Lewisham Branch is holding a public meeting at Bromley High Street Public Library, East Street, Bromley on Friday. April 26th at 8 p.m. Title, "The Socialist Party of Great Britain and the H-Bomb”. Speaker: P Lawrence. This meeting is being organised by the Branch and the Bromley Group members.

On no account miss getting a copy of the May Socialist Standard. A larger Standard for the occasion, featuring the Housing Problem. The price will not be increased, therefore, it behoves all members to sell as many copies as possible, not only to meet the additional cost, but most important, to give a good boost to propaganda at the commencement of the outdoor propaganda season. If every regular reader at least doubled their order, it will be a help. If branches, at their meetings prominently show and advertise the May issue and urge more members to rally round with sales, it could be that a record number of copies are sold. Let’s go to it and break all records!

The three-branch (Bloomsbury, Ealing and Paddington) joint propaganda venture has proved most successful, and as previously mentioned other branches might well try out this idea. The January meeting held at Paddington was a lecture on the Common Market, at Ealing, on March 1st a “Brains Trust" meeting was held at the Branch meeting room. Questions were written before the meeting and a panel of three members answered the questions. There was good discussion the one regret was that time was so short. The occasion was very successful. Bloomsbury are holding their meeting in May. Owing to Conference it was considered better to leave the meeting for a month. On May 13th (Monday) the small Conway Hall has been reserved and a meeting similar to the one held at Ealing is proposed. As the hall holds many more people than the two previous halls, it is hoped that Comrades will bring along as many friends as possible. Light refreshments will be available.

Soon we hope to give full details of the adventures of our comrade Joe McGuinness who has been working on a boat, travelling around the world, and Joe, being the man he is, has "cashed in” at many ports of call where Party members were. Canada. U S.A.. Australia and New Zealand. He has done a recording for a non commercial broadcasting station in Canada. This being only one of his many activities in spreading the case for Socialism.

Ealing Branch’s season of lectures, films, and discussions continued during March with an inter-branch "Brains Trust” and a film “World Without End ”. The brains trust was particularly successful. Three members, one from each branch (Bloomsbury, Paddington and Ealing) answered questions put to them at random, and after each question the meeting was thrown open to further questions to the speakers and to contributions from the audience itself. Altogether, it was agreed that the experiment had resulted in a most useful and enjoyable evening, and is the kind of thing that could be profitably extended to other areas where Party branches are grouped reasonably closely together. We understand, in fact, that other branches have it already in mind to arrange similar events in their own areas.
Phyllis Howard

The Inhumanity of War (1963)

From the April 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

War can solve no working class problem. It cuts across the fundamental identity of interest of the workers of the world, setting sections of this class at enmity with each otter in the interests of sections of the capitalist class.

War elevates force into the position of arbiter in place of the common human desire for mutual peace and happiness. Its effect is wholly evil. It depraves all the participants by forcing them to concentrate upon the best methods of producing misery and of annihilating each other.

War elevates lying, cheating, disabling and murdering opponents into virtues, confers distinctions upon those who practise these means most successfully.

Young men and women, in their most impressionable years, have the vile methods of warfare impressed upon them so thoroughly that they lose a balanced outlook on life and are impregnated with the idea that force, with all its baseness, and not reason is the final solution in all problems.

Socialism is completely opposed to war and to what war represents. At the same time it is the only solution to the conditions that breed war. It is a new form of society in which the people of the world will work harmoniously together for their mutual benefit, for there will be neither privilege nor property to cause enmity.

No coercion will be needed in Socialism because each will gain from co-operating harmoniously with his fellows. But it is a new social system that demands understanding of its implications from those who seek to establish it.

With the establishment of Socialism war will disappear and humanity will have taken the first step out of the jungle.


Inflation (1947)

From the April 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is a lot of talk by Labour Ministers and others about the possibility of inflation and it may be well if we have some inkling of what to expect in this connection.

The money in circulation has been increased without a corresponding increase in the quantity of goods placed upon the market. Lord Teviot, in an article in the “Recorder” last year, struck an alarmist note.
“Mr. Dalton has reduced public expenditure by 30 per cent., tax reductions amount to only 10 per cent. Civil Service expenditure has increased from £550 million to £2,000 million, i.e., by 300 per cent.

“The continued shortage of consumer goods is reducing the velocity of money in circulation, and there is almost a complete absence of investment for the purpose of capital development or the purpose of capital equipment Mr. Dalton is endeavouring to draw off the unspendable surplus possessed by the public by the stimulation of National Savings, thus creating a capital accumulation not for industrial expansion nor for the production of consumer goods but for the financing of administrative projects. Thus money is used in large quantities for no productive purpose whatever. The control of investment is already leading to the inflation of share values in the stock market. When the time comes to redeem loans, where is the money to come from? It cannot come from a stagnant [industry under-producing and under-equipped. It can only come from increasing the fiduciary issue. This increase will be dictated not by policy but by need and at that moment which is not far distant we shall be in the grip of uncontrolled inflation.” (June 29th, 1946.)
There is something in what he says, but methinks he goes too far, and anyhow we are only interested in the matter from a Socialist standpoint. Capitalists' worries are not our problems except as their struggles reveal more and more clearly that the barrier of capital must be removed before the world becomes a place fit for human habitation. Capital is the power that exploits. In the hands of the Capitalist the means of production function as the means of exploitation. The “money trick” enables our masters to conceal the method of obtaining profit by the employment of wage labour. There is only one way at present for the Capitalist class to prevent inflation and that is to intensify the exploitation of the worker, who must be cajoled or tricked into producing more for less. The worker’s real wages must be made relatively smaller without him getting wise to how it is being done.

He is ready to strike, in spite of the efforts of most trade union leaders to keep him on the job, whenever he realises that prices have risen, and his money wages have remained stationary.

His exploiters, supported by the ‘‘Labour” Government, want him to get down to it, to put his back into it, but he fails to respond wholeheartedly,, and the difficulty of applying pressure is apparent when the unemployed have not yet reached the number that enables the wages of those working to be kept down to that low level suitable to Capitalist interests.

Oscar Hobson stated the problem of the capitalists in the News Chronicle (July 6th, 1946).
“The suppressed inflationary potential can only be overcome by increased willingness to save. The hope of a return to a free economy depends upon a reconversion of the national psychology.

“Meanwhile the main current danger lies in the acceleration of the wages spiral which is calculated to increase both active inflation and the suppressed inflationary potential, and against which the ordinary controls are powerless."
The working class are no longer as patient as they were, they are becoming more difficult to deal with and if capital is to be served something drastic may be attempted and we hope resented.

The change-over from the production of war material to the production of consumption goods has taken place here more smoothly than was expected, the Capitalist class have to thank the present Government for this. The working class have stood more from the Labour Party than they would have from the Tories, but the mask is slipping off.

Wealth is not produced in a bank or in the mint, and certainly not in the halls of legislation. It comes into being at one place only, and that is where work is done. All exchange values are the result of labour being applied to the natural resources of the earth.

The paper currency now in circulation gives those who possess it a claim on what the workers produce.

The claims have been printed in too great a quantity and the result is a rise in prices because production has not increased so rapidly as the claims made upon it If the workers obtain higher wages by strikes, etc. more claims may be printed and! if production is not increased prices go up again and so on indefinitely.

Some of the Capitalists fear inflation, they call upon the workers to work harder to save, etc., but one thing they never do and that is to work themselves. The exploiter is not a producer. He claims the right to consume and succeeded in getting a really good living, even in war time, at the wage slaves' expense. His one object is to prevent his victims finding out how he really does it. Our object is the opposite, for we are workers ourselves. The class struggle cannot he exorcised by a Labour Government, it is a fact that no power at the disposal of capital can eliminate.

Let our rulers deal with problems of the present system, we refuse to help them. We are with our class, we are glad to see them kicking and we hope they will continue to do so until a consciousness of what causes the conflict between Capital and Labour enables them to see the necessity of joining with us to put an end to it.

The implements of Labour must not be allowed to remain in the category of Capital.

The people must own in common all those things upon which they in common depend, so that wealth may in future be produced for the use, benefit, and the enjoyment of mankind.
Charles Lestor

Housing in Merry Sweden (1947)

Book Review from the April 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

Unable to deceive themselves about the social charms of the country of their birth, many people take to holding forth on the attractions of other lands. In her book "Europe Re-housed,” Miss Elizabeth Denby reveals herself as being one of these. In a chapter on Sweden she opens up with the following:—"Peaceful, merry, hospitable Sweden with its wooded shores, quiet lakes, houses gay with paint and flowers; well arranged, clean and prosperous towns; summer colonies on the islands; fleets of little boats darting about waterways; friendliness, security, ease and dignity of life—all combining to create an atmosphere of happiness which is not dispelled, however often acquaintance is renewed. Democratic, with no great extremes of riches or poverty to distress the mind; alive, alert, eager, full of fun, its inhabitants seem to be well on the way to attaining full life ” (page 48).

It would be quite easy to quote sources to disprove all this. Funnily enough it is not necessary to look further than "Europe Re-housed.” A few pages later appears the first culprit of a sentence: "Also among the working classes, large young families having least money to spare for rent, necessarily take the cheapest dwellings which are also the smallest or the least healthy.” Miss Denby dismisses this admission with the glib comment that the paradox is European and not peculiar to Sweden. On the same page and with one short illuminating sentence she makes mincemeat of her opening statement that extreme rich or poor do not exist in Sweden—"In cases of extreme poverty the family rent is paid as part of poor relief, in addition to the cash subsistence allowance of at most 5 Sw. Kr. a day per family ” (page 56). Stringing together the two quotations one logically assumes that people exist in gay, merry Sweden who can’t even afford the rent for the smallest, cheapest and least healthy shelter.

That Sweden has its slums is shown by the fact that in 1935 a Commission of Inquiry into slum conditions was appointed and recommended the Government to build special dwellings with at least two rooms and a kitchen with rent rebates for larger families (page 57). What a solution for slums! Out of the frying-pan into the fire.

There are of course those wonder-workers the Building Societies, under various names. One novel feature of these is that the prospective mortgagee instead of putting down the usual hundred pounds or so deposit, contributes this with his own labour. Miss Denby quotes a municipal leaflet which shows that this idea is something more than novel and makes it quite clear that hard labour must be done at the end of the day’s work. "The home-builder has not only to do heavy work, he is in many cases forced to lead a regular camping or settler’s life which, however, is not altogether devoid of the charm of such an existence. This charm is perhaps not quite so apparent to the eager home-builder who rushes out to dig in his plot before the frost has left the ground and the chill April blasts sweep over the still bare fields. Even in May the poetry of the enterprise may not touch him very keenly while trudging around ankle-deep in the wet clay at the bottom of his foundation-pit . . . ” That even this way of paying in toil and on the "never-never” for a roof over one’s head is limited to a certain section of the working-class is revealed with "demand has been so greatly in excess of the possibility of satisfying it, that families with young children and with incomes between 3,000 and 5,000 Sw. Kr. a year have been given preference over the applicants ” (page 74). (5,000 Kr. a) year is roughly £5 a week.)

It is true that housing in Sweden compares favourably with the European countries. This is due in the main to the comparatively small and late industrialisation of Sweden. The influx of country people into the cities has not been on the gigantic scale which has occurred in countries like Great Britain or America. However Miss Denby constantly shows the fact of poverty in Sweden and its reflection in the suffering and privation caused by bad or non-existent housing. Like many more comfortably off, intellectual “planners” she usually refers to the existence of poverty coldly and without feeling. The solution is always through technical improvements in the planning of "cheap little homes” for the workers. It is high time that all the workers, Swedish included, realised that they could live in houses they now build for the rich, that is the finest, the most spacious and most attractive in every way. It is high time' they realised that the great barrier in their way, the great barrier to their enjoyment of all the nice things they make, is the fact that they don’t own the means of producing them, the land, mines, factories and transport systems. For the workers to wipe out this great barrier something far different to Nationalisation is implied. They will have to democratically take over industry and transport and run it for the benefit of society as a whole. They will have to abolish the wages system and achieve the organisation ofi a society in which all things are made for use only, and are freely distributed to all.
PROLLY.

Something for Nothing (1947)

From the April 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

We saw in the previous article that exchange itself is not the cause of capitalist profit, and we posed the question—from whence comes this profit?

Let us take again the example of our capitalist who has purchased raw material, machinery and workers’ energies. Obviously the inert material and machinery cannot enhance their own value, they are factors which are constant. Furthermore our capitalist has paid the proper market price for them, thus ruling out any gain in exchange, and he now wishes to transfer their value into the fresh product, together with the new labour of the workers he has employed.

Here lies the crux of the question—does our value for value proposition—hold good here? Do workers get the value of their ability to work? All through we have presented Capitalism as a system whose whole activity centres around the production and sale of commodities and the plain answer to the question is that the workers’ abilities prove no exception to the rules of capitalist production.

The worker appears on the labour-market offering his abilities for a price or wage, his offer is taken up by the capitalist who has use for them, paying in exchange the price then ruling on the market. Thus the power to work, or labour-power, takes on qualities of a commodity—it is produced for sale—it has no use-value to its owner, and it will be a use-value to the consumer or buyer.

But labour-power has a characteristic unlike any of the inert purchases bought by our capitalist, for this living thing can produce value over and above its own. The problem is solved. The value of labour- power is based on the labour-time spent on the food, clothing and shelter necessary to produce it, which value finds its monetary expression in wages. If we therefore subtract the value of these “means of subsistence” from the total value that the worker produces, there is a surplus of value left over to be realised by the capitalist when he markets the product.

Our use of the term labour-power arises because the worker does not—as is usually supposed—sell his labour to the capitalist. The labour expended by the worker goes into the products of the employer and in these the worker has neither ownership nor right of disposal. Actually the owner claims the right to all labour performed within his control during the time that the worker “contracts” over to him the use and disposal of his labour-power. Another aspect of the sale of labour-power is that the worker usually credits the capitalist with a week’s labour-power before being paid for it, the capitalist thereby having a week’s labour in hand before being called upon to settle the wage-bill.

We earlier on said that the value of the workers’ means of subsistence is the labour time necessary to produce it; we can therefore divide the working-day into “necessary labour” equalling the value of the workers’ labour-power, while the rest of the day is surplus-labour. In effect the worker produces value equal to his day’s wage in say, three hours, the remaining time being spent producing surplus-value for his employer. The ratio of necessary-labour to surplus-labour tends to become progressively smaller as the means of production increase and more wealth is turned out with the same or less labour, in other words, the gap between the workers’ subsistence and the “rake-off" taken by tho boss, becomes increasingly greater. As subsistence is in money terms, the worker must keep incessant watch on his ’’real wage," i.e., its purchasing power, be his “nominal wage” what it may. A general rise in prices, for instance, will tend to leave him selling his labour-power below its value, and this, if for no other reason is why he must unite with others in a union with the withdrawal of labour-power as his final weapon, to hold his nominal or money-wage in line with his real-wage, for he and his like are the sport of the market in which a change of price level affects immediately the standard of living.

Whilst the slave of old was owned outright by his owner, the modern worker affects to be a “free man,” selling, like any other trader, a commodity for which he asks but a fair price in line with its value. As such he suffers all the vicissitudes of the market; he must accept as inevitable, overwork during the boom, unemployment during the slump, along with the regimentation of himself and his family in times of crises when even the right to bargain the price of his commodity is withdrawn by law. Machinery, which should lighten his labours, becomes his rival when installed to “save labour"—his labour and his job—whereupon more often than not, his wife plus children of "working age" are—to balance the family budget—thrust upon the market as his competitors in cheap labour-power.

There is no escape from this market in labour-power, even where it comes under the control of the planners of state capitalism, for the relationship of wage worker-employer, is not thereby abolished. In truth the worker is the slave of capital, a unit of the living labour force which enters the process of commodity production as part of the capital costs necessary to gain for the capitalists—something for nothing. How the capitalists share the gains of the workers’ exploitation will be sketched in our next article, “The Division of the Spoils."
Frank Dawe

The Powers and their Armed Forces (1947)

Editorial from the April 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Mr. Bevin reached Moscow on March 8th to attend the Four-Power Conference on the settlement of German and Austrian Peace treaties he said
“We have come here to work harder together to hammer out a just and durable peace" (Sunday Express, March 9th, 1947).
Stalin had just written of his “constant belief in Anglo-Soviet-American co-operation in peace as in war,” and similar peaceful protestations were made by U S.A. and French spokesmen.

We have heard all this before, in the years between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II. How little has changed. Different men, with different party labels continue the same capitalist struggle for power. The U.S.A. announces its intention of asking for exclusive “strategic trusteeship” over the 623 former Japanese mandated islands in the Pacific (Manchester Guardian, February 28th, 1947); and the Secretary of the U.S. Navy explains that the U.S. Navy “will continue to operate in the Western Pacific . . . The Navy,” he said, “ had more or leas inherited from Britain the job of keeping the sea lanes open and stabilising areas from which exports came ” (Times, March 1st, 1947).

Then, in response to a request by the British Government for financial aid in propping up the Monarchist regime in Greece, President Truman “told the Congress leaders to-day of a new U.S. foreign policy, under which the U.S. must intervene in Near East politics with the full weight of its economic power. It is confirmed that Mr. Truman will ask for a £62,500,000 direct loan to Greece as a substitute for Britain’s financial aid ” (News Chronicle, March 11th, 1947).

A day earlier it was disclosed in Washington that “Turkey has now asked for U.S. help to guard her frontiers against Russia ” (Daily Mail, March 10th, 1947).

The Manchester Guardian reported (February 28th, 1947), that the Russian Government (much to the consternation of the American Communists) had given its consent to the American claim for the Pacific islands; a move interpreted as indicating that Russia hoped to get U.S. approval for some of its own annexations. Meanwhile the Russian Government is trying to get Norwegian consent to set up military bases in the Spitzbergen Peninsula and has just made a new agreement with Poland, giving a £7 million loan and arranging for the supply of military equipment and armaments for the Polish army. Examples could be multiplied, and of course the British and French Governments are engaged in similar manoeuvres in areas deemed to be vital to their imperial interests.

Behind the peaceful words of the politicians are the armed forces they keep to back up their demands. The American budget for 1946-47 provided expenditure on defence of about £4,000 million.

The British Government in 1946-47 spent about £1,000 million, equal to 28 per cent of the total budget expenditure (News Chronicle, February 22nd, 1947), and announcement was made on that date of the Russian budget for 1947. The Communist Daily Worker analysed the figures as follows:—
”The Budget anticipates a surplus of 20,100,000,000 roubles (about £1,310,000,000 at the current rate of exchange) providing for an expenditure of 371,400,000,000 roubles during the year. Armed forces expenditure is down to 18 per cent. of the total expenditure, compared with 24 per cent. last year.” (Daily Worker, February 22nd, 1947).
From this it will be gathered merely that Russian expenditure on the armed forces is a smaller percentage of total expenditure than it was in 1946. If, however, the reader takes the trouble to work out what 18 per cent. amounts to at the rate of exchange used by the Daily Worker he will find that it means £4,457,000,000 to be spent on the armed forces. Figures do not lie but it is certainly true that the coy use of percentages can hide a very interesting piece of information.

From all of which it is evident that though private capitalism in U.S.A. and the State varieties of capitalism in Britain and Russia may talk about lasting peace they none of them neglect to give paramount attention to capitalism’s foremost industry, war industry.

Capitalist View of Workers' Sport (1947)

From the April 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Daily Express (March 8th, 1947), had an editorial opposing the suggestion that mid-week sport should be prohibited. It did so because it anticipates more unemployment and sees the need “to find some way to keep the unemployed reasonably contented.” 
“People in high places should never forget that the masses lead humdrum lives of dreary monotony. An occasional escape does good, not harm.”

Sting in the Tail: The Daily Grind (1989)

The Sting in the Tail column from the April 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Daily Grind

A survey carried out by an insurance company has shown that more than half of male office workers spend much of their time at work making personal telephone calls, reading newspapers and magazines, and slipping away to attend to their personal business. More than a third dream of changing their job while 40 per cent long for love affairs with younger colleagues.

Bloody typical, isn't it? No wonder this country can't compete with the Japanese . . but wait a bit, the insurance company IS Japanese and the male workers work in Tokyo !

But aren't Japanese supposed to be much more loyal to their employers and dedicated to their work than us ?

These findings only confirm that wage slavery has much the same effect on workers the world over and never provides the satisfaction and fulfilment that work could and should be.


House Hunting

Towards the end of last year an item in a newspaper mentioned that Donald Trump, a New York property magnate, has an apartment in Manhattan which cost 17 million dollars.

Astonishing as it may seem this is not the top end of the market for the really rich. Two years ago a Fifth Avenue apartment worth 30 million dollars owned by Adnan Khashoggi, the Iranian arms dealer, had been seized by the New York court as security in a law suit brought against him by Lonrho.

This "apartment" was created out of sixteen smaller ones and takes up two entire floors in one of New York's most fashionable areas. Anybody who is worried that Khashoggi will not have a roof over his head will be relieved to know that he has other homes in Marbella, Paris, Cannes, the Canary Islands, Madrid, Rome, Beirut, Riyadh, Jedda and Monte Carlo.

Rumours that he is looking for a home in either Brixton, Handsworth or Toxteth have not been confirmed.


Militant Tactics

How often have we come across examples of left-wing organisations recruiting people on the basis of some single issue or other. The Socialist Workers Party do it all the time. They get people to join over such issues as "Troops Out", "The Right To Work", etc., etc., but never on the issue of the abolition of the wages system.

The latest example is Militant's drive to recruit opponents of the Poll Tax into the Labour Party in Glasgow. Militant organisers have been telling the local press that they have recently signed up many new members for the Labour Party ("30 after one meeting") who joined purely on the grounds of their opposition to the Poll Tax.

Militant's aim is to use these recruits as voting fodder to help de-select sitting Labour councillors and, ever hopeful, replace them with Militant supporters.

Recent history makes it extremely unlikely that they will succeed in even this trivial objective but their action highlights once again the unprincipled and non-socialist outlook of the would-be "Vanguard".


An Apology for Thatcher?

Sir Douglas Hague, chairman of the Economic and Social Research Council from 1983 to 1987, was recently reported as saying:
. . . most of Britain’s social scientists seem to me not completely in touch with the real world.
He said Britain's economists should apologise to Margaret Thatcher for their misguided policies. Now there's an idea!

During the farce of Mao's Cultural Revolution in China one of the strange spectacles was university professors parading through Peking with placards proclaiming "I am a complete dumpling. I was a capitalist deviationist. Long live the Glorious Cultural Revolution."

Something similar seems to be demanded by Sir Douglas of the 364 economists in April 1981 who had the effrontery to criticise the Government's economic policy.According to Sir Douglas
Never in history can a profession have been so manifestly proved to be so wrong in its predictions, yet no collective apology has come.
London Tourist Board could exploit Sir Douglas's apology idea. Lines of discredited economists parading past 10 Downing Street in Dunce's caps and carrying placards proclaiming " I was a Keynesian dupe. Privatisation for pavements."

This could provide Mrs. Thatcher with her "photo opportunity" as contrite academics kneel to kiss her arse.

What troubles Sir Douglas of course is that the Government funds these ungrateful buggers and they are not coming up with what the Government wants to hear. According to Sir Douglas:
. . . too much attention was being devoted to the study of the problems of the deprived and disadvantaged.
Apparently his idea of "being in touch with the real world" is to ignore the unemployed, the homeless and the exploited.


What a Shower

When one of the speakers at the recent Young Conservative conference angrily denounced the "headbangers" who was he referring to?

The IRA or the Loony Left? No, this was just one of the "wets" referring to those of his fellow YC's known as the "libertarians". And no wonder.

Here's what one of them had to say during one of the debates "Socialism is a filthy, disgusting perversion. We are the pure." The "pure" what he didn't say, but there are several things we can think of.

The hang 'em flog 'em bunch spend a lot of their time trying to outdo one another in being "right wing". Indeed their main objective seems to consist of being as reactionary (they call it "revolutionary") and obnoxious as they possibly can be.

They support every authoritarian regime as long as it is "right wing", they flaunt "Hang Nelson Mandela" T-shirts, and when striking miners and their families were suffering then they had callous, jeering songs to sing.

Perhaps no one can accuse these "libertarians" of being "wet" but as sympathetic, considerate human beings they are a complete wash-out.

About ourselves (1989)

From the April 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is the Socialist Party?

An independent political party which stands opposed to all others in this country, including the Labour and Communist parties. Our only links are with similar socialist parties in some other parts of the world.


What is your aim?

The replacement of the existing capitalist system of society by a new and different system we call socialism.


What is capitalism?

A system based on the ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth (land, industry, railways, offices and the like) by a section only of society who thus form a privileged class. The others, who in return for a wage or salary produce wealth for sale with a view to profit, make up the producing or working class. In Britain less than five per cent of the population belong to the owning or capitalist class. Most people — those who work in offices as well as those who work in the factories — are in the working class.


What is socialism?

A democratic world community without frontiers based on the ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth by society as a whole. Socialism will abolish classes and free all humanity from exploitation and oppression. The basis of socialism is this ownership of all the means of production by the whole community; control over their use will rest in the hands of the community through democratic institutions. Wealth will be produced not for sale or profit, but solely to satisfy human needs. This means the end of buying and selling and all the other financial and commercial institutions like money, prices, wages and banks. People will cooperate to produce an abundance of wealth from which they can take freely according to their needs.


Will everything belong to the State?

No. The State does not represent the whole community; it serves the interests only of those who own the means of production. State ownership or nationalisation is one of the ways in which this class controls industry. When the State takes over industries (like the railways and coalmines in Britain) it does so in their interests. State ownership leaves unchanged the class basis of society, the profit motive and the wages system, all of which socialism will abolish. Nationalisation is just State capitalism.


What system exists in Russia?

Russian society is part of world capitalist society. It shows all the essential features of capitalism: a class who control the means of production through their control of political power; another class forced to work for wages; production of goods for sale with a view to profit and the accumulation of capital out of profits. The same goes for countries like China. Cuba and Yugoslavia. They like Russia have State capitalism.


Do you want something like the kibbutzim in Israel?

Socialism can only be a world community without frontiers. It cannot be established in one country let alone on one farm. The kibbutzim do show that human beings can live without money and can work without wages, but their small scale means that what they can offer is very restricted so that young people are tending to leave them. In practice they have paved the way for the development of capitalism in Israel and some have themselves become capitalist institutions employing outside wage labour and producing for the market with a view to profit.


How do you advocate socialism should be established?

By the class of wage and salary earners, once a majority of them want and understand socialism, taking democratic political action to change the basis of society from the class to the common ownership of the means of production and distribution.


Why must there be a majority in favour of the change to socialism before it can be made?

Socialism, by its nature as a system involving voluntary co-operation, could only be kept going by those who really wanted it and knew what it involved. Any attempt to establish socialism without a majority first being in favour is bound to fail.


Do you repudiate undemocratic minority action to achieve socialism?

Most definitely. No leaders, however sincere or able, can lead a non-socialist working class to socialism. Leaders who take power while a majority do not understand socialism have no choice but to develop and administer capitalism, as has been shown in Russia and by the various labour governments in Britain. When a majority do want and understand socialism they have no need of leaders, but only to organise themselves democratically.


Why do you advocate political action to achieve socialism?

It is their control of the machinery of government that now allows the capitalist class to protect their privileged position as the owners of the means of production. In Britain it is parliament that makes the laws granting them property rights and it is the police and the Courts, and if need be the army, that enforce these laws. The socialist majority must win political power in order to remove the protection the government machine now gives to class ownership and to carry through the establishment of the common ownership of the means of production.


How do you advocate the socialist majority should win political power?

By using their votes to elect socialist delegates to Parliament and the local councils. A socialist victory in a democratically-run election would demonstrate to all that a majority were in favour of the change to socialism.


Why are you opposed to all other political parties?

All of them accept the capitalist system and believe that current social problems can be solved within its framework.


Why do you think that reforms of the capitalist system are not the solution? 

These problems are caused by the class ownership of the means of production which all reforms leave unchanged. The policy of trying to deal with social problems one by one by reforms of capitalism is futile, as this is to deal with effects and not the cause. We call this policy “reformism" and are opposed to it.


But surely you are not against all reforms? 

We are not opposed to reforms which may bring temporary relief to some workers, but we do not regard it as the task of a socialist party to propose reforms of capitalism. Were we to do this we could easily soon become just another reformist party. To avoid this danger we advocate socialism only.


Why have all the other parties failed? 

Basically because capitalism cannot be reformed so as to work in the interests of the class of wage and salary earners. It is a class system that can only work for those who own the means of production. Any party, be it Labour or Conservative, which takes power under capitalism is forced to run that system in the only way it can be and so is inevitably brought into conflict with the mass of people who work for a wage or salary. This has been proved time and again.


So it is not because the politicians are not determined enough or are incompetent or dishonest that they fail?

No. No matter how determined or able or sincere the members of a government may be they still could not make capitalism work for the good of all. The politicians fail because they have to accept the class system which causes the problems they are always promising to solve.


If you have read this set of principles and agree with some or all of them, contact the Socialist Party with your questions and ideas about what you can do to help speed the progress towards Socialism.

And not a drop to drink (1989)

From the April 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

It takes a remarkable degree of disorganisation to create a problem of clean water supply in a country like Britain where it rains at least one day in three. The problem is not entirely new of course. Ever since the Tudors and increasingly since the industrial revolution the rivers and inshore waters have been used as open sewers.

In seventeenth century London the paths of disease could be traced on a map along the rivers of the capital — the Fleet, the Brent, the Lea. The rich were smart enough to live on the high ground — Hampstead, Stamford Hill. Dulwich, so that their sewage flowed down toward the poor at the bottom in Camden. Tottenham, Walworth and the streams that drained the valleys.

The problem had begun with the depopulation of the countryside by Enclosures. The dispossessed peasants flocked to the cities as they are now doing in the Third World, and the Plague of London of 1665-6 was an early consequence. The city's population exploded from the few tens of thousands it had been in the Middle Ages. It was no longer a real city with a corporate existence but just a huge aggregation of people without clean water or sewage. The cry of Gardee Loo! as the chamber pot was emptied out of the bedroom window into the street below was a commentary in sound of the sanitary arrangements. The peasant on the other hand would have had his thunderbox well away from the house, an earth or pit closet, placed downhill and as far away from the well as possible.

London in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries resembled Calcutta today (if they could be said to differ, London would come off worse). The situation got so bad that, after continual outbreaks of cholera and typhoid which infected Gladstone and Queen Victoria and killed Prince Albert, the government in 1858 ordered the piping of London for sewage and clean water supply. Waste was simply conveyed downstream and put into the river beyond the sniff of the capital.

Elsewhere in the country, rivers like the Clyde and the Mersey, the Humber and the Taff. which had teemed with fish and water-fowl, otters and crayfish, became stinking black ditches.

Market economy to blame
The reason for all this was identified by the economist A.C. Pigou as "externalities", that is, businesses shrugging off overheads in the form of unwanted waste products onto the rest of the population. It gives you a business edge to throw your rubbish over the fence, to let your filth run into the nearest stream rather than build a treatment plant. The same economic mechanism which rewards the drive for profit also rewards the drive to cut costs — at other people's expense. It is an inescapable consequence of the market economy.

There is no way the problems can be dealt with while goods and services are produced with a view to sale and profit. Tinkering with the problem will only shift the burden somewhere else.

Power stations and car exhausts produce acid rain which leaches out aluminium in the soil and into the streams and rivers from which it is piped into our taps and is strongly suspected as a major factor in Alzheimer's Disease. It is little comfort to discover that much of the power produced goes to provide us with junk mail, computers in banks, tanks and aircraft carriers for the next war.

Trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene, which are used for degreasing metal in Vauxhalls at Luton among other places, have got into the water table at levels high enough to disturb the experts because they are regarded by the World Health Organisation as a major cause of cancer. Many of these cars are destined for reps who will be sent out to sell soap powder, Mars bars and life insurance.

In the summer of 1988 a boy canoeing on the Warwickshire Avon found two dead herons on the river bank. He mentioned the fact casually to a young man who was a biologist interested in environmental matters. Examination showed that the birds had died of dieldrin poisoning (remember Seveso?), an insecticide banned everywhere in the developed world. The source was traced to a company in Coventry which cleaned drums for an American multinational in Avonmouth which manufactured the poison for export to the Third World (they are not allowed to produce it in the US). Dieldrin has since been found in Severn eels, up to eight hundred tons of which were annually exported to Holland and Germany. The Ministry of Agriculture found this out in the spring of 1988 but kept the finding secret. The facts were leaked to the Continentals and the imports were cancelled. More recently still the Gloucester Citizen carried the headline “Probe As Fish Quit Severn".

The only exception to the falling quality of water in the rivers was the much publicised cleaning-up of the Thames by improving the sewage works at Thurrock in recent years. Within a very short while some thirty species of fish were reported to have returned to the river and one wealthy optimist seeded the headwaters above Oxford with thousands of salmon fingerlings in the hope that when mature they would return to the river to spawn. There were reports three or four years later that salmon had been taken by anglers but since then trouble with sewage works along the river has brought the quality of the water down again.

The cleaning up of the Thames was little more than a public relations exercise and a bit of charity beginning at home for members of the ruling class obliged to spend time at Westminster. Elsewhere water quality continued to fall with nitrate pollution in East Anglia, cryptosporidium in Oxfordshire, and massive aluminium-sulphate poisoning of people in Cornwall.

Obsession with privatisation
In the middle of all this the Thatcher government is pressing on with privatising the water undertakings. How irrelevant this is can be seen from the fact that 20 per cent of the industry has always been in the hands of private firms. Neither they nor the majority of firms that are government owned have shown the slightest urge or ability to come to grips with pollution, but as we have tried to show above, they can't anyway. Like the rest of the economy, it is really out of control. Polluting the environment is profitable for Conservative investors and Left Wing bureaucrats can do little about it.

The vile water we have to drink will inevitably become even more expensive. At present only half of the fifty odd thousand employed in the industry actually do the productive work. Putting a meter on everybody's house will cost £1.5 billions in the aggregate and will require a new tier of non-productives to read the meters, send out bills, chase non-payers, prosecute those who make imaginative use of a piece of pipe and two hoseclips to bypass the meter . . .

In addition, the £7 billion it will cost to transfer the businesses from local bureaucrats to independent companies will have to be met by the consumers, plus the interest on same, which is set to increase from 5 per cent to 8 per cent annual return on capital on the whole package to make it attractive to owners of capital. Even then, it will only be a percentage point or two above the rate of inflation.

The latest news is that the EEC has turned down a request by Nicholas Ridley. Minister of the Environment (No kidding!) that his government be exempted from having to observe Commission standards for water purity. His argument was that when the new companies are set up, their being responsible for policing themselves will be our guarantee of pure water in the future. After all, if they don't come up with the goods we can all exercise the customer's prerogative and go without, can't we?
Ken Smith

. . . and the food's not too good, either (1989)

From the April 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent outbreaks of salmonella and listeriosis have focussed attention on the rising incidence of food poisoning in Britain in the last few years. There have also been outbreaks of food poisoning from other organisms; campylobacter has increased threefold and rotavirus has increased fivefold in the last eight years. Both of these organisms cause diarrhoea and vomiting, and the increase is probably due to “changes in agricultural practice or changes in the commercial preparation of food" (The Independent, 23 January 1989). These changes are the result of trying to make maximum profits regardless of the risk to consumers' health.

Salmonella
The Communicable Disease Report compiled by the Public Health Laboratory stated that there were 24,123 cases of salmonella enteriditis poisoning in 1988 and 12,533 cases of salmonella enteriditis phage type 4. Salmonella infections have doubled in the last two years and 80 to 90 per cent are found to be associated with chickens and eggs (Ibid.). It is significant that this dossier is not available to the public because the state in its role as facilitator of capital regards commercial secrecy as more important than providing the public with the knowledge to avoid the risks associated with food poisoning.

It was Edwina Currie's claim that most of the egg industry was infected with salmonella that alerted the public, and led to her losing her Junior Health Minister's post for offending the powerful agricultural lobby. Further evidence of the government’s concern to protect the egg industry's profits rather than public health was demonstrated by the much publicised leaked document received by Robin Cook, Labour Party health spokesman, which showed that representatives from the Department of Health had met with the egg producers and agreed not to issue a notice that “salmonella-poisoning at two hospitals appeared to have been caused by raw eggs. It was generally better if the announcement came from the company or trade body concerned" (Morning Star, 10 February 1989).

The use of antibiotics to help animals gain weight has resulted from the European Economic Community's ban on the use of hormones in meat, since 1 January 1988, because of the risk to human health. Previously, hormones fed to cattle increased profits by putting up to an extra 100 pounds of weight on a carcass. It is thought that antibiotics also help animals to gain weight, possibly by eliminating sub-clinical infections which prevent them from gaining their optimal weight (Self Health, 20 September 1988). But the widespread use of antibiotics has led to the evolution of drug-resistant strains of bacteria, and a study by two doctors at the US Center for Disease Control in Atlanta found that, compared with ordinary strains of salmonella, the death toll was 21 times higher in people infected, with resistant strains of salmonella.

A fund of £19 million was set aside by the British government to compensate the egg industry for loss of sales even though the sharp increase in salmonella poisoning has been caused by a blatant disregard for consumers' health in the way that poultry has been reared.

In fact egg sales fell by 10 to 15 per cent and only £482,000 compensation has been claimed by the egg industry (The Grocer, 21 January 1989). Of course there are no plans to compensate the relatives of those who have died or the thousands of people who have been made ill as a result of eating contaminated eggs.

Ironically, in these days when increasing numbers of people are more health-conscious of what they eat, free range eggs are more likely to cause salmonella infections according to Bill Reilly, chairman of the public health committee of the British Veterinary Association:
The big advantage of the battery system is that the egg is laid on the wire ann rolls away immediately. A free range hen may lay the egg anywhere, and faecal contamination is more likely. (British Medical Journal, 28 January 1989 )
Listeria
Listeriosis, although less common than salmonella, with 683 reported cases since 1986 and 39 deaths in 1986 and 1987 is potentially more dangerous and, because of the continuing increase in “cook-chill” methods of preparing food, likely to be seen more frequently in the future.

Listeriosis takes between five days and five weeks to develop and it is difficult to trace the source of infection. The symptoms of the disease can resemble influenza, and listeriosis may not be suspected. The disease is particularly associated with miscarriages and stillbirths, and may also cause meningitis and septicaemia in the elderly.

A study carried out by Richard Lacey, professor of clinical microbiology at Leeds University found that a quarter of a test sample of cook-chill meals bought from leading supermarkets contained the bacteria (The Grocer, 14 January 1989). But. in addition to the health risk to the public, there has been an increasing use of cook-chill methods in hospitals since its introduction in the National Health Service in 1980 and there are now 157,000 meals a day produced by 40 centres.

Hospital cooking
Birmingham's Dudley Road Hospital has one of the largest cook-chill operations in the NHS with £1.8 million purpose built food production centre (Nursing Times, 18 January 1989). The introduction of this centre led to the workforce being reduced by one-third as it took over the work previously carried out by 14 kitchen: an attractive proposition for a government intent on reducing NHS costs and creating the potential for commercial use in the future.

The centralisation of hospital catering and the construction of large district general hospitals during the last two decades has caused problems in delivering cooked food to hospital patients. The Institution of Environmental Health Officers' (Hospital and Therapeutic Kitchens Inspection Guidelines and Reporting Format, 1988, states:
The movement of prepared food within hospitals, often over considerable distances. can create many problems with temperature control. In order to be safe the internal temperature of any heated trolley or container should be raised to a minimum of 75 degrees Centigrade before any food is loaded. Food must never be allowed to fall below a temperature of 63 degrees Centigrade.
These guidelines, sensible though they may seem, are almost impossible to carry out, especially in the winter months in hospitals on large sites where food trolleys have to be transported outside to be delivered to separate ward blocks. And even when food is successfully kept hot, the prolonged "hot-holding" to which it is subjected impairs its nutritional value.

It is not surprising that some of the worst outbreaks of food poisoning during the last twenty years occurred in hospitals. It is an indictment of the quality of hospital food that some institutions looking after long-stay patients have had to provide vitamin supplements — especially vitamin C — to remedy the sub-clinical deficiencies caused by an institutional diet.

The majority of cases of food poisoning are not reported but non-attendance at work because of “diarrhoea and vomiting" has become more common in recent years. There has also been an unexplained increase in septicaemia in the elderly. The government's response has been to play down the risks and when this strategy failed John MacGregor, Minister of Agriculture, announced that there would be tough measures taken to ensure that food production is strictly monitored. But plans to extend cook-chill regulations, to make food storage safer in shops, have been suspended for 18 months because of differences between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Health.

Profits before food safety
The government has announced cuts of £25 million in research grants which will lead to 2,000 redundancies in scientific posts and severely restrict future research into food poisoning. Although the government expects the food industry to conduct its own research it is unlikely that it would benefit the consumer: experience in the drug industry has shown that research has been solely to make larger profits and is frequently against the consumer's interests.

There is undoubtedly dissatisfaction with the role the Ministry of Agriculture has played in its responsibility for food safety. However, calls to make the Ministry of Health responsible instead will only marginally improve matters because the state's function is to ensure the smooth running of capitalism and not the well-being of workers unless production is threatened.

In theory there are laws to protect the consumer, but when Sunblest bakeries were recently fined £200 plus £50 costs for selling a mouldy cake it was revealed that they'd had 146 previous convictions since 1983 (The Messenger, 20 January 1989). It is also possible to buy reject and out of date food for less than half price at London markets (Today, 20 February 1989).

In recent weeks mercury has been found in Sainsbury's butter; mineral oils, used to glaze children's sweets, have been found to cause liver damage: and tea bags, milk cartons and coffee filters have been contaminated with dioxin which can cause genetic defects and liver damage. Additionally, despite the efforts of pressure groups the number of additives used in food continues to rise. The basic problem is that food, like any other commodity, is produced solely for profit. Only the abolition of capitalism can ensure that it is completely safe for people to eat.
Carl Pinel

War zone Wilts (1989)

From the April 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Guardian of 3 February carried a report on the rejection of a petition presented to the European Parliament by the Wiltshire Villages Environmental Association. The petition had been the latest stage in a campaign lasting several years to prevent a now nearly completed village on Salisbury Plain from being used for its intended purpose. There had been an earlier, vain, attempt to obtain a public enquiry, using posters with unpleasantly nationalistic overtones in an effort to secure public support. The posters referred to the project as the “German Village" because of its intentional resemblance to villages in Germany and carried an emblem incorporating a German Second World War helmet.

The purpose of the site is revealed in the acronym given by the Guardian: FIBUA (Fighting in Built-up Areas). The 90 buildings being erected on a 30 acre site at a currently estimated cost of £15 million are not intended to provide housing for one single person. However, the purpose of the protest campaign, whatever a rational being might believe, is made clear in the same report:
The association does not question the need for the project but says its site, on the edge of Copehill Down, will cause serious disturbance.
Anyone living in the vicinity of Salisbury Plain will be able to sympathise with a complaint on the grounds of disturbance. In what is superficially a peaceful, rural area the noise and nuisance caused by military activity is already considerable without any further additions. The dominant sounds are usually those of gunfire, from automatic small-arms, mortars or a variety of heavy artillery. When major exercises are in operation, intensified gunfire is joined by the grinding of tanks, the whine and congestion of military convoys on the roads and the deafening intrusions of low-flying jet fighters, helicopters and Hercules transport aircraft by night and day. Indeed, there is a long-standing but hollow joke among those who live locally that the outbreak of another war would pass unnoticed here.

However, to protest about disturbance alone while explicitly not questioning its cause, is at best simply to plead for the nuisance to be imposed on others with less influence, or at worst just an exercise in futility. Even to have considered the reason given by the Ministry of Defence for the FIBUA village would have provided the members of the association with a pointer to the likely outcome of their campaign. It was ‘'needed" as a replacement or a supplement to the village of Imber, less than five miles distant as the shell flies (any self-respecting crow would long since have vacated the area).

Imber was a thriving and active farming village with about 150 inhabitants when it was compulsorily evacuated in 1943 to provide training facilities for the armed forces. The evacuees were led to believe, at the time, that they would be permitted to return when the Second World War ended. The formation of a protest group in 1945, when that understanding was proved to be unfounded, has had no effect whatsoever; the survivors are still awaiting their return to this day. It would now be difficult to honour that understanding since the few houses still standing are derelict, most having been demolished and replaced by gaunt barn-like shells. Almost as difficult, it must be said, as building the new FIBUA village.

The weakness of this protest movement lies not simply in its nationalism, nor in its acceptance of the waste involved, nor even in its neglect of the precedent shown by the case of Imber; it lies in its failure to question the need for the project. By adopting that position the members of the association have accepted the myth that the existence of the whole horrific war-machine is in the interests of ordinary working people. Furthermore, in protesting to governments, they have revealed a total misconception about the role of the state and its executive, the government.

In reality, the state and all its agencies, including the armed forces, have arisen in response to the requirements of business enterprises, of all kinds, and their owners. The interests of the overwhelming majority of us who do not come into that category are subordinate to those requirements and are considered or acted on only when the functions of business are threatened. Clearly, a protest over disturbance by the few who live close to practice killing-fields like Salisbury Plain poses no more threat to those functions than complaints by and on behalf of the homeless, the poor and the starving in their millions worldwide.

The only worthwhile movement must be one to end the very system which causes so much human suffering, whether from disturbance or from utter deprivation, and to replace it with a society which has the satisfaction of all human needs as its aim.
GM