Thursday, May 12, 2022

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Voice From The Back: Informing the people (allegedly) (1998)

The Voice From The Back Column from the May 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Informing the people (allegedly)

[In New York City] a small trucking company known as Advertising in Motion has 15 vehicles with several big windows, each displaying a different advert every seven seconds. And now there is the night crawler, Technique Mirage, which to the cynical and busy New York is just one more piece of aggravation. It trundles around flashing adverts on the sides of buildings such as the Empire State or St Patrick’s Cathedral. Financial Mail on Sunday, 8 February.


According to the New York Times last November, after the Chrysler Corporation spent more than half a billion dollars to convert a car factory in Newark, Delaware, to produce big Dodge Durango sport utility vehicles, it held a party in September to open the new assembly line. Delaware’s political leaders stood with Chrysler’s chairman on a podium decorated with red and white bunting and waved victoriously to hundreds of cheering auto workers whose jobs had been saved. When the Durango went on sale this fall, dealers could not keep enough in stock. And Chrysler, which barely breaks even on ordinary passenger cars, began to pocket $8,000 in profit for every Durango sold. There is just one problem: The Dodge Durango has a much worse environmental record than the Dodge Intrepid, the full-sized sedan that the factory used to build. The Durango gasoline consumption and output of carbon dioxide, a principal cause of global warming, are 57 percent higher than those of the Intrepid. And the Durango emissions of nitrogen oxides, the main cause of smog, are twice the level of the car it replaced.

That’ll teach them!

New figures from researcher at the London School of Economics, calculated for the Commons Education Select Committee, estimate a student paying full fees and his or her own living costs with no parental support will leave university with a £15,000 debt which could take 27 years to repay. Mail on Sunday, 22 February.

A black Mickey

In his office at Team Disney headquarters, Reggie Whitehead, vice-president of Special Markets, admitted that the sales pitch to the Afro-American community had broadly failed. “We haven’t made a good job of making Disney relevant,” says Whitehead, ruefully pointing out that blacks, even more than whites, would benefit from the realise from urban reality that a Disney holiday offers. “When Mickey and Minnie attend job fairs at black colleges they wear traditional African costumes,” Howard notes proudly. To ram home the “diversity” message, cast members are issued with a calendar that lists, for example, Black Poetry Day and First Female FBI Agents Day. There is a pecuniary as well as a moral motive to this. The real magic of Disney is its skilful conversion of dreams into dollars. In 1995 the company worldwide earned $13 billion. American blacks now generate $400 billion a year. “And that is bigger than the economy of Mexico,” murmurs the lady co-ordinator of the BET project, which intends to rollercoast a healthy proportion of those greenbacks into Mickey’s pockets. Guardian, 15 January.


"My formula for success is rise early, work late, and strike oil". Paul Getty.

They were expendable

South Africa’s high mine accident rate and the dangers of high dust levels in coal mines remained issues of great concern, Dick Bakker, the acting director-general of minerals and energy, said [Johannesburg Star, last November]. He told the parliamentary minerals and energy committee that between 1994 and last year [1996], transport-related accidents accounted for 49 percent of the 1484 fatalities in the mining industry while rockfalls and rockburts accounted for 47.7 percent. Environmental and health factors accounted for 3.2 percent.

Thou shalt pay

The number of households cut off from a gas supply because of debt has almost doubled in the two years since competition was introduced, according to the figures yesterday from the Gas Consumers Council. In 1995, BG cut off 14,511 customers, whereas in 1997 its successor, British Gas Trading, disconnected 29,767 consumers. Guardian, 12 February.

For the birds

Pigeons at the Sellafield nuclear plant are so contaminated that a thousand of them are being exterminated. Guardian, 12 March.

New Deal

“Any person refusing a New Deal option without good cause will first have their whole benefit suspended for 2 weeks followed by a 4 week period if they refuse again to take up the option after adjudication.” TEN Briefing, July 1997, p2.

Northern Ireland: Is it Peace? (1998)

From the May 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Those who have given into the utterly absurd contentions that induces members of the working class to give allegiance to flags and patriotic vapourings may feel injured or elated by the 10 April Anglo-Irish Agreement, but in terms of working-class life it is irrelevant except in that it might restrain the opposing patriots from slaughtering one another.

History is a sequential process, each chapter being an intermix of the past and the present. People do not take those political decisions that then become history with the freedom of an artist choosing a colour from a palette; on the contrary, though political decisions may be fashioned to serve the dominant economic interests, prevailing ideas handed down from the past play a vital role in the acceptance or rejection of such ideas.

Irish history, dominated as it was by the interests of its historically powerful neighbour, Great Britain, and the old imperialist strategy of deliberately introducing and promoting division, is especially convoluted. The most relevant historical milestone is the partitioning of Ireland in 1921 under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act which created Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland). The Act that legalised partition had no democratic basis in Ireland, north or south; in the elections of 1918 Sinn Fein had won a majority of seats (though on a minority vote of the people of all Ireland); then—as now with the two Sinn Fein MPs, Adams and McGuinness—but refused to take their seats in the Westminster parliament.

Instead they chose to establish an Irish parliament, or Dail, which the British promptly declared illegal. The following year, in Co Tipperary, what the British called “the troubles” and the Irish called the Anglo-Irish war broke out when an IRA column shot dead a policeman escorting a donkey laden with dynamite being brought to a quarry.

Immediate and terrible war
For two years, thereafter, a guerrilla struggle ensued and a war of terror and counter-terror raged throughout the country until the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, initiated peace negotiations in 1921. Out of these the British imposed the partition settlement which retained the six north-eastern counties of Ireland as a self-governing entity within the United Kingdom while allowing the twenty-six remaining counties to constitute a “Free State” while still being a British dominion. The Irish delegation to the peace talks later claimed that Lloyd George and Churchill enforced acceptance of this proposal under the threat of “immediate and terrible war”.

In the new Irish Free State, division surfaced within the IRA arising out of the acceptance of Partition and the imposition on the Irish Dail of an oath of loyalty to the British monarch. Civil war resulted which lasted until 1924. The conflict was rooted not simply in the economic interests of the nascent Irish capitalist class, whose interests Sinn Fein represented, but in the ideological fictions promoted by Irish republicanism in order to enlist the support of the working class and small farmers in the struggle for an Irish capitalist republic.

In fact the solution imposed by Britain suited the three sides to the Irish conflict at that time. The British, whose interests in Ireland were now largely strategic, would retain control over Northern Ireland with indirect control over the Irish Free State. The emerging Irish capitalist class, whose interests were reflected in the IRA struggle, would have the law-making processes they wanted to nurture their fledgling industries, and the Unionists in the north would retain their access to the British home market and enjoy the benefits of Empire Preference for the north’s shipbuilding, engineering and textile industries.

If history was simply a reflex of material interests, the matter may have ended there but, as Marx pointed out, while we make our own history, that history is contained to a greater or lesser extent by the dead hand of the past. The Northern Ireland state had been tailored by the architects of division to ensure the widest possible territory consistent with what was hoped would be a permanent Protestant majority that could then impose on the Catholic Nationalist element of the population a permanent quasi-democratic dictatorship.

Protestant and Catholics united
From the outset, the Unionist government of Northern Ireland whipped up anti-Catholic bigotry in order to keep a firm control of their Protestant voting fodder and the Catholics responded by refusing to co-operate with the Unionist state. Bigotry, political gerrymandering, draconian legislation and an armed police force backed by an armed, exclusively Protestant, auxiliary police were the weapons of the Government. Inevitably, the Catholic minority, already churlish and antagonistic towards the state, were driven into new heights of hostility.

Northern Ireland was born in violence. Sectarian murder and arson were the accepted weapons of the upper class Unionist gentlemen who took over the running of the state. As long as it was the poor, the grossly impoverished working class, Catholics and Protestants who were hurting one another, it was a tolerable strategy that helped to foster the fallacious notion that simply being a Protestant in the new state was a guarantee of privilege.

That Protestant members of the working class were subject to the same mean lifestyle as their fellow Catholics was made manifest in 1932, when the state was eleven years old. Faced with massive unemployment, the government decreed that unemployed people who were single would not get any unemployment benefit; instead, they should apply for admittance to the workhouse.

Together in poverty, the single unemployed united in an unemployed movement; in Belfast they marched up the Lisburn Road to the workhouse which, of course, could not admit them. The government called out the armed RUC to face down the workers; it tried desperately to divide them on religious grounds and, failing to subdue them with police thuggery or sectarian cajoling, it surrendered and re-instituted the miserable pittance to all the unemployed.

In the three years that followed, the loyalist organisations like the Orange Order and the Apprentice Boys, whose leaders were frequently members of the government or members of the government party, worked hard to re-establish the hegemony of sectarian division and, in 1935, in the midst of a desperate economic crisis, yet another vicious sectarian clash occurred, requiring the intervention of the British military.

Momentous event
Before the commencement of World War Two the IRA inaugurated a bombing campaign in England and in the early nineteen forties there was a further upsurge of violence in Northern Ireland. In 1956 the IRA embarked on yet another campaign of terror which was largely confined to the border areas. After a spectacular start, this fizzled out and, for the first time ever, the IRA, in 1962, admitted defeat.

Acknowledging the growing accommodation between the northern Catholic Nationalists and the Northern Ireland state following on the introduction of “welfare” capitalism—which the post-war Labour government had forced the reluctant Unionist leaders to accept—the IRA statement accepting defeat condemned the northern Nationalists for “selling their heritage for a mess of pottage”. For the first time in the twentieth century the gun had been taken out of Irish politics.

In the growing spirit of toleration, Nationalist politicians accepted the role of official opposition in the Stormont parliament and, against the background of a new Anglo-Irish Free Trade agreement, the Unionist Prime Minister of Northern Ireland met his southern Irish counterpart in Stormont.

But if the politics of reality was forcing events forward, the dead hand of the past was actively provoking reaction and the prime instrument of that reaction was the demagogic hot-gospeller, Ian Paisley. When Catholics and liberal Protestants combined in a struggle for Civil Rights they were opposed by a ranting Paisley and a coterie of fanatical bigots who used the fascist tactic of the counter-demonstration to provoke civil disturbance.

Ironically, Paisley and his bigoted ilk exacerbated a conflict that created the material conditions for the emergence of the Provisional IRA and for nearly thirty years of internecine warfare. He and his political and religious cohorts have greeted every effort to find an accommodation between the warring parties with accusations of treachery and “sell-out” directed at his fellow Unionists. He has mounted campaigns and crusades down the years the purpose of which is allegedly to “save Ulster” from treachery and now, following the “peace” agreement signed between the main representatives of Unionism and Irish Nationalism, he is bellowing his denunciation with the claim that this is Ulster’s most calamitous crisis–which seems like a confession of past failures.

“The Agreement”, which is the simple title given to the document which is being widely circulated in Northern Ireland and which has been picked over in detail by the media since 10 April, betrays the utter futility of sectarian politics and paramilitary terrorism. Bigotry and violence, including state violence, have killed some 3,500 people and injured a further 40,000 and, apart from the gangsters and ghouls who have found opportunity for gain in this mayhem, it has not advanced the condition of any section of the working class.

“Some gain and some pain”
Socialists would be fools if they did not hope that this agreement succeeds in bringing an end to the violence, in ending the killing, the maiming and the torching of peoples’ homes; in ending, too, a political ambience in which only the absurd politico-religious posturings of the conflicting factions is regarded as valid political debate. The promoters of the Agreement, the British and Irish governments claim that it represents a reasonable compromise between the parties and the political spin masters have coined the phrase, “Some gain and some pain” for all.

Paisley and his hate-mongers as well as the Orange Order and the corresponding lunatic fringes of Irish nationalism are mounting campaigns to encourage a “No” vote in the impending referendum. Given that these people see the alternative to the Agreement as a fight to the finish, one would think their lunacies would be rejected out-of-hand by the electorate on 22 May.
Richard Montague

[In our next issue we will analyse the position of the main participants in the aftermath of the 22 May referendum.]

Get Your Repeats Out For the Lads (1998)

TV Review from the May 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Never let it be said that BBC2 runs voyeuristic programmes masquerading as concerned, serious television. And never let it be said that Politically Incorrect Night (BBC2, 13 April) was an example of it. This day being Easter Monday, BBC2 was especially keen to attract viewers from the other channels and networks and its attempt to do this was centred on the re-showing of copious amounts of dubious material, mainly from the 1970s, under the guise of examining British television before the supposed advent of “political correctness” a decade later changed things forever.

As Mark Lawson commented, it was difficult to see this night of politically incorrect material as anything other than a voyeur`s paradise, “excused” by the use of ironic remarks and carrying a public health warning, a ring-fenced series of programmes set apart from the rest of the schedule in a sort of televisual isolation unit.

The worst of the voyeurism concerned the programme on the history of Miss World (which may have had some tenuous justification) and a piece on pop videos which rate highly as classic teenage masturbation material (which didn`t). On the latter, the presenter reminded his audience to have the play and record buttons at the ready on their video recorders, and then undercut this remark by saying that they probably had already, anyway. To supplement the voyeurism there was a heavy dose of other material of an equally dubious nature, much of it racist. The On the Buses feature film had another run-out and there were numerous clips of Bernard Manning doing jokes about “the Pakis”, and Jim Davidson doing his “Chalkie” impression, which was always, ahem, at the cutting edge of social observation.

Get to the (low) point
Some of these compilation programmes were just cheap television aimed, as always, at the lowest common denominator. The revival in 1970s culture, fashion and styles has simply given the BBC the opportunity to resurrect some old faithfuls, testing the water for possible future repeats (following on from the recent success of Are You Being Served? on Saturday nights). One of the themes of Politically Incorrect Night was that there has now been a “loosening up” of attitudes towards racist and sexist television from an earlier era and Auntie Beeb is obviously now hoping that having got away with John Inman mincing across the screen in recent months it can bring back the likes of It Ain`t Half Hot Mum (even worse ITV could bring back Mind Your Language and Love Thy Neighbour).

This would be forgivable if it could be stated with any confidence that the BBC really knew what it is doing. Unfortunately, it manifestly doesn’t, and has demonstrated time and again that it can’t see much further than the next few months’ ratings.

Needless to say, this is not a situation which is entirely of the BBC’s making. The Beeb operates in a cut-throat competitive media environment and is under challenge on so many fronts it is now dazed and confused as to where the next attack on it is likely to come from. The BBC is increasingly a product of the modern market economy and must respond to the needs of that market at every opportunity, however distorted and twisted they are. Under the guise of “giving people what they want”—or more accurately, what they have been trained and encouraged to accept—it is likely to plumb the depths of the modern television experience like it never has before if it is to survive in anything like its present status and condition. BBC executives may laugh at Topless Darts on Live TV, but how much longer are they going to be able to resist that sort of temptation, however “ironically” packaged is open to doubt. The most likely answer, it would seem – judging by Easter Monday – is not for very long.
Dave Perrin

The irrational in anarchism (1998)

Pamphlet Review from the May 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard
A recent pamphlet traces a link between back-to-nature anarchists and far-right ideas. How true is this?
Flawed, fascinating and suggestive, Luther Blissett’s Anarchist Integralism: Aesthetics, Politics and the Apres-Garde is not quite “anarchism exposed”, as the back-cover blurb suggests, though it does attempt to trace some extreme right-wing and fascist tendencies in anarchism. The basic, somewhat more measured, position of the text is set out right from the start, on page three:
“While the majority of modernists and anarchists have never adhered to full blown mystical fascism, certain strands of anarchism embrace far-Right individualism, while yet others promote ideologies of integral nationalism.”
Blissett’s target is not anarchism as such (though he is quite sceptical about anarchism in general) so much as the Green Anarchist Network and, almost by the way, the journal Anarchist Studies; though there are salient points about anarchist anti-state fetishism along the way. It is pointed out, for example, that the state is not “the source of all social power”:
” . . . capitalist social relations are anchored in economic institutions which can and do function independently of the state. Capital reproduces itself not only within nation states but across nation states”.

Anarchist gurus
The strains of fascism, nationalism and racism that are apparently (and, to this reader at least, shockingly) found running through anarchism are represented in the first instance by anarchist gurus such as Bakunin (according to Blissett, a rabid anti-semite), Proudhon (an anti-semite and nationalist) and Kropotkin (an anti-semite, nationalist and anarcho-aristocrat). In terms of the anarchist grass-roots, Blissett points to those such as the “French and Italian syndicalists who became fascists”. The trouble is that the text, which includes plentiful, and fully referenced, quotations to support its contentions concerning Bakunin and the others, is not so adept at tracing such tendencies through to contemporary anarchism. There is a rather snide swipe at Noam Chomsky (who is on the editorial board of Anarchist Studies) for supporting free speech for fascists (his position being much the same on this issue as ours); there is reference to the support of anarcho-primitivists for fascist terrorism (more on this below); there is a connection made between anarchism and fascism via a joint link to modernist aesthetics.

In this last instance, far too much is taken as read and requires unpacking; the link between anarchism and aesthetics is not sufficiently explained or even established beyond stating that under capitalism power is aestheticised and that anarchism is structurally tied to capitalism. This is a sheer banality and the same could certainly be said about the movement for socialism, pre-revolution. Also, the notion of the aesthetic is too all-subsuming. Wide varieties and differences of aesthetic experience are collapsed under fairly crass generalisations, even within the more specific but still fairly wide rubric “modernism”.

It’s true that fascism, despite the hatred of the Nazis for modernist painting and sculpture, made extensive use of certain types of modernist design and architecture, and the Italian Futurists were early recruits to fascism, as were the poet Ezra Pound and the writer and artist Wyndham Lewis; but some modernist writers and artists such as James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso were anti-fascist, while some such as Lewis Grassic Gibbon proclaimed that they were socialists. And, as the poet and critic Drew Milne has pointed out in the modernist journal Parataxis, “the most important modernist manifesto is Marx’s Communist Manifesto“. Even then, a simple list of modernist for-and-against fascism over-simplifies matters. It can be argued that the very forms of modernist aesthetics necessarily subvert fascist ideologies, whatever the intentions and beliefs of the artist.

Pseudo-mystical moronism
Regarding anarcho-primitivists, an article entitled “The Irrationalists”, which appeared in the Anarchist Lancaster Bomber # 7, is cited by Blissett. In this article, the author declares himself in favour of the “95 percent solution” in which a “Circle of Guilt (CoG) for what is happening” is proposed which includes virtually everybody:
“Activists adopting the 95 percent solution would have no difficulty over a subway sarin attack, city wide water supply contamination or a biological warfare attack on a fast food restaurant. Such activities see subway commuters or fast food customers as of no value and no loss to the moral universe.”
The article goes on to express support for (among other terrorists) the extreme right-wing and racist Oklahoma bombers. Such rhetoric reveals an astounding level of arrogance and pseudo-mystical moronism in claiming the authority for wholesale slaughter from some so-called “moral universe”. Morality is a human concept, and one heavily bound up with bourgeois ideology; the notion that it can be used first of all to set levels of so-called “guilt” (which is not the same as responsibility) for “what is happening” (whatever that may be—everything, presumably) and then as the reason for killing the greater part of humanity, is pathetic.

As for commuters and fast food customers being of no value—no value to what? To whom? To anarcho-primitivists or to the universe, possibly. If the latter, then in what sense can the universe be said to give a toss either way? And for that matter, what use are the anarcho-primitivists to an indifferent universe? If the former, then it needs to be asked whether or not the anarcho-primitivists are of any use to anybody else and, should the reply be negative, whether we might not just get rid of them, by the force of their own logic.

But does any of this make them fascist? Idiotics, certainly, and psychopathic quite possibly, but not necessarily fascist as such, despite their support for the Oklahoma bombers and the right-wing American militias. Such support can be seen as being a simple (in every sense) liking for extreme violence and general mayhem. There is, however, an ideological connection between anarcho-primitivism and fascism that Blissett apparently fails to recognise. This lies in what may best be described a nostalgia for a way of life (rural, close to the soil, “in tune” with nature, “innocent”) that never really existed. There is a hatred of the contemporary world (which we obviously recognise as being in a hell of a mess, but infinitely preferable to spending your life grubbing around in mud and shit for a few edible roots in the middle of a rainstorm) and a fear of the future—the only future these ideologies, whether anarcho-primitivists or fascist, can countenance is one which involves a childish attempt to flee into a mythical golden age that is located in the past.

For fascists or course, this nostalgia extends to the notion of the volk and the “purity” of the volk, an ideology which inevitably becomes tied up with racism and nationalism. This volkishness can also be found amongst the more extreme margins of the Green movement, including Green Anarchy and the anarcho-primitivists. Blisset is perhaps not overstating the matter too far when he refers to such groups as “eco-fascist”, even if he doesn’t entirely explain the reasons for doing so.

There are also a couple of mentions in this pamphlet for the Anarchist Communist Federation, one a perfectly correct but irrelevant (in this context) attack on one ACF writer for failing to understand Trotskyism, the other concerning the ACF’s links to Green Anarchist: “Anarcho-communists such as the ACF do themselves no favours by collaborating with far-Right reactionaries like Green Anarchist or looking to Bakunin for inspiration.”
Jonathan Clay

Hungry for Change (1998)

From the May 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard
“Aid agencies warn of famine in Sudan” (Guardian, 7 April). “Starving North Koreans on the border of despair” (Guardian, 14 April). “Famine in Burundi. Why are 600,000 people starving to death?” (Observer, 15 April).
These are indeed harrowing headlines, evoking images of stick-limbed children with oversized heads, of adults, cadaverous and saucer-eyed, scrounging, scavenging and bartering for food. The stories these headlines introduce tell of a combined total of six million facing death from starvation. On a much wider scale, 800 million are chronically malnourished and 1.3 billion inhabitants of the world will today go without food.

The latter are well used figures, and taken with the former echo the absurdity of those obese and confused government officials who gathered together several years ago to label the 1990s the “UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty”. At that time there was only 400 million malnourished, when Henry Kissinger rose to his feet at the 1972 UN Food Summit and vowed to eradicate world hunger within 20 years.

The immediate causes of famine–drought, floods and civil war–often mask the fact that most suffering countries are capable of feeding themselves. Sudan’s arable land, for instance, could feed its population, but is instead used for cash crops such as cotton and sugar, and Burundi, as Peter Beaumont recently reported (Observer, 15 April) “is so fecund it cries out to be abundant”. Elsewhere, we find that 50 percent of arable land in Afghanistan can’t be cultivated because it is land-mined.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organisaion readily admits that the world produces more than enough to ensure “adequate food for all” (2,700 calories per person per day). In the 1970s, the World Health Organisation announced that we could feed a world population seven times its then size, and as late as 1995 admitted that Africa could feed a population six times its present size were western farming techniques to be introduced there.

Faced with these facts and while the people of North Korea are having grain rations reduced to 100 grams per day, while the poor of Sudan forage for wild nuts and grasses and while the Burundese bury their dead from starvation at a rate too quick to count, there is no shortage of organisations willing to try to remedy the situation. In North Korea, the World Food Programme appealed in January for 650,000 tons of food and the United Nations Development Programme has drawn up plans to make North Korea self-sufficient by the year 2000. UNICEF and the WHO hold conferences, apportion blame and send representatives to investigate the plight of the starving.

Interestingly, the bulk of these organisations come under the watchful eye of the US-controlled UN, and wasn’t it the US which twice in the past–and alone–voted against UN resolutions that sought to recognise “proper nourishment” as a “human right” (14 December 1981–Resolution 36/133 and 18 December–Resolution 37/199)?

The food the aid agencies succeed in sending usually ends up in cities rather than in rural areas where it is most needed. Some 60 percent of EC and 30 percent of US food aid is given to governments to sell on, mostly in cities, and which often provides money that is squandered–i.e. tanks invariably seem a better investment than seeds. And food aid tends to cut food prices, diminishing the incentive for farmers to grow crops, and fosters long-term dependency. Moreover, food aid is often provided minus the transport to deliver it where it is needed and ends up rotting on the quayside. When it can be delivered, it is often the case that camps have to be set up to dispense the aid, resulting in “food drones”, maelstroms of hunger and disease.

Charities launch campaigns, telling us what a donation of 20p, £1 and £100 will buy, holding back the more damning statistic that 95 percent of the money donated is eaten up in administration and infrastructure.

Though the relief organisations and charities are undoubtedly well meaning, they address problems for which the solution already exists. Though they have the insight to see the profit-driven market system as a cause of hunger, they err in trying to reform it in the interests of the hungry. While they wave off shipments of food top faraway lands, their own governments are ordering the destruction of food and paying farmers to take land out of production.

Under a system in which production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit, a system that has expunged the causes of war, a system that can locate people to areas less prone to flooding and drought, famine can then be a thing of the past. And this–socialism–could perhaps be brought about with less effort than goes into organising a world food summit and running the myriad of existing aid agencies. It is not some pipe dream anathema to human nature, for what can be more natural than producing for need?
John Bissett

Moneyless (1998)

From the May 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism means a world society based on production solely for use, not profit.

It will be a classless society, in which everyone will be able to participate democratically in decisions about the use of the world’s resources, each producing according to their ability and each taking from the common store according to their needs.

In such a society there can be no money

–or, more precisely, no need for money. Money is only needed when people possess and most do not.

Imagine that all the things you need are owned and held in common.

There is no need to buy food from anyone–it is common property. There are no rent or mortgages to pay because land and buildings belong to all of us. There is no need to buy anything from any other person because society has done away with the absurd division between the owning minority (the capitalists) and the non-owning majority (the workers).

In a socialist world monetary calculation won’t be necessary.

The alternative to monetary calculation based on exchange-value is calculation based on use values. Decisions, apart from purely personal ones of preferences or interest, will be made after weighing the real advantages and disadvantages and real costs of alternatives in particular circumstances.

The ending of the profit system

will mean at the same time the ending of war, economic crises, unemployment, poverty and persecution–all of which are consequences of that system.

The revolutionary change that is needed

is not possible unless a majority of people understand and want it. We do not imagine all humankind’s problems can be solved at a stroke.

Reforms of the present system fail because making profits must always be given priority over meeting needs, so the problems keep on recurring and ever multiplying.

It will take time to eliminate hunger, malnutrition, disease and ignorance from the world. But the enormous liberation of mental and physical energies from the shackles of the profit system will ensure that real human progress is made.

Lenin rehashed (1998)

Book Reviews from the May 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Future Socialist Society by John Molyneux. SWP. £2.

For some reason, the SWP have decided to reissue this notorious pamphlet which first came out in 1987 and which exposes that what they mean by socialism is not the real thing but (as we pointed out in our review in the October 1987 Socialist Standard) a Leninist state.

One of the early measures an SWP government (which is envisaged as coming to power not through elections but as “the party which has led the revolution”) would take would be to abolish universal suffrage:
“There will not be complete universal suffrage because the nature of the system will exclude the old bourgeoisie and its main associates from the electoral process” (p. 9).
The claim is that because the new electoral process will be based on soviets, i. e. on voting at work (and not necessarily by secret ballot), capitalists as non-workers won’t have a vote. But once capitalists have been expropriated (in the SWP’s scenario, by the state) they will cease to be capitalists and so would have to work for the state in order to live. So why would they still be excluded from voting in the places where they would be working? And why would their “main associates”, identified elsewhere (p. 12) as “sections of the middle class” who would therefore have jobs, be excluded? There is only one explanation: all these people are to be disfranchised not because of their economic position but because of their political views as real or imagined opponents of the new government. The Russian Bolsheviks, on whom the SWP model themselves, also began by banning “pro-capitalist” opponents. They ended up banning all opponents.

On economic policy, whereas socialists (and Marx) envisage the abolition of the wages system, the SWP promises that “the wages of the working class, and especially the low paid, will be rapidly increased” (p. 21). So the wages system, which reflects the non-ownership of the means of production by the majority, is to continue, the only difference being that it would be administered by an SWP government that will have nationalised everything. This is state capitalism, not socialism.

Just as over depriving opponents of the right to vote so with regard to technical experts, an SWP government would follow the same policy as the Russian Bolsheviks. We are told that “if absolutely necessary they will have to perform with workers’ guns at their heads” (p. 15). It is not just the absurdity of such a proposition that is significant here–even the capitalists discovered long ago that workers can’t be coerced by guns and whips into working efficiently, and technical experts are of course workers–but the authoritarian reflex that the SWP has inherited from Lenin and Trotsky.

The good news is that there is never going to be an SWP government. Bolshevik-Leninist ideas are so discredited by what happened in Russia that there is no possibility of large numbers of workers being taken in by them again. Once bitten, twice shy.
Adam Buick

Historic error (1998)

Book Reviews from the May 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Historical Dictionary of Socialism. By James C. Docherty, Scarecrow Press, 1997.

This book follows academic convention by saying that socialism defies precise definition and then proceeds to give emphasis to the policies and actions of Labour, Social-Democratic and “Socialist” organisations and individuals around the world. One result of this viewpoint is that Blair, Anthony Charles Lynton (1953- ) gets over twice as much space as Morris, William (1834-1896).

A common thread uniting many of the self-styled “Socialist” organisations has been a defence of the welfare state, although as Docherty points out the idea can be traced back to Thomas Paine who suggested comprehensive welfare benefits to combat poverty in Rights of Man (1791). But the welfare state has also been pursued by non-Socialists and anti-Socialists. For example, in late nineteenth century Germany, Bismarck introduced a number of welfare measures, such as unemployment insurance, in the belief that he was fighting socialism.

In Britain the Liberal Party was the first to establish the principles of the welfare state in the Old Age Pensions Act of 1908 (based on the German model) and then in subsequent legislation, and it was the Liberal MP William Beveridge whose Report in 1942 coined the phrase “welfare state”. And now in Britain we have the spectacle of Tories leaping to the defence of the welfare state against Labour government cuts in spending. Confused? Well, if you take the viewpoint that socialism is what “Socialists” do, then you should be.

Docherty claims that Marx’s labour theory of value “was used to justify the argument that labour should be paid more than simply a subsistence wage.” Marx did indeed argue that workers should get more than a subsistence, but not a wage. His whole point was that the wages system (including salaries, employees and employers, workers and bosses) was the means whereby we are legally robbed of what we produce. This leaves many begging for crumbs off the rich man’s table via the welfare state.

Socialism, as originally used by the followers of Robert Owen in the 1820s and later made famous by Marx , will be a system of society where production takes place directly for human needs. This is still the only sensible way of understanding socialism, and not the Alice in Wonderland world where words mean whatever anyone says they mean.
Lew Higgins

Voice From The Back: Who armed Saddam? (1998)

The Voice From The Back Column from the April 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Who armed Saddam?

Advocates of a bombing campaign speak as if they had just discovered Saddam’s lethal potential. America has known about his chemical and biological weapons for a generation. In 1975 an American corporation, Pfaulder of Rochester, New York, sold Saddam the plans for a chemical weapons factory that he built at Akashat for $78 million. In 1983 Saddam first deployed chemical gas against Iran, killing 45,000 Iranian soldiers over the next five years in clear violation of international law. In 1988 Saddam sprayed mustard gas and sarin on the Kurdish village of Halabja to murder at least 5,000 civilians. A few months later, in January 1989, ABC News uncovered details of Saddam’s germ-warfare programme at a facility south of Baghdad. The State Department, which now issues briefings on the same site at Salman Pak, denied its existence at the time. Despite the use of chemicals and clear evidence of Saddam’s development in the 1980s of anthrax, tularaemia and cholera, the US and Britain increased their export credit guarantees to his regime . . . All the time Saddam was massacring his citizens and invading his neighbour, Iran, the American Karkar corporation supplied him with communications for his Ba’ath party spies. The CIA gave him reconnaissance pictures of Iranian troop positions. British Aerospace, Westland Helicopters, Dassault of France and Karl Kolb of Germany were adding to an Iraqi arsenal already over-supplied by the Soviet Union. New Statesman, 20 February.

Squandered resources

A staggering £250 million a year is wasted in the National Health Service on food patients don’t eat. Half of the food served is unpalatable or unwanted, threatening patients’ health and recovery because they don’t get the nutrients they need. A study of nine wards for the elderly, and of medical and surgical cases in four hospitals in London and the South-East found that 23 percent of food served for breakfast and around 40 percent of food provided for midday and evening meals was thrown away. When food was served on the ward from a trolley almost 60 percent was discarded. Mail on Sunday, 7 December.

This new capitalism’s a load of . . .

Employees at a large state farm in Vlogda, northern Russia, have not taken kindly to the cash-strapped government’s policy of remunerating workers with agricultural goods in an effort to compensate for months of unpaid salaries. Instead of receiving chickens and vegetables, they were paid last month with piles of manure. Special trucks were laid on to deliver “salaries” to the workers’ doorsteps, prompting vigorous protests from neighbours about poor air quality. Sunday Times, 19 October.

Looking both ways

Poor people are much more likely to be knocked over on the roads than people living in affluent areas, according to a study of road accidents in Edinburgh and the surrounding Lothian region. It is the first detailed analysis of the link between road accidents and social deprivation. The researchers . . . found that young children from the 15 percent most deprived areas of the region were almost eight times as likely to be knocked over as children living in the richest 15 percent. Accident Analysis and Prevention, vol 29, p.583.

Child labour

Forty years after it joined the European Community, and more than a decade after it overtook Britain in the league table of national wealth, Italy still has almost 300,000 child workers . . . The biggest concentration of under-age workers is thought to be in and around Naples, where their wages average about 70,000 lire (£26) a week. Guardian, 8 January.

World Wide Web

When I go online to engage in human interaction, I log off feeling energised. When I search databases or shop in online malls, I leave the experience feeling drained and alone. The former involves communicating with other living beings, while the latter concerns only machines and their information. Douglas Rushkoff, Guardian Online, 8 January.


Competition, so admired by champions of capitalism, is being rapidly eradicated by—competition. “Before many more years, there will be one or at most two global companies per industry, trampling over a fluctuating number of local suppliers living off their personal connections and/or niche services,” wrote William Kay, the City Editor of the Financial Mail on Sunday on 8 February. “The process is nearly complete in sectors as diverse as alcohol and accountancy . . . The trouble is that what counts as duplication from the suppliers’ point of view is good old competition as far as the customers are concerned . . . When the customers in question have been mere individuals, their interests have been at best only hazily defended.”

Multinational’s charter (1998)

From the April 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

For the last few years the 29 members of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) including Britain, have been secretly negotiating a Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) which they hope to conlude by the end of April.

This treaty is ostensibly meant to provide a framework for international co-operation in protecting investments made by multinational and international corporations and institutions. The OECD will adopt the procedures of this treaty among its membership, which includes the most economically advanced states in the world. The plan is to extend it to all states, through pressure and the development of the idea of MAI being a hallmark of investment security. Once any state joins it will be bound to the treaty’s strictures for a minimum of twenty years (that being the time it takes to actually withdraw from the treaty).

The treaty seeks to protect international investment in two ways.

Firstly, it will forbid any member state from distinguishing between local capital and foreign capital (for instance this could forbid states from putting restrictions on media ownership by non-nationals, as is found currently in several states). This would extend towards the prevention of compulsory nationalisations and expropriations without compensation (as an example, Chancellor Brown’s windfall levy could have counted as an expropriation, which the British government would have had to compensate foreign investors for, had the treaty been in force then).

Secondly, it will for the first time give multinationals and investors rights under international law. The treaty will provide a set of provisions for punishments for infringing its strictures. Effectively this means that if a corporation does not like a law passed by a country, it can take that country to court to try to get the law changed. Of course, as usual when our corporate masters grant themselves rights, there are no corresponding duties–there is no commitment upon them to protect the welfare of their workers or the local environment.

The Green movement is mobilising to attack this treaty, on the grounds that it will damage the environment, and impede national sovereignty and restrict democracy by providing for unelected, unaccountable business elites to be able to change the laws of democratically elected governments, and by restricting the capacity of individual governments to stimulate their own economy or build a local economic base of their own. What, though, is really so new in this?

As far as socialists are concerned, states have always been in the pocket of unaccountable business cliques, and have always worked in their interest. Many of the states whose “sovereignty” will be infringed are already corrupt and toadying lackeys to our corporate masters, with despotic elites living the life of Riley out of ill-gotten plunder from environmental despoliation and pillage, wealth almost literally torn from the bodies of the world’s poor. A little more formalisation of this relationship, and a little extra protection for our masters can’t be such a bad thing, really? Can it?

This treaty is important because it means that for the first time our corporate elites are taking direct control of matters, instead of working through their state. One of the greatest threats to their own dominance of the world has been nationalist competitors, restricting their access to markets by asserting a claim to rights in a particular territory. Just look at how many wars have been fought these past fifty years by our imperial masters against nationalist upstarts: Suez, Vietnam, America’s dirty wars in South America; all in the name of keeping some particular territory within the web of international corporate capitalism. Having crushed most such opposition, all that remains for them now is to assert their authority within such territories and to lay claim to plunder of the world.

As the economic situation deteriorates, with the older capitalist states almost unable to sustain growth and the South Asian tigers suffering crises, our masters must desperately search around for new markets and sources of profit and new investment outlets. And they must seek to protect that investment, and make sure that every drop of wealth that they suck out of these areas will return to them, and not to some group of local rivals.

This treaty will strengthen the negotiating hand of multinationals against local power elites, enabling them to get even better returns on their profit than they could if they had to bribe the local rulers. It also makes it easier for them to try to force local governments to act against the workers, and write into law whatever is to the benefit of our international overlords.

As their position has become more precarious they have had to cut out any room for manoeuvre by states, and that includes the pressure release of even a moderately reform-minded government. By cutting off the route of reform in the way that this treaty does, our rulers are accentuating and revealing the truth about the class divide.

The MAI means making the strong even stronger and even more effective and efficient in the exploitation of the working class and the environment the world over. In their desperation our corporate masters are opening their greedy maw even wider, determined to swallow the world whole.
Pik Smeet

Party News (1998)

Party News from the April 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Annual Conference

The 94th Annual Conference of the Socialist Party will take place over Easter weekend on Friday and Saturday, 10 and 11 April from 10.15 to 18.00 on both days.

As with all our meetings, there are no closed sessions and visitors are welcome to sit in and listen to the delegates and to meet and discuss with members in the canteen or afterwards.

Local elections

Socialist Party candidates will be standing in Manchester, London, Tyneside and Bournemouth in this year’s local elections on 7 May. Further details and offers of help: South East Manchester, Central London, North East and Bournemouth branches and group respectively (see Directory on this page).

London Referendum

Also on 7 May electors in London will be voting on a government proposal for an elected mayor and an elected assembly to replace the GLC abolished by the Tories in 1988.

The Socialist Party has produced a leaflet explaining that real democracy is not possible under capitalism where some are more equal than others because they have more money and where the economic laws of the profit system work to frustrate improvements people vote for from being carried out.

London branches and members will be distributing this leaflet in April and early May. Copies for distribution can be obtained from: Election Dept, The Socialist Party. 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 7UN.


Due to problems at our printers a couple of passages in the May Socialist Standard became incomprehensible.

The second paragraph of the editorial reply to the letter from Kimberley Ellis should have read:
“In short, we think that given the development of productive capacity since Marx made the distinction in 1875 between a 'first' (when full free access according to needs would not be possible) and a 'higher’ phase of 'communist society' (when it would), the so called higher phase con be established more or less immediately" 
Similarly, part of the third paragraph of the review of the play Junk was just that. Our apologies to both the writer and our readers.

Voice From the Back: ‘Son, here’s a million dollars. Don’t lose it.' (1998)

The Voice From The Back Column from the March 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard


“The best advice I was ever given was on my twenty-first birthday when my father said ‘Son, here’s a million dollars. Don’t lose it.'” Larry Niven.

In God they trust

The world’s second largest chemical, pharmaceutical and genetic engineering conglomerate, with a turnover of more than £60 billion a year, has turned to revivalist religion to rally senior management under pressure from consumers to be socially responsible. Novartis, a recent merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz, which owns, among other things, Ovaltine, has commissioned a corporate hymn called the Science of Life. It includes refrains, hip-hop and rap. Guardian, 13 November.

“Prison works”

One in five prisoners tested positively for drugs during random tests, according to government figures. A total of 13,797 inmates in England and Wales were found to have taken drugs following random tests during 1996-97, junior Home Office minister, George Howarth said in a written Commons reply. Evening Mail, 10 December.

Tell it like it is

Some capitalists understand their system better than others or are more honest about it. George Soros, who made fortunes speculating in currency markets, does not regard capitalism as a stable or self-regulating system. In an interview last year, which has become particularly relevant now, he said: “Markets can move in unexpected ways and become chaotic. I’m afraid that the prevailing view, which is one of extending the market mechanism to all domains, has the potential of destroying society. Unless we review our concept of markets, our understanding of markets, they will collapse, because we are creating global markets, global financial markets, without understanding their true nature. We have this false theory that markets, left to their own devices, tend towards equilibrium.” Speaking of market fluctuations, he said that if they become too large, “you can have breakdown. It will come through political and eventually military events, rather than events merely in the financial markets”.

Owners of property

There are already plans to sell of £1.2 billion of NHS land and buildings in the next five years. Trust currently own £3 billion of land assets and £15 billion of buildings and fittings. Mail on Sunday, 7 December.

The other coffee story

The maker of NescafĂ© has taken to installing cubicles inside Russian churches from which to deliver congratulatory coffee sets to newlyweds as soon as they walk back down the aisle. NestlĂ© employees have already presented 17,000 couples with a large jar of instant coffee and two red mugs wishing them “health, happiness and hot love”.

Class conflict direct

Associated British Ports yesterday attempted to deflect shareholder hostility by announcing 150 job cuts designed to reduce costs by £5 million a year. Guardian, 11 December.

Class conflict obscured

Employee share-ownership schemes are taking off again for the first time since the late Eighties. Last week British Airways announced it will extend the scheme it offers UK workers to staff around the world . . . (Financial Mail on Sunday, 18 January). Stuart Bailey, corporate business consultant with Abbey National says . . . “People now see that the aims of workers and shareholders are increasingly similar.”

Honours amongst thieves

For an outspoken republican and a non-Catholic, a papal knighthood must come as a surprise. But media baron Rupert Murdoch is to receive just such an honour from the Pope. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced that the Australian-born mogul will be entitled to style himself a Knight of the Order of St Gregory . . . [A] spokesman for the Archdiocese said Pope John Paul II bestows the title on people of “unblemished character” and those who have “promoted the interests of society, the Church and the Holy See” [including those who have] made large donations to Catholic institutions, according to the announcement in the Los Angeles Times.


“Confidence is the bedrock of all capitalism.” Peter Morgan, commenting on the South Korean economic crisis on BBC Television News, 23 December.

Radical treatment necessary

In 1872 Engels demonstrated in three articles gathered together under the title The Housing Question that homelessness was an inescapable feature of capitalism. Everywhere in the world, ever since, wherever capitalism has spread, this has proved to be the case. Now, after years of campaigning and collecting, Shelter has announced in recent newspaper advertisements: “The number of homeless families has almost doubled in the last fifteen years . . .” Surely, this is tantamount to saying that the campaign wages by Shelter has been a failure? If a doctor prescribed a treatment for an ailment which, after fifteen years, was twice as bad, most of us would conclude that the treatment was the wrong one.

Too much food

Across Europe last year, fruit growers were paid £132m–£1.1m in Britain—for crops designated as surplus. A 25-year-old regulation specifies that the surplus has to be disposed of through “approved outlets”. Although these can include disposal for animal feed, the EU favours distribution to charities, old people’s homes and schools. It even offers grants to offset any expense incurred in giving the fruit away. Yet when British fruit growers, largely concentrated in the south of England, applied to the government’s Intervention Board to dispose of 2.3 million kg of apples, two million pears and 13.6 million cauliflowers after last year’s bumper harvest, all went into pig’s swill or were spread on farmland as fertiliser. Scotland on Sunday, 16 November.

Gulf Hypocrisy (1998)

From the March 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Saddam Hussein story is one that will dominate news reports for some time to come, as has indeed been the case since the Gulf War of 1991. Not least because the Gulf has been an issue the US—still anxious to find some hegemonic raison d’etre in the post-Cold War era—has been desperate to force as an international issue. And in place of the old “communist” menace, Saddam is as good a bogey man as the US can find to protect us from.

Few of us took President George Bush’s notions of a “New World Order” seriously after the events of 1989. If anything, the New World Order meant little more than that the US would seek every opportunity to maintain its dominant position in the world and, as was demonstrated in the Gulf in 1991, that the world was to be ruled by force and intimidation.

Saddam, who certainly replaced the USSR as the official US bogeyman in 1990, has had more than his fair share of criticism. However, Saddam’s transgressions, which we’ve highlighted many times in the past, are not the concern here. The real issue is the utter hypocrisy of the US and Britain over the Gulf crisis and the hidden agenda their cant conceals.

For instance, Saddam is lambasted for stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, chemical, weapons in particular. But isn’t it the case that the US, Britain and many other countries hoard the same? And wasn’t it the US who were themselves providing Saddam with anthrax not ten years ago, a poison weapons’ inspectors have been charged with tracking down? Moreover, when Saddam exterminated 5,000 Iraqi Kurds in the town of Hallabjah in 1988, who was more silent than Washington? As for Britain, the RAF have used mustard gas on Iraqi Kurds on several occasions in the past, in response to their demands for a homeland.

Saddam is often ridiculed as another Hitler, an unpredictable madman, a ruthless dictator. Yet these same opprobrious remarks come from the same people who armed him during a 10-year war with Iran, who tipped him off about a coup attempt days before he invaded Kuwait and who were sending weapons shipments to Iraq one month before Iraqi troops crossed the Kuwaiti border.

Indeed, these same accusers leant their support to Pinochet and Galtieri, Trujillo, Marcos and Duvalier.Amin, Bokassa, Mobuto and Haile Selassie. The simple fact is that you’d be hard pressed to find a “madman” the West has not sponsored in the past 50 or so years.

Let’s get one thing straight; and this we have reported on numerous occasions. The Gulf War of 1991 had nothing to do with toppling Saddam and neither has any subsequent US attack on Iraq. This was recently made clear by UK Defence Secretary George Robertson who announced: "We are not in the business of toppling Saddam. This will be a job for his people” (Guardian, 3 February).

Washington is all too aware of the dangers a fragmented Iraq could pose the Gulf region were Saddam to be ousted. The country could easily split into three—a Kurdish north, a Sunni middle and a Shi'ite South—or into a plethora of warring factions, as was the case in Libya in the 1980s and Somalia 10 years later. In any event a further crisis would pose a greater threat to US hegemony and Gulf oil profits. It is, after all, no coincidence that the US State Department refers to the Gulf’s oil as "a stupendous source of strategic power” and “one of the greatest material prizes in world history”. Hence, the Western desire that Saddam stays where he is.

What is obvious is that the US and Britain are defending no moral high ground in the Gulf. Saddam’s disregard for the UN and world opinion in general reflects that of the US itself on many occasions, and the crimes and atrocities attributed to his regime fall well within the scope of similar atrocities the US have themselves deemed acceptable since 1945.

The present Gulf crisis should reveal at once the lengths the US and its sidekick, Britain, are prepared to go to secure the interests of their respective corporate elites. It also reveals just how obsessed the US is with the concept of “global leadership".

That millions in Iraq continue to suffer in the name of profit is a scathing indictment on the politics of power and its consequent rewards.The sad truth is that we will enter the 21st Century no wiser for the conflicts that saw the 20th Century close. The next century offers no end to the madness until workers begin to tear away the thin veil of conceit capitalism cloaks itself in and see at last the system in all its hideous nakedness, as the monster it always was, and will be.
John Bissett

Bombing people in Iraq, to protect oil supplies, has long been a part of Labour's "ethical foreign policy” going back to the first Labour government in 1924, as the extracts, below, from the Socialist Standard of the time show:

Labour Rules The Empire With Bombs and Bullets.

The repeated use of bombs in Mespot by the Air Force since the Labour Government came into office is another item in their black and brutal record. It shows how willing they are to do the dirty work for the capitalists in maintaining their ownership and control. Under the Conservative Government bombs were frequently used to aid in compelling payment of taxes, but, of course, that was "the dirty method of the Capitalists.” How similar the rule of the Labour Party is was admitted by Mr. Leach, the Labour Minister, in the House of Commons in answer to a Tory question. He said:-
We had communicated with our military and air headquarters in Iraq in regard to the whole situation in bombing operation, and I cannot honestly say that we have made any change in the policy of the late Government .-(Parliamentary Debates, June 30, column 925.)
The "pacifist" minister defends bombing as a humane method and tells the Daily Herald (July 15) that it is "a great saving to the taxpayer," as military forces cost more! In the language of an Empire Builder, he talks of the necessity to stop the tribesmen fighting, so that the land of oil annexed to "our Empire" shall be a sweet land of peace and profit. Therefore, the Labour Government is suppressing all attempts at rebellion by the kindly and Christian use of bombs.

This rule of force in the interests of Capital is shown also by the shooting down of Indians under this Labour Government. 
(Socialist Standard, August 1924.)

How Labour Ruled Mespot. The Truth About The Slaughter.

When it became known the bomb-dropping was regularly used by the Labour Government as a means of peacefully persuading Irak Tribesmen that British capitalism had a better right in their country than they had themselves, many simple supporters of the Labour Party were shocked. They had supposed that Empires can be built on love and maintained by soft words, and they were greatly relieved when Mr. Leach explained the whole matter away.

Mr. Leach accounted for British occupancy of the territory by saying that it was a point of honour to remain and fulfill “our" pledges; and he was able to give the assurance that:
Under our administration British air operations have so far caused no death. Thanks to the method of warning notices, submission takes place five times out of six without recourse to bombs, and has succeeded in the remaining cases through the destruction of property and cattle.-Daily Herald, July 15th, 1924.
Now Lord Thomson, Chief of the Air Ministry, of which Mr. Leach was Under-secretary, has disclosed the real facts. It was not honour but capitalist interest in oil which kept the Labour Government in Irak, and with regard to the bomb-dropping Mr. Leach appears to have resorted to complete suppression of the facts.

The following quotation is from a lecture given by Lord Thomson at a meeting of the Central Asian Society on November 21st ("The Times.” November 22nd, 1924.)

After briefly tracing the route followed in his tour, Lord Thomson brought home to his audience the efficacy of bombing by describing the manner in which the recent Wahabi invasion of the Transjordan was crushed. The British forces consisted solely of aeroplanes sent out at the shortest possible notice, backed by armoured cars. The effect of our air attack was appalling. Some 700 of the tribesmen were killed and the rest, seized with panic, fled into the desert, where hundreds more must have perished from thirst. Unless some such punishment as swift and terrible as this had been inflicted, the task of restoring order would have been long drawn-out. and in the end more costly in lives and money, while the results would not have been so lasting.
(Socialist Standard, December 1924.)

Greasy Pole: Death of a Dangerous Man (1998)

The Greasy Pole column from the March 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

No sooner had the nation recovered from its hysteria over Princess Diana than it was rocked by the death of a man reputed to have one of the most powerful and rational brains ever to invade the House of Commons, but who was politically a pathetic failure. We refer, of course, to Enoch Powell and we know about that famous brain because of all those politicians who told us about it. “ . . . magnetic,” crooned Margaret Thatcher, “listening to his speeches was an unforgettable privilege.” “ . . . one of the greatest orators and foremost parliamentarians of his generation,” clucked William Hague. “One of the greatest figures of 20th century British politics, with a brilliant mind,” gushed Tony Blair, during a short break from gushing about the Spice Girls and Bill Clinton.

Well Powell was not a crooner nor a clucker nor a gusher but he obviously had a pretty high opinion of himself, which he liked to express in a number of eccentricities. In the late 1940s for example, when he was working at Tory Headquarters, he would travel to work on the Tube at an hour early enough for him to buy a cheap “workman’s” ticket, dressed in hunting clothes. However hot the weather he always wore a heavy three-piece, no nonsense, suit. He left exact instructions about his funeral, including that he should be buried in his old brigadier’s uniform. Finally, his very name was eccentric; what are we to expect of someone in the public eye who insists on being known as Enoch when his first name was John?

This leads us to the all-important question of what is the basis of Enoch’s reputation for having one of the world’s most rational and incisive intellects? Well it was not consistency. This was a man who pioneered the Tories’ opposition to state planning—an idea which flourished under Thatcher, but who as a minister had supported state intervention in education, health and social services and who, according to his friend and colleague Iain McLeod, produced “ . . . the two longest-term social plans in this country, the ten-year plan for hospitals, and for local welfare services”. This was the man who resigned from the government in 1958 because he thought government spending was too high at £6,524 million but who accepted office as a minister in 1960 although it had continued to rise—by 1961 to £8,134 million. Having got the taste for resignation he did it again—or something like it—a couple of years later when he refused to be a minister in Douglas Home’s government. But whatever objection he had to Douglas Home as a boss had been assuaged by 1964, when he felt able to join the Shadow Cabinet under that same dozy, amiable Scottish aristocrat.

In spite of this Powell could still gain public attention when, in April 1968, he produced the most notorious example of his vigorous intellect with his “foreboding” about the effects of non-white immigration. Among the “evidence” he produced to justify his pessimism was a bit which might kindly be described as anecdotal. A woman in Northumberland, he said, had told him about an elderly woman in Wolverhampton—about 200 miles away—who was “ . . . afraid to go out. Windows are broken. She finds excreta pushed through the letterbox”. The implication was clear—immigrants were terrorising this poor woman, white British people never behave in this way. The problem for Powell was that he was not able to identify this woman and all efforts to find her were unsuccessful.

But the problem for other people was rather different because Powell’s speech had an instant, unexpectedly disturbing effect. Suddenly he was transformed from an aloof and fastidious man into someone who represented popular opinion:
"Powell had become a rallying point for most of the hostility and rage we encountered, a shorthand for hatred and contempt 'I’m with Enoch/they said, or ‘they should let Enoch sort you lot out’ and that was enough’’ (Mike Phillips, Guardian, 9 February).
A woman, now a mother of three, remembers “I was 18 at the time and I was really scared because so many people suddenly became openly hostile. They all thought we ate Kit-E-Kat so I stopped buying tinned food for the cat.”

It really was like that and the dominant mood was represented by those London dockers who marched in support of Powell. At that time the unions in the docks were extremely powerful, always ready to exert their power through strikes and other forms of disruption. How much did the marching dockers know about Powell’s views on the usefulness of their unions—” . . . [the remuneration of labour] is rarely affected appreciably, upwards or downwards, by combination; and then the effect is more or less temporary and purchased at the cost of the general public, including other workers”? How many of them knew about his callous views on people—they are always workers—who have to wait for treatment in hospital:
". . . if people are on a waiting list long enough, they will die—usually from some cause other than that for which they joined the queue. Short of dying, however, they frequently get bored or better, and vanish.”
And how many of them knew that this man who ranted about the alleged devastation the immigrants were bringing to beauty spots like Wolverhampton had done his utmost to encourage immigration to this country when, as Minister of Health, he had organised a drive to recruit workers for the National Health Service from the West Indies?

Most of the obituaries for Powell went out of their way to be kind to him. On TV Simon Heffer, his biographer, denied that he was a racist—because he was fond of India, he said. So what, we might ask if Powell was not a racist, why did he do nothing when he saw the effect of his “foaming with blood” speech? Was this another example of the bottomless confusion of this supposedly brilliant mind? Or was it a calculated attempt, after all those years of being denied even a hope of leading his party, to leapfrog his rivals, whom Powell held mostly in contempt, with one dangerous, resounding speech?

Whatever the truth of this, one thing needs to be said about this man. He stood for a society of class division, of riches and poverty, of racism, of fear and disunity.The only thing unusual in him was the recklessly callous way he did this. And as for his supposedly brilliant intellect—is this really the best capitalism can offer us?