Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Moral Craze (1998)

From the June 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard
A miserable moral anxiety is in the air. The self-righteous are on the march. Wrong. Right. Good. Evil. Simplistic moral certainties blast from the megaphones of the media, as the high priests of Capital cast their judgements upon everything but the lousy system of class exploitation that keeps the vicars, the rabbis, the mullahs and assorted other bullies in business.
From presidential blow jobs to ex-murderers signing book deals, an obsession with the trivia of individual transgressions serves as a soap opera distraction from the pervasive atrocities of the system. How much easier it is to incite crowds of under-educated, aimless, embittered kids to riot in Bristol because a sex offender released from prison is sitting in a police cell thinking deranged thoughts than to attend to the malignant rationality of a social system which condemns millions of children to the fatal abuse of starving in a world of plenty.

We know what the Moors’ murderers did. We know where they are. We know that Evil is getting its due reward. And how easy it is to sit in perpetual anger, demonising their villainy. We are told their names and their crimes are repeated with regularity in a frenzy of tabloid outrage, as if these were the sole disrupters of an otherwise tranquil society. We do not see published the names of those decision-makers in the World Bank whose determination to cut aid here and finance dictators there has led to millions dwelling in poverty and perishing needlessly. There are no scowling mugshots of those men in suits from the IMF who enrich themselves upon the corpses of those who cannot be milked for profit. Where are the lurid tabloid accounts of the sordid merchants of death who jet from nation to nation attending arms fairs, exchanging millions of dollars for the latest weapons of murder, the most sophisticated torture equipment, the means of creating hell on earth? For such callous inhumanity they will be medalled, given knighthoods, made richer than the most violent of gangsters could hope to become. It is a highly selective morality that capitalism embraces.

Jack Straw, the man who shopped his own son to the police for possessing dope, appears in front of every camera that will recognise him. He is in a denouncing mood. He has been taking lessons from Michael Howard. He is Disgusted of New Labour, ready to write to his MP and demand that something is done when it occurs to him–I am an MP, so I can pursue my philistine rage in the name of justice. So the tabloid rags, with their naked models and naked lies, provide space for the Straw man to denounce the child killer who was paid money for helping to write a book about what, as a deranged child, had made her kill. Thatcher demands $25,000 a time to appear before worshipping Americans with her kiss-and-tell Falklands memories. The murdered conscript crew of the Belgrano is conveniently unmentioned either by Thatcher or the tabloid bog rolls. But Straw is not denouncing Thatcher. Neither is Blair. They are out to pick on an old woman who has written a book regretting that she had once committed a hideous offence. Is it the money that they begrudge her? Or the fact that she has dared to confuse the simplicity of witch-hunting by expressing remorse?

Sickening hypocrisy
How convenient these moral distractions are for those with an indefensible system to sustain. So, Robin Cook insists that he did not know–or forgot–or wasn’t as bad as the Tories had been if he did indeed know–that arms were being sold to mercenaries in Sierra Leone, even though international law forbade it. Call in the broadsheet detectives who will piece by piece, in the manner of a bad Agatha Christie novel, seek to unravel the story. There is a rather bigger story they will ignore, of course. Who are the regimes to which Mr Cook is quite happy and legally free to sell weapons of mass destruction? When last did the Foreign Office publish a list of those companies in Britain which make profits from selling torture equipment to dictators? And how big are those profits? And what precisely has happened to those upon whom they have been used? Can we expect a statement about that, Mr Cook? Perhaps the tortured and the bombed should be informed that these

British weapons have been sold in the name of an “ethical foreign policy”. A further twist of the knife. But Cook can rest easy in his bed, for the journalists are much more concerned about who he shares it with than how many lives he helps to ruin as head of one of the biggest arms-exporting nations in the world. Now, that’s what the public need to know: Was Robin Cook unfaithful to his wife? Will he be unfaithful to his new wife? And was Bill Clinton the innocent victim of a crazed young girl’s fantasy or was she the victim of a dirty old man’s fantasy? And what about OJ Simpson–and George Michael–and Michael Jackson–and on and on until a frenzy or moral anxiety scares everyone into trusting no-one, particularly themselves. Because when the majority are frightened and unconfident they trust the nearest bully who will tell them that his mob can keep the streets safe.

Law and Order.
We have always known that Labour and Tories support the same system. The current fashion for shocked or amused realisation that Blair is to Major what Major was to Blair is no postmodern irony–just what socialists have been saying for decades. But can even the most hardened of scientific socialists be permitted just the merest morsel of surprise at the ease with which New Labour has taken to its very heart–or, more probably, its Christian soul–the indecently unforgiving, excessively punitive, uncouthly scapegoating rhetoric which seeks to monopolise virtue as a state asset while condoning every crime of capitalism as if it has nothing at all to do with them? The fine-tuned skills of sickening hypocrisy have exceeded all negative expectations.

The worst of this obsession with personal moral transgressions is its failure to see anti-social behaviour as anything but inner weakness: an inherent flaw. So the fault must be purged–isolated–tormented–anything but understood. And this is the right way for capitalism to respond. Because the alternative would be to go beyond the tabloid simplicities of crime and punishment and seek the cause of what makes killers kill and sex offenders offend and muggers mug. There is the Saudi Arabian response–of which New Labour’s toughness is a cowardly imitation–which refuses to ask questions. And if you cut off the hands of enough shoplifters and whip enough adulterers it will not be too long before the message is driven home and only the most persistent offenders need to be tortured, killed or incarcerated. Elegantly simple. The more complicated alternative of seeking causes is not that difficult. Most child sex abusers were themselves victims of child sex abuse. Most muggers are from families that are poor and uneducated rather than affluent and privileged. Many rapists have immersed themselves in commercially packaged porn, appealing to their disempowered craving for respect and power, before they rape women. In short, the behaviour of those we least like arises from specific social relationships. We cannot ignore or approve of the relationships and then indulge in orgies of moral indignation because they produce inevitable social effects.
Steve Coleman

New Itinerary for Africa (1998)

From the June 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Those who chanced upon UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s recent report on Africa’s ills, requested by the UN Security Council as a contribution to the US effort to bring about an “African Renaissance”, could be forgiven for thinking it was written by President Bill Clinton on behalf of the US corporate elite.

Annan’s manifesto smacked of the same hypocrisy and was fused with the same Orwellian double-speak as had characterised much of President Clinton’s speeches during his six-nation tour of Africa in March.

Annan’s blueprint called for continent-wide reforms and urged Africa to solve its own problems. He criticised the “accountability of leaders”, neglecting to mention just how many were US-backed, the “inadequate checks and balances, non-adherence to the rule of law”, the lack of respect for human rights, argued that African governments should stamp out corruption and accused African states of being far too reliant on military force. All of this would be laughable were it not downright pathetic, for the same critique could just as easily be levelled against the US, with particular emphasis on violations of human rights and some 300 foreign military interventions.

The report suggested Africa could steer a path to “economic liberation”, by ushering in deregulation and the privatisation of state-controlled industries and that the private sector was the engine of growth that would speed Africa’s integration into the world economy.

Ever the altruist, Annan also suggested that other countries could also do their bit to help Africa, but for instance by reducing debt repayments and by opening their markets to African goods, and he proposed that a ministerial session be held every six months by the UN Security Council that would result in a summit in five years’ time. Talk about the triumph of hope over experience!

It hardly seems coincidental that Annan’s report comes less than a month after president Clinton’s six-nation tour of Africa, nor that this tour included specifically those countries deemed economically stable, countries highly rated in a Harvard study which listed African countries according to “good governance and competition”—Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, Senegal and Uganda. Rwanda was included but only as an afterthought and the object of the visit to “send a message that genocide is not acceptable and cannot go unpunished”, (Guardian, 26 March)—brave words indeed from a president whose military machine brought about bloodshed in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Iraq on a much greater scale than in Rwanda.

Pre-empting Annan’s report, President Clinton had previously declared his 12-day visit to Africa to be all about “delivering the message that the US stands ready to be an active partner in Africa’s prosperity”, (Guardian, 16 March). If past experience is anything to go by, Africa’s immiserated millions should set no store by such statements. For when it comes to trade with Africa and direct foreign investment, the facts speak for themselves:

Whereas flows of direct foreign investment reached $315 billion in 1995—two-thirds of those transactions between the wealth OECD countries—only 0.5 percent found its way to the developing world. and while the former are the main beneficiaries of the “Uruguay Round” of GATT, sub-Saharan Africa is expected to lose $1,200 million per year. It is also the case that trans-national corporations (TNCs) have almost total control over the process of globalisation, and that they can dictate the terms and conditions governments must adhere to prior to investment. These same TNCs will have the biggest say in Africa’s future, and it’s worth pointing out that in 1994, the top 5 TNCs had an income of $871.4 billion, compared to sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP of $246.8 billion, that in the same year General Motors alone enjoyed corporate sales of $168.8 billion, while Nigeria (Africa’s most populous country) had a GDP one-fifth of that figure.

This is the reality behind Kofi Annan’s diatribe. These are the facts President Clinton’s speeches are devoid of. There is no real agenda to lighten the lot of the average African, regardless of the cant contained in the recent African Growth and Opportunity Act approved by the US House of Representatives. Africa may well experience growth, but when the big boss is sent over to Africa you can bet your bottom dollar the real beneficiaries are already sizing up Africa’s mineral deposits and the exploitability of the African working class. That whereas in the past, when Africa was divided between the superpowers, each one pursuing their own interests, the future will see Africa divided between the super TNCs.
John Bissett

Obituary: Sid Woodhall (1998)

Obituary from the June 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sid Woodhall died in mid-January this year. Who was Sid Woodhall? You won’t find his name in any newspapers and he never received a title or was honoured by the Queen or voted “Australian of the Year”. In fact Sid died virtually alone without family or friends to remember him. Sid would be classed as a “nobody” and our society would be completely unaware that he ever existed.

But Sid did exist and he first contacted me by letter in October 1995. Although we never did meet I got to like Sid through a lively exchange of letters and I discovered a lot about Sid’s life which has left a lasting impression upon me. During this all-too-brief association it was clear that Sid was seriously ill and yet his correspondence demonstrated a great variation of interests and a sense of humour that I could really take to. I regret losing a friend who I wish I could have known longer.

Sid Woodhall was born in East Ham, in London’s East End on 2 January 1927. He was the youngest child, born—no doubt surprisingly—to parents who were at that time, quite elderly. His father was a tug skipper, hauling barges on the river Thames between Woolwich and Tower Bridge. As a lad Sid would often hear SPGB speakers on street corners and outside pubs and their Socialist message is something that registered and never left Sid’s mind.

Sid was still a schoolboy when World War II started and he was evacuated with his elder brother to Devon to escape the bombing blitz upon London. He described his elder brother as “a bit of a villain” who consistently managed free transport into Exeter so Sid and he could regularly see the sights of that city.

Sid left school during the war and soon afterwards he was conscripted into the coal mines as a “Bevin Boy”. This was a scheme devised by the then Minister of Labour, Ernest Bevin, where young men, selected by ballot, were sent to work in coal mines instead of doing conventional, military service. The importance of coal at this time was paramount. HM Navy Fleet and Merchant shipping were almost entirely coal-fired and the railways were completely dependent upon coal.

Sid was sent to Doncaster main colliery No.67 for four weeks’ training. “You walked into the side of a mountain (Dole Holes) and coupled up trucks just about 100 yards from the pit face!” For four years extending beyond the end of the war Sid was forced to labour in a Barnsley coal mine in South Yorkshire. During this time he lost both parents. His mother died in 1946 and his father the following year.

Sid was kept in the mines after the end of the war until eventually military demobilisation provided adequate labour again. Sid was then summarily dismissed by the mine-owners and government “without any gratuity or help of any kind . . . not even a suit, which demobilised servicemen received. Now in his twenties and without any experience or training for anything else and employment priority given to returned servicemen, Sid found life difficult. Indeed he found he was unable to pay for adequate food and accommodation for himself. He was forced to rely on his married older sister to feed him and she gave him a few shillings from time to time to help him during this period.

Sid eventually became a seaman and joined the SS Orsova which voyaged regularly from Tilbury to Australia’s east coast ports. He also visited Fremantle, some pacific islands and ports on America’s pacific coast. In 1959 he left the sea and emigrated to Australia where his sister now lived, in Adelaide. The ending of a romance (“dumped by my girlfriend”) saw Sid travelling to Sydney and acquiring a job in a paper mill at Botany Bay. After seven months he returned to Adelaide where he took “umpteen jobs”.

In 1964 Sid trained to become a psychiatric nurse and for the next 18 years he witnessed some heart-breaking and distressing cases of humanity which he tried to tend. His most traumatic experience was his involvement in a nursing-home fire which caused the deaths of some patients and the follow-up coroner’s court enquiry.

Sid began to experience breathing problems and in 1982 they became so acute that he was forced to resign. Constant medical attention classified him as an official invalid until age 65 in 1992, when he became an aged-pension recipient.

During these years Sid’s elder brother in England and his elder sister in Australia died. Sid’s breathing problems deteriorated over the years and he was now virtually alone and living in a small rented South Australian Housing Trust flat. At times his breathing difficulties became dangerously severe and Sid now became a regular patient, visiting and staying in hospitals for tests and various attempted treatments to alleviate his suffering. Sid became more and more incapacitated but, when at home, he befriended and fed stray animals that other people had dumped. Sid expressed concern for the welfare of these animals.

Sid spent his 71st birthday in hospital struggling to breathe, dosed up with morphine. He died a few days later when his lungs refused to function any more.

The diagnosis of Sid’s condition apparently varied from “chronic asthma” to “asthma with complicated chest infections”. No treatment was able to halt the deterioration and the cause was never investigated. Was it purely coincidence that those vital years of Sid’s adolescent life were spent continuously breathing coal-dust? Is it not quite probable that the form of pneumoconiosis that plagues coal-mines also slowly killed Sid Woodhall? Sid suffered all his life, initially from humiliation then deprivation and finally from remorseless and agonising ill-health, all probably caused by the “joy” of being forced to help ungrateful capitalist governments to win their war.

Sid never forgot the words of the SPGB speakers which he heard in his youth. He was happy to re-associate with these ideas whenever he was able to. In a recent letter he wrote: “Although I will never see World Socialism develop it is essential that these ideas be kept alive until people are ready to accept them. If the Socialist idea is ever lost then all hope, not only for humanity but for the whole planet, is also lost.”

Sid was a somebody and he represented the hundreds of thousands of people who desire a better way of living so others can avoid the sufferings that are common under our present social system. Sid understood the significance of the Socialist ideal and that made him special. Personally, I would prefer one Sid Woodhall to 10,000 politicians, ambassadors, bureaucratic figure-heads and successful entrepreneurs. Perhaps you could find a moment or two to reflect upon what you now know about Sid Woodhall.
Ron  Stone, 
Western Australia

Greasy Pole: Tories lying low? (1998)

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

The Tory Party moves in a mysterious way, its wonders to perform. Well that bit about performing wonders may explain how they are moving at the present—which is mysterious indeed. We refer to the fact that, just over a year since Tony Blair moved into Number Ten, the Conservative Party seems bent on convincing everyone that they are in a condition rather like those persistent comas which often affect the victims of serious accidents. They are almost immobile. They make hardly a sound. Anxious friends gather round, wondering whether it is true yet to switch off the beeping life-support machine.

While it is true that William Hague is active and noisy, often outsmarting Blair in the puerile exchanges of Prime Minister’s Questions (which sends the sparsely occupied benches behind him into raptures) the same cannot be said for the rest of the Tory Shadow ministers. For example the career of Robin Cook at the Foreign Office has so far been a succession of crises—without counting those on his domestic scene. A most recent of these has been the arms-to-Sierra Leone affair, which threatened to implicate him over the breaches of a United Nations embargo on sending weapons to that unhappy country. But through all his difficulties it seems that Cook has been able to rely on his opposite number not to make things more difficulty by behaving like—well, his opposite number.

For those who don’t know it—and there must be many—Cook is shadowed by Michael Howard, who used to be a Home Secretary who would bring the House down at Tory Conferences with his promises to have half the population in prison and the other half keeping them there. Howard made a name for himself as a political bruiser (as Jack Straw once found out, to his obvious discomfort) and he was expected to give Cook a very, very rough ride. When he did speak on the issue it was not with his customary ruthlessness.

Mary Bell
Then there is the case of the man Howard savaged in the Commons. Jack Straw looks and sounds like a person oppressed by visions of marauding teenagers out late at night, washing the windscreens of strangers’ cars when they should be at home doing their homework. Straw’s quick-fire populist responses to every vote-worthy incident in the lad-and-order filed makes the knee-jerk reactions for which Thatcher’s Home Secretaries were notorious look positively elephantine. Consider, for example, his desperate attempts to cash in on the tabloid frenzy over the Gita Sereny book about Mary Bell. There is no question that Mary Bell did an awful thing—although how awful it was in comparison to the mass murder in wars which the Labour Party so eagerly supports is another question. It was probably an unwise move by the author, to pay Mary Bell for being interviewed for the book—although how this should be worse than the arms industry making profits by supplying dictatorships in places like Indonesia is something to ponder on.

But these were side issues. The gutter press, ignoring the fact that some of them had made large offers to Mary Bell for her story, saw a wonderful opportunity to create the kind of self-righteous panic which helps them sell so many copies. Faced with a surge of mob hysteria demanding all manner of irrelevant, illegal or impractical things, Straw might have taken a stand, instead he acted in what we suppose must be called his character and posed as the mob’s friend in High Places.

After 1945
The Shadow Home Secretary is Brian Mawhinney, who during his time as Tory Party chairman had plenty of practice in the business of reconstructing reality and seizing every opportunity to make a party point. Naively, it might have been expected that Mawhinney would have wanted to expose Straw’s disgraceful behaviour, if only to make a few people wonder whether there was more to him than a dishonest party hack. But from Mawhinney there was no comment worth so much as a mention in the media. Perhaps he was submissively contemplating his own boredom, which is rumoured to be responsible for Hague’s intention to ditch him at the coming reshuffle.

Stephen Dorrell, who was a minister in the last government and who may yet become Conservative leader, had recently said that his party is deliberately keeping silent because the voters simply don’t want to hear from them for a couple of years. Dorrell says that was how the Tories behaved after their defeat in 1945 but that hardly fits the facts. As in 1997, in 1945 the Conservative were damaged by a reputation for cynicism and complacency. They were held responsible for the inter-war slumps and for collusion with Nazi Germany, which led to the outbreak of war. But their reaction to electoral defeat was anything but despairing. Under the chairmanship of Woolton they at once set about reorganising their party.

One effect of this was to turf out many of the vacuous buffoons who rarely spoke in, or even attended, the Commons but who had won the nomination for a safe Tory seat by contributing handsomely to the local party’s funds. It was among these Honourable members that the Nazis had their most enthusiastic supporters. Another effect was the production of a series of policy statements—like the Industrial Charter, which was approved at the 1947 Tory Conference, described by its originator R. A. Butler in his memoirs as
” . . . an assurance that, in the interests of efficiency, full employment and social security, modern Conservatism would maintain strong central guidance over the operation of the economy.”

Election winners
And there was the emergence of the Tory Party, out from the genteel exchanges of coffee mornings and whist drives into the crude robustness of the outdoor meeting. This was quite a shock to them, not to mention to their audiences but it was all intended to prove that the party had changed; it had taken the lesson of the defeat to heart and it was now a party which cared and listened and acted. A people’s party in fact—and where have we heard that before?

Whatever the reason for the Conservatives being now so quiescent it would be very unwise to write them off as an electoral force, as so many did in 1945. They are among the world’s most expert election winners, which was why Blair and his acolytes decided that Labour’s best chance of being elected was to become as much like the Tories as possible. For the Conservatives there is an obvious danger in keeping so far below the parapet: stay there too long and the voters will grow up believing that Tony Blair has always ruled over us and always will—which will be neither mysterious nor wonderful.
Ivan

Appeal for funds for India (1998)

Party News from the June 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

The World Socialist Party (India) is in the process of building a party headquarters in Calcutta.They need money to complete the building and also to equip it with office furniture, a computer, a fax machine and other modern methods of communication. The office is situated at 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East).Acharyya Prafulla Park, Calcutta 700086.

Donations can be sent via the Socialist Party of Great Britain. We will collect the money and forward it as a single sum so as to minimise bank charges.

Please send any donation to:

India Fund, Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN. Cheques should be made payable to: “The Socialist Party of Great Britain”.

Thank you in advance.

The Reverend Bigot, I Presume? (1998)

TV Review from the June 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

When socialists have engaged reactionaries and fascists in debate before now, our critics on the left-wing of capitalism’s political apparatus have opposed us and, on occasion, tried to break-up our meetings. We have always insisted that the best way to effectively oppose reactionary ideas is to give them critical, public exposure to the socialist viewpoint.

Preventing free speech is neither democratic (and socialists are democrats–indeed the democrats) nor an effective way of preventing the spread of dangerous ideas and political illusions. While the left have been correct to assert the view that giving repugnant ideas exposure can sometimes assist them gain credence, it does very much depend how those views are conveyed. There has been no better illustration of this process than the recent Witness programme for Channel Four entitled “Dr Paisley, I Presume”, first shown at the end of April and then repeated due to popular demand in mid-May.

This was a programme in which one of Britain’s foremost bigots and racists was made to look the complete and utter fool many us already know him to be. It was entertaining, intelligently done, and merciless.

The focus of this programme was, of course, the Reverend Ian Paisley, or “Dr” Paisley to you. Dr Paisley was filmed—”fly-on-the-wall” documentary style–on a trip as a missionary to central Africa. The programme, though a one-off, took as its reference point the recent spate of serial documentaries previously commented upon in this column, such as BBC1’s Hotel about The Adelphi in Liverpool, or its series about Unijet’s holiday reps. Just like these programmes, it was not an overt assassination–it was much more subtle than that. It was the filming of a slow and painful suicide.

It’s a jungle out there
It would be a very brave or foolish person who would voluntarily submit themselves to the intrusion of a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary camera crew. If you have as many personal foibles and outrageous opinions as the Reverend Doctor Ian Paisley, then you would have to be very brave or exceedingly foolish. (It is likely, incidentally, that Paisley is both of these things, remembering that there is no intrinsic merit in bravery anyway as any failed kamikaze pilot could tell you.) Realising this, it is probable that most of the people watching this programme anticipated what was delivered by the programme’s makers–Paisley’s self-inflicted crucifixion. In truth, this must have been one of the easiest jobs in television.

How could it be otherwise when the object of this documentary, followed around by a journalist of Jewish origins at the head of the camera crew, would only address him as “the Jew” or “the Israelite” while insisting that everyone refer to himself at all times as “Dr Paisley”? And how could it be otherwise when Paisley communicated via walkie-talkie with this Jewish journalist with the opening line “Germany calling! Germany calling!”? The fact that he went on to explain such behaviour with the comment that “there is a little bit of the racist in all of us” did nothing more to help his cause. Neither did his patronising and self-serving attitude towards the Africans he met assist him much either.

But where this documentary departed from those like Hotel and Reps was in the attitude engendered among viewers towards the victims of this arrogance and foolishness. It was possible to feel a great deal of sympathy towards the victims of the profit-hungry Britannia group who run Liverpool’s Adelphi, but Paisley’s victims were of a different type. The most pathetic victim of all was Paisley’s right-hand side-kick, the quintessential hen-pecked husband married to the Racist Reverend (only metaphorically speaking of course). Rarely outside of the Cabinet Room of Number Ten Downing Street has such a pathetic sycophant been given such timely exposure. Tending to Dr Paisley’s every whim and desire without apparently one questioning thought entering his head, here was a man who had found his true vocation in life as arselicker-in-chief to the Bullshitter General Persuviant.

This man (who we shall not name for fear of detracting attention from his under-exposed and misunderstood master) is in need of help and socialists are, naturally enough, here to help him and those like him. There are people all over the world just like this man, whose life’s ambition has been to turn themselves into human clones of Dolly the sheep. But luckily for them all, socialists have the wherewithal to reverse this terrible affliction and make these people truly human again. We have, one might say, the technology–and it is our duty to use it wherever and whenever it is needed. Let the Free Presbyterian Church be one of our starting points.
Dave Perrin

Letters: The blessings of money (1998)

Letters to the Editors from the June 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

The blessings of money

Dear Editors,

In the March edition of the Socialist Standard there is an article entitled “The Curse of Money”. Whereas I consider such ought to be termed “The Blessings of Money”. For when Pol Pot destroyed money he didn’t advance his country to new heights, but rather dragged it back to the Stone Age.

Money gives the individual the facility of choice: spend it on immediate gratification, or invest it for long-term interest. Do as you please—but of course you take the consequences.

I have also taken the opportunity of enclosing several items from the Nottingham Evening Post, Friday 13 March 1998. You will find its very relevant to my comments.
Alan Donn, 
Nottingham


Reply: 
Of course if you have capitalism people need money—that’s one of the things wrong with capitalism—and the more of it you have the better you can live. But we’re not proposing the abolition of money within a capitalist society. As you point out, when Pol Pot tried this in Cambodia it had disastrous results. What we are advocating is a change in the basis of society from class ownership to common ownership so allowing the purpose of production to be changed from making a profit to meeting needs, one consequence of which will be that money will become unnecessary. In such a society people would have a much wider choice than they do today where the amount of money you have limits what you can get. The point made in the book which the article you mention reviewed was that money also poisons social relationships by reducing them to commercial, buying and selling.

The items you sent us from the Nottingham Evening Post about bonus payments to workers in Jessops department store don’t back up the point you are trying to make. They report that 750 workers are to share a “bumper payout” of £2m representing 22 percent of their annual salary or 12 weeks’ wages. A bit of simple arithmetic shows that each worker will be receiving an average of about £2,667 which is 22 percent of £12,112 a year—well below the average wage, even if some of the 750 will be part-timers. Jessops is part of the John Lewis Partnership which operates a scheme of paying workers low basic wages and then topping them up with bonuses related to profits. Most workers would probably prefer to receive their wages as a guaranteed £12,112 a year rather than as a basic £9,445 plus a possible bonus of £2,667. Profit-sharing schemes are a swindle designed to get workers to work harder and be grateful to their bosses for paying a part of their wages as if they were a share in profits.—Editors.

 
Socialism on one island?

Dear Editors,

Re your reply (“Socialism on one island?” April), you restate that a global balanced growth in socialist awareness is more likely, and ask: “What’s so special about the [British] 1 percent . . .?” Of course, the answer is Britons aren’t special, and socialism might take off quicker elsewhere. But can you not envisage a time when one country might have a particularly influential socialist; TV programme; publicity campaign; profits-before-people scandal etc—or a combination of these—which results in exceptional progress? That country’s socialist party would then have a choice of either pressing on to abolish capitalism first, or deliberately easing off to avoid uneven development—this latter choice probably being made if party members believe one-country socialism to be impossible. If this belief is erroneous, a critical opportunity may then be lost. Hence the suggestion that the feasibility of go-it-alone socialism be properly evaluated now.

For example, you suggest the downside of British-only socialism would be going without citrus fruits and other products “that won’t grow in these climes”. But a counter argument is that whereas using large translucent canopies, hothouses, genetically modified plants, artificial lighting etc to enable such growth may be economic madness under capitalism, it can easily become a socialist reality if needed.

I’m not nationalistically “deliberately aiming to establish socialism in just [one] country while the rest of the world remains solidly capitalist”. The fact is common ownership must start somewhere, and even you acknowledge the likelihood of “socialists having won control in some parts of the world but not everywhere”, so why not consider the workability of one-country socialism and its ramifications for global capitalism, in case we get the chance to board the first bus that comes our way? Ignoring it without good reason, and waiting years longer until a dozen come along together, isn’t necessarily the best way of getting from A to B.
Max Hess, 
Folkestone, Kent


Reply: 
The establishment of socialism is not a race between national sections to see who can get there first, but a co-ordinated world movement to ensure that we all get there at more or less the same time. If there is any uneven development it will be up to the world socialist movement to decide what to do. As we said in our pamphlet Questions of the Day (1978, p.64):
“Socialists are sometimes asked about another aspect of uneven development. This relates to the possibility that the socialist movement could be larger in one country than in another and at the stage of being able to gain control of the machinery of government before the socialist movements elsewhere were as far advanced.

Leaving aside for the moment the question as to whether such a situation is likely to arise, we can say that it presents no problems when viewed against the world-wide character of the socialist movement. Because capitalist governments are organised on a territorial basis each socialist organisation has the task of seeking democratically to gain political control in the country where it operates. This however is merely an organisational convenience; there is only one socialist movement, of which the separate socialist organisations are constituent parts. When the socialist movement grows larger its activities will be fully co-ordinated through its world-wide organisation. Given a situation in which the organised socialists of only a part of the world were in a position to gain control of the machinery of government, the decision about the action to be taken would be one for the whole of the socialist movement in the light of all the circumstances at the time.”
Editors.

Getting on in capitalism (1998)

From the June 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard





Party News (1998)

Party News from the June 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

The results in the three wards in which the Socialist Party stood in the May local elections were:

South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council—Primrose ward

Scorer (Lab) 1155, Smith (LD) 220, Armstrong (Con) 181, Bissett (Soc) 104.

Manchester City Council—Levenshulme ward

Whitemore (LD) 1550, McGregor (Lab) 771, Davies (Con) 148, Garratt (SLP) 104, Chislett (Green) 81, Pitts (Soc) 32 .

London Borough of Camden—Brunswick ward

Weekes (Lab) 653, Cousins (Lab) 601, Avery (Con) 443, Norman (Con) 376, Jones (LD) 286, Whitley (Green) 258, Parker (Soc) 58.

London Referendum

The Labour government has claimed public endorsement of their undemocratic proposal to have a directly-elected mayor for London who will have all the power, reducing an elected assembly to the status of a chat show. The actual results were:

Non-voters: 327,897 (65.4%), Yes: 1,230,715 (24.6%), No: 478,413 (9.5%), Rejected (spoiled and invalid papers): 26,188 (0.5%)

It would be nice to think that the unusually high number of rejected votes was due to people writing “Socialism” across the ballot paper, but most were probably blank votes.

 
No, thank you.

Last year two Labour MEPs, Hugh Kerr and Ken Coates, were expelled from the Labour Party for being too reformist. They are seeking support to get re-elected in opposition to Labour and feel that they may have a good chance since these elections will be held under a proportional representation system. In January a group calling itself the Green left issued a statement calling on “all radical and environmentally minded people-organisations to consult on the possibility of a green, democratic and pluralist alternative for the 1999 European elections and beyond. We ask the Green Parties of England, Wales & Scotland, the English Socialist Alliances, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Labour Party and all other Green Left Affiliates to respond positively to our consultation.”

At its meeting in May our Executive Committee adopted the following reply:
“The Socialist Party’s only aim is socialism as a society of common ownership and democratic control with production for use not profit. Because we hold that the best way to further the cause of socialism is to campaign for socialism and socialism alone—’to make Socialists’, as William Morris put it—we have always refused to ally ourselves with organisations which campaign for reforms to be achieved within the context of capitalism. We do not see that the introduction of proportional representation is a valid reason for abandoning this principled stance.

On these grounds, therefore, we decline your invitation to talks with a view to presenting joint candidates in the next European elections.

We shall, in all probability, be standing our own candidates in these elections, in opposition both to candidates who openly support capitalism and to those who are standing on a platform of reforms to be achieved within capitalism.”

Paper Money, Paper Tigers (1998)

From the June 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Malaysian student posted this question recently on the Internet:
“Forgive me being stupid but can somebody tell me why is our economics suddenly become like this? I thought all the while we are having very good economics growth but why within such a short period everything crash?”
The suddenness with which the “Tiger Economies” became “paper tigers” has left many people baffled and bemused. One minute the Asian economy was being talked up as a “new economic miracle”, the next minute it has fallen in like a house of cards. What on earth is going on?

Global capitalism, in two words. For years Western banks, looking for good returns, have pumped tens of billions into Thailand, Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia, creating a huge boom in the area. Investment in the region had always been encouraged by the US, as evidenced by their tactic during the Cold War:
“The notorious Domino theory was invented specifically for South-East Asia. To shore up the line of teetering dominoes, Washington made every effort to create loyal, capitalistically prosperous, authoritarian and anti-communist regimes . . .” (Benedict Anderson, London Review of Books.)
Powerplays aside, investors have been attracted for years by low-wage costs and poor unionisation in the area—to name two features nowadays more typical of Britain than South-East Asia. Naturally the Asian economy expanded, and its currencies looked solid as gold—a tropical paradise of capitalism, in fact. The credit boom inflated itself like a giant balloon.

Balloons burst, sooner or alter. All you need to burst a credit balloon is a needle of scepticism. If you continually lent money to a friend on the assurance of a fat profit, but you didn’t see any profit, eventually you’d wonder whether you were going to get any of your money back, profit or no profit. If you then discovered that he was maintaining his flat and fancy car with yet more borrowings from elsewhere, and all his supposed “assets” wee borrowed on credit too, you’d start panicking. When it looked like all his other creditors were panicking too, and somebody wasn’t going to get refunded, you’d probably steam in without further delay. Your friend would be in big trouble, and you wouldn’t be interested in accepting his IOUs, that is, his currency, because that would be pretty worthless too.

Something like this process has been going on in recent years in the Far East. When Thai finance houses started to look overstretched last year, alarm bells rang from Tokyo to New York, and bailout talks hurriedly began, but not before banks and investment companies had pulled out, foreign capital flows had reversed, and half-a-dozen local Asian currencies, which speculators had been gleefully trading at a high value, went into a nosedive. Paper money, as it turned out, wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Speculators dumped the now toilet paper money as fast as they could, in one stroke wiping a fortune off the value of the Asian economy. Share prices collapsed swiftly as the “smart money” headed for the airports, and economic recession rapidly left the surprised working population facing unemployment, poverty and an unpleasant future.

During all this there were furious recriminations all round. At the IMF-World Bank meetings in Hong Kong in December 1997, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamed, blamed powerful Western interests for engineering the crisis. The US blamed Japan for not going enough, while the Koreans reacted angrily to US and IMF efforts to squeeze concessions out of them in return for rescue, in other words kicking them when they were down. Certainly there has been a tendency not to rush to aid the Asians, as the crisis presents the West with the opportunity to get the Asians just where they want them, and muzzle the tigers’ teeth. But conspiracy theories against the West don’t take into account that an Asian currency collapse is terrible news for Western banks who have so much cash tied up there, and bad news too for Western economies in that it makes Asian exports cheaper while at the same time Asians are buying fewer Western products of any sort. In fact, the realisation is slowly dawning on the chortling politicians and media of the West that the Asian crisis may well trigger a global crisis. Smiles are slowly being wiped off faces, as the sinking figures come in.

The British owning class is tetchy anyway at present because it is having trouble selling anything abroad, thanks to the strong pound. Worse is coming. This strong pound is making Britain unattractive to foreign companies who were until recently rather keen to take advantage of Britain’s proud status as the worst and cheapest employer in Europe. Hyundai and Samsung have delayed plans to open large electronics factories in Britain which would have given Tony Blair the golden gift of 7,000 new jobs to brag about. Mitsubishi have closed a television factory, laying off 500 workers. Other Japanese and South Korean companies have decided not to proceed with investments. The Bank of Yokohama has sold off Guinness Mahon, a merchant bank, while the collapse of the investment bank Yamaichi has cost 300 jobs in London.

More “Titanic” than “Tiger”
While Blair loses his cool and desperately offers subsidies to the South Koreans, who have 2.6 billion pounds invested already, British exports to South Korea have halved in a few months while imports have risen by a quarter. The Asians may have gone broke, but now the British economy is bleeding from open arteries.

Everything the UK can presently sell to the Asians is taking a hammering. Tourism is falling off, as the number of spending visitors from the Far East drops by an estimated five percent and airlines have to reduce flights while London stores brace themselves for slashed profits. The British education business is also suffering. When it discovered that only its elite universities were attracting Asian students, it went in for a spot of “rebranding” and relabelled all its polytechnics as universities. Blair would call this “more choice”. Cynics would call it “selling mutton dressed as lamb”. The UK higher education system is kept going by foreign students, a quarter of whom come from the Asian area now in recession, and the Honours Degree business stands to lose around £130 million, despite the commercial rebranding exercise.

It would all be very funny indeed if it were just politicians being made to look stupid. But as usual it is the working class that suffers the cutbacks, the reduced standard of living, and the vicious and right-wing reform programmes that every such crisis engenders. Politicians won’t admit that they can’t predict how the economy will go, because they would be admitting they can’t control it. And to admit that is to beg the question: why bother voting for them, and why bother having capitalism at all? Why indeed?

The socialist view of capitalism is that it is essentially a half-way house in production relations on the road to post-scarcity society. when the world has developed its productive abilities to the point of abundance—which it did decades ago—capitalism fulfils its historical role and is of no further use. But to describe capitalism as merely “obsolete” scarcely conveys its sheer destructive power or the tragic effects on individuals of its continued existence. As capitalism consolidates itself all the way round the globe, its frequent booms and slumps—one of its unavoidable features—also become global. The disasters get bigger, and nastier.

Whether the world succumbs this time to an economic seizure, or endures this crisis in order to face the next one, there is no comfort for workers in capitalism’s discomfort. What’s bad for the rich is worse for the poor. That capitalism is chaotic is evident. That the poor had better abolish it before it kills them is a point we need to stress with all possible urgency.
Paddy Shannon

A Vision of the Post-War World (1941)

From the May 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard 

And Some Good News for Vegetarians 

During the course of the “war to end war” (World War No. 1), the promise was frequently held out to the people that after the war there would be a land “fit for heroes to live in.” We do not know what sort of a land the coiner of this phrase, Lloyd George, had in mind, nor what sort of a land was thereby conjured up in the minds of his hearers. The interested enquirer, however, who remembers this England of before the last war, if he cares to take a walk round some of the suburbs of London or any other “great” city, will notice that there is no essential difference in the appearance of these quarters—there are the same long rows of dingy-looking streets—the same dingy-looking inhabitants living on the same low-protein diet. At first sight, the only noticeable difference is that the area covered by the dwellings of the workers has become vaster in extent. Huge new estates of semi-detached houses have covered the outskirts of the big towns like a flood ; in them the hire-purchase occupiers, in the delusion that they are “buying their own homes,” are constantly harassed by the too-frequent repair bills caused by jerry-building workmanship, the necessity of keeping up the payments to the building society converts the spectre of unemployment into a nightmare; while in the majority of cases, these “family homes” become converted—in an effort to meet the recurring costs—into two-storey flats—but flats much smaller than those of pre-1914 flats, in fact, so microscopic that the phrase “no room to swing a cat” has completely passed out of the lingo.

But stay, as one looks around, and ponders, a new, castle-like building suddenly strikes the eye—it is a police station. Obviously a first-class architect must have designed the magnificent proportions of this mosque-like structure; of harmonious forms, it towers over the landscape like the feudal castle in some mediaeval city. Looking around again, one notices that other buildings have also imposed themselves upon the landscape. Here is a magnificent new employment exchange; there a block of luxury flats at rents equal or superior to the entire contents of the average worker’s wage packet. No jerry-building here, my friends, of ferro-concrete construction and parquet floors, it will stand foursquare to the winds of time when the jerry-built homes of England have long-since been condemned by the “enlightened” local authority. We mentioned diet. Those who are familiar with workmen’s eating-houses and wayside cafes—not to mention the imitation-marble teashops where so many town dwellers take their mid-day meal, will have been struck by the extent to which during the last twenty years the roast beef of old England has been replaced by dishes in which baked beans are the staple food; so that to fill the void, one’s first thought is not “roast beef and two veg.,” but baked beans on toast, baked beans and sausages, or baked beans and chips. In public-houses “roast beef and two veg.” has been replaced by “roast beef and three veg.,” but the portion of roast beef has grown smaller and is made up by the third veg. —baked beans ! Since the time of the “war to end war,” the roast-beef eating Englishman has been transmogrified into the baked-bean eating Englishman! This, then, is the “land fit for heroes to live in“—a land of police stations, labour exchanges, luxury flats, slum dwellings and bean eaters.

But now another conflict is afoot, and the powers that be need the support of the workers in order that it may be waged to a successful issue. For the first twelve months of the war, the promises were few and far between; but now they are becoming a deluge, and Church dignitaries, Labour leaders and company directors vie with one another in their promises to the electorate. Mr. Hugh Dalton, the Minister for Economic Warfare, says :
“We must build a new economics of plenty, founded on a rational plan. In face of our immense productive powers, there should be no poverty nor hunger any more. Nor workers by the million standing idle against their will.”—(Sunday Times, December 1st, 1940.)
While Mr. Arthur Greenwood, the Minister without Portfolio, and Labour leader, says: —
“After the war, Britain will not tolerate in her midst the tragic spectacle of abject poverty and unemployment … It will, I believe, be the pride of the nation to succour its citizens who during the war, or afterwards, fall on evil days, through bereavement, disability, disease or old age. We shall look forward to developing our educational system and social services. We are planning to get rid of ugliness in our towns, to build a fairer Britain, and to replace hovels by worthy homes.”—(News-Chronicle, January 14th, 1941.)
Notice the implication that these things were still in existence twenty years after the promise of a “land fit for heroes to live in.”

Herbert Morrison adds his little mite with, “I want change so big that I do not like to tell you you about it” (Evening Standard, December 12th, 1940). We would add—”so vague, that nothing can be made of it.”

The Church, not to be outdone, adds its voice to the crescendo of promises. Signifying their approval of the Pope’s five points, including the “development of universal love,” four prelates of the Churches—Dr. Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury; Dr. Temple, the Archbishop of York; the Rev. Walter Armstrong, Moderator of the Free Church Federal Council; and Cardinal Hinsley, Catholic Archbishop of Westminster—-have agreed on five additional peace aim points, to wit—
“1. Extreme inequalities in wealth and possessions should be abolished.
“2. All children should have equal opportunities of education.
“3. The family as a social unit must be safeguarded.
“4. The sense of a Divine vocation must be restored to man’s daily work.
“5. Earth’s resources should be used as God’s gifts to the whole human race.”
(News Chronicle, December 23rd, 1940.)
No. 5 sounds very much like Socialism, but is obviously inconsistent with No. 1, which assume the continuance of inequalities in wealth.

The scientific impossibility of putting into effect the many promises which have been and are being made while capitalism rules, has been examined in previous issues of the Socialist Standard. Here we are concerned to know what this post-war world will be like. As a result of this little survey, we can safely say that if the carrying-out of the last lot of promises is anything to go by, this world of “changes too big to mention,” will consist of bigger labour exchanges, bigger police station: super-de-luxe flats of even greater luxuriousness, and greater slums inhabited by a race of complete vegetarian Englishmen.

A famous statesman used to say : ”You can deceive some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time, but you can’t deceive all the people all the time.” If he were alive to-day however, he would appreciate that times have changed, and all you have to do to-day is to deceive most of the people most of the time—the minority simply doesn’t count !

In conclusion, it may not be inappropriate to re-quote Liebknecht’s words: —
“Every power outside ourselves on which we seek to lean is for us only weakness.”
Milbourne

A Message for Irish Workers (1941)

Editorial from the May 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

A recent issue of the Cork Weekly Examiner (22/3/41) prompts us to recall an article in the Socialist Standard of January, 1918. From that 23-year-old article we quote the following extracts : —
“Imagine 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 people, and in many cases different families, all huddled together, eating and sleeping and performing the ordinary functions of life in one room! How is it possible for the physical, mental and moral life of these men, women and children to be maintained when they are forced to herd together under such awful conditions ? The death rate in Dublin is the highest of the United Kingdom. The infantile death rate is 200 per 1,000 in Summer Hill and Gardner Street districts, and 220 in Church Street district. In Dublin there are 20,000 houses of one room.’ This is an extract from an article published in 1914 on the conditions in Dublin. At a sworn housing inquiry in the same city in 1913, Dr. McWalter, a member of the Insurance Committee, stated that about 10,000 families in Dublin were living under unhealthy conditions. Practically two persons out of every five died in institutions or asylums in Dublin, and that was absolutely abnormal. If they had 40 per cent. living in institutions, it meant that there were 40 per cent. who could not normally provide for themselves. He had known women who were obliged to live on 3d. per day. In twelve wards the influence of the slum landlord was very strong. He did not think there were more than three or four members of the Corporation who were slum landlords.

* * * * *

Let every British Socialist face the fact that Irish ‘patriotism’ is not Socialism, and that the achievement of Irish nationality, even up to the highest professed ideals of traditional Irish patriotism, namely the complete political separation of Ireland from Britain, would not ‘free Ireland’ one iota in any sense satisfactory to the international Socialist and absolutely demanded by Socialist principles. This age-long struggle of Irish ‘patriots’ to ‘free Ireland’ is, therefore, from the Socialist point of view, an utter chimera which, if it could be achieved, would be to the wretched wage-slaves of Ireland but as the apples of Sodom, fair to the eye, but turning to smoke and ashes when plucked. The international Socialist who happens to be an Irishman can, and does feel profound sympathy with all the struggles of his countrymen and even their pathetic efforts to achieve the utter futility—from the strictly Socialist point of view—of Home Rule, or of an Irish republic, can excite his pity for their useless sufferings, even though he cannot take part in their misdirected exertions.”
Another paragraph refers to the useless slaughter in Dublin the previous Easter, when 1,300 casualties occurred, many of which were women children and non-combatants. The article concludes : —
“Our solemn word to Irish wage-slaves is, let them use their remaining strength to shake off the leeches of capitalism, that are sucking their life blood, instead of hastening their destruction in a mad effort to set up Tweedledum in place of Tweedledee. Let them beware of ‘republics.’”
The Irish workers did not heed our message. Now, in 1941, after many years’ functioning of the Irish Free State, Mr. Hickey (Lab., Cork) is quoted as stating in the Dail: —
“An examination of the facts revealed that there was poverty among a large section of their people. The M.O.H. in Cork had reported that thousands living in Corporation houses had not more than 4s a week each to live on. Doctors in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, had complained that expectant mothers attending the ante-natal clinic were grossly under-nourished, and they had all seen appeals from the St. John Ambulance Brigade. Again, the Minister for Justice had told the House recently that 90 per cent. of the children sent to industrial schools represented dire poverty. In 1940 home assistance was double the 1939 figure in Co. Kerry. Like Deputy Dillon, he felt that the country was suffering increasingly from speculators and monopolists. Their law were grinding the poor and the rich were ruling the laws. The meagre unemployment assistance allowance was something any country in the world should be ashamed of.”
If another speaker (Mr. Esmonde, F.G., Cork West) is to be believed, the worker’s inability to obtain food is not due to shortage of supplies. He says:—
“They ought to tell the people the truth—that at this moment they were probably the richest nation in Europe so far as supplies per person were concerned There was no country where there was such plenty per head of the population, and it would be well to prepare the people for the fact that the situation could not continue. The people who were suffering were the people with fixed unemployment benefit.”
But some people are doing well. Mr. Milligan (F.G., Dublin North-west) stated: —
“Wheat Importers, Ltd., were making a profit of £250,000, which they had for distribution among themselves, after paying importing expenses, and, although the Board was supposed to be composed of those who had imported a certain amount of wheat over three years, it had emerged that people who had not that qualification, but who were friends of the Ministers, had been put on it. The elastic mills in Clare, which was a monopolist concern, had made a profit of £25,000, and the cement company, because of criticism of its profits, had lowered its dividend from 10 to 8 per cent.”
The influence of Irish capitalists upon the policy of the Government is shown by the statement of Mr. Hugo Flinn, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, who said : —
“The report of the Banking Commission showed that the majority of the moneyed opinion in this country was implacably of opinion that the accumulated savings of this country should remain locked up in sterling assets, and overseas investments and conversion into consumers’ goods. Did that opinion alter now when it was too late; there was a growing recognition among those interests that the better policy would have been to try to straddle between sterling and dollars and to convert more of their assets into consumers’ goods. If the Government had tried to purchase dollars or purchase reserves of goods while there was yet time, he doubted if the commercial and moneyed opinion would have backed the Government.”
The above-quoted extracts of speeches give the normal picture of a capitalist State. Despite its “national independence,” there is in the Irish Free State widespread poverty going arm in arm with great wealth.

This story of Irish poverty, Irish struggles, and the results of the achievement of Irish “independence,” has its lesson, not only for the workers of Ireland, but for the workers of Britain and of all other countries.

Balkan Bubbles (1941)

From the May 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

The spectacular changes that have recently transpired in the Near East have induced many people to study the geographical features of the locality affected who heretofore never troubled to do so. Greece has a large coastline for so small a country, with many islands in the vicinity and is so situated that its importance from the standpoint of naval and military strategy can at once be perceived. In the old days it was often stated that the control of Corinth meant the control of Greece, but that was when danger came from the East. The points that comprise the gateway between Europe and Asia are the Serbian plateau, Salonika and the Dardanelles. Germany has already captured two of these and is preparing to make a bid for the third. The extension of the sphere of operations to Asia can be anticipated, from which in all probability it will spread to the American continent. This means that practically all the human family will be involved and it would be of interest to discover how many of them have any clear idea of what the trouble is about.

The Prussians are marching with seven-leagued boots; they have often marched before. Under a Frederick, a Bismarck, the Kaiser, or Hitler, they indulge periodically in military adventures. Their recent trek is the longest they have made and their enemies are apparently determined it shall be their last. The reason why Germany has been able to move so rapidly in the Balkans is because ever since the days of Charlemagne, large numbers of her people have been moving South-East. In all the Balkan countries German minorities had settled themselves and many of these had for years been preparing the way for the invader.

In a previous issue of the Socialist Standard it was pointed out what is at stake in the present conflict. The control of the Rhine and the Danubian Waterways is the German Dictator’s ambition. He also aspires to cut a canal from Bucharest, in Roumania, to Salonika, in Greece. If the Rhine and the Danube are connected by a larger canal than the one now in operation, and the connection above referred to established with the Mediterranean, boats will be able to travel from the north to the southern sea without having to pass through either the Straits of Gibraltar or the Dardanelles. If the scheme above referred to could be put in operation, Germany thinks she would be in a position to tap the wealth of practically all the European countries and lay a foundation of power upon which she could build a superstructure strong enough to enable her to successfully challenge the rest of the world.

In times of peace British working-men take little or no interest in international politics, and the consequence is that when the country in which they live is involved in a war, they are totally dependent upon the ruling class for any ideas they may have in regard to the cause. To some extent the same thing prevails in all countries, but in many other lands there is a keen interest taken in what is going on in the world as a whole; there is not more class-consciousness, but a greater knowledge of international affairs.

The “Unofficial Observer,” in his book “Our Lords and Masters,” says (commencing page 64):
“Terrorists play an especially important part in the affairs of eastern and southern Europe and one of the most important groups of them originated with the ‘Green Organisation’ of deserters from the Austro-Hungarian Army. After the war this organisation fell into the hands of General Sarkotich, a Croat who fought on the side of Austria and devoted himself to the cause of the Hapsburg Monarchy and of detaching Catholic Croatia from orthodox Yugoslavia.”

Sarkotich became Croatian and Yugoslavian ‘expert’ on the monarchist Reichpost of Vienna, where the movement maintained its intellectual headquarters until the assassination of Dollfuss in July, 1934. The most active terrorists, however, were Percec and Pavelic, who were connected with several attempts to bomb trains running from Italy to Austria via Yugoslavia. In 1932, when Goemboes became Prime Minister of Hungary and appointed Koloman as his Foreign Minister, the Hungarian Government became an open party to the terrorist plots. Percec and Pavelic were given Hungarian passports on the theory that they were really Hungarians and they established a training ground for terrorists on a big estate at Jankapuszta, near the Yugoslav frontier. The men trained here were assigned the task of leading domestic revolts in Yugoslavia in the event of trouble and the whole organisation modelled itself pretty faithfully on the Serbian ‘Black Hand’ society, which had plotted the Sarajevo murders.

In 1933, the year after Goemboes came into power, Mussolini himself began to aid the Croatian cause and the terrorists established training camps for larger bodies of troops on Italian soil at Borgotaro, Bonegno and Bardi. Here Croats were given uniforms provided by Italy and were shipped to Zara by Italian ships and then made their way inland along the Dalmatian coast. Giorgio Sanza, an Italian journalist who spoke Croat, was put at Pavelic’s disposition. The climax came when the assassin of King Alexander was revealed to be a member of this terrorist group and when Italy refused to surrender Percec and Pavelic, who were on Italian soil after the murders at Marseilles. Germany has also maintained connections with the Croat cause, via a certain Wilhelm Singer, who travelled on a German passport issued in the name of Guttman, and after the Dollfuss murder Germany supplanted Austria as the brain centre of the Croatian terrorists, who now publish their official organ, ‘Gric,’ in Berlin, although all their actual printed matter bears the mark of the Free City of Danzig.

Hungary is the one country in which terrorists associate openly with the governing officials. In 1921, Premier Goemboes gave refuge to Schulze and Thyllessen, the assassins of Matthais Erzberger. The noblemen who forged the French francs back in 1926 belonged to the move organisation, of which Goemboes was the head; and Count Julius Karolvyi, who served as Premier for a brief interval between Bethlen and Goemboes, was a business associate of Slavisky’s. Between 15,000 and 17,000 political murders are said to have been committed in Hungary since 1919, the victims having included a Catholic priest of 75 who attacked the advocates of treaty revision, and a Czechoslovak journalist who was imprisoned and beaten up because Czechoslovakia opposed changing the frontiers. Bela Somogyi, editor of a right-wing Socialist paper, who had refused to support Bela Kun’s Soviet regime, was also murdered by some high army officers, who were never punished.

“The dean of the European terrorists, however, is found further south, in that terrific geographic, religious, racial and national scramble known as Macedonia. Here all the races and creeds of the Balkans are intermingled and it has dominated the political struggles of the Near East for the last fifty years. When a new stick of dynamite cracks in the Balkans to-day, the chances are better than ever that the political detonator is the little known Ivan Michailoff, leader of the Imro (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation). Like Lawrence of Arabia, Michailoff became a legend in his own lifetime. So widespread are tales of his deeds of heroism and cunning, that Michailoff is often called “King Ivan” by the Macedonians. His secrecy and skill at conspiracy make him one of the most dreaded figures in the Balkans, with a price on his head in Greece, Yugoslavia, and at times even Bulgaria. . . . Michailoff says: There will be no peace in Europe until Macedonia is free.'”
The above will give the readers of the Socialist Standard some idea of the undercurrents in the Balkans and will show them how foolish it is to judge these people from a modern capitalist standpoint. Their views of life differ from those of the rest of the western world. Socialism is the child of Capitalism and in taking stock of the struggle now raging, let us realise that those members of the proletariat who have been trained and disciplined by the industrial mechanism are the only section of the working-class yet capable of taking the initiative in the building of a Socialist Society.

The writer will return to the situation in the Balkans in a later article.
Charles Lestor

Socialism—More Than Equality (1941)

From the May 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Apologists for capitalism, ever asearch for doctrinal dope to infuse new life into the doddering near-corpse of the present politico-economic set-up, will drag out some outworn theory, blow the dust off it, and present it to the public as up-to-date evidence against the socialist.

Common among these theories is one built around the suggestion that the rich may well experience as much financial difficulty as the poor.

We have, in the Daily Express for April 12th, a leader page article by Mr. Paul Holt. This deals with Mr. Donald Skilling, who at West London Police Court, admitted to earning £5 10s. weekly putting up Anderson shelters, and with the magistrate, Mr. Paul Bennett, who cried, “No wonder income tax is 10s. in the pound !”

Mr. Holt contends that to earn this wage “is no crime,” and makes out a budget to demonstrate. He further thinks that Mr. Bennett cannot find it “all bees and honey” on his £2,000 a year. He refers, too, to Mr. Hely Hutchinson, M.P., and merchant banker, who recently told the House of Commons that after meeting just claims he had 4s. each for his family.

Self-styled “Man o’ the People,” in the People for April 13th, observes: —
“We used, some of us, to talk of “Socialism in our time.” To-day, under a predominantly Conservative Government, we have stormed the barricades of money privilege and come much nearer to “equality of—financial—sacrifice” than ever before.
Will there be any rich men left among us ? Yes, but it will need a gross income of £66,000 a year to leave any taxpayer with £5,000 a year net! The colossal incomes are cut to the bone.”
Now, having reduced the Socialist to tears of pity for the luckless millionaire doomed to struggle along on his £5,000 a year, the defender of capitalism usually assails him with, “It’s all very well you grumbling about inequality, but the rich are just as badly off as you.” Then come high-sounding statements about harmony, and capital and labour going hand-in-hand, with a heigh and a ho and a heigh nonny no, sweet lovers love the spring.

This common misconception that the Socialist just aims at taking from the rich and sharing is one of the many unfortunate outcomes of the obscuring propaganda of avowedly capitalist and so-called labour institutions.

Hence, we must at all times reiterate: (1) no matter how large a man’s income, he is a worker if he is forced to sell his mental or physical energies for it; (2) it is readily appreciated that many capitalists, in the basically unnecessary fight for wealth, may to varying degrees suffer worry and inconvenience, and this applies particularly to the few capitalists who have an active role in their business. But the essential point is that they, as well as the working-class, would gain with Socialism a better, fuller life, free from economic dominance; (3) that Socialism will not bring merely a different share-out, but a much greater total wealth.

This last point merits enlargement, for with it is closely connected the utter refutation of the contention that capitalism is now necessary to progress.

It needs little effort to see that modern man finds his life so dominated by work he has little opportunity or energy for intellectual advancement, the little he does receive being almost entirely the result of capitalist training for capitalist ends.

It is not so obvious to the uninitiated that under modern capitalism, production of the material means of life is not progressing, but retrogressing. Though the rate of production consistently increases, the totality of production is with like consistency restricted.

This is done by (1) leaving unused a considerable portion of the two basic factors in wealth production—land and labour power; (2) deliberate, “legal,” large-scale destructions of goods the world over; (3) national and international agreements to restrict production of commodities below the potentiality; (4) use of labour for ends peculiar to capitalism and meeting no human need: armed forces, insurance workers, commercial travellers, banks, advertising, servants, pawnbrokers, and the printing and production of paper for putting the prices on packets of peanuts are a few examples; (5) neglect of improved scientific methods of production, e.g., in the English cotton industry, Government enquiry found only a minute fraction of the industry using any of the three developments of ring spinning, automatic looms and highspeed winding.
Well, I suppose all this is because people already have all they need ?
Oh, no. Nearly all of them are in great want.
Then, surely all those in want are organising to set things right ?
On the contrary, they’re fighting among themselves as hard as they can.
. . . and little Audrey laughed and laughed, for it was crazier than “Alice in Wonderland.”

And crazy it is, tragically so. These wealth restrictions arise because under capitalism the profit motive controls production. With Socialism will come production for human needs, banishing for ever the ghastly paradox of poverty amid plenty.
Richard Tatham