Saturday, May 21, 2022

World View: Out of Africa? (1998)

From the July 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have received a long contribution from journalist Chido Onumah who is the co-ordinator for Nigeria of the West African Human Rights Committee. We publish below the key points together with our comments.
“Washington has been too willing to downplay democracy and human rights for the sake of natural resources or diplomatic alliances”, the New York Times wrote in its editorial of 20 March 1998. Clearly, nobody is better placed to serve this purpose of giving access to Africa’s natural resources and providing a base in support of US diplomatic alliances than the various mad men who have sprung up (often with the help of Washington) within Africa and much of the developing world.

The US supported Mobutu after killing Lumumba and scuttling Congo’s burgeoning democracy; and Mobutu provided a buffer against Washington’s longest standing bogeyman, the USSR. Today, the US has found it convenient to recant and is calling for democracy in the new Democratic Republic of Congo. On February 4 1966, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in a CIA-sponsored coup. The result was the abortion of Ghana’s fledgling democracy. More than three decades after, the country is still grappling with the rudiments of democracy under a military dictator that is making a travesty of democracy, yet Washington is contented and applauding that “democracy is spreading”.

Just name it! Where has Washington stepped into that she has not messed up? The US-supported Marcos and his murderous gang; provided a slaughter slab for the butcher of Uganda, Idi Amin; aborted democracy in Chile and installed the hydra-headed monster, Pinochet; wrecked Haiti, courtesy of the Duvalier clan. In all these places, the US was looking for a mad man who would preside over the wholesale transfer of natural resources to America’s multinationals and do her dirty job in its so-called war with communism. Nothing mattered beyond the immediate economic and political gains of Washington. Not even the sight of mutilated bodies of defenceless and innocent kids who were victims of the dastardly actions of such scum as Jonas Savimbi and his cohorts who were armed and financed by the US could move her to change her position.

The American society is a predatory society and it can survive only by aggressively expanding and conquering new markets from which to extract profit. What Washington aims at creating in West Africa, as in other areas that are under its sphere of influence, is a club of IMF/World Bank puppets. The reason is simple. West African despots—as always quislings of America and her Western accomplices—who mutate into civilian presidents make all the difference between the acceptance or rejection of the West’s obnoxious economic policies and by extension, the survival or collapse of their businesses. The examples of Ghana, Burkina Faso and The Gambia are indicative of this trend. The IMF/World Bank and their host governments cannot be too sure what the “new man” would do (a case of the devil you know); so why not support a Jerry Rawlings, Blaise Campaore or Yahya Jammeh even where their transition to civil rule succeeds only in furthering neo-patrimonialism. As one of the puppets of international monopoly capital, Washington is sure Abacha will execute structural adjustment, devaluation, privatisation and such other infernal policies the IMF/World Bank may deem necessary to recommend for Nigeria’s underdevelopment. This support and manipulation of Abacha is necessary to prevent the toiling masses from uniting in a revolution that would threaten international monopoly capital.

The basic fallout of Mr Clinton’s visit to Africa is that the world would move into the new century with all the prejudices, including the onslaught of imperialism (courtesy of America) which have made the 20th century a nightmare. It is difficult to imagine what could be a greater threat to world peace in the new millennium than the American establishment which is nothing but a scourge. Fanon wrote that every generation must discover its mission. Africa’s emergent activists, from Cape Coast to Cairo, must enter the new millennium boldly determined to confront the monster of imperialism. Those who are ready to liberate Africa from the clutches of poverty, illiteracy and general underdevelopment and expand the frontiers of democracy cannot look up to the West, America particularly. They must be ready to struggle for these rights. Apologies from the great-grand-children of slave traders would not serve any purpose. In fact, the US has committed too many grave crimes against the African continent that apologies would only serve to obfuscate these crimes.

Imperialism is like the common cold; you either fight it or go to bed with it. There cannot be half measures or a middle course. This is a new era in which people, particularly exploited people, do not look up to any godfather. Certainly, the US will fail in Nigeria as she failed in Vietnam, Cuba and everywhere else she has sought to extend her bloody fang.
Chido Onumah, 

We fully accept that American foreign policy is determined by economic (trade, investments, raw materials) and strategic considerations, but so is that of every other capitalist country. To single out America for special opposition is to play the game either of other capitalist powers (such as Britain, France, Germany, Japan, China, etc) or of some would-be African ruling class.

We have to say too that we cannot accept that Ghana under Nkrumah or the Congo under Lumumba were examples of “burgeoning democracy”. Certainly, both Nkrumah and Lumumba were anti-US imperialism but they were not democrats either in practice or in theory. They favoured and tried to establish one-party regimes, on the model that then existed in Russia. In fact, they perfectly illustrate our point above about opposition to one particular “imperialist” power playing the game of its rivals—in their time, “anti-imperialism” was the ideology under which state-capitalist Russia sought to further its economic and strategic interests.

If we have put the word “imperialism” in the previous paragraph in inverted commas this is because we don’t accept Lenin’s theory of imperialism (which sees the struggle at world level as being between imperialist and anti-imperialist forces) with its implication that “imperialism” is something different and worse than capitalism. World capitalism, not the “imperialism” of particular capitalist powers, is the cause of the problems workers all over the world suffer from, and the solution to the problems of workers in Africa lies not in kicking American imperialism out of Africa but in uniting with workers in the rest of the world to replace the world capitalist system by world socialism. This is the aim of the World Socialist Movement. –Editors.

Socialism would solve global hunger (1998)

From the July 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

In recent weeks newspaper headlines have highlighted the plight of starving millions in the Sudan and Burundi. Again we have seen published statistics that show 800 million of our fellow humans suffering from chronic malnutrition, with 1.3 billion, on any one day, going without food.

While these statistics are shocking, we can search and find others, far more obscene, that show governments still ordering the destruction of food and paying farmers to take land out of production in order that prices can be kept high.

Charities and NGOs may do their bit, alleviate a little suffering here and there, but their work in is in reality only addressing the symptoms, not the disease.

The disease is the global profit-drive market system whose golden maxim is “can’t pay–can’t have”. It is a system governments believe they can run in the interests of us all.

The futility of trying to make the present system work is best revealed in the present instance by remembering Henry Kissinger’s promise to the World Food Summit some 25 years ago. There were then 400 million chronically malnourished, a 75 million increase over the previous ten years, and Kissinger vowed world hunger would be eradicated within the next decade. That number has since doubled, and with the best efforts the experts believe the statistics will not improve in the next 25 years.

In the years to come we will see many conferences and summits looking at the problem of global hunger. A lot of rubbish will no doubt be uttered at the same and you can bet no remedy will emerge.

This is because there is only one remedy and governments cannot contemplate it because, as the executive of capitalism, it runs counter to the real interests they serve.

The remedy involves abolishing the money system, freeing production from the artificial constraints of profit and establishing a world of free access to the benefits of civilisation.

A utopian dream you may say, but is it not more utopian to believe the present system can be made to work in all our interests?
John Bissett

50 Years Ago: The Great Radio Drive (1998)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Party, pledged to make capitalism work and pave the way for socialism at the same time, have forgotten the second in face of the obstacles that have frustrated their efforts in pursuit of the first. Without a huge unemployed army they cannot drive, they can only stimulate by persuasion and utter warnings of either increased austerity or widespread unemployment. Two Labour governments have failed to make capitalism work. In 1930 because of the depression; in 1948 because there is no depression, and, therefore, no unemployed millions exercising pressure on those at work.

The Economist in May, 1947, had stated bluntly that the system could not be made to work efficiently unless there was five or six per cent of unemployment. The Labour Party had promised full employment. The demand for labour, under the exceptional circumstances created by the war, favoured the workers if they chose to push their claims for higher wages and better conditions. They had to be side-tracked. Hence their appeals for loyalty to the Labour movement, their attempt to freeze wages, and their promise of profits-limitations they were afraid to enforce (. . .)

To the average worker the propaganda of the Labour Party has, no doubt, been confusing in the past. Today we see the Labour Party in power, and in combination with the Federation of British Industries and the Trade Union Congress engaged in the biggest drive that has ever been organised against the industrial workers of this country. Surely this is sufficient to give every serious-minded worker cause to reflect on the possibility of dispensing with all kinds of leaders and studying the cause of his incessant toil and poverty in the light of Socialist knowledge.

(From an article by “F.F.”, Socialist Standard, July 1948)

The Prawn Cocktail Party (1998)

Book Review from the July 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Prawn Cocktail Party by Robin Ramsay. Vision. £9.99

The Prawn Cocktail Party is of course the Labour Party which when in opposition under John Smith and then Tony Blair organised a series of lunches and receptions in order to convince business and the City that they had nothing to fear from a Labour government. According to Ramsay, the City welcomed this as they had already begun to write off, for the time being at least, the Tory Party as a reliable instrument of their political will because of the large inward-looking Eurosceptic element within it.

Ramsay starts from the premise that “there are essentially two economies in the UK. One is the domestic, manufacturing economy and its allied services; the other consists of the City of London, its support services in the ring of shires round the capital, and some multinationals with bases and plant in the UK. Traditionally, he says (and he writes as a Labour Party member), Labour has defended manufacturing industry while the Tories have represented the City. But now:
“British politics has been stood on its head. The Conservative Party, traditionally the party of financial and overseas interests, has been replaced in that role by Labour. Instructed by its new friends in the City, Labour has become the party of financial, pre-Keynesian orthodoxy. Gordon Brown looks determined to re-enact the role of Philip Snowden in 1931—the perfect Labour Party front man for the interests of the overseas lobby”.
This explains, says Ramsay, why one of the first acts of the Labour government last year was to give the Bank of England the freedom to fix interest rates and why Gordon Brown and other Labour ministers defend the policy of allowing the pound to rise in value even though this harms exporting industries. Instead of defending the interest of manufacturing industry as it used to, Labour is now promoting the interests of the City.

To Ramsay the City is the villain of the piece. Certainly they are villainous enough, but he exaggerates when he describes a policy of high interest rates as a “racket” and a “fraud” on the grounds that banks make more profits when interest rates are high than when they are low. If, like Ramsay, you think that banks have the power to create credit out of nothing this would be true. In fact, however, banks are financial intermediaries which make their profits from lending money out at a higher rate than they pay those they borrow it from. This means that what is important for their profits is not the absolute level of interest rates but the difference between the rate charged to borrowers and the rate paid to lenders; if interest rates are high banks don’t necessarily make bigger profits since they have to pay higher rates to their depositors—in fact high bank profits are not at all incompatible with low interest rates.

So there is no basis for Ramsay’s supposition that the banks are somehow worse than manufacturing businesses and that we should therefore support the latter against the former. Since both derive their profits from the surplus value produced by the workers and since it is the capitalist system as a whole that is the cause of our problems, why should we support the manufacturing capitalists against the financial capitalists?
Adam Buick

“How Solidarity (in the Struggle for Reforms) Can Change the World” (1998)

Book Review from the July 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

How Solidarity Can Change the World. Workers Liberty. £3.95.

Believe it or not, but there are still some Trotskyists in the Labour Party. One such group has published this pamphlet, which is a collection of contradictory articles by Engels, Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg and Trotsky introduced by their leader, Sean Matgamma.

The leader’s view—as expressed in the title, to be understood as “How Solidarity (in the Struggle for Reforms) Can Change the World”—is that “the struggle for reforms and transitional demands is now the indicated way the British working class—but not only the British—and the labour movement can revive”. This is the old argument, advanced by Trotsky in his founding manifesto for the “Fourth International” in 1938 (included here), that socialist consciousness will develop out of the struggle for reforms within capitalism: when workers realise that they can’t get the reforms they have been campaigning for they will, Trotsky pontificated, turn to the “cadres” of the Fourth International for leadership.

Quite apart from the fact that this has (fortunately) never happened, this argument has always been more of a rationalisation of their reformist practice by shamefaced reformists who want to imagine that they are revolutionaries. Since it is reforms they want there is some logic in being in a party that has a chance of exercising political power. So perhaps after all it is not really surprising that there are Trotskyists in the Labour Party, licking envelopes and knocking on doors for Blair and his crew.
Adam Buick

May Day Manifesto (1998)

Book Review from the July 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

The May Day Manifesto. Part One. Defending the Welfare State by Michael Barratt Brown. Spokesman. £6.99.

Last year two Labour MEPs, Hugh Kerr and Ken Coates, were expelled from the Labour Party. They have formed an Independent Labour Network which (with money from the European Parliament) has published this pamphlet.

It is unashamedly Old Labour, proposing to extend the welfare state, restore full employment by Keynesian techniques of increased government spending, and to tax the rich so as to create a more equal society. It’s all pie-in-the-sky of course since such policies, which imply that capitalism can be reformed so as to work in the interest of the majority, have been tried and failed, most recently under the Callaghan Labour government in the late 1970s and under Mitterrand in France in the early 80s.

New Labour, Kerr and Coates complain in the introduction, has abandoned what Labour used to stand for:
“Redistributive policies, and planned public intervention to create jobs and uphold higher social standards have now gone. Instead, the new Government defends an economic strategy based on ‘the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition’, a philosophy of deregulation, and ‘a partnership with business . . . that puts industry first’. It seeks ‘to enhance the dynamism of the market economy, not to undermine it’. It is determined ‘to extend the flexible labour markets to the rest of Europe, not to import Euro-sclerosis’. These engagements are linked with a policy of less direct taxation, and refusal to ‘impose burdens on business’ . . .”
All this is very true, but in the argument between them and Blair as to what is possible within capitalism today—and this is where this particular argument is situated—Blair is right: capitalism is incapable of offering the reforms Kerr and Coates are campaigning for. The alternative to New Labourism (the management of capitalism on its terms and according to its rules) is not reformism but socialism.
Adam Buick

News in Review: The Budget (1964)

The News in Review column from the May 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

At Home

The Budget

Many of the professional economic forecasters came out rather better than usual from Mr. Maudling’s second Budget. The heavier taxes on alcohol and tobacco had been widely tipped and so had some extension of the betting tax. But the Chancellor upset many predictions by not altering the standard rate of income tax, the tax on petrol and National Insurance contributions and benefits.

There is always plenty of advice and prognostication from the financial experts before a Budget. Experience does not encourage us to regard this as very valuable. Said The Economist of April 11th:—
. . . the surge in demand and productivity during this last financial year . . . . has looked astonishingly similar to that in the financial year 1959-60 . . . (when) most economic commentators urged Mr. Amory to raise taxes by between £100 million and £200 million in his Budget . . . but . . . from that first quarter of 1960 demand and productivity suddenly ceased to grow and, apart from minor fluctuations, remained at about the same level for two years. Modern economic computers can sometimes badly overestimate the exact amounts of tax increases that are really desirable in times of boom, because nobody has yet devised a science for gauging the way in which a boom mentality among consumers can quite suddenly be deflated.
This last admission did not, of course, prevent The Economist from offering its own advice to Mr. Maudling.

It is a widely held assumption that tax alterations are bound to affect prices. But the facts show that this is not the case. There have been plenty of recent examples—cinema seats, lawn mowers, some types of confectionery—in which a change in tax has not been responsible for a change in price.

Prices must move as the market allows them to. At one time the market may allow a manufacturer to recoup a tax increase by putting up his price—or perhaps even to over-compensate by putting the price up by more than the rise in tax. At another time selling conditions may not allow such an increase and the manufacturer will have to yield up some more of his profit to the government.

Whatever happens, the government are only interested in raking in the taxes to help pay for the upkeep of the State machine and all its ramifications.

This year’s Budget will probably be unpopular among the working class, who seem to get a real kick out of the couple of shillings a week extra which some Budgets may bring them—and who can be cast into deep depression by a Budget which goes the other way. In this confusion and ignorance, Mr. Maudling may have done enough to set the seal on his party's fate in the Autumn.

A Labour London

The Labour victory in the elections to the new Greater London Council was widely forecast, although even so in some of the contests they were surprisingly successful.

The government at the moment is in very heavy weather and the dissatisfaction with the Conservatives at national level was bound to influence local affairs as well.

It was not so long ago that the Tories were saying that politics were better kept out of local government. The Town Hall was, apparently, the place where local men good and true did their level best for the locality. To introduce party labels into this was ungentlemanly.

The father of the present Duchess of Kent, in an interview with The Observer, once gave a typical expression to this attitude. He was at the time a prominent member of an urban council in Yorkshire. Sometimes, he said, some Labour fellows tried to get on the council, but in most cases they soon learned to drop that stuff and to work for local interests.

Officially, this is no longer the Tory line. None of their candidates for the G.L.C. stood under the old labels of Ratepayers, or Municipal Reform, or anything like them. They were all Conservatives. “I hope," said the leader of their candidates, Sir Percy Rugg, “ there is no Conservative who thinks his vote does not matter."

This taking off the gloves has helped in the notion that the local elections are a sort of primary for the general election which is to come in the Autumn. Certainly, the Labour Party are hailing their victory as a precursor of what is to happen when Sir Alec finally names the day. The Tories, as we may expect, are analysing the voting figures again and again, looking for evidence that they prove exactly nothing at all.

Nobody was anxious to draw attention to another way in which the G.L.C. election resembled a general election—in the glowing promises which were made to the voters. Sir Percy Rugg offered “. . . humane and personal administration as well as efficiency . . . a realistic housing target

His Labour counterpart, Mr. W. Fiske, was promising cheaper land for housing and a lower interest rate for house building loans. Council mortgage rates were, indeed, the big electioneering point of the campaign.

Labour are cock-a-hoop at their win and are waiting impatiently for the day when they take over the government. But their chickens are by no means yet hatched.

One of the depressing features of the G.L.C. election was not simply the fact that once again the working class made it known that they are satisfied to choose between alternative ways of running capitalism. It was the simple, almost incredible, ignorance and naivety of the reasons which the voters who were interviewed on radio and television gave for voting as they did.

At the moment these people are largely being fooled into voting Labour. Come the Autumn they could just as easily be fooled into voting Conservative. And while everyone in going up and down on the see-saw capitalism goes grimly on.


Powell speaks out

Mr. Enoch Powell, who is supposed to be a very clever man, and the conscience of the Conservative Party, has been a source of embarrassment to his leaders for a long time. They must shiver, now, whenever he opens his mouth for fear of what uncomfortable revelation he will make.

But Mr. Powell is the sort of politician whose ideas have little relevance to the hard realities of administering capitalism. In this he is rather like the pacifist in the Labour Party. His speech at the beginning of last month to the East Renfrewshire Unionist Association, in which he attacked the government's attempts to direct industry to the development areas, showed what a dreamland this one time professor of Greek lives in.

If labour were perfectly mobile, said Mr. Powell, if the market were theoretically perfect, the level of unemployment would be precisely the same everywhere.

These are the sort of “ifs” which capitalism has long ago ruled out of the reckoning. Mr. Powell has said more than once that profitability should be the only motive for productive activity. The rulers of capitalism have come to realise that the profit motive is best served by a certain amount of interference with Mr. Powell’s “theoretically perfect” market.

Mr. Powell himself, indeed, appears to have seen the need for this. For some time he was Minister of Health, running the National Health Service, which is anything but a “theoretically perfect” market for, say, the labour power of the doctors and for the hospital services which patients require.

Mr. Powell has yet to say that he favours a health system in which hospitals charge patients as much as they can and in which the patient is free to take his custom to the quack up the road.

Nor has he said whether he is in favour of free enterprise armed forces and local authorities.

All political parties, of course, have their wild men whose ideas, especially when they are out of office, seem extreme enough to rule them out of all chance of ever getting to the top. Aneurin Bevan is one who was once in this category. Yet if he were still alive, he would probably now be the leader of the Labour Party—and perhaps the next Prime Minister. It is certain that, if he had ever made Number Ten, he would have been a different Bevan to the man who once made the Tories' blood go cold.

By the same token we may yet see Enoch Powell at the top, complacently administering the very things which he now denounces.



Anybody who is surprised at the continuing struggle in Cyprus ignores the fact that the Treaty which closed the last bout of trouble there was almost bound to break down.

The Treaty took little account of the political complications involved and, like so many of its kind, ignored the nationalistic prejudices of the island's people. Years of guerilla warfare against the British rulers, accompanied by all the usual hate propaganda and brutality from both sides, succeeded in fanning these prejudices to a dangerous temperature.

It would have taken more than a few signatures on a piece of paper to remedy this situation. So the Treaty, as is usual, simply pretended that it was not there.

But certain things are there. The age old clash of interests between Greece and Turkey, over who shall dominate the eastern Mediterranean, is there. So is the British interest in the oil and the Suez Canal and the other strategic potential of the area. And so, in the background, is the American resolve that nothing shall threaten their standing in the Middle East.

The United Nations has shown once again how ineffectual it is when it is up against the confusion of capitalist interests. As in the Congo, it has taken a long time and a lot of argument to get the pale blue flag into Cyprus. Contrast this with what happened in Korea, and later in the Lebanon, when the United States moved in against what it saw as a powerful threat and was determined to have no nonsense about keeping the peace.

The climate of Cyprus, and the eradication of the mosquito there, have made it one of the healthiest spots in the world. It is the inevitable conflict of capitalist interests, and the hate and strife which this arouses, which makes the island a place of such unpleasant memories—and promises to do so for some time in the future.


City & Labour Party

It is a popular misconception that a Labour victory in the Autumn will be bad for the capitalist class; that production, investment, and so on, will be less profitable and that business will, therefore, be in the doldrums.

It is true that the City generally prefers a Conservative government, but this is not to say that their professed fear of a Labour government is sensible. Business men, after all, are as capable of misjudgement as anyone else. And, anyway, there are plenty of industrial and commercial tycoons who support the Labour Party.

Robert Heller, the Business Editor of The Observer, has polled what he calls “influential City men” on their reactions to a possible Labour government. He reported the comments of seven of them on April 12th last.

Two of them thought that a Labour victory would be bad for business; two thought that it would have little or no effect. The other three thought that the policies of a future Labour administration would depend upon the conditions under which it took power—in particular, on the size of its majority.

Three said that investment was being held back by the prospect of a Labour government. The other four said that this prospect was having no real effect on investment.

One thought that the Stock Exchange had not adequately discounted the risks of a Labour victory — had not, in other words, sufficiently rearranged its interests so that they will remain just as profitable when Labour policies are in action. One gave no opinion on this question, but the other five were of the opinion that whatever risk there may be had been adequately discounted.

What this means is that the attitude which the capitalists arc adopting to the prospect of a future Labour government is much as we might expect. Some Labour policies, they think, may be bad for some types of business. In the same way, some of them probably think that some policies of the Conservative government have been bad—the R.P.M. Bill, the attempt to join the Common Market, and so on.

But, as Robert Heller comments: -
With certain extremely forthright exceptions, they don’t regard the prospect as very dreadful. . . . Some top boardroom names not only hope but expect to carry on business as usual. (Under a Labour government).
A Wilson administration may bring some superficial differences in the overall pattern of commercial, industrial and investment affairs.

But the City still expects to be able to carry on and to show some nice profits for the shareholders.

And the City is right.

Because under a Labour government capitalism will still be there.

Two giants

Two of the world’s industrial giants reported last month.

General Motors claimed that world sales of their vehicles were 14 per cent. above the 1962 record. Their total sales were worth nearly $16,495 million; they paid out almost $2,245 million in taxes and $4,313 million in wages.

There are many GM subsidiaries in this country, among them Vauxhall Motors, which, it is claimed, plays a “ significant part . . . in the British economy.” Another way, this, of putting the old crack about what is good for GM being good for the U.S.A.

Imperial Chemical Industries are now in process of writing off a lot of their old plant at the pace demanded by the developing technology of the chemical industry. Their total sales last year were £508.5 million (£10 million of them to the U.S.S.R.). They plan to spend £100 million this year on capital projects.

These figures may not mean much to the people who daily commute to a £15 a week job. But they reflect something which should be obvious to everyone.

It does not take much knowledge of industry to realise that the productive processes of plants like those owned by G.M. and I.C.I. are extremely complicated and require an enormous co-operative effort to keep them flowing.

In their way, they are a testimony to man’s ability to provide for himself. At the moment that ability is restricted by the anarchy of capitalism's commodity production. In a free world, in which all men’s interests were the same, the ingenuity which is evident in modern industry would make its contribution to the common good.

The tragedy today is that it goes to preserve a shareholding minority in their privilege.

When capitalism’s industrial giants trumpet their achievements abroad, what they are really saying is that the skill and the co-operation of their workers has once more done its best and been exploited to the full.

B.B.C. European News
“Mr. Krushchev has said that as well as the moral stimulus of Communism, workers in the Soviet Union also need the material stimulus of being able to earn more when they work harder. He told a special agricultural committee of the Communist Party Praesidium that the more workers on state farms turn out, the more they must receive. ’We must struggle resolutely against wage-levelling,' Mr. Krushchev declared, 'and advance boldly along the path of material encouragement for quality and quantity produced ’.”

1964 Electoral Campaign (1964)

Party News from the May 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

VERY URGENT. We wish to contest as many constituencies as we can in the next General Election. It is our hope to put at least three candidates in the field and a deposit of £150 has to be put up for each. We therefore need £450 for this alone in the next few weeks in order to be assured that, if an election takes place early this year, this sum will be in hand. In addition, we need at least another £350 to cover the cost of printing, hall hire and so on. Thus, in all, we need not less than £800. Will all those who support us and wish us well, please make a tangible gesture of such support by sending quickly as large a sum as they can to the Party Treasurer, E. Lake, 52 Clapham High Street, SW4, clearly stating that the contributions are for the Parliamentary Fund.

50 Years Ago: Socialists and Malthus (1964)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard
From a reply to a Conservative. Mr. G. W. Daw in the Socialist Standard, May 1914
Mr. Daw says that poverty, like disease, “originates from physical causes,” in lofty indifference to the fact that he had previously said it was due to the “innate selfishness of man, etc.” Now it is because “population always increases up to the limits of the means of a bare subsistence.” Later we are told “Socialists as a rule evade this, as they do other fatal objections.”

The statement about increases of population is taken from the parson Malthus' dirty, lying apology for Capitalism called “On Population.” What Mr. Daw is apparently ignorant of is the fact that Godwin—the Utopian Socialist—whom the book was written against, wrote a reply directly after the first edition appeared that tore up every shred of so-called argument Malthus had put forward. Though Malthus lived to edit four or five more editions and in doing so seriously altered his whole position, not once did he attempt to answer Godwin. Later on, Henry George in ”Progress and Poverty,” taking Godwin’s work without acknowledgment as a basis, built up a case with the fuller information the intervening years supplied that crushed Malthus’ book to powder.

We need only emphasize one point. Neither Malthus, nor anyone else, has ever produced a single tittle of evidence, historical or otherwise, that “population always increases up to the limits of bare subsistence.”

In every age since the break-up of the tribal communes mankind has carried an idle luxurious class upon its back. That this could be possible proves there must have been a surplus above subsistence all the time.

Why the date is important (1964)

From the May 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Prime Minister has spoken. In the hope that the interests of the Conservative Party will be best served by an election in the Autumn, he has settled for that and the news which has been so anxiously awaited by the M.P.s who hang on to slim majorities, and not so anxiously by those who sit on a fat lead, is out.

Ever since the Profumo crisis, there has been any amount of speculation about the timing of the election. Only a short time ago, some political experts were assuring us, on information from “reliable sources,” that polling day would definitely be in March. Others were equally confident that it would be in late May or June.

But there has also been a persistent story that the Prime Minister himself favoured a later date, in the hope that by then his party’s tarnished image would be looking a little brighter. At the same time, it was whispered, Harold Wilson was hoping for a June election and was working on the assumption that that would happen.

Both Labour and Conservative parties attach great importance to the date of the election; for some time they have based their electoral strategy on their forecast of the date.

In passing, we may comment that the time which Douglas-Home has chosen has a certain interest. Previous Conservative Premiers have often been masters at the political game and have excelled in calling elections at a time of maximum inconvenience to their opponents, and then fighting on a craftily conceived vote-catching gimmick. Baldwin was like that and so was Macmillan. But Douglas-Home has so far done nothing to suggest that his choice of polling day has been handled any more adroitly than the other political matters which he has bungled since he took office.

This is a point of no more than academic interest. While the working class are blind enough to acquiesce in a social system in which they are governed by leaders in the interests of the capitalist class, it is of little consequence whether the leaders are politically skilful or not. Home, up to now, is one of the nots.

It is important to realise why the parties have been in such a dither over polling day. The English political constitution allows the date of an election to be flexible. This would not matter very much if the people who determine the outcome of an election were of different material. In other words, if the working class were politically more mature, the election date would be of much less significance—their votes would go the same way in March as in October, or any other month.

But the working class are not politically mature. They vote in ignorance and in docile acceptance of whatever capitalism likes to dish out to them. Some of them support the Labour Party, although they oppose Labour Party policy. (Aims of Industry claim that 32 per cent. of Labour Party supporters are opposed to more nationalisation). And the same sort of thing can be said for some of the supporters of the Tory government.

If the evidence of the Gallup Poll can be relied upon, the voting intentions of the working class change almost week by week, apparently influenced by all manner of incidents in the daily round of capitalist crisis and confusion. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that the politicians attach such importance to the date of an election. If, for example, Macmillan’s government had collapsed last summer, they would probably have lost the election—for the same basically illogical reason that may win the election for Douglas-Home later this year.

In the United States, the pre determined date of an election means that the timing in itself does not have the same importance as over here. But this does not mean that there is any less posturing, any less dishonesty from the politicians, any less ignorance on the part of the working class. For some months before a Presidential election, some American government business almost comes to a standstill, as the two great parties concentrate their energies on the coming campaign — upon the careful statements, the devious attacks on their opponents, the loaded hand outs and promises to voters.

This sort of campaign is widely accepted by most of the people who have a vote to cast. In the same way, they expect a British Prime Minister to choose an election date to suit himself—the date on which, he thinks, the people who are foolish enough to vote for his party will outnumber those who are foolish enough to vote for the opposition.

This sort of cynicism does not damage the politician's image of a beneficent, honest man who would rather die than stoop to a low trick. It does not damage Home's image of a chivalrous aristocrat who longs to serve all of us slum dwellers and millstone mortgagees. It will not damage Wilson’s image of the blunt, sensible lad from Yorkshire who learnt all about life in the days when he could not afford to wear shoes. Yet these images should be damaged—indeed, should be destroyed by the evidence of the politician’s cynicism. That they are not destroyed is just another symptom of the political backwardness of the voters.

One of the most depressing facts about an election is that very few of the millions who cast their votes seem to ask what the politicians want power for. They are generally content to accept the cynicism and the vote hunting and the politician's own assessment of themselves as humane and clever men.

Both Labour and Conservative parties claim that they are opposed to each other. The Labour Party warn us that the Tories are hard headed, ruthless men of business who care not for the problems of the under-privileged nor now that Harold Wilson is in command —for the underpaid men of science. The Tories reply that the Labour Party is full of reckless dogmatists who will ruin the British economy for the sake of a theory and who will allow British capitalism to be bossed by flat capped trade unionists.

What truth is there in these claims? One of the issues on which Labour hopes to win votes is the rise in rents which followed the Rent Act. The figure of the rapacious landlord has always been a politically emotive one. Yet even at the time when the Act was first passed, it was apparent that a Labour government would have been compelled, to some extent, to free rents. Now from the other side, the Conservatives have stated that they are in favour of some measure of rent control. In the House of Commons on March 18th last Sir Keith Joseph, Minister of Housing, made this quite clear: 
. . . the Government do not intend, if returned to power, to propose, during the next Parliament, any further measure of block (rent) decontrol.
This shows how close the two parties are on this issue. There is nothing surprising about this. Housing is an essential part of working class expenditure and as such has a powerful effect upon wages. This means that rents are important enough to capitalism to ensure that the two big parties substantially agree on what should be done about them.

Then there is the favourite Tory bogey of a Labour party which will nationalise everything and drive all the employees out of business. This bogey has always been something of a laugh, especially when we recall what the last Labour government was prepared to do to keep British capitalism prosperous.

Now Sir John Hunter, chairman of the Central Training Council, has had his say on this, to the British Employers' Confederation;—
I do not subscribe to the view that a Labour Government will introduce legislation with little regard for the employers' views. On the contrary, I believe a Labour Government would listen attentively to the views expressed by employers’ organisations on one condition that those views are positive and expressed clearly, forcibly and without reservation. (Guardian, 19/3/64.)
Both the big parties, in fact, stand for capitalism—and so do other organisations like the “Liberals," “Communists” and “Independents,” who claim to be different. They stand for the social system in which war is established and persistent enough to be almost a way of life. They support the economic arrangement in which the mass of the people, who make and distribute the world’s wealth, live in a horror-land of plastic, prefabricated, powdered, poverty, while a few privileged people have an income which allows them the chance to live like human beings. (In the tax year 1961/62 there were just 92 people in this country with annual incomes over £100,000).

In face of their basic agreement over the continuance of this social system, the differences between the Labour Party and its Tory opponents arc quite insignificant. They are no more than differences over the details of administering a world so organised that it enables a few people to do very well indeed while the vast majority get hurt—sometimes literally so.

This is what puts the timing of the election into its perspective. What can we say about the voter who is subject to all the suppressions and frustrations of capitalism yet who will vote Labour in March, Tory in October, perhaps Labour again in January, and so on? Is there anything more foolish? More futile?

Whatever precise date the Prime Minister eventually settles for, he can rest assured that when the election is over and the next government is comfortably in the seat of power, when the newspapers are smugly congratulating everyone on what they call the exercise of democracy, he will still be Sir Alec Douglas-Home with all his property and investments. So will the rest of his class, up the top of the social tree. And somewhere down the bottom will be the people who, at any time and in all weathers, are content to keep them there.

The explanation of Mr. Enoch Powell (1964)

From the May 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

For some months Mr. Enoch Powell, who resigned from Macmillan's government in 1958, along with Mr. Thorneycroft, and refused to serve with the present Prime Minister, Sir Alec Home, has enlivened the political scene with periodic outbursts of a kind most embarrassing to his own party. In January he described the policy of trying to check wages, prices and profits as hocus-pocus, and dangerous nonsense. He attacked the National Incomes Commission and National Economic Development Council and declared that their plans won’t work :
We don’t know how to make them work. In fact they can’t work in any society which we are prepared to contemplate.
He ridiculed a pious statement made by employers’ representatives on Neddy about their intention lo keep prices down and told them to get on with their proper job of making as much profit as possible.
Managements have no business to accept any responsibility for prices. The duty of every management is to conduct business in the way which . . . is likely to maximise the return on the capital invested in the business.
In February he fired some more broadsides against too much government interference with the activities of private profit seekers and in April went to Glasgow to denounce government schemes to encourage firms to move into that and other areas where unemployment is above the National average level.

The Guardian on 4th April reported him as openly proclaiming that his Party is the Party of capitalism:
Whatever else the Unionist Party stands for, unless it is the party of free choice, free competition and free enterprise, unless —and I am not afraid of the word—it is the party of capitalism, then it has no function in the contemporary world, then it has nothing to say in modern Britain.
The leaders of the Labour Party, seeing in this something they could use in the forthcoming election, were delighted and hastened to congratulate him on his courage and candour.

In Conservative circles he got no support, except from odd lots such as the City Press. His own colleagues lost no time in repudiating him and deploring his utterances—they too had an eye on the reactions of voters.

Some of them set themselves to explain the man. The Sunday Telegraph called him "a don with a brilliant analytical mind in the best Cambridge tradition," and an advocate of “an intellectualist version of the late Sir Waldron Smithers” the same Waldron Smithers who provided evenings of hilarious entertainment in defending capitalism and the New Testament against the SPGB.

Powell certainly has some qualities which set him above most of his fellow conservatives.

When he has an idea he does not at all mind pursuing it logically to its conclusion no matter how distressing this may be to his party. After he resigned in 1958 he roundly attacked the Keynesian doctrines that have for so long been the fashion not only in Labour and Liberal circles but also among the economists in the Tory Party.

But it is true that he suffers, as one critic said, from a certain political innocence—he does not appreciate that as capitalism depends for its continuance on the deception of working class voters, it is expedient that certain dangerous truths should never be stated by those who do not want to end capitalism.

If Powell’s own statements were lucid and straightforward the reactions to them were remarkable, chiefly for contradiction and confusion. The Labour politicians and Peers seized on them as proof that the Tory Party is opposed to "planning," forgetting that one of his principle criticisms of Macmillan's and Home's policies is that there is too much planning. As recently as November last the Labour Party journal, Socialist Commentary, under the title “All Socialists Now,” instanced the action of the Ministry of Housing in planning a large-scale rebuilding plan for Fulham as proof that “no one can any longer oppose that . . . socialist concept—planning.” It was, however, Mr. Thorneycroft (who had resigned with Powell in 1958, but is now back in office) who made the most curious contribution. Declaring Powell’s view—that “ the Conservative party must offer the capitalist system to the public, or nothing,” Thorneycroft answered that “The Tory party is a great deal bigger than the capitalist system.” 

Logically this is an absurdity. How can which administers capitalism in order to preserve it, be greater than the system itself? Thorneycroft was not being candid. What he really meant, but could not say, is that those whose purpose it is to persuade the workers to go on accepting capitalism knew very well that they cannot do this in the somewhat odious name of capitalism itself, but have succeeded in doing it by calling on the workers to vote for capitalism’s facade, the Tory party and its so-called “Welfare State.”

But this is not peculiar to the Tory party. It covers all the governing parties all over the world and all the Opposition parties straining to replace them and carry on the same function with minor modifications. In spite of a few Enoch Powell’s here and in other countries, capitalism is now administered over most of the earth’s surface in the name of “Socialism.” Attlee, who was Labour Prime Minister from 1945-51 set the pattern. Having written in 1937 that “a Socialist party cannot hope to make a success of administering the capitalist system because it does not believe in it,” he spent six years trying to do just that while pretending to do something else. Stalin, Krushchev, Mao and the rest followed Attlee's example though more blatantly and crudely. Home, like Attlee, cannot prevent those in Britain who know what capitalism is when they see it, from saying so: Krushchev and his like can, so far, prevent the embarrassing fact of the existence of capitalism from being given public utterance.
Edgar Hardcastle

Letter: A 'Captain' of Köpenick? (1964)

Letter to the Editors from the May 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

To the Editor,

In a recent addition of Socialist Standard I read of your hopes of winning the next General Election and I wish you luck. But remembering that you have to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown, I wonder whether this is the only way to achieve a Socialist State. One should not forget what happened to Russia in 1905 and Spain in 1936.

Let us trust that your majority in Parliament will not become a 'Captain' of Köpenick with ten soldiers' and cast you out.

I would be obliged if you could settle my doubts in your next issue.
J. Webber.

Mr. Weber has started off on the wrong foot. We arc solely concerned with the establishment of Socialism. This cannot be obtained until a majority of the workers want it and work for it. Neither in Russia in 1905 nor in Spain in 1936 did the workers vote for Socialism—because they did not understand what it implied and therefore did not want it.

Once the workers do understand and want Socialism, and without this Socialism cannot be established, then they will vote delegates to Parliament to take control of political power for the sole purpose of establishing Socialism.

If Mr. Weber will read clause 6 of our Declaration of Principles again he will see it points out that the armed forces of the nation are controlled through Parliament, the centre of political power. Once the workers obtain a majority in Parliament, for the purpose of establishing Socialism, they will have control of the armed forces and no captain with ten soldiers will be able to disperse them.

As far as the oath of allegiance is concerned it has little more significance than taking off your hat, if you wear one, when you enter the house of an opponent; or the boxers shaking hands before they set out to batter each other to pieces. Towards the end of last century Irish nationalists, who were openly committed to cut adrift from England, nevertheless look the oath of allegiance because that was the only way they could get into Parliament to carry out their purpose.
Editorial Committee.

Branch News (1964)

Party News from the May 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Conference this year was satisfactory as far as business was concerned, all items on the Agenda were dealt with and discussion by the delegates was interesting and most useful. It is regretted that all branches were not represented, but despite this the delegation was enthusiastic and lively. A report from the Central Organiser on the finance of the Social on Saturday evening stated that there was a balance in hand of £8 5s. 9d. after all expenses, including the cost of one or two of the raffle prizes. Several prizes were donated by Comrades.

The Central Organiser is surprised that the number attending the dance and social was not very great, he points out that Easter Saturday night gives an excellent opportunity for Comrades and friends to relax and chat, particularly as many provincial members are present who don't often have an opportunity to meet London comrades. He reminds us that it is not essential to dance—dancing is only part of the social evening and it is hoped that next year’s Conference Social will prove him wrong and that many more comrades will gather at the Annual Social and Dance. Three collections were taken up during the business time of Conference and Comrades responded very generously, in all over £13 was collected.

The Canteen Committee did wonderful work, as they so often do, and were providing food and drinks (tea and coffee!) throughout the Conference and Social. Their work adds to the success of every conference, and in addition to feeding everybody, made a credit balance, handed to the Treasurer of £12 5s. 3d. The Canteen Committee wish to thank members for their contributions, support and assistance.

The Sunday evening meeting was good and Comrade Vanni from Glasgow was on the platform to address the meeting. Following the Conference, on Easter Monday, Paddington Branch organised, with the Propaganda Committee and Literature Sales Committee, an all-out literature drive at the CND Rally in Trafalgar Square. General literature sales realised £6 10s. 8d. and individual Comrades who took their own branch literature sold £1 11s. worth. A donation of 6s. 4d. was collected. The grand total of literature sold was £8 3s. 2d. This included 232 copies of the Socialist Standard. All this despite miserable rainy weather. The Central Organiser wishes to thank everybody who "did their stint".

At the Labour Party Rally at the Albert Hall on the Sunday, the Literature Sales committee assisted by other comrades sold four dozen Socialist Standards. An excellent result, but it was felt that had more comrades been available, much more literature would have been sold. Such occasions are well worth the attendance of many, many comrades to sell literature as this is a way in which the Socialist message is propagated and also the more Socialist Standards that are sold, the cheaper the production cost and this is a very important factor. The Literature Sales Committee will be pleased to advise Comrades when such rallies are being attended—it is a really worth while job—selling Socialist literature.

A debate was held at the Co-op Hall, Ilkeston on Sunday, February 23rd. Comrade Cook from Birmingham was the Party representative and he debated with a member of the Liberal Party. The audience numbered 20 and of this number 10 were Party members. No serious opposition was offered by our opponent who apparently found it difficult to make her third contribution. Comrade Cook decided in the circumstances to forego his final speech and questions and discussion followed instead. This was to the Party’s advantage since the great majority of questions were directed to Comrade Cook. The meeting was advertised in the local press. 10s. of literature was sold then a collection of £1 was taken up.

Many meetings and Party activity are advertised in this issue, support for meetings by as many comrades as possible is essential to make these activities successful.
Phyllis Howard

The Passing Show: Young—in a hurry—going nowhere (1964)

The Passing Show Column from the May 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Young—in a hurry—going nowhere

Old age is no criterion of wisdom. Neither is youth. This point at least is worth noting from the fourth national conference of The Young Socialists—a misnomer to start with—the Labour Party's second offspring, and somewhat more bad tempered and difficult to bring up than the old League of Youth ever was.

Held appropriately enough at the Corn Exchange, Brighton, over the Easter weekend, the conference had before it an agenda of no less than one hundred and sixty-six resolutions and forty-five amendments. The subjects ranged far and wide, from a plea to change the parent party's name to “The Social Democratic Party'’ to attract middle class support (Resn. 9), to a demand that May Day be legislated a public holiday by the next Labour government (Resn. 166).

If we are to judge by the press reports it was a stormy conference indeed, with Mrs. Braddock at one stage pitting her mighty lungs against jeers from the floor. The results of the voting on all the resolutions is neither here nor there; the agenda itself is fitting evidence of the hotchpotch of confusion which the Labour Party has sired in its young. “Let us nationalize the arms industry," is the plea from a number of branches—cold comfort to the poor devil whose life is ended by a government-made bullet instead of one made in a private arms factory (under government contract). And of course, we are treated to the usual stuff about support for U.N.O. and world government, both of them conspicuous non-starters from the word “go!"

Nationalize banks, building societies, land, basic industries; don’t go to Spain for your holidays (your tourist revenue helps bolster the Franco oppression, they say); review the penal system; abolish capital punishment, blood sports, the Monarchy, House of Lords, and smoking in public places. The list is formidable as these boys and girls lay about them with misguided ferocity. Just about everything comes under the hammer—everything except the Capitalist system, the thing which really matters. According to press reports, the Trotskyist element was prominent at the conference, and the only result of their efforts at “boring from within’’ has been the addition of their own ignorance and confusion to that already existing.

Futility of the Welfare State

Socialists were never impressed by the extravagant claims made for the ideas of the Welfare State by the various parties in 1945. By then, we had already issued a couple of pamphlets analysing the Beveridge plan and the proposals for family allowances, and we said that they would make no essential difference to the workers' position as the exploited section of the population. Because of this, we felt sure that the worry and insecurity that is life for most of us, would continue. Social security was in fact a gigantic misnomer.

Nineteen years and almost five elections later, we still see no need to alter our claim. The Labour Government’s measures were pushed quickly through parliament and have been the basic structure on which later governments have worked. Yet here was deputy Labour leader George Brown telling us, in a radio broadcast on April 7th, of the insufficiency of hospitals and other vital things (he blamed the Tories of course), The plight of the old age pensioners has been a scandal for years, and the housing problem weighs as oppressively as ever on workers. The welfare state has not—could not—change the basic poverty position of the working class, although this would perhaps, be contested by the superficial observer.

He would point proudly to the four million new houses, forgetting that old ones are decaying faster than they can be replaced. He mentions the millions of car users, disregarding the enormity of the traffic problem and the fact that for many workers cars are more of a necessity than a luxury. He might agree with Conservative assurances of how well-off we all are, but then he could not surely have read the Gallup Poll results (Sunday Telegraph 5/4/64), which estimated that nearly |our million workers do spare time jobs and another five millions would like the chance.

The antics of the modern teenager hurt and bewilder him; he is disturbed by the Clacton punch-ups, but cannot see that violence is a commonplace of capitalism, and that other countries have the same problem. And that anyway teenage fights are symptomatic of the dreary unfulfilling life which the welfare state has not altered. Drug taking is another aspect and that has increased alarmingly among youngsters to recent years.

Multiply, then, our superficial observer by many millions and you have the reason for the continuation of the swindle of the welfare state, in fact the whole of capitalism.
Eddie Critchfield

Blogger's Note:
See also 'Labour's young lions' (May 1964, Socialist Standard.)

New States—old story (1964)

From the May 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

We live in an age of newly rising capitalist states. The years since the end of the second world war have seen the emergence of Israel, Indonesia, Ghana, and many others in Africa and the Far East. Often after a bitter struggle, the older powers have had to give way to the rising nationalists and hand over control of their former colonies. The winning of political freedom has been the green light for the development of native ruling classes, who have not been slow to consolidate their power, at times with an urgent ruthlessness which would have won the admiration of a Hitler or a Stalin. And in this, they have, of course, applied some of the lessons which they learned from their erstwhile oppressors.

So the British and French empires are no more, and as the new states gain influence, this will have some effect at least on the balance of power in the world of capitalism. Ghana, for instance, has made approaches to other West African states, and it is said that Nkrumah is aiming at a federation with himself as its political leader, it goes without saying. All the same, it would be unwise to assume that the influence of the old powers has come to an end, because whatever abuse may be hurled occasionally from the petulent Nkrumah, Tshombe and others, they have to face the fact that they cannot exist in isolation from the outside world. That world is already the market in which they sell their exports, comparatively small though they are at present. It will become more and more important to them as time goes by.

But until then, and in preparation for that day, a great deal of development will be going on, for which capital investment will be needed in large measure, and it is here that the business men of the old world will see their chance. There is a sort of mutual wooing between them and the new states anxious to attract capital which their own ruling class are not yet rich enough to provide. So this is the sort of background against which we must set the Ghanaian president’s statement to his parliament on March 10th, that £540 millions of the £1,016 millions for the seven years development plan will be from private investors:—
He stressed that his government had no desire to limit private investment in Ghana. Foreign investors were welcome and could earn their profits here, “provided they leave us an agreed portion for promoting the welfare and happiness of our people as a whole as against the greedy ambitions of the few ”. (Guardian, 11.3.64.)
He went on to mention the part played by the American Kaiser group of companies in the Volta hydro-electric scheme and by loans from Britain, America and the World Bank. So we can confidently ignore the president’s lying claims, "made almost in the same breath, that Ghana is a Socialist country.

Now take a look elsewhere in Africa. In the Autumn, Northern Rhodesia will become independent, and one British textile firm at least must be very pleased about it, having secured an order from Mr. Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party for 1½ million yards of gaily coloured cloth for the national dress. The printed cloth will bear the inscription “Freedom and Labour,” which shows the ideas that the nationalists have in mind for their native workers.

And in Kenya, too, the British government is busy negotiating financial deals which, in the words of Mr. Kenyatta, will provide the capital for diversifying Kenya's economy and reducing its dependence on agriculture as a source of income. There is also the question of military aid here, which goes to show that the area is still of strategic importance to the British capitalist class. Quite clearly in the modern world, there are other means of keeping fingers in the old colonial pies besides direct political control. It is not just a coincidence, after all, that there is a large amount of foreign capital invested in India; for example, the bulk of it British.

But the larger powers were not the only ones to have lost territories abroad, and if we look further east to Indonesia, a former Dutch possession, we will see the same sort of process going on there, too. The Indonesian Republic was born in a welter of blood and violence. In 1958 all Dutch property was confiscated, but now there are signs of a reconciliation between the two sides, hastened no doubt by the emergence of the hostile next door neighbour, the Malaysian Federation.

The Guardian of March 19th tells us how anxious the Indonesians are to resume trade with Holland and to encourage investment. This is a case which is perhaps different from the others we have mentioned to that the place had been developed industrially to some extent under the Dutch, and their help is needed to undo the dilapidation which set in after their withdrawal. Nevertheless, the same basis is there—that of a set of native rulers who are in the saddle and mean to stay there, but who need economic bolstering from outside, at least until their industries get working and their workers have been adequately trained.

What will happen after that is anybody's guess. Perhaps there will be another attempt to grab all foreign assets, but this will depend in part anyway on the economic and military line-ups at the time. After all, Russia has not been inactive there all these years, and recently, China has been putting out feelers as well. It should certainly be interesting, then, to watch the progress of the new post-war capitalist states.

And what of the workers in these places? Certainly they have given plenty of support to the creation of their homegrown oppressors, and are showing all the signs of being just as nationalistic as their brothers elsewhere. But the bitter lesson will have to be learnt sooner or later, that the swapping of one set of masters for another of perhaps darker skin will not alter their fundamental position. When they find that they have to fight for better wages and conditions, they will clash with the very politicians to whom they once gave such willing and enthusiastic support. A new social system is the only worthwhile proposition—that is the biggest lesson of all for them to learn.
Eddie Critchfield

Life and Times: The Strike (2022)

The Life and Times column from the May 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

Over the last two months the University and College Union, which I’m a member of, has been taking strike action against the universities that employ them. This has involved not going into work during the strike periods, not doing any ‘extra’ work outside the strike periods (action short of a strike) and standing on picket lines holding banners and giving out leaflets to people. In the past, efforts, physical ones sometimes, would have been made to persuade those people not to cross the picket lines. But those days are over, and now it’s mainly a question of politely informing them, if they’ll listen, why you are striking. The days when postal vans and commercial vehicles would turn away from a picket are also over and now they come merrily through, sometimes hooting their horns in support, but that’s the extent of it.

The strike in some universities is mainly about changes to pensions (in others it is more focused on pay, which has fallen significantly in real terms since 2009). University employers are planning to bring in cuts to university employees’ pensions in the USS scheme of around 35%. Staff and their unions are resisting this, as workers will naturally try to resist cuts to their living standards, whether in the present or in retirement. Negotiations have been tried but so far failed, so the only weapon workers have left is to withhold their labour, a tactic that can be successful but in this case has not so far brought about any change in employers’ intentions. And in the meantime we are losing the pay withheld by those employers for the days we are on strike.

Built-in antagonism
It’s not an easy situation, but it’s one that’s existed for workers ever since the antagonism of interests between employee and employer first started, in fact ever since the capitalist system first existed. And capitalism, in its current more advanced stage, shows no signs of removing that antagonism. Nor can it, because it’s an integral part of the system of workers selling their energies to an employer for a wage or salary and pits one’s interests against the others. It’s true to say, therefore, that the organisations that exist to defend workers’ interests, unions, are a necessary feature of capitalism, even if they don’t always manage to do that.

We’ve had no joy in this dispute yet and it may well be that we end up not having any and having to swallow lost pay for time on strike now and diminished pensions later. I hope not of course and it’s not always like that when workers go on strike. Sometimes the balance of forces is tilted in the workers’ favour, if, that is, they can cause enough disruption to the working of the enterprise they’re employed in. And then they might manage to get the pay rise or improved conditions they’re looking for and so secure a slightly larger share of the surplus value they generate. And throughout the history of capitalism, workers organising in trade unions has been a necessary and beneficial accompaniment to their struggle to maintain and, if possible, improve their living and working conditions.

Political agendas
What isn’t beneficial, however, is when unions get used for political ends by groups who see an advantage in manipulating or controlling them. These are usually Trotskyist groups who work, and often manage, to have influence in trade unions far in excess of their numbers in order to further their own political ends. This usually means urging workers to strike come what may, as a kind of article of faith. They view industrial action as a consciousness-raising operation for workers, as a rehearsal for bigger struggles to come when the vanguard these groups see themselves as will lead the workers to a different society. It’s a society in which they see the state as playing an overriding role, and, though they often call that socialism, it bears no relation to the moneyless, wageless and leaderless society of free access to all goods and services that is socialism for the Socialist Party.

And, in the strike I’ve been involved in, there seems to be a significant number of Trotskyists who’ve managed to get themselves elected to the National Executive of the UCU and are seeking to drive an agenda of strikes come what may. And in so doing, though claiming to be Marxists, they ignore Karl Marx’s own 150-year old warning that action by unions, though necessary in capitalism, cannot be more than ‘fighting with effects… applying palliatives, not curing the malady’. But for the time being union members, including myself, have sufficient hope that this particular strike is happening for the right reasons, has the backing of the majority of members and will not end up being damaging to our interests.

The struggle for money
Time will tell, but one thing is clear. The dispute I have talked about and almost all such disputes are driven by one overriding factor – money. Employers are constantly seeking to find ways of maintaining or increasing the amount of money or profit that their enterprise can yield for them, while their employees, using unions as a means of defence, are seeking to maintain (or even improve) their conditions of work or living standards, and this usually means pressing their employer not to reduce the money spent on them, or indeed to spend more on them in order to improve their conditions of work or give them better pay packets. This is just one of a multitude of ways in which life under capitalism is an ongoing struggle over money – absurd in fact at a point in history where there is sufficient potential abundance for the money and wages system to be abolished on a global scale so that the whole of humanity can do work that truly fulfils them and live fulfilling lives at all levels in a world of cooperative endeavour, voluntary work and free access for all to all goods and services.
Howard Moss

Pathfinders: Original Sin (2022)

The Pathfinders Column from the May 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

Original Sin 

In 2012, broadcaster and current affairs pundit Andrew Marr wrote and produced a BBC/Open University documentary series called Andrew Marr’s History of the World, a lively saunter across 70,000 years of human history which helpfully included the invitation to download a free ‘How do they know that?’ booklet from the OU website, in case you wanted to check any of the facts presented (

Unfortunately, in the very first episode Marr somewhat marred his own enterprise with the extraordinary claim that homo sapiens drove the Neanderthals to extinction by hunting and eating them. How did Marr and the OU know that? Well, they didn’t, and the booklet didn’t mention it. Indeed the OU’s own published research instead ‘suggests that climate change was the primary factor in the extinction of Homo species, despite their great ecological plasticity and cognitive abilities’ while ‘in the case of Neanderthals, the climate-driven increased extinction risk was probably exacerbated by competition with H. sapiens’ (

Why did Marr make this odd and sensational claim? Perhaps in the absence of hard facts, a racy narrative won out instead. But why did the respectable OU let him get away with it? The thing is, it’s part of the ‘Original Sin’ apology for capitalism, the gist of which is that, like it or not, we need to be ruled by powerful elites because we’re all murderous psychos at heart. This view, popularised by Thomas Hobbes and latterly by his fanboy Steven Pinker, is baked into the foundations of capitalist ideology so thoroughly that it is usually the first objection to socialism that people reach for. This is also why anthropology continues to be such a hotly politicised area of study (see pages 14-16 and 20-21 in this issue).

In the case of Neanderthals, the circumstantial evidence did initially seem damning, with Neanderthals dying out in Europe around 40,000 years ago, just around the time humans from Africa were supposedly first smuggling their bone Neander-bashers through customs. But now new evidence points to H. sapiens already being in Europe around 54,000 years ago, meaning there was a potential overlap of 14,000 years, which in turn hardly suggests wholesale genocidal mayhem (

So the hunter-killer scenario, with one species as ruthless restaurateur and the other as regional plat du jour, is almost certainly a caricature. In fact, given the small and sparse populations in early Europe, the two may not even have had much to do with each other, though Neanderthal traces in the human genome do attest to some contact. According to Prof Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum, ‘we don’t need to invoke violent causes for [Neanderthals’] demise. There are already two main factors they had to contend with.’ The first of these was rapid climate change: ‘Most of the north Atlantic was switching from bitterly cold to nearly as warm as the present day every few thousand years, sometimes in less than a decade, and so Neanderthals had to deal with an extremely unstable climate in western Europe before modern humans arrived there’ (

The other factor was humans’ competitive success, due to the fact that, as Prof Stringer says, ‘we were networking better, our social groups were larger, we were storing knowledge better and we built on that knowledge’.

This is not to say that early humans were eco-friendly hippies. Early modern humans very likely hunted most megafauna to extinction, and certainly deforested huge areas of land, contrary to those romantics who impute mystical communion with and respect for nature to all aboriginal populations. But let’s not allow shameless apologists for capitalism to get away with misrepresenting the past for their own propaganda purposes.

Last year’s models
‘We’ve been here before and been disappointed, but we are all secretly hoping that this is really it, and that in our lifetime we might see the kind of transformation that we have read about in history books’ (
You might think this is a socialist talking about the revolution to abolish capitalism. In fact it’s a scientist referring to the fact that the fundamental W-boson particle appears not to weigh quite what it ought to. It’s only a small difference, but as Prof Brian Cox once observed about a study purporting to show neutrinos travelling slightly faster than the speed of light, to a physicist that’s like saying that you’ve done the sums and found that 2 + 2 don’t quite equal 4. It fractures your whole world like a thunderbolt.

Instead of being horrified at this prospect, physicists are as excited as kids on E-numbers. They have no stake in the current ‘standard model’ of physics because they already know it’s wrong in at least three ways. There’s a whole bunch of anti-matter that should be out there but isn’t. There’s a whole bunch of dark matter and dark energy that shouldn’t be out there but is. And gravity haunts it all like the ghost in the machine, inexplicably analogue in an otherwise digital quantum reality. There are all sorts of theories to account for these problems, and the race is on to find evidence for a winner.

How different from the world of everyday affairs, whose social organisation also has its own ‘standard model’, currently known as capitalism. In this case too, there are all sorts of things systemically wrong with it, and many people can see this, not just socialists. But, unlike physics, some people do have a huge financial stake in the status quo, and that doesn’t just skew the debate, it prevents it taking place. So whereas physicists are looking excitedly for a better and more coherent model that they know must be out there if only they can figure it out, the rich are making sure that no such endeavour is taking place in the social realm.

Which is unfortunate, because whereas in particle physics the most that’s probably at stake is a Nobel prize and some departmental funding, for human society the consequence of not having a constructive debate about the future might be not having any future at all.
Paddy Shannon