Saturday, May 28, 2022

Party News Briefs (1947)

Party News from the May 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

Special May Day meetings have been arranged in London, Glasgow and Manchester. London has Islington Central Hall on Thursday, May 1st, and the Metropolitan Theatre, Edgware Road, on Sunday, May 4th. Glasgow has booked the Central Halls, Bath Street, and Manchester has arranged a big open-air rally in Platt Fields, both on May 4th.


Debates are being arranged with Beverley Baxter, M.P., at Wood Green (Palmers Green branch), the S.L.P. (Glasgow branch), and a Conservative (Manchester branch).


The Propagandist/Organiser leaves London on May 1st for five months in Birmingham and Manchester areas.


The Economics Class at Head Office has been suspended for the summer. This has been one of the most successful classes in the history of the party. Look for an announcement of its re-opening in the autumn.


Hackney branch has had a very good series of indoor meetings with big audiences, even during the arctic evenings. Their advertising methods must have been excellent.


Kingston-on-Thames group is getting ready to ask the Executive Committee for permission to form a branch. There are good outdoor propaganda possibilities here.


Manchester branch distributed a specially prepared leaflet at a big meeting there addressed by Wallace, the American politician.


Ealing branch had about 50 at a very happy social evening. This branch is steadily growing and now has 45 members.


(Branches, officials and sub-committee who have items for these notes must give them to the General Secretary by the 8th of the month preceding issue. Publication cannot be guaranteed owing to shortage of space.)
Clifford Groves,
General Secretary

Annual Conference (1947)

Party News from the May 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The 43rd Annual Conference was held at the Conway Hall in London on April 4th, 5th and 6th. 60 Delegates from 22 London and provincial branches examined the party's work during 1946 and discussed how to increase and improve organised Socialist activity in the future. It was a conference of Socialists and there were no disputes about our objective or how to arrive at it. We spent three days in sharpening our weapons of attack on Capitalism. The conference wanted more educational work for members, closer contacts with workers abroad and a continuance of the struggle against Capitalism's parties on the electoral field. It critically surveyed the party's publications and pressed for a greater range of pamphlets dealing with all phases of Capitalism to aid us in our fight for Socialism. The discussions were lively and interesting and it was very encouraging to hear a large number of young delegates competently putting their branches' views. Fraternal greetings were received from companion parties, overseas which were reciprocated by the Conference. It was a democratic conference of working men and women who were united on fundamental issues and it showed how the working-class can manage its own affairs without direction or leadership.

On Sunday evening three speakers hammered home our policy at the Annual Rally which concluded the conference. The conference was successful financially, helped by the income from the Saturday evening social. A large number of members and sympathisers danced and generally enjoyed themselves. Some members want these free and easy social get-togethers to take place more often.
Clifford Groves

Blogger's Note:
The three Party speakers at the Annual Conference Rally were Arthur Mertons (Manchester), Tony Mulheron (Glasgow) and Tony Turner (London).

The Common Market: In or out — does it matter? (1975)

From the May 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

What It's About

Europe 1945 — a shattered continent after the second war within 30 years. Industries laid waste. Millions dead. American aid pouring in trying to create a bulwark against the Russian menace. What was the future for European capitalism, as it drifted into the latter half of the 20th Century? To continue as a bunch of warring states; as competitors in the process of making, buying and selling? Or could they not become one big family? The conception of the EEC — European Economic Community — Common Market was born and the Treaty of Rome, 1957 signed by France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries contained the following clause:— “To permit goods to travel freely without Customs Duties or quota restriction throughout the area of the six and thus to permit manufacturers to invest on the scale that modern technology makes possible and necessary” (our italics).

This is what it’s about.

Capitalism — a system based upon class ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution must invest in order to survive. It needs a developing technology, it needs a growing market, and the European bunch, faced with competition from America, Russia etc. saw their Community, as the answer. It was a bold step and despite constant set-backs the foundations were laid and building commenced.

Great Britain, despite the pro-European utterances of Winston Churchill, did not join. She was lumbered with the Commonwealth and any deal with Europe had to relate to New Zealand lamb, Australian butter, Jamaican sugar etc. Harold MacMillan, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Tory Government, even prior to the Rome Treaty had no doubts “. . . Or we might ourselves join the Union; but this would involve abandoning the preferential system in the Commonwealth, and obviously if we had the choice of alternatives, we could not hesitate; we would choose the Commonwealth’. (Llandudno, 12th October 1956).

So the British capitalists wanting the best of both worlds — the Commonwealth and a tariff agreement, formed with Switzerland, Portugal, Austria, Sweden. Denmark and Norway the European Free Trade Area (EFTA). This association was to negotiate trade terms with the Common Market. But why swim with the small fish when you can see larger fish in another pool, getting larger and threatening your existence ? The Commonwealth and EFTA notwithstanding, Britain applied for membership of the EEC in 1963. The application was rejected largely due to the attitude of the French Government who wanted total commitment to a European policy — not an applicant with one foot in the Commonwealth and a certain reliance on America. “On Monday the General [de Gaulle] made it clear that he did not want Britain in, and that his reasons were political.” (Observer 19th January 1963). America incidentally, looked upon all these European proposals with suspicion.

But the British capitalists’ appetite had been whetted. The plums in Europe seemed larger and juicier, so again application was made under the Heath Government in 1971. Suitable terms were negotiated and Great Britain became a member on January 1st, 1973.

Neither the politicians nor the capitalists were united on this move. Some said the terms were not good enough; some said whatever the terms we should not be in. The Labour Party in particular were split on the issue. In their Election Manifesto of February 1974, they said our continued membership would depend upon more suitable terms being agreed. After months of discussion and brinkmanship, Mr. Wilson was able to report to Parliament on 18th March, 1975 “The Government have decided to recommend to the British people that they should vote in favour of staying in the Community on the terms which I have described”. Many commentators questioned whether the now acceptable terms were fundamentally different from those originally agreed but this need not concern us. And so we are being allowed to vote in the Referendum — IN or OUT. But more on this later.

Much of the discussion on the Common Market centres around the economic aspect but the EEC also entails a political angle. If such an economic set-up is to function, then the political machinery must be geared accordingly. You can’t have all these separate Governments taking decisions from a Nationalist viewpoint, ignoring the greater good. So individual sovereignty will have its wings clipped. The British Parliament will not be the sole master in its own house. The European Parliament will take decisions that often seem to cut across the interests of National States.

It was also agreed by the Community, that by 1980 there would be Monetary Union with a common currency and the harmonisation of National Budgets. According to Herr Scheel “. . . this is the most ambitious project ever tackled by the Community”.

In all the EEC was an exciting and demanding future for Capitalism. If only it wasn’t such an awkward system to control and manage.

How is the Community making out ?
Eighteen years on is but a passing moment in the development of European capitalism. Many of the tariff duties have been disbanded. A greater volume of trade has taken place. A workers’ Charter has been formulated even to the extent of agreement on “worker participation on Industrial Boards”. The politicians fall out from time to time; the Brussels administration grows and grows. Fine words are spoken about the future. And then, despite a number of advances, that awkward capitalist system starts throwing its weight about and spanners in the works. Butter; beef; wine; fish; fruit. All you might say part of the sinews of life. But not in the world of capitalism. These are commodities produced for sale with a view to profit. And capitalism in its normal anarchistic fashion has produced too much for the market.

You will remember the Butter Mountain. 152,000 surplus tons at the end of 1970. A definite policy was adopted to curtail production, involving the slaughter of thousands of cows. But this didn’t get rid of the butter. It was costing a bomb to store. The old age pensioners with the price reduced coupons mopped up some of it. Some official thought of a brilliant idea to feed it back to the cows. Eventually they did a deal to sell it in bulk to Russia — a deal that cost the Community millions of pounds. And butter in Paris still costs 69p per lb.

French farmers, like all farmers, are constantly demanding higher prices for their produce. To prove the point, thousands of tons of fruit have been dumped on French roads over the past few years. And then we had the fascinating pictures of French fishermen likewise tipping their catches on the roads. English egg producers, claiming to be working at a loss, demonstrate against the importation of French eggs. Dried milk, an embarrassing surplus, is being rendered unfit for human consumption and processed into animal feed. And you all know about the beef. How it is much more profitable to put it into store and get the intervention price, whilst rump steak is £1.40 per lb. And now there is the Wine Lake. The Italians have so much that they want to sell it. But the French won’t have it at any price — they’ve put up a barrier against Italian wine. They have too much of their own for comfort. We could go on and on.

Another point about the Common Market with its great resources was the demand for labour. In fact, when Britain entered the Community, lists of jobs in Europe were pinned up in the Labour Exchanges and and great play was made of how labour would be more mobile. It’s a nice thought that any of the 800,000 unemployed in this country could shove off over to the continent and get a job. Their journey might not be fruitful; the Common Market members over the Channel have an unemployed army of 4 million. Little is said of the many thousands of migrant workers in Europe who having played their part in the development of capitalism are now out on a limb.

During the oil crisis of 1973 it might be assumed that “the partners” would show a united front against the Arab oil producers. But national aspirations won out. All countries were falling over each other to do a deal with the Arabs.

Inflation; currency crises; restriction on production; unemployment etc. etc. These are the stock in trade of capitalism. The Common Market will never solve these problems. The EEC ship will constantly smash itself against the rocks of its own system — a problem-producing system.

The Referendum — In or Out
For the first time in British History — a referendum. A device often used in other countries; Norway voted in such a manner to keep out. This vote, largely favoured by the anti-marketeers in the Labour Party, will resolve the decision for the Government. Mr. Wilson, when recommending the terms said “This is one of the most important parliamentary occasions in our history”. Not so. The British people are only being asked to endorse the continuation of capitalism, in or out, and they do this at every General Election. As yet, they continue to give this endorsement.

To remain in or get out has produced a weird assortment of protagonists. IN — Mr. Wilson and some members of his cabinet ally themselves with Mr. Heath, Maudling, the Liberal Party, the Confederation of British Industry, the Farmers’ Union and generally speaking ‘big business’. OUT — this includes an even weirder assortment. The Communist Party, Enoch Powell, Benn, Foot, Shore, The National Front and the TUC. A selection of the Ins and Outs is illuminating.

IN. “If we came out we would end as a country with nowhere to go.” (Lord Pritchard, President, Institute of Directors. The Times 18th March 1975).

OUT. “I am really warning people in the West Midlands that the capacity of British Ministers to help industry to re-equip is going to be gravely affected by membership, and that is one of the reasons why I hope the British people will vote to withdraw.” (Wedgwood Benn, speaking at Birmingham. The Guardian 22nd March 1975).

IN. “British withdrawal from the EEC would probably cause Lucas Industries to reduce its workforce by between 8,000 and 10,000 jobs.” (Bernard Scott, the Company’s Executive Chairman, The Guardian 13th March 1975).

OUT. He told the French Chamber of Commerce in London that the tuc believed Britain should not be in a Market of which competition was the guiding principle. (Len Murray, Gen. Sec. TUC. Evening Standard 7th March 1975). (Perhaps Mr. Murray can enlighten us as to what is the “guiding principle” under which British capitalism works at the moment?) 

IN. “I would not be involved in the Government if it has to take Britain out of the Common Market”. Shirley Williams, Secretary for Prices and Consumer Protection. (The Guardian 13th March 1975).

OUT. Pop Concerts, talks to Women’s Institute tea parties and trade union meetings and a a galaxy of prominent speakers including playwright John Osborne, author Kingsley Amis and scientist Kit Pedlar will be used in the fight to pull Britain out of Europe. (Get Britain Out Referendum Campaign. Evening Standard 20th March 1975). (Pardon us if we are not altogether overwhelmed by the galaxy of prominent speakers.)

IN. Mobilise for a Socialist Europe. (Labour Committee for Europe. Advert. The Guardian 17th February 1975). (Hardly we feel the reason why the CBI wants to keep in).

And so we could go on and on — one boring reason after another. How you will vote is your concern. We tell them to stuff their referendum. The real issue that the workers should tackle is Common Market or Common Ownership.

Where We Stand
We and our sympathisers will vote. We shall register on our papers our commitment for Socialism. The question you are being asked to answer — In or Out — is of no concern to members of the working class. Whatever the outcome of the vote, Capitalism will continue. And continue it will until you and a majority like you take the revolutionary step of deciding to abolish capitalism in all its forms and to bring into being a new society.

THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN has only one object — Socialism, which briefly means the common ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution, democratically administered for the common good. The earth, with its untold riches would be harnessed and utilised for the benefit of all mankind. This means that human needs take priority and production centres around these. From each according to ability — to each according to need would be the guiding principle. Simply put, it means that all those sinews of life previously mentioned, and the thousand and one other things that mankind needs, would be produced to meet human satisfaction.

Socialism cannot operate in one country or in one continent. It is a world-wide concept to deal with world-wide problems. It cannot be established by any leader or so called intellectual Left Wing group. Its very democratic nature demands that people will have to understand both the capitalist and the new society so that they play a full and responsible role in its administration. Its establishment will result from political action based upon understanding: a class-conscious act to take control of the reins of Government; then strip the capitalists of their power, their wealth, and found a new way of life.

Whilst we claim that Socialism alone can solve the basic economic problems that confront mankind, it is not a society just concerned with “belly problems”. Its new economic basis will give rise to a new set of social relationships. Man, no longer a wage slave or an appendage to a productive machine, will be able to utilise all his potential, to blossom as a full human being.

THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN Offers itself as your instrument for the establishment of Socialism. We offer an understanding of capitalism and some concrete ideas on how Socialism will work. But we are not leaders. You join our Party on the basis of your Socialist knowledge. We would welcome you and what you have to contribute to the only question worthy of consideration—Common Ownership or Capitalism.

Away with all the trappings of capitalism — tariffs, customs duties, monetary union, competition, buying, selling etc. Vote for nothing but Common Ownership.
Cyril May

SPGB Lectures and Meetings (1975)

Party News from the May 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard









The N.H.S.—Was it worth it? (1975)

From the May 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are still many people who will tell you that the British NHS offers the best medical attention, for patients of all social strata, in the world. In fact, nearly all its original claims have proved to be miserably false.

When discussing the “welfare state” one still often hears the completely false claim that “nobody starves to death in Britain any more.” Thousands of people die here every year from lack of food, clothing, blankets and fuel. The respectable term for this starvation is ‘hypothermia”. Strictly translated this means “low heat” and indicates that the victims suffer from an insufficiency of calories to support their basic vital metabolic needs. They starve from lack of calories.

An article in the November 8th 1974 issue of the periodical General Practitioner reads as follows:
Dr. Geoffrey Taylor, of Ilminster, near Taunton, retired Professor of Medicine in Lahore, India, and a leading campaigner in the nutrition and problems of old people, plans to ask local health officials and Somerset County Council to help him set up a team of volunteer street wardens.

These wardens, armed with room thermometers, will check the homes of old people to make sure the rooms they are living in have a temperature of at least 70°F. If necessary, they will block draughts, check insulation and advise the old people to live entirely in one room. “Very large numbers of old people suffer heart attacks as a result of extreme cold”, he said.

“About 700,000 have core temperatures of 95.5°F, and are on the verge of hypothermia in mild winters. In cold winters there must be three or four times that number. It is a question of action now. Our problem is getting volunteers”.

But the warden scheme is only a short-term answer. Dr. Taylor is hoping to persuade councils to back his long term scheme for district heating. He explained: "District heating uses waste material now thrown away to boil water which can heat homes.
Elderly invalids living alone are often victims of loneliness and depression. Rightly, they should have constant nursing attention and company. They often need frequent cleaning and changing and assistance with feeding and using the toilet. In the enormous numbers of homes that have no fixed bath or inside lavatory this is very difficult. Relatives with their own family responsibilities often just cannot properly cope with these cases. Yet there is a great shortage of hospitals for the frail and old — with waiting lists which will become even longer — since Mrs. Barbara Castle has intimated not only will there be no increased expenditure in this field but expenditure will have to be less for some years to come. An article in the General Practitioner of July 13th 1973, reads:
Strongly associated with chronic disability were low income, age, widowhood and living alone. More than a third of all persons living alone were chronically limited by disability and this proportion rose to 44% in the over sixties.

The proportion of chronic sick varied between 35% and 41% in families with a total income of £5 to £12.50 a week.
So much for the Welfare State. Did we really “never have it so good?”

It was once boasted that the NHS would provide free specialist treatment for all, and that the needy would not have to suffer ill health any more because of their poverty. But now, with waiting periods of months for specialist appointments and years for routine operations, this is an empty promise. When told of these waiting lists workers often ask how much it would cost to “go private” and so have their case dealt with much sooner. When told the probable fee, some struggle to find it and others turn away amazed and disappointed. Yet another example of the broken promises and boasts of the NHS was that patients would be able to receive treatment without having to pay the monstrous prices of drugs. Yet now, being handed a prescription, poor patients sometimes ask if one or more of the items prescribed for their health can be deleted because finding the extra 20p is beyond them.

The profits of drug manufacturers are enormous but they claim that these are necessary, to plough funds back into research for new drugs. But it is well-known that many drug companies manufacture and sell products introduced by other firms under different proprietary names. Their subsequent propaganda often points out that their product is more than just a pharmacological equivalent because, say, it is better absorbed or has less side effects. This one drug may be bought at different prices, in different make-up and under different proprietary names. Admittedly some companies spend a lot on research and introduction of completely new drugs. Nevertheless, far more of their returns are spent on advertizing their own brands in opposition to the pharmaceutical equivalents made by others. Figures vary, but it has been said that in certain cases five times as much is spent on advertising them as on research.

In a sane order of society research would be made finding the most efficacious and side-effect-free product and this alone would be manufactured and used. Such massive duplication with its attendant wastage would then be pointless.
R. B. Gill

The Voice of Indira (1975)

From the May 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

India is a pretty grim place for the vast majority of its millions. It is good to note that they — at least some of them — retain a wry sense of humour. Which they demonstrate by using the above punning title for the radio station “Voice of India” and thereby show they know only too well that Mrs. Ghandi, with her Congress buddies, exercises a pervasive influence on the affairs of the sub-continent.

Her second name is as confusing as her first. She is not related to the Mahatma, “the naked fakir” as he was called in the days of the British Raj. He conducted the “Civil Disobedience” campaigns which helped to establish the movement which eventually brought the joys of independence to India. But when the goal was achieved and the British got out after the war (they couldn’t get out fast enough. The great diamond of the British crown was by then a hopeless burden, and Attlee’s government got out so fast that they almost made sure that there would be the most appalling massacres of Sikhs, Moslems, etc. to celebrate the coming of “freedom”), when this took place, Ghandi himself did not take over the reins. He was by then thoroughly disillusioned himself, and was shortly to be murdered. The boss of the show was then and up to his death (natural causes, this time), Pandit Nehru, Ghandi’s lieutenant, a wealthy darling of the British left and father of Indira, who in the fullness of time, inherited his wealth and power. And, of course, his impudent nerve in calling himself a socialist.

When we see how slowly the majority of workers the world over learn the facts of capitalist life and the need to end the system and establish a worldwide classless society in its place, we can take comfort in the fact that there must be magic in the very name of Socialism. Even if it is used up to now only to cloak the hideous reality of capitalism, there are many rulers who realize that the time has come to pay lip-service. (It’s true that the other side of the coin is that many workers, seeing what passes for Socialism or Communism, must shy away from the very idea. You can’t win ’em all.) One thing sure, is that many countries which masquerade as Socialist seem to prove their point by the most naked repression of the working class. A few years ago, when the Polish dockers in Danzig and Stettin were faced with sharp rises in prices of necessary commodities and decided that they simply had to go on strike, they were mown down by Communist tanks. More recently, when the workers of Cairo, realizing that after they had performed their deeds of heroism in the teeth of the wicked Israelis they were still living at the bottom of the social pyramid, decided to demonstrate in the streets, their guardian of Egyptian “socialism” President Sadat followed suit, sent the troops in and flung hundreds of workers in gaol. And Indira Ghandi shows that she is of the same vicious stuff. Despite the alleged gentleness of the Indian nature, and despite the fact that she had learnt her “socialism” and her "democracy” from her leftist father who in turn had learned it at Harrow — no starving peasant he — when the railwaymen found that the pressures were too great and the prices too high (it’s the same the whole world over) and decided to strike, Madam Prime Minister lost no time in using troops to flatten the strikers and bang those who fancied standing out into prison.

It should be noted that Mrs. Ghandi took this step in a country which is nominally a democracy and where freedoms including the right to strike are supposed to be taken for granted. In proper police states, there is no such pretence. The place for strikers is not the picket lines but the gaol or the cemetery. So after a long campaign for the glories of Ghandi’s Swaraj (home rule), and after much sacrifice in achieving it, the Indian workers, like so many others who have not appreciated the socialist warning about the trap that is nationalism, find that their own beloved native rulers treat them as badly as the hated imperialists (or even worse).

But perhaps the way the masses are now treated in India by their rulers can be best illustrated in all its horror by a matter concerned with cricket. A certain love of this game is one of the legacies which the British left behind them. When Test matches are played there are enormous crowds and thousands watching TV in shop windows, though it may well be that most of the millions in the villages, eking out subsistence, neither know nor care about cricket. But a worker in a dreadful town like Calcutta will find the prospect of a day watching a game played by white-flannelled players on green grass the equivalent of a package fortnight in Majorca. It is also relevant to mention that in the latest Test team there was only one player (and he the son of a groundsman) who was a normal worker. The rest were upper-class university types who could afford to belong to clubs and pay for clothes, bats etc.

During the winter India were playing a touring side from the West Indies. And at the same time large areas of the country were suffering from famine so that thousands were literally starving. This latter problem was up for debate in the Lokh Sabbah when something happened. The MPs in a body refused to consider the debate until they had got their allocation of Test match tickets (this is one of the perks with the job). One MP was quoted as saying: “We come for Test match tickets and you offer us famine.” The sheer brutality of this attitude is probably unparalleled anywhere as a public utterance. Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake” is nothing at all — and she never even said it. But these MPs are elected ostensibly to look after the interests of the masses whom they allegedly represent. And the salaries that these heirs of Ghandi draw are incredible in any circumstances but utterly unbelievable in the context of peasants having an income of less than £100 a year to keep their families (some as little as £20 a year). The MPs draw £20,000 a year — plus Test match tickets. Imagination boggles at what Indira must get. Not that she needs the money. She’s all right, Pandit.

This is the pattern in all the countries where the glories of Independence have been won. The grab-all tactics of the Kenyan socialist Kenyatta and his family ought to be a scandal — but it is commonplace throughout black Africa. And as in India, the masses of workers who were duped into the struggle for nationalism, are rewarded with the merest pittance while their native rulers wax fat. Possibly with the issue of nationalism out of the way, the workers will begin to see a little light and think about the real issue, which is their class position in society.
L. E. Weidberg

The Evolution of Scientific Socialism (1975)

From the May 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

Scientific Socialism is a doctrine which in the early 1840s began to emerge out of Utopian socialism, under the influence of Hegelian philosophy on the one hand and of classical political economy on the other. It is the doctrine which gave the adequate explanation of the whole course of civilization.

Thus destroying the fallacious arguments of the capitalist theoreticians, the doctrine was essential to the interests of the working class. Not only did this doctrine give a clear demonstration of the inconsistencies of the opponents of Socialism, but furthermore when showing their mistakes it supplied the historical explanation of these errors.

Just as Darwin enriched the natural sciences with his work on the origin of species, a theory simple and scientific, so the founders of Scientific Socialism showed that in the development of the forces of production, and in the struggle of these forces against the social condition of production, there was implicit the principle of the transformation of social species.

It must not be supposed that Scientific Socialism can be recommended as a rule of thumb method, or as an absolute truth. Obviously even today the development of Scientific Socialism is not finished. That development did not come to an end with the writings of Marx and Engels, any more than the theory of the origin of species was worked out once and out for all. The main principles of Scientific Socialism have been used for a study of subsidiary problems, a study that will complete the revolution in science brought about by Marx and Engels. The outlook of most branches of sociology have been enlarged by the adoption (usually without acknowledgement) of the philosophic standpoint of Marx and Engels. Though Scientific Socialism derives its philosophy from Kant and Hegel among others, it is opposed to idealism. This philosophy has to a large extent replaced idealism in the realm of philosophy. Scientific Socialism is based upon the materialist conception of history. This means that it explains ethical and moral history as the outcome of the development of the social relations, partly influenced by the natural environment.

To hold the viewpoint that man is a product of his environment, that he is moulded by his surroundings, is not enough to account for the social differences. Environment itself is a complex of contradictions. It is not the consciousness of men which determines their existence, but conversely their social existence which determines their consciousness; so that man by acting on natural forces outside himself and changing them at the same time, changes his own nature.

Engels in his 1888 preface to The Communist Manifesto said:
In every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch.
Marx wrote: “The philosophers have hitherto sought to explain the world; we seek to change it.” But how can the world be changed?

Marx, who in the 1840s was steeped in the study of histories and prevailing conditions of France and England, came to the conclusion that the working class was the only class that could bring about the change. With the publication of Marx’s Capital and its detailed analysis of capitalism a clear demonstration became available, which shows that although there has been an enormous development in capitalism since its publication, the basis of society remains the same. The problem of a way to abolish poverty from the world has remained insoluble.

Modern capitalism with its tremendous potentiality has made it possible to provide all members of world society with their needs of life to transform this potentiality into an accomplished fact. This is the historic mission of the working class. To change the basis of society from its present capitalist form, to one of common ownership and democratic control, and so harmonize the present form of social production with one of social ownership in order that goods and services shall be freely available to all mankind.

To bring about this change in the basis of society it is imperative that the working class (that is those who are dependent on wages or salaries in order to live) shall take control of political power in order that this power, at present being used to maintain capitalism, shall be so shaped and altered to the needs of the new society.

Taking over political power under these circumstances will be a revolutionary act. Nevertheless it must be a democratic act, a deliberate act by class-conscious men and women, a class scorning the idea of leadership, a class which will instruct its delegates to work for the abolition of the working class, and thus abolish class society, and bring into being the new society.
Bob Ambridge

Three Voices (1975)

From the May 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard
When POVERTY and FORTUNE met 
To discuss their various plans 
Said FORTUNE: “I’ve smiled upon the rich 
And with them shaken hands.
To them I've whispered POVERTY
Will help us to exploit
The poor and dejected
And to their hopes put flight”.

Said POVERTY: “My worthy friend,
I knew you wouldn’t falter
At the throne of riches bending knee,
Ignoring poor man’s altar.
’Tis on its slab their hopes will die 
Ambitious souls will perish.
All their dreams we’ll sacrifice 
The dream that they most cherish.
For their freedom is but a symbol,
And for all their vain endeavour,
The poor will still be rich man’s slave 
The chains they’ll never sever.”
Said FORTUNE: ‘You’re my dearest friend, 
And constant too, I’m sure.”
So FORTUNE smiled upon the rich 
While POVERTY cursed the poor.

When SOCIALISM heard of this 
He thus addressed the poor:
“I cannot cure all life’s ills
But I can make them by far fewer.
So it’s I and UNDERSTANDING 
Workers must set their aim 
And hope for a better future 
Will burn with a brighter flame.”
John L. Preece

May Day—we ask Is Socialism Inevitable? (1975)

From the May 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

May Day has a special significance for the Socialist in that at least it symbolises international working-class solidarity in the fight against international capitalism. That workers struggle is not in question, but what are they struggling for? One thing is certain. They are not struggling for Socialism, but for better conditions within capitalism. There is the never-ending clamour for full employment and high wages instead of the abolition of employment and wage-labour. And yet something useful has emerged, and that is that the so-called vanguard of the international working-class movement, the Labour, Social-Democratic and Communist parties everywhere, have been thoroughly discredited and exposed for what they really are — the agents of class exploitation and the natural enemies of Socialism. That lesson will be learned by workers sooner than later.

There is not one single country in the capitalist world which is not suffering either from a political or economic or military crisis. Some have all three. The home of twentieth-century capitalism, America, has an unemployed figure of 8 millions, in addition to being heavily involved in the political struggle between Israel and Egypt and other Arab states. Militarily it has just emerged from the Vietnam war and may be involved again. Its military and naval commitments in Europe and the Pacific are a constant drain on the revenue of the American ruling class, as are all armed forces of any country. The Russians have nearly 3½ million men under arms in Europe alone and wonder why they are running short of man-power. The European community of nine nations, including Great Britain, has an unemployed figure almost equal to that of America. Africa is a powder keg of growing racialism and nationalism, forcing the old European ruling classes to abandon imperialism or get out. The Indian sub-continent is beset with civil war and political instability. There has been a permanent state of war in Indo-China (Vietnam) for the last twenty years.

The capitalist world is in ferment; but this is a second fermentation. The first produces the wine — the second vinegar. The system has outlived its usefulness, and is no longer a progressive force developing the powers of production and distribution. The market, or the mode of exchange, is in conflict with the mode of production. The forces of production are capable of producing an ever-increasing abundance of wealth, but the mode of exchange forbids any production of wealth beyond that which can be sold or exchanged. The social relations of production, wage-labour, capital, money, are restricting and fettering the means of production and distribution. Capitalism has become reactionary. When the social relations of production are in contradiction to the powers of production, and when society demands that these powers of production shall fulfill social needs, a revolutionary situation has developed.

The SPGB has always taken the view that revolutionary ideas which seek a social change can only arise when such a change is possible, and that the means and conditions are ripe and success can be guaranteed. Revolution is not a change of government or system of administration; i.e. dictatorship or democracy — state capitalism or private enterprise. These are superficial changes but they are not revolutionary because they do not change the social basis of capitalist society, or the social relations which hold it together. Russia and China are included in this category of non-revolutionary systems. The establishment and maintenance of capitalism through the State machinery as exists in these countries, and others with similar false socialist pretensions, is not revolutionary because they retain the same social basis of capitalist production and distribution. The Socialist revolution cannot be achieved by force of arms, by violence, whether in the form of armed revolt or industrial sabotage. Neither can it be achieved through strikes and general strikes. We are opposed to all these methods advocated by the variegated groups of the Left, who style themselves as the leaders of working-class emancipation.

Paying lip-service to Socialism they have managed to sway millions of workers to support rĂ©gimes and systems of administration which are alien to the whole concept of Socialism. What’s more, they have turned the administration of capitalism into a profession. The old ruling class has been superannuated; the part-time aristocratic gentlemen rulers have been replaced by a new breed of self-seeking ambitious professional politicians, only too eager and anxious to prostitute their abilities, and who are ruthless in their determination to get to the seats of power.

Reformist propaganda is one of the main reasons why the workers do not understand Socialism. The Labour and Communist parties of Europe are at present engaged in a dispute as to whether capitalism will function better under the Common Market. This has no relevance whatever to the working class and Socialism, and in fact is harmful to Socialist propaganda in that it detracts from the issue.

There are so many forces working against Socialism that it is a wonder that a Socialist Party can still survive. It does survive because Socialist society will be the result of historical necessity. That is, that it is the inevitable result result of the course of social evolution. There is a social law of development which traces the birth, growth and decay of social systems. This law was discovered by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels and is known as the Materialist Conception of History. Its scientific validity has been demonstrated repeatedly. Broadly, it maintains that all history has been a struggle between social classes for control of political power. That social systems change when all the productive forces for which there is room within any given society have been developed and are prevented from developing further. Revolution occurs when men become conscious, or are aware of this situation.

Socialist ideas are indestructible because they are born out of the social conditions and cannot be destroyed any more than you can abolish the Law of Gravity. The inevitability of Socialism is a historical necessity based on a historical cause. But we are not mechanical puppets moved round by historical necessity. The existence of the conditions will not, in themselves, produce the desired social change. This is the argument of the economic determinists who wrongly claim the authority of Marx for this erroneous proposition. The inevitability of Socialism must be a combination of two things; conditions and ideas. The social conditions are present, the Socialist ideas are not. Again, if we refer to human history we shall see that men do eventually become conscious of the need for social change, and provided the conditions are present will successfully accomplish that change. Socialism will be no exception to this historical law. Socialism is inevitable because men will seek and gain Socialist knowledge, and change society. Socialism cannot arise from a collapse of capitalism through crises or unemployment — it can only arise through international working-class consciousness.

The means of production have been developed to the point where universal social needs can be satisfied. This is beyond dispute. Capitalist society cannot use the productive forces at its disposal, including the greatest productive force of all — the international working class.

Society must, therefore, move on to a higher stage of production. Social problems must be dealt with fundamentally. To achieve this Socialist consciousness must be created and this is the work of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. The class struggle can only be successfully fought on the sole issue of Socialism or capitalism. On this May Day 1975 we greet workers everywhere with the optimism born out of the splendid proposition we have the honour to represent — Socialism. There is no disunity and despondency in the ranks of the Socialist Party. Our interests are your interests. Our future is your future.
Jim D'Arcy

So They Say: Economic Waste (1975)

The So They Say Column from the May 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

Economic Waste

On 1st April. the new Health and Safety at Work Act came into force. It had previously received paid publicity in the press along the lines that it represented:
A great new chance to make work a lot safer and healthier in Britain.
(Daily Mirror, 24th March 75)
The announcements heralding its approach quoted the following passage from the Robens report of the Committee of Health and Safety at Work:
The toll of death, injury, suffering and economic waste from accidents at work and occupational diseases remains unacceptably high!
Although it would be impossible to measure suffering, the hard facts are measurable and give some insight into the reasons for the Act:
Every year nearly 1,000 people are killed by accidents at work—between 3 and 4 every working day. Well over 500,000 are injured badly enough to be off work for more than 3 days. Some 250,000 are presently getting disability benefit; some 30,000 wives have been made widows by accidents at work. This means much suffering for the individual and a heavy cost to the community.
The suffering of a particular individual who has been injured through working in unsafe conditions is of the least importance to the capitalists. Where it begins to hurt them is when this “heavy cost to the community” has to be borne: that is, through taxation from the capitalist class as a whole. It is they who ultimately pay disability benefit, or the costs of medical treatment through the Health Service, or allowances to widows whose husbands have been killed. It follows that it is directly to their benefit that such expenses be reduced to a minimum.

The Act has increased the responsibility on the employer by threatening all those who fail to maintain a safe plant, give adequate training and supervision, or ensure that his workers are aware of the safety policy, that the Government can levy heavy fines and penalties. This is only to be expected. Those capitalists who do increase conditions of safety will expect some guarantee that all of them have joined in the drive. It would naturally cause some pique if one private-property owner made his plant safe in order to obtain some eventual relief from taxation, only to find that his competitor was still cutting all the corners and still placing his workers in jeopardy. The consequent cost of any accidents would have to be met by both of them.

The announcement also describes how workers (including self-employed workers) can play a part. They
must take care to avoid injuring themselves or others at work.
It is clear that any sensible worker will take care to avoid injuring himself, but however careful he may be, when placed in a position where physical dangers exist as well as being under constant pressure to maintain or increase his output, accidents will occur. Nor will they disappear even if all capitalists comply with the code of practice set out in the Act. It is not possible to remove the occasional lapse of attention with legislation while men are unceasingly harried at work in which they have no interest.


No Deal — Yet

The Government adopted an interesting position on the request from the Libyan Government to supply up to £1,000m. worth of tanks, guns, fighter aircraft submarines etc. They considered the request and decided that they probably could not accede to the major part of the order. They took this decision after some consideration—armaments after all are commodities and capitalist production operates to produce and sell commodities. The Labour Party cannot be concerned with the fact that such commodities can only be used for destructive purposes. They are however interested in who is buying them, especially in view of the fact that arms previously sold to Libya have mysteriously "found their way” to the IRA. However they are not all united on the issue. Mr. William Wilson, Labour MP for Coventry South East, spoke of his Party’s decision thus:
It is a deplorable situation. The orders will almost certainly now go to France.
(Financial Times, 12th April 1975)
The Government considered the Libyan request within the context of their policy for selling arms to the Middle East. This policy was outlined by Mr. David Ennals as Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office last year:
Our over-riding objective in the Middle East is a just and lasting settlement of the dispute between the Arabs and Israel. We are willing to consider requests from Middle East countries for arms, the supply of which in our view would not endanger the achievement of such a solution, in the light of our judgement of the long term policies of the State in question.
If that smacks a little of expediency, Sir Lester Suffield made it plainer:
We don’t do anything that can escalate fighting on one side or the other.
(Financial Times, 12th April 1975)
And he is in an authoritative position to speak. His post is that of Head of defence sales in the Ministry of Defence. We can only assume here that those sales of armaments which he does arrange are only to countries who give a most sincere promise never to use them.


Meaning Prestige

Some tantalizing prospects were held before us in an advertisement appearing in The Sun of 3rd April. In bold type it addressed itself to “MEN! GIRLS!” (perhaps ‘women’ is now considered unflattering).
You can earn £100 p.w. Plus an exciting life and a secure future.
The mind boggles — how?
How? Get into the fabulous Computer Industry now . . . Thanks to our method people from all walks of life have exchanged boring, underpaid, insecure jobs for careers that have meaning prestige and security.
Those reading the rest of the advertisement found that it was not actually offering the above delights, but was offering to train applicants in the techniques of such “exciting” work as programming, operating and key-punching cards for computers. The delights presumably would come later, after you had paid for the course. And how would you pay? Why, how else but with all those savings accrued from the under-paid job you were leaving? Nor is this a small sum, with courses often costing over £200.

Putting aside the Computer Digest verdict in March that such training schools were "a waste of time and money”, all those still interested in the "exciting life” might note the fact that Mr. Dick Brandon (a "computer wizard” according to The Sunday Times of 13th April) is running a business which assists companies in up-dating their computers—a process referred to as "system transformation”. It is no small affair:
When we realized US computer users spend $3000m a year on conversion, we began to lick our lips.
He has now set up shop in Britain where he hopes to establish a conversion centre for Europe "with work pouring in from far and wide”. The relevance of conversion to all those would-be programmers, operators and key punchers?
The task of converting all the programmes takes months, is tediously boring and is quite likely to drive all your carefully trained, expensively hired and scarce personnel off to more stimulating pastures.
The stimulating pastures of The Sun’s advertisement columns no doubt.
Alan D'Arcy

Letters: Pendulums & Dynamos (1975)

Letters to the Editors from the May 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Standard welcomes letters for
 publication, putting questions about the Socialist case
or commenting on articles.

Pendulums & Dynamos

For many years now I’ve heard the Socialist Party of Great Britain’s case, but it is still hard to determine whether the Socialist pendulum swings on the importance of the economic factor or on the political factor in society.

To hear one Socialist speaker, one begins to think that the dynamo of the socialist case is the understanding of the wage-labour, value, price and profit relation, while one can think the dynamo of the Socialist case is its object—namely Socialism (common ownership, production for use etc.) (idealism).

One minute we are told that capitalism exists because people vote for some respective party, i.e. Labour. Liberal or Conservative while the next minute we are told capitalism exists because the majority of people support the institutions of capitalism—money, buying, selling, wages and profit-making, by actively taking part in actions associated with such institutions on the domestic and industrial front.

I await your reply.
R. Ramshaw
Manchester.


Reply:
Without the development of a potential for adequately meeting the needs of a world community Socialism could not be possible. This might be called the economic factor, and is, in our opinion, already here.

What has not yet developed is the Socialist majority, understanding their class position under capitalism, and ready and willing to undertake the transformation of society from capitalism to Socialism. This is the political factor. In its absence capitalism will continue to exist because workers, lacking the necessary Socialist knowledge, will continue to support political parties dedicated to the continuance of present day society.

Both factors are equally important for in the absence of either Socialism is not possible.
Editors.


Progress and Leadership

I admire and support the beliefs and objectives of the SPGB to a great extent, but I remain unconvinced about certain points.

Firstly the practicality of achieving Socialism. The Party has existed for 70 years but has made little progress in that time, and it is rare to meet anyone who has even heard of you. The capitalist media will always be unwilling to give airing to your views, and I cannot believe that a handful of members will be able to spread the Socialist word to any significant extent in a society dominated by capitalist education and culture. How can you break this situation and persuade a majority to vote for you?

Secondly, you seem to spend a great deal of time criticising the so-called Communist countries of the world, but surely you must admit that the standard of life for the vast majority of people in Russia, Eastern Europe, and China has been made infinitely better since the respective Revolutions, compared with their conditions previously. Despite the shortcomings of Communist regimes, their planned economies have enabled the basic needs of the working class to be rationally met, their material standard of life successfully improved, and social services provided on a large scale. How many generations more would these people have had to live in misery if these revolutions had not occurred?

All this leads to the question: is it not better in practice that an enlightened minority take action on behalf of the majority of oppressed people, rather than face the almost insuperable, and extremely lengthy, task of persuading the majority to vote for Socialism?
F. Ansell, 
Leeds.


Reply:
We are only too well aware that progress towards the establishment of Socialism is slow. Nevertheless progress is being made. We know of no short-cut around the necessary task of agitation and education for Socialism.

Capitalist propaganda cannot remove the problems suffered by the working class; neither can it solve the basic contradictions within society. In their efforts to solve the problems and contradictions the workers must eventually turn to Socialism as the only solution. Since the SPGB was formed we have seen a seemingly endless array of attempts at alleviating the problems thrown up by capitalism, and we have seen them fail as they must. If all those who in the past said, as you do, that they “admire and support” our objectives had joined with us in our task of making Socialists that task would have been made easier. Unfortunately such workers still persist in futile reformism, or in advocating minority action by “enlightened” leaders.

We are opposed to this. The outcome of minority-led revolutions, even if ostensibly to establish Socialism, must inevitably lead to some form of capitalism. In the absence of a Socialist majority consciously understanding the implications involved in the establishment of Socialism there is nothing the leadership (no matter how enlightened) can do other than administer capitalism.

The Russian and other state-capitalist revolutions (e.g. China, Cuba etc.) have set back the Socialist movement by at least fifty years, by side-tracking workers. Only now is the realization that they have nothing to do with Socialism—something we said at the time.

The fact that living standards have improved in these countries is no reason whatsoever for advocating that system of government. Indeed the same claim could be made for avowedly capitalist governments—is this a reason for workers continuing to support them? Of course not.

Your contention that they “have enabled the basic needs of the working class to be rationally met” is unfounded. Workers in state-capitalist countries suffer from the same problems as workers here. Poverty, inadequate housing, inflation and a constant struggle to make ends meet while a privileged minority live in luxury and comfort are features of Russia and East Europe as much as Britain. The waste of armaments, the rape of the world’s resources and pollution of the environment exist in “rationally planned” Russia. Look at the facts!

State plans come unstuck with the same monotonous regularity as do private enterprise ones. The Programme of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1961) promised Russian workers that government plans would increase agricultural production by 150 per cent in ten years. This would mean that “In the first decade the Soviet Union will outstrip the United States in output of the key agricultural products per head of population.” The intervening period has seen Russians entering the world markets in order to purchase massive amounts of grain (mainly American) to feed her people. Eastern Europe has been no more successful in this respect. Food shortages are common and what is available is costing more. Indeed many East European countries are relying more and more on what is left of the private sector in agriculture by giving cash grants to stimulate production.

State capitalism retains class divisions and solves no working class problems. The only escape from exploitation and subjugation remains Socialism.
Editors.


Art & the Ruling Class

The article “Art and Civilization” claims that only the social and economic environment explain how man acquires certain aesthetic tastes and conceptions. I certainly cannot agree with this view all the way. Some people have very little taste for art at all. The vast majority of workers would be bored stiff if they were made to go into an art gallery. You just cannot explain all art through economics.

Economic phenomena and intellectual phenomena are just not one and the same thing. The ruling ideas of any age may be the ideas of the ruling class of the time, but the ruling class did not paint the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo did. Certainly he had to have the material to work with, but it was his creation. A poet must have something to work with as well, but to say Schiller would never have written Laura am Klavier if no piano and no Laura existed would be nonsense.

A windmill cannot make meal unless it is fed with grain, but it is not the grain that runs the mill, but the wind. Some people could study aesthetics from now to doomsday and never produce a work of art. Beethovens and Wagners do not grow on trees; and did they get their ideas on how to compose their music from the ruling class? Burns’ “Tam O’Shanter” could be enjoyed and appreciated in a Socialist society as well as a capitalist society.
Ron Smith,
Dundee


Reply:
You are confused as to what is meant by "the social and economic environment”. Of course large numbers of workers do not care for classical arts: the ruling class does not pay to have them educated for that.

“Aesthetic tastes” generally require some leisure and comfort, both to be formed and to be pursued. That is why they are traditionally upper-class enjoyments and are held to be the “higher” ones. On the other hand, nearly all workers use taste and discrimination in their gardens, in appreciating sports, and when possible in their work. It is also true that working-class products and enjoyments are often despised but later appropriated by “the higher culture”; for example, folk art and the silent film.

Your historical examples do not support your argument. Michelangelo, like the other artists of his time, did religious paintings because a section of the ruling class — the church — paid him to. When patronage shifted from the church to the new commercial class, artists painted them instead. The impetus to musical composition has come most strongly from technical innovation, and in that respect composers are obviously dependent on social and economic change. Your windmill analogy in fact illustrates our point; the wind is still there, but windmills are no longer required.

If the ideas embodied in Beethoven’s music — or Shakespeare’s plays or Burns’s poems — did not come from society, where did they come from? The belief that the capacity to create and appreciate art is a thing apart from social development fails to explain why Beethoven is a row to Indians and Chinese, and their music to us. Only historical materialism gives an adequate explanation of these phenomena; without it people can, as you say, “study aesthetics from now to doomsday”.
Editors.


Getting round the world 

I have been an advocate of Socialism for many years now, in pre-war days I enjoyed listening to Harry Martin on Tower Hill. There is one point on which I would like some information. How is Socialism going to be established throughout the world at the same time? Seeing that one of the fundamental aims is the abolition of money. I cannot see that it is possible to establish it in one country at a time. I should be very grateful if you could put me right on this.
R. Phillips


Reply:
We agree with your view that Socialism cannot be established in one country at a time. As capitalism is the dominant form of society today, the problem created by it are also apparent throughout the world. Members of the working class internationally are therefore having similar problems to one another. However they are constantly misled by non-revolutionary political organisations that capitalism will, at some time, begin to work in their interests.

We can see no fundamental differences in the problems facing the working class in, say, the United States, Russia or Australia, but assuming that large numbers of workers in one part of the globe began to reject the false arguments of the capitalist parties and recognised the need for Socialism ahead of other workers, there is every reason to believe that interest in their ideas would be generated in a very short space of time among members of the working class in different parts of the globe.

One of the techniques which capitalism has developed to a tremendous degree is the facility of high-speed global communications. Socialist-conscious workers would use such facilities to the full in order to propagate their ideas to workers in other countries. They will do so recognising that Socialism can only be introduced by a united international working class. They will also do so in the knowledge that the solution to capitalism’s problems is the same for themselves as for fellow workers throughout the world.
Editors.

State Capitalism is not Socialism (1975)

From the May 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

The pages of the Socialist Standard have always pointed out the differences between the various competing capitalist states. These differences fall into two main categories.

The first concerns the amount of democracy permitted to the workers. The UK, certain parts of Western Europe and the United States are examples of countries where the expression of an opinion contrary to the interest of the ruling class does not mean persecution. It would be misguided to over-emphasise this point: the freedoms that are available come down to the bourgeois right of freedom of contract. That means the freedom of the capitalist to exploit the workers. The worker has the freedom to be short of the essentials of life, to be exploited.

In addition in the countries where freedom of expression does exist, it is strictly limited. There is no right to hold public meetings in the streets, or anywhere else for that matter. Nonetheless, the freedom of expression that prevails in the UK and some other countries is of some value to the working class. It is easier to put the Socialist case in London than in Budapest or Peking.

Whilst the first difference between the various political systems is therefore of some interest to the working class, the other main difference is not. This concerns state control, or nationalization as opposed to private enterprise. As far as the workers are concerned, exploitation by individual capitalists is just as bad as exploitation by a monolithic state organisation. Even Bukharin and Preobrazhensky were able to see this in 1919. Referring to the fact that under state capitalism all enterprises come under the dominance of the state they said:
State capitalism, centralising all those organisations, converting them all into the instruments of a single united organisation, contributes immensely to the power of capital. Bourgeois dictatorship attains its climax in State Capitalism . . . State capitalism uniting and organising the bourgeoisie increasing the power of capitalism has, of course greatly weakened the working class. (The ABC of Communism, Pelican edition p. 164).
Despite years of hard effort by the Socialist Party, two myths remain. The first is that state capitalism or some form of nationalization is of benefit to the workers. The second is that those countries that have a high degree of state control have in fact introduced Socialism or are at least in the process of doing so. Both these delusions are held by various sections of the political "left” despite the mass of evidence against them.

Take Russia first. The reality of state capitalism with all that it implies was made plain by Alexander Shelepin the former head of the Russian secret police when he was over here in March and April of this year as the guest of the TUC. The Guardian reported him as saying that the Russian unions were struggling to increase their living standards and to participate both in a share of the profits from industry and in industrial management (2nd April 1975). The next day The Sun reported him boasting that "Things were getting better every year. Wages were being increased.” Presumably in this workers’ paradise wages were previously "lower”.

The existence of wages is the hallmark of capitalism. Capitalism implies a certain relationship between people, depending on whether they own capital or merely the ability to work. The workers in selling themselves day after day to the capitalist enrich not themselves but the owners of capital whose wealth their work increases.

But despite the frantic action of the so-called communist parties throughout the world, the illusion that Russia is anything but a brutal fascist dictatorship, red-raw capitalism, is now held by very few. Instead, tragically people looking for hope from elsewhere (instead of working things out for themselves) have turned to China. Information on China is limited; nonetheless the papers are full of examples, for those prepared to see them, that what is going on in China is the build-up of a form of state capitalism. For instance, The Guardian reported Mao’s argument that there is an acute danger of capitalism reappearing just as he says that it has done in the Soviet Union. Mao is supposed to be urging the workers to keep up the struggle for Socialism (3rd April). If Socialism has been established why struggle to achieve it? If capitalism has been abolished how does it reappear?

The arguments go deeper. There are two fundamental conditions for the establishment of Socialism (which must be a world-wide event). The first is the technology capable of production in abundance. This patently was not possible in Russia in 1917 or in China in 1949. The second is the desire of the working class, based on knowledge and understanding, to establish and run a social system where all wealth is owned in common by the whole of mankind, where production takes place for use, and where all that is made by man, is freely available to man. This condition never existed in Russia or China and as yet exists nowhere in the world. But the measure of the political awareness of the working class, is their level of understanding of Socialism. Without Socialist knowledge, Socialism is no more possible than walking on water. Those that claim they are introducing Socialism for the working class (or have introduced it) are hoodwinking humanity.
Ronnie Warrington

50 Years Ago: The Housing Question (1975)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

How eloquent both Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the present Health Minister, and Mr. Wheatley, his predecessor in that office can become over the deplorable housing conditions of the workers! And what grand schemes both can produce to solve the problem ! And yet the housing problem is as troublesome as ever. Why?

In that Conservative newspaper, the Sunday Chronicle, March 1st, Mr. Harold Begbie has an article, entitled “The Selfish Builder”, from which we cull the following: —
‘Of all the sections of Labour which have thus paralyzed our industrial activity and brought incalculable sufferings and sorrows on the head of the working classes, none stands so clearly and so cruelly guilty as that section of Labour which controls the building trade . . . the guilt lies at the door of those politicians of Labour who have encouraged the operatives of the building trade to make a selfish use of the nation’s direct necessity.’
The national and municipal housing schemes of the Labour Party have not succeeded, for the same reason that other schemes fail. Capitalism, whether private, municipal, or under State ownership has no mere ethical or ‘spiritual’ basis, its basis is material profit, obtained by the exploitation of the workers and realised by the sale of goods. If there is no sale there is no realisation of profit, and it is solely because the great majority of workers can neither buy nor even rent a newly-built house that the output of houses is restricted.

Now if one were to go to the National Federation of Building Trade Operatives . . . their secretary has repeatedly pointed out that bricklayers and plasterers are on the books as unemployed, despite the cant of the employers about the shortage of skilled labour.

Moreover, is there any cry about the shortage of labour when a warehouse, mill, factory, bank, theatre or cinema is wanted? No, these jump up like mushrooms overnight.

(From an unsigned editorial “The Truth About the Housing Question”, Socialist Standard May 1925.)