Sunday, June 5, 2022

Donations to General Fund (1941)

Party News from the November 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blogger's Note:
I've not previously made a habit of posting these types of party funds columns from the war years on the blog, but I thought this time it was appropriate because of the bitter irony that the war economy brought full employment, and that trickled down into members and sympathizers pockets resulting in the Party being flush with donations for the first time in years. The sheer volume of donations was unprecedented and when you see the likes of Hamilton Branch donating to Party funds again and again, you know that for millions of workers war brought its financial benefits.

Hew to the Line (1941)

From the November 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

The wage slaves of Britain are still packing their weary burden, and it is becoming increasingly plain that their exploiters have no intention of reducing the load the producers are called upon to carry. Indeed, all kinds of schemes are being devised to induce them to move at a more rapid pace; they are told they can do more than they are doing if they only try; the fate of the world depends upon the workers of this country making a supreme effort to increase output. This is what our masters would have us all believe, and they reiterate at every opportunity the necessity of working as we never worked before. The politicians on the platform and the parson in the pulpit harp incessantly on the same theme. Capitalism has at last got a market for all the goods that can be produced; the war has opened the flood-gates; production and more production is demanded. All wage slaves are graciously given the loan of a job and called upon by all those who live off surplus value to make work their ruling passion.

The ideas prevailing in capitalist society are the ideas of the ruling class; the moral code is that which preserves the master’s right to compel obedience, especially in war time.

The press nowadays makes interesting reading for those workers who understand their class position. Lord Halifax told some New York Republicans on the night of the 6th of October:
“We must put our aims higher. Don’t let either of us have to write across our records these tragic words, ‘Too late.’

For us both there is one dominant aim—production, more production, still more production.

We have got to put out every ounce of energy and power we have. Nothing else will do.”
Lord Halifax is even endeavouring to put all the wage slaves in the United States to work. It is interesting to speculate if he will be inspired by a like zeal should working men gather around the labour exchanges when the war is over. We did not notice any great effort being made to find employment for men and women who were out of work in the years preceding the war. The working men and their families were condescendingly allowed to exist on the miserable pittance known as the dole. Shipbuilders, mechanics, artisans and labourers of every description and of both sexes were then not wanted, and our masters apparently were unaware of their existence. Now these same individuals are told that their services are urgently needed; they must exert themselves and give of their best; the Empire is in danger, and those who were but recently despised and uncared for are called upon to slave unceasingly and even to risk making the supreme sacrifice for a system which heretofore has proved itself incapable of assuring a decent existence for large numbers of them.

Sometimes we see in the papers the report of a boy of seventeen or eighteen earning £4 or £5 a week; this is featured as something that should not be. He is not of those who live by exploitation.

We shall not hear anything mentioned about the way in which those who live by surplus value are safeguarding themselves and making plans which they hope will enable them to continue the system of exploitation after the war is over. Whilst the working class have their attention attracted to the struggle that is now raging, their masters are not neglecting future interests, but until the dove of peace again takes up its abode amongst us we may not be allowed to know what goes on in this connection behind the scenes.

Those who live by selling their labour power must judge the future their exploiters have mapped out for them by the past. The master class will not undergo a change of heart, and even if they did, such a change would not result in any great modification of the evils of the system. Capitalism has its own laws, and these work themselves out irrespective of the feelings of individuals. The war bids fair to last a long time, and will continue to affect every creature on the planet. All talk about the brave new world which is to come after the conflict is over is so much soothing syrup. There will be no improvement worth talking about unless the working class move in their own behalf.

This will come about when they grasp the nature of the job history has bequeathed to them. It is up to us to make them fully acquainted with the facts of their class position. The war is not the all-absorbing affair to us which the propagandists of our masters would make it out to be. Truly we have no use for the Swashbuckler of Berlin or the swollen bullfrog of the Pontine Marshes. We are opposed to dictatorship in any form, but the enemy of Labour is Capital, and we should be unfaithful to our class and our class interests if we allowed the war to cause us to forget this historic fact. Amidst the rationing system and the black-out, the clamour of work and the blitz, we take our stand for Socialism. Our cause is ours, the cause of those who live by selling their labour power, and no matter how chaotic the conditions or how eloquent the appeal of those who would divert us from our goal, we call upon the working class to make the means of life common property and establish a system of production solely for use. We are wholeheartedly in the fight for freedom—freedom from Capitalist bondage.

This is the only way in which a world worth living in can be brought into being: Socialism and Socialism alone guarantees permanent peace.

Socialism gives economic security and safety to all; Capitalism offers poverty, insecurity, war, and death. Choose ye!
Charles Lestor

From the “Socialist Standard,” November 1904 (1941)

From the November 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

(1)The Purpose of Capitalist Education
From a resolution passed by the Manufacturers’ Section of the London Chamber of Commerce : —
“That, in order to retain our industrial position and to introduce into this country such further industries as may be profitably developed, this section is of opinion that it is absolutely necessary to raise the standard, and, if possible, cheapen the cost of technical and higher technical education.”
From the programme of the Dutch Union of Socialist Teachers : —
“That the popular school, called into existence by the possessing class under the cry ‘cultivation of the people by teaching the people,’ has proved to be in their hands only the means of doling out to the children of the people that minimum of knowledge which has become necessary to supply the capitalist want of more or less educated labourers, besides being the means of impressing upon them so-called Christian and social virtues, which, in reality, are nothing but notions conducive to the maintenance of capitalism; that the non-possessing class, too, being insufficiently taught themselves, deprived of all influence on school education and therefore not inspired with genuine interest in it, see in the popular school only the way that enables their children to earn their bread afterwards ; that, moreover—partly in consequence of the causes given above all education which rises above the level of what capitalism demands, is doomed to sterility for the young proletarian because of the bad conditions.”

(2) The Inevitable Growth of Unemployment 
“We contend then, that so long as the machinery of production is owned by a class which uses the growing power, of the machine to throw men out of work rather than to reduce the duration of the day’s work, so long shall we have an unemployed problem. . . . We must, then, look forward in the near future to a constant increase in the number of the permanent unemployed. What are we to think, then, of those who, knowing these things, are yet to be found in brotherly harmony with the capitalistic sections of the community seeking for means for dealing adequately with the unemployed problem and yet afraid to say that they think the only solution of the unemployed problem is to be found in the establishment of a Socialist system of society. This is what we find at the present moment. Men styling themselves Socialists . . . putting forward as means for solving the unemployed problem, farm colonies and such like nostrums."

Copies of pamphlet wanted (1941)

Notice from the November 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Comrades in Boston, U.S.A., are anxious to obtain copies of the pamphlet “Socialism and Religion,” now out of print. Members who have spare copies are asked to sent them to H.G. Holt, 33, Gloucester Place, W.1.

The Western Socialist (1941)

Notice from the November 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

As a result of the article in the September issue of the Socialist Standard, “News from the U.S.A.,” we have received a considerable number of subscriptions for the Western Socialist. Subscribers are requested to note that any delay experienced in receiving their copies is due solely to the fact that deliveries from the U.S.A. take longer to reach us than in normal times.

Every care will be taken to ensure that each subscriber receives the number of copies paid for, and these will be posted immediately they are received by us.

The Workers’ Socialist Party of the U.S.A. have advised us that another consignment is on its way to Great Britain. The W.S.P. also ask us to make it known that they will send a free specimen copy of the Western Socialist to anyone, anywhere. The S.P.G.B. recommends this offer to its overseas readers in particular. Please address your request for a free copy to:

The Western Socialist, 12, Hayward Place, Boston, Mass., U.S.A.

Straws: Brummagen Ware. (1941)

The Straws Column from the November 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Brummagen Ware.

The Bishop of Birmingham, on Sunday, September 28th, opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “The destruction of wealth would make the whole community poorer.” If the last war is any guide, there will still be an ample share of surplus value produced to provide high living (not in the “spiritual” sense, My Lord) for the privileged few. The dear Bishop then solemnly announced that in the present war “workers were becoming small capitalists.”

* * * *

Cant and Cantor.

Dr. E. W. Barnes often manages to be merely silly; he should take a refresher course from the Archbishop of Canterbury to learn the ignoble art of bowing in the House of Rimmon, and apologising for it in specious phrases. “We may well be proud of our new Ally. . . . We have something to learn from Russia . . . they have something to learn from us” (6.10.41). How does he square this with the “orthodox” religious view that the present conflict is essentially to fight for Christian ideals ?

* * * *

Soviet “Equality”

The reverend dodger must be well aware that Soviet “planning of economic resources for the good of the whole community” has not obviated the great gulf in material conditions between peasant and proletarian on the one hand and “high-ups” of the Communist Party ruling caste on the other. The S.P.G.B. will be pleased to furnish irreproachable evidence on the point should His Grace desire information. Sez you !

* * * *

Oliver and Bumble.

Compare the following statements occurring in the same issue of the Daily Herald (17.10.41): “Beaverbrook cannot make the tanks himself. That only the workers can do; it is on the workers and their constant eagerness of toil that he relies.”

“Almost impossible to contemplate.” Sir Walter Womersley’s reply to demand for flat rate increase in Service men’s allowances. “Impossible even to contemplate,” when the worker in field, factory, or ghastly battle area asks (all too modestly, alas) for an extra allowance of the skilly ladled out to him by National Bums and Bumbles.

* * * *

War Tipsters.

Lord Acton’s historical essays are always worth reading; they are studded with common sense remarks, as, for instance, “there is an undefinable quantity in military genius which makes the event uncertain.” An excellent piece of implied advice to war tipsters of all shades and all parties.

* * * *

Golden Nobs and Clay Feet.

Harold Laski is a knowing card; his eulogy of our “beloved leader” in Reynold’s of October 19th beats the ordinary method of “damning with faint praise” by sizable lengths. “Of Mr. Churchill’s immense popularity there can be no question.” He has paid tribute to the Prime Minister’s “eloquence,” etc., etc. But “the conviction is growing that he does not grasp the economic and social issues of the time,” and much more in the same key.
Augustus Snellgrove

Sting in the Tail: Jobs for the boys (1993)

The Sting in the Tail column from the June 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Jobs for the boys

When capitalism's economy is booming then some sections of the working class can make considerable gains. This, reformists assure us, is proof that their strategy of “getting something now” is more rewarding than our insistence on the need for socialism.

But what happens when the economic climate changes? Then many of the gains inevitably come under attack and will be completely lost.

An example of this is happening in Sweden now. For decades women there benefitted from the job opportunities in the growing public sector and had the highest level of workplace equality in the world:
They entered the labour market in such numbers that the term hemmafru (housewife) became a virtual anachronism within a decade. (Guardian, 13 April).
Now a huge government economy drive means tens of thousands of women are to lose their jobs and there are plans to introduce financial incentives for mothers to stay home and look after the children.

“Getting something now" is difficult enough in capitalism but hanging on to it is the really tricky bit.

Monet and Money

Alfred Barnes was a rich American who was heavily into modern art. His collection, which includes many paintings by Matisse, Cezanne, Renoir and others, is unequalled and is valued at $6 billion.

Late Again (BBC2, 17 April) revealed how Barnes only allowed a select few to see his collection. When he died in 1951 his will instructed the Barnes Foundation that the collection must never be sold, loaned or even moved.

Now, those who control the foundation want to raise money to repair the building where the collection is housed and they have won the courts' permission to take part of the collection on tour.

Even this outraged much of the art establishment. “The integrity of the collection is threatened, it will never come together again", they moaned, but their big argument was that “a dead man's wishes were being flouted".

All of this art was only possible because society provided the artists with the food, clothing, shelter, materials, education and, often, the inspiration they required. Art is a social product and should he freely available to all and not just to an elitist bunch of ’’art lovers" backed by the whim of a man long-since dead.

Cause and effect

Under headlines such as “Italians dance for joy after huge poll victory on reforms”, the newspapers have reported that the anti-Mafia movement are claiming that a new electoral system will stop “decades of waste, corruption and Mafia outrage".

What are these miraculous changes? In future 75 percent of the 315-seat Senate, or upper house, will be decided by the same first-past-the-post system as applies to Britain's House of Commons.

It is interesting to note that reformers in the Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties favour some form of proportional representation in Britain. They decry the first-past-the-post system as undemocratic.

The electoral system makes no difference. No matter which system is favoured, capitalism is a social system that will always cause “waste, corruption and outrage". What is needed is not a change in the electoral system, but a change in the social system from capitalism to socialism.

Royal bricklayers

Amidst universal rejoicing, the government has announced that the Queen's private chapel, which was badly damaged in the Windsor Castle fire last year, is to be rebuilt in a contemporary style. One can hear the shouts of joy ringing out from cardboard city at the news.

Of course, such a prestigious venture must have a steady hand on the tiller. But we can sleep easy in this one too. “The Duke of Edinhurgh will take the lead for the Royal Household in the rebuilding programme. (Independent on Sunday, 25 April).

We hope no naive reader imagines that the Duke will actually be doing any work. No hod carrier he. No, the rebuilding by the Duke of Edinburgh will be like all the “building" that kings, queens, dukes, duchesses and plain old millionaires carry out. They may lay a ceremonial foundation stone or unveil a plaque, but you can be sure all the useful toil will be carried out by members of the working class.

Another patriot

What do the Labour Party really think about military matters? When the Royal Air Force's offer to fly over Bosnia was rejected, we found out.
Commentary on the decision not to deploy UK Tornado fighters, Mr George Foulkes, Labour defence spokesman, said : “I am surprised that, if offered, they were not to he included. We have got probably one of the best strike records of anyone, anywhere, as exemplified by our record in the Gulf. I would have thought it was essential that if there was to be an effective deployment to ensure the no-fly zone that there was a strong British presence. It sounds to me a bit like a snub if British aircraft have been offered and not included. ” (Glasgow Herald, 8 April).
So there you have it. The Labour Party are upset that British workers' lives are not be to risked. It has been said before, but it is worth repeating: “A patriot is someone that wants you to die for his country".

Modern times

Great interest has been expressed by the military about a new heat-resistant plastic that can withstand the heat of a nuclear explosion. Discussing various possibilities of its use the Observer (11 April) mentioned in passing some of the other things that the military are researching at present:
In this sci-fi world, generals are testing the efficacy of frying soldiers’ blood and brains with lasers.

Exploitation goes up (1993)

From the June 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Everybody has heard of VAT—Value Added Tax. It is ironic that the tax authorities should have recourse to a concept—"value added"—that sounds as if it might have come from Marxian economics. But when you deal with the real world, as the tax authorities do in a way that academic economists don't, you do have to take account of facts such as new value being added to the previously existing value of materials by labour in the course of production.

Value-added, as used by the tax authorities and also by those who compile the National Income statistics, is the difference between the monetary value of the materials and services a firm buys and the monetary value of the output it sells. The Penguin Dictionary of Economics defines it as follows:
The difference between total revenue of a firm, and the cost of bought-in raw materials, services and components. It thus measures the value which the firm has “added" to these bought-in materials and components by its processes of production. Since the total revenue of the firm will be divided among capital charges (including depreciation), rent, dividend payments, wages and the costs of materials, services and components, value added can also be calculated by summing the relevant types of cost and subtracting that total from total revenue.
In other words, value-added is the monetary value of the new wealth produced in a firm, which is divided into the property income of the firm’s owners (profits and the various charges upon it such as rent, interest and taxes) and the wages and salaries of the firm’s employees whose labour produced that new wealth. (Strictly speaking, depreciation, which is a measure of the fixed capital used up in the process of production, should be excluded but as this can't be calculated so easily and so quickly as the other costs this is not always done; value-added including depreciation is known as “gross value added".)

Unpaid labour
This division of value-added into property income and labour income provides a way to measure the exploitation of the workers in a particular firm or industry. This can be expressed in a number of different ways: as the percentage share of wages and salaries (or of profits) in value-added; as the ratio between the amount of profits and the amount of wages and salaries (roughly the equivalent of Marx’s “rate of exploitation"); as the amount of working time spent producing profits (unpaid labour time); and. if the number of workers are known, as the amount of profit per worker.

The Annual Abstract Statistics, published in January each year by the Central Statistical Office, very obligingly provides a set of statistics (Table 8.1) which allows us to calculate what these all are and so the extent of the exploitation of workers in various sectors of industry.

The 1993 edition gives the latest figures, those for 1990, relating to “manufacturing", which covers most of the sectors of the economy where wealth is actually produced. In 1990 the “gross value added" (output) in this sector was £111,051m; the total paid out as wages and salaries was £59,712m; the average number of employees was 4,840,000. This, the Table records, gives a figure for “gross value added per person employed” of £22,945.

The Table stops here but we can use the figures to calculate the extent of exploitation. A figure for profits can be got by deducting “wages and salaries" from “gross value added", which gives £51,339m, so a profit (what might be called “surplus-value added") of £10,607 per worker. The share of wages and salaries in gross value added, as the workers' share in the product of their labour, was 53.8 percent. This meant that in every hour they worked 32 minutes to reproduce the value of their wages and 28 minutes working unpaid to produce profits for their employers. The ratio of profits to wages was 86.0 percent.

More for profits
The Table, together that in previous editions, gives figures going back to 1981 and, once these have been converted into 1990 prices (so as to be comparable), it is possible to see what happened over the ten-year period 1981-90.

Between 1981 and 1990 output (“gross value added") increased in real terms from £97.704m to £111,051m, an increase of £13,347m, or 13.7 percent. Of this increase, £2,051m (15 percent) went to the workers as wages and salaries and £11,296m (85 percent) to the owners as profits. Over the same period the average number of workers fell from 5,778,000 to 4,840,000.

It is clear at a glance that this must mean that exploitation increased, even though the workers’ real wages also went up. A detailed analysis confirms this. Output per worker increased from £16,910 in 1981 to £22,945 in 1990 (36 percent); wages per worker, however, went up by much less, 24 percent, from £9,980 to £12,337, the balance going to profits. So all the measures of the rate of exploitation went up. Profit per worker increased from £6,930 to £10,608; the ratio of profits to wages went up from 69.4 percent to 86.0 percent; and the workers’ share in their product fell from 59.0 percent to 53.8 percent.

1990, it should be noted, as the year the current slump broke out, was not the best year for profits and, as the following table shows, exploitation increased steadily with the recovery from the previous slump in 1982. reaching a peak in 1988.

In any event, what the official government figures confirm is what the workers involved will have known already from personal experience: that in the 1980s the reduced workforce was forced to work harder to produce both more output and bigger profits for their employers. In concrete terms, at the end of the period the employers were extracting an extra £3,677 in profit from each worker left and, for a 40-hour week, had increased the period of unpaid labour time by 2 hours and 5 minutes.
Adam Buick

"I got rich through hard work — YOURS!"

From the June 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

What community (1993)

From the June 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard
Community (dictionary definition): Hie people living in one locality; a group of people having cultural, religious, ethnic or other characteristics in common. Community (governmental definition): Anything that suits us, provided it gives the impression of a united co-operating and supportive social unit.
Of all the politicians’ buzz words “community” is one which has been in use for a long time and which shows no sign of dropping out of fashion. A month or so ago John Major was trying to enthuse the Carlton Club (which is its own community of a particular kind) with phrases like "an unbroken chain of community” and “little unions of communities”. A few days later John Smith ranted about “your communities . . . our communities . . . together in our communities”. This abuse of a very useful word has something of a pedigree. In the 1960s the Liberals won a lot of votes through a bit of electoral sleight-of-hand called community politics. In what they call the war on crime the police have named some insignificant rearrangement of their system community policing. The notorious Poll Tax was officially known as the Community Charge, as if it was something we all contributed to for the common benefit. We should all be on our guard whenever we hear the word: after all the Nazis’ name for the carriage of mentally ill people to the extermination camps was The Community Patients Transport Service.

For some years now we have been hearing a lot about something called community care. What this has often meant in practice has been the closing of mental hospitals, which has released some very valuable sites for profit-hungry developers, and the ejection of the patients into—well, into the community. Often the result of this has been that a lot of people who are so damaged that they have disabling problems in coping with the everyday stresses of working-class life in this so-called community have been thrown on to their own, very inadequate, resources.

In many cases they don't make it, they don’t find a job or get somewhere manageable to live or settle down with a partner or with friends. They descend into vagrancy or alcoholism or psychosis. At the extreme they commit suicide or kill someone else—like the young woman in Yorkshire who randomly stabbed an 11-year-old girl to death in the street; or the Sussex mother who drowned her two small children in the bath. Whatever argument there is in favour of closing mental hospitals and substituting "community care” for the mentally ill it is not the motivation behind the policy. What has counted here—as usual—is cost; "community care” is cheaper and has the bonus of profitably developing the buildings and the grounds where the patients once lived and strolled about.

The latest episode in this saga has been the new Act which has transferred responsibility for community care from the Department of Social Security on to the local councils. This has serious implications for the most vulnerable and needy people. Smooth-tongued ministers justify the change on the grounds that local councils can deliver a better service because care and treatment which is locally-based can be tailored more suitably for each individual.

To the unfortunates on the receiving end this may sound reassuring until they come up against the fact that the responsibility which has been passed to local councils is not just a matter of provision but of finance as well. And there are strict limits on what councils can spend on it. For example, three London boroughs have pooled the funds available for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction but they are still between £1 million and £1.5 million short of what they need. So in those boroughs about one-fifth of those who ask for treatment for their addiction won’t get it.

Local authorities as a whole are complaining that funding for community care is over £200 million short of what is needed for proper care to be provided. Of course, addicts do not rate too highly in public sympathy. But what about old people, who represent what one writer has called a "big financial mountain"? The outlook for them is not reassuring; as a TV programme recently pointed out, local authorities are already exerting a lot of pressure on relatives to pay for their care. In this pitiless game these are among the losers. The winner is the DSS. who stand to reduce its expenditure to the tune of millions of pounds.

The new policies on community care mark another retreat from the promises which were so plentiful during the war, that the lessons of a miserable past had been taken to heart. Politicians who were anxious to get the greater commitments to the war effort from the working class were very free with their assurances that never again would poverty be left to chance. In future the state would make it its duly to look after all the most needy people—the old, the sick, the homeless, the children . . . To all those millions of people who did not understand how capitalism works, how it must condemn the majority to poverty, what is the nature of that poverty and the true function of political parties, it was seductive stuff. Out of that auction in electoral bribes the so-called welfare state emerged.

Since then one government after another—Labour as well as Conservative—has pledged to keep the “welfare state" in being while they have been busily considering and implementing plans to dismantle it. If this Tory government has been particularly active and more open about this it is because British capitalism is in slump, which means that the lowering of workers' living standards is that much worse for the most impoverished. What is happening to old people is especially bitter and poignant because these are people whose lives have been devoted to being exploited to make profits for the class whose interest is represented by the government. There could be no better example of how capitalisms class system operates, how it enriches a minority while it degrades the majority, and to call it community care illustrates how sickeningly capitalism degrades the very language we use.

Community is a mellifluous word. What is implies—social cohesion with mutual co-operation and support is not only desirable to human beings but vitally necessary to them. But it is a contradiction to use the word about a social system which essentially divides the human race on the basis of what they own. Capitalism adjusts to such contradictions by distorting the meaning of the word to the point at which it is unrecognizable. Anyone who looks beyond the superficial issues of capitalism to a saner and more competent social order should concern themselves to defend such words, as a start to building what will properly be called a human community.

Letters: Force or violence? (1993)

Letters to the Editors from the June 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Force or violence?

Dear Editors,

In reply to Denham Ford (April Socialist Standard) and his ridiculous assertion that the bombing of Dresden was anti-fascist violence, it obviously wasn’t!

I (and Class war) are on the side of the working class in struggle, and that means against fascism and fascists who are active against the revolutionary forces (eg attacks on the SWP and the recent attack on Freedom Bookshop).

An act of violence in itself doesn’t change anything. It is the combined weight of collective violence which will win the revolution. It seems that a lot of people on the left do not understand the class struggle as a dynamic, a living force which we mould every day. It is a balance of forces which we have to tip or kick in our direction. This is because they are not going to give the working class freedom. We are going to have to take it.
Dave Clark
London E8

You're confusing force with violence. Of course the majority will have to force the ruling class to give up their wealth, power and privilege, but this can be done by mass democratic political action based on socialist understanding rather street fighting which wouldn't work anyway (they've got bigger guns and better bombs)— Editors.

Dear Editors,

Ref your article on the Mail on Sunday (April), I wrote in very similar terms to the Western Mail and South Wales Echo years ago, and the replies I had were more or less what you received from Chris Rees.
One way out would be to change the name to something that is not in existence, in this country at least, then register it like Marks and Spencers so that nobody else can use it.
E. H. Evans 
Newport, Gwent

Dear Editors,

The commonly held idea of socialism as nationalisation, or some form of state capitalism, is an Aunt Sally that the Mail on Sunday and other opponents of socialism are quite happy to accept as their target. They are not disposed to engage in any real objective discussion on socialism.

The responsibility of explaining socialism as Marx and Engels and the Socialist Party of Great Britain have always interpreted it is the task of the Party itself. The extent to which this has been achieved is the question we have to face. I am firmly of the opinion that a mistake was made when the name of the party was abbreviated to "The Socialist Party" and the full name relegated to the inconspicuous last item, printed in the smallest type, on the back cover of the Socialist Standard.
J. E. Apling
Harlow, Essex

Unfortunately the capitalist press are going to distort the meaning of socialism whatever we call ourselves, and whatever version of our name we use. As you say, it's up to us to explain what socialism is—Editors.

Between the Lines: Male violence (1993)

The Between the Lines column from the June 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Male violence

Channel Four's Brookside (Mon and Wed 8pm, Fri 8.30pm) has woken from its recent slumbers in a controversial attempt to lift its ratings, now down to little over three million. By introducing the gruesome Trevor Jordache character—a wife beater and child abuser— Brookside has once again set the daytime TV shows a-chattering. And with good reason. Brookside have simply introduced the best (and most original) storyline into a British soap for ages.

The background to the story has been that the Jordache family, of mother and two teenage daughters, had previously been moved to get [away from] husband and father Trevor, convicted of physical assault and sexual abuse. After ferrying them around bedsits for two years, the authorities have now found the Jordaches an inadequate “safe house” on Brookside Close. Unfortunately they have been beset by Trevor's unwelcome attentions once again on his release from prison. Having wiled his way back into the Jordache household with a cry of poverty, the plot has essentially been revolving around Trevor's increasingly hideous behaviour and the plans of the desperate mother and eldest daughter to kill him rather than face his continued assaults—or the alternative of eviction from their new "safe house” on Brookside Close if the authorities find out about Trevor’s return.

The portrayal of this sticky situation has been graphic, bringing into the homes of millions the torment suffered by those women and children with a monster in their midst, a monster mentally equipped for his wrong-doing by a society where sex is cheap and dirty and where violence appears as the "easy” solution to problems. The most interesting aspect of the story is the way in which, beyond the ratings hype, it has illustrated how monumentally badly capitalism copes with the situations it itself has helped create.

Viewers may well ask themselves whether a two-year spell couped up in a dingy prison cell was appropriate for a man whose actions towards those he professes to love have persistently bordered on the pathological. Dealing with any such individuals in a socialist society would not be easy, and no-one pretends it would be, but as Brookside has amply demonstrated, capitalism is at a complete loss, unable to provide the institutional framework to help those individuals who may not be able to help their own actions, let alone provide a situation where mother and children can live in safety and comfort.

Life should never be as brutal as it is for the imaginary Jordaches of Brookside, but unfortunately for thousands of families in the real world of capitalism, it most certainly is.

Female equality

If any show has demonstrated why feminism on its own is not enough it was BBC2’s “Ladies in Lines". Forty Minutes (4 May 9.50pm).This documentary about a platoon of raw female recruits into the Australian army showed why "equality” under capitalism is not generally much of an equality worth having. In this particular instance it was, to be charitable, equal opportunity to be treated like a lump of shit.

The young women involved, arriving with parents, boyfriends and teddybears were subjected to a daily routine that would not have been entirely out of place in a Stalinist labour camp. A quarter of those who started the basic training with the ritual hair-cropping were unable to compile the course and many who did seemed to spend a fair proportion of their time in the charge room, in tears, or both.

Why these individuals should have chosen to enter the army is a tribute to the strength of the society-wide propaganda which eulogizes the virtues of discipline, aggression and competition—supposedly "male values”—above all others. Indeed, virtually all the young women involved testified to an identity crisis. Although they knew they were really women, they were forced to behave as they imagined men behaved.

All in all it proved to be an unedifying sight. Many of the women eventually proved that they could be like male soldiers. but no one, including the women themselves, were really prepared to suggest why this might be a good thing. Beyond correctly identifying the emptiness of the life offered in civvy street, none seemed able to give a credible reason for their presence as women in the army.

In truth, this was not really their fault, as no such reason exists. How on earth can there be a realistic salvation for women under capitalism through simply acting as maniacally as men have so often being trained to behave? Could female soldiers really be the giant step forward for womankind that was implied? Surely not.

As socialists have always suspected, capitalism's reaction to an inequality is invariably to sink those previously at a more humane level to a more barbaric one. thereby giving the appearance of evening things out a bit. Across the world capitalism’s tendency has been to barbarise those who are most vulnerable to its unyielding propaganda, and the "ladies in lines" were as good an example of this as is possible to get.
Dave Perrin

SPGB Meetings and Debates (1993)

Party News from the June 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

50 Years Ago: Who Rules Britain? (1993)

The 50 Years Ago column from the June 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

The mass of the people, including the workers, seem to have all kinds of ideas floating in their heads, from Churchill-worship to astrology. To what extent these ideas correspond to the realities of the world to-day is quite a different matter. Captain Gammans certainly appears to hold a very low opinion of the intelligence of people when he makes the following claim:
“With two short intervals, the Conservative Party was in power during the twenty years between the two wars. There is no reason for it to be very much ashamed of its record at home".
This is the kind of statement calculated to bring even the deadest of dodos back to life. Mass unemployment, slums, the wholesale reduction of the workers' standard of living (enforced, as in the case of the miners in 1926, by a lock-out), all this pitiful record of poverty and downright starvation imposed consciously and deliberately on a people by the wealthiest ruling-class that ever existed—culminating in a world war! It is obviously not in the nature of a ruling-class to have any sense of shame.

(From an article by “S. R.", Socialist Standard, June 1943.)