Thursday, June 16, 2022

Trade relations after the war (1942)

From the February 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

Notwithstanding the hopes of some worker-optimists and the fears of some capitalists, capitalism will not disappear after and as a consequence of the war. It will change some of its features but it cannot disappear until such time as the working class of the world is ready to establish Socialism, and that cannot be until much more has been done to propagate Socialist ideas.

Nevertheless there wilt be changes, if only because the war will leave behind it a different relationship between the Powers, large and small. It is a fairly safe assumption that there will be re-grouping and that in place of the present multiplicity of States the world will be effectively controlled by a smaller number of large Empires and Federations. Beyond that it is difficult to go because there are no simple over-riding factors which will determine the grouping. Much depends, of course, on the degree of defeat and exhaustion suffered by the respective warring States. Within limits, therefore, it is true to say, as does the Times City Editor, that “we do not know . . . what sort of world the post-war world is going to be” (January 19th, 1942).

There are, however, two things that we can see clearly enough, first the continuance of the main capitalist rivalries in international trade, and secondly the ideas which will guide the efforts at reform on the part of various interested parties.

Let us first dispose of the idea that the acceptance of the Atlantic Charter, with its broad generalisations about international co-operation and care for the welfare of the population, settles the problem of capitalist profit-seeking and consequent international rivalries. What hope is there that the Allied “New Order” will bring to an end what Major-General Fuller describes as “the now century and a half old competitive economic struggle between the nations, which undoubtedly has in the past led to revolution within them and wars between them”? (Evening Standard, January 5th, 1942.) Will the Governments be able to agree, or even want to agree, to do away with the various practices, backed up by armed force, through which they have in the past sought to further the trading interests of the capitalist class? Most of the comments on the Atlantic Charter made by the Press have shown that even the question of Anglo-American relationship bristles with difficulties.

The Charter demands a gradual return to the long ago abandoned system of free trade, but “with due regard to existing obligations.” Some important existing obligations are the Ottawa agreements on the side of the British Empire and the United States import tariff and trade agreements with various countries. Sir Patrick Harmon, M.P., a representative of British capitalism, speaking on the question recently “expressed vigorous criticism of the trade policy of the United States” and declared that the Atlantic Charter can hardly be applied in the presence of those American trade agreements (Manchester Guardian, December 19th, 1941). The Manchester Guardian, while traditionally in favour of free trade, points out other obstacles, and is unable to go further than to suggest that concessions by Britain be made dependent on a change of attitude by U.S.A.
“What Americans strongly oppose . . . is a continuation after the war of the Empire preferences and the sterling area of exchange control. It ought to be made plain that the removal of these unwanted safeguards will depend on a much greater degree of American co-operation than has yet been envisaged.”— (“Manchester Guardian,” December 19th. 1941.)
The “Round Table” which represents influential British financial and industrial views, published in its December issue an article on Anglo-American co-operation and stressed the same difficulties of reconciling American and British standpoints. While the United States will expect the most favourable terms of trade from Britain and will want to export to this country large quantities of American goods, the capitalists of this country, owing to a greatly weakened financial position, will want preference to be given to those countries which buy British exports. This, says the “Round Table,” is a situation full of possible mischief unless the two Governments can reach understanding. An extreme view was expressed in a speech a year ago by Mr. Virgil Jordan, president of an American employers’ organisation, the National Industrial Conference Board. According to a report of his speech published by the New York Herald Tribune (quoted in Labour Research Department Fact Service, January 28th, 1941) he said: —
“If England should emerge from the struggle without defeat . . . she will be so impoverished economically and crippled in prestige that it is improbable she will be able to resume or maintain the dominant position in world affairs which she has occupied so long. At best . . . England will become a junior partner in a new Anglo-Saxon imperialism, in which the economic resources and the military and naval strength of the United States will be the centre of gravity.”
Mr. Jordan may well prove to be largely mistaken as were his forerunners who were making similar prophecies after the last war, but what is relevant here is the fact that he and his fellow capitalists in America, seeking to further their own interests through U.S.A. foreign policy, will be tempted to bring about the condition he envisages, while his opposite numbers in this country will be seeking to defend their interests through British foreign policy. In the resulting struggle the pious hopes of the Charter are likely to be soon forgotten.

A similar field for conflict will exist in the problem of reconstructing the industry of Central Europe. Some interests here and in America will see the prospect of profitable activity for themselves in helping to carry out that reconstruction, and Mr. Leonard Behrens, speaking at the Manchester branch of the Institute of Export, affirms that “after the war we must re-establish in Europe industries which would compete with ours. He believed the hope of our exporting industries lay not in any policy of exclusion but in encouraging increased consumption” (Manchester Guardian, December 10th, 1941). But what will be the view of the British capitalists who see themselves adversely affected by this competition from Central Europe? They will naturally ask for subsidies or tariffs or some other form of protection without giving another thought to the Atlantic Charter.

One aspect of the drive for trade after the war will be the demand for protection for British agriculture. While the present Minister of Agriculture has declared that agriculture must be protected against the importation of cheap food, industrial capitalists will have opposite views, as also will the wheat producing countries. According to the Daily Express (January 22nd, 1942), the glut of wheat in Canada, U.S.A., Australia and Argentina has now reached the “staggering total” of 1,750-million bushels, or much more than double the pre-war average.

Then there is the growing tendency of Governments themselves to conduct bulk trading operations because of the stronger bargaining position this gives them as compared with individual capitalist trading. Russia and Germany are among the countries which had carried this practice far in the years before the present war. Following their example, the British Government in 1940 set up the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation, financed with Government money, with the object of carrying on “a general trading business … as merchants, concessionaires, and financiers … in any part of the world.” In an article dealing with the work of the Corporation and its subsidiaries, the Economist (January 17th, 1942) sees the likelihood that it will have to be retained after the war—”There may be a good case for its continued handling of such trade (i.e., trade in raw materials with Russia) which even under normal peace conditions will have to be conducted with a Government monopoly on the other side of the counter.”

It will be noticed that all of the above mentioned planners of post-war international trade take for granted the continuance of the capitalist trading system with its necessary acceptance of the desire to realise profit out of the export of goods on the most favourable terms. In other words, they all accept the continuance of the economic struggle which has had such disastrous results in the past.

The other side of the New Order is the insistence on the desirability of raising the standard of living of the world’s population. Here you find the Conservative Times and the Labour leader, Mr. Herbert Morrison, agreeing about the form of words to be used. The Times (October 4th, 1941) says that the old conception of “Wealth of Nations” is “finding more positive expression in ‘the welfare of nations,'” and Mr. Morrison suggests “the conception of human welfare as the avowed aim and object of international post-war policy” (Times, June 7th, 1941). But the magic word “welfare” and the seeming agreement get us nowhere. Before human welfare can be the aim and object of international policy that aim and that object have got to be adopted by those who control the Government and that cannot be while capitalism is the established order of society. The aim of the capitalist, whether individually or through capitalist trading and industrial associations or through Governments, is and must continue to be the production and sale of goods for profit.

Governments may come under the control of men or parties which profess other aims, but so long as they have the task of administering capitalism it will be the profit motive, not the idealistic aim, that will and must determine their conduct and policy at home and in the international field.
Edgar Hardcastle

Editorial: Capitalism and Monopoly. Davids who did not slay Goliath (1942)

Editorial from the February 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

What happened after the last war is not conclusive evidence about what will happen now, but it is a very important pointer. Take, for example, the popular demand for the destruction or control of trusts and monopolies. In 1919 the Committee on Trusts appointed by the Government found “that there is at the present time in every important branch of industry in the United Kingdom an increasing tendency to the formation of trade associations and combinations, having for their purpose restriction of competition and the control of prices.”

The Committee placed on record that combinations operating in restraint of trade “are unlawful if shown to be against public policy.” They recommended the setting up of permanent machinery to investigate the operation of monopolies, and to deal effectively and promptly with abuses. In particular they recommended that the Board of Trade should have the duty of recommending “State action for the remedying of any grievances.”

Some members of the Committee, including Mr. Ernest Bevin and Sidney Webb, added some minority recommendations. While saying that they did not want to prevent the formation of combinations or associations, both because experience showed that interference is ineffective and because the formation of such combinations is desirable in order to secure greater efficiency, they urged the fixing of maximum prices to prevent excessive profits, and wanted the Government to hand over dangerous monopolies to the Co-operative Movement, or to Local Authorities or place them under State control, but not necessarily under State management.

The whole Committee agreed that the public were mistrustful of monopolies and this mistrust was realised by the Liberal and Labour Parties, both of which wanted action against them. The Labour Party, for example, had in its election manifestos a few years alter the last war “The prevention of profiteering and exploitation by rings, trusts and monopolies, not merely in building materials, but also in foodstuffs and household necessities.”

There are still to be heard voices in the wilderness demanding the control or abolition of trusts and combines, but all the speeches and promises and resolutions of 20 years ago had no important effect against the trend of capitalist industry. Whereas once the Liberals were demanding the retention of private, independent capitalist enterprise, the News-Chronicle (January 26th, 1942) can now say that “laissez faire” is as extinct as the dodo,” and a special correspondent of the Times recently wrote the following: —
“The typical British industry to-day is privately owned but centrally controlled. It is not often realised to what an extent combination, in its various forms such as price-fixing arrangements. market-sharing agreements, rings, cartels, trusts, pools, combines and plain monopolies has spread over British industry. The trade in which prices are determined by competition and in which the newcomer can enter on terms of approximate equality is now a distinct rarity. It would be an easier task, to show how in a wide range of industries, prices in the British market have been kept above the world level. There have been several public demonstrations of the art of excluding the newcomers and of hamstringing the firm that is ill-advised enough to try to increase its technical efficiency and thereby its competitive power. The great bulk ot British industry is divided into industrial fiefs fully as much as if every industry had been nationalised by the State.— (“Times,” November 29th, 1941).
News-Chronicle (January 26th, 1942) may still dream of “free enterprise controlled by the operation of the law,” and of control “designed to ensure true freedom, to exclude privilege or monopoly,” but gone are the days when a Judge would rule that a combine is against public policy as happened in 1927 (only to be over-ruled by a higher Court). In that case, which concerned the formation of a combine in the British Rope Trade, a Judge said: —
“You will never convince me that any combination of manufacturers puts down competition for the benefit of the public. Such combinations are against public policy.”
The issue has long been decided by what the Times, in a leader (December 6th, 1941) calls “the natural trend of modern industry towards monopoly.”

The present war, like the last one, will, of course, give a great impetus to the trend. The concentration of industries and trading concerns that has gone on during the war will not wholly disappear. This point has been dealt with by the “1941 Committee” of which Mr. J. B. Priestley is Chairman, in their “Planning and Freedom.” They say: —
“A scheme is improvised which drives out the small men. secures the position of the big monopolists and temporarily at least of the large trade unions. … In this case the jam which is intended to make the powder palatable is a fantastic promise about the restoration of the small firms after the war. It will be impossible to restore them. The war in fact has only hastened the tendency towards this type of monopolistic organisation. . . .”
The “1941 Committee” may perhaps overstate the case, but they are unquestionably right about the general trend. Their gloomy conclusion is that there is danger of drifting towards Totalitarianism and a condition in which it becomes “more and more difficult to preserve the democratic safeguards.”

Beyond urging every effort to safeguard democracy they have no practical proposals to offer; in which respect they are like all the other non-Socialist planners of the new world.

It is a problem to which there is no solution short of Socialism here and in the world as a whole. The Manchester Guardian’s City Editor may be right when he says (January 20th, 19-12) that President Roosevelt has not “given up his efforts to break down industrial monopolies,” but Mr. Bevin in 1919 was wiser when he recognised that experience in U.S.A. and other countries had already shown the uselessness of the attempt. Even if it were possible to put back capitalist development the result would be no more satisfactory than it was before monopolies grew up. Likewise, enough experience of alternative schemes of control or reorganisation has been seen to demonstrate that as far as the workers are concerned “the more capitalism changes the more it is the same thing.” Administration by the State in the form of nationalised railways, postal and telephone services did not make capitalism any more satisfactory, and the subsequent Labour Party programme of public utility corporations such as the London Passenger Transport Board has already had a long enough try-out to produce a situation in which ihe corporations have few convinced admirers or defenders outside their own ranks.

There will be no essential change until all the means of production and distribution are brought under common ownership and democratic control with production solely for use and the complete elimination of rent, interest and profit.

Is the Mind a Myth? (1942)

Book Review from the February 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Myth of the Mind. By Frank Kenyon. Thinkers Library. Watts. 1s. 6d.

This admirable little book deserves the close attention of all who are interested in psychology. Since the appearance of Freud and company a considerable literature has been published on this subject. We often hear “cultured” people talking very glibly about the “Universe of Mind,” “Absolute Mind,” and the “Power of Mind over Matter,” etc.

Says Mr. Kenyon in the last two sentences of his book, “When we turn over the pages of history we smile at the superstitions and follies of a bygone age. In future years, our descendants, engaged in a similar pursuit, will regard the belief in an immaterial entity called the mind as the greatest, and least excusable, superstition of them all.”

The author directs his attack against the professional psychologists, the quacks and charlatans who acquire large sums of money from wealthy nit-wits, but his criticisms are equally pertinent to the philosophical word-spinners who seek to dazzle the eyes of the simple with their sophistries, the people who “prove” that the material world which surrounds and includes us possesses no reality that is independent of our sense-perceptions, and is but the eternal form of a supreme mental activity—absolute mind.

Mr. Kenyon remarks, “The belief in the mind as an entity, is due to that principle which has drawn philosophy into such disrepute: the principle of generalising phenomena into an abstract term, and then treating the abstraction as a metaphysical entity governing the phenomena it was intended to describe.”

Put even more simply, the word mind is an abstract term, which correctly understood, is used to describe a definite form of activity—the activity of the brain. Similarly, the word digestion describes certain processes associated with the stomach. But no altars have yet been erected to the God of Digestion, nor do we hear about “Absolute Digestion.” and the “Universe of the Stomach.” Mr. Kenyon wants to know what happens to the mind when a person falls into unconsciousness. He asks, too, “If the mind be an immaterial entity utilising the body as its instrument, why does it succumb to a blow on the head, a sunstroke, intoxicating liquors, the inhalation of chloroform, or the taking of a few drops of poison?” In a chapter on consciousness he points out the lack of agreement among psychologists and philosophers in their treatment of the subject. Sometimes it is used as a synonym for the soul or mind, sometimes it is synonymous with knowledge, or with self-consciousness as distinct from some other consciousness or with abstract thought as distinct from sense-perceptions, and so on.

The author writes: “Of one thing we may be certain. Consciousness is never manifested in the absence of a nervous system. There is no abstract consciousness without contents. Consciousness cannot exist unless there is something of which one is conscious ; its existence depends on material factors, and its nature must be sought in material conditions, a scientific investigation which must inevitably lead us to the conclusion that consciousness is a quality or attribute of the nervous system to which it owes its manifestation.” The view is also expressed that consciousness may not be the causative factor in human action, but a mere adjunct. “When an excitation passes immediately into action, indicating definite, organised tracts, there is little or no consciousness of it; but when the excitation reaches a certain intensity and does not wholly pass into immediate action, the ground substance is affected and gives rise to consciousness. If precise action depends on definite, organised tracts, it follows that the more definite and better organised are the tracts, the better will the action be performed; the less organised are the tracts the more the action is delayed, the more will the ground substance be affected by the wandering currents which in their turn affect other nerve tracts, leading to confusion, interference and sometimes to total inhibition. . . . Consciousness, far from being of that high and noble character which it is commonly supposed to be, is merely an insignificant by-product of an undifferentiated portion of the nervous system. If progressive development of life means a progressive specialisation of nervous structure, such progressive development implies that the organised tracts must increase at the expense of the undifferentiated grey matter, and that the gradual elimination of the latter must result in a corresponding decrease in the manifestation of consciousness, which will eventually disappear. In the case of creatures living in a more limited environment than man this is probably what has already happened, and we may here have an illustration of what has so often been urged—that .instinct is lapsed intelligence. … It may be that the conditions that give rise to consciousness enable us to perform an extremely larger number of actions. . . . Though the actions accompanied by consciousness are not performed with the unerring certainty of those actions that depend on the existence of definitely organised tracts, the possibility of their extreme variety may be a compensating factor in the struggle for existence.” So we see that this insignificant by-product has a range of action, and a capacity for development, that automatic response can never achieve.

Pressure of space prevents us from touching on all the points raised in this book, but enough has been said to indicate that its method is scientific, and the exposition extremely lucid.

Here is one more quotation: “It is not appreciated that there is not one of the arguments employed to support the belief in the mind which could not with equal fitness be employed to support a belief in any myth we might care to choose. The assumption of an immaterial mind as an explanation of phenomena for which no other explanation may be immediately forthcoming is no more permissible than the assumption of an invisible dragon. The presence of the mind must first be proven before another step can be taken.”

Notes by the Way: The Archbishop’s Very Slender Means (1942)

The Notes by the Way Column from the February 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The Archbishop’s Very Slender Means

On the resignation of the 77-years-old Archbishop of Canterbury the Daily Mail comments as follows: 
Dr. Lang renounces a salary of £15,000 a year for a pension unlikely to exceed £1,500—or. as he put it, ‘to face the restraints and inconveniences of very slender means.'”—(“Daily Mail,” January 22nd, 1942.)

* * *

Sir W. Citrine on the Labour Party’s Attitude in the War

While the following candid statement by Sir Walter Citrine contains nothing not already widely appreciated, it deserves to be placed on record against the time when those who are less candid may want to give a different version. The statement was made in a speech at Maidstone on Saturday, January 24th, 1942.
“In this war no workman, particularly no trade unionist, should have the slightest hesitation in throwing all into the war effort. For years we have been shouting “Stand up to Hitler.” We wanted the Government to stand up to him over Austria, over Spain, and at Munich. No one can say we did not enter this war with our eyes open. Now, we are in it, it does not become us to find any means of excusing any lack of enthusiasm”—(“Times,” January 26th, 1942.)
A somewhat different report was given in the People (January 25th, 1942): —
“We can be charged by other sections of the community as being one of the organised sections that demanded war. No one can say we did not enter this war with our eyes open.”

* * *

No Communism in Russia

Now that the British and Russian Governments are Allies and the “International” is being played here on ceremonial occasions as a mark of honour to the Russian Government, the idea has occurred to several newspapers that it is desirable to remove the impression that Bolshevism is a danger to capitalism. Hence the publication of information which hitherto has been ignored. Sir Bernard Pares, the authority on Russian questions, who has in recent years been favourably regarded by the Communists and has been a strong advocate of the Anglo-Russia Alliance, lectured at Manchester on January 10th on the Bogey of Communism. The Manchester Guardian (January 12th, 1942) reported him as follows: 
“There was only one period in Russian history when the Marxist doctrine was practised, and that was for the three years after the Revolution—1918 to 1921. That was a perversion of the big, warm family idea, and it was given up as hopelessly ridiculous. The doctrine ruling at present was exactly the same as here: ‘From everyone according to ability, to everyone according to his his work.” So it had been as long as Stalin had been in power. “Communism” was a thing which Russia might try to better to realise in the future, when the world was a better place.”
Then the Daily Mail (January 24th, 1942) had an article by Negley Farson on life in Russia, telegraphed from Moscow two days previously. Among the interesting points made by Parson are the following: —
“The Soviets have not changed Russian life so much as many outsiders think—nor did they ever intend to.

There are still beggars, although you will find them standing outside the churches. And that many churches are still open is proved by the fact that 25,000 people worshipped in Moscow on the day when an appeal was made for every Russian—Christian or atheist—to repel the German invaders.

Inequalities in earnings still exist in Russia. A man who cleans the streets gets about 100 to 200 roubles a month—an actor like Moskvin gets possibly 1,000 roubles for one special performance.

Soviet writers like Sholokhov, who wrote “And Quiet Flows the Don,” receive royalties just like any English or American best-sellers—only Sholokhov’s books probably sell in millions, for Russians are avid readers.

Waiters take tips, but on three occasions since I have been in Russia this time they have actually refused them from me. Yesterday two husky girls who carried my bags up to my room at the Hotel Metropole in Moscow (where I lived in 1915) handed me back part of my tip with a smile, saying I had given them too much.

Russians may also invest money in War Loans or Five Year Plan Loans, which formerly paid interest as high as six per cent. They may leave money to their children just like any Westerner. But the “crippling” power of money has been shackled by the fact that no man may use it to exploit another.”
On the education system he says: —
“Education is free and compulsory—and no amount of money can buy a better education for one child than for another in the First Grade—say, up to the age of 13 or 14. But after that age money may, strangely enough, provide additional knowledge. For example, for the teaching of music, languages, art or any special subject that a child might be interested in, special tutors may be paid for.

Also, although education is free up to the ages already mentioned, after that the pupil’s parent must pay a definite sum both for high school and university education.”

* * *

Death of the People’s Convention

According to the Daily Herald (January 7th, 1912) the National Committee of the People’s Convention decided on January 3rd “to suspend activity as a separate organisation,” thus failing by nine days to reach its first anniversary. It will be recalled that at its first convention held on January 12th, 1941, the Convention wanted a “People’s Government and a People’s Peace.” One of their main criticisms of the Labour Party then was that it ought not to be in the Churchill Government, a policy denounced by Mr. Pritt as “the linking up of its leaders with their class enemies.” Now the promoters of the Convention are all for the war and their criticism is no longer directed against Mr. Churchill.

* * *

British and Russian Foreign Policy

The Evening Standard (January 22nd, 1942) published statements which originated from Swedish sources about points discussed by Stalin and Eden during the latter’s visit to Moscow. Whether the statements are correct it is impossible to say, though evidently the Evening Standard attaches some weight to them. Some of the points seem likely enough in the light of past relationship between Britain and the Czarist Governments. Russia is alleged to want to keep the three Baltic States, and to secure territory from Rumania and Finland. Echoes of former Russian aims appear in the demand that “The Soviet Union must have guarantees that at no time in future can Iran (Persia) serve as a springboard for eventual invasion against the U.S.S.R.”

The same point is referred to by Madame Tabouis from New York as follows: —
“The demand for an outlet upon the Persian Gulf, which would create a new Russian “lung” seems to be uncontested.”—(“Sunday Dispatch,” January 4th, 1942.)
Other points in the Evening Standard statement are : —
“Russia has no interests in Africa; Britain’s bid for a dominant position in the Mediterranean is acknowledged as legitimate.

Russia welcomes British policy which seeks to ensure that never again will North Africa or Northern France serve as a jumping-off place for attack against the British Isles or the British Empire.”
According to Madame Tabouis the Moscow negotiations have left the position that “Britain’s voice will be all important in the matter of decisions regarding Northern and Western Europe, while the Soviets will retain an influential role in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.”

* * *

Who Should be in the War Cabinet ?

Mr. Hannen Swaffer, who is a loyal supporter of the Labour Party, suggests, in the People (January 25th, 1942), what should be the composition of the War Cabinet. His list is: Churchill, Beaverbrook, Bevin, Shinwell, Lloyd George and Anthony Eden. One significant feature of this list seems to have escaped Swaffer’s notice—at any rate, he makes no remark about it—the fact that three of the six are Conservatives, one is a Liberal, and only two are Labour M.P.s.

* * *

Communist Arguments for Lifting the Ban on the “Daily Worker

When the Daily Worker was suppressed a year ago the Communists were opposing the war. Now their principle argument for the removal of the ban is that they could help the Government to increase production in a way that official propaganda fails to do. The Manchester Guardian (January 21st, 1942) reported speeches made by Daily Worker supporters at a lunch on the previous day: —
“Both the editor of the paper, Mr. Rust, and an unnamed shop steward from a London factory dwelt on the bad effect which its suppression had, they said, on the workers and therefore on production. Mr. Rust said that they wondered what was behind the unexplained suppression of the “Daily Worker,” and both speakers were sure that the removal of the prohibition on it would hearten the workers, increase their confidence in the Government, and raise production.”
The New Statesman (November 29th, 1941) published the following by one of their regular contributors : —
“A Communist friend put the matter like this. “The Government,” he said, “take for granted that the ‘Left’ must support the war as long as Russia’s in it. We must urge all possible production, and so we do.” We are pledged to support Mr. Churchill—and so we are; even to the point of supporting Conservative candidates at by-elections when other candidates put up specifically as all-aid-to-Russia candidates. They think they have no reason to worry about the Left any more; why go to the bother of allowing the “Daily Worker” to appear? They are making a mistake.They are quite right about us. Communists will do all they can. But there are other Left groups who take a different line, who find it very difficult to support Mr. Churchill and who may turn, if left alone, and run after all sorts of Trotskyites’ hares and I.L.P. red herrings. Such people take no notice of official propaganda. We are the only paper who.can influence those who think the whole war “hooey” anyway, or who are against fighting for the capitalist and so on. It’s our job to convince them, but we cannot possibly cover the field without the “Daily Worker.
Edgar Hardcastle

National Insurance. The Wonderful World of Pensions for All. (1942)

From the February 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

With the turn of the year, the weekly national health and pensions insurance deduction has been increased by one penny. It sounds little enough in itself, but one needs to be only a little bit behind the scenes to realise what a gigantic farce is this one facet of the capitalist structure. At a time when the cities of Britain are holding waste paper “drives,” thousands of leaflets have been printed giving particulars of the new deductions, values of stamps to be affixed, etc., etc.; head offices of giant concerns have sent out thousands more circulars; overworked wages clerks all over the country, at a time when all effort is supposed to be directed towards the practical furtherance of the war, are poring over the circulars and spending many extra hours, often unpaid for, in altering the pay sheets and balancing the deductions. Clerks in post offices and insurance companies are similarly affected. Millions of unused stamps will have to go back to the paper mills. Fresh stamp dies must be cast. From a purely monetary point of view, several thousands more pounds a year will come into the Exchequer ; so far as the worker is concerned, it will be only another penny off his wages, and he won’t notice it—any more than he has noticed the slow rise in the cost of living (a slow rise is so much more imperceptible than a rapid one), the reduction in the meat ration, the jam ration, and the income-tax deduction—after all, his wages have gone up. Keep on piling straws on to the camel’s back is the principle adopted, one day his knees will begin to bend, and then, before it is too late, you can take the last straw off again.

Of course, we know the old age pension has been increased. It now amounts to the large sum of twelve shillings a week. Actuarial accountants love to work out these little sums—so much per week on the weekly contribution, so much extra on the old age pension. But the funny part about it is that these increases take place just at a time when all the old age pensioners have elbowed their way back into industry again and are hard at it, together with the “too old at forty’s,” lathe turning, portering, rivetting, and so on.

It is questionable whether pensions insurance is any more upon an “actuarial” basis than unemployment “insurance.” As anybody who has followed the ups and downs of unemployment insurance is aware, during periods of depression large sums have to be taken from the proceeds of general taxation to augment the unemployment fund, the process being reversed during periods of “good” trade. In the present instance, the decrease in the civilian death rate indicates an improvement in the health of the population, so that the expenditure upon sickness benefit should less; the average total weekly increase in deductions is 2d. (1d. employer, 1d. worker), the increase in pensions is 2s. ; is one worker in twelve in receipt of an old age pension?

Capitalism is much the same everywhere. The New York Nation of November 8th last states that it now appears certain that “the U.S. Treasury will rely on a substantial increase in the pay-roll taxes levied under the Social Security Act for a major part of the additional revenues required for the 1942 tax bill.” “One proposal, which apparently has strong support within the Treasury Department, calls for raising the employee’s contribution to the old age and survivor’s insurance fund from the present one per cent. to five per cent., and increasing the levy which supports unemployment insurance. The possibility of combining old age, survivors’, disability and unemployment insurance in one system, supported by a tax of approximately six per cent., is also being studied.” Commenting upon this, the Nation states, “It would undoubtedly reduce purchasing power, but since it would fall predominantly on low-income families, its chief effect would be to cut down the consumption of food and other everyday necessities,” and, further on, “On the pretext of extending the benefits of social insurance, it would adopt a brazen soak-the-poor tax bill.”

But putting high salaried actuaries on one side for the moment, what is the practical effect of the recent change? Relatively, the position is the same as before—the worker has a bob or so stopped out of his wages, the old age pensioner can still manage to escape the workhouse by sponging on his poor relatives or, if there are none, he can in most cases get a supplementary allowance from the public assistance committee, and the employers think they have done a nice little bit of business by making the worker bees save up for their old age, so saving the expense of keeping them in institutions. We hate to disillusion our capitalist masters, but would it make so much difference if the whole vast governmental apparatus of deductions, accounting and stamping were scrapped and the “pension” paid out of general taxation? Actually, it would make but little difference, for the worker’s wages always tend to equal the cost of living—after all, you must feed the beast to get the work out of him—so that deductions from wages tend to be counter-balanced by increases in wages, and in any case, it is the capitalist class themselves who fork out the bulk of the taxation. The whole business reminds one very much of the “octroi” system in France, where taxes are levied on all sorts of commodities coming through the gates of a city, thus bottling up the traffic on important roads. The principle is the same. The capitalist class have a great dislike of coughing up the necessary cash to run a necessarily expensive administration, so they think out all sorts of ways of passing the buck on to the worker, thus causing themselves more expense in the long run than would otherwise be the case.

But the even funnier part of the whole business is: the thousands of government clerks, many of them poring over and haggling about interpretations of regulations and enactments, deluding themselves with the idea that they are doing highly important work, and the workers taking it all in and saying “what a wonderful world we live in—a pension for all those who are too old to work.”

However, some workers don’t take it all in, and perhaps this short sketch will cause some enquiring new reader to make a more thorough examination of the capitalist society in which we live.

In The Classroom (2004)

From the July 2004 issue of the News From Nowhere newsletter

We live in a world dominated by capitalism, and education is no exception. Recently there has been talk centering around the infiltration of capitalism into the classroom, with vouchers, corporate sponsorship, and capitalist hegemony saturating the curriculum, but few have addressed the structure of the classroom that is capitalist in nature.

The capitalist classroom functions as a preparatory marketplace that operates within the dual marketplace structure. This system of education acts to produce a raw material for capitalism proper through a series of hegemonic placement within the student. It does this through a system of exploitation not unlike Marx’s analysis of the capitalist system.

A close examination reveals the similarities to Marx’s critique and an opportunity for change. Within the classroom students come to acquire a commodity. This commodity is a certificate of completion. Once in the classroom, the student labors over a given period of time that they exchange for this certificate. A closer examination reveals an interesting fact of the capitalist classroom: that knowledge operates as labor. Here then we see the opportunity for exploitation. The educational capitalist creates the situation where the student labors on a given assessment, and all the knowledge that is not rewarded is that knowledge that is hegemonic in nature.

The fact that the capitalist classroom converts knowledge into labor is an important feature of capitalism in general; however, in the classroom this is not enough. Within education capitalism creates a system of machinery, standardized tests, that attempt to back the value of the money unit, grades, in the classroom as well as spread the problems and contradictions throughout the system through the fictitious capital grades and transcripts come to represent. This system of capitalist education creates a raw material out of the child through a multilevel system of exploitation that binds the student to the capitalism proper through dependence and cooperation. Over time the degree to which the student supports the system reveals the value inherent in them as a raw material to be shaped by capitalism proper. Those that fail are dropped out of the system of capitalism, only valuable through their failure and status as an underclass group of workers with no power to change the system. In the end, knowledge is converted to labor and the student is transformed into a raw material. Our only hope to transform this is to attack the system at its source of hegemony: the classroom.

100 Years of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (2004)

From the July 2004 issue of the News From Nowhere newsletter

We would like to congratulate the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) on its 100th anniversary. The SPGB is the founding party of the World Socialist Movement of which both the SPC and WSPUS are members. It is not only a party of revolutionaries, but a party of working class intellectuals.

Formed by workers in London, the SPGB’s Principles sprang from the strands of Marxism closest to Marx. At its founding, a number of its most active members had studied Marxism under the tutelage of Marx’s daughter, Eleanor and her partner, Edward Aveling. Early issues of the Socialist Standard magazine contained interviews with Marx’s son-in- law, Paul Lafargue. Also influential was the work of William Morris and the Socialist League (which Eleanor Marx also participated in.) It is from Morris’ famous socialist utopian novel, News From Nowhere, from that book this newsletter takes its name.

But it was the founders of the SPGB, who gave the working class its most concise and liberatory vision of socialism. Building on the Socialist League’s work, they continued the socialist ideal that socialism will be not an continuation of capitalism, but a fundamentally different society. From Aveling, etc, they took a fundamental understanding of Marx’s critique of capitalism and expanded upon it to analyze new developments in the growth of capitalism.

And their analysis has been eerily correct. The SPGB was the first political grouping to understand the capitalist nature of the Bolshevik revolution. They critiqued Keynesian economics as it was developing in the 1930s, with the SPGBs main economics writer a post office worker. Again, the SPGB critiqued the development of the Labour Party’s Welfare State in post-world war 2 era. Arguing from a perspective of the liberation of the working class, rather than a political strategy, the SPGB explained why each of these methods of capitalism to control workers rebellion would fail. And in every case the SPGB’s analysis was correct.

That the SPGB has continued intact for 100 years, without major splits, without leaders, and democratically intact is another case in its favor. In this day of thuggish leftist parties and the bazillions of splits who each form their own 44th international, it is inspirational that a working class party of some size has done its work for a century. Who else can claim this?
F.N. Brill (WSP)

Why profits get priority (2004)

From the July 2004 issue of the News From Nowhere newsletter

Both supporters and opponents of the capitalist market system agree on one point — the central importance of profit to the way the system operates. So what are profits and why do they get priority?

What is Profit?
Most production for the market is organised nowadays not by private individuals but by business enterprises of one sort or another. This represents a change since the times of many of the famous defenders of the market system, such as Adam Smith. The aim of these businesses, whether large or small, whether owned by shareholders or the state, is to maximise the return on the capital invested in them.

This "return" is profit . At its most basic, this profit is the difference between the money a business obtains from the sale of its products and the money it has to spend on producing them. The rate of profit is the amount of profit made over a given period, normally a year, as a percentage of the monetary value of the assets of the business at the beginning of the period.

Ongoing Competition
Profit-seeking is not a matter of the greed of those running a business but is something imposed on them from outside by the competitive pressures of the market. All the businesses in a particular branch of production are in competition with each other to sell their products. This battle will be won by those firms that can provide an equivalent good at the lowest price.

This is largely a matter of having better technology — more performance machines and better methods of production that allow the same good to be produced at a lower cost. The extent to which a business can install such machinery and adopt such methods depends on the amount of profits it makes. In this way the market forces businesses to seek the maximum profits and then to invest as much of them as they can in improving and expanding their productive capacity.

Levelling Out
At the level of the economy as a whole market forces tend to bring about an equalization of the rate of profit in all branches of production. If a higher rate is being made in one branch this will tend to attract more capital into it as a result production will increase and the extra supply will cause prices to fall — bringing the rate of profit back towards the average or 'normal' level. If, on the other hand, the rate of profit is lower than average somewhere capital will tend to flow out of that branch production will fall, the lessened supply will drive prices up and the rate of profit will tend to rise to the average level.
Adam Buick (SPGB)

Obituary: Harry Morrison “Harmo” 1912-2004 (2004)

Obituary from the June 2004 issue of the World Socialist newsletter

Born in 1912, Harry Morrison became convinced of the case for socialism as a young man, having been influenced by an older brother who had heard the case for socialism in Toronto, Ontario. Morrison first visited Boston around 1937 but soon traveled west to California.

He returned to Boston in 1939 where he met his future wife Sally Kligman at the Boston Local Headquarters. The couple married in the fall of 1939 and lived in Boston for a couple of years. In 1941 they moved to Los Angeles and made contact with the comrades there. They had a daughter, Anita, in 1942. The family moved back to Boston in 1947, and both Harry and Sally were active members of Boston Local from then on.

Morrison wrote voluminously for the organization, sometimes anonymously but usually under the pen name ‘Harmo.’ He was a very frequent contributor to The Western Socialist, and, as a member of the WS’s Editorial Committee, he also edited many articles submitted by others. He had a real gift for articulating the socialist analysis.

He enjoyed debating, and was a frequent member of the WSP group who engaged in debates with various local university debaters. He was a fine outdoor speaker as well. He was a soap box orator on Boston Common during the 1940s and 50s, and even after the WSP stopped soap boxing as an organization, Morrison continued to speak less formally to small groups along the paths near the Tremont Street side of the Common; he continued this into the 1960s, putting the case for socialism tirelessly and articulately.

For about 10 years during the 1960s and 70s, the WSP had a radio program on WCRB Boston. Morrison was among the comrades who wrote scripts for this program, He also was one of the on air readers. When the Party decided, in 1974, to publish a pamphlet in commemoration of the 300th consecutive issue of The Western Socialist, thirty or so of Morrison’s radio essays became The Perspective for World Socialism — a pamphlet which is still being distributed today. Also during this period he was a guest on another AM radio show hosted by the late Haywood Vincent and on the Adam Burak show on an FM station as well. Morrison served for many years on the NAC, as well as on the Editorial Committee. It would be hard to overestimate his contribution to the socialist movement.

Harry Morrison developed heart problems when he was in late middle age, and, at the suggestion of his doctor, ‘retired’ from active work in the WSP. After this, he used his time to write three books, The Socialism of Bernard Shaw (published by McFarland & Co. in 1989 and which we still distribute), and two others for which he was unable to find a publisher, one about Jack London and the other about the Soviet Union. Sally Morrison died in 1987. Harry continued to live in his apartment but no longer participated in Party activities during this period, concentrating, instead, on research for his books and on enjoying his family which now included two grandchildren. He would always accept an invitation to a social gathering, however, and liked to visit with comrades visiting the area, most recently with SPGB Comrades Vic Vanni and Tony McNeil who spent some time in Boston in 2002.

Globalization. Sure, But Who For? (2004)

From the June 2004 issue of the World Socialist newsletter

The economic system we all live under is sometimes described as a system of production and distribution. It is certainly a system of production. In the earlier days of its long life, this system—capitalism—wasn't fully developed, didn't have either the materials or the technology to deliver anything like abundance to everyone. But since those days capitalism has developed an astonishing economic machinery a vast capacity for the production of foodstuffs and material goods, and for the worldwide distribution of these things—a stunning capacity for the worldwide movement of people and life needs. Thanks to this astonishing and probably limitless—machinery for fulfilling human needs and wants, we now have the potential to feed, clothe, and shelter the entire population of the world. And this situation embodies both paradox and promise.

The paradox lies in the conflict between capitalism's productive capacity and its perversely limited capacity for the distribution of the wealth it can create. It would be more accurate to call capitalism a system of restriction rather than distribution—a system that allows distribution only on condition that some money changes hands or promises to change hands. In the face of near-global hunger, for example, vast stores of rice (a nutritional staple for huge segments of the world population) are kept off
the market, hoarded because it cant be sold at an adequate profit. To put it another way, access to this and other foodstuffs is not just hindered but forbidden , and not on the grounds that there isn't enough to go around. (In fact, things like farm price supports are established to make sure that there wont be enough to go around—i.e., farmers receive payments from the state in exchange for producing less in order to keep prices up to an acceptable level.) The greatest productive capacity in the history of mankind is thus boxed in, hobbled, hindered, by the illogical and unnecessary system of distribution at its heart. Where, then, is the promise? The promise lies in the fact that if the caged-up giant of global productive capacities were unleashed, we could feed, clothe, house, educate, and entertain everyone on earth.

In other words, true socialism free access has become a practical possibility.

A seemingly limitless capacity for the production and distribution of goods lies ready to hand. If this capacity were used rationally, we could transform human life, the nature of cities, the structure of education, the possibilities for personal development, even the very substance of human relationships. We could rid ourselves once and for all of the phantom of scarcity, at least the illusory scarcities created by the dictates of an outdated economic system. Socialism is no longer a mere pipe dream, but a genuine human possibility.

For most human beings today, globalization means being controlled by remote and seemingly abstract economic forces deployed by self-seeking money—handlers and politicians somewhere far away. But if we free the productive power of globalization from the stranglehold of the iron fist of profit, we could transform what is now an ominous specter into the friendly giant its own nature yearns to become. (And what capitalism is doing to the physical world these days makes this transformation not just a fond wish, but a dire necessity for human survival!)

True socialism emerges at long last as a tremendous human possibility