Saturday, June 18, 2022

Letters: Not my war (1999)

Letters to the Editors from the May 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

Not my war

Dear Editors,

Like you I am opposed to dropping bombs on my fellow human beings. My “side” is opposed to the “sides” of Milosovic, the KLF and the NATO powers, including “our” government. My “side” is for peace and live and let live against power politics, territorial urges and militaristic posturing.

Having no shares or property to defend, I give all Tommies permission to take it easy and stay at home with their wives and bairns. The airmen and soldiers are victims too of a cynical, greedy two-faced hypocritical bunch of warmongers.

If war is ever “necessary” this should proceed by the politicians heading the column into battle.
Robert J. Taylor,  
South Shields 

We have a dream

Dear Editors,

We have a dream, it’s a big one too. Our dream embraces the whole of humanity and they don’t come much bigger than that. In our dream we see every person on the face of the Earth having the same value, priceless! In our dream gone will be the days where one person’s life will be considered more valuable or less valuable than any other. Gone will be the days when someone will be paid as much for reading the News for a day as a nurse will receive for a whole year of looking after the sick. Gone also will be the days when some have a life of untold luxury, wealth and privilege just because they happen to be born in a certain bed.

We have a dream . . . in a socialist world buildings will be built to the highest possible specification (just like banks are now) to be inhabited by people and not to house lumps of gold, bits of coloured glass and pretty pieces of paper. We don’t know how long it might be before our dream becomes a reality, it might take quite a while. We realise that there are plenty of people who have a vested interest in retaining the demeaning values upon which society is based . . . for the time being they are doing alright thank you, Jack.

Capitalism is a reality, but the dream that once was, for too many, has now become a soul-destroying nightmare. One million people in this country alone take a daily dose of Prozac (anti-depressant) to help them get through each day. This is a legal drug, just imagine how many more are getting away from it all by “fixing” on anything that they can lay their shaking hands on.

The fact is of course that capitalism has and continues to fail people in their millions, they see no hope, they have no hope, worse still they don’t even have a dream.
John Phazey, 
Sutton Coldfield

Labour no good

Dear Editors,

Re your article “What’s New about New Labour?” (March, Socialist Standard), it is of course, perfectly true that (so-called) “New” Labour is no different from Old Labour. The Labour Party never was a socialist party. Over the years it has had many far left hot-heads in it; one of the most notable being Aneurin Bevan (although, towards the end of his life, he mellowed considerably). The Labour Party in its policies was only really a left-wing conservative party. That is why, in my opinion, it has spent most of the years of its existence in opposition.

When in government, it has introduced means testing for the for the very poor, cut dole money, introduced a compulsory two years’ national service for all young men on attaining the age of 18, banned strikes making them illegal, operated wage freezes, limited wage increases. True, they introduced child benefit after the war; but, in old money, Hugh Dalton, then Chancellor, put a shilling on 20 fags and sixpence on 10 fags to pay for it. The aforementioned policies seem more like the policies of a far right Thatcherite party than a so-called Labour Party.

One of the first assertions in the Labour Constitution was: “The Labour Party is a Socialist Party”. It wasn’t and never has been. But the one that always amuses me sadly is the old Clause 4: “To secure for the workers by hand and by brain, the full fruits of their labour and the most equitable distribution thereof.” Jolly decent of them eh! Who was anyone to deny the workers by hand or brain the full fruits of their labour?

I always remember in the long ago, November 1956 to be exact, as a young engineering apprentice in the Ford Motor company, I was invited to join the AEU. I had to fill in a form and attend the branch I had chosen with my seconder who had joined me. The new recruits stood out at the front of the meeting and the Branch Chairman read a text out to them (I suppose they still have it). The first part of the text had in it: “Our ancestors and predecessors were vilified and persecuted and, what prosperity we have now, is the fruits of their labour.”

Most of the text, however, has faded from my memory. The part I do remember is the end part: “May you live to see the day when we have ended the system that causes unemployment, that causes poverty in the midst of plenty, and replace it with a just and equitable one.” In the intervening years, particularly during the Thatcher years, my thoughts have often gone back to that far-off night. Would I ever live to see that day?
Stuart P. King, 
Romford, Essex 

Become a socialist

Dear Editors,

I think that most folks have heard of Socialism but I doubt very much that their definition coincides with mine—a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community—a world-wide community of 5½ billion of us humans.

We Socialists are quite satisfied that the only way to achieve this goal is by political action. Use your vote to bring about an end to the present system, capitalism, which deprives the worker of the wealth they alone produce.

The solution to most of the ills of the world is a simple one, establish Socialism. However it cannot be done without a majority of Socialists. Our socialist candidates will flat-out tell you that they don’t want your vote unless you want socialism. Reforming capitalism is not on the agenda. Our political opponents have been doing that for over 200 years.

The socialist can point the way but they will not adopt the role of “leader”. Have you heard this before? “Where there are leaders there are led, where there are led there are bled.”

We must first cast off the role of being a follower. You may think you cannot be hoodwinked. That you are extremely intelligent. That you are too wise in the ways of the world. The facts prove otherwise. You have voted for the Whigs and Tories, the Democrats and Republicans, the Liberals and Conservatives for the past 200 years. These are facts. Let us face it: you have been misled year after year. Your “leaders”, with their smooth talk and promises, have proven that followers are made to be bled. Become a Socialist and learn how this capitalist system operates and why it cannot function in the workers’ interests.
Bill Hewitson,  
Santa Monica, California

Living in a Free Society – a recent experience (1999)

From the May 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard
The following is offered without comment. It tries as honestly and comprehensively as possible to offer an objective account of the events surrounding an invitation to appear on a television discussion programme earlier this year.
A couple of months ago I was invited to take part as a representative of the Socialist Party in a Kilroy programme about Jack Straw’s “three strikes and you’re out” policy for burglars.

Two days before the programme was due to be recorded I was telephoned by a research assistant who wanted to know what kind of thing I would like to say. I offered two thoughts. One, a tactical objection to dispensing with juries, and thus with the whole idea of tying justice to particular circumstances—not least the personal circumstances of the criminal. And two, an objection to a discussion about burglary which failed to acknowledge that society was based on the legalised exploitation of one class by another.

The researcher wanted to know more about the latter point, so I offered a brief summary of the Socialist Party’s position. “Oh,” she said, “I’m not sure about that. You have to remember that our viewers are very ordinary people. I think they would find that very difficult. I certainly do.” I suggested that the ideas were not so much difficult as novel, and offered the opinion that having been invited onto the programme as a representative of the Socialist Party, I would expect to have an opportunity of putting our case. The researcher was unhappy and suggested that I come as an individual and make only the first point. I observed that I thought it ironic that the programme would be discussing the automatic imprisonment of individuals and here she was telling me that I was also to be imprisoned: I wouldn’t be allowed to say what I wanted, only what she wanted me to say. I wondered whether when members of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties were invited to appear on the programme they, too, were told that they wouldn’t be given an opportunity of putting their parties’ cases? The researcher didn’t answer, but withdrew her invitation to me to attend.
Michael Gill

Bombing for peace—the real crisis in NATO (1999)

From the May 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

Western liberals are in a flap about NATO’s bombardment of Serbia. Whichever position they take appears to condone violence against somebody, and the shallowness of liberal thinking has never been more cruelly exposed than now. Yet the cynics are having trouble too, because they can’t see an economic motive behind NATO’s actions, and nobody can believe that the West would spend £2 billion on a purely humanitarian exercise when it didn’t show the slightest concern over East Timor, Rwanda or any other killing ground of recent years.

It’s easy to see the economic value of Kosovo to Milosevic, but what’s in it for NATO? The West don’t seem to be after land or resources in the area, and is facing a huge bill for its pains. So is NATO really a cuddly philanthropic defender of the weak?

Wars, though generic to capitalism, do in fact interrupt the process of wealth accumulation and are frequently against the interests of large sections of the capitalist class, who will therefore try to prevent them. You can’t make money when some gangsters are shooting up your casino. Hence capitalism’s need for an international police force. But as with a domestic police force, the willingness of populations to accept law enforcers whose main concern is private property and money-making depends on those enforcers also preventing other types of crime, like mugging, rape, murder and street violence, which don’t directly concern the owning class but which worry the hell out of the rest of us. If the police couldn’t prevent a gang war on your doorstep you’d start wondering why you bothered respecting the law yourself. And when the law breaks down, the looting starts.

At the heart of this crisis is the problem of credibility, not only for NATO in its efforts to keep the peace, but for the Western Liberal Democracy model of capitalism. This is more serious than it sounds. Capitalism, as everyone knows, requires majority support and participation. Now you can enforce this support the hard way, by having a police state with heavy duty surveillance, martial law, “disappearances”, 24-hour border patrols and a huge state propaganda machine. This is the 1984 approach of George Orwell, but there are severe practical problems, because such a system is incredibly expensive to maintain and, being so crude, unable to get the best out of its workers. The collapse of state capitalism in Eastern Europe had long been predicted by the Socialist Party for these very reasons (although it lasted much longer than we expected).

The other way to ensure support is much cheaper, more efficient, more stable, and more user-friendly. It is called Liberal Democracy. Nobody is going to rebel if they believe that they are already free, and this belief is central to the West’s perception of itself. Consequently the capitalist class is obliged to tolerate a (semi-) free press, the vote, and open criticism of itself, because there has to be evidence of this “freedom” for all to see. And there are other costs. We will not co-operate unless capitalism supplies us with a reasonable safe and secure environment. The police rule by popular consent, and could not rule otherwise. Employment has to be supplied, or else a dole, otherwise food riots will ensue. 
The credibility of “Western democratic capitalism” is in bad shape, even for Westerners. We are better informed than we’ve ever been, and we are not impressed by what we see. Nobody believes in leaders like they used to. Nobody doffs their cap to their local MP as they once did. We are accustomed to think of them as generally useless and usually corrupt. Governments, we realise, don’t really care a damn about us except for that little X once every five years or so. Thirty percent of the population doesn’t even bother to give them that.

After the pyramid-selling fiascos in Albania a couple of years ago, capitalism in the region has a poor public image. Millions in Eastern Europe were hoping it was going to be better than Leninist state-capitalism but the bread queues are still there and instead of the secret police they now have the Mafia, that ultimate expression of the free market. If it now appears that NATO, the international Police Department, can’t even stop some tinpot dictator from murdering his way to power, the capitalist hold over workers’ minds will be weakened. We will begin to see through their cosy propaganda and their self-serving laws that nobody else obeys anyway. We might turn back to fascism. But what is worse, we might go forward to socialism. There are no bars on our windows, thanks to the money-saving logic of capitalism. There is only our belief in the system that prevents us acting, and that is increasingly under strain.
Paddy Shannon

Profit or the environment? (1999)

From the May 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1992 sixteen hundred scientists warned that humanity was on course for a collision with nature. They predicted an environmental crisis by the year 2020 unless humankind could achieve a change in the nature of its “stewardship” of the environment. While there is much uncertainty about the extent to which humans are “irretrievably mutilating” the Earth, as these scientists claimed, it is clear that radical change is needed.

At present “stewardship” over the Earth is in the hands of a small minority of the world population. Their interests often prove to be irreconcilable with the need to protect the environment from pollution and degradation. Awareness of the damage being done has increased markedly over the last two decades. A growth of pressure groups, non-governmental organisations and international conferences, reports and legislation have at least provided us with ever more information, if little else. Indeed, ever since the first international conference on the environment in Stockholm 1971, there has been no shortage of well-intentioned statements of principle from governments. For example, the Stockholm Declaration stated that:
“Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being.”
In 1987 the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, called for the development of productive activities to become “‘sustainable’, meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. It goes without saying that most of us would favour these goals of protecting the Earth’s resources for future generations and preserving the quality of our environment. The question is whether they have any chance of being achieved within a social system where profits come first.

Documents such as the 1987 Brundtland Report and 1992 Agenda 21 which followed the highly publicised Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro do not acknowledge that there is any necessary conflict between making profit and protecting the environment. The goal of “sustainable development” is seen as achievable within the market system. There is no acknowledgement of any conflict between the two supposedly complementary goals.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation have stated that: “The objective is to create an economic environment in which it is more profitable to conserve resources than destroy them” (Long Term Strategy for the Food and Agricultural Sector, FAO Publications).

Again, conservation and profitability are seen as being compatible. Yet experience has shown time and again that these two gaols are incompatible. Only by replacing the profit system with truly democratic organisation can we give the environment the priority it deserves.
Dan Greenwood

Global rollback (1999)

Book Review from the May 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dark Victory, The United States and Global Poverty. New edition by Walden Bello with Shea Cunningham and Bill Rau, Foreword by Susan George, Pluto Press, 1999 (paperback 162 pages)

Socialists should be grateful to Food First and the Transnational Institute for bringing out a revised edition of their handy little book detailing the extent of global poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and war. We do not have the resources to do the desk research to compile all these detailed facts and figures, or to send photographers out to take pictures of destitute people picking over rubbish dumps or police firing on protesters. The authors are enlightened enough to see that capitalism is the culprit, making their analyses useful, without drastic re-interpretation, for the work of presenting the Socialist Party’s critique of capitalism and the socialist alternative. Our argument does not change essentially from year to year, but it is important that we relate it to the world situation as others see it.

The central message of the book, which accords with our case, is that political and social changes that seem to benefit the majority only happen if they advance capitalist interests, and are dismantled willy-nilly when those interests change. The particular scenario focused on is what the authors call the “global rollback” of advances in economic development in the South, and the New Deal and the Welfare State in the North, so that corporate America shall enjoy sources of cheap raw materials and labour, and not be threatened by competition from Japan and the Newly Industrialising Nations.

Having with “relentless scholarship . . . crisply laid out” (Susan George in the Foreword) the disastrous consequences of US capital’s “dark victory”, the writers eventually get around to considering how the world is ever going to recover from this. There is an encouraging paragraph headed “The Role of Working-Class Solidarity” which states that “the globalization of production . . . has brought home to workers in both North and South . . . their common subjugation to the capitalist calculus of short-term profitability”. If such an advance in majority consciousness were really what has happened, socialists would be tremendously excited, but later this is referred to as merely “glimmers of hope on the labor front”. Pious hopes are expressed in “the power of the conviction that human rights, peace, and environmental welfare are indivisible and transcend the . . . limits set by corporate capital in the name of ‘national sovereignty’ when it suits its objectives”. One is reminded of the high-sounding verbiage produced by one of the many conferences of pressure groups, charities etc.

It is not until the final chapter, an Epilogue focused on “the Asian Economic Implosion”, that anything resembling a solution to the world’s problems is put forward. The writers declare that “the state must be reformed along the lines of more transparency, more accountability, and more democratic surveillance of government, but the aim of this enterprise is not to banish it as an economic agent but to enable it to more effectively regulate the market”. They go on to say: “What is being advanced here is not just the reform of the state but the transformation of the economic regime. While market and state must continue to play a vital role, the fundamental mechanism of production, distribution, and exchange . . . must be democratic decision making by communities, civic organisations, and people’s movements”. Why the capitalist class and their political servants should consent to handing over the reins to this well-meaning coalition is not made clear. Given the degree of worker solidarity and understanding the authors believe exists in the world today, how much simpler and easier to just get rid of the capitalist mess altogether and bring in a socialist society.
Chris Marsh

Nationalism (1999)

Book Review from the May 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

Imagining Nations, Geoffrey Cubitt ed., Manchester University Press.
Fatherland or Mother Earth? Essays on the National Question by Michael Lõwy, Pluto Press.

Two very different books on nationalism. The Cubitt volume is much more “academic”, looking at a number of different issues within the area of nationalism. The best thing that can be said about it is that most of the contributors are aware that nations are not in any way natural entities but are products of history. There are a couple of interesting papers, one on the origins of the Ordnance Survey and one on the way that banknotes are used to display patriotic messages, but most of the contents are too dry to repay the reader’s time.

Lõwy’s book, which examines the writings of Marx and others on nationalism, is more worthwhile, though it contains a number of contradictions. Lõwy is aware that Socialism means a classless, stateless society, but when it comes to the question of whether nations could have any role in Socialism, he wants to have it both ways. At one point he endorses the view that Socialism will be a world without frontiers, with no political delimitation of peoples. Yet a few pages later he seems to accept that Socialism would involve the abolition of national antagonisms but could retain nations with cultural differences. In fact, a true understanding of the implications of Socialism will reveal that the very idea of nations, a political concept, can have no part to play, though there will of course still be cultural differences among people (e.g. language).

While he pays lip service to opposing nationalism, Lõwy also advocates the “right of self-determination” of the Kurds and the Albanians of Kosovo, among others. This is largely based on the Leninist-inspired distinction between the nationalism of the oppressors (always bad) and the nationalism of the oppressed (allegedly worth supporting, even if critically). This even though he is aware that oppressed nations, once “free”, can easily become oppressors in turn. Oppression, however, has to be seen in class, not national terms. Both so-called oppressor and oppressed nations consist of oppressor and oppressed classes, and “national liberation” enables an oppressor class to consolidate and expand its power, rather than freeing all the people of a formerly oppressed nation.

It contains some interesting observations, but on the whole Lõwy’s book swallows too much leftist nonsense to be recommended.
Paul Bennett

Much ado about nothing (1999)

Book Review from the May 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Jesus Myth by G. A. Wells, Open Court, Chicago, 1999.

Christianity is patently untrue. Its basic premise—that an all-powerful god who had created the universe caused a virgin to have a son by him who became a religious preacher and miracle-worker in an obscure border area of the Roman empire, was killed and then rose from the dead and eventually ascended into the sky and disappeared—is not only ridiculous but also biologically and physically impossible. It just never happened.

But was there even ever a historical person called Jesus? Opinion, even amongst anti-Christians, has been divided. So what is the evidence? The only evidence that we have is the Christians’ holy book which they call the New Testament. This does have some value as a contemporary document. Part of it—Paul’s letters (those he wrote himself)—was written in the middle of the first century, i.e. shortly after Jesus was said to have lived. The other part—the accounts of his life and death known as the “gospels”—was written towards the end of the same century, i.e. about fifty or so years after he was said to have died. However, as Wells emphasises in his new book, there are two problems.

First, Paul, who wrote nearest to the alleged events, says nothing about the life of Jesus; he was only interested in his death or, rather, in his supposed resurrection. This in itself is suspicious. Paul was a Jew, not from the core Jewish area in Palestine but from Tarsus, a town now in southern Turkey, and his main language was Greek not the Aramaic which Jesus and his original followers would have spoken. As a Hellenistic Jew he was influenced by Greek religious ideas, in particular that of a saviour-god; a god who died to save his followers and then later rose from the dead, as for instance Dionysus was believed to do by his followers. In other words, Paul saw Christianity as a saviour-god religion in which a divine figure called Jesus (a name which in Hebrew is linked to the idea of being “saved”) died to save those prepared to follow him. Paul did retain some Jewish ideas: that of an Old Testament character called Wisdom (who he believed Jesus to have been before he was born) and the apocalyptic view that the end of the world was nigh.

Second, while the “gospels” do claim to tell us about the life of Jesus, the trouble is that nearly every event in his life is paralleled either in Greek mythology (virgin birth, resurrection) or, particularly, in the lives of Old Testament figures who also walked on water, fed thousands, raised the dead, rode on asses and ascended into heaven on a cloud (Jesus does, however, seem to have been unique in walking through walls). It is clear that the authors invented a life for Jesus which corresponded to Old Testament traditions and predictions. Even the account of his death is not trustworthy. As a saviour-god he had to die a particularly humiliating death, which at the time was crucifixion but, as only the Roman authorities could carry out this punishment, he had to be made to be condemned by them.

When all this crap has been cleared away, what’s left? Nothing, say those who claim that Jesus was an invented, mythological character who never had any historical existence. Not much, say the others. Only that there was somebody called Jesus who preached that the Jews should reform their ways as the end of the world was nigh and perhaps healed a few cases of people suffering from psychosomatic illnesses, in Galilee in the first part of the first century.

Wells, who in his earlier books such as Did Jesus Exist? (1975) and The Historical Evidence for Jesus (1982), had embraced the Jesus-is-pure-myth theory (see correspondence in April 1980 Socialist Standard) has now in this and his last previous book, The Jesus Legend (1996), come round to the view that the Jesus story “may derive ultimately from the life of a first century itinerant Galilean preacher; but to separate out such authentic material from the mass of unhistorical narratives is a well-nigh hopeless task”.
Adam Buick

Broadcasting: A Counterfeit Reality (1999)

Theatre Review from the May 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

Talk of the City by Stephen Poliakoff. Royal Shakespeare Company at the Young Vic.

I find myself writing this review of Stephen Poliakoff’s rich and revealing play about censorship in the BBC in the years before World War II, the day after the NATO announcement that it viewed the content of Serbian television as so much propaganda. It is also only two days since a correspondent to the Guardian noted that whilst letters to the paper have been full of various opinions about the bombing of Serbia, no such differences of opinion have been evident in radio and television broadcasts. And, coincidentally, it’s a couple of months since an invitation to appear on the Kilroy programme was withdrawn because I wouldn’t express opinions in line with the wishes of the production team. All of which remind me of a couple of quotations which I noted when I was reading the Open University unit, “Science, Technology and Everyday Life, 1870-1950”, a couple of years ago:
“The so-called ‘mass media’ serve to generate consent in their audiences by representing the real world in ways which confer legitimacy on the social order in which they subsist.” “Communication is not only about who is talking to whom, and how; it is also about who is not talking to whom and why.”
Talk of the City is a zippy, immediately accessible show which is played with great exuberance and panache by a talented cast. It offers us review host, Robbie, inclined like most comedians to embroider his material in the light of his feelings and creative impulses at the time of delivery, and who is forever in trouble with those who produce his show and would have him never depart from the script; ideas man, Clive, anxious to offer listeners an account of what is happening to the Jews in Germany in 1938, contrary to the covertly anti-semitic line of many BBC managers; and a retinue of BBC officials sensitive to government policy, anxious to tow the party line, who insist on approving every last word before it is voiced over the airways.

The programme contains the complete text of the play and foreword, “Some Background Material—BBC in the Thirties”, which offers about a dozen quotations from internal memos, the BBC house magazine, ex-employees, etc. a real snip at £2.50. Two quotations give the flavour of the culture of the Corporation in the mid- to late-1930s:
“I really believe that they (BBC managers) really thought that everybody who was doing a productive job was necessarily childish and irresponsible and needed controlling” (Maurice Chapman). “I received a letter from the Northern Regional Studio, asking me if I would talk on Repertory Theatre while I was up North. I said I would. I was then informed that a copy of my talk must be in the hands of the BBC at least a fortnight before the date of broadcasting, and that I must go to the studio to rehearse. ‘Otherwise,’ I was told, ‘the project must be abandoned.’ ‘The Project,’ I replied at once, ‘is abandoned'” (JB Priestley).
Nowadays, however, censorship is managed more subtly. Recording programmes in advance and enquiring of those who plan to take part what they might wish to say, can be used to avoid “unsuitable material” being transmitted over the airways. [My own recent personal experience is instructive, and is reported elsewhere in this issue.]

Talk of the City is a splendidly lucid piece of adult theatre, but it is also arguably historically and culturally adrift. By failing to connect with today’s media and avoiding a more substantial critique of broadcasting, Poliakoff seems to be inviting audiences to see the events of the late 1930s as an unique series of events. Socialists, however, would see them as representative of the continuing control of the cultural and political agenda by agents of the capitalist class who wish, as the Open University quotation has it, “to confer legitimacy on the social order in which they exist”.
Michael Gill

Love, Ideas and Historical Materialism — and a different view of Professor Eysenck (1973)

From the June 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent has taken up a quotation from Frederick Engels in last month’s Socialist Standard, asking if it is really true that romantic love is a product of history and not an all-too-natural propensity of human beings. “Why on earth should sex-love be related to the mode of production and economic relationships?” says the writer, and cites a poet of the ancient world — “Let us live and let us love” — to support the point.

What is questioned is the basic statement of historical materialism. In  the Preface to the Critique of Political Economy Marx wrote:
The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness.
The Communist Manifesto is similarly explicit:
Does it require deep intuition to comprehend that man’s ideas, views, and conceptions, in one word, man’s consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life? What else does the history of ideas prove, than that intellectual production changes its character in proportion as material production is changed? 
Engels reaffirmed in his old age, writing to H. Starkenburg:
Political, juridical, philosophical, religious, literary, artistic, etc., development is based on economic development.
The problem for our correspondent, and many others, is how far this is meant to be taken. The development of political and legal forms in direct response to changing class structures throughout history is clear enough. So are the shapes taken by the major institutions of society: technics, commerce, nation-states — and, inevitably, ideas related directly to them, including ethical and religious “reflexes of the real world” as well as political ones. Art forms, too. But is it true that human relationships and qualities, and truths which appear to exist beyond social organization, must be included in Marx’s description of man as the “assemble of social relations”? Can we take seriously Engels’s assertion (in a letter to Marx) that "the atom itself is nothing more than a Relation”?

Construction and Reality
Indeed it is true, and we must. There is a single qualification to be made: the materialist conception of history is of course a generalization, so are its particular applications. In homely illustration, this means that statements like “Not a speck of dust anywhere” and “No apples on the trees this year” are not invalidated by someone’s finding a speck of dust or the odd apple. Similarly, historical materialism cannot be expected to explain all the minutiae of social life or else be adjudged incompetent. Engels himself gave reasons in a letter to Conrad Schmidt:
In other words, the unity of conception and appearance manifests itself as essentially an infinite process, and that is what it is, in this case as in all others. Did feudalism ever correspond to its concept? . . . Or are the concepts which prevail in the natural sciences fictions because they by no means always coincide with reality? From the moment we accept the theory of evolution all our concepts of organic life correspond only approximately to reality. Otherwise there would be no change: on the day when concepts and reality completely coincide in the organic world development comes to an end.
(Selected Correspondence, pp.529-30) 
Historical materialism sees man as “not only a social animal, but an animal which can develop into an individual only in society”, in Marx’s words. Hence, his activities and ideas are part of society too. The language in which we think, the conventions and motives which direct thought, are social constructions. These are taken for granted as if they had existences of their own, yet they are all consequences of the basic human activity of production: the manner of satisfying man’s needs. The same applies to ideas. Two simple examples can be given. First, the idea of exchange which cannot arise except in societies where production surplus to elementary physical needs has been achieved; second, the idea of opportunity which can exist only where access is limited and one man’s meat is another man’s fancy.

Knowledge and Intelligence
The multiplication of these instances leads to the fact that property societies are class-divided societies. Some own the means of living, some do not. Those who own, in whatever form of society, are its ruling class and the dominant ideas of that society are theirs. The outstanding examples are, of course, religious and moral concepts presented as eternal values. However, it only begins there. Knowledge and measurable facts exist not in an objective world from which they must at all times influence society, but in fact exist at all — or are brought into existence — only insofar as they are useful to society.

Thus, the mathematical and scientific knowledge of the Mediterranean civilizations was lost and had no existence at all from the end of the Roman Empire to the beginnings of capitalism: unrequired and (if this concept too had existed in mediaeval Europe) obsolete. The loss and rediscovery may be put down to historical chance — but, as Marx says in one of his letters to Kugelmann:
These accidents themselves fall naturally into the general course of development and are compensated for, again, by other accidents.
As well as being buried and dug up again, knowledge may be devised. The word need not imply a lying conspiracy. Ruling needs in a society can give rise to a conceptual answer. The concept is accepted as a fact: x in an equation presented as a real number instead of an expedient device.

In the past fifty years State education — and in turn, what is thought about ability and equality — has been dominated by the idea of quantitative intelligence. It began with the work of Galton, between 1869 and 1886, on hereditary factors in “man’s natural abilities”, and was applied immediately to school- children and students. Prior to that time, indeed, the word intelligence commonly meant “information” (a meaning it retains in military usage, and the two had better not be confused there). Today every school-child is labelled with his or her intelligence quotient; over 150 means being in “the top 2 per cent.”, and Mensa is the society of the crème de la crème.

Invention at Work
Yet the history of this varying personal endowment synchronizes with that of popular education. Its theory and the methods of testing were produced between 1904 and 1922, and their application has been to the continued process of selecting children and workers. But while intelligence is measured daily, nobody — significantly — has defined it. Spearman, the theorist of the I.Q., called it "a word with so many meanings that finally it has none”. And the fact is that intelligence is not a reality but a concept, a system of measurement for the ruling class to sort sheep from goats regarding the skills and organization of modern capitalism. To be good at what they need is to have high intelligence; to show different abilities is, as well as irrelevant, low-grade. Those concerned over Professor Eysenck (one way or the other) should try considering him in this light for a change.

What is knowledge? The essential facts of one set of circumstances are not merely useless in another; they would be denied. In the present age self-description begins with one’s name and date of birth. Basic information as they are, they did not exist as such before 1837 when Registration started. Names existed, of course, but as variables — an approximate rendering served the purposes of most of society. Births and deaths were not recorded at all; the only dates known were for baptism and burial, and the first might take place at any time or not at all. The important point is not that facts were unrecorded, but that they were not facts at all; except for purposes of succession which concerned few, nobody recognized their existence. Knowledge was declared into existence by law, for administrative purposes.

Marx and Engels pointed out repeatedly that effects become causes in society:
. . . once an historic element has been brought into the world by other elements, ultimately by economic facts, it also reacts in its turn and may react on its environment and even on its own causes.
(Engels to Mehring: Selected Correspondence, p.512)
As with intelligence, a concept taken for physical fact can produce physical responses. An interesting example from contemporary social life is that of adolescence, which began as one of the four Roman legal divisions of life-span. In English law there are two main periods only — infancy, i.e. under 18, and adulthood, with a mixture of legal rights and obligations under various headings in infancy. This statutory division reflects the practical one which existed virtually up to modern times: people were children, then they were men and women. The idea of an interim phase having taken root from developments in society, physical and psychological symptoms followed; and in recent years, with adolescence a profitable social mania, it has been discovered to start even earlier than was thought before.

Man's Nature can be Free
Human relations, then, are inevitably shaped by the form of society. It is not the view of historical materialism, however, that we are but clay in the hands of our own economic organization. Apart from the continual effect-to-cause flow — man makes history, as Marx always insisted — there are what are described in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 as man’s “species powers”. These are his drives and needs, the use of his senses. Related to the framework established by production and social activity, “man’s species powers express the kind of life which man, as distinct from all other beings, carries on inside this framework” (B. Oilman: Alienation).

Is Engel’s claim justified—"Before the middle ages we cannot speak of individual sex-love”? In fact Engels gives the necessary explanations in The Origin of the Family. He compares sexual love in our sense, where the emotions are involved in an exclusive relationship, with the arranged marriages of antiquity. But the keyword is not “love”, but “individual”. By “individual” Engels means the “free citizen”, the knight, or the guild member. In The Communist Manifesto the term is made explicit:
You must, therefore, confess that by “individual” you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property.
Indeed, Engels like our correspondent refers to lovers in ancient literature (Daphnis and Chloe, etc.). Either, he says, they were slaves and therefore outside the state, or the objects of male affection were foreigners or hetairai and likewise outside official society: “that sort of thing only happened in romance — or among the oppressed classes, who did not count”.

How much does all this matter? If the bondage of capitalism is to be ended and a human society realized, there must be comprehension of how the fetters are made. The alternative is the view stigmatized by Marx and Engels as sterile in its limitation to “the interests of Human Nature, of Man in general, who belongs to no class, has no reality, who exists only in the misty realm of philosophical phantasy”. Engels spelled out how consciousness, derived from society, can change society:
Freedom does not consist in the dream of independence of natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends . . . Freedom therefore consists in the control over ourselves and over external nature which is founded on knowledge of natural necessity; it is therefore necessarily a product of historical development.
(Anti-Duhring, p.128) 
Robert Barltrop

Capitalists, Tremble! More Nonsense From the “Workers’ Press” (1973)

From the June 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Labour League, in a May-Day Manifesto, has issued an “urgent call to action” to “all Socialists and class-conscious workers”. They must set up “Councils of Action”, they say, and these Councils of Action “will unite all political tendencies of the working class”, Labour Party, Communist Party, Socialist Labour League, International Socialists, and International Marxist Group to “fight against the Tory Government”.

The funny thing is that on the same page of Workers’ Press (April 30th) we are told that the Communist Party “is incapable of waging an independent fight against the Government”, which is the result of its “reformist peaceful road to Socialism which was drafted by Stalin”. And the S.L.L. “wages a relentless campaign against Stalinism”, although they “will fight to defend the USSR, China and Eastern Europe against imperialist aggressors.”

Seeing that “Comrade” Brezhnev went to Washington last week to conclude an Imperialist agreement, it looks as if the S.L.L. will be out of business on that one.

As for the trade union leaders, they are “a bureaucracy which essentially represent the opportunist degeneration of the workers’ movement”, but they “could not function without the connivance of the Communist Party”.

The S.L.L. “knows that the present leaders of the Labour movement have no intention of implementing Socialist policies”. What the S.L.L. and Workers’ Press call “Socialist policies” will be listed later. For the moment let it be said that they are anything (and almost everything) but Socialism.

Anyway, this motley crew of “bureaucrats” (L.P.), “class collaborationists” (C.P.), “middle class centrists of I.S. and I.M.G.” — Workers’ Press, April 23rd — with the unemployed (who can’t strike anyhow) and tenants, have to “organize a General Strike”, to “force the Government to resign” (Workers’ Press, April 29th). When they have done this, a "Labour Government must be elected . . . pledged by the mass action of the working class to implement Socialist policies”.

Why a Government has to be elected, when a mass movement of Action has already forced one to resign, is not explained. In any case, the programme (for the newly elected Labour Government) is to “force the Labour leaders to carry out Socialist policies”. Now comes the moment of truth: the S.L.L. knows that the Labour leaders will not do this. So: “if the working class is strong enough to force the Tories out, it is strong enough to deal with the traitors in its own midst”.

Poor old Socialist Labour League Trotskyists, this is not even as “r-revolutionary” as the good old 1920 C.P. which at least didn’t monkey about with election nonsense but would replace the Government with Soviets. (What has become of the Soviets?) Anyway, after the treacherous Labour leaders have jibbed at “Socialist policies”, more mass action by the workers will “deal with the traitors” until Gerry Healy is Prime Minister. This is a bit like the French Revolution, which relentlessly destroyed one faction after the other until Napoleon seized power. But they started from the Left, whereas the S.L.L. starts from the Right.

So it looks as if we are in for quite a bit of “mass action”, and the S.L.L. wants £100,000 to build a r-r-r-revolutionary party to do it. It is not quite explicitly stated what the hundred thousand quid is for. If all those workers in the Labour Party, C.P., S.L.L., I.M.G., I.S., tenants, Uncle Tom Cobley and all were really intent on a political general strike, presumably they could do it without £100,000. Even the 1926 lot didn’t wait to collect £100,000 first!

But the cream of the joke is the “Socialist policies” which the “mass-actioned” Labour Government is “to be forced to implement” against its will. Capitalists, tremble! Bankers, beware! Let the bosses face this lot: 
First, repeal the Industrial Relations Act.
Second, “The Right to Work”. (Oh, Christ!)
Third, “The Right to Strike”.
Fourth, "The Right to Defend Rights”.
Fifth: “The Right to a higher standard of living” (Nationalization).
Sixth, “The Right to Health Benefit”.
Seventh, “The Right to Decent Housing”.
(Workers’ Press, April 29th)
They’d have a job to get Enoch Powell to disagree with those. And for these we are to urgently “unite for mass action” like "occupying the factories”. And where is Socialism? Nowhere.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always held a very clear and straightforward idea about political and industrial action. Political action is that which concerns the whole working class, industrial action that of industries or trades. There is no way of getting control of the political machine of Government except by voting. Even if a government resigns as a result of a strike, it is still not known how many want something else, and what they positively want.

Incidentally, nothing could be more absurd than the S.L.L. claims that the capitalists want to “smash the unions”. This is the last thing the capitalists want. They love the trade unions, because they can’t do without them. It is true that Karl Marx urged the trade unions to inscribe on their trade-union banners “Abolition of the Wages System”, which is political; but obviously, having in mind the creation of a revolutionary political party to do it. “Abolition of the Wages System” is political; increases in wages are industrial, and leave capitalism intact.

Political strikes are fatuous nonsense which will only lead the workers into futile disaster. Trade unions resist the encroachments of capital. A political party, pledged to every one of its understanding members, is necessary for Socialism. Neither is it true that because Socialists deplore the stupid folly of marching and rioting for the “Right to Work”, that the work of the S.P.G.B. is dull or tedious. There is no greater task than to dispel Ignorance “which never helped anybody”

Blogger's Note:
See the correction in the July 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard.

How to end property speculation (1973)

From the June 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since the war over a hundred people have become millionaires out of property speculation. This is a measure of the failure of town planning. Indeed it has partly been its effect within the context of the private ownership of land.

The private landowner is a social parasite extracting an income from society simply because he monopolizes a limited natural resource. A large part of London is still owned by the traditional landowning class — the dukes, the earls, the Church and the Crown — but in recent years these aristocrats have been joined by a commoner breed: the property speculator.

The property speculator operates by exploiting the shortage of land for office building in central London. Land prices depend entirely on market demand and reflect the prospective income a piece of land can be expected to bring its owner. For many years now the demand for land in London for office building has exceeded the supply. Hence rising land values.

What most of these new millionaires did was to buy up land in a particular area, secretly and in small parcels, until they had acquired an area large enough for a big “development”. As soon as they had done this their land became worth many times more than they had paid for it. Some became millionaires quite literally overnight and, with office rents rising faster than inflation generally, they go on getting richer every day simply by holding their land idle. This basically is what Harry Hyams has done with Centre Point, that monument to the anti-social nature of private property at the end of Tottenham Court Road. It pays him more, through the increasing value of his land, to keep this office building empty rather than to let it at a fixed rent for a fixed period.

So obviously absurd is this that even supporters of capitalism have had to complain. The Tories have traditionally been the property owner’s friend so they have not done much. The Labour Party has tried harder, but its efforts to control speculative office building backfired by aggravating the shortage of office space, so further pushing up land prices. Labour apparently has not learned the lesson of this as its GLC manifesto promised “to halt the building of additional offices”. Some Labour-controlled councils have even been forced into partnership with speculative office builders in order to salvage some space near central London for housing.

Both Labour and Liberal critics of the property speculator have shied away from what, even under capitalism, is the only way to stop people making fortunes out of rising land values: the abolition of private property in land by the expropriation without compensation of all private landowners. This radical solution was advocated by their bolder predecessors in the 19th century and has been recognized by many architects to be the minimum requirement before there can be effective town planning.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain however does not advocate the abolition merely of landed property and does not favour this as an isolated measure. We stand for the abolition of all private property rights, over industry as well as land. The abolition of the private ownership of land under capitalism would eliminate the landed aristocrat and the property speculator but not the industrial capitalist. It might relieve the housing shortage a little by allowing more lower-rent accommodation to be built for sale to lower-paid workers, but the working class would remain wage and salary earners exploited for profit by their employers. Under these circumstances town planning, even with the abolition of private landownership, could still not be geared to furthering human welfare.

Only Socialism, based on the common ownership and democratic control by all the people of all land and industry, will provide the framework for doing this. There would then be no vested interests or market forces working to negate plans to create an enjoyable urban environment for people to live and work in. People would be able to exercise effective democratic control over town planning instead of the farce of “consultation” and "participation” practised by the GLC and local councils today.

50 Years Ago: Do you like your work? (1973)

The 50 Years Ago column from the June 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

How many working-class children follow
the occupations to which they are adapted and which would hold their interest?
 . . .

. . .   The working-class child is born into a system that at a certain period puts before him the problem of finding a master or starving. He must obtain employment of some kind regardless of his aptitude or desires. The family at home is growing; father’s wages no longer suffice to meet the needs, and consequently the child must accept the first job that offers, and if he is lucky (!) that means following the same trade until industry has sapped all his energy and eventually thrown him out upon the scrapheap to beg or find a place in the workhouse.

The private ownership of wealth, with consequent dependence on wages of the vast majority of the population is the cause of this maladaptation.

When wealth becomes common property and is democratically controlled by the whole people there will be such an abundance of workers available that the necessary work of society will not be able to absorb all this energy. It will then be possible for ail the members of society to experiment in occupations until they find the one that suits them best.

(From an article “Square Pegs in Round Holes”, by G. McClatchie. Socialist Standard, June 1923.)

Socialist French-Language Journal (1973)

Party News from the June 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

The first issue of the World Socialist Movement’s first French-language journal, “Socialisme Mondial”, was published in May by the Socialist Party of Canada. Containing 16 roneoed pages it carries articles putting the basic case for Socialism. Branches and individuals can obtain copies by writing to: The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN. Enquiries about subscriptions should be sent to:
Case Postale 244,

Pointe-Aux-Trembles 500,
Quebec, Canada.

Blogger's Note:
Articles from the first issue of Socialisme Mondial can viewed at the following link.

Generating an Energy Crisis (1973)

From the June 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

You may have noticed recently that capitalism is heading for another of its periodic crises. This time it is over the supply, or rather the lack, of energy. As world energy consumption increases at a rate of five per cent. per year (see Table 1) it has been predicted that power failures may become commonplace and transport and industry grind to a halt as the industrially advanced nations gobble up the planet’s remaining fossil resources.

Having recklessly squandered much of their indigenous fossil fuel supplies, literally without a thought for the future, some countries are finding themselves increasingly dependent on imported energy supplies. Britain’s dependence on imported energy rose from 25 per cent. in 1960 to 45 per cent. in 1970. The EEC as a whole in 1970 imported 63 per cent. of its energy requirement. Shell estimate that by 1985 Western Europe will be importing 900 million tons of oil yearly — the North Sea oilfield output of 250 million tons will be far short of demand.

Imports & Costs
The position in the United States appears to be even more critical. Three years ago Federal Power Commissioner Carl Bragge declared: “We may have to face up to the rationing of electricity as a matter of policy’’. President Nixon announced in February of this year that America was now consuming more energy than it produced. And it has been estimated that by 1980 America will be importing one third of its energy; even so it has a long way to go to catch Japan where some 90 per cent. of their energy demand is now imported.

Naturally fears have been expressed about the uncertainty over future prices of fuels which might affect trade and profits. In a debate in the House of Lords recently Liberal peer Lord Tanlaw said that
. . . as a nation which depends upon trade, it is vital that we should not let our energy costs get substantially out of line with those countries with whom we have to compete in international markets.
(Hansard 28 February 1973 col. 650)
This is particularly relevant in basic industries such as iron and steel and cement where direct fuel costs make up respectively 15 and 25 per cent. of the gross value of industrial output.

Tensions Develop
What the capitalist class requires are energy supplies which are secure and which will meet the foreseen needs of the economy at the lowest possible cost. These requirements are “planned for” in a state of international anarchy in which the best laid capitalist plan can come unstuck. For example the government’s 1967 White Paper on Fuel Policy made the exceedingly rash assumption that oil prices would remain stable. The intervening period has seen the producing countries gang together to hike up the price and the consumers have had to comply. But because the ruling class and their governments look at the problem with these narrow commercial priorities they see only the present short-term energy crisis. This will be solved, at least temporarily, by such measures as increased investment and by governments lowering protective trade barriers and underwriting the search for new supplies of the old fuels.

However there is a much more serious long-term energy crisis which capitalism has not yet faced up to. The present world set-up is unlikely to be able to provide the massive amounts of energy that will be necessary to raise the living standards of the world’s desperately poor majority even to the miserable level of the “affluent” west. Further, as industrialism spreads tensions are likely to develop over the control of present and possible future sources of energy supplies with the outbreak of war an ever-present possibility.

Assuming, and there is very strong evidence for doing so, that there are enough fossil fuel resources to last for at least the next one hundred years (see Table 2), is there in the longer run an alternative to the energy starvation predicted by some scaremongers? It is clear that to survive man must develop other sources of energy, for without energy man will be unable to continue to change the world around him for his own benefit. The present expansion of nuclear fission programmes may provide a short-term stop-gap but as a long-term solution it looks like being a non-starter. To succeed in replacing conventional fuels by nuclear power sufficient to meet demand in the year 2000 one 1,000 megawatt station a week should be built from now till then. As it is, half the power stations on order in the US are nuclear, and in 15 to 20 years one-third of the electricity in Europe will come from nuclear fission in an attempt to keep up with electricity consumption which doubles every ten years. In England and Wales output of electricity is now 50,000 MWe. By 2000 it is expected to be 160,000 MWe, half of it nuclear.

Using Fusion
But in the long run the reliance on nuclear fission has serious drawbacks, the most important of which is the production of highly dangerous radioactive waste by-products, some of which remain dangerous to human life for tens of thousands of years. (The rather frivolous suggestion that these might be shot off to the sun aboard a space rocket is not really on). Such waste products are dangerous even at very low levels and by the end of the century will present us with the problem of what to do with six-billion plus curies of Strontium 90 — thirty times as much as would be released by a nuclear war and enough to contaminate all the fresh water in the world. Still, it is possible that capitalism will decide that the economic considerations outweigh the risks of contamination. Obviously we must look elsewhere for future energy resources.

The most promising alternative so far is nuclear fusion. In the fission process a heavy nucleus is split into two parts and energy is released. In the fusion process on the other hand, two lightweight elements combine to form a heavier and more tightly bound nucleus with the simultaneous release of significant amounts of energy. This energy-releasing rearrangement collision can occur between various common isotopes of hydrogen. The beauty of it is that these isotopes are in virtually inexhaustible supply. For example there is estimated to be one Deuterium isotope for every 5,000 atoms of hydrogen. So abundant is this substance in sea water that to reduce the present concentration by a mere one per cent, would be equivalent to consuming 500,000 times the world’s initial supply of fossil fuels. One third of a cubic mile of sea water would equal the energy consumed by man up to 1960. Gram for gram several times more energy is released by fusion than by fission. In addition the fusion process would produce virtually no pollution problems from radioactive waste. The contamination of equipment would have a very short half life, and would form fuel for further energy-producing cycles. In fact it would be so safe that it might be possible to have the nuclear fusion stations near the centres of population.

Held Back
In spite of the obvious advantages of having a safe, clean and abundant energy supply, progress toward fusion power is being blocked by a lack of money. William Gough and Bernard Eastland of the US Atomic Energy Commission are convinced that the remaining problems are merely technical ones. They say that
. . . continuing effort is sustained by the growing conviction that the eventual attainment of a practical fusion power reactor is not blocked by the laws of nature . . . (and that) . . . At present the main factor limiting the rate of progress toward fusion power is financial.
(Scientific American February 1971) 
Their estimation of the date for the first fusion power reactor ranges from 10 to 50 years. Harold Furth, head of the Plasma Physics Laboratory at Princeton University, is convinced that
Estimates based on recent experimental progress indicate that a demonstration of the scientific feasibility of controlled fusion may be achieved before the end of the 1970s.
(Britannica Yearbook of Science and the Future, 1973.)
All this has been achieved virtually on shoe-string budgets. If the capitalists were really intent on solving the energy problem then massive research efforts on the scale of their various moon shots or their wartime search for the atomic bomb would be called for. Instead between the lot of them, they spend only a paltry £60 million per year world-wide on research into nuclear fusion. Compared with the massive “defence” budgets put up by all capitalist governments (£2,461 million by Britain alone in 1970) which have enabled strategists to build apparatus of death of such fiendish complexity that only a few years ago would have been considered totally impossible to build under any circumstances. These are the priorities capitalism fosters.

Cutting the Money
In this country nuclear fusion research suffered a serious set-back at the hands of the Labour government who were, it will be remembered, elected after promising to usher in the white-hot technological revolution. Wedgwood Benn demonstrated what a damp squib this promise was turning out to be. As Minister for Technology he was responsible for halving the research programme at Culham Laboratory despite the “outstanding quality and considerable scientific achievement” of the work done there in the field of nuclear physics for which it had a “high international standing.” Spending on this vital area of research declined from £4.5 million in 1966-67 to £3.9 million in 1969-70. When examined by a Select Committee on Science and Technology in March 1968 Dr. J. B. Adams had to admit that Culham Laboratory would have to reduce the amount of work on the fusion programme. In addition there would obviously be difficulties in maintaining the quality of that work, in maintaining the best of their staff, and in maintaining the morale of the staff.

The 1967 decision was made entirely on short-term economic grounds. It was argued that if fusion was going to be used it must come in because it is cheaper. (Remember the government were looking forward to a period of cheap stable-price oil supplies). All the other advantages were not considered worthy of financial support as fission reactors looked economically so attractive. In announcing the cuts Benn said:
. . . rapid progress has been made towards economic nuclear fission power. In particular the fast breeder reactor programme shows real promise. Consideration of this progress . . . leads inevitably to the conclusion that plasma physics and fusion research should be substantially reduced . . . I can understand . . . the need for focussing research on economic projects, which is very much part of the philosophy of my Department.
(Hansard 26 July cols. 644-647)
Keep it a Secret
Tom Boardman, Minister for Industry, told the House of Commons earlier this year that the Government had accepted recommendations of its fusion review committee to restore spending on fusion research almost to the 1967 level. To put this announcement in perspective it should be borne in mind that in this period the government spent £7 million annually on maintaining military bands. Still Culham Laboratory is lucky to survive at all. There was at one time (according to Jeremy Bray who was a Junior Minister at the time) a “. . . powerful body of opinion that the work should have been closed down altogether”. (Hansard 26 March 1968 col. 1441). When challenged he refused to give names but without losing ourselves in the realms of wild speculation we can suggest that they might represent the interests of a small minority group who wish to maintain the status quo — all those with investments in oil and nuclear fission technology for example. Such a group would see their capital investment devalued by a breakthrough in fusion research. Under capitalism the function of governments is to protect such investments in any way possible. Profits are put before human need, and now apparently before human survival!

This might also partly explain the starvation of funds for fusion research. It might also explain the more sinister developments now taking place in the United States. These involve the deliberate stone-walling over and attempted suppression of research into nuclear fusion. The experiences of Dr. LoDato and Professor S. A. Goudsmit, are cases in point. Dr. LoDato left the Rand Corporation to work on fusion power. He had been investigating the possibility of using beams of high intensity laser light to raise the nuclear fuel to a sufficiently high temperature for fusion to take place. This work was greeted enthusiastically by AEC scientists who were of the opinion that this represented a major breakthrough. Yet when he applied for a grant of $80,000 he was told that not only had his application been turned down but that all his work including his notebooks had been classified secret and that he was prohibited from discussing his work with anyone. Professor Goudsmit, editor of the highly specialized journal Physical Review Letters, sent an article submitted to him for publication to a “referee” for his comments. The referee replied that all but two paragraphs of his report could not be published in the journal until they had been declassified. Commenting on this cloud of what Goudsmit called “officially inspired reticence” the influential scientific journal Nature said:
. . . where laser-induced fusion is concerned, the AEC has apparently been trying to prevent independent authors from publishing their entirely independent research . . .
(Nature 16 February 1973)
At present, then, as The Times put it: “It certainly looks as if . . . ideas that may lead to new and better ways of generating electric power are not being allowed to be circulated” (21 February 1973). How successful these sectional interests within the capitalist class will be in thwarting future developments in this way is difficult to say. What we can be sure about is that Socialism, being a classless society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of life by the whole community, such minority sectional interests could not possibly prevent the advance of knowledge by censoring the publication of the results of any kind of research. Socialism will be a society of abundance based on developments that are already taking place but which are warped and distorted by capitalism’s profit motive.

Given the scientific and technological possibilities plus the human priorities of Socialism we could have a world society of abundance and make a serious start to the big clean-up and rehabilitation of this degraded planet.
Gwynn Thomas

Price of the Socialist Standard (1973)

Party News from the June 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

As is stated in the appeal for funds which has been appearing in recent issues, the Socialist Standard runs at a loss. Continued increases in the costs of paper and printing now make it necessary to raise the price. We do so by as little as possible, and a substantial deficit still remains.

Regretfully, therefore, from August the Standard will cost 6p. instead of the present 5p.

Astonishing attack by Judge: Protest Action Planned (1973)

From the June 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard
Jayne Christine Harris, aged 21, an heiress and a former debutante, was fined £350 at the Central Criminal Court yesterday for unlawfully possessing cannabis. She was allowed seven days to pay the fine, with three months' imprisonment in default.

. . . Judge Gwyn Morris, QC, told her: “You appear to be a useless member of the community enjoying a large income which you do not earn. The only contribution you have made to working life since you completed an expensive schooling was to act for a very short time as some sort of clothes peg, euphemistically known as a fashion model."
(The Times, 9th May)
An emergency meeting is to be held of the General Council of ANUS (Amalgamated Non-workers and Useless Succubae), to consider a call for a one-day general strike in protest against the judge’s remarks. The call is made by the Country Landowners’ Association, and has the support of the Institute of Directors and other major unions.

The strike is planned for the first day of the grouse-shooting season. Militants plan to stay in bed all day (those who do not already do so). Many will paint slogans on their hot-water bottles and wine carafes. Writes our Non-industrial Correspondent: Such a strike would paralyze Belgravia and Mayfair and affect nursing homes and expensive resorts all over the world. Besides grouse moors, casinos and the turf would be hit.

Sir Graball D’Encloseland, the chairman of ANUS, told our reporter of the unions’ angry mood. “We shall have every Tom, Dick and Harry criticizing the capitalist system if a stand is not taken now,” he said. “Anyway, what does a judge do except bugger about in a wig ? There are plenty of people with small incomes which they have to earn, and if the opposite is not allowed as well Britain is finished. I don’t understand his remarks about clothes pegs. I have hundreds of clothes pegs, and every one is usefully employed holding expensive suits and shirts. This is a matter of principle. Our lie-in is going to be a blow for freedom and honour and justice and all-those-other-bits- in-the-school-song, you know. We shall fight for—”

At this point Sir Graball was seized with a violent fit of coughing, and our reporter left discreetly as the brandy was fetched. Sir Graball D’Encloseland is 109.

The Socialist Party in Brief (1973)

From the June 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

The S.P.G.B. is no new organization but was founded in 1904, as a breakaway from the old Social Democratic Federation for the sole purpose of establishing Socialism. Unfortunately, there is widespread confusion as to the nature of the Socialist society we seek to establish. This is largely due to the obstinate persistence with which parties like the Labour Party describe themselves as Socialist.

A cursory glance at the London Labour Party’s Manifesto for recent GLC elections A Socialist Strategy for London show that the Labour Party is not merely a non-socialist, but a definitely anti-socialist party. Every one of its 77 promises are reforms of capitalism. If every one of these measures were implemented, they would make little or no difference to the position of the vast majority who, whether bank managers or dustmen, are all workers, members of the working class.

Reformers of all kind have tried to patch up capitalism for 150/200 years without any significant result. Why is this? Because the economic system of capitalism which obtains throughout most of the world is based on the exploitation of a propertyless, deprived working class.

Whatever “improvements” are introduced supposedly for the benefit of the workers, are nullified by the operation of the capitalist system itself. Thus the Rent Control or Housing Subsidies are a way of trying to reduce wages or prevent their increase.

Nothing short of the abolition of capitalism, and its replacement by Socialism can avail the vast majority — the workers.

The Socialist form of society which we propose will be completely different from everything encountered today. In the truly Socialist world, members of the community will co-operate voluntarily to produce the best, and freely consume what is then made available. Only this idea as its object makes a party Socialist.

The Socialist Party is utterly democratic in its constitution and practice. It holds that society can only be changed by a conscious informed majority who understand what they are about. For this reason it renounces violent minority direct-action methods, relying on the political consciousness of the majority of the working class.