Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Scandinavian Fairy Tales: The Worker's Paradise (1956)

From the July 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

In any country where a Labour Party is out of power it is natural that its propaganda should include glowing accounts of the success a Labour Government is supposed to be having somewhere else. Between the wars when the Tories governed here, Labour Party and I.L.P. supporters were inspired by pamphlets describing the alleged glories of Labour rule in Australia, Austria. Germany. France or Spain and whenever the British Labour Party has been in office similar propaganda went on in overseas countries where the local equivalent of the Labour Party was the opposition. Since the 1951 election, when Attlee was defeated, the centre of interest for Labour Party supporters has shifted to Denmark and Sweden. We have been told what a magnificent "Welfare State" they have, how the extremes of riches and poverty have been abolished, and how well they manage relationships between employers and workers. For a long time Denmark and Sweden were running pretty close for favour in British Labour circles, but with Denmark undoubtedly a short way ahead

Something Rotten in the State of Denmark
Then suddenly the lead passed to Sweden and not at all because of the visit to that country of the British Royal Family. The reason was that happy, Labour-governed, Welfare State Denmark suddenly erupted and threw its admirers into consternation. Here is a brief account from the Scandinavian correspondent of the Economist (28 April, 1956):—
  “The series of strikes, which for four weeks threatened to paralyse the country's economy, were only checked when the Folketing [Parliament], after a stormy all-night session, passed an act giving the official mediator's proposals the force of law. These proposals, which satisfied only a small part of the workers' original demands, had been accepted by 74 per cent. of the Employers' Federation but rejected, albeit by a narrow majority, by the Federation of Trade Unions. Had these positions been reversed the Social Democrat government would have felt itself on firmer ground. Its reluctant intervention was greeted by a 24-hour general strike, and a countrywide wave of protest demonstrations. In Copenhagen a crowd of 100,000 strong demonstrated before the Parliament, brought traffic to a standstill, and called for the Prime Minister's resignation. Demonstrations in Odense stopped buses and overturned cars. At Aalborg, a policeman died after being struck by a missile. Rioting dockers at Esberg attempted to throw the cargo of a British merchant ship into the harbour. In the large centres throughout Denmark the police made numerous arrests."
There is much more in the Economist's account about the troubles in the Danish paradise and although for the moment the workers have been forced by the drastic action of the Labour Government to return to work with a 3 per cent. wage increase instead of the 20 per cent. they claimed, the Economist says:—
 “there is a deep malaise beneath the surface which may well lead to fresh outbreaks," and among the workers “there is a widespread feeling that the Social Democrat government has betrayed its own supporters.”
This is dismaying to the British Labour Party because the Danish Social Democrats have a policy identical with their own. But the real betrayal in Denmark, as among Labour supporters everywhere, is that they betrayed themselves in ever supposing that the Labour policy of trying to make capitalism work beneficially can be a success.

In Sweden, too
Now Sweden has the limelight and Mr. Paul Andersen, formerly Paris correspondent of the Observer, in a broadcast reproduced in the Listener (31 May, 1956), describes that country as “the Egalitarian Paradise,” “the world’s most perfect Welfare State.” Of course his picture of Sweden as a land of equality is far from true and indeed his own account gives a little evidence of its inaccuracy. For example he tells both of “a modest-priced if most luxuriously decorated, communal canteen, but also a Vaellihgby branch of one of Stockholm's most expensive restaurants.” And while the rich can eat “for about £3 a head, lobster thermidor, washed down with Chamberlin '47. In the self-service canteen you will also sit in near luxury comfort behind glass walls and find three hot dishes at about 2s. each . . .” In short, Sweden, like every other country whatever the party label of its government caters for the rich and for the poor. Indeed Mr. Andersen does not really mean equality of wealth distribution but "greatest possible equality of its distribution.” We know how great a difference that can mean for we have so often heard Britain described in similar .terms.

There were things about Sweden that Mr. Andersen did not say. He did not mention unemployment of 4.3% at the end of 1955, about four times the percentage in this country, or the 158,000 who received Public Poor Relief during 1953 (latest figures available). And his broadcast ended on a curious note. He says he asked “an old and famous Swedish Socialist ” if everybody is happy “in this gilded germ-free egalitarian paradise.” The gentleman in question (who, from other quoted remarks, is no more a Socialist than any other of the muddled-headed believers in Labour-governed capitalism) “told me firmly, 'No,’ and added, 'of course I shouldn't tell you, but it’s the truth. Life seems to have become empty and void of purpose.”

He went on to explain that because life in Sweden now lacks tension “people replace the normal fears and tensions of the normal battle of life by artificial fears and by personal tensions—by neurosis.”
The broadcaster capped this with the following:— 
“ . . . the most surprising fact, perhaps, of the most advanced Welfare State in being, is that last year’s figures of suicides exceeded the annual toll of fatal road casualties.” 
Mr. Andersen and his Swedish friend who believe that people commit suicide because they have no tensions and fears to make them unhappy can hardly be congratulated on their insight. It might help them to correct their judgment if they looked across the frontier into Denmark and recalled that the same kind of nonsense about industrial and social harmony was related of that country—until the sudden explosion of industrial strife proved how wrong it was. And it is a curious oversight that no mention was made in the broadcast of the fierce and costly struggle to build up the Swedish paradise into a militarily powerful state competent to be an effective factor in another war. Only a very superficial observer of the modern world of war-ready Powers could suppose it possible that the people of Sweden (or of any other country) are really free from the universal dread of possible atomic annihilation.
Edgar Hardcastle

Capitalism 1956 (1956)

From the July 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

The political parties which seek election on a programme of reforms, i.e., the Conservative, Labour, Communist and the now disappearing Liberal parties, all claim though some of them would deny it, that there is nothing basically wrong with capitalism; nothing that cannot be remedied without abolishing the wages system and establishing a classless society. Thus all that it is necessary for workers to do is to follow the right “leaders,” put their trust in promises and, given time, all would be well.

All of these parties have said and continue to say that the hardships and problems with which workers are plagued throughout their lives can be solved given the right leadership and the right policy.

The so-called Communist Party with its changing “cults” of worship is particularly hypocritical in this respect because its members are Communists in name only; obviously no party which believes that COMMUNISM (the abolition of the wages system, common ownership of the means of production and free access to wealth) is the ONLY answer to poverty, housing problems, wars and unemployment would advocate reforms and try to solve these problems within capitalism.

By the time this article is read, another series of Borough Council elections will have been held and workers will tragically once again have voted for the politicians who run the system that robs them.

Once again all the afore-mentioned parties have all promised the same things and childishly blamed one another for past failures in bringing the same “houses for the homeless,” “food for the hungry,” “pensions galore” and “better roads,” etc., as have been promised for many elections past.

One thing that should be glaringly obvious by now is that if any of them had ever redeemed their past promises there would be no need to keep coming back for re-election to do the same thing. This should clearly show to any thinking worker the utter futility of voting for any of them unless you want more in the future of what you have had in the past and if you do, then one could hardly call that thinking

We wish here to pin-point just two of the problems of capitalism, and we have taken, for purposes of illustration, examples of each problem, one at home and one abroad. The idea is to show the worldwide nature of capitalism and its problems and also the world-wide nature of the only solution, SOCIALISM.
First let us look at the housing problem. It is quite obvious from the start that the whole approach of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is very different from and opposed to that of the afore-mentioned parties of capitalism.

We recognise that Prince Rainier and his bride, along with the rest of the class of parasites to which they belong, will not be found in Battersea flat hunting. Shortage of proper housing accommodation is essentially a working class problem and the reason that workers go without adequate housing is the same reason why they go without a great deal of the other things THEY produce; NOT because there is a shortage but because they cannot afford them—they have only very limited access to goods and services of all kinds because they do not own the fruits of their labour they only get WAGES—part payment.

In this wondrous era of H-power, automation and universal “plenty” we read in the South London Press (April 27th, 1956) that “Battersea’s 3,000 housing applicants have no earthly chance of ever getting housed by the Borough.” This sad information comes from a London County Councillor, Douglas Rayment, who, as a Conservative Party politician, has the impudence to say “Too many people sit back and wait for us to do something for them, instead of stirring themselves;”

Was it not the Conservative Party whose Election Platform was based upon, among other things, the assertion that they could solve the housing problem?.

Does not the Conservative Party at ALL elections issue reform programmes of what they are going to do for people who, having voted Conservative, can “sit back” and have the world brought to them on a platter?

The despairing and apathetic attitude of workers is part of the fruits of their having blindly voted for people who promise them things.

The Councillor and some of his colleagues go on to explain that “nearly all new housing in the Borough would go to people moved from slums,” and, of the paltry 246 homes to be built in the “next five years” in “Winstanly Ward, only three go to housing applicants.”

We are told of course that the L.C.C. is not to blame, nor is the Borough Council; it is the fault “of the central planning authority in not allowing sufficient density.” It seems from this that the only thing which stops the L.C.C. and the Borough Council from packing dwellings (as they are aptly called) closer together and piling MORE people into file SAME space, is the central planning authority.

The point which all of these lamentable runners of capitalism miss, when trying to pardon their failure to run capitalism in the interests of the exploited majority, is that in their lying programmes they never say : “We will house you if slum dwellers do not move in from outside,” or “We will solve the housing problem if materials are cheap enough for workers to afford the rents,” “ or “We will bring peace unless war comes, prosperity, unless a slump comes and full employment unless unemployment sets in.” Could it be that to tell workers the truth before polling would be dangerous to their chances of election?

The second problem at which we will glance has had a great deal said and written about it, namely that of RACE. We have ourselves published a 78 page pamphlet on this matter which explodes the false theories of biological superiorities and other such prejudices. It analyses the whole problem from the Socialist point of view and goes into the subject with much greater detail than space permits here. We need only mention one incident as an illustration.

In what is boasted as the most “advanced” country in the world where a lot of shouting is done about “constitutions,” “citizens’ rights,” “freedom” and so on, a case is reported in the Daily Express (April 25th, 1956) of backward and ignorant conduct. The case being that of the segregation of negroes on ’buses in Montgomery, Alabama.

The facts as reported by the above newspaper indicate some “13 states with tough segregation laws” and a Police Commissioner, Sellers, who is a member of the so-called “White Citizens Council.” The Supreme Court having ruled that segregation on ’buses must end. this man said: “As far as I am concerned this damn thing applies to South Carolina only.” He threatened “to arrest any passenger who mixes with the opposite race.”

Of course to carry this threat out would be impossible if the “advanced” individual in question had to define the terms “opposite race” and give evidence that would hold water before he went any further.

It is of particular interest to note that although this threat was made by the chief of police, the ’bus company, despite the fact that the threat also applied to ’bus “drivers who permitted racial mixing on their ’buses,” sided with the Supreme Court ruling and told their employees they need no longer “give front seats to whites and rear seats to negroes.”'

We can understand the tenderheartedness of the *bus company; they were merely responding in the way Capitalists normally do when their gold coffers have been hit. The 50,000 negroes of Montgomery have boycotted the ’buses since last December and this has lost the company “over £1,000 daily.” The negroes, however, are keeping up their boycott “ until the confusion is ended.”

As Socialists we would say the action of the negroes in resisting this callous inequality is the only dignified and praiseworthy thing in the whole sordid and degrading affair.

The most tragic observation of all is not only that members of the working class should behave one to another in such a way, resenting skin colours of fellow members of their own exploited class while their common enemies, the exploiting Capitalist class, live on their backs, but that the move away from segregation came from outside and not from within the states concerned. Unfortunately, the ignorance of the economic forces at work within capitalism, from which this conduct springs, cannot be banished merely by the Supreme Court making rulings although to whatever degree events turn against segregation it is a healthier sign than its unchallenged continuation.

It will finally only be when workers turn to SOCIALISM that they will cease to be a prey to nationalist or racial prejudice of one variety or another, because only then will they no longer see themselves as one with their respective NATIONAL ruling class, but will see that their real oneness lies in union with the wage slaves all over the world, geography, sex and so-called race making no difference. We would conclude by saying that the “education” machine of capitalism whose function it is to turn out obedient, efficient wage slaves will never direct its efforts towards Socialism, but the hard facts of life and the common problems which universally smite all workers will direct their interest our way.

Meanwhile the politicians will go on with their “better world” promises and we for our part will go on vigorously advocating the abolition of the nightmare, which these hirelings seek to preserve, and its replacement by Socialism—the world of the social equality of all men and women of the world, of one community of interest based on holding the means of living in common, and production entirely and literally for use.
Harry Baldwin

The Passing Show: Cat out of the bag (1956)

The Passing Show Column from the July 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Cat out of the bag

Upton Sinclair once wrote that “even Von Papen had to tell the truth sometimes, if only to rest his mind." The saying applies to all politicians. The time comes when even the most diplomatic will blurt out the real motives of the British ruling class.

For example. Sir Anthony Eden. At Norwich recently he said:
The United Kingdom’s vital interest in Cyprus is not confined to its N.A.T.O. aspect. Our country's industrial life and that of Western Europe depends to-day, and must depend for many years to come, on oil supplies from the Middle East. If ever our oil resources were in peril, we should be compelled to defend them. The facilities we need in Cyprus are part of that defence. We cannot, therefore, accept any doubt about their availability.—(The Times 2.6.56).
The Prime Minister here admits that British capitalism's need to protea its profits—which it could not do without oil supplies—comes before the promise which Britain has made, as a member of the United Nations, to uphold the principle of self-government. Socialists have been saying for a long time that capitalism always put profit before principle, but it is not often that a politician as eminent as Sir Anthony confirms it so explicitly.

Hobson’s Choice

Do Socialists support self-determination? As the term is used now, they do not. Self-determination now means freedom for the workers to decide which group of Capitalists will exploit them. Socialists stand for a world in which there will be no exploitation, and in which, as a result, there will be no artificial division of the world into competing and warring states. No group will use war or terrorism as a means to gain independence, for not only will every country be independent, every individual will be independent too. There will be no foreigners under Socialism. The human beings of the world will freely participate in one voluntary society, because in that way will they best satisfy their needs.

Prophets of Doom

Whatever the condition of the country—whether there is war or peace, boom or slump—one factor, according to what we are told, remains constant and unchanged. It is this: if there are wage increases, disaster will overwhelm us all. Repeated warnings are poured out over the years by representatives of the ruling class: we must win the war, or we must reconstruct the country after the war, or we must defeat foreign competition. The use of “we,” incidentally begs the question; these problems are problems of the ruling class, although, of course, the Capitalists will (and do) solve their problems more easily by fooling the workers into giving their support to the drive for war-supplies, or the drive {or exports, or what-have-you.

Mr. MacMillan joins the chorus:
“At first our main competitors—Germany and Japan—were out of the race. Now they were coming along very fast. We must not relax; on the contrary, we must make even greater efforts. . . . Another round of wage increases such as there had been in the past two years would be disastrous. (The Times, 26.5.56.).
The jest of the situation is this. The workers ask for wage-increases, not in the main to increase their share of the goods they produce (and thus reduce the amount of surplus value which is filched from them), but merely in order to maintain their present standards of living in face of constantly rising prices. And what makes prices rise? One of the main causes is that the amount of currency in circulation is continually being increased. And who has the chief say in deciding whether the amount of currency shall be increased? Mr. MacMillan! So Mr. MacMillan is in the position of berating the workers for actions which he himself has forced them into.

Honesty takes a back seat

The soap-and-detergent war among the three or four giant concerns which dominate the market for these goods continues. Each firm has three or more runners in the race, and the attention of the consumer is continually being assaulted by advertisements on the printed page, on hoardings, on the television screen and elsewhere, each claiming that product “A” (or “B,” or “C”) washes clothes cleaner than any of the others. All these allegations cannot be true. In a race it is just possible that all the competitors will arrive at the winning post at the same time; but it is impossible for each of the entrants in one race to beat all the others. But what do Capitalist concerns care for truth?

The sales of one product are boosted by means of a particularly shrewd trick. With each packet of this soap-powder is given—free!—a new duster. Buyers naturally assume they are getting more for their money than they did before this device was introduced. But in fact they get less. For the duster is placed inside the packet, thereby reducing the amount of soap-powder inside it. And the manufacturer saves more on the soap-powder than he has to pay for the scrap of cloth which constitutes the “free" duster.

The right attitude to the job

Mr. James Crawford is a paid trade union official—he is President of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives. Recently he decided he would be serving his members' interests best by giving some advice to the boss on how to become popular with the workers. In a speech to the Annual Conference of the Advertising Association recently he declared:
  “In British advertisements, the top executive—if he is not depicted as a harassed old man on the point of breaking down with an executive neurosis or ulcer—is at any rate seen to be a pretty smooth and leisurely type. This sort of thing builds up a mythical picture of the ‘boss’ in the minds of average employees, and is only a few points better than the Communist cartoonist’s picture of a gross, top-hatted, cigar-smoking Satan, with his tail curling menacingly round his striped trousers. In American advertisements, the executive is much younger, much healthier, and has much more the appearance of a man who actually does some work. At times he is actually seen with his coat off, not sitting at a desk, but talking to the men on the job.” (World’s Press News, 18.5.56.).
Mr. Crawford said the advertising profession should “help create among people at work the right attitude to the job." Mr. Crawtord is chairman of the Productivity Council, which has the task of increasing output. The ruling class has a high opinion of the “responsibility” and "common sense" of the majority of trade union leaders in this country; its confidence is evidently not misplaced in Mr. Crawford.

Life is grim, and life is earnest

From the Sunday Express, 154-56:
“Lady Portsmouth’s daughters, Lady Phillipa, 18. and Lady Jane Wallop, 17, economise at their coming-out cocktail party next week by serving Spanish champagne—about five shillings a bottle cheaper than French non-vintage.”
But don’t send round the hat yet. This isn't a permanent measure. “For their dance next month, which will probably be attended by Princess Alexandra, the champagne will be best French vintage."

These upper-class parties are so much trouble that one wonders why anyone bothers to give them. In the Sunday Express of June 10th we find: 
"Lady Crosfield is again having difficulty in planning her annual pre-Wimbledon tennis party. . . . This year she finds that she has picked on the same day as the Garter ceremony at Windsor. ‘It is too late to alter my date, so I shall have no royalty here,' she says."
Life is full of tribulations, Lady Crosfield. But don’t worry—you’ll probably survive this one.
Alwyn Edgar.

U-Mania (1956)

From the July 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

This writer, who calls the second part of dinner “afters” and proposes to go on doing so, is faced with a new menace. All his life the genteel alternative has been “sweet” or “dessert”: now, suddenly, it is “pudding.” Solid or fluid, wet or dry, pancake, pastry, blancmange or rhubarb, “pudding” is to be its name. “Pudding” is “U.”

So is “vegetables,” but “greens” is non-U. Having “luncheon” is U, but “dinner”—except at night—is non-U. Saying “goodbye” is U, “bye-bye” non-U. Putting the milk in the tea is U, the tea in the milk non-U. To telephone from one’s house is U, ’phoning from home non-U.

“U” stands for Upper-Class, “non-U” non-Upper-Class is phraseology and etiquette. The terms were first used by Professor Alan Ross, of Birmingham University in an article on “Linguistic Class-Indicators in Present-Day English” which was reprinted (having first appeared in a scholarly Finnish, paper) in Encounter. They were popularized by The Observer and the Sunday Express, the leading agent and authority being Miss Nancy Mitford, the novelist.

What are the arbiters? By whose decree, what protocol or final judgment, is a word or a gimmick U or otherwise? One line of approach is suggested by a recent headline in the Evening Standard: GULLS EGGS, STRAWBERRIES HURLED AT PARTY: A DEBUTANT IS HIT IN THE EYE. Debutants are U; undoubtedly this was a U-party. The authentic U-touch, however, seems to be the hurling of gulls’ eggs and strawberries. Hurling most things is just vulgar: BLACK PUDDINGS, KIPPERS HURLED AT PARTY: PLASTERER HIT IN THE EYE would be non-U from start to finish.

Miss Mitford told Picture Post in an interview published on May 12th that “money has nothing to do with being U,” but that is incomplete and therefore misleading. It is clear enough that people may be rich (“wealthy” is non-U) and not be U (the Grace Kelly wedding was “very non-U,” she said); it is equally clear, however, that nobody can be poor and U at the same time. Think of the cost in gulls’ eggs and strawberries.

The real clue lies in the fact that, however silly and pointless the U-craze sounds, it isn’t a craze and it isn’t pointless. The speech and manners of die upper class are emblems as carefully worked and as proudly displayed as their heraldic crests. The hereditary rich learn them in the nursery and the public school (Miss Mitford says she learned U from her father, Lord Redesdale). Not all the rich have it that way, however; there are always the recruits, the successful speculators and the potato-crisp millionaires.

The best, most comprehensive beginners’ book of U is at least as old as Miss Mitford. “Manners and Rules of Good Society, by a Member of the Aristocracy,” came out early in this century, and is still being reprinted. The chapter-headings tell their own tale: Introductions, Paying Calls, Precedency, Garden-Parties, Shaking Hands, Luncheons and 41 others. Here you find U-pronundation: Blythe to be said Bly, Kerr Kar, Heathcote Hethcut and Montgomery Mungummery. As the author says in his preface:
 “A solecism may be perhaps in itself but a trifling matter, but in the eyes of society at large it assumes proportions of a magnified aspect, and reflects most disadvantageously upon the one by whom it is committed; the direct inference being, that to be guilty of a solecism argues the offender to be unused to society, and consequently not on an equal footing with it."
Thus, some people talk to establish their meaning and others to establish their status. That is why some modes of speech are thought better than others. Cockney, Liverpool and Newcastle dialects are not really looked-down on for philological reasons (some expressions like “gorn” and “orf,” are standard Cockney, and are also standard upper-class); the real point is that they are working-class idioms.

Does that explain the U-cult? Of itself, no. But there are lots of people who don’t belong to the upper section but like others to think they do. Frank Richards’s schoolboy stories, which were nine-tenths snobbery, made great fun of the fat boy’s boast of “Bunter Court,” "an establishment that, seen close at hand, diminished to a semi-detached villa in Surrey.” And that is very near an all-too-common truth. Fancy calling a three-foot-wide passage “the hall!” Many people do. Fancy calling 12 feet square of living space “the lounge”—but they do.

The prop of the myth of “middle-class life” is its imitation of upper-class life. Not surprisingly, the upper class does not like it. The sham Tudor villas, the grained front doors, the imitation leather and the rest, are sneered at. Rather unfair of the upper class, because they can afford the real things, of course. Nevertheless, they are in fact expressing resentment of the infringement of their patents. “ U ” is for upper-class; its antithesis, “non-U,” means—as the Picture Post article put it— “dreadfully middle-class.”

“Linguistic class-indicators” therefore are continually changing, and Miss Mitford and Professor Ross have virtually sponsored a new guide to them. The sad thing is that the eager suburbs have already lapped up a great deal of it so as to keep abreast in being O.K. socially. It is not the U-cult that is foolish—propertied classes seek every means to distinguish themselves from the rest—but the existence of the economic division which produces such things.

In the last ten years the people who are pleased to call themselves “middle-class’’—teachers, parsons, civil servants and all—have pleaded their poverty perhaps more strongly than anyone; that is, they have demonstrated for all to see that their problems and interests are just the same as those of all the others who have to go to work for a living. And at just the same time, they have turned the passage into the hall, the settee into the sofa, Ralph into Rafe and the lavatory into the toilet in the hope that nobody will suspect the truth.

The upper class have at least one unassailable comeback. To try to be U is . . . definitely non-U.
Robert Barltrop