Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Greasy Pole: Let’s Be Frank About Dobson (2000)

Our Frank.
The Greasy Pole column from the March 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

If it was a victory it could only be called a Pyrrhic one, for whichever way anyone looked at it the selection of Frank Dobson as Labour’s candidate for mayor of London promises to be vastly damaging to the party. To begin with there are all those party members who voted for Livingstone. Will they willingly accept a defeat for their man based on gerrymandering so blatant that it almost takes the breath away? What will they do, then, after their experience of the party which they trusted to administer the emergence of a new, vibrant, caring Britain as really a cynical manipulator of power? Then there are the voters outside the party. What will they think of Labour promising in its 1997 manifesto to introduce an elected mayor for London but not then going on to say something like “and we promise to make sure, through some outrageous fiddling of the votes, that our candidate will be someone who will always give unquestioning obedience to our great leader Tony Blair”? Then there is poor old Frank Dobson himself, who did not want the job in the first place, who was eventually forced into publicly distancing himself from the slick operators of Millbank and who is likely to be a shamefaced bearer of Labour’s standard.

It was not so long ago that an important part of the drive to “modernise” the Labour Party was the introduction of the principle of One Member One Vote (OMOV). This was aimed at undermining the power wielded by the unions through their block vote at conferences and in the election of leaders. Labour had not always experienced such ambivalence about their relationship with the unions. During the Attlee government the unions could be relied on to support any government policy, no matter how damaging to their members. This meant that if any trade unionists wanted to offer any serious resistance to the depression of their living standards which the Labour government were demanding they had to do this as unofficial strikers, without the support of, or even at times in the face of opposition from, their union. There was no doubt then about the value which the Labour leadership placed on the block vote. This changed when the unions began to elect leaders like Frank Cousins, Hugh Scanlon and Mick McGahey, who were expected to give a higher priority to protecting their members’ interests than to mindlessly obeying the government.

Electoral College
And so it came to pass, that the policy of OMOV was considered to be essential if the Labour Party was ever to get back into power. Neil Kinnock thought so and so did John Smith. And among the most ardent supporters of the idea was a young, thrusting MP called Tony Blair.

But that was then and this is now and it quickly became clear, when it was time to select who would be the Labour candidate in the mayoral election in London, that if the OMOV principle was left to operate without interference there was a good chance that Labour’s candidate would not be from among the ranks of those who are dazzled by the charisma of Tony Blair—or who are so desperate for advancement that they would never dream of opposing the leadership line on any issue. So OMOV had to go, until it becomes convenient for the leadership to again represent it as essential to any political party with pretensions to being democratic. In its place the party erected a complex system of voting for an electoral college in which the votes of London MPs and MEPs and of unions which supported Blair’s favoured candidate carried a disproportionate weight. An article in the Observer on 20 February calculated the percentage value of each vote in the electoral college. The vote of a member of the union GMB, which largely supported Livingstone, was worth 0.000427 percent of the total. The vote of a member of the AEEU, which refused to ballot its members and supported Dobson, was worth 0.065 percent. The vote of an individual party member came to 0.001 percent while that of a London MP was worth about 0.45 percent.

It was an effective, if transparent, scam but it needed some fine tuning. Like allowing someone who is no longer an MEP and who does not live in London to vote. Like disallowing the votes of unions which supported Livingstone but were late with their affiliation fees. And from this discreditable fraud emerged Frank Dobson. Stout, bearded, genial Frank. Everyone’s favourite uncle. The man you can trust to run London as if it isn’t one of the great centres of world capitalism. A bit dishevelled after all that infighting and vote rigging but apparently as game as ever.

Tamed dog
Until recently not a lot was known about Frank Dobson. He was becoming more and more famous as the Health Secretary who could not keep Labour’s election promise to reduce hospital waiting lists (one hospital chief executive may have been trying to cheer Frank up when he cut his waiting lists by the simple expedient of pretending that a lot of patients were no longer on it). By the time he had reached the exalted heights of Westminster Dobson may well have been hoping for an uninterrupted climb up the greasy pole, untroubled by an embarrassing past. During the Sixties and Seventies the Tory press had a lot of fun with the antics of the so-called loony left councils. With a little journalistic licence it was easy to characterise these councils as wildly unrealistic, pumping extravagant sums of money into all manner of exotically useless causes and organisations. The truth was rather less lurid but those councils were a serious embarrassment to the Labour Party. One of the most publicised and derided was Camden. Its leader was Frank Dobson, then beardless, dark-haired and less avuncular. His left-wing credentials were impressive enough for Ken Livingstone to award him some warmly fraternal mentions in his book If Voting Changed Anything, They’d Abolish It:
“At the same time as we were rebelling at the GLC, the Camden Council Labour Group, led by Frank Dobson . . . decided to convene a London-wide meeting to oppose the new housing expenditure controls which had been imposed on all councils by the Labour Government . . . Between 1971 and 1975 First Millie Miller and then Frank Dobson had provided strong leadership with a clear sense of direction.”
Of course Dobson is not the only left-winger to be brought to heel by the prospect of a powerful job in the romance of running capitalism’s chaos while telling the rest of us that they have the system under control. This government is thick with such people: Stephen Byers, Margaret Hodge, Paul Boateng, Blair himself. Their changes in attitude are bound to expose flaws in the theories and practice of their party, to show how futile it is. Capitalism can’t be run other than in the interest of its ruling class. The system’s politics, in other words, are a ruthless trickery and in the case of the London mayoral election the trickery has been transparently frenzied. Tony Blair runs this government, and shows his contempt for the working class who voted for his party, on the principle that lies, false promises and U-turns can be as blatant as necessary because the votes are influenced by other factors. Harold Wilson once said that in politics seven days is a long time. In Blair’s timing seven hours seems more than enough.

The whole sordid story has discredited Labour’s claim to be a democratic party, let alone one which will have a significantly positive effect on the lives of the working class. That is something for the voters in London to remember when they go to vote for the Mayor in the near future.

World View: The two Chinas (2000)

From the March 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

The President of Taiwan (the Republic of China) is today Li Têng-hui, a spokesman for the big capitalists with the greatest stake in the island’s wealth. Opposing him and his colleagues of the Kuomintang are the island’s smaller capitalists, campaigning for Taiwan’s independence as a nation-state. China has threatened to invade Taiwan and impose Beijing’s rule should the Taiwan nationalists ever topple the Kuomintang. The large capitalists of China and Taiwan now engage in full trade relations and the difference in flag colour is largely irrelevant. While Taiwan remains under the rule of the Kuomintang and its new sister parties it remains a province of China in reality, under “renegade” rule in name alone. In the eyes of China’s—and Taiwan’s Chinese—capitalists, the real “renegades” are the Taiwanese capitalists seeking a “completely separate” nation-state, an ambition which is unlikely to be realised.

Li Têng-hui and Têng Hsiao-p’ing possibly manipulated the Taiwanese national elections by the staging of Chinese military manoeuvres in the Taiwan Strait at which Li could pose as the champion of Taiwanese independence and an opponent of China, stealing votes from the nationalists. Whatever the future of the two states, workers in Taiwan have to realise they have no interest in supporting either side in what is a struggle between gangs of rival businesspeople for the right to exploit the workers most efficiently.

Têng Hsiao-p’ing, the hero of the Chinese peasants, is now dead. A hero for the peasants of the 1930s fighting against the feudal landlords, he was no friend of China’s workers at the end of the century and is not to be missed by them any more than any other engineer of mass exploitation. While China’s government is still run by the so-called “Communist” Party, private businesses are proliferating and the greater exploitation of people and resources in the interest of profit is gaining ground as never before. Rampantly exploitative and pollutant capitalist industry is booming. (This includes the clearing of the Yangtse for greater commerce through the extermination of one of the world’s rarest species of dolphin.) China is now a trading superpower and the seeds of future conflict with the United States are steadily being sown.

None of this is in the interest of the Chinese working class nor of the majority of humankind, who must still face the task of organising to establish a world community of common ownership of the Earth—if we, human beings, are to avert another, and final, world war, and survive as a life-form at all.
Anthony Walker

World View: In whose interests? (2000)

From the March 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

In late January, Robin Cook, British Foreign Secretary and master of Orwellian double-speak, made another keynote speech, devoid this time of any reference to “ethical dimensions” to foreign policy and instead focused on the advancing of “British values” of freedom and democracy around the world in the “national interest”.

Although he made references to “common interests”, “international interests”, and “national identity”, as well as the token allusion to democracy and diplomacy, it was the rehashing of the term “national interest” that sickened all but the brainwashed.

Cook speaks of national interest as politicians have for the past century, as if it were something tangible, something that can be seen, something unquestionable. It is indeed a much bandied about term—and many are prepared to take it for granted—but what does it mean?

Well, for one thing, it’s not something the lay person ponders too much. After all, if the politicians think something is in our interests then it must be just that. They know best and if we didn’t trust them we wouldn’t have voted for them. This is, in fact, the kind of mind-set politicians count upon before they can come out with such drivel.

That politicians continue to use terms like national interest is evidence that they premise their speeches on the assumption that the average person on the street is an imbecile. Moreover, the term is so designed, and used, as to distort our perception of reality. From the cradle to the grave we are discouraged from asking significant and searching questions, the type that might embarrass our betters and superiors. We are nurtured to mistrust our own ideas, to respect the views of the clergy, teachers, parents, politicians, the royals and all manner of counsellors and advisers. Little wonder, then, that so many injustices prevail and that so many can speak in defence of the government line, unwittingly acquiescing in their own exploitation, all in the national interest. But this is how it is. So many are prepared to accept that the government embodies the people’s interests.

The national interest conjures up an image that we are all one happy family, all pulling and working together for the good of all, that we all have something to be proud of, to defend and to benefit from. It suggests an absence of strife and antagonism and that the real enemy is “out there”. We’re meant to feel good about the national interest, secure in the knowledge that the well informed are thinking on our behalf. It harks back to the “bulldog spirit” of the blitz years, when even the king and queen seemed half decent because they had been bombed (“Gawd bless ’em all, Guv.”).

In reality, the national interest is anything the master class and their executive, the Blairs and Chiracs and Clintons of this world, deem it to be at any given time, or rather anything that helps perpetuate their ideology and keeps them in power; anything that can undermine the potential for political action geared towards real change. The national interest is the paternalistic jargon of a profit-hungry elite, trying to rationalise in our eyes the lengths they will go to accrue more profits at our expense. It is used by politicians largely to secure support for a course of action they are finding difficult to promote. It is designed to block serious discussion of an issue—who’ll argue against the national interest?—and to marginalise opponents, thus stifling deeper understanding of issues.

Thus, the national interest is a Labour government contemplating the selling of arms to Indonesia, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, the mobilisation of a Western coalition of 750,000 soldiers to tackle a third-world army of farmers in the Middle East. It is a government campaign urging us to shop our neighbours to the state’s protectors. It is an army of police wading into a picket line, truncheons swinging. It is the appointment of drug tsars and the teaching of the benefits of marriage to schoolchildren. The national interest is the Russian army in Chechnya, the USA in Vietnam, Israel’s airforce bombing Lebanon, and Uganda supporting Congolese rebels.

One thing is clear, while all the above can be pushed as national interests, none are in the interests of the working class. The interests of the majority—or the working class—are diametrically opposed to the interests of the capitalist, class. True, we all have basic needs and desires. whichever class we belong to, but talk about shared interests in a two class society is nonsense. The capitalist class have one real interest—and let them deny it—to maximise their investment and to accrue more profit. How many people get hurt and trod on in the process is of no consequence. Neither is much consideration given to environmental concerns. The working class, on the other hand, own little more than our ability to labour, an ability we sell to the master class. Our interest under capitalism becomes getting the best price for our labour power. Indeed such is the onus on us to sell our labour power at as a high a price as possible that its consequences dominate every aspect of our lives.

It has to be remembered that the master class depend on our complacency for their continued survival. Our silence, our willingness to accept everything they say without question, is the victory they celebrate every day. Our job should therefore be to doubt and question everything they say. If we stand for nothing we fall for anything. For we do have interests. As a globally exploited class, denied so many of the benefits of civilisation in a world of potential abundance, it is in our interests, our real class interests, to help put a stop to their insane system, not just for the future of humanity, but for the future of our planet.

Our real class interests lie in establishing a global system of society, devoid of borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders, states or governments, force or coercion, money, wages or salaries, a world in which production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used to its fullest potential and the benefit of all.
John Bissett

TV Review: ‘The Eleven o’clock Show’ (2000)

TV Review from the March 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

No Rest For the Wicked?

Channel Four has just welcomed back its flagship nightly satirical review The Eleven o’clock Show for another series, though whether the fact that it appears at almost any time in the late night schedules is part of the joke or not is anybody’s guess. This is the show that launched Ali G, the black “homeboy” from Staines who is played by a Jewish white man, and who endlessly employs a stilted Afro-Caribbean patois in his toe-curling interviews with politicians and academics who are singled out precisely because of their ignorance of the idiom.

There has been a debate of sorts in the press over recent weeks about Ali G, specifically over whether he is a racist creation of the actor who portrays him, Sacha Cohen. Whatever else he might be though, Ali G is no Black and White Minstrel. His dialogue is carefully scripted and intended as a comic caricature of a certain strata of British youth subculture where phrases like “wicked”, “posse” and Ali G’s ubiquitous “keep it real!” are trotted out as a substitute for joined-up conversation. That pompous authority figures with little or no conception of modern life and culture can be made to look foolish by their inevitable attempts to take Ali G’s moronic posturing at face value are the nub of the joke, none more so than the Irish republican leader who was asked by Ali G “Why are people always dissin’ da RAC?” and who then tried to answer the question.

What seems to be confusing to some of Ali G’s critics on the left is that his conversation is sprinkled with outrageous and politically incorrect language. But this is where the joke really hits the mark—whether Ali G’s interviewees will go along with his ignorant comments on the grounds that they do not wish to seem “unhip” or whether they will actually confront him—and if so, how. Many of course do not understand his questions and are in no position to form a rounded opinion. Fewer still seem to understand the various sexual references sprinkled throughout his speech, though Tony Benn did on one occasion memorably chastise him for his sexism—including his references to his girlfriends “me bitches”—and with some humour too.

By and large Ali G is well scripted and nicely performed, though unfortunately one suspects that his fame is spreading that fast that he will have no unsuspecting victims left before long willing to be interviewed. He has his own show coming up soon on Channel Four which will be worth looking out for as a follow-up to his Christmas special last year.

Send in the clowns
Now that Ali G has departed, ‘The Eleven o’clock Show‘ is left exposed and bereft. More than ever it now appears to be little more than a post-modern version of Not the Nine o’clock News, written by the politically ignorant and driven on by a desire to replace humour with shock-value in the hope that at that time of night no-one will notice the difference. A typical example of its approach surfaced—if that is the right word—in its first show back. Sitting behind presenters Daisy Donovan and Iain Lee was an electronic scoreboard labelled “The Dr Shipman Snuff-o-meter”, the score on which rose ever upward as the show progressed. But as the score increased, the tastelessness of the programme’s makers shot up exponentially.

Would Daisy Donovan and Iain Lee, it is tempting to ask, have willingly sat in front of this “joke” scoreboard if their own parents or grandparents had been among those murdered by Shipman? Hopefully not, though they might care to remember the effect this sight would have had on the many in precisely that position, and then feel suitably ashamed. Frankly, better than this could have been expected from a dysfunctional five year old.

It is also curious to note that the programme which spawned the controversial Ali G seems to have attracted few press comments about the little streak of homophobia which is evident in most editions. Perhaps this is because most TV critics still find jokes about Michael Portillo funny regardless of whether they really are or not.

That The Eleven O’clock Show lets itself down in this way is disappointing because it is certainly not all bad and there are occasional rays of sunshine which break through the fog. However, its makers must learn that no truly great comedy programme ever made it on the back of shock-value alone and Daisy Donovan and Iain Lee should note that they do not have quite as much to appear self-satisfied about as their demeanour would suggest. Well observed, original humour and characterisation is needed, and lots of it. Unfortunately, without Ali G ‘The Eleven o’clock Show’ can appear as naked as the emperor with no clothes and, for the most part, just as unsightly.
Dave Perrin

Capitalism’s chaos (2000)

Book Review from the March 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalism’s World Disorder’, by Jack Barnes. (Pathfinder Press 1999)

“You can shirk [the trouble of expressing yourself clearly] by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in . . . [this] will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning, even from yourself.” So wrote George Orwell in his essay Politics and the English Language, in 1946. Anyone who wants to see what he meant should read Jack Barnes.

While reading a book about capitalism which claims “not to mystify and obscure but to reveal and clarify”, you might expect to find an explanation of exactly what capitalism is and how it works. When you read Barnes, however, all you will find is a collection of words and phrases that sound good, but which he intends to mean very little: capitalism, imperialism, socialism, communism, vanguard, leadership, revolutionary, class struggles . . . the reader is left to figure out what these glorious-sounding words might mean.

But this isn’t an error on Barnes’s part. It must be, to some degree, his aim. If the author (who is national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party in the US) went to the trouble of defining his terms, then he would have more of a problem convincing people of his argument. He would certainly have trouble recruiting martyrs for his “revolutionary” war—a war between different groupings of the working class, killing each other in a pointless debate over who should lead and exploit them. If anyone is in any doubt about what Barnes aims to achieve, he tells us clearly in the conclusion to one of his chapters: “It can be done. It was done in Russia, and the way the Bolsheviks did it is what we seek to emulate”.

In other words, Barnes wants a revolution to establish capitalism in a capitalist country! He wants us to fight a war with the modern state. Any volunteers?

Practically every page of his book makes some reference to the need for good leadership and a strong vanguard. Without that, the working class are lost, he thinks. But be careful! Because although “good” leadership—such as that provided by their heroes Lenin, Guevara, and Castro—will lead you to the paradise that is Cuban state-capitalism, what will “bad” leadership give you? Something even worse. The offspring of the coup d’etat will then be born “deformed”, and you will have to make do with a “deformed workers’ state”. Although we are not told exactly what this means, either.

Barnes urges us to fight and struggle for socialism. But what does he mean by the term? Does he see the revolution leading immediately to a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of producing and distributing wealth? We don’t know what he means because he won’t tell us. He’ll take us there. How will we know when we’ve got there? Don’t worry. Barnes will let us know. It’ll all look something like Cuba. That is, something like what we’ve got already. The new rulers will tell us where we are and what we are to do: Go to Work. After the “revolutionary” war, everything stays the same.

Unfortunately, the book’s title and the blurb on the cover make the right noises. Imagine someone interested in the causes of their problems—and in what the recent J18 and N30 demonstrations might have been about—turning to this book to gain an understanding of capitalism and the revolutionary alternative. Although people are intelligent enough to reject the ideas presented in this book, the problem is that they might assume that this is what revolutionary politics is all about. Barnes and his Trotskyist party will then have been responsible for turning yet another person away from radical political ideas, and back to apathy and cynicism. Their deformed workers’ party is one of the greatest friends the capitalist system could have.

So what is the appeal of Trotskyism? Its romanticism. The remoteness of its ideas from the experiences of real life. Its appeal to emotion rather than thought. Its vision of revolution is something like the war in JRR Token’s Lord of the Rings. It is a fantasy far more interesting than the wage-slavery of everyday life, but which is dangerous because it is not the lives of elves and hobbits that are at stake: it is ours. Jack Barnes sees himself as Gandalf the wizard, and one day he believes that he will mount his white horse and lead us to war, then on to freedom. For the sake of entertainment and escapism, read this book. For the sake of humanity, don’t even follow Barnes to the corner shop.
Stuart Watkins

Trotwatching (2000)

Book Review from the March 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘Adherents of Permanent Revolution: A History of the Fourth (Trotskyist) International’. By Barry Lee Woolley (University Press of America, 1999)

With the decline in the fortunes of the left-wing of capitalism’s political apparatus, books about the organisations of the radical left – once commonplace – are now much rarer. Here Barry Lee Woolley charts the rise and fall of the Fourth International in a largely narrative account of the coalescence of the Trotskyist movement at the International’s foundation in 1938 through its various sclerotic episodes in the post-war period until the mid-1970s.

Though much of it is well researched, this is an unusual work for a number of reasons. For one thing, it is rather US-centric, focusing overmuch on the role of the US Socialist Workers Party in the Fourth International. As Woolley is a former member of the American SWP and still has a great number of contacts in the US Trotskyist movement, this is perhaps understandable; whatever, Woolley certainly provides a good genealogical chart of the US Trotskyist movement and is able to calculate that in America alone three new Trotskyist parties have arisen on average per year.

Rather less understandable than all this is his current political orientation which seems to owe less to the political God Trotsky than the Christian Lord Almighty worshipped by the evangelicals in the American Bible Belt. This is evidenced in his peculiar obsession with ‘morals’ in general and male homosexuality in particular, the growth of which he claims was largely responsible for changing the outlook of the world Trotskyist movement in the 1960s:
“[a] change in recruitment patterns transformed the predominantly burly worker cadres of the early Trotskyist movement into the predominantly petty bourgeois, college-recruited, effeminate cadres of the world Trotskyist movement at the time of the tenth World Congress . . . [The Socialist Workers Party] even participated in the building of mass marches around the issue of special legal privileges for sodomites.”
Woolley would certainly appear to have an unhealthy preoccupation with this topic, with one chapter even having the bizarre, incomprehensible by-line “Socialist Sodomites and Sorcery”. Perhaps Woolley is living testament to the charge that membership of Trotskyist sects buggers up the brain.

Despite the large amount of time that has clearly gone into producing this generally well-referenced work, there are a number of factual errors too. The account of the British Trotskyist movement is good if only partial, but there really is no excuse for Woolley referring to British Trotskyist leader Tony Cliff as Ygael Gluckstadt when he is correctly mentioned elsewhere as Ygael Gluckstein. There are many other similar errors, so much so that they eventually become annoying.

Woolley is shortly to produce another volume, this time on the history of the American Trotskyist movement. For his sake and ours let’s hope he gets in contact with a good therapist before then, preferably one that can also give him a hand with his proof-reading.
Dave Perrin

50 Years Ago: the General Election (2000)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

After five years of Labour Government the workers have shown what effect that experience has had on them by reducing almost to vanishing point the very large majority that the Labour Party had in the old Parliament. The Government may, for a period, continue a precarious existence, but it will do so representing a body of electors substantially smaller than the combined votes of Tories and Liberals.

The Labour Government is now in effect a minority government. In the past the professional politicians of the Liberal and Tory parties were used to the pendulum swing that put first one and then the other into office; but for the Labour Party the event is of vastly greater significance. For them it is the ominous writing on the wall, the visible proof of the sterility of their foundation policy. They believed that they could inspire more and more enthusiasm among the workers by the success with which they would—while retaining capitalism—tackle one by one the evils of the system. They believed that once they had become a majority government they would never look back. In their innocence they thought that Labour Governments live for ever. This election has proved the correctness of the S.P.G.B. case, that a Labour Government is powerless to make capitalism acceptable, let alone inspiring, to the workers. Labour reformism has done its utmost and has failed.

(From editorial, Socialist Standard, March 1950)

News in Review: Collapse at The Summit (1960)

The News in Review column from the July 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Collapse at The Summit

The assembling of the Big Four for the Summit meeting in Paris contained all the essentials for great tragi-comedy, except the happy ending. Summit meetings may yet replace the circus as “the greatest show on earth.” Publicity arrangements on a world scale preceded the actual meeting for some years. The “ Summit ” has dominated the headlines of the world’s press. Millions of words have poured out from lengthy articles under banner headlines, speculating on the date and interpreting the significance of statements made by politicians and Government officials. And so at last three thousand journalists congregated in Paris to report the discussions of four individuals who, it is said, between them can and will adjust the barometer of world tension. With the stage set and the audience breathless, the principal actors took the stage. The so-called “main problems” of disarmament, Berlin and the continued division of Germany were now, it was said, to be seriously tackled. But unfortunately the final curtain came down on the overture. By the old. process of mutual abuse, charge and counter-charge, the meeting quickly degenerated. Suddenly nothing had happened.

There will never be anything so futile in the tackling of social problems as the holding of summit meetings. Such meetings only serve to increase the personal prestige of the politicians who attend them and persuade ordinary working people that honest attempts are being made to stem the threat of war. From any government's point of view, there is nothing that a summit meeting could accomplish that the regularised channels of diplomacy could not accomplish equally as well. All such conferences, even where politicians do succeed in getting together, entirely by-pass the everyday problems of working people. Their whole scope and function is irrelevant to the real and pressing issues of modern society, issues that the working class itself must come to grips with.


When Menderes, the Turkish Prime Minister, survived the air disaster at Gatwick, he was acclaimed by the faithful as a saint and a prophet. From the recent events in Turkey, it would appear that the legend is taking some hard knocks. For more than ten years this dictator has used every known method to maintain power. He is himself a big landowner in the west of Turkey — an area in which indescribable poverty is the lot of the Anatolian peasants. We can wonder how is it that the dictatorial regime has survived for ten years. Part of the answer is that the majority of Turks, who are still attached to the Muslim faith worshipped Menderes because of his religious fervour. One interpretation of the cause of the crisis was that it was the work of a small clique inflamed by grudges and ambition. Menderes himself blamed “a handful of youths exploited by certain groups for their selfish political aims.”

Crises are not caused by the evil machinations of individuals; they have their root cause in the way a society is organised. The importance of Turkey in world politics rests partly on the control of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus. Astronomical amounts of American dollars have been spent in building up Turkey as another “Western bastion of democracy”! Half the Turkish budget is devoted to defence. These measures, coupled with large agricultural credits, have produced the inevitable economic crises which are part and parcel of the capitalist system everywhere. The new Head of State, General Gursel, is described as a Turkish Neguib in search of a Nasser. He has announced that it would be for the next Government to decide whether to put Menderes and his Cabinet on trial. Whatever the outcome, the Turkish working class can look forward to another round of capitalist intrigue and unfulfilled promises.


The news that Adolf Eichmann, a former Gestapo chief, has been captured by Israeli agents, was splashed across the front pages with all the gusto of editors recognizing the sales power of cheap sensationalism. A man-hunt successfully concluded after 15 years, with the quarry a miserable survivor of the Nazi regime, is the sort of titbit that the profit-seeking press can dress up to satisfy the appetites of those who seek cheap thrills in their reading.

To Socialists, the capture of Eichmann in itself is of no importance. The inhumanities which man indicts upon man are not the actions of people who were born monsters, but rather the consequence of inhuman policies and doctrines which a monstrous system conditions human beings into accepting as answers to its economic and political problems. Eichmann was a product of German capitalism which made a scapegoat of the Jews for the failure of Germany to win the 1914-18 war and for the mass unemployment which followed. The massacre of the six million attributed to him was not the work of one “evil genius.” History cannot be so simply explained. But there is significance in the fact that Eichmann is to be given a mockery of a “trial.” What a perversion of the name justice it is which allows the victors in the 1939-45 bloodbath, in which mass murder was committed by both sides, to condemn the leaders of the conquered for the same crimes they perpetrated themselves.

Red Blood

The South African Government has recently published regulations to come into force on 1st September under which “white” and “non-white” blood will be segregated to ensure that as far as possible whites and non-whites will receive blood from white and non-white donors respectively. This segregation of blood has in fact been in practice in South Africa for some years, although blood plasma imported from America was not segregated. The exponents of apartheid claim that the Africans are biologically different to the whites in being “ inherently backward ” and it seems that they think Africans’ blood is different too. Blood from human beings cannot, of course, be identified as to the colour of skin of its donor, but only by its various groupings, A, O, Rhesus, etc. Some biologists have even stated that the blood of some types of gorilla and human beings is interchangeable. This new regulation is another example of the blind prejudice of the South African Government in its policy of apartheid.

Misdirected Energy

On May 21st, sixteen cannibals were sentenced to death in Wewak, New Guinea, for killing, cooking and eating three men, and kidnapping eight women. After lecturing the men, who spent most of the time dozing on the courtroom floor, the judge said that because the raid was a “social and economic one with the dual purpose of providing wives and flesh,” he would make strong recommendations for mercy, and suggested a training programme for the convicted men. In prison they will no doubt be put through a rigorous rehabilitation programme. They will be lectured on the error of their ways and taught how to conform to the moral standards of modern civilisation. Perhaps they might even become so civilised they may be allowed to join the army and do the capitalists’ dirty work for them. Queens Regulations will not, of course, permit them to consume their victims, but they will be able to kill with the approval of the law, the blessing of the church, and if they do really well, they may even become national heroes.

Wyatt Sees the Light

Everything happens finally, if only one can wait long enough for it. This is one reflection that springs to mind after the attack made by Mr. Woodrow Wyatt, right-wing Labour M.P., on the big unions’ block vote as undemocratic. This has been obvious for years, of course — to all except Mr. Wyatt and his right- wing Labour friends. No complaint was ever heard from them about the block vote, so long as the big unions with doglike devotion regularly swung all their millions of votes behind the Labour leadership. But now that the man who wields the block vote of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, Mr. Frank Cousins, has clashed with Mr. Gaitskell over defence policy, a great light has broken in on Mr. Wyatt’s mind. With cries of astonishment, he announces as a new discovery what everyone else had been pointing out for years. Still, one must be grateful that Mr. Wyatt has seen the obvious, even at this late stage.

But Mr. Wyatt's revelations only extend so far as Mr. Cousins. Not a word has come from him about the second largest of the giant unions, whose leader, Sir Thomas Williamson, is a supporter of Mr. Gaitskell, and who recalled the annual conference of his union because they had voted the wrong way the first time. But we must wait. If Sir Thomas is replaced by a leader who disagrees with Mr. Gaitskell, Mr. Wyatt may discover another “arrogant bully with a block vote” (which is the way he now describes Mr. Cousins).

As for the left-wing of the Labour Party, who have been denouncing the block vote of the unions throughout the time it was automatically used against them, they have become strangely silent. The block vote used against them, and the block vote used by Mr. Cousins in their favour, are apparently two quite different things. How circumstances alter cases, even to the extent of turning democracy into bullying, or bullying into democracy!

The Rockefellers (1960)

From the July 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the 11th of May there died in Tucson, Arizona, John D. Rockefeller, Jnr., son of that notable father, John D. Snr, a man well-known in the early American capitalist era as one of the Robber Barons, with a finger in many pies—coal, iron ore, but chiefly remembered for his control of Standard Oil (New Jersey). In fact, according to Victor Perle in his book American Imperialism, in 1949 Standard Oil handled one-fifth of the oil produced in the western hemisphere, and its marketing areas covered countries in which some 72 per cent. of the world’s population resided. The control of oil throughout the western world is in the hands of seven oil trusts, of which Rockefellers control three.

But the Rockefellers, according to the obituaries of “Junior,” were noted for their “beneficence." It is reputed that between them they gave away some £350 million, and were still able to leave, as reports have shown, £200 millions (senior) and £150 millions (junior). These are staggering sums of money. And “Junior’s” will make no mention of any settlement for his six children and their various offspring, so it must be presumed that they have been well provided for. Some readers may say, but at least they gave some away, for the Daily Telegraph, May 12th, reports that “He devoted himself to furthering the schemes for human betterment initiated by his father after establishing his fortune." What from our point of view is important, however, is to whom it was given and why. Part of the answer to the first point is contained in the Telegraph of the 12th. “Educational Organisations benefited the most.” It seems highly probable that Marxian economics and the Labour Theory of Value plays no significant part in these “Educational Organisations,” for remember, education as taught today is primarily to fit workers into the productive and administrative organisation of capitalism and not to teach them Socialism.

Next comes “Religion,” another barrier to working class emancipation. Then “Public Parks, Roads, and the restoration and historic structures and antiquities.” No doubt the workers of the slum dwellings of all the major cities in the U.S.A. will appreciate that they can walk in the parks and pray in a well-restored church. Lastly, “Great sums to youth.” How this was distributed was not mentioned, but it is unlikely that these funds were used to propagate Socialist ideas. They were obviously spent to eulogise and bolster the capitalist system.

So, as commendable as some people may think was his “beneficence,” it is interesting to note that the people from whom this wealth was expropriated, his own workers, received little or nothing of what was rightfully theirs. Why he gave away these vast sums of money is a matter of some conjecture. One reason surely was to avoid taxation, but possibly also to buy immortality.

Socialists hope that in the not too distant future, people will see these so-called philanthropists in their true light—of leeches who grow fat on the mental and physical energies of the working class. Although “Junior” is dead, the Rockefeller Empire will continue, for neither father, son nor children ever took part in the production of things for use. At least it will continue to flourish until workers decide to own and distribute the fruits of their labour themselves.
Johnny Edmonds

House Journals (1960)

From the July 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Newspapers and magazines, like every other commodity under capitalism, are produced primarily for profit. But there is one type of publication which capitalists are quite content to run at a loss. That is the house journal—a company’s own organ, specially designed for its workers and sometimes also for its trade customers. According to the current issue of the Newspaper Press Directory, there are today in Britain no fewer than 642, of which more than 250 were launched last year. And by the end of 1960, despite mounting production costs, the number is expected to top 800.

House journals demand heavy, continuous subsidies. That is why only the bigger capitalist organisations are prepared to publish them. For unlike the national and provincial press, they reap no large advertising revenues. Even those which. carry advertisements, at purely nominal rates, far from cover themselves. Unlike their big brothers in Fleet Street, their circulations can be counted in thousands. A few publish weekly, but the vast majority appear monthly or quarterly. Given away or sold for a penny or two, they are either distributed in the factory or mailed direct to the worker’s home so that Mum and the kids can read them as well.

Until recent years, most house journals were the work of enthusiastic amateurs—personnel officers, social and sports club secretaries, or sales promotion managers with a bent for journalism. Their pages were packed with a stream of sentimental slush about the boss and “puffs” about his products. Issue after issue, with nauseating regularity, carried pictures of a beaming chairman addressing the annual staff dinner (“We must all pull together, chaps”), or of a director’s wife, distributing Sports Day trophies to the “lower orders” or of Bill Bloggs receiving his reward for half a century of “loyal and faithful” service to capitalism—an oak-cased clock.

Now many firms have begun to realise that the house journal can be forged into a more effective propaganda weapon. To a nation fed on the slick, streamlined mass-circulation daily newspapers and television, the old, sycophantic “God Bless the Boss” approach is as out-dated as a belief in the divine right of kings. So the professional publicist, the Public Relations officer, with an “understanding” of the masses, is being brought in to give the house journal a new, dynamic personality. Imitating the giant national daily newspapers, he dispenses the propaganda in potent, but subtle, doses—through brightly-written news stories, eye-catching pictures, arresting headlines and attractive make-up.

Why does Big Business, notorious for its opposition to wage increases, lavish so much money on its own publications, sometimes to the tune of £20,000 a year or more? Socialists know full well that capitalists do not play Santa Claus; that there is a sound commercial reason for any philanthropic front. House journals are no exception.
Their rapid rise is due to two major factors:
First, a growing acceptance by business chiefs of the theory that a happy worker makes a more productive worker.
Second, a growing interest by workers in the activities of the organisation which employs them.
For years, industrial psychologists have, in the name of greater efficiency, called for better staff relations. “Give the workers a sense of belonging,” “Make the men feel the boss really cares” and other similar pleas have been dinned into the ears of top management. The house journal can help to create “a happy family atmosphere” in the factory, with its prospects of greater surplus value. This is particularly important where frequent labour disputes cause havoc with production, and where employers find it difficult to attract or retain workers.

Similarly, more and more firms are concerned to “sell” themselves to their workers and customers. Company affairs are coming under a stronger spotlight from the mass-communication media. The beam rarely reveals the nature of 'capitalist exploitation, but it is bright enough to illuminate many interesting aspects of management. As a result of this development, capitalists are being forced to pay increasing attention to public criticism. The house journal makes a useful platform for justifying attitudes and actions. For example, many of these journals carry from time to time charts and diagrams, seeking to prove that the shareholders, not the workers who produce all wealth, are the poor relations of industry. To study some of them, one would think that if dividends dropped any lower, the capitalists would be signing on at the Labour Exchanges.

But large or small, well or badly produced, free or sold cheaply, all house journals are alike in one essential respect—they are the voice of the boss. As one of Britain’s leading P.R.O.’s reminded the 1958 Conference of House Journal Editors: “Few house journals are ‘steeped in liberty.’ Yours, let us face it, is not a free press, but a controlled one, subject to the dictates of top management.” Workers should never forget that the basic purpose of the house journal is to strengthen support for an individual capitalist concern. And as such, it helps to project the capitalist rat-race as the best possible, indeed the only workable, social system.
P. R. O.

Hagerty in Tokio (1960)

From the July 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. James Hagerty, President Eisenhower’s press secretary, had to flee by helicopter from a crowd of six thousand Japanese students who mobbed his car and battered at the windows. Mr. Hagerty had landed at Tokio airport to arrange the details of President Eisenhower’s visit to Japan. The incident underlines the falsity of some of the propaganda that the ruling class serves out to us in time of war. In the last war all the American and British organs of propaganda repeated ad-nauseam that the Japanese were inherently militaristic: their very nature, we were told, made them warlike and aggressive. At the end of the war the Americans insisted that a clause be written into the new Japanese constitution renouncing for ever the right of the Japanese to establish again their armed forces. But soon the Americans decided that the real enemy in the Far East was not Japan, but Russia: and that Japan in fact would be a useful ally. So then the Americans insisted, against the opposition of many Japanese, that the “renunciation” clause in the Japanese constitution be scrapped, and that Japan should again set up her army, navy and air force. Now the Americans have pushed through a new military alliance with Japan. If the propaganda had been true, this would have suited the "inherently militaristic’’ Japanese down to the ground. But large numbers of Japanese are strenuously resisting the new alliance, even to the extent of rioting against Hagarty and threatening to riot against Eisenhower. Some of the opposition, no doubt, comes from those who would rather see Japan allied to China and Russia than to America; but many Japanese wish to avoid all militaristic alliances altogether, because they think they bring with them the risk of involvement in a new world war. We are not now concerned whether it is possible for Japan to stand apart from the two great camps in the world as it is today: the important point is that such a policy commands widespread support from the Japanese people. Clearly, the theory of the “inherent militarism" of the Japanese will have to be abandoned. Events have, in fact, revealed yet more of our rulers' propaganda as lies.
Alwyn Edgar

Civil Service Pay (1960)

From the July 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the course of years quite a number of Royal Commissions and Committees of Inquiry have made recommendations about civil service pay and the principles by which it should be fixed. The last was the Civil Service Royal Commission of 1953-1955, which laid down guidance for fixing the pay of Post Office workers and other civil servants on the basis of “fair comparison” with the pay of outside workers doing comparable work. Several civil service unions have already voiced disappointment with the results of “fair comparison." They were expecting more than they have got, probably because they were counting on rates of pay as high as the top rates in outside occupations. The Royal Commission quite definitely rejected that relationship: civil service pay, they said, should be neither the highest nor the lowest for a particular job, but should be somewhere round the middle level. No government or committee of inquiry has ever accepted the principle that the 'Government should pay more “to set an example.”

Simultaneously with arguments about civil service pay and the pay of workers on the railways and in other nationalised industries, the Labour Party is arguing with itself about nationalisation, but nobody now thinks of linking up the two questions of civil service pay and nationalisation, as was the practice when nationalisation was first being advocated as a principle by political parties. In those days it was common for the Fabians and others to claim for national and municipal undertakings that their workers would be better paid than workers in private industry. In the Fabian Essays (1889) two of the writers, Annie Besant and Bernard Shaw, proposed a minimum wage for workers in municipal undertakings, high enough to be attractive to workers elsewhere. Annie Besant thought it would be “higher than any wage which could be paid by the private employer. Hence competition to enter the communal service, and a constant pressure on the Communal Councils to enlarge their undertakings.’' (p. 165.) The view was held by the early Fabians and other supporters of government industries, that these industries would be more efficient and could therefore afford to pay higher wages than their less efficient competitors.

Emil Davies, chairman of the Railway Nationalisation Society, in his book The Case for Nationalisation (1920, page 176) instanced the higher pay some of the telephone staffs received when the Government took over the telephone service from the private company in 1912. And in another book The State in Business (1920 edition, page 192), he claimed as a general proposition that “the moment the State or Municipality takes over a service or undertaking the conditions of the workers are immediately improved."

He confessed that this was perhaps less true of this country than other countries and in fact there is little to support the belief that the Government and the local authorities in this country have ever worked on the principle of paying above the rate required to give them the numbers of recruits they wanted.

From lime to time civil service pay has got out of line and steps have been taken to correct this. In 1923, after a big fall of the cost of living and of wage rates in industry had left civil service pay rather higher than the authorities considered necessary, the Anderson Committee, recommended reductions in addition to the automatic fall of pay under a cost of living bonus scheme. The special reductions were not then made because a general election intervened and the first Labour government came into office.

In 1957 the opposite situation had developed and Mr. Marples, Conservative Postmaster-General, was able to announce big increases of postal, telegraph and telephone charges totalling £42 million a year under cover of having to bring Post Office wages up to the level of outside wages. Now that most Labour Party opinion seems lo have accepted that there will be little extension of nationalisation the prospect of civil servants ever getting a Labour Government to apply the principle of giving civil servants more than “fair comparison" with average pay outside can be put very low indeed. Imagine the Labour Party still further hampering itself in an election by pledging itself that civil servants would he paid more than other workers!
Edgar Hardcastle

Blogger's Note:
The following was in a separate box attached to the article:
“Only when industry and transport etc, are owned and democratically controlled by the whole community can service to the whole community be a reality. Nationalisation or State Capitalism is not the solution to the problem."

Finance and Industry: Advice for Speculators (1960)

The Finance and Industry column from the July 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Economic Forecasting

In this and other countries the collection and analysis of industrial, trading and financial information has greatly increased since the war, and goes on increasing. Governments and private organisations are alike involved, but there is no likelihood at all that they are ever going to reach a degree of accuracy comparable with forecasts of tides, sunrise and eclipses.

The Observer (5-6-60) had a telling example of inability to agree, in Mr. Shonfield’s column. He reported that two organisations of economists had analysed the present economic situation and made a forecast for the rest of the year. The two organisations are the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and the London and Cambridge Economic Service. Mr. Shonfield writes:—
The whole National Institute argument turns out . . . . to be a statement of the reasons why the last six months or so have been a period of exceptional strain on the balance of payments, add why this is unlikely to continue. The other report, the London & Cambridge Economic Bulletin takes just the opposite point of view—that the strains are all to come.
Much of the difference in the conclusions arose from the two widely different estimates of the extent to which production this year will exceed last year's level, Mr. Shonfield, who leans to the first report thinks it may be about double the estimate made in the second report, of under 4 per cent. If estimating production levels is difficult, financial forecasting is doubly so, as can be seen from the day by day variations of city column opinions. The City Editor of the Evening Standard (23-4-60) opened his column with the following:—
“Business" Calvin Coolidge once said, “will be either better or worse.” That’s the kind of helpful advice you could have collected by the bagful in the City this week.
But as a stock exchange operator once remarked, the secret of success for speculators does not consist in knowing what investors ought to do tomorrow if they were wise, but in knowing what foolish things they are likely to do.

World Wheat Surplus

In an article ‘‘Problem of World Wheat Surplus Still Unsolved” The Times (25-5-60) summarises the first annual review by the International Wheat Council of the world wheat situation. It confirms the Socialist argument that capitalist and political interests which determine the policies of producers and governments make it impossible to achieve a world policy based on human need. Capitalism requires that products must be sold and can normally be sold only to those who can afford to pay. Even when governments, for internal reasons, would like to give away surpluses, this is strenuously opposed by other exporting countries which see their markets endangered and price levels forced down.

In brief, many governments after the war stimulated wheat production because of the then food shortage, with the result that “in North and Central America average yields per acre have more than doubled since before the war, in South America they have increased by over 70 per cent, and in Oceania by almost one-half.” The governments continued the policy after the commercial need had disappeared, because, for political reasons, they wanted to help the farmers, but in the meantime consumption of wheat has been declining in the advanced countries.

The comment is that is is “impossible to avoid the conclusion that the situation giving rise to the accumulation of heavy surplus must now be accepted as a ‘deep-seated and persistent problem '." Yet all the time there are millions of people who desperately need more food but cannot afford to pay for it. The Financial Times (25-5-60) discussing the problem concludes that there is no solution except that of restricting output, if and when the governments can bring themselves to that politically unwelcome course.

Russian Oil

Along with the enormous over-development of oil production and refining and the laying up of large numbers of tankers, the oil firms now face the problem of a Russian drive to sell their surplus oil—at prices well below world levels. The Financial Times (30-4-60):
Last year Russia accounted for one-third of the total increase in world oil production, with output of crude, according to the latest issue of Petroleum Press Service, rising by 45m. tons to 129m. tons. Efforts have been made to increase exports, and last year about three-quarters of the 17m. tons exported outside the Soviet bloc went to Europe. Since then the sales drive has been extended, and some successes have been achieved in Japan and in Egypt. So far imports of Russian oil into the U.K. have been small being virtually confined to lubricating oil, but her salesmen are active and it is likely that further contracts may be announced before the end of the year.
Discussions have been in progress for expanding trade between Britain and Russia and the Russians are reported to have made this dependent on the admission of large quantities of Russian oil into the British market.
Edgar Hardcastle

Big Ships v Big Jets (1960)

From the July 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

More and more of the big jets are coming into operation, whistling their pampered passengers across the world. Catch a Comet at London Airport on Sunday afternoon and you are in Sydney before lunch on Tuesday. The Boeing 707 gets you there even sooner. Against this, the fastest sea liner takes about a month for the same journey, charging a first class fare—between £240 and £385 —which is roughly the same as the airlines’ £371 to £381. The airlines are selling their speed very successfully; B.O.A.C.’s scheduled services, for example, carried over 20 per cent. more passengers in 1959 than in 1958.

For cargo, air carriage is not so attractive. Only for the small, expensive, urgently needed shipments are the airlines in their element, enabling cheaper packing and insurance. But the absence of competition from aircraft does not mean that the sea liners are having it so good on their freight shipments. Ten years ago, the lines running from the United Kingdom to Australia had a month long waiting list of cargo. Now, their ships often sail only part full. Sir William Currie, the retiring chairman of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, had this to say at the Company's recent Annual General Meeting:—
There are still many new ships coming forward, both in this country and abroad, but little sign that the owners are rushing to scrap their older ships. It is difficult to see, therefore, how the present surplus of tonnage, which is at the root of the depression, can come to a speedy end. For let us recognise that it is not shortage of cargoes that is bedevilling the freight market: fundamentally it is too many ships chasing too little cargo that keep rates where they are.
Have the steamship companies any answer to the double problem of a loss of passengers to the airlines on the one hand and a competitive scramble for freight on the other? Let us take a look at what the Peninsular and Oriental are doing about it.

The £40 million P. & O.—the largest shipping group, in Great Britain—was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1840. It now has a host of subsidiary companies, including such famous names as British India, General Steam, and the Orient Steam Navigation Companies. It also owns Silver City Airways Limited, several marine and general engineering companies and, through the Asiatic Steam Navigation Company—a British India satellite—it controls Delta Insurance. P. & 0. itself has 32 ships, totalling 431,360 tons gross: by its subsidiaries, it owns hundreds more. We could expect a group of this size to have a powerful reply to the challenge of the jetliners.

As a first step, P. & O. have taken over the outstanding minority of the ordinary shares of the Orient Line of which, since 1919, they have held a majority. This merger has set up Orient and Pacific Lines to maintain and develop the Pacific Ocean service which Orient Line have been operating since 1954. The new service will extend the Australia and New Zealand run to the West Coast of the U.S.A., calling at Fiji and Honolulu on the way. It will also push the service to Japan and Hongkong out to America's West Coast And it will operate a triangular service, from Australia to the U.S.A., to Japan and back to Australia.

At the moment, the Orient and Pacific can call on seven big ships for this service. These are of the Himalaya and Orcades class, about 22 to 29 thousand tons gross and capable of about 22 knots.

These boats were built in the ten years after the war, when they were comparatively cheap. At today’s prices, however, it would not be profitable to build such ships. Any new craft, to pay its way on the new, longer, Pacific route, must be two sizes larger and two sizes faster than before, which also means that it is two sizes more expensive. At the same time, it must not be so large that it cannot use the Suez Canal. It must be able to carry the highest possible number of passengers and be economical in operation and maintenance. In their two recently launched ships—Oriana (40,000 tons) and Canberra (45,000 tons) P. & O. think they have fulfilled exactly these calculated requirements.

Oriana was launched in November, 1959. Canberra, which went down the shipway at Harland and Wolffs yard in Belfast in March this year, is the largest ship to be built in the United Kingdom since the Queen Elizabeth. The design lakes full advantage of the fact that the speed which can be reached without using excessive amounts of fuel increases with the length of the ship. Canberra's superstructure is almost entirely of aluminium, which saves about 1,500 tons in weight and allows extra passenger accommodation. £500,000 worth of plastics have been used, reducing weight, smoothing the hull’s water resistance and almost eliminating the need for interior redecoration. 

Canberra will carry over 2,000 passengers and will cut the journey from Britain to Australia to 25 days.

P. & O. are not content to leave it to Oriana and Canberra merely to assert the graciousness of sea travel against the modern scramble of the jet liner. They are ready to turn these ships into passenger tramps, taking on their passengers wherever they can find them.

We can all admire the beauty of the new ships and the skill and patience which has gone into their making. But the fact is that, typical of the products of capitalist society, Oriana and Canberra have been built only because they have profitable prospects. True, the prospects are rather uncertain—together the ships cost £30 million—and to justify this they must have a profitable life into the 1980’s. If they don’t justify this investment, then probably no more ships like them will be built.

If P. & O. are taking a gamble, it is one which few other shipping companies are willing to take. As a result, the outlook for British ship-building is gloomy. On the day of Canberra’s launching, Lloyds List and Shipping Gazette carried this report from the shipyards at Belfast:—
. . . . the splendour of the occasion is diminished to the extent that there is no follow-on liner contract and that the builder’s order book is now running down at a rapid rate. Nor is there any early prospect of additional entries which will ensure that there is not a severe reduction in employment next year.
Perhaps there are so many ironies in capitalism that everyone is becoming inured to them. But surely somebody will notice it if, as Canberra and Oriana plough their fabulous way from one tropical playground to another, the men who built her in gloomy Belfast are begging for work at their local labour exchange.

Television (1960)

From the July 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

The institutions and morality of Capitalism reflect the profit motive and thus the interests of the capitalist class. The means of mass propaganda, and thereby the power to put over their ideas are in the hands of the capitalist class (or their agent, the State) in each country.

Whole generations of workers come and go, blissfully unaware that anything is wrong with private property or with the system of working for wages. The real facts of life have to be learned, perhaps from experience outside the influence of the propaganda machine. The Press, Schools, Cinemas, Pulpit, Radio and T.V. do their job so well that most people never realise they are having an outlook foisted on them which is fundamentally opposite to their own class interest.

The structure of capitalism and its institutions rise from and are in harmony with its class-property basis. Land, oilfields, factories, mines, herds of cattle, are among the things which make up the means of production. While these belong to the capitalist class, the wealth producers will work for wages, the goods they produce will be for sale with a view to profit, and human relationship will be dominated by money. While capitalism lasts, so will the false social values it generates. The accumulation of personal wealth will remain the perverted criterion of worth. No wonder that a working class, as yet unaware of their social position as the all important producers, are often seen in large numbers gazing in awed reverence at some of the parasites who live off them. No wonder, in turn, that various forms of escapism and make-believe have become widely popular.

The cinemas, now showing signs of decline, only a few years ago had queues at almost every pay-box. Going to the pictures was the working-class pastime, just as watching “the telly” is today. The world of second-hand thrills and dreams has largely changed its medium.

The fictional cow-boy and detective heroes have different names now, but their function is unchanged. Catching offenders against property, and the idea that punishment is Justice, are as popular as ever.

The land-grabbers, the cattle-thieves, the con-man, and the bank-raider, are still brought to book by the goodies of the F.B.I., the C.I.D. or the Marshal’s Office. The stolen property is always returned to its ’’rightful owner,” with few people to ask how he came to own it.

We are told that it is a sign of prosperity if workers, after a day in the factory or office, can go home to watch television. In fact, this simply shows how dull and monotonous their lives really are. In a world based on production for sale there is so little spontaneous joy in living that the professional laughter man and entertainer are in great demand. Without the artificial stimulations of things like T.V. many people would be at a complete loss. Thus the artificial becomes the real and to escape is a substitute for living.

Some people, of course, only watch the more “sophisticated” programmes, such as plays, and take pride in confining their viewing to the B.B.C. Not having a Socialist outlook, they soak up the same debased set of virtues and vices as the rest. Even plays which mildly attempt to investigate some festering ill of capitalism, such as the plight of the old, housing, juvenile delinquency or war, are totally unable to offer any solution and never give away the correct cause of these things. Instead of blaming capitalism, the workers continue to blame bad leaders, governmental mistakes, dictatorship or human nature. So those who, by not watching commercials think they avoid the money-morality of capitalism, are mistaken.

The commercials, of course, demonstrate the sickening hypocrisy, the false values and phoney morality of capitalism most nakedly. 

In the average week's viewing it is scientifically “proven” and demonstrated that half a dozen different makes of soap powder and detergent wash clothes cleaner, lighter, brighter and whiter than each other. There are about as many brands of oil and petrol which perform great wonders for motorists, with each one said to be better than the rest. There are numerous brands of cigarettes which “everyone” is switching to. Then the “razor boys” have a go with half a dozen makes of safety and electric razors, all of which shave smoother, cleaner, faster, than the others. So the examples could be multiplied.

Of all the scores of different things advertised in commercials, either on T.V. or elsewhere, not once are any of the possible drawbacks or harmful effects mentioned. Exaggeration, half-truths and direct lying are commonplace in advertising. The fact that millions of people watch the same adverts every night (many of which are repeated several times in the same evening) and make so little protest about them, is an unhealthy indication of the general acceptance of capitalism’s low standards. Perhaps Sir Robert Fraser, Director-General of the Independent Television Authority, had this in mind when he said: “Every person of common sense knows that people of superior mental constitution are bound to find much of television intellectually beneath them. ’ (Daily Mirror, 18-5-60.) We do not accept the idea of “superior mental constitution,” but since Fraser spoke generally in high praise of television, one might ask where he fits in? The idea is deliberately planted that unless you wear a certain make of shirt, skirt or cosmetic and own a watch, carpet-cleaner or spin-drier made by a particular firm, you will fail to impress your friends. Your prestige will slip, you will fall behind in the rat-race.

All the* high-pressure sales drives and the subtle persuaders merely emphasise the constant need in capitalism to find markets. Although on the commercials they say that their commodities “are just the thing for you,” you cannot have them if you cannot afford them—or at any rate the instalments. The normal condition of a worker is to live within what his wages can buy or hire. Hire-purchase, or by saving up, are the ways open to him to get anything that costs more than he can spare out of one week's wages. For most workers T.V. means H.P. over a couple of years or a rental or relay. The best that capitalism can do with the immense possibilities of modern scientific techniques is to allow the working class, while living under the threat of a slump or a war,, to enjoy themselves on the never-never. Capitalism denies the working class access to the wide world of real things that make up living. Having to live within the limitations of the wages system, they get things out of perspective and T.V. becomes a substitute for things out of reach.

Production under the profit motive has reduced most work to drudgery. Having taken the joy out of our working life, capitalism would reduce us to passive viewers in our leisure time. Television is just one of many achievements abused by capitalism.
Harry Baldwin