Friday, July 29, 2022

A rotten business (1995)

TV Review from the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Music Biz (5 June. BBC2) was a missed opportunity if ever there was one. Given the task of examining such a ruthless, profit-hungry and self-serving industry, BBC2 could and should have done better. What should have been an investigative programme into manipulation and exploitation at the basest levels turned into little more than an excuse to dish up more manipulative images. Like the previous week’s programme on the British sex film, the Music Biz glorified in its subject instead of dealing with it seriously.

Of course, snippets of the truth emerged. One record executive frankly admitted that it was now commonplace to manufacture a group with the “right appearance” if nothing else, and then spend one million pounds promoting them until the teenage girls swoon. New teen-idols Let Loose were a case in point, being apparently picked for stardom largely on the strength of their dashing hairstyles rather than actual musical ability.

This was an illustration of the obvious—today's teen-orientated pop bands are groomed on the basis of their interaction with fragile teenage sexualities. While it can be argued that this has been the case for some time, from the Beatles to the Bay City Rollers, never has it been more obvious or indeed, so detached from the talent—or lack of it— of the artists involved. Never before, it should also be noted, has sex been portrayed in such an obvious way to sell records—watch any music programme on TV and it will not be long before you see some teen idols engaging in simulated sex acts performed to the syncopated rhythm of their latest hit.

Although the record company bosses are manipulative enough it would of course be wrong to suggest that it is all a brainwashing exercise—in many ways it is even more sinister. The bosses—just like Rupert Murdoch in another fine capitalist industry—say that they are just giving the punters what they want, and although this is not entirely true it is not entirely false either. Humans in capitalist society grow up with a heavily-tainted view of life, refracted through a prism where profit, competition and passive idol-worship are the chief distorters. Capitalism itself provides the ideal breeding ground for the attitudes and images that the record executives wish to portray.

The artists themselves, especially when they have already been through the mill several times, know what is going on more than most. Two of pop history's most enduring sexual icons—gorgeous pouting Debbie Harry of Blondie and gorgeous pouting Jon Bon Jovi, knew how the game worked well enough. Jon Bon Jovi gave several illustrations of how his own band had been manipulated by the record industry, but said that such was the power of the record labels, they had little choice but to go along with it.

It is not impossible for a pop group to make it big without the backing of a major label, but it is becoming increasingly difficult. Some groups in the alternative, independent sector always break through, invariably to give in to the inevitable and sign to one of the majors, this often setting the scene for a major round of wrangling between the group and their bosses—as was recently the case with the Stone Roses.

Putting on the frighteners
In the last twenty years or so the music industry has had a couple of frights prompted by a decomposing capitalism, although these were hardly touched upon in BBC2’s programme. In the mid-to-late 70s punk rock entered the scene headed by the anarchistically-inspired Sex Pistols, a band whose motto was "cash from chaos" and who amongst other things played the music bosses at their own game, taking them for a large financial ride in the process. Punk rock baffled large sections of the music industry and many companies had their fingers burnt before they bought enough of the bands off and manipulated them into doing something less challenging. The other fright was the emergence of rap music from America in the mid-1980s, some of whose performers were rather too provocative and risqué for the liking of most record executives.

Rap music, more so than punk, had its deficiencies, primarily the fact that it was violence orientated and. more often than not, sexist to boot. But rap and punk set an example in that it showed musicians need not just accept the status quo and accept every dictate from the bosses. The Sex Pistols and The Clash were among those who, in their own rather unfocussed way, brought more than a smidgen of working-class politics into the mainstream of music, though admittedly it wasn't easy.

In the late 70's a successful band called The Specials wrote a thinly-veiled attack on the music bosses entitled "Gangsters", which included this line: “And Catch 22 says if I sing the truth they won't make me an overnight star". This is a clever line, but slightly misleading. Sure, the bosses may not be looking to make any socialists an overnight star, but if you are talented and challenging enough they will have to sit up and take notice, if only because money can also be sometimes made from challenging the system rather than openly supporting it, if the market exists. Do not despair must be the message—capitalism creates its own gravediggers in music as in any other form of life and if a green-toothed monster like Johnny Rotten can bring "Anarchy in the UK" to the children of Britain. there is hope yet.
Dave Perrin

Expressing the emotions (1995)

Book Review from the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Against the Current by Christopher Hampton. (Katabasis Press, £5.95.)

There is more than one way to skin a cat. Polemicising against capitalism is good and necessary, but we need to express the felt emotions of an oppressed class as well. Marx learned more about the awful impact of industrial capitalism in France by reading Balzac's novels than from statistical formulae. Poetry, too, is a potent force in the struggle we are waging. As Christopher Hampton writes in his poem, What Words Can Do:
It's not a choice. Words either play
their part in making actions count
(imperative as the pressures mount)
or— caught between— give way,
give up, condone, conform, betray.
Hampton has a fine pedigree of finding the right words for the struggle. His Radical Reader: The Struggle for Change in England, 1381-1914, published in paperback by Penguin in 1984, was a remarkable anthology of fighting words. The Faber Book of Political Verse, edited by Tom Paulin in 1986, added much to the repertoire of our political battle songs: a veritable feast of great poets showing that the capitalists might own the printing presses, but it is from our class that the great literature of our time comes.

Hampton's new anthology of poetry is an invigorating addition to that repertoire. It reflects wide classical knowledge (he is currently working on a novel about Cicero’s radical conservatism in opposition to the true voice of freedom expressed by an ex-slave), and the poems from and about the ugly Eighties, the decade when Thatcherism called upon us to celebrate commerce. is unrestrainedly angry. His poem, The Leash, reminds us of Shelley's fire and will not easily be extinguished in the minds of its readers:
We walk these streets believing we are free.
    We take our roast-beef rolls with beer
and sun ourselves in Little Tilchficld Street
    as if there were no questions to be answered.
Love, its message half unheard in the rhythm
   of a ground-bass beating intermittently
among the chatter and the jostle, binds.
    And at such moments one could be forgiven
for supposing London’s teeming lunchtime air
     was freely ours—not bought or fought for,
not constricted, driven by the chartered laws
    of property, but unconditional and open,
there to move through, in and out, at will.
    Yet all the time, containing us, the abstracts
are at work that keep us all on leash.
With great pleasure we can report that Christopher Hampton will be a participant in the show of Socialist Words and Music currently being organised by our Camden branch. 
Steve Coleman

You can't believe that! (1995)

Theatre Review from the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Broken Heart (RSC Barbican)

The idea of class art is well established. One has only to visit a public art gallery to recognise that throughout history painters have been employed to produce art that is valued by those who can afford it: that is, typically, by members of the landed aristocracy and their acolytes, merchants. capitalist entrepreneurs and so on. Even the value system by which paintings are valued has traditionally discriminated in favour of religious paintings and portraits of the great and the good, whilst genre paintings and scenes from peasant and working class life have been seen as relatively valueless.

But class art is also apparent in the theatre, and a good example is John Ford’s play The Broken Heart which is at present in repertoire at the Barbican (Pit Theatre).

Ford was born at the end of the sixteenth century, the son of a wealthy landowner. He trained for the law but soon began a literary career as a poet and playwright. He is believed to have written seven plays of which the most well known are probably Love’s Sacrifice and ‘Tis a Pity she's a Whore. Productions of The Broken Heart have been comparatively rare. The play seems to have been performed only once in the sixteenth century, and there are no records of revivals until 1898, 1904 and 1962. This year, however. there have already been four productions, including the one on view at the Barbican.

It is difficult to understand current interest in the play. The Broken Heart is about enforced marriages, and the use of marriage as a way of furthering the interests of families. social groups and even whole nations. Set in Sparta its characters are easily recognised as surrogates for the Earl of Essex and his sister, and Queen Elizabeth, and the events depicted chime with the recent histories of England. Ireland and Scotland. As the programme note says "The Broken Heart presents a kind of mythologised history of England's recent past and celebrates in the Spartan ideal a set of public virtues at once ancient and modern”.

But if Ford was intent on celebrating these virtues (sic), most of the audience could only have marvelled at the absurdity of the beliefs to which the characters were attached and. by extension, the aristocratic and emergent bourgeoise sixteenth century audience to whom the play was addressed. One can admire the way in which Ford has plotted his story — with its many twists and turns — and the wonderful skill of the actors and production team in bringing the play to life. But what a play! What amazing, bizarre and foolish sentiments are expressed: what extraordinary. craven and mean-spirited beliefs are paraded for our inspection. There were moments when I found it hard not to challenge the inanities being voiced on stage. "You can’t believe that!", I wanted to shout. "No one could possibly believe that.”

But ‘yes’ the audience for which the play was written did believe these nonsenses. They believed them with tenacity and passion.and these ideas informed the substance of social behaviour throughout the sixteenth century. Socialists will find comfort in this discovery as they imagine a time when folk will look back on the commonplace beliefs of the late twentieth century and similarly wonder how it was possible for most people to believe that poverty, war. pollution and all the other self-inflicted wounds of a class-riven world were inevitable features of life.
Michael Gill

SPGB Meetings and Debates (1995)

Party News from the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blogger's Note:
The result of the Littleborough & Saddleworth by-election can be found here. A word of warning though; only click on the link if you have a strong stomach.

The Nemesis of Labour Government (1949)

From the July 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Those Behind cried 'Forward! and those before cried 'Back' "

The Labour Government and the Party leaders are puzzled and anxious both about the immediate troubles with the trade unions and about the General Election that must take place before the summer of 1950. At the moment at any rate, they are not thinking of more distant problems though in truth their real difficulties will come later on if they succeed in winning the election.

The internal Party discussions, as evidenced at the Labour Party Annual Conference, take the familiar form of the rank and file of the trade unions pressing the government to make life easier for the workers either by reducing prices or by raising wages; while the leaders counsel patience, urge greater production, and hold out vague hopes that things will be better some day if only Labour is returned to power for another five years There is a certain amount of personal recrimination from both sides. The critics of the government are inclined to hold Sir Stafford Cripps responsible, implying that a different Chancellor could take a different line, while some of the government spokesmen and defenders find fault with the workers for their “unreasonable” attitude. A case in point was a speech by Mr. H. McMoulden, President of the Hosiery Workers' Union at the annual conference in June. He maintained that “a measure of unreasonableness is seeping into the minds of some of our people as to their value in relation to their job.” He went on to say that the employers are not wholly to blame for difficulties experienced in solving outstanding problems—“Some of the blame must be taken to ourselves in that we have cultivated a mental outlook on the part of large sections of our membership which is now rebounding upon us to our great embarrassment.” (Manchester Guardian, 7/6/49.) Put into the briefest terms what this means is that Labour government has failed to live up to the expectations of the workers. The latter were led to believe during the years of Labour Party propaganda that when Labour became the government with a clear majority there would be a vast change and improvement in wages, conditions of work and so on. Now the government and the trade union leaders find themselves in the embarrassing position of explaining why the looked-for changes have not yet arrived and must be deferred still further, and why the profit system must be maintained.

Undoubtedly the “unofficial" strikes are one expression of the dissatisfaction of Labour voters, as also was the loss of many seats in the local elections. Evidence of a similar kind is provided by Mr. Ellis Smith, Labour member for Stoke, who laments the disappearance of the old enthusiasm among Labour Party supporters and is forming a Socialist Fellowship with the aim of trying to recreate it.

One thing the leaders and the rank and file critics appear to have in common is that they all believe that the problem facing the Labour government can be solved ; though some think it could be done at once by a change of policy and others think it will be done eventually if the present policy is continued.

It remains for the Socialist Party of Great Britain to insist that both groups are mistaken. The dilemma facing this Labour government is one that must face every Labour government. It is one to which there is no solution and it must result eventually in the collapse of the experiment; for there is nothing a Labour government can do to end the workers' discontent with capitalism. There are, of course, some Labour Party supporters who give what they think is the answer. They will admit that the workers can never secure lasting satisfaction within the capitalist system but will reply that the solution is the abolition of capitalism. Socialists agree with the latter but the dilemma still remains for the Labour government, because it is not in their power to introduce Socialism. Socialism is at present not a possibility because the mass of the electorate do not understand or want it. Anyone who considers the matter knows that this is so. The electors who vote Labour want all kinds of things but they expect them to be obtained within the framework of capitalism, through the efforts of the Labour government. Reference has been made to the campaign of Mr. Ellis Smith, M.P., to recreate the lost enthusiasm among the Labour Party membership. He quotes a letter from a local Labour Party official in the East End of London in which it is stated that “ not more than one-tenth of the delegates to a meeting knew what Socialism was.” (Manchester Guardian, 30/5/49.) This, of course, is in fact a highly optimistic view as every member of the S.P.G.B. knows by practical experience gained in discussion with members of the Labour Party. The Socialist aims of abolishing the wages system, production for profit, buying and selling, property incomes, etc., in short the abolition of capitalism, is something quite outside the conceptions of the Labour Party.

What then can the Labour government do? They cannot satisfy the demands of the workers inside capitalism and they cannot get outside capitalism because the workers so far have not come to a recognition of the need for and practicability of Socialism. There is only one possible outcome. Like every Labour government of the past, the present one must come into increasing conflict with the working class—the workers struggling against the effects of capitalism and the government struggling, whether it wishes to or no, to resist those demands because to grant them would make the functioning of capitalism impossible.

Just a few more contradictions (1949)

From the July 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists are always pointing to the stupidities and contradictions of capitalism, and capitalism certainly provides us with plenty to point to. Take, as a recent example, the agreement signed last month between Britain and Argentina, over which there has been so much fuss and bother. Under the terms of this agreement, which is scheduled to last for five years, both countries have undertaken to exchange goods to the value of £160 million. In line with her usual policy in these days of dollar shortage, Britain has stood out against using dollars for any part of her purchases and at the same time has insisted that the exchange shall be at parity, i.e. that Britain will sell to the value of £80 million in return for Argentine goods to the same amount. In order to get the meat she particularly requires, Britain has also promised Argentina priority treatment in supplies of oil, coal, machinery, chemicals, and other manufactured products, and will export them in sufficient quantities to satisfy most of Argentina’s needs.

So far, so good. On the face of it a useful trade agreement for the British capitalist class, and a triumph for their negotiators, acting, by the way, under the instructions of a Labour government.

But evidently everything has not turned out quite so rosily as expected, for now the United States has come along and objected in quite strong terms that the agreement is actually a very bad one, is going to have the effect of cutting out the United States from the Argentine market, and for quite a long time to come. American exporters, it seems, are most annoyed at all these developments and want their government to do something about them.

Now for the other side of the story. It is common knowledge that the United States has been pouring millions of Marshall Aid dollars into Western Europe as part of her foreign policy. Of these dollars Britain, as the most important Marshall Aid country, has received the largest share. The prime purpose of this aid has been to help the Western European countries to get back on to their feet economically, to assist them to increase production, and to step up their exports. Thus encouraged, the British capitalist class, aided by the Labour government, have energetically set to work (with the co-operation of the British workers), and made great strides in their trade, receiving numerous pats on the back from Hoffman, the Marshall Aid Administrator, for doing so. It seems, however, that Mr. Hoffman has been a little too generous with the back-slappings, for the British capitalist class are apparently carrying out the export policy too well. Having encouraged British capitalists to increase their exports, the Americans are now complaining that they are being cut out of the export market, and with the help of their own money!

There is another twist in the story. Even if Britain did not supply her with the goods she requires, Argentina would not be able to buy from the United States, because she has not got the dollars to pay for them. As it is, she owes America millions and millions of dollars for goods she bought years ago, and the Americans have been trying to get paid ever since. In spite of this, however, the American capitalist class are still prepared to have a row with Britain over the right to send even more goods to Argentina, still presumably without Argentina having the slightest chance of being able to pay for them!
Finally, we cannot resist making a side-reference to oil, one of the commodities involved in the agreement, and the one that is evidently causing the Americans the biggest headache. Only a few months ago, the Americans were still obsessed with the worry they get from time to time that their internal oil supplies were running low, and that they would need to draw to an increasing extent upon supplies from abroad. Thus one of the top priorities in the Marshall Aid programme was for the Western European nations to increase their refining capacity and sell oil to the United States for dollars, so killing two birds with one stone. Again British capitalists set to work with a will, to such an extent that “American companies have already lost part of their Swedish market to British competitors.” (Daily Telegraph, 11/6/49), and look like losing the Argentine market as well. No wonder they are getting upset! What has happened, of course, is that American home demand has been falling off, prices have been dropping, and American companies that thought they would be hard put to supply their home market are now finding it to be in danger of saturation, and that they had better look after their overseas markets while the going is good.

So here are three more problems for would-be solvers of capitalism’s problems to get their teeth into. Solutions should not be sent to us. Send them to the American State Department or Sir Stafford Cripps' or even to President Peron. They will be very glad to receive them, we feel sure.
Stan Hampson

The Class Struggle in India (1949)

From the July 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

For nearly 200 years, India was under British rule. Throughout these years the workers of India were exploited and oppressed and any attempt by them to resist was met with brutal suppression from the British ruling class. The mass shootings at Amritsar in 1919, Bombay in 1921, Calcutta in 1930, Cawnpore in 1931 and Karachi in 1935 are but a few instances of the treatment handed out to Indian workers by their British masters. As Lord Brentford said in 1925:
“ We did not conquer India for the benefit of the Indians . . . We conquered India by the sword, and by the sword we shall hold it.”
For many years the Indian workers have struggled against foreign oppression. Under leaders like Gandhi and Nehru they have striven for national independence. They have used hunger strikes, passive resistance, demonstrations, strikes' and other weapons in the struggle. They have been heroic. Now that they have had their much desired national independence for some short time, we can take a look at the situation and learn a few things.

When a foreign conqueror dominates a country, he either exterminates or subordinates the native population. If the conqueror ushers in capitalism and the people of the country are at a low stage of social development, there will be no place for them in the process of capitalist production. They will be thrust aside as were the Red Indians of America and the Maoris of New Zealand. If they are not exterminated, but are allowed to live side by side with people of a higher stage of social development, the rate of their own social development will be hastened. But, at first, such people do not fit into a system of factory production or commercial enterprise. If, on the other hand, the people of the country have arrived at a stage of development that makes it possible to exploit them, then they will be exploited. When the people of a foreign—capitalist—dominated country can be proletarianised, they will be absorbed into capitalist industry as it develops in their country.

A few of the local population, either because of the position they held before the foreign domination, or because they have been able to take advantage of some chance that the new capitalism offered, will constitute a native capitalist class. This minority will, in time, find itself hampered by the capitalists of the ruling power. These native capitalists will want to control their own system of taxation and to regulate their own tariffs. They will resent a large share of the proceeds of the exploitation of the workers going into the coffers of foreigners. They will resist the continued rule from some other part of the world. To resist successfully they must have the support of the majority of their working class countrymen. Hence, there is built a nationalist movement in which all those who consider that they have a common interest as nationals, will gather and struggle. This is what has happened in such countries as Egypt, Ireland and India. The years of cruel struggle in India have resulted in the achievement of national independence and the arrangement agreed to at the Commonwealth talks in London during April of this year.

What is the position of the workers in India now that this state of national independence has been achieved? Are they free from exploitation and oppression? Are their conditions of life improved? What have they gained from the struggle? We can see, what socialists have always seen, that “India for the Indians” has been a rallying cry to muster the workers under the banner of a group of native exploiters in an endeavour to throw off the yoke of the foreign ones. With the battle won, the workers find that they have got rid of one bunch of tyrants only to be subjugated to another one which speaks their own language and has their same coloured skin, and which can be as brutal and merciless as were the British.

David Raymond, writing about Nehru in Reynold's News (April 24th, 1949) sums up the matter briefly. He
“So long as the fight was for independence it had an aim that united all, rich and poor, exploiter and exploited.”
He also says of Nehru that:
“He has many times written and spoken to the effect that India will not be free until her millions —many of them constantly on the verge of starvation—are free from exploitation by their landlords and by their own capitalists, whom he once described as 'quite amazingly backward'. "
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru came to this country this year to negotiate an arrangement which will give the Indian capitalist class freedom to exploit Indian workers without interference from Whitehall, whilst at the same time conserving to them some of the advantages to be gained from being linked to the “British Commonwealth of Nations.” The Congress Party, which was the backbone of the Nationalist Movement, now forms the government of India, of which Nehru is the head.

The Congress Government in India today is continuing the beatings, shootings, wholesale imprisonment and brutal treatment of the native workers with as great ferocity as did the British. From the Trade Union Record, monthly bulletin of the All-India Trade Union Congress, we get information of the treatment handed out to Indian workers by Indian capitalists and their henchmen. In the issue for March, 1949, we read that,
“. . . Trade Union offices have been broken into, ransacked, records confiscated and the offices sealed . . .”

"Besides the hundreds of Trade Union workers arrested during the last twelve months, more than 2,000 have been arrested during the last fortnight alone.”
Acts have been passed by the central and provincial governments which virtually deprive the workers of the right to strike. The government proposes to amend the Indian Trade Unions Act of 1926 in a manner that will withdraw the freedom to organise from many workers.

Continuously rising prices are giving rise to much discontent and a large number of strikes. Compulsory arbitration has been imposed but trade union officials have been arrested before, and even during, the arbitration proceedings. The same issue of the Trade Union Report states.
"More workers have been killed by bullets in the last one year and a half than in any other period of Indian history.”
In a previous issue of this bulletin, a report from Assam, the country of tea plantations, referring to the month of June, 1948, states,
“In the course of the last month more Trade Unionists have been put behind the prison bars in Assam than even within a year of the worst days of British rule.”
During those days of British rule we often heard of Indian workers being charged and beaten with lathis (bamboo sticks). We still learn of similar instances.
". . . when a deputation of the workers (of the Naivasal Mohamed Hussain Tannery works at Vaniambadi) started to go to the management to make representations they were severely lathi-charged. Twenty workers, including four office bearers of the Union, were arrested and beaten.” 
The general situation is summed up in the following statement from the same source,
“During the last two years the Government has more than once displayed its desire to 'meet the legitimate demands of their employees and other workers’ with lathis, tear gas, bullets and jail.”
This position is not peculiar to India. Wherever a native ruling class has ousted a foreign one it has always been as eager as its predecessors to extract the maximum amount of wealth from the labours of its workers. It will be equally as ruthless in the process and often, being less experienced, will be more crude in its methods. For the workers, the remedy lies not in supporting one national section of the capitalist class against another, but in abolishing all exploiting classes, native and foreign.

There is one thing that emerges from these struggles within capitalism. Out of the turmoil between conflicting sections of the capitalist class and the striving of the workers for political elbow room, there develops the modern type of democratic government with an ever-widening franchise. Thus is formed within capitalism the weapons that the workers can use for its overthrow. When the working class realises the futility of supporting class society in any form, it will find that out of the welter of class conflict has emerged the instrument which can be used to wipe away class domination and privilege—the franchise.

We are often told by our fellow workers from different parts of the world, particularly by our coloured colleagues, that the Socialist solution is too remote. They cannot wait for the day when the workers of the world will overthrow capitalism and establish socialism. They are being ruthlessly exploited by foreign capitalists and subjected to brutal oppression. They need a speedy remedy. Their answer is contained in these extracts from an Indian Trade Union journal. No matter how the workers struggle within capitalism, they will remain an exploited and oppressed class. Socialism is not just the speediest remedy, it is the only remedy.

A slave is no less a slave when he has changed masters.
W. Waters

Editorial: This Age of Discontent (1949)

Editorial from the July 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

We live in an age of universal political publicity. Every government in the world maintains its home and foreign organisations for advertising itself, by the printed word, the pictorial puff, the cinema and the wireless broadcast. At a time when the workers in all countries are told to avoid waste and to produce more in order to raise the standard of living the governments, who can agree with each other on little else, all agree in spending millions of pounds, dollars, roubles, etc., on a twofold self advertising campaign; twofold because one line of advertising is directed to the workers at home and another, very different, line is aimed at workers in other countries. The propaganda that each government sends to workers' abroad is filled with carefully selected and highly-coloured accounts of the health, wealth, liberty and happiness of the workers who have the good fortune to live under the government, and of the way the workers lives are constantly being improved by social reforms for which the government in question is responsible. The object of this is not to give information, far from it. This overseas propaganda is a weapon in the “cold war," a means of undermining the loyalty of the other workers to the other government. So much so that at the moment the Russian government is busy trying to jam American and British broadcasts in the Russian language.

The propaganda dope for home consumption calls for a different theme. It consists of telling the workers how much better off they are than the workers in foreign countries and how much better off than they used to be under the previous government.

Viewed in the mass the falsity of it all it transparent. No government uses at home the kind of stuff it uses outside the country, and for a very obvious reason. If people are happy and contented you don’t need a high-powered governmental publicity machine to tell them so. But nowhere are the workers satisfied, and every government in the world is scared lest in their discontent the workers should desert their present political beliefs and turn to something else. Every day, in every country some more workers are losing faith in capitalism and even the latest trick, that of calling capitalism Socialism, as in Britain and Russia, is losing some of its effectiveness.

Editorial: Private Ownership in Russian Agriculture (1949)

Editorial from the July 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

Communists attack the Labour government’s nationalisation policy on two grounds, that the compensation to former owners is too generous and that the government instead of going in for wholesale nationalisation is leaving most of industry and agriculture to private capitalism. It is therefore interesting to observe to what a large extent agriculture in Russia is in the hands of individual farmers. Farming in Russia is organised in three main groups, the State farms; the farms worked by individual peasant-owners relying on the labour of themselves and their families without hired help; and the collective farms. Some of the latter are on the basis that the whole of the land, buildings, implements and stock are owned by the organisation, and others are merely voluntary associations of individual farmers, each of whom retains ownership of his entire holding; but the great majority of the collective farms are a mixture, part of the farm is owned and worked collectively and part is owned and worked individually by the farmers. On these standard type collective farms the farmers receive produce and monetary income partly from the collective farm and partly from their private holdings. They work part of their time on the collective farm and the rest of the time for themselves. Their income from their private holding is their own but they also receive a share in the collective farm income varying in amount according to the number of labour-days they have worked. The collective farm has to give a certain part of its products to the State, and pay taxes, before the balance is divided up. According to H. A. Freund (“Russia from A to Z,” 1945, p.316), from whom the above details are taken, there is a great difference between the amount of produce and money received by members of the richest collective farms and the amount received on the poorer farms.

As regards the land and stock owned individually by the farmers Freund states that it varies in amount and kind according to the district and the type of farming. The farmer has his own house, and an allotment which ranges up to 2½ acres. In some districts he may also own privately one cow, two calves, one sow with sucklings, up to 10 sheep and goats, 20 beehives and an unlimited number of fowls and rabbits. In more developed stock-breeding districts he may have two or three cows, also calves, two or three sows, up to 25 sheep, also fowls, rabbits and beehives. In districts where stock-breeding is the all-embracing branch of industry he may have 8 to 10 cows, up to 150 sheep or goats, up to 10 horses and 8 camels, with unlimited poultry.

Some further information has been given by Mr. Andrew Rothstein, who is Lecturer on Soviet Institutions at the School of Slavonic Studies and a defender of the Russian system. Recently he has written to the Times correcting correspondents who have inaccurately quoted figures relating to Russian agriculture. In a letter on 19th May, 1949, he made the point that at April, 1949, the 30 million head of cattle that are "the personal property of collective farmers, workmen, employees, and individual peasants" considerably exceed the herds of cattle on the collective part of the collective farms. In addition to the 30 million cattle these private holdings include 26½ million sheep and goats and over 7 million pigs, but these private holdings of sheep, goats and pigs appear to be considerably less than the collective holdings. The overall picture would therefore appear to be that rather more than half of the total stock is owned by the State farms and the collective part of the collective farms, and rather less than half is owned privately.

As a footnote to the above we learn from the Moscow correspondent of Reuters (Manchester Guardian, 27/5/49) that the authorities have been criticising the collective farms because they have been sending lean cattle as the compulsory quota they have to deliver to the State. As the quota requires a certain weight the farmers have been making up the weight in the form of a large number of lean cattle instead of a smaller number of fat cattle, and thus depleting the collective herds.

The collective farm system bears an obvious resemblance to the serfdom that existed in Europe before the rise of capitalism and experience of that system suggests that the individual farmers are likely to be more interested in their private farms than in the collective part.

Letter: Will Socialism Work? (1949)

Letter to the Editors from the July 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard
(We have received a further letter from Mr. S. Bolsom. The earlier letter and our reply were published in the May issue under the heading “Housing, Crises and the S.P.G.B.”—Ed Com.)
Hampstead, N.W.3.

To the Editor.

Socialist Standard.

Dear Sir,

Readers of the May issue of the Socialist Standard might well be forgiven if they thought your “reply” was an answer to some other correspondent.

I certainly did not come to the defence of Mr. Clynes—1 said at once that he was shown to be wrong, neither did I mention unemployment. I, therefore, do not need to prove Messrs. Lawther, Clynes and Thomas right and I do not accept your invitation to disprove the Ministry of Labour’s figures—I can well imagine that you selected them with the greatest care. In any case, I find to my horror that I have mislaid my copy of the Ministry’s “Abstract of Labour Statistics ” (18th issue, 1926).

The point I made was that in this game of “quotations” it is as unreasonable to suppose that the other man is always wrong as it is to presume that the S.P.G.B. is always right.

I say again that to most readers the paragraph by “R.H.” on houses implied that there were no decent workers’ houses or flats and certainly no gardens. Many of the new working-class houses and flats are satisfactory and many people are happy to live in them.

The main purpose of my letter, quite clear enough, was to enquire whether the S.P.G.B. had a plan on which to base the New Order so ardently desired by those who see the evils of the present system.

Strangely enough Mr. Blenkinsopp, M.P., in his debate with your Mr. Young, asks for precisely that information and I would not be a bit surprised if some of your Party were asking for it too.

If people are to work for the system of Society outlined in the “Object” of the S.P.G.B. they will require to know just how you intend to organise it.

Once again I ask you who is to decide the capacity of each and the needs of each? Yes, Mr. Editor, I do believe that having worked for the establishment of the new system the Socialists would see it wrecked, because Human Nature being what it is, malice, envy and cupidity would dispute the other man’s capacity and would deny his needs. Many, far too many, will be avid to sit “up there” comfortably arranging it all for the other fellow.
Yours faithfully,
Sidney Bolsom.

In our May issue we published and replied to Mr. Bolsom’s earlier letter. He now says that readers might be forgiven for thinking that the reply was an answer to some other correspondent. His chief complaint appears to be that we did not devote enough of our reply to what he regarded as the “main part” of his letter. But how are we to know that the half-dozen points he raised in the first half of his letter were not his purpose in writing it, and that what he meant to be the main point was something he first mentioned halfway through?

Even so he returns to those side issues again in his second letter. He denies having come to the defence of Clynes and others who told the workers there would be no more crises, and makes the highly disingenuous statement that he “said at once that he [Clynes] was shown to be wrong.” What he actually wrote was “Could not these poor benighted dissidents possibly be right and the Party be wrong?” and so far from making a straightforward admission that Clynes was proved to be wrong, he called our case against Clynes a “game of pulling pieces out of ancient quotations .. . with the dice loaded heavily in favour of the Editor.”

On this issue it is evident that Mr. Bolsom is playing the game of suggesting that the Labour leaders were right and the S.P.G.B. wrong but doing so in such carefully chosen words that he can affect to disown the obligation of backing it up with proof. As he is in any event clearly out of his depth on the question at issue we may leave it at that.

On the question of working class housing we repeat that our contributor did not write or imply that there were no houses with gardens. As to whether they are “decent workers' houses” the answer should be obvious. Mr. Bolsom’s own words betray his attitude. He does not claim that as human beings the workers should have decent houses but implicitly accepts the attitude of all the reformers, that there are “houses” and “workers' houses," houses for the rich and houses of a lower standard for the poor.

In his first letter Mr. Bolsom raised the question of how everything will work the day after the inauguration of Socialism. He asked who would arrange for people to move to better houses, how would the houses be provided, who would arrange for the onerous and dirty jobs, etc. He wanted a detailed plan beforehand. He wanted us to believe that these problems would present difficulties. As however he had already accepted as basis of his question the assumption that before Socialism was introduced we would-have the situation that “all Peoples feel and think exactly as the Party does and are agreed on carrying out its principles,” we replied by pointing out that what he was in effect asking us to believe was "that Socialists who have worked to establish a new system of society on a basis they understand and desire will then proceed to wreck it over who shall do this or that particular job.” We asked him to give his reasons for thinking that Socialists would behave like this. Instead of giving a straight answer and saying that he thinks Socialists would themselves wreck what they had laboured to achieve be neatly sidesteps the question by telling us that “Socialists would see it wrecked," meaning presumably that it would be wrecked by the non-Socialist minority. That is a fair proposition and we will deal with it, but we must first make it clear that it is a separate proposition and needs to be dealt with separately.

Let us take first the proposition that Socialists will themselves wreck their own system. If this is what Mr. Bolsom means—and he is careful not to commit himself—we want to know from him just why he supposes they will do this It cannot be because they do not understand beforehand what Socialism will involve, because Mr. Bolsom in his first letter accepted that they will understand. Is it “human nature" that will make them behave in this perverse manner? Perhaps that is what Mr. Bolsom believes since in his second letter he writes about “human nature being what it is, malice, envy, cupidity," etc. But here again in his first letter he accepted “that human nature changes . . . and all Peoples feel and think exactly as the Party does." We of course are not responsible for Mr. Bolsom’s choice of words and we do not accept that “human nature” must change to make Socialism possible, though of course human behaviour will change in a new social environment as it has changed with past changes of the social system.

To sum up on this proposition we again ask Mr. Bolsom to tell us plainly whether he holds that Socialists will wreck the system they have worked to build up, and just why they will do this.

If, however, he really means that Socialism will be wrecked by a non-Socialist minority we are entitled to ask Mr. Bolsom how such a minority, if it exists, will succeed in destroying the social arrangements brought about by the majority and actively supported by the majority. Perhaps Mr. Bolsom visualises himself as one of these wreckers, if so perhaps he will also tell us why he will do this.

In his final paragraph Mr. Bolsom writes “once again I ask you who is to decide the capacity of each and the needs of each?" By framing this question he confirms our impression that he has not begun to understand what the Socialist case is that he sets out to criticise. The principle “From each according to ability: to each according to need" means exactly what it says. The able-bodied members of Socialist society, because they understand that co-operation in production will be serving the interest of each individual will willingly work according to their capacity; and social production (following the elimination of the vast waste inseparable from capitalism) having produced in ample supply the things needed by society the individuals will participate according to their need. Mr. Bolsom, not having understood what is the significance of his own admission that the necessary condition for the inauguration of Socialism is that the population understand and agree with Socialist principles, asks us who is to tell each individual what are his capacities and what are his needs. The answer is, of course, that the individual will do these things himself. Even Mr. Bolsom, we imagine, is not so helpless that he refrains from doing anything until somebody tells him whether he is capable of it, and refrains from quenching his thirst until somebody tells him how much he needs a drink.

With regard to the bogey of what will happen the day after the inauguration of Socialism, it should be obvious that the human race will carry on their accustomed activities in the production of food, clothing, etc., needed by them, simultaneously with arranging the change-over from productive activities then rendered unnecessary, to the new and extended production made possible by the new social system. When Mr. Bolsom tells us that human beings are so incapable of intelligent co-operation in their own interests that they will perish rather than co-operate, he should cease to look only at the sordid results of capitalism and observe to what great extent even under capitalism and in spite of it people do voluntarily co-operate for ends that they understand and are interested in promoting.
—Editorial Committee.

Reported in Hansard (1949)

From the July 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Day to Day Struggle—Meat Sandwich Front

Mr. Piratin (Communist, Mile End): “While I agree with the right hon. lady [Dr. Edith Summerskill] that it is important to fix the price for meat sandwiches, a meat sandwich might be as thin as a wafer or as thick as a coin. Is not the fact, as the hon. Member has said, that a sandwich may be 6d. one day and 8d. for exactly the same kind the next, something which the Minister could look into?” (Motion to annul Meat [Retail Prices] Order, 25/5/49.)

Workers! Advice from a Conservative

Mr. G. B. Drayson (Conservative, Skipton): “. . . The present danger to workers in this country is not that they are likely to produce themselves out of work. If one looks around at the devastation caused in our cities by war, one is amazed that the building industry still indulges in certain practices which hamper production. Surely there is enough work for generations of builders. When it is realised what a tremendous demand there is for goods: not only to re-equip our homes but also to supply markets overseas, there should be no fear that they can produce themselves out of work. What they can do is to price themselves out of work, by making the cost of our goods overseas so high that no one will be prepared to buy them.” (On the motion for the Adjournment, 13/5/49.)

Are You Convinced Now?

Mr. Ness Edwards (Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour): “In the old days men felt that if they worked hard they would work themselves out of a job. Today they have full employment. By and large, there are jobs for everybody. If they work hard they do not necessarily become unemployed . . . Workers in industry have the assurance that if in their employment they play the game by the country, they will not, as a consequence, become unemployed . . . .” (On the motion for the Adjournment. Productivity. 13/5/49.)

Irresponsible Workers

Mr. F. Messer (Labour, Tottenham South): “. . . It may be—one never knows what the people of this country are going to do, because sometimes they are most irresponsible—that at some future time there will be a Tory government . . .” (National Health Service Amendment BUI, 24/5/49.)

A Tory on the Next Depression

Mr. Brendan Bracken (Conservative, Bournemouth): “. . . I aver with sorrow that we are entering into times of depression. How deep that depression, I know not... ” (Debate on Fuel and Power, 19/5/49.)

Nationalisation—Before and After

Sir F. Sanderson (Conservative, Ealing East) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the profits of the Bank of England have been since nationalisation; and whether they show an increase or decrease on the last pre-nationalisation figures.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Financial Secretary to the Treasury): “Since the Bank of England Act, 1946, came into force, the Bank have paid to the Treasury £873,180 half-yearly in lieu of dividend, as provided in Section .1(4) of the Act. This is the same amount as the half-yearly dividend previously paid on Bank of England Stock. The balance of profit after provision for the half-yearly payment is carried to the Rest, to which was previously carried any balance of profits after provision for the half-yearly dividend ; these movements are shown in the Bank Return.” (Written Questions).

Capitalist Economies—from a Labour Party Capitalist

Mr. R. R. Stokes (Labour, Ipswich): “. . . In regard to export business, people ought to be encouraged to make more profit on their goods, and the stigma on making profits ought to be removed. The stigma ought to be put, and ought to be emphasised, on how the profits ought to be distributed. I see no harm whatever in making larger and wider margins. I would sack any managing director who was not making twice as much profit today as he did before the war . . .” (Second Reading of Finance Bill, 18/5/49.)

Tory Support for Trade Unions 

Mr. W. Shepherd (Conservative, Bucklow): “I think that any attack upon the unions at the present time in this country would be most improper. I know the difficulties which the union leaders have today in carrying their own supporters with them .... I sympathise with the attitude that the unions have to take up, and I say that there are no better industrial organisations anywhere than the trade unions in this country. I think that our union leaders today are an example to the whole world, and I wish them well in the task which they have to fulfil. (On the motion for the Adjournment. Productivity. 13/5/49.)

Fair Play for Industry—says a Labourite

Mr. W. R. Williams (Labour, Heston and Isleworth): “. . . Some of us connected with industry have all our lives been saying that the basic principle in industry must be a good day’s work for a good day’s pay. It was not until we came within a reasonable distance of a decent day’s pay and decent conditions of work and welfare that we had any time left over to deal with the converse side of industry. After having convinced our people of their rights and what is a proper return for their labour, we are now quite rightly asking them to do the right thing by industry in return.” (On the motion for the Adjournment. Productivity. 13/5/49.) 

Three Cheers for Labour Government—from the Workers ?

Mr. J. Diamond (Labour, Blackley): “. . . The Government have been most helpful in encouraging private enterprise to play its proper part, and private enterprise has decided, although somewhat belatedly, to swim with the current instead of against it, and, as a result, while using the same energy to produce more, has achieved, with the help of the Government, extraordinarily satisfactory results for which the thanks of everybody in all quarters of the House ought to go out . . . ” (On the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, 17/5/49.)

Nasty Foreigners!

Mr. R. R. Stokes (Labour, Ipswich): “. . . I must say that I am in some doubt about this question of bulk buying unless we are bulk buying with people who play the same game. It seems to me that bulk buying is O.K. in the Commonwealth and certain other countries, but when we are dealing with a lot of foreigners who cheat, it is extremely difficult to conduct it successfully ...” (On the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, 17/5/49.)

New Ways of Spelling SLUMP

Mr. Brendan Bracken (Conservative, Bournemouth): “ Some hon. Members opposite seem to doubt my statement that our export industries must soon face a depression. Now, 'depression’ is an unfashionable word. When I was very young I had an opportunity of witnessing the great slump in the United States, and nobody objected to that being called a depression. But in the middle ’thirties America was afflicted by another great weakening in sales, and the politicians, who had to win elections, declared that this sad development could not be called a depression. They said, ‘ Anyone who calls this new development, the falling-off of sales, a depression is foolish. He is the sort of man who will neither believe in Moses nor the prophets.’ Then, of course, Americans had to invent a new name, and they called the depression of the middle ’thirties a ‘recession.’ Today the Americans have found a new name for the decline in sales—and, let me remind the Minister, a heavy decline in oil sales. They are not willing to call it a depression, and I must say that their new name is a very attractive one: they call it ‘a slide' . . .  ” (Debate on Fuel and Power, 19/5/49.)
Stan Hampson

Party News Briefs (1949)

Party News from the July 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

Debate with Conservative at Southend. Southend Branch reports a very successful public debate held in the British Legion Hall at Rayleigh, near Southend, on May 19th. The Conservative Party was represented by Mr. Bernard Braine, its prospective candidate for S.E. Essex, and our representative was Comrade D’Arcy. The hall, which held about 200, could not accommodate all who desired to attend. Restrictions on the sale of literature caused the Southend members some disappointment, particularly as a large proportion of the audience was apparently Tory.

The subject of the debate, chosen by the Conservatives, was Capitalism or Socialism, but if Mr. Braine had anything to do with the choice, he did not appear to have selected wisely. He maintained that he was as concerned as the S.P.G.B. with present-day social problems. Instead of defending Capitalism, he used much of his time asserting that “Socialists in general" could not agree as to what Socialism was and that they used time and energy arguing amongst themselves. None of them, not even the S.P.G.B., could explain how it would work. Capitalism, he claimed, had been a great success in that it had been the means of a constantly rising standard of living. The social problems of today are not the peculiar product of Capitalism, but existed long before Capitalism. Society, he declared, was not class divided.

The Southend Standard reported Mr. Braine as saying:
“There is no such thing as the working class, as distinct from the rest of the population. All this talk about the working class is designed to appeal to an inferiority complex. The work shy and the inefficient—he is the man who will come out on top in the Socialist system of dis-incentives.”
J. D'Arcy warned Mr. Braine that it was the case of the S.P.G.B that he should deal with. The record of the S.P.G.B. in its hostility to the so-called Socialist parties, like the Labour Party, was sounder than that of the Conservatives. Com. D'Arcy drove home a telling attack against Capitalism which apparently confused Mr. Braine, because in his reply he admitted that he found himself in difficulty. He extricated himself from his difficulty by covering his obvious inability to defend Capitalism with confused references to “all Socialists" and the failures of “Socialist governments” as he insisted on calling them.

The debate achieved a good measure of publicity, including a good write-up in the local press. Southend branch is making every effort to arrange further debates. Outdoor meetings are held on Southend Sea-Front on Sunday evenings from 6.30 p.m.

Hackney Branch Dance and Social at Shacklewell Lane Schools on May 14th was a great success. Everyone present appeared to be having a really good time and we learn from branch members that the proceeds made a welcome addition to branch funds. We must certainly commend Hackney Branch members for the manner in which the affair was organised.

The Publicity Committee reports that there are still a few copies of “Collected Socialist Pamphlets” available for Public Libraries. On occasions in 1946 and in 1949 the committee has tried to get a quarter- page advert for our pamphlet, “Nationalisation or Socialism'' inserted in the Railway Service Journal (Railway Clerks’ Association Journal). It was anticipated that Nationalisation would be of immediate interest to railway workers. On each occasion a copy of the pamphlet was sent for perusal, but the reply was, that no advertising space was available. The committee offered to wait several months if necessary. Later a request was made for the insertion of an advert for our pamphlet “Russia since 1917" of a size down to two inches. A copy of the pamphlet was sent. The editor then says that he cannot accept our advertisement. That makes us doubt the “no space" excuse.

Belfast Meetings. The first public meeting held by the newly-formed Socialist Party of Ireland was on the day of the founding of the Party, May 29th. The meeting was a success beyond all expectations. Four speakers mounted the platform in High Street, Belfast, two from Dublin and two from the local branch. One Belfast comrade tells us that, “ I have spoken at many meetings here and elsewhere, but I was never so pleased; we had not a single hitch—even the amplifier (we had to use a loud speaker) was perfect. At its peak we had 250 people present until a long shower drove many away as the last speaker was finishing.” The meeting was re-commenced later and another audience of about 300 gathered to listen to questions and answers. Literature sales and the collection taken up were satisfactory. The meeting lasted from 3.30 p.m. to 6.40 p.m. A statement dealing with the forming of the party, its opposition to ail other parties and the Irish “border question” was duplicated and given away. These “went like wildfire.”

The Dublin members recently attended a meeting addressed by a Franciscan preacher on “Communism and how it affects the workers.” He was addressing a meeting of the Irish Bakers, Confectioners and Allied Trades Union. A comrade writes:
“Talk about taking crutches from a legless man if you had seen that guy left without Russia to lean on, it would have done your heart good.”
From a report in the Irish Independent (1/6/49) we conclude that our Dublin comrades embarrassed the reverend lecturer by exploding a lot of his notions and showing that communism and the antics of Communist Parties have nothing in common.

The Socialist Comment and Review, organ of our companion party in Australia, which temporarily suspended publication, is now being re-published. There are quantities available at Head Office which can be supplied in bundles of six different issues for sixpence, plus postage.

Notes by the Way: “Socialist" Hungary (1949)

The Notes by the Way Column from the July 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard 

“Socialist" Hungary

One of the latest additions to the fake-Socialist countries is Hungary and an organisation called the Hungarian News and Information Service exists to tell us about it. In a pamphlet called “Organisers for Plenty” we are given the same kind of stuff that the Communists have been putting out about Russia for many years and that the Labour Party puts out about “Socialist” Britain. It contains nothing at all in the way of evidence that there is Socialism in Hungary and plenty that there is not. We are told for example that there is, or will be, a comprehensive social insurance scheme so that the worker and his family “will be 'covered’ from birth to death.” The question any Socialist would ask is how could there be any need for “insurance” under Socialism. Against what evils do the Hungarian workers require protection if they have Socialism? It is only against the evils of capitalism that they need protection. The same comment can be made on the statement that the dispossessed owners of nationalised enterprises may be compensated “when the more pressing problems of production have been solved.” If Socialism exists how can they be compensated and what need would they have of compensation?

What kind of system it really is is betrayed by the statement that over 50,000 workers are to be taken from industry and agriculture “to be trained for State administration, the army, police and diplomatic services.”

One revealing give-away is a statement that in the drive for greater production “sometimes the boys on the job get too enthusiastic. In their anxiety to beat the production target they give less attention than they ought to the quality of the work turned out or to the use of defective materials.” As if workers voluntarily co-operating in production for themselves and other members of a Socialist community would fake production figures by defective work and materials.

One example of the puff designed for foreign consumption is the statement that “two weeks' paid holidays are provided which can be spent in over 350 holiday centres which rival Blackpool and Bournemouth." The gilt is somewhat taken off when this is read in conjunction with statements in different parts of other publications issued by the same organisation that the number of workers who “will receive holidays this year at considerably reduced prices or entirely free of charge" is “over 300,000" and that the number of trade unionists is 1,600,000, and the total population 9,500,000.

The pamphlet also admits that some of the Hungarians are asking “whether the planning, working and sacrifices in which the majority enthusiastically participate, is the Socialism they hoped for.” To which all the answer the writer of the pamphlet can give is that “those are they who never can see the wood for the trees.”

Capitalism Teaches

A recent issue of the journal of the Indian Post and Telegraph Workers (P. & T. Worker, February. 1949) is dedicated to those who built up the organisation, and carries a salute to “the brave and valiant heroes who are languishing behind the bars in a Free India"! It appears that they made the mistake of thinking that Indian capitalism administered by Indians would be different from Indian capitalism administered by the British. Here is the story in brief. Because of low wages and a rising cost of living the union called its members out on strike for higher pay. The government promptly retaliated by arresting the General Secretary and other officials. The next move was a meeting of the Union Executive on 24th February at which resolutions were passed, one protesting against the action of the government in interning the union officials and the second calling off the strike.

Housing in London

On 26th May Mr. C. W. Gibson, Chairman of the L.C.C. Housing Committee addressed the Town and Country Planning Association on the problems of London Housing. Mr. Gibson, according to a report in the Manchester Guardian (27/5/49), gave figures of the housing already completed and of plans for the immediate future and also the length of time it will take to complete the job even if all goes according to plan. The “grand total of houses" provided by the Councils and by private builders since the bombing is 140,889 including new, rebuilt, and repaired dwellings. The Council plans to build 100,000 new houses “as quickly as possible," also to pull down all the slums as soon as possible and put up houses in their place, a total of at least 200,000 new houses and flats.

Then he went on to describe the magnitude of the whole problem.
"This task could not be completed in a few years; the authors of the London plan envisaged fifty years of hard work. To cover slum clearance, rehousing, dwellings destroyed by enemy action, and replacement of border-line property which had “ripened into the unfit category" would require 150,000 dwellings. There had also been 380,270 new marriages during and since the war, most of them creating a new demand for a home for a young family.” (Manchester Guardian, 27/5/49.)

What comes after Labour-administered Capitalism?

In a speech to the Young Conservative Organisation at Filey on 2nd June, Mr. Anthony Eden asked what is to come after the Labour government.
“Nobody, he said, appeared to be particularly happy about the nationalised industries, and railwaymen were not, it seemed, enthusiastic about the changes which nationalisation had brought to their service. Within a few years, he believed, nationalisation would seem to be old-fashioned, and many would wonder why it was ever thought likely to provide a remedy for the problems of our time. What was to succeed it. Communism or a vigorous progressive interpretation of free enterprise?” (Manchester Guardian, 3/6/49.)
Perhaps we can do a little to enlighten Mr. Eden. And we may as well start at the end and deal with Mr. Eden's question whether Labour government will be succeeded by “a vigorous progressive interpretation of free enterprise.” We can assure Mr. Eden that there will be no return to unrestricted competitive capitalism. It is our own view and happens to be supported by no less an authority than Mr. Eden himself. For in a speech at Southampton on 8th June, while he claimed that the Tories if they got power would denationalise steel and road transport, he added:
“We shall not de-nationalise the coal industry or the railways, but it does not mean we shall not do a great deal to improve their present operation.” (Daily Mail 9/6/49.)
So it seems that a Tory government will promise us less, but better, nationalisation.

Now let us clear up other confusions. Nationalisation is State capitalism, it is not Socialism, it is not a stepping stone to Socialism and has never been supported by the Socialist Party. If those who mistakenly supported nationalisation had taken the trouble to read the Socialist Standard any time in the past 45 years they would have known that nationalisation would not provide a remedy for the problems of our time.

Lastly, though we cannot give a date, we can promise Mr. Eden that sometime the workers will turn their backs on all forms of capitalism and establish Socialism.

Another Self-made Man

On the death of Lord Leverhulme, the Evening Standard (27/5/49) gave an account of his life under the title “The man who made an empire—and £12,000,000,” The “empire” referred to is the Lever Bros, and Unilever concern valued at £70,000,000, and it was, of course, “made” like all the wealth of the capitalists, by the working class. Lord Leverhulme himself, at the death of his father in 1925, had shares worth £2,400,000. The Evening Standard values his shareholdings at current prices as over £12,000,000.

Hidden Reserves of the Shell Oil Companies

The following is from the City column of the Daily Mail (8/6/49.)
“New light on the vast financial strength of the Royal Dutch-Shell group of oil-producing, refining, and marketing companies was given in the final dividend statement last month, when profits for 1948 were revealed at the ‘record’ total for any industrial concern of £44,565,000.

“Today, in the full report of the Shell company, chairman Sir Frederick Godber makes further remarkable disclosures—to supplement the holding companies' balance-sheets.

“For instance, at December 31,1948, he states, the book value of the group’s shareholdings in public companies amounted to the equivalent of £41,069,000.

“The market value, however, was £164,862,000, showing an excess of market over book value of no less than £123,793,000 on these investments alone.

“This, therefore, has in effect been a ‘ hidden ’ or inner reserve of the group.”

Shortage of Manpower?

One of the forms of waste inseparable from a private property system results from the litigation that goes on over the ownership of property. A choice example was reported in the Evening Standard (30/6/49). In 1896 a Chancery action began over the division of an estate worth £100,000. The action has been going on ever since and a petition is shortly to be heard to finish it. The Evening Standard report tells us that “one 81-year-old managing clerk . . . has been dealing with the case since 1895. Nine firms of solicitors are engaged in the matter.”

Communists and Railways Strikers

The Daily Worker (1/6/49) made a hit when they pointed out that British newspapers which condemned the unofficial strike of the British railwaymen were quite sympathetic about the strike of the Berlin railwaymen against the Russian occupying authorities. Obviously the Press was pleased to see the Russian government or its agents embarrassed by a strike and only too anxious to be able to show the Russians up as strike-breakers.

But the criticism cuts both ways. If the Communists are interested in the welfare of the workers and not merely the stooges of the Russian government why is it that they never uttered a word in support of the German railwaymen or in condemnation of the Communist strike-breakers? The Daily Worker claims that the strikes of British railwaymen were justified because they did extort concessions not otherwise forthcoming. Exactly the same has happened over the Berlin railwaymen’s strike.

“Socialist” Brains

Replying to criticisms of the high salaries paid to members of the Nationalisation Boards, Mr. Herbert Morrison at the Labour Party Conference used the argument that they needed first class men and would not be able to get them unless they paid something approaching the market rate. This incidentally was the argument used by Lenin in Russia 30 years ago when he abandoned the Communist principle of more or less equal pay for workers and managers.

But Mr. Morrison went on to use the following phrase:
“We have not only to socialise physical assets; we have to socialise the best brains in the business world.” (Daily Herald, 11/6/49.)
This, of course, is the purest humbug. Having the mines and railways, etc., run on capitalist lines by National Boards instead of by private companies is not “socialisation.” And what does Mr. Morrison mean by socialising business brains? What the government has been doing recently, according to the Daily Mail (19th, 21st and 22nd February, 1949) is to circularise city banks and financial houses and industrial concerns asking for men “with financial and commercial experience” to take up work in the nationalised concerns. It is not a question of finding men with technical knowledge of coal mining or railway transport—there are plenty of them in the industries already—but of recruiting men with financial and commercial experience, that is men with experience of the workings of capitalist finance and trade. If production and distribution had really been socialised, i.e., if we had Socialism, that kind of experience would be the one thing not required

One last question to Mr. Morrison concerning his argument that you have to pay high salaries in order to get non-Labour Party business men to serve on Nationalised Boards. Why does this necessitate paying equally high salaries to the members of the Boards who are already members of the Labour Party? Did they too, stick out for the market rate?
Edgar Hardcastle

The Blind Will Yet See (1949)

From the July 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Leader magazine (23/4/49) carries a fascinatingly descriptive article, "World of the Bat,” by Brian Vesey Fitzgerald, naturalist. The author has kept eleven of twelve species of British bats for many years as pets to try to discover the explanation for many habits and instincts which have puzzled scientists for many years.

The bat, though it can distinguish a worm held within an inch before its eyes, is so shortsighted that to all intents and purposes it is blind. Despite this the bat can travel at great speed in irregular flights and can avoid harmful objects by a fraction of an inch by a lightning swerve or a series of swerves in a fraction of a second. The bat has been observed to fly at lightning speed at a wall, pull itself up within a quarter of an inch of the wall, and at the same time distinguish in the minutest time a spider on the wall and grab it for its food. An Italian scientist, two hundred years ago, put out the eyes of some captive bats and released than in a darkened room in which had been strung many strands of black cotton, each strand bearing a little bell. The eyeless bats flew happily up and down the room and never once touched a strand of cotton or rung a bell. And, we are told, how they did it remained a mystery until—"radar” was discovered. It is now known, it is stated, that the bat finds its way about by the same method. “They utter squeaks, and b£ picking up the echo from the squeaks know exactly where they are. The method is known as 'echo location.’ We can, if our hearing is good hear the ordinary squawk of the flying bat but the squeaks used in echo location are supersonic far above the range of human hearing.” By the aid of an instrument the supersonic squeaks can now be picked up and, the author says, a great deal is now known about them. The bat gains its information from the squeaks it emits. At rest it emits a supersonic squeak about ten times to the second, as it rises to wing it emits about thirty to the second, the faster the bat approaches an obstacle the faster becomes the rate of squeak, rising to fifty or even sixty a second, dropping to normal as soon as the obstacle is passed. Thus does the bat gain its "information” from "echo location.” 

Truly, a remarkable illustration of adaptation to environment in the non-human animal kingdom. An example of the application of scientific theory without knowledge of the theory or the powers of abstract reasoning which enables man to understand the processes of nature.

And what lessons might be drawn from the nature lesson? The bat does not learn from its environment in the sense that man learns. Millions of years of evolution reside in the animal instincts of self-preservation. The animal possesses no powers of abstract reasoning to assist it in escaping the dangers of environment. It acts upon the accumulated experiences of millions of years. Man has succeeded, through his powers, in gaining mastery over his environment and has organised himself into human society. Man faces little danger from nature. Man faces danger from the social problems in the society he has developed and organised; the problems of poverty and war, of want in a world which can produce plenty, of armed conflict which threatens vast destruction of life and social wealth.

Man endeavours to escape the dangers of society as inevitably as the animal endeavours to escape the dangers of its environment. Man, human animal, possesses with the rest of the animal kingdom the instinct to escape. He possesses also the powers of reasoning. He has the ability to learn and understand the workings of society, to modify and to change it.

Break down the abstraction "man” into the realities of the world in which we live and we have men and women organised into classes on the basis of possession of the means of production. We have, in short, the capitalist class and the working class—the former, the minority in society and the class that owns, and the latter, the majority, the class that is dispossessed. And because the working class are the majority of the men and women organised in capitalist society the main driving force to escape the problems that society throws up must, and will come from them. Throughout the entire capitalist world the idea of Socialism is shaping itself. This is so because man has more than the animal instincts of self-preservation possessed by the whole animal kingdom he has the power to reason and learn from experience. Under the pressure of the problems that capitalism creates and cannot solve, the working class will learn that Socialism alone provides the escape from these problems. It will learn from its accumulated experiences of capitalism and by simple deductions from those experiences. It will learn as inevitably as the animal evolves the instinct of self-preservation in the struggle for life. And in learning a great many working men and women may never hear of scientific socialist theories. The bat applies the scientific theories of Radar in its struggle for existence instinctively, but the workers learn from practical experience.

It is true that the half-shaped ideas of Socialism require more experience to bring them to maturity. Capitalism aggravates and accelerates its contradictions and provides the driving force to Socialism.
Capitalism is its own gravedigger.
The blind will yet see.
Harry Waite