Friday, August 5, 2022

Links in the chains (2022)

From the August 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalism enchains the vast majority of the world’s population, and the chains continue to get tighter. The question is how to bring this to the attention of the majority who haven’t yet grasped the enormity of the situation, and then how to address it to the benefit of this vast majority.

Transnational Investment Networks
‘The more complex the transnational investment networks become, the more intermediaries and jurisdictions there are, the harder it is to determine who is responsible for violations on the ground. Places sometimes are far away, hours by plane, boat and motorcycle cab – in the tropical forests on the banks of the Congo, the Sarawak and the Orinoco rivers – far away from the carpeted offices of The Hague and New York’s Fifth Avenue’ (
In reality these investment networks are enormous collaborations that are approaching almost complete control of international businesses and producers.

We can begin by taking a look at the numbers of the world’s major players in these investment companies alongside population figures across the world.

According to 2020 figures, of the top ten investment groups in the world, eight are based in the US, one in Switzerland (UBS Group) and one in Germany (Allianz). In global population percentage terms, the US represents 4.25 percent, Germany 1.07 percent and Switzerland 0.11 percent. The top three, Blackrock, Vanguard Group and Charles Schwab Corporation, all based in the US, hold 49.2 percent of global investments. Their various investment management ‘products’ consist of:
  • Mutual funds
  • Retirement income and college savings
  • Exchange traded funds
  • Asset management
  • Stocks and shares
  • Electronic trading
A vital point to be recognised is the massive ‘interconnectedness’ these companies have with major supply companies, including for food, which reveals just how tight their control over us as consumers is. This has happened gradually over time, with the majority being unaware of it, tightening the chains even further.

There are adverts for Vanguard and others on various TV channels featuring for instance ‘ordinary folk with pensions’ telling us how Vanguard have their – the people’s – best interests at heart. But look into who the majority shareholders are, and you find that they are, unsurprisingly, most of the wealthiest people in the world.

Tangled web
Food is vital to all humans every day – and the tangled web chaining us all includes food as a major element. Food is now overwhelmingly owned and controlled by major corporations which are also connected to the investment networks.

Attention has been focussed on the choices of food available, with often heated debate over meat consumption, vegetarianism and veganism, etc. However these are often just ‘surface’ chats which do not dive deep into the minutiae and possible problems at local and global levels. What needs more attention, especially following the recent and much-criticised COP26 summit, are the supposed changes needed, including reductions in emissions. And the debate needs rooting in a global perspective. The world comprises hugely different cultures and regions with diverse crops, animals and traditional foods. Perhaps the strongest focus needs to be on the important differences in health and local production in relation to organic and/or big-agriculture farming.

Last year’s demonstrations in India centred in Delhi where millions of farm owners and workers protested the government’s decision to instigate three new farm laws, which would put both land ownership and rented land at risk, with farm workers not being able to continue their chosen or inherited livelihood. Unlike most western (so-called developed) countries, the great majority of India’s working population work on the land in one way or another, and to be pushed out of the rural areas would mean living on the edges of hugely populated urban areas, searching for work that is simply unavailable. The demonstrations came to an end when the government agreed that they would repeal their decision, but the farmers are looking to restart protests as there has been no progress so far. The big agricultural companies seem to again be pushing to introduce genetically modified crops which, after some trials a number of years ago (on aubergines), were banned by the government and branded by farmers as another way of getting them off their land.

By far the farmers’ biggest grievance is continually crushing debt from seed, and chemicals including herbicides, insecticides and fertilisers, foisted on them by the international agricultural companies. Having to purchase all these items on credit, before the planting season begins, before knowing what weather-related problems to expect, or whether the sale price will cover their costs, has been a major reason for hundreds of thousands of farmers to commit suicide by drinking these same chemicals.

These international agricultural companies are also part of the investment groups mentioned above and have a growing presence globally. India is but one example. Farmers around the globe are being pressed into a system of corporate agriculture against their will and each year thousands of acres on all continents are lost to the giant agricultural corporations.

Healthy Food?
According to scientists at the Francis Crick Institute in London, the growing popularity of Western-style diets is a major reason why autoimmune diseases are rising across the world by about 3 percent – 9 percent a year. It seems that changes in our environment are increasing the predisposition to such diseases. The research team found that diets based on processed ingredients and lacking fresh vegetables can trigger autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune cases began to increase about 40 years ago in western countries and are now emerging in countries that never had these diseases before, diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis.

An estimated 4 million people in the UK currently suffer from these diseases.

The Western-style diet is one of highly processed and refined foods with high levels of sugar, salt and fat, and protein from red meat – a major contributor to metabolic disturbances and the development of obesity-related diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Biologists and others have long pointed to modern farming methods following the end of the Second World War as another factor in the growing health crisis. Three generations of industrialised farming have left land poisoned year after year by the use of toxic chemicals.

In 2014 the Corporate Europe Observatory released a report critical of the European Commission over the previous five years. The report concluded that the Commission had been a willing servant of a corporate agenda. It had sided with agribusiness on genetically modified organisms and pesticides. Far from shifting Europe to a more sustainable food and agriculture system, the opposite had happened, as agribusiness and its lobbyists had continued to dominate the Brussels scene. Consumers in Europe reject GM food but the Commission had made various attempts to meet the demands of the biotech sector to allow GMOs into Europe aided by giant food companies, such as Unilever and the lobby group FoodDrinkEurope. Democracy in action?

The facts are plain, but still the chains tighten. Food choices, especially for the global poor, are restricted year after year. The poorer you are, the poorer your choice of diet, from processed everything, and children not knowing what real food is, to cereals containing proven dangerous levels of Monsanto’s Roundup, and myriad nutritionally worthless snack foods, all reaping healthy profits for investors. Check out the supermarkets and the fast food chains in the lists of the investment companies and note that the money goes where the biggest returns can be made.

This is all about the power of money, the overwhelming power of a system that exists to channel as much money as possible into the pockets of the wealthiest. As Klaus Schwab announced recently at a World Economic Forum gathering, ‘You’ll own nothing and you’ll be happy about it.’

Some of the business sectors to be found in the Transnational Investment Networks are: Big Tech (Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, etc. all in the hands of the same investment companies), food and agriculture industries, media of all kinds, pharmaceuticals, travel companies, airlines, booking agents, energy and mining, textiles, fashion brands, oil refineries, solar power companies, tobacco, cars, planes, and weapons.

Superficially companies and corporations appear to be in competition with each other while in reality, when digging below the surface, the major investors and the corporations themselves are cross-invested in their rivals. In this way the major investment holders hedge their risks and ensure their grip on the system.

Mission accomplished? Chains permanently locked? Looking at all of this from a socialist perspective where profits are not part of the equation, the matter is at least easier to grasp, if not solve.
Janet Surman

Cooking the Books: An arms economy? (2022)

The Cooking the Books column from the August 2022 issue of the Socialist Standard

Speaking in June at Eurosatory, a weapons industry fair, French President Macron said that France ‘has entered into a war economy’ (

Strictly speaking, this is not true as a ‘war economy’ is when a state at war mobilises its economy for the one aim of winning the war. France is not currently at war, even though it is playing its part in arming NATO’s proxies in Ukraine. All he seemed to mean was that the French state should devote more resources to equipping its armed forces with the most up-to-date weapons of death and destruction and, as he was speaking at a merchants of death trade fair, selling some to other states.

There is another sense in which the term ‘war economy’ has been used – ‘military Keynesianism’. Keynes argued that there was no tendency under capitalism towards full employment and that the situation could occur, as in a slump, where not enough paying demand was being generated to bring about full employment. His answer was that the state should step in and increase its spending so as to boost demand. ‘Military Keynesianism’ is if this spending is on arms.

This appeared to work in Germany where the Hitler government’s spending on re-armament did reduce unemployment. In the US, too, the mass unemployment of the 1930s was not eliminated till the US entered the war. When the war ended this was not followed by a slump as many expected (including ourselves). One explanation that was offered for this was the continuing high level of government military spending.

One variety of this was the ‘permanent arms economy’ theory, espoused in Britain by the SWP’s predecessor, the International Socialists, and expounded by its economic expert, Michael Kidron. In an article with this title in 1967 ( and repeated in his 1968 book Western Capitalism since the War, Kidron said he shared ‘the assumption that we should collapse into over-production and unemployment were it not for some special offsetting factor’. That factor, he went on to argue, was a ‘permanent arms budget’.

He offered two explanations of how this worked to save capitalism. The first was pure military Keynesianism. ‘Expenditure on arms is expenditure on a fast-wasting end-product’, he wrote, that ‘constitutes a net addition to the market for ‘end’ goods’ and that ‘one obvious result of such expenditure is high employment and, as a direct consequence of that, rates of growth amongst the highest ever’.

But he also advanced the opposite view that arms spending slowed down the rate of capital accumulation and the fall in the rate of profit this caused and saved capitalism in that way. ‘Were capitalism left alone to invest its entire pre-tax profit, the state creating demand as and when necessary, growth rates would be very much higher’. It was this over-accumulation which, if unchecked, would lead to ‘collapse into over-production and unemployment’.

He was right about government arms spending slowing down capital accumulation as, having to be paid for out of taxes on profits, it reduced the amount of profits available for re-investment. But he was wrong that this saved capitalism from collapse. For, while there is indeed ‘a permanent threat of over-production’ under capitalism this is for other reasons than any long-term trend for too much capital accumulation leading to a fall in the overall rate of profit.

In any event, the permanent arms economy turned out to be not so permanent. It did not prevent the post-war boom, caused by reconstruction and the expansion of world markets, coming to an end in 1973 and replaced by a two-year period of slump that no government expenditure on arms or anything else was able to end. Keynes was wrong and so was military Keynesianism as an explanation of the post-war boom.

Blogger's Note:
A review of Michael Kidron's Western Capitalism Since the War appeared in the October 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard.

Sir Anthony Eden’s Prophetic
 Words (1956)

From the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Almost daily we are urged to worship at the shrine of “progress"; progress in science and its application to industry and of the promise it holds out for the betterment of mankind. We hear of the marvels of atomic power, of radar and radio, of computing machines, of belt systems and automation. With all this “progress” how is it that insecurity and poverty cannot be banished from our lives? After two devastating world wars, numerous lesser wars and half a century of gigantic scientific development Sir Anthony Eden, the Prime Minister, tells us now:
 "We are in mortal peril, not of immediate unemployment, but of poverty by stages.

  “Inflation is the new battle of Britain. We are all in it, and upon its outcome our homes, our jobs, and our children's future depends."
(Sunday Express, 14/7/56).
There are multitudes of hands to produce and plenty of material to work upon but the system is running down because of an alleged flaw in the monetary arrangements. Could anything be more crazy? Robinson Crusoe had no money but he could feed and house himself. Our forefathers fed, housed themselves, and carried their social systems on centuries before money came into existence. People in all past ages have lived in comfort, meeting their needs, without the intervention of money and the worry about inflation. What is the real cause of the trouble; why is inflation only a bugbear of modern times?

Our early forefathers carried on production for the sole purpose of meeting their needs. Now the situation is entirely different. Production is not carried on for the purpose of meeting people’s needs. The aim of production is to so arrange it that a profit is made in order that shareholders and bondholders may draw their dividends without needing to work. Hence the Haves and the Have-nots—the workers and the Capitalists—those who must sell their physical and mental energies in order to get the wherewithal to meet their needs and those who can meet their needs without having to sell their energies.

Production today is for the market, and conditions in the market determine how, when, where and if a portion or all of the product will be sold. Conditions in the market can bring prosperity, financial difficulty, or even ruin to many producing concerns as crises of the past have borne witness. If one type of goods is produced too much in excess of what the market can absorb the competition to find buyers leaves some losers in the struggle, which appears to be what is happening in some industries to-day, like the motor industry. If the unsold surplus is large, or if there is an anticipation that this is going to happen, then there is a cut in production and workers are discharged. The strange part of it is that there can be a large unsold surplus of the very things that the mass of people are sorely in need of but cannot buy because of their limited resources. With only their wages or salaries to depend upon the workers are always on the side that loses when these troubles come.

Inflation is not the cause of poverty, though governments precipitate trouble by debasing the currency and issuing insufficiently backed current notes in the vain hope of getting out of financial difficulty—or just through plain ignorance.

Money is the medium of market dealings and products must be turned into money before profit, the object of market dealings, can be realised. Thus there is no way out of the crazy dilemma whilst buying and selling continues to be the means of transferring the product to the consumer. Whilst the means of production are privately owned by an individual, a company, or a State concern buying and selling will still go on. The answer, then, is to abolish this private ownership and substitute for it the common ownership of the means of production and distribution. When this is done human needs and not profit will be the aim of production and money, and all the evils associated with it, will disappear.

Relieve Sir Anthony of the worry of inflation by establishing Socialism. You can do so if you want to. If you heed Sir Anthony's warning about your children you will make haste to join in the battle for Socialism, for it alone will guarantee comfort and security to your children.

Party News Briefs (1956)

Party News from the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

From Wythenshawe, near Manchester, comes news of more good work by one of our comrades. In the recent sales drive for May he played his full part and disposed of over 300 copies of the Socialist Standard. But as far as he is concerned, this is only a step in the right direction and does not intend to rest on his laurels. He has already exceeded his May record and is now introducing our pamphlets to his "customers" with good results.

In a recent letter to the secretary of the Ealing Branch, he tells of his assaults on the "better class" areas around Manchester and the gains made. These are not his favourite haunts, however—the front gardens are too long and (some of) the dogs too fierce (cost to date—one pair of trousers).

This news makes excellent reading at a time when one hears far too often the monotonous story of political stagnation all round. All power to his elbow. Just one small point of correction, though. "Wythenshaw is the area for propaganda,” he says. Quite correct, comrade, but so is any and every area where Socialists are, and propaganda efforts of one sort or another must go on all the time.

June sales by this energetic comrade number 600!

Camberwell Branch has been so busy that they did not have an opportunity to sum up the special efforts made in May sales of the Socialist Standard, until it was too too late for press in the July issue. However, since the branch’s part in the sales drive was so successful the following report: is of interest. As may be remembered, the branch aimed at a sale of 22 dozen Standards, which was double the usual monthly quota. During May, four members made a total of 14 canvasses. These took place in blocks of flats covering the Kennington Oval and Tulse Hill, Brixion Estates. The whole area had been visited with free back-numbers previously and 43 dozen May Standards were sold. The branch is more than pleased with the genera] response of workers, and strongly recommends this form of Party activity. The figure quoted above includes sales at meetings but certainly the result far exceeds anything the Branch had hoped for.

Ealing Branch filled a couple of cars for a propaganda trip to Southsea on Sunday, July 15th. A useful meeting was held, which carried on well past the usual closing time, with interested questions coming along. Literature sales—which incidentally the branch are finding generally higher this year, were encouraging. On 22nd July Kingston Branch went down and went one better than Ealing with two meetings—one in the afternoon and one in the evening. Other branches may well find it worthwhile to visit this spot and combine a day's outing with putting over some Socialist views.

Other Ealing Branch meetings—at Ealing Green on Saturdays at 3.30 p.m. and Heron Court, Richmond, at 8 p.m. on Mondays—have started well. More support from members is needed to help the branch’s efforts along.
Phyllis Howard

Notes by the Way: The New Lie About Stalin’s Dictatorship (1956)

The Notes by the Way Column from the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The New Lie About Stalin’s Dictatorship

Now that the Communists are denouncing Stalin's dictatorship they are putting forward the pretence that his dictatorship was a departure from the principles of Lenin and the Russian Communist Party.

The following declarations made by Lenin and Zinoviev in 1920, give this the lie direct
  "Now we are repeating what was approved by the Central Executive Committee two years ago in an official resolution! Now we are drawn back to a question that was decided long ago, in a manner approved of and made clear by the Central Executive Committee—namely, that the Soviet Socialist Democracy is in no way inconsistent with the rule and dictatorship of one person; that the will of a class is at times best realised by a dictator, who sometimes will accomplish more by himself and is frequently more needed. At any rate, the principle towards one person rule was not only explained a long time ago, but was also decided by the Central Executive Committee."
(Lenin. Collected Works, Vol. 17, page 89. first Russian Edition).

"Every conscious worker must understand that the dictatorship of the working class cannot be realised otherwise than by means of the dictatorship of its advanced guard—the Communist Party."
O. Zinoviev in the Communist International, June-July, 1920).

How the Other Dockers Live

The £24 million Birmingham Small Arms group, manufacturers of motor cars, cycles, small arms and machine tools, has been in the news through the dismissal of Sir Bernard Docker from his position as Chairman and Managing Director and his replacement by Mr. John Sangster. Quite a number of interesting things have come out

First Sir Bernard Docker declared how small is the ownership of most of the shareholders:—
"There are 17,000 shareholders in the B.S.A. group. Anart from half-a-dozen or so big names, the average holding amounts to only a few hundred pounds."
(Evening Standard, 1st June, 1956). 
Then the report of an income tax case brought out how much one of the “big names" owns. Mr. John Sangster, the new Chairman of B.S.A. The following are extracts from the report in the Daily Mail (4 July, 1956): 
 "Mr. John Sangster, 60-year-old millionaire of the B.S.A. group, paid a cheque for £2,000,000 into his deposit account with a Birmingham bank. It caused him considerable trouble."
(The “trouble" was about the correct amount of tax payable on the interest, not simply the trouble of owning £2,000,000.)

The Daily Mail explains how he came to have a cheque of this not inconsiderable amount.
"In 1951 he sold his Triumph motor-cycle company to B.S.A. for £2,400,000. He said then: ’The threat of death duties forced me to sell.' "
Then we learned interesting tit-bits about Sir Bernard, from Mr. Sangster and abut B.S..A. from Sr Bernard.

It appears from the statement issued by B.S.A. that 
“in one year Sir Bernard received over £44,000 in fees and expenses. Five special Daimlers he ordered cost the company £50,000. He spent over £2,000 attending the Grace Kelly wedding in Monaco."
(Daily Mail, 17 July, 1956.)
Lady Docker also had some entertaining things to say about her ostentatious ways of living. Her main argument was that it was all good business for the B.S.A.'s Daimler car company. But she also claimed that she did it to please the workers. A Daily Telegraph reporter, who interviewed her, talked about her expensive clothes:—
 "Another dress, of rose, fully embroidered, was stated to have cost £580, Lady Docker said she wore at a company dance. ‘I always like to look glamorous for the workers and everybody there. They expect me to. I always dress up, even when I walk round the factories.’" (Daily Telegraph, 13th July, 1956). 
To the attacks on him and his wife Sir Bernard retorted by accusing the B.S.A. bosses of extravagance. He mentioned the £12,500 Glandyl Castle, bought by the company to hold records and management meetings, on which “something like £30,000 must have been spent" on furnishing. (Daily Express, 18 July, 1956). This latter expenditure was made without his knowledge and he did not approve.

With all this tossing about of large sums of money the workers were not entirely forgotten for in October last Sir Bernard announced that at “high cost to the company" the hourly-paid workers of B.S.A. were being offered the chance of entering Pension and Life Assurance scheme, on a contributory basis. (Economist, 10/10/55). Of course they would not be able to provide for their retirement on quite the same scale as Sir Bernard or Mr. Sangster.

The Daily Herald Editorial (19 July, 1956), joyfully welcomed all the rumpus and disclosures about B.S.A., ending, "Tell us more, tell us more, tell us more!"

Certainly we shall tell the Herald more. All of this sort of thing goes on in what the Herald calls the "Welfare State" and it was in full swing when the Labour Government was in office for six years.

Great Ike and Great Anthony

The Communist Daily Worker often says nasty things about. Eisenhower and Sir Anthony Eden. It had better look out or it may find itself out of step with its new heroes Kruschev and Bulganin, for at a dinner in Moscow on 24 June, 1956, these two were toasting Eisenhower and Eden in more than glowing terms. The following is from the Moscow report in the Daily Mail (25 June, 1956):
 "Another incident of an amazing night was Marshal Bulganin's toast to Sir Anthony Eden: 'Along with such a great man as President Eisenhower, to whose recovery my friend Kruschev proposed a toast, I propose a toast to another great man-our friend Eden.' "
The Daily Worker (25 June) carried a report of the same dinner but not the toast to the great pair. Their reporter did, however, record Bulganin as saying that Eden is “an honest, straightforward person, our friend."

If the great, honest, straightforward Eden is a friend of Bulganin should not the Daily Worker be his friend too?
Edgar Hardcastle

50 Years Ago: Are We Justified? (1956)

The 50 Years Ago column from the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Are We Justified?

Ever since its formation it has been urged against the S.P.G.B. that its attitude towards reforms or palliatives was not wise. It is contended by many that the best policy consists in agitating for this or that reform with a view to assisting the workers to get something now.

The L.R.C. (now the Labour Party) at their Conference held in Liverpool in January, 1905, carried with acclamation a resolution stating that their ultimate object is the socialisation of the means of production, distribution, etc. Neither in the speeches, writings, or actions, of its advocates, however, can much trace of this ultimate object be found, the immediate object apparently taking up the whole of their time and energy.

Whether the immediate complaint that the worker is suffering from too long hours, insufficient food, sweated conditions, or any other of the evils inherent in capitalism, the S.P.G.B. has always maintained that nothing short of Socialism could possibly effect a cure, and has consequently steadfastly refused to be drawn into any reform agitation whatsoever urging that the quickest way to get “something now” even, is to organise to obtain the whole.

To those who pooh-pooh this view; to those who call us impossibilists for holding it; to those who imagine that they are practical politicians while we are in the clouds; to all these the following extract from Lord Avebury’s speech on the burden of armaments made in the House of Lords on the 25th of May is offered for consideration:
  "The unrest in Europe, the spread of Socialism . . . was a warning to the governments and the governing classes that the condition of the working class in Europe was becoming intolerable, and that if revolution were to be avoided some step must be taken to increase wages, reduce the hours of labour, and lower the prices of the necessaries of life."
Let the workers of the world organise for Socialism and refuse to be drawn from the straight path. They may rely upon it that the more determination they evince to follow this course the more frequently will speeches like the extract given be heard preceding the reforms that will be thrown to them, in order that Lord Avebury and Co. may secure a little longer time in which to enjoy the good things of life, and in order that the day when the working class shall come by its own may be postponed. “Something now" will be obtained, not by agitating for reform, but by organising for revolution, a work which, in this country, the Socialist Party of Great Britain alone is performing.

From the August, 1906, Socialist Standard.

Chinese Hack Stalin (1956)

From the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

The "Communist” ruling clique in China can scarcely conceal their jubilation over the volte-face in Russian policy since the recent Congress of the Soviet Communist Party touched off the new Party line of vilifying Stalin. But the Chinese go further in attacks on Stalin than Moscow—the beating of Stalin with proverbial scorpions started in an attack in an article on April 4th, that is, considerably before Kruschev’s much publicised speech on Stalin's misdeeds, published in The People’s Daily (the equivalent in China of the Times in this Country). The Russian attacks until that time had been confined to the period covering the last years of Stalin's life, but the Chinese went back as far as the late 1920's during the Civil War in China between the Communist Party and the Nationalists and show that by the Chinese Communist Party following Stalin’s dictates “the result was that instead of isolating the real enemy we isolated ourselves and inflicted blows on ourselves which benefited the real enemy." The Chinese level a variety of charges against Stalin including one that “Stalin failed to draw the lessons from particular, local and temporary mistakes on certain issues and so failed to prevent them from becoming serious errors involving the whole nation over a long period of time!!" The Russian ruling-class, for whom Stalin was for many years the chief spokesman, have in fact piled up quite an imposing lot of treacheries against their Chinese "Communist" comrades. Firstly, there, was Stalin's instructions to the Chinese Communist Party to co-operate with the Nationalists. The Nationalists, emboldened by this policy, suddenly turned on the Communists and butchered them in their thousands. Stalin abandoned them.

Chou-en lai, the present Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, was one of the Communist leaders in Shanghai who by a remarkable chance escaped. Mao-Tse Tung and the rest of those elsewhere who escaped are not likely to forget this formerly unpaid debt to Stalin that they now have a chance to work off. Secondly, during the blockade of the Chinese Communists by the Nationalists it was the Soviet advisers under the control of Stalin who advocated the disastrous policy of static warfare. It was when this policy was abandoned that the Chinese Communist Armies became more mobile and became more successful. But this was learning the hard way and meanwhile Chinese Communists were driven by the Soviet advisers like pigs to the slaughter.

But there was also the question of Stalin's disastrous theory to overcome. Stalin considered peasants as being merely the “packhorses of civilisation" and that no revolutionary party could be built on them. The advice therefore to the Chinese was to capture the cities and thus to get the city proletariat into the revolt—no workers, no Communism. That was the Russian dogma—but it was in the cities that the Nationalists were the strongest and the Communists were not able to hold a single large city, being repulsed with tremendous losses.

At the conclusion of the second world war when the Japanese capitulated to Russia their arms and ammunition and their control of Manchuria and China were handed over by Statin not to the Communists who had borne the brunt of the Chinese war against the Japanese but to their mortal enemies the Nationalists. Thus was the Chinese civil war again precipitated, plunging the population into all the horrors that a civil war can cause.

The Chinese Communists could not be expected to miss a chance to vent their spleen on Stalin—their pet aversion—and all this is thoroughly understood by those in power in Russia at the moment. Mao Tse Tung was the only leader of the Soviet bloc countries who did not go to Moscow for Stalin’s funeral.

The latest developments in the Soviet Union cannot be understood properly if one fails to see them in the perspective of Soviet relations with other countries, and Soviet/Chinese relations occupy, in this respect, a position of special importance. Foreign policies of capitalist countries are intimately linked with their need for foreign trade. Industrial enterprises usually are concerned with development of their production. Sometimes the effect of many concerns all expanding as best they can produces an overall picture of haphazard development whereby the existing markets can no longer absorb the products produced and it becomes imperative to expand these markets and enter new ones. This is where foreign policy can be useful such as in opening the way for trade by friendly relations and by conducting trade treaties. The State Capitalist economy of Russia is no exception to all this.

Since Stalin's death Russia has been desperately trying to develop economic and diplomatic relations with any country who might reciprocate. Stalin died in March, 1953, leaving not only a legacy of strained Soviet/Chinese relations, but a rival figure in world Communism—Mao Tse-Tung—the head of a State with a population of 500 million. Mae Tse-Tung was the leader of an Asian Communist Party who had achieved victory in an Asian country moreover not with Russian advice but against it. Furthermore, many of the countries of S. E. Asia have a sizeable Chinese minority who because of their position of dominance in various trades and industry wield a power out of proportion to their numbers. These Chinese look to Mao Tse-Tung and China for inspiration and backing. Stalin is no more: Russia is a long way away. But China is closer, and anyway has three times the man-power of Russia which sees influence passing to the Chinese.

The Chinese were quick to press their advantage. Chou En-lai visited India and Burma, where he signed with Nehru and U.Nu the five principles of co-existence. His participation in the Bandung Conference, together with visits of other Chinese leading personalities, has enhanced Peking's prestige in Asia.

Long before they visited this country, Bulganin and Krushchev in October, 1954, went to Peking. At the close of the visit a communique was issued containing a number of political and economic concessions by the Soviet Union to China. Since then Russian policy has been to make further concessions to China. They also went on a barnstorming tour of other Asian countries and outdid the Chinese by offering economic concessions to successfully expand Russian trade.

The violent attacks on Stalin by the Chinese Communists should not be ascribed to personal bitterness. Were this the case, then surely these attacks would have been made at the times when Stalin perpetrated those foul actions and personal feelings were running high. Presumably it was not advisable in the interests of the budding capitalism of China to bring these points up before. There is little emotion entering into the apparent friendships between Capitalist groups either within the “Communist" block or the “Democratic” group. “Friendship" is merely an expression of foreign policy which is liable to change to suit altered conditions. Capitalist friendship frequently conceals throat-cutting, their advice may be pitted with treachery (as the Chinese Communist found out to their cost), co-operation may camouflage competition and co-existence conceal moves to “liberate” and exploit weaker groups.

The attacks on Stalin by the Chinese should be considered as the expression of one expanding power to a rival, and, incidentally, as revealing the stresses and contradictions in Capitalist relations of the type that this system of society continually throws up.
Frank Offord

The Passing Show: The Vanguard (1956)

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

The Vanguard

The Communist Party proudly boasts that it is “the party of the working-class," 'the vanguard of the proletariat.' It bases this claim on the fact that when members of the working-class who live in the countries of the Anglo American bloc go on strike or demand higher pay, the Communist Parties of those countries usually give them support. But this is not the real test. The real test is this—what do the Communist Parties do in those countries where they are in power? The answer is, of course, quite clear to anyone who studies the systems obtaining in those countries with an unbiassed mind—the Communist Party in power builds up a system of State Capitalism, in which the workers are denied even those elementary democratic freedoms which they have won in those countries where capitalism has been established for a longer time.


The Communist Party's claim to be a Socialist Party rests chiefly on the sympathy they appear to extend to the workers in countries where they do not form the government. But if this makes the Communists into supporters of Socialism, it also makes all the other ruling classes in the world into Socialists.

For example, when there are any disturbances or strikes in Communist-dominated countries, the Press in the Western countries immediately leaps to defend the strikers. The authorities in the Communist-dominated country (just like the authorities in any other country, when faced with a similar situation) allege that all the trouble is caused by agitators. But the supporters of the ruling class in the Western world claim that the real reason is the oppression of the working class. After the recent riots in Poznan, the Sunday Times—an avowed supporter of capitalism—had this to say (1-7-56):
“For the cause of the riots was primarily economic. They were an outburst of discontent by over-driven, underfed industrial workers. Suggestions that they were the result of long planning by 'imperialist agents' are discounted by authoritative observers in the West and Poland itself."

Kind Words Cost Nothing

How easy it is for a ruling class, or its supporters, to sympathize with the victims of oppression by a rival ruling class! This kind of sympathy has nothing to do with Socialism, or with the support for the international working-class. It is simply a part of the cold war. The British ruling class weeps crocodile tears for the sufferings of the workers—on the other side of the Iron Curtain; and the Russian ruling class loudly bemoans the fate of the workers—on this side of the barrier. The Communist Parties of the Western World are simply the agents of the Russian ruling class in this propaganda war.


The British Motor Corporation has decided that 6,000 of its workers are redundant, and has sacked them on the spot, giving them a week’s pay in lieu of notice. This action seems unnecessarily arbitrary, so much so that even the Conservative Chancellor, Mr. MacMillan, and the Minister of Labour, Mr. MacLeod, have indulged in some finger-wagging at the B.M.C. The unions feebly say they ought to have been consulted first; as if a man is any less unemployed because discussions have gone on about him before he got the sack. Several factories went on strike as soon as the news spread; and subsequently the leaders of all the unions concerned met and recommended a withdrawal of all labour from the British Motor Corporation from July 23rd.

But what the union leaders appear to have overlooked is that in this kind of situation a strike may play into the hands of the employers. At the present time too many cars are being produced for the economic demand; production is running at too high a level. A strike will reduce production again; it is equivalent to the B.M.C. sacking all its workers for a week or two, or however long the strike lasts, without pay or compensation of any kind. Indeed, the action of the B.M.C. was so abrupt that it raises the question whether the corporation did not intend to precipitate a strike by its employees.


But what else can the workers do in this situation. The answer is—Nothing. Under capitalism the workers always get the thick end of the stick. In some circumstances the workers can use the weapon of strike action to defend their standards of living and even to raise them; but when the employers have more labour-power than they can use, it is a bad time for the workers to strike. The only way the workers can bring about a lasting and worthwhile improvement in their conditions is to abolish capitalism and create, in its place, a Socialist society.

“Towards” Equality

From 1945 to 1951 the Labour Party was in power in this country, and it constantly proclaimed that it was pushing through a social revolution. The constant reply of the Socialist Party—which looks not at what men say, but at what they do—was “what revolution?” And now the Labour Party itself seems to have come round to the same point of view. For it has recently issued a new pamphlet "Towards Equality" and in it is contained the remarkable admission that after six years of Labour Government “half Britain’s wealth is still owned by one per cent. of the population while half the nation own little more than their personal and household effects" (Reynolds News, 8-7-56). This pattern of property-distribution—with the small Capitalist class owning vast amounts of wealth, and the large working class owning hardly anything—is the same as it was in 1945, before the Labour Party came to power, and in 1951, after it had carried through all its reforms. The Labour Party made no change at all in the Capitalist nature of society; it turned various industries over from private to State Capitalism—but Capitalist they remained. Has the Labour Party learned anything from its failure in 1945-51? Judging by the pamphlet, it has not. The old panaceas are trotted out—better pensions, higher family allowances, industrial democracy (whatever that might be in a capitalist society)—they are all there. The Labour Party has nothing better to offer than further doses of the reformist medicine which (as its pamphlet now virtually admits) failed so abysmally last time.

Touching Tale

From the Evening Standard, 21-6-56:
“The 71-year-old Duchess of Leinster has been telling my reporter why she has settled in Jersey, where income tax is 4s. in the pound and where there are no death duties. It is, she said, ‘ a mother’s duty.'

“Living here is my only chance of helping my children,’ added the Duchess. ’If you have got any feelings for your family, you will do everything possible to safeguard their future.'"
The older members of the working class who are now surviving (living is too strong a word) on the Old Age Pension, and who would be profoundly thankful to have an income on which it was possible to pay income tax, may be interested to hear about the Duchess. It is clear that this kind of parental affection is confined to members of the upper class. You never hear of aged workers retiring to Jersey on the grounds that red wine is 3s. 6d. a litre, expensive cars cost £700 less than in London, and petrol is a third cheaper—further reasons given by the Duchess for her move. But though driven from her homeland by excessive taxation, the Duchess is still one jump ahead of the workhouse. Her son-in-law and daughter (the Duke and Duchess of Bedford, as readers will know), bought the 24-roomed farmhouse where she is living for £18,000, and are spending £10,000 on renovations.
"In a fortnight’s time the.Duchess is going away on a 10-week caravan holiday on the Continent. The 18-foot caravan has been built to her design. Her chef and his wife will be going, too."
Which forms a pleasant contrast to the charity Day’s Outing to Southend, which is the corresponding treat enjoyed by aging members of the useful class in society.
Alwyn Edgar

Editorial: Boom-Time (1956)

Editorial from the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Under the conditions of accumulation supposed thus far, which conditions are those most favourable to the labourers, their relation of dependence upon capital takes on a form endurable, or as Eden says, “ easy and liberal." Instead of becoming more intensive with the growth of capital, this relation of dependence only becomes more extensive, i.e., the sphere of Capital’s Exploitation and rule merely extends with its own dimensions and the number of its subjects.

A larger part of their own surplus-product, always increasing and continually transformed into additional capital, comes back to them in the shape of means of payment, so that they can extend the circle of their enjoyments, can make some addition to their consumption fund of clothes, furniture, etc., and can lay by small reserve funds of money.

But just as little as better-clothing, food, and treatment and a larger pecullium (Pecullium: pocket-money given to slave by master), do away with the exploitation of the slaves, so little do they set aside that of the wage-worker.

A rise in the price of labour, as a consequence of accumulation of capital, only means, in fact, that the length and weight of the golden chain the wage-worker has already forged for himself, allow of a relaxation of the tension of it. (Karl Marx,“ Capital,” Vol. 1, page 676. Kerr edition, 1921).

Editorial: Yes, Indeed (1956)

Editorial from the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a television programme called Points of View on June 1st, 1956, Sir Beverley Baxter spoke fervently in favour of minorities as such.

"Remember it is from the minorities that your leadership comes,” he said. And again: "In every civilization there is an old saying—look to your minorities.” 

It is gratifying to hear such words—even though they are silly—from Sir Beverley. Perhaps in his next television appearance he will reconcile them with his contemptuous behaviour towards the S.P.G.B., which ranges from failing to turn up for a public debate to misrepresenting us in a newspaper and being thoroughly rude when he was asked about it.

The Crackmen's Lot — and the Safe-Makers (1956)

From the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalist prosperity has been very good for the safe-makers. Well-filled order books are reported by all the big manufacturers, and exports have increased considerably. Not a re-assuring piece of news for the burglar, of course, though apparently he’s doing his best to cope, improving his efficiency and competitiveness in the true capitalist spirit. As an interesting little article in the Financial Times stated the other day (18th July):—
 “The essential problem for the heavy safe maker is to keep at least one step ahead of the burglar. The number of attacks on safes and strongrooms may not have increased in recent years, but the methods of the burglar have kept pace with scientific advance.

“The safe cracksman to-day may well employ as standard equipment the oxy-acetylene blowpipe, electric drills and explosives."
Really trying hard to move with the times, one must agree. And, naturally, the safe-makers must do the same. 
  “The best of modern safes are designed to be resistant against any foreseeable kind of attack. Thus the walls are constructed of several types of different steels, each with its own particular resistant property. Some of these special steels have proved totally impenetrable to the blowpipe.

“Explosive is a common method of attack to-day, especially as a means of shattering the locks. Anti-explosive devices are now provided so that even if the lock is completely destroyed the door will remain firmly closed."
At the same time, of course, the safe manufacturers must make a lot of security arrangements on their own account. It would never do, for example, to leave a lot of duplicate safe numbers lying about.
 “Safe makers are very careful about their own security arrangements. They keep no copies of keys or records, while at their works the safes are known by number only and the customer is never disclosed.

 “The choice between combination or key lock is a matter for the customer’s preference. The idea that the burglar can hear a combination lock fall into place is claimed by the makers to be a complete fallacy, however. A four tumbler combination may have 100m. different combinations. The cracksman reduces these odds by trying first obvious numbers, such as dates of birthdays in the owner's family."
What with a 100 million different combinations to choose from, steel doors to blow open, no possibility of hearing the tumblers falling into place, plus other such hazards as the local policeman seeing a light or hearing the bang, the cracksman doesn’t seem to have much of a chance. But the manufacturers apparently aren’t so sure.

So unsure are they that they have set themselves a standard of workmanship and reliability. What it is, you’ll never guess.,
  “The standard which is normally worked to is that the safe or strong-room should resist attack by known methods for a period of four days—the length of the longest bank holiday."
Henceforth, our Easters and Christmases are going to have added sorrow—the thought of safe-manufacturers lying awake at nights wondering whether their standard is going to last the week end. One thing’s a necessity under capitalism:—a sense of humour!
Stan Hampson

Letter: Parliament, Leaders and Nationalisation (1956)

Letter to the Editors from the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Reader’s Ojections Answered

Greenford, Middx.

Dear Sir,

I have read your literature very carefully and heartily agree with most of the ideas expressed therein but feel that I cannot join your party.

Briefly my reasons are as follows:

1. You appear to scorn Parliamentary Representation, which to me seems essential at least for the present. Weak and “Wishy-Washy” as the Labour Party is, it does at least present some opposition to the ruling body, and show them that everyone does not agree with their idea of running the country. '

2. Unless I have misread your books it seems you do not believe in "Leaders.” Surely there must be someone in each phase of the country's activities, capable of stepping into vacated posts and directing affairs.

3. The comparative failure of Nationalisation was, I think, due to the fact that they were still directed by the old bosses, simply because the Labour Party had no one ready or capable of doing the job resulting in at least partial sabotage at the top.

Yours sincerely,
B. S. Anderson.

1. Political Action
Our correspondent has not at all understood our position. Political action is an absolute necessity to achieve Socialism. This requires that Socialists shall send their delegates to Parliament and the local councils for the purpose of achieving Socialism. It does not mean that Parliament can impose Socialism on a non-Socialist electorate, or induce a non-Socialist electorate to accept the Socialism that they do not want or understand. The S.P.G.B. has no members in Parliament only because there are too few Socialists to send them there. In the post-war elections at which the S.P.G.B. put up candidates they were at the bottom of the poll because the overwhelming majority of electors, not being Socialists, wanted Tory or Labour or Liberal or Communist administered capitalism and did not want Socialism.

If our correspondent attaches value to the government of the day being opposed by the Opposition of the day he cannot fail to get it under the parliamentary system of this country. When the Tories are in the Labour Opposition try to dispute with them the way they ran capitalism and when Labour is in the Tories will do the same for them. But this is not what Socialists want. We are opposed to capitalism and strive all the time to get the workers to see that minor differences in the way capitalism is administered are not their concern.

Our correspondent is quite wrong in thinking that we oppose the Labour Party because it is “weak and wishy-washy.” We oppose it because it is not Socialist, and we question the opinion that its running of capitalism could be described as weak and wishy-washy. Its support for British capitalism in the second world war (in Churchill's government), its imposition of conscription after 1945, its use of troops in strikes, its great re-armament programme and waging of the war in Korea, its preaching of wage-restraint and “ work harder,” its drive to capture foreign markets, etc., these activities were as forcible as anything the Tories could have wanted even though they questioned the wisdom, from a Capitalist standpoint, of the Labour programme of State Capitalism (nationalisation.)

2. The Need for Leaders
It is quite correct that the Socialist does not support leadership. The essence of leadership is the implication that the workers can safely entrust their affairs, including their position under capitalism and the achievement of Socialism, to elected or self-appointed individuals who will in their wisdom decide what to do and how to do it. The assumed justification for leadership is that the rank and file do not properly understand what are the problems and how they should be tackled. This is indeed true and will remain so until the workers become Socialists and understand that their urgent need is Socialism. Then they will know exactly what to do and will instruct their delegates accordingly. In the meantime the mass of the workers do not understand; but what of the Labour Leaders? What do they know of Capitalism or Socialism? And what difference would it make if they did have knowledge, since their continuance as leaders would depend upon suiting the lack of knowledge of their own followers? Since 1924 (year of the first Labour Government) the Labour leaders have held office in four administrations, each marked with crises, wars, and unemployment, and followed by lost elections and disillusionment for those who trusted them. This is what is bound to come of leaders running capitalism. And what about Socialism? Earl Attlee's pathetic admission after his party’s defeat in 1955 was that “we are nowhere near the kind of society we want. We have an infinitely long way to go.” (Manchester Guardian, 6/6/55).

The workers have so far always trusted in leaders, ranging from the Attlee type down to megalomaniac Stalin. It has brought them lots of wars and other evils but no Socialism; only the continuance of capitalism.

3. Nationalisation
Our correspondent refers to the “comparative failure” of Nationalisation and attributes it to the wrong sort of men at the top, men who partly sabotaged it.

The use of the term “comparative failure” implies that nationalisation has been partly a failure and partly a success. Unfortunately our correspondent does not specify what it is that nationalisation has partly done and partly failed to do. Nationalisation is State Capitalism— it was Attlee who in 1931 (New Statesman, 7/11/1931) described our oldest nationalised institution, the Post Office, as “the outstanding example of collective capitalism.” Making a success of nationalisation means making a success of Sate Capitalism. Our correspondent thinks that it could be a success if the right men ran it, but a success for whom? Successful capitalism, whether private or State Capitalism, means efficient production, low costs and high profits, which means efficient exploitation of the workers. The men in control have nothing to do with the Capitalist lines on which nationalised industries have to be run. This was specifically laid down by the Labour Government in each of the Nationalisation Acts it passed in 1945-1951; each one of the Boards was required by the Act to make profit at least sufficient in amount to cover the continuing annual payment to the former share-owners. They have, therefore, all been bound by law to try to keep wages down to the level that enabled profit to be made. Some of the nationalised industries have done this handsomely, others have run into deficit. In the view of many critics of nationalisation the former have “succeeded ” while the latter have “failed.”

This may or may not be how our correspondent judges success and failure, but let there be no doubt about the Socialist attitude. Socialists are opposed to capitalism, including nationalisation, no matter who runs it or how. This should not be surprising, for after all we are Socialists and want Socialism.
Editorial Committee

Australia takes guard (1956)

From the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

A sure fire subject of conversation with almost any reticent Englishman in the summer of 1956, is the latest Test match score, and many a City gent, on bearing of another fallen wicket must have locked his office door and with his umbrella shown himself just how he would have put Lindwall away to the boundary.

Yet not all the headlines about an Australian “fightback” and “aggression” need refer to happenings at Lord's or Old Trafford, for in the pot of international disputes there is something of a trade war brewing up between England and Australia. The director of the Commonwealth Bureau of Agricultural Economics has said in Canberra that Britain's “attitudes, policies and behaviour” are “unfair” and “reprehensible” and among the mumblings of Australian politics is that of Mr. John McEwen, Minister of Trade, who has recently described his government as “hurt” by Britain's trading policies. Mr. McEwen, with a substantial press backing, is currently peddling a “get tough with Britain” line.

What are the reasons for this tetchiness in Canberra? First, Australia's trade with the U.K. is badly out of balance—in the nine months ended in March of this year she imported goods from Britain worth £A269 million compared to exports in return of only £A181½ million. Then there is the matter of wheat, of which Australia is one of the world's major exporters. The stockpiling scramble of the Korean war caused a vastly increased production of wheat and a consequent fall in its price. The end of the boom left Australia, growing some of the cheapest wheat in the world, with an unsellable surplus and looking sourly on the British policy of supporting home production on the one hand and preferring to buy Argentine wheat on the other.

Another source of irritation is the present state of trading preferences. In the Ottawa agreement of 1932 Britain and Australia agreed to grant entry to each other's imports at a lower duty than they charged on other countries goods. Australia accepted a preference based on fixed duties and the benefits of this have dwindled in our post-war inflation, just as money which was banked in 1932 has by now been devalued. But Britain secured a preference based on a percentage of their exports values and this has enabled her to keep a relative advantage on the Australian market. So a measure which was supposed to promote international friendship has turned out to be a cause of dissension; but there is nothing new in that.

To ease her problems Australia would like the U.K. to restrict imports of cheap wheat (unless, of course, it comes from Australia) and to re-negotiate the Ottawa pact so as to give Australian products new preferences. The difficulty in the way of both these suggestions is Britain's membership of G.A.T.T., whose rules forbid any such moves. Even so, Australia is pressing for a new. comprehensive Commonwealth trade agreement; this was one of the points raised by Mr. Menzies at the recent London conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. If Australia cannot gain any concessions here, she may, in return, take steps to end her status as Britain's largest single export market.

Meantime in the past few years Australia has several times drastically reduced its imports, the latest of these restrictions being introduced on July 1st. last. These cuts were designed to prune Australia's imports by about £32 million in a full year. In addition Australia is making a strong bid to capture as much as possible of the U!k.’s trade with New Zealand.

Another reason for the deepening rift between the two countries is the change in the strategic relations of the Pacific since the war's end. Before the sharpening of the Russo-American conflict Australia's military interests extended to the Middle East. Now that Asia is a centre of tension these interests have been forced back to the Pacific, where the gap left by Great Britain's waning power has been largely filled by that of America. Increasingly, Australia is dependent on the United States to keep intact her perilous existence between the great powers on the one hand and an almost indifferent Asia on the other. Whitehall gets hardly a look in.

Now the conclusion which we can draw from all this is that the much-boosted bonds of the British Commonwealth of Nations do not hold against the pressures of Capitalist competition and international conflict. Australia, as a normal Capitalist power, has trading interests which she will defend in any way open to her, even if that should mean offending her partners in the Commonwealth. For example, the recent import cuts came at a particularly bad time for the struggling British car industry but, as The Economist has put it, “trade cuts across politics.” Even the politics of the supposedly united British Commonwealth and with the government of the traditionally Empire-fostering Tory party bossing it in Whitehall.

Australia's position in the affairs of international trade and conflict was neatly depicted by Manchester Guardian cartoonist David Low just after the Foreign Ministers’ conference a couple of years ago at Geneva. His sketch showed a path bordering a lake and into the picture from the left ran Anthony Eden, dressed as a nursemaid, dragging behind him a pram full of tattered Union Jacks. As he ran he stretched out an imploring hand to another nannie, scampering off to the right with her pram. This one was identified as United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. His pram was labelled “American Sphere of Responsibility” and it held a lot of bonny babies of various Far Eastern nationalities. One of the bounciest, sucking a stick of striped candy, was called “Australia.”

"Twentieth Century Socialism" (1956)

Book Review from the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Under the title Twentieth Century Socialism—The Economy of Tomorrow a group calling itself “Socialist Union” have produced a book which is neither about Socialism nor by Socialists. A note inside the cover tells us it is by the group that publishes Socialist Comment and that it has the backing of prominent members of the Labour Party.

In the foreword they say:
“Our aim has been to find a comprehensive and consistent view of the Socialist economy of to-morrow, which combines the idealism inherent in our conception of the good society with the realism essential to bring it about. . .

“We are well aware that what we have to say is not the last word on this subject. But we offer it to our fellow-Socialists as an honest attempt to think out afresh the foundations of a Socialist faith and its implications in the modern world.”
There is no fresh thinking in the book. It consists of the old old “Evolutionary Socialism,” the little by little and bit by bit, which eventually comes back to support of the Labour Party and its nationalisation policy. But unlike the earlier advocates, who at least claimed to be working towards a system of Common Ownership, these fresh thinkers are working towards a system which they sum up as follows:
“The keynote of Socialist realism has always been its emphasis on a transformation of the economic system. This must remain. What has to be rejected is the idea of transformation through total public ownership; that leads only to totalitarianism. The first part of realism today is to recognise this fact and accept its consequences. A Socialist economy is a mixed economy, part private and part public, and mixed in all its aspects. It comprises private spending as well as public spending, private ownership as well as public ownership, private enterprise as well as public enterprise.

“In practice this is already accepted by the British Labour movement.” (Page 146).
All through the book Socialism is envisaged as a system in which there will be buying and selling, markets conflicting economic interests, and a money-economy, plus leadership and the usual complicated paraphernalia of capitalism. The book had favourable reviews from Capitalist newspapers, and no wonder. In spite of a good deal about equality, freedom and fair shares, the authors rail against too much “State intervention” in a way that must go straight to the hearts of defenders of capitalism. The following quotations are examples of their outlook:
“This means that a Socialist economy is not just a planned economy, but a planned market economy. It is through the markets that individuals exercise their freedom of choice. If workers are to be free to choose whether to work for one employer rather than another, and employers to choose which workers to employ, there must be a labour market. If consumers are to decide whether and on what they want to spend their money, there must be commodity markets in which they can make their choice.” (Page 134).

“The principle by which economic power is directed towards Socialist ends may be described as the principle of planning through strategic participation. The state takes over economic power at the key points in the economy— the budget, the Key industries, large property concentration —and uses these as its planning base. How the governments uses its planning powers and what it plans for, will always be under public scrutiny, for in a democracy the state itself is controlled by Parliament and all the normal political processes.

“But political processes alone are not a complete safeguard. They are remote from the daily scene of economic operations, and do not always prove effective in detailed application. This is the significance of limiting the government to no more than a partial participation in the economy. As long as an independent sector remains, it can act as a perpetual and very effective check on the state’s activities. If there continue to be private employers and independent trade unions, and bargaining between them produces good results, there will be no escaping the insistence of the unions on similar conditions from public employers. If public enterprise is less efficient than private, if it gives less satisfactory service to the consumer, the comparison will be there for all to see, and public opinion will not acquiesce for long. If private investment meets the nation’s needs, there will be no call for public investment. At every point the nature and efficacy of state activity can be directly challenged.” (Pages 137, 138).

“These three guiding principles for the control of economic power—the principle of balance of power; the principle of planning through strategic participation, and the principle of social accountability—form an integrated whole. They draw together the threads of our present argument, so that out of the warp of the ends and the weft of the means the pattern of a socialistic economic system can, be woven. It is an economy with a private and a public sector, but where all economic power, no matter what its nature or by whom it is held, can be made subject to effective control. This control may be economic, political, or social. Each of these forms may be applied separately or in combination. (Page 140).

“The private sector of a Socialist economy is not there merely on sufferance, to be tolerated only on the grounds of political expediency, with the Sword of Damocles hanging over it in a perpetual threat. On the contrary, it has a legitimate and necessary function to perform. Within the limits of equality there must be opportunities for people to spend as they wish, to own. to initiate and experiment; they must be able to form associations to further their economic interests. In all these areas the individual must have a chance to act without waiting for the approval of the state.” (Page 147).
We have quoted considerably from the book to show how empty are the authors’ claims to a freshness of outlook, and also because their real outlook is apt to be obscured for the uncritical reader by long and windy dissertations on equality, freedom and fair shares.

The authors take for granted that “full employment” has come to stay and they claim that to-day “the rich are less rich and the poor less poor, and neither has much of a surplus to save out of their incomes” (page 88). As to the position of the rich see the many reports in the papers of the lavish coming out parties (one recently cost £5,000) and the other evidences of lavish spending on the part of the class that owns. But the authors themselves give contrary evidence. They tell us that human needs are taking the place of profit in industry and on page 115 they tell us that “The decline in the influence of the profit motive, even in private industry, has opened the way for change.” Yet on other pages they contradict this view. The following are examples of this.
“It is a remarkable comment on our present society that, despite all the progress made in other directions, Aristotle’s definition of a slave as a ‘living tool’ still remains a far too apt description of the working life of the majority of industrial employees.” (P. 101).

“There are two main reasons why the distribution of incomes is so grossly unequal at the source. The first is the great disparities in the ownership of property; a small fraction of the population own so large a portion of the nation’s wealth that they are bound to draw large unearned incomes simply because of the size of their holdings. The second is that certain types of property, notably the ownership of business enterprise, yield a high return in the form of distributed profits and capital gains. Not only do the owners of the ordinary shares in these private concerns derive substantial incomes from them, but the profits permit the payment of very high salaries to the leading managerial posts and the granting of extravagant allowances in the form of expense accounts. These two reasons for the persistently heavy income inequalities continually reinforce each other on the principle of ‘to him that hath shall be given.’ High profits swell the unearned incomes derived from past accumulations of property, and in turn provide the basis on which new accumulations are built.”
There are many similar statements which would crowd our columns too much to reproduce. It is the common attempt among “intellectuals” to appear impartial. The “on the one hand, and on the other hand” attitude; on the one hand the Capitalists are getting poorer on the other hand they are setting richer—but all the time they are piling up profits, expanding, and getting richer!

The authors constantly refer to what is “just” and “fair” but their outlook is based on levels of ownership and levels of culture with the managerial representatives of capital in the saddle. To them inequalities of this nature are permanent and they pour scorn on the idea that the mass of the population are capable of rising superior to an outlook that they claim is conditioned by capitalism.

Although the book begins with the contention that “Socialists” have lost sight of the end they set out to accomplish and have become bogged down by means to that end, this is exactly their own position except that they have no inkling of a Socialist end. Instead of being concerned with ends the authors are concerned with making capitalism work smoothly. They suggest ways to handle the complicated mechanism of capitalism that is as complicated and dubious as capitalism and, infuse their ideas with that modern disease, sectoritus.

Looking at the past they identify Socialism with public ownership, and Marxism with Russian State Capitalism. With this erroneous outlook this book is worthless from the Socialist point of view, but it may have some value as a guide to making capitalism palatable to the workers. It seems to the present writer that the object of the book is simply to get the Labour Party back into power to pursue its futile policies.

The Critics Criticised – Professor Popper Looks at History pt.3 (1956)

Book Review from the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Continued from the July Issue)

Mr. Popper’s own remedy is that men must change their hearts. He takes little note of the fact that hearts themselves are environmental products. Or to put it another way the beliefs, ideals, theories, for which we seek to gain acceptance are themselves products of social development, i.e. they have a growth and history. Indeed it is only by seeing them as patterns of response in an historical process that they become intelligible. Nor are these responses merely subjective as Mr. Popper seems to think but are brought forth by the needs of men and these needs are part of an objective class conditioned situation.

Ideas, theories, doctrines, are always related to the needs of men in some way or other. Social aims and purposes are for that reason never mere abstractions. Never attempts to realise eternal truth but projections of group needs. That is why the demands for justice, equality, progress, have at bottom been the demands of social groups. It is for that reason “the what is” has ever in practise been directly related to “the what ought to be.” The function of “the what ought to be,” has been to mask the “this worldliness” of social ends, as an aspect of “the other worldliness.”

From this it follows that a ruling social section will always define the good in relation to its own needs. But because we live in a changing world the character and content of its needs undergo historical modification. Sometimes a ruling social group will demand more freedom, more equality. At other times they will proclaim against what they term excesses carried out in the name of these. Sometimes they have called for democracy and toleration, at other times for less democracy and less tolerance. In a world in which they are in social control hut cannot control there can be no eternal truths, no fixed values to serve as precepts for final social judgments.

Again it is not true to say that because we cannot know all the ideas which have ever passed through the heads of men or their emotional experiences we cannot know history in any valid or concrete sense. To say that because we do not know everything on a subject we cannot know anything worthwhile, has no more validity in history than any other subject. The ideas Marxism seeks to investigate are the ideas which have brought about significant changes in the social pattern. Not all ideas do this. The various ideas men form in the world in which they live have a greatly varying weight and importance. Many have a purely personal aspect. Some are the outcome of prejudice and attachment. Other ideas are merely cranky. There are ideas which are held one day and discarded the next. And even if we could trace these ideas down to their finest nuances we should find them irrelevant for purposes of historical investigation, for they do not reflect those social forces which are necessary for any major social change.

The point Marxists are interested in, is what gives momentum and power to those ideas which are crucial for social development. The answer is that it is those ideas which are expressions of group interests which are historically effective, for it is these ideas which have been most instrumental in bringing about social change.

Marxism does not, however, view ideas as powers in themselves, capable of conjuring things into existence by pure mental activity. Men can only think within a socially organised continuum. That is why their theories, aims and ends, are moulded by the particular configuration of the society in which they live. It is then a particular historic phase which sets the questions to which men must find the answers. It is because men enter into certain determinate relations with each other that sets the stamp on their interests and activities, and provides the conditions which make their thinking effective.

Mr. Popper, and he is one of legions, accuses Marxism of social determinism. If Marxism insists that a knowledge of the social forces and those impersonal elements which form part of the social structure of society are essential for forming valid judgments, then we plead guilty. Not to know the relevant facts of a situation is not to know effectively and when there is no effective knowledge, there can be no effective action. Where little or nothing can be proved, everything can be believed. That is why any competent diagnosis, whether it concern our social ills or bodily ills, must be brought under the control of the objective data at our disposal. To recognise that there are determinate limits to a situation is to come to grips with that situation. To chose the alternative, necessary, for the best solution of the problems set, is the first step to freedom. Mr. Popper’s contention that Marxism seeks to nullify political action and makes everything dependent on something called inner reality, is non sense.

Yet (on p. 268) he says that we want to know how our troubles are related to the past, in order to progress towards the solution of what we feel and chose to be our main tasks. Thus it seems that vide Mr. Popper “the what is,” definitely links up with “the what was.” This would suggest that even Mr. Popper believes that the connection between the past and present is influenced by causal factors; that there has been development and continuity in human affairs. In that case our interpretation of this development process must be guided by an objective assessment of the available material and not by a subjective judgment based on our particular feelings and thinking. It is the latter which Mr. Popper generally adopts as his criterion for judging history.

When Mr. Popper says we cannot know the past that is true in the sense that the past as the past is physically dead. Yet it is also true that in another sense the past lives on, in so far that elements of the past are always incorporated in some way into the present and just as aspects of the past exist in a reconstituted form in the present, so features of the present will be reconstituted into the fabric of the future. It is because that which has been most significant in the past is linked with the present in a continuous chain of historic events that the structural evolution of human society becomes possible,. To seek to reconstruct this evolution into an intelligible pattern is| the task of historical investigation. In this way it serves as a present guide to our actions. To suggest that Marxism seeks to make men into marionettes moved by a mysterious force called history is merely a pleasantry of Mr. Popper.
Ted Wilmott