Thursday, August 11, 2022

Socialist principles explained (1993)

From the August 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Object: The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

What do we mean by a “system of society"?

The world is a “global village". Each region may have its own particular and distinct customs, but they are part of a greater system of society that is world-wide. This system of society is capitalism and every region and nation operates within this in one way or another. Socialism is not a co-operative island in the middle of capitalism, but a global system of society that will replace capitalism.

"The means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth"?

This includes the forests, mines, and oceans from which natural wealth is extracted, the factories in which this natural wealth is processed, and the distribution of that wealth via transportation networks (such as roads and truck lines) and distribution centres (such as grocery and department stores). It does not include your personal belongings such as your toothbrush or clothing, or family heirloom.

“Common Ownership”?

Common ownership means that society as a whole owns the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth. It also implies the democratic control of these means and instruments, for if everyone owns, then everyone must have equal right to control.

Common ownership is not state ownership. State ownership is merely the ownership by the capitalist class as a whole, instead of by individual capitalists, and the government then runs the state enterprises to serve the capitalist class. In the old self-proclaimed “communist” states the state enterprises served those who controlled the party/state apparatus. The working class did not own or control. It produced for a privileged minority.

1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of production (i.e., land, factories, railways, etc) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

How are decisions about the operation of society made? What principles govern what goods will be produced in what quantity and quality, and what social programmes and laws will exist?

If decisions were made based upon the needs of humanity then the food that is regularly destroyed by the truckload would instead feed the starving.

Decisions are made based upon the expectation of making a profit. The ecology of the world is being devastated, even though this devastation may wipe out the human race, because of profit. Poor quality goods are produced, not because people want to have junk, but because it is profitable to produce junk. The rich can get the best—the rest of us often have little choice. Anyone can think of dozens of examples of how decision-making puts profit-making before the satisfaction of human needs.

The owners of the production and distribution facilities are responsible to no-one but themselves. Governments pass laws that maintain profits for the owners as a group. Sometimes one owner of one subgroup of owners loses a bit but, overall, the class of owners always benefits in the long run. By focussing on the worst excesses, and legalizing the rest, their profits are protected from demands for significant changes.

While people in Western Europe and North America have generally seen the benefits of increased production in terms of material wealth, the decisions are made not to improve our lives, but to improve the lives of those who own the means of production. The gap between the very rich and the rest of us continues to grow.

2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess hut do not produce, and those who produce but do not possess.

There are many different divisions in society. Divisions of hatred by sex. skin colour, national origin, religion or the amount of money that a person makes, among others. The insecurity of capitalism breeds these hatreds. We must eliminate their breeding ground, before they infect our children.

Socialists see a division of society based upon the means of acquiring wealth. If you must work for a living then you are working-class, if your main income is derived from the work of others then you are a capitalist. This distinction clearly exists. Even though some of us own shares, workers do not have the luxury to quit their jobs and live off investment income.

When you analyze society using this class division, many problems that otherwise defy understanding have obvious solutions.

Profits are derived from owning. Wages or salary are derived from labouring, by expending our physical or mental energy working for those who own the means of production and distribution.

The owner of a particular factory may not even know that they own it. It may be just a part of an immense holding company that is administered by someone else. The workers in the factory, however, are directly connected to the production. It is the labour-power of these workers (including the plant management) that creates the profits that keep the capitalists rich. It is vital that the capitalists pay their workers less than the value of their labour-power produces. It is this difference between the value of what the workers are paid and the value of what they produce that is the source of profit.

3. That this antagonism can he abolished only In the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

As long as the ownership of the means of production and distribution rests with the minority capitalist class, this antagonism will continue to exist. The antagonism is caused by the necessarily differing interests of the two classes. No matter how nice capitalists may be on a personal level, they will always have different interests from the working class. It is not a matter of good and evil or anything like that, it is inherent in any class system. Therefore the only way to eliminate the antagonism is to eliminate the class system and establish a system of common ownership where the previous antagonism has no basis.

4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.

The hate and distrust that exists in society today is a direct result of the nature of societies past and present. A society in which we must compete to survive, in which our jobs are threatened by other workers, in which we do not feel secure, is a fertile breeding ground for racism, sexism, nationalism and all the other hatreds that abound.

Even today, while this hatred is sometimes used to pit one worker against another, it appears that overall, these hatreds are being rooted out and made socially unacceptable. This is particularly noticeable in countries like South Africa where there is a shortage of white workers, and black workers must be brought into previously “white” workplaces without the major disruption that is caused by overt racism.

No society can properly meet our human needs as long as there are different classes of people. Every person has abilities that differentiate them from others, but we are all equal in our humanity. We all have strengths and weaknesses. What we need is a society that allows us to use our strengths, and that accepts and accommodates our weaknesses.

Socialism will be a society geared to meeting human needs and the need to be accepted for what we are is probably the most basic of human needs. When the breeding ground for these hatreds has disappeared, people will naturally be able to eradicate them with all the other negative leftovers of capitalism.

5. That this emancipation must he the work of the working class itself.

6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to consent* the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may he converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.

It would be foolish to expect the capitalist class to voluntarily give up its privileged position in society. Governments exist solely to administer the society as it exists, in the interests of the ruling (capitalist) class, so governments will not end the privilege. Capitalism will continue as long as the working class accept it. The working class will have to force the capitalist class to give up its position of privilege.

Socialism will be the result of workers democratically choosing a new. classless society based on producing to satisfy human needs. And since capitalism is a global system of society, it must be replaced globally.

It is dangerous and futile to follow those who support violence by workers against the armed force of the state. Violent revolution has sometimes meant different faces in the capitalist class, always meant dead workers, and never meant the liberation of the working class. Until workers organize consciously and politically and take control of the state machinery, including its armed forces, the state will be assured of bloody victory.

Political democracy is the greatest tool (next to its labour-power) that the working class has at its disposal. When the majority of workers support socialism, so-called “revolutionary” war will not be required. The real revolution is for workers to stop following leaders, to start understanding why society functions as it does and to start thinking for themselves.

7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working-class emancipation must he hostile to every other party.

Political parties of the left, right and centre, claim to be working for the betterment of society. Because society functions in the interests of the capitalist class, it is clear that these parties are then supporting the interests of the capitalist class. History shows us that no matter what these parties say, when elected they administer capitalism in the only way it can be administered—in the interests of the capitalist class.

Each of them has their own idea of how to run capitalism, often stealing the ideas of their supposed political opposites. The reforms that they implement must reflect economic reality. If they do not, they will not get re-elected—until the next party fails to reflect that reality. There is no way that capitalism can adequately meet the needs of the majority, but all of these parties pretend it can if only they find the right plan. None of them has any really new ideas, only rehashed reforms that have failed in the past. Voting for any of these parties is voting for capitalism, forever.

8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action, determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.

The Socialist Party is part of a global socialist movement that believes capitalism cannot meet the needs of the majority of the people in the world. It does not today, and it never can.

In order to meet these needs capitalism must be replaced by socialism.

The only way to achieve socialism is for the working class to recognize this and consciously and politically work to replace capitalism with socialism.

The Socialist Party does not support the idea of reforming capitalism and therefore does not work for reforms. There are plenty of other organizations that do and yet the problems remain. By relegating socialism to the future, it is relegated to never. Only a party dedicated only to socialism can promote socialism in any real, honest manner.

Among all the political parties in this country, only the Socialist Party is dedicated to socialism as an immediate goal. It is this objective that makes the Socialist Party revolutionary—our dedication to peaceful, democratic and immediate change.

Only the conscious support of the working class will create socialism, and to this end the Socialist Party seeks to increase understanding of, and mobilize support for, socialism.

The Socialist Party calls upon every worker to support these efforts in any way that they can.
—based on a leaflet brought out by the Socialist Party of Canada.

Between the Lines: What are flies attracted to? (1993)

The Between the Lines column from the August 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

What are flies attracted to?

In a bid to bring to our screens even more odious real people than the invented soap-bubbleheads of EastEnders. BBC1 has collaborated with Australian TV to make what is called a fly-on-the-wall documentary series about the lives of a Sydney family. The folks of Sylvania Waters (9.30 pm, Thursdays) are a nightmarish image of capitalist family life.

In Sylvania Waters the chief topic of conversation (this being a euphemism for the screamed abuse and hostile grunts which constitute most of their attempts at communication) is money. Noeline, the mother, has loads of it. And she likes telling us how much she has and how much she likes having it. Her partner in this world of styleless and avaricious possession is Laurie, a quite detestable factory-owner who has his own boat and a racing car and personal sewer in this mouth from which come relentless insults against Noeline’s “useless, lazy and work-shy" kids—not to mention the rest of the working class who exhibit the same faults, according to this small-time capitalist bigot.

One of Noeline’s sons lives with a girl in a condition of poverty which is caused, according to Noeline and Laurie, by insufficient attention to the god of money. On her younger son's birthday, plans for the party omit all humane talk of jollity and parental love and celebration and instead consist of endless negotiations about the cost of hiring a bouncer (for a boys sixteenth birthday party?) and parts of Noeline's property which the forty-plus guests must be banned from. (In the end the party was cancelled after yet another angry exchange between Laurie and the lad he regards as being good for nothing.)

Life in Sylvania Waters is so devoid of mutuality and so permeated by monetary priorities and division that this family seems to be the ideal microcosm of what this system does to human relationships. Certainly, the theme of alienation jumps out of the sociology textbooks and hits us between the eyes as we observe these people who do not talk to each other, understand each other or want to be with each other. There was a deeply poignant moment in the programme on 1 July when Noeline's son (or is it Laurie’s son—who knows or cares?) walks into his living room, sits on a settee and then, observing that the TV is switched off, turns to his wife and says “Why’s this switched off? Is there something wrong? It’s like a bloody morgue in here”. What has life come to when you have to ask not why the TV is on but why its off, when no TV babble means that something must be wrong and home has become a mortuary. Perhaps we ought to refer to the room with the idiot box in the corner as the dying room rather than the living room. It is the room where alienated people let others live for them.

Sylvania Waters is a useful reminder that the rich might have money, but they sure don’t have any monopoly on brains. The standard of language between these affluent non-entities is charmless, to say the least. Their idea of luxury is reminiscent of that brilliant description of the capitalists at home written by Noonan in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. (Remember the Brigand’s Cave: “This was Mr. Grinder’s first visit at the house, and he expressed his admiration of the manner in which the ceiling and the walls were decorated, remarking that he had always liked this 'ere Japanese style. Mr. Bosher. with his mouth full of biscuit, mumbled that it was sweetly pretty— charming—beautifully done—must have cost a lot of money.") Indeed, Sylvania Waters must be the first ever fly-on-the-wall documentary in which even the flies exhibit higher tastes than the humans.

The news between the ads

In 1990 the ITV companies entered into a sordid franchise war in order to carve up the commercial network amongst the highest bidders. Out of the auction has emerged some pretty cheap and lousy TV. notably Carlton TV which now covers London. Carlton’s nightly London Tonight (like its radio counterpart, LBC now owned by Thatcherite tycoon Lady Shirley Porter, ex-Westminster council leader and dealer in very cheap graveyards) epitomizes the worst in tabloid TV. But then, like the Sun. this mindless drivel attracts investment—in the form of advertisements. So, serious news analysis is abandoned for the sake of market forces.

Last month’s announcement by the ITV network that they want to move News At Ten from its long-standing peak-time position, because it fails to pull in a high enough audience to please the advertisers, is further evidence of the market on the rampage. It is all very well for political figures such as the unlamented ex-Minister of National Heritage, David Mellor, and the Prime Minister, Major, making speeches of condemnation against the ITV assault upon tradition. What do they expect? When they encourage TV companies to throw themselves fully into the market while seeking to retain certain standards of higher journalistic responsibility it is like inviting burglars into your home and insisting that they leave everything as they found it. Perhaps the advertisers would cheer up if ITN employed Noleen and Laurie to read the news, with deep analytical observations from them both on each item, followed by The Saint and Greavsie discussing international affairs—-such as the World Cup and the Test Match.
Steve Coleman

SPGB Meetings (1993)

Party News from the August 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

At Home and Abroad . . . (1971)

The Home and Abroad Column from the August 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

At Home

The latest, and most famous, example of a politician’s vote catching phrase rebounding back onto him is Edward Heath’s “at a stroke’’ promise to deal with rising prices at the last election. Of course nobody in their right mind took this seriously and the record on prices since the Tories took over proves the point. The Tories made a lot of noise about the promised effects of a reduction in SET and those who are mistakenly under the impression that such things determine prices may have believed it. Perhaps they have learnt better, now that SET has been cut in half and prices continue to climb. The Labour Party, as if they had never broken an election pledge in their life, overflow with false rage about Heath’s promise. Perhaps this rage acts as a sort of tranquiliser, stopping them from looking back at the record of their own government on prices. And finally the Tories, playing the honourable game of politics, keep passing the buck back; for example the confessed economic ignoramus Douglas-Home blaming the Wilson government for setting a “time bomb” of price rises which is now exploding under Heath’s men. This is all very well for the exponents of meaningless political shadow boxing but the working class, who send these people to Westminster, should realise how empty it all is. And if they don’t realise, a look at the shop price tickets should remind them.

One person who can be excused this exercise is Prince Edward, the queen’s youngest child. All workers who may have been worried about what would happen to the prince’s education when his private tutor left him to get married had their minds set at rest by the announcement that he would be going to Gibb’s preparatory school in Kensington where they charge £100 a term to teach the kids, among other things, “respect for property.” This may in fact be something of a waste of time; since these kids come from the class who own all the property, do they need to be taught to respect it? Wouldn’t that be more in line for working class kids who don’t have any property? Coincident with the prince being booked for Gibb’s school the memoirs of Lord Butler were published. He, we may remember, is the man who managed the Education Act of 1944 through Parliament. That was said to be a very daring Act, because it gave everyone equal rights to the best education.


President Nixon said that his journey to China had been fixed because of his desire for peace, now and for generations to come. In view of this uncontrollable desire for peace, one wonders why the delay—and when did it come to Nixon, that he might get peace in talking with the Chinese government rather than in rattling nuclear weapons at them? At all events the visit will have the effect of upstaging the “peace” movement in America and it seems the Democrats will have to make some hard running now to have a chance against Nixon next year. It would be fascinating to sit in on the discussions between Nixon and the Chinese: one established, powerful capitalist state at last bargaining with another, new and rising and threatening. What betrayals, what carve-ups, what sharing of the spoils there will be! When the truth about it is known it may well turn out to have been one of the dirtiest episodes in the history of capitalist diplomacy.

One immediate effect of Nixon’s visit may be to end the present struggle in Vietnam, which otherwise threatens to go on for ever. A similar situation may be developing in Northern Ireland, where killings have now become almost accepted as the normal routine. How long ago was it, that the “progressives” in this country were demanding that the British government send in the troops so that the troubles could be ended with typical British fair play? In the event, as was clear all along, the troops have simply become the target of the opposing factions. We might hope that the “progressives” would recognise the struggle has roots deeper than they ever dreamed of, did we not know that fundamental thinking is foreign to their minds.


Has Wilson at last come down off the fence over the Common Market? In truth, he has never actually been on the fence, since even a master trickster like Wilson cannot entirely erase the fact that his government themselves tried to join the Six. What Wilson has done is to recognise the electoral possibilities of the Common Market issue and, like any good politician, to exploit them. The most popular pictures of the Common Market at present consists of rapidly rising prices in essential foodstuffs while hordes of foreign workers come freshly into England. Anyone with any experience of working class attitudes knows that that is not a vote-winning concept; the government will have to do some intensive propaganda if they are to convince the voters otherwise. Meanwhile, Wilson craftily has the best of both worlds. He still hangs on to his party’s policy of going into Europe but charges the Tories with accepting humiliating terms which would damage working class conditions and worsen international relations with the Eastern bloc. All of this, thrown in with some typical Wilson stuff about the Tories’ cynicism and privilege, may turn out to be a winning formula. If it is, we can depend on it that the doubting and opposing voices in the Labour ranks will be stilled, for they—just like the cynical Tories—will forgive a leader anything provided he brings home the electoral bacon. The fact is that there is nothing to choose between Labour and Tory on the Common Market, or on cynicism.

Do you know about Socialism? (1971)

From the August 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

According to capitalism’s political spokesmen we have had the best that that system can give. The Irish Prime Minister, Mr. Lynch, like Heath in Britain and his Labour predecessor Wilson, has told you that you have been getting too much and will have to cut back.

Yet poverty abounds. Not for you, perhaps, the dire poverty of homelessness or vile slumdom — that may only be the plight of the other Jones’s. Yours may possibly be the mere poverty of insecurity, of never being able to do more with your wages than exist, in whatever modicum of working class comfort the system allows you during the week you are working, in order to enable you to exist and continue working during the next week!

It is all part of the mean poverty of our working class lives; our working class education, our working class dwellings — even our working class children, going without while we garnish the tables of our masters.

And throughout most of the world it is even worse. The wise men who accept this system but prattle at its "shortcomings” tell us that two-thirds of the people of the world live in dire poverty and desperate hunger and yet one of the same wise men, acclaimed as an authority on the subject, tells us that the Mississippi Valley alone could yield sufficient food to feed mankind. But, we are advised, that its cultivation would wreck havoc on world food prices! And here, a handout from one of the child poverty organisations tells us that a human being dies every three seconds from hunger — though we understand, certain authorities dispute this and say that it is only one every six seconds. And you, the unbigoted, the unbiassed, the unwondering, can actually quote chapter and verse of the mocking statistics that tells us where a million tons of this, or a million gallons of that foodstuff, was dumped or deliberately contaminated in order to maintain the profits of some capitalist property owners or even the subsistence level of income of some farmers.

This, with violence and wars, with restrictions on your freedom and your very lives you accept as the best available in the best of all possible worlds. Why? Have you made the effort to find out if there is even a dream beyond this nightmare existence?

The solution we propose, the only alternative to capitalism, is Socialism.

Let us pause for a moment . . . Russia . . . China . . . Cuba . . . Labour governments . . . You are hardly to be blamed if you feel let down, if you are disappointed when we say Socialism is the answer to our common problems. On the other hand we are in a questioning mood; we are lifting the stones to took underneath.

Capitalism is a system of society in which the majority, the working class, are alienated from ownership and control of the means of production and distribution; a system in which these means of production are used not for the provision of the needs of people but rather for the production of commodities for the market in order to ensure profit, in one form or another, to those owning and/or controlling the means of production. In carrying out its profit-making function capitalism operates through the medium of the money system, imposing on the working class the need to work for wages, which in turn produces their servile status and puts the seal on the permanence of their poverty.

So the working class, our class, produces all wealth but because the capitalist class, either directly or through the medium of the state, have title to the ownership of the tools of production and the resources of nature, such wealth as we produce has to be left with our employers and we receive in the form of wages more or less sufficient to maintain us in a working class condition of life between pay-days. It is in the fact that the working class are obliged in order to live to sell their physical and mental skills that their exploitation arises and it is from the same condition that all profit, rent and interest, or, as we call it, surplus value, arises to maintain a parasitic class in power and privilege. But the problem doesn’t end there, for in order to maintain this condition we must accept the whole stultifying apparatus of the money system with its organised waste and inability to exploit the abundant potential of the world for the benefit of mankind.

Now that we have had another look at the mechanics of capitalism — even if a somewhat understated and oversimplified look — we can get back to Socialism and what you thought it meant. Russia . . . China . . . Cuba. . . . That’s right — under all these regimes there exists the same overwhelming majority of propertyless people who have no other way of getting a living than by selling their mental or physical abilities to work. They are, in other words, just like you. There is a wages/ money system and wealth is produced in the form of commodities for sale and profit. The fact that capitalism is organised directly under the aegis of the state is important only insofar as it weakens the power of the subject class to resist the grosser excesses of its exploiters.

And again in the case of Labour governments, they too maintain all the exploiting apparatus of capitalism’s wages-money-profit system even if, like the so-called Communists, they incline to the erroneous view that capitalism can be disciplined by direct State control.

So obviously when we speak of Socialism we do not mean State capitalism. What, then, do we mean?

We mean by Socialism a world-wide system of society in which there would be neither an owning class nor a working class. All the means for producing and distributing wealth would be owned in common by all members of society and would be used solely for the purpose of providing the needs of everyone in society. As it is now, wealth would be produced by social labour, except that social labour would no longer be provided by a subject class of producers but by the whole of society and the division of labour peculiar to capitalism, with its market economy, its buying and selling, money and wages structure, would no longer obtain.

Think of what the abolition of the money system would involve. All those members of our class who are presently engaged in occupations made necessary only by capitalism and its money system would be freed from such activities and would be available to apply their skills and energies to the task of producing an abundance of all the things we need to form the material basis of a full and happy life. It is worth considering just how many wasteful and useless functions capitalism and its market economy imposes on us. Sales people in shops and stores, sales representatives — their number can be judged by the fact that they are responsible for burning up almost half the petrol used by private transport — bank clerks, insurance operators, advertising and marketing men, tick men, ticket collectors — if you had the time and plenty of ink in your pen you could continue the list indefinitely.

You could add armies, navies, air and “security” forces, just as you could deduct from humanity’s bill of needs the tremendous wealth in the form of armaments that these grotesque organisations of class society need to maintain them even when they are not engaged in the destructive activities for which they exist.

Obviously, then, in Socialism, there will be no shortage of hands with which to perform the work of producing an abundance for all. This is what Socialists mean when they say that in Socialism “each will contribute in accordance with his or her mental or physical ability.”

We also say that, in Socialism, “Each will take in accordance with their needs.” What we mean is just that! Every member of society will have the right to freely avail himself of such things as he may need. Just as each member of society has contributed to the task of producing the things we require so now, without money, checking, or any of capitalism measurements of poverty, each will take what he needs.

This, then, is what we mean by Socialism; not the attempt to facilitate the further development and smooth functioning of capitalism by State controls, not the notion that some of the worst features of the system can be curbed by the State and certainly not the patently absurd idea that workers in one country can elect to power a political party — any political party — that can legislate in such a way as to protect workers in that country. Capitalism is a world system and workers in one country cannot create a national oasis of economic sanity in such a world. Indeed, in this latter idea, the nonsense of a “workers’ republic”, currently popular with the “official” I.R.A., the so-called Communist Party and the People’s Democracy, there are dangerous pit-falls. Experience has shown that, where the attempt has been made, the State controls made necessary to impose disciplines on workers, frustrated by the limitations of capitalism’s wages system and the continuance within the so-called “workers’ republic” of all the old failed features of capitalism, has only resulted in the further mortgaging of that very freedom of political action that represents the one avenue to Socialism and freedom.

Tragically for the working class, most of its alleged friends on the so-called “left” make the struggle for even their limited vision of Socialism seem insurmountably difficult. They will point to the tremendous power of the capitalist State with its standing army and sophisticated devices for delivering death. “How can you beat that peacefully?” they cry, and they proceed to tell us that Socialism can only be introduced by violence! These ignorant vapourings may sound much more romantic than the hard-plugging and slogging needed to make workers Socialists but they are dangerous beyond measure. The absurdity of the proposition stands clear: the State machine has at its disposal these tremendous means of destruction of those who oppose it, so the workers should collect some old weapons, stones, petrol bombs, rifles and machine guns and declare war on the State!

This is further exposed when its exponents develop their case in the light of our rebuttal. Then, it transpires, we will win a majority in arms. The question we must ask is “Win a majority for what”. To introduce Socialism or to prosecute a “glorious” struggle. Obviously, if it is to introduce Socialism as we understand it, it follows, and logically follows, that that majority will have to be conscious Socialists; that is to say, they will have to be people who understand what Socialism is and what will be expected of them in the way of effort — and, no doubt in the early stages, self-discipline — in a Socialist society.

What then becomes obvious is the fact that the power of the State, with all its means of violence and intimidation, emanates from the overwhelming support of the majority of the working class today. It is the working class who, by voting for political parties whose policies are based on the maintenance of capitalism and its necessarily-coercive State apparatus, that keeps the State in being.

If the working class, armed with Socialist knowledge, wanted — as of course they would — to elect representatives to the State legislature for the purpose of making the productive resources the common property of all and dismantling all the restrictive and destructive machinery of capitalism’s wages and money system, what power is there to stop them? Certainly violence waged directly by the tiny minority that would have an economic interest in prolonging capitalism is unlikely indeed. But if the question of violence is to be posed hypothetically then we would say that this is the only context in which we could accept it: when the majority of the working class have consciously opted for Socialism and an undemocratic minority of capitalists and their hangers-on (and we would have to allow that they had suicidal tendencies) took to arms to frustrate the will of the majority.
Richard Montague

All Coppers are Workers (1971)

From the August 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Are the police paragons of virtue or fascist bastards? Certainly they are abused as fascists by many leftists who, with their customary lack of originality, have also seized upon the American term “pigs” which is used endlessly in their various journals such a Red Mole and International Times. At the demonstrations against the Industrial Relations Bill earlier this year, the police were denounced as enemies of the working class and many placards showing a Bobby as “your next personnel manager” were on display.

Is this attitude justified? Of course the police are not in any trade union and they are sometimes seen in conflict with strikers, besides students and other protesters; so how different are policemen from other wage earners in their general outlook?

Obviously, the nature of their job as part of the state machine ensures that the ruling class will try to ensure that the police cannot strike. Add to this the fact that throughout its history many of the force have had a background of military discipline, and the possibility of a police trade union looks bleak indeed. And yet there was such a union – The National Union of Police and Prison Officers, formed in 1913.

Earlier attempts to obtain better pay and conditions through organisation were made in London in 1872 and 1890. Both were quickly crushed by dismissing the men’s spokesmen. However, during World War One the police were no longer well paid in relation to other workers — were even worse off. Cancellation of leave-days plus many other irritations saw the rapid growth of the illegal union with constables Marston and Thiel as Chairman and Provincial Organiser respectively. When the authorities tried the usual victimisation tactics almost the whole of the Metropolitan Police Force, numbering 19,000 men, struck. During the strike pickets clashed with blacklegs and special police, just like other workers in a similar situation.

The authorities, caught unprepared, had to climb down and the men’s demands were met with on important exception — the guarantee of union recognition. Soon after the strike the union claimed it had over 40,000 paying members. In some cities the union was influential in the Police Representation Boards — in Liverpool it was able to have men promoted who had been unfairly passed over. Meantime the authorities were preparing for a showdown and in this they were helped not only by granting better pay and conditions, but by the union leadership which was far too militant for its members.

When the union was outlawed by the Police Act of 1919 a national strike was called despite the fact that less than half the police were members; also, there was no strike fund and no likelihood of support from other unions. This time in London only 1,113 came out, but in Liverpool 932 out of 1,256 struck. Riots took place there in Liverpool, Birkenhead, as looting mobs battled for days with soldiers and specials while a battleship and two destroyers steamed from Scapa Flow to the Mersey. The strike collapsed and every single striker was dismissed, never to be reinstated. For many it meant, besides unemployment, eviction from home and loss of pension. Many who had been opposed to striking nevertheless did so out of loyalty to the union or because they had given their word. Today there are still survivors of this little known episode in working class history who proudly possess a card which proclaims that they are “still on strike” [1].

Nor is the British experience unique. The same things happened in Boston, USA, in 1919 with similar results — all strikers were dismissed. [2] In 1963 the Helsinki police impressed the urgency of their case on the authorities by resigning en masse on the same day! In March this year Paris police stopped work twice on the same day for several hours and distributed leaflets outlining their grievances, amongst which was their dislike of being sent to quell campus disturbances (leftists take note!). Also, many New York police struck for several days last January.

Nowadays the police in Britain, from inspectors to constables, are organised in the Police Federation, formed in 1919. Although forbidden to strike, the Federation negotiates pay and conditions with the authorities in much the same way as a trade union. The separate Scottish Federation has been demanding the right to strike and its secretary, Dan Wilson, commented that the government in refusing this “. . .  are only burying their head in the sand if they deny the police the same rights as other workers . We are, after all , only workers” (Guardian 28/11/70).

So the police record in recognising their class position in society isn’t as bad as some people may think. They have, from time to time, shown considerable courage in the face of tremendous opposition from the authorities — and from public opinion. And their response to attempts by their employers to squeeze extra work from them is the same as that encountered in factory, mine or office. Some years ago when the Chief of Police in New York attempted to increase the men’s productivity, a police captain observed that “The Chief makes the decisions and then the locker room makes decisions.” In short, the men themselves regulate their work rate. 

That policemen regard their work in much the same way as other workers can be seen from the numbers who leave the Force for jobs offering better wages and hours. In harsher times a job in the Force was a sinecure and much sought after, and men were prepared to accept the strict discipline. With the coming of “full employment” after 1945 there was a mass exodus of police into better paid industrial work and they were joined by those police who had been in the armed forces. By 1959 almost as many trained men were leaving as recruits were joining. 25,000 joined between 1960–64 but 17,000 left in the same period. In 1964 seventeen recruits meant a net gain of two. As J.P. Martin and Gail Wilson put it – “For many the police service is no longer a lifetime commitment.” [3]

The argument is often advanced that in the event of a socialist majority attempting to establish Socialism democratically, the police will be used, along with the armed forces, to suppress that majority. This is an argument which assumes that policemen have political and moral ideas which are very different from those of society in general. Stuart Bowes, in his attack on the police [4] supports this view — “Anti-democratic sentiments, pro-fascist sympathies and racialist antipathies are commonly revealed by individual policemen.” Perhaps Bowes hasn’t noticed that the same can be said of other workers too — the dockers and market porters who marched in support of Enoch Powell in 1968 are obvious examples.

Bowes quotes many instances of police attacks on strikers and demonstrators, especially during the Depression years The sad fact is that politically ignorant workers, fearful for their jobs in hard times, will be more inclined to perform despicable acts and obey savage orders. Police brutality during the 20s and 30s can be largely attributed to this, and Bowes has to admit that police violence during the post-war strikes has been little.

Michael Banton, in his book Policeman in the Community, points out that “The policeman obtains public co-operation and enjoys public esteem, because he enforces standards accepted by the community.” In other words, if the police are “pigs” then they are only a reflection of a society of “pigs”: they simply do its bidding. The policeman lives in the community and desires to be part of it and have its respect. He needs, as a social being, the moral support of the community in doing his job and will often disregard the law if it is in conflict with what the community thinks is right. For example, in a society with a high proportion of automobile users like America, the point has been reached where the police often avoid booking for traffic offences because of the loss of respect produced by such action.

The police themselves know the situation. The Federation’s Newsletter has stated that “Without the confidence, approval and support of the public, the police machine as we know it today would become incapable of fulfilling its function . . . the history of the police force shows [that] clearly” Exactly. Imagine how the Royal Ulster Constabulary would fare if it tried to hunt out IRA men in the Republic? Or remember how hopeless was the task of the police in Cyprus and Aden when faced with hostile populations? Anyway, policemen who will draw the line at handing out a traffic ticket because of public disapproval are unlikely to be willing to try quelling a majority determined upon changing society.

Do not misunderstand us about the police: this is not whitewash job. Undoubtedly many policemen have obnoxious Political and Social ideas, and there can be no denying that some of them are prone to use violence. But if they sometimes behave brutally towards students, demonstrators, etc, think how many other workers with all their prejudices would behave towards these, if only they had the policeman’s authority and opportunity.

It is long since time for leftists and radicals to stop being hysterical about the police and to have a saner look at the subject. In the Number 6 issue of Ink, one writer, Peter Laurie, has shown just such a welcome approach when in an article describing his past and present attitudes towards the police, he concludes
“We feel that there are forces of liberation at work in our society and that they are being held up and obstructed by blocks like the police. It seems to me now that the police are no more than an organic expression of the mind of industrialised man : we will not change them until we change the way everyone thinks, until we demolish the great inhuman system that divides us and uses us all”
Could this be the light at the end of the tunnel? Our case is that policemen have much the same attitudes as other workers since they are conditioned by the same economical, social and historical forces operating in society. Eventually, the world’s workers, will respond to capitalism’s inhumanities to the extent that they understand and desire the socialist alternative – production for use and the end of exchange relationships. Then Socialist ideas will be just as prevalent in the minds of any policemen who may still be around. They will be for the revolution, not against it.
Vic Vanni

[1.] For a history of the police strikes of 1918 – 19 see “The Night the Police Went on Strike” by Reynolds and Judge
[2.] "Western Socialist" number 5 1965
[3.] "The Police – A study in Manpower"
[4.] "The Police and Civil Liberties"

Northern Ireland’s World of Violence (1971)

From the August 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Recently Prime Minister Faulkner, whose outstanding ability is the art of double-talk, told us that the “terrorists” — by which he means those thugs, gunmen and murderers who do not support him — were as good as defeated and he was confident that Northern Ireland would soon return to that condition which for decades Faulkner and his political ilk were pleased to regard as normal. Like all skilful liars, Faulkner, as always, made qualifications sufficient to permit retreat, or even a complete volte-face, if the situation required it.

While we wish no victories to Faulkner or the economic interests he represents, such have been the events of the last few weeks in Belfast, and such the futility of its purpose, that we wish he had been right. We have seen the most senseless acts of violence and depravity on all sides in an orgy of blood-letting, fatal and otherwise, and we have lived with the foulest hypocrisy of selective condemnation on all sides — hypocrisy that is as aggressive, vicious and futile as the activities it condemns.

The Official IRA 
Let’s look at the apologetics of violence. If we take the militant Republican hypocrisy first it is simply because it generally receives less prominence than that of its opponents. The IRA claims to have a mandate from the Irish people, given at the last all-Ireland elections held in 1918, to act on behalf of those people and to secure that British rule is banished from the entire island; such a mandate, they claim, gives them the executive authority to carry on the functions of government, including the waging of war, if so required. The democratically-expressed will of the Irish people was, they say, frustrated in 1918 by the violence of Britain and the intransigence of the northern Unionists and the resultant partition of the country denied the people as a whole the opportunity of further democratic decision.

They claim, and rightly so, that the people who introduced the gun into Irish politics in the present century were the Northern Ireland Unionists who organised a private political army to frustrate, if necessary by violence, not only the democratically-expressed wishes of the Irish people, but, also, the will of the British parliament and that, having by threats of violence denied to the majority on both islands their democratic options, the Unionist Party opted for dismemberment of the country in such a way as would ensure for them, in the area under their control, a permanent built-in political majority which they continued to maintain by policies of the grossest religious bigotry and economic sanctions against their minority.

Such a summation is factual enough: it is true that those respectable elements who hold their hands to their pious mouths in holy horror at the present wave of terrorism are largely associated with, or sympathetic to, a party and a government that exists only through the arrogation of a claim to exercise violence to frustrate the majority in Britain and Ireland and it is also true that a half-century of Unionist rule has done nothing to win opponents to its cause. But the IRA (and we refer specially to the “official” IRA and not the nihilistic “Provisionals”) are being conveniently pedantic when they make the claim that since there has been no electoral decision of the people of all-Ireland — that is, in an election involving the whole country — since 1918 they are the inheritors of that year’s political decisions or that the dead of 1918 have a right to speak for the living of 1971.

Especially is it nonsense for the IRA to suggest that, while the will of the country in 1918 should be accepted as constant, they have the right to abandon the conservative nationalist economic philosophy of Sinn Fein, which earned the electoral victory of 1918, in favour of the up dated chauvinism of their present national state capitalist philosophy.

It is a fact of political life in Ireland, as tragic for us who are Socialists as for the IRA, that the overwhelming majority of the working class support Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Unionist Party. Such support as the IRA do receive is from a small minority and this has been demonstrated time and again at election contests North and South of the Border. The IRA claim to executive authority died with the establishment of the Irish Free State and such actions as it has taken thereafter can claim no justification in the democratic principles the movement pays lip-service to.

As Socialists we recognise what passes for democracy in capitalism simply as a weapon useful to a Socialist-conscious working class in the establishment of Socialism; as a political condition which, from a working class standpoint, is superior to its alternatives insofar as it permits of the organisation of our class for the democratic conquest of political power and the abolition of government of people and establishment of a democratic system of such administrative controls as are required to secure the material basis of a full and happy life for all. We have no “moral” standpoint on the question — we don’t consider, for example that a British soldier, invested with the support of millions has any more “right” to use arms in the service of capitalism than has an IRA man supported by a few thousand people. Our political “morality” is based, like all political “morality”, on the needs of our class and if we reject the idea of minority violence, or violence at all, it is simply because our Socialist objective can only be achieved by the conscious act of a majority of Socialists.

In claiming, falsely, an inherited democratic right for their activities the IRA show a peculiar and convenient nodding acceptance of a political principle which, if they accepted its implications, would ring the curtain on their foolhardy military adventurism.

What is more to the point than the source from which the IRA claims to derive its authority for its activities is the effect of those activities on the working class. Put simply, and we put it thus to the IRA and its supporters, the questions is: have any of your activities, at any time, proved, in any way, beneficial to working class interests or brought them nearer an appreciation of the fact that their miseries are the result of capitalism, a world system based on the exploitation of the working class or an understanding of the Socialist alternative to capitalism’s world system of exploitation?

Of course they haven’t! The killings and counter-killings, the executions, the jailings, the trials and the rest of the chronicle of violence and death, past, present and future, has been based on the fiction that national sovereignty solves working class problems; based on the ignorance that the nation state — historically a device of capitalism — is a “holy” and a “wholesome” thing and that a subject class should invest its blood in the struggle to change its masters.

Latterly, of course, the IRA has gone back to, and, indeed, beyond, the old Constitution and Governmental Programme of the Irish Republic with its requirement for national agricultural, industrial and fishery cooperatives, and have claimed that their objective is a “Socialist Workers’ Republic”. We have dealt at length in previous issues of the Socialist Standard with this impractical contradiction in-terms which is simply a working-class-deceiving euphemism for capitalism organised directly under the State. Not only have we shown the fallacious reasoning behind the notion that a single country can, through State ownership, organise the capitalist mode of production, with its market economy and wages system, in such a way as to eliminate the inherent contradictions of capitalism, contradictions which inevitably mean poverty and insecurity, expressed in their many forms, for those who remain in wage bondage, but we have also drawn attention to the despotic nature of government in such conditions.

Is this the end which the IRA feel justifies their means? Is this why working men should die or spend years of their lives in prison? Is this why working men who fall foul of the anger of the IRA for such things as “civil crime” should be beaten, kicked, tarred-and-feathered or shot — indeed, in this latter connection, is it not peculiar that an organisation claiming to be Socialist should wreak such brutality on the oppressed of capitalism who yield to the stimulation of the system in transgressing its rules?

The Provisionals
The “Provisional” IRA are simply a Catholic counterpart of the political Protestant UVF. Their bombings and murders are no more despicable than the brutalities of their enemies but their role in such areas of Belfast as where they are, to quote their white-washed wall claims, “in control”, is particularly vicious.

Not renowned for their skill in political argument they brook no interference from any quarter weaker than their own and to oppose them, even with the weaponry of political argument is to invite intimidation or worse. Unlike the “official” IRA, which, to its credit, refuses to become involved in religious rioting, the words Catholic and Protestant figures prominently in the vocabulary of the “Provisional” as synonyms for “them” and “us”.

The appalling ignorance, or, if we are less charitable, the barbarous strategy, of this section of militant Republicanism has been responsible for many of the horrific street confrontations between Catholics and Protestants and Catholics and British military, confrontations which reflects no credit on any of the combatants.

The Provisional IRA can see — and it is easily seen — the viciousness of the young workers who have been gulled into the service of capitalism in the British Army but they are totally blind to the viciousness and degradation of their own violence because they too have been gulled into the service of the same worthless cause, even if they do prefer their capitalism with green, white and orange wrapping.

Politically we are wholly opposed to the “official” IRA. As workers and Socialists we dispute both their end, State Capitalism, and their means, Violence; we would say that historically and presently their end and means have driven them on a course which leaves little room to condemn viciousness in their enemies. We would be less than honest, however, if we did not acknowledge the restraint they have exercised in many of the brutal street confrontations that have been promoted by the vicious reciprocity of their erstwhile comrades of the Provisional movement and of the so-called Security Forces.

We can analyse and explain the circumstances leading to the emergence of the Provisional but the fact that we understand what they are, and why they are, a malevolent political cocktail of ignorance and bigotry precipitously decanted by the burnings and murders inflicted by political Protestants and the police forces on the Catholics in August 1969 does not alter the fact, like the UVF, they are one of the staunchest pillars of vicious reaction that opposes working class reconciliation and Socialist understanding in Northern Ireland today.

The Ulster Volunteer Force . . . and others 
We have always pointed out that the Unionist Party’s strategy in maintaining political control was to officially disclaim policies of religious discrimination and yet give sufficient evidence of discrimination to lull Protestant workers into the belief that they were the favoured children of Unionism. It is a despicable strategy but one that has paid rich dividends to a party whose purpose was the preserving of political conditions favourable to the economic interests of the capitalists they served. Of course evidence can be adduced to show that some working class lackeys of Unionism were rewarded with a house or a job — but the reward itself demonstrates the poverty of its recipients.

The fact is that Unionism made war on the working class without discrimination and it is no accident that the areas of most constant sectarian conflict differ only in the type of slogans they have white-washed on their gable walls.

It was only in the early sixties, when economic changes, and impending economic changes, caused the Unionist Party to adopt new methods for the same old purpose — the class interests of our masters — that some “liberalising” of official attitudes emerged. These changes not only brought political Catholicism forward with a determination never again to retreat but also enabled ambitious would-be politicians to pick up from the gutters of traditional Unionism the trusty devices for forging a career — foul bigotry, lies and bully-boy tactics.

The success of some of these would-be politicians is now a fact (and the failure of some others may explain some of our mysterious bombings!) and their course to political stardom is the story of our present violence. The chapters of that story are: the nurturing of the nonsense amongst the most down-trodden section of the Protestant working class that their “way-of-life” — their poverty and slums! — was somehow threatened by the government’s new under-emphasis on religious bigotry; the organising of Catholic workers in the Civil Rights Movement to achieve “rights” which their leaders alleged Protestants had (presumably including that majority of Protestants who, like their Catholic class brethren, knew only poverty and slum-dom); the Government’s cowardly re-adjustment of attitudes to counter the loss of support to Paisleyism and the inevitable conflagration of 1969.

Among the hate weapons developed by those elements eager to supplant the government was the UVF an armed and secret force taking its name from the force developed by Unionism to over-ride the democratic decisions of the people of Britain and Ireland in 1912. The fact that little is known about the present-day version of this tool of political thuggery is not so much a tribute to its ability to maintain secrecy as it is a pointer to its lack of organised existence. Proscribed by the government after a number of Catholics had been foully murdered in such a way as not to allow the murderers even a pretext beyond the fact of the victims’ religious identity, the UVF developed a “front” organisation which remains legal and more careful than the earlier force. The acts of violence generally attributed to the UVF are usually carried out by people associated with one or more loose groupings of extreme political Protestants and such groupings are, tragically, not rare in the Protestant ghettos.

It is from people associated with such groups, which are the real sinews and support of the UVF, that the most vociferous protests at the violence of the IRA groups comes. They are shocked; they despair of words fitting their condemnation and they are hypocritically forgetful of the violence and murder which the organisations they support have carried out against Catholics and even, on a number of occasions, against the police and British Army.

Typical of such hypocritical protest is the Orange Order and perhaps the most nauseously hypocritical of its spokesmen is the political Protestant Rev. Martin Smyth. Like the Prime Minister and the police chiefs, like Paisley and the thousands of eminently respectable, and pre-eminently ignorant, people whose convenient political memories and selective condemnations is often a bigoted bludgeon, Smyth appears to forget that, in taking to arms, the IRA are only imitating the earlier and more successful example of Unionism and in bombing and killing they are only emulating the activities which Smyth and his hypocritical ilk forgot to condemn when the victims were Catholic and the perpetrators Orangemen. We have no record of Smyth, the indignant and the righteous Rev. Smyth, publicly protesting when one. of his Orange Lodges delayed the serious business of remembering 1690 in 1969 by paying a silent tribute outside Belfast jail to one of its members who was convicted of murdering one man and wounding two others simply because they were Catholics.

Then there are the Orange politicians who have witnessed and testified to the brutality of the British Army when they have been fighting with Protestants; most often they are the first to decry the validity of evidence of similar brutality when the Army has been in action against Catholics.

The British Army  . . .
There is the third force in our violence and hypocrisy, the British Army. One would think that men who have voluntarily become full-time members of an organisation that trains them not only to kill but requires that they surrender all right to question the identity of their victims, are not likely to become involved with protest against those of like mind who oppose them. Still we regularly get old Major Neverthink on our TV screens now protesting the military cricket of the “cowardly bounders” who use dirty methods, like amateur imitations of Army Claymore anti-personnel bombs, against his troops.

We were of the opinion that in military parlance the surprise attack and hasty retreat was simply good strategy; the development of new weapons was inventiveness and, when such weapons were produced from easy-to-hand materials, this was good improvisation but possibly our misapprehension arises from the time the French partisans were fighting the Germans or, more recently, when the brave Hungarians or Czechs were fighting the machine gun-toting Russians. Our British Army’s Major Neverthink in Northern Ireland thinks the “terrorists” are short on guts if they don’t advise the military of their intentions before bringing out their Webleys to face the Army’s tanks and machine guns!

Aside from the babbling selective condemnations of British Army officers there is the much more serious political and practical blindness of the military command. From abusive threats of kicking teeth in to arrest for motorists who refuse to sign statements saying they have no complaints about Army behaviour (!) to the quite clear cut instances of hate-incensed troops provoking riots by indiscriminate and largely futile house raidings confined almost entirely to Catholic districts; from their constant provocation by blanket presence in the narrow streets of Belfast’s slum-dom along with heavy and noisy equipment to the imposition of indignities on the civilian populace in those areas and the greater viciousness that their equipment gives them as one of the sides in street rioting, the Army demonstrates that they are either a foul machine at the easy disposal of brutal politicians or that its leadership is wholly irresponsible.

Failure elsewhere — and it must be remembered that the tactics being used by the British Army in N. Ireland today are those that brought them discredit and even military failure in all the areas where they have served the cause of capitalist “law and order” — and they can serve no other cause — seems to have taught the Army no lessons nor do they appear to grasp the elementary fact that every raid, and its attendant situation, carried out in the pathetic slums of Northern Ireland, even if it yields a firearm, creates new desires for firearms and many new hands to use them. But then the soldier is on orders despite Nuremberg and its lofty legal precedents, “their’s not to reason why”.

There is nothing new in the world of violence. After Belsen, Churchill’s policy of mass bombing of civilians, Hiroshima, Hungary, Vietnam and all the other foulness that the profit system and its political priorities have given rise to, capitalism’s chamber of horrors can hold no new surprises. Only the hypocrisy of selective condemnation, of blaming the “other side” can continue to surprise and when such selective condemnation is as general and arrogant as it is in Northern Ireland today, where it is patently the seed of fresh conflict, surprise is a prelude to nausea.

We too condemn: not just either of the two IRA’s or the UVF, not just the government or “security” forces, not just the rioters, Catholic and Protestant. We condemn the system of social organisation that creates conditions in which it can all happen — a system where it must always be “You or I” and rarely “You and I”.

There is an answer, a simple answer — complicated for the working class by the same mad social conditioning that allows them to babble idiocies about violence, that answer is Socialism; the establishment of a society of production for use, a society where the resources of nature and the mental and physical skills of people will combine, not to produce things for sale and profit, but to produce an abundance of the things we require sufficient to permit of free and equal access to our needs. Only in such a society will the material basis of division and dissension, that in Northern Ireland as in so many other areas of capitalism has erupted into open violence, be finally banished.
Richard Montague

The Age of Keynes (1971)

Book Review from the August 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Age of Keynes. A Biographical Study, by Robert Lekachman. Pelican, 30p.

For most of the thirty years just passed, the academic study of political economy has proceeded on the assertion of the Keynesians that it is not necessary to abolish the capitalist system, because it can be manipulated for the general good. By this they mean, that skilful handling of the economy can ensure that there will always be wage-labour for those who must avail themselves of it because they have no other means of subsistence, while the capitalist class will be able to enjoy untrammelled success to wealth as heretofore.

Considering that the edifice of academic economics erected in modern times is essentially nothing but a camouflage against the works of Marx, it is surely reasonable to hope that, in a biography of his principal adversary, some of his arguments would at least be touched upon in passing. But the hope is in vain. Throughout the book the only direct reference to Marx is a quotation from an essay written by Keynes in 1925, when he was old enough to know better, in which he makes a first class fool of himself by declaring, without any supporting argument worthy of the name, that ‘Capital’ is “without interest or application for the modern world”. The diatribe, including the abhorrence which “an educated, intelligent, decent son of Western Europe” must naturally feel for Marx and all his works, is here printed in full.

Is this what we are expected to accept as Keynes’ final criticism of Marx? Could he not do any better later in life? Did he not, at any time, state an opinion on the theory of surplus value? Is his modern biographer, an American professor of economics, not able to manage just one more bash at the much battered-about labour theory?

Obviously then there is little here to interest an educated intelligent worker, whether he happens to be a "decent son of Western Europe” or the son of Chinese sea cook, but there are some weird themes running through the book which it may be a pity to miss. The most revealing, perhaps, is based on the notion that Keynes’ theories can only be seen working properly in time of war. We are given a description of world economics in 1943; “economies rejoicing in buoyant demand, factories operating at capacity and overfull employment”.

As always with Keynesian economists the question of employment, other people’s employment, of course, not his own, is of anxious concern to this professor. “Making work” for other people, preferably at a factory bench, is an obsession with him. But perhaps the most revolting examples of capitalistic cant are the references to Keynes cleverness in gambling on the Stock Exchange.

It is a frightening thought that students of political economy, the understanding of which is of such overwhelming importance to every human being, still have to soil their minds with this sort of rubbish in universities today.

The 'Observer' Atlas of World Affairs (1971)

Book Review from the August 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

The 'Observer' Atlas of World Affairs: A Guide to Major Tensions and Conflicts by Andrew Wilson. £2.50.

This is an entirely new work, and besides being an atlas it is also a geography book of a special kind with table of economic resources, raw materials, and the war strengths of the various powers.

To quote from the dust cover “it brings together in readily appreciable form the chief factors affecting the world of the 1970’s. All the material has been chosen for its relevance to present day political, military, economic and social issues. An unusual aspect of this profusedly illustrated book is the emphasis given to military matters, underlying the grim reality that supports the present structures of international affairs. Military technology is rarely encountered by the average citizen, but it both threatens and defends him, and cannot be ignored.” We might have doubts about defending citizens, but the threats from war are clearly evident.

In the section on “rich and poor countries” the author does not tell us (as indeed is not his purpose) why some people are rich and others, poor, but he does point out that in many poor countries, there are a few who are fabulously rich while the masses are very poor. He further shows how investments in these “poor countries” does not tend to make them rich, but only perpetuates the already big difference between rich and poor. Incomes per capita are given for comparisons, and are very revealing.

He also shows how the poor exporting countries in their efforts to export in order to be able to import manufactured products, have to pay more and more of their raw material for less and less manufactured products, and that it is the larger manufacturing or capitalist giants that have the whip hand in the bargaining.

For example 
“Two-thirds of Ghana's exports are cocoa. Between 1953 and 1961, cocoa exports increased by 71 per cent, but the revenue rose by only 23 per cent. In the same period European goods shipped to West Africa went up 25 per cent in cost. So a piece of machinery that cost Ghana the equivalent of ten tons of cocoa in 1953 cost 25 tons of cocoa in 1961.”

“Half Brazil’s exports consist of coffee. Between 1953 and 1961 coffee exports increased by 90 per cent in volume, but the revenue dropped by 35 per cent."

“Half the exports of the Malay peninsula are rubber. Between 1950 and 1961 rubber exports increased by 4 per cent in volume, but the revenue fell by 35 per cent.”
These are examples of the unequal development of capitalism which politicians and their parties often use for their own propaganda. Another example of this from a different field is illustrated in the atlas by quoting from the last decade of figures from Japan. During the 1960’s Japan increased her gross national production by an average of 10 per cent per year; in 1969 the rate was over 14 per cent; yet in terms of per capita income Japan lies 20th in the world league. Such facts point to inevitable wage struggles ahead in Japan, and which have actually begun.

The sections dealing with the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. examine the economic and military aspects of these countries with tables of their resources and their nuclear striking power—which is frightening. He acknowledges that both powers have long reached the point when they could withstand a nuclear “first strike” and be able to hit back. At the same time, either power has sufficient striking potential to blot out the other many times over. The author states his own opinion (for what it is worth), that it is very unlikely that either power will attempt such knock out measures, but rely on conventional apparatus for its war adventures. But theory and practice in such drastic circumstances sometimes depart from scheduled plans.

In the chapter on space exploration, he enumerates the various advances made, and adds “Although neither the Moon nor orbiting space stations appear at present to lend themselves to aggressive military purposes, a space confrontation’ could theoretically develop if one country were to intervene with another’s satellites. In addition to scientific and communications purposes, Russian and American ‘spy’ satellites provide a continuous picture of military developments in each territory, using optical, radar, and infrared cameras. This at least makes sense on why both Russia and America has been prepared to spend millions of pounds on these satellites. Spying has always been an expensive although necessary part of capitalism’s activity.

The list of world conflicts given during the 20th century is very formidable. From the Spanish-American war of 1898 to the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948 there is a list of 59 wars, insurrections, revolts or military skirmishes; and from the Korean war of 1950 until last year a Jordan-Palestine conflict, another 72 are listed.

The Common Market is also dealt with and the author states categorically that the E.E.C. is both political and economic as we know only too well.

Population is a question not ignored, and although there is nothing new in this section, except that it is up to date, some useful figures are given.
Horace Jarvis

Autumn Propaganda Drive (1971)

Party News from the August 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the week 12th to 19th September we shall be engaging in a week’s extended propaganda activity and would like all members and sympathisers to participate. This activity will only take place in London and other towns where we have branches, but it could and should take place in every area where there is a member of the S.P.G.B. sympathiser or reader of the Socialist Standard.

In London, we shall commence with an outdoor meeting on Sunday 12th and the week will terminate with a special Rally at Hyde Park on the 19th. On each of the weekdays, we shall hold outdoor meetings at Lincolns Inn Fields. Charing Cross. Earls Court etc. It is also anticipated that special efforts will be made to run extra meetings in Glasgow, Edinburgh, etc. In addition, many London branches will run special indoor meetings during this week.

Apart from all the meetings, we particularly wish to concentrate on selling literature and in particular the Socialist Standard. If you are unable to take part in any of the organised activities, we should like you to order at least 1 dozen extra copies of the September issue for selling in your area or at your place of work. Why not try and get your local news-agent to sell the S.S.—we can arrange special terms. And if you’re the only Socialist in any town, why not try a stint at canvassing the sale of the S.S. London branches will be covering many of the Tube stations during this week; these are a useful source for sales.

Full details of meetings, literature sales drives etc will be notified to members and will appear in the September S.S. If you have any suggestions or ideas for the particular area where you live— let us know. We will do our best to help in any way.
Propaganda Committee.

Obituaries: T. H. Turpin and A. Slane (1971)

Obituaries from the August 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regret to report the death of two Central Branch Members. Comrade T. H. Turpin of Frinton had been associated with the Party for many years and was originally a member of the old Tottenham Branch. He lived on the East Coast of recent years and always welcomed party members. He was 86 years of age when he died.

Comrade A. Slane had also known the Party for many years, although he did not join until 1950. He lived near Canterbury and for many years was a regular attender at Party Conferences. Recently due to his age, he was 85 when he died, he was unable to travel to London but he retained keen interest in Party affairs.

Freedom from food (1971)

From the August 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Earlier this year the Common Market adopted a new farm policy which involves reducing the number of small farmers and concentrating agricultural production in a smaller number of larger and more efficient farms. European Community, the English-language version of the Common Market's information journal, carried in its June issue "A Pictorial Guide to Farm Reform" which frankly describes one aspect of this policy:
‘‘Those who remain on the land are being encouraged to acquire not only larger but also economically more viable holdings. They can, for example, be granted rebates on interest payments to enable them to invest in land and machinery. Groups of agricultural experts will advise them on modernization measures. In this way it is hoped to bring farmers’ earnings on a par with those in industry.

“But these more efficient farms should not over-produce. Therefore about 15 million acres (the total land surface of the Netherlands and Belgium) of the 75 million acres that could become available as some farmers left should not be cultivated, but used for afforestation and recreation (e.g. national parks) Obviously, these 15 million acres would have to be the least fertile".

July's "Done & Dusted"

Cue cut and paste . . . 

A new feature on the blog . . . and like all new features on the blog, one that I should have put in place about 10 years ago. (It's the same with the Pages that I'm slowly introducing to the top of the blog's homepage).

It's perfectly simple. Here's a list of the Socialist Standards that were completed on the blog in the month of July 2022. Slowly but surely the digitization of the Standard is *cough* nearing completion. If I'd hazard a guess, I'd say it will be finished by the end of 2024. Famous last words, and all that. 

They are broken up into decades for the hard of hearing.

July's 2022's "Done & Dusted":

War, Peace and Profits (1942)

From the September 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

The casualties of war mount with the scale of military operations, but outnumbering even the victims of the battlefield are the legions who succumb to the fearful heritage of war—hunger and pestilence. That was the experience after the last world-war, as we are reminded in a book just published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Medical Relief in Europe,” by Dr. Melville D. Mackenzie, is described in “The Londoner’s Diary” (“Evening Standard,” 24/7/42) as being the “grimmest, most fascinating book I have read recently.” Its grimness cannot be questioned, for it tells the author’s experiences in Eastern Europe after the last war, where he worked with Nansen in an endeavour to relieve the plight caused by starvation and disease. Despite their efforts, “more people were killed by famine and disease in the three years after the war than by guns during the war.” We do not know whether the author’s work took him to Central Europe, where the devastation wrought by these “Horsemen of the Apocalypse” was equally fearful. Amid such parlous conditions the democratic republic of Weimar was born — puny and rickety, like many of its children. No wonder it did not survive.

In Hungary, the revolt led by Bela Kun was crushed, according to the Communists, not so much by superior force, but by the American shipments of wheat placed into the hands of Hungary’s old ruling class, the reactionary landowning aristocracy. Whilst bombs are raining on cities and millions of men are blowing each other to pieces, the horrors and problems of the present crowd speculations as to the future into the background. Only our rulers permit themselves occasional, highly rhetorical, glimpses.

Mr. Anthony Eden, perhaps second in popularity only to Mr. Churchill, and a strong tip for future premiership, in a speech at Nottingham on July 23rd, delivered himself of the following : —
“Industry has reached a stage in which there is no necessity for anyone in the world to go short of food, or to lack the means to build themselves a better life. The problem is to organise a full production and an equitable distribution for all.” (“News-Chronicle,” July 24th, 1942.)
A problem indeed. For Mr. Eden and his class, none of whom conceive or admit the need for Socialism, it is insoluble. But there is no harm in trying, at any rate, on the public platform.

Bearing in mind the disappointment which awaited the workers in the years of slump and unemployment that followed the last war, Mr. Eden added a word of caution :
“We must have no illusion about the future even after the war is won. To win the peace will be as hard a task as to win the war. We shall need the same national unity at home. We shall need true friendship between the nations who have fought as Allies.” (Ibid.)
We shall need something far more drastic, the abolition of the capitalist social order. But Mr. Eden would not be able to help in that direction. He can only hold out hopes for a continuation of some form of “National Government” and agreement on international policy among the victors. We are not told what contribution an alliance of political parties, all of whom have had their chance of dealing with the problems of poverty, unemployment and other evils, but failed, can make to the future happiness of mankind. In the sphere of international relations there are already signs of rifts in the lute. Mr. Cordell Hull, United States Secretary for Foreign Affairs, declared in a speech of the same date as that of Mr. Eden, that the welfare of the post-war world demands “the removal of trade barriers.” Whilst Free Trade may suit the interests of American capitalists, it is not so clear that it would be welcome to ruling class interests in Britain and elsewhere. Wherever we turn, the interests of capitalist ownership of the means of life nationally and internationally effectively prevent any substantial amelioration of human suffering. It is idle for Mr. Eden to avow in the same speech that “Never again must we tolerate the chronic unemployment, the extremes of wealth and poverty, and slums, and lack of opportunity for so many, which have disfigured our national life in the past.”

And may we add, continue to disfigure it in the present. In a written statement by Captain Crookshank, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, it is seen that—
“The number of big incomes shows no reduction. A hundred people still receive over £100,000 a year, but whereas in 1939 they paid 12½ millions in tax, they now pay 17.3 millions.” (“Evening Standard,” July 24th, 1942.)
We are not told whether their combined incomes have risen since 1939, though that may well be the case.

At the other end of the social line-up, 5,700,000 taxpayers are in the £125—£250 per year class. With the cost of living at its present rate, it is not necessary to be a student of economics to appreciate the hardships suffered by those wage earners and their dependents.

Nowhere have the ruling class relaxed their grip on the economic and political life of the country. Rather have they strengthened it. Squeezing out the smaller capitalist fry will give greater power and security to the monopolies, just as it will lower the social status of a working class having to contend with powerful combines, whose representatives personally occupy the pivotal positions within the machinery of State. These are the realities of the present and they count for more than the chimera of platform speeches.

They also reveal the future trends of capitalist society. In other countries, too, this centralisation of control and ownership has been put into effect or else discussed; the motive is not a new one; it is the same that has actuated capitalist production from the beginning—profits and the greater security in obtaining them.

Bearing in mind what has been said at the beginning of this article, the following item of news is of special interest : —

Under the heading, “A European Plan for Farming,” the “News-Chronicle” which reported the speech of Mr. Eden also brings news of a conference in London between representatives of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria.

“These representatives,” the report goes on to say, “have prepared a peasant programme aimed at opening new post-war markets for their countries in Western Europe—the only way to free them from economic and political domination by Germany.”

“Their programme insists on peasant ownership, with peasant institutions, democratically organised; ample facilities for credit, including a Central Agricultural Bank; and regulated prices.”

Can the futility of capitalism be demonstrated more convincingly ? There are prospects of mass starvation for some time after the war in these very countries, and landowning interests there are looking to Western Europe for a “market” !

Unless the workers of the world awaken to the urgency of Socialism, the epitaph of all human civilisation may well be :

“They wanted work and they gave them munitions factories and war; they wanted bread and they gave them a Central Agricultural Bank and regulated prices.”
Sid Rubin