Sunday, August 21, 2022

Answers to correspondents. (1928)

From the September 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

A. Cullington (Hackney): We use the quotations from “Forward” against the I.L.P. because it is no way contradictory to I.L.P. general policy. The fact that it is a privately-owned paper is no point, because all I.L.P. papers, including the “New Leader,” are privately-owned.

We reject the quotations from Fred Henderson’s book because it is in complete conflict with the object and programme of the I.L.P.—and that’s that !

Notice to correspondents. 
Correspondence intended for publication must be written on one side of the paper only, and name and address (not necessarily for publication) must accompany all communications.

In view of our limited space all communications should be as brief as possible.

A Look Round. (1928)

From the September 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Bishop on Slums.

We have often stated that the housing “problem” is insoluble within Capitalism. After the Lord Mayor’s Show comes the Bishop of Ripon. Saith he :—
“At the present rate of progress new generations will be born and will die in the existing slums. Before the present slums are abolished new insanitary areas will have come into being.” (Nineteenth Century and after Magazine—June.)
Likewise the Daily Chronicle, August 8th, 1928 :—
“The centre point of the housing problem today is not that of building new houses, but of building houses in which the working-class can afford to live.”
This, according to the Bishop, is equivalent to saying that at the present rate of Capitalist “progress,” some of us will not be able to afford to live even in the slums. But the Bishop and the Chronicle reckon on the assumption that you will remain blind to your own interests for ever. See to it now. The price of our pamphlet “Socialism” is two pence, it gives the remedy for housing, and all the poverty problems of the working class.

A Rest Cure.
“For Society jaded after the fatigues of the season, Goodwood is at once a rest cure and a tonic, for the fine air of the Downs is marvelously invigorating.” (“Evening Standard,” 30/7/28.)
Poor dears ! how tiring! they need a change ! Apparently others, too, have been jaded with the fatigues of “looking for work,” for in the same paper we read that at Bethnal Green “2,000 unemployed besiege a workhouse.” These contrasts obtrude everywhere. The Daily News, July 12th, 1928, tells us in heavy headlines of EIGHT MILLION PEOPLE ON POVERTY LINE—LUXURY TRADES BOOMING. This latter condition, is what is termed in our masters’ press, “Our improving Trade,” “National Prosperity,” and so on. Any attempt to alter such arrangements is heralded as a threat on the life of the “Nation,” “Public,” or “Community.” For all such terms issuing from Capitalist sources, read Capitalist or Parasite Class.

A Capitalist Admission.
“The root cause of the present suspicions and antagonisms lies in the separation of those interested in industry into the two classes of capital-owning profit takers, and ownerless weekly wage earners.”
This admission comes from a high-class Capitalist business publication (Business Organisation, June). At the same time it is interesting to compare one of the latest publications of the Labour Party. They tell us :—
“The workers are not a class, they are the nation. Talk of the class war is obsolete.” (Labour Encyclopaedia, Vol. I, p. 117.)
The correct and scientific point of view we have given in every issue of the Socialist Standard since we were an organisation. It will be found on the back page, paragraphs one and two, of our principles.

Liberal Insanity.

The Liberal Party possesses some wonderful minds. Think of the mental strain involved, and the disturbance of the grey matter, in putting this lot over :—
“In the long run the cure for unemployment must be found in expanding opportunities for natural work. . . . ” (Sir John Simon, “Manchester Guardian,” 30/7/28.)
This, mind you, in an age when, through privately-owned wealth, we must restrict its output and compel millions to cease production. The learned Liberal after years of office and opportunity, can propose nothing better than an aggravation of the causes, Capitalism remaining unchanged. Read the following carefully, and then reflect upon the ease with which we could produce wealth to-day if the needs of the producers, and not the Capitalist’s profits, were the object of production :—
“At the end of the 15th Century a peasant could provision his family for a twelvemonth by fifteen weeks of ordinary work. An artisan could achieve the same result in ten weeks.” (Six centuries of work and wages, p. 389, Thorold Rogers).
W. E. MacHaffie

Letter: The Transition Period. (1928)

Letter to the Editors from the September 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Fred Montague, M.P., replies to our Criticism.

48, Lucerne Road, Highbury Park, N.5.
August 10, 1928.

To the Editorial Board, the Socialist Standard.

Dear Sirs,

As the next issue of The Social Democrat will be almost entirely a Conference number and it will be impossible for me to comment until later, perhaps you will be able to give me space for a few words upon your interesting statement.

(1) It is true that I hold a fundamentally different view, whether false or not. I do believe that Capitalism in its later stages represents a transition period. Slavery and Feudalism did in similar stages. I fail to see in what way this view conflicts with Marx.

The conception of society as an organism in process of modification does not seem to me to be unphilosophical or contrary to fact. To be Socialists, least of all to belong to the working-class, whether Socialist or not, is not to be outside existing society because Capitalism has not yet come to its natural demise. Workers are this society, and will not be able to make another until economic conditions are ready.

(2) How can it be said that the Capitalist class are in control of political machinery and the armed forces except by consent of the working-class? The workers have political power, and who but the workers compose the armed forces. Why use language reminiscent of “Bastille” psychology and characteristic of the slave complex ? It is unreal rubbish.

(3) I agree that when there is a Socialist majority of an effective kind (remembering that bare majorities can have only bare power) the transition will assume a different character. Of course. But I reject the notion that (apart from possible revolutionary upheaval which, in itself, would be merely political, could not create Socialism by magic, and would probably come, if at all, prematurely) there is some inevitable break of continuity, because the workers vote one way instead of another.

(4) Your reply to Mr. Phillips (par. 3) seems to me to give the S.P.G.B. case away. If Capitalists, for the sake of avoiding “industrial and administrative chaos,” will refrain from blocking the way to Socialism whilst the transition period is taking place after the workers elect a Socialist majority to Parliament, why assume that everything done now to avoid industrial and administrative chaos must necessarily block the way?

(5) A period of transformation means a period, short or long, where one form of society exists in diminishing area side by side with another form in ascending area. A Socialist Government would have to admit the dual fact and legislate for economic stability. The fault of your analogy about Krupps and about war administration is that in those cases there was no change of Capitalist economic machinery or control. You will agree.

The only (though important) difference that crosses on ballot papers will make to economic evolution is that, for the first time the workers will take charge of the evolutionary process and direct existing collectivist tendencies into definitely Socialist channels. Well, we all want that. The difference between us is that you regard the advent of a Socialist Government as an entirely new economic departure, whilst I consider that the conscious awakening of the workers will be, like birth, a stage of existence, not origin in vacuo. I do not believe in special creation.

(6) In answer to Mr. Phillips you say the Capitalists are not prepared to pay any price. That is as true now as it will be when Parliament has a majority of Socialists. They are beginning not to pay the price of competition. They will not pay the price of social services that are not “profitable.” They will let the nation “buy” industries that have ceased to “pay.” All very accurate.

But if a national railroad service is necessary and Capitalists cannot and will not deliver the goods, what is there unsocialistic about nationalising the railways? Is it that national taxation will be burdened with interest on the bonds? Since when has it been “Socialistic” to hold that taxation matters to the workers? I am not interested in Nationalisation on the ground that it will “pay,” but on the ground that, since “Rationalisation” is the only alternative I prefer to have economic machinery in the hands of the Parliament you and I want the workers to control.

Why should not Nationalisation benefit the workers under Capitalism? Unless you hold that the “Iron Law” is a cast-iron law, and wages don’t matter, whose is the fault if public servants of the working-class are not better paid and more secure? I know many cases in the municipal form of the principle where the workers are better off. On the other hand, if no workers can be better off they cannot be worse off, for a real iron law must be pretty rigid at both ends. In which case Nationalisation cannot injure the workers.

(7) Nationalisation, you say, will cause unemployment. More efficiency, less work. Three cheers for inefficiency ! Is that Socialist policy? Good God, does the absence of Nationalisation in the coal industry “find work”? If keeping the workers employed in non-efficient Capitalist concerns instead of setting unemployed men to work to produce new wealth for their own consumption and new demand-power in the nation is Socialist, I have been at sea all my life. Can you say that workers could not insist upon the latter being done and might it not be done before your financial secretary or ours gets buried in the subscriptions of the working class? If not, why not?

One point more. I was not a recruiting agent. I did not ask other people to do even what I thought it proper to do myself.
Yours sincerely,
F. Montague.

Our Reply
(1) Mr. Montague says that “Capitalism” in its later stages represents a transition period,” and he writes of Capitalism’s “natural demise.” This view conflicts both with fact and with the Marxian view of social development. Capitalism, administratively and socially, has always been adjusting itself to developments of new productive methods, and the rise of new sections of the Capitalist class, but this is not transition to Socialism. Capitalism, with ever new adjustments, will go on indefinitely unless and until the working-class decide to terminate it. Waiting for Capitalism to “come to its natural demise” and in the meantime assisting the Capitalists to reform Capitalism is not work for Socialists.

(2) Mr. Montague dismisses as “unreal rubbish” the notion “that the Capitalist class are in control …. except by consent of the working-class.”

This is interesting, but has nothing to do with our case.

Mr. Montague knows perfectly well that we have never denied that the workers consent to Capitalist control and vote for Capitalism at each election.

The point of importance (and this Mr. Montague conveniently ignores) is that the Capitalists are in control, and therefore the reforms they introduce are Capitalist remedies for Capitalist problems.

(3) The very definite break of continuity after the workers gain control for Socialism will be that, for the first time, an attack will be made on the private property basis of Capitalism.

Was there not a definite break of continuity in the Southern States of the U.S.A. when slavery was made illegal and replaced by wage-labour?

(4) We have not said that everything done by the Capitalist class “must necessarily block the way” to Socialism. What we have said is that while the Capitalist class are in control they will decide what shall and shall not be done. The pressure of their system, not the pleadings of “Labour” representatives, compels them to actions which sometimes work out to our benefit as well as theirs.

(5) It has already been pointed out that Socialism is international, and the conception of Socialism and Capitalism existing in “areas” “side by side,” is quite foreign to Socialism.

If the change over from the production of munitions to the production of machinery can be carried out by the workers under Capitalism, we still fail to see why similar transformations should present special difficulty after the workers are in control. Mr. Montague fails to enlighten us.

We quite agree that the awakening of the workers is a gradual process, but their conquest of power is equally obviously a definite new departure.

(6) We asked Mr. Montague to defend his support of Nationalisation, which he agreed is “only another form of Capitalism.” Our opposition was stated to be on the ground that “it will not benefit the workers under Capitalism.” Instead of showing that the workers would be better off under Nationalisation, Mr. Montague first says that he prefers to have “economic machinery in the hands of the Parliament you and I want the workers to control”—but the point is that the workers at present do not control Parliament, and the proposition Mr. Montague has to defend is the advocacy of State-ownership by a Parliament in control of Capitalist parties.

He then uses the flimsy argument that he knows some municipal employees who are “better off.” As he gives no particulars, nor any explanation of his basis of comparison, no answer is possible. I would, however, refer him to the explicit statement of the Civil Service Industrial Court which last year arbitrated on Post Office wages, that it accepted the principle of basing wage rates on those paid in outside industry.

Lastly, does Mr. Montague really think that we ought to support any reform the Capitalists choose to advocate, provided it is not positively harmful to the workers? If Nationalisation leaves the workers no better and no worse off than now, that is a sufficient reason not to waste efforts on it; efforts which might be devoted to the achievement of Socialism.

(7) Mr. Montague asks if “inefficiency” is Socialist policy. It is not. Have we ever said it was?

What he persistently fails to recognise is that the economic evils of the working-class are due to their wage-slave position in Capitalist society. Mr. Montague misleads the workers by persuading them to believe that Nationalisation will solve their problems. Our alternative to advocating either private or State Capitalism is to advocate Socialism. Mr. Montague’s alternative to advocating private Capitalism is advocating State Capitalism, coupled with such nonsense as “setting unemployed men to work to produce new wealth for their own consumption,” as if such a thing were possible with the Capitalist class still in control of the means of production.
Edgar Hardcastle

The plain case for Socialism. (1928)

From the September 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Eight Million People on Poverty Line”—so runs the headline of a column in the Daily News for July 12th. An unemployed army that is steadily growing and is now nearly a million and a half; a coal-mining industry that is declining and turning its workers out to starve; a railway industry that is alleged to be on the down grade and has drawn from the Rt. Hon. J. H. Thomas the remark :
The railway situation to-day is worse than ever it was before, and I am gravely apprehensive about it. (Daily News, 2/7/28.)
Which remarks he backed up by recommending the railway workers to accept a 2½ per cent. reduction off their wages.

Ten thousand harvesters required for Canada (sixteen hours a day of real hard work) and tens of thousands apply for the jobs—some walking hundreds of miles, some getting out of sick beds, old men weakly pretending they are young, weaklings laying claim to lustihood, and all just for the chance of bread and butter.

But, we are told, we can’t do without capital, and evils such as these are necessary in order that society shall continue to “progress.”

How the capitalist looks at the situation is suggested by the remarks of Mr. William Wallace, at the Conference of Quaker Employers last April, where he said :
Capital should have a minimum wage, and in addition, a premium for the risk run. The worker should have a statutory minimum wage and the management a sufficient remuneration to secure the kind of management required. The surplus should then be used, firstly, to raise the minimum wage to the human needs basis, and, after that, it might be desirable to go on to profit-sharing or other means of distribution, such as pensions, superannuation, etc. (Italics ours)—Daily News, 14/4/28.
It will be seen that in the eyes of the Quaker the first essential is an adequate return for capital. He is willing to allow, as a secondary question, a minimum wage to the workers—but less than required to meet human needs. If, however, there is any surplus he is agreeable that a portion of it shall be used to raise the minimum wage to meet human needs !

If we take the above as a representative example of the Capitalist outlook (and remember the Quaker has a name as a “good” employer !) then all the bulk of the workers can hope for when in work is a wage less than what will meet human needs. As employment is a fluctuating quantity and the machine steadily encroaches upon the available jobs, each worker risks increasing periods of unemployment. How is he to get over these periods with no chance of savings to fall back upon? The answer, of course, is semi-starvation on the dole—for those that can qualify !

In the days when human society was young no such troubles beset the people— starvation through unemployment was not known. It is a product of Capitalism and Capitalism cannot cure the disease without risking its continued existence. There is really only one cure and that cure involves the extinction of capitalism as such, for it strikes at the root of both unemployment and capitalism—the private ownership of the means of production.

The solution to the unemployment problem is so simple that once grasped it seems extraordinary that one has not seen it before. At the outset one may ask, “How can people be workless when the earth abounds in fruitfulness and there are hungry mouths to fill”? Surely the situation is ridiculous and forces one to see that there must be something fundamentally wrong with the method of production and distribution that is now in use. No amount of deep economic argument or highflown philosophical phrases can get over or explain away facts so simple as this.

If the bulk of a nation must endure poverty and know little of the pleasures of life in order that “Science, progress and Capitalism” shall flourish, then surely the sufferers must, sometime, put the question, “Why not shatter the whole thing to bits and relapse into barbarism” where conditions of this kind were unknown. The essence of the argument in favour of carrying on as at present simply signifies the providing of leisure, enjoyment, “progress” and the rest for a privileged few at the expense of the many.

Fortunately, however, there is no need either to shatter society to bits, or to relapse into barbarism, in order to remove the evils that exist.

The hungry man looks into the baker’s shop but durst not take his fill.—Why? Because somebody else owns the goods. The unemployed man looks wistfully through the window at the whirring machinery, but durst not take his place at a machine.—Why? Because somebody else owns the factory and all that is in it. This brings us down at once to the root of the problem.

Taking the whole of society broadly, in almost every country the situation is as follows : The great bulk of the wealth in existence is produced by working people receiving wages in return for the energies they expend. This wealth and the workshops, raw material, and land involved in its production, are owned by vast companies representing’ mainly a relatively small group of shareholders who do not obtain their living by working, but live on the dividends they get from the companies. These companies naturally aim at providing as much dividends as possible and to this end only keep their factories running as fully and as long as profit (in the long run, of course) comes to them. They, therefore, take advantage of the aid of science in the way of providing machinery and organisation that reduces the staff that need be employed for producing a given quantity of goods. The net result is a steady decrease in the relative number of work people employed and consequent increase of unemployment.

Hundreds of years ago slavery came into existence because man’s power to produce reached a point where one man was able to produce in a day of labour a quantity of goods (or services) greater in value than what was needed to keep him for the day— he produced more than his keep. At that time this robbery was plain for every eye to see because the oppression was direct and open. In later times, for instance in Rome at the time of its imperial greatness, it was plain that the vast mass of slaves produced, not only all that kept them, but also a huge extra quantity that enabled the Patrician slave-holders to live luxuriously and distribute gratuitous feasts for the angry but poor freemen when they became restive. Since those days the means to produce a given quantity of goods with a less and less expenditure of human energy have made mighty strides, until we have reached a time when millions can be kept well nourished for employment in the work of destroying wealth, in a quantity and at a rapidity that is astounding-—as in the war that finished, ten years ago. Just pause for a moment and ponder over the fact that every single shell that burst over any front represented in value hundreds of square meals. Multiply the number that burst by the value of the guns, the equiping of the armies, and the value of the fortifications, buildings and the like destroyed and you will get some vague idea what present society, with its crippling methods of wasteful production, can afford to waste in the matter of wealth and still live. During the last month armies of soldiers, fleets of warships, and armies of aeroplanes have been engaged in costly manoeuvres—all waste of wealth and human energy. Ponder a little more and you will realise how easy it would be to fill every empty stomach, clothe every ragged body and house every starveling, if all the energy employed wastefully were spent on work connected with the production of what is necessary to meet the needs of all. Socialism implies this.

(To be continued).

World View: The sinking of the Kursk (2000)

From the October 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

At 10.31am on Saturday August 12, a rocket-propelled torpedo on a Russian submarine misfired during the launch routine, and its highly volatile fuel exploded. A desperate effort was then made by surviving crew members to bring the damaged and endangered vessel to the surface. But just two and one quarter minutes later, a second catastrophic blast with a force of two tons of TNT blew the bow apart when the torpedo warhead detonated, and sea water plunged in. That massive explosion sent the Kursk to the bed of the Barents Sea, where it had been participating in summer exercises.

This, according to American spying activities, appears to be what happened. But while that Saturday morning brought the end for all on board, for relatives, friends and a news-aware Russian working class, it was to become the beginning of a tragic drama of common solidarity, and a striking demonstration of the power of a largely unrestricted post-Soviet media.

For families of Kursk submariners, energetic media probing of the tragedy exposed official deceit, misinformation and confusion. After two days of silence, the navy said there had been a “malfunction”. That the Kursk had “descended voluntarily”. That “contact with the crew had been established”. That “everyone on board is alive”. That a “foreign” submarine caused a collision. Perhaps worst of all, relatives and the public were led to believe that the Russian navy was making serious attempts to save any survivors by sending down their own submersible rescue craft. But it transpired that this was futile from the outset, because deep-sea divers were essential to help guide this craft by hand over the Kursk’s rescue hatch so the mini-sub could properly lock on to it, and the cash-strapped navy had disbanded all these specially trained diving teams.

Four days were lost before Putin asked for outside help, and days more before it arrived. Even an agonising wait by sailors’ families to learn whether or not their own fathers, brothers and sons were on board the Kursk only ended when the tabloid newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda published the names, after bribing a high-ranking navy officer with 18,000 roubles (£450) for the list stamped “Top Secret”. There was also public anger that president Putin remained on holiday in Sochi on the Black Sea, while loved ones were imagined to be struggling for air as the submarine’s oxygen ran out.

The reality was that the huge onboard explosion killed most of the Kursk’s crew quickly, though it is possible some survived a short while longer in the stern, before the entire submarine became flooded due to structural damage making watertightness impossible. The pressure of deep water outside the submarine would have caused more blast energy to be directed internally, causing increased hull and bulkhead damage.

To make matters worse for Putin—who won the presidential election by portraying himself as a revitalising strongman who would improve Russia’s armed forces, crack down on crime and restore stability—August brought not only the Kursk’s sinking. A terrorist bomb exploded beforehand in Moscow killing 12 and maiming dozens. And afterwards, the capital’s prestigious Ostankino television tower caught fire, disrupting the viewing habits of ten million Muscovites. These events together, and Russian journalists’ recent ability to comment freely no doubt account for much of the media’s fierce and sustained criticism of the President, but many were already unhappy with the leader because of a crackdown on media organisations which had followed negative comments about Russian fighting in Chechnya—something which damaged the government during the last such war.

Furthermore, some media barons and business tycoons no longer see eye to eye with Putin, and may be concerned that a politician they empowered and made their puppet, just might harbour a notion to sever his strings. Putin has sought to blame the “oligarchs” for the Kursk tragedy, accusing them of having robbed “the army, navy and the country blind”. If the public, who already despise the super-rich businessmen, can be led to believe that their greed has crippled and endangered the armed forces, then Putin will have scapegoats, popular and military support, and the power to exert more control over privatised assets at the very least. Perhaps even order a change of ownership if so inclined.

Orgy of self-enrichment
In the eight years since Russia followed Western advice from free market touts to establish a private banking system and start privatising the state assets, a small number of people with links to officialdom became phenomenally rich. During Boris Yeltsin’s early years in power, they were preoccupied with making money. But as the 1996 presidential election approached, Russia’s new capitalists grew fearful that their orgy of self-enrichment might end. The “Communist” party candidate had a real chance of winning, so they poured money into both Yeltsin’s campaign and an anti-“Communist” media offensive, and successfully got their man into the Kremlin. When Yeltsin was coming to the end of his reign, and was intent on protecting himself and his family’s sizeable amount of grasped wealth, he had to choose both a loyalist successor and someone acceptable to the nabobs.

Enter Vladimir Putin, who hours after becoming Prime Minister was asked by the Kommersant newspaper about his relationship with the asset-owning rich, and replied “I have never quarreled with any of the oligarchs”. Clearly, someone who knew where real power then lay, and who he had to curry favour with in order to improve his career prospects. But having achieved presidential power, Putin has sought to strengthen the Russian state and reassert Kremlin control of its 89 regions and republics, where nepotism, corruption and crime abound.

One of his first decrees ordered the resurrection of compulsory military training. More money has been promised to the armed forces. He has expressed admiration of the KGB, and last August appointed a former KGB colonel as Prime Minister. He recently unveiled a plaque honouring Russia’s war heroes which had Stalin’s name listed foremost. A commemorative coin bearing Stalin’s face has also been issued, and a new bust of the Soviet tyrant is planned for Russia’s main war memorial. This increased militarisation of society, tributes to authoritarianism, centralising of power, bonding with military chiefs and tendency to see others as being either state or anti-state—just as in the USSR era when everything was categorised as Soviet or anti-Soviet—might mean President Putin has a desire to return to Stalinist-style oppressive rule. If so, the power and privileges presently enjoyed by the oligarchs could shift Putin’s way, as he and his own associates became the next capitalist elite.

But is there not a contradiction between Putin’s expressed detest of the oligarchs, and his simultaneous commitment to improve the armed forces? After all, just whose valuable assets and territory is the Russian military defending and favouring these days? Which brings us to why armed forces and their barbaric weaponry even exist in a supposedly civilised intelligence-valued twenty-first century. It is because, just as governments compete economically to help their own nation’s businesses (keeping wages, taxes and welfare low, weakening trade unions etc), so they must compete militaristically, if they are to avoid others obtaining easy commercial advantages through armed intimidation and attack. Hence, 500 odd submarines from different countries lurk and stealthily traverse the world’s oceans today.

Training for tomorrow’s wars
What were those “exercises” the Kursk was taking part in actually for, if not training to fight tomorrow’s wars which today’s capitalism make a serious possibility? It is true that by strengthening the armed forces, Putin can also gain some electoral advantage from nationalistic prestige and pride engendered in the population, but the overriding purpose of military units and armaments is to assist the possessors of productive assets. Witness Uncle Sam’s ability to inflict the greatest level of death and destruction of all, which has meant that American capital can—does get—what it wants in the global market.

As for the Kursk, much press comment concentrated on how, after becoming a basket-case economy, Russia now has very little money to safely maintain its armed forces or decommission the growing armada of rusting nuclear submarines lying in ports of the Kola peninsula in north-west Russia. But this implies that much more cash would improve things. But is having a greater number of efficient nuclear warships in service, ready to deliver mass murder when so ordered, and enriched uranium from old sub reactors recycled into new nuclear weaponry, really a better situation? Far better to remove what brings about these killing machines and the instructions to use them.

However Putin rules in the future, the Russian people will continue to suffer from exploitation, poverty, deprivation, early deaths and assorted other troubles—including further dead sailors, soldiers and pilots. They and their weaponry only exist because there is minority ownership and control of manufacturing, utilities, natural resources and the like. What a few possess—and benefit greatly from—they wish to defend, capitalise on and add to through intimidation, and violent force if necessary. Hence, the reason murderous vessels like the Kursk come to be made. So when Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, commander of the Northern Fleet, said “I will strive all my life to look in the eyes of the man who caused this tragedy” (Independent, 23 August), he need only locate and peer into the nearest mirror, for as a military leader acting together with others in maintaining minority possession of productive property, he certainly carries some of the blame.

Because there are groups of these capitalists all over the world, there are groups of armed forces all over the world, and populations are encouraged to see one another as “us” and “them”, or “the enemy”. One day, you have John Spellar, Britain’s armed forces minister, saying that “we” are sending a rescue vehicle to the Barents Sea because Britons “are delighted to be able to assist in trying to save sailors from an awful fate and one that is of concern to all right thinking people all around the world” (Guardian, 17 August). Another day, another year, and “us” and “them” may be unleashing great death and destruction upon each other. Surely it is “of concern to all right thinking people” that we avoid that particular “awful fate”?

So we can, by disempowering all the presidents, the admirals, the generals, the ministers, the tycoons and any other minority who wants ownership and control of resources and people, choosing instead to possess and run these means of living ourselves. No more propertied class. No more leaders. No more us and them. No more Kursks.
Max Hess

A war to end all hooliganism (2000)

TV Review from the October 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

After several months of being “forced” to listen to the radio (and listening to such insane people as the rabid woman guest on Five Live saying England has a hooligan problem because we haven’t had a war and that the hooligans would be the first to enlist because they’d enjoy a good ol’ war) because the TV rental firm repossessed my box (“Thank you DER”, to employ their ad soundbite!), I have finally got hold of a TV and video on hire purchase.

Thank God! Now I don’t have to spend endless, boring hours talking to friends, painting and reading books. I can switch on and zap. Homer Simpson is right, you know—the remote is a true technical marvel.

I didn’t watch a lot of it when the other firm (not DER) delivered it. I had too much time to spend on moving all my furniture—firstly to make room for the house altar, and secondly, to position my chairs in the correct direction and make sure my plants and art didn’t block guests’ views of it.

After programming the cable channels in, I flicked through to see if all was OK. I watched bits and pieces of all manner of thing. On CNN a debate was taking place on child soldiers. (I wonder if they are hooligans? I always though they didn’t have the money to go and see a game, let alone buy a football.) Apparently they are abducted by the militias, grow up accepting violence as normal, and in peacetime they have trouble re-entering society: they are mentally unfit for anything and have no education to speak of. A UN man said he was working to make sure all countries have a minimum age of 18 for servicemen—how comforting, and philanthropic.

Zap! I caught a scene from the American Civil War soap North and South. One of the characters (Patrick Swayzee) is a slave owner. His friend is a Yankee capitalist—socialists can’t help chuckle at the man’s name: Hazard. Apparently they are friends, although they end up fighting each other (in the two armies). The Confederate looks at the diabolical conditions capitalist Hazard’s workers endure in the factory. “At least they are free—they can go where they want,” says our erstwhile Yankee. Quite. Capitalism needs this “freedom” to operate: you can work for a capitalist or choose to starve.

Zap! At last I can catch up on Eastenders. I see Nick Cotton has a son. He was caught trying to steal money from Dot’s purse by Mark. “Like father, like son,” says our fruit-and-veg philosopher. In 1987 “Between the Lines” was attacked in a dishonest article by the People newspaper, because we called Eastenders a morality play with a distorted view of what our class is like. Fifteen years on and it is still moralising: Nick’s son is “born evil”, and is it right to let Ethel end her life when her cancer is too painful to bear?

Zap! It was awful listening to the Republican Conference on Five Live’s Up All Night show; seeing and hearing it in glorious Technicolor was nauseating. Visions of Nazi rallies sprang to mind—people screaming in adulation at their “strong man”.

Zap! Zap! Zap! I saw Teletubbies in German, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Turkish. At least I know how to say: “Time for Tubby bye-bye” in several languages now. I could complain but, then, when I was a kid TV had Happy Days and The Magic Roundabout. I watched the Fonz whilst my old man followed the adventures of “Boing” Zebedee—probably to com to grips with his 60’s acid flashbacks.

Zap! Ah-something good: Woody Allen’s Radio Days film. After that, turned on my radio and listened to Brian Alexander’s show and Up All Night, whilst flicking through a book I was given, The Biology of Art, which studies how Homo sapiens’s need for art developed, through a comparative study of chimpanzees’ paintings.

But no doubt I shall be tuned in tomorrow to see if Mel will forgive Steve and to cry when Ethel snuffs it. Anything else would be boring, wouldn’t it?
Graham C. Taylor