Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Acid Rain (1987)

Book Review from the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Acid Rain by Fred Pearce,  Penguin (Harmondsworth, 1987)

Acid rain kills trees, eats away at stone, brick, paper and rubber, kills soils and fish and humans. This study attempts to explain how acid rain affects the environment and what causes it. It is not a new phenomenon for, as Pearce points out, the London pea soup fog of 1952 that killed some 4,000 people contained "water droplets. . . nearly as acid as the water in a car battery". The problem is exacerbated by the complexity of the chemical reaction. Ozone is formed in sunlight from hydrocarbons and nitrogen dioxide. It damages trees and acts as an irritant to human lungs. Ozone also helps in the conversion of gases to acid rain. We have begun to understand how the chemical soups are formed and we also have the technology to deal with that problem. The question is whether the political and economic will exists to carry out the necessary measures.

There has been much talk of acid rain but the actual extent of the environmental consequences are perhaps less well known. Sixty seven per cent of Norway's lakes have lost their stocks of brown trout during the century. Much of the poisoning emanates from the world's largest concentration of coal-fired power stations in a 20 kilometre stretch of the Aire valley. Drax, Eggborough and Ferrybridge combined pump out 600,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide each year. The problem is not restricted to the interchange between Britain and Scandinavia. West Germany exports 500,000 tonnes of sulphur each year — and receives about the same amount. There is also as much nitrogen dioxide in circulation, from the many cars on which our transportation system is reliant. Sulphur dioxide is converted to sulphuric acid while nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide are converted to nitric acid. Nitrogen oxides are also a key ingredient in the formation of ozone. Such acids are no respecters of national frontiers:
Around 17 per cent of the acid that falls on Norway comes from Britain. About 20 per cent of that falling on Sweden comes from Eastern Europe. It leaps oceans, too. Perhaps five per cent of the add falling in Europe has blown across the Atlantic from North America (p. 23)
Britain has made strides in reducing sulphur emissions mostly through the Clean Air Acts. The pea soup fogs no longer happen. The dominant players in the league table of filthy air are now East Germany, Czechoslovakia. Poland and Russia. As an example 20 per cent of Polish people live in areas with sulphur dioxide levels in excess of permitted government levels (which are in any case four times higher than levels set in the USA.) Sunshine levels in Cracow have been reduced from an average of five hours a day in 1945 to about three hours at present. Twelve per cent of East Germany's forests are now damaged by pollution. We are fully aware of the extent to which acid is capable of eating into buildings. Marble is converted by acid into gypsum which is washed away by rainfall. The problem of attaching a price to aesthetics and history is an additional complication. Another estimate has suggested that the medieval glass of Europe may "disappear within a generation". At a more basic level the corrosion of Britain's water-mains is being exacerbated by the action of acidic water. More frighteningly the action of acidic water has attendant consequences. Pearce says of Scotland that:
Millions of people live in areas where the public water supply comes from reservoirs where the water is soft and acid, partly because of acid rain. This water scours the lead from the old lead pipes and tanks that are still found in millions of homes in Scotland and all over Britain. The lead, in a highly digestable form, comes out of the tap. (p.87)
A study by the Greater Glasgow Health Board in the early 1980s pointed out that some ten per cent of all new born babies in Glasgow had more lead in their blood than was considered safe for adults. Lead drunk by mothers is able to cross the placental barrier and so accumulate in the foetus. The more obvious consequences of this process can be still births or children born mentally retarded. The intention is that by 1990 British water will be dosed with lime to counteract the acid. There are also unknown elements such as aluminium washed from soil by acid rain. At present parts of Birmingham. Manchester and South Yorkshire are among areas whose aluminium tap water content is greater than European Community limits.

The damage to European trees has been well documented although there are still arguments over the actual mechanism whereby the damage takes place. West Germany's fir trees have an 87 per cent damage classification with some two thirds considered by foresters to be in the most severe categories. It ought not to be forgotten that food crops are also sensitive, in particular to ozone which has become more widespread in the past ten years. Damage to plants can occur with ozone levels of 50 parts per billion (ppb). In the summer of 1976 (notable for its heat — a prime ingredient in ozone production) levels of 200-260 ppb were recorded. For a factory worker 80 ppb is considered the safety margin for working. A main contributor to ozone is the car with its emissions of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. A possible consequence will be that the ozone will act as a "greenhouse", absorbing the sun's radiation and acting as a thermal blanket.

The traditional response to any pollution problem is the concept of disposal through dilution. It is compounded by two attitudes, that of the cheapskate and the optimist. The cheapskate says that there is a mass of water and air and so anything deposited will become insignificant by dilution. The optimist adds that if a problem should occur some future generation will have the technology to deal with it. To add credibility to these attitudes the role of the scientific vacillators is necessary. They propound other theories and hypotheses in order to confuse or more importantly to deny the facts of any one perspective. This suits capitalism well for it means that it need not invest excessive resources in dealing with a problem that is not fully accepted or understood. Ironically there are occasional reversals of the pollution syndrome. During the early years of the Thatcher administration the decline in manufacturing led to a 25 per cent reduction in the amount of sulphur dioxide put into the atmosphere although the CEGB estimate a 30 per cent rise by the end of the century- Such hiccups merely hide the reality of what is taking place:
Today there is more pollution than ever before. It is chemically much more reactive. And its reach has extended from the industrial heartlands of the continent to the most remote comers. There are no refuges. Nowhere is untainted. (p. 128)
The British Electricity Authority stated in 1954 that sulphur dioxide was one of the most harmful of all pollutants. The response has been a recognition of the need for flue gas desulphurisation but this was replaced by the building of big chimneys. Britain has still not been prepared to join the 30 per cent club (those nations committed to a 30 per cent reduction in sulphur dioxide emissions) although a programme of flue gas desulphurisation is to be undertaken. Sulphur dioxide can also be reduced by burning low sulphur coal. Such coal can be found in Scotland and South Wales where British Coal appears to be closing mines as fast as possible. This inconsistency is a direct consequence of the economic demands of capitalism.

We live in a society of misconceived priorities. How do we attach values to the alternative demands of trees, crops, fish, humanity, architecture? The profit system puts all at risk because the treatment of one issue must be made at the priority cost of profit. Even if we deal with sulphur dioxide it is probable that nitrogen oxides will be a greater danger and. in any event the faster growing problem. This will be the next debate for the vacillators. In the meantime the waste remains and kills.
Philip Bentley

Between the Lines: All the news that's fit to finance (1987)

'What did the Socialist Standard say about us, luv?'
The Between the Lines column from the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

All the news that's fit to finance

Brass Tacks (BBC2,8.30pm. Wed. 26 August and 2 September) devoted two programmes to investigating the question of whether Britain has fair, decent, honest, free newspapers. Now. these adjectives are not ones which immediately spring to mind when one thinks of the press. Distorted, debased, dishonest and unfree are the more appropriate words which offer themselves as descriptions. Surely there can be few people in Britain who are unaware that if your name is Murdoch or Maxwell the press is just as free as you want to pay for it to be, but if you are looking for information you will be wasting your time sifting through most of the outpourings of Wapping Lies Ltd. and the other millionaire mouthpieces which constitute the illusion of the free British press.

In the first of the programmes Brass Tacks looked at four new newspapers and the editorial problems faced by the men who control them. Being commodities — like cans of dog food (but more tasteless) and strippergram girls — the newspapers have a principal aim to sell more copies, regardless of the journalistic standards which have to be abandoned in that sordid pursuit. So, as the newly appointed editor of the News on Sunday pointed out, despite the left-wing claims of that newspaper before and when it was established, the dictates of the market meant that vicar-beat-choirgirl-with-elephant-trunk type stories had to give way to exposes of brutality by the Greater Manchester police. You don’t make profits out of principles. The programme looked at the Today newspaper which has recently been pocketed by Rupert Murdoch, the man who has done for journalistic freedom what Adolf Hitler did for community harmony. David Montgomery. Murdoch’s editor of Today, summed up the answer to those people who stamp their feet with anger when it is suggested that the handful of capitalists who own the press are the dictators who decide what will go in it: "Clearly there’s bound to be a coinciding of Rupert Murdoch’s philosophy and the philosophy of his editors, but we have disagreements with him about style and content and we argue our corner. I suppose if the difference becomes so great then someone’s got to leave and it probably won't be Rupert Murdoch".

The second “Brass Tacks” analysis of the press took the form of a studio discussion. Facing the four editors who sat as a panel were people who had been victims of press distortion and manipulation. Predictably, the discussion divided into liberal sentiments about fairness in opposition to the real voice of capitalism: if it sells print it, if lies sell better make them big ones, if they will buy soft porn why give them news? Mike Gabbert, who was then editorial director of the Sunday Sport and is now editor of the new, "lustier" Daily Star, participated in the debate with all the elegance and eloquence of a football hooligan with a word processor. In response to women who objected to selling newspapers by displaying naked female flesh in between editorials moralising against rape, Gabbert blurted that they only held those views because they were too fat. This oaf needed a free education, not a free press. 

Speaking of press distortion 

While we are on the subject of the gutter press, let us turn our attention to The People (a nasty little Sunday rag) of 16 August. In it Ian Brandes writes a column headlined TV SOAP IS JUST A PLOT BY THE STATE!’ The article purports to be about comments made about soap operas, and Crossroads in particular, which appeared in this column in the August Socialist Standard. This party was not contacted by Brandes before he wrote his distorted nonsense. Despite letters from this journal to Brandes and to his editor insisting that the lies in The People article be corrected, we have not even received an acknowledgement, let alone a published correction. So. let us look at Brandes' article with a view to showing just how honest the dear old British press is. The article begins as follows: "The loony Labour left has launched a blistering attack on TV soap operas as the modern opium of the masses'." But the article deals only with comments made in this column in this journal which is published by The Socialist Party of Great Britain, a party which was formed two years before the Labour Party and has no connection with Labour or its left-wing. Brandes need only to have contacted us to find this out — or, easier still, he need only have read the August issue of this journal in order to find at least three articles referring explicitly to The Socialist Party’s opposition to the Labour Party. Second lie: The People article's headline suggests that we are claiming that soaps are a conspiracy or plot to fix workers' minds: in the article Brandes writes that "It (The Socialist Standard) claims that the nation's weekly favourites are just part of a sinister capitalist plot to keep viewers docile, while the bosses exploit their power." Compare this to what the Standard article actually stated: "It is not being claimed that soaps are a conspiracy to make workers accept capitalism". Third lie: in The People's account of our article it is said that we assert that "There would be no need at all for TV soaps" in a socialist society. What we printed was rather different: "Will there be soap operas in a socialist society? Who can tell? It is not for a small minority of socialists in 1987 to lay down a blueprint for how the socialist majority will decide to live”. In no sense can that be interpreted as stating that soap operas will not be shown on TV once we establish a socialist society. And lie number four: The People falsely claims that we were saying that there will be no soap operas in a socialist society: "There would be no need for TV soaps at all, the journal claims, if Britain would only embrace socialism". This column has never advocated the absurd, nationalist notion of "British socialism". If Brandes had taken the trouble to read the inside cover of the August Standard (as in this one) he would have read a series of clear questions and answers about what we stand for; in answer to the question. "What is the meaning of socialism?" we state in terms which are clear enough for even a People journalist to comprehend: "Socialism does not yet exist. When it is established it must be on a worldwide basis, as an alternative to the outdated system of world capitalism". So. in a newspaper article of less than two hundred words Ian Brandes and The People make four erroneous. dishonest statements about the contents of this column. What are they going to do about it? We'll be letting you know.

An after-dinner ramble 

UK Late (C4. Friday) is described as a programme of witty, punchy, after-dinner discussion. Quite who finishes their dinner at 11.30pm is uncertain, but we might suspect that if they take as long to cook the kebabs as they do to get to the point in these witty, punchy intellectual rambles they were lucky to have had dinner at all. On 4 September the collection of witty, punchy (rather dull, actually) conversationalists included a judge and a second-hand car dealer who had served a sentence or two for fraud. "We really think alike on most things, us two" said the judge, after an hour of exuding gas about crime and punishment. The criminologist, Jock Young, who is about as witty and punchy as a 1953 Boys ' Own annual, tried in vain to persuade the assembled guests to understand that criminality is a label usually placed by the state upon poor people, while at the same time City robbers (sorry, "entrepreneurs") are raking in millions as a result of their fiddles. What he did not mention were the millions more pounds being accumulated by the capitalists in the City, not as a result of illegal dealing, but due to good old honest robbery called making a profit, i.e. exploiting wage labour. The witty, punchy, after-dinner discussion about the meaning of class on 21 August was no more satisfying. The TV audience (that is. those of us who don't have after-dinner shouting matches of our own. so have to resort to the telly for a bit of genuine, semi-pissed prejudice) were treated to a collection of people who were able to say all kinds of punchy and witty things except a) what class means, b) why it exists, and c) how we can get rid of it. For answers to those questions read The Socialist Standard - as opposed to the half-witted, punch-drunk Sunday People.
Steve Coleman

SPGB Meetings (1987)

Party News from the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Racism is rubbish — official (1987)

From the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The simplest way for anyone who is persecuted and repressed under the South African government's policy of racism is to get themselves reclassified out of discrimination. As this item in the Johannesburg Star of 9 June 1987 reported it is possible, under this procedure, for somebody to change their race and even their skin colour, from dark to whiter and the other way round:
More than 1000 race re-classifications were approved by the Department of Home Affairs in 1985-86. according to its latest annual report.

In this period 463 Cape coloureds became whites and six whites became coloured.

Seven coloured became Chinese and four Chinese became whites. One white became Malay. Three Malays became white.

Some other figures in the report: Indian to Cape coloured 60; Cape coloured to Indian 52; Indian to Malay 27; Malay to Indian 33; "Other Asian" to Cape coloured 3; black to Cape coloured 332; Cape coloured to black 30; Cape coloured to Malay 12; and Indian to white 10.
Further comment would, as they say, be superfluous.

50 Years Ago: French Workers Learn by Experiences (1987)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard 

In the meantime the French Labourites have tried a similar experiment, marked by the same infantile hopefulness in the impossible. In Great Britain in 1929 the Labour Government depended on Liberal votes in the House of Commons. In France the Labourites formed a coalition government with the Liberals, under the premiership, of Leon Blum. After running for a year Blum was forced to quit and hand over the premiership to a Liberal, still maintaining the "Popular Front,” though already the workers are sadly disappointed. It is to be hoped that they will learn how little can be done until capitalism has been got rid of.

The Daily Herald (June 22nd, 1937), in an editorial, says that Blum fell because “he did not possess the confidence of the big men of property, of the financiers, and the bankers"; which provokes the thought that if Blum went into office prepared to govern "within the present social regime” (his own words, The Times, May 2nd, 1936), yet supposed he could do so without having the confidence of those who own the present social regime, it is time he began to wake up to realities.

The Times Paris correspondent has shown a remarkably clear appreciation of the role of Labour Government and of the narrow limits within which they can diverge from traditional Liberal and Tory policy. On August 23rd, 1937, The Times published an article from him in which he wrote that Blum’s “Socialist” Minister of Finance
Does not seem to have realised that within the framework of the capitalist system social reform can be paid for only out of the profits of industry, and that if the entrepreneur is frightened out of his wits profits disappear. . . .
Two weeks later (The Times, September 7th, 1937), in another article, he wrote: —
M. Blum now supports the Radicals because he has realised that, short of provoking a dangerous upheaval, the problems of a capitalist system must, if they are to be resolved with capitalist support, be met by capitalist methods. . . .
[From an article in the Socialist Standard October 1937.]

Letters: Socialists and Social Credit (1987)

Letters to the Editors from the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists and Social Credit

As a member of the Green Party, I was greatly impressed with the August issue of the Socialist Standard, particularly with the fair and balanced interview with Jonathon Porritt. At least on this occasion you seemed to have dropped the customary "we have an answer to everything" boast which has turned so many otherwise sympathetic potential socialists away from the SPGB before now. I was sent the August issue by a union colleague who is a SPGB member, and if this change is not just a one-off, I may become a regular reader or even subscribe.

The article on Ireland was similarly refreshing in its balance, but Ivan's piece on Parliamentary Rituals was an absolute classic. It should be distributed outside the TUC and Labour Party conferences as a leaflet, and at the next General Election. Great stuff. And now my question. What is your attitude to social credit? You must be against it because everyone else seems to be. Even the Green Party will not mention it by name. I am assuming that you know what it is as the SPGB pre-dates it by sixteen years.
Bill Whitbread 
London N22.

We are pleased that Bill Whitbread enjoyed the August Socialist Standard and we hope that he will not only take out a subscription but decide, as a person who is concerned for the future of the world and its population, that his place is with us socialists in the work to replace capitalism with socialism.

Social Credit was a proposal by a Major Douglas to pay everyone a "social dividend" to make up for the chronic lack of purchasing power which, he alleged, was built into the financial mechanism of capitalism. It was one of a number of "under-consumptionist' theories that flourished during the 1930s.

All such theories assert that not enough money is distributed to enable people to buy all that has been produced. If this were true, capitalism would be in a permanent state of depression, whereas in fact it goes through alternating periods of boom and slump; indeed it would be difficult to see how capitalism could ever have come into existence in the first place.

While the Green Party does not mention Douglas by name, their manifesto for the last election bears evidence of the influence of his mistaken ideas;
The Green Party would take steps to end the monopoly of private banks over money creation (. ..) Community banks would be encouraged, subject to licence and with the power to create money, a power which would be withdrawn from private banks. Community banks would invest local savings in local enterprises, and invest newly-created money in those enterprises.
Closed factories alongside mass unemployment suggest that if only people had more money to spend boom time would return. But at no stage of the business cycle is there a shortage of purchasing power; there is however a difference between having the power to buy something and actually using that power. In a slump some capitalists choose not to invest all of their money in productive activity, as they would in a boom. Rather than being hoarded it is lent out at interest on the money market. This is the situation today and explains the paradox of the growth of financial institutions — evident from a stroll down any High Street — in the middle of a depression.

Douglas also believed that the banks had the power to create purchasing power, in the form of credit, by the stroke of a pen. If they had this power, why would firms ever go bankrupt, or make losses, or resist wage claims from their workers? Banks are in fact one of a set of financial institutions which make a profit out of the difference between the interest they charge borrowers and the interest they pay their depositors. The amount they can lend is thus limited by the amount they borrow from depositors as also applies (and nobody contests this) to building societies. In fact, due to the need to hold some money as ready cash, banks can only lend less than their deposits.

The solution to problems like unemployment does not lie in the reform of capitalism's monetary system but in the abolition of capitalism with its class ownership and production for profit, which involves the complete disappearance of money, banks, credit and all the rest of the financial system.

"Writing as an ex-member . . . "

Dear Sirs.

Writing as an ex-member of your party who has recently taken out a subscription to the Standard I think I will derive very little pleasure at what I have to say, nevertheless, having lived for 62 years I am now coming to terms with "the facts of life" and endeavouring to learn to live with them.

Like "the old days" you have some very forthright and amusing writers. Steve Coleman seeming to be a leading light; and his June 1987 article about "Post Election Blues" was in the usual format, excepting for the last sentence. Predicting that June 12th would be "a bloody miserable day" (and it was!) Comrade Coleman concludes by writing — "and for none will it be more miserable than for those who know how easy it would be to change the whole rotten set-up and establish a society fit to live in".

Apart from the serious error of grammar, whether one is of the chosen few (i.e. members of the SPGB) or the abysmally ignorant majority it is a gross exaggeration to state that any change from the capitalist system to a socialist society would be easy!

May I quote the General Election figures for Islington South and Finsbury? Tory 8,482, Labour 16,511, SDP 15,706, Greens 382, Humanists 56, SPGB 81. It is a reflection of the idiocy of human beings that only 56 people voted for a party which has more sense in one of its little leaflets than in the whole Conservative and Labour manifestos, but the fact that out of a total of 41.218 Islington and Finsbury electors only 81 voted for the SPGB merely proves that what the renowned Robert Tressell wrote over 70 years ago. is as true today as it was then. I have formed the opinion that the working class are more dumb than Dumbo ever was. There is far more insanity outside than inside "mental institutions" and on the whole human beings are much more obsessed with erotica and religious myths than their well-being and happiness. "Look at them". Robert Tressell's character said, with a contemptuous laugh. "Look at them! The people you are trying to make idealists! Look at them! Some of them howling and roaring like wild beasts, or laughing like idiots, others standing with dull and stupid faces devoid of any trace of intelligence or expression, listening to the speakers whose words convey no meaning to their stultified minds, and others with their eyes gleaming with savage hatred of their fellow men, watching eagerly for an opportunity to provoke a quarrel that they may gratify their brutal natures. Can't you see that these people, whom you are trying to make understand your plan for the regeneration of the world, your doctrine of universal brotherhood and love are for the most part — intellectually — on a level with Hottentots? The only things they feel any interest in are beer, football, betting, and. of course — one other subject. Their highest ambition is to be allowed to Work. And they desire nothing better for their children. They have never had an independent thought in their lives . . .!" And so the brilliant monologue goes on. and. like a surgeon's scalpel cutting into a cancerous growth it reveals the monumental task that the changing of society involves.

I work in a small post office-cum-general stores and apart from the usual vast majority of customers who can see nothing beyond their daily dose of Murdoch's law (i.e. the Sun). 20J.P. (i.e.. coffin, or is it coughing, nails) and a bar of Cadbury's for the weekend. I was appalled at the time of the General Election by the amount of people "on the Social" who voted Tory!

When I informed one elderly gentleman that I was a Socialist and would not be voting in my constituency, he told me to "get back to Russia" On June 12th he came up to my counter to draw his pittance of a pension triumphantly wearing a cheap blue rosette and sneered. "Well. I suppose you're laughing the other side of your face now that we've beaten you!”

I conclude with Robert Tressell's immortal words which sum up my feelings towards The Socialist Party of Great Britain. Although you are light years behind the razzamatazz of the Labour and the Tory parties and you are probably right in your analysis of society (based, of course, upon Karl Marx's) "your party persists in regarding people as rational beings, and that is where you make your mistake. Labour are just learning, the Tories knew long ago the sort of people they have to deal with; they know that although their bodies are the bodies of grown men. their minds are the minds of little children. That is why it has been possible to deceive and bluff and rob them for so long." (The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, 1905)

And please do not accuse me of arrogance. Anger, contempt, scorn — I plead guilty to these, but I make no claims to be proud of the fact that I belong to a species that will burn, blind and torture innocent animals for the sake of making a profit and kill and maim fellow humans in times of war.
Reg Otter 
Shepperton, Middlesex.

Before turning to the very real and understandable reasons for our correspondent's lack of hope, let us spell out what defeatism means. It means that you come to terms with a social system which you know to be exploiting you, restricting you, impoverishing your lifestyle and, with increasing ferocity, threatening you with destruction. Not only is capitalism doing that to you, but to your friends and family — people who you care for and want to help. And to millions you have never met. capitalism is doing even worse things. As a defeatist you accept that this is the way life must be. You give up on the struggle to transform society.

Reg Otter is clearly not a complete defeatist. He still tells fellow workers that he is a socialist. He no doubt argues with workers and may well be underestimating his ability to change the way some of them think. Our fellow workers do not always tell us directly when they have found socialist ideas convincing but we would not be surprised if there are a few workers scattered about who would say, "You've got to hand it to old Reg Otter, he talks a lot of sense about the problems of society".

What our correspondent most certainly does underestimate is the intelligence of the working class. After all, these creatures who are "more dumb than Dumbo ever was" make a pretty good job of running the trains, producing all the wealth in the factories, operating on bodies in hospitals, teaching children to read, delivering letters — and the thousands of other important and intelligent tasks which we, the workers, perform. Yes. plenty of workers are laughing like idiots and seem to have dull and stupid faces and appear to have eyes gleaming with savage hatred for their fellow men. Socialists do not romanticise the working class: we are of that class and know just how degraded the system can make wage slaves. But — and Reg Otter will know this very well — the human animal is highly adaptable. In a jungle s/he will behave like a beast. Given an incentive to leave the jungle society of capitalism workers could co-operate. Just as they are doing every day when it comes to producing and distributing wealth, just as workers are always doing when it comes to voluntary efforts to help make other people's lives better. Workers are not naturally programmed for capitalism; nor are we naturally programmed to forever reject the cooperative option of socialism.

Our correspondent is right if he is saying that now, in 1987, the political minds of the workers of the world are in a frightful mess. He is right if he says that this is dispiriting. He was right to feel miserable on 12 June. He is entitled to be angry, although it will do him little good. But should he dismiss the efforts of The Socialist Party as a waste of time? We perform an enormously important task in putting to workers the only alternative to the dangerous chaos of capitalism. We succeeded in persuading Reg Otter to join us and even though he later decided to leave, because he is not arrogant he will accept that there was nothing special about him which made him able to work for socialism while other workers could not understand. Every time we win one new worker to our cause it is proof that we could win a thousand more. And. in practical terms, each new member provides us with access to several workers who know him or her.

The 81 votes for socialism in Islington South and Finsbury was disappointing. We would like to have recorded all 41.218. We ran a great campaign in the area, as many workers living in Islington (even if they do not support The Socialist Party) will testify. Unlike any other party in the election, we consistently asked voters not to vote for us unless they agreed in full with our ideas. That 81 did vote for us — in a constituency which was a key Labour marginal, and in which the Green Party were there to take away the mere protest votes — is something to get working on. If we could persuade those 81 socialist voters to join our Islington Branch we would be very happy. Similarly in Swansea, where we recently recorded 50 votes in just one ward.

Of course, we could regard 81 and 50 votes as good reasons to give up and learn to live with capitalism. Well firstly, capitalism may not allow us to live with it for that much longer, because it is set to put an end to the live-in arrangement, and secondly society will one day change from production for profit to production for need and we are not going to waste a moment's time or withhold any energy to hasten that revolution. We are not defeatists and neither, perhaps, is Reg Otter: maybe he has made the comments which he has so that we can give him the answer he is waiting for. Get into the movement for socialism and do your bit to make history

Elections in Swansea again (1987)

Party News from the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

On August 25. Swansea Branch found itself contesting a local election for the second time in four months. When the Conservative candidate who topped the poll at the May City Council Election died shortly after being elected, we decided not to lose the momentum we had gained by our May campaign and to stand again in the by-election.

As time was short we were unable to mount as extensive a campaign as in May, but, with the welcome aid of socialists from other branches, we still managed to leaflet all 10.000 voters in the ward, get some publicity in the local press and do some canvassing. What our doorstep discussions with voters showed was that we are now known in the area. When we canvassed in May, we had to go to a great deal of trouble to distinguish ourselves from the Labour Party and other organisations calling themselves socialist. This time the confusion hardly ever arose. On the whole people knew who we were and (at least approximately) what we stood for. And this greater familiarity of voters with our ideas was, we think, reflected in the voting. On a much reduced poll compared with May, our vote went up by 20 per cent numerically (from 50 to 61) and our percentage of the total votes cast more than doubled (from 1 per cent to 2.4 per cent).

Although the 50 votes we got in May have seemed very few by conventional standards, we were not in the least despondent about it. Our view was that we could not expect people who were, for the most part, hearing a completely new and different idea for the first time to immediately take it in, fully agree with it and go out and vote for it. To expect them to do all this in one fell swoop would have been quite unrealistic. What is not perhaps unrealistic, however, is for us to think that the August result shows that the idea is now beginning to filter through. Not that we would want to make too much of our modestly increased vote, but it is not perhaps too over-optimistic to suppose that the increase is at least partly due to the cumulative effect of people receiving our leaflets, hearing about us and in general having more frequent access than they would otherwise have to the socialist idea.

Now that we have a foothold in the Uplands area, we plan to be back again for the County Council elections in May when we shall again use the platform local elections give to put across the socialist case and. we hope, to consolidate and expand its influence in Swansea.
Swansea Branch

The full results of the August 25 poll were:

Jean Taverner (Conservative) 1460
Dereck Roberts (Labour) 851
David Howells (Green Party) 130
Howard Moss (Socialist Party) 61