Thursday, October 13, 2022

Letters: All middle class now? (2009)

Letters to the Editors from the October 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blogger's Note:
Eddie Shah was the subject of a Cooking the Books column in the August 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard and, presumably, a copy of the article had fallen into his hands.

All middle class now?

Dear Editors
 It must be difficult not to write about stereotypes, but I was never against unions – just the way they operated in a modern democracy. I just felt instead of calling a strike at every opportunity to flex their muscles – which is the headbanger approach – the funds they had should’ve been used for re-training redundant workers, helping other workers set up cooperatives when companies had failed, create savings for workers and their families injured in accidents, etc; and so on. What really pissed me off was that the union bosses during our dispute – and I since discovered in nearly all other disputes – went on paying themselves handsome salaries and driving their big modern ‘I’m not a union official, I’m an executive’ cars whilst they waltzed around between meetings as their members froze on the picket line.

 It’s all bullshit created on the back of the working class’ aspirations. Truth is we are a middle class society now, as we were becoming during my dispute, but it paid the power brokers at the top of the Labour movement and the trades unions to keep the old class war going so that they could retain their power bases and their trappings of success.

 So I object to being told I was an employer who wanted to run my business without trade union interference. In our case, when the trade union tries to control who you can and can’t employ, that’s the day that people stop running businesses and get out – which would be great for a wealth creating nation, I think not.

 The freedom you have to write your periodical without fear of imprisonment, censorship and even death, is something hard fought for by a capitalist society, or by writers in a suppressed state who fight for the freedom of a democratic state. There are times journalists shouldn’t forget that. A free press is the only watchdog of those who would govern us in both a democratic and an authoritarian state.

 The trouble with socialism is that it has its head buried in the satanic mills of a hundred years ago. It needs enlightening. It needs a new vision, not a descent into the madness of a suppressed anarchy that never had a chance of catering to a world of technology and freedom of the mass as well as the individual. There are no new visions, yet the world is crying out for them.

PS. I presume your writing your stuff on technology we introduced during the dispute. Or are you clacking over an old Underwood typewriter and cursing every time the keys stick? Just think, you could’ve achieved that if the unions had won in 1982. Welcome to the world of the middle class.

We too are critical of the knights of the round table at the TUC’s Congress House but from a working-class point of view. Unions should be run by their members and officials should not have big salaries, big houses and big cars as many do. We say “working class” deliberately as, for us, this is composed of anyone obliged to get a living by going out and trying to sell their mental and physical energies to some employer. This of course applies to most of the so-called “middle class”, as many of them are discovering the hard way as they lose their jobs or see their final salary pension scheme closing. And it is capitalism that forces workers to resist new technologies as a way of trying to protect their livelihoods. If we had socialism nobody would be put in this position. – Editors.

Socialism needed

Dear Editors

Re: Starvation in Africa; poverty of many kinds. So very much and sincerely appreciate the NY Times September 8, 2009 front-page photo of the starving and dehydrated Kenyans. In a world wherein over 40,000 humans starve to death in disease and degradation each day, these continuous international crises should be making front page news every day.

 However in a world where state capitalist dictatorships and state ownership and control, proxies for the owning and ruling class, is confused with socialism, which has yet to exist on Earth, real solutions to the problems of war and starvation are endlessly mired in needlessly convoluted problems of opposing interests that simply mean a dimension of pseudo-intellectually evil data structure remains necessary to describe even mere reformist heuristics.

 Socialism, which can only exist the whole world over when the majority of Earth’s population first understand classism and capitalism, and comprehend and desire socialism and vote it peacefully, legally and democratically into existence, means the solution to ending all wars, poverty and starvation takes 10 years instead of 1000…but this does not happen unless you, the vast majority of you, understand, desire and vote for socialism, a system of society based upon common ownership of the means and instruments for production and distribution by and in the interests of society as a whole.

 So for those reformists who may be exposed to neo-McCarthyism and murdering church violation and prejudice with Earth’s trifling little solutions of state-run health care, have no fear. These have nothing to do with socialism or (primitive) communism.

 The failed feudalistic dictatorships of Russia and China had a false dream of installation by undemocratic elitism; fascism had a racist, nationalist and proud illusion – state capitalism by another name; the national post office is only an example of state capitalism – not common ownership; humans would like to pretend they are inclusive and democratic and that the tree of knowledge and life have all their fruit intact…the truth is otherwise.
Samantha Morris (by email)

Material World: Why they keep piling up manure: the psychology of wealth accumulation (2009)

The Material World column from the October 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard
Money is like manure.  If you spread it around, it does a lot of good, but if you pile it up in one place, it stinks like hell.
I can’t trace the original author, but it seems to be a popular motto among rich “philanthropists”. It has been attributed, in slightly variant wordings, to steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, New York “socialite” Brooke Astor, Clint W. Murchison (chairman of Tecon Corporation) and Kenneth Langone (founder of The Home Depot).

Two questions spring to mind.

First, if these people so hate the smell of manure, why do they keep piling it up? After all, they are free to stop at any time.

Second, what do they want all that money for anyway? Surely a few hundred million should suffice to buy all the luxuries anyone could want? So why chase after the billions?

An addiction to extravagance
One answer is offered by Eric Schoenberg of Columbia Business School (on the site of Forbes magazine). Driving your first Rolls Royce is a fantastic experience, he explains, but as you get used to it you no longer enjoy it so much. So you have to look for new experiences, which for some reason are always more and more expensive.

 Presumably, an obsession with money spoils the enjoyment of anything that does not cost a lot of it. The result is an addiction to extravagance that reinforces the drive to make more money.

Besides addiction to extravagance, the most common motive for accumulating wealth appears to be simply the desire to be admired by others. Kudos, however, depends less on absolute wealth than on place in the pecking order, as indicated by lists like the Forbes 400. Only Number One can feel fully confident of his superior status – and even he must beware of rivals overtaking him.

 Astonishing but true: many people honestly think – indeed, assume – that being rich is something worthy of pride and admiration. They consider having more money than anyone else the greatest of all conceivable human achievements. Never mind where the money came from, how it was acquired. To be a “winner” is glorious, to be a “loser” shameful and pitiable. They were brought up to think so, and can hardly imagine that anyone might be sincere in thinking otherwise.

 We might expect there to be an element of subtlety or mystery in the driving impulse at the core of a dynamic that spawns so much evil. Instead, we find something insufferably boring and trivial, the ultimate in banality.

The “philanthropists”
And yet the worship of wealth need not wholly exclude other social values. Many people feel that just being rich is not sufficiently glorious in itself: in addition, one should “do good”. As a result, some wealthy individuals wish also to be “great humanitarians and philanthropists”.

 There is actually a special business that makes money by selling “philanthropic” fame. For a fixed sum you can have a concert hall, museum, hospital, college or whatever named after you (or a relative of yours). For example, Brown University named its Institute of International Studies, where I used to work, in honour of Tom Watson of IBM in exchange for $25 million.

 The publicity given to large “philanthropic” donations suggests that in certain circles kudos may now depend on how much money you give as well as how much you have. It is like the potlatch among the Kwakiutl of western Canada, where the wealthy gain kudos by making generous gifts.

Guilt feelings?
While “philanthropy” is often just a means of cultivating a favourable public image, some wealthy people may be sincere in wanting to “do good”. Some authors even attribute the giving of certain individuals to guilt feelings about how their fortunes were made.

 Thus, it is claimed that Brooke Astor was ashamed of her family’s reputation as New York’s biggest slumlords. Carnegie, we are told, felt guilt over the workers killed in the suppression of the Homestead strike of 1892. Yet he also wanted “Carnegie Steel to come out on top” – and that feeling proved stronger than any sense of guilt.

 Ashamed or not, Astor gave nothing to the victims of her family’s rack-renting. Instead, she gave $200 million to cultural institutions. Similarly, Carnegie endowed the arts and academia, but gave nothing back to the workers who slaved in the heat of his steel mills at poverty line wages – twelve hours a day, every single day of the year except 4 July
 The ruthless capitalist precedes, makes possible and is vindicated by the “generous philanthropist”. The capitalist drives the system that causes the misery; the “philanthropist” then does a little to ameliorate that misery. Strangely enough, the capitalist and the “philanthropist” turn out to be one and the same person.

Piling up and spreading out
Why keep piling up manure just to spread it out again? It seems senseless – even if the manure does not end up exactly where it was before.

 Yes, it seems senseless when we focus on outcome. But when we shift our attention to process, it starts to make more sense.

 Piling up brings one sort of kudos, then spreading out brings another. One sort does not cancel out the other.

 Both piling up and spreading out give the satisfaction of exercising power, making decisions that affect millions of lives – on the sole qualification of the possession of wealth.

 So it all makes perfect sense. From a certain point of view.

The disease that is capitalism (2009)

Book Review from the October 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard
What’s better – treating the symptoms or dealing with the cause?
When a person is ill a competent doctor will attempt to identify all relevant symptoms: high temperature, site of aches and pains, loss of appetite, heart-rate, blood pressure, etc. etc. Following diagnosis, treatment will be offered in the form of dietary advice, physiotherapy, drugs, surgery or some combination of these or other remedies. If the aim is to cure the illness and prevent its return then the causes of the disease will need to be identified and eliminated. Effective treatment can only follow correct diagnosis of the cause. The doctor will seek to understand family history, working conditions, living conditions, e.g. is the patient living in an area threatened by any form of pollution, etc. Regular check-ups and preventive care are the surest way to avoid the onset of serious illness and an appropriate regimen leading to a healthy lifestyle will more likely ensure non-return of the previous disease.

 Political commentary on and diagnosis of society’s ills, however, tend to focus on discussion of how to treat the symptoms with scant regard to eliminating the causes. Reform rather than structural change. There continues to be a plethora of books published both criticising and offering reforms to the capitalist system; so many, in fact, that it points to the fact that there is a large audience of readers dissatisfied with the status quo, knowing the current system doesn’t work for them. An audience aspiring to structural changes?

 One World, Ready or Not – The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism by William Greider (US writer on economics and politics over several decades, contributor to The Nation and former editor of Rolling Stone) is one such book. Greider succeeds brilliantly in proving his contention that the global economy is sowing “creative destruction” everywhere by explaining symptom after symptom of capitalism’s failure of the majority. What are some of the symptoms of the disease that is capitalism? Widening gaps between haves and have-nots; rising poverty nationally and internationally; rising unemployment – ditto; no lasting gains from union activity extending over a century; a ban on unionised work in many countries; more temporary workers replacing former permanent positions; increasing poverty, hunger and homelessness; declining health care for many; serious environmental problems, etc. etc. Greider exposes all these symptoms and more with detailed background evidence and numerous examples from most parts of the globe.

 The book is a fine resource of investigation and enlightening statistics including details of interviews with workers, corporate CEOs, government officials and economists. Common cures (reforms) recommended include regulating finance capital, increasing, decreasing or shifting the weighting ratio of tax from one sector to another, regulating trade differently, implementing and honouring stronger workers’ and human rights, the restructuring of the World Bank, the IMF and central banks. Greider’s recommendations here can be likened to increasing the dose of palliative medicines without treating the cause. Implement radical reforms of the system in an attempt to rein in the most divisive runaway aspects of capitalism (the most invasive aspects of the disease) but leave the system in place and hope it won’t run amok again or get hijacked by more pesky capitalists at a later date.

 Treating only the symptoms, i.e. reforming the system, is ultimately doomed to failure in society as in the patient. Capital has no interest in that which is not in its own interest. Governments are limited in their ability to implement reforms anyway as they are pulled in various directions by the power of capital’s demands and the need to appease their constituents enough to remain in power in the short term. Greider’s proposed reforms are laid out with the caveat that he has no expectations that any of them would be implemented (in his case by the US government) and with the additional observation that much of what the government does is useless or harmful to broadly shared prosperity. In other words it allows or even encourages the disease to spread. Markets, money and money markets don’t play by rules endorsed or understood by consumers.

“Whilst claiming to promote human freedom capitalism profits concretely from the denial of freedom, especially of the workers employed by capitalist enterprise.”

“Consumer boycotts can be an effective way to mobilise the political issue but the true target should be the systems of human repression.” – There – he said it!

 Social consequences are largely ignored by capital. Evidence of this is everywhere from the countries with the richest economies to dirt-poor nations with all populations exploited or deliberately abandoned for economic reasons by local and global capital. More families and individuals are impoverished, hungry and made homeless each successive year in countries from Africa, Asia, Europe to the Americas and the general public are afraid that they, too, may fall victim to the disease as they tighten their belts and try and take precautions; but they have been taught to see capitalism as a system “too big to fail.” They have also been taught to be afraid of considering the alternative of dismantling the system and they continue to shout “reform.” Yes, they willingly keep taking the palliative medicine rather than working together to eradicate the disease for the benefit of themselves and future generations.

 Greider’s final chapter includes some notes on possible surgery and examples of individuals giving out preventive advice; promoting true sustainable development; evidence from environmental technologists which confirms that saving the world is possible at such time that there is steady-state equilibrium with the natural world. This surgery is possible but not on any agenda to be undertaken by the monetary, for-profit, capitalist system.

 What needs to be recognised much more widely is that the whole set-up (capitalism/the free-market economy/monetarism) is one enormous scam against those who produce the wealth, whether globally or locally. Those who produce the wealth are currently all part of a huge lottery; this year, this place, I’m in work; next year, some other place, maybe you’ll be in work. But, just like a game of chance, some manage to stay lucky and others never get a look in. If you are one of the multitude who has needed to work in order to live, you have been duped. The causes of the disease have been identified. It’s time to remove them completely. Only a structural change will do.
Janet Surman

Blogger's Note:
William Greider's book had previously been reviewed in the October 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard. I thought it rang a bell.

Greasy Pole: The Hard Life and Times of Alan Duncan (2009)

The Greasy Pole column from the October 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

At this distance the coming general election promises – or should that be threatens – to become a contest between Gordon Brown and David Cameron over who can be trusted to be the more ruthless and speedy as a slasher and sacker. After his expeditious dealing with the crazier expense claims of the more arrogant Tory MPs, Cameron could be seen as a nose ahead – which may explain the manner in which he firmly bumped Alan Duncan down the greasy pole, from Shadow Leader of the House to Shadow Justice Minister. It was all to do with Duncan allowing himself to be recorded, by a man named Heydon Prowse, moaning about the mistreatment and malnourishment of MPs: “No one who has done anything on the outside world, or is capable of doing such a thing, will ever come into this place again, the way we are going. Basically it’s being nationalised. You have to live on rations and are treated like shit”. This raises the question of why there are always so many candidates, in every constituency, fighting each other for a life of rations and abuse  – but never mind. Cameron at first tried to draw a veil over the problem by saying that he had “made  it clear in no uncertain terms that when it comes to the mess of expenses, the words we use, just as the actions we take, have got to demonstrate completely that we share the public’s real fury at what went on in Parliament. Alan made a bad mistake and he has acknowledged that…I think we should leave it at that”. But then Cameron returned from holiday in a slightly different mood, demoting Duncan rather than condemning him to the impoverishment of the back benches. This may have had something to do with Duncan’s erratic background and standing as a Tory MP.

Elected in John Major’s surprise 1992 election win for the rock-solid Conservative seat of Rutland and Melton – a nice reward for the offer of his home in Westminster as headquarters for Major’s leadership campaign after Thatcher’s resignation in 1990 – Duncan spent some time in relative obscurity as a faultlessly handsome, immaculate and fixedly smiling participant in group photographs until in December 1993 he blossomed as Parliamentary Private Secretary at the then Ministry of Health. However any celebration of this promising start was cruelly cut off just a month later after the embarrassing news that he had lent an elderly neighbour the money to buy his council house at a cut price under the right-to-buy scheme so beloved of Thatcher’s Tories.

But three years later Duncan, who described himself as a libertarian member of the Thatcherite Conservative Way Forward, cashed in on the deal by buying the house from the neighbour – again at a very attractive price. His unavoidable resignation was greeted, with typical asperity, by Giles Brandreth: “little Duncan has fallen on his sword…swiftly and with good grace”. Which characteristic probably also featured in another episode when, as the owner of Harcourt Consultants – advising companies, governments and whoever can afford to pay on matters concerning oil and gas supplies – he made over £1 million through involvement in supplying oil to Pakistan after disruption of the flow from Kuwait in the Gulf War. It might be thought that this said more about the reasons for the British involvement in that war than all the inflated nonsense about rooting out terrorists. And “good grace” again last year, when it emerged that while he was Shadow Business Secretary, responsible for Tory policy on energy, Duncan’s private office received donations from the chairman of Vitol – one of the world’s top crude oil traders.

To put it moderately Duncan enjoys – and expends a lot of energy in – being the centre of attention. However much this may please him it has also cultivated a significant number of rivals and enemies. After the 2005 general election he declared himself to be a candidate for the Tory leadership in place of the defeated Michael Howard but had to withdraw rapidly after it was clear that there was no support for him – which he put down to the “Tory Taliban”. So it was to be expected, when the MP’s expenses scam was dragged into the open Duncan’s claims would be closely scrutinised – especially in view of the fact that, as Shadow Leader of the House, he oversaw the party’s reform policy on the matter. The Daily Telegraph reported that he had claimed £1400 a month mortgage interest on his Rutland home, recouped over £4000 for gardening expenses during a three year period and claimed £598 for maintenance of a ride-on lawn mower with £41 to repair a puncture in the machine. Some residents in his constituency saw this as nauseating enough to justify inviting passers-by to take a ride on a lawn mower which they had set up in the street – and Heydon Prowse to cut a £ sign in Duncan’s lawn. Last May Have I Got News For You pursued Duncan by showing a passage from a previous appearance when he boasted about his Second Home Allowance (he also owns two properties in Westminster) and described it as “a great system” –  until Cameron went after him, when he agreed to refund the money and called for “the system” to be changed. According to the website ConservativeHome – notable for its combative style – a poll of 1600 grassroot Tories in Duncan’s constituency thought he should be sacked.

Members of Parliament come in many shapes, sizes and origins. Duncan’s replacement as Shadow Leader of the House is Sir George Young, an Old Etonian who once complained of having to declare, as an MP, a gift of bottles of champagne and who  revealed the depth of his understanding of the meaning of poverty when he described the homeless as “people you step over when you leave the opera”. Young was chairman of the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges when, in 2003, it gave judgement in the matter of the false expense claims by the Tory MP for Windsor, Michael Trend, amounting to over £90,000. Trend, apologising to the Commons, put it all down to his being “muddled and naive”. Young’s committee were not unsympathetic and just suspended Trend for two weeks. A memory to comfort Alan Duncan in the darkest days of his struggles to survive on his rations. 

Market behaviour (2009)

Book Review from the October 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Mind of the Market : How Biology and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives.  By Michael Shermer. Holt Paperback. New York. 2008.

 Some of the chapters in this book are interesting and informative, despite its author being a self-declared follower of the free-market ideologist, Ludwig von Mises and so an apologist for capitalism and a dedicated opponent of anything that seems to be socialism. Shermer is also a leading American ‘skeptic’ and a Scientific American columnist.

 Economics, as now taught, is an odd discipline. It defines itself as the study of the allocation amongst competing ends of resources in short supply. To express this mathematically it has to make the absurd assumption that the ends are infinite, i.e. that people are infinitely greedy. It also assumes that economic actors (corporations, workers, consumers) act entirely rationally. Von Mises in fact regarded economic decision-making as the archetypal form of rational decision-making.

 In recent years, some economists, calling themselves ‘behavioural economists’, have decided to investigate the actual behaviour of consumers, i.e. individual buyers. Not surprisingly they have found that no consumers (not even the writers of economic textbooks) decide what to buy on the basis of some rational calculation about equalising the “marginal utility” of all the things they buy. All sorts of other considerations enter into their decisions as to what to buy (e.g. what other people are buying, status, etc which the advertising business exploits).

 It could be argued that the study of what motivates consumers is outside the scope of economics. Which is the position we Marxists have taken with our criticism of “the final futility of final utility”. We have left the study of the satisfaction users might derive from the use-values they acquire to psychology. Shermer goes along with the behavioural economists who have done some useful work in demolishing the myth of the rationally-calculating, narrowly selfish homo economicus that is one of the basic assumptions of academic economics. He doesn’t seem to realise that in doing so he has abandoned one of the key assumptions of the von Mises school of economics. In fact he goes so far as to concede that if people really did behave in this way, then capitalism could never have survived; even capitalism relies on the social nature of humans and their biological and psychological need to trust and co-operate with each other.

 Shermer accepts the theories of the “evolutionary psychologists” according to which our reactions and decisions – including in economic matters – are influenced by the fact that our brains evolved when we were hunter-gatherers (as opposed to by purely rational calculations). No doubt our brain did evolve under these circumstances but this does not mean that we are therefore unsuited to live by acquiring what we need to live in any other way. The human brain that evolved is a brain that allows us to adapt to a great variety of ways of acquiring what we need.

 We can live just as much under a capitalist system (where Shermer says we are ‘consumer-traders’) as in a socialist society (where we’d become ‘giver-takers’). If, as the evolutionary psychologists claim, our brains predispose us not to like freeloaders and to get satisfaction out of co-operating, and even helping, our fellow humans, these are features that would fully fit in with socialist society. Shermer thinks that they point to capitalism being the best system for humans to produce and share out wealth.

 However, his defence of capitalism is pretty pathetic. On the basis of studies of the behaviour of people who are still hunter-gatherers today involved in face-to-face barter and of the measured effects on the brains of individuals choosing to buy something, he concludes that ‘trade’ and ‘trading’ is good for us. This ignores that ‘trade’ is not the only way of transferring the use of something from one person to another. There is also giving and taking. So, this is not an argument for buying and selling as best suited to our ‘biology and psychology’.

 But the main flaw in Shermer’s argument is that there is an enormous difference between face-to-face barter and shopping and inter-capitalist trade. Inter-capitalist trade is carried on by states and corporations which do act in the ruthlessly calculating way that orthodox economics supposes individuals do. They do aim to maximise monetary profits in the long or short term. They don’t behave as we humans do. In fact some psychologists (as in the film The Corporation) have pointed out that if a human behaved in the same way as capitalist firms do – concentrating obsessively on one single aim (in this case, making profits) to the neglect of all other considerations – they would be classified as psychopaths.

 Shermer shows up here the flaw in the defence of capitalism put up by ideologists such as von Mises – they assume that present-day capitalism is based entirely on freely-negotiated contracts between individuals, as if production and trade were carried on by individual, or at least small-scale, producers and shopkeepers. This might have been the case in Adam Smith’s day (mid-18th century) but is not the case today. Today production is carried on in large-scale productive units by producers contracted to work for wages, but not by other individuals but by capitalist firms which, while in contract law having a fictitious ‘personality’, are not really persons with biological brains. Their behaviour cannot therefore be explained by evolutionary or any other kinds of psychology, but only by a study of the impersonal laws of the market and profit-making which impose themselves on those who make decisions within them irrespective of what these human decision-makers might think or want.
Adam Buick

The Ire Of The Irate Itinerant (2009)

From the October 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Tiny (URL) Tips (2009)

The Tiny Tips column from the October 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

If the worst events can bring out the best in people,why can’t that impulse be sustained in everyday life?
As Solnit notes, “the real question is not why this brief paradise of mutual aid and altruism appears but rather why it is ordinarily overwhelmed by another world order.”

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The United States spent $75 billion over the past year to finance worldwide intelligence operations that employ 200,000 people, according to an unprecedented disclosure by the nation’s top intelligence official:

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At the Charter School for Excellence, a school in South Florida inspired by Gothard’s draconian principles that receives $800,000 in state funds each year, children are indoctrinated into a culture of absolute submission to authority almost as soon as they learn to speak. A song that the school’s firstgraders are required to recite goes as follows:
Obedience is listening attentively,
Obedience will take instructions joyfully,
Obedience heeds wishes of authorities,
Obedience will follow orders instantly.
For when I am busy at my work or play,
And someone calls my name, I’ll answer right away!
I’ll be ready with a smile to go the extra mile
As soon as I can say “Yes, sir!” “Yes maam!”
Hup, two, three!
[Dead Link.]

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New research indicates that 80% of Afghanistan now has a permanent Taliban presence and that 97% of the country has “substantial Taliban activity.”

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Are you totally reprehensible and feeling lonely? Or maybe you’re just a struggling business looking for some instant online companionship? The firm Usocial has the answer for you — buy Facebook friends and fans:

[Dead Link.]

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“But why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it’s, it’s not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?” : Barbara Bush on ABC – Good Morning America,

March 18, 2003….Six years later…. The Obama administration’s freak out… over the …. circulation of a photograph of a dying US soldier in Afghanistan..

[Dead Link.]

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A millionaire in northern China paid four million yuan (600,000 dollars) for a dog and ordered 30 luxury cars to come to the airport to greet her and the animal:

[Dead Link.]

50 Years Ago: The Use of the Vote (2009)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The power you have

In the weeks of electoral excitement before polling day you will have been made to appreciate, at least a little, that you are, for the moment, important people. Between elections you look up to politicians and big business men as important, but during elections it is they who go to endless trouble to influence you and win your support for them and their policies. It is you who can make or mar the career of a politician and you who can place power in the hands of a government which during its term of office can. by taxation and tariff policies or by subsidies, raise some industries to prosperity and bring others to their ruin. It is you who give power to governments in whose hands rest decisions about peace and war.

Power for no use

Since the Socialist Party of Great Britain was formed there have been fourteen general elections in this country: this is the fifteenth. Fifteen times the Tory, Liberal and Labour Parties have appealed to you to help them with your votes. Fourteen times you, the workers, have used your votes against your own interests.
Although the parties we have mentioned use different names for their programmes and promises of legislation, there is very little of importance dividing them. They are all concerned with trying to administer British capitalism as well as may be in a troubled world of rival capitalist groups. In any big emergency like the crisis of 1931 or in war they come together and form coalition governments

Whichever of them, you, the workers, vote for in an election, it is a defeat for you. a betrayal of your own interests.

(from Editorial, Socialist Standard, October 1959)

Obituary: Vincent Littlemore (2009)

Obituary from the October 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

West London branch are saddened to have to report the death in August of Vincent Littlemore two days before his 80th birthday. He first came across the party at outdoor meetings in Manchester, where he originally came from, joining as a teenager and becoming an outdoor speaker at Platts Fields and Alexandra Park. Later he moved to London where he studied to become a quantity surveyor. While pursuing his profession, getting married and raising a family, his membership lapsed but he remained a steadfast socialist arguing the case for socialism as the occasions arose. On his retirement in 1994 he formally rejoined and became a regular attender at branch meetings in Chiswick until he suffered a stroke in 2002. After that he kept in regular touch by telephone to discuss books about the state of the capitalist economy and how best to publicise the socialist case. The Party was represented at his non-religious funeral in Leatherhead. Our condolences go to his daughter Sue, the BBC  journalist, and to her partner John Denham.

Pieces Together: Food Destroyed (2009)

The Pieces Together column from the October 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

Food Destroyed

“Christophe Voivenel is a dairy farmer, and the son of dairy farmers, in one of the finest dairy regions in the world. At some point in the next few days, he will commit an act of sacrilege. He will rise, as usual, at 6am to milk his 60 cows and then throw away the warm, white liquid which is his family’s life’s blood. ‘You have to understand how hard that will be,’ he said. ‘It is like an artist destroying his own painting or a craftsman smashing one of his own creations.’ Mr Voivenel, 43, a farmer near Vire in lower Normandy, is about to go on strike. Tens of thousands of dairy farmers in 14 European countries, including some in Britain, are preparing to join the first ever pan-European ‘milk strike’: an attempt to push up the farm-gate price of milk, which has almost halved in the last 18 months.” (Independent, 29 August)

Food Needed

“Changing weather patterns have decimated crops in several of the world’s poorest countries this year, leaving millions in need of food aid and humanitarian workers warning about the dangerous effects of climate change. Farmers in Nepal have been able to produce only half their usual crop, said an Oxfam International report released last week. Livestock are dying of malnutrition in Yemen, according to the humanitarian news service IRIN. And the Red Cross is bracing for the effects of heavy rains across 16 West and Central African nations. All three are the result of extended atypical weather events – drought, rain, or untimely combinations of both – in places where subsistence farmers have long depended on predictability. In Nepal, more than 3 million people – about 10 percent of the population – will need food aid this year, said Oxfam.” (Yahoo News, 2 September)

The Failure of Charity

“The spectre of famine has returned to the Horn of Africa nearly a quarter of a century after the world’s pop stars gathered to banish it at Live Aid, raising £150m for relief efforts in 1985. Millions of impoverished Ethiopians face the threat of malnutrition and possibly starvation this winter in what is shaping up to be the country’s worst food crisis for decades. Estimates of the number of people who need emergency food aid have risen steadily this year from 4.9 million in January to 5.3 million in May and 6.2 million in June. Another 7.5 million are getting aid in return for work on community projects, as part of the National Productive Safety Net Program for people whose food supplies are chronically insecure, bringing the total being fed to 13.7 million.” (Independent, 30 August)

The Origin and Growth of Nazism pt.1 (1943)

From the August 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

The phenomenal growth of the Nazi movement posed new problems. Hitherto the autocratic state had been associated with backward countries, and the establishment of dictatorships in Russia and Italy had not weakened this theory to any serious extent. But Germany, a highly industrialised country, also leading the world in many fields of scientific endeavour and cultural achievement, could not be included in this rather simplified category. Here was a precedent in the world of politics demanding a new approach.

Two main viewpoints emerged as deserving of some consideration. The first, produced by the Communists and since abandoned by its sponsors, held that German Fascism — and Fascism in any other country — represented the last stage of capitalism. The workers, it was claimed, were on the point of storming the citadel of capitalist society and the ruling class had erected this barrier as a means of holding the revolution at bay. (This view, incidentally, suited these leaders of totalitarianism, and supported their claims to be “world saviours from Bolshevism”.)

This idea has led the Communists into strange political twists. Their enmity was concentrated on the Labour Parties, whom they dubbed “Social-Fascists” rather than the Fascists, whom they hoped to succeed in power. Their slogan: “After the Fascists come we!” was based on the mistaken assumption that a Nazi regime would give rise to civil war, from which the Communists would emerge as victors.

The second theory is still extant in some quarters and has been argued at length, though with little basis, by Mr. James Burnham in his book The Managerial Revolution. This claims that the Totalitarian State is not capitalism at all, but a new kind of social arrangement in which the power of the capitalist class has been broken and the control of society passed into the hands of “the managerial class,” managers, supervisors, highly paid technicians, etc. This view owes its origin to an American doctrine known as “Technocracy.” It is a superficial generalisation which has avoided specific inquiry into the economic anatomy of the totalitarian states. Franz Neumann, in what is probably the most penetrating analysis of the Nazi State, has conclusively answered the “managerial school.” (Behemoth. Left Book Club edition.)

The fundamental error common to both these schools of thought was to assume that capitalism in every country must have identical features, political and economic, forgetting that in each case exists a different historical background which is bound to give varying trends and twists to each country’s evolution. The development of capitalism in Germany was held back at first owing to her geographical position (e.g. inadequate coastline). When capitalism did appear in the middle of the last century, it limited itself to districts around the Rhine, the river facilitating the transport of coal and iron from the nearby Ruhr. This late beginning put German capitalism at a disadvantage with the already well established manufacturing centre of Britain, which by then had a firm grip on the only market open to Germany, the European continent. This commercial rivalry was to play an important part in shaping the history of the world and has already helped to scourge mankind with two world wars.

The lack of raw materials such as oil, rubber, nitrate, etc., further increased the difficulties of German capitalists and made them more dependant than any of their other competitors on the world market. (It also encouraged the research for substitutes, “Ersatz,” and gave a spur to German chemical industries.) Under the economic laws of world capitalism the import of goods from abroad must be met and balanced by payment in cash (gold) or the export of home — manufactured wares. This is merely an extension of home grown capitalist economy and demonstrates the validity of Marx’s analysis of capitalist economics, yet the capitalist economic rivalry which is the root — cause of modern wars is obscured to many by propaganda about “ideals” of “justice,” “freedom,” etc.

The late national unity of German capitalism (achieved in 1871) also was a factor restricting the growth of the economic and political power of the German capitalist class. This class, therefore, did not feel strong enough to govern Germany and leaned upon another, more ancient, ruling class, the group of Junkers, the Prussian landowners. This social element, strictly belonging to Feudalism, was consequently extending its reign into capitalism. Its main hold upon modern Germany was in the role of organising and officering the German Army, a vital necessity for a capitalist land – power which by its very nature was predestined to play a military aggressive role in world politics.

The defeat of Germany in 1918 drove the figurehead, the Kaiser, into exile, but left the ruling class groups of capitalists and generals still in a dominating position. German Social Democracy (the equivalent, more or less, of the British Labour Party) took on the powers of government, not with the idea of interfering with the property — rights of the German capitalists, but merely to give Germany the political constitution of a capitalist democratic republic after the style of France or the United States. 

But for this moderate project they encountered immense difficulties. The economic distress of the workers could not be remedied by capitalist reforms and large masses of workers, guided by the Bolshevik Revolution on the one hand and encouraged by temporary capitalist impotence on the other, threatened the Government’s overthrow. Here German Social Democracy was faced with a dilemma, a dilemma of its own choosing. Their self–appointed task of saving German capitalism brought them into inevitable conflict with the working class interests which they had promised to safeguard. They solved the dilemma by calling the reactionary junker class of generals and officers to their rescue and so paved the way for the eventual downfall of the German republic.    

The South of Germany, especially Bavaria, being still in the main an agricultural area, soon led the swing back to reaction. Already in 1920, barely two years after the armistice, an openly pro-monarchist, anti-democratic regime was established, carrying on anti-republican propaganda. Numerous groups of officers, not legally employed by the German central government but permitted to exist in order to evade the restriction on military forces imposed by the Allied victors, participated in political intrigues. In addition, numberless political parties, open enemies of the democratic republic, existed under various guises. Among these was a small group calling itself “The German Workers’ Party,” which had been founded in Munich, capital of Bavaria. This party based its policy on ideas derived from the mediaeval guilds with their handicraft labour, a form of labour that still existed in Bavaria.  Adolf Hitler, who at that time was living in Munich, a soldier not yet demobilised, joined the “Inner Council” of this organisation.

The most authoritative work on the growth of the Nazi Party is  the History of the National Socialism,  by Konrad Heyden. In it the author alleged that Hitler joined the group as an agent of a number of German officers. It is certain that Hitler owed his rapid domination over this party to his control of funds which he was handed by his officer friends, who included Captain Roehm. (The latter he had murdered in the “Blood Purge” of June, 1934.)

Besides his control of funds, Hitler also quickly showed his ability as a mob-orator as well as certain talents for political intrigue. At his suggestion the party changed its name to the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party,” a title worthy of a group whose policy was not National but Racist and Imperialist, not Socialist but Capitalist; which did not represent the workers and whose leader was not even German. The new title was matched by a programme of “Twenty-Five points,” most of which consisted of the usual reformist eyewash which the Nazi leaders have long since forgotten.

Two distinct features have of the new Nazi programme deserve to be mentioned. One was opposition to “unearned income.” This point was designed to appeal to workers, but its real meaning was quite different. At that time German industry was being financed by capitalists in France, Britain and the United States, who were thus drawing the rake-off from the proceeds from the proceeds of German industry. The German industrialists, like their brothers everywhere, objected to having to part with some of the surplus value they wrung from the workers: they wanted to keep the lot. So the cry “unearned incomes” was a cry from the heart of the German capitalist exploiters.

The other point was the hostility to the Jews. To be understood, anti-semitism must be placed in its proper historical setting. Under Feudalism the Jew was a social outcast. The land as a means of livelihood was closed to him. Trading and the money-transactions it involved formed an infinitesimal part of an economy that largely restricted itself to production for local consumption. Money-lending itself was forbidden by the Church. Thus the Jew found himself willy-nilly burdened with an economic role that stamped him as an outsider to feudal society. And though under capitalism trading and finance have long ceased to be the prerogative of any religious sect, anti-semitism persists as a tradition. It is in fact a hangover from Feudalism, particularly vicious in countries where feudal customs and ideas still exert a strong influence. This tradition is of course continuously nourished by the prejudices, national  and religious, which only a classless society can fully eliminate.

The Nazis found a fruitful field for their Jew baiting propaganda in backward Bavaria. But the real significance of their “Racist philosophy” appeared later, when the intention to avenge the defeat of 1918 became obvious. The buffer states of Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland contained strong German-born and German-speaking elements. These countries formed the first stepping stones to the mastery of Europe. The Nazi doctrine proclaiming the “Unity and Purity of the German Race,” was nonsense indeed from the scientist’s point of view, but as propaganda it prepared the way for conquest.
Sid Rubin

(Part 2 follows in September’s issue)

The Rise and Fall of Mussolini (1943)

From the August 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Most of the accounts of Mussolini, by himself, by his friends, and by his enemies are a compound of myth and misrepresentation. Many of those who now denounce him as a monster of cruelty and treachery used not to regard him in that light.

Mr. Churchill was reported to have said in 1927 : —
“If I had been an Italian, I am sure that I should have been wholeheartedly with you from start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism.” (Times, January 21st, 1927.)
And did not the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain say in the House of Commons (May 2nd, 1938) : —
“To-day there is a new Italy, an Italy which, under the stimulus of the personality of Signor Mussolini, is showing new vigour, in which there is apparent new vision and new efficiency in administration and in the measures which they are taking to improve the conditions of their people.”
We may also recall the, unbounded enthusiasm for Mussolini and Hitler displayed by Lord Rothermere in his Daily Mail when he was backing Mosley’s Blackshirts and urging young British men and women to emulate the “spirit of patriotic pride and service which has transformed Germany and Italy.” (Daily Mail, January 15th, 1934).

Even the New Leader, organ of the I.L.P., was not quite sure in 1922 whether the workers should support Mussolini or not. In the issue dated November 10th, 1922, an article from an Italian correspondent was published urging cooperation with the Fascists in the national reconstruction of Italy. The Editor, while not associating himself with the idea, did not feel able to reject it out of hand. He doubted the feasibility of the idea, but said:
“Only events can test our correspondent’s optimistic reading of its (Fascism’s) new spirit.”
It is only necessary to recall these now-forgotten enthusiasms and aberrations to perceive the fallacy of the argument that those German and Italian workers who swallowed the absurd and brutal doctrines of their leaders must be punished and kept under, in order to save the world from further dictatorships and aggressions. If it is a crime for the workers to be taken in by the demagogy of a Hitler or a Mussolini, what of the illustrious statesmen and public men who were taken in too?

One myth about Mussolini, still held by many who denounce him, is that he was the creator of modern Italy, the inspired and dynamic leader who moulded events to his will and took power by a brilliant and forcible “march on Rome” in October, 1922. Mr. Bernard Shaw is an outstanding believer in the “great man” myth. If it were true that the great man could so mould events to his will, why the undignified and craven exit from power? Mussolini’s path to power was not through any bold and godlike master-stroke, but through the connivance and desire of those who had control of the political machine, in Italy in 1922. Is it not related how General Badoglio offered at the time to “scatter this Blackshirt rabble with a whiff of grapeshot,” only to be ordered by the King of Italy to let the rabble take office. Mussolini’s exit has been like his entry, for, according to the Daily Telegraph (July 27th, 1943), this giant among men resigned because, after a meeting of the Fascist Grand Council lasting ten hours he was voted down by 19 voles to 7!

The truth is that Mussolini and his Fascist Party had outlived its popularity under the stress of economic hardship and military defeat, and could no longer fulfil the prime function of those who take on the job of harnessing the exploited working class to the capitalist State in the interest of the exploiting class. Discontent had grown and the workers would not go on believing and obeying the leaders in whom they had once placed their trust. Long ago it was admitted by leading Fascist journals that things were in a bad way. The Fascist Party, which they admitted had “become an enormous, top-heavy organisation with a rigid bureaucracy” (Manchester Guardian, September 3rd, 1941), was no longer able to serve its purpose. Mussolini and his Fascists did not mould events, but were the astute exploiters of events which moulded them. In particular, they gained their opportunity to rise to office (and to the luscious fruits of office) because capitalism in Italy after the last war could not solve its own problems or satisfy the mass of the population. Their later policies were similarly dictated by the contradictions of capitalism. As Sir George Paish, the economist, pointed, out, it was the world-crisis of capitalism which determined Italy’s aggressive foreign policy. Writing in 1935. he said:
“If the difficulty between Italy and Abyssinia is to be settled, is it not essential to discover its real cause and remove it? Clearly its cause is similar to that which induced Italy to attack Abyssinia in 1896. At that time the world was suffering from a severe economic and financial crisis, and the distress of Italy caused her statesmen to seek relief in a policy of conquest. The world to-day is suffering from a crisis more severe than 40 years ago, and Italy is in even greater distress than she was then. In consequence, Italy desires a colony to give her a market for her products, to which her people can emigrate, and from which she can obtain food, raw material and gold.” (Times, August 31st. 1935.)
Crises, wars and dictatorships are possible only because of the lasting inability of capitalism to meet the needs of the population of the world. The remedy is not to seek new inspired leaders or new ways of managing capitalism. but to abolish the capitalist system from the face of the earth.

Editorial: Capitalist “Socialism”—The Great Swindle of the Age (1943)

Editorial from the August 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Future historians, looking back at the corrupt final decades of dying capitalist society, will be struck by the systematic attempt to prolong the life of hated institutions by giving them new and fancy names. They will notice, too, how the practitioners among the ruling class have been aided and abetted in this deception by the muddle-headed reformers, and how wholesale hypocrisy has been raised to an art. In our own times we have seen naked annexation of territory renamed “League of Nations Mandate”—though a cynical Japanese delegate at the League was reported to have said that it was clearly understood to be only a new way of spelling the old word. League acts of war became known more politely as “sanctions.” “Coalition,” a word with unhappy associations, is now known as National Government, and conscription is known as National Service. “Pauper,” “Poor Law,” and “workhouse” have given way to Public Assistance and Public Institution, without any real change in their nature. In the field of industry the once detested capitalist monopoly has been reborn with the sweeter name Public Utility Corporation, with the blessing of many labour leaders. Elsewhere in this issue is an article on the attempt to represent war-time industrial conscription as having in it features of a Socialist character !

In the field of political propaganda it was the reformers who paved the way for the astute capitalist politicians. It was the Labour and I.L.P. reformers who imagined that State intervention in capitalist concerns is Socialism, but it was arch-swindler Hitler who brazenly turned it back on them by labelling totalitarianism “National Socialism.”

While the labour leaders denounce the Hitler system, they are still playing into the hands of the capitalist class by their absurd propaganda, which affects to see Socialism in war-time controls and restrictions. So insidious is this idea that we have supposedly well-informed self-styled Socialists deceiving themselves and others with the belief that the capitalist class are introducing Socialism for us. At the Annual Conference of the Labour Party in June last, Mr. Attlee put forward the preposterous idea that the capitalist politicians have been forced by events to adopt Socialist policies, and that Socialists are winning the fight for Socialism without knowing it! Dealing with schemes for world economic planning, he said: —
“The logic of the facts has made responsible people agree with us. I doubt if we recognise sufficiently the progress our ideas have made. The British never know when they are beaten—and British Socialists seldom know when they have won.” (Daily Herald, June 15th 1943.)
He also asserted that “in organising this country for war, we are increasingly adopting Socialist principles.”

Mr. Attlee should remember that he is only repeating about this war what some of his Fabian and Labour Party colleagues said of the last war. What has happened now to the “Socialism” which they then affirmed had stolen on us unaware, like a thief in the night? Some 20 years ago, Mr. Sidney Webb made a statement just like Mr. Attlee’s : —
“The process of Socialisation has been going on for a whole generation in National and Local Government without our realising it.”
In his book, A Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain (July, 1920), he claimed that every industrialised country had in the early years of the twentieth century found itself “increasingly driven to measures of Socialist character,” and that “over a large part of Europe definitely Socialist administrators are actually in office, and the principles of Socialism are avowedly accepted as the basis of social and economic reconstruction.”

At about the same period, in the early twenties, the I.L.P. were selling by the thousand pamphlets with the titles “Socialism in Practice” and “Socialism in Queensland,” telling the workers of Britain that the administration of capitalism by Labour Governments in Queensland and other Australian States was Socialism !

If this had been true, we would be compelled to admit that Socialism has been tried out in Australia, and “over a large part of Europe”—and has failed. It was not true, and to pretend that it was hindered the Socialist movement. Likewise, Mr. Attlee’s action in giving the label “Socialism” to present war-time capitalism helps nobody but the capitalist class. Having bestowed the Socialist blessing on it, he is compelled to defend every iniquitous detail.

At the present time it is Russia which attracts widespread attention owing to the falsehood disseminated by Communists that the social system there is Socialism. Once having hitched their propaganda to the myth of Socialist Russia, the Communists in their attitude to Russia are in the same situation as the British labour leaders in their attitude to war-time capitalism—they are compelled to defend whatever takes place in Russia.

When Lenin was alive the Communists defended his view that the growth of inequality in Russia was a retrograde step, forced on them by regrettable necessity. Now they defend with equal zeal the present official policy which encourages inequality. The Daily Worker (July 13th, 1943) has the following disingenuous defence of the recently disclosed rapidly growing wealth of some Russian farmers on collective farms : —
“First, a rouble millionaire is very far from being a sterling millionaire. Secondly, the accumulations of a Soviet millionaire have been gathered together entirely without exploitation of any kind, solely as a result of personal labour, or, more probably, the joint labours of a family over many years. . . . The emergence of millionaire collective farm families is an indication that that pledge [Stalin’s pledge in 1933 to make collective farmers prosperous] is on the way to being fulfilled.”
According to the Economist (July 3rd, 1943), one of the main reasons for this growing wealth is that the farmers can sell the produce of their own private allotments for their own benefit, and many of them choose to sell in the uncontrolled market where prices are very high. (In the controlled markets prices are lower, but the farmer who sells in the controlled market can then use the proceeds to buy other goods—if available—at controlled prices. If he sells in uncontrolled markets he can only buy other goods at uncontrolled and correspondingly high prices.)

The Daily Worker’s defence turns mainly on the fact that the farmer is selling goods produced by the personal labour of himself or his family. What a multitude of sins that defence can cover. The low-graded bottom ranks of the Russian factory workers are likewise giving their “personal labour” 12 hours a day, but their war-time earnings are labour about 3,600 roubles a year (Economist, July 3rd), so even if they saved 1,000 roubles, or more than a quarter of their earnings, it would take them 1,000 years to reach millionaire prosperity. The Economist states that the present earnings of some higher paid workers range up to about 34,400 roubles a year, while “Stakhanovites” may be getting 48,000, and the salaries of technical staffs may be as much as 72,000.

What has happened to Lenin’s declaration that’ what the Bolsheviks aimed to achieve was the policy “of reducing high salaries to the standard wages of the average worker” ? (Soviets at Work, Lenin, 1918.)

And what has any of this system got to do with Socialism? The Communists claim to be Marxists. Why do they not proclaim with Marx :—
“Instead of the Conservative motto, ‘A fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work’ they (the trade unions) ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wages system.'” (Value,Price and Profit, Marx.)
Imagine a Russian worker asking for the abolition of the wages system on the ground that the existing propaganda for “a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work” is conservative !

Then we notice the Daily Worker’s defence of the Russian system of giving substantial prizes (but no interest) to individual investors in War Loan who happen to draw lucky lottery numbers—
“Those terms appeal to Soviet millionaires. They would not be likely to do so to the barons of Wall Street or the City of London.” (Daily Worker, July 13th).
Since when, may we ask, has the principle of prizes to holders of lucky numbers been regarded as a feature of Socialist society?

In conclusion, to return to the original point about the prevailing cult of retaining the evils but giving them different names, we place on record the following earth-shaking proposal of a prominent employer: —
“Mr. E. G. Tarran, a Hull industrialist, suggests the abolition of five words from the English language—capital, labour, rich, poor, and foreigner.” (Daily Mail, July 15th, 1943.)

Bank for World Trade (1943)

From the August 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Discussions have recently been started on the future of banking currency and exchange after the war. Lord Keynes (British Treasury) has put forward one set of proposals for an International Clearing Union. Mr. Morgenthau, Treasurer of the United States Government, has made other proposals for an international currency, based on gold.

Various writers and journals have taken up these suggestions with the usual alacrity, hailing them as serious contributions to the solution of world problems.

Typical of such journals is the dear old New Statesman (April 10th, 1943) :
“Man’s failure to construct a sane system to regulate exchange between the nations is one of the reasons for the ghastly state of the world to-day. . . . The general standard of life which the world enjoys, and on which all hopes of social betterment hang—(our italics)—must depend on the way in which the nations succeed in organising exchange of … surplus goods.”
This is no new idea : it’s as old (almost) as the capitalist system itself. The same issue of the New Statesman carries one of those typical “Left” articles, which they have published for years, calling on somebody or other (in authority) to do something for somebody. This week it's Professor Laski urging President Roosevelt not to support Fascist elements in Tunis. This has something to do with the New Deal in America, although Laski admits “that the essence of the New Deal was not Socialism.” Nevertheless, “freedom from want and fear deliberately organised now can make the foundations of democracy secure in the post-war world.”

“Do you remember, Mr. President, those brave words you used in your inaugural address of March 4th, 1933?” asks the Professor.
“This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth. . . . Plenty is at our door but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed.”—Pres. Roosevelt, March, 1933.
Here, again, the same idea that faulty exchange is the cause of the trouble.

Taking our courage in both hands, we boldly challenge President Roostvelt, Professor Laski and Sir Kingsley Wood to prove this proposition. The crises of capitalism are not caused by faulty exchange.

Exchange itself is but an effect, not the cause. Exchange is the result of private property in the means cf production.

It is the economic relationship of private owners

That is why the S.P.G.B. for years, despite charges of pedantry, opposed the S.D.F. and I.L.P., who stated that they stood for the “socialisation of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.”

This is not Socialism. Socialism abolishes money, banks, cheques, and all the counters of various sizes and names which capitalists require to ensure their pound of flesh. Socialism is a system based on common ownership, which freely distributes to all whatever the community cam produce.

People starve in the sight of plenty because it is privately owned by capitalists.

A new system of international currency after the war may assist British or American capitalists—no amount of alteration of the tokens which circulate wealth will help property-less workers.

Announcement (1943)

From the August 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our pamphlet "Questions of the Day" has been completely revised and considerably enlarged. The chapters dealing with the Russian dictatorship, the Communist party, Fascism and Democracy, and Racial Theories are particularly interesting. The cost of the revised edition of over 100 pages is 8d (9½ d. post paid). It can also be ordered through W. H. Smith & Son's bookstalls.

September's "Done & Dusted"

Another quiet month. I wouldn't be surprised if it continued to be quiet for the rest of the year.

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 September 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 separate decades for the hard of hearing.

September 2022's "Done & Dusted"

About socialism (1987)

From the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

1. What is the Socialist Party of Great Britain?
It is a political party, separate from all others, Left, Right or Centre. It stands for the sole aim of establishing a world social system based upon human need instead of private or state profit. The Object and Declaration of Principles printed in this introductory leaflet were adopted by the Socialist Party in 1904 and have been maintained without compromise since then. In other countries there are companion parties sharing the same object and principles, and they too remain independent from all other political parties.

2. What is capitalism?
Capitalism is the social system which now exists in all countries of the world. Under this system, the means of production and distribution (land, factories, offices, transport, media, etc.) are monopolised by a minority, the capitalist class. All wealth is produced by us, the majority working class, who sell our mental and physical energies to the capitalists in return for a price called a wage or salary. The object of wealth production is to create goods and services which can be sold on the market at a profit. Not only do the capitalists live off the profits they obtain from exploiting the working class, but, as a class, they go on accumulating wealth extracted from each generation of workers.

3. Can capitalism be reformed in our interests?
No: as long as capitalism exists, profits will come before needs. Some reforms are welcomed by some workers, but no reform can abolish the fundamental contradiction between profit and need which is built into the present system. No matter whether promises to make capitalism run in the interests of the workers are made sincerely or by opportunist politicians they are bound to fail, for such a promise is like offering to run the slaughter house in the interests of the cattle.

4. Is nationalisation an alternative to capitalism?
No: nationalised industries simply mean that workers are exploited by the state, acting on behalf of the capitalists of one country, rather than by an individual capitalist or company. The workers in nationalised British Leyland are no less the servants of profit than workers in privately-owned Ford. The mines no more belong to "the public" or the miners now than they did before 1947 when they were nationalised. Nationalisation is state capitalism.

5. Are there any “socialist countries”?
No: the so-called socialist countries are systems of state capitalism. In Russia and its empire, in China, Cuba, Albania, Yugoslavia and the other countries which call themselves socialist, social power is monopolised by privileged Party bureaucrats. The features of capitalism, as outlined above, are all present. An examination of international commerce shows that the bogus socialist states are part of the world capitalist market and cannot detach themselves from the requirements of profit.

6. What Is the meaning of socialism?
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. In a socialist society there will be common ownership and democratic control of the earth by its inhabitants. No minority class will be in a position to dictate to the majority that production must be geared to profit. There will be no owners: everything will belong to everyone. Production will be solely for use, not for sale. The only questions society will need to ask about wealth production will be: what do people require, and can the needs be met? These questions will be answered on the basis of the resources available to meet such needs. Then, unlike now, modern technology and communications will be able to be used to their fullest extent. The basic socialist principle will be that people give according to their abilities and take according to their self- defined needs. Work will be on the basis of voluntary co-operation: the coercion of wage and salary work will be abolished. There will be no buying or selling and money will not be necessary, in a society of common ownership and free access. For the first time ever the people of the world will have common possession of the planet earth.

7. How will socialism solve the problems of society?
Capitalism, with its constant drive to serve profit before need, throws up an endless stream of problems. Most workers in Britain feel insecure about their future; almost one in four families with children living below the official government poverty line; many old people live in dangerously cold conditions each winter and thousands die; millions of our fellow men and women are dying of starvation — tens of thousands of them each day. A society based on production for use will end those problems because the priority of socialist society will be the fullest possible satisfaction of needs. At the moment food is destroyed and farmers are subsidised not to produce more: yet many millions are malnourished. At the moment hospital queues are growing longer and people are dying of curable illnesses; yet it is not "economically viable" to provide decent health treatment for all. In a socialist society nothing short of the best will be good enough for any human being.

8. What about human nature?
Human behaviour is not fixed, but determined by the kind of society people are conditioned to live in. The capitalist jungle produces vicious, competitive ways of thinking and acting. But we humans are able to adapt our behaviour and there is no reason why our rational desire for comfort and human welfare should not allow us to co-operate. Even under capitalism people often obtain pleasure from doing a good turn for others; few people enjoy participating in the "civilised" warfare of the daily rat-race. Think how much better it would be if society was based on co-operation.

9. Are socialists democrats?
Yes: the Socialist Party has no leaders. It is a democratic organisation controlled by its members. It understands that Socialism can only be established by a conscious majority of workers — that workers must liberate themselves and will not be liberated by leaders or parties. Socialism will not be brought about by a dedicated minority "smashing the state", as some left-wingers would have it. Nor do the activities of paid, professional politicians have anything to do with Socialism — the experience of seven Labour governments has shown this. Once a majority of the working class understand and want Socialism, they will take the necessary step to organise consciously for the democratic conquest of political power. There will be no Socialism without a socialist majority.

10. What is the next step?
Many workers know that there is something wrong and want to change society. Some join reform groups in the hope that capitalism can be patched up, but such efforts are futile because you cannot run a system of class exploitation in the interests of the exploited majority. People who fear a nuclear war may join CND. but as long as nation states exist, economic rivalry means that the world will never be safe from the threat of war. There are countless dedicated campaigns and good causes which many sincere people are caught up in, but there is only one solution to the problems of capitalism and that is to get rid of it, and establish Socialism. Before we can do that we need socialists; winning workers to that cause requires knowledge, principles and an enthusiasm for change. These qualities can be developed by anyone — and are essential for anyone who is serious about changing society. Capitalism in the 1980s is still a system of waste, deprivation and frightening insecurity. You owe it to yourself to find out about the one movement which stands for the alternative.

If you have read this set of principles and agree with some or all of them, contact the Socialist Party with your questions and ideas about what you can do to help speed the progress towards Socialism.