Saturday, October 15, 2022

Voice From The Back: The US Is Staying Indefinitely (2005)

The Voice From The Back Column from the October 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

The US Is Staying Indefinitely

“The Air Force’s top general said Monday that American warplanes would have to support Iraq’s fledgling security forces well after American ground troops eventually withdraw from the country…. In an interview earlier this month, General Jumper was even more explicit when asked about the Air Force’s future in Iraq. “We will continue with a rotational presence of some type in that area more or less indefinitely”, he said. “We have interests in that part of the world and an interest in staying in touch with the militaries over there” (New York Times, 30 August). The “interest” they have, is of course, Iraq’s oil.

Blessed Are The Warmakers

When the priests and ministers in the USA prattle on about “blessed are the peacemakers” they obviously don’t know much about how capitalism operates. “The United States is the largest supplier of weapons to developing nations, a US congressional study says. It delivered more than $US 9.6 billion in arms to countries including those in the Near East and Asia in 2004, and boosted worldwide sales to the highest amount since 2000. The total worldwide value of all agreements to sell arms last year was close to $US 37 billion, and nearly 59 per cent of the agreements were with developing nations, according to the Congressional Research Service report” (Sydney Morning Herald ,31 August).

Blessed are the Poor?

Another piece of nonsense much favoured by the bible bashers is “blessed are the poor”. Good news then for the pious in the USA according to the latest figures. “The number of Americans living below the poverty line rose for the fourth successive year during 2004, extending the gap between rich and poor in the world’s wealthiest nation. …. At the other end of the scale, a survey of the biggest US companies by compensation consultancy Pearl Meyers found the average payout for chief executives rose 13% in 2004 to $10.5 million.” (Guardian, 31 August). You are living in New York on minimum wage? Oh, blessed one! Consult the US Bureau of Statistics.

The Doom Machine

We often hear scares about the likely effects of global warning, but this report seems to come from a reliable source and should scare us all. “Only extraordinary changes in the output of warming gases now and until 2050 would make any difference, Martin Parry told the British Association science festival. … The estimates came from a government-funded study by Professor Parry’s team at the Hadley Centre, the Met Office’s climates forecasting centre” (Times, 6 September). The report was carried under the headline “Ozone rise will doom millions to starvation” and calculated that about 500 million are at risk but by 2050 this would rise to 550 million. Truly, modern capitalism has become a doom machine!


“The world’s poorest people are being denied access to drugs because pharmaceutical companies are focusing their resources on diseases suffered by wealthy, middle-aged Americans, such as obesity and heart disease, a leading expert will say tomorrow. Dr David Rhodes, the Health Protection Agency’s (HPA) head of business development will claim that spiralling costs are driving firms to invest primarily in drugs that tackle diseases of older Americans” (Observer, 11 September). This is good business practice according to the ethics of capitalism, a bit tough on those suffering from tuberculosis, malaria and water-borne diseases in the less developed countries, though.

A World In Crisis

The columnist Lee Randall certainly summed up the nightmare of capitalism well when she wrote: “Twirl the globe and stab your finger anywhere. I could spend whole days writing cheques for innocent victims of war, natural disasters, terrorism, disease or poverty, and it wouldn’t be enough. Every tomorrow brings new woes. … I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed, uncertain about what can and should be done. But I’m open to ideas” (Scotsman, 10 September). How about world socialism, Lee?

Editorial: Time to Move On (2005)

Editorial from the October 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

As the Berlin Wall fell and the Kremlin’s Empire collapsed in Eastern Europe, Western leaders spoke about a “peace dividend” and how money previously spent on arms would be re-channelled into social programmes; redirected towards the fight against poverty, inequality and ignorance. Some spoke about “the end of history”, how capitalism was at last triumphant. Capitalism, at the dawn of a new millennium, had supposedly seen off its rivals and now, left to develop, would bring prosperity to all.

In reality:
  • World military spending for 2005: $1 trillion (or just over $31,709 per second)
  • Number of billionaires in the world: 691
  • Number of people malnourished: approx 815 million
  • 1 billion people lack access to clean water
  • 2.4 billion people lack access to decent sanitation
  • 17,280 children die every day from hunger
According to the most recent UN Human Development Report:
  • 54 countries are now poorer than they were in 1990, which is when world leaders made their “peace dividend” claim.
  • The world’s 225 richest individuals, of whom 60 are Americans with total assets of $311 billion, have a combined wealth of over $1 trillion – equal to the annual income of the poorest 47 percent of the entire world’s population.
  • The estimated additional cost of maintaining universal access to basic education, basic health care, reproductive health care, adequate food and clean water and safe sewers for all is roughly $40 billion a year, or less than 4 percent of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people in the world.
  • The richest fifth of the world’s people consumes 86 percent of all goods and services while the poorest fifth consumes just 1.3 percent.
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund reported in 2005 that one billion children, or half of the world’s population of children, suffer from poverty, violent conflict and the scourge of AIDS.
Capitalism may well have advanced the scientific and technological capabilities of humanity to a stage where we can now feasibly establish a world of abundance, a world without waste or want or war. But the facts speak for themselves. There are now more starving, thirsty, homeless and unemployed people on the planet than at any time in human history. Rather than providing for the needs of the world’s people, Capitalism stands as a fetter to the full and improved use of the world’s productive resources in the service of humanity.

Capitalism need not be the end of history. It is just one station along the railway line of human social development at which we are presently standing. We can move on, progress. By progress, what we mean is socialism, a society based on common ownership, democratic control and production solely for use. Real change is possible, but only if enough of us really do want to move further along the track to where real human history begins.

Letters: Self-Determination (2005)

Letters to the Editors from the October 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard


Dear Editors

The last two decades have witnessed an increasing number of anti-capitalist, anti-globalisation movements seeking a voice through protest and opposition to the damaging practices of trans-national corporations and the World Bank, IMF and WTO. The probability is that the vast majority of these individuals have never studied economics or politics and don’t understand much of the workings of current economic policies, but they certainly do see and feel the results and negative effects of these policies and they have a feel for what is unjust. They share a common desire for a better world, a fairer world. They may not have identified clearly or explicitly what it is they want in this other, better world, but they have undoubtedly recognised much of what they don’t want. Their protests and their slogans are demands to be heard; these are ways of expressing anger, frustration and disagreement with the status quo.

Around the world such groups are voicing many different grievances from many different angles. Bolivians grabbing their water rights back from Bechtel, who are now suing the Bolivian government for compensation for what they would have earned in the future. Hundreds of thousands of Indians being forced off their fertile productive farmland in favour of huge dams which promise fat profits for fat cats. Millions of AIDs sufferers denied access to life-giving treatments for lack of cash.  Empathisers in the minority world protesting against the methods and results of worldwide capitalist business.

So many different reasons from so many different perspectives; different stages of anger, deprivation, disenfranchisement. It would be unrealistic to make broad generalisations about the myriad individual goals but it’s certainly possible to gather the separate bits and pieces together and view them as discrete perspectives with converging aims. All these fingers may not be poised over exactly the right button but at least they are scrabbling in the right area. Surely, better something rather than sitting in a darkened room absorbing more mind-numbing images from another evening’s bombardment courtesy of the capitalist media?

It’s about choices. People’s first choice should be socialism. It seems such a small step from the examples given here, but a huge paradigm shift. For people focused on life’s necessities – enough food for the family everyday, somewhere safe to sleep, healthcare and childcare for increasing numbers of chronically ill, a job this month, next year that will pay the bills – it’s hard to focus on the light at the end when the tunnel is long and dark. So, as socialists, how do we address this last little push, this yawning gap? Let’s not criticise those who haven’t figured it out yet. Let’s harness their strengths and energies. We need first to get people to see the light, recognize it for what it is and then to keep focused on heading for it through the long dark tunnel of capitalism, in growing numbers, with growing strength in the knowledge that there is a better world, a fairer world, a socialist world.
Janet Surman, 

Marx in error?

Dear Editors,

I note that you, in the September issue, favourably quote part of Marx’s sixth Thesis on Ludwig Feuerbach:
“Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the essence of man. But the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations”.
I would like to point out that Marx was in error on this point, and that in fact Feuerbach did not abstract from social relations. Here is the man himself:
“The natural viewpoint of man, the viewpoint of the distinction between I and thou, subject and object, is the true and absolute viewpoint; consequently, it is also the viewpoint of philosophy. The single man for himself possesses the essence of man neither in himself as a moral being nor in himself as a thinking being. The essence of man is contained only in the community and unity of man with man; it is a unity, however, which rests only on the reality of the distinction between I and thou. Solitude is finiteness and limitation; community is freedom and infinity. Man for himself is man (in the ordinary sense); man with man – the unity of I and thou – is God” (Principles of the Philosophy of the Future (1844), p 70-71)
A bit fluffy and abstract perhaps, but it is clear, just as it is clear in his Essence of Christianity, that his analysis was based upon social relations.
R. Cumming (by email)

What “Marxist terrorists”?

Below is a letter sent to Colombian Ambassador to Britain

Mr Ambassador

Following on the return to Ireland of the three Irish republicans convicted of assisting the FARC nationalist movement in Colombia, your Vice President, Mr Francisco Santos, is reported in the British and Irish media as saying that the men in question were training ‘Marxist terrorists’.

If Mr Santos has some authoritative knowledge of Karl Marx and his political and economic philosophy that knowledge would necessarily have come from the abundant and easily-available writings of Marx or his friend and co-worker, Frederick Engels.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain since its establishment in 1904 has become the repository of genuine Marxist thought in this country and bases its political practice on the basic tenets of Marxism. We affirm that Marx’s vision of socialism – or communism, for he used the terms interchangeably – was a wageless, classless, moneyless and stateless, world wherein the machinery of production and the resources of nature would be owned in common by humanity and wherein the state as an apparatus of government over people would give way to a simple administration of things.

As Marx made clear, the very nature of his conception of socialism precluded any form of minority violence; socialism would necessarily have to be established by the conscious, democratic action of the working class – the producers of all real wealth – and be maintained by the most wide-ranging forms of participative democracy.

If Mr Santos had applied himself to a study of Marx’s writings he must surely have noticed that, rather than advocating terrorism, Marx devoted much of his time and energy to repudiating the views of those who urged terrorism on the working class as a means of resolving any facet of its exploitation.

In the present climate of fear engendered by the brutal sectional and conflicting interests of capitalism, Mr Santos’ statement is irresponsible in that it exposes genuine Marxists to the threat of violence from many quarters. Indeed, one can only wonder at the possible fate of someone in Columbia thinking he or she had a democratic right to advocate the principles of Marxism.

Since we are not in a position to challenge Mr Santos directly we would ask you as a matter of urgency for clarification of his remarks specifically in relation to the suggestion that Marxism is in any way compatible with the idea of terrorism.
John Bissett, 
General Secretary.


The following reply was received:

Dear Mr. Bissett,

Thank you for your letter of 10 August regarding certain reported statements by Colombian Vice President Mr. Francisco Santos following the return to Ireland of the three Irish republicans convicted of assisting the FARC in Colombia. Your letter has been forwarded to the Vice President.

Alfonso López Cabellero, 

Katrina – not just an ill wind (2005)

From the October 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

Driving along the freeways abutting on the Gulf of Mexico it comes as a shock to see so many signs announcing that you are travelling a designated evacuation route. For this is a part of America which is well accustomed to the extremes of stormy weather. But Hurricane Katrina was something utterly out of the ordinary. We are still digesting the accounts of the horrors endured by people who were caught in the path of the hurricane and of their suffering since then. What lives they had have been wrecked; what possessions they relied on have disappeared into the floods with the corpses, the rubbish and the sewage; what they saw as their future has been literally blown away. So far there has been no reliable estimate of the loss of life: does it run into hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands? For those who worry themselves about such issues there has been no informed guess of how much the disaster will cost the insurance companies; Merrill Lynch, who know a thing or two about pushing money around, have come up with the figure of $22 billion. And George Bush, who could once luxuriate behind apparently unassailable ramparts of support, has had to contemplate the erosion of his popularity.

In its destructive power and the misery it unleashed against the people of the Gulf States, Katrina was extraordinary. But in some important respects it was completely normal and predictable. To begin with there was the stampede of politicians – in particular George Bush – to avoid any responsibility for the catastrophe and for the official failure to rush help to the victims. Apart from the damage to roads, buildings and the like, the hurricane’s breach of the levees protecting New Orleans was crucial. Bush told a TV reporter that “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees” but that was simply untrue. Business Week newspaper, for example, thought differently: “Engineers have known for years that New Orleans’s levees couldn’t withstand anything above a category 3 hurricane” (Katrina was category 5). In fact as recently as 1998 the category 2 hurricane George forced the water levels up to a foot below the top of the levees. In 2002 a local New Orleans newspaper concluded from its investigation that a major hurricane would devastate the region.

Anticipation of the breach should have led to the levees being heightened and strengthened, saving a lot of lives and preventing untold misery for the people. But before Katrina arrived on the scene the funding which could have improved the levees was cut by $71 million; a previous Secretary of Environmental Quality in Louisiana was angry enough about this to forecast that “a disastrous flood was inevitable”. One local emergency management chief thought that the cuts were imposed because “It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq and I suppose that’s the price we pay”. He might have put it differently – for capitalism killing people is more affordable than protecting them from harm.

So what of the people who lived in the path of the storm, of the wind and the flood and whose lives were to be so dramatically affected by decisions on where money was to be spent? In the vast majority they were black and in the lower reaches of poverty. In New Orleans two thirds of the population was African/American, with a quarter of them officially graded as living in poverty. In the Lower Ninth Ward of that city, which suffered particularly badly in the flood, 90 percent were African/American with almost a third of them classified as living in poverty. In a flash of candour which must have caused acute anguish to her minders Barbara Bush, the mother of George Bush and the wife of the former president, shared her thoughts about this: “So many of the people in the area here, you know, were underprivileged anyway. So this [fleeing from the hurricane, from the floods, the fear, the death, then living in the squalor of emergency accommodation] is working well for them”

Typically, the people living at or below the poverty line endure bad housing without proper plumbing, hot and cold water, a shower or a bath. It also means that, crucially in America , they could not afford a car or any other ready means of carrying out the official advice to evacuate the area before Katrina arrived – and that if they did manage to flee they would have no access to ready places of refuge. It seems obvious that such people should help themselves from damaged shops and stores, putting survival before capitalism’s property laws. They would not have been deterred to be told that this was looting, a very serious crime; nor would they have been impressed by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s apparent condoning of the same type of activity, when it suited him, in the case of Iraq: “Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things”. Perhaps Katrina had informed the looters that to be poor can be to suffer a desperately inadequate life style with miserable prospects and that the poorer you are the worse this is.

Katrina was a disaster of epic scale for the poor of the Gulf States, fleeing the winds and the waters, or cowering in some noxious shelter. There was some bad news also for the other side of the class divide. The firm Deloitte, who are called “consultants” (which does not mean they are readily available to give advice to anyone trying to get by on Social Security of any kind) calculated that the hurricane could have damaged parts of the American economy on a scale comparable to the events of 9/11. One of the firm’s spokespersons warned about the effect on the insurance industry, on tourism, leisure, hospitality and the stock market. In fact the stock markets in London and America hardly fluttered. In any case any tremors were overridden by the good news for the kind of people who may consult Deloitte. Arguing that the damage to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico would cause a shortage, the oil firms were quick to raise their prices. On the assumption that because almost a third of America’s coffee crop would have been stored in New Orleans the price of coffee on the market soared by 11 percent.

The construction industry – notably part of the Haliburton Group, which was once bossed by Vice President Dick Cheney and which prospers so well out of repairing the damage the American forces have done in Iraq – was eagerly preparing bids to reconstruct the damaged cities of the Gulf. Shares in Haliburton did not fall but went up by two percent. In England shares in Aggrreko, who supply portable power generators, soared by 7.5 percent and shares in Wolesley, which supplies plumbing and heating, were up by three percent. One financial adviser, after the obligatory acknowledgement that a lot of people had suffered terribly in the hurricane, had something of a song in his heart :
“The impact of events such as Katrina, while devastating for the

people involved, tend to be quite short-term and you should

be investing in America, or any other region for that matter, for the

long-term – at least five years and probably 10 or more. Over that

period, can you afford to be out of the world’s largest economy

and stock market, which has some of the best companies in the World?”
And how is the reconstruction likely to turn out? If the experience of the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami is any guide, the face of places like New Orleans will be changed for ever as luxury tourism is foisted on the place, leaving one or two small areas where a kind of sanitised memory is allowed to survive. The chairman of the New Orleans Business Council ominously spoke of how “to use this catastrophe as a once-in-an-eon opportunity to change the dynamic” of the city. Well, the people of New Orleans and of the rest of the world have been warned.

Katrina was a disaster of epic proportions which no style of human organisation, even one based on communal ownership and control of the means of life, could have averted or controlled. But such a society would have prevented a calamity on the scale of New Orleans. A classless society, organised on the basis of human interests, would not have misjudged the power of Katrina, nor compromised the safety of its people in its path by undermining the strength of defences because it was financially advisable to do so. It would not have bungled any necessary rescue and support services. And as an open and democratic society it would not have been plagued by politicians disguising their true failures and impotence behind a screen of lies.
R. C.

Hurricane Katrina: Aspects of the disaster, published by Indymedia, United States (2005)

From the October 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard
  • The city has a 40% illiteracy rate. 
  • New Orleans Police Department officers, who have been accused of drug running, corruption and theft, were ‘caught’ on videotape looting a Wal-Mart.  
  • The Arizona Republic reported that its local sheriffs “watched New Orleans police officers loading their patrol cars with items taken from various businesses, a couple of pharmacies, a hardware store, an auto-parts store and a grocery store.”
  •  The Bush administration, in every year since 2001, has cut or refused to fund New Orleans flood control, and ignored scientists warnings of increased hurricanes as a result of global warming.
  •  There are many first-hand reports of relief organizations being refused entry into the city. The Red Cross’ official website explains “The state Homeland Security Department had requested–and continues to request– that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.”
  •  New Orleans is the only deepwater port in the US served by six class-one railroads. None of these were used to take people out of the city.  Tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees was halted because of President Bush’s visit to the city. “We had arrangements to airlift food by helicopter to these folks, and now the food is sitting in trucks because they won’t let helicopters fly,” said Casey O’Shea, U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon’s chief of staff. It was not reported whether the supplies ever actually made it to those who most needed it.
  •  Private military companies have been employed to guard the property of the city’s millionaires from looters.  “As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.”

Katrina: the poor suffer more (2005)

From the October 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard
The recently sickening ravages of property and life wrought by Hurricane Katrina have been extensively covered by the media, but with some rather glaring omissions.
The first was that a society based on the rights of property over life had a great deal to do with exacerbating an already traumatic situation. What we witnessed the most on television were pathetic yet stark scenes of poor people huddled in a sports stadium, homes lost forever, awaiting supplies and aid that took endless days to arrive. During this time more people died, the ill were uncared for, and conditions of existence plummeted to unsanitary levels often associated with the shanty towns of South America or Turkish prisons, but not with the United States of America. While these already traumatised people had to endure an additional trauma of abandonment and lack of the basic wherewithal to survive, millions of homes and offices unused and awaiting buyers sat empty around the country. But they were not available to the million homeless of New Orleans, whose life savings had been lost in homes rendered rubble, or who simply never had the savings to invest in their own house.

Nobody on television asked the most salient question of all: “should people struck by terrible tragedy be victims of charity at all, or should they instead be automatically entitled to society’s wealth simply by demonstrating clear-cut needs for homes, hygiene, food, clothes, and comfort?” Society as presently constituted is not geared toward the satisfaction of our needs, but rather to the sale of commodities to yield profits, and such a society proved itself demonstrably incapable of meeting needs of the dire and desperate kinds that followed on the heels of Katrina. But hey, there are already millions of homeless and poor people in the United States who are not entitled to those vast numbers of empty homes awaiting purchase, so why should these victims of extreme weather be any more fortunate?

Had you or I decided to by-pass the sleeping government and simply pick up a couple of homeless individuals and drop them off in another town, we would have had to do so only by taking time off work. Most of us, as workers, have commitments to our employers that may not be so casually by-passed. And in capitalism, even relief efforts are subject to the welfare agencies’ budgetary constraints. Ever heard of the tens of millions of starving and ill children who die each and ever year around the world for whom there is simply not enough money to go around? While relief for those left in New Orleans was certainly offered by the Red Cross and eventually by the state, few asked whether it is sane or even effective to meet critical human needs depending upon how much money or how many volunteers may be assembled. What if those of you donating a few dollars at supermarkets for Katrina victims simply don’t raise enough? Does that mean that the plight of those struck by disaster is entirely the result of your personal failures, or of a society in which wealth is produced only to be sold, and not to meet our needs? We socialists think the latter.

Nobody on television asked whether by rights the wealth of society should not be automatically due to all individuals. Thus, the million New Orleanians with homes tragically destroyed suddenly enter into that category of “homeless,” those without the monetary means to buy or rent. Nobody on the idiot box asked the most obvious question: “why shouldn’t homes be available to anybody who needs them?”

A further question never raised in recent television coverage was about the severity of the storm itself. Many scientists around the world are now convinced that the ecological devastation wrought by modern society has played its part in altering global weather patterns, even while conservative politicians and owners of polluting industry deny such hypotheses and try hard to keep them from being discussed in the media. Tropical forests are vanishing at the rate of city sizes per day, ice is melting at the polar caps, storms are increasing and worsening, temperatures are rising, ozone levels are diminishing. Quite a few scientists have made calculations that if present levels of ecological destruction continue unabated for the next ten, twenty or thirty years, then catastrophic alterations in weather will no longer be avoidable, even if pollution were stopped after such a date. While it is difficult to be certain if the damage to the planet caused by capitalist production has been responsible for recent changes for the worse in weather, one thing is clear – such dire warnings from the scientific community are not going to be taken seriously. This leaves us rightly concerned whether we are heading into an era in which such similarly devastating phenomena as Hurricane Katrina will not be exceptions, but the rule. What are you all going to do about it? When will citizens take control, and stop leaving critical decision making to leaders of all parties led by the supremacy of corporate interests. What are you personally going to do to render this planet a joy to share, to create a society for you and your children that meets our needs?

The World Socialist Party of the United States is a companion party of the World Socialist Movement. It aims to bring about a non-violent revolution in the ownership of the means of production from private or state to common. In such a society, money will no longer be necessary, as the things and services we require to live fully (food, clothes, medical services, homes, transportation, and other modern human needs) will be freely available to all. This is because the means of production will be owned in common by the entire community, and will be democratically controlled by that community as well, a society in which leaders are replaced by truly democratic decision making of all citizens.

In a society of common ownership, all war in such a nationless world will be immediately abolished, while the end of starvation and dire poverty will quickly follow suit. Without the barriers of economic cost holding back human progress, more ecologically sustainable ways to provide energy and production for ourselves will be immediately planned and created on a global basis. We will become for the first time in history a truly human family looking after itself.
Dr. Who 
(World Socialist Party of US)

Cooking the Books: The market fails again (2005)

The Cooking the Books column from the October 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

Within a month of the Live8 concerts that were supposed to influence the leaders of world capitalism to do something about poverty in Africa, the charities had to get their begging bowls out again. This time for a famine in Niger, an ex-French colony to the north of Nigeria with a population of over 11.6 million.

In October last year various international agencies including the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation signalled that, due to a bad harvest and an invasion of locusts, cereal production in Niger in 2004-5 was likely to be 7.5 percent below normal. In accordance with the law of supply and demand the price of millet, the main cereal grown and consumed in Niger, began to rise, with the result that the farmers whose crop had failed were unable to afford to buy enough food for their families. Malnutrition, especially amongst children, grew.

The government reacted by bringing in a scheme to sell millet at a reduced price, but although this was below the market price it was still two times higher than the price the farmers had received for their 2003-4 crop.

Dr Isabelle Defourny, of Médicins Sans Frontières, takes up the story:
“In early June, Niger’s prime minister acknowledged that the government’s response was ineffective when he noted that hundreds of thousands of the 3.5 million people threatened by the food shortage were too poor to be able to purchase cereal, even at a low price. Those most severely affected by the food crisis have the least resources, including farmers whose harvests were poor and cattle producers and craftsmen. Many had already exhausted their resources, selling goods and animals to feed themselves.” (Messages, MSF newsletter, July-August, )
MSF urged that “free food distribution is the only way to keep the situation from worsening and to prevent large numbers of deaths”, a perfectly reasonable proposal if we were living in a society geared to serving human needs and welfare. But we’re not. The authorities took a different view, for reasons explained by social researcher, Jean-Hervé Jezequel, in an interview in the same issue of Messages:
“ . . . in early June, at a meeting of the Joint Commission for Consultation, the decision-making body of the ‘action plan’ which includes representatives of the state and of institutional donors, the government of Niger declared that despite the seriousness of the food crisis, it would not set up free distribution operations. The only political reaction from the institutional donors came from the ambassador of France, who was glad there was a ‘policy that will not destabilize the markets’. The ambience was almost surreal: ignoring the emergency food situation, economic considerations were, without hesitation, given priority over the fate of endangered people.”
The French newspaper Libération reported that some cereal merchants had held back stocks to drive up prices further and that others had “disposed of their stocks in neighbouring Nigeria where the population has a higher purchasing power” (9 August).

So, yet again, as in every “food crisis” since the Great Starvation in Ireland in the 1840s, the workings of capitalism have produced the obscene spectacle of the export of food from an area where people are starving because, not having money, they don’t constitute a market and so don’t count.

Party News: Livingston By-Election (2005)

Party News from the October 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party stood a candidate in the Livingston by-election, in central Scotland, on 29 September, caused by the death of former "ethical" Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. As it took place while this issue was at the printers we are unable to report the result, but details of the campaign as it progressed and its outcome can be found on the by-election blog at

Editorial: Heartbreak House: The Swindle of Nationalisation. (1945)

Editorial from the October 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Leaders of the Labour Party, with the active support of the Communists, are putting over a monstrous deception on the workers in the mining and other industries.

If Conservatives were now in power they would be telling the workers that it is necessary for them to work harder in order to replace what has been destroyed by war and to produce articles needed owing to the present scarcity of coal, clothing, food, etc.

After the last war the same tale was told—and in due course the workers reaped the harvest of increased production in the shape of glutted markets, unemployment and wage cuts. Remembering what happened then many workers would now be sceptical about such propaganda if it came from Conservatives and the employers generally. They would suspect that they were again being tricked into sacrificing themselves for the benefit of capitalism and the profits of the capitalist class.

Now the propaganda campaign is in full swing again, but this time it comes from the Labour Party and Communists and it is baited with the pretence that under Nationalisation greater production will benefit the whole community and not the propertied class.

Mr. Michael Foot, Labour M.P., writing in the Labour organ, the Daily Herald (August 7th, 1945), puts the Labour Party case:—
“Partly owing to the war, there is a severe physical shortage of all the goods required to provide an abundant, life, and if that abundant life is to be assured in the future certain immediate privations will have to be endured in order to restock the capital industries. No Tory Government could make this appeal, for the worker would suspect that the summons to hard work, discipline and abstinence would result only in fortunes for the few and the later wastage of unemployment. The new Government is in a different situation. It also must appeal for hard work, discipline and, for a short period, continued abstinence. All these are needed to increase the total wealth for distribution, but a Labour Government at the same time can give concrete proof of its resolve to use this wealth for the benefit of the whole community. By its social insurance and health and housing plans it can show its determination to secure a greater equality in the distribution of wealth. By its nationalisation proposals it can show its resolve that the re-equipment of industry shall not merely bring greater profits to the few. By its financial measures it can prove that, when this period of shortage is over, no return will be allowed to wasteful unemployment.—(Daily Herald, August 7th, 1945). 
Mr. Foot in his article was answering criticisms made in the Economist, August 4th, the central point of the criticism being that if the owners of a nationalised industry receive as compensation the same income that they were drawing already there is no surplus from which the workers could receive higher wages unless (through more machinery, greater efficiency and harder work), the productivity of the industry is increased. Mr. Foot’s answer is that the Labour Government will get this greater productivity and it will benefit the workers and "not merely bring greater profits to the few.’’ (our italics).

The Labour Government having in the words of the Daily Herald, convinced the electorate "of its detachment from class interests '' (i.e., working class interests), and "of its devotion to the welfare of the whole community". (Daily Herald, August 1st, 1945), no longer adheres to its old propaganda in favour of drastically redistributing the national income in order to help the workers.

Instead it has taken over the familiar capitalist argument that the only way to improve the lot of the workers is to increase the total national income. Mr. Herbert Morrison clinched this in his speech to the National Conference of Labour Women on September 5th:—
“If we were to be able to provide better benefits under the social insurance measures, reduce taxation, and provide more of the goods of life for everybody, the only way was by increasing the total national income ... it could only be done by work, thought, drive and initiative."(Daily Telegraph, September 6th, 1945).
In the same speech Mr. Morrison justified himself by the plea that "there was a limit to what could be achieved merely by transferring money from one person's pocket to another’s,” and went on to explain why, in the interests of efficiency, the Labour Government holds it necessary to reduce taxation on the profits of the capitalists.

A few days later the Communist, Mr. Arthur Horner, National Production Officer of the National Union of Miners and President of the South Wales Miner’s Federation added his piece to the campaign. He told a Press Conference in London that he was asking the miners to increase output by 10 per cent. On the ground that The Mines are to be nationalised he
“asked the workers in the pits to adopt a new attitude . . . Hitherto the policy of the Union had been to get what they could out of the owners. Now they had taken on the responsibility of assisting in running the industry they must accept new methods. They must take a more active part in assisting greater technical efficiency and increasing output.”—(Daily Telegraph, September 7th, 1945).
This new emphasis on the capitalist doctrine that the workers can only get more by producing more, contrasts glaringly with what the Labour Party and the Communists were saying just before the war. Compare Mr. Morrison's statement now with the Labour Party pamphlet “The Nation's Wealth at the Nations Service.”—(Douglas Jay. Labour Party, 1938).

Mr. Jay wrote :—
“Labour's ultimate objective in economic policy is the removal of unjustifiable inequalities of wealth and opportunity by the transfer of private unearned income and capital into public hands. There exists something like £1,200,000,000 of annual unearned income in Britain to-day; and probably two-thirds of this is inherited income which the recipients have done nothing to earn or deserve.

Fortunes totalling nearly £600 million are left every year by private persons mainly to their own friend, and relatives, many of whom are already wealthy. Here is the available reserve and capital on which Labour must draw to supply the minimum human needs of the poorest . . . .”
He went on to say that “a far greater transfer of wealth can be achieved than any yet attempted, without any dislocation of the community's economic life.”

Another indication of the Labour Party's change of front is their present complete silence about, the “capital levy.” After the last war this device, which was offered as a means of transferring wealth from capitalists to workers, occupied first place in the Labour Party programme.

So much for the Labour Party since it has progressed from the pre-war political wilderness to the milk and honey of office.

Let us now consider what Socialists have to say about the whole problem of producing and distributing the articles needed by the community. Let it be emphasised once again that the Socialist case is poles apart from that of the Labour and Communist parties.

At present the means of production (land, factories, railways, etc.), are the private property of a small minority of the population, the capitalists. By virtue of their ownership they draw a large unearned income in the form of rent, interest and profit from the wealth produced by the working-class. The Labour Party's remedy for the poverty problem is (while leaving the greater part of capitalist, industry unchanged), to introduce a purely nominal change of ownership in certain industries that are to be “nationalised." Instead of receiving incomes in the form of dividend on shares in mining or railway companies the present owners will relinquish direct ownership and receive instead approximately the same capital and income in the form of Government stocks and the interest thereon, and the existing gross inequality of property and income will not be affected.

But there is a snag in this from the point of view of trying to run with the hare while hunting with the hounds. The Labour government have promised “fair compensation" to the owners in nationalised industries and are committed to enabling the capitalists in private industries to obtain a “reasonable return on the capital employed" (Sir Stafford Cripps, Daily Herald, August 13th); but they are in the dilemma of also having promised higher incomes to the workers which, under the conditions laid down, can only come from an increase in the workers' output.

The only real remedy is one the Labour Government cannot employ because they did not seek at the election a mandate to abolish capitalism. If capitalism were abolished and socialism introduced there would immediately be two big developments through which the poverty, problem of the working class could be solved by increasing the number of men and women actually engaged in production. One is that the members of the capitalist class, no longer able to live in leisure and luxury at the expense of the workers, would become useful members of the community helping to produce the articles needed by the community. The second is that all kinds of activities necessary to capitalism but unnecessary under Socialism would cease, and this would free millions of workers for production who are now engaged in banks, insurance companies, and advertising, or in the taxation and rating departments of the Central and Local Government; as well as those now required by the capitalists to serve in the armed forces for the competitive struggle with foreign capitalist groups. As is explained in our pamphlet "Socialism" the output of wealth could be at least doubled by these means.

This is the only way in which the poverty problem can be solved and the Labour Government, trying to run the capitalist system, cannot solve it. What they are doing is to act as Caretakers for the capitalist class, calling on the workers to increase output (just as a Conservative Government would have done), but using seductive arguments about “service to the community" which would only be justified if in fact the means of production had been transformed or were going to be transformed into the property of the whole community. While maintaining (with merely superficial changes), the system under which the capitalists exploit the working class, the Labour Government are pretending that exploitation has ended.

It is clever propaganda, but the realities of the class struggle between those who own, but do net produce and those who produce but do not own, will not for long be smoothed over by even the most plausible Labour-Communist orator. The working class faced with the same old ruthlessness of capitalist employers, of Government Departments and of the Boards of the Mining and Transport undertakings when “nationalisation" takes place, will find that they have no defence except the limited defence provided by their own trade unions. In strikes and lockouts the web of half-truths spun by the Labour leaders will be rent asunder, and the workers will have made an advance towards the necessary understanding of the fact that Socialism has nothing in common with Labourism.

"King of the Castle" (1945)

From the October 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is strange what material the socialist finds to his hand in his investigations into the phenomena of society. A book picked up casually, as was the case with the writer, may well throw light upon yet another aspect of that great struggle that is continually with us; through world wars and the uneasy peace periods in between: the class struggle.

The book that is the subject of this article is one by Rumer Godden, and has the strange title, "Rungli-Rungliot.” This means in Paharia "thus far and no further,” a description one might apply to the authoress's socialist knowledge. She is, without a doubt, a fine descriptive writer. One has only to shut one's eyes after reading this sentence in her picture of the house on the slopes of the Himalayas. "The lawn ends in clouds that are sweeping below it,” and one is there both in spirit and imagination. The socialist, however, whilst taking pleasure in looking at the scenery through her eyes, finds most interest in that part of the book that deals with the lives and toilings of the coolies.

That this particular section of the working-class; the coolies of North Bengal, India, live very unhappy lives, is evident from even Rumer Godden’s unseeing pen. Some of the chapters take one back to Marx’s description of the conditions in English factories of the nineteenth-century period. No wonder that even the unenlightened masses of India are beginning to take notice of the results emanating from the rule of the British section of the capitalist class.

The scene of this book is set in a tea garden on the slopes of the Himalayas, and is surrounded on all sides by similar tea gardens—this being excellent tea growing country. This particular tea garden, according to the authoress, consists of two thousand five hundred acres managed by one white man. To quote her words about the manager and his wife: "Their prestige on the estate is enormous. He is king and she is queen and their power among the people is absolute. A less nice man would have become complicated, but W. is genuinely popular and full of a lordly happiness, all the happier and good to see because it is so lordly.” (Page 16.)

We get another view of this "king of the tea garden” when it had been raining heavily, persistently for six days. The authoress says the rain was not so depressing because "The constant drumming noise on the tin roof had something steady and soothing about it.” "Twice W.,” she goes on, "has had to ring the gong at midday to call them in, it was too saturating even for them." (Our italics.)

The manager may have appeared to the ignorant coolies (and the authoress!) to possess the powers of a king, but he was under no illusions himself. He knew well that to that particular section of the capitalist class who deal in the commodity tea he was just another manager, to be replaced if the output of tea declined, whether it be due to rain, drought, snow, earthquake), or any visitation of nature. This may explain why he was straining every nerve and muscle (of his coolies?) to increase the output from four hundred and fifty pounds of tea last year to half a million this (1942).

That the manager of this particular tea garden may or may not have been a shade better in his attitude towards the Indian working class is a point that need not bother us unduly. We have an account of earth-works being built in this and neighbouring gardens. In the gardens, it appears, children carry baskets of earth upon their hacks. The big difference between W. and other garden managers, in the eyes of the authoress, is that he does not employ children under a certain age for this heavy work. One might just as well say, that the capitalist of the nineteenth century who did not employ children under the age of, say, seven, was more humane than hie fellow capitalists. It is only a question of degree; the principle remains the same.

To the members of the reformist parties of this country who urge the putting in order of our own "house” before attempting that of others we reply: Put this "house” in order by all means, and by that we mean not a new layer of paint, but the demolition of the structure so that the new can be built. In other words: we have constantly stressed the fact that reforming the capitalist system will not remove the causes of society's inequality that are the foundation of that system. Only the replacement of the capitalist system by socialism will do that, and it is for that reason we seek to throw light upon the activities of the capitalist class in other countries; and for the same reason that there are five political parties throughout the world bolding to the same object and principles, though independenty.

Socialism, of its very conception, must be international. That is the reason why the workers in Australia. New Zealand. U.S. of America, Canada, and Great Britain, who have formed political parties striving for socialism are the vanguard of the working class in their struggle for emancipation. We ask those people who are attempting to alleviate the lot of the workers of India to examine the S.P.G.B.'s case, and agree that the next step must be the formation in India a political party whose object is not to reform the capitalist system, but to establish a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of society as a whole
L. Young.

Blogger's Note:
There's a strong chance that 'L.Young' was Len Young, who was a member of the Birmingham Branch of the SPGB.

The Plundering of Haiti (1945)

From the October 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard
"Haiti was, on the eve of the French Revolution, the richest of all European colonies, for it accounted for no less than two-thirds of the overseas trade of France. Its wealth, drawn from its plantations of sugar, cotton and coffee, was derived from the merciless exploitation of half a million slaves. This island has always reeked of cruelty. The Spaniards exterminated a million natives before they had recourse to the African slave trade. The French were able organisers, but they, too, relied on the lash and reckoned that it paid them to work a negro to death in seven years." 
H. N. Brailsford, Observer, June 17th, 1945.

The Labour Party Programme: 'Let Us Face The Future' (1945)

From the October 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Party was returned to Power on a Declaration of Labour Policy under the above title.

Very briefly its salient points may be summarized as “public ownership” of the “fuel and power industries"; “transport”; “iron and steel”; “public supervision of monopolies and cartels” and “public ownership of the Bank of England.” (Pages 5 and 6).

Right at the outset, the Labour Party says in this document.
“The nation wants food, work and homes. . . . These are the aims, in themselves they are no more than words. All parties may declare that in principle they agree with them. (pp. 3). . . . The nation needs a tremendous overhaul—all parties say so—the Labour Party means it.” (pp. 4.)
It is thus clearly stated that all parties proclaim the same programme; “food, work, homes,’ the difference being that the Labour Party means it. This genuine workman like plan is the proposal for Public Control.

Despite the fact that on page four of “Let us face the Future” all parties say they stand for the same objects—on page 6 a rather startling change takes place.
“The Labour Party is a Socialist Party—and proud of it.”

“Its ultimate purpose at home is the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain. "

But Socialism cannot come overnight, as the product of a week-end resolution .... There are basic industries—ripe and over-ripe for public ownership and management in the direct service of the nation.”
The question therefore arises! Will “Public Ownership" as propounded by the Labour Party “ultimately” establish Socialism?

There can be little doubt that the astounding success of the Labour Party at the polls was largely due to the association, in the minds of the workers, of Government Control with Employment.

The bitter memory of the Depression years after the last war still rankled; and many jumped to the false conclusion that what had found them regular Work, was not War, but Government Control.

When this is coupled with the specious, though spurious, notion that Government Control and State direction lead to Socialism—a perfect vote-catching programme results.

Let us see what the Labour Party is actually doing to “implement its election serenade.”

Immediately it was returned, two authoritative spokesmen were put up; one from inside the Government and one from outside, to reassure the American capitalists.

Sir Stafford Cripps, on August 1st, outlined the Five Year Plan of the Labour Government in an important broadcast to America.
“The Labour Party, Sir Stafford said, did not believe in Confiscation, but rather in fair compensation for any person whose interests were taken over by the State, whether in Industry, Land or Finance.”— (News-Chronicle, August 1st, 1945).

“Professor Laski, chairman of the Labour Party National Executive, in a broadcast to America last night said he had been asked what would be given priority in Labour's programme of Nationalisation.

The Bank of England was going to be socialised and the direction of investments planned as part of the progress of industrial re-organisation.

This would follow nationalisation of mines and electrical power and the iron and steel industry.

The programme would follow the broad outline of the Tennessee Valley authority scheme—planned production by the State. . . . ”—(Evening Standard, August 1st, 1945).
In response to urgent requests from the Conservatives. Mr. Hugh Dalton, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, intervened in the Debate on the King’s Speech to make perfectly plain exactly what the Labour Party means by “Socialisation” of the Bank of England.
“To a large extent the changes we propose will have the effect of bringing the law into accord with the facts ... as they have developed. . . . Private stockholders will disappear from the scene, carrying with them fair compensation. They will be fairly treated. They will lose the powers which legally they still possess, though they may have fallen into disuse, it is proposed to eliminate the stockholders with appropriate compensation from the State.”—(Manchester' Guardian, August 22nd, 1945).
This was quite clear to all the financial Editors beforehand, who said the same sort of thing as the News of the World, for example
“The ‘socialisation' of the Bank of England will do no more than give formal recognition to what is already an established fact.

Ever since we came off the Gold Standard in 1931, responsibility for the general direction of our financial and monetary policy has been assumed by the Treasury. And since .the outbreak of war in 1939 control over the Bank by the Government has been absolute. It is not expected that there will be any change in the Governorship, which is at present held by Lord Catto.”— August 20th, 1945).
In any case, Dalton had already made the position obvious to the Bankers by shouting at them in the Lobby.
“Tell your friends there is no need to sell their Bank shares. Now is the time to bay.”—(Daily Mail, August 6th).
Articles are now appearing in the public press, like that of Mr. Laurence Wilkinson, in the Evening Standard for August 28th which discuss How stockholders of the Bank of England (17,000 of them) are going to be compensated! He points out that the Bank has paid a dividend of 12 per cent for the past 29 years but claims, on all sorts of grounds, that more should be paid in compensation, because the Bank stock is actually worth more. Another Argument is that; if Bank stockholders are to be given a fixed interest Government security in exchange for stock (say 12 per cent.) they lose all hope of the small gradual increase which the stock showed! And well-meaning members of the Labour Party are solemnly debating these points!

The same largely applies to the Mining Industry—except that it consists of tangible assets, i.e., the actual material and plant involved.

On August 16th the National Mining Association passed the following resolution :—
“In view of the fact that legislation for the transfer of the industry from private enterprise to public ownership is to be proceeded with, and having regard to the statement made on behalf of the Government that the industry would be fairly treated as far as compensation is concerned, the colliery owners, through the Mining Association place themselves at the disposal of the Government.”—(Manchester Guardian, August 31st).
At the same time, Mr. Shinwell, the Labour Minister of Fuel, has demanded more production (exactly like Beaverbrook and Churchill), and appointed the Communist Miners’ Official, Arthur Horner, to get going. Horner has already called on Miners to be “ Stakanovites.”

The net result of the Labour Party's “Socialist” Public ownership, so far, therefore; is that the value of the Bank of England stock has gone up—Coal Mine shares are at a premium—and the miners are expected to work harder this winter.

On the same day that the Mine-owners “placed themselves at the disposal of the Labour Government”—the Daily Herald declared in an editorial, that “the foundations of the Socialist Britain,” will be “laid in the coal pits”? Which makes one wonder what the Labour Government have got to do with it—the coal pits are the last place to find them. “Socialism” has been proclaimed from some very funny places—Karl Kautsky twitted Bernstein with discovering it in every municipal public lavatory fifty years ago—but never before down the coal pits.

The foundations of Labour Party “Socialism” may be in the coal pits—the first floor is already in the British, owned lead and zinc mines of Yugo-Slavia.
“The British Government intend to make an urgent protest to Marshal Tito's Yugo Slav Government against the nationalisation of British lead and sine mines without compensation.

The French Government are to make similar protests. . . .

The protests are considered not important in themselves, bat they are being watched as test cases concerning other Allied properties and concessions in the Danubian and Balkan States, including oil in Rumania, gold, copper, zinc and lead in Bulgaria, lead zinc tin and steel in Yugo-Slavia and other interests in Poland and Hungary. (Evening Standard, August 28th).
Poor Tito—he believed those election speeches too! Socialism is the Common Ownership of the means of wealth production. The means of wealth production under capitalism are the private property of the capitalists. The only way to transform Capital (private property) into Social Wealth is to take it away by expropriating its present capitalist private owners. Socialism cannot be inaugurated by compensating capitalists—which leaves wealth in its Money form (Capital) in the same hands. Nothing whatever is changed by the Labour Government's “Socialisation” of the Bank of England, except the name on the documents entitling the owners to their pound of flesh. Same owners—same flesh—“the 12 per cent." comes out of the hides of the workers.

Banks are institutions of the Money system—Capitalism. They only function for, and in that system: They can only operate when the great mass of production is carried on to exchange products—for profit. They are the clearing houses of that commodity—(or its paper tokens) gold; which serves as the universal medium of exchange—which stems from private ownership.

Banks borrow—and lend other peoples money, i.e., they take deposits, and make advances on security (property). Banks make profits (without which they close their doors) from the difference between the cost of attracting deposits; and what they make by lending or investing a large part of these deposits for short periods. Banks are Profit making concerns of Capitalism. They are nothing whatever to do with Socialism; which will abolish Money and Banks, along with parsons, prostitutes, pawnbrokers and politicians.

Mr. Arthur Greenwood told the Conservatives that the Labour majority in the House to-day is “quite different,” from the Conservatives, but went on to say of his own Labour Party colleagues:—
“I look around among my colleagues and I see landlords, capitalists and lawyers. We are a cross- section of the national life.”—(Hansard, August 17th, Column 261.)
And not one voice was there to interject, “Double-cross section”!

The Labour Government's object is not the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain—which can only be done by “dispossessing”—“taking away,” (Oxford Dictionary) expropriating—not compensating Capitalists. Marx's slogan was:—
“Expropriation of the Expropriators.”
“Public Ownership” simply means wealth in the form of “public corporation” stocks, quoted on the Money Market to the highest bidder, in place of private stockholders. Mr. Dalton has already expressed the hope that British Government securities will increase in value, as a result of his legislation. Under the Labour Government's convenient “Socialism," the profits and wealth of the capitalists increase.

For a great many years the Socialist Party has declared that:—
“It is impossible to exaggerate the harm done to the Socialist movement, by those who, calling themselves Socialists, have taught the workers to believe that State Capitalism and Social Reform are Socialism.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always been careful to define what Socialism means. Nobody who grasped that definition ever made the error of supposing that State Enterprise like the Post Office or Public Utility Corporations like the London Passenger Transport Board had anything to do with Socialism. Nor did they imagine, even for a moment, that Hitler and Mussolini were Socialists, or that Socialism could result from the Bolshevist dictatorship in Russia or from a Labour Government in Britain or Australia. But our critics who ridiculed what they called the “doctrinaire” Socialist Party of Great Britain, all fell into these errors—with disastrous results."
The greatest disaster of all will befall the National Labour Party—as the workers discover, by bitter experience, that it does not stand for Socialism. We shall proclaim louder than ever what Socialism means—the workers will learn—and the Labour Leader take his place in the museum of antiquities, with Money—Banks, “ the spinning wheel, and the Bronze axe."

A Journey Through Dreamland (1945)

From the October 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

It was a frosty clear morning when I found my foot-steps taking me towards an exclusive store in the heart of the West end of London.

I stopped outside the ostentatious entrance, hesitating before entering. In the mean time a contiunual stream of taxis and cars deposited beautifully robed ladies, escorted by men in immaculate uniforms. From their appearance they had neither toiled nor spun throughout their lives.

I mused, thinking, dare I enter in my cheap utility costume, which had taken months of saving and scrimping? I took my courage in both hands and passed through the swing doors.

As I crossed the threshold, I stood wide-eyed with wonder! Was this the sixth year of the War? Were not we all rationed? Had we not been told over and over again that equality of sacrifice was demanded from each and even one of us, irrespective of our station in life? That the rich and poor received only what was allotted to them in foodstuff and clothing? What I saw did not bear this out.

To the left of the entrance, was an array of the most exquisite blooms one could desire; Orchids, Roses, Early Spring Violets, Snowdrops, and Daffodils. I drank in their sweet aroma and enquired the price of daffodils. 1 was told “15/6 a bunch, Madam." I turned sadly away; this was outside the scope of my wage packet.

To the right a space was allocated to beautiful antique furniture and hand-made glass of the finest workmanship and design. I picked up a tiny Venetian wine glass, one of a set of six, and hurriedly placed it down again. £10 the set! An old antique cabinet was marked £70. These goods were not for the poor workers, they were only for the idle rich.

My wanderings carried me along to the food department. Here a veritable Alladin's cave opened in front of my eyes. If this was the kind of food supplied to the clientele of the store in wartime, what could it have been in times of peace! Arrayed upon the shelves and counters were wonderful things to eat and drink. Red Currants in Cognac, Cherries in Brandy, Asparagus in wine, turtle soup (real, not mock), Roast Chickens, various fruits and rare cheeses, fine teas and coffees. Even the dainty rolls and loaves of bread seemed to be made of a different Hour from that of the bread in my local stores. I enquired the price of the cherries in brandy, £3 10s. a small bottle. I looked around and saw the well-fed men and women giving their orders for these things. I noticed their air of general well-being, their smug contented looks and wondered whether they ever gave a thought, to the men and women who produced all these good things for them to consume.

Continuing my journey, I came to the clothing department in which I found beautiful dainty silk underwear at prices ranging from £6 to £18 a garment. Chiffon blouses at £7 each, dresses, coats, and costumes, all to delight the eyes at fabulous prices. The Linen department contained the finest household goods, towels, sheets and other things requisite for the furnishing of a home. Sheets were marked up at £8 a pair, all in delicate colourings.

I retraced my footsteps slowly into the sunshine again, my thoughts wandering back to the stores where I usually do my shopping. I could not recollect ever seeing such an array of foodstuffs on those counters and shelves. I had never seen cherries in brandy there nor fine cheeses, nor roast chickens. What usually struck me in the eyes were tins of spam, more spam, and still more spam, the inexhaustable supply of powdered eggs and milk, the tins of cheap soup, the tinned fish and other synthetic foods. The clothing department invariably displayed ill fitting utility garments made of shoddy material. The exquisite garments and the dainty underclothing were conspicuous by their absence. It was impossible to obtain any household linen unless one queued up for hours at an end.

The workers have always been rationed, they never have sufficient money to obtain more than the necessities of life not only during a crisis but during the whole time that Capitalism has existed.

The words of Shelley's poem flashed through my mind as I turned towards home.
The Seed ye sow, another reaps.
The Wealth ye find, another keeps. 
The Robes ye weave, another wears.
The Arms ye forge, another bears.
Sow seed, but let no tyrant reap,
Find wealth let no impostor keep.
Weave robes let not the idle wear.
Forge Arms in your defence to bear.

What is a Realistic Attitude for the 
Working-Class? (1945)

From the October 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

A leading article in the Daily Telegraph, July 26th, contained the following:—
“It is the intention of the General Council of the T.U.C. to recommend to the full congress when it meets next September acceptance of a scheme for compulsory national service after the end of hostilities in the far East. . . . Hitherto whenever compulsory national service has been proposed, whether in parliament or elsewhere, trade-union leaders have opposed it. Thai they should now have changed is an encouraging indication of a more realistic attitude of mind. . . . Also it is permissible to hope, trade-union leaders now see that national service is, in the truest sense of the word, democratic, and provides the best possible antidote to class-consciousness, whether it takes the form of class, war theorising or of mere foolish snobbishness.”
Surely the most realistic attitude for the trade unions together with the rest of the working-class is to take into consideration the most important facts of their existence. First their poverty. Secondly their enslavement, due to capitalist ownership of the means of life, and thirdly their incessant straggle to raise wages above the poverty line to which they are condemned by the merchandise character of their labour-power.

These facts are the outcome of the class ownership of the means of wealth-production. Consequently a realistic policy for the working-class is to organise politically with the sole object of establishing a system in which the means of wealth-production shall be the common property of all. Under such a system a real democracy and a settled plan for production and distribution would put an end to poverty. The abolition of classes would end the incessant struggle over wages by removing the cause of class antagonism-, i.e., the class ownership of the means of life and the resulting enslavement of the working-class.

This the leader writer of the Daily Telegraph might say is theorising, but it is the logical result of reasoning from hard facts, and it is on hard facts that sound theory and a realistic attitude are built up.
F. Foan

Hiroshima and After! (1945)

From the October 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Another date has been added to History’s gruesome chronology of horror. Hiroshima, August 5th 1945, marks the application of a new technique in the sordid science of slaughter. In one catastrophic flash a city has been destroyed and “all life seared to death”. While the monument of dust still towered above the ruins, the news was released upon a world almost satiated with carnage.

Yet it is significant to observe that although the use of the atomic bomb hastened the end of the war in the East, the announcement was received with little popular enthusiasm.

Before 1939 it was comparatively easy for the ruling class to convince the workers of the need for a large navy, army, and air force. Armaments, they maintained would ward off would-be aggressors and thereby ensure peace. Their solicitude for our safety seemed almost genuine. Years of grim experience, however, have proved the Socialists’ contention that armaments are no insurance against war. New methods of persuasion will be needed next time to herd the population into the future shoddy equivalents of Anderson shelters, particularly since we are told by the US War Department that “an atomic bomb could be made 1,000 times more powerful than the type used on Japan”. (Sunday Despatch, August 12th, 1945). There will be very few near miss stories!

The reaction of the military mind is summed up by General Ismay, who in 1941 stated on behalf of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, “although personally, I am quite content with the existing explosives, I feel we must not stand in the path of improvement”. (Times, August 7th, 1945).

Let there be no mistake! The disastrous effect of this latest device to uplift humanity will in no way prevent its use. In fact because of the power of destruction, it becomes obvious that the element of surprise will be a major advantage in war. It may well be that a matter of hours will decide which group of capitalists will emerge victorious from the next edition, which gang will be jet-propelled on the next Crooks Tour, to sit at the fleshpots of some future Potsdam Conference.

Unfortunately for the British and American capitalistic class it will be impossible to monopolise the development of nuclear power. Sir James Chadwick, chief scientific advisor to the British members of the Combined Allied Policy Committee in Washington, has admitted that any nation with reasonable industrial facilities could start now and produce an atom bomb in 5 years’ time, without assistance from Britain and the USA. Its antecedents are the past ages of patient research. From the 1890’s when the Curies conducted experiments in radio-activity, up to the recent perverted achievement, the efforts of such scientists as Professor Rutherford of Manchester, Niels Bohr of Copenhagen, Dr Lawrence of California University, Professor Joliot of France, and others in Germany, Japan, Russia and elsewhere, prove indisputably that in the modern world production is a social function. In brief, as reported by the US War Department the bomb was created “not by the devilish inspiration of some warped genius, but by the arduous labour of thousands of normal men and women”. (Sunday Despatch, August 12th, 1945), i.e., members of the working class.

Needless to remark the news has produced a spate of advice, comments, explanations, warnings, and prophecies from people qualified and otherwise. Among the latter, Mr G. B. Shaw, in the Sunday Express, August 12th, 1945, unable to explain, yet urged to say something reverts to hollow flippancies, and reminiscences of childhood days. Dr Joad, emulating Churchill thanks God, “for one of the innumerable dispensations of Providence by which this country has been preserved”, and asks querulously, “Will nobody stop these damned scientists, put them in a bag, and tie them up! Or into a lethal chamber?” (Sunday Despatch, August 12th, 1945). Although goaded to repeat the question when we see such waste of print, or hear his brain storms distorting the ether waves, we know that the fault lies not with the scientists, but with the system of society which corrupts their discoveries.

General Fuller in the Sunday Pictorial, commenting on the cause of war, says “there are several . . . but in the economic age in which we live, the one which seems to me to tower above all others, is the ‘profit motive'”. To socialists the profit motive is the only explanation of war in the modern world.

As long as Capitalism remains, there will be no slackening of research for even “better and more beautiful” methods of destruction, no tightening of the purse-strings which have already disgorged £500,000,000. Meanwhile the producers of wealth will be sampling the elusive fruits of rationed victory amid Portal shanty-towns and unemployment queues.

There is no need to enlarge on the physical results of atomic warfare. Combined with jet-propulsion, mass-murder is possible by remote control.

It is, however, relevant to examine a few of its effects on the current political fallacies of the defenders of “private enterprise”.

The USA is now as vulnerable to attack as the rest of the world. Geographical situation offers no advantage, and in consequence the last crumbling bastion of isolationism is breached. This is clearly demonstrated by her policy of expansion especially in the Pacific.

All ideas of warfare are obsolete, or at least require drastic revision, and already, at the end of the worst war in history, the spectre of the next conflict haunts the celebrations of peace.

Sooner than we realize nuclear power may be harnessed to industry. In the inevitable scramble for production and profit gluts, slumps and unemployment figures will reach new levels and defy solution by the obsolete plans of the Beveridge type.

These are just a few of the problems of Capitalism: that Hydra-headed system which the Labour Party now administers in Great Britain; but will never control. Many supporters of the Labour Party are still deluded by the idea that Nationalisation is a major step in a policy of gradualism which will “reform capitalism out of existence”. The sledge-hammer blows of events will nail this tragic error!

Wars are inherent in the private-property system itself, and are likely to wipe millions of workers out of existence, while the futile pin-pricks of reform leave its structure untouched.

Who can now suggest that the policy of the Socialist Party of Gt. Britain, though correct in theory, is one for application only in some remote future? Who would question the practicability of our case?

There is no time for complacency! Let us face the fact that time is on our side only if we seize it by the forelock and use it to our advantage.

Socialism, the only solution to the problems which confront us, is the need not of the century, but of the hour!

Sympathisers, men and women of the working class, we urge you to join with us in the struggle for emancipation.

You have but two alternatives! Either the poverty, servitude and degradation of Capitalism, culminating in war, or Socialism in which the inventive genius of man will be used for the welfare of all society.

Your choice is as simple as it is vital! On it rests the future of humanity!
R. V.