Thursday, April 27, 2023

From Lenin to Stalin (1953)

From the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Although Stalin is dead there still lingers about him a larger than life aspect, This is hardly surprising when we consider his antithetical role of an angel of light and prince of darkness. While such a black and white study might serve as a popular form of entertainment it reveals nothing about Stalin as a man and politician. For our part we are prepared to remain on ground level and try to evaluate Stalin by examining the social and economic soil from which he grew and – if we may use the word – flourished.

One cannot, however, begin to understand Stalin without bringing in Lenin and the Bolsheviks who for many years formed a section of the Russian Social Democratic Party. Indeed that body of dogma, eclecticism, opportunism, and self-contradictory ideas which goes under the name of Stalinism is in essence a more explicit form of what was always implicit in the theories and tactics of Lenin and his Bolshevik Party. While Stalin in his self-appointed role of Philosopher-Statesman sought to extend and amplify Leninism – the alleged Marxism of the 20th century – he never attempted to infringe his master’s copyright on the subject.

Stalin himself was an old Bolshevik and not one of the least that Lenin led and inspired. He formed with Lenin a vital link in a chain of political ideas whose first phase culminated in the 1917 Russian Revolution. Certainly Stalin was more attuned to the intellectual and political atmosphere of the disciplined and conspiratorial Bolshevik Party than ever Trotsky was, a fact no doubt of crucial value in his struggle for power with the latter. Leninism as a political creed was itself born out of the leadership notions and essentially undemocratic ideas of the early Bolsheviks. Stalinism was its inevitable and tragic fulfillment.

Yet when the Bolshevik Lenin first appeared on the Russian political scene he accepted the views of people like Plekhanov – whose acknowledged pupil he was – Axelrod, Deutsch and others. Lenin’s first important work, The Development of Capitalism in Russia, published 1899, put forward the view that Capitalism was developing in Russia and nothing could stop its continuance. This development he argued was historically progressive in relation to the then existing semi-feudal economy of Russia. While one could not oppose this development he said, nevertheless workers should organise to resist its evils and steps should be taken to prepare for its eventual supersession.

Lenin’s book was part of an ideological campaign which the Russian Social Democratic Party were waging against the Narodniki (Populists) who maintained that Russia had a social development which was peculiar to itself and therefore did not have to pass through a normal and full capitalist development which other countries had experienced. In fact they averred that Capitalism was a kind of Western disease against which the people of Russia could and should he inoculated. Let us, they said, get rid of the tyranny of Czarism and we can, on the basis of our rural collectivism (the Mir), establish Socialism, i.e. free peasant communes and cooperatives of workers.

“Socialism in one Country” has then a much longer history than the Stalinist formulation of it. It is an ironical footnote on the earlier activities of Lenin and Stalin that the very theory they sought to combat was the one which in the end they made their own.

In fact it was Lenin who after the meagre achievements of “War Communism” re-introduced the idea of a home-grown Russian Socialism when he announced his “New Economic Policy.” It was the “Marxist” Lenin who proclaimed the myth that State Capitalism although a step backward from the earlier Bolshevik aims had in it, nevertheless, socialist implications. It was Lenin who repeatedly put forward the view that a Soviet State could be both the means and guarantee for realising Socialism in one country, and the further myth shared by both Stalin and Trotsky that what was taking place in Russia then was different from anywhere else in the world.

Lenin’s own views on Marxism had through the years undergone considerable change from his earlier standpoint. How much so could be seen in the attitude he adopted in the closing years of the 1914-18 war. Lenin had come to believe more and more that Capitalism was doomed. that it would be unable to finish the war it had started. Peace was to come by a victorious proletarian revolution in the advanced capitalist countries. For that reason the traditional difference between bourgeois and proletarian revolutions had for him lost significance. Given the right leadership in Russia a socialist revolution not a bourgeois one would be the order of the day. At the first All Russian Congress of Soviets, of which his party was only a small minority, he declared their willingness to take over immediately. In the August of that year he flatly asserted that “majority rule was a institutional illusion.”

Lenin’s predictions of what was going to happen to capitalism were falsified by the actual events. The capitalists did finish the war and no proletarian revolution took place. So Lenin’s main justification for a socialist revolution went by the board.

It is true the Bolsheviks did come to power in Russia. But it was neither with the acclamation nor assent of the Russian people. It was in the quiet of the early hours of the morning of November 7th that Bolshevik military cars occupied the centres of business and communication in Petrograd. This sealed the fate of Kerensky Provisional Government and assured the Bolsheviks of political power. Thus did the population of Petrograd discover when they woke a few hours later that their “Proletarian dictatorship” was an accomplished fact.

That the Bolsheviks concluded peace with Germany, dispossessed the private capitalist and against their own judgment gave the land to the peasants is a matter of history. They were successful because in war-weary, exhausted Russia they conceded to the inevitable. Behind the facade of their concession they planned however a new discipline and developed the latent forces for a new social order – new to Russia – but, in its exploitation based on wage labour, as old as capitalism itself.

Nor was the undemocratic seizure of power by the Bolsheviks merely the fortuitous result of filling the vacuum caused by the indecision and incompetence of Kerensky’s Government. Such action by the Bolsheviks was in keeping with their political ideas which the circumstances arising from the collapse of Csarist Russia enabled them to exploit.

The Bolsheviks, mainly recruited from the Russian bourgeois intelligentsia, had long regarded themselves as the born leaders of the Russian people, an illusion they shared with the Fabians and other reformist parties. By identifying themselves with the aims and aspirations of the non-socialist mass and securing their confidence the Bolsheviks believed that, with such backing, they could ride to political power at an opportune moment.

Because they believed themselves to be the commanding officers of the politically less conscious majority it is easy to see why the spreading of socialist ideas was subordinated to the preoccupation of tactics, unity of command and the strict discipline of party organisation. Within such a party it was obvious that freedom of individual action and opinion were gravely limited. Ideas for them were not something to be accepted because of their integral and logical structure but as an ideal means for successfully waging political struggles. Theory for the Bolsheviks, as it became later for the various Communist Parties meant a creed a dogma to be inflexibly held against all comers.

That the Bolsheviks adopted Marxism not only saved them the trouble of formulating theories of their own but as a well-established doctrine, it provided an admirable ideological basis to which changes and shifts in policy could be ultimately referred and by which they could be justified. This is the true significance of Lenin’s oft repeated phrase, echoed and re-echoed by Stalin, “Theory is a guide to practice.” For the Bolsheviks these dogmas set the limit to and decided the nature of freedom of discussion. Whatever differences may exist between Roman Catholicism and “Communism” there is at least this much in common.

It is from the mental and political outlook of the Bolsheviks we can trace the evolution of that pernicious scholasticism by which Stalin and his party not only conducted their purges but sought to hide from the world and perhaps themselves what was really taking place in “Socialist Russia.”

It would also account for the reason why men like Lenin and Stalin were at one and the same time, rigid doctrinaires and flexible, opportunistic politicians. Perhaps for dictators there is an emotional need for dogma. Many tyrants have justified their evil work on the assumption that it was ultimately for the good of mankind. Even Stalin explaining that Soviet Russia is not exempt from economic laws indulged in turgid Marxist phraseology and quotes from Engels who it appears plays a similar role in Soviet theology to that once played by Aristotle in the Catholic Church.

In such an organisation as the Bolsheviks it is not surprising that the dictum, the end justifies the means, was raised to a ruling principle. Long before the revolution they held that any means were permissible against political opponents; after the revolution it was but logical step to ensure that all means were justifiable.

The Bolsheviks themselves however became the victims of their own anti-democratic pressures. From “all power to the Soviets” it passed to “all power to the Communist Party.” The checks and balances of ordinary democratic procedure were absent. The struggle of rival groups had to be carried on within the Communist Party. Intrigue and plotting under ideological disguises became the effective means for realising political ambitions. Because of years of unbridled power the Communist Party was mentally and politically incapable of resolving the struggle by democratic means. Maintenance of power at any price became for them a matter of life and death. On a chequer board of political tactics the old Bolshevik “moved, mated and slayed” until the assumption of power rested in one man – Stalin; which compelled the fashioning of a mighty repressive machine to ensure his own preservation and that of the ruling faction which he represented.

While Stalin was prepared to make concessions to the Russian people and even grant a “New Constitution” he was incapable of granting them political freedom. Whatever may have been Stalin’s claims for what he achieved in Russia he was never prepared to submit them to normal political competition. For Stalin that would have been the end of Stalinism.

It was Stalin who completed the work begun by Lenin, the turning of Marxism, a revolutionary doctrine into its opposite an authoritative ideology of State Capitalism on a par and at times competing with other state ideologies, i.e. Hitler’s National Socialism and Mussolini’s Corporate State.

The Bolsheviks in spite of their Marxist language and at times idealistic phrases were never socialists. They served instead as spokesmen of a new ruling class in Russia, a class itself the outcome of the very economic tendencies existing in Russia, the tendencies towards State Capitalism. In the furnace of the Russian Revolution the Bolsheviks were themselves forged into an instrument of class domination. In that sense was Joseph Djugashvili a man of steel.
Ted Wilmott

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Facing facts in Formosa (1953)

From the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

A new war scare is going the rounds. General Eisenhower, in his State of the Union announcement, says that the American fleet would no longer be used to prevent raids by the Nationalist Chinese against the Chinese mainland. Such a decision would be in the fashion these days—of a big power using a small one as a cat’s paw. This contemplated extension of the war in Korea to the great Asian mainland, has aroused the fear that this may be a step towards World War III.

Formosa was part of the Chinese Empire for 400 years from the time of Kublai Khan until European traders arrived on the scene, since when it has been a bone of contention. The Dutch who occupied the tip in 1624 were ousted by the Spaniards. The Dutch retook the island after defeating the Spaniards. A Chinese force from the mainland defeated the Dutch and took possession in 1662. Then came the Japanese in 1895 who took six years to subdue the islanders. After the conclusion of World War II, the Chinese Nationalists then in power in China, took possession in 1945. The Communists on the island revolted in 1947 but the attempt was put down with great severity.

Immediately after the defeat of Japan, the U.S.A. backed Chiang Kai-Shek in the civil war against the Communists. American post-war financial backing from 1945 until 1949 amounts to U.S. $3,875 million. ("China Stands Up” by R. K. Karanji). This turned out to be a bad investment for the American Capitalist class because the Nationalist military machine lost the war, and took refuge in the Island of Formosa where they have since remained as a quisling government, lavishly supported by the U.S.

The British Government considers that support to Chiang Kai-Shek is throwing good money after bad, and with their long and intimate experience in China were amused at the American policy of pouring money into Chiang Kai-Shek’s coffers. Much of this money is lost in graft and most of the arms have found their way into the hands of the opposing Communist side.

American Strategy
Formosa is an island cross-roads, halfway between Shanghai and Hongkong, and halfway between Tokyo and Saigon, so that control of the island by the Chinese Nationalists means that they (on behalf of their mentors) appear to control these routes. Another aspect of the island’s strategic position is that along with Japan and the Philippines it acts as a bastion of American defence, or as a spring-board in case of invasion to the Asian mainland.

Another use of Formosa to the U.S.A. is that so long as control is invested in the Chiang Kai-Shek clique, there is always the inherent danger of invasion of the mainland, and this risk keeps large bodies of Chinese troops tied down—soldiers who would otherwise be available for service against the Allies in Korea.

But viewed from Peking, the American threat may take on a different aspect—it may appear as a sign of weakness. The Chinese may think that after two and a half years of fighting, the armies of the West can no longer see hope of victory arising from action on the battlefield, and are therefore casting about for some other means.

The Clash Between British and American Interests
Britain and the U.S.A. in the Far East have been traditionally hostile to one another—the friction arising over sharing the spoils from the China trade. Britain, the first on the scene, got the lion’s share—an untenable state of affairs for American interests.

The temptation to grasp this juicy plum has tantalised the U.S. even more since the atrophy of British power and the rise of American power in the “free” world.

The lusty adolescent U.S. capitalist power is swashbuckling with a full purse in the Far East, with the cynical, older and more experienced Chinese and British rulers watching for the main chance.

A blockade would destroy the prosperity of the British Crown Colony of Hongkong—before the Korean War, China consistently accounted for over one-third of Hongkong’s total trade, and moreover, British ships are the leading cargo-carriers on the Hongkong/Shanghai route. Furthermore, the British presumably still remember the consequences of their aggressive action against China in the 1st Opium War of 1839/1844, which resulted in driving China into closer diplomatic and economic relations with Russia.

If China were Blockaded
A study of the situation would not be complete without estimating the probable effects of blockading the China coast. On the credit side for America capitalism firstly, the previously stated tying-down of Chinese forces to counteract the possibility of Nationalist landings on the mainland. Secondly, to the extent that a blockade was effective, it would mean that fewer supplies, directly or indirectly useful in prosecuting the war in Korea, would be received by China—the real enemy of America on the Korean peninsular. Thirdly, the loss of trade that would undoubtedly result from a blockade might increase to danger-point the opposition to the present Chinese government, and thus induce them to sue for peace terms in Korea to the advantage of American imperialism.

Against the above factors, we must remember that the risk of offensive action by Chiang Kai-Shek on the mainland, has in fact already tied down a million Chinese troops, and that possibly the Chinese Government would not need to increase this number.

As to the cutting down of supplies—the Chinese Government has, since its inception in 1949, pursued a policy of economic self-sufficiency, coupled with development of trade with Russia and with other East European countries. Thus the Chinese, never a seafaring race, have of recent years become even less dependent on sea routes. The Financial Times (11-2-53) states that:—
"In 1950 Chinese trade with other Communist countries accounted for 26 per cent. of her total trade. By 1951, according to Chinese sources, the percentage had risen to 61 per cent; and in 1952 the figure is expected to be .over 70 per cent.

Trade between China and the United States has almost ceased. There have been no shipments of U.S. goods to China since 1950 and licences for U.S. imports from China are now restricted to cases where the refusal to grant a licence would cause severe distress to U.S. importers.

The general conclusion which emerges is that China has little to offer of which the world cannot secure adequate supplies elsewhere, with the possible exception of bristle and tung oil, and that China needs little, except rubber, which she cannot buy from behind the Iron Curtain.”
Against the third point—of exciting internal opposition, it may be doubted whether there is any possibility of effective opposition from the capitalists in China.

For the purposes of this review, we are assuming that a blockade by Chinese Nationalist forces, even with the assistance of the U.S. 7th Fleet, will be efficient, but this is most unlikely. The corruption, and consequent ineffectiveness, of the Chiang Kai-Shek clique has been a major scandal even in the Orient (where venality is taken almost for granted). Moreover, smuggling is big business in China and has been practised successfully for years in opposition to an efficient administration. It would be surprising indeed if a blockade from Formosa brought sea-going traffic to a standstill.

In considering the possibility of a successful invasion of the mainland, it may be useful to recall the behaviour of Nationalist troops in contact with the Red Army during the civil war which ended in 1949; these peasant troops, favouring the Communists Party’s Land Reform programme, had no stomach for fighting and were glad to surrender and get the opportunity of returning to their homes. There seems to be no reason why this could not happen again.

Is Eisenhower Bluffing ?
We must not forget that Eisenhower has only just been elected President of the U.S.A., and his sponsors, the Republican Party, in their first success in this direction for many years, are much concerned in maintaining the interest of the electors. General Eisenhower, as a soldier, is expected to talk tough, and anyway, tough talk costs nothing.

But whatever the next move by the ruling class in the dangerous game of power politics, in the final analysis it is the workers who make the armaments and fight the wars for the protection of their masters’ interests and their acquiescence is necessary for the carrying out of policies. At the present time, for instance, the workers may be sufficiently fed-up with war and war conditions to make themselves heard in opposition to a government extending a local war into a world war.
Frank Offord

Editorial: The War of the Petrol Pump (1953)

Editorial from the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

While governments and the big oil combines jostle for control of the oil resources of the world a second front has been opened up on the British home market With the ending of war-time controls the companies were allowed on 1st February of this year to resume the pre-war practice of selling their own branded high grade motor spirit alongside the continued sale of the lower-grade and cheaper “pool ” petrol.

They had been preparing for this revival of competition for many months, partly by extensive advertising and partly by getting garage owners to enter agreements binding them to sell only certain brands.

Before the war the petrol companies spent about £600,000 a year on newspaper advertising. In 1951 the amount was £641,500 but in 1952 it rose to nearly £1,000,000 (Manchester Guardian 31 January, 1953).

On the control of garages the Financial Editor of the Manchester Guardian writes:—
“For at least two years the petrol companies have been making their preparations. More and more garages have made exclusive arrangements with one or other of the main petrol companies. Garages have been rebuilt and repainted, in return for which they have agreed to sell one company’s petrol only. Nearly three-quarters of the country’s pumps are now said to be tied in this way.”
The motoring correspondent of the Daily Telegraph (11/3/53) puts the proportion of “tied” garages as high as 90 per cent.

In some cases the “tied” garage undertakes to sell only one company's petrol, but as Shell and Anglo- Iranian have a joint selling arrangement (Shell-Mex and B.P.) their agreements tie the garage to supplies from Shell or Anglo-Iranian refineries (Economist, January, 1953).

One by-product of the struggle is that in order to protect their “tied” garages, some of the companies are reported to be refusing supplies of petrol to independent garages in the same district.

In addition to advertising, the companies are also wooing trade with “ gifts." Miss Burton, M.P., informed the Minister of Fuel and Power on 9 February that Shell are giving away a brush and duster “with a retail value of at least 5/-”; countered by the Regent Company's presentation of jigsaw puzzles and propelling pencils.

The war also extends to lubricating oils and the Vigzol Company which specialises in supplying farms complained that “some national oil companies . . . are offering ludicrous enticements to break up strong links we have developed with dealers for 30 years." The head of the firm states that the petrol companies are giving agricultural engineers commissions of up to £5 a barrel on lubricating oil to get business (Daily Express, 22/11/52).

A writer in the Sunday Dispatch (18/1/53) says that altogether the battle for the petrol market has cost the companies several million pounds already.

Although the companies are competing for the general market they are still (or were until last year) submitting identical tenders for sales to the government.

The four largest competitors (in addition to some smaller ones) are Shell, Anglo-Iranian, Esso and Regent. Anglo-Iranian has government nominees on its board and the government owns a large shareholding. Shell is linked with Royal Dutch and they, like Anglo-Iranian, control oil concerns in many parts of the world. Among the Royal Dutch-Shell subsidiaries is a large concern operating in the U.S.A.

Esso is a subsidiary of the American Standard Oil but sells motor spirit refined in this country. Regent sells imported petrol from refineries abroad operated by Trinidad leaseholds. The National Benzole Co.'s products are a mixture of petrol with benzole, the latter derived from coal.

The general background of the petrol war is of course the enormous development since the end of the war of the oilfields, refineries and oil tanker fleets, so that although world consumption has increased fast there have been several scares in the past seven years that production would overstep demand. It has been noted with concern that America, which produces and consumes much more than the rest of the world together, increased its consumption in 1952 by only 3%, compared with 10% the year before, and in the meantime more and more refining capacity is coming into production.

In Britain oil refining capacity in 1945 was only 2,500,000 tons of crude oil a year. It is now over 20 million tons and when work is completed on refineries now building it will be over 30 million tons. (“The World Oil Industry." Financial Times Supplement, 2 February, 1953).

What this development will involve can be seen from the fact that in 1945 three-quarters of Britain's refined oil was imported. Now it is an export, and the Minister of Fuel states that in 1953 it is expected to exceed in value the export of coal. When the full refinery programme is completed there will be an urgent need to find world markets for the great quantity being produced.

The particular background of the "branded petrol" war is the "catalytic cracking" plants which produce the high-grade motor spirit. The six plants built or building will have cost £20,000,000 by the time they are all in operation. But here, according to the Financial Times (31 January, 1953) the real problem arises. By mid-1953 their output capacity will be about 54 million tons, but even the present output of 3½ million tons “should be ample” for the existing demand for high- grade petrols.
"Thus, assuming that the refineries settle down to a rate of operation of about 75 per cent. to 80 per cent. of capacity, the potential volume of supplies of British refined premier grades is more than adequate."
The problem then is for the companies to expand the sales of the high-grades by persuading the commercial users of motor transport that they, as well as the private motorist, should use the higher-priced, “premier” grades.
"Indeed it seems that unless the demand for premier grades expands considerably compared with pre-war the oil industry will find it hard to justify the whole of its investment of £20 million in the post-war catalytic crackers."
The Financial Times concludes that the companies will “only obtain the full return on the large amount of capital invested in the catalytic crackers” if they succeed in getting the commercial motor users to change over to the costlier petrols.

What adds fierceness to the conflict is that American controlled Esso, with its giant refinery at Fawley (the largest in Britain), is challenging the other large companies. Before the war Esso had only a small share of the British market and is fighting to enlarge it in order to find a market for the output of Fawley. The Cleveland Petroleum Co. also sells petrol bought from Fawley.

The outcome of the battle cannot yet be known. When it is there will be rich prizes for the victors and falling profits for the losers—and nothing for the working class either way.

The Passing Show: Ready-made argument (1953)

The Passing Show Column from the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ready-made argument

It has been remarked before that nationalisation does nothing to change the class position of the workers in society, gives the workers no control over or interest in their industry, and leaves unchanged the basic condition of capitalist society—the divorce of the workers from the ownership of the means of production. Not only this; nationalisation provides a ready-made argument for the capitalists and their newspapers, a potent weapon in the continuous propaganda fight against the interests of the workers. It can now be claimed that since the workers “wanted nationalisation," they should tamely accept their conditions, abandon their most powerful means of defence in the industrial field, the strike, and submit without demur to the dictates of the new State-appointed bosses.

#    #    #    #

Loss to the Commercial Community

This argument is used despite the fact that there is less and less concealment of the part nationalised industries are playing. Their first duty is that placed upon them in the Acts of Parliament setting them up—to make a profit, and pay interest to the "ex"-shareholders. Their second is to provide an efficient service for the other industries, still under the control of private capitalists, which depend upon them. For example, nationalised transport. In the debate in the Lords on February 23rd on the Government’s proposals to denationalise road transport, speakers on both sides took as their criterion whether or not these proposals would benefit the capitalists who used the road transport services. For the Opposition, Lord Lucas said:
“If the Government proceeded with the proposals outlined in the Bill for selling the assets by public auction without a reserve the loss to the taxpayers would be at least £50m., and the loss to industry and to the commercial community would be absolutely immeasurable." 
On the Conservative side, Lord Gifford said that the “denationalisation of road transport would be justified if it gave the trader a better service."

#    #    #    #

Laying it on

What is one to say of those Labour leaders who, in face of the clear evidence to the contrary, still maintain that nationalisation is Socialism? But some Labour leaders go further. Not content with having given, by their measures of nationalisation, an excellent argument against the workers in the nationalised industries to the newspapers which openly support the capitalists, they now turn round on the workers and use that very same argument themselves. One of these is Ness Edwards. Having taken a leading share in forging this stick to beat the workers, he now takes a turn in laying it on.

#    #    #    #
The Folly of Ness Edwards

Mr. Edwards took it on himself to write an article in the Daily Herald on February 19th which he called “The Folly of the Few"; but he only succeeded in revealing his own foolishness. There is so much nonsense packed into this short article that we shall have to confine ourselves to a few of his more erratic statements.
“We nationalised the mines, the railways, and other industries, not only to get more efficiency and remove class injustice—but also to give men and women the chance to live fuller lives.”
Since Mr. Edwards gives the “ living of fuller lives" and “ the removal of class injustice ” merely as the purposes, not the results, of nationalisation, we can say little more. Certainly it would be wildly inaccurate to allege that nationalisation, for instance of the coal mines, had given the chance of a fuller life to anyone except those like Lord Hyndley, who was able to widen his field of activities from running the Powell Duffryn collieries in South Wales to lording it over the entire British coal industry.
“We who believe in Socialism want to make more socialists. But our efforts are hampered by a small minority who have benefited by the first Socialist efforts and behave with an arrogant indifference to the well-being of the many.”
Your support of nationalisation, Mr. Edwards, makes nonsense of your claim to believe in Socialism. The first is merely another term for state-capitalism, and no one can support both capitalism and Socialism. But substituting “labourite" for “Socialist," the rest of this quotation looks promising. For there is certainly a “small minority" which fits this description—the shareholders. Have they benefited from nationalisation? They have, and for these reasons. The coal industry at the end of the war was operating with equipment which was out of date years before. A vast programme of capital re-equipment, which would involve the ploughing back of profit for years ahead, was necessary if the industry was ever to become profitable again. From this grim prospect the shareholders were saved, in the nick of time, by the timely action of the Labour Government in nationalising the industry. From the day the State took over the coal mines, come rain or shine, boom or slump, strike or lock-out, the shareholders could count on their £14 million of interest each year as confidently as they could upon the sun each morning. So we know whom Mr. Edwards is referring to here.

#    #    #    #


Or do we? Reading on, we find Mr. Edwards actually had in mind “unofficial strikers," those workers who still have the nerve to try and improve their conditions of work by using the strike weapon. But these workers, after all, are only withholding their labour-power—and property in this is the only property which capitalist society leaves them. Are wage-slaves in the state-capitalist industries to be so brow-beaten that they are to be denied even their last right of refusing for a week or two to apply their labour-power to their masters' instruments of production? It seems that if Mr. Edwards had his way, the answer would be Yes. He says: “These unofficial minority activities are reactionary and counter-revoluntionary.” Counter-revolutionary! Mr. Edwards is obviously supposing that a revolution has taken place. If it has, it must be the first revolution in history which is not visible to the naked eye.

Let us leave Mr. Edwards and his article there, as a warning of the ridiculous extremes to which the nationalisation fallacy can lead reformers.

#    #    #    #

Honesty and realism

Another labour leader who is worried that the workers may be expecting too much from the next Labour Government (though the experience of the last one should have ended permanently all such extravagant hope) is Mr. Gaitskell. Writing about the next election (Reynolds News, 15-2-53) he heads his remarks “Honesty and realism should be the keynote." We can grant Mr. Gaitskell that honesty at election times would come as a welcome change. But his other requirement, realism, sounds ominous; for this is a word much in use among politicians when they wish to prepare their audiences for further sacrifices and belt-tightening. And we are not disappointed. Mr. Gaitskell outlines his plans for “more production" and then says “But it does take time and it probably means that to start with there will be less rather than more to consume." Apart from the phrase “to start with," we couldn't agree more. Feeling that his programme so far will do little to attract voters, Mr. Gaitskell says that the Labour Party “must make a further attack on inequality in education and the concentration of property in too few hands." A further attack! We are still waiting for the first attack on “the concentration of property in too few hands undoubtedly it didn’t take place, although it was promised, in the Labour Government's last term in office. How Mr. Gaitskell reconciles his implication that it did take place with the heading of his article, we leave to him.

#    #    #    #

On behalf of . . . 

Mr. Tom O'Brien, the President of the General Council of the T.U.C., got into trouble the other day for sending a telegram to Mr. Churchill on the eve of his visit to the United States. The message began “You carry with you the good will of the workers of Britain and the Commonwealth in your courageous mission to the United States tomorrow." This message hadn't been authorised by “the workers of Britain " and certainly not by those of “the Commonwealth," and a number of those on whose behalf Mr. O'Brien claimed to speak pointed this out to him with some force. But the habit of claiming vast authority for one's statements is not confined to Mr. O'Brien. The heads of the Communist Party or of the C.P. front organisations frequently issue grandiloquent statements “on behalf of the workers of Great Britain " or “ the women of Britain" or “the democratic youth of Western Europe." Among others who have recently indulged in these wide unauthorised statements is General Franco, who in his New Year's Message said he was “speaking as the father or guardian of the great family of Spaniards "—though “guardian ” here may be a mistranslation for the far more appropriate word “warder." Again, on March 2nd Chief Simeon Kioko of the Kamba tribe in Kenya repudiated Mau Mau, and claimed to be speaking “on behalf of 400,000 Wakamba." In South Africa, the Governor-General, speaking on January 23rd, said “This year will see the Coronation of her Majesty the Queen. My ministers, as do the people of the Union, pray that her Majesty may have a long, blessed and peaceful reign." Who gave the Governor-General the authority to say this? It seems particularly inappropriate, in that “ the people of the Union" include a million Afrikaaners, many of whom are fanatical Republicans.

#    #    #    #

Unhappy workpeople

But one of the most fantastic claims made recently was in connection with the return of Alfred Krupp to much of his industrial empire, plus the fortune which will be his when he sells, compulsorily, his interests in coal and steel; the latter are being turned over to a holding company with a capital of a hundred million marks. Incidentally, Herr Krupp has given an undertaking to keep out of coal and steel; but after the expiry of Allied High Commission Law 27 in a few years' time this promise will not be legally enforceable. The massed legal experts of die Allied High Commission and the German Government have found themselves unable to think of any formula which could give legal force to this undertaking; which is another instance of the tenderness with which the perpetrators of the really large crimes are treated. (Krupp was convicted in 1948 of war-crimes on a grand scale, and was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment plus confiscation of all his property; much of the first part, and all the second part, of this sentence was remitted in 1951 by Mr. McCloy, then United States High Commissioner in Germany.) Last August, however, when the details of Krupp’s return to his industrial empire were not yet settled, Dr. Maschke, the concern's chief legal adviser, said (Sunday Express, 17-8-52): “This is a family enterprise. We are not happy—thousands of the workpeople are not happy—to see him left in the background.

So if you hear sounds of jubilation coming from the general direction of Germany, you know what it is What you hear is the heartfelt cries of joy uttered by the work people of the Rhineland as the word goes round that the boss is back.

#    #    #    #

Little-known pastimes: Money rolling

The Chancery Division has been trying to unravel the tangles in the will of Mr. Bolton Joberns, a brick manufacturer who died three years ago. Not the least puzzling part is the allegation in one codicil that the “so-called poor” were now “rolling in money” On the face of it, it would seem impossible to roll with any degree of comfort in a weekly wage of five or seven pounds; though one is reluctant to dissent from the opinion of one who was so clearly an expert in the little-known sport of money-rolling as Mr. Joberns, who left more than £200,000. But examine the phrase “the so-called poor.” Who are the so-called poor nowadays? Not the real poor; both the Tories and the Labourites, for their own reasons, assert that poverty has been abolished. The term “poor” is in these days reserved exclusively for the upper class, as in the phrases “the new poor” and “the tax-ridden industrialist." From a careful reading of the newspapers one can only draw the conclusion that in these enlightened times one must have at least £50 a week after tax before one can call oneself poor; poverty is reduced as the incomes get less, and anyone receiving less than £10 a week is supposed in the neighbourhood of Fleet Street to be living on the fat of the land. It is those people, then, who used to be called rich but are now the “so-called poor,” that Mr. Joberns must have been referring to; and with his opinion that these “so-called poor ” are now “rolling in money” we shouldn’t like to disagree.
Alwyn Edgar

The United Nations and Power Politics (1953)

Book Review from the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Towards the end of the last war when the United Nations Organisation first hit the headlines, many war-weary workers turned hopeful eyes towards this colossus which bestrode the world and was pledged to many high ideals, including the termination of all war. The older generation of workers recalled the League of Nations, its lofty aims and resolutions, puny performance and ignominious collapse. U.N.O., however, seemed a more promising infant than the.League; the size and sweep of its conception to include all nations, large and small in a combined bid for “Peace” seemed to thousands of workers a power for good. It developed with much publicity and hatched out an awe inspiring number of off-spring in the shape of various; Councils, Committees and Associations: Specialised Agencies were linked to it on a basis of mutual help: International bodies worked in conjunction with it. The Secretariat alone (known as the World Civil Service) employs 3,000 office workers.

The Charter (1945) setting forth the aims of the organisation is over-flowing with resolutions for international peace and security, friendly relations among nations, and international co-operation in solving international problems. (Article 1.) In addition to this somewhat long-winded Charter, a “Declaration of human rights ” was published in December, 1948, by tile U.N. Association at Paris.

Sad to relate, since the inception of this vast and complicated body with its avowed intention of establishing peace, wars of varying degrees and intensity have been and still are, raging. The cumbersome machinery of U.N.O., dodders and creaks along to the sound of gunfire in sundry parts of the globe. The troops in S. Korea fight under the title of U.N. Forces. This and the state of tension between the Western Bloc and U.S.S.R. makes mock of the high-sounding hypocritical phrases of the Charter.

The book now under review “The United Nations and Power Politics” is by John Maclaurin, publishers George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., London, 1951. It is a large book (450 pages) and deals comprehensively
not only with the functioning of U.N.O., but gives detailed and graphic accounts of various problems which have come before the Organisation, some dealt with successfully according to its lights, but in most cases a dismal record of outright failure. We read of the deeply rooted animosities between the delegates of the great powers; their hypocrisy, and “holier than thou” attitude towards each other; the vetos. adjournments, juggling for advantage; the strange bedfellows who come together when policy dictates and when there is an axe to grind. Maclaurin says that many delegates show little respect for the purposes of U.N.O., by their verbal sparring, sarcasm and scoring off each other. Tribute is paid to much good work done by the supplementary organisations such as the Food and Agricultural Organisation, World Health Organisation and many others.

The delegates of the smaller nations show up in a more favourable light, probably because they have not such a large stake in world affairs. In 1949 at the 4th Session of the General Assembly a feeling of revolt developed among the delegates of the smaller powers over the worsening relations between U.S., U.K., and Russia. The Syrian delegate, Mr. El Khouri, denounced the cold war in biting terms and suggested that the small nations should get together and form a third camp, thus holding the balance in their hands.

“When questions arise that do not closely touch the political and economic objectives of a government it will turn them over to a delegate whose heart is in the question, contenting itself with very general instructions and leaving the delegate a large measure of freedom.” It is repeatedly demonstrated that the nations work together amicably on humanitarian and relief matters but come to grief over power politics. Regarding U.N.R.R.A. (the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) Maclaurin says there was good co-operation between the governments and technicians, so long as political and “grab” motives were absent.

On 5th April, 1949, the General Assembly of U.N.O. opened its session in New York one day after the Atlantic pact was signed, a pact which splits the world into two armed camps and makes nonsense of the Organisation’s undertaking that all nations shall combine to ensure peace. Maclaurin quotes the American Daily News of 4-4-49. “With the adoption of the North Atlantic Pact, the last reason for the United Nations’ existence will vanish ... The U.S. State Department is bellowing that the pact is strictly within the U.N. framework and will strengthen that organisation. The U.S.S.R. is staying in the U.N.O. instead of hauling out and urging a painless end to the U.N’s miserable existence.”

Many of the disputes brought before the Security Council, such as Israel and Indonesia, dragged on week, in and week out while fighting raged, in spite of “ resolutions ” calling on the combatants to cease fire.

In his concluding chapters, the author reviews the world position and the “ drift to war.” Regarding the Western Bloc’s design to “contain Russian expansion,” he says, “ With the stock-pile of atom bombs, the huge navy, the fleets of bombers, the air bases ringing the U.S.S.R., the 500 odd military bases of all sorts on the territories of other people, the military alliances, inter alia closing the Baltic and Mediterranean, it is certainly difficult to distinguish containing Russia from expanding American military dominance . . . American military, political and economic might has expanded over the earth to an extent hitherto unknown in history.”

He touches on the “balance of power” doctrine which, he says, is inevitably interpreted by its advocates as “balance in my favour... and has led in the past is leading in the present and will lead in the future to the armaments race and the scramble for political supremacy . . . and the outcome is war.”

The fostering of nationalism inflames nations against one another. Maclaurin says “There is a magic phrase that serves our governments as armour served the Knights of old, both for armaments and defence. The phrase is National interests.”

He writes of the “little man’s revolt” and says the world’s unease stems from two sources: “The revolt of the oppressed and the economic and political rivalries of the direct and indirect rulers of nation states.” Here we part company finally with the author for he suggests that the machinery of U.N.O. is suitable for world government, the only way out of the present impasse. This is anticlimax with a vengeance after reading bow ineffective and restricted the machinery is, and how it can be, and is, perverted in pursuit of cold war aims. Even if U.N.O. were a united world organisation and able to take over world government, the two conflicts would still remain, i.e., enmity between capitalist groups, and enmity between the “ haves ” and “ have nots.” If the latter conflict were resolved by an enlightened working class movement establishing socialism, the former conflict would automatically cease to exist, and wars would be a thing of the past.

In conclusion we may say, the author has a lively style of writing which helps us over some of the dull patches, he weighs the motives of the great powers and slates them all impartially. (It is difficult to detect but there is an impression of a very slight bias in favour of U.S.S.R.) His remarks are uncompromising and trenchant and he obviously has no delusions regarding the objectives of the great powers in the game of power politics.
F. M. Robins

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Letter: Boycott in West Africa (1953)

Letter to the Editors from the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard
A reader sends us the following letter and asks for our comments:—
S.W. London.

The Editorial Committee.

Dear Comrades,

On February 14th the West Africa weekly newspaper (published in London and of the same company as the Daily Mirror) published an amusing letter. Although no doubt their 9,000 white shareholders would nave us take it seriously.

It concerns the regional propertied interests in western Nigeria. Apparently the leader of the nationalist party of that region has imposed a boycott on the Governor because he considers that the collection of white whisky-boozers are too slow. There has been some delay in the approval of the western regional local government. Poor Sir John won’t be able to attend any more cocktail parties in the West for a while.

Instead he will probably relax in his palatial government house receiving Labour Party delegations all wanting to “save Africa.” But now, this letter raises the age-old question of how far is one capitalist group prepared to compromise with another? Mr. Haig glibly says: “ In your issue of January 10, you describe Mr. Awolowo’s boycott of Sir John Macpherson as “a clumsy weapon." Is this really all you have to say about this piece of colossal bad manners, bad psychology and bad policy? I wonder in what terms you would describe a British boycott of a leading African personality.

“Forgive me saying that this regrettable understatement of yours is typical of your growing tendency to appease the African nationalist even at the cost of good sense and common decency. It is not fair to your African readers, many of whom are inevitably short of education and experience. These readers are exposed, in their own countries, to many newspapers which distort and suppress news, and base their comments not on truth and reason but on the illogical frenzy characterising the emotional nationalist throughout the world.

“You, at least, should give them candid and honest comment based on truth and the accepted standards of Christian civilisation.

“I suggest that Mr. Awolowo’s boycott of the Queen's representative in Nigeria, and one of the best friends Nigerians have ever had, is a disgrace both to him and his party and to the traditional courtesy of the Yoruba people."

In some respects this letter can be applied generally to Africa and expresses a very unobservant
opinion although perhaps that too is an under-statement. However, would the Socialist Party of Great Britain care to examine the letter itself and answer it?
Yours sincerely,
Nigerian Student.

Our comments can be very brief. Those who administer capitalism in Britain are not interested in emancipating the British workers from capitalist exploitation nor in emancipating African workers. Likewise the West African-born Capitalist and Nationalist political parties, while interested in ending dominance by British capitalism, are not interested in emancipating West African workers from capitalism.

As Socialists aiming at the establishment of Socialism and the emancipation of all workers everywhere, we are all in favour of one kind of boycott. We look forward to the time when British, African and all other workers will join together in a boycott of capitalism, and all its political supporters and hangers- on, and will gain control of the machinery of government for the purpose of establishing Socialism.

In the meantime there is bound to be the arrogant attitude of the “Empire builders" as exemplified in the letter referred to by our correspondent.
Editorial Committee.

Ringing the changes (1953)

From the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following quotation has a familiar ring about it.
"Their (the workers) output . . . was not enough to warrant the continuance of the high wages they were getting. The workers . . . wanted to get everything and give as little as possible in exchange. There were too many missed shifts, too many people who pretended to be ill, too many fines, too much movement of labour from one factory to another, too much stealing, too much carelessness in handling machinery." (Economist, 27 Sept. 1952.)
How often have we seen phrases like this? The familiarity of its tone, bred of constant repetition, rings in our ears like a cracked bell. We in this island are by no means the only ones to suffer its infliction. It also applies to the so-called “peoples democracies" on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

In fact, the quotation is from a report of a speech made by Mr. Zapotocky, the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia in 1948. Old history? Perhaps! But Mr. Zapotocky, like all other devout worshippers of capitalism, is never tired of ringing the changes (though needless to say we’re tired to death) or as the Economist has it: “Comrade Zapotocky has been saying the same thing at intervals ever since." No doubt he will continue.

Why he has been saying it, will make more apparent the fact that Czechoslovakia, like all other countries has a class divided society. The working class there is distressingly stubborn about accepting the fairy tales of their rulers; are exasperating in their refusal to believe that everything is for their benefit in a land that they are told is “building Socialism.” So much so, that the Trades Unions are again being “ re-organised."

After the Communists came to power in February, 1948, the Unions underwent purification.
“At that moment, which coincided with the nationalisation of nearly all industrial undertakings, the workers had, theoretically, won their victory against capitalism and the original raison d’etre of the unions— the protection of the workers against capitalist exploitation—came abruptly to an end. But instead of dissolving the unions, the Communist Party skilfully incorporated them into the state organisation and gave them the new task of 'educating' the workers into being worthy of the hire meted out to them by the politicians who have taken over from the dispossessed private capitalists."
Of course, the Communists were not likely to dissolve the unions. Well trained in the methods of State Capitalism, with the ever watchful eye of their mentor the Soviet Union guiding them, the Communists, with a copious supply of bogus Socialist theory, were able to re-organise the unions and turn them to their own advantage, under the pretence that now the “Socialist Revolution" had been accomplished, the original function of the unions had become redundant. Quite true. The nature of State Capitalism (which is the form Czech Capitalism has taken on the model of the Soviet Union) is such, that, under it, all the aspects of capitalist society are drawn into a unified whole; brought to a head. Control is centralised and complete.

Trade unionism is an aspect of Capitalist Society; Capitalism is a class Society and the interests of the ruling class predominate. Therefore, when all the aspects of capitalism are drawn into a Central organisation—the State—the Trades Unions automatically come under the control of the ruling class. They are then transformed from a protective, working class, organisation, into instruments for driving the workers to greater and more efficient production.

Mr. Zapotocky in a speech on July 18th. 1952, gave the following, as the three principal functions of trades unions in a “Peoples Democracy.” They are: “To reduce production costs.” (Wages?)
“To consolidate working discipline and develop Socialist competition.” “At present,” he added, “the unions definitely are not fulfilling their tasks. That is why they must be reorganised’.”
So far the “Stick” method has been in operation for goading the workers into production marathons. This has not proved as successful as was at first hoped. So now the more “scientific,” “carrot” technique is being employed. The Czechs are now to be “persuaded ” to produce more.

The trades union leaders have been sent on special courses of “political education ,” with the object of bringing the Czech workers into a state of mind that will make them “produce more than yesterday.”
“The workers, in short, must be ’persuaded' by hook, crook, whips or scorpions to give up the old eight hour day in favour of a system under which they must on working with no extra pay until their ’Norm' been fulfilled. They must be 'persuaded' to welcome the introduction of arbitrary and often unpaid extra weekend shifts and to give up their ‘Bolshevists Saturday* which the miners won in 1921, at the whim of the Government . . .

“When they do not close the gap between output and wages, the real wages are cut by raising either norms or prices or both alternately: in addition, the hardly-won privileges the workers fought for against private capitalism are taken away or transformed into a machine for keeping their noses well down to the nationalised grindstone. (Ibid).
The mixture as before, but more highly concentrated and with a nastier taste. Administered with a very large and efficient spoon.
Ian Jones

Party News Briefs (1953)

Party News from the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Conference, 1953. As usual, the annual conference is being held at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 3rd, 4th and 5th. Business commences each day at 11 a.m. Dance will be held on the Saturday evening and Annual Rally on Sunday evening. This is a last minute reminder.

* * *

Outdoor Propaganda commences in April and all members should make a special effort to support the meetings held by their branches and assist with the sale of literature. It is impossible to run successful propaganda meetings without the support of the members and it does stimulate the speakers if they know they have the backing of other members.

* * *

New Members may like to know that our internal party journal, “Forum” (monthly, fid.), is on sale through branches, or by postal subscription, 6 months 3s. 9d. 12 months 7s. 6d. The current issue is the seventh, and back numbers of all except the first (Oct. 1952) issue are available from H.O.

* * *

A Circular recently sent out urges every subscriber to the Socialist Standard to go all out to increase the sales of S.P.G.B. literature, and especially of the Socialist Standard. Finding new readers is an excellent way of spreading socialist knowledge, and also of helping us to increase the printed matter itself, so don’t forget to post us your order for literature.
Phyllis Howard

Socialism and Questions of the Day (1953)

Party News from the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have now prepared a pamphlet under the above title which we are sending to the printer. Unfortunately we have no money in hand at the moment to meet the cost. Will members and sympathisers send us what donations they can immediately so that we can pay for deliveries of the pamphlet as they come. It will be a pity if we cannot have this pamphlet on sale for the summer propaganda season.

The question is urgent so send us money as quickly as you can.

Blogger's Note:
Link to the 1942 edition.

Censorship and Freedom: the Longford Report (1972)

From the November 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

It used to be said of certain parliamentary constituencies that a sheep or a scarecrow would be elected by them if it bore the rosette of Conservative or Labour, whichever was favoured there. Likewise, it is predictable that the direst rubbish will be acclaimed by sections of the population, so long as it is rubbish supporting Christianity and seeking to put more fetters on people’s lives. And that is the essence of the Longford Report on pornography, whose long-awaited foregone conclusions appeared at the end of September. Despite the adverseness of reviews such as Bernard Levin’s in The Observer, one has actually to read the Report to find how low it is: a methodological mess, a rag-bag of contradictory allegations given the name “evidence” and ulterior motives called “conclusions”.

One example will show what the Report is at. In the general introductory section, the third chapter is headed “Violence and Pornography”. A lengthy paragraph associating social revolution and the “underground” with violence leads straight into an account of Julius Streicher and Der Stürmer. Streicher, it is said, collected pornography. The counter-information that Hitler did not is given backhandedly: “very little is known about Hitler’s own interest in pornographic materials” — i.e., being wicked he must have had some even though we’ve no evidence for saying so. However, Hitler was “probably” impotent, and his mistress (a contradiction there, surely?) Eva Braun "may, it is thought” have practised lesbianism with her sister. Over the page, and we are back with hippies and “peaceniks” playing sexual perversions.

Making Dirt Stick
The Longford Report is the dirtiest book in town, throwing and smearing mud in all directions. Some of it is hair-raising in crude audacity. The special sub-committee on advertising which finds “We are satisfied with the disciplines that the advertising industry has voluntarily imposed upon itself” comprised four members—of whom two are Chairmen of advertising agencies. The sub-committee quotes from and recommends the British Code of Advertising Practice, and points a special finger at one publisher refusing to observe it: curiously enough, Paul Raymond, proprietor of Men Only, which was raided by the police shortly after the appearance of the Report. Note should be made, too, of the nature of censorable books proposed in a chapter by Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Jane Howard: “Not unsuitable because of anything: just unsuitable.”

The conclusion of the Report is a draft “Obscenity Bill”, with two prime concerns. First, a new “test of obscenity” is laid down:
For the purposes respectively of the Obscene Publications Acts 1959 and 1964 and of section 2 of the Theatres Act 1968, an article or a performance of a play is obscene if its effect, taken as a whole, is to outrage contemporary standards of decency or humanity accepted by the public at large.
The second object, with particular reference to the theatre, is that the sections of existing Acts allowing for “public good” as a defence against prosecution “shall cease to have effect”. As stated in the 1959 Act, this defence is
that the giving of the performance in question was justified as being for the public good on the ground that it was in the interests of drama, opera, ballet or any other art, or of literature or learning.
Lord Longford has denied that these changes attempt to extend censorship. Of course they do. What is the Report about, except to demand that what Longford, Mrs. Whitehouse, Malcolm Muggeridge, Cliff Richard (and eleven ecclesiastics, and Moral Rearmament) disapprove of should be banned?

Who Constrains Whom?
The Socialist attitude to these questions can be simply stated. We are against all censorship, and in favour of unrestricted expression of opinion and sentiment by everyone. There is no reservation in this statement. “All” does not mean all except that of obscenity, etc., and “everyone” includes our opponents (those involved in the Longford Report, for instance: atrocious as it is, no Socialist will deny or impede their right to say any of it). Nor is the argument one of artistic merits and the interests of the higher things in life. The position is that while any one section of society has the power to regulate what others may see, read or know, the minds of the majority are held in chains.

Part of the Longford case is that the minds of many need to be chained. Mrs. Whitehouse is quoted as saying “it has nothing to do with taste, it has everything to do with the kind of world we are trying to build”. A “senior consultant, F.R.C.P. and former Dean” refers to “the necessary function of government in preventing mental pollution by the mass media”. Masud Khan, editor of the International Psychoanalytical Library, proposes that pornography (but not censorship, however) is “inherently fascistic”. Lord Platt is recorded as having visited the Study Group to say that the Bible — “on sale in children’s bookshops, in school libraries” — contained disgusting pornographic material and was likely to corrupt children; but perhaps that is not what the Study Group wanted to hear.

Thin Air
Yet, for all the laborious efforts here to prove a case for banning pornography, it remains unproven. David Holbrook cites psychiatrists, philosophers and biologists. The American President is quoted pronouncing the non sequitur that if the mind is elevated by great works it must be lowered by bad ones. The only decently-researched item in the Report is the Appendix by Maurice Yaffé, summarising the voluminous findings of the US Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, 1970, and other recent enquiries. This Appendix is referred to several times in the main text of the Report, making one wonder if any of them (apart from Holbrook and Mary Miles, who add a disapproving paragraph) read it. For the conclusions on page after page are that no evidence exists for connecting pornography causally with anti-social behaviour or sexual crime, or for claiming any effect on children.

Indeed, there is one factor which is treated altogether curiously by the Report. Notwithstanding the impression given by phrases like “widely sold” and “big business”, the fact is that pornography is expensive and hard to get. How many of the newspaper readers have ever seen, let alone bought, it? The Report tells how Mary Stott of The Guardian went to the Study Group’s office “simply anxious to see her reactions to hard pornography”. If it were as over-accessible to the public as Longford’s crew represent, why did not Mary Stott pick up a bundle at the corner shop long before? The cheapest price for a pornographic booklet is about £3 (the same as an agency ticket for Oh, Calcutta!, with which the authors of the Report seem obsessed). In those terms, the talk of easy availability to children is a monstrous red herring. The pious question asked, “Would you like your child (or godchild) to read this?” needs a supplementary: If you would, can you afford it?

Propaganda & Capitalism
The point is not at all frivolous. Most people’s views on pornography are founded not on what they have seen of it but on what they have heard. The first chapter of the Report speaks of “the influence of literature on behaviour, with special reference to the Bible, Das Kapital and Mein Kampf”. If one grants that these books have been widely influential, the influence has not come through reading them. The first and the third have been pressed on populations among which it is difficult to find persons with more than vague knowledge of what is inside them. The number of people who have read Capital is, even today, relatively small. The influence has come from their presentation for propagandist purposes, in directive renderings to which independent reading would be an antidote. This is another side of censorship where the censor seeks to form his subjects’ conclusions for them, laying down the reaction which makes reading unnecessary and imposing social and political penalties on whoever reacts otherwise.

The purpose of censorship is to support the rule of class-divided society. Thus, though Socialists oppose it, we do not campaign for its abolition: the belief that any class government anywhere can permit this is unrealistic. Politically, the reasons why capitalism needs its Official Secrets Acts, libel laws and prohibitions on incitement to this or that are obvious enough. In the field of what is called morality, the purpose is simply to ensure that the working class gives no trouble. In this regard, the hypocrisy of the “establishment” should be seen for what it is. Despite all the talk about art and humanity, the authorities stiffen or relax censorship on strictly practical grounds and only to a marginal extent because of theoretical arguments. Considering all that goes on in our world — supported by the contributors to the Longford Report — it is the depth of cynicism to speak as if seeing a dirty book were the worst thing that could befall a child. If only it were!

Exploitive Society
Of course there is no case to be made out in support of pornography, any more than there is one for football or detective novels or jig-saw puzzles or a thousand other recreational phenomena. The condemnation that large sums of money are made from pornography comes strangely from supporters of capitalism, which exists by making money out of every human desire and need. Much bigger profits are made out of “just” wars, housing shortage, and taken-for-granted activities which poison the environment. Presumably the Hodder company will make profit from the publication of the Longford Report; Malcolm Muggeridge is paid for writing and speaking against pornography and birth-control; but no-one suggests that the viewpoints presented are thereby disqualified.

However, there is one comment on most pornography that is not made in the Report. Its nature is, above everything else, exploitive. Its subject-matter is seduction, humiliation, infliction, indignity — people persuaded or made to do things for other people’s gratification. Far from violating the values of present-day society, this picture of personal exploitation accurately reflects them. That is the real difficulty for the censors in defining pornography. Its forms may be elusive, but the content is no different from that of the allegedly respectable functions of a society based upon the exploitation of man by man. Perhaps the indignation of the Longford Study Group is Caliban’s rage at his own face in the glass. One can see in it also, however, the bitterness of disappointed Fabians. A lifetime’s social reform was supposed to turn the working class into sober, moral, acquiescent people: and here they are, as recalcitrant and randy as ever.

Freedom, not Humbug
Don’t be taken in by the Longford Report — or by the majority of its opponents. Censorship can never be in the interests of any section but the ruling class. It is not stated like that, so the arguments for it have to be specious ones invoking illusory menaces and the welfare of the young and “vulnerable”. On the other hand, most self-styled “opponents” of censorship are seeking not its abolition but its transfer — themselves to have freedom, others to be shut up. Socialism means the freedom to say, see and know without restriction. It is worth saying also that this includes not being forced to accept what one does not want; but that is a freedom capitalism won’t give us either.
Robert Barltrop

Black Liberation - George Jackson and Political Violence (1973)

From the May 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1960 when George Jackson was eighteen, he was convicted of second-degree robbery for driving the getaway car whilst his friend robbed a petrol station of 70 dollars. For his part in this offence he was sent into the state prison system with a sentence of “one year to life”. Technically, George Jackson was liable to imprisonment for life. In practice it meant that he would serve a minimum of one year and would thereafter appear annually before a parole board who would consider his “fitness to be released”.

The preface of the book Soledad Brothers — The Prison Letters of George Jackson states: “Under this system parole is granted on the basis of the prisoner’s record within the prison, but the prisons themselves are brutal humiliating places where violent racism is commonplace; if a black prisoner resists this degradation he will be penalised and lose parole. Jackson was denied parole year after year. His friend was released in 1963.”

In January 1970 after Jackson had been in prison for ten years, seven-and-a-half of them in solitary confinement, three black prisoners who were at exercise in Soledad Prison and known to be political activists were provoked and shot dead by a prison guard. The guard was exonerated as having committed “justifiable homicide”. Shortly after this was announced, a white guard was thrown to his death from a tier of the prison where Jackson was held. He and two others who came to be known as the “Soledad Brothers” were charged with murder and faced the death penalty.

In August 1970, Jackson's younger brother Jonathan held up a Courthouse and took a judge amongst five hostages under the demand “Free the Soledad Brothers”. In the ensuing violence, both Jonathan and the judge were shot dead. In August 1971, in circumstances which have never been made clear, George Jackson was amongst a group of persons which included prison guards, who were shot dead in prison. Subsequently his co-defendants on the murder charge were acquitted.

This record of violent events which built up over eleven years against the developing political consciousness of its victims exemplifies the crude viciousness of modern American barbarism. These events cut right through the American hypocrisy and its pretensions to be the egalitarian “land of the free". They expose with murderous clarity a system where privilege is maintained by ignorance, hatred and brutality as a conscious instrument of social policy. The prolonged incarceration of George Jackson and his eventual destruction was rooted in the entire fabric and structure of American capitalism. It is both convenient and popular to see his imprisonment and death in isolation from the whole social and economic context, as something unrelated to the general pattern of society. In reality the privileges of the American rich and their monopoly of wealth and power are erected on the squalor of the American poor and where necessary, without hesitation, on the atrocity of a George Jackson’s death.

There are Crimes and Crimes
By any standards, George Jackson was a remarkable individual. He was brought up in the black ghettoes of Chicago and Los Angeles. His family background was not political. His father was a conscientious person, ill-educated himself, struggling hard as an unskilled worker to provide for his family in material surroundings typical of the unrelieved ugliness of those urban slums. This is an atmosphere which produces cynicism as a brittle response to the glaring inequalities of life. These areas after all are the concentration camps for those who are socially and economically rejected, patrolled and held down by armed policemen, and when necessary, the national guard.

More than most, American capitalism glamourizes the ownership of things and accords prestige to personal wealth. At the same time, the opportunities of millions of Americans are restricted by the economic and social conditions of the urban ghetto. In these circumstances, it is difficult for young men to avoid hostile encounters with the police. Like many others, George Jackson was one such young man, and at eighteen, found himself in prison for theft.

The general aim of the state prison regime in America is, through the application of physical and psychological terror, to force the inmates to passively accept their rôle in American society. The aim is to reduce the individual to a state of despair and insignificance. As Jackson himself put it:
This is in keeping with the overall prison conspiracy, i.e. you have no will, you have no choice or control, so be wise — surrender. There’s a sign everywhere your eyes may happen to rest, begging: 'O Lord, help me to accept those things I cannot change.’
With a sentence of “one year to life” for petty theft, the authorities combine two savage pressures. The first is the day-to-day punishment of imprisonment combined with physical assaults and personal humiliation. The second is the blackmail in saying “this year provided you behave, you may be released on parole, or next year” or the year after that, and so on for life.

George Jackson’s crime was not that he complied in the theft of 70 dollars, but that in prison he could not accept the ignominious terms on which the authorities might have released him. For this crime he was imprisoned for eleven years, seven-and-a-half in solitary confinement, and eventually in August 1971, shot to death.

Short of Understanding
In prison, in spite of the limitations of his personal background, Jackson began to read seriously, gradually seeking an explanation for the forces, social and historical, underlying his plight. Eventually, he devoured such left-wing and Marxist literature as he could get hold of. Jackson did not become a Socialist. It is doubtful whether his views would fit neatly into any political category. He became an inspiration to the civil rights movement in America, and also to the Black Power movement. Although there is much that is perceptive in Jackson’s views as expressed in The Prison Letters of George Jackson, his understanding of economic relationships and social and political institutions, fall short of a Socialist understanding. If George Jackson was anything, he was a black nihilist.

Jackson claimed to be opposed to capitalism. “The principal enemy must be isolated and identified as capitalism.” “Our enemy at present is the capitalist system and its supporters.” However, closer analysis would show that in fact what Jackson was opposed to was American-style private enterprise. Jackson sympathized with China and the emerging African states. So he ignored the fact that capitalism is a world mode of production where the means of wealth production are monopolized and controlled either by private owners or a political bureaucratic élite. In world capitalism, although the systems of administration in different states vary, basic economic relationships are essentially the same. This applies to China and the emerging African states. Wage labour is exploited, wealth takes the form of commodities marketed with a view to making profit and capital is accumulated by a minority from the surplus wealth produced by the working class. Moreover, in China and Russia, as much as in America, the capitalist system is held down by a State machine which includes the armed forces and police and prisons.

Jackson considered that political democracy was a fraud. “Of what value is quasi-political control if the capitalists are allowed to hold on to the people’s whole mode of subsistence?” He believed in leadership and elevated violence. “The people who run this country will never let us succeed to power. Everything in history that was of any value was taken by force.”

Futile to Confront
There is no doubt that if in some time of crisis Jackson’s views on leadership and violence became practical action, this would lead to disaster. It would compound crisis with death and violence with no possible hope of getting anywhere towards Socialism. The most that might be achieved on the basis of an immediate worsening of conditions would be that the political controllers might change. Modern history is littered with examples of political power being changed through violent means. But all these examples relate to States where capitalism is undeveloped. Without exception the replacement governments have all embarked on the continued development of capitalism. In the real world where capitalism dominates as a mode of production there would be no other practical alternative. In states where capitalism is more developed, political administration is stabilized either through a state capitalist regime such as Russia, or through political democracy as in Western Europe; in either case the chance of a militant minority confronting or replacing the government through violent means is nil.

The principal facts are these, that in the complex organization of modern industrial States, no government is viable unless it rests upon at least the acquiescence if not the general support of the majority. This would apply to any militant minority attempting to wrest political power. Apart from the difficulty of defeating the existing State machine in open confrontation, they could never hold power because their writ would not run. The only practical test of whether the exercise of political power is possible or not in a developed capitalist State is the degree of acquiescence or support a government can carry.

Apart from this, any movement which is going forward on a basis other than democratic action cannot be a Socialist movement. The equality that Socialists aim for is not only the equality of all men about the means of producing wealth but equality in all the processes of social organization.

Get it Right
The crucial factor which allows the establishment of Socialism is the conscious action of a majority of Socialists. Until there exists a majority of Socialists, only capitalism is possible, regardless of the form of its administration. When that majority is achieved, then it can be assumed that the establishment of Socialism will be politically straightforward.

What Jackson ignored was the regrettable fact that capitalism in America rests upon the political support of the whole population, including the millions of negro voters. His call for violent struggle may well have been an expression of his bitter frustration, but as a useful idea in creating a better world, it was a political irrelevance. It was a mistake stemming from a faulty reading of Marxism for the Black movement to draw inspiration from Chinese state capitalism. Significantly, they are not enthusiastic about Russia, yet there was a time during the earliest phase of the state capitalist revolution when it enjoyed sympathy amongst protestors throughout the world. Just as the capitalist nature of the Russian state has become more obvious year by year, it is inevitable that the same development will take place in China.

The Black Power movement will have to learn that negro workers can only achieve their emancipation along with the emancipation of all mankind.
Pieter Lawrence