Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Greasy Pole: Farmyard Politics (2004)

The Greasy Pole column from the October 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Greg Dyke, ex-Director General of the BBC, has changed his mind. About Tony Blair, that is – although in the circumstances in which he was winkled out of a job which was supposed to make him one of the most powerful men in Britain, he has probably had second thoughts on quite a lot of other issues. Dyke first met Blair sometime around 1980 when Blair was a fresh faced, posh speaking young barrister who nevertheless wanted to ‘serve his country’ by being a Labour MP. “The Labour Party,” Dyke advised him, “needs another barrister like it needs a hole in the head” – which did not prevent Dyke helping Labour get another hole in the head by donating £5000 to Blair’s campaign for the party leadership.
That was then; this is now, when Dyke thinks Blair, in spite of his promise to introduce a new sort of politics, is really “just another politician and in some ways worse than those before him. He was either incompetent and took Britain to war on a misunderstanding or he lied when he told the House of Commons that he didn’t know what the 45 minute claim meant”. Regular readers of the Letters column in the Guardian, which seems to operate as a kind of counsellor’s couch for disappointed Labour voters, will know there are many who agree with Dyke. These are people who also supported Blair under the impression that Labour meant a different type of politics; instead they have got something which in many important respects is indistinguishable from the Tories. And Blair seems intent on supplying plenty of evidence to support the case against him.

For example on 19 July he made a speech grandly titled a Five Year Strategy for Crime, which purported to look back on the consequences of the 1960s and what the Blair government plans to do to repair the damage caused by that supposed time of “a huge breakthrough in terms of freedom of expression, of life style, of the individual’s right to live their own personal life in the way they chose”. Blair argued that law and order policy then focussed on the offender’s rights, protected the innocent and understood the social causes of criminality. But now:
“Today, people have had enough of this part of the 1960s consensus . . . they do want rules, order and proper behaviour . . .

They want a society of responsibility. They want a community where the decent law-abiding majority are in charge, where those that play by the rules do well; and those that don’t, get punished.”
That speech might have been made by John Major back in 1993 when, conveniently overlooking his affair with Edwina Currie, Major audaciously decided to lecture the rest of us on the need to get Back to Basics. He called for a revival of “the instinctive values of neighbourliness, decency and consideration for others”. He wanted the criminal justice system to “blame a little more and understand a little less”. Blair’s speech might also have been made by Michael Howard who, shortly after Blair shared his thoughts on crime and society with us, informed us that:
“Conservatives will stand up for the silent, law-abiding majority who  play by the rules and pay their dues. We will put their rights first.”
Among all this competition for votes Blair ignored the fact that during much of the alleged wild days of the 1960s when, he now thinks, the foundations of a seriously irresponsible society were being laid, his party were in power. They achieved that position not by respecting human decencies and behaving responsibly but by misleading the voters. Labour’s 1964 election appeal was based on the assurance that prosperity would come through an increase in productivity arising from technological development. The Tories had apparently overlooked this but Labour were led by the ravishingly clever Harold Wilson, who had graduated in economics at Oxford. After harnessing the technological revolution Wilson would put George Brown in charge of the economy at the Department of Economic Affairs and the rest was easy. The problem was that capitalism is not susceptible to being managed in that way. Wilson’s facile assurances were exposed and his government descended into chaos and crisis. One of Wilson’s senior ministers said “The trouble with Harold is one hasn’t the faintest idea whether the bastard means what he says even at the moment he speaks it”. Another agreed: “The tragedy of Wilson was that you couldn’t believe a word he said”. It was not a shining example of a government driven by a desire to play by the rules – unless it was those governing the methods used by political parties to get power over capitalism – and behave responsibly about their electoral promises.

Meanwhile, how was the young Tony Blair surviving in those times of  moral peril?  From 1966 to 1971 he was a pupil at Fettes school, said to be the Eton of Scotland. It was the kind of educational establishment to have a strong appeal to the Blair of 2004 for the headmaster, a Dr. Iain McIntosh, was a disciplinarian and an ardent opponent of the “liberalising” influence of the 1960s. Fettes had a system of fagging, under which the younger boys had to be servants of the seniors. (Blair resented this but was praised by his senior for making “particularly good toast.”) Flogging by masters and senior boys was in force, with Blair the occasional victim (once at the unusually advanced age of 17). It must have been a proud moment for the headmaster when, after a game of hockey against a nearby borstal, the Fettes boys and the young prisoners compared their respective regimes; the borstal boys were sure they had the easier time.
Blair did not willingly submit to the Fettes regime as a valuable lesson in morality, which would stand him in good stead when he was later lecturing the rest of us from the eminence of Number Ten. He was in fact something of a disruptive influence in the school, persistently questioning and opposing the rules and procedures there. His housemaster assessed him as “the most difficult boy I ever had to deal with”. A fellow pupil remembered that “Masters were very worried about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and Blair looked like all three”. When he was 14 he ran away – simply walked off the train his parents had put him on to go back to school and made his way onto a plane at the airport – he said to fly “to somewhere like the Bahamas” – but the plan came to nothing because he did not have a boarding pass.
There were masters at Fettes who enjoyed Blair’s nagging and questioning as stimulating. Well there have been many others who have been bemused by his charm into accepting his flexible “principles”. Some of these people are ministers in his government. Others are just ordinarily deluded voters. This was the kind of tolerance – if that is the word – which helped him be accepted into Derry Irvine’s chambers when he was looking to become a barrister, a favour which has been repaid since. It slid him up the greasy pole, at first as a by-election candidate in the hopelessly Tory stronghold of Beaconsfield and then into the safe Labour seat at Sedgefield. It was not an obstacle to his climb that he joined CND, after he had been advised that the “more badges” he accumulated the better his chances of getting on in the Labour Party – advice he accepted with alacrity. It has seen him into Number Ten and keeps him there, in spite of the exposure of his deceits and the fact that in all important respects – in his policies, his speeches, his phraseology – he more and more resembles the Conservatives who are supposed to be his opponents.

Animal Farm
If it is impossible to discern any significant differences between the Labour Party and the Tories, that is because there aren’t any. On the basic issue of how to run the capitalist system they are thoroughly agreed that this must be done in the interests of the ruling class, which means that both of them in government must impose policies which are against the interests of the majority, while assuring us that they are doing something else. They must both define the problems of capitalism in terms of ruling class interests and offer “solutions” which at best are little other than palliatives. It is not a matter of chance that as they try to deceive the working class the party leaders use the same words, the same phrases. It is rather like the final passage in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, when the animals outside the farmhouse observe the pigs who have taken control of the farm inside, enjoying a raucous get-together with neighbouring farmers. As the evening wears on “the creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which”. That is what Greg Dyke and all those disgruntled Labour supporters are witnessing now; will they cling to Labour or will they consider the alternative to the cynical mess of capitalism’s politics?

50 Years Ago: McCarthyism (2004)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard
Our comrades of the World Socialist Party of the United States received an inquiry from a group of Liberals in London about McCarthyism. The following is an extract from the reply which will be of interest to readers of the S.S. . . .
The proceedings before Senate investigating committees are properly called “star chamber proceedings.” The individuals can do nothing but answer questions, and be confronted by witnesses whom they cannot question in rebuttal. As soon as the accused individual attempts to read a statement the Senators do not like, he is evicted from the hearing, and if the individual is foolish enough to persist in his freedom of speech, then he is charged with contempt of court, which can result in six months in prison for each contempt. Phillip Wylie, an outstanding American writer and by no means a Socialist, recently stated the matter correctly when he said that intellectual freedom has been destroyed in the United States, and that the only freedom which remains is political, that is, the right to vote.
Even this is being taken away tout de suite, as a bill is now in Congress to deprive the Communist Party of legal status, so that anyone will not be able to vote for the Communist Party candidates, even if he foolishly wished to do so. It goes faster. To get on the ballot here in Michigan, for example, the party must receive a certain percentage of the vote. Failure to do so requires this party to take up petitions and to obtain a specific number of names of registered voters before it can be placed on the ballot. But here is the rub. The subversive squad of the State Police took these lists circulated by the Communists, Trotskyists, Socialist Labor Party, and have placed every signer of the petitions under suspect, subject to later investigation.

(From an article by Karl Frederick, Socialist Standard, October 1954)

Monday, October 30, 2023

Editorial: The Show Opens. (1906)

Editorial from the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Westminster Palace of Varieties is now open and the performance is about to commence. Already the inaugural ceremonies have been held and have passed off without hitch of any sort, the quick-change artistes, sleight-of-handists, lampoonists, thimble-riggers, contortionists, low-comedians, heavy “leads,” infant prodigies, double-summersaultists, clowns, pantaloons and the rest having been at infinite pains to get their parts off letter perfect. The troupe manager has announced the programme which, however, may not strictly follow the advertised order, and we are now in a position to know the turns that may come on although, of course, we are not able to anticipate all the “business” the artistes may introduce. With some of the programme we, like our fathers before us, are very familiar. “Safe” turns these, which have already come through the heat of controversy and the burden of examination, mellowed but little impared in the eyes of the average audience who still applaud the “gags” and “wheezes” as though they were all new and novel. For those, however, who, being afflicted with good memories, have not unnaturally wearied of the horrible sameness of the performance, new turns have been introduced, from these great things are expected. It is confidently anticipated that they will prove good draws and secure for the management the continued and extended patronage of the great public, All of them, however, will be found, we think, of the stage stagey, bearing no relation to the real life of the people, and although the audience may respond in a manner gratifying to the Showmen, they will find that there is as little in the new business as there was in the old—that directly it is endeavoured to translate into every-day existence the schemes that look and work out so effectively in the parliamentary story they will be found out as the mere sleight-of-hand tricks they really are. On the stage they seem real enough. Off the stage the are tawdry and ludicrous.

An Affecting “Turn.”
The great feature of the show we understand from the theatrical Press is to be “Social Reform”— “Revolutionary Reform” as one paper described it. The management simply palpitates with “Social Reform.” The whole Company will concentrate upon “Social Reform.” Indeed, so pronounced is their “conspicuous zeal for the social question” that when Mr. G. N. Barnes (of the great L.R.C. combination) had finished his quiet and lucid argument for old age pensions, there was a strong expression of Liberal approval and—O! marvel of marvels!—”more than one ministerialist shook Mr. Barnes by the hand !” Surely zeal could no further go—especially when we know the revolutionary extent of Mr. Barnes’ reform. He would pay to the deserving worker upon attaining 65 years of age, 5/—five whole shillings without deduction—per week. And the average age of death of the working class is less than one half 65 ! And 5/- per week as Mr. Barnes may not know (being only a “Labour” troupist) would barely confine the bones of a man within his skin, let alone keep his heart pulsating within him. “It is a disgrace to the head and heart of the nation that agricultural labourers should receive only 14/- or 15/- per week” says Mr. Barnes. “He cannot live upon it.” So at a time when he will want a little less hardship and a more expensive form of nourishment, and when he will be unable to augment his income through failing strength, instead of sending him to the workhouse (where his maintenance will cost at least twice as much) we will recognise his services to the State, his many years of arduous endeavour in the building up of the prosperity of the country, by pensioning him with 5/- per week—every week regularly—and let him spend his last days in honourable retirement and comfort—or die like the ungrateful dog he would be and may heaven have mercy on his soul as we have had on his body. O ! a zeal for “Social Reform”; a great-heart hunger for the well-being of the common people. And many a ministerialist shook Mr. Barnes by the hand for very sympathy and appreciation ! It must have been an affecting moment.

The Inaugural Chorus.
The opening chorus of a Parliamentary Sessions immediately following a general election if it seldom improves, is always interesting. The members arrive with their blushing honours more thickly upon them than the electoral eggs (rhetorical and other) of their political opponents ever were, and full to the brim with good intentions that generally serve, subsequently, to pave the road to Hell. So that if by any chance they are enabled to vent their oratorial ability upon the King’s alleged speech, their sayings are likely to be as near as they ever will be to the most advanced views they may treasure in the inmost recesses of their heads. This will apply more particularly to the Labour members who, accustomed, as it is pointed out, to taking the floor in all sorts of gatherings, would not be afflicted with that temptation born we understand of the dignity and grandeur of the “mother of Parliaments” which maketh the heart of the ordinary fledgling to run to water within him. Being, therefore, without the handicap of “nerves,” and having an almost unlimited field over which to roam, these Labour candidates (who, by the way, seem to have suddenly been born again as “Socialist” candidates) may be expected to strike out vigorously or as vigorously as they ever will strike. In these circumstances it is interesting—as marking the manner of parliamentarians they are likely to be—to note how these advanced “Labour Party” representatives have deported themselves in speech in the most advanced (revolutionary reform) parliament in English History.

Signs & Portends.
The case of Mr. Barnes has already been mentioned. He is not likely to set the Thames afire. Mr. Keir Hardie seems to have been strong on Temperance Reform and against Conscription—but so are quite a number of sober and respectable capitalist members on both sides of the House. Mr. O’Grady will be loyal to his leader—a promise he may find it more difficult to refrain from breaking than he apparently thinks at present. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald (whose bosom, we learn, flamed like unto his chief's with the red tie of intransigency) would have the manufacture of volunteer clothing taken away from sweating contractors and given over to the Army Clothing Department—a sweater’s paradise ? Mr. Crooks has confined himself so far to interjecting his customary inanities, and the others—are waiting for chances. To the “Labour Party” collectively the “King’s Speech,” which contained of course nothing definite likely to be of value to the working class, was so satisfactory that they decided to move no amendment, while the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress rushed in eagerly with a resolution of gratification and thanks to the Premier. Altogether not a very auspicious commencement. However, as we expected no more we are not so depressed as those who thought the new members would start the fight at the very first opportunity—on the subject of the unemployed who cannot wait without starving, for example. Persons who, professing Socialism with the lip, will reduce it to “Labourism” to secure election, may well be expected to sink their “Labourism” after election to secure a standing. We shall not be astounded, therefore, at anything they may do or not do—unless, indeed, they suddenly awake to the necessity of striking a blow for their class against all the forms and opinions of a capitalist House of Commons. We shall none the less watch their proceedings carefully and report to that portion of the working class we are able to reach.

Meanwhile it is of interest to note that the conditions of the chinaman in South Africa which before the election were depicted on every Liberal poster as slavery in its most degrading form, have now become “well fed and well cared for,” conditions which the Liberal Government do not at present propose to affect, while to describe such conditions as slavery is “terminological inexactitude.” In ordinary everyday language the Liberal election propaganda upon the Chinese Labour Question was entirely fraudulent, conducted as we pointed out with the deliberate intention of deceiving the electorate.

The Pillory. (1906)

From the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard
“‘What we want now is money. Get it—honestly if you can, of course—but get it. . . We will take all of it we can get for our present electoral contests.’
After this barefaced appeal will the S.D.F. candidates still pretend to be shocked at the suggestion that they are being financed with Tory money ?” 
Camborne Liberal Election Leaflet

The above leaflet is a specimen of the stuff which was distributed at Camborne. . . A number of similar leaflets against the S.D.F. were issued during the recent elections. 
Justice comment,17.2.06.
If the “similar leaflets” contained the same sort of “stuff,” wherein lies the cause for Justice’s complaint? The “stuff” is reproduced from the columns of Justice. It is Justice’s own particular “stuff.” What are we to conclude ? Is it that in Justice the “stuff” is “literary matter” and only becomes “stuff” when used against the S.D.F. ? If so, who is to blame—the writer of the “literary matter” which is “stuff” or the reproducer thereof ? Justice should be more explicit. However, “stuff” is a good word. Let it stand.
“. . . Our only hope lies in successful political action. Yet the majority of our organisation seems wholly destitute of political aptitude. . . I feel I have done all the good I can do in the detail work of the organisation.” 
H.M.Hyndman, resigning from S.D.F. E.C. Aug. 1st, 1900. 
“If any branch of the S.D.F. thinks proper to nominate me and the delegates choose to elect me, I am quite ready to rejoin the Executive of our organisation.” 
H. M. Hyndman, Feb. 3.06.
The question now arises—is this change of view due to the improvement of the S.D.F. or the deterioration of H.M.H. ? The evidences of the former are not very perceptible ; and the enthusiastic S.D.F-er will indignantly repudiate the suggestion that his organisation ever changes. “As it was in the beginning,” etc. On the other hand the same enthusiast will let off all sorts of rhetorical fireworks in protest against the suggestion that H.M.H. has deteriorated. Ah! Well! It isn’t the only S.D.F. problem the S.D.F-er cannot solve.
“. . for the man of cool, calculating, reflective mind, there had been Bernard Shaw’s candid acknowledgement on a Burnley platform that through all these years Hyndman had been right in his uncompromising course, and the tactical error had lain with the Fabian pursuing a permeation which did not permeate.” 
Justice, 20.1.06.

“The Fabian Society is always right. . . The stupendous and abysmal incapacity for public affairs (of the Social Democratic Federation) and the absence of all sense of proportion and even of humour . . are beyond all words . . I apologise to the universe for my connection with such a Party.” 
Bernard Shaw, 2.2.06.
No comment necessary except, perhaps—! !
“He (Keir Hardie) has pursued a very difficult course with indomitable courage and unswerving independence and steadfast fidelity. . . His position as leader of the new party . . will call for the constant display of those qualities by which he has gained the position. The right man in the right place.” 
Justice, 17.2.06. 
“Keir Hardie is now a statesman. He thinks of peddling reforms in periods of generations.” 
Justice, 11.2.05.

“The genial Keir . . . weaves ‘facts’ out of imagination in somewhat alarming style, and suppresses inconvenient others in a manner worthy of a Liberal or Tory cabinet minister.” 
Justice, 10.6.05.

“We Social Democrats . . . are ready and eager to render them (the new Labour members) any assistance we can outside the House of Commons. . . They have undertaken a very heavy responsibility. We hope and believe they will rise to the level of the occasion.” 
Justice, 17.2.06.

“It is not easy to see what useful purpose they (the Labour members) serve . .They rally to the support of the opposition and vote steadily against the Government at the bidding of the Liberal Whips; but that any ordinary capitalist Liberal could do. . Things have come to a fine pass when a Liberal paper complains of the supineness of the Labour members.” 
Justice, 20.5.05.

“The fact is these Labour members have mistaken their position. They no longer regard themselves as agitators . . . To them the House of Commons appears . . a sort of haven of rest, entrance into which is the guerdon of a life’s work accomplished. Their constant prayer appears to be ‘give peace in our time, O Lord.’ They are clothed with dignity as with a garment and they object to having their ease disturbed.” 
Justice, 3.6.05.

“Even the most friendly critics . . speak with ill-disguised contempt of these elected persons who pose as the representatives of the great working class, yet, as we have repeatedly pointed out, will neither do anything for the people themselves nor, if they can help it, will let anybody else do any thing . . Crooks, Henderson, and Shackleton, of the much advertised Labour Representation Committee, display equal caution, not to say pusillanimity and cowardice . . The ‘Labour Party’ as it stands, or grovels, in the English House of Commons, is merely an appendage to the capitalist parties, whose politicians use it systematically to gull and humbug the workers.” 
Justice, 27.5.05.
So we are to “hope and believe” that the men who for years have been only distinguished from capitalist members by pusillanimity and cowardice and supineness ; who have done nothing for the people ; who formed a grovelling appendage to the Liberal Party ; will rise to the level of the occasion. And why ? The pusillanimous cowards of the last Parliament have been returned to this. Only there are more of them. Are the new men better than the old ? How ? Does Justice want us to play the fool game of waiting for results we know are sure ? Is experience no use at all ? Or is Justice’s change of front intended to pave the way for the return of the S.D.F. to the L.R.C. from which so many of its members regret having withdrawn and whose financial and other assistance they so earnestly desire for their own candidates ?
Before the Election.

After the Election.
“The word slavery had been employed, not so much as an accurate representation of it, as a descriptive term.” Lord Crewe.
“They all knew that at the time of the elections many things were said which ought not to have been said. I do not dispute that the Chinese were well treated and well fed.” Lord Ripon.
“What they were now doing was not finding some way of getting out of the question of Chinese labour. They had to avoid even the appearance of being unfair to any section of the community, because anything done at the present moment would leave behind it the root of bitterness, which might be fatal to the prosperity and happiness of the Colony. At the present time they had not the information necessary to enable them to come to a decision. The particular method by which they would obtain their information they had not yet determined upon.” Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.
Note to the working class—Sold again !

Some publications: Riches and Poverty. (1906)

Book Review from the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Riches and Poverty, by L. C. Chiozza Money, 5/- nett.

A valuable book. A very valuable book—up to a point. A most effective arrangement of startling figures. An armoury of facts for the propagandist,—facts which the Socialist can use to most excellent purpose. A really splendid compilation of comparative tables so clearly set out that the wayfaring man, though a fool, can see he is being robbed. But the wayfaring man will not see the figures unless they are extracted for him and reproduced in some cheaper publication. The book is too dear.

That is the first criticism we have to offer. Its price puts it out of the range of the possibilities of the purse of that portion of the proletariat who purchase such publications for perusal.

The second criticism is that the book is only valuable up to a point. That point is reached where the tables leave off. After that point the book is still interesting as showing how close a man can sail to the Socialist position without being forced to concede that nothing short of Socialism can suffice to effect that change in the distribution of wealth which Mr. Money desires; as shewing how a man may cut the ground clean from under him and yet proceed apparently indifferent to the fact that he is dancing upon nothing. Mr. Money’s work frequently conveys the same impression. It is as though he sets out with the best of intentions determined that he will not again be baulked in his purpose ; determined to argue his case logically from effect to cause and to put his findings upon record, only to find that a something or somebody lies in wait within that radius which marks the utmost limit of the area over which the capitalist scribe may operate, to prevent his further advance and by the exercise of a power against which he has never apparently prevailed, to turn him back by a painfully circuitous course to the point from which he started. What that something is may be a matter of conjecture—to some. Those unfamiliar with his work might ascribe it to Mr. Money’s lack of knowledge. But we do not share that view. Whatever else it may be it is not ignorance. But it is always successful in its endeavours to head Mr. Money off.

And so it comes about that having compiled valuable data for the Socialist, having given an excellent summary of the national balance sheet and, which is almost equally valuable, shewn how he has arrived at his figures for the different items, having formulated an unanswerable indictment of the present system and made quite clear—by inference—that the system is absolutely rotten at its base and that things as they are can only be materially improved by the destruction of the foundations and the erection of an entirely new social edifice upon a new foundation,—having done this he peters out in a recital of petty-fogging and miserably inadequate proposals, none of which go down to root causes and all of which when realised would, therefore, hardly make any appreciable impression upon the problems they were designed to solve.

The consideration of these proposals occupy one half the book. They are not valuable suggestions. They are not new. They may all be found in the programmes of the many reform organisations whose existence and whose work operate so disastrously to the confusion of the working-class mind. Our concern is for a clear working-class mind. The working class must understand their position and the reasons why that position is so hazardous and unhappy. Because the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class themselves. And if they are inveigled into the belief that Mr. Money’s “remedial” measures matter, they are led into a mental bog from which they must extricate themselves before they can organise their strength for the overthrow of the system which causes their misery. While they are doing that they are wasting time and expending their force uselessly.

Therefore, while gladly admitting the value of Mr. Money’s statistics, we consider the last half of his work highly mischievous. He should issue it in two volumes—the statistical part for sale at a few pence; the other part at a few pounds. We make him a present of the suggestion and hope he will act upon it.
A. J. M. Gray

Some publications: An Unauthorised Programme. (1906)

Book Reviews from the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

“An Unauthorised Programme" and “Poverty” by R. J. Derfel (Manchester), each 2d.

Two pamphlets designed to shew that Trade Unionists, Co-operators, Labour Representators and Socialists—particularly Socialists—are all more or less right in their conceptions of the causes of poverty and all more or less wrong (generally more) in the methods they adopt to effect a change. Socialism alone, the author holds, will guarantee the poor against the misery of their present condition, but they will never understand that until Socialists organize Labour to do something that will bring some immediate benefit to them (the workers).

It seems there’s far too much talking at present and not enough doing.

This should, says Mr. Derfel, be at once remedied. The first thing is to do—more talking ! We should have a world convention of all “religions and churches, reformers, philanthropists, Socialists and all professions and interests.” This is bound to do good. Thereafter we should form societies to provide coals, clothing, milk, food, houses, and, yes, and funerals—particularly we presume funerals. Under this soup and blanket treatment the workers will awake and abolish the philanthropists, etc., etc., etc., and poverty will be no more. As it is 
“things are getting worse instead of better. Monopolists are not satisfied with joining house to house, they join town to town and country to country in their eager desire to grab all for themselves. . . The churches with scarcely an exception are on the side of private property and privilege. Government and law supported by all their servants from the bum to the judge and defended by the Police and the Army and Navy, are under the control and at the command of the upper classes. . . Our rulers have always, and still do, make the fullest use of force and compulsion in their own interests and that is why . . the many are so poor and miserable.” Nevertheless “it is not true that the upper classes as a class or that both or either of the political parties as a party are enemies to the workers.”
Which of course is very clear. Quite obviously “the upper classes as a class” when they use force and compulsion in their own interests are not doing it in their own interests at all. Not really. They are not the enemies of the workers who keep the workers poor, but the friends ! It therefore quite plainly follows that “the mission of Socialism must be for all. It must appeal to every class.”

By closely following these lines we shall be able “to abolish poverty without doing an injustice to anyone or leaving a feeling of wrong behind.”

”Clearly,” says our author, “there is need for patience.” There is. We are in need of more of it ourselves.

Certainly we are in danger of losing all we have at present to this pathetic product of Mr. Derfel’s muddled thought. When a man sets out as his practical programme (as distinguished from the impractical programmes of all the other folk) the calling together of representatives of all professions and interests to consider ways and means for the abolition of most of the professions and interests represented; when he talks of the necessity for the Socialists’ appeal being to all, at the same time what he emphasises the fact that the dominant class are using every force at their command to keep the working class in subjection ; when he hopes to abolish poverty without leaving a feeling of wrong behind in face of his argument as to proletarian misery being the outcome of the assertion of what the capitalist class undoubtedly regard as their rights ; and when he argues that a people too desperately poor to obtain even the means of sustenance should be encouraged to buy their own houses, he must not be surprised if the normal person fails to raise enthusiasm for Mr. Derfel’s patent prescription for the prevention of poverty.

Mr. Derfel seems to have a good heart and the best of intentions, but his thought requires ordering and his studies augmenting.
A. J. M. Gray

Answers to Correspondents. (1906)

From the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

W. W. — Yes, We saw Shaw's Clarion article and found it as to almost one half lies, and as to most of the other half, blether. We know of no writer who can lie more readily and no writer who can cram so much blether into a given compass. The smartness of some of his fooling is of course granted and so long as it is understood as fooling, there's not much harm done. But quite a number of people seem anxious to believe that behind the fooling there is a desperate earnestness and a set purpose, which may, indeed, be the case, only the purpose hardly ever succeeds in penetrating the top crust of foolery. We should not worry about him. You doubtless noticed that part of his article flatly contradicted other parts, and you will find that future articles and speeches will just as flatly contradict all of it. His one consistent belief is in the infallibility of the Fabian Society and as this Society is practically Shaw, the belief is natural.

Blogger's Note:
I wonder what the article was? I guess one could do a deep dive over at archive.org and see if there is a collection of his journalistic writings from this period online, but it would be purely speculative. It would be funny if the Socialist Standard was talking about this article - especially as I dug it out a few years back to put online as a funny dig against impossibilists - but that dates from March 1905, and I'd be shocked if they were referring to an article that dates from a year before. Maybe all will be revealed in later issues of the Socialist Standard in 1906?

Books and pamphlets for sale. (1906)

Advert from the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

An interesting selection of books and pamphlets. The following are available online:

Spokeshave's 'Jones' Boy' is not available on the net but there's an interesting article on its background over at the Kate Sharpley Library blog.

SPGB Annual Conference. (1906)

Party News from the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sunday, October 29, 2023

[Publications] Received. (1906)

From the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

La Vanguardia, Buenos Aires. The Gaelic American, New York. Weekly People, New York. Labor St Louis, Mo. The Hikari (The Light), Tokyo.

"The Social Revolution," by Karl Kautsky. (1906)

Advert from the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

"The Social Revolution," by Karl Kautsky, author of "The Extinction of Petty Enterprise", will be sent post free to any address for 6½d. Orders should be addressed, The Socialist Party of Great Britain, 1a, Caledonian Road, London, N.

Our Sentiments Also. (1906)

From the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard
We never compromise the truth to make a friend, nor withhold a blow at error lest we make an enemy. In firm assurance of final victory, we pursue our course, unswerved by weak desire for temporary advantage. We are ever straightforward and outspoken, believing that in fearless independence of action, our integrity of purpose will, in the end, win the respect and confidence of those whom we aim to weld into a class-conscious, aggressive body. Our propaganda is not alone to educate, but also to organise the workers for the conquest of public power, for the complete overthrow of capitalism. Until that mission is accomplished we will stand like a rock, alert and watchful, yielding to nothing.Sanial.

Battersea. (1906)

Party News from the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Battersea will hold a Social at Sydney Hall to-morrow (Sunday) evening, at which all comrades and friends will be welcomed. On Sunday the 11th, an open discussion will take place on the contents of this issue of the Socialist Standard: on the 18th they will hold a Commune Celebration; and on the 24th H. J. Neumann will deliver a lecture on "The 2nd and 3rd Books of Karl Marx."

Voice From The Back: Yesterday’s enemy (2003)

The Voice From The Back Column from the October 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Yesterday’s enemy

At the end of the second world war there was a scramble between the so-called “allies” to capture as many German rocket and atomic scientists as possible. The US eagerly sought information from Japanese medical teams who had carried out horrific experiments on captured Chinese children. The British government armed Japanese soldiers to protect British colonies from the threat of nationalists. War crimes were overlooked in the “national interest”. A similar situation is developing in Iraq. “While not confirming it, Mr Bremer (the US-appointed administrator in Iraq), failed to deny a report in the Washington Post that the United States was recruiting members of Saddam’s once-dreaded Mukhabarat, the former foreign intelligence service, to provide information on terrorist infiltration from Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia”, Times (25 August). Murderers and torturers are eagerly recruited by the “alliance”. Surely there is something amiss here. Wasn’t the war supposed to be a heroic battle to rid Iraq of such villains?

Dying for profit

The whole purpose of production inside capitalism is to make a profit. This holds good whether it is landmines or medicine. As a recent report shows, if profit is poor then production will stop. “Specialists in tuberculosis treatment from Gartnavel General Hospital, Glasgow, expressed dismay at Merck, Sharp & Dohme pharmaceutical company’s decision to withdraw a key drug, Zinamide, despite figures showing rates of TB in black African children in England and Wales doubled between 1988 and 1993 and again between 1993 and 1998”, Times (25 August) So kids are suffering and in some cases dying because the directors of a profit driven company decided to stop production. Heartless bastards or shrewd business people? You decide. Perhaps both?

A mad, mad world

Devinder Sharma chairman of the New Delhi-based Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security has come up with some startling statistics that illustrate the nuttiness of the market system. “The richest man in the United Kingdom, the Duke of Westminster, who owns about 55,000 hectares of farm estates, receives an average subsidy of 300,000 pounds sterling as direct payments, and in addition gets 350,000 pounds a year for the 1,200 dairy cows he owns . . . It has now been worked out that the EU provides a daily subsidy of US $2.7 per cow, and Japan provides three times more at US $8, whereas half of India’s 1,000 million people live on less than $2 a day”, (2 September www.zmag.org). A society that values the welfare of a cow higher than that of a human being? Truly, capitalism is a mad house.

Flying high

You may have been alarmed at recent reports of airline passengers dying of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) caused by what they call “economy class syndrome” (ECS). No need to panic, help is at hand. You can be sure of plenty of leg room in the luxuriously transformed Boeing BBJ2 737 which is available for private charter for small parties “Range of 5,400 miles or 11 hours non-stop flight. Connolly leather, as used in the interior of Aston Martin cars, walnut tables and trim. Bathroom with shower, separate WC, twill cotton bathrobes and towels. Swivelling chairs, sleeping accommodation for 14. Full service catering, complimentary champagne and caviar”, Times, Business (13 September). One small snag though. It costs £8,500 per hour. So instead of the modified BBJ2 you might have to suffer ECS and risk DVT.


While half of India’s 1,000 million may be ”living” on less than $2 a day, one US billionaire is still coining it in. “Bill Gates yesterday became eligible for a $186 million (£116 million) dividend payout, adding to his estimated $32.5 billion fortune from his stake in Microsoft. Gates would earn $2.58 million a year in interest payments if he deposited the dividend in an instant access saving account at Wells Fargo bank. That is the equivalent of $7,000 a day, or $292 an hour, or $4.86 a minute”, Times (13 September). $7,000 a day instead of $2 a day! Who could defend such a system?

Capitalism, war and atrocity (2003)

From the October 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

The various enquiries into the events leading up to the Iraq war keep showing up more of the dubious ways the government tried to get voters’ support for a war which was launched in defiance of their own international law and the United Nations. But however much Blair’s back is to the wall, he can (and does) always make the excuse that even if the actions of Britain and America are not justified in any other way, the regime of Saddam Hussein was so terrible that no one can be sorry that Bush and Blair sent their armies in and threw him out. Almost all wars can be justified by pointing out how bad the other side is. All capitalist governments do unpleasant things: that is the inescapable nature of capitalism. So whenever two capitalist powers go to war, each can make a strong case against the other, by alleging how shocked they are about all the repulsive things the enemy has done.

When hostility ripens into open warfare, each side’s ruling class does even more terrible things to the other side, destroying its towns and slaughtering its people. This gives both belligerent countries even more propaganda points to make. Before long, each side is claiming that it only started fighting in the first place because (in some miraculous way) it could see what barbarous actions its enemies were going to be guilty of in the war. In other words, the propaganda of each hostile country claims that it only went to war because of the atrocities committed during the war on the other side.

The truth, however, is exactly the opposite. It is not the atrocities which lead to war; it is the war which leads to the atrocities. What happens, over and over again, is that a government, reacting to the pressures inseparable from capitalist (and other private-property) societies, treats some of its citizens very badly. Then the government gets into a war against other states; only to realize that its previous ill-treatment of this or that minority has simply provided a ready-made fifth column for the enemy. In other words, if the enemy should make a successful attack on the home territory, there are many citizens of the home country who would almost certainly prefer the enemy to win, and therefore might well engage in sabotage or guerrilla attacks on the home forces. If the war begins to go badly, the government and its supporters become terrified that they will lose and will therefore be killed (either by the enemy or by knives in the back) or at least driven into poverty and exile: terrified of such an impending fate, they turn on those whom they have previously ill-treated, and murder them.

Armenian massacres
The massacre of the Armenians, in Turkey in 1915, came about in this way. The Armenians lived in eastern Anatolia, close to the Turkish centre of the Ottoman Empire, and often showed rebellious tendencies. There were demands for independence. In addition the Turks were Muslims, and the Armenians Christians, which gave an excuse for more villainy: nothing is so bad that religion will not make it worse. The Turks treated the “disloyal” Armenians very badly, to the extent of killing many thousands of them in the 1890s. Then in 1914 the first World War broke out, and Turkey joined in on the side of Germany.

The Russians advanced into eastern Anatolia, and were helped by many Armenians, wanting revenge against the Turks; and on top of that, numbers of British and Australian troops invaded Gallipoli, in north-western Turkey, in April 1915 (after a naval attack in February). With the country being invaded, the Armenians were obviously a danger to the Turkish authorities, and action was taken to nullify that danger. Many of the Armenian men were massacred, and the women and children were sent on forced marches to the deserts of what are now Syria and Iraq, robbed, raped, harassed and injured continuously, and most of them died. Estimates of the number who perished vary; the Armenians say 1,500,000 or more, the Turks say “only” 600,000. Many accounts of the massacre treat it in isolation, as if it was merely the result of Turkish (and Muslim) wickedness; in fact it started almost on the exact day in April 1915 that the Allies landed at Gallipoli. Presumably this separation of the two events is to maintain the fiction that the war was because of the atrocity, rather than that the atrocity was because of the war.

Second World War
Another horror of the same kind was what is now called the Holocaust. The Germans were treated very badly after the first World War. For many years they were execrated as pariahs who were solely responsible for the war; a continuing blockade caused much suffering, and the demand for “reparations” caused runaway inflation, so people who had worked hard for years to make small savings saw them reduced to nothing. The Nazi party gained popularity by offering someone else to blame: the Jews, who were in a minority in many countries, not having their own state, and who therefore were ideal scapegoats. Hitler was in power from 1933, and began the regular and open ill-treatment of the Jews; in 1935 the Nuremberg Laws made the German Jews second-class citizens, e.g. closing the professions to them.

Anti-semitism was not particularly frowned on in Britain at the time, and two years after the infamous Nuremberg Laws, in 1937, Churchill said that “he hoped Great Britain would have a man like Hitler in times of peril” (quoted in the Times obituary of Leni Riefenstahl, 11 September) . Besides that, Poland at the same time, under the anti-semitic regime of the dictator Pilsudski and his successor Smigly-Rydz, treated the Jews even worse (and even joined in Hitler’s dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1938); yet Britain actually declared war in 1939 in order (it claimed) to defend this totalitarian anti-semitic state. For some time Germany seemed to be winning the war, conquering much of Poland in 1939, then Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France in 1940, and Greece and Yugoslavia in 1941; but in June 1941 Hitler invaded Russia, and after early successes, his armies became bogged down, at the same time as America entered the war in December 1941. It became clear that Germany was in for a long and potentially disastrous struggle against many powerful enemies, in which large numbers of Jews, not only in Germany but also in the conquered countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, would not surprisingly be hoping for a German defeat.

The next step could have been forecast: the Wannsee Conference (in Berlin) of leading Nazis, in January 1942, decided on the “Final Solution” – the murder of the entire Jewish people. Probably six million Jews perished, as well as the same number of other people whom the Nazis claimed to think were inferior. This monstrous crime, carried out in the years 1942-5, is now often given as the reason for Britain’s declaration of war in September 1939. In fact it was the other way round; the conflicting interests, arising inevitably out of capitalism, of a number of European and world powers, led to the war: and the war led to the atrocity.

The third case of this kind is of course Iraq. The various conflicts in which Iraq has been involved recently, arising from the inexorable conditions of capitalism, such as the desire of each particular country’s ruling class to make the most profits from oil, and its efforts to extend the territory over which it rules, have lasted for no less than twenty of the last twenty-three years. The war against Iran raged from 1980 to 1988. Then Saddam Hussein’s attempt to conquer Kuwait in 1991 led to the first Gulf War, which ended with the first President Bush leaving Saddam in power, for fear that his overthrow would lead to a much greater role in the Middle East for Iran, which the US regarded as a greater threat than Iraq. But the war and the deaths resumed in a slightly different form, by means of continuous air patrols over Iraq territory and by economic sanctions, which UNICEF thought had brought about the deaths of nearly half a million Iraqi children under five.

All these hostilities, including this second Gulf War of 1991 to 2003, however much they might be blamed on the then Iraqi leadership, resulted in those leaders having the same mindset which has been discussed above: the fear of disaster for their regime, and death for themselves. This frame of mind leads automatically to atrocious behaviour from rulers, and Saddam Hussein has been no exception: jailing opponents, a ubiquitous secret police, the torture and murder of suspects.

Saddam Hussein has been just as bad as many other rulers across the world (including many with whom Britain and America are allied). But for Blair now to claim that he went to war because of this behaviour is putting the cart before the horse with a vengeance. The horrendous regime of Saddam Hussein was a by-product of the two Gulf Wars of 1991-2003, not the other way round. If you want to have done with barbarous dictators like Saddam Hussein, it’s a waste of time to go to war: others will spring up everywhere. Get rid of capitalism, the fertile soil which produces endless numbers of dictators and atrocities.
Alwyn Edgar

Greasy Pole: Sexing it up (2003)

The Greasy Pole column from the October 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sexing it up
If it should turn out that Andrew Gilligan gets the sack from the BBC as a result of the Hutton Inquiry he need not be unduly worried about spending the rest of his life on the dole being harassed by Job Centre clerks into taking jobs like packing airline meals or cleaning offices at about five pounds an hour without any relief from a generous expense account. For he is given credit as the originator of the phrase “sexing up” and that alone should ensure he had no problem in finding a job with an advertising agency. “Sexing up” has gone down into history now, to take its place in the dictionaries of the future. Gruesome, punchy – and a bit thrilling – it exactly expressed the embellishment of the propaganda material being used by the Blair government to justify attacking Iraq. As a phrase it is a lot more effective and expressive than “over-egging” – the other one used at the Hutton enquiry. So well done Andrew; let us hope you will never have to use such an extravagant talent writing similar slogans to help sell cornflakes or washing powder or whatever.

But why did we have to wait so long for some creative genius to come up with the phrase? Sexing up is a long established, long discredited technique in the places where there is a need to excite us at the same time as we are deceived. And there are many, many examples of it being used. Take the case of the Bountiful Age of Nuclear Power. At the time when the world was still getting its breath back after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki there was encouragement to divert from the inevitable doubts and fear for the future by concentrating instead on the promised benefits of nuclear power. The motive was to replace the images of devastated cities and radiated people with those of modern, sanitary, fertile power stations. There was a need for some sexing up, to encourage the consolation that Britain had not been bled out of the top ranks of world capitalism by the war but was a vibrant, progressive power in the world.

Calder Hall
The first subject of this was the atomic power station at Calder Hall in Cumbria, which opened in 1956. It cost thirty five million pounds – at 1950s’ prices – to build and there had to be some justification for such a staggering amount of money. The first effort at sexing up came with the assurance that far from being a backwater Britain was entering the “new atomic age”. Then there was the claim that Calder Hall would produce electricity “too cheap to meter”. That was the time when the domestic appliance market was beginning to stir into life and manufacturers like Hoover would have found comfort in the prospect of workers being beguiled by the notion that if they bought a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine they could run it for next to nothing. But behind the sexing up there was a less entrancing reality for Calder Hall used most of the electricity it produced itself, with only about a quarter of it going out to the national grid. And far from the electricity being almost free, the new atomic station turned out to be the most expensive way of producing it. The real reason for building Calder Hall was to produce plutonium for weapons – for the Hiroshimas of the future. A fact which was rather more difficult to sex up.

But none of this was allowed to intrude on the hysteria about the supposed benefits of nuclear energy. By contemporary standards Calder Hall was primitive; newer developments were the Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor (a British design) and the Pressurised Water Reactor (an American design). By the time of the election of the 1964 Labour government under Harold Wilson there was no more talk about nuclear energy being cheaper than what was produced in conventional power stations. But Wilson had won an election on a promise that his government would swamp everyone with plenty in a new technological age – “moving forward in partnership and unity to a just society, to a dynamic, expanding, confident and above all, purposive Britain”. The government could hardly refuse to choose the British technology – the AGR. The Minister of Power Fred Lee was euphoric. By building the AGRs, he assured us, we had “really hit the jackpot”; it was “the greatest breakthrough of all time” and he would back his judgment by ordering a 60 percent increase in them. But after the sexing up came reality. The first AGR station, set down on the bleak cobbles of Dungeness, cost twice as much to build as the original promise and it was 20 years before it generated any power for the national grid.

At about the same time as Calder Hall began to grind into action a new Prime Minister was beginning to enjoy the sensation of having led his party into a historic election victory. Anthony Eden was an ideal English aristocrat – handsome, elegant, Old Etonian – not at all the type to be expected to get into anything as dishonourable as sexing up. Unhappily for him, however, Eden nurtured a few resentments about the decline of British capitalism as a world power, particularly in the Middle East. Eden was not your strong, silent type of English gentleman; an operation on him to remove gall stones had gone wrong, leaving him living on drugs and consequently inclined to be irascibly, blindly stubborn.

There was a new government too in Egypt, headed by ex-army officer Abdel Nasser who was sexed up by his supporters as “. . . a strong man . . . a practising Moslem and a proud nationalist”. This was not good news for British interests in the region, especially those centered on the Suez Canal, which carried 25 percent of all their exports and half the oil produced in the Middle East. In July 1956 the Egyptian government nationalised the Canal, declaring that the revenue from this would go towards financing the building of the Aswan Dam. After a certain amount of diplomatic skirmishing, which included a secret agreement to collude in an Israeli attack on Egypt so as to give them the excuse to intervene, the British and French governments sent their forces into Egypt.

This was not an enterprise which commanded unanimous support, which meant that the case for it needed to be pushed with the customary disregard for the truth. First, there was Nasser himself, who had to be sexed up as a kind of Saddam Hussain of his day. Eden set his thoughts out to President Eisenhower:
“I have never thought of Nasser as a Hitler but the parallel with Mussolini is close. Neither of us can forget the lives and treasure he cost us before he was finally dealt with. Our people are grimly determined that Nasser shall not get away with it this time, because they are convinced that if he does their existence will be at his mercy.”
And a few days later he was on television, trying to scare the viewers by sexing up the style of the regime in Egypt:
“The pattern is familiar to many of us, my friends. We all know this is how fascist governments behave, as we all remember, only too well, what the cost can be in giving in to fascism.”
It did not take long for the whole tawdry episode to be brought to an end, for Washington to force the British and French to withdraw, for the agreement between Britain, France and Israel to be exposed, for Eden to collapse under the strain so that he abruptly resigned and took himself off to the West Indies to recover. Sexing it up had not worked.

That was all a long time ago and the conspirators, the big players and the people who sexed it up to frighten or cajole or deceive us are an embarrassing memory. After them, the social system lives on, relentlessly adding to its history of human disasters, of which Iraq is only the latest. And still there are the feeble, transparent attempts through conspiracy, spin or sexing up, to conceal reality.

English Nursery Rhyme (2003)

From the October 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard
They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own,
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.

                                                 – circa 1764

Blogger's Note:
A fuller version of the poem can be viewed here

Obituary: Julius Merry (2003)

Obituary from the October 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regret to have report the death at the end of August of our comrade Julius Merry at the age of 80. The son of immigrants from Tsarist Russia and brought up in the East End of London, he joined the party in 1941 after listening, as a young medical student, to Party speakers in Hyde Park. Medical students were exempt from conscription until they qualified, so it was not until after the war that he was called up and became a conscientious objector to the process of being trained to fight and kill fellow workers from other parts of the world. At first this resulted in some difficulty for him in finding a job, but he eventually rose to the top of his profession as Professor of Psychiatry at St Thomas's Hospital in London and at the University of Surrey. He was one of the pioneers of group therapy in Britain and also argued for the legalisation rather than the prohibition of drugs.

Being an eminent professor did not alter his socialist views, and he continued to engage in the unprofessorial activity of handing out leaflets at meetings and leaving back copies of the Socialist Standard on trains or sending them to all his friends and acquaintances. Among these was the anglophile multi-millionaire Sir Paul Getty whose entry in the book of famous last words could apparently read "Julius, do please come and visit me again - just don't bring me another Socialist Standard". One of comrade Merry's last wishes was that copies of the Standard should be handed out to all those who attended his non-religious funeral, a wish which was respected.

Our sincere condolences go to his family.

Blogger's Note:
An obituary for Comrade Merry also appeared in the March 2004 issue of the Psychiatric Bulletin, which goes into greater detail about his life.

The Truth about Globalisation? (2003)

Book Review from the October 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Open World: the Truth about Globalisation. By Philippe Legrain. (Abacus £7.99.)

This book has been touted as the definitive response to the ‘anti-globalisation’ movement and writers such as George Monbiot and Naomi Klein (author of No Logo). Essentially, Legrain argues that globalisation is A Good Thing, delivering jobs and a better standard of living to poor countries and cheaper goods to the developed world. Coupled with free trade, and appropriate government action to prevent any unwanted side effects, it can benefit everyone.

Legrain begins by arguing that globalisation has not proceeded as far as many people may feel. For instance, three-quarters of the goods in British shops are made in the UK, and most people work for British companies; in the US, the corresponding figures are around 90 percent in both cases. He also has a genuinely useful chapter on the history of globalisation, suggesting that it was already well under way when the Industrial Revolution started.

But he then goes on to claim that workers in poor countries benefit from globalisation. In Vietnam, for instance, foreign-run factories pay around double the average local wage, and technology and management skills are transferred inwards. Yet sometimes he is astonishingly naive: he visits a Nike contract factory there, and describes it as “bright, airy, clean and safe”, but says nothing about the many other reports of low wages and appalling working conditions in sweatshops. He justifies the vast difference between what the workers earn per shoe ($2) and what the shoes sell for ($72) by noting all the other costs and the need for Nike to make a profit. In fact, this is his general argument: though he hardly uses the word “capitalism”, he is really defending globalisation as part of capitalism, and on the same grounds that capitalist supporters defend the profit system.

Nor, he claims, do brands really rule the world, as Naomi Klein implies. Rather, consumers hold the whip hand, as the brands have to cater to their whims. We still have a choice: if we don’t like Nike, we can buy Adidas (some choice!). Klein is described as virtually fascist for suggesting that ordinary people are manipulated into buying things they don’t really want, while she of course is intelligent enough to see through it all. It is true that people cannot be manipulated in any simplistic way, but they can certainly be influenced, which is why the global brands spend millions on advertising. Legrain also blithely ignores advertising to children, who are clearly far more manipulable than adults.

Equally, companies are supposedly not all-powerful, being at the beck and call of those who buy their products and call the shots. Some of Legrain’s arguments here are just plain silly. For instance, he states that Margaret Thatcher’s privatisation programme was introduced because she thought it made economic sense, “not because she was taking handouts from big business”. But capitalist politicians do what seems to be good for capitalism, and to suggest that such actions would only be taken if they were corrupt is missing the point completely.

Basically, Legrain’s book is a hymn to capitalism and to profit-making. If you think that capitalism is basically a nice, friendly system—though it may need a bit of adjustment from time to time—then it may well be logical to support its globalising aspect. After all, it means more customers, more profits. But the anti-capitalist or anti-globalisation movement, for all its confusions, is a sign that increasing numbers of people are rejecting the idea that profit is good for everyone and that a small number of parasites should control the Earth’s resources. Open World may make the capitalists and their supporters happy about what their system is doing to the world, but in truth it is no more convincing than any other attempt to defend the profit system.
Paul Bennett

Clarification (2003)

From the October 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the article “Animals for Profit” (August) we stated that the International Fund for Animal Welfare had made a donation of £1 million to the Labour Party. The IFAW have asked us to make clear that this donation was made not by them but by the Political Animal Lobby. In their email they explain the position as follows:
In 1997, our Chief Executive Officer, Mr Brian Davies, decided to leave IFAW to set up an alternative animal welfare organisation called the Political Animal Lobby (PAL). As a consequence Mr Fred O’Regan became the IFAW Chief Executive Officer.

In 1997 PAL made a donation of £1 million to the Labour Party, as well as to other political parties, and unfortunately this was reported in the Press as being a donation from IFAW.

We would like to take this opportunity to stress that IFAW and PAL are two separate organisations and therefore one does not have any influence or connection with the other.

As a matter of policy, IFAW UK does not donate to any political party. 
Nickie Mann (IFAW).

Letters: "We’ve got better things to do." (2003)

Letters to the Editors from the October 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

"We’ve got better things to do."

Dear Editors

Regarding the recent dialogue (August Socialist Standard) between the journalist Will Hutton and “RD”, Hutton is clearly wrong to say that socialism has “palpable Christian roots”. Instead socialism and religious thought share (at a psychological level) similar roots – they are both responses to social conditions. Marx’s famous phrase, “the sigh of the oppressed creature” comes to mind.

However we should recognise that the desire for socialism arises not only from the immediate experience of living inside contemporary capitalism. Humans have over the centuries developed abstract ideas or models of justice, fairness and equality from their material experiences. These have been modified through different forms of society and culturally maintained through the years.

Sure, there is much more to socialism than vague ethical notions: socialists have a relatively specific view of society, social change and the alternative to capitalism. But does it really help our cause to go out of our way (as I feel SPGB members sometimes do) to try and deny any continuity – at any level – between our ideas and those of other traditions. We are the Socialist Party (and as such we are right to not permit membership to those with religious views), but we are not The Anti-Religion Party. We’ve got better things to do.

Attacking religion may not necessarily be a waste of time for socialists, but I am more concerned with the general mindset behind this. Of course it is easier to stay secure in a small, ideological (possibly psychological?) bunker. I think it would be healthier however if members more openly recognised that our ideas are sophisticated enough to still allow us to criticise religion at a political level, while at the same time not feel we need to continually begrudge common roots (even with traditions which are nowadays essentially conservative, like religion), without feeling we are somehow compromising our principles.
Brian Gardner, 
Edinburgh Branch

Pour milk down the sink?

Dear Editors

I write with regard to the suggestion in your August edition that Oxfam wants to pour milk down the sink, further to the publication in the Herald of a letter from myself.

The point I was trying to make was not that the EU should destroy excess agricultural produce, but that it should stop subsidising its farmers for overproduction? and therefore not produce excess agricultural produce in the first place! Through the Common Agricultural Policy the EU (and hence EU taxpayers) pay large subsidies (mainly to the richest farmers) for milk production. This results in overproduction and an excess of milk (amongst other produce) which would not arise if farmers were receiving the going market rate for their produce.

The resulting glut of milk results in very cheap exports from the EU to developing countries, undercutting the produce of local farmers and pushing them further into poverty. Three-quarters of those surviving on less than $1 a day live and work as small farmers. These farmers have to compete with the $1billion each day that rich countries spend protecting their own agriculture.

Oxfam don’t want milk poured down the sink, we want a system where the world’s poorest people are given the opportunity to help pull themselves out of poverty. Readers of the Socialist Standard can find out more about Oxfam’s campaigns for fair trade at www.maketradefair.com
Angela O’Hagan, 
Campaigns and Communications Manager, 
Oxfam in Scotland, Glasgow.

It is not so much the reformist policies of politico-charities such as Oxfam that we criticise as the whole market system, under which people can only get access to the things they need if they have money and where most people can only get money by selling either their ability to work or the product of their work (the rest, a tiny minority, get it by owning property that yields them a non-work income in the form rent, interest or profit). Oxfam accepts this system and its logic which rules out giving away market surpluses to the needy as this only makes things worse, by undermining the market for the products in question even further. Hence their proposal, which we commented on in our January issue, to destroy “surplus” coffee. The obvious solution is to institute a system where production is geared to meeting people’s needs, not for sale on a market; that way, people’s needs would be met as a matter of right without needing to pay for them – and without organisations like Oxfam having to devise ways of trying to ensure a adequate monetary income for poor farmers in “developing countries” 

India (2003)

World Socialist Movement News from the October 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

In April a 15-page circular emanating from the e-mail address of the World Socialist Party (India) was sent to various people including ourselves. It contained various allegations against the Socialist Party of Great Britain and other parties in the World Socialist Movement, all based on the conspiracy theory that, with the end of the post-war boom in the early 1970s and the revolutionary possibilities this supposedly opened up, pro-capitalist elements had been infilitrated into the SPGB with the aim of diverting the working class, particularly in the non-European world, from learning about real socialism. The content and tone of the circular revealed that those who issued it did not have the same conception of internal party democracy as the other parties in the World Socialist Movement.

The SPGB Executive Committee sent a detailed and reasoned reply at the beginning of May, refuting the allegations and asking for them to be substantiated or withdrawn and for our reply to be put before the membership of the WSP (India). (For the full texts of the circular and our reply see, in particular, messages 2335 and 2441 at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/spintcom/). No reply was received, and those responsible for the circular indicated through third-parties that none would be forthcoming. In these circumstances, at its meeting in September, the EC concluded that the people using the name and address of the WSP (India) had put themselves outside the WSM and called upon socialists in India, Including in particular expelled members of the old WSP (India), to reorganise themselves on a sound, democratic basis.

Blogger's Note:
I don't have the date immediately to hand but the World Socialist Party of India eventually rejoined the World Socialist Movement.

Obituary: Cyril Oldfield (2003)

Obituary from the October 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Manchester Branch were saddened recently to learn of the death of Comrade Cyril Oldfield at the age of 90.

Cyril Oldfield was living in Luton when he first joined the Socialist Party in 1942. He had previously been a member of the "Communist" Party but was expelled in 1938. According to his own account he toyed briefly with Trotskyism, but came across socialist ideas in 1939 through a member in the same workplace; he was a conscientious objector during the war. Unfortunately he had to leave the Party in 1952, when he went to live in Nigeria. But he remained a committed Socialist, spreading our ideas to fellow workers across Africa.

But then, after a gap of forty years, Cyril Oldfield contacted our Head Office again. He was now living in Horwich, and he re-joined at a meeting in Bolton in 1994. He was at first a member of Central Branch, but transferred a couple of years ago to Manchester Branch. During this period, he attended meetings in Bolton and Manchester. Prior to his death, he had begun to write again, and his review of William Blum's Rogue State appeared in the April Socialist Standard. The party was represented at his funeral and a member made a short contribution on Cyril's Socialist work, at his family's request.

We send our condolences to his wife and family. 
Manchester Branch