Sunday, April 9, 2023

With or Without Comment (1943)

From the November 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Socialism” in Russia: The Archbishop steps in where angels fear to tread

Dr. Garbett, Archbishop of York, after his visit to Russia, has taken it on himself to give us a little lecture on Socialism : —
“Russia is at its present stage a Socialist rather than a Communist State : that is, while the means of production and distribution belong to the State, the individual may keep for his use or dispose of as he thinks fit whatever he has himself earned, including the houses built by individuals on collective farms.” (Daily Express, October 12, 1943.)
This is, of course, not really Dr. Garbett speaking, but the usual propaganda hand-out of the Communists. In recent years the Communists have found it convenient to misapply the term Socialism to Russia’s present form of State capitalism, with its new rich, the rouble millionaires, and to use the term Communism to describe what they used to call Socialism

Exactly 20 years ago the Communist Party of Great Britain published “A Short Course of Economic Science,” by A. Bogdahoff. This book was a textbook used by the Russian Bolsheviks. In it Bogdanoff used the term “socialist system” to describe “the highest stage of society we can conceive” (p. 391). Dealing with distribution, he distinguished between a first phase when, owing to low production, distribution will have to be on the basis of giving products to each individual “in proportion to the amount of labour he has given to society,” and a later phase when “complete freedom of consumption will be established for the worker. Giving society all that he is able in strength and ability, society will give him all that he needs” (p. 385); but he did not seek to justify vast inequality and call it Socialism. Compare, too, his statement : “Under Socialism the question of profits will disappear in production also” (p. 380) with the following statement in the “U.S.S.R. Handbook,” 1936 (compiled from Russian sources with the help of “distinguished Soviet scientists and writers”) : —
“The State farms are operated in the same manner as mills and factories—on ‘business principles’—i.e.. on the basis of yielding profits defined according to the balance sheet of each farm.” (p. 158.)
Socialists do not need the help of the Archbishop to decide what is Socialism and what isn’t.

The Labour Theory of Value

Capitalist economists reject the Marxian labour theory of value, according to which : —
“That which determines the magnitude of the value of any article is the amount of labour socially necessary, or the labour-time socially necessary for its production.” (“Capital,” Kerr Edition, p. 46.)
As this applies to all commodities, including gold, it explains why gold, the money commodity, can serve as a measure of value and medium of exchange for other commodities. A curious illustration of the labour theory has arisen in trade between Sweden and Germany. Not wishing to accept from Germany gold which may have been looted and which may therefore be reclaimed after the war, the Swedish Government has refused to accept payment in gold. Instead, “the Swedes in their barter trade with Germany were now working their exchange on a ‘man-hour’ standard. For example, the Swedes, when importing one ton of coal from Germany, would settle the transaction by exporting as much iron ore as could be produced with the same number of man-hours as went to the production of the ton of coal.” (News Chronicle, July 10, 1943.)

Questions and Answers on Religion

Under the heading, “Why Keep Dog-collar?” Canon T. P. Stevens wrote in the Evening Standard (October 6. 1943) about a soldier’s doubts and difficulties on the subject of religion. He said that he had received a letter “of enormous length” which asked among other things, “Why not get rid of the parsonic voice and the parsonic collar? ” Canon Stevens is sensible enough to realise that those strange whining, toneless voices we hear on the radio are not an asset to the Churches. He is also easy on the subject of the dog collar.

We, too, have received a letter on the subject of religion, but it is not of enormous length. All it says is, “Why keep the dog ? ”

Millionaires of the World, Unite !

The Daily Worker (October 14, 1943) announces that a pamphlet by Reg Bishop has been published entitled Soviet Millionaires,” explaining the whole nature of Soviet “millionairedom.” “The key point,” says the Daily Worker, is made plain—namely, that no person in the Soviet Union can acquire wealth by exploiting other men’s labour for profit, nor can he use acquired wealth for such exploitation.”

The same day the Daily Telegraph published figures about the top salaries paid by various companies in the U.S.A. to film stars, newspaper cartoonists, and others. Mr. Louis B. Mayer, head of the Metro-Goldwyn Film Corporation, receives a salary of £237,000 a year, while Mr. Thomas Watson receives a salary of £115,000 a year from the International Business Machines Corporation.

The point of mentioning these high salaries is that the gentlemen in question can (and do) put forward precisely the same justification as the Daily Worker puts forward for the high salaried individuals and prosperous farmers in Russia. “Do we not work for our money?” they can say. “Is it not payment for the work we do?"

And having saved some part of their salaries and invested it in War Loan or other investments, they can likewise argue that their accumulated wealth and the income they derive from their investments is not “exploitation of other men’s labour.” There is nothing in the Russian finaincial system to prevent those who inherit large sums of money, win big prizes in lottery loans, receive big salaries, or make big profits by the sale of their farm products, from investing in State loans and deriving a larger and larger proportion of their total income from those investments.

A quarter of a century ago Lenin, proclaiming the principle of reducing salaries to the standard remuneration of the average worker (“Soviets at Work,” 1918), said that to pay high salaries was a “regrettable necessity” and “a step backward,” and that to pretend otherwise was to “cheat the people.” Cheating the people seems to be the order of the day among Lenin’s successors.

Of course, the new-rich in Russia have a long way to go before they reach U.S.A. levels, but it seems they will always be able to count on the Communists giving them their blessing.
Edgar Hardcastle

Conscientious Objectors (1943)

From the November 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard
“Stanley Hilton, the Rochdale conscientious objector, who on July 26th was sentenced at his fourth court-martial to two years’ detention, has been released on a ‘suspended sentence.’ . . . Hilton, a Jehovah’s Witness, had spent three years in jail.”—(News Chronicle, October 5, 1943.)

“In this war, as in the last, the position of M.P.s in regard to military service is a difficult and delicate one. The public and even many members of the House of Commons believe that they are legally exempt from the provisions of the National Service Act. This is not so. … A member of the Commons is, by custom, left to decide for himself whether he will serve in the Forces. … In spite of these privileges, some 150 M.P.s are engaged on full-time war service. . . . Rightly the decision is left to the individual conscience.”—(Evening Standard, September 23, 1943.)

SPGB Meetings (1943)

Party News from the November 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sting in the Tail: Who are the crazies? (1995)

The Sting in the Tail column from the April 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Who are the crazies?

Capitalism is a crazy social system. It takes food out of production to keep up prices, while people go hungry. A recent example of this market madness appeared in the Observer (5 February):
"Every morning, farmer Brian Nicholas carefully collects 800 litres of milk—fresh, creamy and frothing—and then tips it all into his muck spreader. . . Mr Nicholas, a small dairy farmer is one of hundreds of producers forced by European Union milk quotas to throwaway his produce this year, following deregulation of the milk industry in November."
Defenders of capitalism are always telling socialists that production for profit is the only sane way to run society. Are we crazy because we think milk should be produced to satisfy human needs?

Sense about race

The racist ideas currently coming out of America are being countered by American scientists. An article in the Independent (21 February) reports that ‘‘the concept of race is out of date and has no biological basis, according to scientists”.

Professor of anthropology Loring Brace told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Atlanta that the division of people into separate races was “an historical hangover from the days of colonial conquest”. Indeed:
"There was no race concept prior to the Renaissance. There is no race concept in the Bible or other writings of antiquity. The best way to refer to people is to use geographical designations. Thus people can be identified as African, or Australian, or European. and the like."
And another anthropologist, Professor Kay, summed it up:
"There is just no valid reason for using existing racial terms. This isn't politically correct, it's scientifically correct. "

The back scratchers

After Labour’s 1945 election victory, the Tories bitterly attacked its policy of wholesale nationalisation. They soon came to accept that, however distasteful, a greater degree of state ownership did have widespread public support and probably was necessary to set post-war British capitalism back on its feet.

Thus Labour did the Tories’ dirty work for them, but see what is happening now. Following the Tory victory in 1979, Labour threatened to return each privatised industry to state ownership, but because this was now a vote-loser and had (as we always said it would) proved to be a flop anyway, these threats have been dropped one-by-one. Now, even water and coal are to stay privatised.

So history is repeating itself: just as Labour after 1945 took the steps which the Tories shrank from taking themselves, the Tories are returning the favour for a future Labour government.

NatWest’s dodgy future

NatWest Bank's 61 percent increase in pretax profits in 1994—up from £989 million to £1.6 billion—was less than well received by the bank's workers. They were furious because the directors will cop huge bonuses, shareholders pocket bigger dividends, while staff get rises averaging 3 percent.

But the City of London wasn’t happy either as the big jump in profits wasn’t due to an improved performance by the bank. Income was down and costs were up while UK banking profits actually fell by £109 million despite savage staff cuts and branch closures.

In fact, the increased profits were almost entirely down to the big drop in bad debt from £1.25 billion to £616 million and is probably a one-off.

The City knows that ever-increasing competition, plus limits to what can be saved by cost-cutting, mean that NatWest’s future profits growth is under threat. Banking is not, as many people imagine, a licence to print money.

Nothing is forever

After World War Two that grand old British institution, the small shopkeeper who was “open all hours”, was decimated by the High Street chainstores which were cheaper and provided greater choice.

The High Street in turn became an institution but is now in trouble. Many of its shops lie empty and Rumbelows entire chain is to close shortly. The recession and high prime-site rents are among the reasons for this, but the main one is the growth of Shopping Malls and edge-of-town Superstores which offer even greater choice plus easy parking.

But nothing is forever. Already Malls and Superstores in America are being challenged by TV shopping which means shoppers don’t even have to leave their homes.

So everything that appears to be stable and permanent is merely in a state of temporary equilibrium and is in the process of becoming something else. This applies not just to capitalism’s hallowed institutions but to the very system itself.

Madras madness

In the Calcutta newspaper, The Telegraph (5th March) we read of the booming trade in kidney selling down in Madras. Like every other market in capitalism, when there is an increase in supply there is a fall in price, in this case from 80,000 rupees to 30,000 rupees. This is approximately from £1,600 to £600.

This macabre trade is defended by a local leading nephrologist. K.C. Reddy is quoted as saying:
"We have a group of people dying and desperate for a kidney. Then there is a group, much below the poverty line, willing to sell anything for some money. For them, selling a kidney is a more altruistic option — at least they are saving, not harming anyone. There is no question of exploitation here."
The newspaper reports that most of the kidneys are going to patients in Germany, Japan and the Gulf. One recipient from Yemen is reported to have paid $10,000 for his transplant.

The whole sordid business is typical of capitalism. Wherever there is human misery there is always “entrepreneurs” quick to cash in. Only in socialism will the best possible medical and health care be free to the whole of the world’s population. 

What the market does to Agriculture (1995)

From the April 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard
Agriculture today is increasingly production for cash — and
 that means that the lifestyles and needs of both producers
 and consumers are afflicted by the blight of profit, like in any
 other sphere of capitalism, with poor working environments,
 ecological destruction and second-rate products. In socialism, 
human “intervention ” in the form of agriculture would no
 longer be dominated by the impersonal forces of the market, 
but would be under conscious human control. Socialism 
could use the technology developed by capitalism in frame-
works best suited to the requirements of farmers and consumers alike, and would substitute production for the sake of
 capital accumulation with production solely for the satisfaction of needs and desires.
Ecology is about the relationships of living organisms to one another and their physical environment. This complex of relationships is arranged into a number of relatively well-defined ecosystems.

Left to itself, an ecosystem will tend to evolve in a process of “ecological succession", from a simple pioneer stage, through intermediate stages, towards a natural “climax". This is when the diversity of life forms that a particular area can support (under prevailing physical and climatic conditions) has reached its full potential, when there are no more ecological niches or unutilised food resources left for new arrivals to exploit. A climax community will tend to be a relatively stable one — that is, the populations of its constituent species fluctuate very little over time — because of the checks and balances they exert upon each other through the food chain.

Human intervention in nature has the potential to profoundly alter this picture. In a sense, though, to talk of intervention is a misnomer. Strictly speaking, we are part of nature—albeit, a uniquely self-conscious part—and act upon other parts of it to meet our material needs. However, because everything is connected in nature, such actions cannot fail to have ecological repercussions for us and other species. A relatively early example of human intervention is agriculture.

Agriculture entails some reduction in the complexity of plant and animal species inhabiting a particular area; it represents a shift backwards along the line of ecological succession. The climax community is replaced by a “successional community” in which nutrients are made available to a relatively smaller and less diverse number of domesticated species selected for human consumption, with potentially destabilising consequences for the ecosystem in question.

This need not necessarily give cause for concern. In any case, we have little choice in this regard, the existing population could not support itself by reverting to hunting and gathering. What should really concern us now is the sustainability of our agricultural practices. This behoves us to take into account the ecological consequences of such practices, to devise some workable compromise between the pressure of human needs and the ecological integrity of nature.

Typically, this is what traditional systems of fanning tended to do. Indeed, the sustainability of such systems is evidenced by the fact that many small farmers, largely concentrated in the so-called Third World, still substantially rely on a repertoire of time-honoured techniques. These help to reinforce, and in turn are rooted in, the social relations of production of traditional societies, characterised by a strong sense of communality and co-operation. Two closely related aspects of this ecological approach to fanning are diversity and self-sufficiency.

The precise package of techniques adopted will tend to subtlely differ from one locality to the next. This is indicative of a highly sophisticated understanding on the part of traditional farmers of the specific environmental constraints they face, and to which they must adapt, with little or no assistance from outside.

Transition to the market economy
Nevertheless, the outside world has increasingly intruded into the realm of traditional farming. With the historical expansion of the market economy, the relationship between human groups and their environment has undergone a profound transformation. Despite the persistence of a large non-market sector—mainly in the Third World, where much of the output of peasants is destined for household consumption or localised gift exchanges—the market has become the dominant economic system in the world today; it connects every part of it in a complex pattern of physical and informational flows.

How has this affected people’s relationship with the land? In small-scale, autarkic pre-capitalist societies, direct dependence on local resources meant that wanton exploitation of these resources would spell ecological (and thus economic) ruin and the disintegration of the community—unless it could migrate or develop new resources.

With the coming of the market economy, the purpose of farming changed radically—from production for local need to production for the market. This has brought about a corresponding change in the nature of farming. An ecological mode of farming, emphasising risk avoidance and long-term stability of output, has gradually given way to a more ecologically exploitative, “industrial” mode of farming.

This mode of fanning is driven by the need to maximise output, to produce agricultural surpluses, to feed a growing urban population resulting from the development of capitalism, This physical separation of the producers and consumers of food, highlighted by the largely one-way flow of organic material (food products) between them, has entailed not only an increasing problem of waste disposal in the urban centres but also a discontinuation of the traditional practice of recycling such material.

When nutrients removed from the soil as harvested crops are not returned to the soil, agricultural productivity will steadily fall—unless this loss can be made good in some other way. That is precisely what industrial fanning has endeavoured to do through increasing applications of industrially produced artificial fertilisers (and other) inputs to boost yields. Thus, by replacing a cyclical flow of nutrients with a linear one it has reduced the dependence of farmers on local resources but only by increasing their dependence on resources originating outside their locality.

It is important to realise that it is not global economic integration as such that is the cause of the abandoning of “conservationist” agricultural practices. What has caused this is the form economic integration has taken historically until now—the profit-driven market economy.

The dynamic of capitalism, regulated by the law of market competition, is to accumulate capital through the maximisation of profit. This puts pressure on economic actors to cut their unit costs in order to undersell their rivals, not to do so would be to risk being priced out of the market. This, in turn, disposes them to adopt both a short-term and narrow view of production.

Commercial farming
From this perspective, the return of off-farm organic wastes to the land, for example, while technically feasible, will be seen as economically undesirable. Firstly, though the benefits it could bring cannot be doubted, these need time to take effect and in the world of business competition “time is money”. Hence, it will tend to be bypassed in favour of techniques which produce more immediate results.
even where these deplete the natural productivity of the soil in the long run.

Secondly, there are costs considerations which make such a proposition problematic. Thus, domestic sewage and industrial wastes tend to be mixed because it is cheaper to dispose of them in this way, rather than separately. This means, however, that the resulting mixture cannot be applied to the land because of the high levels of toxic chemicals and heavy metals it contains. But while it might thus make “economic sense” to apply artificial fertilisers to the land, rather than separate out domestic sewage for recycling, there are other hidden costs involved in such a course of action; these are not reflected in the narrow definition of“cost” employed by a market-based methodology of cost accounting. An example is the leaching of nitrates into rivers which then have to be removed through expensive technology to make drinking water safe. Such incidental costs are treated as “externalities” insofar as they are not shouldered by the enterprise—the commercial farmer—responsible for them, which would make such an enterprise less competitive were it to take such costs into account.

This is not to suggest that production for the market must completely rule out ecological or organic methods of farming. Nevertheless, such methods go against the grain of capitalism. Organic products are usually more expensive than those produced by industrial farming. Farmers hooked on industrial farming often find it very difficult to convert to organic agriculture; in the transition they will usually have to contend with a significant drop in output and probably profit too. Above all, organic agriculture faces formidable and well-organised opposition from multinational corporations supplying industrial inputs to farmers. It is thus hardly surprising that only a tiny fraction of agricultural land in the developed capitalist countries— less than 3 percent in Europe—is devoted to organic agriculture.

In contrast to capitalism, socialism, as a society freed from the profit motive and competitive pressures “to produce as much cash as possible, as cheaply as possible, and as quickly as possible”, will be able to adopt agricultural methods which will achieve a working compromise with nature respecting the long-term considerations which ecological science teaches are vitally important.
Robin Cox

Press Exposure: Who's in Charge? (1995)

The Press Exposure column from the April 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Peter Jay is regarded by many people including himself—as one of the cleverest men in Britain, if not the world or perhaps the entire history of the human race. So what part of his historically wonderful brain malfunctioned when he accepted the job of chief of staff to Robert Maxwell, who also had a pretty high opinion of his own intellect and who subjected Jay to years of harassment and humiliation?

For example: in 1989 Jay had to get Maxwell to sign a cheque, a contribution towards the support the Mirror boss had promised to the Commonwealth Games. Maxwell loved this kind of situation. "I will decide when that cheque is paid," he told his cerebral chief-of-staff, “Now fuck off out of here."

The longer Jay stayed on Maxwell's payroll the more harassed and ragged he became, the more he drank and smoked. Hardly a week went by without him having to sack some secretary, receptionist or telephonist—until it was his turn to be fired. In spite of all this he could later say about his time with Maxwell: “Nothing happened that was outside what I expected or regarded as legitimate." (At the time Maxwell was alive: after his death Jay described him as “this crazy guy".)

Sarf London boy
Flamboyant characters are what the newspaper industry is notorious for. While Maxwell was terrorising the staff at the Mirror (if he asked what time it was the wise response was "What time would you like it to be, Bob?") Kelvin Mackenzie was imposing a similar regime at the Sun, where office life was a continual turmoil of abuse, threats and humiliation. Mackenzie took a delight in playing up to his self-image as a Sarf-London-boy-made-good or -bad, depending on whether you were on the receiving end of his ranting temper. He seemed unable to speak a sentence which did not have the word "fuck" in it at least once. He seemed unable to get through a day which did not involve the ritual reduction of some hapless staff member to a trembling, stammering wreck. With all this Mackenzie turned out a newspaper whose circulation climbed up and up, far above its nearest rival. So behind the shrieking and the swearing and the abuse there was a diabolically shrewd journalist—which not everyone would regard as a compliment Mackenzie was very different from the press lords who once dominated the British newspaper industry, passing the ownership from one generation to another to protect what they thought was the highest standards of journalism. This meant (didn't it?) that newspapers always told the truth, always respected privacy, never resorted to salacious exploitation of their readers’ sadder repressions.

Screws of the world
For over 70 years, until it was taken over by Rupert Murdoch, the News of the World was owned by the Carr family. During that time the newspaper became famous, not for its reporting of international events but for its rollicking exposure of vicars (the older the better) who had affairs with their secretaries or parishioners (the younger the better). When the paper was losing so much money that it had to be sold or put to sleep Robert Maxwell tried to take it over, resisted by the editor who claimed that his tawdry conglomeration of sensationalism and juvenile smut was "as British as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. . . this is a British newspaper run by British people. Let’s keep it that way". But then money spoke louder than jingoism and the Carrs sold out to Murdoch, who was as Australian as a kangaroo meat barbie on Bondi Beach.

The Berry family are another lot to have been ousted in recent years—in their case from ownership of the Daily Telegraph. This paper always had a shrewd eye for its market, apart from its small ads for jobs which were combed through regularly by ambitious managers, it appealed to the tea-shop regulars in places like Cheltenham and Tunbridge Wells. This gave a certain allure to its letter columns, which were rather like a primeval mental swamp. Such a distaste for ideas meant that generally the Telegraph’s news coverage was better than average—which included regular in-depth reporting of any scandal or sexual misdemeanour, especially if they involved members of the ruling class whose behaviour had let the side down.

A bit of a con
One family to hang on has been the Harmsworths. associated with the Daily Mail whose politics, they say, have not changed for over 80 years (they must have forgotten that in the 1930s the Mail supported Mosley’s British Union of Fascists). The Daily Mail is not famous for an addiction to the truth. A few years ago they eagerly joined in the Bingo war with rivals like the Sun and the Mirror, claiming to make some lucky people Mail Millionaires. In fact the statistical chance of a millionaire emerging from playing the "game" in the Mail was once in about 400 years. This impressed even Lord Rothermere, who admitted the whole thing was "a bit of a con”.

And that really sums it up. Newspapers are not there to inform us but to be sold, to make profits for the likes of Murdoch and the Rothermeres. The important issue is what is implied by the market they operate in. Do the readers of the Sun, the Mail, the Telegraph and the rest really want nothing better than the world as presented to them in the newspapers? Reading the press should be enough to change the mind of anyone who doubts the urgent need to change society.

Will the nurses strike? (1995)

From the April 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nurses have been offered a 1 percent play rise in the current round of pay talks with the possibility of an extra half to two percent on top of that to be negotiated locally out of existing budgets. Some trusts may fund the extra pay rise out of existing funds but this would be at the expense of staff redundancies and a reduction in the quality of patient care. The Industrial Relations Services surveyed 180 trusts and found that almost half of them expected staff numbers to fall in the next 12 month (Nursing Times, January 1995).

The government's proposal angered the ruling council of the Royal College of Nursing and, for the first time in the 11-year history of the pay review body, it rejected out of hand, without balloting its 300.000 members, a pay offer.

The Royal College of Nursing has a no-strike policy which has been in force since it was founded in 1916. Five ballots have been held to try to overturn this policy but each time the moves to do so have been defeated by large majorities. But the mood is beginning to change. The RCN is considering balloting its members to end its no-strike rule again and this time it is likely that the policy will be changed.

Nurses seem to be waking up to the fact that withdrawal of labour is the chief weapon in the armoury of trade unionists. Without it, or at least the possibility of strike action if negotiations fail, a union is severely handicapped when fighting employers for better pay and working conditions.

When the previous secretary of the RCN. the late Trevor Clay, wanted to discuss nurses' pay awards with the then Health Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, because of nurses’ anger over the levels of pay. he was not granted an audience. Clarke, of course, was under no obligation to negotiate with an organisation which had abrogated its power to strike and therefore posed no threat.

If the RCN’s campaign to persuade the government to fund the full 3 percent is successful nurses will still be worse off. Inflation is currently running at over 3 percent and could go higher still. Last year's pay rise for public sector workers was only 1.5 percent. Nurses' living standards will continue to fall. But while nurses have received low rises, trust executives have awarded themselves average rises of 6.6 percent and the highest paid of these now receive over £100.000 a year (Nursing Times, January 1995).

The RCN has co-operated with the health service union UNISON (an amalgamation of COHSE, NUPE and NALGO) in recent months and a combined strike by both unions could paralyse British hospitals. But the unions have already backed down from a claim of 8 percent at the end of last year when inflation was running at less than 3 percent. It seems that the RCN. in calling for the government to fund the full 3 percent nationally, is giving the government a chance to retreat from its original position and yet still keep nurses' pay below the level of inflation. The government could feel satisfied with this result and the RCN could claim a victory without having to resort to strike action: only the nurses would be the losers.

Deteriorating conditions
In the meantime, nurses may decide to stop working the average 4.8 hours unpaid overtime that they work each week saving the NHS £180 million a year (Observer, 19 February). Nurses have seen their working conditions deteriorate in other ways: patient turnover has increased while the number of trained nurses to look after them has fallen. Newly qualified nurses, if they can obtain employment at all, are offered part-time, temporary posts. Ward sisters’ posts are being phased out in many hospitals, limiting the career prospects of staff nurses.

Some Health Service trusts have been training support workers to carry out tasks presently performed by trained nurses. A few trusts have tried to downgrade trained nurses to support workers, but the legal protection of nurses' registration may prevent this from happening.

There is no doubt that the exploitation of nurses has worsened: fewer nurses work harder for. in real terms, less pay whilst patient turnover continues to rise. But, due to fraudulent manipulation of statistics, it is difficult to assess just how much working conditions have deteriorated or how badly the trusts are performing. Much higher numbers of part-time nurses are employed, making the total number of staff seem greater whilst the number of hours worked continues to fall. In the drive to increase turnover there is pressure to discharge patients prematurely. If these patients have to return to hospital as a result of being sent home too soon they are counted as new admissions. Poor care masquerades as efficiency in the statistics.

If a patient changes consultants this is recorded as a new patient. Rosie Williams, the RCN's policy adviser, claims that nurses in Casualty Departments are having pressure put on them to record misleading information to help trusts improve their position in hospital league tables. But lengthening waiting lists highlight the continuing shortcomings of the NHS: the waiting list for treatment in London has risen by five percent in the last year (Observer, 19 February).

The increasing number of people needing treatment indicates a problem which capitalist politicians are careful to ignore. Poverty is the main cause of ill-health. Unemployment; lower wages for workers whose labour is in plentiful supply if they are unskilled or in occupations in which the demand for traditional skills is in decline; poorer housing have all affected the working class. Politicians, whether enthusiastic supporters of capitalism or apologists for the system, are unable to remedy the human misery that capitalism causes. It will take more than a strike to permanently improve nurses' conditions and people’s health. It will take a completely new way of organising our lives.
Carl Pinel

50 Years Ago: The Cause of Crime (1995)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Whitehead asks for details of the avenues by which rich men can escape hanging when poor men can’t. The answer should immediately occur to him. Wealth can purchase medical testimony of useful kinds to impress judge and jury; it can fetch witnesses from all over the world; it can provide a barrage of the most skilful barristers and solicitors with assistants to hunt up records and precedents; it can also buy witnesses. There is also the general fact Mr. Whitehead overlooks—the undiscovered crimes committed by the wealthy which they can commit because they are wealthy, and which do not figure in crime statistics. (, . , )

It is a waste of time for Mr. Whitehead to blindly repeat the same contentions without meeting the arguments we have put against them. We have given ample evidence to show that crime in general can be explained by the social environment, and modern crime by the capitalist environment in which we live.

(From a reply to a letter, Socialist Standard, April 1945)

World View: Arms and Mandela (1995)

From the April 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

For decades, Nelson Mandela decried the apartheid machine and its arms hardware manufacturer Armscor (South African Armaments Corporation). and many commentators therefore looked with interest to the country's first free elections last year to see how the new government would tackle the arms issue. Socialists saw what they had always anticipated. Overnight, Mandela changed his views and bowed to the whims of international capital. Last November, launching the South African equivalent of Farnborough, the Defence Exposition of South Africa (DEXSA), Mandela announced that "South Africa is launching a defence industry which is guided by new priorities and a new ethos,” that this was a "unique opportunity to help ensure that peaceful purposes are served by the defence industry" (New African, February 1995).

This from the man who had just been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace!

Mandela's reasoning was that arms sales could be justified if the recipients were "responsible" countries—an idea that smacks of insanity, for any country that buys arms does so with the view that they will come in useful. Further, any increase in the world's arms stockpile can only increase the likelihood of conflict breaking out Kasrils. a former member of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, was another to defend the South African search for new markets for arms. The South African government, he stated,
" establishing strict criteria concerning countries to which we will or will not sell arms ... countries that violate their people's human rights, are involved in civil war, or threaten the sovereignty of their neighbours".
Kasrils's words come only a month after a shipload of automatic rifles, intended for unstable Lebanon, ended up in Yemen, itself embroiled in civil strife.

In 1977, the UN Security Council had imposed an arms embargo on South Africa. At the end of May 1994 it was lifted. As the election results were announced, Armscor, assured of Mandela’s support, informed the international media that it would now increase its share of the world’s arms market from 0.2 percent to 2 percent, a tenfold leap. In reality, the UN embargo had only paid the anti-apartheid lobby lip-service, for Armscor had enjoyed 17 years of covert circumvention of the embargo, supplying arms to Angola, Argentina (used in the Falklands War). Iraq. Libya, Rwanda. Somalia and Zaire—everyone a repressive regime.

Indeed, the Guardian reported last year that “evidence has been accumulating that for political and strategic reasons, Western governments and their intelligence agencies turned a blind eye to sanctions-busting" (23 September).

Abba Omar, an Armscor spokesman and another former Umkhonto we Sizwe figure believes the South African arms industry has an "outstanding contribution to make to the development of South Africa". His view is that the arms industry, being the biggest exporter of manufactured goods. not only brings much needed money to the South African economy, but that the technology it generates spills over into developments in transport, health care, water purification and the like, as well as providing employment. Thus, as the argument goes, everyone benefits.

Ranged against the advocates of arms trade benefits is the anti-weapons lobby. One such voice, Peter Storey, a Methodist minister argues that “to talk of a moral or ethical defence industry is a contradiction in terms. The defence industry represents one of those areas of human behaviour where ethics have to be suspended in order for it to function at all (New African).

In her analysis Open Arms for the Prodigal Son; The Future of South Africa’s Arms Trade Policies (BASIC Report, June 1994) Sue Willett, of King’s College, London’s Centre for Defence Studies, argues the arms industry can only be developed at the expense of civilian industry:
“Heavy dependence on the exports of weapons is not a good foundation for an exporting manufacturing sector . . . The danger is that temporary reliance on arms exports serves to put off into the indefinite future a really vigorous programme of developing alternative civil industries (Quoted in CAAT News, August 1994).
Insane logic
Mandela promised, on coming to power, that he would see to the implementation of improved housing, health care and sanitation, for instance. To maintain an arms industry is not only to betray the aspirations raised by the ANC’s Freedom Charter. It is more importantly an acknowledgement by Mandela, a recognition, that what the ANC stood for in the past—"black majority rule" and "socialism now"—was in fact a pipe-dream, and that those who take power within the capitalist system have to allow, and encourage it to operate according to its own insane logic.

When the arms embargo was lifted, Armscor’s general manager announced that he expected South Africa’s weapons exports to double within the next financial year. Between 1993 and 1994 Armscor’s sales to some 55 countries netted South Africa R886 million. If we add to this the fact that 72 countries attended DEXSA recently to view the wares of over 100 exhibitors, and the recent British invitation for South Africa to put a tender to supply 90 "Roolvalk" helicopters for the British army, then it becomes apparent that headlines like "Mandela applauds South Africa's rising arms trade" (Times, 23 November 1994) clearly cast Mandela in the same mould as every other pro-capitalist government official in the world.

Wittingly or unwittingly, Mandela has subordinated everything he once stood for to the profit motive and to the risks, inherent to the capitalist system, it entails. With Mandela aiming to stand down at the next election, it is evident that he will do so having sanctioned the ascendancy and, more, the legitimacy of the profit-seeking élite of South Africa. Time will teach the South African working class not to put their faith in leaders, but in their own collective strength and to link their struggle with workers everywhere.
John Bissett