Thursday, July 20, 2023

Voice From The Back: Statistics (2004)

The Voice From The Back Column from the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard


From an American learned journal Mental Health Journal of the Berkshires (Spring 2004) comes an interesting review of James Gillespie’s book Preventing Violence (published by Thames and Hudson). Dr Gilligan is a trained psychoanalyst who has worked in the Massachusetts prison mental health system interviewing violent inmates, for 25 years. “Unemployment breeds both poverty and shame . . . and as Gilligan reports, for every one percent increase in unemployment, there is a 6 percent increase in violence. Statistics show the US has the greatest gap between rich and poor of any of the developed countries: the richest 225 families have $1 trillion (that is 1,000 billion dollars!), equal to the total wealth of 47 percent of the world.”


“Personal debt is about to break through the £1 trillion ceiling in the UK for the first time, realising the worst fears of consumer bodies. The Bank of England said yesterday that UK mortgage lending increased by a record £9.8bn in April, leading City economists to predict that total outstanding debt would breach the thousand billion pound threshold” Herald (3 June). Behind these cold facts and figures lie the reality of many men and women of the working class living with anxiety and fear. Wasn’t capitalism supposed to lead to happiness and prosperity? So why in such a wonderful world do so many men and women of the working class find themselves in a desperate debt situation?  


Capitalism is a very competitive society. It sets capitalist against capitalist, hence war. It sets worker against capitalist, hence strikes and lock-outs. It sets worker against worker, hence nationalism and racialism. There is another aspect of competition that effects young workers. Trying to convince potential employers that they are better material for exploitation than their rivals has led to some workers doping themselves up. “The number of teenagers relying on drugs such as Prozac to see them through GSCEs and A-levels has soared with prescriptions reaching 140,000 in less than a decade . . . The statistics – from the government’s watchdog, the MHRA – also highlight the pressure being put on students by the exam system. They say how that in 1995, 46,000 anti-depressants prescriptions were given to teenagers between 16 and 18 in full-time education. By last year this had risen to 140,000, more than treble the amount” Observer (6 June).

Death of a nobody

That capitalism is a cruel and uncaring society was well illustrated by a news item in the Times (11 June) reporting the death of a Japanese worker in his Tokyo flat. ”Only one thing distinguished it from hundreds of other lonely deaths that occur in Japan every year – the dead man’s body was two decades old. The newspaper by his side was dated February 20, 1984. In a busy residential district of the world’s biggest city, he had lain undisturbed and unidentified for 20 years.”

Nice for some

“Millionaires around the world saw their ranks swell to 7.7 million last year as economic growth quickened and stock markets recovered. The world’s wealthiest people were worth an estimated £15.8 trillion in 2003, with their riches forecast to grow, according to an investment bank survey known as the World Wealth Report” Herald (16 June)

BNP: product of reformism’s failure (2004)

From the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Just what is it about the BNP that the vast majority of British workers find so nauseating?  In the run up to the 2004 local and European elections, all manner of people, organised in their respective groupings, mobilised against them, from the Labour and Conservative Party activists and the myriad left-wing groups, to student bodies, church groups and unions like the CWU who informed members that their “conscience clause” gave postal workers the choice not to deliver BNP material if they found it objectionable. The anti-nazi organisation Searchlight even produced 28 versions of a newspaper targeting the BNP election campaign and distributed 1.5 million of them in areas where the BNP were most active.

Many were clearly panicked at the thought of widespread BNP victories and this afforded the BNP media coverage which was out of all proportion to the size of their organisation. An eve of poll message from Nick Griffin, the party’s fuehrer, on the BNP website of 9 June, stated  that they “were on course for a political earthquake”, that the BNP  would be “breaking through with three or four Euro MPs”.  Yorkshire, the BNP claimed, was to be their “jewel in the crown.”  Two days earlier the same website had this to say: “Today in London a Monk came up to us.  He said he had voted for the Conservatives all his life but this year he was voting for the BNP.  He informed us that most of the Monks in his monastery were also voting BNP.”  One wonders whether the fascists of the BNP had been taking tips in humour from their favourite comedian Bernard Manning.

And so it came to pass that the BNP managed to gain four new councillors in Bradford in four wards. This ‘jewel’ was out of a record 101 candidates they fielded across Yorkshire.

Elsewhere, the BNP made a breakthrough in the south of England, taking three seats in Epping Forest in the local elections. And in Burnley, the BNP gained one seat but managed to lose the other seven in which its candidates were standing. In the North East, where the party stood a full slate of 25 candidates in Sunderland, they failed to make any promised gains.

Leader Nick Griffin, who in April had invited over Le Pen, the Nazi leader of the French National Front,  to plan how they could work as a team (or rather comedy duo) when Griffin became MEP for the north west of England, failed to take the seat he hankered after.  No BNP candidate succeeded in getting elected to the European parliament and in the London mayoral elections the BNP ended up in sixth place and failed to secure the votes required to get representation on the London Assembly.

Regardless of how much these smiley-faced fascists claim to have changed their image, booting out the boneheaded troublemakers of yesteryear, they still represent the politics of hate – and their writings and statements still contradict the respectable shirt-and-tie image they try so hard to project. This was much evident from their election manifestoes, especially that used for their London Assembly campaign and entitled London Needs the BNP.

The manifesto began with a subject the BNP are famous for – the strange obsession with the colour of human skin. It opened: “Within another generation, without political change, London will not even be recognisable as a European city”. Considering the diversity of cultures existing peacefully side by side in most European cities London, in a generation, would very much be like any normal European city. It asserted that the  “remaining British people in London are faced with progressive marginalisation” because there are too many non-whites, neglecting to mention the way capitalism itself marginalises, atomises and alienates not just individuals but entire communities.

There then followed the usual rant against asylum seekers, “both legal and illegal” and Ken Livingstone and the Labour Party were said to be responsible for “this new influx that is about to engulf us.” Here again, no mention of the fact that within the EU alone, the UK was recently ranked 10th in number of asylum applications compared to the country’s population or that the government has recently brought in measures that make it far more difficult for people from a variety of countries to claim asylum in the UK – together with a reduction of appeal rights for a host of countries. Neither does the BNP acknowledge that the Home Office itself has recognised that asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants have made a huge contribution to the economic and cultural life of the UK, bringing with them a wealth of skills and knowledge.

Law and order, another BNP favourite was then tackled. Having informed us that recorded crime has risen by 1000 percent (how they love nice round figures) since the 1950s they go on to cite the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers as claiming that mass immigration had “brought new levels of organised crime, drug dealing, gun crime, prostitution, fraud and kidnapping,” before advocating the reintroduction of the birch and the death penalty and a policy of zero tolerance. Again, no mention that one BNP London Assembly candidate was a reputable soccer thug, that the BNP National Development Officer, Tony Lecomber, has twice been imprisoned or that BNP leader Nick Griffin was given a suspended sentence for incitement to racial hatred. A visit to the Searchlight website will reveal that the BNP has a membership full of unsavoury characters. Moreover, in the year following the first BNP council victory in Milwall in 1993, racial assaults increased by 300 percent. It seems crime will only be tolerated when it is the BNP and their supporters who are carrying it out.

Next was the issue of “security” with the BNP promising to “make London safe from the threat of terrorism”, by deporting “Moslem fundamentalists”. Their TV election broadcast, which was edited, though downloadable later from the BNP website, was similarly Islamophobic, blatantly hinting at a hyped threat of Islamic terrorism. Significantly, the last terrorist bombs to go off in London which killed and injured members of the white working class were set off back in 1999 by one-time BNP activist David Copeland, who, when apprehended , said his aim had been to start a race war which would lead to a BNP government being elected. And the BNP National Organiser has a conviction for setting off a home-made nail bomb and possessing hand-grenades and electronic detonators. Moreover, Griffin’s political mentor is the Italian Nazi terrorist Roberto Fiore; the very same Griffin who once went to Libya to gain support from Colonel Gadaffi  and who was all too ready to share a platform at a Cambridge seminar in July 2002  with Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri, the despicable Muslim fundamentalist, currently awaiting extradition to the USA for alleged terrorist crimes.

And so the manifesto continues, each statement showing the BNP to be the intolerant, narrow-minded, racist bigots they have always successfully presented themselves as, before closing on a subject covered in the May issue of the Socialist Standard (‘The Beauty Trap’), namely the forthcoming erection of the statue of Alison Lapper: “Just as Ken Livingstone dislikes anything English he equally disapproves of anything British, which is why we are now to have a sad limbless body on the vacant fourth plinth rather than a British statesman or woman. A BNP Mayor would have this dreadful thing removed.”   In this regard the BNP are in keeping with their beliefs on the white master race. Indeed, their National Organiser considers people with learning difficulties to be “sub-human” and those with disabilities to be “genetically inferior”. As true heroes of the white working class they claim to be the BNP have said they will introduce a GM programme to get rid of those they consider “inferior”.

The 800,000 workers who fell for this sort of rubbish across Britain and gave the BNP their votes in the European and Local elections on 10 June are the misinformed products of the demoralising system we know as capitalism, deluded into thinking that one main issue – a total halt on asylum – would suddenly improve their miserable lives. In truth, a shortage of council housing and poorly maintained housing estates, low wages and pittance benefits are no more the fault of asylum seekers than is the hole in the ozone layer. At the end of the day the BNP promised voters little more than extra space at the trough of poverty and tens of thousands wanted it.

Of course, the BNP were fortunate to ride a wave of patriotism—a tool they can use to great effect when it suits—in the run up to the election, with voters going to the polls as the 60th anniversary of D-Day was being commemorated and rammed down our throats every night on TV, and the English football team were gearing up to compete in Euro 2004 and when manufacturers were reporting sales of 4 million St George flags. And neither is their raw brand of nationalism that unique in today’s climate where the UKIP can make huge gains in the European elections on a “say no to Europe” platform, proclaiming the merits of British sovereignty, and where the Labour Party is all to ready to send British troops off to far away lands to protect the interests of Britain’s ruling elite.

Furthermore, we can only wonder at the mainstream parties fears of a surge in support for the BNP. Considering the views of the Labour and Conservative parties on asylum (Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech springs to mind) and the former’s part in upsetting the Islamic world so much recently, their objections to the BNP do seem a  little hypocritical. They may genuinely abhor the racists of the BNP but have been unsuccessful in confronting them where they have made political gains because to do so would mean acknowledging the shortcomings of a system which they champion and which gives rise to the politics of racism.

If anything the BNP are the product of the total failure of all the reformist parties to make capitalism a fit society to live in. And this is not the fault of the mainstream parties, for they are controlled by the system and not vice versa despite their claims and promises. When capitalism fails to deliver, when despondency and shattered hopes arise from the stench of the failed promises and expectations that litter the political landscape, is it any wonder that workers fall for the scapegoating lies of fascists and the quick fix they offer?
John Bissett

Law and Order (2004)

From the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Crime is a funny thing.  I don’t mean that it is a laughing matter; on the contrary, it can be very serious, so serious, in fact, that it warrants its own academic body of scientists, known as criminologists, who devote their attention to the study of crime.

Crime, by popular definition, is regarded as doing something ‘bad’. Killing someone is regarded as the crime of murder.  Taking things that belong to someone else without their permission is theft, and, depending on the means employed, may be robbery, burglary, misappropriation, embezzlement, fraud or any of a host of other names legally applied to the act of theft.

As is so often the case with popular ideas, the notion that crime is simply the perpetration of a bad or evil act and should therefore be punished is an oversimplification. Killing, stealing and all the other acts generally perceived as ‘bad’ are not always crimes.  An otherwise quiet man of sober habits who kills another in a sense of outrage or anger at some perceived injustice, will be arrested, charged, and if found guilty of murder, may be sentenced to life imprisonment or even, in some countries, put to death.  If, on the other hand, the same decent man is conscripted into a war by those who rule the country in which he lives, the more of those regarded as ‘the enemy’ he kills, the more he is likely to be regaled as a hero and, certainly, he is not likely to become a case study for criminologists.

Legal arbiters
In fact, crime is quintessentially linked to government. Whether those who gain power in a country are a democratic government – within the restricted meaning of that term in capitalist society – or a violent dictatorship, they become the legal arbiters of what is and what is not a crime.  They are responsible for accepting existing laws and for making new laws and it is the transgression of these laws, not the nature of the deed, which makes a particular act a crime.

As time goes on, new situations require new laws. Some of these are quite sensible, for example the advent of automotive power made it necessary to create many new laws regarding the use and control of vehicles on the roads. On the other hand, legislation concerning other new developments, like broadcasting or the internet, is largely concerned with protecting private interests.  Overwhelmingly the law is concerned with making rules relating to property and the safeguarding of the interests of those who own property.

How often have we heard it said that something is a ‘threat to law and order’?  Politicians, clerics, judges and leader writers are quick to tell us about the danger we face if law and order breaks down and, indeed, there are currently many examples in the world, places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan, that illustrate the frightening absence of  social order.

First title deeds
Laws are simply rules made by an authority with the power to enforce such rules.  In tribal society, before the rise of private property, the compelling force was custom, custom that emerged from experience of what was perceived to be good for the tribe.  

The concept of ownership did not exist; nobody owned, so there could be no means of exchange and no need to establish rules or laws for the conduct of sale and possession.  It is not our purpose here to outline the change in material conditions that motivated the inducement to land ownership but it is obvious that, since land was in common ownership and no accepted means of exchange existed, it came into the possession of individual owners by the use of force, trickery or deceit.

Thus was private property born, its first title deeds probably written by club or spear.  Whatever the means of procurement, with the concept of ownership came the need to establish an accepted endorsement of the rights of ownership.  So there emerged a need for laws, rules that would enshrine the right of the new owners of private property to the legitimate possession of their ill-gotten gains.  

Chattel slaves
Not only was there the need for laws governing possession and conveyance, there was, also, the necessity for an authority to emerge that had the coercive power to make and enforce such laws,  That authority was the precursor of the state as we know it.

While the ownership of land gave an element of security to its owner, it did not relieve him of the need to work that land in the procurement of his means of life.  Whereas, in the period before the advent of private property, prisoners taken in inter-tribal conflict over tribal rights of possession were a liability, now they became another item of useful private property.  They became chattel slaves to work their master’s land and not only increase his productivity but initiate what would become an important element in all future forms of society: the institution of social classes.

It is not hard to see the numerous regulations that became necessary in this first form of slave society.  It became a crime for the slave to refuse the instructions of his master or to escape or attempt to escape from the authority of his master.  The slave was a possession of the slave-owner and it was necessary to have rules to ensure and protect that possession and its conveyance by exchange.

When material developments within the system of chattel slavery made that system socially redundant, a new system of class slavery emerged.  This phase in human development we call feudalism.  The new system that emerged in specific areas throughout medieval Europe was a unifying or bonding process that strengthened the institution of property under the aegis of a single ruler or king.  In England, for example, the king was the nominal owner of all land, which was apportioned out in large estates to vassals, local strong men who had pledged homage to the king.  These vassals, bearing title from the king, in turn apportioned parts of their estates to landless serfs in smallholdings.  The serfs or feudal slaves were permitted a smallholding for the production of food for themselves and their family and for the payment of tax in kind to their feudal overlords.  Additionally, in combination, they worked their master’s land and did military service when their masters were called upon to support the king.

Remains a truism
Just as progressive economic developments made chattel slavery redundant in favour of feudalism so, too, developments within feudalism created political pressures for change.  New productive forces had created an incipient class of rich merchants and manufacturers opposed to the political and economic constraints of feudalism.  These latter were anxious to end ‘the divine right of kings’ and the power of an appointed aristocracy, both of which were decreed by law and held sacred by the canons of the, then, established church.

Feudalism and its plethora of protective laws, both moral and secular, were destroyed to free the serf from feudal slavery and make him a wage slave.  For him there was the pretext of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’; for his new masters, the capitalist class, there was that vital element in the creation of wealth and profit: human labour power.

New godspeak
A new world outlook was required; a revolution that would banish the old ideas sufficiently to facilitate a new social order.  Old crimes were banished, masses of new laws and new crimes were created and the vast religious reformation ushered in by the new forces of property established even a new godspeak in which the condemned usurer of feudalism became the esteemed financier or banker of modern times.

Now capitalist governments are law factories, amending laws and changing laws, abolishing the odd redundant crime and creating hosts of new crimes especially to regulate and protect large capitalists and small investors from the predatory aggression of one another.

If one looks at the hundreds of lower courts, processing on a conveyor belt basis the masses of petty crimes, and throwing the more serious errantry to its upper levels, it is obvious that what is called ‘ordinary crime’ is committed mainly by the working class.  Corporate crime is much more elusive; the squad car is more likely to catch a runaway shoplifter than to detect a respectable swindler engaged in ‘insider’ trading or some other form of stock racketeering.  Some alleged authorities claim that ‘ordinary’ crime, the petty thieving etc which the lower courts deal with, accounts for less than twenty percent of the monetary value of all crime while corporate roguery accounts for the lion’s share.  It is a questionable statistic given the more covert nature and professionalism of the latter.

As for equality before the law, the French writer, Anatole France, showed remarkable insight into crime in capitalist society when he said that the law in its majestic equality forbids the rich as well as the poor to beg in the streets, sleep in the parks or to steal bread.

Seeds of disorder
Is there a need for law and order?  Of course it is essential that regulations exist to ensure the maximum degree of safety on public roads; that the surgeon carrying out an operation is suitably qualified; that a person piloting an aircraft is efficient in their duties.  Similarly, there are masses of situations in which human society must find means for its efficient functioning and protection.

What those who shout loudest about law and order seem never to take account of is the fact that the seeds of disorder and the conditions that promote most crime are endemic to capitalism itself.

Capitalism is founded on the appropriation of humanity’s means of life, and functions on the basis of the exploitation of those who create all real wealth.  It is a system that gives rise to ongoing wars and inter-communal violence.  It murders millions of people every year by means of starvation and malnutrition in order to maintain its market priorities.  But these are not crimes; capitalism and its political manipulators do not make laws against the abominable evils of their system.

At another level, the priorities of capitalism cause the alienation that stands as a barrier between human beings and creates the material conditions for those other crimes which gives easy fodder for capitalism’s myopic media to attack. Abolishing crime is another good reason for abolishing capitalism.
Richard Montague

Prehistoric capitalism? (2004)

Book Review from the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Is the practice of exchange one which occurs in all societies, or is it rather something which emerges in particular historical circumstances? One writer who has recently discussed such questions is Steven Mithen. Mithen has written previously (in The Prehistory of the Mind, 1996) on the genetic development of a brain and mind capable of our modern complex set of activities. His latest book (After The Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5,000BC, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003) deals with the formation of a productive culture within the effectively fixed constraints of our previous biological evolution.

The contents of After the Ice are an excellent, extremely readable account of early human life as reconstructed from known artefacts and other archaeological evidence. One vital component, added as an aid to presentation but essential to a work of this nature, it would seem, is the introduction of an observer, John Lubbock, through whose eyes we explore this prehistoric world. This observer, who bears the same name as an actual 19th century scientist but is not him, combines characteristics of Victorian and modern scientist, and thus when we read what he sees we are alerted to the fact that these are interpretations based on scarce data, and filtered not just through the eye but also the mind of the observer.

This becomes especially important when Mithen comes to discussing prehistoric economics. He takes care to attribute at least the wilder claims to the appropriate sources, these sources being those for whom Lubbock is a warning – those attempting to apply modern economics to scraps of ancient data. For example, we are told that a prehistoric inland tribe buried sea shells with their dead; therefore, given the mind of a modern or Victorian economist, they must have traded food for these shells; the shells must have been a symbol of status and power; and by burying these shells with their dead the high status clans could preserve the link between their ownership of shells and status, wealth and power.

Let us consider instead that ancient humans knew nothing of modern capitalist economics, and that, until we have evidence to the contrary, the human mind does not have a specific module devoted to capitalistic thinking. Instead, we will assume that ideas are the product of development, including ideas about human relationships. We then find that what seems the simplest of ideas, trading shells for an equal value of food, is actually a curious modern concept.

Firstly, the relationship between food and other products must be established: they must be exchanged, and to be valued they must be exchangeable for one product in common, a reproducible product of labour. Historically this is often cattle; for example, our words “fee” and ”pecuniary” are based on words for cattle in the Germanic languages and Latin respectively. Cattle can, however, only be subdivided when they are eaten; therefore in the course of millennia of trading the precious metals come to the fore as products of labour which can easily be used as a means of exchange and a measure of exchange value. Once such a universal representative of value has been developed, and only then, may tokens may be substituted for it, whether paper, copper and nickel, as today, or shells and beads. However, it was only in the 20th century that token money developed to the point of ending the gold standard and allowing the tokens a semblance of freedom in exchange (and only a semblance). How are our primitive forebears meant to have achieved this trick, except in the mind of a 20th century archaeologist with an understanding of such an advanced trading system so ingrained that they see it as natural to humans from the first generation?

Rather than such an understanding being genetically programmed into the hyman mind and brain, it is the product of thousands of years of social evolution, which had not finished even as the first modern archaeologists began to conjure such systems for their ancient forebears.

These criticisms aside – and they are criticisms which we would be forced to level against all academic endeavour which assumes modern conditions to be universal conditions – this is an excellent book which can be recommended to all socialists as an accessible source of information on ancient human societies.

We would, with our different interpretation, however, certainly come to more positive conclusions than Mithen. He writes, “Our politicians might devise both the will and the means to curb pollution, to distribute resources fairly throughout the world, to provide new homes for displaced populations, and to preserve the natural world. They might do all these things. But they probably won’t.” This is consistent with thinking that human social evolution is fundamentally constrained within the inherited mental structure of our organism. Socialists, on the other hand, see people as the product of history, just as earlier we have explained that one part of our lives, exchange between humans, is a product of history rather than a fact of nature to be merely endured. And so we would point to our ability to change, to transcend the limitations of our organism, to manufacture our social conditions rather than to be the product of original conditions; a potential yet to be fully realised, and which will be fully realised by transcending the conditions of our history that have led us so far from the ape to capitalist society. In other words, the answer is not to find solace in our fixed animal behaviours but in our mutability, and our ability to overcome these behaviours and conditions.

Obituary: Harry Morrison (2004)

Obituary from the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our comrades of the World Socialist Party of the US have informed us of the death of comrade Harry Morrison in his 92nd year. Born in 1912, he came to the US from Canada (as an illegal immigrant) in 1937 where he met and joined the Workers Socialist Party (as our US companion party was then called). After moving to Los Angeles for a while, he finally settled in Boston where he earned a living as a salesman.

For many years Harry Morrison was on the editorial committee of the old Western Socialist for which he wrote the editorials and editorial replies to letters as well as numerous articles under the pen-name of “Harmo”. He was also a member of the WSP’s NAC and its secretary, an outdoor speaker – or “soapboxer”, as the Americans call them –  an indoor debater and radio scriptwriter and a broadcaster (the WSP having its own programme on a local Boston station in the 60s and 70s). After health problems caused him to slow down his socialist activity, he wrote some books: one of which, The Socialism of Bernard Shaw, in which of course he showed that G. B. Shaw wasn't a socialist at all, was published in 1989.

Our US comrades have published an appreciation of Harry Morrison's life and socialist activities on their website.

Obituary: Leslie Dale (2004)

Obituary from the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Les Dale, our friend and comrade for many years, died on 22nd May in Newport Hospital on the Isle of Wight, aged 84 years.

He and his wife Queenie joined Ealing Branch in 1952. Les accepted our case after discussion with another comrade (the late Jack Law) during their time on the land together as conscientious objectors during the Second World War. Right from the outset, he became active in the work of the branch, soon excelling at the job of literature secretary. What heady days they were, with rapidly increasing sales of the Standard plus much other literature besides. His experience was put to good use when we worked together on the production committee of the Standard in the late 1950s and early 60s.

Les had a very fine knowledge of horticulture and agriculture and was also well versed in medieval history. With his firm grasp of the materialist conception of history he wrote periodically for the Standard and gave lectures on his favoured topics to various Party branches.

Sadly, his wife died of leukaemia at the early age of 48. It was a bitter blow to all who knew her, but Les showed great courage in carrying on despite his grief. Now that he is also gone, we will miss him greatly but will cherish the memory of his erudition and his keen philosophical wit.

The Gall of Charity (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

We are now in that time of the year known as the Holiday Season. The spirit of good cheer permeates the atmosphere. Everybody is urged to love one another. But there is something else afoot, at this time, which would indicate that loving one another is by no means sufficient. Not for the millions of victims of poverty, even in America, at any rate. For not all the love for one’s fellow man that has been poured out over the years, has contained, let alone eliminated, the stark hunger that stalks capitalism everywhere, even in this richest nation of all time. And so, in these closing months of the year, the annual drive is on, and we are urged, even bullied by psychological tricks, such as cleverly phrased notices on bulletin boards or desks in the sweatshops where we earn our daily bread: "Have you pledged your fair share,” they ask us, "to the United Way?”

Now it would almost seem that there could be no argument here. One must be hard-hearted to turn a deaf ear to suffering, to fail to come up with some sort of pledge from one’s meager pay for such a good cause. But for those who understand the world, how it is organized; and who are consciously attempting in one way or another to change it, the institution of organized charity is the rubbing of salt in the wounds of the working class. "Pledge one’s fair share" Indeed! Just whom do they think these victims of poverty are? From where do they come? From the capitalist class? Hardly! They can only come from one section of society, the working class, the class that is being importuned to pledge for their support.

Just consider the import of this in the cold light of reason. Here is a section of the working class that, generally, through no fault of its own, other than selecting the wrong parents, winds up on the bottom rung of the ladder. What is the ladder doing there in the first place? Simply making it possible for a handful of idlers, who happen to own the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, to sit on the top rungs, while those below them produce their wealth and serve them personally in order that they can get full enjoyment from life.

Now, because of the odd, topsy-turvy manner of thinking under capitalism, the mass of working people on the lower rungs are supposed to be grateful to the few on the top for giving them a chance to work for them. How kind of them, we hear so frequently, to erect factories and found banks and all the other places of employment, so that we can have a chance to earn a living. Strange reasoning? It certainly is, because it is those on the top who should be eternally grateful to the rest of us for making life so easy for them. What else can they do with their money but invest it in more capital? They can't eat it! They can’t wear it! They can’t drive around in it or live in it! They must invest it in institutions that make it possible for the rest of us to work for them (excepting when there is a surfeit of labor); else there is nothing left for them but to lie down with the rest of us and die, unless we abolish the capitalist way of production.

But no! We, the majority, are expected to be the grateful ones, even to the extent of pitching in for our fellows who fall to the bottom rung. Capitalists buy our brains and our brawn for enough, on the average, to produce and reproduce this brain and brawn, then ask us to give back some to those of us who have not been able to stay in the rat race, instead of taking care of the needy themselves as a sort of bonus for a lifetime of dedicated toil. That is the future that capitalism holds for a growing percentage of us, the opportunity to have salt rubbed in our wounds, and the opportunity to be on the receiving end of their sweet charity.


For certain purposes, listening to these messages as they were delivered over the air may be more useful than this written form. The increasing popularity of the tape medium indicates that they may serve for home listening or discussion groups.

Those interested please contact us at the Boston address listed, giving particulars of tape format and titles.

Religion (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

There are two subjects that are supposed to turn off a lot of people, subjects they prefer not to argue over. These are politics and religion. And yet it would be hard to find two other subjects that are more universally discussed, for as long as one is breathing it is difficult to avoid them. The matter of politics is touchy enough and friendships are often broken because of conflicting viewpoints. With religion, however, one should be even more diplomatic if one wishes to avoid antagonisms. Even the majority of those who regard themselves as socialists or communists avoid the subject of religion almost like a plague It is a private matter, they contend, and therefore socialists should not be interested In discussing religion.

The World Socialist Movement begs to differ on this point. Religion, we maintain, is not a private but is, rather, a social question and therefore should definitely be considered by socialists. In fact, from both a theoretical and a practical viewpoint socialists cannot honestly avoid the subject. And although we do not go out of our way to attack religion we still feel it is necessary to analyze it and to demonstrate how incompatible is a belief in religion in any of its forms with an acceptance of socialism.

There are all sorts of definitions of religion, of course. In order to make ourselves clear let us state what we maintain religion to be. By religion we mean belief in a power or powers superior to man which can direct or control the course of nature and of human life. Whether one admits to an anthropomorphic god or professes to regard God simply as a force that can control one’s destiny and which should be meditated upon rather than prayed to, in no way changes the basic belief. The self-styled progressive religionist is as much a believer in metaphysics as the orthodox Catholic, Baptist, Jew, or you name it. Socialists must of necessity reject all religion because socialism rests upon the materialist conception of history, which not only explains the development of man and his social systems but the origins of his political and his religious systems of thought. During the long centuries when man was unable to explain his environment, religion substituted for scientific knowledge and understanding. In proportion to the growth of scientific discovery, the powers attributed to religion waned until today we find most religions in a life and death struggle to retain any important degree of control over their flocks. Religion, today, has more of a social than a spiritual hold upon its devotees. It is concern over what one’s neighbors will think that motivates the faithful.

But there is also the practical reason why socialists oppose religion and vice versa. Most religious organizations in our times are heavily involved in the business of exploiting labor. They are not only a strong pillar of the capitalist system but are also an important part of the ruling class. One need not name specific churches. The extent of the hold upon property — the kind of property that holds the working class in wage servitude — by a number of denominations is well known. The future well-being of all important religions is bound up with the maintenance of capitalism.

How. then, can socialism be compatible with religion? Socialism seeks to abolish capitalism. Religion, even those churches that are deeply involved with the Civil Rights Movement, seek to alleviate — to whatever extent possible — the economic condition of the laboring poor in order that the basis of the present social order might remain. The militant leaders of religion may reject the traditional approach of humility and docility. They may march, they may demonstrate, they may protest, they may even go to Jail as a result of anti-war activity. But until they come out openly for the outright abolition of the wages, prices, profits system and the immediate establishment of world socialism, they remain defenders of the status quo.

Smashing Capitalism (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

Have you ever heard the expression: “we must smash capitalism?” It’s popular among so-called revolutionists of the Leninist variety It isn’t easy to figure exactly what they mean by it but one gets the impression that the capitalist state, in all of its ramifications, must be destroyed and something brand new — as for example a “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” — reared in its place. This attitude is consistent with the views of Lenin, all right, but is completely foreign to the system of thought developed by Marx and Engels, commonly referred to by scientific socialists as Historical Materialism.

In fact, much of Marx' and Engels' lives were taken up with the struggle against anarchist thought and growth which had a considerable development during those times and which was — to some extent — strikingly similar to the theories of Lenin that developed later. True, the anarchist spokesmen did not advocate a “proletarian dictatorship" but the point we wish to make at this time is that they did advocate a "smashing" of the state. And the basis of this theory was a refusal on their part to regard society and the state. Itself, as an evolutionary development. Never mind where it came from, why it still exists, and what should develop out of It in the future. It is here, it acts as an oppressor to the majority of mankind, so we have to smash it completely without even trying to gain control of it. That has been the anarchist position on the state.

The Marxist argument, on the other hand, is that the state developed as a result of the division of peoples into economic classes. Prior to this, society was organised on the basis of kinship, a type of tribal communism. When some individuals began to amass private means and as this became more common it was discovered that kinship had no more relevance in the councils, that the important qualification now had become property ownership. And so the state was born.

We have had different kinds of states throughout written history. There have been chattel slave states, feudal states, and capitalist states. Scientific socialists see the capitalist state as a development brought about by the contradictions of feudal society, contradictions such as the vestment of land ownership in the church and the nobility and the subjection of the serfs and peasants. Capitalism needed the breaking of feudal shackles on land and the creation of a free working class—freed from the means of a livelihood. And so the bourgeoisie ultimately gained control of the feudal states and the necessary legislation was passed.

Marx and Engels saw the working class as a potentially revolutionary class that would organise politically to gain control of the bourgeois, or capitalist state. But not for the purpose of "smashing" it and erecting another state—a one-party dictatorship—in its place. To Marx and Engels, and to the scientific socialists of today, socialism will not be a one-party system but, rather, a no-party system. Once the working class has gained control of the state, wrested it from the capitalist class, both capitalists and workers cease to exist as economic classes. The age of politics and of political parties will come to an end. The state, in its historic capacity as an instrument of a ruling class in the subjugation of ruled classes, will be no more. But it will not be smashed. It will become transformed into an administration over the affairs of man rather than a government over man, himself, as it has always been and still remains. Let's organize, then, not to smash the state but to gain control of it. In this way lies the only real brotherhood of man, world socialism.

The Mathematics of Race (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

One of the many myths that persist and plague humanity is the myth of "race" and the intrinsic superiority of one of these classifications of man over the others. Whichever is superior, of course, is chiefly — If not altogether — dependent upon who's doing the categorizing. All of the so-called racial groups are guilty of the error when giving an estimate of racial superiority and inferiority

Yet, it is nonsense. If there ever was a race of man separate and distinct from other races of man it has been long lost in the shuffle of population in all directions through the entire time of man on Earth. Not only is this borne out by an examination of history and the artefacts that give us knowledge of pre-historic times. It is also borne out by an application of “common horse sense.” Let us examine the mathematics of the question. Let's take, for example, an American of any one of the multitude of ethnic backgrounds.

To begin with, our Mr. American — in all probability — traces his ancestry to Europe. Even the self-styled Afro-Americans, whether they like it or not, have had white Europeans in their woodpile. The percentage of Southern, so-called whites, who are closely related to Southern blacks (not to mention Northern blacks, since large numbers of Southern blacks have moved North) has to be high. Laws do not become necessary when the reason for such laws is non-existent. The anti-miscegenation laws of many Southern states exist to curtail miscegenation.

But let us get back to our Mr. Average American. He has two parents and four grandparents. He has eight great-grandparents and sixteen great-great grandparents. Now a generation. we are told, is roughly 33 years, so if we wanted to look at the scene in Europe about 1000 years ago we would calculate about 30 generations backward. Using the mathematical formula most people unconsciously seem to use, our Mr. Average American had more than 1 billion ancestors walking around in the country he is supposed to have originated in, back in 971 A.D. Now, of course, there is something ridiculously wrong about this because the entire population of Europe was considerably less than that number in 971 A.D. And it is plain that the population of the world today is much greater than It was even fifty years ago, let alone a thousand.

So what Is the explanation? Obviously our Mr. Average American must have had ancestors in common with others, and not only in Europe but from pretty much all over the world. For all history and all the evidence we can obtain from prehistoric evidence show conclusively that man from earliest times has been a traveler and an invader. It is well known that entire populations of many of the countries of Europe — as on all of the continents — displaced earlier populations living in the same areas, bringing about the disappearance of the former peoples — no doubt largely by assimilation. One need not get information of this nature from socialists. One need only ask one's teachers and professors, even the ones with racial prejudices.

And throughout the centuries of historic times armies of Asiatics have swept over Europe as have armies of North Africans, while armies of white Christian Europeans were sweeping and miscegenating on other continents. Until today with all of that in the distant background together with all of the fraternizing in the wars and invasions of our own lifetimes, our Mr. Average American is a pretty mixed up character.

Socialists reject racism completely and for no mere sentimental reasons. Socialism rests upon science. Would you know more about socialism? Give us a try. You will be surprised and pleased with what’s in It.

Who needs enemies? (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

In the words of a popular saying of today: “With friends like that who needs enemies?" If there is one group of people who are entitled to shout "you can say that again." that group is the membership of the World Socialist Movement. For certainly it is doubtful that all of the enemies of socialism, combined, have done as much to damage the image of socialism as the friends, even most of those who call themselves socialist or communist. In the minds of most, the "left wing" is made up of liberal socialists and communists while the “right wing" is the conservative and reactionary

And yet, when you examine the situation closely, there is not much difference between the left and the right, even the extremes. Certainly there is much more of a common nature to left and right than there is between left and scientific or Marxian socialism. Once one has disposed of or disregarded the contrasting slogans and catchwords the common denominator comes into view.

For example: both left and right, in all of their variations, advocate the wages system. The avowed defenders of capitalism, the rightists, prefer that wages come from private rather than government sources although they recognize the need for at least a good percentage of government employment and control. Most of those who consider themselves socialist or communist advocate either all - out government control over wages or, at least, what they call a mixed economy. Franco Spaln and Greece under the military Junta are examples of rightist regimes; Russia and China can be regarded, generally, as all-out government controlled economies; Sweden and England Illustrate the so-called mixed economy.

Yet, insofar as the worker is concerned. all that really differs about Spain and Greece, Russia and China. Sweden and England, or even America, are the labels used. Wages, in the final analysis, are wages, and will not stretch further even when the boss calls you "comrade.”

Another common tie that binds left and right is their attitude to war. Neither opposes war, in fact both openly support it. True, they are sometimes found on opposite sides in a particular conflict. Sometimes, because there have been many wars when so-called uncompromising enemies have been comrades-in-arms Examples that come readily to mind were World War II and the present-day Arab-Israeli continuing conflict The Mid Eastern war, in fact, finds professed leftists and professed rightists united on both sides. A mess of confusion if ever there was one. And as far as the war in Vietnam is concerned, it is supported by both left and right with the left, generally, on the side of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam, in opposition to Saigon and the United States. Not that these lines are clearly drawn, either, for many openly capitalist governments, such as the French, are by no means friendly to American efforts in Southeast Asia.

There is little in common, then, between the so-called left and the World Socialist Movement. True, one reads and hears the phrases and slogans of Marxism, a terminology the left takes much delight in. But in the mouths and the journals of the left these phrases and slogans are not remotely connected with world socialism. Would you put this assertion to the acid test? On your first opportunity ask the professed revolutionaries who, in their words, are out to smash capitalism the following question:

Are you advocating the immediate abolition of the system in which goods and services are produced for sale on the market with view to profit? Is this what you mean by smashing capitalism? Are you interested in the immediate establishment of a system of society based upon production for use, where all mankind will have free access to all that is in and on the earth?

We wager the self-styled revolutionaries will brand you a "utopian" and will advocate more of what we now have, with different labels and with different leaders — themselves Don’t be fooled by leftists. Get acquainted with socialism.