Friday, July 21, 2023

Labour Party woes (2023)

Uxbridge by-election
From the SPGB Discussion Forum

"I can’t see how Labour can be content with the results of the 3 by-elections.

They won in that rural seat in Yorkshire but can expect to lose it at the general election when Tory abstainers return to the fold. They should have won Uxbridge in west London but didn’t. They are pleading that there was a local issue there that sunk them (extension to the area of a charge for using old cars and vans) but, besides being a bread and butter issue, this concerns all the outer London boroughs.

It is clear too that, in seeking to please the international speculators who lend governments money, they are alienating the more radical-minded of their voters sone of whom are deserting to the Greens. In fact, they lost by much less votes in Uxbridge than the Greens got. Starmer may be regretting his outburst about hating tree-huggers.

They weren’t trying in the West Country but what happened to their vote there is also relevant. An “independent socialist” picked up 635 votes compared to their candidate’s 1009. They lost winning the London by-election by less than 635. In other words, Left-of-Labour candidates in other constituencies in a general election could prevent them winning some marginal seats and might even result in a hung Parliament with the LibDems and the Scots Nats holding the balance of power.

Serve them right, some might be inclined to think. That’ll teach them to behave like a government in waiting whereas they might just be a minority government in waiting. On the other hand, that would provide them with the same alibi they used to try to get out of the failure of the 1924 and 1929 Labour governments that “we were in office, not in power”.

Actually, of course, all governments are just in office as no government has the power to overcome the economics laws of capitalism and make the system serve the interest of the majority."

The Review Column: Co-op in Trouble (1967)

The Review Column from the July 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Co-op in Trouble

The latest published results of the Co-operative Wholesale Society confirmed something which everyone knew. The Co-op is well down the slippery slope.

Net trading profits are down from over £3 million in 1965 to £792,000 last year; retail societies’ share of the national retail trade has fallen from 11.9 per cent (1957) to 8.8 per cent (1967). The Sunday Citizen has died, the final collapse coming when the CWS management cut its advertising and public relations spending, which the Citizen relied on, by £800,000.

The Co-op has been left behind in the great post war retail boom. While firms like Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer’s were making rich with their skilfully designed stores, their thoughtful employment policy and their keen prices, the Co-op has seemed to exist with a death wish. Some of its cakes and biscuits, for example, taste as if they came out of a cement mixer and some of its fashions look as if they were designed by a man from the government surplus store.

The CWS is now facing the fact that it can either die, or at best exist feebly—or it can compete. It has chosen the latter. Philip Thomas has been brought in from profit conscious Associated British Foods as chief executive. He has appointed several new top managers, among them another man from ABF and one from Boots. And the axes are starting to swing.

At this year’s CWS Annual Meeting. Thomas promised “hurtful and unpopular decisions . . . substantial economies”. Already some staff privileges have been withdrawn and mergers and closures of factories, with consequent sackings, are in the offing.

In all this, only a passing reference has been made to the fact that the Co-op was once supposed to be different— an example of Socialism, no less, within capitalism. The ghost of this ludicrous idea still walks, and Thomas is out to exorcise it. “Commercial realism . . . the inevitability of economic pressure”: these are the words he is incanting as he tries to save Ihe Co-op’s commnercial soul.

Middle East

To anyone who does not understand the word, it is Socialism which has been at war in the Middle East. President Nasser claims to be a Socialist, and so do many of his allies. There is even something, which they do not define, which they call Arab Socialism. Israel once said that Socialism was being built there, that the kibbutzim were a new way of life free from the commercialism of capitalist society, and that within its borders men would find new freedom and dignity.

But in the recent flare-up both countries showed—if this was necessary—their true nature. Egypt intensified her arguments about the legality of Israel’s frontiers, over the conquest of the port of Eilat and over the extent of Egyptian control over the Straits of Tiran.

Disputes over territorial boundaries and strategic positions, carried on within the complexities of international law—and often in the end by armed force are a familial part of capitalism. They have nothing to do with Socialism, which will be a society without national boundaries and international economic rivalry.

Israel is now the most powerful military nation in the Middle East. Conscription there is comprehensive, with even women battle-trained, and the whole thing is backed up by the sort of hysterical nationalism which demanded the appointment of strong man Moshe Dayan as Minister of Defence.

This intensive militarism had its effect against the ill-trained Egyptian army. These are just some of the descriptions used in just one edition of the Times last month, reporting on the Israeli advance: “masterpiece of mechanized war . . . quick thrusts . . . ruthless air attack”.

Militarism and patriotic hysteria are among the most unpleasant of capitalism’s by-products. They are two of the many antisocial attitudes, so common today, which will not exist under Socialism. That they are so powerful in Israel reveals, if nothing else does, the nature of society there.

Time to be Free (1967)

From the July 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

An observer from outer space could be forgiven for thinking that human beings enjoyed work more than any other activity, since the vast majority of them spend the best part of their waking lives at it. However, if he hovered in his space ship long enough to hear the bells and whistles and sirens wail round the world as knocking-off time swept round with the evening shadows, he would be able to infer from our behaviour that we regarded work as unpleasant, if not positively hateful. He would see people streaming out of factory gates and office doors with the terrible urgency of creatures suddenly set free.

From that height, however, he would find it utterly impossible to understand why they should return next morning and allow the gates to be shut behind them again. Even if he could land and talk to some of them he would be likely to find that they did not understand either. If there were a Socialist in the group he would find great difficulty in explaining to the visitor that the civilised world was owned—not by these hundreds of millions who laboured all day to produce and distribute everything that came out of the factories and fields and mines and seas—but by a small elite who hardly ever came near them. It would take some time to explain what ‘owned’ meant. It would take far longer to explain why people allowed it to go on for even a minute longer. In fact, when the visitor had been told that people actually supported the system that kept them enslaved, that destroyed much of the wealth they laboured to produce, and that sent them out to kill one another in millions from time to time, he would probably let in the clutch and streak off home to Alpha Centaurus or wherever he came from.

The trouble is that people hardly ever get this space traveller’s view of things. On the whole, they tend not to question the state of society into which they were born. And they tend to accept their place in it. They have either forgotten or have never been told that it is only in the last four or five thousand of their million years on the planet that they have been steadily dispossessed of the world they live in by a few of their own kind. They have come to accept the idea that work is not something that they do because it is a satisfying activity, or even because they see the need to do it, but simply because of the wage without which they could not live. And so they shrug their shoulders or grit their teeth and sell the best part of their days for the best part of their lives to their employers. During all this time they apply themselves to tasks which are exhausting, boring, frustrating, humiliating, exasperating, degrading, dirty or dangerous, and sometimes a mixture of them all. Very often the jobs that they do are as near pointless as makes no difference. Sometimes they are actively harmful or destructive. And always the satisfaction that there might have been in a job is soured because it is done under the threat of the sack, because neither the tools with which they work nor the product when they have made it belongs to them, and because the demands of profit insist that the job must always be done at a speed or for a price that makes quality and satisfaction impossible.

If you ask people why they do it, what keeps them at it, year in and year out, they will tell you—after they have made the accepted declarations of love and duty towards their family—that it is all for the sake of the few hours a day that are free from work. This is their ‘leisure’, meaning the time that they are allowed, or that is lawfully theirs. The word has no meaning except in a society based on compulsory labour. Leisure is the time in which people are allowed to live for themselves. They often say that they only really begin to live when they leave work. This is why they watch the clock. This is why everybody calls the late afternoon ‘the rush hour’. They rush for the bus stop or the car park or the station in order to start a jostled journey home that is almost as wearying as the day’s work itself.

It is now about nine hours since they left the house with sleep in their eyes and an undigested mixture of tea and cornflakes in their insides. They get home again feeling grubby and hungry and irritable. Leisure starts now! They are free to embark upon the riotous pursuit of pleasure. It is the moment they have been waiting for all day. And it is the moment when the dreary daily truth reasserts itself. They flop into a chair. Really, they need a wash and a change of clothes and light nourishing meal, but for the time being all they can manage is to sip yet another cup of refreshing tea and gaze vacantly at the tail-end of the children’s programme on the television.

It is at this point, usually, that the commercials intervene. A lean and bronzed young man races laughing down a sunbaked beach, empty except for the slim vivacious girl who flees before him, also laughing. ‘Cut’ to the foam-flecked water’s edge as he gains upon her. She reaches the sanctuary of the boat only to have him climb triumphantly in above her and take lovingly in his thumb and forefinger a piece of her creamy chocolate bar. Quite apart from its obvious (and perverted) intention, this advertisement, like many others, demonstrates the fact that energy and zest are essential for the active enjoyment of leisure. But these are just what the worker has sold in order to get his daily bread. There is little or nothing left over for leisure. The first call upon his free time is the re-creation of this energy for tomorrow’s work.

The second is the business of running a home and bringing up children who will form the next generation of workers. If he has a quick wash and a meal there will just be time to play with the kids for half an hour before they have to be got to bed. And then there will be jobs waiting: in the winter a couple of hours decorating; in the summer the garden or the car. Always there will be things that need mending or fitting, forms that need filling and bills that need sorting. By now it will be nearly ten o’clock, and many of the jobs will have been put off until the weekend, but by pushing these to the back of his mind and neglecting to tidy his tools away there is just time to put on his coat and slip down to the local for a couple of pints of wild libidinous pleasure before closing time.

What is generally not realised is that workers are almost perpetually tired. Many of them, particularly the younger ones, cut down on their sleeping time so that they can spend a couple more hours at a dance or a night club, and this has a cumulative effect upon both physical and mental health. What makes it possible is that the pattern of tiredness is undergoing a radical change. Year by year, with the introduction of more machinery, fewer and fewer jobs require a large output of physical energy, but more and more produce mental and emotional exhaustion because of the tension and pressure and pace involved. The result is that most workers arrive home feeling tired but edgy, played out but unsatisfied by their work. They have the vague impulse to go somewhere or do something, but fewer and fewer of them are able to do anything positive about it. This is why many of the young ones must have a motor bike or scooter just to ride round upon—to ‘go’—nowhere in particular. This is why all sorts of useless activities have been invented so that workers can actually do something in their spare time which does not remotely resemble work. What they need most of all is mental recreation if they are to achieve a state of mind which will enable them to face the prospect of going to work again the next day.

With leisure time severely restricted, and the frustrations of capitalism always on the increase, excess has become the order of the day with a large section of people. The intensity of work tends to be matched by the intensity of ‘pleasure’, and often frenzied effort to impart some quality and value to life to make up for the dehumanisation of the daily round. The last thing that most workers want to do is think—about what is going on in the modern world—and the leisure industry is geared up specifically to prevent thinking. Leisure is organised on such a scale and in such detail that workers have no need to plan their holiday activities or their evenings out. It is all done for them. All they have to do is accept it. They are prevented from being alone or quiet for a moment. It is all ‘go’, desperate activity, preferably useless and expensive, often destructive or cruel.

Over and over again, the relaxation of moral strictures and the provision of greater and greater leisure facilities are welcomed as increased freedom. And yet they do not give the contentment that freedom gives. Indeed, the feelings of boredom and frustration get worse. Because freedom has not been increased. It has been curtailed. Many of the activities, such as sports, in which workers used to engage for recreation have been taken over by professionals. One by one, their pastimes, such as skittles or cards, are dwarfed and superseded by glossy commercial versions. Television has entered their homes and stifled their conversation, showing them characters and personalities more charming and interesting than their families or friends. Regardless of programme quality, they need to have the set switched on ‘for company’. The more that capital invades their leisure time, the less they have left to live for themselves, and the more control is extended over what was once their private life. The fact that most workers welcome the change does not invalidate what is happening, it simply makes the process more degrading. Through television, the standard leisure diet for most people most of the time, they can indulge in vicarious action and luxury and travel and violence and love and success, without really having any of these things. They can escape from the real world of work and worries and chores—without really escaping. And all the time the programmes relentlessly advertise capitalism’s most important modern product—the idea that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

If the space traveller watched us for long enough he would see that it is not in our work that we give most convincing proof of our status as wage-slaves, but in our ‘free’ time. We run out from work like animals released from a treadmill, only to perform unquestioningly upon the toys in the cage. We are slaves because we have the slave mentality. The bondage is in our minds.
S. Stafford

Blogger's Note:
'S. Stafford' was the sometime pen-name of the late Ron Cook.

Pomp and its Circumstance (1967)

From the July 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

If political journalists, who are hard men but who like the rest of us have to earn a living, ever get down on their knees to offer up a prayer of thanks, it must be for George Brown. Perhaps Brown is what the insurance companies call accident prone; at all events, he seems incapable of staying out of trouble, and of the headlines. If he is not waggling on television under some sort of Outer Influence, George is threatening to resign. If he is not cuddling Princess Margaret he is turning up in a dinner jacket at a reception for some visiting dignitary, when the invitation was quite clear that everyone should wear white tie, tails and decorations.

Some people, most of them likely never to wear tails, get very annoyed about this flouting of conventions. Others give three cheers for George, for his lovable sincerity and constant pride in his humble origins. Amid the uproar from both sides, the essential facts go unnoticed.

Take, for a start, Brown’s dinner jacket at the reception for King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. If he had really wanted to strike a blow against the flummery of State occasions, if he really wanted to remind those present that the affairs they had been discussing would affect the lives of millions of people, he could have done better than a dinner jacket which, although it is one step down from tails, is more than one step up from a lounge suit. He might have come along in a sports jacket and flannels, like Harold Wilson on his first Sunday as Prime Minister. Or, to really make the point, what was wrong with a boiler suit and cloth cap, drinking out of the saucer and wiping his mouth on his sleeve?

What Brown overlooked was that this particular battle was fought and lost a long time ago. The Labour government which came into office in 1924 had many problems waiting for it, but apparently none was so pressing or so onerous as the question of what to wear when they were at Court, or of how to behave when they mixed with their social betters, or of how to make sure of an invitation to the next Royal Garden Party.

When that government took office there were something like one and a quarter million people registered as unemployed, people who could barely afford a dinner, let alone a fancy suit to eat it in. The world abroad was in its customary troublous state, with disputes in Ireland and the Middle East. But there were high hopes of what Ramsay MacDonald and his men would do, of how they would transform society. Jerusalem may not actually have been built yet, but the Labour M.P.s were going to Westminster to lay the foundation stones.

The first thing MacDonald had to do was to go along to meet the King, for the first time in his life, and to show him the man the workers had given him as Prime Minister. Perhaps some of Labour’s more naive supporters thought MacDonald would take advantage of this historic opportunity to tell the King that the days of the ruling class were numbered. In fact what happened was that the King did the telling; he let MacDonald know how concerned he was that nothing should be done to upset the routines and the ceremonies of the Court and MacDonald, who had come to all this from a precarious childhood with an unmarried mother in a poverty-stricken Scottish fishing village, who had needed police protection from the crowds who disagreed with his opposition to the 1914/18 war, who was supposed to be the man to build the new society, assured the King that nothing would so be done.

Labour’s first Premier was as good as his word. The next day he appeared in the full glory of Court dress with knee breeches, gold braid and a sword. Even the old ladies of Kensington, once so fearful of what would happen to them when Labour nationalised women, had to concede that he was a magnificent figure, especially compared to the gnome-like Stanley Baldwin.

Of course MacDonald’s men had to follow suit and not a few of them did so with enthusiasm. In his book Decline And Fall Of the Labour Party John Scanlon recalls having lunch with a Labour Under Minister whose only topic of conversation was the cost of full Court dress, and whether he could hope to be in office long enough to get his moneys-worth. Labour Ministers discovered that the class struggle could be carried on only as long as they were dressed in a tail coat; they presented their daughters at Court, they went to Royal Garden Parties and, so that their wives would not embarrass them on such occasions, they sent them to the Webb’s Half Circle Club, where they learned to disguise the fact that they came from mining villages and industrial slums.

All this was a long time ago. No Minister is now required to fool around with a sword when he goes to Buckingham Palace to let the Queen know how capitalism is running, and it is a long time since anyone was sent to the House of Lords with anything more enduring than a Life Peerage. The ritual of capitalist government has changed, and continues to change, but in one form or another it lives on, under Tory or Labour. Indeed, there is evidence that the Labour Party are as enthusiastic about it as the Conservatives.

A few months back, for example, the Wolverhampton Labour Party caused a minor storm by drinking a toast to Harold Wilson and the Labour government when they should have been toasting the Queen. Tory M.P.s like Quintin Hogg and Gerald Nabarro, who can never be accused of having any doubts about which side of the barricades they serve on, denounced this as “disloyal, repulsive, scurrilous.”

Now this might have been a chance for the Labour Party to show a little revolutionary glow, if not exactly the fire with which they once said they were consumed. They might even have argued with Hogg and Nabarro. Instead, in effect they agreed with them:
“Harold Wilson is a good Prime Minister. He is loyal to the Queen; so are we.” (Cllr. Frank Clapham, vice chairman Wolverhampton Labour Party.)

“… had anyone suggested I should have toasted the Queen at that point I would gladly have done so. I am not in any way disloyal. In fact, I sympathise with some of the tasks which Royalty has to undertake.” (Terence Duffy, the man who proposed the toast.)

“The loyalty to this country and its Sovereign of members of the Labour Party is not in question.” (Letter from Ten Downing Street, authorised by Harold Wilson.)
It is clear that Labour has not travelled far, in any direction, since MacDonald in his knee breeches thrilled them all. It is worth asking what is meant, when they declare their loyalty to this country and its Sovereign.

This country is one of many capitalist states in the world, which means that it is one where socially there are two types of people. One type consists of those who never have anyone getting up to swear loyalty to them, who always look rather comical when any of them dares to put on a tail coat and who can be easily recognised because they have to work for a living. They are the working class, who serve and suffer under capitalism but who continually vote for the system to carry on.

What sort of a living these people get can be gauged, if not from our own experience as workers, from the mass of statistics about us. Last April, for example, the Inland Revenue published a survey of personal incomes by regions for 1964/5. Something like 59 per cent of the cases had an income below £999 a year. On the other hand, there were 369 people—and anyone with the inclination can work out what percentage of the cases they were—with an income between £50,000 and £75,000, and 121 with an income between £75,000 and £100,000.

It is clear that an income of £100,000 a year does not come entirely, if at all, from working for it. Here, then, we have the other type of person in capitalist society, who can dress up, who often receives the loyalty and servitude of the workers and who also supports caoutakist parties, for the simple reason that they enable him to cream off the benefits and the privileges of the system

It is the job of governments to protect the privileges and interests of this class. In this country, these interests are often expressed in a mass of ritual and flummery. Parlisment, which makes the laws by which property society is organised, eannot start its business until a lot of over mature men have staged a procession dressed in funny clothes. The Courts where the laws of capitalism are interpreted and applied are run by people in impractical gowns and ludicrous, uncomfortable wigs. Every so often, the royal and aristocratic figureheads of the capitalist class put on heavy and expensive robes and show themselves, dripping with jewels, to the loyal and underprivileged workers lining the streets to gawk at a Coronation or a State visit or a Royal premiere.

This dressing up, this ritual, may annoy some people even some politicians—but behind it all capitalism works with its own deadly firmness of purpose. Frail bodied judges in mediaeval wigs hand out long sentences to tough criminals lor offences against property. State visitors come in their finery to play their part in capitalism’s perilous tangle of international rivalries. To abolish the rituals, to make the Head of State do his job in an off-the-peg suit, would be worse than an empty gesture. For in a society of privilege, we might as well have an occasional admission that it exists, even if workers are so docile that, with the gorgeous evidence of it paraded before their very eyes, they can only stand and cheer.

This is the very heart of the matter. Not a few firebrands have confused the privileges of capitalism with their ceremonial expression. Not a few have thought that to abolish royalty would be an attack on the system of inequalities. They ignore the fact that the Royal Family is only the apex of a pyramid and that the whole thing has its foundations in political ignorance and apathy.

And who are among the greatest contributors to this ignorance and apathy, if not the Labour Party, who stand for privilege when they say they stand for equality? Who have the most to answer for, if not the Labour leaders whose lifetime of political activity might have taught them the futility of mere gestures while capitalism’s business of exploitation and oppression goes on unchecked? George Brown has had many accidents in his time but one he has always managed to avoid, and that is blowing the gaff on his own party.

Work and Employment (1967)

From the July 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fortunate indeed is the man who gains his livelihood by performing a task that he enjoys. Millions, born of working class parents, are condemned to earn their living by doing jobs that, at best, they can tolerate or, at worst, they hate.

Workers from birth, by teaching and training, are blinkered from sight of an alternative to a life of work for wages. High wages and security of employment become their life’s target. Boyhood dreams of a life devoted to some sensational, romantic or interesting occupation turn out to be—just boyhood dreams.

There is a tendency to confuse work with employment. The terms are used haphazardly, ‘Work’ being used when ‘Employment’ is meant, and vice versa. Work is the effort used to overcome a resistance, it is the expenditure of physical and mental energey. Employment is work performed in someone else’s service. All employment is work but all work is not employment. Work, in itself, can be enjoyable, employment seldom is. That is why millions go reluctantly to their employment and hasten away from it to seek pleasure in some form of work.

After five days in an office or factory, on a lorry or down a mine, workers will devote their week-end leisure to gardening, driving a car, some do-it-yourself occupation or a strenuous sport.

Why, then, does work, when it is employment, become distasteful? How does employment contaminate work and make it unpalatable?

The elements which make work enjoyable are, variety, the exercise of the worker’s initiative and intelligence, the satisfaction of creating something, and pride in the product. Remove one of these elements and the pleasure diminishes. Remove them all and it vanishes, the work becomes tedious.

A few centuries of capitalism have succeeded in eliminating those elements from the work men do for their livelihood by making employees of practically all workers.

Capitalism is a system where wealth is produced essentially for a market with a view to profit. The market is competitive and the competition exerts a continuous downward pressure on the cost of production, resulting in the introduction of ever more and more labour saving devices and more intense methods of production. Employees are coerced to produce more commodities in quicker time for the minimum possible total wage cost. Labour saving machinery ousts the craftsman. The division and sub-division of labour increases productivity but creates an army of semi and un-skilled workers doing repetitive jobs. The worker becomes proficient, not by the exercise of his initiative and intelligence, but by the continual repetition of a task.

Professor Charles Babbage, a nineteenth century mathematician, who devised a mechanical computing machine and who was a forthright apologist of capitalism, stated,
“. .. the most important principle on which the economy of a manufacture depends, is the division of labour amongst the persons who perform the work. 
… If, however, instead of learning all the different processes his (the worker’s) attention be confined to one operation, a very small portion of his time will be consumed unprofitably at the commencement, and the whole of the rest of it will be beneficial to his master.”
Sixty years later Henry Ford in his, My Life and Work, was able to show the application of the idea.
“With one workman doing a job he could turn out from thirty-five to forty pieces in a nine hour day, or about twenty minutes to an assembly. What he did alone was then spread into twenty-nine operations. That cut down assembly time to thirteen minutes, ten seconds. Then we raised the height of the line eight inches—this was in 1914—and cut the time to seven minutes. 
… we began to departmentalise so that each department would do only one thing … I did not know that such minute divisions would be possible; but as our production grew and departments multiplied we actually changed from making automobiles to making parts.”
The development of this process has varied in different trades and industries. For generations clerical workers considered themselves immune from its effects, but the typewriter, the adding machine, the electric Hollerith calculator, and the electronic computer have brought home to them with a vengeance the realisation that capitalism works on them in the same way that it works on their manual labouring colleagues.

Variety of task is almost extinct. Demands on most workers’ initiative and intelligence are low. The final product of his labour is so remote that interest in it has waned almost to vanishing point. During his hours of employment his attention is divided between his task and the clock and his interest is focussed on finishing time and pay day.

This is not a condemnation of machinery. Machines enable men to avoid many laborious tasks. Without machines society would not be able to enjoy many of the comforts and luxuries of modern living. The evil lies not in the machine itself, but in its ownership by an exploiting class who introduce it only when it serves their profit-making ends.

Employers introduce labour saving machinery, not to lighten the labour of their workers, but to cheapen it. The workers have had to fight every step of the way to achieve the shorter working hours which machines have made possible. Every gain by the workers of shorter hours is an incentive to their employers to instal more labour saving devices.

Modern automative machinery does not sub-divide labour processes into smaller units. It takes over batches of consecutive labour units and performs them mechanically with a minimum of human aid.

At the end of last February the British Computer Society held a symposium in London. The talks dealt with computer operations applied to grocery, brewery, tobacco, fashion goods, departmental stores and bakery trades. Automation introduced by the American bakery firm of Sara Lee was discussed and reported in the April issue of the Transport and General Workers’ Union journal, The Record.

This bakery produces fifteen different products which are frozen immediately after baking. On the bakery side the computer monitors raw materials, liquid and dry, including eggs, and weighs and mixes the ingredients.
“The cakes are baked in foil, packed in cartons and conveyed automatically to the warehouse.

Each carton surface has a “bar code” which decides the route that it shall follow. The cartons are tripped off the conveyor and pallet loading is automatically controlled by the computer, each tier is picked up by a suction head crane and stacked on the pallet. The warehouse contains eight of these suction head cranes. A loaded pallet consists of 80 cartons, which is then picked up by one of five stacker cranes and randomly stored in one of the ten racks in the warehouse. Each rack contains 5,310 individual cubicles. The computer memorises information concerning the whereabouts of each pallet load and when goods are being despatched it sends the stacker crane to pick up the appropriate quantities of each product. The computer sorts out the load and sends it to the despatching area where for the first time it makes contact with human beings who check the order and load on to the delivery vehicles. The computer records all products in and out and gives a rundown of stocks every quarter of an hour on tape.”
A reduced number of workers programme the computer and serve as a human check on mechanical accidents; they are adjuncts of the machinery. Their interest in the product is so remote as to be almost non-existent. They see and handle only the cases in which it is packed and the sheets of paper showing production data and marketing statistics.

Everything that gave the craftsman pleasure, satisfaction and pride in production is gone. Employment has made work a routine and often boring task. Physical effort is reduced, mental stress is increased.

The ideas of millions of workers are confined within limits set by the present social system. They conceive of no alternative to a wages system and, as discontent is a nagging sensation, they subdue it and become resigned to a life of employment. They look forward with pleasant anticipation to their daily leisure time relaxation, their week-end rejuvenation and their annual holiday recreation.

A word that has climbed the charts of the English languague is “Escapism”. Originally coined by psycho-analysts to define the attitude of mind of people who seek to avoid unpleasant realities by withdrawing into a world of fantasy, the term has assumed a wider application to include those who seek temporary escape from boring or harrassing life by concentrating on more pleasant activities or subjects for thought.

The workers’ week-ends and holidays are not so much times for rest as periods of “Escapism”, that offer the variety and interest denied them during their hours of employment.

Socialism, by ending the private ownership of the means of wealth production, will end work for wages and the division of society into an employing class and an employed class. Millions now employed in defending private property, calculating profits, seeking markets or in other socially unnecessary tasks, will be released for productive work. Machinery will be used to lighten or eliminate the more obnoxious or laborious tasks. When profit is no longer the motive for production all people will have the opportunity for a more varied experience and will be able to regain an interest in the productive process.

When men are no longer exploited by employers and can go to work with a light step and a smile in pleasant anticipation of an interesting day, leisure time and holidays will assume less importance in their lives.
W. E. Waters

Britain and the Common Market (1967)

From the July 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

After a lapse of four years Britain has again applied to join the Common Market. Last time it was a Conservative government. This time it is Labour, showing that capitalism imposes similar programmes on its political parties in power. The line-up for and against Britain’s entry draws support from both parties as it did in 1962. In fact Labour rebels have taken a stronger stand on this issue than on any of the other controversial measures of the present government.

On May 2 Harold Wilson declared in a House of Commons statement:
“This is an historic decision which could determine the future of Britain, Europe and the World for decades to come.”
Leading Labour opponent of Britain’s entry, Emmanuel Shinwell, said in the same debate:
“In view of the unqualified approval by three members of the opposition benches, can I assure the Prime Minister that with all the force of which I am capable even by myself, I will give him the most relentless and ruthless opposition.”
In view of the claims of both sides it is worth examining the question in relation to working class interests.

At the end of the nineteenth century world trade and industry was dominated by the states of Western Europe with large empires under their control. The world wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45, which were the outcome of the struggles between these powers for supremacy, resulted in their decline and in the emergence of America and Russia as the leading industrial and military powers. A struggle developed between them with Eastern Europe dominated by Russia and Western Europe by America. They stationed their armed forces in these areas and geared the economies of these territories to their own.

In Western Europe America consolidated its military power through NATO. The economy was revitalised by American government funds through the Marshall Plan with the condition that the countries of Europe must band together and agree on a joint recovery programme. Thus America, in meeting the challenge of Russian state capitalism, was forced to finance the revival of industrial competitors.

Expansion in world trade soon allowed production to exceed pre-war levels and one country after another had its “economic miracle”. European capitalists had a large pool of unemployed displaced workers at their command along with the latest plant and equipment. Britain, on the other hand, survived with much of its industry intact and its order books were filled for years ahead to supply the backlog of demand from its traditional markets. Its workers were in a relatively strong position as a result and were able to enforce demands for pay increases and to maintain working practices which became more and more of a hindrance to efficient production as manufacturing techniques developed.

In spite of early enthusiastic pronouncements by Churchill and Attlee on European unity no practical initiative to this end was taken by Britain. The first move to set up what is now known as the Common Market was the establishment in 1951 of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) by Belgium, France, Holland, West Germany, Italy and Luxembourg. Its aim was to regulate the production and marketing of coal, iron and steel in this area. The ECSC was soon faced with problems in Belgium, with its uncompetitive coal industry. Mines were closed and thousands of miners laid off. Mineowners received compensation from the ECSC; miners got compensation from the dole and industrial retraining for other work. The employer-employee relationship remained as before.

The difficulties facing the ECSC have continued. With increasing iron and steel production and with mergers and streamlining to meet world competition, profit margins have dropped. The coal industry has its troubles with mine closures recently in the Ruhr. In Britain the coal and steel industries face similar problems and membership of the ECSC would only give them access to a market which is already oversupplied—and this would affect the present ECSC members. Whichever of the partners gains from entry the position of the workers, the insecurity of living on a wage or salary, will remain.

In 1957 the Rome Treaty setting up the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) was signed by the same six states. The EEC, or Common Market, aimed at
“… the creation of a customs union with a common external tariff and by the abolition of internal tariff duties and quotas, the establishment of a common agricultural policy, the free movement of persons, services and capital; and a harmonised transport system” (Westminster Bank, The Common Market and the United Kingdom).
British capitalism, with the bulk of its trade located in the Commonwealth and Sterling Area, took little interest in the Common Market. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was set up by Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal in 1960. Its main aim was the progressive reduction of customs duties on industrial goods. There was no provision for common external tariffs nor a commitment to political unification, which made the idea more acceptable to the British government. By 1961 trading conditions were changing in the Commonwealth and Sterling Area, making it harder for British goods to be sold there. Countries such as America and Japan were taking a growing part of their trade. The Common Market, with the prospect of a home market of 250 million people including Britain and some of its EFTA partners, became an attractive proposition. The first application came at a time when EEC itself was making heavy weather of formulating a common agricultural policy. Britain’s conditions, on agriculture, Commonwealth trade and concern for EFTA, proved too much and negotiations broke down in January 1963.

Since then there has been a change of government and Labour soon found themselves as impotent as the Conservatives to deal with the economic ills of British capitalism. Meanwhile the trends in world trade which had made application desirable earlier continued. Britain’s share of Commonwealth trade continued to decline. Trade with Europe, on the other hand, increased. With EFTA, where customs tariffs were lowered, it increased 70 per cent since 1960. In the EEC where external tariffs were going up it increased by 100 per cent for the same period (Financial Times, 2 March 1967). Hence the new application.

The Common Market has come about as a result of the pressures of world capitalism. It is an effort to give Western Europe the political and economic structure to compete commercially and militarily with America and Russia. Britain’s desire to join is not motivated by some newly discovered principles of internationalism by Wilson and his government. Rather it appears to offer the best hopes of a solution to some of the problems of British capitalism. The Confederation of British Industry has made it quite clear that it favours entry: As reported by The Times they said:
“This is the move that industry has been waiting for and the CBI have been urging the government to make. The CBI’s recent report, based on a year’s analysis, concluded that on balance entry would be to the benefit of British industry” (3 May 1967).
The interests of the working class are not served by debating the merits of being in or out of the Common Market. The Common Market amounts to the re-arrangement of tariff barriers amongst member states. The alternatives posed by opponents of Britain’s entry vary from keeping present arrangements to forming a North Atlantic Free Trade Area and to greater trade with East Europe. All of these proposals leave capitalism intact. Production for sale and profit would continue; the working class would still exist; and the social problems of the system would still be there.
Joe Carter

Tokyo 1985 (1967)

From the July 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

To those of you who remember a few years ago the “double your standard of living in twenty-five years” promise from R. A. Butler, The Times, of 27.2.67 should have made interesting reading. It carried an article on page 5 about some of the promises being made currently to the workers of Tokyo. They certainly have a familiar ring.

No housing problems, no smog, a car for everyone of Tokyo’s 4,300,000 families—yet no traffic jams. And so on . . . But this is for twenty years time if they all work hard and if the economy continues to expand, conditions which no planners can control, but this does not stop them planning, of course. Incidentally, do you notice how these “plans” have a longer period set aside for their fulfilment now? No longer do we hear of “five year plans” which were so popular (particularly with left wingers) in the thirties and forties Such are the massive problems of modern capitalism that no “expert” can even pretend to solve them in such a short time.

So now we get a twenty (or 25 or 30) year plan superseded after a year or two by another twenty year plan. Which, in its turn is superseded, and so on. Which keeps workers on their toes in pleasurable expectation, the planers in business, and capitalism generally ticking over.

50 Years Ago: Socialists and War (1967)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

No matter which group of the Masters win the struggle, the Workers remain enslaved. The division of interests is not between the peoples of the world, but between the classes – the Master Class and the Working Class. Not, therefore, in their fellow Workers abroad, but in the Master Class at home and abroad, are the working-class enemies found.

What interest have the Workers, then, in either starting or carrying on war for their masters? Absolutely none.

Every Socialist must, therefore, wish to see peace established at once to save further maiming and slaughter of our fellow Workers. All those who on any pretext, or for any supposed reason, wish the war to continue, at once stamp themselves as anti-Socialist, anti-working class, and pro-capitalist.

Moreover, where the Working Class have the necessary means – the franchise – for their emancipation within their grasp it is clearly an anti-Socialist and treacherous act to urge them to use those means for the purpose of placing political power in the hands of the masters.

We stand for PEACE without reference to terms, since the fruits of Capitalist war are the Masters’, and only the pains and penalties thereof the Workers’.

From the Socialist Party of Gt. Britain Manifesto published in the Socialist Standard, July 1917

Errors in last month’s Socialist Standard (1967)

From the July 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

We must apologise to our readers to a number of errors in the June Socialist Standard.

On page 85 in the article “Young Conservatives” the paragraph commencing “One unpleasant feature …” third line down the word ‘large’ should in fact have been ‘small’.

On page 90 in the article “Free Distribution” the paragraph which introduces the quotation in the first column was wholly omitted. It should have been:

“Sir Alan Herbert, the humorist, always makes a witty speech at the Annual Meeting of the shareholders of the Savoy Hotel. This year he spoke of an Air (nationalisation) Bill:”

On page 92 in the article on “The Newspaper Industry” the heading to Table 3 should have read “Profits Before Tax” not “Tax Profits Before”.

Party News (1967)

Party News from the July 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Please Note

Mid Herts Branch will not meet during August. First meeting in September will be on Monday September 4 at 8 p.m. at the Bed well Community Centre.

Camden (Bloomsbury) Branch will not meet during August, Meetings re-commence at Conway Hall on Thursday September 7 at 6 p.m.

Southend Branch will deliver the Socialist Standard to your home. Write to H. G. Cottis, 19 Kingswood Chase, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

Camden (Hampstead Group)

We have pleasure in announcing the formation of the Camden (Hampstead Group) of the SPGB. The Group will hold its first meeting on Monday 4th September, 8.30 p.m. at The Enterprise, Chalk Farm Road, N.W.I, (opposite Chalk Farm Underground Stn.). It is intended to meet alternate Mondays after this date. A series of lectures, discussions etc. is being arranged and details will appear in the August S.S. In the meantime, if you are interested in the activities of the Group and wish to go on our mailing list, contact Secretary: Tel. 01-4853182. The Group will also be pleased to consider speakers from other organisations to address them.

Our Thanks 

We wish to thank the Victoria Labour College of Melbourne, Australia, for their donation to our library of two short pamphlets by Rosa Luxemburg—Socialism and the Churches and What is Economics? In addition their journal, The Labor College Review, frequently reprints article from this journal.

Gaspers (1967)

From the July 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Czechoslovakia to create an internal money market (Financial Times, 24 May 1967).

“We will not unite with people whose aim is our disruption” (Draft resolution for conference of the Young Communist League).

“The Churches could make a great contribution to swing the African from his traditional attitude towards labour, and to teach him to work harder and to work regularly, the Minister of Bantu Administration and Development, Mr. Botha, said … ‘I think that in this connection the Churches can be of great help, and that is, when rendering spiritual services, they must stress the value of sustained labour. In fact, it should be done in respect of the Whites as well…’ ” (Star, Johannesburg, 31 March 1967).

“Very regrettably a few Communist Trotskyites in certain sectors of our industry continue to mislead the good craftsmen and operatives … These Trotskyites, professional militants and other extremists whose only aim is disruption and to mislead good honest workers, are shockers” (Frank Taylor, chief of the Taylor Woodrow group in his annual report to shareholders, 17 May 1967).

“One man—one vote”, he said, would lead the country to a state of complete and utter chaos. A street sweeper would have as much say in running the country as the most brilliant and educated person. “No one could believe this to be right, “he added (Ian Smith, reported in Financial Times, 23 May 1967).

The Government’s policies have cut the standard of living of a great many workers. (The Observer—28.5.61).

… conquest is not internationally accepted as the way of changing frontiers (The Times—7.6.67).

Coffee seedlings burned
“Over 300.000 coffee seedlings were uprooted and burned on a nursery near Nairobi today as the first step in the Agriculture Ministry’s plan to restrict coffee production.

Mr. G. R. Medforth, the Kenya Coffee Board’s chief inspector, who supervised the burning, said about one million — or 20 per cent — of the plants in nurseries throughout the country were surplus and would be burned. Growers would get compensation.” The Times, 25.5.67.