Friday, August 25, 2023

Press Exposure: Oo dun it? (1995)

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

"It's The Sun Wot Won It" was how Rupert Murdoch’s finest, in a page one full-frontal, analysed John Major's victory in the 1992 general election. This was the latest in the Sun's history of brilliantly impactful headlines—cheeky, in words of one syllable, hitting you in the eye will a roll-your-own, crude concept of something which you might otherwise regards as serious.

That front page said a great deal about how vulnerable the working class are to inducements to grievously abuse their power to make urgent fundamental changes in society. It also contributed to the delusion.So persistent among the press, that it can influence—even decide—the outcome of elections. This delusion must profoundly boost the egos of the press barons and the editors and the cynical hacks who write up those items and compose those artistically misleading headlines. Perhaps that is what encourages people like Murdoch and Conrad Black, and before them Robert Maxwell, to shell out millions to buy the papers.

There are, however, obvious flaws in this concept. To begin with, the press in this country overwhelmingly supports the Conservative Party so if the voters always voted as the papers advised the Tories would never lose any by-elections and there would never have been any Labour governments to pick up where the Conservatives had left off and Winston Churchill may well still be prime minister. Not that it would matter if he were, except to the morticians, because the notion that the lives of people who have to work for their living are affected in any significant way by which party they elect to try to control capitalism is just another of those stories in the papers which should not be believed.

On your bike
The most recent example of the news papers kidding themselves that they control large political issues was in the fight for the leadership of the Tory Party though this time they were primarily attempting to influence the rather small electorate of Tory MPs. The greater— and certainly the more popular—part of the Tory press were firmly opposed to Major. The Sun, wot done it for Major in 1992, has now decided that he "has loser written all over him. He is damaged goods". A screaming page one headline drove home the point that Tebbit had come out against Major: "On Your Bike, John." The front page of the Daily Mail was devoted to a cartoon of a sinking liner—the Torytanic—and the advice: “Time To Ditch the Captain." In what preens itself as the quality press the Times and the Daily Telegraph were keen for a change, with the Telegraph condemning Major as unlikely to alter his policies so "as to give the Tories a realistic prospect of winning a general election". There is no equivalent in elections to the Trades Description Act, but if there were disgruntled voters would have had grounds of complaint about this apparent exposure as an incompetent wimp of the man the press were urging us to vote for so recently.

Only the Daily Star, the Daily Express ("the voice of reason in a cacophony of extremist nonsense") and the Financial Times supported Major but their combined circulation is little more than half that of the Sun by itself. So it turned out that the press campaign had little effect on what is surrealistically known as the most sophisticated electorate in the world. (Anyone who has observed Honourable members prancing and preening before the electoral hoi polloi in the lobby or behaving like empty-headed disruptives in the House must wonder why they call themselves sophisticated, but never mind.). Although the Tories voted to keep Major there were enough who did not support him to make a significant body of irritants which must be eager to exploit his problems in the future, with or without the approval of the press.

What decides how an MP votes in a leadership election is whether the leader is a vote-winner or a loser. That was why the Tories ditched Heath and then Thatcher. The voters did not reject Thatcher, she had led the Tories to victory in three successive elections but by 1990 enough MPs were convinced that the Iron Lady was corrosive of their majorities to overthrow her. She said it was a funny old world and she wept real tears as she left DowningStreet but someone should have told her that this was politics. If the Tory press had been asked they might well have wanted to keep Thatcher, who had seen off Callaghan and Foot and Kinnock not to mention General Galtieri and a few hundred Argentinean sailors on the Bclgrano. But reality—the Tory confidence that they are the great election winning machine—intruded in the persons of the men in grey suits and, whatever the papers said, her time had come.

However loud the Tory papers screamed, Major won because he was the safer bet while Redwood could not reassure enough Tory MPs that their majorities would endure and flourish with him as leader. It was, in other words, not the papers but the MPs—fearful, ambitious, calculating—wot done it. 

These Foolish Things: Nuclear capability—is power (1995)

The Scavenger column from the August 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nuclear capability—is power

China has tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile, diplomats said yesterday, marking another crucial step towards superpower status for the country amid mounting American and Asian concern over its future geopolitical rĂ´le. Coming two weeks after China’s May 15 nuclear test, the new missile is believed capable of reaching the US west coast, and most of Europe. China’s new 0.3 megaton nuclear warhead is expected to become operational next year, Pentagon sources said. (Guardian, 1 June.)

Don't you just love being in control?

Brian Mawhinney, the Transport Secretary, personally vetoed the publication of recent research which shows that children from low-income families and of ethnic origin are most likely to be involved in road accidents. The deaths and serious injuries of children are still rising in spite of an overall downward trend in deaths against an increase in traffic.

Surprise, surprise

“. . . the Labour Party has embraced the need for a ‘dynamic market economy’ in its new statement of values.

The question for voters when they next go to the polls is which of the main parties can oversee British capitalism most effectively.” Richard Thomas and Larry- Elliott (Finance Guardian, 1 April).

Ruling class priorities

“In 1913 Great Britain was at the height of her power and dominion. One-third of the surface of the globe—and three-quarters of all the ships that sailed the oceans—flew the Union Jack.

And the provision in the budget for the Royal navy was 11 times that for the social services.

Eighty years on, these figures are almost reversed. The Navy can draw on less than one-twelfth of the amount dispensed in ‘benefits’. . . we have got into a position where single mothers now get £5.29 billions (far more, in case anyone is interested, that the cost of Trident in the same year).”, Alan Clark, Mail on Sunday, 11 June).

Market forces

There will be no cod left in the North Sea within five years as a result of a political failure to deal with the problem of overfishing, Mark Tasker a British delegate to the North Sea Protection Conference, said yesterday, (Guardian, 8 June).

Class war casualties

The number of industrial accidents in the West Midlands has soared during the past year.

New figures released by the Health and Safety Executive show that the number of major accidents reported throughout the West Midlands jumped by more than 70 percent to 1,088 during the last year, {Evening Mail, 28 April).

Just an ordinary ruler

The Princess of Wales wants her son to be given as normal an upbringing as possible. She will be delighted, therefore, that Prince William has passed his entrance examination for Eton and, like every other normal boy in Britain, will soon be hurrying to his lessons in a black morning coat, white shirt and waistcoat. There will be ten pupils in most of his classes.

Economic oppression

More then 700,000 people have lost their homes since the repossession crisis began in 1990.

The Scavenger

B&Q bargain of the week — Dignity Stripper (1995)

The A Word in Your Ear column from the August 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

The case of Phil Cheeseman, who was sacked by B&Q for refusing to participate in early morning team exercises and chants at their Luton superstore, has received rather less media coverage than O.J. Simpson. As a sign of the times it is worthy of the closest scrutiny; from the newspaper, Luton/Bedfordshire on Sunday came the news of Mr Cheeseman’s sad failure to live up to his employer’s requirements:
" 'I was really excited when 1 got the job because it was my first permanent employment in four years,' said Phil, 'but from day two they had us singing and dancing and chanting a silly rhyme. They even played party games like bobbing apples, standing on chairs and jigsaws. I was as a customer advisor but I never actually spoke to a customer. ’ But B&Q general manager Craig Higgins said he believed ‘passionately ’ in the unusual training methods . . . ‘We need to perpetuate a real spirit of teamwork . . . Not every game is a success— apple dunking wasn’t, ’ he conceded, adding that Wednesday morning’s game of human machines was a good example of a successful game. ‘Each department was asked to produce a human machine with each person being a moving part in that machine—one department was a clock, another a vending machine, another a typewriter, and one a forklift truck . . . We finish off with aerobics—the admin department has formed a group called the Adminettes— and then do the store chant.' "
The report on Cheeseman’s dismissal for “not being a team player’’ mentioned that there were 3,000 applicants for the 250 jobs in the new superstore. Making them jump through hoops would have been the easy option.

Now, this is the point. As a wage slave you can expect little in the way of luxurious comfort and less in the way of security. But there is a third aspect of decent life which you can expect to be stripped of also: Dignity. It’s a precious resource and it’s fast going out of fashion. From beggars on the pavements to shop workers forced to chant like Maoist victims of re-education, there is a distinct sense of noses being rubbed in the dirt.

The stinking service ethos is now everywhere. When once surly counter-staff would yawn in your face and sneer at the faceless buyer as if they half expected you to have to show them a ration book before you could purchase your kippers, now well-trained smiley-servants wearing silly hats and inane badges greet us all as “customers” and pretend to care whether we are having a nice day. In the USA this phoney insanity has reached its nadir, with almost every restaurant filled with slave-like waitresses (more often than not working to pay for their university tuition fees so that they can learn “Business Management”) who recite the entire menu, including “today’s specials”, while pouring iced water for you, helping you to take off your coat and panting for a few-dollars tip. It’s enough to put anyone with an ounce of self-respect and a controllable hunger right off their nosh.

Once on an aeroplane about to land in New York, the stewardess (or sky skivvy) urged us all to get on our feet and do a quick work-out to prepare us for our arrival. A few Japanese complied, thinking it was Federal Law, and the Californians present participated with the zeal of cull members. I asked for a whisky and contemplated opening the window for a spot of fresh air. The thought of a few hundred on-the-spot joggers being sucked out over New Jersey made the landing feel smoother.

They can take everything away from you, the bosses can. With their money and power they can leave you for dead. They can repossess your home and make your children go hungry and deny you paid work and force you to queue up for a state hand-out and blow you up in their wars and pollute the very air that you must breathe to live. All of this they can do with impunity—as long as they are allowed to by the majority.

But no lousy little manager is going to take away my self-respect. The agonies of destitution would be preferable. Phil Cheeseman, whoever he may be, did right to tell them to stuff their human-machine games and company chants up where the sun doesn’t shine. Being “done” by exploiting idlers is bad enough, but expecting us to Do-It-Ourselves, whistling while we work at selling their shoddy crap, is the final nail in the DIY coffin of our dignity.
Steve Coleman

50 Years Ago: The 1945 Election (1995)

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

The Election Campaign is over and the votes have been cast. For the first time in the history of this country a party of working men and women has put forward a delegate for parliament on one issue alone—to capture the powers of government for the sole purpose of dispossessing the capitalist class of their ownership of the means of production and establishing Socialism in place of the present social order. At our meetings we stressed the fact that voters who were not in favour of this sweeping revolution should not vote for our delegate. We also stressed our opposition to reform policies and pointed out that we could do nothing for the workers; that Socialism was something the workers must accomplish themselves, understanding what they were after and using the Socialist Party as their instrument for this purpose. Our opponents at North Paddington were the Tory and Labour parties.

North Paddington Election

The Voting Figures were as follows:- 
Macfarlane (Labour)      16,638 
Bracken (Conservative) 10,093 
Groves (S.P.G.B.)               472

(From an article in Socialist Standard,
 August 1945)

Letters: Fragmented and Inchoate Project (1995)

Letters to the Editors from the August 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fragmented and Inchoate Project

Dear Editors,

One of the greatest obstacles for me in accepting the kind of socialism advocated by the Socialist Party was its attitudes towards partial ameliorative reforms, which I found illogical, believing that any improvement in immediate conditions should be promoted vigorously and urgently. Why not fight for better workers’ rights, a better health service, transport, a right to work, freedom of association, a right to welfare, strong charitable institutions? All these seem like good causes worth defending.

However, I am changing my mind. I am beginning to see not only that the fight for partial reforms represents a fragmented and inchoate project in which the various claims to resources are actually made to clash with each other, but that the struggle for “rights” and "freedoms” as we perceive them in a capitalist society is distorted by the language of the market economy, it is invested with what Marx called the ideological superstructure— a set of ideas charged with the function of protecting the existing organism, by leading people astray into misguided, or even damaging, avenues of protest.

So it is, that, in an atomised and isolated way, individuals support various charities, pressure groups and unions. The historical precursors to these groups are what Marx called the Utopian socialists, a group of unconnected thinkers spanning the 18th and 19th centuries who railed against the emerging barbarism and inhumanity of international capitalism. These philosophers and economists, mostly either English or French, were a great influence on Marx himself. The difference is that Marx’s analysis of capitalism is on a deeper level than any of his predecessors; for his aim was not, for instance, to accept the "right” of the displaced labourer to the benefits of humane parish support, but more profoundly to reject the premise that human labour must turn to the capitalist for favours of charity, when the employer deems him surplus to the requirements of profit. Marx argued that "rights" and “freedoms" were determined by the material forces of production, and for him the point was not to assent to these forces—but to change them.

It seems to me that Marx was exactly right The way capitalist epigones appropriated the terms "freedom" and right, only admits of social justice within a narrow circle permitted by market forces. Marx’s scientific socialism amounts to a critique of the idea that social justice ensues from the proper disbursement to labour for the pain of labour; for Marx rejects the idea of the equation between labour and pain, and on the contrary shows that the expressive exertion of brain and muscle is at the centre of human beings’ existence. By absorbing the assumption that man has by nature an aversion to the exercise of his faculties, the Utopians conceded an axiomatic assumption of the capitalist system they strove to revise, and they were therefore limited to a kind of partial, extenuated reformism which was doomed to be ineffective. These palliative reforms are the basis of the fragmentary struggles we see today in the field of social justice.

In short, the Utopians (Hodgskin, Thompson, Gray and Bray) sought decent wages for workers, that is, a fair rate of exchange for the value by which the labourer enhanced the product. Marx’s analysis is far more profound; for him, the evil does not lie so much in the poor rate of exchange of labour, but in the very nature of exchange, which converts man as an active social and productive being into an instrument of profit by means of which man is not kept industrious and happy, but on the contrary unwillingly unproductive and unfulfilled.
Norman Armstrong, 

Class struggle through ‘cyber struggle’

Dear Editors,

I disagree with Jonathan Meakin’s pessimistic conclusions regarding the global computer network known as the Internet (“Internet; Forum or Marketplace?", Socialist Standard, June 1995). My experience as an avid "net surfer” lucky enough to enjoy cheap access as a university student is that the Internet does not simply mirror the capitalist marketplace. At the moment only about one half of net “traffic” is put to commercial use. Alongside this market-driven content is an incredible diversity of non-commodified information reflecting the multiplicity of net users, most of whom seem to be hostile towards attempts at money-making and the imposition of state (or any other) censorship. The decentralised and fluid nature of this form of communication has been capitalised on by unions and grassroots organisations around the world in their attempts at preventing the erosion of gains won under capitalism in the face of the innocuous sounding “global restructuring". Unions in particular, while slow to catch on to the potentialities of "cyber-struggle”, have more recently begun to the use the Internet to coordinate strikes and boycotts, educate around labour issues, and make links around the globe with otherwise isolated union activists. One of the most successful political uses of the net came with the dissemination of information concerning the plight of Mayan Indians in the Mexican state of Chiapas, following the recent crackdown by the Mexican government. The situation was largely ignored by the mainstream media, yet the support garnered from the speedy and widespread publicising of the demands of the Zapatistas on various global computer networks was cited as one of the main reasons why the government was eventually forced to negotiate with the rebels.

There are also numerous maillists, newsgroups, and "web sites” which are of more direct interest to socialists. One particular maillists "oneunion”—involves participants drawn from the political sector which the World Socialist Movement shares an affinity with; anti-statist and non-market socialists and anarchists. Discussions on this list are wide-ranging and include debating the relative merits of "free access” versus labour vouchers. criticisms of reformism, and appropriate methods of working-class organisation. There is also an excellent web site where those who are so inclined can access most of the work of Marx and Engels at the touch of a button.

Of course, the Internet is not perfect and it cannot escape being tainted by capitalist social relations. As Meakin acknowledges. availability is obviously restricted to those with literacy and access to a computer, modem, and the relevant software— which counts out the vast majority of the world’s population— although the growth of "freenets" (computers hooked up to the Internet available free of charge usually in public libraries) is encouraging. The question of whether computer-mediated communication is desirable given the health risks associated with the production and use of this form of technology, is important to consider. And with the Clinton-backed "Information Super-Highway" just around the corner, the possibilities for Orwellian levels of surveillance and social control of people in their homes is indeed frightening.

Nevertheless, commercialisation and state interference with the Internet is not as inevitable as Meakin implies. It is unlikely that the millions who, at the moment, enjoy the accessibility, diversity, autonomy, and co-operative nature of the net will simply stand aside and concede to the crass consumerism of the invading market. In fact, if it is inevitable that every form of communication used by workers to counter capitalist ideology and exploitation will eventually succumb to the "law of the market", how on earth will socialist ideas spread? Why wait for a revolution? Used in concert with other media, the Internet has the potential to become a useful tool in the hands of a growing socialist movement and, despite the ruminations of neo-luddites, it is probably here to stay.
Julian Prior, 
Vancouver, Canada (

The Marx and Engels Archive is available on the World Wide Web at http:// csf.Colorado.EDU:80/psn/marx/ To join the "oneunion" maillist send a message to OneUnion- with the subject “subscribe”.

Speaking out against religious fanatics

Dear Editors,

First of all, may I congratulate you on your fine work and struggle against this capitalist regime. I have voted Labour all my life, but only recently have become more involved with proper socialist organisations as yourselves and the SWP.

I read with much interest your short article about “Socialism versus Islam" (July Socialist Standard) and may I say that I couldn’t agree with you more. Islam is a very oppressive religion depriving women, gays and other minority groups of fundamental rights. In fact it is a well known fact that Muslim countries have a record of abusing human rights.

I am Asian and, although an atheist, it does not stop people associating me with this religion. Thank goodness that organisations like yourselves have no fear in speaking out against these fanatics.
A. Ditta,

Thanks for your support - though it must be said that Leninist organisations like the SWP are similar to fanatical religious cults and their heroes in the Bolshevik Party knew a thing or two about human rights abuse.

Virgin on the Ridiculous (1995)

TV Review from the August 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Channel Four has recently been showing a season of horror films, and viewers could have been forgiven for thinking that the kind of torture exhibited in Witness: True Love Waits (4 July, 9pm) was an entirely new addition to the horror genre. The action centred on Nashville, Tennessee, where the devotees of the local Baptist churches have taken to insisting that their children take vows of celibacy until they marry. Much of the documentary was taken up with film of local church “leaders" instructing teenage children in what is, and is not, permissible behaviour before marriage according to the “Holy Scriptures". Teenage girls were advised to spend six months "finding Jesus" before entering into any sort of relationship with the opposite sex whatsoever, and after this period of holy probation, only talking, holding hands and some forms of dancing were deemed permissible.

And were the teenagers happy with this state of affairs? Were they buggery. Most were torn between guilt at offending Jesus before descending into hell for all eternity, and expressing their natural sexual inclinations in a healthy manner. The boys were sad and guilt-ridden, the girls either brainwashed automatons or tearful would-be rebels. Most demonstrated signs of what is commonly called neurosis. One teenager was so deliriously happy with her lot that, when asked to recant her past sexual indiscretions before the church, she spent the entire time sobbing her heart out, barely able to speak the guilty words that were tearing her apart. After the ordeal, she ran back into the congregation to the arms of her parents, looking for consolation from the twisted mentalities that were so intent on making her life a misery. She probably had nowhere else to run.

Truly, what bastards these Christians can be, like most fundamentalist religious fanatics. Brainwashing, manipulation and humiliation were the techniques used to get the right result for Jesus and that was only the public face of it. Without a doubt, True Love Waits was one of the most terrifying programmes seen on television this year, and should have been compulsive viewing for anyone toying with the ideas of any of the barmy god-squad outfits that infest modern capitalism. It was a truly disgusting sight to see slick twenty-something preachers feeding guilt on a plate to vulnerable teenagers. "No touching below the neck! No 'dirty talk’ and certainly no passing of bodily fluids!" Verily, the devil's liquids are everywhere and are not to be trifled with until couples are “united in Christ".

Good News
Despite all this nonsense there was some good news. For despite the attractions of the "community" of church, with its friendships. singing and sense of common purpose, there were doubts. Oh yes, big doubts, and the flock were forever in need of shepherding away from the green grass of Satan's meadows. Straying from the path seemed quite common, and the leaders always needed to be on hand to quell any misgivings or slap wrists (mind you, we weren’t told of their views on masturbation but can guess).

In one ceremony reminiscent of Nazi Germany, the young believers were encouraged to bring the Devil's Music to church and burn their tapes and records in front of the congregation. To put it mildly, most looked less than ecstatic at the thought, and one girl said that secular music played such an important role in her life that she wouldn’t. Some eventually turned up with bags of old tapes to destroy, but most did so with what was visibly no enthusiasm for the project These were, in truth, the sort of people who were manipulated into burning Beatles' records in the sixties when John Lennon made his famous remark about the Beatles being "bigger than Jesus". However, most modern Bible-bashers should care to remember that the fuss soon died down when American teenagers realised that Lennon wrote better lyrics than Jesus and could play the guitar as well.

What True Love Waits showed was what history demonstrates all the time. Religious indoctrination can never be wholly successful for the very reason that much of it is so evidently at odds with human instinct. Primarily the instincts to love, to play, and to have sexual intercourse for the sheer pleasure of it which characterise the human species. The turnover of adherents to Evangelical and Baptist churches seems to be even greater than that for those mind-numbing Trotskyist groupings, and it is not surprising.

Of course, even a broken clock is right twice every twenty-four hours and not absolutely everything in the Christian creed is wrong, just most of it. Indeed, if the teenage church-goers of America care to take one piece of advice from the Bible it might be "go forth and multiply", an adage which, in a slightly different context, should be directed at their religious manipulators and tormentors too.
Dave Perrin

On Behalf of Capitalist Industry (1995)

Book Review from the August 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reform & Reconstruction: Britain after the War, 1945-51 by Stephen Brooke
 (Manchester University Press. 

Last month, being the 50th anniversary of the election of the post-war Labour government, was bound to see a spate of articles, books, and TV programmes on this. This book is one of them. Aimed primarily at history students, it is a collection of contemporary documents with an accompanying commentary.

At that time the Labour Party still used to proclaim that its ultimate aim was Socialism. Its manifesto for the 1945 election Let Us Face the Future declared: "the Labour Party is a Socialist Party, and proud of it. Its ultimate purpose at home is the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain".

Of course this “socialism" was in reality a species of state capitalism under which, unlike in Russia, democratic political forms were to be retained. Nevertheless, Labour politicians, intellectuals and activists did see the nationalisation and welfare measures of the new government as “building up the Socialist economic system" (G.D.H. Cole) and "progress towards the Socialist Commonwealth" (Michael Young).

A more realistic interpretation of what was going on was that certain basic industries, essential to the economic property of capitalist industry as a whole, were taken over and run by the state on behalf of the rest of capitalist industry. Naturally these state industries were run on purely capitalist lines, as was soon recognised by the workers in them. According to one study that appeared in 1948:
"when the hoardings were put up in the colliery yards, declaring, 'This colliery belongs to the National Coal Board and is managed on behalf of the People’, the men responded fiercely, but only for a fortnight. The miners worked harder, were more co-operative and the attendance was better, but this only lasted a fortnight, and this spirit never came back".
As to the welfare measures, these too made sense in purely capitalist terms. There was an acute labour shortage after the war, so some concessions had to be made to the working class but these could be expected to pay for themselves in that a more healthy workforce that didn’t have to worry so much as to what would happen to them if they fell ill or were injured or became unemployed or old would be a more productive, and so a more profitable, workforce.

In short, far from representing progress towards some socialist goal, the measures passed by the post-war Labour government were measures that stabilised and consolidated capitalism. In any even, they only proved to be temporary in historical terms and have now been almost completely undone in the different capitalist economic conditions of the 80s and 90s.
Adam Buick

Why the need for Conscription? (1995)

Book Review from the August 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

On Human Nature by Edward O. Wilson (Penguin. £7.99.)

First published in 1978, this book is now available in paperback. Wilson is one of the leading proponents of the school of thought known as socio-biology. which he defines as “the scientific study of the biological basis of all forms of social behaviour in all kinds of organisms, including man." The crucial word here is ‘social’: no-one would deny that human characteristics such as walking on two legs have a biological basis, but the question is how much of the behaviour that might appear to be learned is actually inherited with our genes. The basic claim of socio-biologists is that Darwin’s mechanism of evolution through natural selection can be extended to explaining social behaviour. Darwin argued that properties (such as bigger brains) which enabled individuals to survive and reproduce more than others would inevitably spread at the cost of less advantageous variants. Socio-biology says that human socio-cultural behaviour is equally influenced by evolution, and that since for all but a few thousand years humans have lived as hunter-gatherers, the traits that were useful in such a way of life still dominate.

To take a particular example which is relevant to the case for Socialism, Wilson argues that humans are innately aggressive. In the jargon he employs, this becomes: "human beings have a marked hereditary disposition to aggressive behaviour". The evidence cited for this is that warfare has been endemic to every form of human society. Hunter- gatherers supposedly relied on warfare to defend territory and resources, so people predisposed to aggression would have had more chance of surviving and so passing on their "aggressive" genes to their offspring than other more pacific individuals. Human aggression is then seen as not simply an animal instinct, but a result of an evolution that has predisposed us to divide other people into friend and foe, to be suspicious of the actions of strangers and to solve conflict by means of aggression. War can supposedly be avoided by inculcating cross-cutting loyalties in people, so that any simple “them- us" distinction is invalid.

However, a broader look at hunter-gatherer society might, in contrast, suggest that we are genetically adapted to live in egalitarian non-market societies (not that socialists would make such a claim). There are many characteristics of hunter-gatherer societies that Wilson ignores, and that would suggest a very different picture of human beings. In any case, the argument for the innateness of aggression falls at the fact that the overwhelming majority of people don't take part in war, and that those who do usually have to be conscripted or otherwise forced to do so. And under capitalism, war is not caused by a dislike of strangers but by straightforward economic motives, motives which are in the interests only of a small ruling class, not of the majority of the population. If "Human beings are strongly predisposed to respond with unreasoning hatred to external threats", as Wilson claims, then this will be no problem in a society which is not based on such threats or competition. Even if Wilson’s explanation for aggressive behaviour were correct (and it isn’t), this would be no argument against Socialism.

Wilson describes Marxism as “socio-biology without biology.", though he does not expand on this cryptic statement The political nature of his claims is revealed more clearly in his dogmatic declaration that the anarchist society proposed by Bakunin is "biologically impossible”, but again he does not expand on this. Leaving aside the question of the kind of society that Bakunin actually advocated, the implication that a society without government is unachievable is simply nonsense. What socio-biology cannot come to grips with is the fact that human nature enables us to learn and adapt, and so transcend the limitations placed on all other creatures by their genetic endowment.
Paul Bennett