Saturday, August 26, 2023

Weakness of Nuclear Disarmament Campaign (1958)

From the August 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many rank and file adherents of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, associated with which are Cannon Collins, Donald Soper, Michael Foot and others believe that they are opposed on principle to nuclear weapons. They might be interested to know the reply which was made to a reader of the Socialist Standard who was seeking an “official and authoritative" reply to the undernoted question, from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The question was:—
"Is it the policy of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at the next general election to advise their supporters to vote only for a completely anti-nuclear weapon candidate no matter to which party he or she belongs and to abstain in the absence of such a candidate? ”
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament replied in a letter dated June 27th, 1958, signed by Peggy Duff, the C.N.D. Organising Secretary:—
"It is not the policy of the Campaign to advise supporters to vote only for a completely anti-nuclear weapon candidate because we feel each individual must make their decision alone, according to the circumstances in the area in which they live. To do as suggested in many areas would result in the return of a candidate much more opposed to the Campaign than the alternative.”
To put it very charitably, this attitude is certainly not one of principled opposition to nuclear weapons. It is a far cry from A.J. P. Taylor's wildly acclaimed suggestion at the inaugural meeting of the Campaign on February17th this year in Central Hall, Westminster, that politicians who supported the nuclear “deterrent" policy should be branded as “ Murderers! "

It is said by a number of people in the movement itself that some Labour Party politicians are discreetly attempting to use for their own ends the indignation of those who are appalled at the prospects of nuclear warfare and the insidious dangers of fall-out from weapon tests.

Here we see the difference between the approach of the S.P.G.B. to the problem of war and the approach of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The Socialist Party of Great Britain sees that war happens because of the way the civilian life of the world is carried on, the capitalist system of production and distribution, with its rivalries between the nations for markets, sources of raw materials and the control of trade routes and strategic points.

We hold, therefore, that the only road to peace is through altering the structure of society from capitalism to Socialism. This requires that a majority shall become convinced of the need for Socialism and democratically take organised political action to abolish capitalism and establish Socialism in its place.

It follows that the Socialist Party is opposed on principle and completely to all who help to keep capitalism going (which includes helping to keep war going). Therefore, the S.P.G.B. opposes the candidates of capitalism, Tory, Liberal. Labour, Communist, or whatever label they may be.

On the other hand there are those who say they are opposed on principle to nuclear weapons, but who do not recognise that capitalism is bound to go on producing wan, large or small.

They think that by concentrating on this particular kind of weapon (regardless of bacteriological, chemical or any other known or secret weapons) they can gain time for more rational political policies to be instituted before the radio-active poisoning of plant and animal life or the destruction of civilisation makes politics redundant.

But when it comes to applying their principle in a practical way they find themselves involved in giving support to electoral candidates who do not share their principle. In face of past experience of such attitudes what can they really hope to achieve by this?

We hope that this short article will stimulate those in the Campaign to write to us so that fruitful discussion of the whole problem of war and nuclear tests may ensue.

Party News Briefs (1958)

Party News from the August 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Visit to America tad Canada. Plans are being made by our Comrades in the West for an extensive tour for Comrade D’Arcy when he flies to America at the end of August, where he will be a delegate from our Party to the Annual Conference of the World Socialist Party at Boston. Without doubt he will have a very interesting trip if Comrade Gilmac’s experiences last year are anything to go by. It is hoped that Comrade D’Arcy will be able to send an interim report for inclusion in the September Socialist Standard.
* * *

Wickford Branch is in future to be known as Basildon Branch—full details are given in the Directory on the back page.
* * *

Mitcham Discussion Group has now been established and is holding regular meetings on the fourth Thursday in each month. In addition, lectures are being held on August 14th and September 11th—details elsewhere in this issue.
* * * .

Bloomsbury Branch is arranging to hold discussions on the first Thursday in each month at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, W.C.l. The first, on September 4th, at 8.30 p.m., is on Crises. Comrade Hardy will open the discussion.
Phyllis Howard

50 Years Ago: What is Meant by Education (1958)

The 50 Years Ago column from the August 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Doe education necessarily mean a knowledge of the higher mathematics, Greek and chemistry? No! Education, from the Socialist point of view, is a recognition of that class antagonism prevalent in society today, and a consciousness that the workers as a class must combine in opposition to the capitalist class and its supporters for the purpose of taking, holding and controlling the political machine, and subsequently the means of life in their own interest.

The full recognition of this basic principle of Socialist propaganda and of the uncompromising action necessary to the attainment of the above object is absolutely essential from our point of view, and the moment the individual unit of society recognises this and acts accordingly, he is, from the Socialist viewpoint, educated.

Unless the workers are educated in this sense all efforts at emancipation will be as futile as those already attempted. And this is why  they cannot emancipate themselves until they are educated.”

The administration of education at present lies in the hands of the capitalist class, who will take care that only those subjects tending to keep the workers in subjection, and to make them more efficient producers, shall be taught

(From the Socialist Standard, August, 1908.)

You have it all wrong! (1958)

From the August 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

For the well-being of the people of these islands the S.P.G.B. advocates:—
Abolition of the Dole!
Abolition of Old Age Pensions!
Abolition of Maternity Benefits!
Disbanding of Trade Unions!
Although the declaration of principles is printed in every publication we issue, the S.P.G.B. receives numerous requests to declare itself, to put forward constructive and concrete proposals instead of destructive attacks on all the other political parties. These, therefore, are some of our aims put in a “concrete” manner. Our reasons for pursuing such a policy follow—a policy which we believe will further the well-being of the working class; not only of this country but of the whole world.

Our object is Socialism: A social system under which the means of production and distribution are commonly owned. With common ownership it naturally follows that there can be no employers and no employees; therefore no employment, i.e., unemployment Socialists are surprised how workers who consider themselves “fly” continue to fall for this employment racket. Workers, to whom it would be impossible to sell “a gold brick” or Trafalgar Square, are still sold this greatest of all confidence tricks. On going to work the boss provides one with a desk or machine and pays for only part of the work done. Were a shop assistant to give short change, the injured party would swiftly take steps to rectify it but under capitalism not only do die injured parties tolerate this system of short-changing, but even support it by voting for political parties which will perpetuate the system. People who allow themselves to be swindled acquire the just title of “suckers.”

Money being a convenient means of measuring property, in a society where all wealth is communally owned, it would automatically fall into disuse. The dole, therefore, would also become obsolete. If certain articles were to be over-produced the workers in those industries would not be penalised for having worked too hard and forced to eke out an existence on the pittance the Government deems fit until the glut had been absorbed. Rather, they would still be able to enjoy the fruits of general production which they would have undoubtedly earned.

Similarly, Old Age Pensions and Maternity Benefits would pass into history, so that when workers decided that their advancing years no longer rendered them capable of doing their job satisfactorily, they, too, would not be deprived of access to the necessities of life, but could spend “the twilight of their lives” (as the reformists like to call it) without fear or worry. Under Socialism couples wanting children would not be oppressed with worry about being able to afford them.

Trade Unions are the defensive weapon in the arsenal of the working class. The offensive weapon, the vote, is grossly misused and the Trade Unions are far from fulfilling their role.

With the advent of Socialism Trade Unions will no longer be required. There will be no wages to fight over or redundancy to worry about and their function will be ended.

Thus it will be seen that our proposals, at first sight Utopian to those whose minds have been conditioned by “the Welfare State,” in fact would be a boon to all mankind. This new social system can be obtained—provided YOU, the reader, understand it and want it. The S.P.G.B. is available to be used by you. Don’t delay its employment longer than necessary.

Sting in the Tail: Summits of impotence (1995)

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

Summits of impotence

Here, John, did you see that the G7 leaders had another Summit up in Nova Scotia? They tackled some very big international problems like how to increase world trade, save the environment, tilings like that.

Well, OK, it’s true that they fell-out a lot because they all put their own economic and political interests first, but be fair, John, the Americans couldn’t let Japan import all its luxury cars into the States without opening up its own home market, could they? And Helmut Kohl had to give John Major a bollocking for agreeing that Shell could dump Brent Spar in the Atlantic, because that was very unpopular in Germany.

But the good news is that they’ll all be putting their heads together again next year at a Summit on unemployment! No, John, must admit I didn't know they’ve already had two Summits on that last year and came up with Sweet Fanny Adams, but d’you really think that the only result of them putting their heads together will be an exchange of dandruff?

Asking for it
"How they distrusted and for the most part disliked him, yet clung to him. lie was the only possible leader . . . It was true, of course, that [he] was an electioneering asset. In the constituencies his appearance was much admired. Women especially found him impressive."
This could be a summary of what many Labour Party members feel about Tony Blair, but the leader in question was Ramsay MacDonald in 1930 and the quotation is from Malcolm Muggcridge’s book The Thirties.

No doubt many in the Labour Party distrust and dislike Blair, They know he can treat them how he likes and this was painfully obvious when, having won the vote to change Clause Four at the special conference in April. He said “Now, about the party’s name,” and when they gasped in horrified anticipation, added “it stays as it is.”

How they must have squirmed at being so openly toyed with, but those who need a leader must accept being led, even when it is by the nose.

Relative surplus value

A letter in the Guardian (12 June) aired a familiar complaint. The writer cited a prediction made by an American scientist many years ago that computers would eventually do much of humanity’s work and also reduce working hours. He then contrasted this with today’s “long working hours culture” plus the growth of unemployment and asked “what went wrong?”

That American scientist was not alone in making ill-founded predictions about what technology’s advance would bring. There were, for example, TV programmes like Tomorrow's World which had robots doing everything, even the housework, and leaving us all to lead lives of leisure.

None of these crystal-gazers understood that capitalism isn’t concerned with reducing work but only with reducing COSTS in order to boost profits, and it does this, not through idealistic work-sharing, but by simply dumping as many workers as possible and screwing more work out of those who remain.

It stands to reason

One of the daftest economic theories around is that the economy can be “talked into” recession. Only a few years ago the Director General of the Institute of Directors blamed the “Jeremiah voices” who he claimed were guilty of this.

Now the Institute of Chartered Surveyors has criticised Professor Doug Wood for his recent prediction that house prices would stay low for the next twenty years. The ICS branded this as “a self-fulfilling prophesy” which, they said, had caused house prices to fall even further.

How, then, do they explain the fact that for years building societies and estate agents have been talking-up house prices without this having the slightest effect? If it were so easy for “Jeremiah voices” to talk the economy or any market into recession then it should be just as easy for the super-optimists to talk it back out again.

The exploitation party

All rent, interest and profit is derived from the surplus value that the working class produce. The difference between the wealth the worker produces and what she or he receives in the form of a wage or salary' constitutes this surplus value.

This is true throughout the world. It is true whatever political party is currently running the capitalist system. So it is with some interest that socialists look at what the British labour Party plan to do if they form the next government.

Under the headline “Labour Unveils Its Economic Blueprint” the Labour Shadow Chancellor let us know what is in store for us in the event of Labour forming the next government.
"Mr Brown said the strategy would aim to increase savings and investment. Wages would have to rise by less than productivity" (Independent, 28 June).
So there you have it, fellow' workers. The Labour Party wants to increase the surplus value wrung from our hides.

Bon voyage!

Did you know that the aircraft on which we travel may well contain inferior parts which could cause them to crash? Such crashes have already occurred and Panorama (BBC1, 12 June) revealed that there is an extremely lucrative, world-wide trade in counterfeit and even scrapped parts.

The airlines and the civil aviation authorities deny this, but Panorama proved that counterfeit parts backed by false documents are rife in the airline industry, and one American counterfeiter described US government inspection as “a joke”.

All of this is hardly new because a similar TV programme a few years ago showed that not only fake parts are available but so are major assemblies such as entire undercarriages made from inferior materials.

Why does this happen? Well, the genuine parts are expensive because of the high specifications involved, and capitalism will always provide both motive and opportunity for money to be made no matter the consequences. Flying to the Med or Florida for your hols this year? Safe journey!

World Review: Poor Health Wanganui (1995)

From the August 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

One can’t help but notice the supreme irony surrounding the name of the Wanganui area Crown Health Enterprise (CHE)—Good Health Wanganui. Good Health Wanganui is in very bad health having just had the hard word that it has too high a level of service compared to other CHEs around the country and therefore will have its funding slashed. Two hundred and forty-six jobs will be lost from the beleaguered CHE along with 30 percent reduction in some surgery over the next three years in order to "break even". The Dominion (13 June) reported:
“‘Other services would also be downgraded because the Government believed the crown health enterprise had been providing more services than necessary’, chief executive Ron Janes said yesterday.

'The situation is utterly disappointing,’ Mr Janes said. To have the spare capacity to be able to help those in need and not use it is bad enough. But to also shed that capacity so it will not be there when future policies show more vision is worse.’"
Janes must have been rapped over the knuckles for telling the truth as his first statement was followed later with a less critical statement, after a phone call from the CHE Minister Paul East's office.

The Dominion continues in the same article:
“The salaried Medical Specialists Association said more cuts were pending, with plans to contract out support services such as x-rays, pharmacy and laboratories, while references to reducing the cost of continuing care for the elderly to market level and promptly discharging new mothers were ominous."
On the same day, the Evening Post carried a report that the
"Hutt Valley Health CHE will have to severely cut back or close several services over the next two years because of proposed funding cuts.

The cuts are coming because the Government had told CHE it will stop funding to cover deficits by 1997. That means hospitals will have to make do with funds provided by RHAs (Regional Health Authorities). CHEs say those funds are inadequate to meet growing demand for services."
Since the dose of "free market" restructuring given to the old Area Health Boards by the National government, things have been going from bad to worse. Now after being split into autonomous competing companies, Crown Health Enterprises are run on strict business lines, where running out of budget is a final thing. CHEs contract out various services such as catering and cleaning but still must survive on the vote of money from the state via RHAs. CHEs are in direct competition for resources and supplies.

Recently the CHE in Lower Hutt ran out of budget for operating theatres three-quarters of the way through the year. The remaining three months without money meant an idle theatre but still a large and growing waiting list for operations. That’s not to say that the waiting lists were much smaller under the previous regime, but that restricted state funding has become more obvious.

Getting the chop
Various CHEs have been in the media recently for turfing patients—mainly elderly—out on the street in the wintry dead of night in the interest of cold-blooded efficiency. Also patients have been abruptly discharged supposedly because there is nothing seriously wrong with them, despite protestations and then promptly dropping dead. Funding restrictions have meant that the over-70s are no longer receiving certain operations such as knee replacements and in one very highly publicised case a man who needed kidney dialysis was refused and left to die. Doctors are forced to make life-and-death decisions because of the absence of sufficient funds, and the elderly are the first to get the chop, in keeping with the system that sees workers as economic units, rather than as human beings. Elderly workers are regarded as having too many miles on the clock and are too expensive to maintain.

Have no doubt in your mind that the capitalists’ idea of the perfect worker is one who remains healthy all their working life, works hard to the day they are put on the scrapheap and promptly drops dead thereby releasing the capitalist class from having to fund their hospital repairs and pay for their dotage. This is not necessarily because the capitalists are heartless cruel people but because the logic of a competitive system of society which has a fundamental need to accumulate capital at all costs for survival.

The Returned Services Association (RSA), well-known as being a bastion of conservatism recently criticised the government’s treatment of the aged citing as examples:
  • There had been no catch-up in pensions for the elderly despite a thaw after the three-year freeze. Meanwhile, the cost of living had risen markedly, leaving many senior citizens on or below the poverty line.
  • Medical and elective surgical treatment for many had been put on hold as waiting lists grew longer, with operating theatres closed for part of the year as funding allocations were used up. Asset-testing meant assets were required to be used to pay for full-time care in rest homes often causing the long-saved-for family home to be sold-up and unable to be passed to the next generation.
It is interesting in this connection to note that the old much debated topic of Euthanasia has popped up again with a private member’s bill named "Death with Dignity” being introduced in the New Zealand parliament and recently the Northern Territories of Australia passing a bill allowing voluntary Euthanasia under certain circumstances.

No doubt a few wealthy members of society like the thought of workers topping themselves to eliminate the expensive care needed to attend to the terminally-sick. Undeniably, there are certain aspects of Euthanasia that are humane, but in a system of society like capitalism, it is open to abuse, to service those who would benefit from reduced state expenditure.

The Evening Post (1 June) reported that:
"the government has told public hospitals to increase profit by restricting surgery and other services, says the Medical Association.

Chairman Dennis Pezaro said a letter from the Ministers of Health, Crown Health Enterprises and Finance to country's 23 CHEs showed the health reforms were a 'sham'. . . . This means hospitals must not do more operations than they have been paid for . . . Since die health reforms, surgical waiting lists have increased by about 30 percent to 80,000 despite hospitals increasing the number of operations."
According to Health Minister, Jenny Shipley:
"the reason for the instructions was to prevent the problem with the previous area health board system, where hospitals ran up large debts doing uncontraced non-urgent work and then sent the bill to the taxpayer."
So why does the government show so much concern to "the taxpayer” while at the same time is practically oblivious to the needs of many workers in desperate financial situations, the unemployed, the sick, and families struggling to survive on low income? The answer is both simple and complex. Complex because of the mythology surrounding capitalism; simple because the answer is that it is in effect the capitalist class that ultimately pays the burden of taxes, including PAYE and GST. which are a charge on profit, rent and interest for the services provided by the state.

Obviously, the less tax charged by the state, the more profit left over for reinvestment and consumption by the owners of capital, or allowing them to remain competitive in the face of competition in depressed markets. You didn’t really think that you were going to benefit from promised tax cuts did you? There are a hundred ways of skinning a cat, and the claw-back of the extra take-home pay is relatively easy in times of high unemployment (look how easy it was to make the public servants put up with many years of no pay increase while inflation reduced what they could buy with their frozen wages).

In New Zealand, health represents over 10 percent of total government expenditure, and is the second largest single government expense next to social welfare (25 percent); which is why both are under attack. This is happening worldwide; governments around the world are attacking social welfare, trying to reduce the infrastructural costs to capital, in order to remain competitive in an ever more competitive market. Is this a spiralling effect? Yes. But of course reducing expenditure can have negative effects when taken too far, as needed workers become unproductive because of ill-health, broken marriages, poverty-driven social disintegration, crime etc.—but just how bad can it get? Do you want to wait around and find out? Or do you want to do something about it while you can? It’s a choice between roll-over-and-die, or stand-up-and-be-counted—counted for your active support for free access; no money, voluntary labour; no employment, democratic administration; no government.
Dave Tildesley,
World Socialist Party of New Zealand