Sunday, September 3, 2023

New pamphlet (2023)

Pamphlet Review from the September 2023 issue of the Socialist Standard

Revolution Not Reform. By Jordan Levi. World Socialist Party of the United States. 70 pages (with notes). ISBN 9781097623600.

This pamphlet, in booklet form, is a simple exposition of the case against capitalism and reformism and for socialism by a member of our companion party in the United States.

Two of the reformists discussed — it was written in 2019 — are Bernie Saunders (of whom the author was originally a supporter) and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. Both claim to be socialists but their programme shows that they favour the wages system ‘but just want wages to be higher’; that they favour private ownership ‘but just want small and big business to have a level playing field’, that they still think housing, food, etc should be produced for sale ‘but just want them to be cheaper’. As the author comments, ‘sounds pretty capitalist to me’.

The idea that Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela were or are socialist is debunked and they are shown as state capitalist to various degrees. Leninism is distinguished from the views of Marx and Engels as a distortion of them. The final chapters speculate on what the early days of socialism, as a classless, wageless, moneyless society based on common ownership, democratic control and production for use not profit, might be like.

Written in a chatty style it is easy to read, with the footnote references confined to the last 20 pages. It can be read in one go and so can be a useful short introduction to socialist ideas.

Copies can be obtained from our Head Office at 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 7UN. Price £5 (postage included). Cheques payable to “The Socialist Party of Great Britain”. Paypal payments to

Do it Yourself": something worth thinking about (1958)

From the September 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Post-War cult of “Do-It-Yourself” gained most of its newspaper publicity through the effect it had upon home decorating and repairs. The process of making up for colossal war-time destruction and continuing to arm for the next war produced a period of unprecedented full employment. This was the immediate economic situation that kept the repair and redecoration of working class houses at their maximum market price—a price too high for working class families to afford—even with full employment..

And so we have seen the growth of scores of journals and newspaper features devoted to papering ceilings, pointing brickwork and unstopping drains. Firms have made fortunes manufacturing and marketing power tool kits for enthusiastic handymen; and the rate of borrowing from public libraries of books on “useful arts” has doubled..

But “Do-It-Yourself” has more interesting origins than even this novel economic situation. Some of its causes are deeper, more obscure, and may not on the surface appear to be economic at all. If you ask the man who tells you he has just tiled his bathroom with the latest plastic tiles and easy-to-fix adhesive why he did the job himself instead of paying a tradesman to do it, his second reason (after the cost) will be the quality of workmanship. He cannot trust the workers in the decorating firms to “make a good job of it.” Now, the standards of professional decorating for working class houses has never been high, as Robert Tressell’s book, “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists,” makes quite clear. Materials and work are pared to a minimum to keep costs as low as possible and produce a job that will pass muster on a casual inspection. It has little to do with conscientious workmanship because, where the contractor’s price can be paid, as in the office suites of growing industrial companies, picture houses, and the most expensive private houses, the “ professional job ” cannot be bettered. But in the cheap trade there does seem to be justification for saying that standards are falling even below the old penny-pinching level.

The High Cost of Repairs
The reasons are not hard to find. Full employment and the growth of mass production have made repairs of all kinds relatively dearer because of the higher proportion of hand labour they consume. The exploitation of the repair man cannot be stepped up to any great degree by mechanisation as it can in manufacture. It is small wonder, then, that firms whose sole business is repairing and refurbishing shoddily built houses should be forced to lower their standards in order to avoid pricing themselves out of business entirely. Nevertheless, the combination of higher prices and lower quality has forced thousands of working men to arrive home after a full day's work in the factory or office and then put in a full evening's work with a bucket of distemper in the kitchen.

Mass production has done something else. Although it can never produce the finest quality of workmanship, it has raised the standards of design and finish of a number of commodities produced for the working class market. And so the ordinary working man and his wife have begun to apply these standards that they have obtained from mass-produced television sets and crockery and clothes to the homes in which they live. In the majority of these homes the mass-production standard of even the cheapest “ telly ” makes the rest of their furniture and decorations look ludicrously squalid. In addition, the furniture and fittings used in the plays and shows on the telly makes them even more aware of what material comfort can be. The workers have had a slight taste of quality and they find that they like it. The struggle to keep up with the Joneses has begun in earnest and “ Do-It-Yourself ” offers about the only chance for the pay packet to stretch to a set of built-in cupboards, even though they must be made mostly of hardboard and rather thickly painted. The working class family has to put up finally with their own rather poor imitation of quality.

The Tedium of Mass Production
But it is economic conditions also that have made many of these home handymen actually enjoy bringing their total working hours up to twelve or fifteen a day. Wage-working has always been drudgery but it has taken modern mass-production and office organisation to reduce factory work and clerical duties to a deadening tedium. The last vestiges of pleasure in making something or performing a personal service—the real pleasures of work—are gone .A man who attends half a dozen autos all day and every day while they churn out screws gets nothing but boredom and weariness from his work. It is therefore small wonder that in his “leisure” time he should get a certain amount of pleasure out of putting in a new kitchen sink, since the job has got to be done anyway. It really means, however, that working hours have not been shortened very much in the last hundred years.

“Do-It-Yourself” has thus helped to prop up a number of the minor weak points in the capitalist social system: but. like many another social trend, this movement has to some extent overshot the mark already. It has more than filled up the immediate economic vacuum which brought it into being and, far from keeping working class attention fixed safely on private household problems, has begun to spread into wider fields. Acute business men have recognised in this craze a deep underlying need in working men to do something constructive in a social system which, when it is not destroying things and people, is forcing such a high degree of organisation and atomisation upon production and living that the ordinary man feels he is no longer in contact with real things or real life. As with every other potential market, capital has striven to exploit this one to the full. Apart from “ Do-It-Yourself ” kits for making furniture and boats and—in America—rockets, it is possible to take up part time study in all sorts of skills and fields of learning. There are correspondence courses for almost everything except a medical degree: and on a less strenuous level there has been a sharp increase in radio and television programmes with a bias on learning and active participation. “Network Three” is the plainest example of the trend, but it is now also possible to be your own archeologist with Sir Mortimer Wheeler, your own big game hunter with Armand Denis and his wife, or even a marine biologist with Hans Haas.

Much of this is of course spurious or at least superficial participation in such affairs for the ordinary working man; but his appetite has been whetted and occasionally he is given a broadcast programme or a newspaper article that is even daring enough to suggest that he should think for himself.

Do your own thinking
This is really the end of the ride, however. This is where the powers that be want to call a halt to the craze for “ Do-It-Yourself.” It may help the worker to put up with the monotony of factory life if he can do a bit of house-painting in his spare time. That is safe. What he does at home does not seriously offer competition to the mass production he does for the major part of his day. When it comes to thinking, however, the mass media of propaganda—television, films, radio, advertising, newspapers, pulpits, classrooms—could be seriously upset if ordinary working men started doing their own thinking. They might pause from accepting the opinions of professionals on the state of the world and start trying to make their own. They might start asking their own questions instead of leaving it to the Questionmaster. They might begin to ask why, in a world with such vast productive resources and capabilities, with mass production in fact, they have to work eight to ten hours a day, five or six days a week, fifty weeks a year, fifty years in a lifetime, just to maintain a barely sufferable standard of living (when there is no slump), and then be pensioned off with a pittance when they are too old to work.

They might start asking why, in a world where nobody wants war. they should be called upon, every generation or so, to leave home and family to go and hurl death and destruction at other working men and women who also don't want any part of it.

They might even ask how on earth it came about and —what is equally fascinating—how it is kept up that a very small group of people in the civilized world own the land and the vast accumulation of property and wealth upon it, while the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of these countries own nothing but a few meagre, personal trifles.

When working men and women start asking their own questions, they will start putting two and two together for themselves and that, to the propagandists and to the class and system they strive to keep in power, would be intolerable. That would be political thinking; and if there is one thing that the working man is expected not to do for himself, it is to trouble his head about politics. All the agencies of propaganda agree upon this that there are plenty of expert politicians and historians and economists who are far better equipped than the ordinary worker at political thinking. All that he needs to do is to put one or other of the reputable types of representative into the Commons every five years and leave it in their capable hands.

The only trouble is that these professionals have an unbroken record of failure. “Do-It-Yourself "—both the practical and theoretical kinds—has begun to show people that many experts are not so different or so infallible as they used to appear. Some of these jobs and some of these ideas are quite easy when you know how, particularly this business of politics, for which no special training or degree is given, and in which a man doesn’t have to be particularly bright, as is plain when some politicians appear on television.

When the ordinary working man has begun to do his own political thinking and has realised that all the business of present day politics, all the mad mass production and competition for profit, the insane wars for economic and strategic advantages, are only important issues for those who really own the world and only arise because of the social system in which he and his fellows own nothing—when he has thought this himself—then he and all those like him in the world will decide that such a social system must be done away with as soon as possible. And, having acquired a healthy distrust of experts and professionals, he will decline all the offers of those who contend to do the job for him. We will have become aware of what this party has been telling him for fifty- four years: if you want a job well done—if you want Socialism—you must “ Do-It-Yourself.”
S. Stafford

The Nautilus and the Sputnik (1958)

From the September 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Use and Misuse of Science
On 9th August two items of news reached the Press, the voyage of an American atom-powered submarine under the North Pole and the hint by the British Minister Of Supply that the Government is considering, the construction and launching of a British Sputnik. Here surely are two evidences of the marvels of scientific knowledge and human courage and ingenuity that no one need hesitate to glory in!! And so it might be if the human race had learned how to conduct its social relationship in a manner conducive to its own wellbeing and happiness. But that is precisely what it has not yet done.

The submarine “Nautilus” with 116 men aboard, had journeyed under the North Pole and the Arctic icecap from Alaska to Iceland, proving the practicability of cutting the voyage from London to Tokio from 11,200 to 6,300 miles; truly, as described in a message from the British Admiralty, “a remarkable and historic achievement.” The submarine is reported to have cost nearly £13 million, and allowing for all the other costs involved, this might be considered a trifle if it did in fact bring the kind of benefits to mankind that are claimed for the feat. But what in fact will it achieve? Its captain, Commander Anderson, said:—
"We were anxious to show the possibility of utilising this route some day as a fast commerce route."—(Daily Telegraph, 9th April, 1958.)
What else has it achieved? A correspondent of the Daily Telegraph tells us:—
"A new ocean, the frozen wastes of the Arctic, has been opened up to navigation and hence to naval use. This is the meaning of the unprecedented trans-Polar under-sea voyage from Hawaii to Iceland, of the nuclear-powered submarine Nautilus."
Then the correspondent, Mr. Hanson Baldwin, develops this theme—far removed from Commander Andersen’s words about commerce. Quoting an American naval expert he shows how a submarine firing guided missiles could range across the Arctic, with the Russian towns of Murmansk, Leningrad and Moscow well within range. “The whole vast Arctic coastline of Russia is potentially open to assault.”

From the Depths Below to the Moon Above
So much for the penetration of the icy waters. Now for the projected British Sputnik in space. The Manchester Guardian, in the seemingly thoughtful and sober way of which it is proud, discusses the project and doubts its advisability. But the Guardian’s argument is atrocious when viewed from the real interests of the human race.

It concedes that there are “virtues in carrying the Union Jack outside file earth’s atmosphere,” the virtues consisting chiefly of “a certain amount of prestige,” like that gained by the Russian and American governments already. But the Guardian’s editor considers the cost would be too great, unless at the same time some military advantage can also be gained in the shape of using the launching of a Sputnik to acquire experience with guided missiles.

Not that the editor underestimates the value of “prestige,” but he thinks that “the kind of prestige which Britain needs is that which makes it easier to sell locomotives in South America, motor cars in the United States, and electrical machinery in the Far East.”

“A Sputnik may help in this direction,” he writes, “though not as much as a successful Zeta or victory at Le Mans.”

Here we see the real motive behind it all, the one that poisons and distorts every official and commercial activity of the world in which we live. The scientists may talk of pure research to discover Nature's secrets, and the Cabinet Ministers of benefits of peaceful commerce, but all the time their actions line up with the inescapable character of capitalist enterprise, the trade competition that gives rise to rivalry and war, with Nationalism and Patriotism serving as the justification for every hostile act including the bestialities of war itself.

How can the vicious circle be broken? There is only one way. It is stupid self-deception for the Manchester Guardian and Labour Parties of the world to dream of taming the cut-throat struggle through United Nations pacts and interventions. Continuing on those lines means continuing the history of the past 100 years into a war-torn future, with consequences beyond imagination. If capitalism continues, with the giant capitalist Powers, U.SA and Russia fighting it out, and with their respective capitalist allies and satellites all necessarily involved, the conquest of the Arctic seas and the conquest of space will prove as empty as and even more disastrous than did the opening of the Suez Canal nearly a century ago, about which just the same soothing claims of beneficial progress were made. (We can see in our day what the Suez Canal really did for the world.)

The only way out, and one the Manchester Guardian never even considers, is to end the private ownership of the means of production and distribution, and the consequent ceaseless armed conflict for control of sources of nature-given materials, and competition for markets in which to dispose profitably of the products of the workers' labours, and to launch out on the really great and fruitful adventure of organising world resources on the simple basis of production solely to meet the needs of mankind.

But that is Socialism and so far its daring simplicity frightens all except the small minority who hold to the principles of the S.P.G.B. and its companion parties.
Edgar Hardcastle

Editorial: Fair shares in misery (1958)

Editorial from the September 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

If somewhere in the universe there were beings who had learned to run social affairs on a sensible, socialist, basis, and if some writer there offered to his readers a factual account of our trade union movement, they wouldn’t believe him. They would say that it just is not possible that men and women who possess such industrial skill, knowledge and capacity could behave as shortsightedly as they do.

This thought is prompted by the report of proceedings at the conference of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions on August 13th. We quote from the Evening News:—
“The two giant unions of the “Little TUC“—the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions— clashed to-day over what should be done about the ‘sack.’ 

“At the Confederation's annual conference at Paignton, the 1,300,000-strong Transport and General Workers' Union pressed a four-point plan to 'cushion' workers faced with dismissal.

“They demanded full consultation with the unions on the selection of workers to be sacked, plus cash compensation.

“The Amalgamated Engineering Union, Britain's second biggest union, took the opposite line. They demanded that nobody should be sacked unless alternative work was found and that work-sharing schemes should be introduced.

“The split widened when Mr. Les Kealey, national engineering officer of the transport union warned the 40 unions represented at the conference that workers generally are not willing to 'share the misery' when it comes to dismissals."
If the two propositions may be thought to represent the lowest possible level of what passes as thought in the trade union movement, the long discussion that followed was even worse; with such ancient fatuities as “getting down to the basic principle of the right to work” and “ work or maintenance.”

It was a relief and no surprise to read in the stop press news that it had ended with a typically pious and meaningless formula:—
“Announced at Paignton conference that TGWU and AEU had reached agreement on redundancy, with policy declaration that district committees and shop stewards would do all possible to ensure minimum of hardship”
Of course the trade union officials and delegates who drafted those statements and made those speeches will defend them. They will say that it is all very well to be theoretical but, things being what they are, trade unions have to be practical. They have to recognise that as the employers have more workers than they need the misery of unemployment in one form or another has to be accepted.

To which the socialist reply is that things don’t have to be what they are.

What is the problem the workers are facing? They have produced for the employers more than the latter can profitably sell at the present time, so many workers are threatened with the sack; which means that they will fall from the employed workers' standard of living to that of the unemployed. So they spend a day arguing whether the added misery should be spread evenly or in lumps. And to make even this ludicrous choice between evils they have to get the consent of the employers, who are masters of the situation. What makes the employers masters of the situation? The government does. How does the government come to be in this position? It was voted there by the elector?. Who form 90 per cent. of the electors? The workers do. In whose hands therefore does the remedy lie? In the hands of workers like those who sent delegates to the Paignton conference to waste their time with nonsense calculated to make the angels weep, and who send M.P.s to Parliament

What should be done? The answer is, or ought to be, obvious. The workers, who conduct all the processes of production from top to bottom, at present do so on behalf of the capitalist class who are the owners of the means of production and the products. This is capitalism and it exists all over the world, but it is not a necessity; it is a man-made arrangement that the working class can end when they will. When they choose to end it by introducing Socialism, production will be solely for the use of the population. Men’s livelihood will no longer be dependent on the willingness of employer to employ them. And the notion that, as production rises above a certain level (determined by profit) the standard of living of the wealth producers should be reduced will appear as absurd and irrelevant as the “remedies ” discussed at the Shipbuilding and Engineering Conference. ‘

50 Years Ago: Shorter Working Hours and Unemployed (1958)

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

The speeding up of the workman, the ever-growing intensity of the labour exacted from him, renders imperative a longer repose so that he may recuperate his working strength and maintain his maximum productivity. Hence flows the modern tendency toward shorter hours so that the profitableness of the worker to the capitalist may increase. It is the necessary and inevitable outcome of modern industrial conditions, even from the capitalist point of view, and is by no means a sign of victory over the ruling class. If the champions of the eight-hour day were to confine themselves to stating the truth about their pet reform there would be little need to quarrel with them, but when they claim as one of the virtues of the eight-hour day that it will abolish or greatly reduce unemployment, we join issue . . . 

In the present instance, if the reduction of working class hours is to bring about more employment, it could only be by decreasing the output per man, and providing work by causing the employment of more men to produce the same amount as before. But would it have very much effect? So far as positive evidence goes, it is directly against any presumption of a lessening of the present output per man. Even past masters of the art of red herring trailing give themselves away at times. Thus Sidney Webb and Harold Cox in the book, The Eight Hours Day, state in considering the result of a general reduction of the hours of labour in all trades that
“The successive reductions of the hours of labour which this century has witnessed have been attended, after a very short interval, by a positive general increase in individual productivity. In many cases it has been found that the workers did more in ten hours than their predecessors in twelve. The effort to get more than a certain amount of work out of a man defeats itself."
[From the Socialist Standard, September, 1908.]

Letter: Juvenile Delinquents (1958)

Letter to the Editors from the September 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Greenford, Middlesex.

Dear Sir,

The article by G. R. Russell on the above subject will do little to further the cause of Socialism as both Sir Hartley Shawcross and Mr. Ewen Montague spoke the truth.

I live on a Council Estate which is really well laid out, grass plots and verges, tree lined roads, and good gardens and there is a Park less than five minutes away where the children can play any game they like. The houses are well built, have parquet floors, central heating, half tiled kitchens, lavatories and bathrooms. The tenants include teachers, store managers, civil servants, etc., etc. Hardly a house (except my own) has less than £15 per week coming in.

One would think that under such circumstances the children would play in the Park and other open spaces provided, but do they? Oh no, its the streets, sitting in the gutters and on the grass plots under the shadow of notices prohibiting such action.

Not long ago three of the boys watched a family go out and promptly broke in, stealing money and articles. Opposite me, a house was being built privately; a work hut with glass along one side, was erected and within five minutes of the owner leaving not a pane was left intact. Later bricks, neatly stacked, were scattered to the four winds and later still, the entire glass in the windows had to be renewed three times. They even broke in and knocked holes in the dividing walls.

Was all this due to “environment” of either parents or children? Was it hell. It was due to lack of parental control and failure in home and school to teach the difference between “Mine” and “Thine.”
Yours faithfully,
B. S. Anderson.

The article to which our correspondent refers (“Juvenile Delinquents Again.” July S.S.) commented on the question posed in the Yorkshire Post as to whether the current “light regard for morals or a weakening sense of responsibility” may be encouraged by “something in the nature of the society we have built up.” Our contributor, in his article, answered the question with a yes! and dismissed as superficial Sir Hartley Shawcross’s and Mr. Ewen Montague’s attitude of laying the blame on parents without mention of “ environment and conditions of poverty.”

It is true that our contributor illustrated his case against the capitalist environment in which we live by examples of bad housing and sunless streets, etc., but the case is not against merely the worst conditions but against capitalism itself.

Our correspondent’s examples taken from an area where the workers are more highly paid and better housed does not meet the Socialist case.

To start with, we would want to know much more about the problems of the parents who live there than the bare statement that most of the homes are believed to have £15 a week coming in (not exactly a princely sum to meet the cost of a family anyway). How many wage earners are there to a household; how many of the wives have to go out to work; what are the outgoings on rent and mortgages. A recent article on the similar troubles of the new town of Stevenage may give us a clue. It is a brand new town, with brand new houses, but, says the local Catholic priest. “Families are up to the neck in debt and their big worry is only whether they can keep the HP. going on the telly” (Empire News, 10th August, 1958). The same article instances a family of six with an income of £13 18s., but after paying for rent, food and other outgoings (including 57s. for rent and 17s. 6d. HP. repayments on T.V. and carpets) all they have left to buy clothes “and daily titbits,” etc., is 31s. 3d. a week.

But these are only a small part of the “environment” with which we, as Socialists, are concerned. The children of rich and poor live in different kinds of houses and neighbourhoods, but they all, and their parents too, live in a world given over to wholesale waste, personal and governmental, and to destruction, instability and the ever present threat of war.

Our correspondent wants the parents and teachers to shoulder their responsibility of teaching the difference between “mine” and “thine”; but how will this solve the problem? He asks them to hold with conviction and pass on to the young, the faith that respect for property is of paramount importance for their happiness. But how can the adults or the young find this a sufficient doctrine against the background of capitalism which constitutes the environment in which they live.
Editorial Committee.

Motives in the Middle East (1958)

From the September 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Following the Iraq coup d'etat, the working class has been subjected to a tremendous amount of propaganda. The press and radio have been calling for varying degrees of support or antagonism according to whichever sectional or national interest they represent. It falls to the Socialist Party, with our unqualified opposition to every capitalist faction, to interpret the events objectively and to state the true position of the workers in relation to them.

Throughout history the Middle East has been invaded or dominated, due to its location as the bridge between Europe, Africa and the Far East. Since the demand for oil has arisen, its strategic importance has been almost eclipsed by this most essential of fuels. These are the causes of the struggle for supremacy in this area. The conflict between American and British oil interests has been overshadowed now by the threat of Russian encroachment. In 1950 the U.S. controlled only 44 per cent. of production against 53 per cent. by Britain and Holland (in Royal Dutch Shell), but by 1956 the American percentage had grown to 57 per cent, while the U.K.'s share had fallen to 35 per cent. The outstanding example is Iran. Before the Abadan incident, all Iranian oil passed through British hands. The agreement reached after the failure of out-and-out nationalisation saw the establishment of an International Consortium to buy the oil from the Iranian Government. The Consortium is divided as between Britain 54 per cent., U.S. 40 per cent., France 6 per cent. Production throughout the Middle East has doubled since 1950 so that U.K. companies are showing increased profits, but this only masks the real decline of British holdings.

In keeping with its status as a world power, the Soviet Union is greatly interested in the Middle East. As with all capitalist states, Russian foreign policy is directed at seizure of the fields. This aim—an extension of Czarist policies—came close to partial achievement following the Second World War. In 1946 a treaty was forced on the Iranian Government, forming a Soviet dominated company with concessions in Northern Iran—this area still being under Russian military occupation. After the troops withdrew Iran, with Anglo-U.S. backing, repudiated the agreement. Now posing as the Arabs' friend, Russia has increased its propaganda in the hope of building Communist parties capable of taking over and attaching the oil nations to the Soviet bloc.

The Egyptian capitalist class, spear-headed by Nasser, is also trying to gain access to the oil sources. To gain this object they have some indisputable advantages over their rivals. Most Arab workers feel that the sole barrier to better conditions is the dominance of Western nations. Exploiting this conviction, Nasser has persuaded many Arabs that he is the only man capable of obtaining and maintaining their departure. He has been greatly assisted by Russia, which has supplied arms and money, and by the abortive Anglo-French Suez landing. Although Russia and Egypt are momentarily allied doubtless time will generate the usual frictions

Although Egyptian policy has won many supporters among the Arab workers, the capitalists of the Middle East oil producing nations are not enthusiastic about coming under Egyptian dominance. This lack of enthusiasm has led to a reluctance to join the United Arab Republic and so share the revenues with the Egyptians. Even the new Iraq Government shows no desire for integration.

Against this sordid background, shorn of the normal camouflage about “safeguarding our national livelihood” or “safeguarding the political independence of the Arab peoples,” the Iraqi rising and the subsequent manoeuvring can be seen in their true perspective. At the overthrow of the monarchy, agreements between the Royal Government and the oil companies were on the standard 50/50 basis. This 50/50 division of the spoils has recently been cracking. Earlier this year contracts between the Japanese and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait led to the Arab States receiving a 56 per cent. and 57 per cent. share respectively. Much speculation has been aroused on the outcome of these and similar agreements. In its March publication the Petroleum Press Service asked, “Are we going to see governments of some of the main producing countries seeking changes in the existing agreements?” Shortly before the revolution the Iraq Minister of Economics held talks with the Iraq Petroleum Co., after which it was announced that the Iraq Petroleum Co. would surrender certain areas held under concession. No doubt Feisal’s Government intended to lease these areas to other companies in keeping with the new rates, but as the 50/50 still applied to the I.P.C., which controls the majority of the output, the net gain was somewhat niggardly. The report on these talks was announced on the 13th July— the coup began on the 14th! Though reports suggest that the revolution was planned in advance, the timing appears more than coincidental. The rebels felt, no doubt, that Feisal and Nuri-es-Said were too bound by their earlier agreements to obtain better terms and a completely new government would have more success. Premier Kassen has stated “the new Iraqi Government would be able better to safeguard oil interests than previous governments.” We can now expect the Republicans to negotiate a fresh agreement with the I.P.C. on a par with the recent precedents.

Western capitalism is probably resigned to this course in moderation (“any Iraq Government will make greater demands on the producing companies" — Financial Times, 16/7/58), but exorbitant demands will be strongly resisted. The landings in Lebanon and Jordan after the revolt were ostensibly to bolster friendly governments, but it has not escaped the attention of the U.K. and U.S. authorities that there are advantages in controlling these countries should discussions break down. The head of the main pipeline from Iraq is situated in Lebanon and could be closed to impede any attempt by the Iraqis to market the oil themselves. And the British troops in Jordan are on hand should intervention be deemed necessary. The stakes are high enough for our masters to contemplate it!

The turnover has been approximately £150 million annually and attempts are being made to double production by 1960. As has been stated, the overwhelming proportion of Iraki oil passes through the Irak Petroleum Co. and its subsidiaries. 95 per cent. of the I.P.C.’s shares are divided equally between British Petroleum, Shell, the Cie. Francaise de Petroles (in which the French Government has a large interest), and the North Eastern Development Corporation—an American company controlled by Socony Mobil Oil and Esso. The remaining 5 per cent. is owned by the Gulkenkian Foundation, although negotiations are afoot to buy 1¼ per cent. of these by the C. F. de P. This would then make the French organisation the largest individual shareholder. The interest of the West in the welfare of the I.P.C. is evident.

Previous examples have shown that when nations are competing for such a richprize open hostilities can result. Although it is by no means certain that armed conflict, either local or world-wide, will immediately arise out of the present situation, it IS certain it will be the working class who will bear the brunt of any fighting—AND FOR NOTHING! It will make no difference to the working class whichever capitalist group controls the oil fields. Arabs, who believe that complete national control of a country’s resources will benefit the workers, are advised to study the contemporary histories of the Sudan, Indonesia, etc. Supporters of the Communist Party should compare current Russian Middle East behaviour with the Soviet/Persian Treaty of Friendship of 1921, before lending support to its imperialist policy. Article 8 of this treaty contains the following: “Federal Russia finally renounces the economic policy pursued in the East by the Czarist Government, which consisted in lending money to the Persian Government, not with a view to the economic development of the country, but rather for the purposes of political subjugation.” Western workers, instead of being bellicose on the masters’ behalf, should be concerned with the struggle against both Eastern and Western capitalism and for the establishment of Socialism; only then will oil cease to feed the flames of hatred.

A World To Win (1958)

From the September 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard
“The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.
They have a world to win.
Working men of all countries Unite!”
These are the words of Marx and Engels in their famous Manifesto of 1848, and although that is now 110 years ago, there is a message contained in those words which is of the greatest importance to the working men of all countries in 1958.

In 1848 our present system, capitalism, was just beginning. Although it had existed in England for a considerable time, the last remnants of an earlier system, Feudalism still existed in Europe, and Russia. Most of the rest of the world was still completely undeveloped industrially and was operating under the old feudal order of things. This meant that the working class, a class of wage earners or proletarians, as Marx and Engels called them, had yet to emerge. By far the great majority of people were peasants.

The idea of an international system, the whole world as one community, could not have had any significance under feudalism. The village and farm life of people working on the land and rarely leaving these confines, the scanty means of communication, the general isolation of one part of the world from another, and the inability of most people to read and write, all this would go against any world-wide concept of things.

With the development of trade, once England, the pioneer of capitalism, had broken trail, others began to follow suit. The appearance of capitalism has been sometimes gradual, sometimes more rapid, in various parts of the world. There are a number of reasons for this uneven growth but the important thing is that those countries which have been slow to start, China, India, etc., make rapid strides once they embark on the building up of capitalism.

These rapid strides are sometimes quite misunderstood, and taken to be something entirely different. Many people, including adherents of the so-called Communist Party, believe they can see Socialism in Russia chiefly because of the vast and speedy development of modern industrial techniques.

The fact that Russian industry is run by the State makes the confusion more persistent, but when one realises, as Marx and Engels did, that the State is necessarily a CLASS instrument it is then easy to understand that with wages, buying and selling and profits, not to mention war machines, Russia has all the fundamental features of capitalism and in fact is a capitalist country.

To Marxists it is elementary that the existence of wage-labour means that a class exists which owns nothing but the ability to work.

It is not at all the concern of Socialists to deny the tremendous technical and scientific advances since Marx’s time. It is in fact this very development which provides the material basis for the class-less world of abundance— Socialism. What makes Marx so important is the fact that, with all these technical advances, the workers of all lands are still cut off from ownership in the means of wealth production which they operate for the profit of a privileged minority of owners.

Because of this ownership by a few, and for no other reason, the world, which no longer needs to be a number of isolated parts, is still marked off into absurd frontiers involving ridiculous passports and Customs barriers, with each national ruling class jealously guarding their loot against the others.

So in 1958 the world is a seething mass of tension and anxiety. Vast armaments are poised at bases all over the world, including “H” bombs, in case one ruling class group should attempt to grab the oil, rubber or other economic assets of another. The Hydrogen bomb itself cannot be separated from scientific development under capitalism.

In 1958 it is as true as ever that housing problems, hire purchase, tally-men, and the general struggle to get by are the lot of the productive working class, while their non-productive masters enjoy the best, and follow the sun.

For a world of plenty and happiness without wars and poverty, it remains for the workers of the world to see that they are in the same predicament and that flags and nations do not matter. Then this great potential which capitalism has built, only to stifle for profits, will be a reality and. free from our chains, the world will belong to all mankind.
Harry Baldwin