Sunday, September 24, 2023

Globalisation – what does it mean? (2006)

From the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard
The second part of our article analysing capitalist globalisation. Last month we looked at how this affected capital. This month we examine its impact on the world’s population at large
The continuing surge in globalisation has had profound human and social effects on vast numbers of people, the fundamental nature of these effects depending on their class position in society, i.e. whether they are capitalists or workers. On the one hand the opportunities for the capitalist class to accumulate wealth has increased multilaterally with, for example, politicians and civil servants in the poorer states quite happy to find the funding for trade fairs, economic surveys, development studies, and visits by heads of state in an effort to increase the profits of that class from the global market.

On the other hand this global frenzy is resulting in upheaval for whole communities, while the transition from rural to urban living is in turn altering human geography radically with rural areas either becoming human deserts or concentrated industrial sprawl. Likewise most global housing areas resemble one another to such an extent that even the shantytowns are becoming uniform in the type of building materials used.

When these social transformations are combined with factors like the increasing mobility of labour – mobility from the peasantry to the modernity of wage slavery – they come with well known costs for the disempowered majority: misery, destitution, family breakdown and homelessness. The most visible aspects of this are to be seen with thousands of families living on the streets of Calcutta, or those families forced to scrape an existence by living on a waste tip in San Paulo, or perhaps a PhD from Addis Ababa University driving a cab in New York city, let alone those staffing a call centre in New Delhi alongside a wall full of useless diplomas.

Such potential human resources being wasted to further the interests of profit maximisation cannot but have an impact on rising social expectations and aspirations. These then come into conflict with people’s sense of achievement. Consequently, we are witnessing a sharp rise in the incidence of mental health problems. And the resulting increase in cases of anxiety, depression, insomnia, mood swings and stress, are to be evidenced in the packed waiting areas of the mental health clinics, along with the expanding appointments for the services of psychotherapists. Add this to the overcrowded waiting lists for the physically sick in the developed and developing countries and many global health services there are in crisis management mode.

Whilst this human tragedy unfolds our political masters are still chanting the mantra that some of the wealth created will eventually ‘trickle down’ to those 2.8 billion people living on less than $2 a day and also to those 1.3 billion living in even more extreme poverty. Unable to solve the problem of absolute and relative poverty, the global politicians have now agreed in their misguided wisdom to try and tackle the problems and issues of extreme poverty only. By this they mean those 1.3 billion people who have to their cost found that the system of wage slavery holds no guarantees of the provision of a living wage, and subsequently finding it impossible to exist on less than a dollar a day. And where the material difference between relative, absolute and, and if you so wish extreme poverty, is so profoundly stark that it creates a sense of inevitability and disempowerment, it is invariably accompanied by disillusionment. This is especially so in cultural terms, with millions being forced from the rural poverty of subsistence living into becoming a landless peasant within an urban environment dominated by the tyranny of wages and surrounded by the advertising of mass consumerism.

The WHO, UN, World Bank, and Jubilee 2000 have reported many of the indicators of global inequality in recent years, and summarised they are:
  • One-fifth of the world’s population is living in extreme poverty.
  • 100 million children live or work on the street.
  • Half the world’s population are lacking access to the most essential medicines.
  • The combined wealth of the world’s 200 richest people reached $1 trillion in 1999; the combined income of 582 million living in the 43 least developed countries is $146b.
  • 70 per cent of the world’s poor and two thirds of the worlds illiterate are women.
  • An estimated 827.5m people are undernourished. Of which 647m, or over one third (37 percent) consist of the world’s children.
  • More than 30,000 children die each day from easily preventable diseases.
  • The top fifth own 86 per cent of the world’s wealth, while the lowest fifth own just one per cent.
  • The wealth of the world’s three wealthiest billionaires is more than that of the GNP of all the least developing countries and their 600 million people.
  • When Argentina defaulted on its debts, 300,000 people were forced to live off the garbage dumps surrounding the city of Buenos Aires.
  • The number of people living in extreme poverty has actually risen by 28m.
Yet it is not only developing and undeveloped countries who are experiencing issues of inequality; even in the major developed countries, like the US, income inequality is now on the increase with one report claiming: 
“The gap between rich and poor in America is the widest in 70 years, according to a new study published by the Center for the Budget and Policy Priorities The research, based on newly released figures from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, shows that the top 1 percent of Americans – who earn an average of $862,000 each after tax (or $1.3m before tax) – receive more money than the 110m Americans in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution, whose income averages $21,350 each year. The income going to the richest 1 percent has gone threefold in real terms in the past twenty years, while the income of the poorest 40 percent went up by a more modest 11 percent” (BBC News Online, 25 September, 2003 : ).
Much the same picture is painted in the UK with the figures from the National Statistics Office and Inland Revenue for 2002/3 showing that the richest 5 percent owned 43 percent of the wealth, while the poorest 50 percent owned just 6 percent; similarly the top 2.4m households owned assets worth around £1,300b, while the bottom 12m owned assets of around £150m. Also according to a Policy Institute report last year, 22 percent of the UK population are still living below the poverty line, including 3.8m children (or 30 percent of all children), 2.2m pensioners, and 6.6m working age adults.

In effect a total of 12.6m people in the UK population are confronted with higher mortality; lower education outcomes; less decent homes; and financial exclusion, due to surviving on, or below 60 percent of median income after housing costs.

On a much more local scale the Child Poverty Action Group revealed in their publication ‘Poverty – the Facts (5th edition)’ that over 80 percent of the children living in the Townhill district of Swansea were defined as poor; benefits make up a larger proportion of total income in Wales than in England or Scotland, with a higher proportion of children living in households claiming income support – 18.9 percent – compared to the UK-wide figure of 13.5 percent; and 32 percent of pensioners in Inner London were affected by income poverty, and children in London are even worse off than those in Wales with 24 percent of households in receipt of income support, or other means tested benefits.

Socialist Outlook
These are just some of the facts and figures that are considered normal to the modern workings of capitalism. They help to serve the purpose of illustrating that the globalisation of capitalism has masked a growing polarisation both within and between countries and that local circumstances are merely a reflection of the global situation where ‘trickle-down’ economics has in reality turned into a flood of inequality, destitution and instability. This confirms what Marxists have consistently stated that the prosperity for the few is dependant on the deprivation of the many. Indeed, despite the huge amounts of abundant wealth created by workers within capitalism, the system is incapable of accounting for the fact that the cases of millions of people dying through malnourishment, or because they lack clean water, adequate shelter, and health care is on the increase. This alone serves as a damning confirmation that there hasn’t been any fundamental shift in the ownership of wealth. It also reaffirms our position that this state of affairs is likely to continue, besides endorsing the contention that the capitalist class will use either system of trading – protectionism or free trade – when it suits their purpose to accumulate wealth.

Failure to grasp the revolutionary challenge this analysis poses has led to the formation of the anti-globalisation protest movement which campaigns on the issues of extreme poverty, world debt and the adoption of protectionist measures for those developing and undeveloped countries who have found that the reality of ‘free trade’ only applies primarily to the G8 nations. Whilst there is no denying that such campaigns have made tremendous strides in highlighting the effects of globalisation, when it comes to outlining proposals for viable alternatives to capitalism, their mindset is locked onto the belief that a ‘fairer’ global society is possible within the framework of capitalism.

Their main tactic is to bring mass protest to bear on politicians and on institutions like the G8, WTO, IMF and World Bank, despite the fact that such a mindset of working towards a ‘fairer’ global society has a long history of failure, based as it is on the false assumption that capitalism can be made to work in the interest of all – rich and poor alike.

Although the effects of globalisation with the human suffering it brings can lead to bleak and negative conclusions about the future, it is also possible to draw different conclusions, ones that are far more positive and meaningful. For what comes out of this rather gloomy picture is the certainty that capitalism has outlived its usefulness as a progressive mode of production. For it reached its early retirement at the turn of the 20th Century – once it had established itself as a global system consisting of integrated and interdependent productive units. As soon as it reached this point it had fulfilled its purpose and turned into a global monster of uncontrollable destructiveness.

With capitalism failing to deliver for the majority it has become more obvious that now is the time to move on to a system of common ownership that is capable of meeting the self-defined needs of the great majority and not just the interests of a wealthy minority. In order to attain such a system of free access an essential prerequisite is for a majority of the global working class to reach an understanding that their sense of social achievement can only be fulfilled by becoming conscious in class terms that capitalism can never be made to operate in their interests. Once they have reached this revolutionary conclusion – and only then – will capitalism lose its basis of support and be replaced by socialism.
Brian Johnson

Cooking the Books: “Mass unemployment” (2006)

The Cooking the Books column from the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

The government’s Welfare Reform Bill is currently going through Parliament. It provides for people on incapacity benefit and single mothers to be harassed to take some crap job or have their benefit cut. New claimants are to be treated even more harshly. This is par for the course. Cutting back on welfare payments has been the policy of all governments, whether Labour or Tory, since the post-war boom came to an end in the 1970s.

The Green Paper which preceded the Bill, bearing the Orwellian title of “A New Deal for Welfare: Empowering People To Work”, sets out the problem as seen by the government:
“In the 1980s and 1990s the welfare state failed those who most needed its help, instead of combating mass unemployment, the welfare state alleviated its worst effects and diverted people onto other benefits.

Instead of helping people into work, it locked them into long-term dependency. By 1997, there were almost 5.5 million people on benefits, 3 million more than in 1979. The number of people claiming unemployment benefits had risen by 50 per cent, while the number claiming lone parent and incapacity benefits had more than tripled.”
This assumes that, if only they had tried, the (Tory) governments of the 1980s and 1990s could have combated “mass unemployment” by somehow creating new jobs as an alternative to paying unemployment and incapacity benefits. But governments can’t create jobs at will.

The Green Paper says that total employment in Britain is now at a record high “having risen by 2.3 million since spring 1997” (when Labour took over). This is indeed what the statistics show but “employment” doesn’t have the meaning which the unwary might assume of full-time employment. It includes part-time employment however short (even one day a week), the self-employed and family members who help them, and people on training courses.

The statisticians divide the population of working age (16-64 for men, 16-59 for women) into three groups: people in employment, the unemployed and the economically inactive. The latest figures, released by the Office for National Statistics on 12 July, show that in the three months to June there were 28.9 million (74.6 percent of working age population) in employment, 1.65 million (5.4 percent of economically active working age population) unemployed and 7.85 million (21.1 percent of working age population) inactive.

The government has set itself the aim of achieving “an employment rate equivalent to 80 percent of the working age population”. A look at the above figures shows that this would be the equivalent of reducing unemployment to zero. But this is not how the government aims to achieve this.

Their plan is to reduce the number of economically inactive by at least 2.3 million:
“To achieve our aim, we will reduce by 1 million the number on incapacity benefit; help 300,000 lone parents into work; increase by 1 million the number of older workers.”
This is all very well but where are the jobs to come from? The latest ONS figures give the number of job vacancies in the three months to June as just under 600,000. Gordon Brown believes that by encouraging “enterprise culture” the Labour government has created the conditions which have allowed businesses to expand and take on more workers and that, if it continues this, more jobs will be created.

What is more likely to happen is that the employment rate will go up a little (with a contribution from people going on government-funded training courses) but not to 80 percent. Instead, the unemployment rate will go up as a result of people on incapacity benefit being transferred to “job seekers allowance”. The government won’t be too displeased with this as they will have saved on welfare payments, since unemployment benefit is lower than incapacity benefit. But it will also, unintentionally, reveal that the “mass unemployment” of the 1980s and 1990s never really went away.

Desperate lies (2006)

From the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard
The man who faced the choice of dropping dead while waiting on the NHS list or bluffing.
Early in August, a story broke about retired painter and decorator, Roy Thayers, having to lie in order to be free of terrible pain he’d been suffering for years, because of heart trouble.

A cardiac specialist warned the 77-year-old that he needed a lifesaving operation as soon as possible, because he was in danger of having a fatal heart attack at any time. He was told the coronary angioplasty treatment he required would not be available from the NHS for nine months because of a waiting list, but added that by going private, Roy could have the operation within a week. Being penniless, Roy had the option of dropping dead while waiting on the NHS list or bluffing. He chose the latter, and said he’d pay, when he knew he couldn’t.

He managed to stall requests for payment by hospital administrators, claiming he mislaid his chequebook. His operation took place quickly, he wrote out a “Mickey Mouse cheque” for the £8,500 cost the very next day, knowing he’d have to face the consequences later.

Speaking of his ploy, Roy said: “I love life, I love my dogs, I love fishing – why should I die for the sake of money?” Indeed, why should bits of paper decide who lives and who dies, or who eats and who starves, or who has a comfortable home and who has a stinking hovel, and so on?
It’s sick and idiotic. But seeing how, under capitalism, goods and services are provided to make profit – not meet needs – this system has created a universal comparison commodity (a.k.a. money) against which other commodities can be measured. Comprising paper notes, metal discs or mere digital data, this comparison commodity exists in order that those with something others need can make its supply dependent upon receiving a specified amount of this measuring tool. No money, no provision.

When Tony Blair developed a dicky ticker, naturally, he got treated very quickly. No long delay for the likes of him. Not forgetting that the Oxford Radcliffe NHS Trust, having provided the PM with his cardiac catheter ablation operation, shortly afterwards decided to deny this treatment to others in order to cut costs and meet the government’s six-month waiting-list targets.

Of course, Roy hasn’t managed to defeat capitalism by writing his rubber cheque. For a start, as he said himself, “I paid into the NHS for years to look after me, but the doctors were telling me they wouldn’t, so who’s robbing who?” Furthermore, the Primary Care Trust (PCT) in charge of the hospital that treated him was soon threatening to send in the bailiffs, and he eventually settled on repaying his debt at £25 a week from his meagre pension.

No doubt, private health care enterprises will now do their utmost to ensure people have sufficient funds before they get treated in future. So although the money-loving Sun tabloid praised Roy for being “canny”, and the profit-hungry Mirror said “well done”, don’t count on acquiring desperately needed medical care by the same method.

The fact is, no one should have to come up with devious methods to obtain critical health care or any other essential services and goods. In a decent and rational world these would be available according to need – not how much money people have depending on how much, or little, capitalism has allowed them to have in return for their exploitation and control by a minority ruling class.

The only reason this appalling and damaging situation continues is because we allow it. If all those unhappy and irate with the way they’re made to live, work and struggle on pitiful pensions came together with the aim of getting rid of the system which allows a super rich minority and their money mechanism to control, deprive and manipulate this majority, then capitalism would be in serious trouble.

Roy Thayers is also quoted as saying: “The real working classes of this country – the ones who have very little money – have been abandoned by their own government.” From his own experience, Roy might well now accept that this government (and those before it) has never had the needs of the electorate as its priority. The main concern has always been looking after British capitalists, not the working class majority.

The answer isn’t more money for the NHS – since in a competitive world, there’ll always be pressure on all governments to keep cutting back on state funding, and increasingly make people pay directly for what they need. No. The answer is a society with no money at all.

That’s the only way to end the idiocy where, these days, NHS hospital employees are being told by PCTs to stop “overperforming” by providing treatment too quickly, because the government then financially penalises the Trusts for not adhering to minimum waiting times (as a result, one gynaecologist said he now spent more time doing sudoku puzzles than treating patients). And a moneyless society is also the only way to end the obscenity of driving people to desperate lies and deceit to obtain vital life-saving treatment that should be available to all – not just those sufficiently well off or powerful.
Max Hess

Future humans (2006)

Book Review from the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

Glasshouse. By Charles Stross. Ace Hardcover. 2006. 352 pages. ISBN: 0441014038 (published in US)

If you go to the Science Museum in Kensington, up to the top floor, to the aviation gallery, you can discover a sign on the wall that informs us that the technology for flight has existed for hundreds of years, but that the obsession with flapping prevented any actual heavier than air flight until well towards the close of the nineteenth century.

This highlights the importance of exploring ideas and technological changes – and being bold and speculative. Contemporary science fiction performs much of that role today – dreaming up new technologies that seem impractical now but will soon become everyday. In a real sense, compared to the founders of our party, we are living in a science fiction world now – sadly it’s a dystopia.

Charles Stross has recently been awarded a prize for his fiction by the transhumanist association (they hold that humans whilst they have evolved technologically are still the basic animals they were half a million years ago, but that soon the technology will exist to change our bodies and begin a new technology driven phase of biological evolution – the capacity to re-write our bodies). His book, Glasshouse, is an examination of the effects of technological change on our society – starting from the fact that within the last hundred years alone that human life has been fundamentally altered by technological innovation, and that the rate of change will increase dramatically within our lifetimes.

Set several hundred years from now, it features Robin, a historian who has wiped his memory agreeing to take part in an historical re-enactment of late twentieth century life as part of an experiment. He finds himself in the role of a woman, trapped both in her own biology and the social roles that come with that.

The participants in the experiment have to live in a panopticon – their every action potentially observed – with rules which they gain or lose points by following – and have to ensure that their ‘team mates’ (their local community) don’t lose them points. It thus forms a useful device for examining the construction of social life and power. Some players – the score whores – unreflectively play the game as presented to them but Robin (renamed Reeve) tries to find ways of breaking out of the restrictive role given her by reading the rules sideways.

She cannot, however, escape the rules and the inertia of the score whores; and she has to stand by and witness the horrors of the rules of the game which she objects to but cannot escape from. As such it is an acute depiction of dissidence in society.

The book is thus both an examination of social power and the power of ideas, as well as a meditation on the importance of memory and history for understanding where we are and where we are going. A flight of fancy that depicts the present in a deeply realistic way.
Pik Smeet

Western vanguardist (2006)

Book Review from the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Rebel’s Guide to Gramsci. By Chris Bambery, Bookmarks, 2006. 60 pages. £3.

This is a short introduction, from an SWP viewpoint, to the life and ideas of Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Communist Party leader who died from natural causes in a fascist prison in 1937. Gramsci appeals to the SWP and Western Leninists generally because of his more sophisticated version of vanguardism than Lenin’s.

In his Prison Notebooks he distinguished the situation in Tsarist Russia and some other parts of Eastern Europe from that in the West. In Tsarist Russia, he argued, the state was everything and the ruling class relied directly on repression to maintain itself in power; in this situation the task of revolutionaries was (in Bamberys summary of Gramsci‘s views) “to lead a direct assault on power when the opportunity arose”, as the Bolsheviks had successfully done in Russia (only to install themselves, we would add, as the embryo of a new ruling class).

In Western Europe, on the other hand, the ruling class ruled mainly through the “hegemony” it exercised over the working class rather than through direct force. In Bambery’s words again:
“In Western Europe . . . the ruling class rested mainly on consent and was able to rely on a variety of institutions within civil society which organised and reinforced this. Gramsci described these as acting like a complicated series of earthworks surrounding a great fortress – the state. So institutions like the church, the media, the education system and political parties helped secure the consent of the masses allowing force to be used sparingly and only in the last resort . . . So these networks of support for the ruling class and the ideas they helped to reinforce had to be undermined first through a long ideological struggle before a direct assault on the ruling class was possible . . .Communists had to set themselves the task of undermining the consent, however grudgingly given, which allowed capitalism to rule.”
This is an analysis we can accept and indeed had made ourselves. But the conclusion Gramsci drew from it was not the same as ours. We concluded that, as socialism too could only exist with the consent of the working class, the task of socialists was to directly, incessantly and exclusively campaign amongst fellow workers against capitalism and capitalist ideas and for socialism.

Gramsci concluded that a vanguard party should seek to establish its own “hegemony” over the working class, by assuming the leadership of the workers’ day-to-day struggles.
Adam Buick

Theatre Review: Coriolanus at the Globe (2006)

Theatre Review from the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

This play features the citizens of Rome, as was customary for Shakespeare, as a fickle and foolish lot, shifting wind under the power of the words of their rulers and betters. The performance of it at the Globe leads to the intriguing twist of bringing the action into the audience (most of whom stand as a crowd before the stage for three hours of more).

We were thus cast as part of the mob, the mob despised by the title character – Gaius Marcius (given, during the play, the name Coriolanus for his part in the capture of the city of Corioli). As Coriolanus ranted how he hated the mob, he moved within the audience, speaking to placed actors in period costumes. The sentiments towards the mob must have jarred with the generally democratic instincts of the modern population.

The play centres on his being appointed Consul (leader) of Rome, and being compelled by the plebeians to gain their votes – for which he must plead and show his war wounds. He believes that consulship is his by right, and resents asking the scum for their voices.

The action then focuses on what is essentially a revolution. The play began with the people in revolt for more bread – which won them tribunes – a representation in government. The tribunes then organise to bring down Coriolanus – as a fierce opponent of democracy.

This leads to him being banished – only to return at the head of a rival powers’ army – much to the consternation of the revolutionary tribunes. Eventually, he is persuaded by the entreaties of his wife and mother not to wage war on Rome, and he returns with his army to be murdered as a traitor to the rival power.

Coriolanus himself is presented as a utopian idealist. He fights for glory, revelling in war. He actively refuses a share of the spoils, claiming only glory motivates him. At war with the world, he wants to be ‘the author of himself’, without any bonds trying him, living only for his glorious legend.His defeat is organised by more worldly Machiavellian politicians.

This raging anti-democrat still manages to hold our sympathies because of his idealism and his proven abilities. He stands as the ultimate individualist – who scowls like a schoolboy when chided to behave by his mother.

The play is littered with corporeal imagery – the state is a body with hands, feet and head. The common people are reduced to mere voices, as airy as Coriolanus’ own glory. It is this sense of powerlessness and insubstantiability that being in the crowd conveys. Audience members could easily recognise the regret of the crowd in making Coriolanus’ the consul for much the same way that most modern politicians – like Tony Blair – are appointed to disappoint by our simple voices.
Pik Smeet

50 Years ago: What is Behind the Fight for Suez (2006)

The 50 Years Ago column from the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

The men at the top see more clearly the economic issues and interests involved but as they need to rouse the emotions and win the support of the mass of the people they dress up most of the declarations in the rabble-rousing language likely to move their listeners and readers. So over Suez we have had from the Western politicians a spate of talk about law and illegality, international rights, and wrongs, Fascist acts of plunder, etc., while from the Middle East Nasser and his defenders have worked up themselves and their audiences with passionate speeches about imperialism, oppression, insults to dignity, sovereignty and nationhood ( . . .).

To the Socialist the world is not capable of being divided into the good and the bad statesman and the good and bad nations; they are all Capitalist and all are impelled by the nature of the social system to struggle for markets for their products, for sources of cheap raw materials, and for control of trade routes like Suez and strategic points like Cyprus. These are the things for which they fight, no matter what the fine phrases and slogans in which their aims and motives are garbed.

The crux of the Suez dispute is firstly the oil that exists in abundance in the countries of the Middle East, and secondly the Canal through which much of it, as well as other cargoes, is transported. Oil is now an indispensable fuel for the motors and tractors, aeroplanes and warships, merchant vessels and factories of the countries of the world. With coal production and hydro-electric power failing to keep up with rapidly growing demand for fuel and with atomic power only a development of the not very near future, all, countries need oil and many of them, including Britain, have practically none within their own frontiers ( . . .)

At the time of writing the discussions between the Powers have not produced a settlement though the evident lack of war-fever among British workers and the disinclination of other Governments to back up Britain and France in forcible action against Egypt have had some effect in restraining the Eden Government and its supporters.

On the other hand Arab workers, misled by the belief that nationalisation of the Canal Co. (and eventual nationalisation of the oil industry) is in their interest, have been vigorously backing their governments.

This is the real tragedy of the Suez dispute, that there is no unity among the workers of the different countries in opposing the war-talk of their Governments.

(From front page article, Socialist Standard, September 1956)

Greasy Pole: Peter Hain - a case of mistaken identity (2006)

Hain's sticking it to the 'Man' years.
The Greasy Pole column from the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

With things as they are anyone wanting to lead the Labour Party must be driven by such pronounced tendencies to self-harm as to classify them as, if not certifiably mad, then clearly unsafe to be let out by themselves at night. So what can be said about anyone whose ambitions run, not to the leadership, but to election as Deputy Leader? How can we take seriously anyone who is willing to work so hard to get a job with so bitter a history of crushed ambitions?

A job held by the likes of Morrison, Brown, Healey, Hattersley, Prescott? Well there is reason to think that politicians can survive only through a stubborn ability to distort reality, which would explain why even now, with the Labour Party in such disarray, there is no lack of candidates eager to take over as second-in-command of the party’s ragged army when, eventually, Blair steps down and presumably takes his Deputy Prescott with him. Among this hopeful, if hopeless, assembly is Peter Hain who, taking the long view, has busily fertilised his campaign with support among the party grass roots and the trades unions.  There have been a variety of descriptions of Hain. In his book The Rise of Political Lying Peter Oborne exempts him,with some other Labour ministers, from “… lying or deceiving the public in a serious way”.

However a blogger on 11 July, who may be closer to public opinion, referring to his policy on Northern Ireland devolution, described him as “a duplicitous tosser”. David Blunkett thought that “If there’s anyone who upsets colleagues more than I do it’s Peter (Hain)” – a characteristic which in August seemed to extend beyond Hain’s colleagues when he fell asleep during an interview with a man who had come to see him about the investigation of his son’s murder in Northern Ireland. Hain upset Robert Mugabe – whom he once supported in the struggle against white minority rule in Zimbabwe – by backing the white farmers in that country. But of course all of this is common currency among politicians; what may recommend Hain to the voters is his presentation, in the words of Andrew Rawnsley (Servants of the People) as “Curly  headed and perma-tanned, the former anti-apartheid activist …a member of the soft left trusted by Number 10”.

So is it to be another case of mistaken identity, of the voters misreading a politician’s future intentions through disregarding their past? Hain is no stranger to identity problems. In 1976 he was on trial for the attempted robbery of a bank near his home in Putney. The prosecution case was that Hain had gone into the bank, snatched £490 and ran off, chased through the local streets but got away. The bank cashier involved in the snatch identified Hain, if with some reservations. In any case Hain had some convincing alibi evidence, which persuaded the jury that he was not the robber. It was suspected that the case had been an attempted frame-up by the South African security services, in reprisal for Hain’s stand against the apartheid laws. (A few years before the robbery he was sent a letter bomb).

Hain was born in Kenya but brought up in South Africa where his parents were active campaigners against apartheid; he grew up accustomed to his home being raided by the police and to a system which legally banned his parents from speaking to each other. The family came to London, to continue their campaign; Hain was the leading light in the protests aimed at stopping the England cricket team touring South Africa and to disrupt the Springbok Rugby tour to England (the pitch invasions by shaggy youths certainly upset the boozy blazers and duffle coats in the stands at Twickenham). For a time he was in the Young Liberals – who were then rated as more “radical” than Labour – and was elected their president before he switched to the Labour Party, in which his career has been more notable for conformity than for disruptive protest.

Hain is the 'Man' years.
In Government
Hain was elected in 1991 as MP for Neath, in South Wales – one of those constituencies where Tories have been something of an endangered species. His majority climbed to over 30,000 in the heady days of Labour’s 1997 triumph; since then it has steadily fallen with the Blair government’s decline in popularity but he still holds more than half the votes cast. He is Secretary of State for Wales as well as for Northern Ireland and has held other jobs such as Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the Commons. So he has been firmly in position to live up to the promise of his early days as a determined, principled “radical” who would justify the expectations of his admirers. And now, how has it turned out? Has it been a case of mistaken identity, has Hain been wrongly assessed as someone he is not? Or is he guilty of gross deception?

As an opposition back bencher he showed that his talent for being disruptive had not deserted him when, as the Major government was approaching its final days in power, he tried to unseat some Tory MPs by getting them declared bankrupt after losing money as underwriters at Lloyds, which would have forced them to resign their seats. The government had just lost two formerly rock solid seats at Christchurch and Newbury and they were understandably nervous about the prospect of having to face any more by-elections. The Speaker obstructed Hain’s scheme but the details of individual losses were published in the Independent. One of the MPs was Edward Heath, who furiously denounced Hain for his “…sleazy desire to get Tories out”.

Hain also managed to upset the Labour Party in Blaenau Gwent, a seat once held by Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot. The Welsh Assembly Member there, Peter Law, was keen to be the next MP for Blaenau Gwent but the party insisted that the Labour candidate would be selected – foisted on the local party – from an all-female list, which he opposed. So he persisted in standing as an Independent. In an attempt to get round this awkward situation Law was offered a peerage in return for not standing – according to reliable evidence, Peter Hain was the person who did this particular piece of dirty work. In the event Law defeated the official Labour candidate; he died earlier this year and at the by-elections in June his wife stood for the Assembly and his agent for Westminster. Both won, again as Independents. (Not surprisingly, in spite of the evidence, Hain has always denied having been involved).

But Hain’s betrayal of his reputation has extended far beyond Wales. During his time he has been a strong supporter of the government on many issues which at one time, consistent with his record, he should have opposed. He has been a strong supporter of ID cards which, according to the government, are essential to prevent suicide bombers blowing up aircraft or tube trains. There is little evidence to support this but what is known is that the cards will be useful in chipping away what civil liberties are available to us. He was firmly in favour of those same student top-up fees which Tony Blair trumpeted as vital in the struggle to make the very best in education available to everyone, rich and poor but which will in fact lead to workers emerging from university under an enormous burden of debt. And of course he has been an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq, which was justified on the grounds that it would usher a parliamentary democracy into that ravaged country but which has resulted in a chaos of strife and slaughter, all in the cause of American capitalism taking a grip on that vital area. And Hain has justified this abominable attitude with typically sickening Blairite verbiage: “Sunday will be a historic day for Iraq, and the extent of Iraqi participation in the elections is  enormous, with 8,000 candidates, 150,000 officials and thousands of polling stations” (27 January 2005) and later “The future of Iraq is about building democracy and not succumbing to terrorism…”(17 March 2005).

Perhaps Hain will become the next Deputy Leader of the Labour Party or even, against precedent, the party Leader and Prime Minister. If any of this happens we shall be subjected to the customary drivel about a different, radical way of organising this segment of the capitalist system. This may impress the voters for a while, as it did with Blair, until capitalism itself unmasks it and there will be no more mistaken identity.

Divide and Rule (1944)

From the September 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

Idiotic Squabbles of British and American Miners’ Leaders
If the workers in the different countries clearly understood their own class interests, they would act unitedly to rid the world of the capitalist system and introduce Socialism. The majority of the workers lack that understanding, with the result that they periodically find themselves engaged in mutual slaughter in capitalism’s wars. Likewise in times of peace between the wars, the international trade union movement has much of its energy taken up in discussing the problems of the employing class instead of their own class problems. International trade union and Labour conferences rarely exhibit a genuine international working-class outlook; far too often they are gatherings at which the irreconcilable nationalistic and capitalistic views of the delegates are thinly covered up with a veneer of words expressing vague sentiments of harmony. This state of affairs will never be remedied until the workers in all countries have accepted the principles of Socialism, with the necessary full implication of internationalism based on class interest.

While it may well be true that the workers as a whole are in this matter rather less backward than their leaders, the long road that has to be travelled may be seen from the squabble going on between miners’ officials here and in U.S.A. In words they accept the case for international relationships, but in thought they are unable to see their industry except through capitalist spectacles. While Mr. E. Edwards, General Secretary of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, is away visiting the conference of the United Mineworkers of America, John Lewis’s organisation, and the President of the British Miners, Mr. W. Lawther, is about to visit Italy to advise on steps to be taken by Italian trade unionists, the latter is engaged in bad-tempered controversy with John Lewis, not about a working-class problem, but a purely capitalist one. It appears from a news item in the News Chronicle (August 17) that an American Coal Commission which visited Great Britain found British mining methods “obsolete and inefficient” by American standards. Thereupon John Lewis launched an all-inclusive attack on the British coal owners, the miners’ leaders and the British Labour Party. According to Lewis, the owners do not want modernisation because they would have to spend money on machinery, the miners do not want it because they fear loss of jobs, and the Labour M.P.s do not want it because they think it would open the door to national wage agreements, and so show the miners they have more to gain from their union than from “blind political affiliation.”

Mr. Lawther retorts that British miners bitterly resent John Lewis’s interference in their affairs. He rejects all the charges, asserts that when British and European miners have, been struggling for improved conditions “we never had one word of encouragement from those American Scribes and Pharisees,” and suggests “it might be worth Mr. Lewis’s while to examine our miners’ welfare schemes and see how they compare with his own, if he has any” (News Chronicle, August 18, 1944).

As Socialists we are very much concerned with the workers’ efforts to maintain their standard of living against the encroachments of the employing class and with the workers’ advancement towards Socialism. Our interest extends to every industry and every country. What happens to the workers anywhere is the business of Socialists everywhere. We are not at all afraid of the charge that we are “poking our noses” into matters that do not concern us—but it all depends on the standpoint from which the approach to the problem is made, and we are not being inconsistent when we say that from a working-class point of view men with the outlook of Messrs. Lawther, Edwards and Lewis would be doing less harm if they confined their attention to their immediate job of trying to improve the poor conditions of their own members.

We say to them all that the efficiency of the mines owned by British, American and all other capitalists is the capitalists’ concern and will be decided by them in their own interests. Efficiency from the capitalist standpoint does not necessarily consist in having up-to-date machinery but in making large profits, and if they can do that without laying out money in modernisation they will do it; but with or without modernisation, they will continue to make profit in the only way it can be made—by exploiting the workers. They will continue to use every brutal means from the starvation weapon of the lock-out (as in Great Britain) to the use of armed thugs (as in the history of American mining), and always with the might of the capitalist state behind them. They will continue to fight each other for markets. Sometimes disputed markets will be captured by low-wage, backward sections of the industry, and sometimes by highly equipped machine operated mines, and always the owners will foster nationalistic divisions between the workers of the different countries and use “foreign competition” as a propaganda weapon against the demands of their own workers for better conditions. Neither Lewis nor Lawther has anything to shout about in respect of the conditions of American or British miners. Neither of them has been able to prevent the amassing of huge fortunes by the coal barons of ‘their respective countries, out of the blood and sweat of the workers.

Our advice to British, American and all other workers is to recognise their mutual interest in fighting the employing class and in seeking control of the political machinery to establish Socialism, not in childish wrangling about the profitless question which gang of exploiters exploits most efficiently, and which gang insults its workers most or least, by the size of the crumbs it throws to them.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Workers and Education (1944)

From the September 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many workers read with pleasure the announcement in the daily press of the proposal of the new Education Act to extend their children’s schooling to the age of 15 years, coupled with a vague promise of raising it when possible to the dizzy height of 16 years. Perhaps they took it as an earnest of the post-war reconstruction we hear so much of nowadays, an added inducement to have bigger and better families completely educated by the State.

If proof were needed to show that education is part of the State machinery used by the ruling class to make obedient wage slaves, it was given in the proceedings in the House of Lords on July 11th, 1944. The Daily Telegraph of the following day reports:—
“The Minister of Education is to discuss with his Advisory Council the best course to adopt to see that children are taught the duties of citizenship and to defend their native country.”
In the debate which followed between the noble Lords, the Church gave its blessing to jingoism when the Archbishop of Canterbury. Dr. Temple, replied to Lord Mottistone, who stated that it was “the law of the land to defend one’s country,” by saying, “I was fully aware of it and rejoice in the fact.” (Daily Telegraph, July 12th).

Later on in the debate, the following curious statement was made by Viscount Maugham : —
“Historians of France had said that in recent years no body of people in that country were so responsible for the events of 1940 as were the teachers.” (Daily Telegraph, July 12th.)
Blame has been laid at many doors for the fall of France, but Viscount Maugham has at least been original in his particular scapegoat. It is, however, difficult to accept. If he would peruse a little work by Mark Starr, entitled “Lies and Hate in Education,” he might learn a little about history and geography as taught to elementary school children of capitalist countries. A whole chapter is devoted to the French text books. It opens on page 94: “In comparison with the British books, bias and nationalistic hatred are more easily to be seen in their French counterparts.” Many and extensive quotations are given from the French school which illustrate the design to awaken hatred of the Germans and to make children believe that they are their hereditary enemies and the sources of all their troubles. Thus does the ruling clique, as representatives of capital, endeavour to befog the workers, from a tender age onwards, into believing that their enemies are anyone but their masters, and also prepares their minds to accept the vituperative outpourings against a competitive nation, which always accompanies a military attack upon it.

One quotation by Mark Starr shows that the Treaty of Versailles was eulogised by the French history books, whilst the German counterparts gave a totally opposite view. Yet another reads : —
“You will happily put up with the strenuous and noble soldier life if you remember the past—our bombarded towns, our burnt-out villages—if you think of the provinces torn out of France, if you do not forget Alsace-Lorraine.” (Page 97).
From a “Reader for the Young,” the following is given : —
“The poor little boy has two cut hands. It is the Germans who have wounded him thus. They have killed his father, his sister, and his big brother as well. . . . Ah ! wicked Germans, the French children will curse you in their hearts for a long time.” (Page 100.)
A little history about the employment of young children in the French coal mines, such as is given in Zola’s “Germinal,” might have taught the French children to curse a little nearer home, where their own interests might have been affected.

Much, states the chapter on France, is said about German “ferocious beasts” and “brutes drunk with alcohol and blood” (pretty much the same as we read in our daily papers), whilst the Paris Commune of 1871 receives a boycott of silence, except that the Communards are dismissed as dangerous fanatics.

Many workers looking back on their own years at an elementary school will remember a similar attitude to history. Mainly an account of good, bad and indifferent kings, the unsurpassed greed of other nations, treachery among the blacks, yellows and browns, usually rounded off by a Kipling rhapsody on the white Britisher. The general ignorance of, say the Chartist movement is well illustrated by an extract from the chapter devoted to English education in Mark Starr’s book : —
“It is hardly surprising that when British soldiers in Murmansk were appealed to by aeroplane-scattered leaflets to “Remember your Chartist forefathers,” they only replied, “Who the hell are they?”… In treating the earlier Radical and Luddite agitations, the supporters are described as “rioters” and “foolish men.” This is the Fletcher Kipling account of Peterloo : 
"At one riot at Manchester in 1819 the soldiers had to be called in, and several people were shot. Very likely these were only innocent spectators; those who get up riots are usually careful to keep out of the way when their suppression begins. Stiff laws were passed in Parliament to prevent such riotous meetings for the future.’” (Pages 52 and 53.)
All civilised countries have their nationalistic teachings designed to warp the young mind. No wonder Socialist teaching is so often hard going; the workers have so many discoveries to make and so much to unlearn.

The Roman Catholic Church has always appreciated the need to get its adherents very young, and has protested strongly against the Education Act. The Act proposes to give them little financial assistance should they remain as they now are—that is, completely running their own schools and employing only teachers of the faith, and in many schools Monks and Nuns.

Commander Bower, in the House of Commons, among others, put the case for the Roman Catholics : —
“A Roman Catholic therefore must believe all the dogmas of his faith. His faith is a house supported by many pillars and if you knock one down, the whole collapses. . . . From this it follows that our view of education is fundamentally different. So religion must permeate the whole curriculum. All subjects must be taught from the Roman Catholic angle “(our italics). (Hansard, January 20th.)
So there it is, from the cradle to the grave never allow the individual to think for himself in case one pillar might be dislodged. Time, however, is not on their side. Not so very long ago the Roman Catholic Church held undisputed sway in this country. It became inconvenient, however, to the State, which endeavoured to institute a different kind of control on the worker. The manner in which it came about is beyond the scope of this article, but to anyone interested in real history it is most instructive.

It became necessary with the growth of capitalism that operatives of all descriptions must receive some education, but it was not of the variety designed to inculcate ideas of freedom in their minds. Education, nevertheless, is a two-edged sword, wield it never so carefully. Whilst making a useful worker, the development of his mind proceeds apace. Even the doctored history and geography cannot quite bemuse him, and his horizons widen ; often, however, he becomes disillusioned, but many turn this to good advantage, determined to resist and oust the master class. As the capitalist method of production advances, there is an increasing need for advanced education. The machines of the present war, for instance, require extensive knowledge of all branches of mathematics. The tremendous weaving and spinning plants of the cotton districts cannot be managed by a worker like those who ran the domestic industry in times gone by. Whilst many operations are performed by turning a lever, the actual working and construction of the machinery is a highly technical affair.

The longer period of education to be given by our masters, whilst appearing to be in the homes for heroes category, is merely a design for the better filling of our masters’ coffers. In veiled terms, the White Paper on Educational .Reconstruction stated this (page 19) : —
“From the point of view of the country’s manufacturing industry, agriculture and commerce, the training afforded by a system of part-time education in conjunction with employment is long overdue. The initial and natural advantages that gave this country, almost for the asking, its place of pre-eminence in world manufacture and world markets have long been fading. More and more in the future will it be necessary to rely on the capacity, adaptability and the quality of our industrial and commercial personnel. Had fuller attention been given earlier to the all-important question of training of young workers, some of the difficulties experienced by the Services and by industry during the present war would have been markedly less acute.”
Whilst an asset to the master class, therefore, we know the educated worker will be an asset to his own class in its task of educating for Socialism. The ability to propagate knowledge is badly needed. Many people are found to be receptive to our case, once presented, because of their own experience, but Socialist educationalists are needed to reach their brothers in all lands. The deplorable fact that most people believe what they read in their daily newspapers is somewhat mitigated by the fact that they can read; thus our hopes of teaching them with our literature.

To this end we welcome the Education Act, despite its capitalist purpose, for we remember that within the capitalist system are the seeds of its own destruction.
W. P.