Monday, September 25, 2023

Notes by the Way: Mr. Bevan being Statesmanlike (1956)

The Notes by the Way Column from the September 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Bevan being Statesmanlike

When he is not calling other supporters of capitalism vermin the Rt. Hon. Aneurin Bevan sometimes writes sober, statesmanlike articles for the Capitalist Press as in the Sunday Express (5 August, 1956). His subject was "Why I want Ike to Lose.” Although Bevan is not a Socialist he likes to parade himself as one on the strength of his continuing support for State Capitalism (nationalisation), and one would have expected the article to be a trumpet blast for setting up an English-model “Welfare State" in U.SA and a repudiation of Eisenhower because he and his party are not likely to do it. But not at all. The article said nothing about America's need for Bevan’s State Capitalist schemes (and naturally nothing about Socialism). It said hardly anything about any policy, beyond a tepid preference for Adlai Stevenson on the ground that be would change the American attitude towards Chiang-Kai-Shek, and might finally end McCarthyism. All he could say about Stevenson was that “his views are not particularly advanced, judged by Europe's standards, and there are even some Conservatives who might not think him sufficiently progressive."

No, Mr. Bevan’s main and almost his only theme was that Eisenhower is sick and consequently liable to reactionary pressure—as if the course of American capitalism is going to be determined by Eisenhower, well or ill. But Mr. Bevan evidently thinks it is:—
“I find the project depressing in the extreme. The President is obviously a sick man and by all the evidence he is likely to become more and not less sick. We shall therefore have less than half a man failing to do what is by general consent a job more than enough for a man in full possession of robust health. The most important political office in the world will be in feeble, fumbling and wavering hands, and it is little consolation that it may be done by the democratic choice of the American people themselves."
So Mr. Bevan can pass by without comment the fact that the American people by democratic choice are about to rivet themselves to capitalism again; this be does not think worth notice; but he is very depressed because American capitalism may be in the hands of a semi-invalid. As if by comparison with the real issue it had any importance at all, except for Mr. Eisenhower.

•  •  •

Bevan Looking in the Mirror

This attitude towards politics does explain why Mr. Bevan got so angry with Attlee and now dislikes Attlee's successor, Gaitskell. When Bevan looks in the mirror be sees a whole man, in robust health; obviously better fitted to lead the Labour Party and become Prime Minister than these fumbling half men.

But how does Bevan work out, in wider spheres, his policy of supporting the robust and opposing the weak? In the same issue of the Sunday Express “Cross Bencher" reported that Mr. R. A. Butler is a robust man, too: “His cheeks glow. His step is light. And he is only 53.“

And what about Colonel Nasser, who is described as  “a tall, strongly built man, with great physical stamina? "

•  •  •

Nationalisation and the Arab Workers

The Arab workers' trade unions in Egypt and other Middle-Eastern countries, have given delighted support to the act of nationalising the Suez Canal and the threatened nationalisation of oil plants and oil pipe-lines. They think their troubles will be over when “their country owns their oil and their canal." They have a rude awakening in store when they find that the beneficiaries will be their exploiters, the local Capitalist class. But what a pity they could not learn from the experience of workers in Britain, Russia and other countries about the illusory benefits of State Capitalism. The people who ought to have told them are the British and other trade union leaders who have international contacts, but they, of course, still cherish the same illusions themselves.

Colonel Nasser has used against the Western Powers the argument that as Egyptian workers built the Canal “Egypt" should own it. But the same can be said of all the accumulated wealth of Egypt and all other countries; the workers produced it but somebody else owns it. The Colonel very well knows that nationalisation is not going to take the wealth of Egypt out of the hands of the rich who own it. If he had any such dangerous thoughts and suggested applying them he would soon be got rid of.

•  •  •

U.N.-The Dream Fades

Except as a face-saver and rubber stamp organisation for the big Powers, nobody seriously considered United Nations as a body to provide a solution for the Suez Canal dispute. A correspondent of the Manchester Guardian at Geneva comments on the parallel disillusioning with one of U.N..'s subsidiaries the United Nations Economic and Social Council. He comments on the failure of this council in the fields of world trade and economic development and goes on:—
“What is considered even more serious, however, is the growing impression among the delegates that, just as in the field of effective world security, the United Nations is becoming almost impotent in the economic and social fields as well. It seems as if there were an unspoken agreement among the industrial as well as the less developed countries that the United Nations has been reduced to a forum where lip-service has to be paid to ideals which no longer apply to the level of sophistication which has now been universally reached. Articles of the United Nations Charter seem to serve as no more than good debating points."—(Manchester Guardian, 9th August, 1956.)

•  •  • 

The Results of Keir Hardie

On the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Keir Hardie he has been acclaimed by both wings of the Labour Party and by the Communist Daily Worker. He is not acclaimed by the S.P.G.B. any more than he was when he was alive; though we must in fairness admit that when we contemplate the low level of the present Labour Party notabilities it does add a certain relative lustre to Keir Hardie. And this, of course, pin-points our "attitude towards his reformist activities and his masterpiece the formation of the Labour Party. His admirers tell us what fine and enduring work he did but they are vague about what it was and why it should be admired. Surely the test to be applied to a man who believed that the way to get Socialism was to build up a trade union-political, refformist Labour Party, is to examine his success in achieving what, he said, it would achieve.
Mr. Bevan, in an article “The man who still points the Way ” (Reynolds News, 12 August, 1956), has this to say:—
“We are not yet even within sight of the 'just society' that Keir Hardie dreamed about The society we belong to is not only still unjust it is also unstable. We lurch unsteadily from one crisis to another with the sole satisfaction that our feet are better shod than they were in Hardie's day."
Mr. Bevan puts it very well, but what becomes of the claim of Hardie and the other reformists about the superior wisdom of reformism? And incidentally what were Mr. Bevan and the other members of the Labour Governments doing to leave society in such a mess?

One of Keir Hardie's mistaken beliefs was that the problem of war could be dealt with under capitalism. Now, half a century later, Mr. Bevan tells us in effect, that if we disappear in an H.-Bomb war it will be nice to know that our feet are dry.

•  •  •

Zilliacus Egypt and Israel

Mr. Zilliacus, Labour M.P., for Gorton, is one of the Labour Party M.P.'s who do not approve of Eden's policy towards Egypt, or of his own leader’s policy. He wrote to the Manchester Guardian (6 August, 1956), to put his point of view. He attacked Mr. Gaitskell's statement that the Suez episode “Must be recognised as part of the struggle for the mastery of the Middle East" and declared that “to contemplate going to war is madness," this because Nasser has behind him the whole of the Arab world as well as support from outside.

But point four of his four point explanation of his position included “as an immediate emergency measure, the arming of Israel . . ."

One wonders therefore just what Mr. Zilliacus does think. Against whom is Israel to be armed if not against Egypt and the Arab countries? And since this involves the possibility of war what happens to the view that contemplating going to war is madness, especially as he also wants “the guaranteeing of peace between Israel and the Arab States?"  “Guaranteeing" frontiers means being prepared to go to war.

•  •  •

They’re Fascists !

Trying to interpret events in the international dogfight in terms of how much you like the politicians and how friendly you think they are becomes confusing because the actors keep on changing places and changing colours.

Sir Anthony Eden likens Nasser to Hitler (to which the Colonel with more politeness seems to have made no retort in kind), but similarity to the late Nazi leader and his crimes is just what the Greeks have been seeing in Eden because of Cyprus.

The Communists have had the same trouble. Some readers of the Daily Worker have objected to the Communist Party’s support for dictator Nasser’s policy on the ground that Nasser is anti-Israel, while Communists in Stepney “are pro-Israel." To which another Daily Worker reader retorts that the manner in which the rulers of Israel treat the Arab minority is “fascist-like." (Daily Worker, 8 August).

But a well-known “expert" on world affairs, Mr. Stephen King-Hall thinks that the British Government should use their trump card, the existence of Israel which he describes as “the only, democratic State in the Middle East." (Manchester Guardian, 8 August).

The odd thing is that they all now use “Fascist” and "Nazi” as terms expressing abhorrence, forgetting how all of them have been willing to do a deal with Mussolini, Hitler or anyone else when in need of allies.

Which prompts a further note on the use of language. Why has not “you're like Stalin,” come into common use as term of abuse? What did Adolf have that Josef hadn't got?

•  •  •

Profits from “Welfare” work

“Industrial Relations News” of New York announce publication of a book called “The Dollars and Sense of Human Relations in Industry.” It sets out to answer the question “Do Human relations programmes pay their own way?”

The publicity leaflet notes that “companies to-day are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on human relations courses for supervisors, house organs for employees, recreation facilities, attitude surveys, and many other types of human relations programmes”

It’s their money and they want to know what they get for it in addition to a nice warm feeling.

So the editors “investigate the many areas in which good human relations can result in definite dollars-and-cents contributions to company success.”

This sort of thing must be a bit of a problem to honest christians who have been brought up to believe that they have to choose between wealth and goodness and can't have both. Under this enlightened, modern capitalism christian Capitalists have to have both whether they like it or not. They seek goodness by providing welfare for their wage-slaves and the only result is to give them more dollars and cents than ever.

Another line on “human relations” concerns protective clothing worn in factories and warehouses, dealt with in an article “How Clothing Can Help Production" (“Furniture Record,” 13 July, 1956). The writer, Mr. F. S. Winfield, Managing Director of Raynor, Webber and Stiles Ltd., claims that much study is given to the advantages of such clothing apart from its function as protective against accidents and against damage to ordinary dress.

Putting women workers into smart uniform, working garments prevents envy from interfering with concentration oft work:—
“The modish new spring skirt of a young unmarried operative cannot, for instance, be the object of rueful contrast during working hours with, say, the sad-looking frock that middle-aged widow has had to make do for with a couple of years."
It has been found, the writer says, that “identification of rank by colour differentiation has a marked effect on discipline and bearing . . . ” 

And when one firm decided to put all its men into clean overalls, washed each week by the firm, the result, within a week, was “an appreciable improvement in the tidiness and appearance of the machine shop.”

The article ends:—
"As more and more firms undertake to issue their workers with protective clothing, it becomes increasingly clear that the American conception of the provision of these facilities as an investment certain to show profitable returns in extra smartness and extra enthusiasm is a correct one."
The personnel experts call their study of how to get profitable reactions from the workers “human relations.” It is about as human as the preparation of thousands of pay sheets by an electronic computer.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Home Owners (1956)

From the September 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Reproduced from the “Western Socialist," Boston Massachusetts, May-June, 1956).

This is the saga of American home-ownership and American home-owners—of that not inconsiderable percentage of theoretical homeowners in the United States who are a part of the working-class. Let us begin with a scientific generalization.

The working-class, we Socialists maintain, is a propertyless class which owns nothing but its labour-power, its ability to produce. In exchange for this labour-power which the workers sell to the Capitalist class they receive back on the average enough of the necessities and the luxuries to keep them producing and reproducing themselves as a class. Home-ownership is certainly not to be figured as a part of the cost of producing and reproducing labour-power.

In the face of appearances, however, this would seem to be rather a bumptious statement insofar as the American working-class is concerned. There is, without doubt, a mountain of paper in the form of deeds and titles of ownership to homes of all types which might be found in the possession of American working -people and the ledgers in the nation's registries of deeds will bear this out. On the other hand, however, there is another mountain of paper in the form of first and second mortgages. liens and attachments and so forth reposing in the nation's banks and finance companies which fairly well serves to uphold the validity of the Socialist claim and which exposes working-class home-ownership for what it is—an illusion.

The “Propertied” Working Class
Since the introduction of the G.I. Bill of Rights which arose out of World War II, nominal home-ownership among the American workers soared. Despite die astronomical heights to which the price of property rose since that conflict, it became possible for a G.I. to purchase a home with a down-payment which varied from nothing at all to a mere 5 per cent. of the selling price. The banks would put up a portion of the money and the Government through its Veterans' Administration would guarantee the rest of it.[1] Nor does the fact that the G.I Bill does not extend its benefits to non-G.I.'s excepting in the case of the numerous instances of artful transfer of such privileges by G.I.'s to others, exclude another large portion of the working-class from the ranks of home-owners. For in many cases at least a large part of a down-payment can be raised by the “buyer” by means of a second mortgage—in most cases a short term loan with a long rate of interest

And so we find that a large percentage of the American working class has become and is becoming “owners” of real estate, even landlords. Just how little average equity the worker has in his home is another matter, however, which does not need too much research to unearth. First of all, we have the first mortgage. An article in the Boston Sunday Globe for June 10, '56 tells us that there is an “unprecedented debt of nearly $90 billions on home mortgages . . ." This mortgage debt, we are informed, “is being repaid by American families with remarkably low rates of fore-closures." Be this as it may, the picture looks something like this:

Let us say our worker buys a home for $10,000 (a pretty shabby sort of deal at today's market) and that he gets his loan at 4½% interest. If he pays $60.00 per month for principle and interest it will take him 21 years and 11 months to pay off the loan.[2] But this is not the whole story by any means, for the city or town gets its cut and in most cases these taxes are added to the monthly payments making the total in this case more like $80.00 per, rather than $60.00, and which also means that the $10,000 home has within the span of a typical 20-year mortgage, just about doubled itself in cost. 

It never rains but it pours
“The course of true love never runs smooth,” they tell us, nor for that matter is the course of a 20-year mortgage any smoother. A home, like its owners, does not get any younger as time goes on. In fact, figures show that almost 50% of them are at least as old if not older than the workers who buy them and in the years to follow there is much to be done in the way of repair. This section is not required reading for those workers who are able, after a hard day's labour at the shop or where have you, to repair or replace the roof, paint the sides, instal or repair the plumbing, heating equipment or electric wiring, build a fence, grow and trim a hedge, etc. This applies rather to the overwhelming majority of our fellow-worker home-owners who are too exhausted, or too inexperienced to do the work of a dozen craftsmen in their spare time. These make the grist for the Home Improvement milk with their "easy payment” plans backed by the Government's Federal Housing Authority or by various Home Improvement Plans sponsored by individual banks. These can tie them up for periods up to five years in amounts ranging up to $2,500 plus interest. Providing, of course, one's credit still warrants such a loan. For those who have slipped and have fallen by the way-side, credit-wise, there are the second mortgage and other types of friendly finance companies which ask no more than an arm and a leg in return for the loan.

In the face of the continuing debt which confronts the worker “home-owner” in the years his mortgage has to run, fortunate indeed is the fellow who does not lose his status and revert to that of tenant in name as well as tenant in fact. In recent years there have been a fairly insignificant number of foreclosures—insignificant when compared with the vast increase in nominal home-ownership. According to the Statistical Abstract of the U.S. for 1955, pg. 457, estimated non-farm real estate foreclosures for continental U.S. ranged from 68,100 in 1926 to a high of 252,000 in 1933 and a low of 10,453 in 1946. The figure for 1954 was 26,211.

This data was taken from approximately 1,400 counties, cities, townships, or other governmental divisions. It represents the number of properties acquired through foreclosure proceedings but excludes voluntary deeds of sale in lieu of foreclosures or defaults on real estate contracts. And this last item is by no means inconsiderable. Anyone who has engaged in the so-called art of salesmanship in the home improvement field has become cognizant of the fact that a not insignificant percentage of "home-owners” become delinquent in their mortgage payments or their payments on the roof, side wall or combination storm and screen windows, with the result that they are either foreclosed or jump clear with a few dollars fa lieu of foreclosure.

That so-called Common Stake
The nominal home-ownership by American workers will no doubt continue and even to expand as time goes on. To a considerable extent and especially in the case of that large number of workers who "own” city tenements, they in effect act as rent-collectors and maintenance-men for the banks that hold the mortgage. It certainly works fine for the Capitalist class to have a working population, a large part of which has such a tangible stake in the nation as a real-estate deed even if the balance on the mortgages, the outstanding F.H.A’s, attachments and liens just about obviate the tide. Anything that adds to the feeling of a common bond between the workers and their masters is a wonderful thing—for the masters; especially when it costs them nothing. To the extent that such "ownership” exists the illusion helps to hold back worker class-consciousness. The working-class home-owner is less likely to favour strong action against his employers in a strike for example. His 20-year mortgage and his F.H.A. notes loom darkly before him and help influence his actions.

This sort of thing, however, can but help to hold back the tide. It can not prevent it from ultimately sweeping in to engulf the Capitalist system, to finally relegate it to the history of past societies. The vast majority of workers, even in America, may aspire to but will not be able to attain even the spurious type of home ownership we have been discussing. Capitalism is a system which provides real property ownership only for the Capitalist class.
Harry Morrison

[1] Last year 30% of all houses were bought with V. A. guaranteed private loans, although out of a total of 14.5 million G.I.'s of World War II more than 10 millions have taken advantage of this feature. (National Real Estate and Building Journal, May, 1956.)
[2] From a table published by “Changing Times" for February, 1956.

50 Years Ago: The Trade Union Congress (1956)

The 50 Years Ago column from the September 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

The so-called "Parliament of Labour ”. . . will be larger than ever according to the statement of the Liberal M.P., who is secretary. The usual resolutions which have been moved every year are to be moved yet again; amid the usual clamour of self-advertisement. In point of futile resolutions and wasted words the Congress compares unfavourably with even the tower of babble at Westminster.

A Congress that is supposed to represent and express the aspirations of over a million and a half of working men should (it would seem) enunciate a definite and logical working class policy; it should break down the barriers between union and union and bring about the economic unity of the workers, and should be itself to the fore energetically and unequivocally battling for the interests of the toilers against the class who prey upon them. But the Congress does none of these things. It is rather in the position of the poultry in William Morris's fables, who spent their time discussing with what sauce they should be eaten, and who sent in resolutions and deputations to the farmer's wife and the head poulterer regarding this vital question, but who were horrified at the revolutionary suggestion, of a battered looking and middle-aged barn-door cock, that he did not want to be eaten at all.

The aimless resolutions that are passed by the Congress in the intervals of junketing, the deputations and petitions that are sent to the class in power regarding the weight and shape of the shackles that are worn by the workers, the praise and advertisement that are given to the assembled delegates by the enemies of the working class, all demonstrate the uselessness and impotence of the Trade Union Congress. The reason for this impotence is, however, not difficult to find, and it illustrates the supreme importance of the work that we are doing—the propagation of the principles of scientific Socialism to the workers who are within and without the trade unions. The Congress is impotent because the majority of the workers within the unions are as ignorant of their real interests and as blind to their historic mission as are those who are contemptuously dubbed “blacklegs." And the leaders of the blind—even those who see clearly— have in the main no desire to awaken their followers to their class position and rightful aim; they have little desire to break down sectional divisions and ignorant prejudice among the rank and file; for if the workers were brought together as a class upon the economic field, if the workers became aware of the meaning and importance of the class struggle, an consciously pursued their revolutionary aim of the conquest of political power and the democratic control of industry, why then many of the leaders would lose their soft jobs, and many would have to abandon once and for all their hope of attaining to the flesh pots in the gift of capitalism.

(From the “Socialist Standard," September, 1906)

Party News Briefs (1956)

Party News from the September 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Provincial Propaganda. Speakers have been visiting the provinces during July and August and it is hoped that good results will be reported from Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Nottingham. Bristol group has had success on Durdham Downs (a pre-war regular speaking spot). There has been difficulty over selling literature there but our comrades have taken the matter up in the local Press. Their letter has been published giving the full name of the Party. Meetings with audiences of 200-300 have been held.

Literature Sales. Comrades are still energetic on the various canvasses being organised by Ealing and Camberwell Branches. This work is particularly good as owing to the bad weather, our outdoor propaganda must have suffered and in consequence the sale of literature at meetings has not been as well as expected.

From Wellington, New Zealand, we have received news of the death of an old comrade, Con Killeen. The Overseas Secretary of the Wellington Branch writes: "He died in his sleep on the 9th April 1956, aged 78 years. He was a member of the old New Zealand Marxian Association. Con could always be depended upon to help in Party work, very seldom was he absent from EC meetings. He did not suffer a long illness. According to reports he was reading until 12 p.m. on the night he died."

From High Wycombe we also learn that Comrade Gibson died recently. Comrade Gibson had been a member since 1920, a speaker in his younger days, and although moving around, always joined his nearest branch. He will be particularly remembered by members of the old North London Branch.
Phyllis Howard

Tranquilizers (1956)

From the September 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Life under modern capitalism gives rise to all sorts of anxieties, tensions and "complexes." To start with the securing and holding down of jobs in that "increasingly competitive world," which the politicians are constantly referring to and in the advent of automation.

The working class housing problem, keeping up with hire-purchase commitments, having relatives in Cyprus or other trouble spots; all these problems tend to produce various mental disorders.

No small proportion of people suffering as a result of society's contradictions join the steadily expanding ranks of the mentally ill as patients, voluntary and otherwise, in the mental hospitals and asylums.

There is also an increasing tendency to resort to drugs, known as "tranquilizers" to temporarily obliviate the nagging problems. Taking sleeping pills for insomnia is nothing new of course, but these tranquilizers are a comparatively new phenomenon.

In the U.S.A. a commercial drug called Miltown (named after the town of its manufacture in New Jersey) is fourth largest selling drug in the country and, according to a Daily Herald article ((8/6/56), is becoming a "dangerous national habit."

Again, according to the Herald there are two tranquillizers produced in Britain—reserpine and chlorpromazine, the former in some cases leading to suicidal depression.

What a commentary on present day society!

Surely it should be apparent that the very real problems which confront us are inseparable from capitalism.

In the world of harmony and co-operation that will be Socialism, the circumstances that give rise to worry and anxiety will be absent.

Where the very means of life, i.e., those of production and distribution, are commonly owned and democratically controlled, resulting in the replacement of the profit by the use motive, the constant fear of economic crises, of new industrial techniques, and the perpetual struggle, will be things of the past. Likewise the tragedies being enacted in Cyprus and Algeria, and the ever present threat of large scale war arising from capitalism’s struggle for markets, strategic bases, trade routes and spheres of influence.

Resorting to artificial antidotes in an attempt to momentarily obliviate our problems is worse than futile.

Their permanent solution, indeed the only solution to working class problems, is really self-evident, the emancipation of our class from the enslavement of capital.

Fellow workers, let us stop eternally trying to escape from society’s ailments, but face them, understand them and based upon that Socialist understanding take the necessary political action.
F. S.

Animal crackers (1956)

From the September 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Is psychology the bunk or am I afraid of what might turn up through delving into individuals minds? The answer depends on what psychology is and this I confess my inability to decide.

Whilst reading Reynolds News (8-4-56) I noticed an article headed “ The 'Animal Crackers’ Character Test” and sub-headed “Would You Rather Be A Fish?” This aroused immediate interest As the article was written by Dr. Brian Welbeck, Reynolds News crack psychologist (he is their only one), I anticipated a fount of information.

It appeared from the article that headmen who examine head cases find it important to determine the characters they are investigating. Incidentally, I have not got acquainted with how psychologists determine the subjects willingness and capacity to pay the bill for treatment. Neither do I know now they manage to keep this dark in view of the whole host of other characters, rent collectors, insurance agents, credit merchants, and so on, who are deeply interested in this facet of an individual's character.

Not only is it important to determine character but it should be done as simply as possible. This seems highly desirable as it cuts down work tremendously and expedites business no end. Happily this has been achieved; only two easy questions are necessary.

At this stage instructions appeared in the article. Personally I'm a guy who is always getting instructions, at school, at the Labour Exchange, in the Army, from the wife, in the factory. Indeed, it is difficult to mention where I don’t get instructions. This made things very easy for me. This is what I had to do: “Before you read any further—stop.” I did this! nothing happened. I proceed to the next word, “Look.” This I am doing I know because I can see the word, still no reaction. The next word is “listen.” This produced another blank. I try them all together simultaneously. This is difficult sitting in a chair with a paper in my hand. Still no dice. All this makes me aware of how really mysterious psychology is.

Next I have to write down my “ own ” answer to . the two easy questions. ,

The Dr. sure appreciates the uncertain world we live in. Be careful. All of us are aware of the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Some answer other than our own may inadvertently slip in. Make sure it's your own answer and not the Admiral’s whom you don’t happen to be.

The first question is: “If you had to be an animal which animal would you choose?” My answer came fast—a human. The second question was curt and terse, no beating about the bush. “Why?” This shook my morale. Me being a wage slave, and not knowing any other animals that have, for example, dogs and wage slave dogs, I got no animals to look down on. I got out of that dilemma rapidly. I was cheating, picking the card I was not meant to choose. I tried again, “sabre toothed tiger.” Why? Because its extinct, if it wasn’t it would be very useful to chew up Capitalists with. This completes the test. Now follows the real hard work interpretation.

From a number of examples of interpretation provided I choose the first case at random that Dr. Welbeck recalls as a pale, plump, young woman. Her choice of animal was gazelle, and the reason is because they are very graceful with long beautiful legs. It transpires that this dame is very unhappy about her large cumbersome frame and wants desperately to be like Jane Russell or Marilyn Monroe. This is very shocking because I never knew that pale, plump, young women had large cumbersome frames, which goes to show how good a psychologist the Doctor is and Reynolds News is making no mistakes.

Now comes the interpretation of my own character. The first extinct animal that sprang to mind was a sabre toothed tiger. Immediately my mind projected on the nearest wall, the spectacle of the most ferocious tiger imaginable chasing bloated Capitalists in 78 carat gold limousines all over the place. This I can recommend as highly enjoyable to unhappy people like myself who are very desirous of becoming plain ordinary citizens of the world.

The real importance of my choice of animal is because it is extinct. One reason why animals become extinct is because they are separated from their sustenance. This is really what I would like to happen to the Capitalists. To see them deprived of their rent, interest, and profit, by the world’s workers taking over the livelihood the means of wealth production and distribution and making this the property of everybody or nobody and thus making everyone plain citizens of the world.

This analysis reveals that I am a very frustrated character. This I shall remain until the workers of the world allow me to assist them in the performance of the delectable task of eliminating capitalism and establishing Socialism.

The characters reading this who are not acting as willing and able physicians in removing my frustration or in curing the social ailments of the world are altogether very deplorable.
D. W.

Holes—particular and general (1956)

A Short Story from the September 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Evan was a cripple who looked after holes, or perhaps it would be truer to say he protected the public from holes. Before the war be had been a "digger of holes,” but having lost a leg in a hole on the Normandy beach, the local council had taken him back as a "hole minder.” During 25 years employment he had become thoroughly conversant with holes of various dimensions and purposes.

There had been occasions during a particularly lean period (due to Government economy) when there were no holes to hand out and Evan, divorced from a job, would complain bitterly. On such occasions be would say—when the Government was in a hole they pinched his. Of course, if he had given the matter more thought he would have realised that in work or out of it, holes and himself were inseparably bound together.

Like most specialists, Evan was an authority on the particular rather than the general. Taking any given hole, he could analyse it from a number of standpoints; its shape, cost, suitability, etc., etc., and more important than all, how long it was likely to remain (the “ life ” of a hole was especially important as his job depended on it). What he failed to see was the unending vista of “ holes ” with which society was riddled, each filled with countless millions of his class striving to clamber out of them. Evan was a strictly "practical” man not given to theorising and only concerned with the “ immediate hole.”

Having told you something of Evan’s difficulties, perhaps it would be advantageous to consider the question of “ holes ” more closely. The term “ hole ” is, of course, widely used in popular parlance to describe “ a condition of things,” so that when people talk of being “ in a hole ” we know what they mean.

The trouble is, that usually, they don’t know that the particular “hole” they have in mind is circumscribed by a much wider and deeper “ hole "—Capitalist Society, and that however much they strive, the workers never succeed in getting out of a “hole ” permanently.

Holes, big and small, that exist everywhere in Capitalist Society, are called by Economists, Government officials, and such like "experts,” "Crises” and no sooner is one filled in than another is created. Sometimes, despite the waste and time involved, crises do afford a short lived measure of sustenance for some but invariably it is at the expense of others. Eventually a “hole” comes along into which thousands tumble with wide spread ruin and loss of life such as when Capitalism goes to war.

And so we say, study the "hole” you are in together with the rest of society of which you are a part, get to understand the nature of “holes," “crises.” and other impedimenta of Capitalism that frustrate, keeps you poor, and occasionally demands your life and limb. Having understood, take steps to fill them in. The tool for the job is waiting, it is labelled "Socialism.”
W. Brain

Voice From The Back: Blinded By Capitalism (2006)

The Voice From The Back Column from the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blinded By Capitalism

The following news item appeared in the Guardian (17 June): “Drug firm blocks cheap blindness cure. Company will only seek licence for medicine that costs 100 times more. A major drug company is blocking access to a medicine that is cheaply and effectively saving thousands of people from going blind because it wants to launch a more expensive product on the market.” People with wet mascular degeneration, a common condition among the elderly, have previously been treated with Avastin, which prevents impaired eyesight and blindness. The manufacturer Genetech have not presented it to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence because they are putting Lucentis forward instead. This treatment costs 100 times more. This is good business practice but bad news for the elderly workers suffering from the condition.

Conned By Capitalism

An example of how capitalism threatens lives is given in the Guardian (26 June):
“Drug companies are accused today of endangering public health through widescale marketing malpractices, ranging from covertly attempting to persuade consumers that they are ill to bribing doctors and misrepresenting the results of safety and efficacy tests on their products. In a report that charts the scale of illicit practices by drug companies in the UK and across Europe, Consumers International – the world federation of consumer organisations – says people are not being given facts about the medicines they take because the companies hide the marketing tactics on which they spend billions.”

Kicked By Capitalism

Sport according to most dictionaries is a “pleasant pastime; amusement or diversion”, but inside modern capitalism it is no such thing. It has become, as most other human endeavours have become – a ruthless competitive business. In the business pages of the Observer (16 July) we learn that Leeds United borrowed over 25 years’ future earnings, were relegated and had to sell all their good players; we also learn that Leicester City borrowed on future earnings to the extent of £26 million, and by the way, they were relegated too. So while supporters on the terraces sing their songs of devotion and undying support the banks, investors and other money lenders count their gains.

Disgusted By Capitalism

In a world where 8 million kids die every year through lack of clean water and sanitation the following news item disgusts us, how about you? “Forget the salt and lime, you’ll need a mint to enjoy this tequila. Producer Tequila Ley.925 announced Saturday that it had sold a bottle of Mexico’s best-known beverage in  a gold and platinum casing for a whopping $225,000. This is a really unique bottle of tequila and our client, a US based collector of fine wines and spirits, will treasure this prize to add to an already impressive collection”(Associated Press, 23 July).

Abandoned By Capitalism

President Nixon’s praise for the US moonlanders was a cynical vote-catching ploy as can be seen by the following press report. “America was so eager to beat the Soviet Union to the moon it launched its 1969 mission before it was ready, a documentary claims. The documentary reveals that the crew had to use a pen to fix a broken switch on their lunar module to return to earth, the Daily Mirror reports. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had accidentally snapped off a circuit breaker switch. According to Apollo 11: The Untold Story, US president Richard Nixon prepared an address announcing the deaths of Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins. The US ordered NASA to cut links with the astronauts if disaster was imminent, not wanting the world to see images of astronauts spinning off into space” (Herald Sun, 25 July).

Shunned By Capitalism

“Las Vegas councillors have made it illegal to give food to homeless people. In an effort to curb charity that is said to be having unintended consequences, the city council has decided to ban food handouts to the homeless. The law targets so called mobile soup kitchens. It carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and six months in jail.” (New York Times, July 31). It is all so logical, isn’t it? You are trying to con workers into the fantasy that capitalism is a wonderful society and that they can become capitalists too, when some poor worker in Las Vegas tries to ask for something to eat. Solution? Ban the soup kitchen.

Pathfinders: Odds Uneven (2006)

The Pathfinders Column from the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Centre for Economics and Business Research is predicting that there will be a million millionaires in Britain within a decade, leading to a bonanza in economic growth, marketable wealth and house prices (The Business, 13 August). “The think tank is forecasting a 71 percent rise in house prices over 2006 to 2020…” 
Whoa, whoa, stop! Stop right there. That’s it. Enough predictions already. There is something fundamentally wrong with this sort of news reporting, even though the papers are full of it and we base our lives on it.

Whether it’s future prosperity, the price of oil, life on Mars, England’s chances in the next World Cup, the winner of Big Brother XXXXVIII, or tomorrow’s weather, the only really reliable prediction that anyone can make is that the predictions will probably be wrong. And there is a good reason why that is.

Statisticians refer to ordinary random events, such as the exact number of cornflakes that fall in your bowl, or the precise time that your bus turns up, as Type 1 events. The randomness of Type 1 events tends to disappear when you average them out over time, which means that they are measurable, and thus amenable to prediction with an acceptable margin of error. You can predict that your bus will turn up at exactly 8.31 if that’s what it does on the average, and you won’t be far wrong. But applying this predictive logic to complexities like the climate, science, the future or the economy just doesn’t work, because when you introduce greater levels of complexity, or even if you extend the time frame, you inevitably introduce Type 2 events. 

A Type 2 random event is a unique incident which it is not possible to foresee, and one which can cause seismic changes in the daily routine. Being run over is one such event, as is a lightning strike, a win on the lottery, or falling in love. There is no mechanism for predicting such events because the margin of error would be laughably gigantic, and history is littered with unprecedented events, such as the telephone, the computer, the internet, AIDS, economic crashes, and many wars. History, the economy, and society, are crammed with so many Type 2 random events, argues the statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb, that it is sheer self-indulgent folly by anyone, government politician or horizon-tech scientist, to imagine they can predict anything at all (New Scientist, 1 July). Worse, he says, we are not smart enough to realize how dumb we are, and we – or rather governments – persist in basing all kinds of plans and policies on these bogus social predictions, sometimes with disastrous effects.

So why do we like to imagine that the world is a predictable place, even though we walk about with expressions of amazement permanently pasted to our faces? The explanation, he thinks, is that we can’t stand randomness, so we try to create meaning out of randomness by revising the past with invented and deterministic narratives. Instead of admitting that, ‘bugger, we never saw that coming’, we pretend that ‘all the signs pointed to this happening, it’s obvious with hindsight’. We comfort ourselves with our own cleverness, after the event, forgetting that we were jumping like jackrabbits just before it.

This may sound like another application of that popular game of applying the logic of one scientific principle to fields outside its domain, in this case chaos theory. However there are useful nuggets to be mined from this perspective, especially by socialists.

One is the undoubted fact that capitalism does indeed represent itself as a stable and predictable process when in fact it isn’t, and that people need to be aware of the illusion of permanence in which it wraps itself, like the Emperor’s new clothes. If people understood that social change could be minutes, rather than millennia away, the motivation to get up and do something might be a lot stronger in a working class presently browbeaten into submission by the weight of history and the endless blank horizon of the present.

The other point relates once again to Pathfinder’s own favourite theme, which is the easy assumptions that scientists themselves often make, especially in fields outside their own area of expertise. Are wars really Type 2 random events, ‘black swans’ so bizarre and unexpected that they boggle the mind as they appear out of nowhere? Do we really overlay an essentially chaotic world with a veneer of rationalized narrative, merely to comfort ourselves that there is an underlying logic when in fact there is none? Physicists have wrestled for years with the desperate and intractable problems of uniting all the known laws of cosmology and quantum mechanics under one roof to create a single, elegant Theory of Everything. They clearly believe that there is an underlying logic, even if they are buggered if they know what it is. Meanwhile in the external earthly realities of economics and social change we are expected to heed the post-modernists and the chaos statisticians, and abandon any thought of a grand narrative, an intrinsic pattern that makes sense of much, if not all, that goes on around us.

In fact, when you look at it like that, far from being a scientific proposition, this appeal to chaos seems like an unhealthy invitation to return to a world where gods and goblins roamed the earth and ideas of social progress could not begin to gain a foothold. If scientists believe that the great developments of history, both bad and good, were entirely unpredictable and that the human condition is a random cacophony of the cosmic absurd, Pathfinders suggests that they have been spending altogether too long staring down the microscope, and ignoring the elephant standing in the room next to their elbow.
Paddy Shannon

September 11, 2001: reflections on a somewhat unusual act of war (2006)

From the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard
On the fifth anniversary of the al-Qaeda attack on New York and Washington, we reflect on this act of war and try to place it in its true political and moral context.
As an act of war, the al-Qaeda attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre was somewhat unusual, though not unprecedented, in three respects. 

First, the method used was non-standard. Standard military practice is to blow things and people up by dropping bombs or firing shells and missiles on them. But flying planes right into the target has been done before. Japanese kamikaze pilots used the technique against US warships in the Pacific during World War Two.

Second, al-Qaeda is a non-state actor. Such actors rarely have the capacity to carry through such a complex and costly operation. Therefore al-Qaeda must have had financial backing from wealthy sponsors – Osama bin Laden himself comes from an extremely wealthy family – and the support, or at least complicity, of one or more powerful states. In general, arranging wars is a pastime for members of the capitalist class, though they get hirelings to do the dirty work for them. Working people don’t command the necessary resources.

Finally, it is a little unusual for the US to be on the receiving end of a military assault from abroad. For a comparable attack on the continental United States, you have to go back to 1814, when the British army entered Washington and burned down theWhite House and the Capitol.

In other ways the attack was not unusual in the least. As an atrocity it was par for the course. The death toll, initially estimated at 6,500, was later revised downward to about 2,800. Atrocities on a similar or larger scale are committed routinely by the US in other countries.

To take just one example, 3-4,000 civilians were killed in the invasion of Panama in December 1989. Even if we start the reckoning with September 11, we find that the US was quick to even the score. According to an independent study, 3,767 Afghan civilians (hardly any of them connected with al-Qaeda) had been killed in bombing raids by 6 December, 2001. This figure does not include the far more numerous indirect casualties resulting from the creation of refugees and the disruption of food and other supplies.

The attack should not have been a total surprise, a bolt out of the blue. After all, it was merely the next step in a war that Osama bin Laden had formally declared on the United States in August 1996. He had built up a far flung network of front companies, banks,”charities,” and NGOs (e.g., the World Union of Moslem Youth) to raise funds and recruit young fighters for the war. He had already attacked American assets abroad, notably the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, and there was ample intelligence warning that a major attack on US soil was in the offing. So the parallel with Pearl Harbor is pretty weak.

And yet September 11 clearly did come as a shock to Bush. That was because the attack came from forces that the US, its sidekicks Britain and Israel, and the Bush family in particular had long regarded as friends, allies and partners. This explains why Bush ignored the warnings – just as Stalin ignored warnings of impending attack by Nazi Germany in 1941 and felt “betrayed” by Hitler when the attack came American, British, and Israeli ruling circles saw the main threats to their economic and strategic interests in the Moslem world as coming from “communists” and secular nationalists backed by the Soviet Union (e.g. Nasser in Egypt, Ghaddafi in Libya, the PLO). When Khomeini’s theocracy took power, Iran was added to the list of enemies, together with associated Shi’ite Islamist movements in other countries. Sunni Islamist movements, however, were encouraged – largely on the principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” although also because they seemed more interested in imposing ritual conformity on their own communities and in fighting “communism” than in challenging the substantive interests of the “infidel” powers.

The Islamists were also beneficiaries of the “neo-liberal” economic policies of Western institutions. In Pakistan, for example, the secular state schools collapsed in the 1980s as a result of IMF-mandated public spending cuts. This left the Saudi-financed religious schools (madrassas) as the only educational option available to boys who were not from wealthy families. (Girls, needless to say, didn’t even have that option.) It was from these madrassas that the Taliban drew its recruits.

Moreover, relations with the leading Sunni Islamist power, Saudi Arabia, were and still are vital to Britain and the US in economic terms. The Saudi capitalist class, led by the royal family and influential families like the bin Ladens, not only sells these countries’ oil but uses much of the proceeds to buy arms from them and invest in their economies.

There are close and long-established personal and business ties between wealthy Saudis and British and American capitalists and politicians, including the father of the current US president and several members of his administration.

The Saudi-US alliance also entailed close military cooperation, above all in the fight against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden went to Pakistan in 1979 as an official of the Saudi intelligence service to finance, organize, and control the anti-Soviet Afghan resistance in collaboration with the CIA. It was here that Osama, who had trained as an engineer and economist with a view to taking part in the family business, acquired his taste for war. 

Osama fell out with the Saudi royal family in 1991 when they allowed the US to set up military bases on the “holy” soil of Arabia following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. But even in exile Osama received frequent visits from relatives, who provided a channel of communication between him and the royal family. An understanding appears to have been reached. Osama would abstain from attacking targets inside Saudi Arabia and in return no action would be taken against his Saudi supporters, who included various members of his own and of other wealthy families (such as Khalid bin Mahfouz, the “banker of terror”) and even certain royal princes. And the Saudi authorities did protect these people, refusing to provide US intelligence agencies with any information that might compromise them. 

So September 11 originated in a “betrayal” by the Saudi capitalist class of their American friends, allies and partners. How can we account for such strange ingratitude to those to whom they owe their vast riches? It probably has to do with the circumstances in which the Saudi capitalist class came into being. It did not make itself through independent entrepreneurial activity. It was made when oil was discovered in Arabia (in 1938) and property rights in that oil were vested in the pre-existing royal house. It is a class of bedouin patriarchs turned rentiers who became capitalists by investing their revenue. As a result, it retains to some extent a pre-capitalist mentality that it expresses in religious terms, and has a deeply ambivalent attitude to the capitalist world in which it now operates.

The endless “war on terror”
Despite the shock effect, US ruling circles did not necessarily regard September 11 as an unalloyed evil. In his book The New Crusade, anti-war analyst Rahul Mahajan draws attention to a document entitled Rebuilding America’s Defenses, issued in September 2000 by the Project for the New American Century, a neo-conservative think tank with links to the Bush administration. The authors call for increased military spending to preserve US “global pre-eminence,” but add that such a programme will be politically impossible unless there is a “catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor”.

The purposes for which the fear generated by the al-Qaeda attack was exploited suggest that it filled this bill. The threat of “terrorism” has been used to push through military programs ranging from anti-missile defence to germ warfare. Thus, a vast lab is being built near Washington called the National Biodefence Analysis and Countermeasures Center, where in violation of the 1972 biological and toxin weapons convention the most lethal bacteria and viruses are to be stockpiled (Guardian Weekly, 4-10 August, 2006). What a tempting target it will make for terrorist infiltration or attack!

The “war on terrorism” unleashed in the aftermath of September 11, against first Afghanistan and then Iraq, is not – so Mahajan argues – a war on terrorism, just as the “war on drugs” is not a war on drugs. Combating terrorism and drugs are both low priorities, and the “wars” against them are covers for the pursuit of higher-priority interests.

In Afghanistan the US had turned against the Taliban (previously welcomed as a force for “stability”), mainly because they were unwilling to host oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia to Pakistan, and was looking for a pretext to overthrow them. Capturing Osama was that pretext, for it was obvious that the chaos of war would create ideal conditions for him to escape.

Iraq was invaded to secure control over its oil and in the hope of establishing a new strategic beachhead in the Middle East. Saddam had no ties with Islamic terrorism, just as he had no nuclear weapons. To the likes of Osama he was not even a genuine Moslem. Bush demanded of his experts that they find ties between Iraq and terrorism; when they replied that there were none, he pretended not to hear and reiterated his demand. In October 2001 Vice President Dick Cheney declared that the war on terrorism”may never end — at least, not in our lifetime”(Washington Post, 21 October, 2001). Am I alone in finding this suspicious? Ordinarily in a war it is considered important for morale to hold out some prospect of victory, however remote. Does Cheney want and need the “war” to go on forever?

The torture system
To sustain the facade of the “war on terror” it is necessary to arrest lots of people. As there is no real evidence against them, they are held without trial in secret facilities throughout the world, where – like the victims of Stalin’s purges – they are tortured to extract the non-existent evidence. In her book The Language of Empire, Lila Rajiva describes for us the sickening tortures at Abu Ghraib, the prison complex outside Baghdad that the US occupation authorities took over from Saddam. The accounts and photos (some taken as exposés, others as souvenirs) are monotonous in their sameness. This is a clue: it strongly suggests that the torture is not a spontaneous practice of jailers and interrogators but a system designed by government experts and approved at the top.

The system goes by the code name R21 and is taught to British and American military intelligence personnel at the British Joint Services Interrogation Centre at Gilbertine Priory, Chicksands, near Bedford (Guardian, May 8, 2004). It is designed to shock Moslem cultural sensibilities. Victims are stripped naked and hooded, savaged by dogs, and forced under threat of beatings to masturbate and simulate sexual acts in front of sniggering female soldiers (another triumph for sexual equality). That’s just for starters, of course; it gets worse. I leave it to the reader to ponder what this means for the relative merits of Western and Middle Eastern “civilization.”

And yet the people who authorize all these horrors know very well who is responsible for terrorism (the Islamist variety, that is) and where they are to be found. But no bombs have been dropped on the wealthy suburbs of Riyadh. No scions of the bin Ladens and bin Mahfouz, no princes of the House of Saud have been stripped naked, set upon by dogs or sexually humiliated. That’s class justice for you! A few incidents, however regrettable, can’t be allowed to spoil British and American relations with a vital ally and business partner.

After Hezbollah, war with Iran? (2006)

From the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard
Was Israel’s attack on Hezbollah part of preparations for a coming US attack on Iran?
As we go to press, a serious and already escalating crisis can be expected to go into overdrive the instant the Iranian government, at the moment under a UN deadline to stop uranium enrichment by 31 August, tells the UN what it can do with its resolution.

Sanctions will no doubt be announced, but to what effect and with what response from Iran remains to be seen. Iran has already intimated it would spark a global oil price crisis in response to UN sanctions, and it is unclear whether China and Russia – each with vested oil interests in Iran – will go along with any sanctions. The worst-case scenario is that the US will express feigned frustration at Iran’s unwillingness to cooperate and use the rejected resolution as a chequered flag to attack Iran militarily.

It is against this backdrop that we can begin to set the present Middle East crisis in context, particularly the recent Israeli attack upon Lebanon. This latest act of Israeli aggression was not about capturing back the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped on 14 July but was rather, it would seem, about oil and the securing of other resources and about preparing for any wider conflict against Syria and Iran.

Planned in advance
There are numerous claims that the war in Lebanon had been planned in advance by Israel. Reporting from Tel Aviv for the San Francisco Chronicle (21 July), Matthew Kalman wrote: “More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to US and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail.”

Speaking to CNN, veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh said: “July was a pretext for a major offensive that had been in the works for a long time. Israel’s attack was going to be a model for the attack they really want to do. They really want to go after Iran.” (Guardian, 14 August).

In bombarding Lebanon and the Gaza strip (Gaza is still being bombed) the objective was to neutralise two opponents of Israel – and the US – Hezbollah and Hamas. Hezbollah’s fire power and missile capabilities needed to be tested. Israel was unsure of the number of rockets in the hands of Hezbollah (some said 20,000) or indeed their range. Now they know. The Israeli bombardment of key roads and bridges and passage to Syria can serve no other function than to cut of the weapons supply route to Hezbollah. By striking pre-emptively Israel seems to have planned to destroy as many Hezbollah weapons as possible in advance of any rocket attack on Israel resulting from any US-allied bombardment of Iran.

Oil and water
Widely unreported in the Western popular media and brought to a wider audience by Michel Chossudovsky, a Canadian economics professor, on the Global Research website was the inauguration of the Ceyhan-Tblisi-Baku (BTC) oil pipeline. This links the Caspian Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean, and was opened one day before Hezbollah’s kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers that ostensibly started the recent war in Lebanon.The BTC pipeline is anticipated to carry a million barrels of oil a day to Western markets. In attendance at the inauguration ceremony were BP’s CEO Lord Browne and senior officials from the UK and USA, along with Israel’s Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Binyamin Ben Eliezer, accompanied by a delegation of top Israeli oil officials.

The BP-dominated pipeline skirts the Russian Federation, cutting through new pro-US states Georgia and Azerbaijan, countries allied with NATO and with a standing military pact with Israel. Israel already gets 20 percent of its oil from Azeri oil fields and this new pipeline is set to increase Israeli imports from the Caspian basin. Israel is now tipped to be a key player in the East Mediterranean oil transport protection racket.

Officially, the BTC pipeline will be channelling oil to Western markets. What is not admitted, however, is that some of this oil will be redirected towards Israel via a proposed underwater pipeline from Ceyhan in Turkey to the Israeli port of Ashkelon, and from there via a pipeline system to the Red Sea. The plan not only seems to serve Israeli oil consumption needs, but also plays a part in the US’s wider game of global-politics.

Oil channelled from Ashkelon to the Red Sea will then be re-exported from the Red Sea port of Eilat to Asian markets. This will help undermine the inter-Asian energy market eventually weakening the position of Russia in Central Asia and cutting off China from Central Asia’s oil reserves. In April of this year Ankara and Tel Aviv publicised their intention to create four pipelines which would bypass Syrian and Lebanese territory. As the Jerusalem Post (11 May) reported:
”Turkey and Israel are negotiating the construction of a multi-million-dollar energy and water project that will transport water, electricity, natural gas and oil by pipelines to Israel, with the oil to be sent onward from Israel to the Far East.”
The scheme further envisages a pipeline to carry water to Israel from upstream Anatolian rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Not only is this plan catered for in the recently-announced military pact between Israel and Ankara, its implementation will be devastating for Syria and Iraq. The execution of this joint Israeli-Turkish venture requires that land and sea routes between the Ceyhan border, through Syria and Lebanon, and to the Lebanese-Israeli border, be militarised.

Michel Chossudovsky asks in his article ‘The war on Lebanon and the battle for oil:’
“Is this not one of the hidden objectives of the war on Lebanon? Open up a space which enables Israel to control a vast territory extending from the Lebanese border through Syria to Turkey.”
Israel is keen to play a more dominant role in the Middle East and seeks to achieve a degree of economic autonomy by becoming a key player in oil politics. Its military programme is increasingly looking like being tailored to the region’s strategic oil pipelines and by the Western oil companies commanding the pipeline passages. Of course to punch above its weight it needs outside help, hence alliances with the US and more recently with Turkey and NATO.

Chossudovsky’s oft-cited piece “Triple Alliance”: The US, Turkey, Israel and the War on Lebanon details the alliances and agreements which apparently underpin the war with Hezbollah.
“We are not dealing with a limited conflict between the Israeli Armed Forces and Hezbollah as conveyed by the Western media. The Lebanese War Theatre is part of a broader US military agenda, which encompasses a region extending from the Eastern Mediterranean into the heartland of Central Asia. The war on Lebanon must be viewed as ‘a stage’ in this broader ‘military road map’.”
Significant, for Chossudovsky, is the Turkey-Israel alliance which involves military and intelligence sharing on Iraq, Iran and Syria, as well as joint military exercises and training.

Pepe Escobar, writing for Asia Times, stresses Israel’s water needs as partly behind the recent war in Lebanon. : “There’s also the all-important matter of the waters of the Litani River in southern Lebanon. Israel might as well prepare the terrain now for the eventual annexation of the Litani. Beyond Lebanon, Israel is mostly interested also in Syria. The motive: the all-important pipeline route from Kirkuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan, to Haifa. Enter Israel as a major player in Pipelineistan. So Israel wants to grab water (and territory) from Palestine, water (and territory) from Lebanon and oil from Iraq. This all has to do with the inevitable – the 21st-century energy wars.”( Link.)

Seeking greater independence and an enhanced role in the Middle East, the smell of profits all around, Israeli aggression now becomes more understandable.

Long war
Tel Aviv recently announced it was in for a “long war” – clearly not with Hezbollah. It has been stockpiling weapons for several years and was re-supplied throughout the war with Hezbollah by the US. On top of its arsenal of 200 nuclear warheads it has in excess of 500 bunker-busting bombs, only a few, by all accounts, used recently in Lebanon. Clearly Israel is preparing for a widening and intense conflict. Speaking of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “We need to make clear to Syria and Iran that there is a choice: come into the international community and play by the same rules as the rest of us, or be confronted.”

Can this hypocritical statement be interpreted as anything other than a serious threat ofviolence to those Middle Eastern countriesthat would stand in the way of profit-hungry masters of war and their ambitions for global domination of the planet’s vital resources?

Seymour Hersh has repeatedly asserted that President Bush ordered all-out war against Iran shortly after his re-election in 2004. Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative, amongst other sources, sides with Hersh in arguing that vice-president Dick Cheney has drawn up a war plan for Iran inclusive of the possible use of nuclear weapons.

US Defence Secretary Don Rumsfeld has placed US forces on alert and Lieutenant-Colonel Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force acknowledges: “We’re now at the point where we are essentially on alert. We have the capacity to plan and execute global strikes in half a day or less.”

Dan Plesch (Guardian, 8 August) suggests President Bush has at his disposal: “200 strategic bombers (B52-B1-B2- F117A) and US Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles. One B2 bomber dropped 80,500lb bombs on separate targets in 22 seconds in a test flight. Using just half the available force, 10,000 targets could be attacked almost simultaneously. This strike power alone is sufficient to destroy all major Iranian political, military, economic and transport capabilities.”

Dangerous times
We live at a dangerous stage of human history, in which the greatest crime a country can commit is to have more than its fair share of resources in a world in which the leading superpower is seeking full-spectrum dominance. Iran’s real and unforgivable crime – leaving aside its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment programme – is to have enviable oil and gas reserves, to control access to the Persian Gulf , which is a vital oil and gas transhipment route to Europe, Japan, and the rest of the world, and to have contemplated oil deals with a serious rival for US supremacy, China. With China expected to have oil demands similar to US levels within 20 years, already consuming vast resources of coal, iron and steel, not to mention almost 70 percent of the world’s cement supplies on a single dam project, the panic button has clearly been pressed.

As Socialists we are naturally fearful as we watch events unfold; fearful for our class, our fellows throughout the world and for whom we hold no ill feelings. As always, we refuse to take sides in conflict, seeing all war as rooted in the desire to make profit, and viewing workers, wherever they are, united as one class with the same basic needs and common interest, diametrically opposed to the interests of those who would urge them to kill each other.

 Before the slaughter begins again, we once more take the opportunity to declare our heartfelt solidarity with the workers of all countries, and their true common cause. We appeal to workers to organise consciously and politically and to use the power at their disposal to head off the threatening bloodshed, and secure the space we need in order to build a world of peace and stability. As ever, we appeal to the workers of all lands to join with us in campaigning for a system of society where there are no leaders, no classes, no states or governments, no borders, no force or coercion; a world where the earth’s natural and industrial resources are commonly owned and democratically controlled and where production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the benefit of all; a world of free access to the necessaries of life. A world without waste, or want, or war.
John Bissett

Letters: Nuclear Power (2006)

Letters to the Editors from the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nuclear Power

Dear Editors,

I would like to take issue with the Pathfinders article “Radioactive Days” (August Socialist Standard). The anonymous author – shouldn’t articles that do not express a consensus of socialist opinion be signed? – argues that continued reliance on nuclear fission as a major source of energy may be unavoidable, even after the establishment of socialism. However, no account is taken of the widely recognized fact that the supply not only of oil, but also of uranium and plutonium for fission reactors, is likely to run out in the course of the present century.

Conceivably, development of a closed fuel cycle might solve this problem, as well as that of radioactive wastes. It is also conceivable that nuclear fusion will become a viable alternative sooner than some people expect. Or perhaps a way will be found to store solar energy, enabling us to rely on the main fusion reactor in our vicinity–the sun.

Nevertheless, it is quite possible that none of these solutions will materialize in time to avert a real energy crisis. If this proves to be the case, it will not necessarily be because the technological obstacles are insuperable. The most likely cause will be the short time horizons used in capitalist profit calculations.

Given all these uncertainties, we need to think about a wide range of scenarios for energy policy in socialism. A guaranteed abundance of safe and non-polluting fusion or solar energy is one scenario. But humanity may have no choice but to adapt to a low energy way of life.
Stephen Shenfield, 
Providence, USA

Actually, the Pathfinders column does not necessarily express a consensus of socialist opinion on every issue, as many of the scientific issues discussed are very much open for debate and development by socialists and others. – Editors.

Asked and answered

Dear Editors,

I’ve spent some time over the past few months reading a lot about political and social structures, for no purpose other than my own interest. I, like many, am discontented with the situation as it stands. The solution proposed by your organisation resonates with me, as few others have. As a result, I have read Marxist works, and much about varied forms of left-wing politics like Leninism and Maoism, etc.
 I do, however, keep coming back to your site. I have read all of the available information but still have a few questions I was hoping you could answer. I sincerely hope you can find the time to assist.

1. In a practical sense, how would labour be distributed in a socialist society? I’m not suggesting some jobs are any less important than others, but how would personal ambition (not ambition for material reward, but ambition of a personal nature, to achieve and feel accomplishment in a particular field) be matched with the needs of society? Could I, for example, say ‘I want to be an electrician’ and get trained? And what if, for example, nobody wanted to be a cleaner? Would people be assigned jobs on a take it or take it basis or is there an element of negotiation? If so, how much?

2. What would happen to people who refused to work/contribute?

3. What is your position on the punishment of serious criminals?

4. How are the creative arts perceived?

As a necessary part of a healthy society, or as unnecessary? Could someone be, for example, a full-time writer, in a socialist society as you describe? Even if they were no good at it?
Name and address withheld by request (by email).

1. The general principle of socialist society of “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs” clearly recognises the obvious fact that different people have different abilities. How will these individual abilities be matched with the social need for particular jobs to be done? We can’t give a blueprint (and don’t want to, since this would be to try to dictate to the future when the details can only be decided democratically at the time), but we can imagine something like the “job centres” of today,only completely freed from any trace of coercion, monetary considerations and stigma.In other words, places where jobs to be done could be advertised and where people could go to volunteer to do them. Or maybe the whole thing could be done via the internet. If there is a shortage of people taking up a particular job,then a special effort would have to be made to encourage people to train for and take up these jobs. We are confident that socialist society will be able to find a practical solution to a practical problem such as this.

 2. We don’t think that, in the context of socialist society where a real community and community spirit will exist, there will be many people, if any, who would refuse to contribute. After all, there is nothing more boring than lying around all day trying to do nothing. Humans are social animals who need to be active as well as appreciated by others.

 3. Since over 90 percent of crimes today are crimes against property and since property and poverty will disappear in socialist society where everybody will automatically be able to satisfy their material needs, the main “crimes” that would remain would be such things as breaking traffic regulations or hosepipe bans. But by “serious criminals” we assume you mean people who kill or harm other people. Any such behaviour is likely to be highly exceptional but, should it occur, the person responsible would have to be stopped and, if need be, detained. We are not sure that “punishment” is the right word since most such instances are likely to be medical cases.

 4. Yes, of course the “creative arts” are a necessary part of any society, but in socialism won’t be confined to such things as opera and poetry. We go along with William Morris in saying that the everyday work of producing something useful can also be creative and art. And we would imagine that most people will want to take advantage of the possibility socialist society will offer them of being able to do a variety of jobs (even in the same week) rather than being tied to the same job, day after day, year after year – Editors.