Friday, September 29, 2023

SPGB Meetings (1995)

Party News from the September 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Editorial: The Crisis and prices and incomes (1966)

Editorial from the September 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

It was clear at the time that many Labour supporters, in their jubilation at the victory last March, were overlooking an inconvenient fact. Coming back to power with a decisive majority meant that they had to carry the can; there could be no more excuses.

But of course excuses have been made; they have been falling' thick and fast in the latest financial crisis which British capitalism finds itself in.

Harold Wilson has blamed the panic on to the seamen’s strike; the increase in the price of copper; the Vietnam war; the activities of foreign financiers. He summarised all his excuses in the most famous of them all—the government, he said, had been “blown off course”.

This must have reminded many people of the excuse used by the lamentable Labour government of 1929/31— that they had been struck by an economic blizzard. It is true that capitalism is like a treacherous sea where sudden tempests sweep from over the horizon. But no one should forget Labour’s persistent claim that they could control the economic weather and navigate the ship into blue skies and calm waters.

The facts stand clear. The Labour Party won power in 1964 on the slogan Let’s Go; now they stand for stagnation and recession. They said they would organise a “planned growth of incomes”; now they are imposing a wage freeze. They are the successors of the Labour Representation Committee, which was formed to promote the interests of trade unions in Parliament; now they are pushing through the first openly anti-union legislation in over forty years.

Many union leaders have expressed angry astonishment at the Prices and Incomes Bill, as if this was something the Labour Party had only just thought of. But they had the experience of the Attlee government to guide them, as well as the speeches of Labour leaders when they were out of power:
No one can afford to dodge the issue. Some people prefer to call it wage restraint . . . Labour wants to be able to prevent the total money income rising faster than the total production . . . (James Callaghan, Labour Party Conference, 1962).

We in the Labour Party have the right to ask for this (incomes) policy because we are willing to create conditions in which it can be established . . .We can make the national appeal that is needed because, for us, an incomes policy is the condition of sustained growth . . . (Harold Wilson. Birmingham 19/1/64.)
It is now up to the union leaders to ponder on their continued support for the Labour government—and for their, members to judge them on it.

What of the future?

Whether the unions accept the provisions of the Bill, or whether they try to lake advantage of the same sort of market forces which the government say will be allowed to work unhindered on prices, it is clear that more storms lie ahead.

Perhaps the officials of some of the big unions which have declared that they will ignore, or oppose, the Bill will find themselves in prison for contempt of court after refusing to pay fines imposed under the Bill’s provisions.

It would be fitting if a Labour government, with a long history of anti-trade union activity behind it—including the prosecution of strikers—should end up by making a martyr out of Frank Cousins.

We can look forward, in the days ahead, to the similarity between the Labour and Conservative parties becoming more and more obvious. In the current crisis, this similarity has already impressed almost every political commentator; perhaps it will also get through to some of their readers, and encourage them to grasp some important facts.

Both Labour and Tory parties stand for capitalism. The differences between them are superficial: both aim at running the capitalist social system.

One difference between them is that the Labour Party have claimed to be a Socialist organisation. Events have exposed this notion for all time.

Socialism will be a society of co-operation and freedom, where men will control their environment and really be able to plan their affairs. This is a world away from the sordid turmoil of class interests and economic anarchy in which the Labour Party are enmeshed.

Capitalism: the crisis society (1966)

From the September 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the American political system the President makes an annual speech under the title “The State of the Nation”. Since Harold Wilson became Prime Minister he has taken up this practice, only his title has become—the Nation In A State.

Despite the vagaries of the British electoral system which seldom produces a House of Commons with a composition equating to the votes cast, it was not surprising when the Labour Party won the election of October, 1964. For some time political and economic commentators had been suggesting that perhaps the Conservative Government was getting tired after 13 years in office and a new virile Labour Party under the leadership of Harold Wilson was proclaiming that it could get Britain moving again.

This time there were no phoney references to Socialism. The whole case of the Labour Party as enunciated by Wilson and company rested on the premise that they could manage the affairs of society—capitalism, that is—more efficiently than the Conservatives. Indeed the nationalisation of steel was not presented as a means to equalise the ownership of wealth, which had been alleged of previous acts of nationalisation, but purely as the way in which to increase the efficiency of the industry and its ability to supply the home market and compete abroad.

Immediately upon taking office the government was faced with problems—as if there was a time when the managers of capitalism didn't have problems—and within a month Bank Rate was raised to seven per cent for the first time since the merry days of Selwyn Lloyd. Further, Chancellor of the Exchequer Callaghan introduced import surcharges, tougher hire purchase restrictions and took the unprecedented step of announcing increases in taxation to be introduced in his forthcoming budget of April, 1965.

Whilst these measures were regretted they were blamed on the state of the economy at the time the Labour Party succeeded the Conservative government. At worst, however, they were to be short term emergency measures whilst the government prepared its plans that would revitalise the British economy.

A number of new agencies, led by the Productivity, Prices and Incomes Board, were formed under George Brown, the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State, in charge of the Department of Economic Affairs. If capitalism could be planned the machinery to do it had now been created. In the autumn of 1965 after one year in office the National Plan was produced and Mr. Brown, forgetting the lesson he should have learned from Rab Butler, was proclaiming an increase in the standard of living of 25 per cent in five years.

At the same time a number of journals and economists were no longer supporting the government and indeed were becoming critical of its handling of the economy, especially with regard to the exchange value of sterling which was saved from a crisis only by obtaining concerted support from friendly governments. They were friendly to the extent that 40 per cent of world trade is conducted through sterling and if it were devalued they would have to bear some of the loss and the probability of devaluing their own currency.

It was widely held that the economic climate would become decidedly colder during the winter of 1965. Indeed this appeared to be the opinion of the government also. Minister of Labour Gunter was to the forefront of the week-end speakers with their tale of woe as indicated by this extract reported in The Observer of 9th January, 1966: “If we cannot or will not match our productivity to our spending, then measures deflationary in character must follow and unemployment will arise.”

But so unmanageable and unplannable is capitalism that the economy did not deteriorate in the manner envisaged and Wilson was able to have an election in March 1966, and get returned with a massive majority on the slogan “You Know Labour Government Works”.

Indeed the following budget of May surprised all the professionals in not increasing taxation immediately; the new innovation of selective employment tax would not take effect until the autumn.

Even if at this stage the government thought it had the situation under control, its passage had not been without incident. Although the TUC had reluctantly and grudgingly agreed to acquiesce to the part allocated it in the government's charade, those individual unions which had tried to protect or improve the position of their members had met with open hostility from a government party spawned of the trade union movement. Mr. Aubrey Jones, the chairman of the Prices and Incomes Board with all the comfort and security of a £15,000 per year salary, was telling various groups of workers that they could not have an increase of wages until they reduced overtime and became more productive in the normal working day. The Railway workers, thinking they were more secure under the umbrella of the Cameron and Guillebaud reports accepted by a Conservative government, were told by Wilson over a glass of beer at Number Ten that they could not have the rise, despite the threat of a strike. And the seamen who actually did strike could not obtain the rise they sought. During this same period members of Parliament, doctors, senior civil servants and others obtained increases equal to the average wage of those refused.

Let there be no mistake about it; controlling capitalism is impossible. It is not only the British government that is telling its working class that they are overpaid and underworked. Germany, Japan and others which for so long have been offered as examples and targets to aim for are suffering the same troubles. The workers in those countries resort to strike action in support of their struggles and they in turn are urged by their capitalist class to return to work, not ask for higher wages and not to damage the economy.

For a long time now it has been impossible, unless you are cut off from all dissemination of news, not to be aware that the British capitalist class had problems. The balance of trade, the balance of payments and exchange value of sterling were going from weakness to weakness. And the master planners were helpless. The manner in which Wilson made his announcement before going to Moscow only helped to exacerbate the sterling crisis. And the plans, oh yes, they will always have plans, which were delayed so that they would be complete when they were announced were in fact further amended and reinterpreted for the following ten days.

Naturally those further plans brought further discussion and the opinion now hardening among the '‘experts'’ is that the latest measures would cause deflation and consequently unemployment this autumn. When announcing the measures in Parliament on July 20th Prime Minister Wilson said: “I do not think the House would consider a rise of up to two per cent (470,000) unemployment unacceptable.” At a Parliamentary Labour Party meeting of July 26th Michael Foot asked what would the government do if unemployment reached unmanageable proportions. To which Mr. Wilson replied—they had plans.

It is no part of our case that the Labour and Conservative governments fail because they are not doing the correct thing. If the Socialist Party of Great Britain was foolish enough to attempt the job of managing capitalism it, too, would fail. The vital point that the Socialist Party makes to political discussion is to point out the nature of capitalism and the reason why it can never be other than the way we know it.

Capitalism is a competitive society. Firm competes with firm, industry with industry, country with country, and eventually continent with continent. Never mind that the commodities produced satisfy some human need—and that is not always the case—the motive for production is that the person or persons who put up the original capital for the operation shall at the end receive back their money plus a profit. And the whole operation is enacted for the securing of that profit. If the market conditions are such that the rate of profit, or even the profit itself, is in doubt then production is curtailed.

The trouble with British capitalism today is that it has become senile. It may have been the front runner during an earlier period of capitalism but the nature of the commodities produced and the materials required for that production is changing and the advantage is flowing to other countries. As is often the case, the ageing and formerly successful participator is reluctant to change.

This is not to say that British capitalism is not as successful as it can be within these limitations. The idea held in common by Mr. Wilson and company directors, and usually expressed by the latter over their third pre-lunch gin and tonic, that workers are lazy and inefficient, is belied by the fact that most firms, both large and small, continually and ruthlessly examine their costs to see that they extract every globule of surplus value.

Notwithstanding all the plans, politicians and business men do not run capitalism. Rather the system pushes them around in the manner of a grotesque Punch and Judy show. Despite all the writing on today’s wall there still might not be any crisis this year. It may turn out as Mr. Wilson envisages with half a million unemployed, or, as some pessimistic economist predict, unemployed might reach a million. There is still the possibility of a crisis reaching the proportions of that suffered in the Thirties. Such is the nature of capitalism that nobody knows. Not even the planners.

On the other hand the Socialist Party does not have any plans for socialism. All we can do is to urge you to consider the idea that the productive forces of society be utilised to produce those things urgently required by men and women everywhere. The adequate satisfaction of those basic human requirements: food, clothing and shelter can never be satisfied in a world that requires bombs and bases in space. The two things are contradictory. Socialism is not a Utopia, and when we achieve it that will not mean the end of all problems. But the problems will be of a minor nature compared with those that confront us today. A society that produces for use can never be placed in the position of deliberately curtailing production when people are in need of those things that are no longer to be produced.
Ray Guy

Universities and the working class (1966)

From the September 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard
"But let them not babble of Greek to the rabble,
Nor teach the Mechanics their letters;
The labouring classes were born to be asses,
And not to be aping their betters."
This mean scrap of verse was produced over a hundred years ago, as a protest against the schooling of working-class children. But its vindictive composer might as well have saved his breath; industrial capitalism demanded an educated working class and it is against this background that the education reforms of the 19th century can be understood. Not only did these reforms involve a national system of elementary schools, but the universities were overhauled, too. New colleges were established in London in the eighteen-twenties and in the following decade Durham University was founded. Oxford and Cambridge were reorganised as well. The explanation is given by G. M. Trevelyan, in his British History in the Nineteenth Century, when he points out that the impotence of the ancient universities “must eventually have ruined the country in peace and war, when matched against foreign rivals who valued scientific and educational progress. The timely reform of Oxford and Cambridge by Act of Parliament saved the situation.” Nevertheless, it was still the case that only a handful of brilliant working-class boys stood any sort of a chance of getting to a university—and this remained the case until relatively recent times. But since the Second World War there has been another bout of reforms to meet the changing needs of the capitalist system. Along with the development of so-called “comprehensive schooling” the universities have been greatly expanded. Whereas the number of full-time students in Britain was only 50,246 in 1938-39, this number had leaped to 85,421 by 1949-50. Since then this trend has gathered momentum, so that in the nineteen-sixties it is accepted as normal that tens of thousands of young workers should graduate every year. But why has this situation developed? Obviously it is not because young people are cleverer today than previously; nor does the comfortable notion that we now live in a more egalitarian society hold water. It is simply that, in order to survive in a competitive world, British capitalism needs a growing supply of scientists, technicians and engineers. The Times Educational Supplement (March 15th, 1957) summed up the ruthless economics of the education business:
Education is a weapon of war . . . It is something along with the stocks and shares and the production belt which the hard-faced men realise is necessary to the survival of this nation . . . Education is something we invest in as we once competed in dreadnoughts.
Once more there are conservative academicians to lament the new developments and teaching methods. Take, for example, Professor J. MacMurray, speaking at the Sixth Congress of Commonwealth Universities: “Cultural institutions, such as universities . . . begin to be looked on as subordinate mechanisms in the general technology of the state—their function being to produce technicians and specialists necessary to ‘run the country’." Again he is wasting his time to hark back to the days when the universities were autonomous “cultural institutions” where the sons of the rich could idle away a few leisurely years. Industry now requires a real army of the most highly skilled workers and their education has become such a vital issue that more and more the capitalist state is forced to intervene in this sphere. Between 1945 and 1957 the national grants to the universities rose from £2,000,000 per annum to £35,000,000 every year. Over this period the total grant came to something like £232,000,000. Only the state, representing the general interest of British capital, can provide the vast sums of money required and therefore, over the years, state control of the universities has advanced as the figures below clearly show.

Some people have been inclined to look upon this trend as “creeping socialism” or even as a series of concessions wrung from the capitalist class. It is, of course, nothing of the sort. The process is comparable to that of nationalisation, where other essential services are taken over by the government and run along lines which seem most advantageous to British capitalism. Clearly, it has nothing to do with socialism.

And what about the university students themselves? As the colleges come to resemble more and more mere teaching factories it is worthwhile considering to what extent the undergraduates are provided with a rounded education. When they come off the conveyor belt at the end of a three- or four-year course, how many feel equipped with a broad and useful span of knowledge and how many that they have been churned out as yet another mass-produced doctor, chemist, teacher or mathematician? Perhaps the best that can be said for the universities is that they provide an artificial environment where, for a few years, one can scrape by on a meagre allowance without having to sell oneself for a wage. But when the student finally leaves his college he is faced with much the same prospects as any other working man—a lifetime of selling his labour power to the owners of the means of production, the capitalist class.

Students often fancy themselves as being more alive and socially aware than the bulk of the working class. Superficially there might seem to be something in this, since reformist organisations of all kinds flourish in the universities. But unfortunately the conventional image of a politically conscious student population is no more than a myth. The vast majority stand for the continuation of capitalism with all its humiliations and misery. Although they are often a fairly vocal section of the community the fashionable battle-cries are rarely more penetrating than “Hands off Fanny Hill” or “Hands on Ian Smith".

Yet the outlook is not a black one. As capitalism develops the working class constantly amasses more knowledge and experience. The advances in the formal education which workers receive are only one aspect of this process. As working men and women become trained in the scientific techniques of production so they are more likely to examine society from a scientific position. They are struck by the discrepancy between the individual factory where order and planning can be enforced and the overall chaos of a class-divided society. The educated working man is a force to be reckoned with by the capitalist class. He is less inclined to be taken in by the crudest propaganda or by religious superstitions. He is, in fact, the grave-digger of the capitalist system.
John Crump

The Passing Show: On The Bomb (1966)

The Passing Show Column from the September 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

On The Bomb

What sort of picture does that title paint for you? Probably one of unparalleled destruction and misery, of thousands of people wiped out in a matter of minutes; of a shadow of mixed gloom and terror which has darkened the world ever since those fateful days in early August, 1945, when the fruits of the hideous “Manhattan Project” were delivered at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I well remember the giant newspaper headlines and the sloppy, hypocritical editorials, bleating about “international control” of this new super weapon, saying how it could be perhaps a “force for peace” if it were kept “in the right hands,” etc, and expressing thanks that it had at least been used to speed the end of the war against Japan and save many allied lives. This has since been nailed as a lie, and the fact made known that the war was kept going in face of Japanese attempts at surrender negotiations, so that the bomb could be dropped. Nevertheless, the lie is often repeated by capitalist politicians, plus the new one that the bomb is necessary as a deterrent to “the other side,” so that this uneasy lull they call peace can be maintained.

Socialists think it is a tragedy that workers in any part of the world should lose their lives in the defence of capitalism’s interests, and this has typified our attitude to all weapons of war. But to the patriotic British or American worker in 1945 it was a case of “Thank God we got there first!” Well, now the wheel has turned quite a few times and the nuclear club numbers five members, with others like India and West Germany wondering whether to join. In the past 20 years the bomb has become a diplomatic weapon of the first importance; one might almost call it a first-class admission ticket to any of the top international conference tables.

It is against such a background that you should consider movements of protest like CND, which have sprung up in this and other countries over the past few years. When we say that these movements must fail, this is not to underestimate the sincerity of many of their members. It is simply that they take no account of the social conditions which have fostered such horrors as the bomb. The roots of war, atomic or otherwise, are in the capitalist system and none of its conflicts yet have been fought with kid gloves.

Once born, man's atomic knowledge cannot be destroyed. It will be refined and developed, and under capitalism perverted for base ends. Within private property society there is no sensible meaning to the term "for peaceful purposes". Only in a Socialist world could we guarantee that atomic energy would be used solely for human welfare, and the monstrosities of nuclear bombs be but a ghastly memory.

The shock of going out to work

I never used to believe my parents when they told me that my schooldays were the happiest days of my life. I began to believe them in earnest on the first day I went out to work. Not that school life is that much of an uplifting experience, as we know; for most of us it is only a training for the workaday world we have to face at some stage in our adolescence. But when that world at last closes round us and the irrevocable step has been taken, we realise with a sudden jolt that the comparatively carefree days of short hours and long holidays are gone for good.

From now on we begin to covet those two or three weeks of holiday a year and the precious evening and weekend leisure hours. Suddenly we seem to be too short of spare time to do the things we’d like to do—neither do we have the necessary cash—and we begin to find the restrictions of factory and office routine irksome to say the least. Perhaps we haven’t yet grasped the full impact of what has happened, but sooner or later the awful truth begins to dawn on us that this is the beginning of our wage earning years, stretching away before us through a lifetime of care and struggle. 

There is the job, and a pay packet at the end of the week or month, and the terrifying prospect of doing something we don’t want to do for the next 40-odd years. Many people try to dodge the issue by changing jobs when the boredom gets too acute, and it’s nothing unusual for boys and girls nowadays to have had a whole series of employers within a year or two of But whichever way we turn, the black ogre of wage slavery confronts us, devouring the peak years of our lives in dull unfulfilling and often stultifying activity. No wonder we set such store by our spare time. It’s usually the only part of the day we can even think about doing something which really interests us.

For work under capitalism is not a means of expressing and developing ourselves to the full. It is merely a means of getting a living wage, and for the employer of course of getting his profits. And this state of affairs is doing a lot of harm to a lot of workers everywhere.

On Authority 

In Ludovic Kennedy’s book on the Stephen Ward Trial, there is an interesting paragraph or two on the functions and activities of “The Establishment” in a time of crisis. It was Kennedy’s contention that whatever Ward’s morality he had committed no legal offence, but had roused the wrath of those in authority by ratting on his former politician friend Profumo. The scandal rocked the government at the time, but says Kennedy, the Establishment closed its ranks and earmarked Ward for special treatment.

Socialists have long realised the ability of the ruling class to stand together when the occasion demands, and ruthlessly destroy anyone who threatens to bring its authority into public ridicule and contempt. For mass loyalty and “respect for their betters” by the working class is certainly essential to our masters if they are to get support for (or at least acquiescence in) the continuation of their system of privilege and exploitation.

Our press and politicians will try to tell us that this is “our” country and that we have a vested interest in being proud of it. In support, they will point to the various institutions, such as the Church and Royal Family, which we can look up to because they are supposed to be above “sectional interests” and therefore bind us all together in common interest. And although risqué jokes may be tossed about at times, this version dished out by authority is generally accepted by workers.

Now both the Church and the Royal Family are exceedingly rich and are symbolic of private property society, and for this reason alone would earn the Socialist Party’s hostility; but it would not really be true to say that they are above politics. True, they make no political pronouncements but they are part of the constitutional set-up in Great Britain and are expected to co-operate with the government in its day-to-day administration of capitalism. The Queen, for example, signs Parliamentary Bills, calls Privy Council meetings and generally does what she’s told. Neither the Monarch nor the Church has any power to resist the will of the capitalist class. That matter was settled a long time ago.

Which in itself is an answer to those who advocate a republic. Whether or not the Monarchy has any power makes precious little difference to the essential division of wealth and the subject position of the working class. France, U.S.A. and Russia, for example, all operate without a monarchy. And they are just as much capitalist states as Britain or Sweden.


“A Labour Government will not be a soft option.” (Jim Northcott, in Why Labour. Penguin Books, 1963).

“My politics were confused. 1 was a Liberal-Radical, a Tory-Democrat and a Fabian Socialist.” (Harold Macmillan—The Winds of Change).

“He (Mr. Wilson) has put aside promises now. He is giving us threats instead. Why? The fact is that he simply has no choice. Britain (like it or not) is a capitalist country, living in a predominantly capitalist world.” (Charles CurranEvening News, 15.7.66).

“This journal will do anything in its power, short of betraying its principles, to support a Labour government.” (New Statesman. 15.7.66).

“Labour members must realise how wrong they are to describe stop-go as Tory policy. It has been the policy of all governments since the war.” (Selwyn Lloyd, Commons debate. 27.7.66).
Eddie Critchfield

Letter: The War Game (1966)

Letter to the Editors from the September 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

The War Game

I read the review of the film The War Game (Socialist Standard, July) with great interest and found that it made many points which I would agree with.

In addition, I would like to say that the film shows how the institutions which are so dear to capitalism such as the church, law and government, become very trivial in a time of great disaster. Authority cannot work under such conditions and as a result people have to co-operate in order to survive. However. Peter Watkins does not seem to show this consciously.

Yours for Socialism,
Edwin Walters
London, N.W.6

New pamphlet on racism (1966)

Party News from the September 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

A new Socialist Party pamphlet, entitled The Problem of Racism, is available. The previous pamphlet on this subject The Racial Problem, published in 1947 has been out of print for some time. The Problem of Racism is not just a revision it is a completely new pamphlet. In 1947 it was the Jewish Question that was prominent. Today it is the Colour Question. This change is taken into account in the new pamphlet which examines the colour question in Britain, America, South Africa and Rhodesia. There are chapters too on the scientific theory of race, the historical origins of racist theories and on African nationalism.

There is an unfortunate error. The reference on page 41 to Guyana should, of course, be to Guinea.

Pamphlet obtainable from Socialist Party (Dept. SR), 52 Clapham High St., London, SW4. Price 1/6.

SPGB Meetings (1966)

Party News from the September 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blogger's Notes:
The January 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard carried a brief report by the SPGB's Propaganda Committee about the Seven Days for Socialism campaign. 

There was a write up of Anne Young's talk, 'My American Journey', in the Hackney Gazette.

There was a write up of Solomon Goldstein's talk, 'The Economics of Capitalism', in the Hackney Gazette.

'Was it something that we said scanned?'

MICHAEL: Hey, did you hear him making fun of you earlier?

ALAN: I did, Michael, but as Oscar Wilde said, ‘There’s only one thing worse than being talked about …’

MICHAEL: Cancer.

ALAN: No, not being talked about.

MICHAEL (Sickened): What, Oscar Wilde said not being talked about was worse than cancer?

ALAN: Yes, yes. I think he was at a party. Probably just being a gay show-off.

(from Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.)

From the agenda for the SPGB's 2023 Autumn Delegate Meeting:

How's that for a kick in the knackers? No words. Actually, a few: To paraphrase Jean-Paul Sartre, 'Hell is other Party members . . .'

Voice From The Back: This is Democracy? (2009)

The Voice From The Back Column from the September 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

This is Democracy?

The US government are very fond of lecturing other governments about democracy and extolling the virtues of democracy as opposed to one party regimes. Where it suits their economic interests, such as in oil-rich Middle East states they are less adamant about democracy though. Nevertheless, compared to dictatorship like Saudi Arabia and North Korea, the USA would seem to be a model for the superiority of democracy. However on closer examination the US model is far from perfect. “In 2000, Jon Corzine spent tens of millions of his personal fortune to vault himself from political obscurity to the United States Senate. In 2005, he spent millions more to jump from Washington to Trenton and become New Jersey’s governor. This year he’s opening his wallet again as he looks to overcome a steep deficit in the polls to win re-election, in what could be the ultimate test of whether money trumps all in politics today. Throughout American history, personal wealth has often played a significant role in winning political office. But as campaigns are increasingly decided by 30-second TV ads and sophisticated get-out-the-vote efforts, the two major parties are increasingly looking to recruit individuals with personal fortunes that can help bankroll campaign costs that now more often than not run into the tens of millions of dollars.” (Yahoo News, 9 July) In US-style democracy anyone can become politically powerful but it does help if you happen to be a multi-millionaire.

The Power of Money

It is axiomatic in capitalist society that if you have more money you eat better than those with less of the stuff. Likewise when it comes to accommodation the rich live in palaces while the poor live in inadequate housing. In education, recreation and every other human pursuit money allows for the best of everything and consequently lack of the stuff leads to the cheap and the shoddy. A recent example of this was provided by a review of the treatment of mental health patients in the NHS. “A bleak picture of a mental health service that tolerates bullying and houses children alongside adults in breach of guidelines is revealed in a damning report from a government monitoring body. The Mental Health Act Commission claims many more patient deaths will occur through inadequate staffing and lack of training. The 248-page study, the last by the commission before it is replaced by the new Care Quality Commission, highlights how patients put on suicide watch are often poorly observed, leading to tragedies half-concealed by ‘falsification’ of nursing records.” (Observer, 19 July) Needless to say this sort of treatment is reserved for those who cannot afford the luxurious treatment provided for the very rich. As the Bob Dylan song has it – “Money doesn’t talk, it swears!”

Prophets and Profits

The financial journalist Richard Wachman recently wrote an article in the Observer entitled “We’re two years older and sadder, but perhaps not a great deal wiser”. He reviewed the financial collapse that had occurred from August 2007 to August 2009. “What happened two years ago was to lead to a chain of event that involved the nationalisation of about half the major banks in Britain and the United States. It was also to lead to the collapse of emerging markets from Latvia to Pakistan and the biggest ever globally co-ordinated government rescue package, involving trillions of pounds. The world is now an uglier place with mass unemployment, widespread business failure and dramatic falls in world trade.” (Observer, 2 August) Wachman’s analysis of the problem is not particularly revealing but what is of interest in his article is how the crisis has left so-called experts with egg on their faces. Mervyn King (August, 2007) “I don’t think there’s any real evidence here of a fundamental challenge to the macroeconomic outlook.” and then (February, 2009) “The UK is in deep recession … Restoring both lending and confidence will not be easy and will take time.” George W Bush (August, 2007) “The fundamentals of our economy are strong … and we are headed for a soft landing.” and then “If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down.” (September, 2008) Alistair Darling (August 2007) “People should have confidence that many of the investment they make will be good investments.” and then “Times are arguably the worst they’ve been in 60 years… it’s going to be more long-lasting than people thought.” (September 2008) Capitalism is a social system based on economic slumps and booms and it makes fools of all the “experts”.

Las Vegas, Another View

We are all aware of the Hollywood depiction of Las Vegas as a fun-loving city, full of casinos, nightclubs and good times, but the reality for its growing homeless numbers is far from idyllic. As jobs and homes disappear many of the dispossessed street dwellers are subject to attacks of violence. Now even the streets are being abandoned by the homeless. “Some of the Las Vegas homeless resort to living in a maze of underground flood channels beneath the Strip. There they face flash floods, disease, black widows and dank, pitch-dark conditions, but some tunnel dwellers say life there is better than being harassed and threatened by assailants and the police. ‘Out there, anything goes,’ said Manny Lang, who has lived in the tunnels for months, recalling the stones and profanities with which a group of teenagers pelted him last winter when he slept above ground. ‘But in here, nothing’s going to happen to us.’” (New York Times, 7 August) In one of the most sophisticated urban areas in the world some members of the working class are living like sewer rats. What a hellish system capitalism is.

The Ire Of The Irate Itinerant (2009)

From the September 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

Letters: Stalinist? (2009)

Letters to the Editors from the September 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard


Dear Editors

Truth is (August Socialist Standard) that we paid our staff more than our competitors in the newspapers and even included BUPA. The unions, when we were negotiating, said we could go on with the BUPA, but mustn’t mention it. Never quite understood what they stood for when their officials drove off in Jaguar XJS’, etc.

As far as the ‘sharecropping’ goes, there is a shortage of allotments in the area and we were trying to free up some of our land near the hotel to fill that local gap. It was a win-win situation.

Nothing more – but if it’s a move against the workers of the world…then fine. I think the reason socialism continually fails is because the greed of the political and bureaucratic classes and their lack of efficiency and vision is a stronger deterrent to the common man than the greed of bankers, lawyers and the rest of those who dip their snouts in the working man’s taxpayer trough. We can at least get rid of these guys eventually, because that’s how capitalism works. And working man is mostly middle-class now, anyway.

For socialism read Stalinism. Read subjugation. Read gulags and firing squads and torture of your own people. Oh happy days.
Eddy Shah (by email)

Just because we use the words “capitalism”, “socialism”, and “exploitation” doesn’t mean that we therefore supported Stalin’s Russia. We didn’t (and we didn’t support Lenin’s Russia either). There was exploitation there too under a system of state capitalism. It was never socialist. We’d have thought that an employer who wanted to run his business without trade union interference could more justly be likened to Stalinism. After all, there were no trade unions in the USSR either – Editors.


Dear Editors

It’s hardly “political rocket science” to understand the decay and corruption that lies at the heart of New Labour as affirmed by yet another dismal by-election defeat for Labour in Norwich North.

Throughout the coverage of this by-election some mainstream political commentators lampooned former Labour MP Dr Ian Gibson (whose resignation sparked this contest) as a maverick left wing politician, thus implying there was some justification for the New Labour “star chamber” to deselect him over the second home allowance scandal.

Maybe if there actually were more left-wing MP’s or prospective parliamentary candidates selected democratically by their local parties and who are periodically adjudged by their local party members on how they stand up for the basic principles their party stands for, then not only would these commentators have had something politically tangible to commentate about but more essentially the new Tory MP Chloe Smith might have had to face a genuine political contest based on policies and ideology rather than personalities and scandals.

Whilst this by-election campaign enticed Tory leader David Cameron to visit Norwich North on six occasions and to predictably hail his victor as a “rising star”, her victory was in fact, as indeed all Tory poll successes are, wholly attributable to the failed free market economic policies of New Labour which are the normal mainstay of the Tory Party itself. Apart from Tory core voters who’d vote Tory under any circumstance, the fact that many floating voters in Norwich North voted Tory during a recession underlines how utterly skewed British political attitudes and opinions have become due to this bipartisan political climate that deludes millions of apathetic voters into thinking that they have a legitimate choice.

Yet in essence Dr Gibson is no maverick and he certainly wasn’t a radical left wing MP. What proved too much for New Labour’s “star chamber” is that he, along with a handful of other Labour backbenchers on occasions, was mildly critical of New Labour’s right-wing free market agenda. Because the majority of Labour MP’s today just poodle along passively from day to day far more concerned about their careers and expenses rather than the wellbeing of society in general, then the likes of Dr Gibson are labelled mavericks, hence easily held up as scapegoats for the MP expense scandal.

At least Dr Gibson was right to resign immediately if only to expose how the treatment meted out to him exposes how the New Labour leadership has undermined internal Labour Party democracy all along and how, barring a miracle it’s going to result in a future Tory government. The real question however is why these very same commentators within the alleged free press and media totally ignored the fact that the behaviour of Dr Gibson, albeit an alleged ‘lefty’ who should have never have accepted the second home allowance in the first place, was relatively quite trivial in comparison with the behaviour of Chancellor Alistair Darling or employment minister Tony McNulty. A greasy pole indeed!
Nick Vinehill, 
Snettisham, Norfolk

Of course it wouldn’t make any difference if all Labour and Tory MPs were honest and democratically selected. They still wouldn’t be able to make the capitalist system work in the interest of the majority class of wage and salary workers – Editors.