Friday, October 6, 2023

Art—for whose sake? (1984)

From the October 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

A spectre, to paraphrase one of the world’s most paraphrased sayings, is haunting the upper-upmarket auction rooms of England. The Getty factor threatens to deprive anyone with ambitions to buy a masterpiece of art of their sleep at night. The very mention of it is, apparently, enough to send prices rocketing away out into the great unknown where records are broken for the splashing out of huge amounts of money on a picture or a piece of sculpture. Broken sleep does not, of course, trouble the auctioneers, whose commission flourishes under the higher prices induced by the Getty factor.

This powerful influence operates from across the Atlantic, from the museum in Malibu. California endowed out of the riches of the late Paul Getty. It is an enormously wealthy museum, with an unprecedented amount of money available for building up its collection. If it shows any interest in a sale the bidding takes on a new force. This is much in Getty’s style for he was one of those capitalists who reap so much profit from their capital, and own so much wealth, that the accountants hardly know what it all adds up to. His money came from the oil industry; not that he actually drilled the wells, or pumped the oil himself—that was the role of the workers. So, to be more exact. Getty’s money came from the exploitation of the oil industry’s workers. In the time honoured tradition, having screwed vast amounts of surplus value from the useful, productive people. Getty assured himself a place in their affections as a public benefactor by giving a fraction back in things like the museum. That affection was mixed with some sympathy, for Getty was an embodiment of the theory, a popular comfort for penniless workers, that riches do not make for happiness. Clearly, Getty did not hold with the theory himself, to the end of his days preferring the misery of riches, living in lugubrious seclusion at a large Elizabethan manor in Surrey to the joys of poverty in a council high rise flat in somewhere like Hackney.

The Getty factor was active recently when the Duke of Devonshire—who is not renowned for being unhappy about his riches—sent a collection of ancient drawings for auction at Christies. This firm is in the top drawer in the trade; their staff are discreetly dinner-jacketed and, if requested, conceal a successful bidder’s identity in a civilised mumble. In this urbane atmosphere the Devonshire drawings were sold for over £21 million, of which at least £13½ million went to the Duke after he has paid tax and, of course, a commission to the suave auctioneers. The Getty museum shelled out some £7 million for seven items. Works of art are not typical of capitalist production; not being reproducible they are not commodities and do not, therefore, conform to the economic laws, such as the law of value, which govern the mass of capitalism's products. When they are exchanged, there are other influences at work.

The “loss” of the Devonshire drawings to overseas buyers was greeted with a predictable sigh of regret from the sort of people who worry about Paul Getty’s and the Duke of Devonshire’s happiness. The Guardian (5 July 1984) wailed:
The auction, with its crazy prices, has exposed the fickleness of the market and the country’s weakness in protecting its heritage.
This was predictable because there is usually a protest when some member of the British ruling class sells a work of art for export. No matter that it may have lain in some closely private collection, unseen by anyone apart from a privileged few; its export is regarded as a "loss to the nation". Some years ago the state set up a machinery designed to delay such exports, with a government-backed agency—the National Heritage Memorial Fund—which is supposed to intervene. But even by their own standards those who worry about this "national heritage" are talking nonsense. Very few works by British artists figure in the big sales: Devonshire, for example, sold pictures by Raphael (Italian). Van Dyck (Flemish). Rembrandt (Dutch). Holbein (German). It is stretching the sensible meaning of patriotism, nonsensical as it is, to attach a British nationality to a work which was wholly produced in another country by a foreign artist. The protests were in fact based on the crudest form of patriotism, the sort of madness which demands that British people should not only win all the wars and all the games of football, cricket and tennis and run the fastest races but should also make the best films and monopolise world trade and also, somewhere, own all the most coveted pieces of art.

Well one person who might agree about the wars, the sport and the trade is the Duke of Devonshire himself. A man of substance, he is the eleventh in a line of Dukes who began in 1694; before that they were not exactly on the breadline, being mere Barons, Earls and Marquesses. The Devonshire's—their family name is Cavendish—are interlocked through marriage with many other ancient tribes of the British ruling class. The present Duke went to Eton and Cambridge and during the war he did his appropriate bit to protect his riches in a fashionable regiment of the Guards. At a bad time for the Conservative Party, he was their unsuccessful candidate in Chesterfield. (The parliamentary seat of West Derbyshire had been held by a Cavendish, with one short break, since 1885 until a by-election in 1944. The then heir to the Dukedom was dutifully adopted as the Tory candidate but the voters perhaps misunderstood all that wartime propaganda about equality of sacrifice and decided that the Cavendishes had to sacrifice West Derbyshire. They elected a Labour Independent instead.)

The present Duke held some minor jobs under Harold Macmillan (another relation—he married the 9th Duke's daughter) and he is president of a number of depressingly titled charities like the Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables. He possesses huge houses at Chatsworth in Derbyshire and Lismore Castle in Co. Waterford and belongs to the traditional exclusive London clubs. He should be—and probably thinks of himself as—a stout patriot. Except that, not untypically, the blood of money runs for him rather thicker than the waters of patriotism. Devonshire could have done the patriotic thing and sold his drawings to "the nation” for about £5½ million, which would have satisfied the average pools punter. But he preferred to go to auction on the chance that this would bring in more than "the nation" were prepared to pay. This is not the first time the ruling class have shown that for them patriotism has a price and that it is the working class who are expected to accept all that nonsense without question or concern for their own interests.

The Cavendishes should know a thing or two about this particular confidence trick for they are among the oldest of British ruling class families. One of them killed Wat Tyler, which caused his father, who as a Chief Justice was not popular among the desperate peasantry of 14th century England, to be dragged revengefully from his home in Suffolk and beheaded. The family really took off in the 16th century, when William Cavendish was Gentleman-Usher to Cardinal Wolsey. The title is misleadingly urbane; the foundations of what Burke’s Peerage coyly calls his "greatness" were laid when Cavendish got his cut from the Dissolution of the Monasteries, an episode which promoted the fortunes of many a murderous feudal bandit.

The pictures sold by the present Duke were part of an enormous, vastly valuable collection—he still has about 2.000 of them—which his ancestors made in the 17th and 18th centuries. That was the time when the British ruling class were rising towards the world's dominant power. It is customary for such a class to buy, or plunder. works of art as an investment, or as expensive showpieces, or simply to assert their dominance. The stately homes of this country became crammed with art treasures from all over the world; as Britain declines as a world power they are draining away—to the regret of ignorant workers who think that their interests are involved in the power of their masters and mistresses.

The Devonshire sale was quickly followed by an anonymous buyer paying over £7 million for a Turner painting which had been owned by the late Lord Clark of television fame—another man who disappointed that popular working-class theory by apparently finding no inconsistency between riches and a contented, fulfilling life. A couple of days later a painting by a relatively minor 17th century artist brought £900,000 at Christies. Does this mean that, spurred on by the Getty factor, there will now be a rush of record-breaking sales? A slump is not an inappropriate time for the world's capitalists to invest their millions in some static articles rather than in speculatively dynamic production. At all events it shows that there is a section in society who are able to survive the recession in a style rather different from that of Social Security claimants. But of course there are some consolations for the workers: they do not have to worry about the Getty factor, which does not influence the price of prints of blue-faced Chinese women or of stampeding elephants or of a flight of plaster ducks climbing up the wall away from the stereo. What should worry the working class—indeed it should do more than worry them is the restriction and the distortion of their talents and their tastes which that represents. Their acquaintance with, and access to artistic experience is cruelly confined to the terms set by the ruling class and hampered by their need to spend almost all their time, their energy and their resources on the basic matter of getting a living. They should also concern themselves that it is from their labour alone that the wealth comes to be monopolised by a small group of world parasites, providing for them a lifestyle which thinks little of paying a fortune for a single work of art.

The smooth operators in the auction rooms, talking of money in millions, say it in another way. For the workers there is misery and exploitation and a poverty of access to the best things in life. For the capitalists it is different: not so much a pretty picture, more a way of life.

50 Years Ago: Taxation of Land Values (1984)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marx's writings clearly indicate that land owning as a dominant social status declined with the final breakdown of feudal society and the imposition of capitalism on its ruins. The industrial capitalist, employing many hundreds or thousands of workers, has supplanted the feudal over-lord. Today the workers enter the spheres of production, etc., not merely on "the land", but in vast factories or mills where they are exploited by the owners of giant machinery and the various appliances necessary to the output of wealth. The immediate employer or capitalist is the exploiter of the workers he engages. He has to hand back to them, in the form of money—wages only a portion of the value of their product. The remainder is his own property immediately considered; but. as is well known, he may not own the land or the factory where his production takes place, hence he is compelled to pay rent for the privilege of using these to their owners. From out of what does he pay? Answer, out of the unpaid labour of the workers. From the surplus left over after the wage bill of the workers has been met, a portion of the wealth may be handed to the landlord, and still another portion to the lender of money.

But where, however, our capitalist owns his own factory site and does not have recourse to loans of money whereby interest charges have to be met. he takes and holds the surplus himself. The all- important point to the workers is that no matter which position applies, it would not matter a brass farthing to their position as an exploited class.

Even were it possible to tax the holders of land out of existence, as the land tax advocates insist, it would solve no problem towards social ownership, such as we Socialists are seeking to establish. 

(From an article Socialism and Land Ownership by R. Reynolds. Socialist Standard. October 1934)

Famine in Africa (1984)

From the October 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard
The hut we came to is open to the sky in several places and tinged orange with light reflected from corncobs drying on the roof. Inside there are two children, one sick and one very sick; also a fat shy woman with a young goat nibbling at her skirt. The floor is strewn with loose hay and a young chicken gets killed when it runs under our feet. The child we have come to sec is dying. Blinded with the pus running from his eyes and gasping with painful respirations. Occasionally his body is shaken with long fits of coughing. It is useless to prolong his suffering. We offer soap, which can do no harm, and eye ointment for the other child. The dying child seems to be no more than 18 months old but with his thin limbs and dried skin he looks prematurely aged. His mother says he is five years old. [1]
Today Africa faces, in the words of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, “the imminent danger of famine on a massive scale”. Already some 150 million people, or a third of the entire population, endure critical shortages of food. According to the World Bank, unless a huge increase in food aid is forthcoming, several African countries could “collapse entirely and revert to bush economies” with “disastrous consequences for world health, world trade and international security”. [2]

Much of the continent is presently in the grip of a catastrophic drought. In Ethiopia and its bordering states the landscape has in parts become a desolate wilderness, thinly littered with the horns of dead cattle. On the other side of the continent, in West Africa, the threat of a disaster eclipsing that the great Sahel drought of ten years ago has receded, but lack of rain has let loose a plague of leaf hopper insects. In Northern Mali, for instance, a three-inch-long beetle which causes blisters on the skin has ferociously attacked surviving crops of millet.

In much of Eastern and Southern Africa conditions are deteriorating as the drought enters its third year, cruelly punctuated by the occasional flash flood. Possibly the hardest hit of all is Mozambique, straining under the additional burden of a costly civil war. Even South Africa, its wealthy neighbour, has had to import several million tons of grain from abroad, in contrast to previous years when it produced substantial surpluses.

But the drought — reputedly the harshest in a century — is clearly not the only factor in Africa's worsening food situation. Per capita food production has been steadily declining over the last 20 years (by eleven per cent since 1970), drought or no drought. In this respect Africa is unique, for elsewhere in the world productivity has generally increased (though this does not mean the problem of world hunger is any nearer a solution). In the book Food First (1982) Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins stress the difference between drought and famine:
Drought is a natural phenomenon. Famine is a human phenomenon. Any link that does exist is precisely through the economic and political order of a society that can either minimise the human consequences of the drought or exacerbate them.
According to some writers the whole problem began with the colonial conquest of Africa by European powers. Walter Rodney, a Guyanese historian, epitomises this point of view:
Colonialism created conditions which led not just to periodic famines but chronic undernourishment. malnutrition and deterioration of the physique of African people. If such a statement sounds wildly extravagant it is only because bourgeois propaganda has conditioned even Africans to believe that malnutrition and starvation were the natural lot of Africans from time immemorial. [3]
While there is undoubtedly some truth in this argument, it does rest upon an idyllic view of the pre-colonial era. There certainly were famines before the colonisation of Africa, although they were admittedly less severe than those that followed. In 1520 the Portuguese priest Alvarez had this to say after returning from Ethiopia:
It seems to me that in the whole world there is not so populous a country or one so abundant in crops. And because I was amazed the inhabitants said to me “Honoured guest, do not be amazed, because in the years that we harvest little we gather enough for three years plenty in the country; and if it were not for the multitude of locusts and hail, which sometimes do great damage, we should not sow the half of what we sow because so much remains that it cannot be believed. [4]
But as the Ethiopian economist Ewinetu has pointed out, traditional Ethiopian society became increasingly unable to prevent shortages occurring from time to time. This was because the mass of the population were less and less inclined to hold reserves of food — thus leaving themselves vulnerable to drought — out of fear that such reserves would only be “an invitation to the exactions of feudal lords" in whose hands the granaries came to be concentrated. At least 23 major famines were recorded by Ethiopian chroniclers in the period 1540-1800.

Around the time Alvarez set foot in Ethiopia there began the infamous transatlantic slave trade, which lasted into the nineteenth century. Estimates of the numbers of captives landed in the Americas throughout this period vary between ten and twelve million, although this does not take into account the many millions more who died in passage, before enshipment or as a result of slave raids. Such a massive haemorrhage of people from Africa's shores — usually the more economically productive members of the community — had debilitating effects on African society and agriculture. Yet, as Marx observed, "the turning of Africa into a warren for the hunting of black skins” was also one of the “chief moments of primitive accumulation”, heralding "the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production”. [5]

In turn the emergence of industrial capitalism in Europe made new demands on the African continent. The decline of the slave trade saw a redirection of effort from the shipment of human beings into export of the fruits of their labour in the form of agricultural products. This move towards cash crops was first apparent on a significant scale in West Africa. The most important product from this region at the time was palm oil, Europe needing more and more soap as her factories grew in number and her cities in filth. The palm oil trade, initially controlled by Africans, was later dominated by European merchants on the coast with the military support of their governments.

In the final two decades of the nineteenth century virtually the entire continent was carved up by European powers in the Scramble for Africa. Belfort Bax, anticipating Lenin’s fallacious theory of Imperialism, claimed in an 1888 issue of Commonweal that this colonising presented the possibility that the capitalist world might "take a new lease of life out of the exploitation of Africa" (Britain at the time was in the throes of the Great Depression). Nevertheless this extension of European control did much to increase the spread of cash crop production at the expense of traditional subsistence agriculture.

Where an unfavourable climate discouraged settlement, African peasants were sometimes coerced by gun and whip into growing crops for export. Perhaps the most brutal application of violence to be found anywhere in Africa was in the Equatorial Zone, where cut-throat concession companies operated a ruthless system of forced labour, razing villages to the ground to compel the local population to collect wild rubber or ivory for export. More typically however, economic pressure was applied by levying taxes on land, cattle or huts for which peasants had to earn money through the sale of crops. Such revenue helped to finance the colonial administration of these territories and thus represented an additional incentive to promote cash crop production.

Sometimes huge tracts of land were acquired by European settlers themselves for the purpose of growing cash crops (Lord Delamere. for example, purchased 100,000 acres of some of the best land in Kenya at a bargain price of one penny an acre). Often this direct takeover of the land was accompanied by a prohibition on local peasants competing by producing these same crops themselves. This, combined with the reduction in the amount of land available for peasant farming, drove impoverished Africans to seeking work on European farms.

Furthermore in several African countries a significant mining sector developed which, like cash cropping, had severely disruptive consequences for traditional agriculture. As Fanning and Mueller point out:
In the advanced capitalist nations, the exodus from the rural areas which accompanied the process of industrialisation was preceded by a dramatic increase in agricultural productivity. By contrast, industrialisation in the underdeveloped countries of Africa was the cause of a massive decline in rural productivity. [6]
South Africa
Nowhere was this clearer than in the case of the "native reserves" of South Africa established by the British in the mid-nineteenth century. The first, in Natal, was attacked by the white farming community on the grounds that it represented a standing military threat— the Zulu had not yet been finally crushed — and that it would stem the flow of labourers to the farms. As late as 1903 Louis Botha, soon to become the first prime minister of a unified South Africa, threatened to break up the network of reserves in the country in order to secure a greater supply of labourers. But in fact Botha's view was already outdated, for the existence of the reserves no longer impeded the flow of labour: their purpose had been transformed from a paternalistic one of temporarily sheltering the African into providing a vast reservoir of cheap labour that could be tapped at will.

The major impetus behind this transformation was the discovery of immense mineral wealth in South Africa in the second half of the nineteenth century. The tycoon-politician, Cecil Rhodes, in sponsoring the 1894 Glen Grey Act which severely limited the size of lots Africans could farm in the Glen Grey valley of the Ciskei, pioneered the adaptation of reserves to the needs of the mining industry of which he himself was a prominent beneficiary.

But it was the 1913 Natives Lands Act which dealt the most crushing blow of all to African agriculture and laid the foundations of apartheid in legislation. In terms of this Act, Africans (who vastly outnumbered Europeans) were prohibited from purchasing land outside the reserves designated for them, which amounted to a mere 7.3 per cent of the area of South Africa. De Kiewict, in his assessment of this Act. wrote:
The congestion of the reserves, the backwardness of their methods and the exhaustion of their resources accounted for the departure each year (50 per cent in 1925) of the able bodied men to earn money as labourers . . .The natives were the victims of too few acres. [7]
Thus, undermining of subsistence agriculture dovetailed neatly with the interests of the mining sector which, because of its labour intensive nature, required an abundant supply of labour. White agriculture benefited too despite the fact that it competed with the mines (and later manufacturing industry) for labour. Firstly there was the direct benefit that went to white farmers who no longer had to face competition from Africans. Secondly the prosperity of the mining sector, which depended very much on the availability of African labour, contributed massively to government revenue. This, in turn, enabled the government heavily to subsidise white agriculture, not least because this was where its traditional power base lay.

After the war the Nationalists sought to implement a policy of separate development. Verwoerd. hoping to reverse the tide of black urbanisation accompanying South Africa’s industrialisation, entertained the idea that the reserves might become self-sufficient agrarian economies capable of supporting the populations living within their borders as well as — in due course — those resident in "white" South Africa. In this way. it was felt, the vexed political issue of how to justify the continued denial of rights to Africans might be defused.

But of course separate development as an ideal was totally impracticable and soon acknowledged to be so. Far from becoming less dependent on one another, the reserves and white South Africa became ever more so. While the proportion of land occupied by the reserves was increased to 13.6 per cent of the total area in 1936 — roughly that of the ten "ethnic" homelands of today — this did not serve to arrest the process whereby Africans were driven in increasing numbers to look for work in white South Africa. Ironically, while separate development sought to develop the homelands as self-sufficient economics, the removal of millions of so-called economically unproductive Africans to the homelands in the name of separate development has only compounded the desperate poverty there. Ironic, too. is the fact that within a country as wealthy as South Africa there is to be found an enduring pattern of starvation resembling that which one might expect to find in some of the poorest countries of Africa.

Elsewhere in Africa the first plantation companies appeared on the scene in the early part of this century. Like the mines they relied on migrant labourers who were paid a pittance, rationalised on the grounds that the dependants of plantation workers could support themselves by subsistence farming. The reality was that subsistence farming was being eroded by the very system of migrant labour on which the plantations relied.

By establishing their own plantations these companies were able to ensure the enormous quantities of agricultural produce needed for the scale of production of European factories. Indeed, the arrival of the plantation company coincided with a massive expansion of trade in agricultural products, over 90 per cent of which was geared to external markets. But it was not the plantation itself that spearheaded such growth for by now the (tax induced) peasant production of export crops had become significant.

One of the earliest of the plantation companies was set up by William Hesketh Lever in 1911. Unilever is today the world’s largest food corporation with a turnover of $10 billion by 1978 which exceeds the combined GNP of 25 African countries. To begin with however Lever brothers, having established a foothold in the Congo, experienced great difficulty in operating plantations in Nigeria. Throughout West Africa, except in the German colonies of Togo and Cameroons, the colonial authorities were generally opposed to plantation agriculture since the peasant production of cash crops was well established in this region compared to other parts of Africa. In the case of Nigeria this policy was only reversed in the 1930s when there was a slump in the price of cash crops. Until then the British authorities in Nigeria maintained that plantation agriculture would inevitably lead to a large-scale drift from the land and that the violent resistance this would provoke could prove costly to quell. In addition, it was felt that creating a landless proletariat would pave the way to “communism” — an entirely misplaced fear at the time but one that was fuelled by the rhetoric of the Bolsheviks who had recently come to power in Russia.

Needless to say it was not "communism" but black nationalism that came to power throughout Africa, and within a remarkably short space of time. But the grinding poverty of the great majority proved as intractable in the face of so-called national liberation as it did under colonial rule. Some writers have attempted to account for this as a phenomenon called neo-colonialism. In other words. Africa's predicament today is held to be the legacy of its colonial past which served to constrain subsequent economic development along lines that worked against the interests of the African states themselves.
Robin Cox

1 The Growth of Hunger. R. Dumont and N. Cohen. 1980.
2 The Observer, 18/3/84.
3 How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, W. Rodney. 1972.
4 The Guardian. 27/8/80.
5 Capital, Vol.l.
6 Africa Undermined. G. banning with M. Mueller, 1979.
7 A History of South Africa: Social and Economic, W. de Kiewiet, 1941.

World population (1984)

From the October 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard
. . .  if the human population of our planet were to continue to expand at the doubling time of 35 years then within a period no longer than that of recorded history the entire substance of the universe would be converted to human tissue and the diameter of the resulting human mass would be expanding at the speed of light. (Dr Paul Ehrlich, quoted in the Guardian, 18 June 1979)
Many figures and doomsday predictions like the above have been cited to express the urgency of the “problem" of population growth. In response to this the United Nations declared 1974 World Population Year, the key event of which was a conference in Bucharest. Last month, after a period of ten years, the second such conference was held in Mexico City; attended by delegates from over 140 countries, it discussed population in the light of the poverty and widespread hunger of humanity.

The real boost to concern with population growth came in the United States from the President's Commission on Material Policy in 1952. This report considered the question of “whether the US had the raw materials to sustain its civilisation". This was considered likely only "if Third World raw materials remain reliable". The report concluded that the greatest threat to those reliable resources was population growth. From then on population control gained respectability, growing to prominence in aid programmes and the activities of the World Bank, which sees population control as a necessary consideration in its lending activities: “The Bank does not feel it can legitimately allocate funds of its bond holders and contributing states to countries which are bad risks — don’t have population under control”. (Science for People Journal, No. 26)

This concern is not new. In 1798, the Reverend Thomas Malthus wrote his Essay on the Principle of Population at a time when the British population was rapidly increasing. The reason for this, as the Third World Quarterly explains was: "Until the seventeenth century, world population grew, on average, by less than one per cent a century. The extraordinary growth in human population occurred primarily after the Industrial Revolution” (Wasim Zuman, “The World Population Situation”. Third World Quarterly, July 1980).

Malthus took the view that widespread poverty was due to the fact that human population tended to increase more rapidly (by a geometric expansion) than their means of subsistence (arithmetic growth). Thus "to remove the wants of the lower classes of society is an evil so deeply seated that no human ingenuity can reach it". This "law of nature" therefore could justify starvation, slums and all the problems of poverty because “to prevent the recurrence of misery is alas! beyond the power of man". But this relied on a vastly oversimplified model of the relationship between human population and human environment.

The Malthusian view, and that of the quote at the top of this article, are based on very selective trends; they view human population as being solely subject to some constant and incontrovertible natural law. In so doing they fail to take account of the ability of humans to rationally apply themselves to their environment and so control nature.

Malthus was disproved by the first 150 years of industrial capitalism, when the population of England grew threefold and there was an unprecedented growth in the productive forces. In this period the supposed "superior power of population" was checked without producing "misery or vice” on the scale predicted. However these ideas of population control have been revived in recent years, appearing in the 70s in the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth, which claims that “The greatest possible impediment to more equal distribution of the earth's resources is population growth".

Is there then a problem of overpopulation? If so, then the reader should be well aware of it. for the United Kingdom is the ninth most densely populated country in the world and England and Wales is fourth in the demographers' league of overcrowded nations. For that matter, the whole world’s population could be accommodated, packed like passengers in the rush hour, in an area of only 20km by 20km.

If we accept though that overpopulation exists, when the population exceeds the available resources, we must then ask if the concept is a natural law or a relative one which holds in certain situations and not in others. Harry Rothman in his book on pollution and resources Murderous Providence answers this by detailing different situations:
In societies of nomadic shepherds one finds population densities of 40-100 per square mile; nomads with agriculture 200-300; with intensive agriculture 200-500; regions with intensive agriculture 2,000-4,000. In regions of India where irrigation makes multiple cropping possible over 10.000 people per square mile can be kept alive, and finally, in the metropolitan areas of industrial societies densities of over 15,000 per square mile are found.
Rothman concludes that “with the development of more advanced productive forces the capacity of areas to support human populations can be increased” (page 330). This was precisely the criticism that Marx had of Malthus, when he showed how capitalism artificially swelled or shrank the population according to its requirements — in recession the population appears large; in times of boom it appears too small.

As well as varying from time to time, it can be similarly seen that the requirements of capital will seem to vary the population from place to place — the initial rise of capitalism brought with it the first large- scale concentrations of men and women in cities to meet demand for a large number of wage slaves. Indeed, current concern for the problems of poverty in the Third World is largely due to the greater rate of urban population growth compared to rural in countries undergoing very rapid industrialisation. Yves Benot points out that “many of today’s underdeveloped countries could well show up as underpopulated if they were to experience the same developmental process as that experienced by 19th century Europe”. (Qu'est-ce que le developpement?, p. 9.)

The effect of capitalist requirements dictating what is the “natural level" of population at any one time can be seen in the large-scale movement of migrants to the United States, Canada and Australia, into Arab OPEC countries and in the guest workers of Western Europe. David Eversley describes this process: "In a country like Germany a dilemma threatens to arise: in the 60s they had the problem of their foreign workers; when the economic growth rate slowed down, they sent home as many as they could; but if, for instance, there is a new boom in the early 80s they will face this with an ever-shrinking indigenous labour force entry, and the necessity therefore to invite the guest workers back again until the next recession”. (“Zero Population Growth: Problems for the 21st Century”, New Internationalist, June 1977.)

This prompted a German politician to say in 1980 "the nation is dying beneath the blankets". In fact, a German ministerial report earlier this year expressed serious concern over shortages in the labour force, a lack of recruits for the armed forces and high unemployment in the teaching profession (Population Today, February 1984). This would really endanger the interests of the owning class in Germany, or any other country — “by the end of the century the army will be severely below strength" (The Times, December 15. 1983). Similarly in America a recent internal study for the Cabinet Council of Economic Affairs viewed with alarm the decline in the youth population as far as filling the volunteer armed forces goes (Population Today, March 1984).

This shows in exactly whose interests population levels are thought to be too great or too small from time to time, or place to place. Malcolm X (for one) noted this: "Whenever they are speaking of the population explosion, in my opinion they are referring primarily to the people in Asia or in Africa . . ." But he goes on: “. . . in fact in most of the thinking and planning of whites in the West today, it’s easy to see the fear in their minds . . . that the masses of dark people . . . will continue to increase and multiply and grow until they eventually overrun the people of the West" (Malcolm X Speaks, p.46).

This apology for an explanation conveniently ignores the fact that the worldwide capitalist system of society is run in the interests not of the "whites in the West" but in the interests of the minority who own virtually all the land and productive resources on it, regardless of the country or colour of skin of exploiter and exploited.

The Declaration of the United Nations International Conference on Human Rights in 1968 stated that "... couples have a basic human right to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children". But rights or no rights, regardless of any "free and responsible decision", there is a real material basis which "for most people in the underdeveloped countries is the stark reality that there is little or no economic security in old age or in case of disease, other than one's own children. not all of whom will survive until adulthood" ("Not Better Lives, Just Fewer People”, Science for People, No.26). This is summed up by a village blacksmith in India: "A rich man invests in his machines. We must invest in our children, it’s that simple" (quoted in The Myth of Population Control, Mahmood Mamdani). Therefore any attempt to reduce fertility by changing people’s awareness of their best interests, without trying to change their material basis, fails because, quite simply, people are unlikely to plan their families if there is no possibility of their being able to plan their whole lives.

Similarly countries like China, (held up by the Mexico City Conference as having ideal birth control measures) have problems with female infanticide because of the desire for sons, which occurs in the strict One Glorious Child scheme. The Scotsman, (25 May 1984) also considers other countries in South East Asia where ". . . children were so little valued that they were being bought and sold in markets". The article quotes Professor Scorer saying that people don’t care about their children "because they don't have any material opportunity to do so".

A few weeks before the World Population Conference, the media discovered that people were starving to death in drought-hit Ethiopia. This is despite the statement by the editor of the Observer to his staff (8 April 1984) that "Hunger is boring" — no doubt the hungry wish it were so. Boring or not though, the BBC did not think twice about perpetuating a few myths by laying the blame for hunger squarely on the 2½  million hungry: "They expected too much from the land which could not provide enough . . .” (roughly quoted from Jan Leeming on the News Report, 22 July 1984). With “overpopulation" mistaken for the cause of the problem of poverty and starvation, any attempt at a solution amounts to little more than trying to do away with the poor rather than the cause of poverty.

What the conference ignored is that the world has the capacity almost immediately to provide enough food, drink, housing and health care for the world’s population many times over — yet one out of every ten babies born today will die within a year, victims of a system that must put the profits of the owning minority before the needs of millions who cannot put money where their hungry mouths and swollen bellies are.

Lester Brown of the World Watch Institute. Washington, disputes this, putting forward a falsely simplistic relationship between population and food production which does not recognise that capitalism requires food to be produced and distributed only when it can be sold. "Throughout most of human existence”, he claims, "there were more fish in the oceans than humans could ever hope to catch or consume. As world population expanded following World War Two. population continued to grow, but the fish catch did not". As well as oceanic fisheries he cites grasslands as a second global life-support system that is under mounting pressure. He sees this as evidence that "human needs have begun to outstrip the productive capacity of many local biological systems". This may well be true, but the world under the capitalist system has effectively become an integrated unit of production of all wealth and has the potential (which cannot be realised under the profit system) to overcome specific problems of failing harvests and famines.

Nevertheless it is still commonly held that attacking the population levels provides some solution to the problems of poverty. Lester Brown, for example, suggests that, short of an abrupt slowdown in world population growth, there will come a time when "the rationing of scarce supplies through rising prices in the world market may leave some people unable to get enough food while others enjoy a surfeit". But there is no maybe about it. People were starving to death in the early 1970s, when food production was at its highest levels in the areas Brown cites — fish in 1970; mutton 1972; cereals 1971. And the last two decades have seen a doubling in the world beef production. Yet every so often we face the sickening sight on television of mass burials of children, and the only slightly less unpleasant sight of Frank Bough or some other talking head appealing for a few pounds for charity in the hope that it will keep this quiet carnage of capitalism off the television screens for at least a few months.
Brian Gardner

SPGB Meetings (1984)

Party News from the October 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blogger's Note:
There's an audio recording of the debate with the Communist Workers' Organisation at the following link.

Just realised that there's also an audio recording of the 12th October 1984 Islington Branch meeting, The Miners' Strike — a Marxist analysis. The speaker was Steve Coleman.

Don't be a number (1984)

Advert from the October 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialist Sonnet No. 116 Empty Vessels (2023)

From the Socialism or Your Money Back blog

Parliament’s suspended, it’s conference time

For the law givers, the makers of rules,

Sailors all in the sinking ship of fools

Foundering on the rocks of Capital’s crimes.

However they go about bailing out,

It makes no difference as to which crew

Is at the helm, nor, it seems, does the hue

Of the flag they serve under. Without doubt,

Whichever course they navigate, it’ll prove

To be in the wrong direction. No choice,

For those press ganged aboard don’t have a voice

Unless they mutiny, seek to remove

Those they’re expected to understand

Are possessors of both the sea and land.
D. A.

Workers on the Defensive (1949)

From the October 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the shrewdest comments on this year’s Trades Union Congress was made by the Manchester Guardian on September 5th. Reviewing the position of the trade unions since the Labour Government came into power four years ago the article pointed out in what a world of illusion trade union supporters of the Government have been living. Their feeling was that now at last they had the power and the opportunity to reach higher standards of living, but in fact “since the fuel crisis they have been for all their power and all the old illusions of what power would bring, on the defensive: the struggle has been to prevent real wages from falling.”

The Guardian, in keeping with its political outlook, argues that it is the “country’s economic weakness” that prevents the unions from gaining higher wages, but on a proper view the present despairing situation in which the workers find themselves is a confirmation of the S.P.G.B.’s contention that there are no ways within the capitalist system of ending the resistance of the employers, backed by the Government, to working class claims. The workers have to struggle ceaselessly to protect their standards and have in the last resort only one weapon, the strike.

This is not to say that the position will be fundamentally changed if the workers do resort to strike action, for the employers and the Government still have the power and the means of seeking to achieve their over-riding aim of cheaper production in other ways. Hitherto, and this was anticipated in these columns in September, 1945, the Labour Government has chosen to offset wage increases by withdrawing subsidies and allowing the cost of living to rise, while at the same time using the trade union executives in the campaign to clamp down on wage claims as much as possible. But the time is fast approaching when the present policy of the Government will have less effect and then we may see the Government forcing a showdown with the trade unions and being prepared to make more use of the threat of unemployment as a method of compelling the workers to work harder.

From the side of the trade union officials the dangers of the present position from their own point of view have long been seen. One delegate at the T.U.C., Mr. Bryn Roberts, stated bluntly the difficulty of trying indefinitely to restrain the workers for the sake of the Government.
“He warned Congress that to pursue the policy of wage restraints indefinitely would damage the mechanism of collective bargaining, destroy the workers’ confidence in it, and bring into disrepute the machinery of arbitration. It would bring conflict within the unions and between the unions. It would transform the class struggle so that instead of being between worker and employer it would be between the trade unionist and his own executive committee. It would provide opportunities for disruptive elements.”—(Times, September 9, 1949)
Mr. Bryn Roberts may or may not realise the full implication of what he said, but what it means is what Socialists have always contended, that a Labour Government administering capitalism cannot support the working class against the capitalists. This has been brought out into the open by the way four years of Labour government have sufficed to eliminate from the speeches of Labour Leaders all the old loose talk about getting rid of profit.

Mr. Tewson, General Secretary of the T.U.C., dealing with demands that profits should be reduced to raise wages, remarked that “It had not been possible to determine what were reasonable profits and dividends.” (Times, September 9th, 1949)

For Socialists, whose aim is Socialism, the problem presents no difficulty at all, for there will be no profits; but for a Labour Government running capitalism the answer has to be as Sir Stafford Cripps put it at a meeting in Manchester last November: “If you are going to allow private enterprise to run you must allow it to run on capitalist lines.” (Manchester Guardian, November 22nd, 1948)

How rigorously the needs of the capitalist system determine the policies of governments that administer it can be seen by the way the Labour Party and the Tory Party see eye to eye on the point that cheaper production must come first and higher wages must wait until some undefined future date. Neither Party now even promises an immediate rise of working-class standards of living. Both are now content to promise that they will try to prevent a fall.
“Higher production at lower cost without reduction of living standards is the main theme of Conservative home policy set out in detail in ‘The Right Road for Britain.' ”
So speaks the Conservative Daily Telegraph (July 23rd, 1949)

And here is Prime Minister Attlee addressing the T.U.C. in almost identical phrases: —
“It is therefore vital that we should reduce costs by greater efficiency.

“I do not believe in lowering wages as a means of reducing costs. I believe that efficient work can only be got by paying adequate wages, but to reduce costs does mean that both employers and employed must seek in every way to attain the highest degree of efficiency.” (Daily Herald, September 8th, 1949)
Instead of asking themselves whether Capitalism is better under Labour Government than under Tory Government, the working class should consider how much better Socialism would be than either.
Edgar Hardcastle

Democracy undefended (1949)

From the October 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

A spectre is haunting the Trade Unions—the spectre of the Communist Party. All the powers of “Labourism” have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre; Trade Union chief and Labour leader, Deakin and Lawther, T U.C., and Labour Government.

Faced with the problem of a series of unofficial strikes, the Trade Union chiefs and prominent members of the Labour Party lay the blame at the door of “Communist agitators” and threaten a variety of disciplinary measures such as fines and expulsion from office in the unions. In October and November. 1948, the T.U.C. issued two statements in a pamphlet entitled “Defend Democracy,” and, more recently, they published a further pamphlet on the same subject entitled “The Tactics of Disruption, Communist Methods Exposed.” The Communist Party replied with a pamphlet, “Defend Trade Union Rights.”

At the Biennial Delegate Conference of the Transport and General Workers’ Union held at Scarborough in July this year, the following resolution was discussed and carried by 426 votes to 208: —
“That no member of the Communist Party shall be eligible to hold any office within the Union either as a lay member or as a permanent or full-time officer, this rule to take effect from the beginning of the 1950/1951 electoral campaign.” 
Throughout that Conference, from the address of welcome by the Mayor of Scarborough and the opening speech by the chairman. Brother E. Fryer, to the discussions on the last day around such matters as the withdrawal of British troops from Malaya, the Communists were challenged, threatened, accused and sneered at.

The 81st Trade Union Congress which opened at Bridlington on September 6th this year, continued the tirade. Sir William Lawther, this year’s Congress president, opened by accusing Communists of sabotaging the war effort and engineering recent unofficial strikes. On the second day Mr. Deakin claimed that the object of the Communists was to create chaos and confusion with a view to a coup d'etat. The attack was continued by Mr. Vincent Tewson, General Secretary of the T.U.C., and others. Even the Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, when he visited the Congress on the third day, had to have a poke.

Some of the charges levelled at the Communists are probably correct, though many of them are undoubted exaggerated. We are making no defence of either side. We see the Trade Unions being used as a battlefield in a struggle between the Labour Party and the Communist Party, and this can only work to the detriment of the Trade Union movement and the working class as a whole.

The speeches by the Labour and Trade Union chiefs at both the T. & G.W.U. Conference and at the T.U.C. show clearly that their main purpose is to convince the membership of the unions of the necessity of ensuring the return of a Labour Government at the next election and of the need to help the Government steer British Capitalism through its present crisis. Fear that the Communists may do something to prevent this is the cause of the perturbation. Added to this, of course, is the fact that the present T.U. leaders, having climbed into their jobs, some of them decidedly lucrative, by means often similar to those they now accuse the Communists of employing, are anxious to kick away the rungs of the ladder so that no rival shall climb to challenge them.

The resolution passed by the T. & G.W.U. Conference. preventing Communists from holding office in the Union, is an example of what we can expect to see develop in other unions. Support for that resolution was called for in the name of democracy, but its application will deny the membership the right to nominate and vote for whom they please when they next elect their officers. That is not democracy. Trade unions are organisations of workers which aim to improve and maintain wages and working conditions of their members. Within such organisations are men of varying shades of political opinion and members of all political parties, and of none. Their attitude to the problems that they discuss in the Trade Union branches and conferences will reflect their political ideas. When they elect an officer, it is because they think he or she is the best candidate for the job, and they have often little or no consideration for the candidate’s political attachments. Now they are to be denied this free expression of their wishes. All nominations for even the most humble of jobs will be vetted, and only selected candidates will be allowed to go to poll. And the vetted ones will not all be members of the Communist Party. The opening paragraph of this article was a paraphrase of the first sentences of Karl Marx’s and Frederick Engels’ “Communist Manifesto.” We give the next sentence just as they wrote it:
“Where is the party in opposition that has not been described as communistic by its opponents in power? Where the Opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of Communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries? ”
Just so! Any opposition to the policy of the clique that is in power will be branded as communistic and the exponents will be dealt with accordingly. That is made obvious by the frequent use at the T.U.C. of the phrase, “ Communists and fellow travellers.” That “fellow travellers” can include anybody, and it will.

Thus, it is hoped, the unions wifi be purged of officials who may influence the members against the tie- up between the policies of the Labour Party and the Unions. The Trade Union chiefs declare that these “disciplinary” measures are the will of the membership, but the speeches, cheers and boos at the T.U.C. do not necessarily reflect the membership’s sympathies. Even the decision at the T. & G.W.U. conference cannot be claimed to be representative. The agenda for the conference usually contains hundreds of resolutions and amendments, and no branch of the union could possibly consider them all and mandate a delegate. Even were it possible to decide on the resolutions, the election of delegates to the conference is on a trade group basis and not from the branches. The trade group, as such, gives the delegates no definite instructions, so they go to the conference unmandated and make decisions off their own bats, which, according to Mr. Deakin, are inviolate.

Incidentally, “The Record,” official organ of the T. & G.W.U., tells us that the conference also carried a resolution to the effect that,
“. . . while recognising the economic difficulties confronting the nation, expresses concern at the absence of tax reliefs in the budget, and the increased cost of living, and re-affirming a conviction that nothing short of a policy of increasing the purchasing power of money and an increase in the real value of wages will meet the needs of the people . . . .”
Modest as this resolution is, we hope Mr. Deakin and Co. will regard it as inviolate.

The Labour Party originated from the need to make the voice of the Trade Unions heard in Parliament. From that beginning it has grown and evolved to a fully fledged party of capitalist reform. It has outgrown its parent and now dominates the working-class scene. The unions which gave it birth are now made subservient to it. Whatever pro-capitalist policy the Labour Party may adopt, the Trade Unions must be brought to heel. The Labour Party attempts to operate a system of society that cannot be operated in the interests of the working class and it comes into conflict with the workers. Trade Union leaders, in an endeavour to save the Labour Government embarrassment and to justify its anti-working class actions, must oppose the wishes of their members. They try to suppress strikes, calling them unofficial and the work of Communist disrupters. Such strikes hamper the smooth running of Capitalism, and the Labour Government wants it to have a smooth passage. To keep Capitalism going the Government wants more production at lower costs. This cuts right across working-class interests and gives rise to industrial unrest. The Trade Union chiefs, handcuffed to the Labour Party, and some of them with their eyes on £5,000 a year jobs, have got to try to subdue this unrest. With cries of “the Nation’s need before sectional interests” they plunge in to do battle with their opponents and critics within the Union’s ranks. Any man or group of men who are likely to become a rallying centre for the workers in their struggle to resist the pressure on their wages and working conditions, will be branded “Communist ” and thrust out.

The Conferences and Congress are taken up with this battle between political elements, and the outstanding factors in a worker’s life, his wages and his hours of work, get scant consideration. Listen to Mr. Deakin at Scarborough: —
“We cannot promote extravagant wage claims —or even modest ones in some of the higher paid industries. I doubt if we can get any increases at all this time, and it is not leadership to suggest that we can.”

“You can’t get a forty-hour week now. It is a luxury it would be madness to ask for.” (“The Record,” August, 1949.)
The T.U.C., like the T. & G.W.U. conference, had little time for such trivialities as wages and hours of work. The more important job of lambasting the Communists took precedence over everything else.

Unless the workers start kicking soon they will find that they have been nicely clipped in the wing and their talons have been cut so that they are helpless to resist all that is coming to them during the next few years. When we say “start kicking” we do not mean “start kicking the present leaders out and putting Communists in their places.” That will not alter the situation except that the position of the two parties will be reversed. The Communists will be just as determined to cling to the jobs and to suppress opposition as are the Labour leaders. No, we mean start getting down to the job of running their own affairs instead of leaving them to the Lawthers and Deakins, start regaining control of their own unions, start realising that they have a class interest that is opposed to the interests of their employers, whether that employer be an individual, a company or a state.

The strength of the working class is in its numbers. Its weakness is in its lack of understanding of its class interests. Remove the weakness and the workers are all-conquering—they can remodel society as they wish.
W. Waters.

Report on the press (1949)

From the October 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

In this second article dealing with the Report of the Royal Commission on the Press, we give details of some of the useful information obtained by the Commission in the course of its enquiries. It is not intended to be a comprehensive survey, but consists of various items of evidence submitted to the Commission which we think will be of some interest and value to readers of the Socialist Standard.

One of the first tasks of the Commission was to make a survey of the ownership of the Press, with particular reference to the existence of large groups, or “chains” of newspapers. They discovered five groups which could be classified under this heading. Three of these were comparatively unimportant, their newspapers were found to be printed mainly in the provinces, most of them were “weeklies,” and in no case was the total daily circulation more than a million. The other two, however. Associated Newspapers, Ltd., and Kemsley Newspapers, Ltd., were very different and deserve more detailed treatment.

Associated Newspapers, Ltd.
This company owns the Daily Mail, London Evening News, and Sunday Dispatch. Through subsidiary companies it owns various evening and weekly papers and has minority interests in several others. It is itself a subsidiary of another company, the Daily Mail and General Trust, Ltd., of which Viscount Rothermere is chairman. He holds 21 per cent. of its Ordinary shares. There are 9,000 other Ordinary shareholders, but none of them holds more than 1 per cent. As chief shareholder and chairman he therefore has virtual control of the Mail, News, and Dispatch as well as the following provincial “dailies”—Gloucestershire Echo, Derby Evening Telegraph, Citizen (Gloucester), Evening Sentinel (Stoke-on-Trent), South Wales Evening Post, Hull Daily Mail, and Grimsby Evening Telegraph, plus various “weeklies.”

Kemsley Newspapers, Ltd.
This is the other important “chain.” It owns directly, or through subsidiary companies, the Daily Graphic, Sunday Times, Sunday Chronicle, and Sunday Graphic, as well as the following provincial “dailies”— Newcastle Journal and North Mail, Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Glasgow Daily Record and Mail, Glasgow Evening News, Aberdeen Press and Journal, Aberdeen Evening Express, Northern Daily Telegraph (Blackburn), Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, Sheffield Telegraph, Sheffield Star, Western Mail (Cardiff), South Wales Echo (Cardiff), and Yorkshire Evening Press (York). In addition, it owns numerous “weeklies” and sporting papers. Chairman of all the companies is Viscount Kemsley, and his son, Lionel Berry, is vice- chairman. His wife and two other sons are also directors, and the number of Ordinary shares held by the family amounts to almost 50 per cent., sufficient to give it complete control.

Both these “chains” have wide ramifications, but their importance should not be over-emphasised. Judged on the basis of circulation they are not outstanding—the “non-chain” Beaverbrook Press, for example, has a bigger morning circulation than either of them, and the Daily Mirror had a much bigger circulation than one and must now be running the other fairly closely. Their greatest proportion, in terms of circulation, is to be found in the evening press—here Associated Newspapers accounted for about 21 per cent. of total circulation, and Kemsley Newspapers 13 per cent. (1947 figures). On Sundays neither can touch the “non-chain” News of the World.

Other Companies
There are three other daily newspaper companies which, although they cannot be called “chains,” are similar in one respect, namely that they are controlled by an individual, or a small group of individuals. First of these is London Express Newspaper, Ltd., which owns the Daily Express, and by means of subsidiary companies also controls the Sunday Express, London Evening Standard, and the Glasgow Evening Citizen. The controlling interest in the main company is held by Lord Beaverbrook, and his son. Max Aitken, is a director of all four companies. The actual extent of Beaverbrook’s holding was not divulged to the Commission.

The Daily Telegraph, the second of this type, is controlled by members of the Camrose family, who between them own all the Ordinary shares (£1,199,997), and most of the Preference shares. By the articles of association which control the running of the company Lord Camrose may, if he so wishes, remain chairman and editor-in-chief for life.

Finally, there is the Times, owned by two people, Colonel J. J. Astor and a Mr. John Walter in the proportion of nine shares to one. The articles of association provide for a committee whose function it is to approve of any move to transfer shares to anybody other than the two present shareholders. This device, in effect, makes any change of ownership very unlikely. 

The Other" Dailies”
As far as the other well-known “ dailies ” are concerned, ownership and control cannot be linked with an individual or group. This applies to the Daily Mirror, and its companion, the Sunday Pictorial. There are more than 9,000 shareholders in the Mirror company, and 4,000 in the Pictorial. No individual in the Daily Mirror holds more than 4 per cent. of the Ordinary shares, and no one in the Sunday Pictorial has more than 1 per cent., but the Mirror holds 25 per cent. of the Ordinary shares in the Pictorial, and the Pictorial holds 22 per cent. of those in the Mirror. Each, therefore, has the controlling interest in the other. What this means in practice is that the directors of both companies can exercise absolute control.

The Daily Herald has a position all its own in that the majority of its shares are owned by Odhams Press, Ltd., which also controls the People and the “weeklies ” John Bull, News Review, and Illustrated. This peculiar state of affairs dates back to 1929 when the Herald found itself hard pushed to compete with the other big “dailies” through lack of finance, and joined forces with Odhams to get it. Thus we have the position where Odhams Press holds 51 per cent. of the shares, and nominees of the Trades Union Congress hold the rest.

The company has nine directors, five nominated by Odhams, and four by the T.U.C. The present T.U.C. nominees, by the way, are A. Conley (Tailors’ and Garment Workers’ Union), A. B. Deakin (Transport and General Workers’ Union), H. V. Tewson (Gen. Sec., T.U.C.), and F. Wolstencroft (Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers). A further interesting point is that the articles of association provide that the political policy of the paper shall be laid down by the Conferences of the Labour Party, and its industrial policy by the Conferences of the T.U.C.

The case of the Daily Worker is also rather confused and complicated. . Until 1946 it was owned, through nominees, by the Communist Party itself, but on 1st January, 1947, ownership war transferred to the People’s Press Printing Society, in order to raise more money. This society is stated to have about 29,000 shareholders, of which 756 consist of organisations (395 of them trade union branches). Shareholdings are limited to £200, and each holder is entitled to one vote, irrespective of the size of his holding. The society first elects a Committee of Management which in turn elects the Editor and a supervisory body called the Editorial Board. The Management Committee, in effect, has control of the paper. The control, however, is not absolute, as die Worker has to go every now and then to the People’s Press Fighting Fund for loans and grants, but as the trustees of the Fund (in the true Communist Party tradition) in 1947 were all, with one exception, also members of either the Management Committee or Editorial Board, or both, we think it can be considered as a purely technical point.

One national newspaper, Reynolds News, is owned by a group of co-operative societies through the Cooperative Press, Ltd. Of the 845 shareholders, all are co-operative societies except for two Trade Unions, the National Union of Railwaymen and the Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers. Management is in the hands of a Board of Directors elected by the Shareholders. None has sufficient votes to control the Board. 

Trust Ownership
Lastly, there are three well-known newspapers which are owned by Trusts. The objects of Trusts, in the words of the Commission, are one or all of the following: —
“To prevent the control of the undertaking from falling into unsuitable hands, to perpetuate the character and policy of a paper, to avoid the crippling effect of death duties, and to ensure, through the limitation or the ploughing back of profits, the preservation or the expansion of the undertaking.”
The first is the News Chronicle which, with its London evening companion, the Star, is owned by the Daily News, Ltd. The majority of this company's shares are held in turn by the Daily News Trust. Two- thirds of the trustees are members of the Cadbury family.

The other two Trusts own the Manchester Guardian and Observer respectively. The Guardian is completely in the hands of the Scott Trust, who now number eight persons, mostly members of the Scott family. The Observer Trust consists of six trustees, one of whom is Lord Astor, holder of most of the company’s shares. Each Trust is hedged in with detailed and complicated provisions, of which little need be said except that they comply with one or more of the objects mentioned by the Commission and quoted above.

The Political Weeklies
A few words should be said about the political “weeklies,” The New Statesman and Nation, Tribune, Time and Tide, and Truth.

The New Statesman is controlled by the Statesman Publishing Co., Ltd., which has a capital of about £17,500 in Ordinary shares and 436 special Management shares. Only Management shareholders are allowed to vote; they number 19, and among them are Low, Malcolm MacDonald, Kingsley Martin, and Bernard Shaw. There are six directors, G. D. H. Cole, Low, Kingsley Martin, J. B. Priestley, a Mr. J. H. Roberts, and a Mr. R. G. E. Willson; all except the last-named are also on the Board of the company that actually owns the paper. Shares in the company may. not be transferred to anyone outside if a member is willing to purchase them at a fair value.

Tribune has an issued capital of only £183, in £1 shares. No holder has more than 10; the best-known shareholders are Sir Stafford Cripps, Michael Foot, Victor Gollancz, J. F. Horrabin, Harold Laski, Jennie Lee, Ian Mikardo, and J. Platts-Mills, each with 10 shares. It was disclosed to the Commission that subsidies totalling £3,597 were received during the period between 1937 and 1946 (mainly in the early years). Most of this money was contributed by Stafford Cripps and G. R. Strauss (the present Minister of Supply).

Time and Tide is leased to Viscountess Rhondda, who holds over 90 per cent. of the shares, and is chairman and editor of the paper.

Truth has a capital of £29,000 in 2,900 £10 shares. There are three directors, one of whom is Collin Brooks. He holds 1,500 of the shares, of which 500 are as nominee for Lord Perry (of the Ford Motor Co.) and 500 for a Mr. Garfield Watson. It was disclosed that the paper received contributions of £17,000 towards expenses between 1939 and 1946, mainly from the late Lord Luke, Lord Perry, Mr. Garfield Watson, and Lord Queenborough.

Finally there is the Economist. Lord Layton (also of the News Chronicle) is its chairman, and there are four other directors, one of whom is Geoffrey Crowther, the editor; and another, Brendan Bracken. The Financial News, Ltd. (which also has interests in the Banker, Investors’ Chronicle, and Financial Times) holds 50 per cent. of the Ordinary shares, and the other 13 shareholders appoint a majority of the Board and nominate the chairman. Transfer of shares and the appointment of the chairman require the consent of four trustees, of whom Sir Charles Hambro, the banker, and Lord Beveridge are the most well known.
Stan Hampson

(To be continued.)

Problem children (1949)

From the October 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

The clouds of glory formerly trailed by children on their advent to the world have lately darkened into clouds of approbrium. The child delinquent is a problem of our age. It is symptomatic of a social disintegration which concerns socialists as closely as supporters of Capitalism.

Socialists, of course, approach the subject from a standpoint vastly different from that of the orthodox investigator, who wishes to preserve a moral code and set of standards incompatible with a modern industrial society. Socialists are glad to see them questioned, but we know that some belief and conscious purpose to change society must grow up in their place if they are discarded. Few adults have any such conscious purpose and the children in their revolt against authority are merely reflecting the behaviour of their elders who in this instance subscribe to the tenet, “ Don’t do as I do. Do as I tell you.”

We know that to abstract the delinquent from his social environment, to give him psychiatric treatment, to make him the subject of educational experiments is a waste of time. But we cannot doubt that those who do this are genuinely concerned.

Currently in progress we find a conference at County Hall called expressly for scientific investigation of child delinquency and the Child Health Section of the B.M.A. also concerned with this problem at their meetings in Harrogate. The national .and local press is full of letters from teachers, magistrates and parents, many of whom think to find the solution in a return to the old doctrine of “spare the rod and spoil the child”

At first glance some of the things that worry them may appear propitious for us. Children to-day it appears have no respect for the church, their teachers or parents, and that old bogey, the policeman, is a figure of fun. But this is merely destructive and is no basis for a conscious adult revolt against the system. The children's rebellion is not and cannot be a conscious one since the power to reason is undeveloped. Children act instinctively and imitatively. In fact they are as they always were, neither angels nor devils, but, like every human being, an inextricable mixture of qualities. Idealists believe with A. S. Neill in the inherent goodness and good sense of children but this view is just as one-sided and just as much a religious conception as the church doctrine of original sin. The goodness and badness and all the other characteristics come out in response to the external stimuli of the environment. We cannot alter the inherited personality, nor do we expect what is called a change of heart. To subject the child to a changed environment in order to effect a cure and then to return him to the same old jungle is an illogical procedure which ill accords with the scientific pretensions of the psychologists. We do not need new reform schools, but a new society.

The behaviour of all children, delinquent or not, is patterned on that of the adults with whom they come into contact and a reaction to the world as it impinges on them. Victorian children of wealthy families, restrained by fixed habits, cumbersome clothes and fear of punishment meted out by parents and teachers similarly restrained, were able to release their energy in a nursery far from the ears of Papa and Mama. The children of the new industrial working class and the agricultural labourers had no vitality to spare after their undernourished little bodies had completed a working day as long and strenuous as that of their parents. In a social pattern as complex as ours, however, there are many more colours than black and white. The old, simpler demons have gone, but so many intangible fears lie behind our everyday life that there is no security anywhere. In “Ape and Essence” Aldous Huxley says “ . . . fear is the very basis and foundation of modern life. Fear of the much touted technology which while it raises our standard of living, increases the possibility of our violently dying. Fear of the science which takes away with one hand even more than what it so profusely gives with the other. Fear of the demonstrably fatal institutions for which in our suicidal loyalty we are ready to kill and die. Fear of the great men whom we have raised, by popular acclaim, to a power which they use inevitably to murder and enslave us. Fear of the war we don’t want and yet do everything we can to bring about.” Here are some of the contradictions of our society and we can agree too that ". . . fear casts out love. And not only love. Fear also casts out intelligence, casts out goodness, casts out all thought of beauty and truth . . . in the end fear casts out even a man's humanity.”

Where in all this can children find that security so necessary to their balanced development? With their parents they jeer at authority in all its forms. Living in overcrowded rooms the human frailties of the parents themselves are painfully apparent and an early model for the wrangling, spitefulness and apathy which school teachers so loudly deplore. The schools themselves are a reflection of this unbalanced society in which technical progress has so far outstripped all conception of the art of living.

Unfortunately the protest against all this has little direction. People may want a change, but they merely want the same system with themselves the possessors of power, wealth and privilege. The juvenile depredations of the delinquent child grow into the adult depredations of the spiv, the swindler and evader of the law. But always this struggle against the moral bastions of society is not to overthrow them but to get inside them. Once inside, the old lag turns copper with a vengeance and fiercely upholds what he previously flouted.

The Labour Government, by trying to plan the unplannable and to run Capitalism in the working-class interest, has made confusion worse confounded. Small wonder that most people turn aside to snatch what pleasure they can from the cinema and speedway or ballet, opera and the arts. The children educated to take their place in this ostrich society and to become mere parts in a machine, can hardly be blamed for irresponsible behaviour. But neither can we regard them hopefully since this is not the material to shape itself easily into Socialism, that most responsible of all societies.

Socialists must show that this is yet another problem which must be tackled at the root. We must conspire with events to show that a majority of people with clear understanding of what they want can be the arbiters of their fate. Then the children will respond to that adult self-discipline and restraint which springs from a sense of purpose and confidence in the dignity and ability of man.
P. T.

Blogger's Note:
Huxley's "Ape and Essence" was reviewed in the December 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard.