Saturday, October 7, 2023

Canadian notes. (1930)

From the October 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent from Winnipeg, Canada, commenting on the situation there, says that everybody is talking wheat ! wheat ! The Canadian Wheat Pool was to save the farmers, but the bankers are forcing them to sell their wheat at a very low price, with the result that the pool is being broken and wheat is being “bootlegged” at market prices. The merchants cannot collect the farmers’ bills, so have to cart away wheat to satisfy the debts.

Unemployment is rife in Canada, and the Reform Parties, I.L.P. and Communist, are vying with each other in their reform programmes. The old Socialist Party of Canada is dead, and its leading members, such as Harrington, Lefeaux and Pritchard, now support the I.L.P. candidates. Efforts are being made in Alberta to revive the S.P. of C., but it is not very promising at present. In Manitoba the One Big Union holds meetings, but as the Union contains all varieties of opinion, the need for Socialist educational work is great. Amongst the thousands of members the One Big Union contains, there are no subscribers of the Socialist Standard, our correspondent informs us. In an area where this journal had a good circulation, the few readers today indicates how little interest there is in real Socialist work. There is no paper in the U.S.A. and Canada to compare with the educational value of the Socialist Standard, and we urge our friends there to make it widely known.

Voice From The Back: Worldwide genocide (2001)

The Voice From The Back Column from the October 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Worldwide genocide

Under the headline “Scientists to probe worldwide genocide” The Observer gives yet more proof about how awful modern capitalism is. “The world’s first centre for the investigation of genocide is to be set up by British scientists with experience of working with some of the most appaling war crimes of modern times. The International Forensic Centre of Excellence for the Investigation of Genocide (Inforce) will use expertise gained in excavating mass graves in the Balkan conflict to provide independent evidence of war crimes and state-sponsored killing from across the world … The new centre, which could be up and running by the end of next year, plans to investigate atrocities in Sierra Leone, Central Africa and Indonesia. It is estimated that about 170 million people have been murdered by their own governments in the past century.” A hundred years of political reformism, thousands of “peace” conferences and this is what capitalism produces. Inside a socialist system we will have no need for an organisation called The International Forensic Centre of Excellence for the Investigation of Genocide. Who knows? We may even have one called The Global Centre for the Understanding of Diverse Cultures.

Sour notes

Rupert Murdoch’s Times has been sponsoring a long running campaign against the British government adopting the Euro currency. Now it seems they have another reason to be anti-Euro – it offends their aesthetic sense. “The euro banknotes are stark, bland and dead. With no recognisable building and no friendly humanity, they look as though they have been designed by committee, as they have … The design principle could not differ more from those of the pound. On the £20 note an imposing portrait of the Queen dominates. Flip it over and there is Sir Edward Elgar, with Worcester Cathedral in the background. There is nothing so bold on the euro notes.” The Times, 31 August. But all those lovers of bits of paper depicting parasites and monuments to outmoded institutions should not despair. Inside socialism you would still be able to see them in the Museum of Ancient Artifacts alongside such displays as the flint axe and the suit of armour. Who knows, it may even be housed in Worcester Cathedral.

Freedom of the press

Shock, Horror, Probe, Startling Revelations and all the other stupid cliches of the media. The Guardian of 6 September astonished us all with its findings. “Rupert Murdoch’s influence over editorial policy at his most prestigious British title, the Times, is so great that journalists are censored by executives frightened of offending their proprietor, according to a former member of the paper’s foreign staff. In a stinging attack in the London Evening Standard Mr Kiley wrote that Mr Murdoch’s friendship with Ariel Sharon, Israel’s prime minister, and Mr Murdoch’s extensive Israeli investments led executives to extensively rewrite copy.” Of course, the proprietors of The Guardian never interfere in the dissemination of truth. That is why you often see articles in that journal attacking private property and advocating World Socialism. Don’t you?

Another brilliant ‘Marxist’

The Socialist Party has always insisted that China and Russia were never socialist, had nothing to do with Marxism and were in fact examples of state capitalism. The recent antics of the Chinese leadership show how correct we were. This piece of nonsense was reported in The Guardian (13 September) under the heading “China’s leader tries to wed Marx and Blair”. “President Jiang Zemin of China has stolen the mantle from the late Mao Zedong in a new press campaign that suggests he is a brilliant Marxist as well as a great leader. Mr. Jiang has made a “new contribution” to Marxist theory which should be studied throughout the country, the Communist party’s official newspaper, People’s Daily, said this week. And according to Hong Kong reports of a recent top level conference, Mr. Jiang and his supporters now wish to study the experience of European social democracy: “Many in our party believe that the Third Way is not such a bad idea,” a party theorist, Yan Shuhan, told Asiaweek magazine, referring to the credo with which Tony Blair is most identified.”

A mad, mad world

Amidst the millions of words pumped out by the media on the hijacked aircraft carnage in the USA, the following short letter in the Guardian (13 September) contained probably the wisest. “Shortly after 3pm British time, as the events in the US were unfolding, BBC News began analysing how the situation would affect share prices – surely yet more proof, as if any were needed, of what a sick world we live in.”

The Middle East Connection (2001)

From the October 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

“The first war of the 21st Century” was how Bush has described the events sparked off by the suicide –and murderous – attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on 11 September. A chilling reminder that, under capitalism, things are going to be no different this century than they were in the last. But Bush’s claim was not entirely accurate, since the attack on America that Tuesday was the continuation of a conflict that has been going on for half-a-century, irrupting from time to time in open warfare: the struggle for the control of the oil resources of the Middle East.

America didn’t share in the carve-up of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War but managed to get a foothold in the Middle East with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1949 as a colonial outpost, a puppet state peopled and run mainly by European immigrants to serve as their proxy gendarme in the region. Rivalry between the Western powers continued – and still continues – throughout the period but fifty years ago they were joined by a new rival: a section of the local capitalist class. In 1951 the Mossadeq government in Iran nationalised the oil industry – and was overthrown in a Western-engineered coup. Then the Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt in 1956 for nationalising the Suez canal, at the time the main trade route for bringing Middle East oil to western Europe. Then the Yon Kippur war of 1973 at a time the post-war boom was coming to an end and which helped accelerate this. Then the Gulf War, ten years ago, to take back the Kuwaiti oilfields which Iraq had grabbed from the West, a war which has continued ever since at a lower level of intensity with regular bombings of Iraq by US and British warplanes.

The conflict in Chechnya too had an oil dimension, since a planned pipeline to get Caspian Sea oil out westwards made control of Chechnya of strategic importance to Russia. In fact, the collapse of the Russian state capitalist empire re-opened the Caspian oilfields to Western penetration and control, bringing Afghanistan into the equation as a possible alternative route via Turkmenistan for a pipeline to get Caspian oil out without having to pass through Iran.

The West’s rivals for the control of the Middle East oilfields and the trade routes to get the oil out, as well as of the strategic areas and points to protect these, have been sections of the local capitalist class in the region. The ideology they used, to begin with, to get a mass following was an anti-imperialist nationalism which had a leftwing tinge and even employed a “socialist” terminology. This was the ideology of Mossadeq in Iran, Nasser in Egypt, of the Baathist regimes in Syria and Iraq and of the PLO in the 1970s.

It is still a significant political force but, since the 1980s, has more and more been challenged by Islamic fundamentalism as the ideology of those who want local capitalist, rather than Western imperialist, control of the oil resources of the Middle East. A key factor in this change was the triumph of the “Islamic revolution” in Iran in 1979. But not to be neglected is the influence of the long-established fundamentalist regime in Saudi Arabia which, while not anti-Western, used a part of its oil rents to wean Arab militants away from leftwing nationalism. This had been encouraged by America as part of its struggle with Russia for world hegemony. It is now a notorious fact that Osmana Bin Laden – a billionaire member of the extended Saudi royal family – was armed by America and sent into Afghanistan to fight against this country falling under Russian control.

That those who attacked America on 11 September should have been Islamic fundamentalists was therefore no surprise. This has become the ideology of many of those in the predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East who want to wrest control of the oil resources of the region from the West for the benefit of local capitalists.

The West’s reaction has been revealing. A grand coalition is being organised to combat “terrorism”. But not terrorism in general. The Western powers are not concerned about the Tamil Tigers or ETA or the IRA or the various South American guerrilla groups. They are out to get Islamic fundamentalist terrorism because this is the rising ideology of their rivals for control of the Middle East oilfields. This, not terrorism in general, is the threat to the supply of this key resource. Russia has no problem in joining this coalition since its oil supplies too have been challenged by the same movement, as in Chechnya.

The one accurate thing Bush, Colin Powell and the US media have said about the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon was that it was an “act of war”. It was. The latest act in the 50-year struggle for the control of Middle East oil. This of course is not how they see it, or rather, how they present it. For them it is an attack on “civilisation” and “freedom-loving people everywhere” and (Blair’s favourite) “democracy”. It is appalling, virtually unbelievable, that any human being would hi-jack an airliner full of people and deliberately fly it into a tower block where thousands more worked. It is also true that the establishment of Islamic States everywhere would undo the Enlightenment and plunge the world back a thousand years (and has done so in Afghanistan). But this is not the issue.

The Islamic fundamentalists who flew those planes would indeed completely suppress freedom of thought and speech and replace ruled by elected politicians by the rule of ignorant and obscurantist priests, but those who trained and sent them weren’t attacking America because it was “democratic”. They would still have attacked America even if it had been a fascist dictatorship or a Christian theocracy.

Socialists of course appreciate the existence of secular, political democratic forms, limited as we know they are, and wouldn’t want to see these replaced by an Islamic State. But “democracy” as an ideology is something different. It is based on the idea that everybody living under a democratic state (as a state allowing the election of certain state officials) share a common interest. This is a lie that socialists challenge.

Under capitalism, whatever the political form, society is divided into two classes with conflicting interests: those who own and control the means of production and the rest of us who have to work for them. This is not changed if the excluded majority are allowed to vote for those who run the political side of capitalism – and who define the “common interest”, inevitably since they are governing on behalf of the capitalist class, as in fact the interest of that class.

What Blair and the others call “democracy” is not genuine democracy, which can only exist in the classless context of a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. Their democracy is the inevitably limited and narrowly political democracy that is the most that can exist under capitalism. But, in any event, it is not even this stunted, political democracy that is at stake. It is oil.

So, the line-up in the next – military – episode in the continuing struggle for control of the oil resources of the Middle East is, on the one side, a section of the local capitalist class using Islam to rally mass support and, on the other, the Western capitalist powers using “democracy” as their ideology to win mass support for war. But “Islamic State” versus “Democracy” is only the ideological smokescreen disguising the real issue at stake: control of oil resources and trade routes. It is not an issue worth the shedding of a single drop of working-class blood.

As Socialists we declare our opposition to both sides in this war and call on the working class of the world to unite to bring capitalism to a rapid end so that no more lives are sacrificed to further the economic interests of rival sections of the world capitalist class.
Adam Buick

We all need asylum (2001)

From the October 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Eurotunnel’s September announcement that they had appointed a former army general, Sir Roger Wheeler, to help keep out asylum seekers trying to reach Britain through the Channel Tunnel via the company’s French compound at Coquelles seemed most apt just days after Daily Mail headlines screaming about “The Chunnel under siege”, “The storming of the Chunnel” and “Invasion”.

No doubt such militaristic lingo will in future include further metaphors describing how Wheeler is deciding “tactics” for the best “attacks” and “defences” as he “spearheads” a “fight” against the “enemy” until eventual “victory”. This however is not mere warlike figure of speech without material substance, since with miles of razor-wire fencing, security patrols, guard dogs, searchlights and look out towers equipped with infra red and CCTV cameras, the Coquelles terminal resembles a World War 2 prisoner-of-war camp. Not one, though, with prisoners forcibly kept on the inside, but restrained from gaining entry.

But jailbirds is precisely what asylum seekers are—inmates of capitalism’s global choky, convicted of being “bogus” and “illegal” because of non-ownership of money-making assets, and so sentenced to life imprisonment of predominantly suffering, exclusion and exploitation. Not that us natives in “our” country have much more freedom, seeing how Britain’s means of production and distribution most definitely are not ours, leaving us banged up in the selfsame suppressive manipulative clink.

By not owning and controlling raw materials, power stations, factories, transport systems etc, the majority must work and live their lives according to the needs, and dictates to government puppets, of the minority who do. The “middle class” (forced to sell themselves, working class in reality) may imagine they’re better off than others on lower pay, though examining the real cost to their families and health from work pressures, employment insecurity, pollution, environmental destruction and the fundamental instability and competitive dangers of markets and money, reveals their “gains” to be illusory.

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has sought to adopt a conciliatory approach, expressing a desire to see migrants able to obtain work permits to contribute to UK society. Yet if he paid heed to the state of the global economy, with a worldwide recession looking unavoidable, it’s clear that permits to work are idiotically pointless if businesses have sacked millions of employees because a whole heap of capitalist work has suddenly become unprofitable. So while many of those seeking to enter the UK might be well-qualified machine operators, engineers, builders, doctors etc (as they are), if the capitalist economy is going through yet another of its inevitable cyclical crises, there’ll be no employers or money to pay for these much-needed workers.

Such economic crises make migrants unwanted. They put politicians under maximum pressure to keep them out to minimise state expenditure, spending which reduces the nation’s profitability the bigger it gets, and is especially disliked when making profits is then as difficult as it gets. Increased racism and nationalism also become more likely as high unemployment and poverty produce considerable social suffering, provoking the pained to find and lash out at those they think responsible, and politicians in need of scapegoats, chauvinistic bigots and money-mad tabloids all eager to point some out.

Besides, is Blunkett unconcerned that offering work permits tends to result in cherry picking of the most employable and skilled workers from areas of conflict and deprivation? Because only they will have been most able to save up income, or successfully borrow the money necessary to pay for their travel arrangements, resulting in war-torn and poverty-stricken regions being left without people vital for their improvement and essential services.

The answer to people fleeing conflict, deprivation and brutal regimes is to remove the root causes of such nastiness—minority ownership and control of productive resources which generates rivalry for the upper hand, and restricts provision of, and access to, goods and services according to available profits and ability to pay. It is this exclusive possession and control of resources that also divides the world into separate competing countries and blocs, and the need for associated borders to prevent others from attempting to acquire these valuable assets by armed force, subversion or, in the case of migrants during economic downturns, “excess” demand (i.e., too many unemployed and unemployable people burdening state finances). And since these means of production responsible are possessed and run by ruling classes in all countries worldwide, worldwide socialism is the only solution.

Not only does global minority ownership and control of productive assets cause people to flee and seek better lives elsewhere, it also influences where such migrants try to reach. Politicians and media commentators have concentrated on irrelevant criticism of the Red Cross refugee centre in Calais, from which migrants set out to jump on UK-bound trains (amputated limbs and death occurring in the process), and on nauseating nit-picking about asylum seekers not staying in the “first safe country” they reach, accusing them of seeing Britain as a “soft touch”. Apart from the fact that no country is “safe” from capitalism, just as this economic system became global because that was beneficial to capital, so too has there been economic pressure for one global language to facilitate efficiency in the markets. And since America has been, and remains the dominant economic power—along with other significant economies also having English as their principal language—governments and astute parents in other countries with different native tongues have felt impelled to teach children to speak English in order to be able to compete.

Hence, migrants with even a smattering of English, and a desire to work for a bearable living standard or to pay off debts to people-traffickers, choose countries like Britain. Or Australia, where with a national election imminent, the sickening response of John Howard’s government was to pander to apparently widespread racist sentiment and send in armed troops to force a Norwegian freighter, the Tampa, to take its undesirable shipwrecked cargo of over 400 mainly Afghans away from cobber-filled Oz—a country ironically founded by boatloads of undesirables.

On 7 September, a High Court judge annoyed politicians and tabloids by ruling that detaining refugees at Oakington “Reception” Centre in Cambridgeshire for a week or so, while their asylum claims were being decided, amounted to illegal imprisonment under the Human Rights Act. Not that Mr Justice Collins merits praise, since he also stated it was still legal to detain anyone thought likely to abscond to avoid deportation. So, as usual, who and what’s legal or illegal remains dependent upon what’s acceptable or unacceptable to capitalism.

“Illegal” remains a class-based description that politicians, through their two-faced cant and deceit, will continue to attach to asylum seekers entering the UK for “economic reasons” rather than “genuinely fleeing persecution”. Yet just you try to take what you need from a shop without paying, because you’re skint. How long before the police drag you away, and a magistrate probably locks you away, each insisting that you, too, were “illegal”? And which British employees toiling for inadequate incomes in the longest working week in the EU aren’t forced to sell themselves for “economic reasons”, and have never considered such wage slavery to be “persecution” from which they’d also like to escape?

Those travelling long distances through fear or desperation are people no different to ourselves, since under capitalism, we are all asylum seekers. Only those owning substantial capital that generates enough money to pay for whatever needs they may have, without ever having to work, need not seek asylum from capitalism. Multimillionaires and billionaires, thanks to exploitation of the working class majority, able to fly first-class anywhere in the world at a whim are the real migrant “spongers” who need to be kicked out.
Max Hess

Financial wizards or great pretenders? (2001)

From the October 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the 1990s when, under the cunning guidance of the IMF and the World Bank, the Ghanaian people were literally being strangled by the Economic Recovery Programme of the Structural Adjustment Programme, the financial advisers to President Jerry Rawlings always managed to conjure figures and statistics which indicated that the economy was doing excellently well. These statistics not only earned Ghana the epithet “darling state” of the West but Rawlings himself was so glad with his economists that he bestowed upon the title “financial wizards”. But the truth is that these accolades were for the purpose of damage control. Rawlings knew deep within his heart that his “wizards” were in reality great pretenders like himself as together they had been stashing away huge sums in foreign banks.

The history of the struggle for economic development in Africa and the forces dictating the pace thereof are not in the least different from the scenario that the West, Rawlings and the economic advisers enacted in Ghana.

Groping in the dark
Immediately African countries were pronounced independent by the colonial masters, the leaders rolled up their sleeves and set to the arduous task of nation-building. Although a few may have seemed to genuinely have the welfare of the masses at heart, many of these leaders and their ministers were deeply engaged in stomach politics. Be that as it may, these leaders, day in day out, saw the plight of the masses getting worse and worse.

A great number of African countries became independent in the sixties. This period also happened to be the peak of the so-called “cold war”. The West and the East struggled to control these newly-independent nations to enhance their (West and East) own economic interests. The result was that these African countries found themselves in a kind of trial-and-error methods of trying to extricate themselves from growing poverty.

At first the state got involved in business by setting up marketing boards. These bought up cash crops from the farmers and exported them. The state thus acted as a middleman. The state also created development boards, authorities and corporations in the hope of making money to move their countries forward. In some extreme cases some governments resorted to outright nationalisation of private business. However all these efforts by no means arrested the downward trend in the living standards of the masses. They still paid dearly for imports and received peanuts for their exports.

To overcome this problem of high prices of imports, the policy of import substitution was introduced. By this, companies producing such imported commodities as milk, beverages, matches, canned foods, bottled drinks, etc were encouraged to come and establish factories and carry out production here in Africa. Many companies responded positively but the outcome of this policy was a deepening impoverishment of the masses. They served as cheap labour in these factories. In fact only a few could afford to furnish their families with the commodities they got involved in producing. African leaders were baffled as what tended to happen was that nothing happened. No wonder there were lots of attempts at and successful coups d’├ętat during the sixties and seventies.

It was during this period of beating about the bush for economic direction that the IMF and the World Bank joined in the fray. They came along with a novel package that was going to miraculously propel African economies to the highest degree of development. This new policy was the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). This SAP idea condemned the previous method of development as unworkable and maintained instead that making structural changes, including the expansion and re-orientation of production, was the only way forward. African nations were to put the production of “non-traditional exports” and tourism into a higher gear. Thus in a country like Ghana where the traditional exports were mainly cocoa, timber and gold, under the SAP crops like pepper, pineapples, yams, maize, and oranges were to be turned into cash crops and exported. SAP also stipulated that private capital was to be the “engine of growth” and that “governments have no business doing business”. It did not however take long for the people to understand that they were once again fooled by official policy. Hardship and suffering increased a thousandfold. The masses had been moved from the frying pan into the fire.

Today the SAP is still the invisible hand directing affairs at our finance ministries in the interests of the owners of the World Bank and the IMF and to the detriment of the masses of Africa. However this time around there is a formidable group of foot soldiers preparing the grounds for, facilitating implementation and soothing the pains of these anti-people policies. These are the NGOs. There are hordes of them in every African country. All the misinformation propagated in the form of catchy phrases and slogans by the IMF and WB are picked up unquestioningly by these NGOs and parroted all over the place. The NGOs assist governments in deceiving the people by embarking on projects which are either white elephants or never even take off the ground. Meanwhile the wealthy companies keep selling their obsolete equipment to Africa in the name of appropriate technology.

Socialists or capitalists?
On Thursday 23 August the BBC Focus On Africa programme broadcast the news that Jose Edouardo dos Santos of Angola had announced that he would not be standing for re-election in he next presidential elections. Interestingly the BBC referred to the man as a “former Marxist”. This reminded me of others like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and a host of them who were also said to be “Marxists” by which they meant “communists” or “socialists”. Of course the West and East tagged these people thus for obvious reasons—whereas the West saw the as “dangerous”, the East considered them “good boys”. But the truth is that none of these leaders who championed the struggle for independence actually understood the global system. At best they only had hazy and confused ideas of soviet-style “socialism” (state capitalism). And, sadly, the present crop of leaders are even more bankrupt and myopic than their predecessors. If so, who gave the precursors advice and who advises the current leaders?

On the attainment of independence many African countries still depended on the former colonial masters for advice and guidance. In fact this is true of most of the francophone nations. Others, like Gamel Nasser’s Egypt, Nkrumah’s Ghana and Sekou Toure’s Guinea were so radical (though not revolutionary) that they openly castigated the West and courted the friendship of the former USSR. But in reality they did not escape the domineering influence of the existing global economic system since the East also practised capitalism. The finance ministers and economic advisers thought there were differences between the West and East in their theories and strategies for development and that thinking was partly responsible for the trial-and-error methods of development the newly-independent countries adopted – they were just variations of the same rule of capital.

The situation is different is different today. There are thousands of “experts” working day and night in seemingly harmless institutions and commissions and advising governments on their economic policies. The IMF and WB are still the main determinants of the path African economies must chart. But in order to lend some credence to their nefarious activities, they keep creating, from behind the scenes, economic institutions which are outwardly African in nature. And even if the IMF and WB have no hands in the creation of some of such institutions, they still manage to control them by picking up some of their bills. These bodies serve as economic think-tanks and advisers to governments. Some of them even assist in soliciting loans for governments. These include the Economic Commission for Africa; Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS); African Development Bank (ADB); Southern African Development Committee (SADEC);West African Monetary Institute, etc. There are groups spearheaded by individuals like Adebayo Adedeji, Julius Nyerere and others. The experts in these institutions hold regular meetings not to seek genuine ways and means of salvaging the African masses but, pretenders as they are, to wine, dine and go home with per diems which are sometimes higher than the monthly salaries of employees in the high income category. They waste huge quantities of paper-producing volumes of reports which sit on shelves gathering dust. But even if these “experts” are genuinely engaged in helping, their efforts will always come to nil.

The reason is that like their bosses in the IMF and World Bank, they are trying to reform a system which is inherently flawed. The system in operation in today’s world is profit oriented. Every idea put across and every step taken is to make profit not to satisfy human needs. Based on money, the belief is that without money nothing can work. Therefore governments are advised and sometimes coerced to take loans. The few with big money invest in our countries. Since investors are looking for profits the end result is that the human and material resources are mercilessly plundered.

But the truth is that production is carried out by people not money. Problems are solved by human beings, not money. The main problems Africans face are food, healthcare, shelter, education, clothes, and so on. These are produced by human labour acting on natural resources,. Africa has more than enough of these human and natural resources but because they system is based on money, these resources are accessible to only those who have money. These are a negligible minority who own all the means of production and distribution of wealth. But since they will use their wealth to produce only what will fetch them more money, they may produce what people do not need. For instance vast tracts of land are used to cultivate cash crops like tobacco, cashew, and cocoa for factories in the West yet what we need more here are maize, rice and other food crops. These latter are not very profitable so despite their importance, they are not produced. This is capitalism.

Any hope for Africa?
In the increasing problems facing Africans are a result of the economic arrangement in which every action is determined by money and profit, then the surest way of arresting the sorry situation is doing away with money. This is only possible on a global basis. The profit system is universal and so getting it off our backs requires the concerted efforts of the global working class not just in Africa, Asia or Europe. When the means of production and distribution of wealth pass from private ownership to collective ownership then the products will also be collectively shared. People will, in this higher and humane system of ownership, willingly contribute whatever efforts they are capable of providing since they know they can freely take from the produce how much they need. In this new social organisation money will have no place and all institutions and people related to money like markets, banks, credit cards, cheques, tickets, bills, accountants, cashiers, sales-girls, etc, etc will vanish. The people engaged here will be available to get involved in the real work of producing clothes, food, medicines, education, etc. This is socialism.

However, this civilised system of production relations can only materialise when the majority get to understand it and want it implemented. It is only then that Africa and the whole world will rid itself of pretenders posing as financial wizards.

Indonesia: all change for no change (2001)

From the October 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

The chain of over 13,000 islands stretching 3,600 miles from Malaya to Northern Australia have a long and chequered history. Evidence suggests humans resided on some of these islands over 50,000 years ago. From 3000 BC to 500 BC immigrants from South China mixed with, or displaced, the original Melanesians. Indian influence from AD 700 created a Buddhist and two Hindu empires co-existing among those islands. The introduction of Islam by Arab traders in the 13th century eventually destroyed these empires. Brunei became a powerful Islamic Sultanate, dominating the whole of Borneo and parts of the Philippines. The whole chain of islands were divided into many kingdoms but Arabs came to dominate trade and religion throughout.

The first Europeans to open a sea-route to Asia were the Catholic Christians of Portugal. Their ruthless hatred of Islam was welcomed by the island kingdoms who assisted in breaking the trade monopoly of the Arabs. The first half of the 16th century saw the demise of Arab trading as the Portuguese built fortified trading posts, not only among these islands but, throughout the whole of Asia in an attempt to monopolise commerce in that part of the world.

In the latter part of the 16th century serious European rivals appeared on the scene. The Protestant Christians from Holland hated the Catholic Portuguese and they proceeded to evict them entirely from the island chain. The Dutch set up their trading centre at Batavia on the island Java and they would eventually colonise the entire archipelago under the name of Dutch East Indies. In the meantime the British were eliminating Portugal from India and Malaya. It was the lust for the lucrative trade in eastern silks, porcelain, precious stones, perfumes, spices etc that drove these commercial ventures and caused so much bloodshed.

France squabbled with the British over India but later settled for claiming Indochina (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam). Borneo was partitioned and claimed by the Dutch and Britain while the Philippines were claimed by Spain. Way down in the south, Australia would become British and the large island to the north, New Guinea, would be partitioned and claimed by the Dutch (west), Germany (north-east) and Britain (south-east). After losing World War I, Germany would lose this colony to Britain and the whole eastern half of this island would be handed to Australia to look after. The sole remnant of Portuguese activity was the eastern portion of Timor, the Dutch claiming the western half.

The Japanese overran all these colonies, except India, during World War II and this prompted European colonies throughout the world to seek independence after Japan was defeated. The armed conflicts between foreign ruling classes and local ruling classes have done nothing to improve the lives of workers in any of these countries. 1945 saw the end of World War II, and Holland challenge the claim for independence by their East India colonies. The military expeditions and attrition of guerrilla warfare became economically unsustainable and independence was granted in 1949 when the Republic of Indonesia was formed. Centralised rule from Java was been opposed by several other islands and the Republic quickly became a seething mass of discontent. Ongoing revolts and dissent in Sumatra and in the original “Spice Islands” (the Moluccas) and other territories have been met with by excessive military brutality.

This authoritarian dictatorship embarked upon policies of expansion to extract wealth from surrounding resources, enabling the ruling elite to live on obscene opulence amongst the grinding poverty of the masses. West New Guinea (Irian Jaya) was invaded and forcibly annexed in 1963, adding another festering sore of discontent to the Indonesian collection.

In this same year, 1963, an aggressive Indonesia was lured by the lucrative oil in Northern Borneo. A secret war was fought when British and Australian interests in oil-soaked Brunei insisted that this area of land be incorporated into Malaysia. SAS units from Britain and Australia, and the 3rd Australian Regiment, made damaging and deadly incursions into Indonesian territory (Kalimantan) during this undeclared and clandestine war. Plans were made in 1964 to bomb Jakarta. This information was made available only recently, under the 30-year secret-file rule.

This conflict ended abruptly about 1965, as though an undercover political deal had been struck between the parties involved. Indonesian army officers were suddenly being trained in Australia for jungle warfare, and in the same year up to 700,000 Indonesians were massacred by their army for dissent. It was alter revealed that US Intelligence was also implicated in this slaughter.

The solitary Portuguese colony of East Timor, surrounded by a sea containing suspected riches in oil and natural gas, waited apprehensively for the outcome of independence wars being fought by Portugal against their African colonies of Angola and Mozambique. Indonesia also waited.

When both Portuguese colonies eventually won their independence in 1975, East Timor also announced their own freedom., they were immediately invaded by Indonesia and officially annexed in 1976. No action was taken by the UN against this act of blatant aggression or against the human violations in which tens of thousands of Timorese civilians died. In indecent haste, with Portugal now out of the way, Australia officially recognised the annexation and struck a 50/50 deal with Indonesia for the riches of the Timor sea. It seemed as though this had all been pre-planned, a political “pay-off” to Indonesia for backing down in Borneo perhaps?

Exploration since the late 1970s has revealed increasing riches of oil and gas in the Timor sea—a bonanza. Is it pure coincidence that the UN has shown increased interest, during the 1990s, in Timorese “Human Rights” in direct proportion to the increasing wealth reported lying beneath the sea “owned” by this island territory? Increasing pressure has been put upon Indonesia, by the UN, to introduce democratic elections, and in 1999 East Timor successfully voted for Independence.

An ever-opportunistic Australia, always a UN agent for Western capitalism, provided Timor with protection and peace-keeping troops on “humanitarian grounds”, after 24 years of inactivity and indifference to their plight.

A new agreement has been drawn up whereby Australia will now “manage” all the resources in the Timor Gap, worth billions of US dollars, without the need to pay any “aid”. Royalties from profits will be sufficient payment for East Timor with some left over for Australia to pocket. Indonesia will miss out completely.

All the usual major Western capitalist companies have moved into the area, among them the US giant, Phillips Petroleum and Australia’s Woodside Petroleum, etc, and—oh yes—the Dutch are back again with their Royal Shell Group.
Ron Stone

Uganda’s politics of alcohol, soap, salt and sugar (2001)

From the October 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

At last, like the presidential elections, the parliamentary elections are over. This was a month of violence, harassment, intimidation and torture on one side and merrymaking (in a form of “gifts”—alcohol, salt pieces of soap, sugar and cash in exchange for votes) on the other hand. The campaigns attracted many people, especially the rallies of those candidates who were well and easy on their pockets. Here, like anywhere else, the standard by which men and women are judged is their material possessions. Even if you have ideas or initiative, if you are broke you must go without. Those without money dwell in the darkness of inescapable poverty (despite being in the midst of potential plenty), ever wrestling with the torment of survival in a world dominated by the fast buck. So it would have appeared a miracle for a poor but reasonable person to sail through and make it to parliament.

On the other hand, there was controversy when the president turned out and started campaigning in favour of some candidate and campaigning against some others on grounds that the favoured ones were “pro-movement”. In some parts of the country the electoral process was militarised. This was mostly in places where supporters of multiparty politics were contesting along with the historicals of president’s movement system and/or his personal friends. This resulted in violence where some people lost their lives.

Most contestants bribed voters to the extend of buying the poor needy voters, blankets, mattresses, bicycles and hoes, in the expectation that out of which excitement the poor voters would eventually not resist voting for such candidates even if it was clear that the candidate was a non-performer. This is not surprising given that recently Transparency International ranked Uganda as the third most corrupt country in the world. In fact some candidates went as far as spending over U shs 900 millions (£360,000).

Most manifestos centred on poverty, as if the contestants had a formula to eliminate it or as if they had just realised that they were living with poor people. Their opportunity was to capitalise on this biting poverty in most Uganda’s homes. Their elaboration of how poverty could be eliminated was insincere on the candidates’ part, given that poverty cannot be eliminated under capitalism and especially in a country like Uganda where a majority don’t have enough and the right education and civilisation.

There was talk about health programmes, education, security and peace yet in some places these rallies could not take place because of insecurity – due to rebel activities. The candidates came with programmes for bringing health to all yet since about twenty years ago the Ministry of Health has been running an advert in the name of “Health for all by the year 2000”. This is 2001 and most people here in Uganda are still dying of curable diseases such as typhoid, dysentery and malaria.

So their manifestos seem to be disabled ones.

Then we come to voting day. Most of the candidates and their supporters saw this as a day determining between life and death. They became aggressive so as to win the election. Winning indeed would be the only way by which they could recover the money used in bribing voters. Once elected they could get access to public funds and embezzle it. They could, as well, get high salaries and allowances. On polling day voters who supported poor candidates and those candidates who were not favoured by the president were harassed and intimidated. Some were even refused voting but the supporters of the favoured and rich candidates were allowed to vote more than once, to vote in other people’s names – the dead and the absent.

Uganda is a country that has been infested with wars before and after the so-called independence. It seems here the needs of democracy are planted on unfertile grounds. Most folk here don’t have a proper understanding and education of the world we live in, capitalistic society based on profit and competition, and the next stage of society—socialism that will depend on contribution to society by individuals based on individuals’ ability and where individuals take from society according to their self-determined needs. No ruler and no ruled, then and only then would be true democracy, a proper voting process and would there be value of the vote.
Weijagye Justus

Unholy Wars (2001)

Book Review from the October 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Unholy Wars – Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism by John K. Cooley (Pluto Press, 299 pages)
This new edition of a book first published in 1999 provides a first rate insight into the US relationship with militant Islam during and since the Cold War and provides much ammunition for those holding to the line that in supporting the likes of Osama bin Laden during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the US was indeed sowing the seeds of a bitter harvest reaped on September 11th 2001.

The USA did not only support those opposing the Soviet forces in the Afghan War, forming a deadly and unholy alliance with militant Islam in the process, it very much instigated the war. When President Carter signed a directive for covert support for the enemies of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul in July, 1979, he was informed that do so would lead to Soviet intervention. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s National Security Adviser, would comment: “We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we consciously increased the probability that they would do so . . . This secret operation was an excellent idea. Its effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap.” He later wrote to Carter: “Now we can give the USSR its own Vietnam War.” (p. 19)

The US support for the mujahedin and other groups would turn out to be phenomenal. Billions of dollars were pumped into the Afghan cause and thousands of Islamic zealots were given specialist training in the US and Britain.

As Cooley observes: “In the United States they experienced tough courses in endurance, weapons use, sabotage, and killing techniques, communications and other skills. They were required to impart these skills to the scores of thousands of fighters who formed the centre and the base of the pyramid of holy war.” (p. 81)

The training of the warriors of jihad not enough, the CIA also promoted drug trafficking in Afghanistan, one result being that the trade found easy access into the Soviet Union and helped destabilise civil society there. Moreover, “Nowhere did the growing addiction to locally-produced drugs, encouraged by those in the CIA…wreak greater havoc than in the Red Army…on an even larger scale than the addiction of American GIs during the Southeast Asian wars.” (p.5)

And of course there was the oil. One reason why the US nurtured the Taliban was that American oil companies wanted to build an oil pipe-line from Central Asia, through Afghanistan, to the Indian Ocean. It was hoped, states Cooley,, “…that the Taliban, once in control, would be a security blanket. It would be able they conjectured, to secure the truck highways and eventually routes for oil and natural gas pipe-lines.” (p. 147)

In this updated edition of the 1999 publication, Cooley brings his topic up to date with an insight into the Bin-Laden-linked international terrorist network, as well as providing information on the post 1999 Pakistani coup.

For the socialist there is much in Unholy Wars we can use in the battle of ideas, revealing the lengths the US will go to, and the stinking depths it will plummet to secure its own ends, regardless of the cost of life. Where there is profit to be made, where US interests are challenged, nothing is sacred. People, no, whole nations are there to be manipulated.
John Bissett

50 Years Ago: The General Election (2001)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalist politicians of all shades have been telling you for generations how their “practical” policies will solve your problems. You know whether they are solved or not. They will go on soliciting your votes at election after election with further “practical” policies.

They will make you think that you are a most important person for a week or two before election day and promptly move the troops in on your job the day after if you strike for a little “practical” increase in your pay.

That goes for Labour and Conservative, not to mention Liberal and Communist. The fact is that their policies are most un-practical as far as solving your problems is concerned. Time has shown that. The only practical solution is in the abolition of Capitalism and the establishment of Socialism.

To that end we say, Do not vote for capitalist parties on October 25th but work with us for the overthrow of this system and the building of a new one that will be in keeping with our interests.

As there is no socialist candidate in the field, abstain from voting. If you fear that your voting paper may be mis-used or if you want to give some expression to your zeal for Socialism, go to the poll and write “Socialism” across your ballot paper. It will at least indicate to our opponents that there is a rising tide of revolutionary feeling which will in time sweep away their rotten system with all its parasites and hangers-on. What have you to lose? Go to it.

(From lead article by W. Waters, Socialist Standard, October 1951)

Political pantomimes (1984)

From the October 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

It was just a year ago that Neil Kinnock, obviously appalled at being elected leader of the Labour Party, made his well-publicised attempt to throw himself into the sea, only to be thwarted when he lost his footing in the treacherous shingle of Brighton beach and was hauled to safety by his wife. Those were days of a sprouting optimism in the Labour Party. The awful experience of being led to predictable defeat by bungling Michael Foot had, the party members hoped as they left their conference, been put behind them. They now had a new pair at the helm — the so-called dream ticket of Kinnock and Hattersley, which was another way of saying that between them these two politicians were expected to be able to pander to every imaginable prejudice and misconception in the minds of the voters. With unemployment on the rise and the Tories’ luck surely due to run out. Labour could look forward to a year of improved fortunes; perhaps they would win a few by-elections, carry some important local authorities and set their sights on an early return to power.

The Conservatives too were euphoric — and with better reason than the Labour Party. Their election was in the bag and nothing is more likely to enthuse party members, from the silver coiffures of the constituencies to the ambitious back-benchers. than the prospect of a long period in government. The gamble of the Falklands war which, had it failed, might have wiped out their chances for a long time, had succeeded triumphantly. The atavistic appeal to workers' most miserable prejudices of patriotism had paid off; voters everywhere were convinced that the war had again proved that British soldiers, sailors and airmen are many times tougher, braver and more durable than any others. It was all very dramatic and heady. Of course there were a few people who had been killed, a few more who had been horribly maimed and disfigured who could not be shown to the cheering crowds at the “victory” parade. But they didn’t count; they were less likely to win votes than the marching ranks of those who had come back in one piece. The Falklands helped Thatcher slaughter Foot in the election; the list of politicians she has picked off grows impressively long — Heath, Callaghan, Foot . . . No wonder the Tories enjoyed themselves so much at the seaside last October for by their standards everything was going so well; if they ignored the unemployment figures they could feel the economy was coming right, if they ignored the mounting evidence of the sharpening of working class poverty they could proclaim that their policies were reaping a rich harvest.

But as they gather for their annual bout of morale-boosting this year, the two parties may be in different humour. For the Labour Party, Kinnock has not turned out to be the Kennedy-style vote winner they hoped for. A recent attempt to appear athletically informal backfired to such an extent that he was in danger of being stuck with the image of a rather foolish playboy — something he has since worked hard at expunging with some long, tedious contributions to what are called debates in the House of Commons. On the more delicate matters of policy — delicate because they require a skilful balancing act between warring factions within the party and because it is a matter of luck in their timing whether they are vote winners or losers — Kinnock has too often been exposed in his attempts to fudge the issues.

On nuclear weapons he declares that a Labour government under his leadership would scrap the Trident missile programme and turn the American nuclear bases out of Britain. In his rise to the top Kinnock trod the traditional left wing back bencher’s road of support for CND and this is too recent for him not to now make some gestures towards it. But what he now puts forward is a long, long way from the unilateral abandonment by British capitalism of its nuclear weapons stock. It is a long, long way from promising any solution to the horrifying prospect of a world nuclear conflict for even without Trident and cruise missiles the capitalist powers would still hold several times more weapons than would be needed to blow most of settled life off the face of the earth. But of course no one in their right mind would expect a Labour government, trying to protect the interests of the British capitalist class, to scrap their nuclear weapons, whatever the last party conference had said. Nobody in their right mind — which means nobody with the slightest knowledge of how the competitive system of capitalism has to work — would expect the other powers to be impressed by any such modification of policy as Kinnock promises. And no worker about to be changed into atomic vapour would worry about which weapon system was responsible, or what its name was. What this means is that as long as the support for capitalism, which is so tirelessly fostered by the Labour Party, continues the system will carry on in its inhuman, perilous way until perhaps the missiles fly and there are a few' minutes for the working class to regret their rejection of the revolutionary solution to it all.

If nuclear disarmament is liable to cost the Labour Party a lot of votes, the issue of strikes looms even larger in their nightmares of another June 1983. The working class attitude to strikes can be a curiously ambiguous affair. On the one hand most workers, whatever their prejudices and pretensions, are liable to be persuaded that only strike action can protect their interests. This is true of many groups of workers who at one time would not have been seen dead in a ditch with a picketing miner or docker. But now hospital employees, banking workers, and civil servants are among those who have used the strike weapon. Even “professional” (whatever that may mean) workers like teachers and engineers are prepared to come out to get better pay and conditions or to resist attacks on their standards. But on the other hand these workers are often quick to condemn other groups who take strike action. Another widespread inconsistency in workers’ attitudes towards strikes is the impression that somehow the Labour Party is invariably in favour of them. Of course this is quite unfair to the Labour Party who. when they have been in government, have always bitterly fought workers who stood against Labour’s attempts to cut back their standards. If Tory ministers now inveigh against the alleged excesses of pickets and urge other workers to break the picket lines, they are following the example set by members of the last Labour government, like Home Secretary Merlyn Rees and Prime Minister James Callaghan who, in that infamous winter of discontent, knew on which side of the picket line their sympathies lay.

So when he is confronted with something like the strike in the coal mines. Kinnock has a serious problem in assuaging several prejudices at once. This year’s Labour conference will give a lot of attention to the issue; there will be demonstrating workers urging all-out support for the miners, opposed by sober warnings about the effect this will have on Labour votes outside. This has been the story of many a Labour conference, as some members passionately joust for what they have been brought up to know as the soul of the party against those who are alive to the reality of a party which wants power over British capitalism and must not let a little thing like political theory or principle get in the way. Kinnock’s every word at this conference will be carefully probed by zealous media hacks who at the end will give their verdict on his capacity as a possible future prime minister, which means their rating of his ability to deceive. For him it promises to be a harrowing time and so far he has not shown too much agility when under such pressure. Perhaps this time he won’t slip up at the water’s edge.

The fact that the Tories are rather better at hiding their splits should not disguise their existence. For some time now they have been in trouble on a number of issues, bravely dismissed by them as a slight matter of slipping on banana skins. But this evasion cannot apply to the coal strike, which has its electoral perils for the government. At the moment they may well be gambling on beating the miners through a combination of starving them back to work and shaming them back as the strike leads to winter power cuts and an inevitable reaction from workers whose normally miserable lives are made even more so by being plunged into darker and colder conditions. But the most recent precedent for this, the three day week in 1973/74, did not turn out as a victory for the Heath government. Rather than being seen as the valiant defenders of civilisation against rampaging hordes of workshy saboteurs, that government were damned as causing a disruption to industry which could have been avoided through more sensitive and canny handling — the sort which the Labour Party, with its so-called social contract and Employment Minister Michael Foot, were only too anxious to provide.

It is history now. that Heath never recovered from that disaster which has left him sulking on his party’s back benches. If it turns out that Thatcher has similarly miscalculated. the same fate could await her. The suffering and the squalor of capitalism goes on untroubled by any realistic expectation in those two parties that they will ever bring it to an end. None of that matters; the leader is safe as long as they can work so successful a deceit on the working class that fear is conceived as happiness, disease as health, repression as freedom. Look carefully at Thatcher's speech at the Conservative conference this year; under the pressures of running British capitalism she is showing signs of wear and such are the disputes in her party now that it will need a truly slick performance by her if that inevitable standing ovation is to be really as rapturous and as heartfelt as it seems.

Is it too gloomy to predict that, as usual, both parties will succeed in their deceptions and that once again the workers will nourish this society with their bland acceptance of what should be unacceptable? Party conferences are designed as occasions when the morale batteries are recharged. It needs only some flashes of insight into social realities for them to become occasions of exposure and despair for the politicians and of exhilarating hope for the people.

Briefing: What is Capitalism? (1984)

The Briefing Column from the October 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

Money trick
All wealth is the product of labour. Every house, car, loaf of bread, everything that we use is brought into being by men and women applying their energies to the resources that other men and women have extracted from the environment. It is one of the contradictions of the class system, though, that the great majority of people — the wealth-producing class — consume and enjoy only the crumbs of the wealth they produce. The construction workers who build the palaces and the mansions return at the end of a hard day’s work to live in council hovels or at best an up-market suburban slum. The wealth producers are trapped in poverty because of the wages- system of legalised robbery. The factories, farms, mines, offices, communications systems — in fact, the means of life — are owned and controlled by a small minority of the world's population. The wages or salaries with which the wealth producers are fobbed off are worth less than the value of what has been produced, so that the boss receives a value from the efforts of the worker over and above what is paid for. The surplus value kept by the owners of industry becomes profit when the goods are sold on the market.

When the social system is looked at from this point of view, a couple of important points become apparent: first, that whether wages are “high” or "low" the people working for them are being exploited; and second, that it is the system of producing goods and services for a profit which condemns the majority to live lives of unnecessary poverty. Occasionally, the absurdity of the class system exhibits itself in stark madness. A couple of years ago the workers who produced the engines for the Concorde aeroplane were given a special concession by their bosses. The workers who, although they were responsible for making the plane would never be able to afford to travel in it. were permitted to take their families on a tour of their work for a price of 50p. The tours would need to be brisk as they could not keep the wealthy ticket holders hanging about drinking champagne in the departure lounges for too long.

Rolls Royce is now trying the same sort of thing:
A big pools win would be the only way most workers could get to own a Rolls Royce. but 3.800 employees at the firm's works in Crewe. Cheshire, now get a 90-minute taste of high life. (Daily Telegraph, 8 August 1984)
The scheme will operate for about 18 months while all the workers whose efforts actually produce the cars will be able to cruise about the countryside for an hour in a £56,000 ice-green Silver Spirit. The chief executive of Rolls Royce, Richard Perry, observed that: "People have worked here for forty years and have said afterwards that this had been their first chance to sit in one of the cars".

Capitalism commits a continuing con-trick on the working class every moment that it is allowed to carry on. It is only fallacy and prejudice that obstruct the path to a classless society.

False Images
From the time when we are first shown an atlas or a globe we are given a false image of the world. The map is divided into over 150 separate countries and we are indoctrinated with the idea that is is only right and proper to develop an allegiance to "our" country. We are taught that we should use possessive vocabulary in relation to the country although we own nothing of it. We are taught to have respect and admiration for a sterile, stately-home culture of which we have no part and most importantly we are taught to accept the possibility that one day we might be called on to fight and kill strangers (who will have been similarly misled) in furthering the cause of our bosses if economic rivalry is extended from the conference table to the battlefield.

There is one working class comprised of men and women all over the globe who share an economic condition: we own nothing except our mental and physical energies and we need to try to sell these on a weekly or monthly basis, to a boss, in order to make a living. We may have different languages and different cultures but what we have in common is much greater and more significant than how we differ. A print worker in England will share more experiences and problems with a French print worker than he will with an English Press tycoon. There are other illusions flowing from an image of the world as lots of independent nations. The world now has a highly integrated industry. The labour which goes into producing most articles is divided among many men and women performing specialised jobs. This fact, taken with the restriction of certain products to particular global regions and climates, means that the energies which go to produce a particular item can come from all over the world.

Take the example of a typewriter and consider what was needed to make it: the different types of metal, the plastic, the rubber and the technology of its design. Each of these could trace its origins to a different place and then the same analysis could be applied to the ships and aeroplanes which were used to transport the various materials and components around the world. Because of the way commerce and world trade operate, countries with apparently opposed political ideologies in fact are engaged in trade. American farm owners sell wheat to the Russian ruling class; the Russian ruling class colludes with its counterpart in South Africa to fix the price of diamonds on the world market and the Russian Empire even helps to arm American missiles by playing a part in manufacturing plutonium which is later used for American warheads. Western governments. including Britain, have been shipping uranium to Russia for enrichment (of the government as well as the uranium) knowing it was for nuclear warheads.

The Left Wing of Capitalism
"Yes. I agree that a classless society is a good idea but the reason I support the Labour Party is that while we have got capitalism things are marginally better if there is a Labour government.”

Socialists firmly reject this sort of argument. The profit system is a way of running society which is against the interests of the working class, the majority of people. It works on the basis of producing wealth only if there is the prospect of selling it for a profit on the market, not simply because there is a need for it. So if you have a need which you cannot afford to have satisfied then your need will continue. In this system there is a constant antagonism of interest between master and servant, or to use the more decorous expression for the same relationship, between employer and employee. The bosses strive to get as much as possible from the workers while paying them as little as they can get away with whereas the workers seek to reduce the extent to which they are exploited.

The Labour Party has never sought to do anything but run capitalism and consequently when it has formed the government (as has happened seven times) it has found itself doing all the anti-working-class things which it vehemently opposes when they are carried out by Conservative governments. Apart from supporting wars, introducing the atomic bomb in Britain and establishing the Special Patrol Group (SPG), the Labour Party does not enjoy a proud record on the industrial front. Labour supporters who are rightly sickened by the sort of problems being faced by the miners and the dockers would do well to look at their party’s record on these issues. The National Coal Board has plans to shut unprofitable or “uneconomic” pits for the same reasons that pits were shut before 1945 by private capitalist owners and for the same reasons that 48 Welsh pits were closed and 50,000 miners made redundant under the Labour government between 1964 and 1970.

Then consider the struggle of the dockers. The last time troops were used to break a dockers' strike anil unload ships was under a labour government during a spate of dock strikes in 1949-50. In May 1949, after an outbreak of unofficial strikes in support of Canadian dockers, the Labour government invoked Defence Regulation 1304 and used troops to unload fruit and refrigerated food at Avonmouth. The use of troops caused the strikes to spread. By July 8 10,000 men were on strike and the government announced that unless wage-slavery was resumed a state of emergency would be declared. The Labour government invited the King to sign such a declaration three days later.

Despite this, the number of men on strike rose to 15,000. Prime Minister Attlee became angry. Who did these workers think they were, telling the bosses they were not satisfied! Attlee proclaimed that he was prepared to send 35,000 troops into the docks and the strike collapsed within two weeks. Troops were used again by the Labour government in April 1950 when another strike was thwarted in the Port of London. Troops have been used by governments since then during strikes, for instance in the emergency services, but never for wholesale strike breaking. During the firemen's strike 1977-78 the Labour government again sent in the troops with the Green Goddess fire engines to undermine the industrial action of members of the working class struggling to stop their standard of poverty becoming even worse. The economic hardships of this society have not been personally engineered by Margaret Thatcher and cannot be talked away by Neil Kinnock. These problems are an intrinsic part of a class-divided society.

Inhuman priorities
As this social system grinds on the contradiction between a society potentially geared to abundant production and a society poised on self-destruction becomes more stark. We could produce so much. We could meet all the needs of the population of the world. But we continue in artificial scarcity and to add further horror to the nightmare we continue to amass the means of destruction.

According to Oxfam. (Guardian, 5 August 1981) over 30,000,000 people die of hunger every year, more than half of them children under five. Every year 780.000.000 people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. At the current rate these figures will have doubled by the end of this decade. In the last hour about 1,700 children have died unnecessarily, victims of malnutrition, disease and war. Figures are often formulated to express the grotesque priorities of the profit system by contrasting the expenditures on the industry of health and the industry of death: the Defence Research and Development programme of £1.8 billion is 16 times greater than that given to the Medical Research Council; one Army General is paid more than five State Enrolled Nurses; the upkeep of one nuclear submarine is greater than the annual cost of local authority libraries and UNICEF working in 112 countries has a total income of under £200 million which is the equivalent of what the world spends on military ventures every four hours.

These facts exemplify the priorities of capitalism. What should be done about this? Socialists do not advocate that more money be spent on welfare as a solution to the problem. Capitalism, based on producing for profit not need, creates these tragic disasters as a matter of course. Trying to solve them with charity or adjustments in spending cannot work, despite all the energy and drive which has been contributed by the people who work for the various voluntary and charity organisations. The way to solve these problems is to establish a society which will work on the principle of “from each according to ability to each according to need", a society in which our productive forces will be used directly to satisfy our needs.
Gary Jay

BA strike at Warton (1984)

From the October 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

For three weeks during the height of summer the local communities where the employees of the Warton Division of British Aerospace live were buzzing with talk of “the strike". This is the time of year when most of the local carnivals are held, when brass bands, rosebud competitions, Morris dancing and a host of other pleasant things are supposed to put all thoughts of discord and strife into the background. This strike, however, was not the miners' strike, which is still with us, but involved so-called white-collar staff, members of AUEW-TASS. Compared to the prolonged miners' dispute the local Warton affair inevitably looks small beer. It only just managed to reach the national press, its start and finish being briefly reported in a few inside page sentences. The idea of white collar workers with degrees and smooth, uncalloused hands withdrawing their labour was almost unthinkable a generation ago. Times have indeed changed. Earlier this year a similar strike at Westlands, the helicopter firm based at Yeovil, lasted four weeks. The GCHQ situation at least shows how civil service employees have become unionised. The writer can even recall a long dispute involving the drawing office at Handley Page in the late 1950s, but that was really exceptional for those times.

Since 1970 when certain departments at Warton organised under the TASS banner there have been a series of actions such as go-slows and one-day stoppages, so that the final resort to a strike should have surprised no one. The situation which escalated quickly into a major confrontation started with a course of computer software training. Many who were put on this course came from the production side (the factory floor), reflecting the increasing importance of newer branches of technology in comparison with traditional industrial skills. As a result of the long period during which the shop floor unions have exhibited greater militancy, newly trained operators transferred from production were found in many cases to be on higher rates of pay than workers with some years experience of computer software operation. This led the union ( TASS) to demand a pay adjustment and the employers in turn to stall, saying that this could not be considered until the next round of pay negotiations at the end of the year. TASS then applied a policy of refusing to operate what was termed "new technology”. The company- responded by suspending those who refused to perform tasks within their job descriptions. The next TASS move was rather more controversial; suspended members were temporarily appointed as union officials and thus remained on site although not working, contrary to company rules on suspensions. A strike became inevitable when this breach of rules was used as an excuse to sack workers, but a stoppage would obviously have occurred anyway had the suspension policy been carried to its logical conclusion. The point here is that the company was in fact disciplining individuals for taking part in a collective industrial action.

The strike ended after a package had been agreed including unconditional reinstatement of all sacked and suspended employees but on the question of pay only offering to accelerate talks on a new structure. It still remains to be seen whether anything will be gained in the end. At the time rumours were rife that the employers planned to reduce the workforce and had engineered the strike situation to help towards this end. The projected merger with GEC was mentioned as a possible reason for a policy of contraction. However the current situation was that short term commitments had led to contract labour being employed in certain areas. Unless it was proposed to back out of these contracts the firm could scarcely consider losing the suspended workers permanently, contract labour being considerably more expensive. There is also the brain drain of young able workers to more lucrative contract work overseas. Israel. West Germany and the United States are the most popular places at present. Here the firm is probably unable and certainly unwilling to compete. Therefore it was always likely that reinstatement would be the outcome. Where however TASS do appear to have been successful is in disproving the persistent idea, widely held outside the actual membership, that despite all the evidence accumulated over the previous 14 years, the union need not be taken seriously. One head of department put it like this: "When their wives hear that there will be no pay packet next week, they will clonk them one and that will sort it all out”.

By comparison with the miners' strike certain similarities and also certain differences can be noted. The former are the more fundamental but there is value in discussing points from both categories. There have been some strikes which arose purely from sectional rivalry and which were not in the interests of the working class. The great majority, however, are directly attributable to the subject status of the workers under capitalism. There is no other means open to the workers to gain access to the means of living than to sell their labour power to the capitalists in return for a wage or salary. There is an inevitable struggle to increase the price of this labour power (and reduce the capitalist's profit margin resulting from the difference between wages and the value of the work actually performed) sometimes by striking or otherwise producing more slowly than the employers wish. Viewed like this there is no basic difference between the Warton strike and any others.

Indeed it can be argued that in one respect Warton actually puts one over the current miners’ dispute. The NUM protest centres on pit closures and impinges on reformist politics by implicitly arguing for a different energy policy (a greater use of coals from seams harder and therefore more expensive to mine) from that favoured by the government. On the other hand TASS has compromised itself in the recent past by joining hands with the employers in begging for government funding for new aircraft projects. As the Lytham St Annes Express put it (19 July 1984):
It is perhaps ironic that many of the men and women who went on strike in Warton's "Black June" were among those who fought most fiercely to aid the “Save British Aerospace" campaign launched last year.
And while no violence occurred. Warton saw both picketing and a police presence which the strikers rightly regarded as provocative. Generally speaking lorry drivers turned back of their own accord when they saw the official picket line. The refusal of drivers to deliver aircraft fuel led to a request from the firm that different drivers be sent next time! In the main the only awkward ones (who insisted on going in) were from small local firms staffed by non-union labour.

The differences arose largely from the inexperience of the strikers. Whereas miners from bitter experience have come to expect fairly frequent strikes and make communal provisions to ease the inevitable hardship, the Warton technicians had never really faced up to the possibility and had mostly made commitments to house purchase and so on which assumed continuation of current levels of finance well into the future. At Warton lack of solidarity was also apparent although in a somewhat different form to the NUM. The problem for TASS has been its inability to recruit members evenly throughout the technical area. In areas where membership was weak, those who were in the union tended to drift back after a few days and hand in their union cards. This sort of situation has obvious dangers as it opens the way for the employers to maintain a tolerable level of work overall by transferring labour from non-union departments. Contingency plans to do this were allegedly in preparation, but the virtually complete solidarity of the strike within the drawing office and among all but the newest recruits in the stress office meant a virtual halt to design work. But greater solidarity will obviously be necessary before a longer stoppage could be contemplated.

So-called junior management were put into an unusual position by the strike. These are group leaders whose job it is to decide on the share of work within their area of responsibility. Consequently their decisions could directly lead to suspensions. Yet whatever title they are given they are clearly members of the working class in no fundamentally different position to those whose efforts they supervise. Indeed many have recognised this to the extent of trying to organise themselves within TASS in what are termed Senior Staff Branches. During the Warton strike the local senior staff branch found itself unable to join and limited itself to advising members not to undertake work normally done by those on strike. This naturally caused some resentment among the strikers who expected fuller support from fellow union members, but the membership of what is known locally as Supertass is not yet widespread enough to adequately protect individuals who may have been disciplined by the employers. The main point here is that there is a growing recognition by sections of the working class who have previously adopted superior "middle class" attitudes, that they are in fact in basically the same position in society as the rest of their class. Maybe organising within different branches (effectively not greatly different from being in different unions) is not a good idea, but a further development of this encouraging trend will reduce the friction which has developed. A revealing incident occurred when the chief stressman criticised group leaders because fewer TASS members had been suspended in his department than elsewhere. "I get the feeling that you aren't going to do this, but it’s your job to do it" he said.

One of the things highlighted by the dispute was the persistence of the idea that a solution could be found that would not only end the immediate conflict but prevent any confrontations in the future. Those who talked like this, as though the strike had arisen only because of stupidity on both sides, were ignoring the class structure of capitalism where capital and labour clash as buyers and sellers of labour power and capital lives on the difference between what labour produces and receives. An illustration of this ignorance was the objections raised to making an interim payment to bring the more disadvantaged workers up to the level of those transferred from the shop floor. This, it was argued, would merely lead to other groups claiming they were hard done by, taking action themselves and the process would never stop. Internecine struggles often take place as one section of workers seek to keep another in their place. At Warton some strikers tended to sec the issue in these narrow terms rather than as part of a larger inevitable conflict. Expanding class-consciousness. backed up with the intensive efforts on the political field by the Socialist Party, will ensure that the bitterness between various sections of the working class gives way to an unshakeable realisation of the essentially common interests of all workers everywhere.
E C Edge