Wednesday, November 8, 2023

In the midst of plenty (1964)

From the November 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the People recently there appeared an article written by Michael Gabbert under the heading “30,000,000 Americans Go Hungry.” In heavy type were references to “Children often are sent out to work on the land";  “In poverty-ridden tenements life is one long struggle against rats"; “ And eight out of ten of the hungry ones are white.”

We are told that one-sixth of America’s population live below the minimum acceptable standards of health, housing, food and education. According to official figures thirty million men, women and children are living in poverty and squalor in America’s slums, migratory labour camps, depressed areas or Indian “reservations.”

In his new study, researcher Ben H. Bagdikian examines poverty at the level on which the poor see it themselves. He uses individual cases—individual cries for help—to illustrate the great American paradox of poverty amidst plenty: a paradox in which the poor, though without electricity, scrabble for junk-heap refrigerators so that they may use them to keep food safe from marauding rats . . . in which every major city from the East coast to the West coast has its own “Skid-row” of human derelicts . . . in which automation has brought untold misery to once proud workers.

Thus Bagdikjan destroys a couple of beliefs comfortably held by the well-off.

It has been assumed by many that the poor are mainly negroes and half-castes; in fact, 78 out of every 100 are whites. It has also been assumed that most of the American poor are in the agricultural South, when, in fact, 57 out of every 100 live in the more industrialised North. The writer continues by saying: “The answer to poverty is jobs, and in America six men out of every 100 are jobless.” Even that is not a true picture, men in work live in poverty.

The effect of poverty is seen in the schools. At one Chicago elementary school 1,000 students enrol every autumn and most of them leave before the following June because their parents have been evicted, have left the district to seek work elsewhere, or have given up and returned in desperation to the land.

So illiteracy goes on. The parents prefer—or are forced—to put their children to labour on the land in order to eke out a miserable existence. One recent survey showed that nearly half a million children between the ages of ten and fifteen worked on the land. It also showed that in 20 out of every 100 accidents on the farm it was children who suffered injuries. The desperate march away from the land is reproduced in most of the major cities—New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland' and Washington. In the last decade a vast migration of 27 million men, women and children have left the land; many of them to find equal poverty in the towns.
J. E. Roe

The Passing Show: Day to Day Struggle—Matches Front. (1964)

The Passing Show Column from the November 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Day to Day Struggle—Matches Front.

Under this heading we featured a news snippet in the August, 1949 Standard. Willie Gallacher, then Communist M.P. for East Fife, was asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to allow a halfpenny increase in the cost of a box of matches. He suggested “some other way of assisting the manufacturers to meet the cost of production ” (a subsidy perhaps?).

That was not very long after the end of the war and we wonder what he would be saying about that today, because the Russian and other Eastern bloc countries are now exporting matches to this country in quite huge quantities. According to The Guardian of September 14, a large proportion of the extra 28,800,000 boxes arriving from abroad last year came from Russia, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. And that's not all, for these matches are being sold to the trade at prices lower than the cost price of their British counterparts.

Would Mr. Gallacher be so concerned about the British Match industry now that the Soviet countries are beginning to compete so effectively? If British match Corporation Chairman, Lord Portal, were to announce a price increase now, our “ Communist ” friends would probably oppose it and demand bigger imports of the Eastern European brands to keep prices down. They are not, you see, opposed to trade competition as such, but only when it jeopardises Russian capitalist interests.

In 1964 Russian goods are being pushed onto the world’s markets and while the quantities are still comparatively small in some cases, it is a sign of the times. The Soviets are trying to find outlets for timber and oil. A few years ago, Russian watches were barely known in England whereas today they compete with British and Swiss watches and can be seen in practically any jeweller’s shop window.

Just how successful the Russians will be in the future is anybody’s guess, but we may be sure that they will keep on trying wherever they see the chance. We have always maintained that Soviet Russia is a capitalist power and it is news like this that adds just a little extra tit-bit to the impressive weight of evidence supporting our view. Like any capitalist country, she must sooner or later start looking to outside markets and do battle with the other giants. This will doubtless be welcomed by the slavish C.P. membership, but we can see it only as an addition to the sum total of already fierce competition and the conflicts which are the breeding ground of war.


New Robbers for Old.

Since the end of the last war, many of the old colonies have won independence, and amidst the cheers and celebrations, we have been the only ones to point out that one set of masters has merely been replaced by another, and that for workers it was certainly not a time for cheering. Time is once again proving the soundness of our claim. India, Ghana, and Indonesia, to name only three, have their ruling class well in the saddle, and striking workers are discovering that a crack on the head from a native policeman’s truncheon is just as unpleasant as one from his white predecessor.

And when the new capitalists take over, they follow the usual course of building up their industries, attracting the necessary capital and getting their workers trained to produce the all-important surplus value. In some cases, they cast greedy eyes in the direction of assets owned by foreign capitalists, particularly where a well developed industry is involved; then they move in and take over "in the name of the people.” This has happened, for instance, in Indonesia, and much of the squabbling in the Congo has centred round the mineral exploitation rights held formerly by Belgian capitalists.

The latest example to make news has been Zambia—or Northern Rhodesia as it was known until October 24th. There has been an almighty row over the mineral rights of the British South Africa Company (BSA). Apparently these are worth about £7 millions a year at present and with the approach of independence, the N. Rhodesian Government lost no time in challenging the treaties under which the rights are guaranteed. They have got together an impressive band of lawyers and economists to prove that many of the sixty years old concessions by the tribal chiefs to Cecil Rhodes’ company are “illegal.” In the words of the N. Rhodesian Government’s white paper of September 21st:—
There are certainly areas of Northern Rhodesia . . . where the authority of the Paramount Chief of Barotseland, on which the mineral rights in the western part of the territory are based, never ran. . . . They include the Nkana and Nchanga mines, representing not far short of half the copper production of the territory.
The British Government has tried to safeguard the interests of this company, among others, by putting a protective clause into the independence agreement, but at the time of writing it looks as if this is something that Kaunda’s boys will not wear. If they do not get agreement in London they promise to take the necessary political measures at home after the new state has been established.

Now it is undeniable that the British South Africa Company have made huge profits out of this area, from which is produced about fourteen per cent. of the world’s annual copper output. Since 1889 they have received £135 millions, and stand to get another £154 millions before the royalty agreement expires in 1986. Compare this with the £10 per year “enjoyed” by most African families in the rural areas. No wonder BSA are so anxious to hold on to what they have. No wonder, too, that other British mining and commercial interests are worried.. They fear antagonism and perhaps expropriation if the matter is not settled quickly.

But having said all this, we are back once again to our opening remarks. Whoever wins this battle, it will make precious little difference to those £10 a year families, or to any other Zambian worker. For them, it will still mean exploitation as usual. For their masters, business as usual—perhaps the profits will go into new pockets, that’s all.


New Club Member.

China is about to join the nuclear club. By the time you read this, she may well have exploded her first atom bomb. To the man in the street this does not make very happy reading, for no one in his right mind can view other than with horror the fact that yet another threat to his life is looming on the horizon. The press and politicians have not unexpectedly tried to play down the whole business. “Western experts believe the bomb will be a primitive affair,” says Peter Fairley in the Evening Standard of September 30. “Nobody expects the Chinese A-device to be a viable military threat for at least four years.”

Well perhaps you can get a crumb of comfort from the thought that you will have at least four years before you are atomised by a Chinese bomb—that’s if somebody else doesn’t start something beforehand. And, of course, it takes no account of the dangers of fall-out from the Chinese tests occurring in the meantime. It is interesting to note, incidentally, one of the ways in which the Chinese preparations were discovered—American Camera carrying Samos satellites were orbited over China, so those of you who thought that satellites were a “peaceful" project will have to think again.

When the test ban treaty was signed, we were not very popular for saying then that it would make no essential difference and that the threat of war was in no way lessened. While Pat Arrowsmith and other misguided CND’ers were welcoming it with sighs of relief, China was quietly developing her own bomb. Fast on the heels of France, she is the fifth capitalist power to do so. Who will be next? Perhaps Western Germany will have a go. Some of her politicians have been in favour of it for some time.

Just like the other nuclear powers, China will lose no time in wielding her bomb as a diplomatic weapon. Maybe we shall hear renewed demands from Peking for her government’s recognition and a seat at the United Nations. And this time the UJS. will have to think twice before refusing. Almost certainly the parleys of the future will include Mao's men and the conference tables will be that much bigger. So will the squabbles.

Some of the facts are now known about the exploding of the first U.S.A. Bomb at Hiroshima, of the cold-blooded calculations which went into its production, of the chicanery and double dealing between the so-called allies, and of the alleged deliberate prolongation of .the war to enable it to be used against the Japanese. Perhaps some day we will learn something also of the intrigues which have undoubtedly taken place since then, as one power after another has got its own bomb and intensified the frightful prospect of obliteration.

The futility and tragic waste of it all are glaringly obvious despite the hollow hypocrisy of capitalist statesmen. This is all that capitalism can offer us in the world where the potential for human welfare is immense.
Eddie Critchfield

Voice From The Back: Kids are dying (2004)

The Voice From The Back Column from the November 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Kids are dying

Defenders of capitalism are fond of depicting it as a system that gradually improves the lot of the world’s population, but how do they defend the following? “The number of malnourished people worldwide has grown to 840 million – including 300 million children – even though there are ample supplies to feed them. James Morris, World Food Programme director, said the number of malnourished was growing by about five million a year. ‘There is enough money, enough food and enough goodwill in the world. Everybody simply needs to do a little more,’ he said” Herald (14 September). We intend to do all we can by propagating socialism – the only answer to this problem.


No mean city?

The City Fathers are fond of dreaming up fancy slogans about it – City of Culture, City of Architecture and so on, but there is another side to Glasgow far removed from Art Galleries and Opera Houses. ”A generation of ten to twelve year old Glasgow children will be lost to drugs because their parents do not care enough. According to a study, the city has at least 60 pre-teen heroin addicts, and there could be many more . . . Jim Doherty, of Gallowgate drug prevention and family support group, warned: ‘Tragically, we may have to concentrate on saving the next generation.’ And Professor Neil McKeganey, who led the research, added: ‘If we fail to meet the needs of vulnerable children, we face the prospect of increasing numbers addicted before their voices are broken.’  . . . But it may be too late for some, Mr Doherty added: ‘I have addicted sons. Sometimes I feel the only help I can give them is to ensure they get a decent burial’” Scotsman (24 September). This story could be repeated in many other cities in Britain. Surely you can see that there is something dreadfully wrong with a society that has 12 year old drug addicts.


The uncaring society

Capitalism is a society based on commodity production with the only driving force being the need to create more and more wealth for the tiny handful of privileged parasites who own all the means of production. If you are poor in this society – tough! If you are poor and disabled in this society – tougher still! Here is an example of how the owning class treat the disabled. “Nearly half of families with disabled children receive no support from the NHS or social services, according to research published today. Centre-right think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) found that 48 percent of families with disabled children received no help from outside the family and a further 30 percent received less than two hours support a week” Guardian (1 October). Think about the new socialist society wherein we all look after each other whether we can speak well, read well, see well or hear well. This is why we are socialists.


Poverty in the UK

The thinktank Catalyst in their recently published paper “Why Inequality Matters” has come up with some child poverty figures that illustrate the uselessness of Labour’s tinkering with the system. “The international comparisons are as embarrassing as ever: in purchasing power, the poverty of the poor British child is 11 percent worse than that of their American counterpart and nearly 30 percent worse than in France. It’s a shocking thing to say, but if you are going to be poor you’d be better off in America” Guardian (11 October).


Poverty in the USA

“One in every five US jobs pays less than a poverty-level wage for a family of four, according to a study by the nonpartisan Working Poor Families Project. The result of so many low-paying jobs is that nearly 39 million Americans, including 20 million children are members of ‘low-income working families’ – with barely enough money to cover basic needs like housing, groceries and child care, the study found” Yahoo News (12 October). Socialists don’t go in for comparing different levels of poverty in capitalism. As far as we are concerned capitalism causes poverty amidst plenty throughout the world and should be abolished.



Editorial: An Honest Election Broadcast (2004)

Editorial from the November 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

If his speech to the Tory Conference last month is anything to go by, Michael Howard has realised that politicians generally are perceived as people who make promises they can’t deliver on just to get elected.

This is indeed the prevalent perception but it needs to be pointed out that, even if every politician were honest and genuinely interested in improving the lives of ordinary people rather than in furthering their careers, this would not make any difference. The problems we face don’t arise from governments being composed of dishonest or self-serving politicians. What a government can do depends, not on the honesty or determination or competence of its members, but on the way the capitalist system works and on what, as a profit-making system, it requires any government – even one composed of selfless saints – to do. Capitalism just cannot be made to work in our interest.

Howard has evidently been advised by his spin-doctors that, by tapping into this perception of politicians as lying self-seekers and presenting his party’s candidates as honest and trust-worthy, he could be on to a vote-winner. We doubt if this ploy will work but we offer below an election address that can be used, without our permission or need to acknowledge its source, by any aspiring politician, of whatever party, who really wants to be honest.
“Dear Electors,

I come before you as a candidate of a party which stands for keeping the present basis of society as the ownership of productive resources by a tiny minority of the population and where goods and services are produced, not to directly satisfy people’s needs, but for sale with a view to profit.

If my party wins a majority of seats we will form a government that will manage the political side of this capitalist system, hopefully more efficiently than one formed by the other parties. Honesty compels me, however, to point out that, despite what my party has claimed in all previous elections, what governments can do within the framework of capitalism is severely limited.

No government, not even one formed by my party, can control the way the profit-driven capitalist economy works. Experience of governments formed by my party and by other parties has demonstrated that capitalism is governed by the economic law of “no profit, no production” and is periodically subject to ups and downs of economic activity which no government can prevent and which all governments have to ride out at best they can.

As capitalism can operate only as a profit-making system in the interests of the tiny profit-taking minority who own and control the means of production, any government formed by my party will be obliged to give priority to the interests of this minority. I am therefore not in a position to make any promises to improve conditions in any field for ordinary men and women like yourselves. I can promise, on the other hand that, whenever making profits comes into conflict with meeting your needs, priority will be given to profit-making. I pledge myself, if elected, to support any such austerity measures in the full knowledge of the misery and distress this will bring to many of you and without trying to pass them off as essential if you are to have jam tomorrow.

My opponents in this election also support the present capitalist system and if their party formed the government it would act in the same way. So, if you want to keep the capitalist system and are prepared to put up with its consequences, it does not matter which one of us you vote for or, for that matter, whether you vote at all.

I would however request that you do vote for me since, unless I am elected an MP, I won’t be able to pursue my chosen career of professional politician.”

Regional Assembly – careerist scam (2004)

From the November 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

As leaflets promoting the benefits of an Elected Regional Assembly drop through our letter boxes it is time for workers to ponder just what is on offer.
    
Firstly, this constitutional reform is of no real benefit or relevance to us. It leaves our lives and the problems the profit system causes completely unchanged. Exploitation via the wages system continues. Unemployment continues as does every ill that plagues society. As far as solving real problems is concerned constitutional reform is just a useless irrelevancy. Labour only wants to bring in such reforms to maintain their reforming image. They wish to give an illusion of change – and such change they know will not coming into conflict with profits.
    
You may ask, if elected assemblies bring power nearer to the people, how can socialists be against this? Socialists are indeed in favour of democracy and socialism will be a fully democratic society, but full democracy is not possible under capitalism. Supporters of capitalism – Labour, Tories and Liberals included – always mean only political democracy, since economic democracy, where people would democratically run the places in which they work, is out of the question under capitalism, based as it is on the workplace being owned and controlled by and for the benefit of a privileged minority.
    
You can have the most democratic constitution imaginable but this will not make any difference to the fact that profits have to come before meeting needs under capitalism.
    
Secondly, a regional assembly will get almost all of its money from central government and the only “power” it will have will be to rearrange slightly how the limited amount of funds it will be given is to be spent. In other words, it will have no more real power than existing borough or city councils.
    
A local regional assembly will thus be part of the administrative arm of central government and its members no more than elected civil servants spending central government money. All we are being offered is another layer of elected bureaucrats – another trough for the professional politicians to get their snouts into, but of no significance to ordinary people.
    
If our rulers want to reform the machinery of capitalist government, that’s up to them. But spare us the pretence that it is some great extension of democracy.
    
As far as socialists are concerned, we are always grateful for any opportunity to contest control of the apparatus of government, even if that opportunity is handed out by the government as a careerist scam intended for its supporters. We have no preferences over the electoral systems, though we would use whatever access they gave us to these assemblies to provide a platform to shout about the interests of the working class.
    
The clearest message, though, from the government’s plans, is that power remains firmly at the centre, and that the elected bodies are only there to provide information flow in order to allocate resources effectively. The golden rule applies in politics – them as have the gold rule. So long as the purse strings are retained centrally, there is no possibility of the policies of these assemblies being anything other than the pale shadows of central government’s. Socialists look forward, instead, to having, within a socialist society, genuine, democratic freedom of association, where communities govern themselves through their own efforts; forming groupings where they need, rather than being stifled by sham-bureaucratic democracy engineered from above.

– statement put out by North-East branch of the Socialist Party for the 4 November referendum.

Terror: the students ape their masters (2004)

From the November 2004 issue of the Socialist 
Standard
In a University Challenge for thugs, students confront their teachers, from the world’s top school for terrorism, run by the CIA – the masters of their craft.
American capitalists and their puppet regime in the White House, world satellite states, proxies and missionaries, toadies in the media – all those who go to fill up the ranks of the ‘coalition of the willing’ – conduct a war in Iraq to liberate the country for free expression and sound political activity, for the continuous spreading of the ‘American dream’ with lashings of apple-pie. 
    
Well, that is what they’ve been telling us ever since the first tall story for the war, to clear out Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, blew up in their face. Now other lies are meeting the same fate, with the recent publishing of evidence of systematic programmes of torture meted out by the military and secret agents of the ‘liberating forces’ against their former detractors in Iraq. Not to mention the continuous bombing and murder of innocent Iraqis on a daily basis which could run as high to 35,000 deaths to date, and the kidnapping of thousands of foreign nationals (Arab,  Asian and North African) to be held at Guantanamo Bay and numerous jails throughout the world. This exposes the sham claims that this war is to liberate the country for free political activity.
    
Socialists were never in any doubt that this war more than just being ‘in’ Iraq was ‘over’ Iraq. The business of the war is neither ethical, nor cultural, but based on commerce and the advancement of the American economy in its quest for worldwide dominion, as the conqueror takes the spoils. It is not just the oil that is at stake here. That is a major prize, but also there are the extremely lucrative contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq itself, both civilian ($100 billion says the Economist) and military, Iraqi and regional trade, cultural and social influences across the region, property and cheap labour for American corporations, as well as the theatre testing of weapons of small, medium and mass destruction. We are just as sure of this fact as we are of another: that the  tune to which Bush and Blair and world leaders dance is nothing other than that of capital.
    
The bourgeois media, as they monitor the progress of the war, marked the first day of August with the milestone of one thousand US soldiers being killed since the invasion of Iraq eighteen months or so ago and the news that the situation there has deteriorated sharply in recent months. We are all familiar with the daily news headlines depicting another US campaign in trouble. We hear that there is an average of 87 attacks on coalition forces per day, up from 40 in August; there are 25 car bombs a month on average; we have seen 120 kidnappings of civilian workers; the rate of US personnel now being injured stands at 1000 per month and unofficially at 20,000 in all. Both Bush and Colin Powell now admit that they misjudged the post-war state of Iraq. Powell also admits there are no-go-areas in Iraq for coalition forces (termed: “areas we avoid”).
    
The situation developing in Iraq is similar to that in Afghanistan, where the US now controls less of the country than did the Soviet regime under its client Najibullah. The CIA reports that in Iraq the insurgency forces, which have come from all over the Muslim world could number as much as 50,000 at one time, and total of possible recruits could be unlimited. It is becoming clear that planned elections due for Iraq in January 2005 are being called into question. The funds for the reconstruction of Iraq presently standing at $18 billion dollars have hardly been spent. Indeed, a substantial amount of this money ($4 billion) has been diverted to security budgets as the situation deteriorates. Over in Afghanistan, Taliban forces are now regrouping and gaining in strength. Back in Iraq the US, which shunned the United Nations in its invasion is now, in an attempt to maximize the rewards for American big business, desperate to extricate itself from the worsening conditions there. Body bags of homecoming dead are kept off camera, and official injured lists for soldiers in both Afghanistan and Iraq have still not been published.
    
Now, all this talk of failure, particularly in Iraq, has led to the linking of this looming disaster to that dreaded word, that highly sensitive word, that word that hurts so bad in the US as it portrays one of the biggest foreign policy failures in US history to date – ‘Vietnam’. The word which sounded like a whisper before, is gradually becoming louder and louder as the winter draws in and Iraq spirals out of control.
    
The Vietcong, who saw off the US in the jungles of Asia, were trained and supplied by a highly respected enemy of the time, the Soviet Union. Now in the desert of Iraq, the US is up against Iraqi Sunnis, Al-Qaeda, and Moqtada al Sadar’s Shi’ite Mahdi Army forces. These disparate groups may appear like the colourful mix of the ragtag and bobtail militias of the region, and not the highly disciplined army of the Vietcong, but they have all been to school and have been taught well by the CIA, the masters of the craft of covert terrorism. The US taught and supplied these forces for foreign policy missions thought too dangerous for US professional forces in the Iran-Iraq war and the Soviets against the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan.
    
As we said after 9/11 in the article ‘Terrorism versus terrorism’ in the October 2001 Socialist Standard:
“The US is now reaping the bitter harvest of its foreign policy which used Islamic fundamentalism as a puppet in its perennial game of globo-political profit-making. For years it courted some of the most dangerous, conservative and fanatical followers of Islam, but the capitalist globalisation process, which the US has pursued obsessively, has served to make political Islam more reactionary in defence of its own culture and strategic interests.”
One is led into the impression that we are spectators in a University Challenge for thugs, where students confront their teachers from the world’s top American school for terrorism, run by the CIA in a bloody trial to the death with thousands on each side being killed. In addition, as is the way with all wars, innocents who have got in the line of fire are indiscriminately killed.

Similar tactics
The American secret services and their students are using similar tactics in these wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Are the insurgent students’ actions just copycats or is it all in the training? The US has kidnapped Arab, Asian and North African nationals and held them at Guantanamo Bay and numerous jails throughout the world, dressed them in orange suits and abused them, shown them on camera and on occasions have killed them – so too have the students. The US has used a policy of indiscriminate bombing to take out their enemies where innocents are killed – so too have the students. The US hand out leaflets, use video and TV and the Internet to persuade their enemies and supporters to change their mind or to surrender – so too have the students. The Taliban have mass leafleted in the coming Afghanistan elections.
    
Most decent humans, socialists and not, will be sickened by all this death and destruction reported daily on our TVs and in our newspapers. However, as socialists have been reporting to you in the Socialist Standard for 100 years, war and terrorism are simply bloody extensions to the everyday activities in capitalist society, whether for outdated concepts of national and cultural determinations of peoples, or the covert civil war in society – the battle for profits among companies, individuals and states. This brings into play labour, technology, cunning and deceit in a “commercial war” with others in the same business both within and beyond national borders, and may lead on to open military conflict using all the resources of a state. Not on every occasion does commercial war lead to military war, only when a vital interest is at stake (such as oil for the USA). Military war may proceed from a “trade war” where government-activated subsidy (to help their own side compete) and tariffs (to encumber their foreign competition) have failed to impress.
    
The eventual winners of this tussle in Iraq will do nothing for the workers there, or anywhere else. No matter the nationality of both the exploiter and the exploited, the result is the same. Iraqi Sunnis, Al-Qaeda, and the Mahdi Army forces, are capitalists in their world outlook and will just as willingly and as easily, as the US, employ violence against their own “cultural peoples” when profits and the very economic system is threatened by workers erroneously using violence. Workers cannot hope to win anything from war, commercial and military, or terrorism, and should organise themselves to disengage from these injurious capitalist activities. We should answer this university challenge for thugs in Afghanistan and Iraq which is played out daily on our TV, with a democratic and universal challenge to the backers of terrorism and their armies with our demands and campaign for the abolition of the wages system!
William Dunn

Greasy Pole: Promises or Threats? (2004)

The Greasy Pole column from the November 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Now that the party conference season is over we can spend the long dark evenings digesting what we learned from all those speeches and votes and, most importantly, all those standing ovations. To begin with we are now aware that all politicians break their promises. We know this because we were told so by Michael Howard, a very important politician who intends to be prime minister after the next election, which can be a promise or a threat and anyway is of absolutely no significance. We have Howard’s word that when he is prime minister all promises will be kept because he will sack any minister who does not keep their word. This is itself a promise which leaves open the question of who will sack Howard if, as was the case with Tory governments in the past, he prefers to cover up for a failing minister instead of getting rid of them.
    
And then there was Tony Blair, telling us why he should not admit to anything over the war in Iraq and promising that he will be prime minister for years and years to come – which was most definitely a threat to all those impatient hopefuls in the lower ranks of the Labour Party. In case anyone has any doubts about Blair’s time scale we learned that he has just paid £3.6 million for a house in London, where he can retire to and write his memoirs which should go a long way to paying for the house. Perhaps this is what he had in mind when he said he wants to stay in power for a third term to “give everyone a chance to make the most of themselves”.

Milburn
As the Labour Party conference opened and before Blair had revealed his intention to stay on and on, there was a lot of speculation that the appointment of Alan Milburn to oversee Labour’s election campaign amounted to nominating him as Blair’s eventual successor. Milburn is one of those tiresome Labour leaders who in a former life as a restless firebrand – others were John Reid, Charles Clarke – encouraged party members to believe that “left wing” policies were the simple and effective way of running capitalism; for some reason this blindingly obvious fact had eluded previous Labour governments. If only there were MPs like Milburn, Reid and Clarke all would be well. There is no need to dwell on how these grisly tricksters have turned out when they had the power to make the kind of changes to society which they once said would be so easy. Before he resigned from the government Milburn’s fire had been effectively doused by the cold waters of his ambition.
    
However the matter of the succession may not be as straightforward as Milburn would like it to be. For one thing, Blair’s announcement will have been like a starting pistol to all those other aspirants on the Labour benches. It is safe to assume that there are only a very, very few of them who do not see themselves as prime minister material and who will, therefore, be already planning their campaign to fill Blair’s shoes. None of them will be pleased to accept Milburn, or anyone else, as the anointed heir to Number Ten. Their reaction will be to do their best, to form any alliance, to pull any trick, to compose the most damaging briefings, to undermine Milburn’s standing.
    
There have been precedents for this. One of the more recent was John Moore. Does anyone now remember him? In fact in the early days of the Thatcher governments he was clearly Thatcher’s favourite to take over from her when she chose to go. Remorselessly he climbed up the ranks until, in mid 1987, he was in charge of the big spending, publicly spotlighted, Department of Health and Social Security, whose spread of authority was as large as the title implied. For Moore all things seemed possible. Then his rivals got to work on him; he lasted about a year in the job, until he got sick under the stress of it all. Humiliatingly, he lost his voice and fainted in the Cabinet. Thatcher treated him with contempt, splitting his ministry in two and giving responsibility for Health to Ken Clarke. Moore now had no future in politics; he left the Commons in 1992, took a life peerage and descended into an appropriate obscurity.

Morrison 
When the Labour Party won the 1945 general election it was presumed that their leader, Clement Attlee, would be the one going to Buckingham Palace to take part in the ritual of the king pretending to ask him to form a government to run British capitalism in the style to which is was accustomed . But snapping at Attlee’s heels was his deputy leader, Herbert Morrison. Attlee came over as a mousy, unassuming man, the sort whose wife would run him around the country in a little Austin Seven car. Morrison was the more dynamic, he made much of his Cockney origins and he “lived politics, ate politics, dreamed politics”. He was responsible for the manifesto on which Labour had won the 1945 election and he was skilled at composing the phrases which were so useful in reconciling the working class to the fact that their lives under a Labour government were as hard as they would have been under the Tories. A certain amount of smart money was on Morrison, who was so sure he should be prime minister that before Attlee had a chance to go to the Palace he told him to wait until the Parliamentary Labour Party had re-elected him (or not, as Morrison hoped) as leader. Attlee ignored this advice, climbed into the Austin Seven and came back as prime minister (the PLP re-elected him on the following day). This was a considerable blow to Morrison, who throughout those governments continued to nurse his ambition. Year after year, through one crisis after another, Attlee frustrated him by simply staying in the job himself. Finally, in December 1955 when Morrison was 67, Attlee resigned in the knowledge that Morrison would not win a leadership election. He was easily beaten by Hugh Gaitskell, which persuaded him to stop living, eating and breathing politics and to retire sulkily to the House of Lords.
    
There was a similar situation in the post-war Tory party, where R.A. Butler nursed his ambition to be prime minister over many years before  reality compelled him to accept that he would never make it. His first chance came in early 1957, when Anthony Eden resigned, sick and worn out by the collapse of his Suez policy. At a Cabinet meeting in January that year Eden was in tears; after all his years in the dirty trade of diplomacy he had problems in facing the fact that British capitalism was no longer a mighty imperial force. The obvious successor – after all he had been Minister of Education, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Leader of the Commons – was Butler. Only one national newspaper had doubts about this. In the event the Tory party – as unwilling as Eden had been to face historical reality – made Butler something of a scapegoat for the debacle of Suez. Harold Macmillan was preferred as a better prospect for digging the party out of the hole it was in; at a meeting of the 1922 Committee he had made all the right noises about Britain still being a world power. It was Ted Heath’s job to convey the news to Butler, who was “dumbfounded”; he could never bring himself to accept being upstaged in that way.

Home
He was no better prepared for his second chance in 1963, when Macmillan retired after a serious operation. This happened during that year’s Tory conference, which took on a particularly frenzied flavour as a result of the leadership contest going on before the members’ unaccustomed eyes. From this great surge of hysteria a dark horse, in the shape of Earl Home, emerged. Home was, wrote Macmillan, “a man who represents the old governing class at its best” – which from someone other than Macmillan might have damaged him. But this was the Tory party and Home slipped into the leadership between the other candidates, finishing Butler off in the process.
    
There is no reason for Blair to be at all complacent over his plan to hang on to power for some years to come. He above all should know that politics is too dirty and ruthless a game for that. In spite of all that has happened during the past two years, which has left his credibility in tatters, he may nurse the idea that he is invulnerable. But that was how Thatcher saw herself, in 1990 when she informed the assembled TV crews in Paris that she would “fight on” – just a few days before she was told, unmistakenly, that she had to go. If this kind of event is a crisis, it is not one for the working class. Our crises are in the fact that whoever takes over a government has no effect on how we get by under capitalism. Thatcher’s demise brought in John Major and then Tony Blair and we are now at a stage when a politician as soiled and as disreputable as Michael Howard can tell us, in a rare acquaintance with a truth, that all of them break their promises. As if we didn’t know.
Ivan

Blogger's Note:
For more on John Moore - and his fall from grace - see Caught In The Act: The Greasy Pole (1989).

Letter: Two minor disagreements (2004)

Letter to the Editors from the November 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Editors,

I recently read the 100th anniversary issue of the Socialist Standard and I wish to congratulate you for maintaining the case for socialism for a century and not falling into the traps which have ensnared so many who claimed to be socialist, such as reformism, industrial unionism, defence of state capitalism and taking sides in wars.
    
I have, however, two minor points of disagreement I wish to address and would like your views.
    
The Socialist Party contends that once having captured political power, a socialist majority is then in control of the armed forces. In fact in, I believe 1955, an article in the Socialist Standard stated: “Should a violent minority attempt to destroy socialism they would have to be forcibly dealt with . . . no violent minority could be allowed to obstruct the will of the majority.”
    
In my view the capitalist class controls the armed forces if they also control parliament then the services can receive their orders from the capitalists’ political errand boys and, in some cases, girls. Spain in 1936 was a clear cut case of parliament not being in control of the army and air force. I consider this is a minor point because if the majority of the working class are socialists then it logically follows that most workers in the armed forces will also be and, as such, will refuse to attack fellow socialists.
    
Another minor point concerns the resolution about political democracy that was debated at the 1990 conference. Though it is understandable that certain improvements within capitalism are desirable, isn’t openly stating the Socialist Party’s support for such, inviting support from non-socialists who also welcome such improvement. Doesn’t such a thing smack of reformism?
Steve Shannon, 
Mississauga, Ontario, 
Canada


Reply:
The capitalist class can indeed be said to “control” parliament, the government and the armed forces but this is not to be taken literally: there is no direct line of command, public or secret, between the Confederation of British Industry and the chiefs of the armed forces or the cabinet or parliament. The CBI in fact has to lobby the government and MPs just like any other pressure group.
    
Capitalist control is much more indirect since it’s a question of the government, parliament and the voters accepting capitalism and of capitalism being able to function only in the interests of the capitalist class, meaning that governments have no choice but to pursue policies, including how the armed forces are used, that are in the interest of the capitalist class. That’s why they end up being mere “errand boys and girls” for the capitalist class, not because they take direct orders from them. Since in fact the capitalist class is not a monolithic bloc but is made up of sections with differing interests over trade, taxation, etc they require a forum in which to debate and settle such differences; that forum is not the annual conference of the CBI but parliament where the section that has the support of a parliamentary majority gets its way.
   
In all developed capitalist countries, such as Britain and Canada, the government does firmly control the armed forces. It is only in economically backward countries (such as Spain in the 1930s and even there a part of the armed forces did obey the government – that’s why there was a civil war) where the armed forces can play an independent political role. As capitalism develops in these countries, together with a stronger and more self-confident capitalist class, the pressure arises to tell the armed forces to stay out of politics and to bring them under parliamentary control.
    
Capitalist control of parliament, the government and the armed forces depends, then, in developed capitalist countries, on the base of the structure – the voters, the overwhelming majority of whom are workers – accepting capitalism. When this base rejects capitalism then the structure that guarantees the capitalist class control of the government and the armed forces is bound to collapse one way or another. Our strategy is that the socialist-minded working class majority should try to bring this about with a minimum of social disruption and violence, by sending a majority of socialist delegates – socialist errand boys and girls – to parliament and take over political control, so depriving the capitalist class of the possibility of using the armed forces to protect themselves.
    
If a minority of recalcitrant pro-capitalists were to seek to resort to violence to defy the politically-expressed will of the majority for socialism, obviously they would have to be dealt with, as we pointed out in 1955. But, frankly, we don’t see that, faced with a socialist majority legitimately in control of political power, even the top brass of the armed forces, let alone the rank and file (who will, as you point out, also be influenced by socialist ideas) would throw in their lot with a doomed hypothetical revolt by a recalcitrant pro-capitalists minority.
    
As to the question of the importance of political democracy to the working class, obviously we socialists in places like Britain and Canada where this exists can’t be indifferent to the struggles of our fellow workers to get it in places where it doesn’t yet exist. This is just an expression of solidarity with our fellow workers in struggle, and not at all a bid to attract the support of non-socialists and so not in the least reformist.
Editors.

50 Years Ago: The London Bus Strike (by a busman) (2004)

The 50 Years Ago column from the November 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

On October 18th, London was in the grip of an ever spreading bus strike. As each issue of daily and evening newspapers reported more and more garages affected and more services withdrawn, so the streets of London became increasingly crowded with motor cars and other vehicles and extra police had to be detailed for traffic control. The strike, which by October 18th embraced 43 out of 84 Central London bus garages was the boiling over of a feeling of resentment that has been simmering amongst busmen for a long time ( . . . )
    
As with every other commodity, the price of labour power fluctuates with variations in supply and demand, but the fluctuations are not automatic. They are brought about by the efforts of employers to obtain cheap labour power when the supply is plentiful and by the struggles of workers to get more when the demand exceeds the supply. London busmen are working on sound lines in using the present high demand for their particular brand of labour power to force up its price ( . . .)
   
It may seem to busmen and all other workers that the position is impossible of improvement. Not so. There may be improvements for some of the workers for a long time and for all the workers for a short time, but the range of improvements is very limited within capitalist society. Not a reduction in the amount of interest paid on investments but the abolition of investment; not struggles for higher wages but the end of the wages system; not joint consultation between employers and employees, but the elimination of employment and unemployment, a world wherein everyone produces to his best ability and has access to the wealth produced, in a word – Socialism. That is the only alternative to an indefinite continuation of the struggle to get enough to live on for those millions who constitute the working class.
    
Busmen have always had one weakness in their struggles – inter-garage rivalries, inter-section suspicions, inter-service jealousies and a lack of close communication to allow of concerted action. The overtime ban did much to overcome those difficulties and give it a common purpose. The strike, as it was not complete, has recreated the difficulties. To achieve Socialism there must be a breaking down of the rivalries and antagonisms between all workers in all industries and a unification, on the political field, on the basis of a clear understanding and awareness of their interests – AS A CLASS.

(From front page article by W. Waters, Socialist Standard, November 1954)

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (2004)

Book Review from the November 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Penguin Books have published in their Modern Classics series a new edition of this working class classic by Robert Tressell. Price £8.99. Well worth reading if you’ve not got a copy already –  despite the odd choice, to write the introduction, of a one-time “ministerial adviser in the Labour government of 1997-2001”, odd because Tressell was a member of the SDF, whose members had some knowledge of Marxian ideas, enough anyway for them to see through Labourism.

Socialist Sonnet No. 121: Remember (2023)

From the Socialism or Your Money Back blog
Remember, remember the eleventh

Of November, when gunfire, shelling

And shot paused for a moment, a telling

Silence. Then gather around the plinth

On which the cenotaph stands, narcotic

Poppies commemorate and mask the blood,

While in their Sunday best the great and good

Make their last post stand before the quick

March past and away from the remaining dead,

Still behind their national flags. No advance,

As around the world echoes of ordnance

Drown out every word of peace ever said.

If, amidst shell-wracked ruins, all hope lies,

Bleeding poppy red, humanity dies.

                              D. A. 

Central America: which way to capitalism? (1985-86)

From the Winter 1985-6 issue of the World Socialist

In the 50s and 60s the US moved to counter what it saw as a trend toward the establishment of left-wing "third-world" governments in its own backyard by installing military or client dictatorships (wherever the Marines could invent a pretext for landing), most notoriously in Guatemala where the Arbenz government, backed by an increasingly active popular movement, threatened to reproduce the Labor and Social Democratic backlash that had occurred in postwar Europe.

This preventive action, however, was not purely negative in scope but corresponded to a program of economic development which, it was claimed, would do for Latin America what the Marshall Plan had done for Europe. Since this involved increased regimentation generally, it was thought that creating or backing client dictatorships where necessary would guarantee a suitable environment for investing capital.

The "Marshall Plan" for Central America and the Caribbean had consisted, in consequence, of a series of timely strategic "surgical strikes", so that the unsuspecting workers (as in Guatemala in 1954 for instance, where they were otherwise too weak and isolated even to sustain their own radical reformism at that date) were bloodied up and hunted down before they knew what had hit them. Ever since then, US action in the area has been aimed at extending and developing its forcibly imposed discipline, invented for the sake of depressing the exchange-value of human life to otherwise un-maintainably low levels.

On the face of it, the local capitalists in certain parts of Latin America have become increasingly dissatisfied with what they have come to regard as the dead-end development policy of the multinationals; their position is, in effect, that the latter have "mismanaged" economic growth in somehow caused it to be mismanaged.

As the multinationals extended their investments, local industry nourished within a limited context of import substitution. This worked will enough as far as it went, but the focus of investment was not production: it was rather international exchange, and — like the old Mercantilist System — it was oriented toward increasing local foreign exchange reserves rather than generating new value.

As the heat from the reformist opposition became here and there became gradually more intense, it became necessary in the late 60s and early 70s for the US to fortify the bulwarks with a new variety of dictatorship whose legitimacy was virtually non-existent. The sunbelt investors from the US wanted to make one last effort to plunder the locals (capitalists with the support of workers in "mass organizations") before the wrath of the latter finally boiled over.

It was in fact the period of overhasty expansion in the 50s and 60s that brought on the faltering of growth in the late 60s and the financial crisis of the later 70s. The international debt crisis thus links up with the popular opposition in Central America, since it revolves precisely around the funding of the capitalization process. “Reformists”, in this context, are held to be those who favor minor or even major alterations in the way in which the multinationals should be allowed to do business, while those who seek to restrict they way in which capital is accumulated enjoy a reputation for being “revolutionaries”.

Guatemala and El Salvador: unstable Coffee Republics
Guatemalan capitalism as it emerged from the Fascist Decade in the 20s made its bed mostly on coffee beans (and somewhat on bananas), as in El Salvador. (The Central American states received the sobriquet of "banana republics" primarily through their association with the United Fruit Company, one of the "modernizers".) The greater social backwardness of Guatemala, however, caused it to miss out on the land-oriented paroxysms which savaged the workers and peasants of El Salvador in the 30s. The Arevalo and Arbenz regimes in Guatemala (1945-54) were on the other hand notable for setting a precedent of constitutional democracy in the region; just at the time when Labor and Social Democrats in Europe were capitalizing on working class weariness with wartime hardships. (The Costa Rican capitalist class struck early and thoroughly in the same period, abolishing the army altogether, earning themselves the nickname of "the Latin Switzerland".) Thus, despite its relatively backward social organization, Guatemala did experience an echo of Labor reformism in the postwar decade.

The coffee oligarchy of Guatemala took this very ill. By 1954 it was ready to kick over the traces and "to liberate the nation". With the Dulles boys in Washington masterminding a combined diplomatic, propaganda and military offensive, the reformers were easily outmaneuvred and overthrown in July of that year.

Subsequently, however, the coffee barons discovered they had called in the United States only to leap, by the end of the 60s, from the political frying pan into the economic fire: the US had lent its support, not to promote their tranquility, but the growth of industrial manufactures (thereby serving its own convenience) — an assist which could only finish by leaving coffee production further and further behind in the preoccupations of the state. To accomplish this, the US government pursued a policy of regional "self-enrichment" and diversification, "integrating" the region's economies (the self-styled "Central American Common Market"), encouraging import substitution and blocking the spontaneous upgrading of labor-power throughout the regional economy. This process the coffee barons at first mistook for an identification with their interests. Once the blood of the working-class and peasant corpses was good and congealed, however, Washington unceremoniously thrust them aside and the rightwing "National Liberation Movement" (MLN) — which had done the dirty work and built up a political machine in the eastern part of the country — found itself, by the early 70s, a humiliated opposition party within its own regime. And now Guatemala's generals have cut themselves into a very large slice of the profit pie indeed, to the intense annoyance of their fellow capitalists.

It is this general situation of pell-mell accumulation, rather than a supposed structural dependence of Guatemalan capital on an imperialist metropolis ruled by finance capitalists, that explains the endemic instability of Guatemala's ruling class.

The same thing could also be said for El Salvador. In the post-war years, a "modernizing" sector of the coffee exporters and other commercial interests pulled off a palace revolution and installed its own regime in place of the blood-soaked Martinez dictatorship. In this we have what there was of El Salvador's "social-democratic" period, which in the developed economies was characterized by a surge of working-class opinion in favor of more or less broad reforms. In this case, the initiative came from the capitalist class but was supported by the working-class organizations (tiny and persecuted as they were). The fact that circulating capital was mostly tied up in agriculture, that only an exiguous portion of it went to wages in industry, and that it was still mostly tied to fixed capital invested in agriculture, is what accounts for the focus of this initiative on the reform-minded section of the capitalist class rather than on a European-style labor movement.

In terms of social organization, El Salvador in fact came closer than Guatemala to being already "modernized", in that its capitalist class had systematically created Central America's most proletarianized economy — even if it was only for the sake of coffee.

But recently, since the 1979 coup, it has dawned on the coffee magnates that Washington did not offer to give them a hand out of altruism in their emaciated war against the specter of "communism". By the March 1982 elections, the struggle had clearly ceased to be a mere question of a coffee aristocracy clinging tenaciously to its privileged position. Washington at length had decided that condoning extreme right positions was now a liability and definitely cut the coffee oligarchy adrift to face the rigors of "modernization".

The coffee planters have thus acquired the stigma of the greater evil, from the vantage point of international capital. Big business in the US has not changed its tune and decided that what El Salvador needs is a good dose of old-fashioned moderation. It has on the contrary merely revised its criterion of what kind of economic development it thinks would deliver its investments the most effectively from the immediate threat of expropriation.

The structural instability of the capitalist class in both Guatemala and El Salvador demonstrates in microcosm a formative or transitional stage of economic development; and the opposition's allegation of corruption and mismanagement on the part of the governing section of the ruling class acts itself as a catalyst in bringing that transition about: nationalism will never be more than the handmaiden of profit.

The present crisis — which, in the tradition of all great social revolutions, has degenerated to the point where rival factions are now scrambling to get control of the government's budget and so gain the controlling share in shaping the state's economic policy — can thus be explained entirely in terms of profit. From a socialist point of view, its outcome cannot be a revolution resulting in the introduction of common ownership of the means of production, however democratic its ideology may be.

Nicaragua and the class of latent capitalists
The main capitalist opposition in Central America to corporate dominance over the local economy comes, not as we might naively expect, from the existing capitalist class — the official bourgeoisie (the one which is presently constituted and which acts out its role on the stage of world history). It comes chiefly from the concealed capitalist class — the one which favors state-managed capital accumulation on the pretext that this will actually benefit the working class and (what little may remain of) the peasantry.

This class of latent capitalists is none other than the self-styled revolutionary left, most prominently the Leninists, but not by any means those of them who have served as such excellent bull's-eyes for the Reagan administration's target practice. (Moscow-oriented "Communist" parties in Central America — since the massacres of the 30s — have shown themselves incapable, on the whole, of forming more than a loyal opposition bound hand and foot to the status quo, a sort of left-wing Christian Democracy.) There is, in any case, a very definite tendency for the left to nationalize the accumulation of capital conceptually, before any actual question of a transfer of power arises.

A revolution supposedly carried out on behalf of a working class which does not form even a substantial minority of the population, as in a substantial part of the "third world" today (though not so much in Central America), cannot possibly be anti-capitalist. If the workers (wage earners plus professionals and any others who work for someone else) do not make up the majority, then neither can industrial capitalism form the basis of the state. Since the first order of business of a revolution in a state which is still pre-capitalist is necessarily the establishment of a capitalist economy it is nothing if not a pro-capitalist revolution: in an historical context of undeveloped capitalist production, such movements appear as anti-liberal revolutions. One of the warts of Leninism is precisely its confusion of the concepts of "liberalism" and "capitalism".

Capitalism, regardless of its degree of development, is any social system in which the bulk of social wealth is produced for exchange on the market at a profit, conducted through the payment of wages. So long as it observes this basic condition, it may assume any form or character whatever. If this implies totally reorganizing the personnel roster of the accumulators, then so be it! If the state must step in and directly manage all phases and facets of the economy, then that's how it must be! Capital does not care what its administrators look like: it seeks only to reproduce itself in ever-growing measure through the well-known mechanisms of accumulation.

Who makes such revolutions but those who intend to accumulate capital themselves? A minority political party heading a minority working class is itself the nucleus of a potential stratum of accumulators. Capital is equally well served by either sort of lackey. The full transfer of state power to such jerry-built ruling classes is indeed rare — or more precisely, it is an extremely complex event which does not take place most of the time. It is an example of the fortunes of an ideology, not of revolutionary socialist class consciousness.

The revolution in Nicaragua is an interesting study in Leninist doubletalk. Comparing Nicaragua with Guatemala and El Salvador, we note its relatively lesser degree of advancement at the time of the Sandinista Revolution in 1979. That is to say, Nicaragua was still more backward than El Salvador, where a civil war is now underway, yet its neo-capitalist revolution has already been successfully begun, while in Guatemala class conflict has yet to break out into open civil war. What explains this disparity?

A major factor in favour of the Sandinistas, certainly, was the very identification of primitive accumulation — vested as it was in the coffee barons — with a concrete clique of individuals (the clan of the Somozas backed by the United States). More decisive, however, was the extreme disgruntlement of the Nicaraguan capitalist class as a whole.

The Sandinistas are attempting to displace the original crew of black sheep with a group that will be more interested in keeping surplus value within Nicaragua. However, "limiting the intervention of the bourgeoisie in the government" — which is their self-attributed objective — is nothing but a collection of buzzwords, since none of them is seriously proposing to limit the role of capital accumulation in formulating government policy. The question revolves entirely around who will accumulate capital, and for what reasons. The Sandinistas thus represent the left wing of the capitalist class, itching to get on with the business of totally converting over to pure state capitalism.

A member of the Sandinistas' National Direction is quoted as saying that, now that they have control of the banks, they have "surrounded the bourgeoisie" (quoted by Roger Burbach in "Nicaragua: El Curso de la revoluciĆ³n". Revista Mensuel/Monthly Review, July 1980). This is a highly ironic remark, in view of the fact that one group of capitalists (the nascent state capitalists) is saying that about the other (the official bourgeoisie). It also illustrates the Leninist belief that the concentration of finance capital is somehow different from the accumulation of capital in general. What is definitely not being encircled, however, is the function of capital accumulating itself. A society of continuing wage-slavery is the fatal economic issue of the Sandinista revolution, given that the institution of production for profit remains sacred.

If wages as the basis of capital accumulation (through the production of surplus value) are not abolished, via the introduction of common ownership of the means of production, it is utterly specious to distinguish '"reformism" and "the revolutionary process". It is all reformism until society no longer depends on the possession of money as a prerequisite for obtaining goods and services.

Throughout all the vicissitudes of the "revolutionary process", none of the "revolutionary" parties — even the most radical — apparently would would dream of abandoning commodity exchange and its inevitable consequence, production for profit. They confine themselves without exception to squabbling over the right to direct this process (as in El Salvador), with one position favoring total state capitalism — eventually and an opposite position favoring a minimal state presence in the economy (or so they say). An "authentically socialist perspective" (a widespread demand for common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production) does not figure in any of their programs.
Ron Elbert

Ralph Critchfield

Sad news from Britain has reached me that longstanding Socialist Party of Great Britain member, Ralph Critchfield,  died this past Thursday at the age of 93. 

If his name is not immediately familiar to readers of the blog ('Ralph Critchfield' only has 15 mentions on the blog), that is only because that for many decades he wrote under the pen-name of 'Ivan' in the pages of the Socialist Standard

At the time of writing there are over 500 entries for 'Ivan' on the blog. The earliest Socialist Standard piece penned by 'Ivan' on the blog dates from December 1949, and his final article in the pages of the Socialist Standard appeared in the April 2018 issue. That 2018 article was the last in a long line of Greasy Pole columns - dealing with the day-to-day circus of British politics - which appeared nearly every month for over 20 years. I also understand that he was on the editorial committee of the Socialist Standard for a number of years, and that he was a parliamentary candidate for the SPGB at the October 1974 (in Hampstead) and 1979 (in Islington South and Finsbury) General Elections.

A very fine writer and speaker for Socialism over many decades, his obituary will appear in a future issue of the Socialist Standard.