Sunday, December 10, 2023

Editorial: News about millionaires (1954)

Editorial from the October 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

The number of very wealthy people in Britain, including millionaires, is well below what it was before the war but it appears to be picking up again now. This, at least, is the conclusion of Mr. Marshall Pugh writing in the Sunday Chronicle (5/9/54). He has provided himself—at a cost of ten guineas—with a published list giving an estimate of the present number of millionaires and he finds it to be 50. A list similarly compiled in 1946 gave only 28. Mr. Pugh concludes that “Britain is slowly recovering from her post-par shortage of millionaires.” He doubts if the list is complete and adds a few likely names. This doubt about the exact number is not surprising because there is no record of millionaires published by the Inland Revenue authorities, though they must certainly have a good idea how many there are.

There is, however, official information in Inland Revenue Reports about the numbers of people in various ranges of income. In 1938-9 there were 99 people, each with an income (before being taxed) of over £100,000 a year. By 1950-51 the number had fallen to 38; and the number of persons who had more than £6,000 left to spend, after paying tax, had fallen from 6,600 in 1938-9 to about 500 in 1950-51. The fall in the number and size of very big incomes is exactly what was to be expected. Contrary to the muddled view held by those who have never understood what capitalism is and how it works capitalism’s wars are paid for by the only class that can pay—the capitalists. The destruction of capitalist property and loss of overseas investments fell on the British capitalists, but now that war-time destruction has been made good accumulation is going ahead once more and we may expect to see a change some way towards the pre-war pattern again.

This will surprise those who have swallowed the nonsense about poverty having been abolished under the so-called Welfare State. Apart from an unusually long period with unemployment at a very low figure nothing has happened since the war to change materially the structure of capitalism. Neither the Labour Government’s social reforms nor its Nationalisation schemes have touched the permanent capitalist inequalities of income and capital. It is still true, as it was in 1918, when the Labour Party plugged it in its election address that about 90 per cent, of the accumulated wealth of the country is owned by a 10th of the population. Yet we have the fatuous organ of Mr. Bevan, Tribune, in its issue for 2 July, 1954, publishing some figures about "the flagrant contrast between poverty and wealth in Britain,” and calling them “discoveries!” Tribune’s comment is that these “appalling facts” “will shock those who believe that the welfare state has eliminated poverty in Britain—or that there is no case for a drastic redistribution of wealth.”

Of course outstanding among those who deceived the workers into believing that the welfare state would abolish or had abolished poverty are the people who run Tribune.

And now that Tribune—about a century and a half late—has discovered that under capitalism there is flagrant contrast between poverty and wealth in Britain, their remedy is to seek redistribution of wealth. Socialists, of course, are not seeking anything of the kind. Trying to seek redistribution of wealth under capitalism merely perpetuates the notion that capitalism would be all right if there were fewer millionaires and more capitalists with investments of a moderate size. But this, assuming for the sake of argument that it could be achieved, would not at all remove the evils of capitalism. It is a matter of no concern at all to the cow whether she is milked to make profit for a farmer, a co-operative society or a millionaire dairy combine. The worker, if he understood his own interest, would perceive that capitalism is a system that functions by milking him for the benefit of the capitalist class and it is not his worry if some capitals swallow up others and produce millionaires. Their multiplication or their elimination will make no difference to him. It is not the redistribution of the property of the capitalists that will solve the workers' problems but the abolition of capitalism.

Tribune, however, knows of other “solutions” of the poverty problem for in September a contributor, Mr. Ian Mikardo, went to Hungary and made the discovery that "there's very little real poverty in Red Hungary.” But there must be a catch in that word “real" for he also discovered that the Hungarian workers' living standards 
"are about 30 per cent. below ours, even when one allows for a very much higher ‘social wage’ than we have in Great Britain." (Tribune 17th September 1954.)
It is all rather confusing. The poverty in Britain, says the Tribune is appalling in spite of the “welfare state and in Hungary living standards are 30 per cent. lower than in Britain in spite of having an even better welfare state (“social wage”); but nevertheless they are not “really” poor.

In the meantime here is a comforting thought about millionaires and the way they spend their money, from Noel Barber’s column in the Daily Mail (11 Sept., 1954).
“Being—like all millionaires—a true lover of the arts. Onassis, the uncrowned king, Monte Carlo recently commissioned the French artist Verges to do four big murals for the spacious saloon of his big new yacht."

Peaceful Co-Existence (1954)

From the October 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our plans in Asia?” said Lenin on 18th February. 1920, to a correspondent of the New York Evening Journal, “Our plans in Asia? The same as in Europe: peaceful co-existence . . .” Thirty-four years later, after a hot war which entailed the refrigeration of the plans the Soviet leaders echo their predecessors words. On the face of it they should succeed this time, for they have powerful and influential echoes in Eisenhower and Churchill.

Churchill, speaking in the Commons about his recent visit to North America, said in reference to peaceful coexistence: “This far-reaching conception certainly had its part in some of our conversations at Washington. I was glad when I read after we had left that President Eisenhower had said that the hope of the world lies in peaceful co-existence." (Daily Telegraph, 13/7/54.) Earlier, on 29/6/54, Churchill and Eisenhower, in a signed declaration known to some as the Potomac Charter, had stated that they would "together and individually, continue to hold out the hand of friendship to any and all nations, which by solemn pledge and confirming deeds, show themselves desirous of participating in a just and fair peace.” 

It would seem that the Big Three share a basic desire, peaceful co-existence, and the time has come for detailed discussion and co-operative action. But what is the substance of their “co-existence”; what are the confirming deeds that distinguish the nations desirous of a just and fair peace; what is this peace, just and fair?

These are legitimate questions. Churchill, talking in the Commons about the Potomac Charter referred to the “necessarily general and sometimes vague character” of its declarations. “The expression of broad and simple principles likely to command assent and not excite the dissent of vast communities must necessarily be in guarded terms.” (Daily Telegraph, 13/7/54.) Those are words typical of statesmen,.men who know the world, who know “it would not be in the public interest” if a “detailed statement” about discussions and decisions affecting millions of people was made to those millions. All the more important is it then that we examine their broad and simple principles.

In the so-called Western world the idea has been fostered that there are now two kinds of human society in being, the Freedom-loving peoples and Communism. In the Russian “sphere” the same idea has been built up. but the terms are different: “Socialism or the lasting-peace-loving peoples on the one hand, and Capitalist Imperialism on the other.

The idea is fallacious. The mass of people on both sides desire peace and freedom from the tribulations which they suffer jointly and in common. Far from either side exhibiting the symptoms of Socialist or Communist society, both practise capitalism. In principle, they have the same way of life, the same ideology. Their politicians and generals speak the same language, even to the very phrase.

The signatories to the Potomac Charter “ believe that the cause of world peace would be advanced by... drastic reduction . . .  of world armaments . . .” They have resolved to “maintain the . . . military strength necessary to pursue [their] purposes effectively . . . In pursuit of this . . . we will seek every means of promoting the fuller and freer interchange among us of goods and services which will benefit all participants.” (Daily Telegraph, 30/6/54.) Can you not hear Malenkov repeating Stalin's 1939 words: “We stand for peace and the strengthening of business relations with all countries . . . as long as they make no attempt to trespass on the interests of our country.”

Bertrand Russell, whom we are told is a great thinker rather than a great statesman, has also given us his views on peace, in an article entitled “The Most Hopeful Road to Peace” (Picture Post, 24/7/54). Although he also relies on hope, as befits a thinker he goes further than Churchill, Malenkov and Co., and makes some proposals. As he sees it, there will have to be three stages to the establishment of a lasting peace. First, there must be a diminution of mutual suspicion; brought about by “eminent Indians . . . drawing up a carefully reasoned report as to the probable consequences of a World War with modern weapons”; if various governments would then signify their “acquiescence in the proposition that no Great Power can hope to achieve any of its purposes by World War” then “various governments might become persuaded that they have no reason to fear a sudden unprovoked attack.” (Our italics.)

Although there is much here to comment on, note how, in the modern fashion, he proposes that governments, all eminent men, are to be influenced by other eminent men. He ignores you and me. Quite right, too; after all we know the actual results of world war with modern weapons.

When tension has been reduced, Russell then wants conversations with a view to finding some compromise about a definite delimitation of spheres neither repugnant nor unfavourable to either side; meaning, peaceful coexistence. But as he says, “At present, each side is willing to take—but not . . . to give.”

The Russell plan concludes with a treaty, of course; and a World Authority, possessing a monopoly of all “the more important weapons of war" which would be concerned “only with what is necessary for the preservation of peace. It should not interfere with the internal affairs of nations.” With peaceful coexistence so established only “small and brief” wars will be possible and “Men (presumably including wage-earners) will enter upon a period of happiness. . . .”

If governments were to attempt to clarify their “ broad and simple principles” on peaceful co-existence they would have to follow a Russell-like plan.

The present major division in the world is a result, not of different beliefs, but of the second world war, which left Russia and America as the two biggest competitors in a world of competitors; each and all determined to hold and expand what it has. That is the background to disarmament, re-armament, and just plain armament. But the manufacture of arms is a costly, and on the whole unprofitable, business; except in wartime no government dare export such commodities on any significant scale. Further, it may be, since they have the facts, that even the rulers are a little disturbed about the hydrogen bomb; and it can be said of all governments that they do not want war, but the fruits of war.

There are good reasons then for an international search for what they call a formula and “peaceful co-existence ” is a good starting-point. The slogan embraces the dream of a world of buying and selling, of politics and' power, of competition and spheres of influence, without war and not too many armaments. It envisages the retention of capital exploiting wage-labour, of poverty and welfare, of governments and governed, of nations and signed declarations of friendship. Hence co-existence.

And if things once again go wrong, if the dream turns into a nightmare, well, as Lenin said in 1920, the obstacles to agreement are on the other side.

“Peaceful co-existence” panders to the ignorant and unthinking, but the expression by professional great men of the hopes of millions of small men will not solve problems; will not bring about a state of affairs wherein war is not merely impossible but unthought of; will not bring about conditions, to quote the Potomac Charter, “in which the prodigious nuclear forces now in human hands can be used to enrich and not to destroy mankind ”; will not bring about a community where, not Russian and American soldiers co-exist and occasionally work together to meet nature’s floods, but where men and women of all languages and colours dwell in practical cooperative harmony, every day.

Action, not hope, is required. The action of the wage-earners, the world's small men.
D. S. C.

The Economics of Capitalism - Part 2 (1954)

From the October 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Continued from August issue)

The whole of the labour of society is engaged in producing the whole social product, but not in accordance with a predetermined social plan. Each producer works on his own account and does not know, until he tries to sell his product, whether or not he has kept in line with the average socially necessary labour criterion. If his product remains unsold he knows, too late, that he has failed. There is the further fact that society only requires commodities in appropriate proportions. For example, at a given time, there is a certain effective demand for bread, coats, and shoes, and labour employed in producing these commodities in excess of this demand is superfluous labour, and does not count in determining their values. As producers are working on their own account, producing commodities of different kinds with labour of different degrees of intensity, the common measure of value, that lies at the back of all kinds of skilled labour, is the labour that is the same in all human beings—just the expenditure of energy in its simplest form. The greater the skill involved in the work that is being done, the more of simple labour is compressed in an hour's employment of this labour, and the greater is the value produced in relation to what is produced by simple labour in the same time, even though the result may be a vastly increased product with a fall in the value of individual commodities.

The reduction of skilled labour to simple labour in the estimation of the value of a commodity is not done consciously by the producers but is accomplished behind their backs. An illustration may help to make this clear. If we turn back to the the early history of mankind, to conditions of barter when articles were exchanged against articles, those who were making the exchanges within the communities did so on the rough basis of the work involved in each article. The products were such that one man could have made any of them himself, if he had the time, but it was more convenient for him to exchange his surplus of one article for his neighbours surplus of another. If his neighbour asked what he considered too much for an article then he would make it himself. The products were so few that the members of the community knew the time that would be involved in the production of each of them. Now let us transfer the idea to the present time. All kinds of companies and the like are engaged in the production of a variety of commodities, commodities so dissimilar as bread and fur coats. Money is invested in the production of these commodities for the purpose of making a profit out of doing so, and money flows into the most profitable channels. This flow of investment increases the production of the more profitable commodities until it so far outstrips effective demand that the prices of them, and their profitability, is reduced. The flow of investment then forsakes the production of the commodities whose profit capacity has declined and moves into more profitable productions. This ebb and flow of investment ensures that, in the long run, all the commodities produced by society sell at prices that are round about their values.

Now let us go a little further into the question of prices. Over a period the price of an article goes up and down, and these ups and downs are caused by the rise and fall of demand; that is to say when supply exceeds demand prices are low, and when demand exceeds supply prices are high—the black market has been a sufficient indication of that fact. The average of these ups and downs is round about the actual value of a commodity. There are those who argue that it is supply and demand, and not the quantity of labour required to produce it, that determines the value of a commodity. They overlook the fact that in the alternations between supply exceeding demand and demand exceeding supply there must be a period when supply and demand are equal and therefore cancel each other out. During that period the supply and demand theory cannot be the answer to the question of the value of a commodity. No amount of mathematical manipulation can get over this hurdle. Supply and demand as an explanation of value must be ruled out. At best it can only explain the fluctuations in prices but not the point about which they fluctuate.

When commodities are being exchanged through the medium of money value is being; exchanged for value, but what really underlies the process is that the labour of one man or group of men is being exchanged, for the labour of another man or group of men; there has been a social division of labour. For instance the labour of housebuilding has been exchanged for the labour of shoemaking; and so on. Thus value is really a social relation; a relation between people, between one man’s labour and that of another; but this social relation between the labour of different people is expressed as a relation between the commodities they have produced; it is expressed when the latter appear on the market for sale. People have been producing articles for use all through history but they have only produced commodities, articles possessing value, where a system of exchange has come into operation. Further, it is only under a system of commodity production, the production of articles for the purpose of being exchanged, that value becomes one of the essential qualities of a product. As Marx puts it:
“Every product of labour is. in all states of society, a use-value; but it is only at a definite historical epoch in society's development that such a product becomes a commodity. viz. at the epoch when the labour spent upon the production of a useful article becomes expressed as one of the objective qualities of that article i.e., its value.”
Thus with the abolition of commodity production value will also disappear. Articles will no longer be looked upon as having so much value but will only be appreciated according to their usefulness for consumption or enjoyment, and diamonds and furs will lose a good deal of their attraction. At the same time the mysterious nature of commodities will disappear: the mystery of money arises out of the relation of the individual producers to the total of their own products which appears to them as a social relation between the objects they produce.

There is one aspect of commodities which, unless it is understood, will leave, room for confusion. Commodities are articles that are regularly produced for the market, therefore only those articles that are capable of constant reproduction are commodities. A genuine antique is not a commodity because it cannot be indefinitely reproduced; it is true it comes upon the market and is sold and thus, although not a commodity, takes on a commodity character. Likewise honour takes on a commodity character when politicians sell their votes. In the huge productive output of to-day these are die comparatively odd things.

Finally, the labour of private individuals becomes labour directly social in its form owing to the fact that production is for the market; individual labour becomes an indistinguishable part of the general social labour. It is impossible to tell by looking at products as they appear on the market, what different portions of the world's population have taken part in their production; the raw materials may have been produced in India, China or Russia, the machinery in England, France or Germany, and the finished products in America, Japan, or Holland. They appear on the markets, local, national, and international, just as articles for sale produced by a portion of the general labour of society.

(To be continued.)

How society changes (1954)

From the October 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

Anthropology has always been an interesting subject to Socialists. Morgan's Ancient Society and Engels’ Origin of the Family, are only two of the books which have helped us to see how society has changed and developed in the past, and therefore gives us an indication of how it is likely to change in the future.

This process of change is very clearly shown in a report by Dr. Ralph Linton, Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, which appears in the book "The Individual and His Society," by Kardiner and Linton.

The report derives from Linton's own field work among the Tapala and Betsileo tribes in the island of Madagascar, and relates how a simple change in the mode of production revolutionised a whole tribal society. 

The Tanala
On a forested mountain plateau live the Tanala. They are an agricultural tribe, living mainly by rice cultivation. They grow the rice “dry"—that is, like an ordinary cereal. Only one or two crops can be raised on any one piece of land by the methods which they use; after that the land has to be allowed to grow up in jungle and left for ten to fifteen years.

At the beginning of the season the elders of the lineage arrange the heads of the families within that lineage along the edge of the land to be cleared for that year’s crop, and assign to each family a strip of given width. The men of each family then clear their strip as far back as they consider necessary to meet their rice needs for the year. This assignment is made equitably—if a family gets poor land one year it will be given good land the next. Each family has full rights on the strip which it has cleared while crops are actually being grown; after that it reverts to the general lineage property.

There are no ceremonies or magic connected with food, except for a small family offering made to the ancestors at harvest time. Everything except land is individually owned, but there is little, if any, difference between rich and poor in living standards, and there are no social classes.

Wet Rice
Such a description is far from complete, of course; but it does give one a picture of the sort of society which Linton found still existing among the Tanala. It was a society which consisted of a number of independent mobile villages, where money was unimportant, where a large degree of social equality prevailed, and where anxiety about property was very largely absent. But even while Linton was there, important and far-reaching changes had been brought about by a gradual change from dry rice to wet rice cultivation. The latter is the ordinary type of rice growing found in India, China, etc., where permanent paddy-fields are used. To the ordinary observer, this change might seem trifling, but to a Socialist it is far from insignificant, because it affects the economic basis of the society. Let Linton take up the story from here:—
“ [Wet rice cultivation] was at first an adjunct to dry rice carried on by individual families. Before the new method was introduced on a large scale, there were already rice swamps of permanent tenure, which never reverted to the village for reassignment. But land favourable for this use was very limited, because of natural factors. Thus there gradually emerged a group of landowners, and with the process came a breakdown in the joint family organization. The cohesiveness of this older unit was maintained by economic interdependence and the need for co-operation. But an irrigated rice field could be tended by a single family, and its head need not recognise any claim to share it with anyone who had not contributed to its produce.

“This group of permanent rice sites formed the nucleus of a permanent village, because the land could not be exhausted as was the land exploited by the dry method. As land suitable for wet rice near the village was presently all taken up. the landless households had to move farther and farther away into the jungle. So far away would they be that they could not return the same day. These distant fields also became household rather than joint family affairs . . . (p.282) 

“The mobile villages had been self contained and endogamous. The settled villages were much less so . . . Intermarriages became common. In this way, the transformation from independent villages to a tribal organization took place 

“The process brought further changes in the patterns of native warfare. The old village had to be defended; but not at so great a cost nor with the necessity for permanent upkeep. When the village became permanent the defences had to be  of a powerful kind involving big investments and permanent upkeep.

“Slaves who were of no economic significance in the old system, now acquired economic importance. . . .  Thus the tribal organization grew in solidity, and with the change the old tribal democracy disappeared. The next step was a king at the head who exercised control over the settled elements but not over the mobile ones." (p.283.) There were now real differences between rich and poor. Poverty and oppression became known for the first time among the Tanala.
The Betsileo
Now let us look at the Betsileo, near neighbours of the Tanala, whose society has been based for a long time on wet rice cultivation. There are more swamps and valleys in their part of the country, and they have also taken up irrigation. But from all indications, their original set-up was the same as that of the Tanala. Basically, “we can regard Betsileo as the Tanala culture, after all the changes consequent upon wet rice had become consolidated, organized, and institutionalized. We are therefore observing an important experiment in the dynamics of social changed (p. 284.)

Among the Betsileo there is a rigid system of ground rent, paid by a proportion of the produce. There is a rigid class system, with a king, nobles, commoners and slaves. The powers of the king are absolute over the life and property of everyone. “In short, here was a feudal system of a kind” (p. 285.)

The power of the father in the household became supreme, particularly in the sense of ownership. Unlike the Tanala system, among the Betsileo all household property belongs to the father except his wives' clothes and gifts to his wife and children. Children not infrequently desert their parents—a thing unknown among the Tanala.

There is much more emphasis on the supernatural. “ The Betsileo make a clear distinction between life and soul. Life ceases with death, the soul continues.” (p. 288.) Much of this interest has to do with apprehensions over losing money or position.

The Process of Change
Here, then, we see social change in action. We see changes in the mode of production causing changes in types of ownership. We see these new types of ownership causing changes in the relations which one person can have to another. We see new attitudes arising out of these relations. We see new institutions arising out of these attitudes. (We see these new institutions causing further changes of attitude, and so on). We see, as Linton has already pointed out, the dynamics of social change in action.

Here is another clear and valuable example of a process which is going on daily and hourly around us here in the world today. Let no one say that the Materialist Conception of History is a mere empty theory when we can see it justified up to the hilt in such a practical example as this.

The whole book is of some interest to Socialists, since the main author. Dr. Abram Kardiner, openly acknowledges the great debt which social anthropology owes to historical materialism. Here is another example of the way in which ideas long put forward by Socialists are being today painfully rediscovered by the academic world.
J. C. Rowan

Party News Briefs (1954)

Party News from the October 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our Anniversary Number. Owing to the difficulties in the course of preparation our special anniversary number for September was much delayed. We regret the inconvenience caused to readers. Copies are now available, 32 pages. Price 4d. (Post free 5½d.) Readers are again invited to send donations to cover the large additional expenditure incurred for the special issue.

The Autumn Delegate Meeting will be held on Saturday and Sunday, November 6th and 7th, at Denison House, Vauxhall Bridge Road (Victoria Station), 10.30 to 5.30 p.m. each day. Will members please make a note of the venue and times, particularly as the meeting is not being held at the same hall as previously. A Social will be held on the Saturday evening from 7.30 p.m., at Head Office—all welcome.

Fulham Branch is commencing a series of lectures and discussions to be held alternate Thursdays from October 7th. Members, sympathisers, and readers of the Socialist Standard are cordially invited. The Lectures and discussions will be held at 691, Fulham Road. S.W.6, and will commence at 8 p.m. Details of subjects are given elsewhere in this issue.

Successful outdoor meetings have been held by the Branch at Earls Court and at Gloucester Road. The number of meetings unfortunately has not been so many this year due to the bad weather.

The Overseas Secretary reports: From Victoria, British Columbia, an old comrade sent us this, with an enclosure: “Taking note of your appeal for funds for the commemorative number, we have made a collection from the remaining few old timers in the movement residing in Victoria. Every one is now on the scrap heap, but all agreed it would be proper for us, too, to celebrate by sending you along £4 10s., or 12s., according to the exchange rate when I reach the Post Office, and would like to wish you all the success possible Yours for Socialism, C. Luff.”

The same letter informs us of the death of Comrade Olsen, of Vancouver, who was killed in a motor accident while on holiday in July. He was only 26, but was, in our correspondent’s words, “a tower of strength to that Local.” Our sympathies go to his relations and his comrades.

Head Office Lectures. A series of Sunday evening lectures at 52, Clapham High Street are being held. Time 8 pm. The first is on October 10th. Will members help to make these meetings well attended by giving details to S.S. readers, sympathisers, and to members who cannot always get along to their branches. The first list of titles are topical and should provide a good opportunity for discussions. Please make a note, the first meeting is on Sunday, 10th. October, at 8 p.m.

Treetops Week-end. A very enjoyable week-end was spent at Treetops on September 11/12th. Discussions were led by Freddie Clark and Billy Iles on the Party’s present ideas and future. Another week-end has been arranged for October 30th/31st. Those desiring to attend must reserve accommodation by writing direct to Mrs. Plant, Treetops Holiday Camp, Farley Green, near Guildford.
Phyllis Howard

Mass Production and Mass Minds (1954)

From the October 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

Have we developed a mass-mind as a result of the development and extension of mass production? There certainly seems evidence to support the contention. Mass-production has not only affected the factory worker but also the office workers, who now normally specialize in one small part of the accounting system, as invoice typists, comptometer operators, filing clerks, etc. Again with the extension of the multiple shop and departmental store the assistants now spend their working lives handling a very limited range of commodities. This trend towards greater degrees of specialization is consistently the case throughout society and seems to keep in step with the development of mass production.

Fifty years ago, a man’s occupation could be fairly accurately guessed by a glance at his clothes. The navvy wearing corduroys and with his lunch wrapped up in a spotted red handkerchief, the workman with a choker round his neck, the farm labourer with his distinctive dress, the cab driver, etc. Their occupations could be easily seen. But with the development of mass-production it would seem as if our tastes are similarly affected. Choice of clothes, for instance, seems to have become standardised. The felt hat, collar and tie, are worn by men irrespective of whether they have a “white-collar job.” Even the differences of dress between national groups have largely been obliterated. When we are in the cinema we find difficulty in guessing the nationality of men and women we see' in the new films by reference to the clothes they are wearing.

Millions choose the same leisure-time occupation of filling in football pool coupons. Holiday camps where many of the amusements remind one of a factory are becoming the thing for a growing number of people. The most widely read newspapers are those that could be criticized most. Book-printing has become a mass-production business turning out large numbers of escapist publications with a mushroom like existence. In this trade an author has a number of noms-de-plume. Under each one he writes a constant stream of books which are but variations of a single theme which his readers have come to expect

All of which seems to underline the charge that the last 50 years of technical development have succeeded in creating a population who think en masse. This is not merely a national phenomenon but applies to the whole world of capitalism. It would seem at first sight as if the group herd instinct of primitive man has developed into a world-wide herd instinct

But further examination of the subject may make us form a different diagnosis of this developing pattern of human behaviour.

There was a time when primitive man was unable to identify himself apart from the herd. Then there were taboos. Experience in the form of continual sickness or death of the members of a tribe living in a certain place might indicate that such an area was unhealthy and, without understanding the reasons for such calamities, the tribe would institute a taboo preventing their people from living in the area. The reason for this prohibition would in the passage of time be forgotten and the taboo would then assume a magical significance. By the method of trial and error taboos were enforced without the need for thought. But contrast this state of affairs with what goes on to-day. Ask any worker why he is interested in football pools and he will probably make a reasoned and logical statement to the effect that he could badly do with the prize money that is offered and that this is about the only chance he has of acquiring such wealth. Moreover interest in football results create a hobby for him, perhaps the only one he considers he can afford. It will also be apparent that an individual decision was made to “invest in” the pools in each case and that that decision was reached only after some thought. The mass-produced newspapers clinch the argument of the existence of the mass-mind as far as some are concerned but if the contents of the papers that were read 50 years ago were compared with those of today perhaps different conclusions would be reached. For instance, the argument used then to rally working-class support for war was crude and jingoistic. But now the workers are called upon to defend trade union rights and democracy against the dictators who are represented as enemies of the working-class. The ruling-class, in the arguments that they use now today in their newspapers, pay tribute to the advanced level of working class power of thought.

As regards the books that are read, while it is true that a vast quantity of escapist material is printed, it may come as a shock of surprise—and pleasure—to learn that the classics have a popularity nearly as great, as The Times of 28/11/52 points out. This trend has been stimulated by the reprints that mass production has turned out at low prices. There is in addition a great sale of scientific and instructional books of which many have been best sellers. Even popular magazines, which are so criticised by the pessimists, are found to contain instructional and scientific articles covering a wide range of subjects. Fifty years ago such articles would have appeared only in the technical journals of that particular field of science. These popular magazines, which look like proof of a mass-mind, are really evidence of spreading interest among the people.

If 100,000 people are ready to buy a book on the nature of the universe, there is a mass demand at the bookshops. This mass demand is not a proof of falling standards; it means that thousands are being educated, who, 50 years ago would have been left in the illiterate mass.

Minds are creative, mankind today thinks, and thoughts cannot permanently be suppressed by dictators, concentration camps or lying ruling-class propaganda. People are educated primarily to think for the purpose of making them more efficient wage-slaves but the process does not stop there.

Fifty years of technical development have surely had an effect on the mentality of man, but the change that is taking place may well encourage the efforts of the Socialist movement.
Frank Offord

World Government is not Socialism (1954)

From the October 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Lately we have been hearing rather more often than usual that the way to solve the world’s problems—and particularly that of war—is to have World Government. Probably this is largely due to reaction to the news of the latest atomic weapons, and discussion of their earth-shattering potentialities. The proposal that one World Government should replace the many existing national sovereignties is, of course, by no means a recent one. At first sight it may seem to bear a certain similarity to the proposal to establish Socialism. The movement for World Government is concerned with achieving both universality and peace. So is the Socialist movement. But there the similarity just about ends, as an enquiry into the nature of the various ideas and policies that are advocated in the name of World Government will show.

History of World Government Movements
When and where the ideas of World Government first arose is largely a matter for speculation. Despite the comprehensive power achieved centuries ago by empires such as the Roman and Mongolian, and notwithstanding the work of nineteenth-century “peace societies,” organised efforts directed towards World Government are largely a product of the last two decades. Today there are dozens of organisations here and abroad championing federalism as a basis for world order, and disagreeing among themselves over details and methods. Among the pioneers was Federal Union Ltd., founded in London in 1937, and followed a year later by Federal Union, Inc. in Chicago. Both are concerned with the establishment of a “nuclear union” or federation of democracies which, they claim, must lead towards a world federal government.

In 1938 a World Citizenship Movement was launched in Britain and later in America, its supporters seeking to transcend national sovereignties by proclaiming themselves “world citizens.” One of the best-known personalities in this essentially individual movement was Garry Davis, who six years ago in France renounced his American citizenship in favour of “world citizenship.” In 1949 he launched his “World Citizens’ Pact,” which obtained almost half a million signatures. He returned to America a year later and applied for restoration of his American citizenship.

Meanwhile, other organisations had been springing up like mushrooms. In 1947 a number of American ones coalesced into United World Federalists, which included many secessionists from Federal Union. UWF reached a peak of 50,000 members in 1949. It advocates the transformation of the United Nations into a global federal government with powers to “keep the peace” In the event of Russian refusal to participate, it is prepared to support partial federation.

Finally in this brief survey we must mention the World Movement for World Federal Government, which is described as “the body co-ordinating the efforts of federalist and World Citizen organisations in many lands ”UWF and Federal Union are member organisations of WMWFG, as also is the Crusade for World Government (formed in 1947 under the leadership of a number of British M.P.'s). The fourth World Parliamentary Conference on World Government took place in London in September, and enabled delegates from different nations to reaffirm that all the nations should work together.

The list of names or organisations could be extended considerably. Frederick L. Schuman, in The Commonwealth of Man, goes into considerable detail about them, but claims to present no more than “a few leitmotifs in the symphony or cacophony of movements striving for world federation." From this symphony or cacophony we must try to distinguish the main theme of World Government. 

Their Policies
The WMWFG champions a federal world constitution, with a bill of rights, providing for a global legislature, executive and judiciary, and world law enforceable on individuals. To achieve this end it favours regional federations, United Nations reform, and national political action. Assuming that these measures could be achieved, they would do nothing to alter the property basis of present society. In the absence of majority agreement for revolutionary change, the world constitution, bill of rights, etc., would be modelled upon existing constitutions or upon a combination of them. The continuation of enforceable law, necessitating machinery of coercion, could only be justified on the grounds of the continuation of conflicting interests in a World State.

Recognition that the conflicting interests within property society are not all national ones shows that the advocates of World Government have a fundamentally wrong conception of the nature of the State. The capitalist State exists to prevent the class division in society from disrupting the social organisation, and to protect the interests of capitalist groups from actions instituted by rival capitalist groups abroad. The function of the State is to govern the institutions of property, to defend privileges against outer and inner threats, and to expand the areas within which capitalist exploitation may be profitably carried on.

The advocates of World Government, however, do not accept this, and work on the “social contract" theory of government They believe that men create government to serve the general welfare, and that it stands impartially above the conflict of class interests The actual conduct of governments belies this theory, and reinforces the Socialist contention that the capitalist system cannot be transformed by an expansion of the scope or functions of the State. The problems of mankind are not to be solved by the extension of government.

The Crusade for World Govemment
Some of the propaganda for World Government is not easily recognisable as reformism, and bears a superficial resemblance to Socialist propaganda. Consider the following passage from the Policy and Programme Statement of the Crusade for World Government 1953-4:
“A new order in world affairs is overdue. That new order must be a World Government obtaining its authority from the peoples of the world, representing all peoples, and having power to act in their common interests; a World Government which takes over and disbands national armed forces; which establishes and enforces the rule of world law, and which ensures social and economic justice for all peoples. World Government must come by the demand of the citizens of the world . . . "
The language is deceptively revolutionary. For “a World Government" one could read “Socialism" and, if not too critical, one could imagine that the two movements shared the same object. It is worthwhile, therefore, to examine the passage quoted very carefully.

A World Government representing all peoples, and having power to act in their common interests gives the impression that each man, woman and child, would be so represented on a basis of social equality. If the “common interests" are also those of each and every person then the form of society cannot continue to be a property one with antagonistic classes—it must be Socialism. It will be noted that the Policy Statement does not list the abolition of property relationships among its aims, and this omission makes an important difference to the significance of the other proposals. These proposals—the world government, rule of world law, etc.—in effect boil down to the ideal of federating the separate nations into one super-nation, without changing the class nature of society.

It is not surprising that the Crusade for World Government should advocate no revolutionary change. In its own words, it “is not influenced or controlled by any political party or group but is supported by people in all walks of life, of different national origins, creeds and opinions." It is possible that there are some members of CWG or other World Government organisations who claim that Socialism is their ultimate object, but that World Government is the immediate necessity. To these we would say: the quest for peace is admirable, and a world community of interests eminently desirable. But the movement for World Government like all other reformist movements, is trying to alter the results of the present system instead of working to abolish the system itself.

Seekers after peace and an equalitarian society are faced with the existence of property (private or state), the division of mankind into those with property rights and those without them, and all the ideas that enable this social system to continue. All these are inseparable aspects of capitalist society, and if any one is to be changed then all must be changed. A movement that does not require its members to be united in opposition to Capitalism is not capable of advancing Socialism. Those who desire a peaceful world run in the interests of all mankind will not achieve what they desire by supporting the policies of world government organisations. The comment of Gerard J. Mangone adds a final word of caution to any who doubt this: “World Government is but a technique of doing something on a large scale, not a guarantee of a better life for all."
Stan Parker

50 Years Ago: Bax on Class (1954)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

Classes exist; you may ignore them, but they will exist still with the respective characters they engender. Though you ignore them, they will not ignore you. . . .  In the Socialist workmen the class-instinct has become transformed into the conviction that, in the words of Lassalle, ‘he is called to raise the principle of his class into the principle of the age.' He knows that in the moment of victory—of the realisation of the dominion of his class—the ugly head of class itself must fall, and society emerge. Militant, his cause is identified with class; triumphant with Humanity." (Quoted from “Socialism and Ethics,” by E. Belfort Bax.)

(From the Socialist Standard, October, 1904.)

Obituary: George Bazin (1954)

Obituary from the October 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have learned of the death early this year of George Bazin, one of the group involved in the Islington dispute recounted recently in “ Notes on Party History.”

He joined the Party not long after its formation, having heard Fitzgerald speaking outdoors in Finsbury. The 1906 dispute ended his membership, but his enthusiasm for Socialism remained all his life; for the last 20 years he was almost blind, but he attended meetings regularly and gave generously to the funds. He often singled out a questioner, particularly if he was young, after a meeting; more than one present member joined the Party through contact with Bazin’s wide knowledge and friendly manner.

His passing has broken another link with the early days, and taken away one who never gave up working for Socialism.

SPGB Meetings (1954)

Party News from the October 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard