Saturday, January 27, 2024

Correction (1996)

From the March 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

The January editorial “Class Struggle–Back on the Agenda” stated that the working class is currently dominated “by defensive reformist ideas and reformist institutions such as trade unions”. This was a type-setting mix-up and should have read “by reformist ideas and defensive institutions such as trade unions”. We apologise for this error.

Socialist Election results (1997)

Party News from the May 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

The 5 Socialist Party candidates polled a total of 1359 votes.

The individual results were:
  • Easington 503
  • Glasgow Kelvin 102
  • Jarrow 444
  • Livingston 213
  • Vauxhall 97

50 Years Ago: The taming of the TUC (1998)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

What has happened to the trade unions, to their national platform the T.U.C., and to their political shadow the Labour Party? Where now is the trade union army that fought the general strike in 1926? In what dump have they parked their rusty weapon, the strike? Where are the Reds of yesteryear, and who are these men and women with their generous sprinkling of O.B.E.s, Knighthoods and Peerages who at Margate earned from the discerning observer of the Manchester Guardian (10/9/48) the tribute that “once again the T.U.C. has shown the moderate good sense that often seems to surprise its own leaders as much as the critics”?

How are we to account for the incontestable and remarkable fact that the workers—to whom the T.U.C. is supposed to give guidance and inspiration—got from it little but gloom, austerity, wage-freezing, and appeals to work harder; while the capitalist press and financial circles are congratulating themselves that it was a very successful congress from their point of view!

The long years of muddled thinking have to be paid for and there is no easy way out. Backing the Government in running capitalism means stultifying the trade union movement and spreading apathy and despair; with the certainty that at the end of the road, even if the present production crisis is eased for a time, there will be new crises and new and larger wars. The alternative is the seemingly slow but in fact the only way, the way indicated by the Socialist Party at its formation, that of working for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. There are no short cuts and there is no other way.

(From front page article by ‘H’, Socialist Standard, October 1948)

Socialists and the coming election (1991)

Party News from the December 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party is currently considering putting up two candidates in next year’s Genera) Election, one in London and possibly one in the Greater Manchester area. A meeting is being held in London on Wednesday 11 December to finalise plans to contest the Holborn and St Pancras constituency, at present held by Labour frontbencher Frank Dobson: all members and sympathisers who can help are invited to attend (for details see Meetings Page).

To pay for the deposit and mount a credible campaign, including making full use of the postal distribution of the candidate's address, we need at least £2000. At the moment the amount standing in our Election fund is £697. Readers wishing to help us reach the targetted amount are invited to send their contributions (made payable to "the Socialist Party of Great Britain”) to: Election Fund, the Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 7 UN.

Blogger's Note:
The Party didn't end up contesting a seat in the Greater Manchester area at the 1992 General Election but they did contest the Holborn & St Pancras seat in London. A write up of that election campaign appeared in the May 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard.

SPGB Meetings (1991)

Party News from the December 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

Letters: Two leaflets (1999)

Letters to the Editors from the November 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

As a Libertarian Socialist I send you an “Open letter— Alliance & Solidarity for a New Left/European New Left”, that is a translation (bad I’m sure) into English of an idea that started in Portugal during the last European Elections. Let me know what you think:


For some the Left is dead, for others, the Left is the ‘Third Way’. But the reality is that we don’t know what’s meant by being ‘Left’. What do we stand for? What sort of Left in Europe for the 2000s?

It’s time to re-invent, to re-think, the Left, and in ‘Alliance & Solidarity’ to rebuild a New Left/European New Left.

For us the New Left will be a project for a new society, more democratic and alternative, socialist, libertarian and Ecologist/Green .A more free and less consumerist society.

This project must come from local community experiences, and not from ready-made theories. It must be a project capable of changing relations between human beings; producers; consumers; development— environment; sex—religion; working relations—leisure; racism—culture; nation state, etc. A project with new experiences for new communal relations and relations between peoples and countries.

There are no ready-made answers, neither will the answers be for sure. But in ‘Alliance & Solidarity’ with the contributions of all interested, Socialists, Libertarians, workers’ co-operatives, ecologists, green activists, lesbian/gay movement activists, New Age groups; trade unions, etc. we can rebuild step-by-step a new project, the New Left/European New Left.”
Bracknell, Berks

The Old Left with its project for state capitalism has certainly failed but we don’t think what you propose is the answer. Certainly, all the groups you mention have an interest in getting rid of capitalism—and so, if only they knew it, of establishing a socialist society of common ownership, democratic control and production directly for use—except the New Agers (though perhaps they too will find what they’re looking for in socialism). But before bringing together various disparate interest groups, some of whose demands can be accommodated within the context of capitalism, we would need to be clear on the goal aimed at. We would need to be clear what the more free, libertarian and democratic and less consumerist society respecting ecological principles that you rightly want can only be achieved on the basis of the common ownership and democratic control of the Earth’s productive resources. This understood, it would follow that all our political efforts should be exclusively directed to achieving that goal.

* * *

Dear Editors,

The enclosed “Election Leaflet” represents a fictitious attempt by a World Wide Free Access Party in support of an equally fictitious candidate for Parliament. I was inspired to write this because of the recent correspondence in the Socialist Standard regarding changing the name of the Party. This leaflet is a fallout from it:

“Many voters will be learning about Free Access for the first time as a political force although the practice of Free Access is as old as mankind itself, in fact it worked inside every family in the past and so it does today. Whenever did you hear of parents selling food to their children or making them buy it from them? Never. That’s Free Access at work.

This long history of Free Access has been further developed by small groups all over our planet and advocated by poets and philosophers down the ages. Indeed the use of money as a total exchange unit is a comparatively modern thing, societies getting along without it for thousands of
years and, if using it at all, only sparingly.

World Free Access! What does it mean? Will it work today?
  1. No, it can’t work because firstly it must be mentally accepted, then it will work.
  2. It requires no leaders. They tend to freeze the mind. Free Worlders have no leaders and don’t need them—we know what we want.
  3. We just need to be able to produce abundance for all—we can, right now!
  4. A moneyless, frontierless world society will release a mighty flood of hitherto unproductive labour. No armed forces or armaments, no banks, no insurance, no income tax, no ticket collectors or travel costs, no customs, etc.
  5. The rape of the planet for profit leading to global warming and danger to all life will cease instantly.
  6. Numerous wars, always raging somewhere, will cease.
  7. The elimination of life on earth will no longer be a possibility.”
Sam Levitt, 
London NW3

Your leaflet is certainly better than the one from Portugal. We will let readers judge for themselves whether separating the concept of socialism from its history and the class struggle doesn’t make it sound a bit insipid.

Beware: war propaganda (2002)

From the October 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard

It has already started. The propaganda, that is, for the next war over who shall be in a position to dominate the Middle East and its oilfields. Modern wars require a certain degree of support amongst the population of the country going to war. But since people are less likely to support a war for mere economic or geopolitical reasons a warring state has to present its war as one for some more “noble” cause.

So, Bush and his side-kick Blair are not coming out and saying that their concern is to overthrow the regime in Iraq under Saddam Hussein as it could pose a threat at some later stage to the current domination of the Middle East oilfields by the Western powers. They claim that their war would be one to “free the Iraqi people from oppression from an evil dictator” and to “remove a threat to world peace”. Don’t believe a word of it. They don’t.

As the war propaganda campaign has already started, now is the time to expose the aims and techniques of such propaganda. Last year a Belgian historian, Anne Morelli, brought out a book in which she set out again, with more recent examples, the “elementary principles of war propaganda” as exposed by the pacifist Arthur Ponsonby in his 1928 book Falsehood in War.

We reproduce below the 10 principles with Morelli’s introductory comments. In virtue of the tenth principle, we expect to be included by the pro-war media as amongst those supporting Saddam. But we are no more pro-Saddam than we are pro-Bush or pro-Blair. We are anti-capitalism and its wars, which are always fought for capitalist interests such as sources of raw materials, markets, trade routes, investment outlets, and strategic points to protect these.

* * *

1. “We don’t want war”
Arthur Ponsonby had already pointed out that, before declaring war or when they are making the declaration of war, the statesmen of all countries, at least in modern history, always solemnly proclaim that they did not want the war. War and its train of horrors are rarely popular a priori and it is thus good taste to present yourself as a lover of peace.

2. “The opposing side is solely responsible for the war”
Arthur Ponsonby had already noted the paradox in the First World War, which could also no doubt be found in many previous wars: each side proclaims that it was forced, to declare war to prevent the other side from putting the planet to fire and sword.

3. “The enemy has the face of the devil”
You can’t hate the whole of a human group, even when it is presented as the enemy. It is thus more effective to concentrate hatred of the enemy onto the opposing leader. The enemy thus has a face and this face is evidently odious. War is not carried on against the “Boshes” or the “Japs” but more precisely against Napoleon, the Kaiser, Mussolini, Hitler, Nasser, Gaddafi, Khomeiny, Saddam Hussein or Milosevic. This odious bogeyman disguises the diversity of the population they lead, amongst the ordinary citizen might find a counterpart to identify with.

4. “We are defending a noble cause not particular interests”
Wars generally have as their motive a desire for geopolitical domination, accompanied by economic reasons. But such motives for war cannot be admitted to public opinion. Modern wars, however, are only possible with the consent of the population, if only because parliaments have in principle to give their agreement to war being declared. This consent is easily obtained if the population thinks that their independence, their honour, their freedom, or their lives, depend on the outcome of the war and that the war is the bearer of indisputably moral values. Propaganda has therefore to disguise certain aims and get other aims believed in.

5. “The enemy knowingly commits atrocities; if we blot our copybook it’s involuntarily”
Stories about atrocities committed by the enemy are an essential element of war propaganda. Obviously this doesn’t mean that atrocities don’t take place in wars. On the contrary, assassinations, armed robberies, burnings, looting and rape seem rather to be — unfortunately — current in all war situations and the practise of all armies, from ancient times to the wars of the 21st century. What is specific to war propaganda is getting people to believe that only the enemy is in the habit of doing these things, while our own army is at the service of the population, even the enemy’s, and is loved by them. Deviant criminality becomes the very symbol of the enemy army alone, composed essentially of bandits without law or faith.

6. “The enemy is using unauthorised arms”
This principle is a corollary of the previous one. Not only do we not commit atrocities but we make war in a chivalrous way, respecting the rules — as if war was a game, certainly tough but manly. Obviously this is not the case of our enemies, who refuse to abide by the rules. In reality, the outcome of wars can depend on the strategic skills of the generals or on the motivation and courage of the participants but also — mainly? — on the clear superiority of the arms of one of the sides.

7. “We suffer very few losses, the enemy’s losses are enormous”
With only rare exceptions, humans generally prefer to be on the winning side. In the case of war the support of public opinion depends on the perceived results of the conflict. If the results are not good, propaganda must hide our losses and exaggerate those of the enemy.

8. “Artists and intellectuals support our cause”
Propaganda, like all forms of advertising, is based on emotion. It is the lever used permanently to mobilise public opinion; it can even be said that propaganda and emotion have always been of the same nature. However, to arouse emotion you can’t rely on civil servants. You have to call in either advertising professionals — which the Kuwait lobby did in calling in Hill and Knowtown who concocted for them the touching story of babies torn from their incubators by Iraqi soldiers—or to artists and intellectuals, who are professionally trained to arouse emotions.

9. “Our cause has a sacred character”
If our cause is sacred we are obliged to defend it, if necessary with arms. But this sacred character can be taken either in a literal or a broader sense. Taken literally, this would mean that, if the cause is religious, the war is a crusade from which nobody can opt out. And in fact the religious argument has been used in war propaganda. Pithy formulations such as Gott mit Uns, In God we trust, or God save the Queen will be recalled which often accompanied the combatants and still do.

10. “Those who question the propaganda are traitors”
Lord Ponsonby had already noted that any attempt to cast doubt on the stories of the propaganda services is immediately considered as a lack of patriotism or rather as treason.

(Translated from Principes élémentaires de propagande de guerre by Anne Morelli, Editions Labor, Brussels, 2001)