Monday, March 11, 2024

Are You Satisfied with Your Pay? (1956)

From the March 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ask any body of workers if they think they are getting enough pay, the pay they think they are worth, and it is safe to say that nine out of every ten would answer No! They nearly all think they ought to get more, and would get more if things were run properly. They nearly all have a vague feeling that things aren’t run properly. They are annoyed that nobody—this includes the trade unions, the employers, the political parties and the Government—does anything about it and they all have some notion about what ought to be done. Some point to the impossibility of keeping themselves and their families “decently” in face of the cost of living—in their view it ought to be the duty of the employers or the Government to see that everybody has enough to maintain this “decent” standard of living.

Some think that things would be all right if wages were raised and their employers' profits lowered. But if they happen to work in a firm or an industry where sales are falling and profits are small or non-existent they look to the Government to give subsidies or do something to improve the sales of the article they produce. Lots of workers blame or envy other workers. The labourers envy the craftsmen, while the craftsmen and foremen complain that they do not receive wages sufficiently above the labourer’s rate to compensate for their skill and responsibility. Many teachers have a special resentment because, as they allege, they receive no more than do dustmen. University graduates think that a proper wages policy would recognise more the importance of having a degree, and scientific workers think that the scales are unjustly weighted in favour of administrative workers. Feminists clamour for the male “rate for the job” and provoke some of their male colleagues into demanding “justice” for the married man with dependents. The queue of the disgruntled stretches indefinitely and encircles the globe.

They are all there, the bank clerks and postal clerks, the parsons, the lawyers, the doctors, the dentists and nurses. The shopkeepers, too, have their grievances against the manufacturers and are looking with envy now at the furore created in France by the shopkeepers' dingy saint M. Poujade. Then there are the pensioners, the police the soldiers, the prison warders—and the Red Dean’s revolting choristers at Canterbury. At the end of the line are the non-workers the small unhappy band of surtax payers and millionaires who swear that high taxation compels them, if they are to live the lives of conspicuous wastefulness fitting to their station, to overspend their incomes and eat up their capital; a practice as loathsome to a Capitalist as is cannibalism to a missionary.

And for every group of complainants there is an aspiring trade union official, politician, or economist with a glib solution. The solutions are too numerous to list here. They are seemingly as varied as the occupational groups from which they spring but they all have one thing in common. They all assume that there is, or could be, in the world of Capitalism a defensible social principle by which wages could be fixed at a “proper” level. They all ignore the facts of Capitalist life. As practical solutions they are all so much trash.

The Law of the Jungle
Capitalism knows no social principle of distribution according to need, or responsibility, or skill, or training, or risk, or so-called “value of work,” or “usefulness to the community.” If Capitalism has anything that' approaches a principle it is that income shall be in inverse proportion to work. If you own capital in sufficient amount you never need work at all, and the more you avoid work in order to enjoy luxurious living the greater the esteem and attention you will have bestowed upon you.

The Socialist knows why this is and how the system works. Society’s means of living are owned by the propertied class, the Capitalists who are in business to provide themselves with their kind of income, profits. They employ the working class in order to make profit out of them, a proceeding the working-class are forced to accept because they are propertyless. The Capitalist pays as little as he can for the kind of worker he needs. All the worker can do is to bargain and struggle to get as much out of the employer as circumstances permit and what circumstances permit depends on whether the Capitalist needs the kind of skill the worker has to offer. If the employer needs a certain kind of skill and if the number of workers having that skill is limited the employer will1 have to pay accordingly for it, he will have to pay more to the skilled than to the unskilled worker. But if owing to the decline of a given trade, or the invention of a machine, which replaces craftsmanship, skilled operatives are not in demand their wages will fall.

In the depression of the nineteen thirties apprenticed engineering craftsmen, skilled coal miners, university graduates, and agricultural labourers, were a drag on the market. Capitalism had no need for all there were of them and their wages fell. During the war Capitalism had need of coal and food, of engineering and chemical products, and all these groups had their chance to push up wages beyond the rise of the cost of living. “Merit” and “human needs” and “usefulness to the community” and all the other fine-sounding phrases, have nothing to do with it. What counts is whether the worker is useful to the Capitalist, and the only usefulness the Capitalist knows is usefulness in making profit. The only argument he has to listen to is the fact of inability to get sufficient of the workers he needs, and the amount of strike pressure trade union organisation can bring to bear to prevent him getting enough workers at the wage he offers.

Is it crude, callous and inhuman? Of course it is. It is the law of the jungle, the only law Capitalism knows.

And has Socialism any alternative to offer? Indeed it has, but by Socialism we mean the Socialism of Socialists, not the spurious State Capitalist nostrums offered by the Attlees and Bevans and the clique who run Capitalism in Russia.

All over the world the cut throat Capitalist wages system operates and only Socialists have as their aim the replacement of Capitalism by a Socialist system of society in which there will be no wages system, no propertied class and working class, the one living on income from property and the other on wages. Under Socialism people will work cooperatively to produce what all need and all will freely take what they need out of the products and services cooperative effort achieves.

Of course the pseudo-Socialists named above all pay lip-service to the ideal of abolishing Capitalism and the wages system but whether or not they understand what they are talking about they show by their actions and programmes that they do not intend to seek that solution. They all in their time bleat about the need for bold, far-reaching action but all with one accord recoil from the Socialist objective they profess to desire.

For the working class of the world the choice is simple, either to take the organised political action necessary to introduce Socialism or to continue with Capitalism. The one thing that cannot be had is to impose on the Capitalist jungle some socially acceptable and satisfying wages policy.
Edgar Hardcastle

50 Years Ago: The Ethics of Revolution (1956)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some good people in the Labour movement . . .  are keenly endeavouring to get the workers to study ethics. They urge that the world would be much better and happier if only people were more moral and altruistic, and they further argue that if the working class, the despised and rejected of men, would display a higher morality, the Capitalist class would be converted to the Labour movement. The Socialist has one of his most insidious foes in the ethical culturist. Their position is a denial of the materialist basis of Socialism, because it is simply an appeal to the individual, as though the majority of individuals could elevate themselves above their environment. If the teaching of ethics were all that is required to bring social salvation, how comes it that after 2,000 years of the teaching of the ethics of Christianity for example, the hewers of wood and drawers of water are worse off, than they have been for ages? Buddha, Confucius and others taught the Golden Rule long before Christ, yet the world is little the better.

The teaching of love and brotherhood, in a system that exists owing to the robbery of one class by another, is immoral. The moral course is that followed by the Socialist, who points out why this robbery takes place, explains the method by which it is done, and shows how it may be ended.

Standing firmly all the time on his material philosophy, the Socialist keeps clear of the illogical position taken up by the ethicist and the alleged Labour leader. Realising that with a society whose material foundation is conducive to a better relationship between man and man, a higher morality must ensue because of this advance in civilisation, he endeavours to teach his fellow members of the working class the opposition of the Capitalist class and their system to their interests, and the immorality of their position, and he organises them for the overthrow of Capitalism and the establishment of the higher system—Socialism. The revolutionist is the most moral because he points out the causes of today's evils, and organises to uproot them, while the Utopian ethicist leads the workers, consciously or unconsciously, in a manner calculated to breed despair, since they do not show the way to social emancipation, but on the contrary, blind them to the root causes of their misery. Revolution alone is moral, because it is consistent with the facts of life. The revolutionist is the true ethical teacher, because he endeavours to establish a form of society in which man’s relationship with his fellows would necessitate a higher ethic than that of today.

[From the “Socialist Standard",  March, 1906]

The Passing Show: Declaration of Washington (1956)

The Passing Show Column from the March 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Declaration of Washington

The declaration issued jointly by President Eisenhower and Sir Anthony Eden after their recent talks in Washington must long stand as an object-lesson in the art of inserting the maximum amount of inaccuracy in the minimum amount of space. The declaration occasionally approaches the truth when it deals with the misdeeds of “the other side,” the Soviet bloc.; but when they dwell on their own records and aims, the president and the Premier rarely get even with hailing distance of the facts.

Theological Gambit

The Anglo-American leaders begin roundly:
“We are conscious that in this year of 1956, there still rages the age-old struggle between those who believe that man has his origin and his destiny in God and those who treat man as if he were designed merely to serve a state machine.”—(The Times, 2-2-56.)
Eden and Eisenhower thus blandly ignore both those of no religion who support the Anglo-American bloc, and all those fervent religionists—including the large Russian Orthodox Church, for example—who would die for the Stalinists. In fact the struggle between the two blocs has nothing whatever to do with religion or irreligion: each state has its tame churches to give it the divine sanction: the struggle is between the British ruling class and the American ruling class (who happen to have sufficient mutual interests to support an alliance) on the one hand, and the Russian ruling class (usually supported by their Chinese opposite numbers) on the other. But the desire for self-justification is strong: hence the habit of claiming the approval of the Almighty.

One for Ripley

But this is merely an opening canter. Warming to its theme, the second paragraph of the declaration runs (believe it or not):
“ Because of our belief that the state should exist for the benefit of the individual and not the individual for the benefit of the state, we uphold the basic right of peoples to governments of their own choice."
Or, as one might paraphrase it when one has regard to reality, “because of our belief in something we don't believe in, we uphold what we deny.” The claim of Eden and Eisenhower to believe that “the state should exist for the benefit of the individual and not the individual for the benefit of the state” surely borders on the farcical. Both the President and the Prime Minister were in the highest counsels of Great Britain and the U.S.A. during the last war, when the state in each of these countries so far denied the elementary rights of the individual that it conscripted millions of its citizens and sent them off to kill other individuals and be killed themselves. Not only do Eden and Eisenhower believe that the individual exists for the benefit of the state: they go further—they believe that when called upon he should cease to exist for the benefit of the state. But official pronouncements would not read so well if they confined themselves to the truth, nor would they make such good propaganda.

What can be said about the second part of this almost incredible paragraph, where the signatories allege that they uphold the basic right of peoples to governments of their own choice? When one thinks of the Prime Minister giving his consent to this clause, at a time when British troops are on an active footing in British Guiana, Cyprus, Kenya and Malaya expressly to prevent their people's having governments of their own choice, one can only feel grateful that the cares of high office have not deprived Sir Anthony of his sense of humour.

All my own work

Lack of space prevents the analysis of the Declaration in the detail it deserves. But one other paragraph must be quoted:
“During the past ten and more years 600 million men and women in nearly a score of lands have, with our support and assistance, attained nationhood. Many millions more are being helped surely and steadily towards self-government. Thus, the reality and effectiveness of what we have done is proof of our sincerity."
Since Britain has been in the Empire racket longer than America, the insincerity of this statement is more immediately obvious in regard to Eden than Eisenhower. Britain attempted to retain her Indian Empire (which contains the great majority of the 600 millions referred to) by every means at her disposal. A great army was maintained there; any expression of opinion in favour of independence invited ruthless official action; if the people demonstrated for independence they were forcibly scattered and the leaders (including for example Pandit Nehru) thrown into British jails. Riots and shootings and massacres marked the progress of the years. At length the British power waned, and the British State could no longer afford to maintain the repression in face of the almost unanimous opposition of the peoples of the Indian Empire. And so the Attlee Government withdrew from India, being no longer physically capable of remaining there. It is this eviction of the British by the Indians which Sir Anthony Eden now tries to describe as a British achievement. It is as if a boxer, after fighting a dozen rounds, is at length knocked out; and as he is carried from the ring opens one eye long enough to remark “I retire voluntarily from the contest and claim all the credit for my opponent’s victory.”

Who said aggression ?

No doubt if the British are thrown out of Cyprus this will also be counted as a great British contribution to the establishment of self-government, and the British ruling class will expect the Greek ruling class (which will take over from. them) to be duly grateful. But until this happens the task is to explain why Cyprus should not have self-government. In this connection a recent letter written to The Times (11-2-56) by Lord Vansittart is of considerable interest.

It appears that Britain has every right to be in Cyprus, because it “belongs to us.” Since Lord Vansittart coyly refrains from explaining how it came to “belong to us,” a word on the subject might not be out of place. Briefly, in 1877-8 Russia attacked Turkey, with the aim of seizing part of her Balkan territories; Great Britain, in the role of knight in shining armour, sprang to Turkey’s side to defend her against Russian aggression; the fleet was ordered to the Turkish coast, and alarm and counter-alarm succeeded each other. But when the smoke had cleared away, it was found that the noble British Government had taken advantage of the crisis to force Turkey to hand Cyprus over to British rule. The Cypriots, of course, had not been consulted.

It is this expert piece of sharp practice which Lord Vansittart now contends gives “us” the right to stay in Cyprus.

A little late to recant

But do not think that Lord Vansittart’s endorsement of this smooth-faced knavery means that he has no principles. He has. Or rather he used to have. He refers in his letter to “ the primary principles for which millions died in two vast wars”: and among them, it will be remembered, was the principle of self-determination. None was more vociferous than Lord Vansittart in his clamour for strict measures against German aggression before 1939, and for the merciless prosecution of total war against Germany between 1939 and 1945. But now, it appears, Lord Vansittart has had second thoughts. The principle for which millions died, to quote his own letter, no longer engages his support That “self-determination should be automatic ” Lord Vansittart now decries as a “delusion” The Germans under Hitler, of course, were in favour of self-determination in certain circumstances; it was only the application of the principle to countries like Czechoslovakia and Poland that they objected to, because there it was against the economic interest of the German ruling class. Lord Vansittart has now accepted the pre-1945 German view of the matter, which could be summarized as “self-determination unless it conflicts with one’s own interests.”

And so Lord Vansittart changes his mind. But all the British soldiers who died in the war of which Lord Vansittart was the prophet, and in which he beat the drums louder than anyone else, they stay dead. The principle they thought they were fighting for is now found by the noble lord to be a “delusion.” If only it was as easy to bring the millions of dead to life again as it is for a politician to change his principles!
Alwyn Edgar

How to live on your £100 a week (1956)

From the March 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the course of this little piece, our readers are invited to try their wits at guessing in a sort of “‘What’s my Line” manner, the identity of the person we have in mind. We can offer no special prizes of vacuum cleaners, cars or trips to Hollywood for any correct answers because you may not have swallowed the Labour and Tory party lines about the class-struggle being a “myth.” You are warned that the person in question could be employed as any of the following—(or has some alternative means of living such as an Old Age Pensioner), a road sweeper, bus driver, school teacher, coal miner, docker, textile worker, an engineer or an “over paid” meat porter in Smithfield Market. Now for due number one, the amount received by our “object” is only £100 per week and the Daily Express, well known for its distortion of Socialism and its supports of wage claim, publishes some details in its issue of January 23, 1956. The “object” says “£100 a week doesn’t go far,” and this is why she lives in a villa 15 miles outside Paris, and is being sued by her husband for £75,000 worth of jewellery.

Ambitious workers whose idea of curing their poverty is to win the Pools, regard this paltry sum as more than enough for the rest of their lives. Simple arithmetic shows, however, that if a Pools winner spent £75,000 on jewellery there would not be much left for that “little car and little house” (the Capitalists always find it pays to keep workers thinking “little”).

Now as the result of the husband’s changed feelings the villa was scantily furnished; “ it contained: one settee, two small chairs, an old garden table, no carpets, no curtains.” Without going to New Bond Street, which caters entirely for the “lower income groups,” we could buy enough working class “furniture” in six months to fill a warehouse with half the “objects” income, and not on the never-never either.

To anyone so naive as to think she is well off she says “it’s about time the truth were told.” She married a Swiss multi-millionaire in Ceylon 18 months ago and “among the presents to her: a Caribbean Island, two cars, a black panther.” Remember that set of cheap pillow cases you bought when Bill got married? In the court she will be claiming £25,000 to furnish her prefab—sorry, villa—plus £100 a week when she is finding it so hard to keep herself, the panther, ten dogs, two Brazilian parrots and two humming birds on.

Answering questions by the Daily Express reporter, whose job in life is to chase around after the wealthy to keep the workers informed, our “object” says regarding the gems and paintings “I’ve no idea of the total value, perhaps £75,000. The Old Masters? I have one—an El Greco he gave me for my birthday.” And about the £400 a month “ That might seem a lot, but it doesn’t go far with a 70 acre estate. 1 live quietly here since the divorce writ came through. 1 haven’t put a foot inside Balmain’s or Dior’s—haven’t bought a thing.” Apart from in London, “where 1 did buy two Borzoi dogs because 1 need some protection here. 1 have eight other dogs all Pekinese.”

If a superannuated worker, at the age of 65, having worked 35 or 40 years for the same exploiter, gets £400 to spend the rest of his life on, maybe 10 or 15 more years, he is considered comfortably off and well provided for yet this sum is a month’s allowance for our hard-up “ object.” In the back-yard—sorry the grounds, among the terraces, the fountain nymph and sagging model teahouse, there was a “huge swimming pool with a great hole in one side ” which the husband does not seem to care about. “I feel he should put the place back in order,” she said. Well, that’s the story, or rather a story, one of the many that come up. "Of course by the standards of her class. Baroness von Thyssen, ex-model Nina Dyer, is hard pushed; after all, Monte Carlo and such places are not kept going by people who get only £100 a week. The amazing thing is that the members of the working class who make all the wealth and are always told the boss can’t afford more wages, continue nevertheless to take a keen interest in the exploits of Sir Bernard Docker, Aly Kahn, Rita Hayworth and Prince Rainier, etc.; amazing that is until we take account of the drab, colourless and repetitive lives workers live. Perhaps, then, we can understand the attraction of the circus.

To understand it is not, however, to condone it, because as Socialists we know the kind of world the workers can establish when they wake up—the world of Socialism, with no contrasts of riches and poverty, peace and war, but a community of social equals freely talcing what they need from the wealth they have produced in co-operation without the hindrance of wages and profits.
Harry Baldwin

Marxism and Inevitability – The Critics Criticised (1956)

From the March 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard
“There’s a destiny that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we may.”
Is Marxism the prose Rubaiyat of economic fatalism? Many pseudo-Marxists have half believed it. Quite a few critics of Marxism—Eastman, Berlin, Popper, etc., have wholly asserted it. A host of sentimental liberals and political do-gooders have also chosen to see Marxism as a secularised version of—”and the good must come to pass.” For such critics Marxism is either a synonym for Kismet or a variation of “The Lord will provide.”

It is true that the Communist Manifesto states, “Capitalism is its own grave-digger; its fall and the victory of the proletariat are alike inevitable.” This has been taken up by opponents of Marxism and echoed and re-echoed down the corridor of the years as evidence of the fact that Marxism spells out fatalism with a capital f. Yet anything less like religious or philosophical quietism than the Communist Manifesto it would be hard to imagine. Not only do its pages breathe political activism but it ends with a stirring call to action—”Workers of the world unit,” utterly at variance with any predestined assumptions. It is not difficult, however, to tear a sentence from its context and make the author appear to say the opposite of what he actually meant.

Now this particular type of criticism of Marxism pivots on the word “inevitability.” If we are to believe the critics of Marx the term inevitability, especially as related to human society, is synonymous with fatalism or predestination—”The moving finger writes and having writ moves on.” Thus in the Marxist scheme of things, vide the critics, inevitability means that human wills are writ so small as to be virtually non-existent.

The word “inevitability” as used by the critics in reproaching Marx carries a stigma; the stigma being that human beings are but puppets in some vast cosmic process. But is that the only significance which can be given to the word? One of course does not deny that in a given context the word “inevitability” can be synonymous with fatalism. What one does deny is that in the Marxist context they mean the same thing.

Let us, to paraphrase Marx, consider the word “inevitability” a little more closely and see how its meaning varies with the context. Thus we say night, inevitably follows day. Do we imply by such a statement that fatalism or predestination of some kind is involved in the rotation of the earth on its axis? It can, we think, be agreed that the regular sequence of events connected with the solar system has nothing to do with fatalism or any other kind of supernaturalism. Some one might, of course, say “but is it not true that men are nevertheless powerless to control solar events?” Here it would seem that inevitability implies the powerlessness of men. But surely the answer is that such events being non-human have nothing to do with the powers possessed by socially organised men. Therefore the question of powerlessness on the part of humans in non-human processes does not arise. The power of human beings lies in the fact of their ability to understand and utilise natural phenomena to their social advantage.

Again the inevitable sequences of events which occur in the solar system are of inestimable advantage to humans during the course of their lives. It enables one to go to bed supremely confident that after a night’s sleep one will wake up and it is morning. And to feel assured that in making an appointment a week hence the solar sequence of things will not have been reversed. If solar events were so arbitrary that in the words of the song “when it’s night time in Italy it’s Wednesday over here” then life on this planet would be a matter of conjecture. If inevitability, then, entails some aspect of a regularised and sequential eternity one can only add—long live inevitability.

One can further expand the advantage which inevitability has for us humans. Thus if we know that “A” will always bring about “B” then the certainty of this knowledge gives us an assured basis for utilising it. Such knowledge not only gives us power to understand the world but the power to change it.

On the other hand, if events were so capricious that water raised to a certain temperature did not always produce steam, or in switching on an electric kettle the water got colder instead of hotter, then the organisation of knowledge consequent upon an inevitable sequence of things would be impossible.

It does not follow then that inevitability pre-supposes the powerlessness of humans. It can, in fact, imply the contrary. Thus, for example, if the Moscow Dynamos were to meet a scratch village eleven we could say the result would be inevitable. This would not be because of the inability of the scratch side to kick a ball but of the highly trained athletic power of the Dynamos.

Now the working class in Capitalist society constitute not only the bulk of the population but are a highly trained productive class. Potentially they are the most powerful social group and the only section capable of basically transforming existing social conditions. When Marx spoke of social inevitability he was not as vulgar critics such as Eastman and Isaiah Berlin contend, postulating mysterious agencies beyond the control of humans, but had in mind the latent powers resident in the working class.

Marxists recognise, however, that inevitability has a twofold character; one of denial as well as one of affirmation. From one aspect it can be considered as a restraint on human power. From another, a source of possibilities and opportunities. Thus Capitalism through its social productive agencies constitutes a fetter on the free and fullest use of human skills and productive resources; just as the ownership of these productive resources by a class gives them power over the lives of others and inhibits their free development. Only in a classless society can human activity be equal, creative and shared.

If then extant society gives rise to certain social consequences inseparable from its existence, i.e. if “A” always affects “B” then, in order to eliminate “B” we must get rid of “A.” It is this recognition of the “must” which makes possible our decision to achieve the “ought.” Because the pressures and conflicts of Capitalism are permanent, powerful and pervasive, it becomes not a matter of preoccupation for the few but the concern of the many. If “A” is then a necessary condition for “B” this itself promotes the idea and need of getting rid of the cause. To say that in a system such as Capitalism which generates the consequences of its existence as a continuous and cumulative process men will never, never be able to correctly diagnose their social ills is to condemn them to a moronic level utterly out of keeping with their own history.

The Marxist concept of inevitability links the negative and positive aspect of the social situation and reveals the driving force of social change.

Socialists do not deny human will and choice. What they say is that if men are to raise themselves to a truly human stature this exploitative set-up where magic and myth, charlatanism and violence are agencies through which social problems are mediated, must go and the choice can only be a social arrangement of free and equal access to social wealth. Given the means the choice is inevitable.

Among the critics of Marx, and they are numerous, are those who fail to grasp the aspects of affirmation and denial in the concept of inevitability. For them social laws are another name for pre-determinism or an animistic notion of causality. They regard society, if they can commit themselves to such an organised notion, as a laissez-faire arrangement which can be altered and re-altered like a meccano set. Having no social charts or compass they remain as “free” as a cockle boat in mid-ocean.

There is also irony in the criticism of Marxism which asserts that not only is Marx’s inevitability, fatalism, but Socialism is utterly impossible. To the Marxist “aye” they can only counter with an everlasting “nay.” Their inevitability is shot through and through with fatalism, a sublime belief that inscrutable agencies control men and make it impossible for them to master a world.

Such critics can be shown on analysis to be supporters of the “eternal status quo.” For that reason their misunderstanding of Marxism is perhaps—inevitable.
Ted Wilmott

Editorial: Planless Booms and Runaway Slumps (1956)

Editorial from the March 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Although the periodical crises under post-war Labour Government rather took the shine off the idea of planning there is still a lot of belief in it. A hundred years ago those who believed that Capitalism is the best of all possible systems had a different idea. They thought that if each individual went about the business of making money or getting a job on his own the medley of efforts and strivings would, like a mosiac, combine together to make harmony for the nation as a whole. It did not work like that and 19th century Capitalism was rent by class struggle and rocked from time to time in the cycle of boom—crisis—slump.

So the theory grew up, not only in Labour Party circles, that the remedy must lie in the direction of planning. The same idea caught on in other parts of the world and many people believe that governments, alone or in international organisations, can and do plan and control the course of economic events. That is why the “inflation” crisis of the past 12 months and the dark forebodings of another slump inspire such bewildered comments from the “experts” and the newspapers. For if everything is planned and under control then the crisis and possible slump must have been planned—which is absurd—or must be due to pure ignorance and incompetence by the Government and its advisers—which is now meat for the Opposition but poison for the Tories. Certainly the Government's defenders have much to explain away. To start with, the theory that everything is planned to run smoothly according to design, requires, not only that there shall be no crisis and no slump to come after it, but also that there shall be no bursting boom to come before it. So the boom itself proved the failure of planning, though only last year the Government spokesmen were claiming it as their own work and soliciting votes on the strength of it.

The next thing is the “inflation" from which they say we are all in dire peril. They are all now agreed. Government and Opposition alike, that “inflation” is the enemy. A year ago, in February, 1955, the Government raised the bank-rate from 3½ per cent. to 4½ per cent. This was the first step to halt that enemy, and it was followed in July by the instruction to the banks to restrict loans. These measures were supposed to be the cure. They failed, and in October came the emergency budget with more measures. Why then the need for more and still more remedies to curb demand and capital investment? The answer is in the admission in a Daily Mail editorial of 17 February, 1956, that “ inflation . . . gains momentum every day,” and in the declaration of Sir Eric Gore-Brown, chairman of Alexanders Discount Company, (a declaration endorsed by the financial editor of the Manchester Guardian 17/2/56) that “in his view monetary restraints, for example the use of the bank-rate and a credit squeeze, could not either alone or in combination, stop the spiral of wages and prices.”

The leader-writer of the Daily Mail (17/2/56) seeks to condone the failure of the Government to control this crisis with the plea that “in some ways the looming crisis is one we have not encountered before.”

This crisis, according to him, is different because unlike earlier ones, it 
“could be called a crisis of prosperity, for it is caused by the weight of earned money making undue demands on out resources.”
Far from being novel this has always been a mark of booms and crises. Every boom has the superficial appearance of “too much money chasing too few goods” as every depression has the superficial appearance of “ too many goods chased by too little money.”

But booms and slumps are not caused by monetary factors but by conditions in the field of production and marketing, basically by the class ownership of the means of production and of production for sale and profit.

When the Capitalists are convinced that they can look forward to a period of expanding sales and rising profits they rush in to enlarge their factories, buy more machinery and raw materials, and bid for more workers. They all use what money they have and try to borrow more. In these conditions prices and wages rise and the competition for loans sends up interest rates. The raising of the bank-rate a year ago only put the seal on a rise of interest rates that was already happening.

Anyone who thinks this has not happened before need only look at the situation in 1920. There was then a seemingly unlimited demand for goods and for workers. The trade unions (mainly of skilled workers) that kept an unemployment register showed unemployment of about 1 per cent., as it is now. The cost of living was rising, it jumped by 23 per cent, in the year ended November, 1920. Bankers and others were complaining of “inflation ” and the Cunliffe Committee had reported at the end of 1919 on measures to combat it.

And the bank rate was in the news as it is today. In February, 1956, it was raised from 4½ per cent, to 5½ per cent In November, 1919, it was raised from 5 per cent, to 6 per cent., and in April, 1920, to 7 per cent. Then, as now, one of its declared aims was to discourage lending by the banks. Mr. A. W. Kirkcaldy in his “British Finance” (1921, p. 55) says of the first of those two rises:—“in the main it was designed to check the speculative movement that became pronounced during the closing months of 1919, and to administer an effective check to the demand for further expansion of bank credit, if not to commence a gradual process of deflation.”

Inflation the Friend—or the Enemy ?
In 1920 and 1956 inflation is, by common consent, the enemy. It now has not a friend in the world, or at least not one who will disclose his friendship openly. It was not ever thus. In 1932 Lord Beaverbrook’s newspapers were running a great campaign for inflation! The Sunday Express (15/5/1932) had this:—
“The movement is growing and spreading. Most public men are now in favour of inflation. Practically every Member of Parliament speaking in the debates is an inflationist. Some of them are no longer even shy of the word. The movement is extended to many of the newspapers. It is even being adopted by the Times."
Prominent members of the Labour Party were rushing in to support the great new cause of inflation.

Now they have got what they asked for and they like it hardly more than they did the slump situation of 1932 from which inflation was to save them.

Many of them are fearful that this “inflation” crisis may be followed by a slump. (The 7 per cent. bank rate of 1920 preceded the over 2,000,000 unemployed of 1921).

So indeed it may. There are certainly in evidence some of the chaotic features that precede slumps and that in any event provide proof of how planless Capitalism always is and must be.

The American and other governments are embarrassed by the enormous stocks of unsaleable wheat and butter they hold. Was this planned? And the motor manufacturers here and in the U.S.A. are cutting back production “temporarily” because of stocks of unsold cars. But simultaneously all the big motor companies are going ahead with plans to expand their manufacturing capacity, amounting in the aggregate to many tens of millions of pounds. This is not planning but gambling. They all hope that demand will increase again and absorb their still further expanded production. They all fear that there is a possibility that demand may collapse instead of increasing, but they can’t be sure, and at the moment no big company dare drop out of the race to design and produce new and better cars and more of them. The company that ceases to compete fades out. And as if the car manufacturers of the Western Powers had not enough to worry about Russia too is now an exporter.

But who knows how Capitalism will run in the next five years or even one year? It may happen soon that the world’s markets will collapse as in 1921 and 1930— or it may not; or it may happen that particular countries, among them Britain, and particular industries may be hard hit while the rest may be little affected. Such things have happened before and could happen again. The evidence does not by any means all point to a serious depression. A large and rapidly growing place in production is being taken by the new atomic and electronic industries. For production and for military purposes enormous new investments are going on. and will go on even if depression does hit some established industries. A case in point is the raising of £24 million new capital by Associated Electrical Industries Ltd., only one of the many firms interested in this new and rapidly expanding field. It will, of course, seem to the men inside each of firms such as A.E.I., as to the men inside the motor firms, that they are carefully planning every move they make and with every possible effort to foresee the conditions in which their products will be coming on to the market one year or many years ahead. But this is all beside the point as far as world demand and world supply are concerned. While every British firm is planning to sell its products in the world market, so are similar firms and governments in every other country. They do not know very much about the eventual size of the potential world demand for all their products, and they know less still about the total supply there will be to satisfy the demand when all these unrelated plans for expanded production are completed and the bigger flow of products pours out. They all hope to get a large enough share of the market and all hope that the price they get will be a profitable one. They all hope, but they cannot know. They all gamble on the future. And every now and then the gamble produces chaotic conditions of such extent as to disorganise all markets and slow down all production. Capitalism is that sort of system and there is no cure except Socialism.

Our complaint against the "Evening Standard" (1956)

From the March 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Negative reply from the Press Council

In October last the Evening Standard (12/10/55) published an article by Sir Beverley Baxter, M.P. about the annual conference of the Labour Party, which be described however as the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

We wrote to Sir Beverley Baxter asking “why go out of your way to give to the Labour Party a name that you know is not its own, and why you select for that purpose, also as you know, the name borne by this organization, which incidentally was formed before the Labour Party." He replied as follows:—
“ I have noted your letter of disapproval and am obliged for the trouble you look in writing to me.”
We then wrote to the Editor of the Evening Standard enclosing a copy of the correspondence with Baxter. From the Editor, Mr. Percy Elland, we received an equally brief reply:—
“ Thank you for sending me these letters between yourself and Sir Beverley Baxter. 1 have nothing to add to this correspondence."
We then (on 15 November) sent the correspondence to the Press Council with the following letter:—
“Dear Sir,

We wish to bring to your notice an example of deliberate presentation of incorrect information in the Press. As you will see from the enclosed copies of letters written by us to Sir Beverley Baxter and the Editor of the Evening Standard respectively and their replies, a deliberately inaccurate statement was published but the writer of the article and the Editor both declined to treat seriously a reasonable complaint.
It would seem to us that deliberate falsification of this kind is incompatible with a claim to publish accurate reports.

What is the purpose of this particular practice on the part of those concerned we are unable to guess. We would like to have your views on the matter.
Yours truly.”
Later on (4 January, 1956) we supplied the Council with a copy of an article in the Socialist Standard of June, 1939, showing that at that time Sir Beverley Baxter was habitually describing the Labour Party as the Socialist Party of Great Britain in his regular articles in the Canadian Weekly, Maclean's.

We had in 1939 sent a copy to Sir Beverley Baxter to remind him (if that were necessary) of his error.

We have now received the decision of the General Council of the Press in a letter dated 20 January, 1956, the Council’s Secretary, Mr. Alan Pitt Robbins, C.B.E. 
“ Dear Sir,

I am instructed to inform you that at its quarterly meeting on January 17th, the Press Council considered your complaint against the Evening Standard.

The Council decided to take no action in the matter in view of the fact that readers of the article would clearly understand the organisation to which Sir Beverley Baxter was referring ”
We do not find the reason given by the Press Council at all satisfactory because the absence of confusion is by no means as clear as they would have it. Every speaker on the platform of the S.P.G.B. knows by experience that there are large numbers of people who do not know the difference between the S.P.G.B. and the Labour Party. How does the Press Council know that there is no such confusion in the minds of Evening Standard readers.

And it would seem that Sir Beverley has had doubts himself, because in the issue of MacLeans dated 24 December, 1955, his London Letter contains the following:—
“ I am sorry to confess that while I rarely attend the Tory Conference 1 never miss the one held by the Labour Party.”
But we shall probably never know why Baxter started the practice years ago (was it one of those silly brain waves of Lord Beaverbrook?) nor why he has abandoned it now—if he has abandoned it now—(perhaps he is going to have one rule for Canada and another for Britain).

Before the Press Council had given us its decision on the complaint against the Evening Standard we had published in our issue for January, 1956, the editorial dealing with the faking of reports in the Beaverbrook Press in years past. The Council have taken no action on this (understandably perhaps in view of the lapse of time since the incidents referred to occurred) and their letter to us dated 20 January, 1956, refers only to Sir Beverley Baxter's article in the Evening Standard of 12 October. 1955.
There, at the moment, is how the matter stands.
Editorial Committee.

Professor Cole rides again (1956)

Letter to the Editors from the March 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard
We received the following letter to which a reply is attached.

World Socialist Movement

Dear Sirs,

In the January issue of the Socialist Standard there is a reference on p. 3 to “movements like the one sponsored by G. D. H. Cole”—presumably referring to the World Socialist Movement.  Since your writer gave a quite erroneous impression of the nature of this movement I should be obliged if you would publish the following information in the Socialist Standard.

The World Socialist Movement is not a movement craving for a mass following. Naturally we seek to convince people of the possibility and desirability of world Socialism (as, we understand, does the Socialist Party of Great Britain). Your article refers to “ those who . . . have hedged, compromised, and thrown principles to the winds in order to swell the numerical support,” etc. However applicable these statements may be to the other movements you mention, they most certainly do not apply to the World Socialist Movement, which is quite explicitly an educational and not a mass movement. Your readers can confirm this by reading our introductory leaflet (obtainable from the above address) which contains a summary of our beliefs in six principles—” the minimum, which can on no account be diluted in an attempt to gain popular support.’
John H. Roddam.
Secretary W.S.M.

Executive Committee, S.P.G.B.,
52, Clapham High St., S.W.4.

In an article that appeared in an American periodical “The Nation” (April 23rd. 1955), G. D. H. Cole outlined the practical suggestions he thought would come from the organisation that he proposed should be established. As a preliminary he stated:
“Besides, mass parties cannot think; they can only be influenced by the thinking of individuals or small groups of people who are prepared to think for them.”
Whit would this group of intellectual snobs do?
“The immediate task of this group would be not to act but to think together and to plan—to restate Socialist principles in relation to the most pressing contemporary problems, and to base on these principles a broad programme of action to which the various national movements would be called upon to play their part. Each member of the group, or order, would publicize its ideas in his own country and try to induce the national leaders to take them up.” 
What is this but an attempt to get a mass following of blind supporters? And what is the nature of the ideas that would be publicized?
“First, a clearly defined attitude towards the making and potential use of atomic weapons; second, a well-thought-out plan of campaign for a ‘war upon want’ designed to equalize, as nearly as possible, conditions of living in all countries; third, plans for a world economic structure that will avoid the evils both of capitalism and of bureaucratic centralization and will open up for the workers in every country rapidly increasing opportunities for democratic, responsible self-government in their working lives; and fourth the complete ending of imperialist domination, both political and economic, and the extension of self-governing independence to all people."
In other words Cole had gone back to the position of the early Fabians whose policy was largely responsible for the present position of the Labour Party.

Now let us turn to the leaflet which our critic encloses. It opens with the following three paragraphs in heavy black type:
"The World Socialist Movement strives to justify through its members its claim to be the nucleus of the coming world socialist society and not of a new party.

“We regard national governments and institutions as outmoded and aggressively competitive and militaristic in conception; and so we appeal to socialists all over the world to combine with us in the struggle to free ourselves and others from that which fetters our thoughts, falsifies our actions and makes a virtue of competition and segregation in place of co-operation and unity.

“We believe that socialists are hampered in their attempt to bring about a socialist world society less by opposition from without than by dissension from within, and our basic principles have been formulated in the belief that they are acceptable to all socialists; but they are the minimum, which can on no account be diluted in an attempt to gain popular support.”
The leaflet concludes with the following paragraph, also in heavy black type:
“We do not ask you to renounce existing loyalties; but there is no alternative to accepting new and greater loyalties if a socialist world is to come about.”
What is all this empty and dubious phraseology but an attempt to form a mass party. As an inducement they even say, in effect, stick to your old wrong-headed parties but also join us and help to swell our ranks. If this is not throwing principles to the winds, what is? To help swell their following they say, in the body of the leaflet:
“We are not concerned with attacking any country or political party. . . . There is no time to be wasted on destructive criticism;”
. . . 
“We do not believe that a socialist world can be achieved merely by persuading national governments to cooperate more closely. Neither do we believe that people will think as world citizens if we merely attack their deep rooted patriotic emotions”
. . .
“The World Socialist Movement has been started to bring together all the answers to the problems but we want everyone who shares the same reasonable belief to join us and work with us in the pursuit of our ideal.”
. . .
“But we shall have no rigid dogma that must be accepted before an individual can become a member. Every man and woman who wants a socialist world can find a place in our Movement and will be expected to give, in work and money, according to his means”
Well! Well! Well! “Never mind whether you support nationalisation, Social Credit, the Co-operative Movement or any other anti-Socialist idea that you wrongly believe is Socialist; join us and help to swell our ranks. We are the re-incarnated Fabians waiting to help you along the road to futility again!" It’s the old old stuff again with a new label on the bottle.

Now let us take a look at the “ ideal ” of this new party that is not a party. Here is their definition of it:
“The first need is to outline the sort of world we are striving for. We want a socialist world and by that we mean one in which there is common citizenship under a single code of law, in which every human being has equal rights. It means that there must be world planning for the production of raw materials and the manufacture of basic commodities, with world ownership of essential industries.”
What Labourite or advocate of state-ownership would disagree with that vague definition? Most Capitalists would find little fault with it; it is just an expansion of the “Welfare State” idea. There is nothing here about the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by. and in the interest of, the whole community. Is there not in this country already common citizenship under a single code of law? Is it not true that the heavy hand of the law falls equally on the millionaire and the pauper if either steals a loaf of bread?

The underlying implication of the leaflet is that its authors envisage Socialism as (synonymous with State ownership—with the qualification that it is a world state and not a national one. There is no suggestion of the abolition of buying and selling: no suggestion of a class cleavage in society, nor of the power of the class state. In the main the leaflet consists of vague generalities, inept proposals, and ignorance of the nature of the social problem and of the only steps that can be taken to solve it. It contains a number of contradictory statements. We have mentioned one or two: the claim that they are not a new party—but everyone should join them; that everyone should stay in their old parties—but ought to join them; that they have no dogma—but basic principles to which all must agree.

Now let us examine the six basic principles to which, they say, all prospective members must agree.
“1. To a socialist racial prejudices, religious intolerance, and class distinctions have no justification.”
That does not get anyone farther than polite agreement, though one might argue about the “justification.” Many who are not Socialists would agree to it. as they would agree to 'statements like “Poverty, hunger and oppression have no justification.”
“2. The ultimate aim is total disarmament, renunciation of national sovereignty, and positive co-operation between all peoples.”
Here we have the cloven hoof. The ultimate aim. not the immediate aim. The immediate aim can be the reformers' usual quiverful of projects that lead up blind alleys. What reformer would disagree with that alleged principle?
“3. 'Equality of opportunity' and 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs' should be applied on a worldwide as well .as a national scale.”
We note that these principles should be applied, not must or will be applied. And what is the meaning of “a world-wide as well as a national scale?” Is it suggested that they are now applied on a national scale? As there is no explanation of what the authors mean by the two principles, either here or in the body of the leaflet, we are left in the dark about how to interpret them.
"4. The means of production, distribution and exchange should belong to the community, and not to any individual or group.”
As money is the means of exchange the authors apparently envisage it belonging to the community. Consequently they are assuming the continuance of buying and selling. In an earlier part of the leaflet (which we have already quoted) they say that private enterprise has proved inadequate and the profit motive inefficient, but they do not attack state ownership—or nationalisation— so we are justified in assuming that this is what they mean by belonging “to the community” as this has always been the pseudo Socialist outlook.
“ 5. True socialism is true democracy and must be practised in political, economic and social fields.
“ 6. Socialism is a faith, an economic system and a political creed—the only real solution to the problems with which man is faced.”
What these two “principles” mean we do not know. There is nothing in the leaflet to explain them, and we take it that they are just some more wind. But we note that Socialism is “a political creed.” We assume, therefore, in spite of their denial, that they are in fact a new political party.

One thing, however, can be admitted about these “principles ”; they are so vague, windy and diluted that it would be difficult to dilute them any further. Consequently the supporters of multifarious reformist programmes, who falsely call themselves Socialists, should have no difficulty in accepting them and thereby building another road to the wilderness of futility, in the interests conscious or unconscious, of keeping the wheels of Capitalism running along smoothly.

SPGB Meetings (1956)

Party News from the March 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard