Friday, March 15, 2024

News in Review: Keeping cool in the space age (1966)

The News in Review column from the March 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Keeping cool in the space age

The fabulous achievement of Luna 9 was bound to cause a lot of excitement. But when everyone about you is losing their heads it is, as we know, a sound idea to keep calm.

What does a long, cool look at space flight reveal?

In the first place, it speaks volumes that with a mass of unsolved problems like hunger, crime, bad housing and war plaguing us on earth, capitalism spends such enormous efforts on investigating other worlds.

This is not an objection to space flights on moral grounds; there is no logical reason to expect capitalism suddenly to start putting human welfare before its own interests.

Space investigation is given a high priority by the world’s two great powers and it is not difficult to see why this is so.

Both the United States and the Soviet Union make no secret of the fact that their space programmes are an essential part of their military effort, yielding valuable information on guiding systems and aiming techniques for long range missiles.

Already the information is being used for military purposes; both powers have observation vehicles in orbit above us and the Americans have actually publicised their plans for a military space laboratory to be sent up in the near future.

But even if we make the effort to ignore this consideration and assume that the exploration of space is purely a matter of scientific investigation, there is still the question of what the world working class can hope to gain from it all.

Have the conditions of any worker, anywhere, improved—indeed, can they hope to improve—as a result of the space flights, the probes into the moon, the dare-devil acts of space walking and the rest? The answer is clearly no.

Who, then, stands to gain? Even at the present, new industries have arisen as a result of space flights, and established ones have done their best to get in on it. (The Daily Express, whose equipment helped to receive the moon pictures from Luna 9 made some quick advertisements out of it)

Presumably, other new industries will rise in the future, employing and. exploiting their workers in their efforts to make profit from the romantic business of space travel.

Eager investors will want to get in on this. Perhaps there will be a Unit Trust which deals in space shares.

In short, all capitalism’s normal standards of commerce and profitability will be applied to the Space Age. The knowledge which the flights yield will be used, as all such knowledge has been in the past, for the benefit of the ruling class —to improve the returns on their capital, to protect their interests, to establish them in new markets.

Perhaps, in the end, to help them blast their rivals out of the field—or the sky or whatever.

Man’s probing into space is only the latest of his victories over his environment, and the same lesson applies to it as to the others. Capitalism is the cause of the problems of modern society and until it is ended man’s achievements— his skill, his knowledge, his courage- will be misused and perverted.

Rail strike and the incomes policy

It would be difficult to say whether the last minute calling off of the rail strike was more of a relief to the Government or to the National Union of Railwaymen.

From the word go, the threatened strike was given a dramatic build-up; expressions like ’’last ditch” and ’’breaking point” cannot have been given so thorough an airing in the press for a long time.

The railwaymen were assailed from all sides. Even papers like The Guardian and the Daily Mirror, which in the past have been sympathetic to them, were urging the strikers to have what they called common-sense.

It was, apparently, a time fraught with danger for us all. If the railwaymen got their way the Government’s Prices and Incomes Policy would collapse and ruin, which anyway has never stopped hanging over us, would descend.

But it was no secret that the Incomes Policy was already a flop. Sooner or later then the Government had either to abandon it openly or provoke a head-on clash with a big union.

The NUR was predictably resentful at being awarded the part of keystone in George Brown’s policy, although they really had little to complain about, they, after all, support the Labour Government and they also support its Incomes Policy.

The trouble was the usual one, of getting a union which accepts wage restraint in principle to apply it to its own members in practice. The NUR was all for the Incomes Policy, but did not want to be the one to start it.

Indeed, who is going to volunteer for this role? Who will choose to ignore the effects of rising prices, who will forego a chance to improve their conditions, who can escape the class struggle?

So far, the answer is—nobody. The railwaymen are only the latest in a long queue of those who have campaigned for higher wages since the Labour Government came to power. Some have got it without resorting to anything as vulgar as a strike threat; the judges, high rank Civil Servants and members of the Armed Forces have all been given more than the Incomes Policy allowed them.

And, of course, there was the case of the Members of Parliament and the Ministers who, being in the happy situation of being able to give themselves a rise, agreed soon after Mr. Wilson took over that they should all have one.

Yet Ministers and M.P.s are the very people who are urging the rest of us to hold back on our claims. It is by no means unreasonable to expect that, if the Incomes Policy had to be started somewhere, it should have been in the House of Commons.

But the Members, when they were deciding that they should have a rise, used exactly the same sort of arguments as any trade union. They said they were overworked, that they could not make ends meet, that the House was not attracting the best sort of Member because they could get better money outside.

So the Incomes Policy, at least on the surface, is saved and staggers on to fight another day. Mr. Wilson has once more stood, like a knight in shining armour, between us and disaster—and once more has gained a lot of political advantages out of it, especially over George Brown, who was shown up publicly as unable to pull off something which Wilson could do.

Mr. Wilson has scored another palpable hit. But there is no denying the class struggle of capitalism. There will be other battles, and other strikes, and more undercover deals to settle them.

All right for some

It was most inconsiderate of the North Vietnamese Government; they might have guessed the effect it would have. True, they did their best to rectify the matter but in future they really must be more careful.

It happened on the 8th February last and it was started by a statement from the North Vietnamese Consulate in Delhi that President Ho Chi Minh had asked India's help in putting out peace feelers over Vietnam.

The Consulate quickly pointed out that the same request had been sent, presumably as a matter of routine, to several other governments, most of whom had dismissed it as the customary meaningless public relations stuff.

But before anyone had realised this a minor wave of panic hit Wall Street, where some investors were appalled by the prospect that peace would actually break out in Vietnam.

What would happen in such a situation to all that money invested in the aerospace and defence industries? When a war is hot and the killing fast, the sun shines on these investments. But the terrible prospect of peace brings dark and heavy clouds.

Thus it was that when some idiot in Delhi got the wrong end of the stick, and when the information was passed on, Wall Street's war stocks took a tumble. It took the later explanation from the North Vietnamese to put the matter right

Then Wall Street recovered. All the war investors there, who stay so courageously out of the firing line, made good their losses and that little corner of capitalism went merrily on. Of course in Vietnam the killing and the suffering continued, but what was that against the averting of a crisis on Wall Street?

This is all reminiscent of the 1951 slump in business in the United States and England, which was caused by the cancellation of government contracts no longer needed after the end of the Korean War.

It goes to show that not only does capitalism cause modern war but it also makes a business out of it—a business with its salesmen, its stocks and shares and its investors.

And let us not forget that the man who does well out of war investments, the man who gets a nice profit from putting his money in bombs and bullets, in fear and destruction, is that thing so beloved of capitalism — a Successful, Patriotic Business Man.

Mr Heath makes a discovery

Mr. Edward Heath, who fought his way up from the world-famous slums of Broadstairs through Oxford University to become (he hopes) the next Prime Minister of Great Britain, has recently made a staggering discovery.

Of course, since he became Tory leader Mr. Heath's publicity boys have been making sure that we discovered one or two things about him.

He's a bachelor. Lives in a flat in Albany, which is not one of those places you get into because you have enough points in the council housing list.

He plays the piano. And the organ. And he likes to conduct choirs dressed up (Mr. Heath, not the choir) in a big yellow sweater.

All of this should prove to us that Mr. Heath is a Man Of The People. And in case there are any doubters on this score, the leader himself has recently been probing around the People; that is how he made his staggering discovery.

There are far too many under privileged people in Britain. (Mr. Heath’s words, not ours—he said them at Birmingham last month.) Not only that; a fearless searcher after Truth like Ted Heath has more to reveal. There are also, he said, places which are “. . . breeding grounds of exceptional misery, poverty and crime; bad housing, oversized classes and rootlessness."

Now none of Mr. Heath’s public relations boys has ever issued a hand-out telling us that he suffers from a bad memory. But he seems to have forgotten that it was only two short years ago that he was an important member of a Conservative Government which was asking us to put them back into power because under them we “never had it so good."

And if Mr. Heath has forgotten this, what hope is there that he will remember the promises he is making now, to “. . . put an end to poverty and hardship in this country once and for all . . ."? Or that especially moving bit about old age pensioners “. . . a bit of extra tea to entertain a friend . . .”?

Perhaps the safest thing to assume is that the Tories do not expect this sort of drivel to be taken seriously; perhaps they think that in this time of pre-election fever anything goes. (A couple of days after his Birmingham speech, Mr. Heath was challenging the Government to let the electorate decide . . which party most has the welfare of the needy at heart”)

But if the Conservatives do mean it to be taken seriously—and if that is how the electorate take it — then there is clearly no bottom to the depths of political cynicism, and a depressingly dense stratum of working class gullibility to be penetrated.

Capitalism and health (1966)

From the March 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Twenty years ago the advocates of a National Health Service asserted that capitalism need not be detrimental to the health of working men and women. Speaking as Prime Minister in the spring of 1944, Winston Churchill stated that it was the policy of the Government to establish a National Health Service which would make accessible to all, irrespective of social class or means, adequate and modern medical care. With the introduction of the Health Service four years later the Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, also promised that it would be a classless service. Thus both Labour and Conservative Parties committed themselves to the same objective and they have now had the best part of two decades to. achieve this end. Have they succeeded?

In Britain chronic bronchitis is a widespread and killing illness, to such a degree that it has become known as “the English disease." The Registrar General's statistics reveal that in 1963, in England and Wales alone, there were thirty thousand deaths from this cause. Bronchitis is largely due to atmospheric pollution, cigarette smoking and the unfavourable, dusty conditions associated with jobs such as foundry working and coal mining. Pick up any medical text-book and you can read passages similar to the following, taken from a standard work : “If the individual's economic status permits he should be advised to live in a warm, dust free area . . ." “If the occupation is a dusty one then the individual should be advised to change it although in many cases this may not be a feasible proposition.”

If working men and women are complacent about the general standard of health, this can only be due to ignorance of the facts. The trends in death rates reveal that while some of the older traditional working class diseases—such as tuberculosis—are on the wane, others are becoming more common to take their place.

(Respiratory diseases, including bronchitis, were of lesser importance in 1964 than for the previous three years, this was probably due to the exceptionally mild winter. The long-term trend still shows an increase.)

The causes of lung cancer and coronary artery disease are not known with any certainty. It has been noticed with the latter, however, that there is a very high incidence among men whose work provides considerable tension and anxiety, with little opportunity for exercise. How many millions of “white- collar" workers—chained to a desk for eight hours a day and then jammed into a commuting train for a further period—would meet this description?

One of the main causes of chronic bronchitis is atmospheric pollution. This is a feature of towns and cities in every advanced capitalist country; 133 tons of industrial dirt fall on to the town of Duisburg (about half-a-million inhabitants) in the German Ruhr every day and the sulphur dioxide level in the air is far above that which is believed to be dangerous for humans (see report in the Daily Mail of 5th April, 1965). The same kind of muck falls on to Sheffield, Birmingham and London. It is a withering criticism of capitalism that the “cleaner-air" campaign, conducted in the Ruhr during 1964/65, was judged to be a success for the simple reason that it resulted in the first winter when the German industrial belt was not brought to a standstill because of smog. Any benefits to the health of the inhabitants were of secondary importance.

Perhaps some of .the most frightening statistics are those concerned with mental illness, In barely 10 years the number of patients entering mental hospitals has virtually doubled.

In Britain today patients with severe mental disturbances (the psychoses), together with serious cases of neurosis, occupy almost as many beds in hospitals as those suffering from all other illnesses put together. In his book on social medicine, S. Leff, M.D., D.P.H., describes the situation in the United States: approximately four out of every ten patients there are said to consult doctors with complaints due at least in part to emotional disorders; some 600,000 mental patients are in hospitals and 150,000 are admitted every year; eight million persons are suffering from mental disorder and one out of twenty of the United States population at some time requires psychiatric care. One million of the twenty-four million children now in schools in the United States are likely to spend some portion of their lives in a mental hospital. There are between three and five million people suffering from amentia or dementia who are not in institutions and about six million are incapacitated because they are on the border line of mental disorders.

In Great Britain no comprehensive field survey has yet been made into psychiatric illness, but less extensive studies have been conducted. One such study, which was designed to give a conservative estimate, showed that in a typical group practice in South London psychiatric illness could be observed in one year in 14 per cent of all patients who consulted their doctor. In addition a further five per cent of the registered patients showed distinct “abnormal" personality traits. Two large surveys in factories have revealed that from one-quarter to one-third of the total sickness absences from work are due to neurosis. Another study of 30,000 workers employed in thirteen light and medium engineering factories showed that one in ten suffered from disabling neurotic illness, and two in ten from a minor form of neurosis. Although there has been controversy over the validity of some of these figures, these “findings have been reinforced by a series of estimates which have been made of the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in the total populace." (Modern Trends in Occupational Health—K. S. F. Schilling, 1960.)

We may be accused of taking every unpleasant feature of the modern world and using it unfairly to illustrate the social bankruptcy of capitalism. It might be said that we are not justified in concluding that it is the social environment which gives rise to mental disease. The Ewing Report on The Nation’s Health to the President of the United States argues our case for us:
Man's mental as well as physical health is very much at the mercy of what goes on about him. The economic insecurity of unemployment and old age, the lack of opportunity for education and adequate health services, poor housing and lack of good sanitation, prejudice and discrimination, failure to share in the civil liberties guaranteed to all citizens, inflation, the threat of atomic war—these are very real every-day problems and they are the kind of social factors that can wear away personal defences and destroy mental health.
It makes bitter reading to look back and see that in 1944 the workers in Britain were guaranteed “adequate and modern medical care.” The hospitals, for example, are in a sorry mess. The general situation is one of too few doctors struggling on with out-dated equipment and facilities. The Government’s official publications admit as much: " . . . under present conditions work properly belonging to consultant posts is being regularly discharged by senior registrars and members of more junior grades.” This is simply because the number of consultants “is still inadequate to the needs of the hospitals.” The reasons for this include “financial restrictions to which hospital authorities are subject” and “inadequacies in accommodation and facilities, especially operating theatres and laboratories.”

And what about that section of the working class which runs the health service? Probably if one conducted a census, at least 90 per cent of doctors, nurses, dentists, etc., would deny that they were members of the working class. But whether they choose to face up to reality or not is largely immaterial; every working day of their lives they are confronted with the hard facts of their wage earning status. They, too, are forced to conduct a ceaseless struggle to maintain their salaries and working conditions. On top of this they find themselves faced with the problem common to all working men and women—such is the pressure on them, they must work to a standard far inferior to that which they are capable of. One dentist recently referred to the “sheer vocational frustration induced by the fact that practitioners are virtually denied the opportunity of practice at the level which their ability and enthusiasm could achieve.” What other working man, forced to prostitute his skills and talents, could not echo this?

It is axiomatic in medicine that the doctor should concentrate on eradicating the disease itself and not waste valuable time and effort on palliative treatment for individual symptoms. The working class could do worse than apply this principle to capitalism—a system of society which brings each one of us little more than poverty, insecurity, frustration and ill-health.
John Crump

Adulterating our food (1966)

From the March 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard
“If you must adulterate your milk, please use this clean water.” (Notice on a water tank in an Indian dairy, in the 1930's.)
Did you know that the first ever attempt, in the English speaking world anyway, to legislate against food adulteration originated in Britain in 1860? That year “An Act for Preventing the Adulteration of Articles of Food or Drink” was passed by Parliament, although by the time it reached the Statute Book it had itself suffered such adulteration that it was virtually inoperative. However, it paved the way for the other laws that followed fairly rapidly, and an interesting point about its original draft was that there was provision for regulation-making powers almost as wide in some respects as those which exist today. That should be a sobering thought for the enthusiastic reformist.

Like so many comparatively modern problems, food adulteration became a real headache only with the advent of capitalism. It was the Industrial Revolution which pushed the peasants into the towns, no longer producing their own foodstuffs but having to rely on those produced and sold by others. There was a growing demand for cheap food in line with the wage worker's puny purchasing power, and it was little wonder that adulteration began to flourish. Indeed, it became a very profitable business and by the beginning of the 19th century some of the more far-seeing capitalists were getting rather alarmed at its possible effects on the labour force.

It was not just that ale and milk were being watered down, but also that highly poisonous substances such as lead, mercury, tincture of capsicum and essence of cayenne, were being added to food. These and other abuses were publicised by The Lancet Analytical Sanitary Commission, and were investigated by a Parliamentary committee in 1855. Their confirming report is interesting for its assessment of the problem in commercial terms, something with which we are so familiar in 1966: —
Not only is the public health thus being exposed to danger and pecuniary fraud being committed on the whole community, but public morality is tainted and the high commercial character of the country . . . lowered both at home and in the eyes of foreign countries. (Quoted by Dr. J. H. Hamence, in a paper to the Pure Food Centenary Conference, 1960.)
Since those days we have come a long way. or have we? It is true, as Dr. Hamence also tells us, that by the turn of the century “the grosser forms of adulteration had largely disappeared and the lesser forms were being kept well under control” due mainly to the efforts of the public analysts. Equally true is it that today most food manufacture's have their own scientific staff and analytical chemists to help them keep within the mass of Government regulations. Yet the duties of the public analyst, although much changed when compared with his early predecessors, have expanded a great deal over the years. They now involve use of such methods of detection as chromatography and spectro-photometry. Why is this?

Well, capitalism doesn’t stand still, of course. As we have said, it was responsible for the emergence of the adulteration problem, and it also causes it to continue, but in different guises and forms. (This, by the way, is not to mention the very real new danger of contamination from radio active fallout.)

The analyst of the 1960’s has to be on his guard against a multitude of additives, colourings, anti-oxidants and pesticide residues (there were about 750 different pesticides on the market last year), to say nothing of the need to check manufacturers' claims on the nutritional value of their products. In this connection, the 1960 words of Dr. Hamence could easily have been written today:—
. . . advertising is straining at the leash and heaven knows what we should be told about a foodstuff if there were no public analyst.
All this is not surprising in the context of mid-20th century capitalism. For while the question of purity is one which may constantly concern a food manufacturer this is only part of the story. In the chaos that is capitalism, all sorts of interests compete, sometimes with the result that for each step taken forward, just a bit more than that one step is taken backward, Agriculture, for instance, has become “agribusiness” with the accent on intensive methods—hence the arrival of the broiler chicken, that “rather dull food for masses of humans, most of whom live mechanised and rather dull lives” (Elspeth HuxleyBrave New Victuals), And with it goes the problem of diseases—serious ones like leukaemia —to which the broiler seems particularly prone, and which some doctors fear may be passed on to consumers.

Again, with an eye on the market and a quick turnover, cockerels are caponised and bullocks fattened by giving them synthetic oestrogens (female hormones), which are apt to hang around in the carcasses and are resistant even to cooking. Miss Huxley points out:—
Oestrogens are potent substances, liable if carelessly handled to induce in human males squeaky voices, beardless chins and swelling breasts. In female domestic animals they can cause cystic ovaries, prolapse of the rectum and nymphomania, so they might not be good for the girls.
The amounts in meat are residual only, but the experts cannot say for sure whether they might accumulate over a period and damage health (prolonged administration of oestrogens to rabbits and mice has caused them to have cancer). So in the meantime, the practice will continue, together with the profits.

The Sunday Times colour magazine for October 17th, 1965, contained an interesting survey on current food production and tastes. It drew attention to the uniform "blandness” of taste at which the manufacturers aim .and blamed this trend at least in part on to that evil euphemism of the sixties, ‘market research”. This, thought Priscilla Chapman, was what had persuaded food firms to produce, and consumers to ask for. the dull flavourless substances that our poorer grandparents would have rejected out of hand. But to blame market research is to beg the question. Why market research? Why markets? And there is another side to it. intimately bound up with the production of things for the market goes the modern rush and tear which have pushed working class tastes further down the scale. A prime Scots sirloin is expensive and takes a long time to cook, unlike the pre tenderised steak, cut from low-grade mass-produced barley beef, and packed ready for (he oven. And as time is becoming daily a more important consideration, barley beef steak is ousting the sirloin.

But the Sunday Times survey was at least useful in reminding us of the truly enormous amounts of synthetic colours, flavourisers, stabilisers, emulsifiers and preservatives we consume with our foods, many of them doubtful from a health point of view, on the experts own evidence. We are reminded, too, of the pesticide danger to which Rachel Carson so vividly drew attention in Silent Spring. Following her book, the late President Kennedy appointed a committee to investigate the question in detail. Said the committee, the average American has about 12 parts per million of D.D.T. in his tissues, the figure among farm workers being 17 p.p.m., and 648 p.p.m. among workers at pesticide factories. The committee admitted the possibility of toxicity. They could hardly do otherwise in face of the wholesale destruction of wildlife and fish in the Mississippi Basin from the effects of the same chemical.

No one seems to know just how harmful the effects of ibis and other pesticides are, although according to Anthony Tucker (Guardian 1.2.66) they are real enough, “in spite of an upsurge of defensive comment from the pesticide industry itself." Uneasiness continues to grow over the whole question, meantime: in America, Germany and other European countries, some of the substances have been banned, but are still permitted in Britain—and vice versa. But the basis of the problem, remains the same everywhere—production for profit. As Elspeth Huxley again puts it:—
The chemical industry is highly competitive, and pressure very strong to move anything new on to the market before the rival backroom boys across the way get on to it. This pressure has forced new products into use before they should have been. (Brave New Victuals. PP. 115-116)
So this is the background against which the public analyst and his equivalent abroad have to work, it is little wonder that he finds it hard going. And contrary to popular belief, the mass production of today is not geared to meet the needs of an increasing population, but to meet the needs of a market. How else can we explain the crisis of over-production which hit the broiler industry, for example, soon after it started in this country, so that many suppliers were driven out of business? Today, less than 1,000 growers produce 90 per cent of all broilers marketed, and the number of chick breeders has fallen in 10 years from 3,000 to 12.

It cannot be denied, of course, that there is a problem of pest control in food production. Nevertheless, many of the chemicals turned out are quite unnecessary and overlap the effects of others. The much safer method of breeding animal and plant strains resistant to the pests concerned, is promising, but developments are necessarily slow and do not hold out the hope of quick profitability. But when all is said and done, it is only in a crazy set-up of private property that such a situation is tolerated. In a sane world, it would be unthinkable that any substance should be used which involved even the smallest element of risk to human health and welfare. And the production of any chemical would depend solely on whether, after the most exhaustive testing. it could be said to be of real benefit to human beings What other motive could there possibly be?
Eddie Critchfield

Special issue of the Western Socialist (1966)

From the March 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

A special number of the Western Socialist will be published in August. The issue will be partly devoted to the 50th Anniversary of the World Socialist Party of the USA and the period 1915-1921. Information is urgently needed from members and sympathisers on the following: events leading to the organisation of the Party in, Detroit in 1916; information on British and Canadian members in the USA during the 1914-18 War; associations with the Socialist Party of America and information on the Duffield Hall Classes. On the organisation of the Party information is required on events causing the changing of the Party name; copies of the First Manifesto and the War Manifesto and the Jack London letter (which will be returned if offered on loan).

On the activities of the WSP of US details are required of the “Tea Drinkers"; Adelaide Street; halls hired for meetings; recollections of meetings, classes, debates, etc.; Western Clarion connection; Socialist Party of North America (Toronto); the Socialist Educational Classes in New York; the activities of such members as Baritz and Kohn and personal anecdotes, correspondence, records, etc

Material should be either sent direct to Editorial Committee, World Socialist Party of the USA, 11 Faneuil Hall Square, Boston 9, Mass, USA, or to the General Secretary SPGB, 52 Clapham High Street, SW4.

The Passing Show: Is He Really So Greene? (1966)

The Passing Show Column from the March 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Is He Really So Greene?

At the time of writing rail union secretary S. F. Greene has a lot on his mind. Even though the rail strike was called off at the last moment, there is still plenty for Mr. Greene and his lads to do round the negotiating table.

Which perhaps explains the very terse letter one of our members received from him at the beginning of February. You may know that it is the practice for the Socialist Party to send speakers to put our case to other organisations where possible, particularly trade unions. No strings attached, incidentally, except perhaps payment of the speaker’s fares. So one of our branch organisers wrote to the N.U.R. headquarters asking for a list of their branch addresses, intending to write to some of them direct.

Nothing very difficult about that, you might think? Well, you’d be wrong. “Dear Sir,” came back Mr. Greene’s reply of February 3rd. “1 have received your letter ... but regret 1 am unable to supply you with the information you require.” That was all, leaving us to draw whatever conclusions we liked. For example, was it that he just did not have the information? Is it possible that the N.U.R. is a union whose general secretary doesn’t know where its branches are? How on earth did he let them know whether or not to strike?

Maybe Mr. Greene is just not allowed by his executive to tell us what we asked, which seems pretty daft when you think that any railway porter could probably tell you the address of his union branch without a second thought. No, we can only think that perhaps he doesn't want us to speak to his branches, and that maybe the word has got around that the Labour Party doesn't like us very much (it’s mutual, by the way). After all, the N.U.R. is affiliated to that body. Let us then suggest a rewrite of Mr. Greene’s reply for hint: -
I have received your letter, and have the information you require, hut if you thing l'm sending it to you you're jolly well mistaken. I'm not having any incitement to disaffection—we've supported the Labour Party for more years than I care to remember (and a lot of them I don't care to remember), and we’re going on doing it, never mind their anti-working class actions and the stand-up fight we’re having with them over pay and conditions.
Which, when you think of it, seems to typify the sort of logic behind the thinking of most Labour supporters.

The ''Mirror" Again

And while we're talking about railwaymen, I suppose it was inevitable that they would get precious little support from the rubbish mongers of the capitalist press in general, and that the Daily Mirror would wade into them with two-inch headlines. ‘‘Chaos — Or Commonsense?” yelled the front page on February 10th, while the centre pages of the same issue carried on the attack with an article by that very rich friend of the workers, Labour M.P. Woodrow Wyatt.

The Mirror has always prided itself on its plain speaking and down-to-earth attitude, but this does not make it really a very original newspaper. It says mainly what the others are saying but in a brasher and coarser manner, and, of course, it specialises in large headlines and meagre reading content. In the past it has made a practice of picking out certain strikes and condemning them because they were small and petty. Now the N.U.R. gets it in the neck for precisely the opposite reason.

Because of the Mirror’s deliberately cultivated COR-BLIMBYness, many people think it has working class interests at heart, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is, as ever, firmly on the side of British capitalism, even though it may niggle some capitalist politicians and at times land itself with a libel action. It deals always with superficialities, never scratching under the surface of any social problem. This is not surprising—all newspapers distort facts and pander to ignorance and prejudice to a greater or lesser extent. But the Mirror must truly be the envy of Fleet Street in having developed the technique to the nth degree and built a circulation of many millions on a veritable mountain of bewilderment and bigotry. Therein perhaps lies its only claim to originality. It ran true to form over the railmen's strike.

How Much Are You Worth?

"What sort of—um—salary were you thinking of, Mister—um—?" I was asked by the lean, sharp featured, fussy little personnel man. I was a fresh-faced school leaver, determined to start to start as I meant to go on, and really get somewhere in the world. I swallowed hard.

‘Two pounds a week?” I suggested in a squeaky voice which belied my attempts to sound bold and confident. He wrote it on his pad, ringing the figure round slowly and heavily with his pencil, simultaneously shaking his head and drawing in a long slow breath through rounded lips. “Frankly, you’ve gone down in my estimation,” he confided. “I was hoping that you would be different from the usual run of money-grabbing youngsters we have coming to us for jobs. We can offer you (pause for effect) twenty-five shillings a week (this slowly and deliberately, savouring every word). You must be prepared to work hard, plenty of opportunities here for advancement . . . show what you’re worth . . . etc., etc.”

Obviously his idea of “getting on” was a bit different from mine. I bid him a polite goodday and got a job elsewhere —at two pounds a week. When I look back on that first encounter (there have been a few since then) I’m inclined to wonder if  the mincing little man is still with his firm, so diligently guarding his boss’s interests. Certainly he was only putting a line which is as old as the hills and which is trotted out just as much today as ever it was. Many workers do believe it, however, and spend their lives trying to show their boss what they are worth; only the boss’s assessment invariably falls short of theirs. Which is a big snag and shows that the strength of your bargaining position is what matters, not the strength of your moral arguments.

But now look at the other side of the coin. William Davis, Guardian financial editor and a man prone to moralising lectures in his column, on how much harder we must all work, has been asking “How much is a company chairman worth?” On February 5th he gave a table showing the average payment to directors of various big firms, the figures ranging from £9,800 to £38,500 a year. But the thing to notice was the absence of any moralising sentiment in answering his own question, thus:
Business men should he made to feel proud of high salaries. The ambition of lower-paid people should be to equal them, not to show jealousy. 
I never really understood why there was so much fuss about the £24,000 a year paid to Dr. Beeching ... on simple business grounds alone, it was a good price.
To which every capitalist politician will say Amen. I don't think they will be saying quite the same thing, though, in the next few weeks when some of those "lower-paid people." like bus and railway workers, push for higher wages. That's not quite the sort of equalising ambition Mr. Davis has in mind.

Up, Up, Up It Goes

I have before me some cuttings taken at random from newspapers over about one week in January. They are all about the same problem—crime in its various forms, crime major or petty, but crime nevertheless Over two thousand London telephone boxes wrecked by vandals, gang attacks on transport lorries, drug peddling, robbery with violence. The list is as long as your arm. and very depressing.

“We are determined to stamp this out,” says a magistrate to a phone box wrecker. “You may expect long prison sentences," says the Lord Chief Justice Lord Parker, in a blanket warning to dope peddlers. How many times have we heard this sort of remark? And still the crime situation worsens. Home Secretaries have come and gone, but crime, it seems, goes on for ever. Mr. Roy Jenkins is the latest to try his hand. “I intend to mount a sustained and effective attack on crime," he is reported as saying at Hull on January 17th.

He proposes to "give the police every support, best equipment." etc, which may make them more efficient at crime detection, but will never solve the problem itself. And what of the criminals themselves? They will be modernising their methods, just like the police, using the means which current science puts at their disposal, so that in a few years time yet another Home Secretary will be saying he is going to wipe out crime.

Why is it so persistent, and defiant of efforts to end or even check it? Basically it is a fight over property of some kind. Even the apparent senseless hooliganism of ripped train seats has behind it a blind resentment towards property owned by someone else. And since no Home Secretary ever aims to remove private property society, crime stays stubbornly with us.

“Before independence we ensured that our army, civil service and judiciary were insulated from politics." (President Azikiwe of Nigeria. 16.1.66—just after seizure of power by Major-General Ironsi.)
Eddie Critchfield

50 Years Ago: The State and Socialism (1966)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is an underlying principle of State activity that human life and liberty are minor considerations compared with the rights and safety of property. This is no new discovery. Today the fact is so glaring that it seems idle to dwell upon it. Yet it is no mere wartime principle; it arises from the very nature of the capitalist State. That State mainly exists in order to provide the force to guarantee the rights and emoluments of property to the possessors. The origin of the State was in the necessities of the institution of property. Today its predominate function is that of the armed forces of repression. In essence it has always been an armed policeman. The State and its chief function is necessitated by the antagonism of interests, the division of the people into oppressors and oppressed, propertied and propertyless, brought about by the institution of private property. It cannot live longer than the system that is based on properly. With the reabsorbtion of property into social ownership the repressive State will disappear. As a State it will die out. In its stead will arise the administration of things in common for the common weal. These are truisms to every Socialist, but how completely are most workers deluded into believing that the State exists to protect their lives, liberties and happiness. Yet the lessons have been both numerous and conclusive. Despite the veil of hypocrisy that has been thrown over the facts, they are, and always have, been plainly visible to all who have eyes to see.

[From the Socialist Standard, March 1916.]

Bloomsbury Branch lectures (1966)

Party News from the March 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

These held at 2 Soho Square. W.1, on Sundays at 8 p.m., have been running since mid-October and will continue until Sunday, March 27th. They are well attended, but not as many attend as could be accommodated. The average attendance had been 50 until Sunday, February 13th, when the room was full with an audience of 100, and we wish to see this figure maintained. The room is a very pleasant one with comfortable seating. One hour is allowed for questions and discussion. As with all Party lectures and meetings admission is free and to all readers, especially those living in London we invite you to attend.

The address is two minutes from Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, Soho Square, being the first turning on the left going from the tube station in the direction of Oxford Circus. (See directory in this issue for particulars of lectures.)

Blogger's Note:
I know what you're thinking: what was the meeting on the 13th February which doubled the usual attendance? It was Ron Cook speaking on the subject of Freud and Marxism. 

SPGB Meetings (1966)

Party News from the March 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard