Wednesday, May 1, 2024

April's "Done & Dusted"

An even quieter month than last month. Only 5 Socialist Standards "done and dusted" in April. 

In fairness to myself, I have been trying to do other 'Party work' elsewhere in the last month. But that other stuff is a work in progress, and it's too soon to say anything more at this point. However, it is disappointing that I didn't finish more April Standards, as there's not that many Standards from the month of April to complete now. It possibly could have been the first month in this digitisation project to be fully finished.

The finished Standards are broken up into separate decades for the hard of hearing.

April's "Done & Dusted"

SPGB May Events (2024)

Party News from the May 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our general discussion meetings are held on Zoom. To connect to a meeting, enter in your browser. Then follow instructions on screen and wait to be admitted to the meeting.

Tiny Tips (2024)

The Tiny Tips column from the May 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘The princes are nothing but tyrants who flay the people; they fritter away our blood and sweat on their pomp and whoring and knavery.’ These were the words of Thomas Müntzer at the head of the massed ranks of a peasant army in the year 1525. Ranged against him was the might of the princes of the German Nation. How did Müntzer, the son of a coin maker from central Germany, rise in just a few short years to become one of the most feared revolutionaries in early modern Europe? 

Like many of Myanmar’s young men and women, Ko Naing said he had no intention of answering the call and would instead do whatever it takes to avoid the draft. ‘The one sure thing is I won’t serve. If I’m drafted by the military, I will try to move to the remote areas or to another country,’ Ko Naing told Al Jazeera from Myanmar. ‘Not only me, I think everyone in Myanmar is not willing to serve in the military under the conscription law’, he said. 

The ‘one land, two peoples’ analysis of the situation is nonsensical. The land does not belong to the people [proletariat], anywhere in the world. It belongs to those [bourgeoisie] who own it. This might seem very theoretical, but the mere existence of social relations on the ground shows to whom the idea of two camps belongs, ie, the ruling [bourgeois] class.

South Africa’s Western Cape is known for its dramatic coastlines and acres of wineland. But behind the blue skies and rolling hills, the province is grappling with a heartbreaking health crisis. The area has the highest rate of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in the world – a group of debilitating and life-long disabilities caused when a mother drinks during pregnancy. Whilst FASD affects about 0.7 per cent of the world’s population, in the Western Cape rates are as high as 31 per cent, and across South Africa, it’s estimated that 11 per cent of all newborns are affected each year.

As BBC Ukraine reported in November, 650,000 Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 years old have left Ukraine for Europe since the start of the war. Zelensky’s former adviser Alexey Arestovich recently claimed that 4.5 million Ukrainian men, nearly half of the Ukrainian male population, had fled abroad to avoid military service, and that 30 to 70 percent of military units consist of ‘refuseniks’ who have gone absent without official leave (AWOL) .

‘And if they’ve refused three offers of a job, or whatever the number would be, and they say ‘I’m sorry, I’m not doing any of that’, you then say – in which case you must go and do two years in the Armed Forces’. 

‘Universities should be havens for robust debate, discussion, and learning—not sites of censorship where administrators, donors, and politicians squash political discourse they don’t approve of’ said the head of the NYCLU.

(These links are provided for information and don’t necessarily represent our point of view.)

Halo, Halo! (2024)

The Halo Halo Column from the May 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Social media shorthand SMH means ‘shakes my head’. When the German Hindenburg airship caught fire landing in New Jersey in 1937 the radio commentator cried out, ‘oh, the humanity!’ The current seventh-century rulers of Afghanistan cause both of those reactions. The Telegraph, 25 March, reports that a Mullah there has declared, ‘we will soon implement the punishment for adultery. We will flog women in public. We will stone them to death in public.’ Words fail.

***** in a book review says the author posits the ridiculous theory that Noah carried dinosaurs onto the Ark as juveniles or even as eggs. Because obviously think of the space a pair of eighty-foot dinosaurs would take up! The reviewer says, rubbish! Well of course. That’s like the old comedy routine where someone claims to have two lions, a giraffe and an elephant in a shoebox they’re carrying. The reviewer then says, ‘I believe the dinosaurs were among the “confused species”, which were the result of genetic engineering and one of the reasons for the Flood was to destroy those animals’. Words fail.


In June 1812 Napoleon Bonaparte and his French army invaded Russia. In 1812 Mary Anning and, initially, her brother dug the skeleton of an unknown seventeen-foot-long creature from the cliffs of Lyme Regis. Now it’s known that it was the skeleton of an ichthyosaur from the Jurassic period. Mary Anning was aged twelve when she discovered this.

With hindsight, which of those two events was the most important? It’s not known if this is one of the animals that the Flood failed to destroy.

Mary Anning and her family were avid fossil harvesters selling their finds to tourists. Oxford professor William Buckland teamed up with Mary. Peal writes that Buckland was a committed Christian who had difficulty in reconciling Mary’s finds with Bible stories. To maintain his delusion Buckland said that the skeleton must have come there as a result of the Flood.

Mary also discovered a plesiosaur and a pterodactyl. She is quoted as saying that, ‘great men of learning had taken advantage of her.’ ‘They ‘sucked her brains’ of her knowledge, and stole the glory of her discoveries for themselves’ (Meet the Georgians, Robert Peal, 2021,).


The protagonist sees a group of flagellants in St James’s Park. He converses about it with his chauffeur who says; ‘I find it ridiculous. If God exists and He’s decided He’s had enough of us, He isn’t going to change his mind because a rabble of no-hopers dress up in yellow and go wailing through the park.’

‘Do you believe He exists?

‘Perhaps His experiment went spectacularly wrong. Perhaps He’s just baffled. Seeing the mess, not knowing how to put it right. Perhaps not wanting to put it right. Perhaps He only had enough power for one intervention. So He made it. Whoever he is, whatever He is, I hope He burns in His own Hell’ (The Children of Men, P.D. James, 1992).

Propaganda of the deed (2024)

Book Review from the May 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Devilish Kind of Courage. By Andrew Whitehead. Reaktion Books. 320 pages.

Andrew Whitehead recounts here the events and background to the ‘Siege of Sidney Street’ in the East End of London in January 1911 in which two Latvian revolutionaries, wanted for the killing of three policeman in a botched attempt to rob a jewellery shop the previous month, were cornered. After a shoot-out the two were burned to death when the house they were holed up in caught (or was set on) fire and no attempt to extinguish it made. The supposed ringleader, dubbed ‘Peter the Painter’ by the police, became a legend but was never found.

It was a sensation at the time and led to an (unsuccessful) campaign to stop the immigration of ‘aliens’ from Tsarist Russia. This was often openly anti-semitic, even though those involved were Latvians. The Russian revolution of 1905, after an initial success in extracting concessions from the Tsarist regime, was brutally suppressed. Some of the revolutionaries turned to bank robberies to obtain money to finance revolutionary organisation and activity (and survive). Exiled to Western Europe some continued this, including those involved in the attempt to rob a jewellery shop in December 1910 and a wages robbery in Tottenham in January 1909. They were described as ‘anarchists’ and were certainly acquainted with anarchist ideas. The three most well-known anarchists living in Britain at the time — Kropotkin, Malatesta and Rocker — repudiated their tactics. However, ‘propaganda of the deed’ was advocated and practised, in the form of assassinations and robberies, by other anarchists at the time.

Whitehead examines the milieu in which exiles and immigrants from Tsarist Russia in the East End of London moved, mainly Yiddish-speaking Jews but also others including Latvians from the Baltic region. He also identifies who Peter the Painter most likely was. His well-researched and detailed book looks like being the definitive study of what the Socialist Standard of the time described as ‘the recent world-stirring East End melodrama’ (as well giving a socialist analysis of it and its repercussions).
Adam Buick

Proper Gander: Going public about going private (2024)

The Proper Gander Column from the May 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are several connotations with the word ‘private’, in relation to ‘private hospitals’ or ‘private healthcare’. The description means that they are privately owned companies with the purpose of generating profits for their shareholders, with medical treatment as the product they sell. The word ‘private’ also suggests that these hospitals are select, and separate from the NHS and the majority who use it. This isn’t always the case, as shown in Panorama’s investigation NHS Patients Going Private: What Are The Risks? (BBC One). The word ‘private’ also implies being reluctant to reveal too much, so the documentary was of some use in highlighting issues which private hospitals would sooner be made less public.

One of the symptoms of the ailing NHS has been increasing delays for treatment, with more than six million people in England in the worrying position of coping with a worsening condition while they wait their turn. In an effort to reduce the length of waiting lists, some of these patients have been referred to private hospitals for surgery, with the costs paid from NHS funds. In 2023 around 800,000 NHS patients were handled by private hospitals in this way. Many of these went to one of the 39 hospitals run by Spire Healthcare Group plc, the second-largest private provider in the UK. Since 2021, Spire has treated more than half a million NHS patients, contracts for which have made up around 30 percent of its revenue. Reporter Monika Plaha looks at two aspects of how Spire runs which have had a devastating effect on some of its patients: staffing and arrangements for dealing with emergencies.

Spire’s management of its staff was questioned after two surgeons they employed were separately exposed as dangerously incompetent. Since then, concerns have focused on low staffing levels, especially at nights and weekends, and how alert people can be during back-to-back shifts. Resident doctors have been contracted by Spire for up to 168 hours a week including nights on call, whereas doctors’ working hours in the NHS are capped at 48 a week. Almost all the ex-Spire doctors interviewed for Panorama were worried about the consequences of their high workloads and protracted shifts. Hiring insufficient numbers of staff is one of the most obvious ways of minimising costs to maximise profits, regardless of the more obvious risks to patient safety. For the documentary, Spire provides a bland statement that it now has ‘robust safeguards’ and resident doctors only work ‘when adequately rested’.

The programme also describes failings in how private hospitals have dealt with complications during surgery, whether suffered by referred-in NHS patients or those paying directly. Most private hospitals don’t have intensive care or high-dependency units, so when a patient’s condition deteriorates or a procedure fails, they have to be transferred to an NHS hospital for emergency treatment. Moving a patient during a crisis carries risks, made worse by having to rely on an ambulance which could take hours to arrive, even when the hospitals are close to each other. The programme features interviews with people who have tragically lost loved ones due to complications which Spire hospitals couldn’t cope with and which weren’t dealt with by an NHS hospital in time.

Private hospitals don’t have facilities to deal with crises because they tend to treat medical issues less likely to have serious complications which require care in a high-dependency unit. And they tend not to deal with high-risk operations because these come with additional costs for specialist surgeons or equipment, and would therefore be less profitable. In other words, patients with complex conditions aren’t financially attractive. As Sally Gainsbury of the Nuffield Trust points out, around a third of NHS patients have health issues too complicated to be managed in private hospitals, so they must wait longer for NHS treatment. This is exacerbating a two-tier system where healthier people can be treated quicker privately. One way of reducing this disparity would be for private hospitals to have adequate intensive care facilities, avoiding the risks with transferring patients back to NHS hospitals in emergencies. But this requires investment, raising costs which will mean that fewer people will be able to afford private treatment, whether funded through the NHS or not. So far, private healthcare organisations like Spire have been reluctant to invest in facilities for crises, or sufficient numbers of staff. Despite this, and the criticisms made of it, Spire is aspiring to carry out more complex procedures and have longer-term contracts with the NHS. This isn’t with the aim of helping out the beleaguered ‘public’ sector, but to extend its market share. Last year, Spire’s profits increased by over 30 percent to £126 million, and any expansion will be guided by what’s likely to generate further profits rather than by meeting need.

Reformists call for the NHS to have more funding so it doesn’t need to refer patients to private hospitals, but there will never be enough money for the utopian NHS they want. Even if a government wanted to adequately fund the NHS, other economic imperatives would prevent this, especially the need for profit which guides the system overall. The ‘public’ ownership of the NHS means that it isn’t directly profit-driven, but it still has to survive in the profit-driven system, alongside and inter-dependent with private healthcare.

Every day, skilled and dedicated staff in NHS and private hospitals perform life-saving operations which would have looked like miracles just a few years ago. Somehow, they carry on despite the obstacles put in their way by the system they work in, such as the routine of long shifts in understaffed wards because this minimises costs, or having to gamble on surgery being straightforward because other hospitals with facilities for dealing with crises are overstretched. Trying to overcome these obstacles with reforms or revised contracts or reallocated funding is a never-ending struggle because this approach can’t change the system which creates the problems. It only addresses the symptoms without curing the cause.
Mike Foster

End Capitalism (2024)

From the May 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalism – it’s the system that, for now, rules throughout the world, in either private or state forms.

The driver and fundamental characteristic of this system is capital accumulation, or put more simply, profit.

If the bosses have no expectation of profit, there is no production.

And the result? At an economic level, continuous instability and pressure on workers’ employment conditions.

And the inevitable capitalistic competition leads to a struggle for the control of natural resources and markets, Hence so much energy wasted in military preparations and the perpetual threat of war.

On top of that, the system requires constant expansion which explains the threat of environmental catastrophe.

No reform can make a difference to the fundamental characteristic of capitalism. None.

So if we want real, permanent progress for everyone we have to replace capitalism with a system in which the economic driver is the satisfaction of the material needs of every person.

And on a worldwide level too. A cooperative society, without bosses, without frontiers, with free access to the social product.

This is what we call socialism. With the tremendous productive capabilities that have been developed under the rule of capital, the new society is within reach. All that is lacking is the will of the majority of the workers to bring it into being.

Cooking the Books: An April Fool (2024)

The Cooking the Books column from the May 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the First of April the Guardian seemingly pulled off a good April Fool as many people wouldn’t have recognised it as such. They published an article by a ‘Stuart Kells’ who argued that banks can create money out of thin air and that governments don’t need to tax or borrow money.

‘Stuart Kells’ begins by criticising a scene in the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life in which:
‘depositors demand their money from a small town building society. Its manager, George Bailey (in an unforgettable performance by James Stewart), explains that the money is not in the building society’s vault; it has been lent to other people in the town. “The money’s not there,” Bailey pleads. “Your money’s in Joe’s house … and in the Kennedy house, and Mrs Macklin’s house, and a hundred others.”’
The joke consisted in claiming that this explanation of how a bank works is incorrect:
‘Banks don’t lend out money from reserves or deposits or other sources of pre-existing funds. (…) When you borrow money and your bank credits your loan account, the account is created anew, “from thin air” …’
If by this point Guardian readers hadn’t realised that the article was an April Fool, they just needed to consider how a building society operates. If it could create a mortgage out of thin air why would it need to attract depositors? Why do building societies compete with each other by offering savers an attractive rate of interest on their deposits? And why did Northern Rock go bust?

That James Stewart was correct was confirmed when in 2022 central banks raised the bank rate, as the rate of interest at which they lend money to commercial banks. As a result, the rate at which banks lend to each other via the money market, if at the end of the day the money they have paid out is less than the money that came in, also went up. As banks were paying more to borrow ‘wholesale’ they had to raise the rate of interest which they charged those they lent money to. They were slower to raise the money they paid savers who lent them money ‘retail’ but eventually they had to as borrowing from savers is cheaper than continually borrowing from the money market.

The financial media rediscovered the concept of ‘net interest income’ as the difference between the income from the interest the banks charged borrowers and the amount they had to pay those they borrowed money from. That banks — and, more obviously, building societies — are basically financial intermediaries borrowing money at one rate of interest and re-lending it at a higher rate was evident for anyone to see.

Perhaps the Guardian was relying on this for its readers to realise that they were dealing with an April Fool. In case this was not enough, ‘Stuart Kells’ went on to claim that governments don’t need to impose taxes or borrow money and that they should simply create and spend it. Governments have been known to try this, as in Zimbabwe, but the result has not been quite as intended. And, why do governments borrow money and pay interest for it when they don’t need to?

Maybe it was us who were fooled as it turns out that Stuart Kells is a real person and the author of a book entitled Alice TM: The Biggest Untold Story in the History of Money from which the article was extracted. Knowing how the Guardian allows funny money merchants free range in its columns — in this case, MMT, which stands for Modern Monetary Theory and Magic Money Tree — we should have realised it wasn’t intended as a joke after all.

50 Years Ago: Students against democracy (2024)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Liverpool was proud of The Beatles and its connection with that Cunard Line. What the city thinks of the conference of the National Union of Students held there early April is another thing. Hundreds of delegates from universities, polytechnics etc. assembled for their annual jamboree. Over the years, this conference has endorsed some pretty queer ideas, but 1974 will go down as a vintage year.

This assembly debated students’ grants; elected a new President (a political loner we are told) by 21 votes; didn’t agree to send a delegation to Czechoslovakia to see if the Czech students’ union were democratic enough to form links with the NUS (would their journey have been really necessary?). Then came the body blow to democracy and the right of people to express their views. The outcome of this debate intimated they had a lot in common with the Communist-Party-dominated Czechoslovakia.

A majority of the delegates “voted yesterday to take whatever measures were necessary, including disruption of meetings, to prevent members of racialist or fascist organizations from speaking in colleges” (Guardian, 5th April, 1974).


The Socialist Party of Great Britain has personal experience of what happens when such a decision as that of the NUS is operative. We arranged a debate in North London against the National Front. An opportunity for the audience to weigh up the two conflicting schools of thought — socialist or nationalist. We were of the opinion that the audience would be able to judge for themselves the validity of the arguments. But our dear “lefty” types thought otherwise. They broke up the meeting. Did they consider the audience to be such a bunch of morons that they could not judge? Obviously they did, and this might just be the reason why these “revolutionaries” wish to appoint themselves as leaders of the masses. They know what is good for us — they know what we should hear.

Democracy, never a favourite word in their vocabulary, means a method of conducting affairs where a majority decision is reached on the basis of all information being readily available. Who are these self-styled dictators, who in the name of democracy, wish to decide what we shall or what we shall not hear? The suppression of “unpopular views” by violence does not eradicate these ideas. This can only be done by a free exchange of ideas.

(From the Socialist Standard, May 1974)

Action Replay: Abuse of position (2024)

The Action Replay column from the May 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

It started with a kiss, when in August last year the head of the Spanish FA kissed one of the players, Jenni Hermoso, on the lips at the award ceremony for the Women’s World Cup. This led to a great many protests, with the president (who has been the subject of other complaints) being forced to resign, being banned from football activities for three years and then being charged in a court. Except of course that it didn’t start there at all, as women athletes have frequently been subject to discrimination and sexual harassment.

Many women coaches in football, for instance, have encountered prejudice of various kinds, including verbal and physical assaults, and even being completely ignored by the male coach of the opposing team at a match. Only about one professional coach in ten in UK sport is a woman.

Swimming is an area that is particularly problematic. From girl swimmers who have problems with periods during a training session to those who just don’t want to appear in a swimming costume in front of the whole school, young female swimmers can encounter all sorts of difficulties. The appearance of women swimmers can lead to body shaming if they have big shoulders. Last year two Italian TV presenters made sexist remarks at an aquatic championship, describing a Dutch woman diver as ‘big’, adding, ‘They’re all equally tall in bed’.

Women who are swimming just for fun and exercise often encounter sexist behaviour too: being followed into the showers, having their bottom pinched or being leered at from the public gallery, and men swimming slowly in front of them or taking up excessive space,

Prejudice in sport doesn’t just affect women, of course, as male swimmers can also be subjected to remarks about them gaining weight. In football there was an appalling scandal involving sexual abuse by coaches and scouts of young male players, starting in the 1970s. The true scale of this only emerged from 2016, with fourteen men being convicted. However, it does seem to apply to women more often, and girl gymnasts have been starved and body-shamed by coaches, with the ostensible aim of improving their performance, and very many have described physically abusive behaviour,

It’s not just in sport: in education, entertainment, business and so on, people in authority can harass and even abuse those they have power over. All in a society based on hierarchy, with pervasive sexism.
Paul Bennett

Editorial: The Middle East: capitalist powder keg (2024)

Editorial from the May 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

The tit for tat rocket attacks between Israel and Iran have brought to the surface the real issue in the Middle East — whether the US and its allies should or should not control the fossil reserves and the trade routes in the area, which are vital to the operation of capitalism in their parts of the world.

The US position was clearly spelt out in 1980 by President Carter in his State of the Union message:
‘An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force’.
This wasn’t just words. In 1991 the US waged the Gulf War after Iraq invaded Kuwait and in 2003 the Iraq War that led to the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime there. This allowed the US to establish bases in Iraq to add to those in the Gulf states. The civil war in Syria allowed it to establish one there too. Its main asset in the region, however, has been Israel, its support for which has been ‘ironclad’ and which it has armed to the teeth.

With the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, the threat to US domination has come from Iran where, in 1979, the pro-US regime was overthrown and replaced by a brutal theocracy. The economic system there remained capitalist and the new regime aggressively pursued Iran’s national capitalist interests against those of the US. Iran, too, has its ‘bases’ throughout the region in the form of ‘proxy’ militias, in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Iran is opposed to Israel ostensibly on religious grounds but essentially because Israel is US’s main asset in the region that needs to be destroyed if US control is to be ended.

Israel, as a capitalist state in its own right, has its own agenda. Its present rulers aspire to protect its existence as a separate state, to establish its rule over the whole of the former Ottoman province of Palestine; which involves the permanent political repression of the non-Jewish population living there. As far as the US is concerned, this is a diversion from why it supports Israel and undermines Israel’s usefulness to them.

In this sense Israel’s savage war of retaliation on Hamas and the whole population of Gaza for Hamas’s massacre of Israeli citizens on 7 October is a horrific sideshow.

Where all this will end is unclear. But one thing is not. The Middle East is a powder keg as a result of a conflict between capitalist states over who shall control raw material resources, and the trade routes to transport these out of the region. Capitalism’s competitive struggle for profits breeds such conflicts. Wars, the threat of war, and the waste of armaments will exist as long as capitalism does.