A reader of the Socialist Standard (O.V.F., Rickmansworth) writes explaining why he did not renew his subscription.
“I agree with your ‘Object’ completely. But is there not too much of the old obsession about class? Working class, master class, etc. It seems to me that the change to a Socialist basis is progressing steadily and satisfactorily. Perhaps there is too much hurry in waging war against all other political parties to help the movement on quick enough!”
Our correspondent’s two statements, that he agrees with our ”Object,” and that the change to a Socialist basis is progressing steadily and satisfactorily, bring into the open a misconception that is very common. The Socialist objective is a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution. Is it true that progress towards that basis is going on? Obviously what this critic has in mind is the fact that coal, transport, electricity and gas have been nationalised and steel is about to be nationalised. He will be astonished to learn that this is not common ownership and is not the objective of the Socialist Party. It is not the intention of the Labour Government to nationalise more than a small part of industry, but even if it were their intention to nationalise all industry it would not be Socialism or progress to Socialism. The act of changing the capitalist investor from an owner of coal shares or railway or steel shares into an owner of government bonds does not end or even essentially alter the class relationship of capitalism. It still leaves the capitalist class living by owning, and the working class exploited fur capitalist profit. The Socialist objective of production solely for use instead of production for sale and profit making, does not at all enter into the Labour Government’s plans, not even as a most distant objective. If the ”obsession” about class was justified before Labour Government (and our correspondent appears to imply his agreement that it was) it is just as necessary now. Nothing has changed except that in a certain proportion of capitalist industry the State exploits the workers directly and hands over the proceeds of exploitation to the capitalist bondholder. An interesting sidelight on this can be seen in the ‘‘Daily Mail Yearbook.” For many years the Yearbook has published a list of millionaires who had died during the year. It is just the same under Labour government. The 1949 issue (page 138) reports:
‘‘There have been ten millionaire estates published since the last issue of the ‘Daily Mail Year Book.’ ”
Here follows a list of 10 estates totaling over £16 million, together with a further list of 22 estates of between £500,000 and £1,000,000 which together total another £14 million.
If our critic can view capitalism with its millionaires at the top and its workers struggling to make ends meet, and can find it satisfactory because now a huger proportion of the capitalists’ property-income reaches them in the form of interest on Government bonds, it can only be because in spite of his opening remark he does not agree with our object at all.