News in Review: Labour Conference
It has been obvious for a long time that the Labour Party leadersh It has been obvious for a long time that the Labour Party leadership would be sweating on the top line over their Annual Conference this year.
Hungrily, they watch a general election draw near, with the Tories getting the worst of the current by-elections. For some time they have held down the elements which the Conservative press have played up as the voters’ bogy men, and Gaitskell has successfully disentangled his image from that of Foot, Cousins, the CND, and so on.
All this could have been upset by a big, headline-catching row at the Conference. And the issue which could easily have caused a row was the Common Market.
Gaitskell has decided that he has an election winner here. But outright opposition to the Common Market could have split the Labour Party anew and lost them a lot of votes.
Capitalism’s political parties have had a lot of practice at dodging this sort of problem. The answer to it is to produce a statement which actually says nothing definite about the matter it is supposed to be dealing with.
So the Labour Party now says that, although it is a good idea for British capitalism to join Europe, it should only do so on conditions which make its acceptance by the Six all but impossible. This, they hope, will catch the votes of those who favour the Common Market and of those who do not.
The Labour Party also hoped—and they pulled it off—that the statement would suffocate any embarrassing questions and arguments at the Conference.
So there are several questions we can ask outside the Conference. And we hope they are embarrassing.
Is it worthwhile, even for voters who support capitalism, to vote for a party which cannot make up its mind on an important capitalist issue like the Common Market? Is it worth voting for a party which is so hungry for power that it will make any twist and turn if it thinks this will win a few measly votes?
And to the Labour Party members who call themselves Socialists: Can the Labour Party be a party of principle when it is so ready to bend its policy to any of capitalism’s passing breezes? Should a Socialist Party bother about an issue of international capitalist economy like the Common Market?
And finally: Does the Labour Party stand for Socialism?
Answers to these five questions: No. no, no, no and no.
The rail strikers haven’t a hope of success.
Doctor Beeching has said that he thinks some sections of the railways can be run profitably and, as a preliminary to boosting these, he is busily cutting away the dead wood of the other lines and services which do not pay.
This is quite in accordance with capitalist practice. Workers on the railway, —and in other industries—who regularly revive capitalism with massive votes for its political parties at election time cannot logically complain when the system works in the only way it can.
Capitalism is always upsetting dreams.
The dream of nationalisation, for example.
Many railwaymen, and their leaders, were hot for nationalisation in 1945 and did their best to return the Attlee government which brought the railways under state control.
Now this very state control has facilitated the run down of the railways. It has made easier the national financial survey and it will smooth the organisation of the closures.
The nationalisation fans have an excuse for this. State railways, they say, are a good idea. The trouble is that the Tories are determined to undermine them. This ignores the fact that Labour Party spokesmen, too, have faced up to the capitals realities of nationalisation and have admitted that a Labour government would also be forced to close down a lot of lines and other services.
The fact is that nationalisation is something designed to solve the capitalists’ problems; it does not even faintly disturb the property basis of society. This means that most state industries must in the end conform to the profit motive.
The time for railwaymen to be kicking up will be at the next election, when the Labour Party will once again be campaigning on all sorts of capitalist reforms like nationalisation and calling them Socialism.
But it is a safe bet that the workers who have gained nothing from nationalisation will be voting and working for the party which stands for it.
Soviet income tax
Income tax is a very sore spot with a lot of workers in this country who are convinced that they carry the burden of many of the taxes which the government imposes.
So when the Russian government announced last year that they would progressively reduce, and finally abolish, income tax, a lot was made of it by the Communist Party. British workers were encouraged to think of Russia as a tax-free country, which is currently something like their idea of heaven.
At the time it was obvious, mainly for two reasons, that the abolition would have little effect upon the Russian worker.
Income tax accounts for only a small part of the total tax levied in the Soviet Union, most of which is taken directly from industry in the form of turnover tax and profits tax.
Apart from this the Russian worker pays tax no more than does his counterpart in other countries. Abolishing income tax would have had no lasting effect upon his wages.
But now the Russian government has abandoned the plan. There will be no more reductions in income tax and it will not be abolished. Of course, there had to be excuses offered for this reversal of a policy that was so ballyhooed.
The whole thing was blamed upon the international situation. Just as workers in this country were once encouraged to blame Germany for the austerities and restrictions they endured, Russian workers are now told that the Western powers are responsible for the upsetting of their government’s plans.
All this makes nonsense of the Communist Party claim that Socialism exists in Russia. If the Soviet Union is so unable to insulate itself from the other capitalist powers that it cannot even have undisturbed control of its own tax system, how can it hope to establish Socialism, even if it wanted to?
And what sort of Socialism is supposed to exist in Russia, with a full-blown tax system (including, let us repeat, a profit tax) just like any openly capitalist nation?
There is only one answer to these questions. Socialism does not exist in Russia. The Soviet Union is a powerful capitalist state which has to juggle with its finances and to deceive its workers just as the U.S.A. and this country have to.
Russia must involve itself in the international disputes of capitalism and must watch these disputes destroying its plans.
Many people regard Russia as a workers’ heaven. But all the evidence which comes from that country says that they are deceiving themselves.
‘University’ in Mississipi
From any point of view it is ridiculous that thousands of soldiers should be needed so that one person can go to school.
But the skin of James Meredith, who has been enrolled in the University of Mississippi, is a different colour from that of the students who have monopolised the University up to now.
So by asking to be enrolled, Meredith has stirred up some of the worst of the South’s primitive prejudices and violence.
The United States government is on his side. American capitalism has decided that the Civil War was not fought for nothing. Developing industry needs Negro labour because it cannot afford to ignore it. Segregation is inefficient and wasteful.
No part of the United States can be allowed to opt out of the American Union—to opt out, in fact, of the development of American capitalism—on such an important matter and on grounds of ancient prejudice.
So Washington has set itself to bust segregation in the South. It has done something towards this in the schools of some of the toughest states; in Georgia and Arkansas, for example. After Mississippi, South Carolina and Alabama remain to be dealt with, fortresses of racial ignorance.
For ignorance is the only word to describe the objections which the Southern Americans have to be sitting in school with, or on a ‘bus with, or to eating with, the Negroes.
Knowledge has exposed the old bigotries against people of a different skin colour. It is not possible scientifically to argue that a man with a black or brown or yellow skin is any different in human terms from one whose skin is a muddy pink.
Capitalism recognises this. Wherever and whenever it can, it recruits and exploits all sorts of people impartially. This means that the interests of all capitalists—to exploit their workers as intensely as possible—are the same, whatever the colour of the capitalists’ skins. It also means that the interests of all workers of any colour—to end the system which exploits and degrades them—are the same.
The Mississippi rioters could not be more off the beam. They are scientifically wrong. They are behind the times of modern capitalism. And they are acting in complete contradiction of their own material working class interests.
Ridiculous. And worse.
ip would be sweating on the top line over their Annual Conference this year.