1980s >> 1980 >> no-909-may-1980

Political Notes: Stalinists in the Labour Party

Stalinists in the Labour Party
Those on the left wing of the Labour party are often caricatured as well-intentioned fools with admirable morals but little sense. While this may be true of many of them, we should not forget that some Labour leaders have rather unsavoury political pasts. Here is one of them writing in the journal, Socialist Revolt, in April 1957:


“No one can deny that Communists in the past have made grave mistakes, but does anyone believe that Russia would have retained its socialist basis . . . without Stalin’s iron rule during the most difficult period in Communist history? Would subversion, direct aggression, economic sabotage etc. not have crushed the germinating seed of world Communism if Comrade Stalin had not ‘enforced’ the unity of Communists in Russia, and throughout the International Communist Movement?”


The author of that hymn of praise to Stalin was Eric Heffer. Another admirer of the Stalinist system was the present leader of the Labour party, James Callaghan, who wrote in Reynolds News in March 1946:


“The rewards given to ability in the USSR at all levels are far greater than those given to the employed in Capitalist Britain. I have seen it and it works.”


So, the next time you hear Heffer or Callaghan talking about socialism (a practice they usually reserve for Party Conferences and other such occasions), recall what it is that these men understand by the term and recognise them for the enemies of the working class that they are.


Gestapo deaths
Remember the war over markets that they said was fought to defeat the evil of German totalitarianism? Well, the Gestapo may have been defeated, but many West German workers are still concerned about the degree to which the State is interfering in their lives. According to a report in German International of September 1979,


   “In February 1978 the former Bonn Defence Minister Georg Leber, resigned after disclosures that the Military Security Service had been involved in bugging operations without his knowledge. In May of that year library staff reported that intelligence agents had been keeping a watch on the reading habits of book borrowers and feeding their findings into the government computers. In June last year the former interior Minister, Werner Maihofer, resigned after the publication of reports that border guards had been keeping an eye on the reading matter carried by travellers.”


The most comprehensive West German police computer is “Inpol”, short for Information system der Polizei. In 1972, when it became operative, it was linked to 20 data stations; now it is fed by 1,200, thus putting the West German government’s capacity for spying on its workers on a par with that of East Germany. In Britain, jury-vetting, hugging and secret police computers are known to exist. As 1984 approaches we are forced to take the Orwellian fear more and more seriously.
Cheap Chinese labour
State capitalism, not socialism, exists in Russia and China. And because workers in these countries are not free to combine in trade unions, the rate of exploitation tends to be higher than in the more industrialised parts of the world. The Socialist Standard has often shown that it is more profitable for Western capitalists to invest in the cheap labour of the East than the unionised labour of the West. The Electronic Times of 28 February provides us with further evidence:


  “To reduce production costs, Citizen Watch is planning to have electronic watches assembled in China — in the Guangdong province. The plan is for quartz watches at the Chinese plant using Japanese movements in Chinese cases. The Chinese local government authorities at Guangdong are keen for local assembly to alleviate the shortage of watches, and to limit imports from Hong Kong. Consignments of watches have already been assembled for Hong Kong manufacturers in Guangdong, and so the authorities are keen to exploit the local knowledge.”


China is part of the world capitalist market, with all of its concern for imports and exports, production costs and — the hallmark of all capitalist production — exploitation of wage labour by capital.


Profits before health
The Electronic Times of 6 March contains another noteworthy report. The United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recently been investigating the health hazards at a semiconductor firm called Signetics in Sunnyvale, California. The investigation followed complaints from three employees that their work was literally making them sick. Such symptoms as burning tongues, nose bleeds, chest tightness, and metallic tastes in their mouths were reported. According to the Electronic Times: “The three (who complained) were fired from the company in July, 1979), four days before the NIOSH-contract physicians were denied entry to Signetics.”


NIOSH reported that the majority of workers in the firm complained of the same symptoms as the three already sacked. Their report stated that the health hazards could have been prevented had there been improved ventilation in the workplace. But,


“This would mean additional investments in expensive ventilation and other such equipment at a time when most companies already have trouble finding capital to finance their research and development projects.”


So it’s profits before people once again.


Steve Coleman