1980s >> 1981 >> no-927-november-1981

Political Notes: ‘Socialism in one country’

‘Socialism in one country’ (Britain)
At some point in every Labour Party conference the spectre of Clause Four appears, usually in the shape of some motion reasserting the belief that wholesale nationalisation is socialism and that that is what the party is committed to because it will mean a better life for everyone in Britain.


Well it is never quite as joyous as that because Clause Four is an embarrassment now, especially to Labour MPs with thin majorities, who are conscious that they are sitting on anything but a mandate to convert the means of production, distribution and exchange into common property.


So when they are confronted, as they were at Brighton in September, with a motion asking them to do what in theory they exist for—to nationalise, among other things, the financial institutions—they experience confusion to the point of panic.


One union opposed the motion because it has a lot of members in the insurance industry; another did so because it feared the effect nationalisation might have on the union’s pension funds and investments.


At some stage somebody might like to explain why Labour Party members have any hesitation in unanimously acclaiming all motions in favour of nationalisation. They might also consider why they are in an organisation with interests which are opposed to the very policies it is supposed to support.


The answer to these difficulties is very simple. Nationalisation is not socialism; it is simply the state taking over an industry which was previously owned directly by private shareholders. Banks, investment houses, building societies, insurance companies and the like—state-owned or not—are a necessary part of capitalism; socialism, in contrast, will be a moneyless society in which wealth will not be exchanged and in which, therefore, there will be no means of exchange.


Were every item of Labour Party policy implemented tomorrow, the capitalist system would remain untouched. Socialism cannot exist in just one country. Its coming is delayed by the confusion and the deceit of the Labour Party.


‘Socialism in one country’ (Russia)
This month President Brezhnev plans to travel to Bonn but he is not going to try to convert the Germans to communism, which a few people might still believe exists in Russia.


He is going for more Russo/German trade talks and one of the matters he hopes to clear up is the price of Russian natural gas. This gas will be piped from the remote, inhospitable wastes of Siberia, where there is either 60 degrees of frost or impenetrable swampland. The pipeline will run through Czechoslovakia and then, the Russians plan, into the inviting industrial lands of Western Europe.


 The big snag is that, well before the gas has begun to flow, negotiations on the price are at deadlock, with the massive German importers, Ruhrgas, arguing that they are in a ‘buyers’ market and the Russians had better realise it.


So at present the Russians don’t have a single signed up customer for their gas. The whole thing is, in other words, a typical commercial gamble, built on the labour of the Russia workers who had to brave the cold and the swamps to bring the project into reality.


Somebody might like to explain why Russia, which claims to be a communist country needs to involve itself in the precarious trade of international capitalism. Why does a communist state have to concern itself with negotiations with capitalist combines over prices, conditions of sale and the rest? And what will happen, in this communist country, if the gas can’t be sold and all that investment doesn’t yield a profit?


There is only one sensible reply to these questions. Russia is not a communist country; apart from anything else, communism cannot exist in one country; it will be a world wide social system. Russia has developed in the only way it could—it is a state capitalist country, as much concerned about its investments and trade as any other capitalist nation. And it is as susceptible to the chill winds of slump as any other.


Russian workers who froze and sweated and suffered to build the pipeline should reflect on the facts. If they draw the wrong conclusions there will be no better life for them, or for the rest of the world’s people.


‘Socialism in one country’ (France)
Lights burned jubilantly late in left-wing abodes on the auspicious night when Francis Mitterrand was elected President of France. Glasses were clinked. Hands were shaken, Tears of joy were shed. For socialism had come to France.


We are now beginning to see what this means. Prime Minister Mauroy has announced that the government will build up the French nuclear arsenal and will develop a neutron bomb, which pleases capitalists because it kills people and leaves property intact. Mauroy calls all of this, as might be expected, a policy of deterrent ”  . . . based on a strategic attack on cities.”


Any member of the French ruling class silly enough to believe those happy lefties when they talked about Mitterrand introducing socialism must now be feeling mightily relieved. It is quite like old times; as Mauroy said


General de Gaulle was able to a lead a policy of military independence because he equipped the country with nuclear weapons. This government takes over this choice completely.


At some stage somebody might like to explain how a government which calls itself socialist can have the same policy as someone like de Gaulle. They might then consider whether there is some contradiction in such a government planning to build a destructive force aimed at killing workers in other countries. Doesn’t socialism have something to do with internationalism?


There is only one way of satisfactorily answering these questions. No government can be socialist; it is a contradiction in terms. Mitterrand does not, and never did, stand for socialism but for a particular style of running French capitalism, which must basically be in the interests of the French ruling class.


Socialism will be a society without war and without, therefore, the means of waging war. The debate over which weapons of war are more efficient or more humane, is a debate about a feature of capitalism.


French workers who voted for Mitterrand under the impression that it is possible to have socialism in one country had better think again. And quickly; as Mauroy’s promise makes clear, capitalist society grows daily more dangerous and socialism daily more urgent.