Paris public meeting
There has at least been some sanity in this month’s French presidential election: members and sympathisers of the Socialist Party of Great Britain organised a public meeting in Paris on the subject of universal suffrage and Marxism. Maximilien Rubel gave a talk on how Marx concluded in 1880 that the working class could change universal suffrage from an instrument of trickery into an “agent of emancipation” by mandating socialist delegates to immediately dismantle the state machinery of capitalism and establish socialism. Rubel stressed the importance of working-class consciousness in the transformation of society but when then suggested that we should adopt a reform programme to win support. The logical outcome of reforming capitalism could be seen on the way back from the meeting: large posters with the most absurd and vague slogans lined the streets: “France needs a president. V. Giscard d’Estaing”; “Jobs first: Mitterand for President” (“Socialist” Party); “With Huguette Bouchardeau for the alternative” (Unified Socialist Party); “Let’s produce French: Marchais for President” (French Communist Party); and, most bemusing of all, “Now, together, act with Jacques Chirac”. The alternative to this array of careerist hypocrites is for us to stop following leaders and cast a vote not for a person or a policy, but for a socialist society. The election issue of Socialisme Mondial, as well as a French version of the Questions of the Day pamphlet Pour le Socialisme Mondial is now available from Head Office.
The future of work
Wealth in present society is produced only when there is the prospect of a profit; in a socialist society, production would be carried out simply in order to satisfy human needs, whenever and wherever they occurred. The contrast was brought out very well by Mike Cooley of the Lucas Aerospace Combine Shop Stewards Committee, at a conference in March organised by the William Morris Society and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Several SPGB members took part. Cooley argued that people could create high quality articles through satisfying co-operative work, provided that the priority was use and not exchange.
Modern technology will only act as a liberating force if the basis of society is altered from market competition to human co-operation. At Lucas Aerospace co-operating workers are exploring the possibilities of creating useful work and production, although their struggle for survival in the world market system imposes severe limitations. Mike Cooley also told how Lucas workers had occupied the Willesden factory to oppose “rationalisation”. One weekend they left the factory and on returning found that Lucas Industries had burnt out the inside of the place and ripped the roof off.
Ray Watkinson spoke about William Morris’ views on work. Morris saw useful labour as the only true art, and looked forward to a time when socialist co-operation would allow all work to become creative and satisfying. Watkinson neglected to explain how Morris spent his later years campaigning for this, through the political organisation of the working class.
The discussion that followed was chaired by Geoffrey Robinson, MP, who more than once slipped in a sly plea for support for the Labour Party. He spoke of the “need” for a harmonious partnership between labour and capital. A socialist from the audience suggested we should get rid of this “holy alliance” and institute real harmony in a classless society. Robinson replied that we should keep working for harmony within in the present economy, and keep socialism in mind for the future. “Like a carrot”, came a call from the audience.