I’ve tried before to convince the reforming charities such as Oxfam and Friends of the Earth that their idealistic pleadings will not influence the inevitable, dominating drives of capitalism. They are doomed to failure. Getting governments to change is impossible. The fact is ‘government’ is not understood – they presume its function is to act in the best interests of the people when it just the executive control of capitalism.
Even though it is quite possible to ‘green’ the planet and feed everyone they do not understand the fundamental reason why this can’t happen today – someone has to make a profit from it. I cannot get them to understand the nature of commodity production, buying and selling and money and profit prevent attaining the world they want. Both are ‘middle-class’ petty bourgeois do-gooders and reformers who think futile reforms will achieve their aims. These reformist positions must fail, the only real change can be by changing the very social system of which these are just symptoms.
They probably assume they are radical and energetically pursue these reforms but, for the ‘respectables’, consideration of the real alternative is “Steady on, you’re going a bit too far in wanting a total revolution, and end to money, profits, commodity production, wage slavery and government itself.” No, they are for too nice and sensible, they think appeals and tinkering with the present system is far enough. What a waste of energy.
World War Two
Regarding your reply to Simon O’Connor’s letter about the Socialist Party’s stance on the Holocaust (Socialist Standard, June), some political commentators thought certain members of Britain’s war-time coalition government would not intervene on the premise “The more Jews Hitler kills now the less there will be trying to get into Palestine after the war.” It will be remembered the British sought to curry favour with the Arabs to maintain the flow of oil to British industry.
When the Partition vote on Palestine was carried in the United Nations in 1947, some governments voted in favour because they didn’t want Jews in internment and refugee camps coming to their countries. This included Canada whose prime minister was the notorious anti-Semite Mackenzie King. The probability was the capitalists whose interests they represented feared competition from Jewish businessmen. This was the reason for the Aliens Act enacted by the British government of 1905, restricting the immigration of Jews fleeing the pogroms sweeping through eastern Europe. All of which goes to prove that, where the interests of capitalism are concerned, people’s lives count for nothing.
Can I make a plea for the use of plain English in articles in the Socialist Standard. Whilst it is obviously in the interests of capitalism’s representatives in the press and politics to use euphemism and understatement to cover up the unpleasant facts of the system, surely we should be aiming to do exactly the opposite, namely to highlight its shortcomings and excesses.
In the article “Class against class”, in the June Standard Standard, I counted the word “issue” used no less than 7 times to mean either “problem” or “question”. An “issue” (at least among socialists) that a lack of money in the capitalist world is nothing less than a major problem for the vast majority of the population suffering from the affliction. The word “issue”, like “challenge”, seems to be in vogue at the moment and has apparently crept in from America, where people “have emotional issues” (i.e. “are upset”) or “have weight issues” (i.e. “are overweight” – in many cases to a point detrimental to their health). In a recent TV comedy, a script-writer friend of mine included a scene in which a character asked the company psychologist ‘Do you want me to discuss my what we’re supposed to call “issues” these days?’ When I complimented him on this line, he told me that he felt strongly enough to include it because “my kids are growing up a world in which they never hear the word problems”.
“Sackings” is another word which has been discarded by the capitalist press in favour of any number of euphemisms, evidently because the term is a lot more graphic than “downsizing”, “rationalisation”, “reorganisation” etc. Likewise, bosses use newspeak like “double-hatting” and “extra-skilling” to distract their staff from the fact that what they are really talking about is “making people do more than one job” and “retraining people to do additional work”?
I’m all in favour of neologism and changes of usage, provided that these are necessary or useful, but we mustn’t let that stop us calling a spade a spade. If we don’t tell it how it is, who will?
MARTYN DUNMORE, Brussels, Belgium