Saturday, January 20, 2018

Reconstruction: A Lesson from the Last War (1941)

From the October 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

The act of putting ideas into words should be a means of achieving greater clarity and understanding, for writer as well as reader. It should help to clear the way for action, but often smooth words and rounded phrases serve only as a brake on action. If anyone doubts this he has only to read again some of the optimistic plans for a new world which were being drafted in great number a quarter of a century ago. They promised a world without war, without want and without insecurity. Little or nothing came of it all. Precious years were wasted while the world drifted to another war and now a new generation of sentimental (or sometimes cynical) planners are at work who have seemingly learned nothing and forgotten everything. In international affairs it is only necessary to recall the League of Nations. Hardly a hand is raised in its defence now and the Atlantic Charter drafted by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill did not trouble to mention it.

In the matter of social reconstruction compare the Labour Party’s recent pronouncement, “The War and the Peace," adopted by 2,430,000 votes to 19,000 at the Labour Party’s annual Conference at Whitsuntide, 1941, with an earlier Report, "Labour and the New Social Order," adopted by the Labour Party in 1918. The comparison brings out many interesting points. Much of the new document reproduces the arguments and assumptions of the old. Other parts are different but the difference often reflects not an advance of thought towards Socialism but an adaptation to new trends in capitalism.

The New Order, 1918
The Labour Party’s 1918 plan, "The New Social Order,’’ suffered from three fatal defects. It started off from a wrong belief that the year 1918 was witnessing if not the death, “at any rate the culmination and collapse" of capitalism. “The individualist system of capitalist production," said the Report, “may, we hope, indeed have received a death-blow." Its second error was in assuming that the battle for a new order was already more than half won, based on a belief that one of the main pillars of the Labour programme (called “The Universal Enforcement of a National Minimum") “had already gained the support of the enlightened statesmen and economists of the world" (page 6). This belief was buttressed by a curious confidence that a plan was bound to be accepted if it could be proved that it was based on the teachings of “political' science. " Time and time again this idea crops up in the 20 pages of the Report.

The third defect was that the Labour Party had not a practical alternative to offer to capitalism and one that would be understood and accepted by the electorate. The Report was so worded as to imply in a rather guarded way that the remedy was Socialism. Thus it opened with the statement that “what has to be reconstructed after the war is not this or that Government Department, or this or that piece of social machinery; but, so far as Britain is concerned, society itself," and on page 4 is a reference to the “socialisation of industry." But in the rest of the Report it was clearly shown that the Labour Party was far from being finished with capitalism. It desired to control but not to abolish it; hence, for example, the remark in connection with taxation, “we are at one with the manufacturer, the farmer, and the trader in objecting to taxes interfering with production or commerce, or hammering transport and communications" (page 10). They could hardly be at one with these sections of the capitalist class if their intention was to eliminate them.

All of these assumptions were groundless. Capitalism was not dead. Once the war was over it resumed its course, not much different from what it had been in 1914. The employers, and of course their “enlightened statesmen and economists," soon showed what they thought of the plan and of its detailed proposals when the post-war unrest had to be dealt with. Nor would the Labour Party’s proposals stand serious criticism. They did no doubt appeal to a large number of electors and this enabled the Labour Party to take office in 1923-1924 and again in 1929-1931, but those two Governments found that the administration of capitalism left them no time or inclination to introduce the main parts of their own programme. The Labour Party had by then forgotten its pledge of 1918 that it would “certainly lend no hand" to the revival of capitalism.

It is a melancholy thought that in 1941 most of these assumptions can still be cherished by the Labour Party.

“The Four Pillars of Reconstruction"
The “four pillars" of the 1918 plan were (a) The Universal Enforcement of the National Minimum; (b) the Democratic control of industry; (c) the Revolution in National Finance; and (d) the Surplus Wealth for the Common Good.

There was to be a national minimum wage of 30s. a week (to be revised according to the level of prices), and this was also to be the basis of payment to the unemployed, the sick, the aged, and the victims of industrial accidents.

Industry and the land were to be nationalised, starting immediately with the mines, the railways and electric power, followed by the “expropriation" of the insurance companies. There was to be democracy in industry as well as in Government, with “the progressive elimination from the control of industry of the private capitalist" (page 12).

Taxation was to be changed and a capital levy introduced, both based on the principle of a very high levy on the highest incomes. The phrasing of these proposals throws light on the outlook of those who drafted the Report and of the delegates who accepted it. Taxation was to rise “up to 16s. or even 19s. in the pound on the highest income of the millionaires," and the capital levy was likewise to start at a small deduction from the wealth of people owning more than £1,000 “and a very much larger percentage from the. millionaires." There seems to have been an idea here that while the very rich must be “soaked" they must not be extinguished, and this presumably is what was meant by the aim defined as “a systematic approach towards a healthy equality" (page 4). Evidently “healthy equality" was a roundabout way of retaining a fairly large measure of inequality of wealth and income though nowhere was there an attempt to explain or justify this.

Among the specific demands were the retention of war-time Government control of industry and of the minimum wage of miners and land workers, “equal pay for men and women," an extended scheme of unemployment insurance, educational reforms and a school leaving age of 16, “complete abolition of the House of Lords," various extensions of the franchise, and the organisation of schemes of public work to even out and to reduce the amount of unemployment.

Among a very large number of other proposals was one for a League of Nations and the peaceful settlement of disputes between nations, and another for the development of international trade.

Nothing Came Of It
It will be seen that hardly any of the proposals came to anything, and those that were adopted have left capitalism essentially unchanged and unregenerate. It is true that the franchise was extended, unemployment insurance was made general, and the League of Nations was set up, but apart from these and a few social reforms neither the Labour Governments nor the Tory and National Governments did anything to carry out the plans. The House of Lords is still with us, enriched by some Labour peers, unemployment has been greater than ever before, taxation on the rich has been increased but without any marked effect on the production of new millionaires, there has been no national minimum and the war-time Minimum Wage Acts for miners and landworkers were soon repealed after the war. No industries have been nationalised.

The inequality of wealth, the national minimum wage and nationalisation of industry are three questions worth a little more attention. Here are two statements on inequality, one from the 1918 Labour Party Report, the other from an article by a prominent Labour Party supporter in World Digest, June, 1941. They show how little capitalism changed.
  Meanwhile innumerable new private fortunes are being heaped up by those who have taken advantage of the nation’s needs; and the one-tenth of the population which owns nine-tenths of the riches of the United Kingdom, far from being made poorer, will find itself, in the aggregate, as a result of the war, drawing in rent and interest and dividends a larger nominal income than before.—(1918 Report, page 19.) 
That was 1918; now for 1941:— .
In Britain on the eve of this war for democratic principles, nearly half the total national income went to 10 per cent, of the people; 80 per cent. of the total capital belonged to less than 6 per cent. of the community. . . .  At one end of the social scale twelve million people earned less than 50s. a week. At the other end there were many thousands with incomes of over £200 a week and some with incomes of over £1,000 a week.—(Mr. Francis Williams, former editor, Daily Herald., World Digest, June, 1941.)
The National Minimum Wage and Nationalisation
In 1918 the Labour Party demanded a national minimum wage for everyone. They thought it had the support of “the enlightened statesmen and economists of the world." On August 18th, 1919, the Lloyd George Government introduced a Bill to set up a Royal Commission “to inquire into legal minimum time-rates of wages," but the Bill was not proceeded with. Then on March 4th, 1924, when the first Labour Government was in office, a Labour motion was put down and carried that “in view of the practically universal acceptance of the principle that a living wage for all workers should be the first charge upon industry . . . this House urges the Government to proceed without delay with the Bill introduced by the Government of the day in 1919, constituting a Commission to inquire into and report upon legal minimum time-rates of wages."

The Labour Government whole-heartedly accepted the principle of the resolution but pleaded pressure of business which would have to be cleared away before anything could be done. The opportunity did not arise before the Labour Government was defeated and left office. Nor was it done in the second Labour Government, and when on March 31st, 1931, Mr. Kirkwood asked the Minister of Labour, Miss M. Bondfield, if it was the intention of the Labour Government to introduce legislation for a minimum wage in mining, steel, textile, engineering, agriculture and other industries and in the railway and other services, her reply was a blunt “ No, sir."

At the present time the idea is given little attention in Labour circles, and minimum wage schemes seem to have been replaced by schemes to pay allowances to families with children.

Then there was the idea of nationalisation, on the lines of the Post Office. It was urgently demanded in 1918 but was pressed with less and less enthusiasm until in 1930 it was quietly allowed to die. In its place came the demand for public utility corporations like the London Passenger Transport Board. This was due not so much to a change of heart but to the recognition that capitalism was moving in a different direction. As has been pointed out by Mr. Geoffrey Crowther, editor of the Economist
The choice now is not between individual competitive enterprise and centralised organisation by the State; it is between centralised control by the State and by private trust.—(World Digest, September, 1941.)
The Lesson to he Learned
One or two lessons should be plain. Even from the narrow point of view of trying to do the best possible for the workers within the framework of capitalism the 1918 Labour. Programme was wrongly conceived and far too ambitious. If instead of aiming to legislate on everything it had concentrated on a few simple social reform demands it would obviously have had a better chance of achieving some results. Instead, it dissipated interest and energy on all kinds of impracticable projects for reorganising industry when it ought to have realised that any Government facing the post-war troubles of capitalism would be far too busy to want to risk its position by a policy of troublesome and not very popular interference with existing arrangements.

From the wider standpoint of solving the social problems instead of trying to patch things up the Labour Party was in a false position. It wanted to be drastic but had not the understanding or desire to come out for Socialism. Neither the leaders nor the rank and file understood the limitations of their position. They were not prepared to face the fact that there could be no Socialism until the hard and long task of winning over a majority to Socialism had been completed but equally they were not prepared to struggle for those limited things that a non-Socialist majority might have supported. They needed the support of Liberal and Tory and unattached workers if they were to be at all effective but they were forced by their own vague desires for the drastic reform of capitalism to put forward demands which only antagonised large groups of capitalists and groups of workers in the industries affected. They confused two different conceptions, that of a working class struggling to maintain and improve its standards under capitalism and that of a Party aiming to take over the reins of Government and administer things on a different principle. They forgot that capitalism if it is to work at all forces the hands of those who think to control it. Then as now the only alternative to capitalism run on capitalist lines is Socialism, there is no tenable half-way position.
Edgar Hardcastle

"Equal Sacrifice" (1941)

From the November 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some time ago an article appeared in these columns; it was called “In the Front Line.” It was a description of working-class life in one of the great industrial belts of Britain. The story was one of poverty and drabness, but the writer does not think he exaggerated the grimness of the scene, nor the sordid existence of the people. 

Here is the other side of the picture.

It is a pretty picture—at least, nature has done its best to please the human eye. It is a place not very far from the Metropolis, and in the days of peace the Mecca of many a trip by working folk in search of a day’s fresh air.

To-day the small town has swollen to almost twice its former size. Crowded trains draw out of its station early every morning, taking with them hundreds of men and women, many still “nodding” through lack of sleep. Their jobs are in London, but they have come here in search of safety in the night. To them, “Pretty-town,” as you may call it, means just a bed away from the bombs. When they come home in the evening they are usually far too tired to do much else than have their supper and go to bed. The week-end is the long-awaited chance for a "lay-in,” and so the charm and soothing quiet of the country-side is lost to them.

Then there are the official evacuees. Women with their offspring, thousands of them, were literally dumped upon the place with little thought of caring for them once they had got here; for the problems in accommodation, food and other items of welfare.

Of course, these evacuees belong to the working class; the wealthy do not have to rely on the tender mercies of officialdom to provide refuge for their wives and children.

It is easy enough to distinguish this human flotsam; all are shabbily dressed, and can often be seen wandering about the main streets aimlessly. In this town, where ”cleanliness and godliness” are the twin virtues, a slovenly appearance causes much comment, but these intolerant disciples of Jesus should bear in mind that the slums of London’s dockland are not good training ground for clean habits. And the local authorities do nothing to encourage self-care; they have shown their regard by putting large numbers into houses long since condemned, where they are herded five and six persons to a room.

Others are billeted on the local working class, who live mostly in small council houses dotted around the outskirts. There is no use in glossing over the hostility which exists between “guests” and “hosts”—it is deep-rooted, and, even if the differences in outlook and up-bringing could be overcome, there still remains the problem of squeezing two families into the narrow walls within which it is difficult enough for one average-sized household to move.

But all these are the small fry among God’s children. Let us leave them and follow the stream of motor-cars continually passing to and fro the centre of this little city. Their destination is a different quarter in the neighbourhood, the wooded hills which overlook the valley like sentinels of nature. Climb up the leafy avenues, and, when you can turn your gaze from the colourful view of the many-coloured carpet of fields below, peer through the long line of trees and the high hedge rows beyond.

Here, discreetly hidden from all but very prying eyes, is the heritage of England.

Often you will not even then be able to see the abode of the fortunate owner, so spacious are the grounds, the vast stretches of carefully tended lawn, of elaborately planned gardens, the miniature forests.

No fancy names on wooden boards will give you any due as to whom you are seeking; the “Mon Abri’s,” and such-like products of fanciful minds, are left to the envious but impotent hangers-on, the self-styled middle-class.

Coming from the poorer quarters of the town, with its crowded streets and shops, the contrast is startling. Such is the spacious comfort in which this elite has its being, that the passer-by, used to the noise and jostling of working-class existence, may be left with a curious impression of desolation. Never do you hear the noise of children playing, certainly not evacuees; the notion that you are in a country at war, ”fighting for its life,” seems fantastic.

Occasionally a car speeds up the drive and into the buildings beyond. You get a brief glimpse of the occupants, quite ordinary looking persons they appear, and then they are gone, as aloof as their impressive habitation.

It is quite impossible to associate what you see here with the urgent problems which you are told are facing the country to-day.

Lack of food, shortage of man-power, people without homes—all these and a multitude of other difficulties may be agitating your mind, making you a chronic victim of anxiety and fear (the deadliest foes of happiness), but here everything speaks of comfort, of leisure, a sense of economic security that has no inkling of the ceaseless struggle for existence that goes on below.

Vats of boiling steel, over which men, sweating though stripped to the waist, are standing, shaping the metal; miners hacking their way along the labyrinth, hundreds of feet below ground; women stumbling home through the black-out after a long day of machine tending; screaming sirens and a mass of human bodies huddled together in filthy basements—merely the sinister shadows of another world.

For you, food is a “munition of war," to be obtained by scrambling, queueing, begging the shop-keeper of regretfully paying double the price you can afford. It is a fuel for vitals which have been emptied by the day’s strenuous labour. But to this other class such concern for food is unknown. Never are they seen at the shops lining up for goods in short supply, war-time restrictions appear to hold no terrors for them. And is it possible to imagine their dining-tables served with a small piece of cheese and a pat of margarine by the butler (“three servants kept in pantry ”— recent advert.)?

To what magic does this class owe its favoured living—what remarkable gifts of mind and body assure them a social and economic standing quite inconceivable by the average working-class brain?

The clue can often be found in the City of London, the “richest square mile in the world.” Stacked in the vaults of banking firms or in the offices of the big joint-stock companies are the documents that “prove,” according to law, the right of this privileged minority to possess and use the best in life which the productive resources and human labour can offer. Mere pieces of paper, but backed by the entire force of the State—what gangster ever had better protection? Not that these people are gangsters—they are the most law-abiding citizens to be found anywhere.

Those documents relate to copper mines in Rhodesia, to tea plantations in India, the cotton mills of Lancashire, to the stock yards in the Argentine; in every corner of the British Empire and beyond are to be found the well-shaped predatory fingers of the richest ruling-class of to-day.

Property that is never seen—labour-power by the million, black, brown and white, pay the tribute which enables these persons in the Home Counties of England to live in splendour and seclusion.

You may well ask: What active share do this class take in this process of wealth-production? The answer is, None. Their sons go to the public school and universities, and from there, if minded, for “public duties,” fill the benches of the Conservative parties in Parliament or other public bodies. Here their intellectual and socially useful qualities can and have been judged. Others have gone into the diplomatic service; their record is now being expunged by bombs and guns. Many others, more discreet, keep an eye on the source of their incomes by “sitting” on the boards of numerous undertakings as “directors.” If you go to the local railway station here at an early hour in the afternoon, you will see some of these “captains of industry” alighting from a London train and hurrying to their waiting automobile—surely an early hour for leaving the factory in these days of twenty-four hour shifts? You are mistaken, reader; these gentlemen are “somebodies” in the "City.”

Many have, of course, joined the armed forces; they have the consolation of knowing that they are defending a real “stake in the country,” not an imaginary one. In this connection it is worth noting that the local working-class have a very strongly developed sense of property: It is their house and their garden, whereas a few weeks without payment of rent would quickly put an end to this hallucination. Admittedly, rents are low compared with towns, but so are wages—the capitalist class know how to even things up.

It is the rule for workers to model their outlook on that of their masters; ”Pretty-town” is no exception. The capitalist caricature of the old manorial system poisons the whole locality with its prejudices and reactionary foibles. Jews (of the poorer type) and revolutionaries are their pet aversions; a former town clerk is now imprisoned as a fascist.

Fortunately for the prospects of Socialism, these “pocket boroughs” can have little influence on the march of ideas, otherwise the future of mankind would indeed look gloomy.
Sid Rubin

Notes By The Way: Should Women Have Equal Pay with Men? (1941)

The Notes By The Way column from the December 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Should Women Have Equal Pay with Men?
The propaganda of the organisations which favour equal pay for men and women doing the same job has made much progress recently and a poll organised by the British Institute of Public Opinion showed a majority of over two-thirds in favour. (News-Chronicle, November 17th, 1941.)

The main reason for the change of attitude this poll indicates is, however, not propaganda, but the fact that under war conditions there is a limitless demand for women’s labour. As the Economist says: “. . . temporarily, at any rate, the war has done the reformers’ work for them. The demand for women workers has increased; and the number of occupations into which they are eagerly admitted is growing. But in spite of the greatly increased number of women coming forward, there is still a shortage . . .”—(Economist, November 29th, 1941.)

It should not be imagined that the propaganda for equal pay is new. It was in full swing 40 years ago and was, for example, commented on in The Socialist Standard for December, 1904. Apart from the war-time demand for women workers the problem has only changed in the past 40 years in one respect, that there are now a larger number of occupations in which it is normal for women to be employed. The claim that the job should carry the same pay whether done by a man or a woman is still a mere tinkering with the real problem of the working class, both men and women. Short of getting rid of the wages system and the employing class, as under Socialism, the whip-hand is always that of the employing class. They will always seek what is for their particular concern the cheapest labour and will always use unemployment as a lever to force down wages towards the minimum of subsistence. The advocates of equal pay who imagine that the acceptances of the principle by the employers will make any material change are overlooking the easy loophole it provides. If an employer accepts the principle of equal pay for a certain grade of work and then finds that there are plenty of unemployed women able and willing to do the job for a lower wage, all he has to do is to take all the men off that work. The work then becomes a purely woman’s job, and the principle of equal pay ceases to have any application.


Douglasites Repudiate Douglas
The following paragraph appeared in the Daily Telegraph (November 17th, 1941): —
   Three persons have been excommunicated this weekend by the Green Shirts. They are Major C. H. Douglas, who invented Social Credit, the Dean of Canterbury and the Duke of Bedford.
  This information I obtain from The Message from Hargrave, the weekly sheet of foolscap expounding the views of the “Social Credit Party of Great Britain,” which I have been receiving since I announced, last July, that Mr. Augustus John had become a Green Shirt.
   I read that the Social Credit Party repudiated the "authority and directives” of Major Douglas in July, 1938. He is now once more repudiated for “confusing his own economic logic by developing an anti-Semitic propaganda.”
   Dr. Hewlett Johnson’s excommunication is for becoming that “quite ridiculous thing—a Christian Bolshevik.” The Duke of Bedford, who, as I read, is even better known than the dean for his advocacy of Social Credit, is placed under the ban for his out-and-out advocacy of the views he holds on the war.

Under-Feeding Among Edinburgh Workers
The Weekly Scotsman (July 5th, 1941) summarises the result of a recent inquiry into the income and expenditure of a number of families on the ”unskilled labourer" level of income.
  Out of 75 families whose food bill was investigated, only 8 were spending enough to buy an adequate diet. From various causes none of the families was in fact getting a diet adequate in every respect. There are figures of the large slice of their income which some families spend on hire purchase or sickness and burial insurance. Over half the families were living beyond their incomes and running into debt; in particular, “it was found that a high percentage of Service families were in part dependent upon hospitality from relations.”

Restrictions on Political Propaganda
On November 27th, 1941, the News-Chronicle published the following: —
                                                        POLITICS BANNED.
   While the war is on, politics are to be banned in the factories (writes the Labour Correspondent).
   The T.U.C. has agreed with the Government that political parties shall not be allowed to propagate their policies inside the establishments of private firms, as well as Government factories and dockyards.
    This does not apply to trade union meetings.
Probably, though it is not stated, the justification offered for this ban is that political discussions interfere with output.


A Question to Federal Unionists
Reviewing a book (“Scum of the Earth," by Arthur Koestler), Mr. A. J. P. Taylor, writing in the Manchester Guardian, puts a pertinent question to supporters of Federal Union. Koestler, who supports Federal Union, had recounted some of the brutalities he witnessed in French and Spanish jails. Mr. Taylor asks: —
   "Koestler believes in European Union. Why should the police of the Union be any improvement on Koestler’s French or Spanish gaolers . . . ? In short, why should European Union—even if it ended wars—end man’s inhumanity to man?”
It is a good point because it brings out one of the fallacies of Federal Union. Is the world out of joint because of the way frontiers are drawn or because of the existence of a class-divided society, with oppression of one class by another, behind each frontier?

Socialists carry Mr. Taylor’s question further and ask whether Federal Union will end wars or only alter and enlarge the frontiers of the warring powers.


Echoes of the People’s Convention
It is an old saying that new converts are more zealous than old believers. The People’s Convention since its overnight conversion to war on the night of June 22nd is now a whole-hogger.
   The Peoples Convention, which in January wanted immediate peace and an appeal to the German people over Hitler’s head, now presses for intensified war effort and. the creation of a second front.
    At an Anglo-Soviet rally in Friends' House, Euston Road, London, yesterday, every utterance in favour of our more active participation in the war was loudly cheered.
    “We are letting the golden days go past,” said Dr. Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury.
   “If we had invaded the Continent in June the Dneiper Dam would still be working and Russia would have retained most of her lost industries. We have lengthened the war immeasurably.”—(“Sunday Express,” November 2nd, 1941.)
Mr. Pollitt, in his new role, writes as follows : —
   Russia is working, fighting and dying in a manner unknown in world history. So must we in Britain. So we can in Britain if the Government sets out to command the unstinted support of the people by proving by every one of its actions that Russia and Britain are in a real alliance, in which we take our full share and make the same sacrifices that the victory over Hitler is demanding. —(“Workers’ News.”)

Communists Support for Conservative Candidates
The Communists have a simple faith : Whatever. the Russian Government does is right, whether it be Pacts with Hitler or war with Hitler. Whatever helps the Russian Government is right, whether it be denouncing the Labour Party for associating with Conservatives or voting for Conservatives.

Viewed thus there is no inconstancy in the recent Communist support for Conservative candidates at Lancaster and Hampstead. At Lancaster, where the National Conservative candidate was opposed by an Independent Liberal and by Mr. Fenner Brockway of the I.L.P., "a Communist deputation visited the Conservative campaign headquarters in Lancaster this afternoon and offered to work for the return of Mr. Maclean, the National Government candidate."—(Daily Telegraph, October 14th, 1941.)

At Hampstead there were four candidates, all with the same policy, vigorous prosecution of the war and aid for Russia. The Communists supported the official Conservative candidate, Flying Officer Charles Challen, who won the seat.

An interesting sidelight on the Lancaster election was the statement made by the I.L.P. candidate to the Manchester Guardian : —
   Mr. Brockway himself told the writer that a number of Labour voters who did not wholly accept his views about the war had told him they would vote for him for “old acquaintance sake ” and as a protest against “too much Toryism in the House of Commons."
Edgar Hardcastle

Credit and Debt (1959)

TV Review from the January 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Is television worth while? An appalling question, this; but it happens to be the important one. There have always been the disapproving few who would permit it only for education in gloomy authoritarian utopias. Warmly, one would reply that entertainment and fun should be part of life as well.

The awful fact is, however, that the small screen lives and is memorable mainly in its rare instructive moments. Steele of the Spectator told his readers that when the paper was dull there was always a purpose in it; on the TV, when the programmes are dull (which is most of the time) there is never a purpose in them at all.

All this is brought to mind by a half-hour which was purposefully educational, and single-handed—certainly unaided in the last four weeks—showed the television to be worth while after all. This was Dr. Bronowski’s New Horizons account of atoms and energy. Wonderful.

But what’s even more wonderful is the thought of this coming into a quarter of a million homes. The casual question here and there, next day, discovers several who were “going to turn it off” and were still drinking-in at the end. The adversaries of television should consider this. So, too, should all the snobs and ignoramuses who like to think the working class can understand nothing. Would anyone have conceived, only a short space of years ago, of the quantum theory being expounded to council-house tenants

That is the credit side. There are debits innumerable, of course. What is more, fresh ones keep appearing. The newest and worst horror is Keep it in the Family: the heart turns as heavy as lead to see respectable suburban families being wildly acclaimed and sent home with refrigerators because between five of them they know the names of five poets or six rivers.

The interesting thing, however, is that the producers, compères and general overseers in the rubbish factory from which all this comes belong without exception to what are considered the educated layers. University men preside in panel games which are low, vulgar and humiliating; while in the commercials public-school chaps and men known to public life for their forthright integrity give specious eulogies of advertisers' wares.

The obvious moral is that even the educated will do anything for money. But that leaves one important question unanswered. This is also the group from which all the sneers at working-class “ignorance” come. Granted, the dog Prolus may look unattractive with televisual tin-cans on his tail—but who keeps tying them on?
Robert Barltrop

Shorter Hours For What? (1959)

Editorial from the February 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some of the longest and hardest struggles of the trade unions have been to secure agreements reducing hours of work. Hours were brought down from 10 a day to 9, and then to 8—each time against the complaint of the employers and their tame economists that this would ruin industry, price British exports out of all markets and produce millions of unemployed.

The last general movement towards shorter hours was after World War II, when the 44-hour week became fairly general for industrial workers. (The first World War had been followed by the movement that brought about the 48 to 47-hour week.)

Now a number of unions, including miners, and engineering and shipbuilding workers, are trying to get a further reduction. They are asking for shorter hours without reduction of weekly pay (that being the way hours were reduced on earlier occasions in the past 40 years). With persistent pressure, they should have some success.

It is, however, impossible to pass over without comment the seeming change of attitude that has taken place in recent years towards shorter hours. In the earlier movements the demand for shorter hours meant what it appeared to mean, but in recent years the nominally shorter hours have been used very often merely as a means of getting additional overtime pay while working the same hours as before. In manufacturing industry average hours of work in 1938 were 46½ a week and in 1946 46⅕. In 1947 the standard working week was generally reduced by agreement from 48 or 47 to 44, but the hours actually worked began to rise again, and in 1955 were only very slightly under 47. In August, 1955, out of about 6,000,000 workers covered by the Ministry of Labour inquiry, over one in four was working overtime, the average overtime of these 1½ millions averaging 8½ hours in the week. In November, 1956, there were 1,600,000 workers doing an average of 8 hours overtime a week, in the manufacturing group of industries employing about 6 million.

Of course, with the rise of unemployment and short-time working the numbers doing overtime have dropped, but at August, 1958, in the same manufacturing group of workers there were still nearly 1,200,000 doing overtime.

We shall therefore again see the trade unions in the somewhat odd position of going to the employers to state a case for a 40-hour week instead of 44, knowing that large numbers of workers are doing upwards of 50 hours.

Of course, it will be said that hundreds of thousands of workers simply cannot make ends meet on their bare pay; for them overtime is a necessity. In a sense this is true, but it is really a dangerous half-truth. If that attitude had been taken up in the 19th century the battles for shorter hours would never have been fought, but workers then did not take up that attitude. They took the more correct line of fighting both to press up the wage for the week and to reduce the weekly hours of work.

But they also set their face against the working of overtime as a normal practice, which is what it now often is. 

The hours of work problem raises other issues besides the number of hours spent in the factory or office. As the years go by it is increasingly bound up with the number of hours spent travelling from home to work and back again. Workers have long been forced to move further out from the centre of the big cities, which has meant giving up more time to travel the greater distance. With modern aggravation of the problem of how to keep the traffic moving, it is now also becoming a question of spending more and more time to travel the same distance.

50 Years Ago: Who Wants a Man? (1959)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

A leading New York daily paper has just advertised a man, warranted sound in mind and limb, for sale. He describes himself as 43 years old. He says he understands machinery and is a good mechanic, but has been out of work for nine months, and is willing to sell himself for food, clothing and lodging. If no purchaser is forthcoming he will be knocked down by auction to the highest bidder. . . . Before the American panic the man had been earning £5 weekly in a machinery shop, but since then, despite applications at over 200 machine shops, which advertised for men, he has failed to secure a job.
From the Socialist Standard, March, 1909.

Correspondence on John Strachey (1959)

Letter to the Editors from the April 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Cwmbran.
Mon..
5th March, 1959.

The Editorial Committee
"The Socialist Standard"
London, S.W.4.

Dear Comrades.

In his writings prior to Contemporary Capitalism John Strachey had displayed his lack of understanding of Marxism and his desire to tailor the theory and practice of “Socialism” so that it fitted both Social-Democracy and Leninism. In Contemporary Capitalism he surpassed himself and asserted that. “Marx in fact taught that not only was it impossible for the wage earners to raise their standard of life under capitalism: he went further and announced that their standard must steadily decline.” (Page 101.) Page 95 has it that Marx. “ . . . predicted that real wages could never rise above subsistence so long as capitalist relations of production continued . . ." and page 90 assures us Marx held that, ". . . the standard of life of the mass of the population . . . never rises; indeed, as we shall see, Marx believed that it would actually fall below subsistence.” Strachey is quite dogmatic about this. He tells us that, “The crucial passages leave no doubt that Marx took this view”, then calmly stating, “It may be sufficient to quote two of them . . . ” (page 101) he displays for us the famous “pauperisation ” quote from the Communist Manifesto and the equally famous “increasing misery” quote from Capital, Vol. I. which in the faulty Eden & Cedar Paul translation (dealt with by Jack Fitzgerald and Riazanov, Socialist Standard. Vol. 1932) becomes happily for Strachey “increasing poverty.”

The real significance of these two passages has been dealt with in the Standard and it has been shown that they lend no support whatsoever to Strachey's case, but what of the other “crucial passages.” the ones that Strachey doesn’t quote, but keeps up his sleeves? The truth is that these other passages just don’t exist, that Strachey is unable to advance any proof to back up his wild claims, that Strachey was, when he wrote this book, on his own admission, ignorant of the real position taken up by Marx on the living standard question which is in fact the very reverse of the position fastened on him by Mr. Strachey.

Mr. Strachey’s admissions were made publicly at the Transport Hall, Cardiff, where on February 10th, 1957, he held, under the auspices of the N.C.L.C.. a one-day school to discuss the scope and findings of his Contemporary Capitalism. I took to that school all the works of Marx and Engels available in English at that date, thus making sure that any defence offered by Mr. Strachey could be accurately examined on the spot and thus eliminating the chance of an alibi based on “writings not on hand."

During the question and discussion periods I gave Mr. Strachey the opportunity to prove to the hundred or more people present that his analysis of Marxism was correct. With every book that he could need to prove his case on hand, Mr. Strachey was unable to produce any evidence to back up his assertions other than the two quotes already mentioned. The celebrated “crucial passages” failed to materialise, not even a clue could be given as to their whereabouts!

When I read out to the school the many passages in which Marx clearly shows that the working class could increase their living standards under capitalism, Strachey admitted that he was not acquainted with any of the extracts quoted. He stated that the passages I had advanced showed that Marx had held views contrary to the ones attributed to him in Contemporary Capitalism. He also said that it looked as if he had over-emphasised (!) one aspect of Marx’s ideas and neglected others. He was also not aware of the faulty nature of the Eden and Cedar Paul translation of Capital, Volume 1, from which his chief piece of “evidence” was taken. Since my quotes were mainly from Wage Labour and Capital and Capital, Vol. 1 (the majority of these quotes can be found in the January, 1957. S.S.), which are works as basic as one can get. Mr. Strachey s admissions arc pretty damning.

Later, in the presence of the organizer of the school. Mr. Strachey complimented me on my “Marxian scholarship” and speaking of Marx said: “It looks as if I’ve done the Old Man an injustice.” Scholarship is an odd word to describe a mere basic knowledge of a subject and it is intriguing to think of a term which, continuing this same picturesque tradition, will describe Mr. Strachey’s lack of knowledge!

I was prepared to wait for the promised second volume by Strachey before writing anything about this encounter, but I now learn that Mr. Strachey has been acquainted with the articles written by E. W. (JanuaryFebruaryMarch, April. .S.S..) on Contemporary Capitalism and is trying to dismiss their incontrovertible arguments as mere differences in “interpretation” of Marxian theory. This is dishonest of John Strachey. It is not the position he took up at Cardiff and it is not a position that he can maintain if he is bold enough to meet the Socialist Party in public debate. Though not a member of the Socialist Party at the time of this meeting with Strachey, the position I then took up is the same as that held by the Party. I therefore challenge Mr. Strachey to meet a representative of the Socialist Party in public debate and I can promise him that he will be very fairly treated, though 1 cannot promise that his cup of happiness will be overflowing or even full.
Yours fraternally.
Melvin C. Harris.

50 Years Ago: May-Day (1959)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

The First of May is round once again, but, unfortunately, the wage-workers are not yet ready for the great demonstration which shall demonstrate, not the workers’ disunion and lack of class-consciousness, as do those of to-day, but their irresistible might and determination to strike, once and for all, the shackles from off their limbs, and to annihilate the oppressor. However, with May come some sunny days, the tender freshness of young leaves and—the outdoor propaganda season in full swing. Verily Spring is a mighty ally of Hope, and your true Socialist, while rarely forgetting the ever-present horrors of capitalism, appreciates no less than his as yet non-Socialist fellow, the brightening ray and thrill of nature newly waken'd.

To us its chief meaning is renewed opportunity for work in order that next May-Day may see us measurably nearer our goal; well on the way toward our demonstration—the only one worthy of working-class attention, the Social Revolution. 

From the Socialist Standard, May 1909.

50 Years Ago: The "Great Man" Fallacy (1959)

The 50 Years Ago column from the June 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

When I read the history of Greece I am not impressed by the oratory of Demosthenes or the statesmanship of Pericles. But I note that Corinth alone contained slaves by the thousand dozen, and I ask: what was the economic condition of this class? What did they know of science or art or literature. Dickens has spoken of men and women who all go in and out at the same hours, to do the same work; people to whom every day is the same as yesterday and tomorrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next. These are the people history should speak to us about, and not the depraved parvenus and braggart buffoons of royal descent. Then I say to every working man and woman: before you read the life of Cicero or Aristotle or Julius Caesar; before you become immersed in trivial biography, study well the conditions of life and labour of your social ancestors in Greece, in Rome, in the Middle ages. The proper study of a working man is working class conditions.
Socialist Standard, June 1909

Letter from Wales (1959)

From the July 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some while ago, the writer had occasion to examine an old Welsh bible. The only thing peculiar to this bible was that it had been used for religious services underground. It was the custom of the earlier generations of miners to commence their “stint” with prayers and hymn-singing. This bible still remains to remind one of the traditional Welsh attitude to religion, which has permeated the social and political history of the people of Wales. It is a long and interesting story which English historians, due mostly to tack of knowledge of the vernacular, have not been able to give much attention to; nevertheless, it can be accepted that just as druidism was the dominant religion of tribal Wales, Catholicism—followed by the Reformed Church—the faith of the Mediaeval peasant;—so Nonconformism became a strong influence upon the industrial workers in the new era of Capitalism. Today, the roots of political and trade union life in Wales still draw considerable sustenance from religion. Tradition dies hard and men like Mabon and K. Hardie (who though a Scot was “taken into the bosom” of the Welsh people) are to this day looked upon with reverence as outstanding “Christian Socialists.”

The Keir Hardie Myth 
In 1936, the S.P.G.B., in a pamphlet War and the Working Class, drew attention to the attitude which Keir Hardie actually adopted to the First World War. This must have offended many of Hardie’s admirers and in 1953 a South Wales newspaper, under a headline of half-inch capitals, published a defence of him. This was largely directed against the S.P.G.B., whose exposure of Hardie was described as a “nauseating attack,” a “smear campaign” against the “character and honour” of Hardie. The S.P.G.B., said the writer, was “ turning and twisting ” but our argument would be “torn asunder” by “indisputable facts” which he possessed “in abundance.”

Strong words. They sparked off a lively debate in the newspaper, in which the S.P.G.B. members reminded the readers of Hardie’s boast that he had helped to recruit more men to the colours than had his Liberal opponent. This, said our adversary, was a falsification of history; but when we offered him the opportunity to expose it in public debate, he refused. By this time, the Welsh members had their teeth into it; we obtained photostat copies of some 1914 issues of the Merthyr Pioneer which proved conclusively the correctness of our assertions. Need we say that, in face of this, our opponent pleaded lack of sufficient time to continue the argument and asked us to drop the matter? As our final word, we shall arrange a public challenge meeting on the matter.

It is as well to place some of Hardie’s attitudes on record. He advised against pacifist agitation, advocated national unity in wartime and resistance to an aggressor “to the last drop of blood.” Thus he was no better (and no worse) than the other Labour Party and I.LP. leaders who have given their support to the war efforts of British capitalism; Henderson, MacDonald, Attlee, Bevin and Morrison all followed him, playing the same terrible game. There is no doubt about their support of war. We can only hope that our efforts will help to show that the revered Keir Hardie was no different.

Elections and the Chapels
The local elections in Wales often resolve themselves into a contest between religious communities—“bethel” versus “Moriah", or Baptist versus Methodist with the Salvation Army thrown in as dark horses. The fact that one is a Chapel member counts a great deal in Welsh politics, local and national—not forgetting the Trade Unions. Political careerists are aware of this and even so-called communists are careful to assert their attachment to religious principles. The other day a local “Commie” indignantly challenged a Tory who dared to state that Religion and Communism were incompatible! A leading member of the Welsh Nationalist Party has recently been elevated from mere chapel membership to that of Vice-President of the Baptist Union of Wales. At the same time, his party, to prove their rebellious convictions, are indulging in pirate radio broadcasts on the B.B.C. television wave-lengths under the title Voice of Wales.

As can be seen, the few Socialists in Wales have a hard task in hand. But we shall continue the struggle.
W. Brain

More Unequal Than Croesus (2018)

The Cooking the Books column from the January 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
A study into social inequality throughout human history and prehistory published in the journal Nature concluded – or, rather, confirmed, since this is generally accepted – that it was the adoption of agriculture that permitted social inequality to come about and to take off. In previous, hunter-gatherer societies, as the researchers noted, there were 'not a lot of opportunities for people to have more than others' (Times, 16 November).
With agriculture and the settled life it involved, on the other hand, not only could more wealth be produced but the extra wealth could be accumulated in the hands of those who owned land and working animals. That this is what did happen was, as Engels put it, the origin of the family, private property, and the state. The researchers added something new by pointing to the importance of large domesticated animals being put to work. This only happened in the old world and was why, they concluded, inequality was greater there than in the new world (until it was conquered by people from the old world).
This was not just theoretical speculation on their part. They came up with an objective standard to measure social inequality. Taking the size of dwellings, as for the past uncovered and recorded by archaeologists, they used the ratio of the smallest to the largest to estimate inequality:
'The paper converted the house size ratios into the gini coefficient, a measure used today in which "0" means no inequality and "1" means the highest possible inequality. Hunter-gatherer societies had a gini coefficient of about 0.17, an egalitarianism not now matched by any country. When people shifted to growing crops, it grew, to 0.35. When Rome was at its height it was 0.48. In Britain today, it stands at about 0.7.'
In other words, capitalism is a much more unequal society than ancient slave societies or feudalism. Capitalists are more unequal than Croesus. This must come as an inconvenient surprise to defenders of capitalism. Their riposte will be that modern wage and salary workers are better off than chattel slaves or serfs. This is incontestably true, but that's not the point about inequality. Inequality is relative.
Marx used the same example of the size of dwellings to make this point:
'A house may be large or small; as long as the neighbouring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirement for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks to a hut. The little house now makes it clear that its inmate has no social position at all to maintain, or but a very insignificant one; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilization, if the neighbouring palace rises in equal or even in greater measure, the occupant of the relatively little house will always find himself more uncomfortable, more dissatisfied, more cramped within his four walls (. . .) Our wants and pleasures have their origin in society; we therefore measure them in relation to society; we do not measure them in relation to the objects which serve for their gratification. Since they are of a social nature, they are of a relative nature' (Wage-Labour and Capital).
Workers are better off than chattel slaves or serfs, but capitalists are even more better off than ancient slave-owners and feudal barons. So, the gap between producers and parasites has grown since those times. Capitalism is the most unequal society of all time.

Agnes Hollingshead

From The Monument by Robert Barltrop:

The Party was saved from an extreme predicament (one section of the membership saw nothing else but to sell the newly-acquired Head Office) by old Mrs Hollingshead. I went to see her in Edinburgh, and told her we needed several hundred pounds to pay the bills: she gave a thousand. Agnes Hollingshead was one of the most remarkable of people. At this time, she was ninety-two. She had run a commercial college in Calgary for several years, came to Britain in the nineteen-thirties and set up again in Edinburgh. After her husband’s death early in the war her sole wish became to amass a small fortune and leave it to the Party. She continued working until she died — her only concession to age was to give up classes and take individual pupils instead. On the day I arrived she was taking a girl of seventeen or so, dictating shorthand and correcting exercises with briskness and authority.

Besides having the school, she let out the rooms in her house to families: they paid only modest rents, but reading the Socialist Standard was a condition of tenancy. Her teaching-room was a huge room at the front of the house, and she lived in the kitchen at the back with a cat named Karl Marx. A tiny, dignified woman, she had an indomitable zest for living. She attributed her age and her fine teeth to ‘plain living and high thinking’ and to vegetarianism, and confided to me that she was worried by shortness of breath when she walked up the steep hill by her house: ‘I’ll go to the man at the nature-cure clinic,’ she said, ‘because it isn’t natural to be puffing like that.’ She died at ninety-six, and left nearly four thousand pounds to the SPGB.

The Monument: the Story of the Socialist Party of Great Britain by Robert Barltrop (Pluto Press, 1975) Page 161

Obituary: A. Hollingshead (1959)

Obituary from the August 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mrs. Agnes Hollingshead died in Edinburgh at the age of 91 years. This old Comrade was, for many years, active in the old Socialist Party of Canada. When a younger woman, she spoke in Calgary and Toronto. Last year, in a recorded message to the World Socialist Party Conference at Boston, U.S.A., she said it was still her ambition at the age of 90 to go on the Soap-box.

Mrs. Hollingshead was a very talented woman. She ran a business college in Calgary, and on her return to the “Old Country” in the 1920’s taught languages, shorthand-typing, and music. Her home in Edinburgh was made freely available to any member and sympathiser. She was the Edinburgh Group secretary up to within a few months of her death. Her keenness and enthusiasm for Socialist propaganda in her sprightly old age is an object lesson to young members. If anything, she became more active as she became older.

Mrs. Hollingshead was very generous to the S.P.G.B. When funds were lower than usual a few years ago she came to the rescue with a substantial donation. Members affectionately referred to her as “the old lady from Edinburgh”—a kind of Socialist institution. Comrades from Overseas always made their way to her home, and she had a warm welcome for everyone. Her greatest difficulty in recent years was her inability to get to the Mound where the outdoor meetings were held by members from Glasgow.

Socialism kept Mrs. Hollingshead young in heart. She looked to the future with that irrepressible optimism possessed only by Socialists. Hers was a useful life.


The Finance of War (1959)

From the September 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Who Pays for Wars?
In the middle of the first World War the Socialist Standard published an article which brought us into sharp disagreement with both wings of the Labour Party, those who were all for war and the minority who wanted to stop it : on this one issue they were in complete agreement and held that we were wrong. The issue related, not to the deaths and destruction of war, but to the finance of war. The article was called “Who Pays for the War?" (Socialist Standard, Nov, 1916) and the answer given to the question was in line with what the Socialist Party had been saying about Capitalism before the war broke out. The Socialist argument was (and is) that the workers live by selling their mental and physical energies to the employing class. They then go to work and produce wealth for the employers of value far larger than that represented by their wages. It is out of this “surplus value” that the employing class came to be the owners of all but a small part of the accumulated wealth of the country. Broadly speaking, the employing class, in peace and in war, have squeezed out of their workers in factories, fields, mines and offices, all that can be squeezed out of them in the existing circumstances. This is a very fortunate situation for the propertied class, but it has its corresponding disadvantage in that the civil and military costs of running the State, its administration, its police, its armaments and its wars, are in the last resort a burden on their profits and property. In short, it is the propertied class who pay for wars.

The article published in 1916 pointed this out, and pointed out, too, what would be the likely position of the workers of the victorious and defeated nations after the war. It foresaw that in the event of the defeat of Germany the victors would levy war damages on the property owners of Germany, but that this would not alter the position of wage-earners there. The anticipation was in fact confirmed many years later, when it was shown that in 1929 the purchasing power of the wages of German workers had kept in line with that of British workers despite the yearly payment to the British Government of many millions of pounds of “Reparations” by the German government. (Socialist Standard, August. 1929). Indeed, at one period it was a common complaint that while German workers were busily employed producing the "Reparations” goods for delivery to Britain, thousands of British workers were unemployed in the trades that would otherwise have been producing those goods here.

The Keynes' Scheme in the Second World War
But if it is broadly true that the employing class at all times get all they can out of the workers, they are always willing to try to get something more if they can. And a big war has a double disadvantage for them/ On the one hand they are paying for the war, and on the other hand, under the influence of “full employment,” the workers are likely to press for higher wages. For the employing class this is a very difficult problem. They need maximum production of armaments to win the war and consequently need minimum consumption of civilian products by the workers; but this is at a time when, because of labour shortage, the workers are in a favourable position to press for a higher standard of living. The late Lord Keynes in his How to Pay for the War (Macmillan & Co., 1940), came forward to help. His solution of the problem of how to get the workers in war-time to produce more and consume less was to introduce compulsory saving and refund it after the war.

He was a realist and he recognised that workers with less than 75s a week could not go lower: indeed, he proposed that their standard of living should be raised. (It is one of the ironies of war that quite a sizeable part of the population are better fed and clothed in war-time.) Those with between 75s. and 100s. a week were to continue on their existing standard, but the group with over £5 a week were to be compelled to save, in the aggregate, about a third of their income. Refundment, after the war, was to be achieved through a capital levy. Keynes put forward his suggestions as a way to avoid inflation and as a way to transfer wealth from the propertied class to the workers. Looking back to the first world war which left the National Debt owned by the capitalist class, Keynes thought that his scheme would have the result that at the end of the second world war ownership of the National Debt “will be widely distributed among all those who are foregoing immediate consumption, instead of being mainly concentrated . . . . in the hands of the capitalist class.” (Pages 10 and 11.)

In view of what happened, and particularly in view of the fraudulent “Post-War Credits” scheme, it may be thought that Keynes, in his book, was guilty of promoting the fraud. The truth seems to be that Keynes was guilty of no more than muddle-headedness, over-optimism, and a certain array of political innocence. Under the influence of war-time emotion he had convinced himself that things really were going to be differently ordered when the war was over.

Post War Credits
Borrowing part of the Keynes idea the Government put over the Post-War Credit plan. It allowed the workers to have the higher wages they asked for (and came on strike for, often against the law), but took back some of the wages for repayment after the war. Keynes wrote in 1940 about the workers “deferring” consumption of goods till a later date: the government combined it with a steady inflation and rise of prices so that when the workers got their Post-War Credits, the money (held all these years without interest) would buy only a half or a third of what it would have bought at the time it was stopped from wages. The same applied to all the other savings the workers were induced to invest in war bonds and other government stocks.

But the government got what it wanted. The workers worked longer and harder, by day and by night, and were joined in the factories and services by their wives, grandparents (and even by the schoolchildren, who helped with the harvest). Yet the destruction of war was so great that the increased output of the workers fell far short of making good the losses suffered by the propertied class, an estimate of which put the figure at £7,000 million in pre-war values. The national debt, which in 1939 was about £7,000 million, was three times as large by the end of the war.

In a period of continued inflation and rising prices all items expressed in terms of money appear to be getting larger and larger—an appearance which is quite illusory as the worker knows when he discovers that his higher wages have to buy goods with higher prices. Nevertheless. if wages and profits aye both related to the upward movement' of prices it will be seen that the destruction during the war left its mark on the profits of the propertied class. Whereas wage rates on average have just about kept pace with the rise of the cost of living since 1939, and the total wages of the working class have risen appreciably more (one reason being the larger numbers employed) the total amount of profit, rent and interest of the propertied class in the years after the war had failed to increase in line with the rise of prices.

One other interesting confirmation of the Socialist argument is the way wages have moved before and since the great re-armament which started in 1951. In the years 1947-1951 armament expenditure was about £750 million a year, but wage-rates (due partly to the success of Government “wage freeze” propaganda) were falling behind the rise of prices. Since 1951 armament expenditure has doubled, yet the workers' wages, aided by a greater determination to press their claims, have been rising rather faster than the rise of prices, thus recovering ground lost in the earlier period.
The moral of this is that war in the modern world not only has its cause in capitalism, but it is waged financially in the only possible way, one designed to fit the economic laws of capitalism. The workers, in war and peace, do better to trust to their own determined struggle against the employers than to trust in the promises of governments, economists and politicians, about the rewards they will get later on.
Edgar Hardcastle


Friday, January 19, 2018

Obituary: Comrade Rees (1959)

Obituary from the October 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Swansea Group have reported the death in Llanelly Hospital of Comrade Rees of Felinfoel, Llanelly. He was 67 years old.

Comrade Rees was crippled in the 1914-18 war, but this did not prevent him developing political interests. He was an ardent and knowledgeable materialist who, for years before joining the S.P.G.B., propagated the Socialist case on every possible occasion. It was through one of his letters to the press that Swansea Group got into touch with him; after a short while, although protesting that his disability made him only half a member, be joined the party.

Comrade Rees' death has depleted the ranks of the Swansea Group, who, for all their smallness, are doing such valuable work for Socialism.