Sunday, March 26, 2017

Reaction in Germany and Spain (1938)

Book Review from the March 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Germany Puts the Clock Back, Edgar Mowrer (Penguin Special, 6d.).
Spanish Testament, Arthur Koestler (Gollancz. Left Book Club, 2s. 6d.).

These two books have much in common. Both are written by working journalists, both are easy to read, and both seek to provide a background to the events which they portray. Mowrer, in his “Germany Puts the Clock Back," paints a vivid picture of the social disintegration which eventually led to the triumph of Hitler and the National Socialist Workers' Party of Germany. In so doing he also partially provides an answer to a question so frequently asked of Socialists: “How is it that the German workers, with their numerically strong Social-Democratic and Communist Parties, their highly-organised and well-disciplined trade unions, fell so easy a prey to the Nazis?" The answer is to be sought in the political and economic background of German capitalism. German capitalism made its appearance at a relatively late stage, and a preponderant part was played by the State in its consolidation. The state bureaucracy, with its Prussian ideals of unquestioning obedience and strict discipline, early became a strong social force, and its outlook undoubtedly impressed itself on German society as a whole. Only personal experience can give an idea of the awe in which even the most insignficant “Staatsbeamte” (State official) was held. This reverence for “duly constituted authority” was no less reflected in the ranks of the German workers themselves. And the leadership of the German workers’ organisations could count on this tradition of blind obedience and discipline, no matter how contrary to working-class interests the actions of those leaders might be.

The upheaval of 1918, although largely the work of the working class, was not Socialist. It was the outcome of a widespread distrust of the monarchy and of the military clique, reinforced by an extreme war-weariness that affected civilians and troops alike. The Social-Democratic Party found itself the largest party in the Reich, and promptly proceeded to usher in the dawn of a new world by enlisting discredited generals and military adventurers to bloodily dispel any misguided notions entertained by radical sections of the working class. Having successfully accomplished this, the most democratic constitution in the world (on paper) was created, in the shape of the so-called “Weimar” Republic; a republic which entrusted its administration to officials who took no pains to conceal their contempt of the constitution they had sworn to serve. It is impossible to read the account of this sorry episode without forming the conclusion that the entire shabby, paltry edifice of this most “democratic” republic was designed to serve as a screen, behind which the old bureaucratic and militarist elements could rehabilitate themselves. Like many other observers of the German scene, Mowrer is misled by the preponderant part the military machine plays in German affairs, to the extent that he assigns it an independent role. That is, as if the German ruling class existed for the army, and not the other way about. Olden makes a similar mistake in his “Hitler the Pawn.” The army is an indispensable tool of German capitalism, and as such has received loving attention from politicians of all shades, from radical Social-Democrats to reactionary Nazis. But it still remains a tool, to be used when, where and how the ruling class of Germany thinks politic.

Expressed tentatively, it would appear that the later a particular national capitalism makes its appearance the more important is the part played by the State in making that appearance effective; the more important the State, the more outstanding the role of one of its organs: the armed forces. This would explain the prominent part played by the armed forces in such countries as Japan, Russia and Turkey.

Mowrer effectively disposes of the myth, broadcast by both the Communists and Hitler— but for different reasons—that Hitler saved Germany from Bolshevism, or, if the other version be preferred, that Hitler was the last desperate throw of a capitalist class faced with imminent social revolution. The truth of the matter is that German capitalism found itself in profound difficulties, and that the increasing misery of the masses, instead of manifesting itself in intelligent organisation for the purpose of abolishing the cause of that misery, found expression in sporadic strikes, street battles, and blind kicking against the effects of capitalism. Although this in itself did not constitute a threat to the capitalist system, yet it did interfere with smooth running of German economy. Hitler, leader of the largest single party in Germany, was entrusted with the task of “pacifying” the German proletariat; and, of course, he has more than fulfilled his promise. For the time being, political brawls, strikes, and social disturbances are a thing of the past in Germany. Hitler has created the profound peace of the graveyard, the peace of penal settlement. Notwithstanding, since Hitler, like his predecessors, is committed to administering capitalism, the causes that make for social unrest still exist, and not all the concentration camps or the terrorism can in the end suffice to prevent expression of that unrest. It is only to be hoped that the German workers have learned their lesson, and that the mistakes of 1918 will not be again repeated.

This book also provides an explanation of the ease with which the German reactionaries prevailed upon the German people to make such tremendous sacrifices—sacrifices which have subsequently been epitomised in the phrase “Guns instead of butter.” On all occasions the parties of “national resurgence” urged that the distress of the masses was due to the Versailles Treaty, to "Versailles Slavery.” The masses were told that their well-being could only be achieved when Germany was free (i.e., when the German capitalist class had regained its political and economic freedom of action). To this end sacrifices had to be made, so that the means of effecting this freedom, a strong army, could be built up. Consequently, the attention of the workers was largely diverted from the capitalist system to a quarrel between different national capitalist interests, and in this they were ably aided and abetted by social reformers of all kinds, from the late General Ludendorff’s Freedom Party to the Communist Party of Germany.

As far as the limitations of this book are concerned, Socialists hardly need to be made aware of them. The author bears all the hall-marks of a sentimental Liberal of the old school that persists in confusing State-intervention in social and economic affairs with Socialism. His solution of the problem of Fascism is a “renewal of the belief in universal(!) values—in international organisation, in collective security, in democracy and personal freedom.” Of an understanding that these “values” can only be realised when the international working class achieves its emancipation there is not the slightest inkling. And this can only be accomplished, not merely through belief, but through organisation under the banner of Socialism and the class-struggle.

“Spanish Testament” was the December choice of the Left Book Club, and thus assured of a large public. The author was for a time imprisoned by the Franco forces in Spain, and part of the book is taken up by a description of his prison experiences. Like the preceding book, Koestler also provides a background to the events he seeks to portray, and the importance of the agrarian question is well brought out. The author more than once draws attention to the similarity between the present condition of Spain and that of Tsarist Russia. A mediaeval agrarian economy predominated in Russia, as it predominates in Spain to-day. The driving force in the former was a land-hungry peasantry, plus a weakly-established capitalist class striving to assert itself; the same driving force operates in the latter. One thing emerges quite clearly, all talk of a Socialist revolution in Spain at the moment, such as is indulged in by the P.O.U.M. and its brother party here, the I.L.P., is so much romantic Utopianism, which can only spell disaster to those sections of the Spanish working class that fall for it. The Communists here are proving for the time being much greater realists. Their aim is one within the realm of possibilities, the establishment of a Liberal, Democratic capitalist republic, with a constitution resembling in all essentials those prevailing in England and France. The Communist case against the P.O.U.M. and I.L.P., however, is considerably weakened if the conditions in present-day Spain and pre-revolutionary Russia are closely analogous, for in that case there is no more justification for the Communist characterisation of the Russian revolution as Socialist than there is for the I.L.P. claim that possibilities for Socialism exist in Spain to-day. In spite of a vicious campaign waged by the Communists against the I.L.P. and P.O.U.M. (in the case of the P.O.U.M. embracing such tactical niceties as political murder), the leadership of the I.L.P. still retains a pathetic belief in the Socialist “basis” of Soviet Russia, and is never tired of appealing to dear “Comrade” Stalin to mend his ways.

In dealing with the role of the Roman Catholic Church emphasis is laid on the nature of the opposition to that church in Republican Spain. This opposition is by no means the outcome of antagonism to religion as such, but is largely the result of the secular and political part played by the priesthood in the Spanish social system. Closely bound up as the Church is with those reactionary elements from which it derives its economic and social influence, it is hardly to be wondered that particularly this aspect of the “Holy Church” arouses almost fanatical hatred amongst Spaniards having the slightest pretensions to enlightenment. One need not be a prophet to predict that if the Church is to survive in the Spain of the future it will have to considerably adapt itself.

The account of the atrocities committed by the Franco forces, although sickening enough, are, on the whole, not treated sensationally. The author argues, where the mass of the population are opposed to you, terrorism becomes not solely an expression of individual sadism, but also, and chiefly, a political necessity. One thing seems certain, that without the aid given by foreign powers Franco would have been long since vanquished. In fact, it is more than doubtful whether he would have started his insurrection in the first place had he not been assured beforehand of military aid from outside sources. Although the author advances convincing proof of the existence of Italian and German support for the rebels, hardly any mention is made of the nature and extent of Russian aid to the Republican Government of Spain. The role of Russia in Spain seems clear enough. German and Italian domination in Spain would seriously diminish the value of France as a partner in the Franco-Soviet Pact. Consequently, it is in the interests of Soviet Russian foreign policy to see that the pro-German and Italian forces are defeated in Spain, whilst at the same time the movement is kept within bounds acceptable to Russia's present allies and to any probable allies of the future.

Like Hitler and Mussolini, Franco has appointed himself one of the co-saviours of the world from "Bolshevism." In spite of the frenzied declarations of political respectability on the part of the Communists, their murky past of the period of "heavy civil wars," "revolutionary upsurges," and all the rest of the pseudo-revolutionary tarradiddle is utilised by the reactionaries to justify the massacre of all working-class opposition.

That section of the book which deals with the personal experiences of Koestler make interesting reading, but need not be dealt with here. It only remains to remark that the Duchess of Atholl contributes the introduction.
Arthur Mertons

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Notes by the Way: Mussolini Fights Bolshevism (1939)

The Notes By The Way column from the March 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mussolini Fights Bolshevism
In the years when Russia and Italy were in close relationship their trade was fairly considerable, and part of it took the form of Italy receiving Russian oil for the navy. In payment for goods received from Russia, Italy, in return, built some warships for the Russian navy. A year or so ago a dispute arose and trade came nearly to a standstill. Russia refused to supply oil and the Italians refused to deliver a small 3,000-ton cruiser built for Russia at the Leghorn navy yards.

Now the dispute has been patched up and trade is being resumed. It is also announced by the Rome correspondent of the Evening Standard (February 7th) and the Daily Telegraph (February 20th) that the vessel is being handed over to the Soviet authorities, and Italy is to receive, among other things, manganese, which is, no doubt, required for armament purposes.

It is all a curious commentary on the alleged impassable gulf between Fascism and Bolshevism, and on Mussolini's violent speeches about the imperative need of destroying Bolshevism.


A Liberal Demands Action Against Unemployment
Lord Meston, President of the Liberal Party organisation, in a letter to the News Chronicle on February 14th, 1939, demands immediate action to remedy unemployment. "For ten years and more," he says, "the Liberal Party has been pressing for drastic and considered action towards the solution of this problem."

He asks: "Is it too much to hope . . . that public opinion in this country will demand that immediate action should be taken?"

The curious will wonder why the Liberal Party, in its many years of office in the past 100 years, never did something about unemployment. In the present century the Liberals held office from 1905 to the outbreak of the War, but unemployment was not abolished. Is it that Socialists are right, and that the capitalists want to keep capitalism much more than they want to abolish unemployment, and they can't do both?


Lenin’s Views on War
The Daily Worker (January 23rd, 1939) reproduced some selected passages from Lenin's writings dealing with war and the attitude workers should, in his view, adopt. Among them were the following passages:—
  Marxism which does not degenerate into philistinism demands an historical analysis of every single war in order to ascertain whether one can regard this war as progressive, serving the interests of democracy or of the proletariat, and in this sense as a just and righteous war.
  The slogan of defence of the native country is nothing but a petty, bourgeois, backward justification of war if one is unable to grasp historically the sense and importance of each individual war.
  Marxism gives such an analysis and says: If the “real character” of war is, for example, the overthrow of an alien yoke (as was especially typical for the Europe of 1789-1871), then this war is progressive from the standpoint of the oppressed State or people.
   If the “real character” of the war is the redistribution of colonies, the division of spoils, the conquest of foreign territory (the 1914-1918 war was such a war), then the phrase “defence of native country” is simply deception of the people.
    . . . War is the continuation of politics. One must study the policy before the war, the policy which led to the war and brought it about.
    If the policy was an imperialist policy, i.e., a policy of defence of the interests of finance capital, of the robbery and oppression of colonies and foreign countries, then the war resulting from this policy is an imperialist war.
  If the policy was a policy of national emancipation, i.e., expressed the mass movement against national oppression, then the war resulting from this policy is a war of national emancipation.—(From “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism.”)

Discussion on War at the French Socialist Party Conference
Another view is that now being put forward in France by the trade unions and political groups in the French Socialist Party which oppose Blum's policy. One of their spokesmen is the General Secretary of the Party, Paul Faure. At a speech at the Party Conference in Paris on December 27th last, he summarised his views as follows:- -
In 1914, he said, there was the Berlin-Rome-Vienna axis and the militarism of the Hohenzollems: yet the Socialist Party declared that peace had to be saved. There was also the French-Russian Treaty. There was no point in being a pacifist in quiet times; pacifism counted only when war threatened. If they were going to save the peace by tremendous armaments and by alliances, then they had to be prepared for dictatorship. If they were to take part in an arms race with Germany they would be ruined without gaining any additional security, for Germany’s birth-rate was three times as great as France’s, and Germany’s chemical industry was ten times as great.—(Times, December 28th, 1938.)
A resolution put forward by Blum demanded a more active French foreign policy, and resistance to the further claims of the dictator countries based on intensified rearmament and pacts with other countries, including Great Britain, Russia and U.S.A.

Blum's resolution was carried by 4,322 as against 2,837 votes in support of Faure's position. There were 1,014 absentees.


Nazis Copy Brutality from the Catholic-Fascists
Much indignation has been roused by descriptions of Jews being forced to scrub the pavements in Vienna. A reader of Picture Post writes to that journal (January 14th, 1939) to point out that this practice was started by the Dolfuss and Schuschnigg regimes in Austria. Those governments were Catholic-Fascist governments guilty of the brutal suppression of the trade unions and workers’ political parties. He says: — 
It originated in the idea, which was undoubtedly a good one, that those who had daubed swastikas and Nazi slogans on walls and pavements should eliminate the traces of their activities themselves, but this was largely abused later on, when quite innocent people, who were known to cherish Nazi sympathies, were indiscriminately pilloried in the same way.

London Trade Unions and the Labour Party
The London County Council, controlled by the Labour Party under Mr. Herbert Morrison, seeks trade union support, but is hotly criticised by the union to which many of its employees belong. The National Union of Public Employees, with other unions, is seeking to get the L.C.C. to increase the minimum wage of its scavengers, park-keepers, etc., above its present figure, 56s. Mr. Bryn Roberts, the General Secretary of the Union, says: —
We have been opposed in our application for this arbitration all along by the authorities’ side, led by Mr. Herbert Morrison.—(Evening Standard, December 15th, 1938.)
There are many London boroughs (including boroughs with Labour majorities) which pay 10 per cent. more, but the L.C.C. has so far refused. Doubtless, Mr. Morrison fears the charge of “wasting the ratepayers’ money." He can hardly argue that 56s. is regarded by his party as enough to live on.
Edgar Hardcastle

Our Propaganda in War Time (1940)

Party News from the March 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the outbreak of the war, many thought that Socialist propaganda would become, if not impossible, exceedingly difficult. 

Unlike other political parties, we did not wait a week or so before venturing forth—within two hours of the declaration of war, a huge crowd in Hyde Park were listening attentively to our speakers stating the Party’s attitude to the war.

Despite many difficulties which the war situation has imposed upon the Party, our propaganda efforts have been expanded considerably. In London, Conway Hall has been the scene of five mass meetings within the last four months. At each of these meetings the literature sales and collections have reflected the tremendous enthusiasm of the audiences for the Socialist message, and their questions and discussions have revealed an intelligent understanding. A high standard has been set for the future.

Every Sunday evening the smaller Conway Hall has been packed to capacity by audiences eager to learn the Socialist Party’s case. The quantity of literature sold at these meetings is remarkable, and as the weeks went by the consistency of the sales proved that it was no mere passing phase. Sales at these meetings would have been even higher had we been able to meet all the demands for such publications as the “Western Socialist” and the pamphlet “Bolshevism." Other meetings had exhausted our available supplies.

The news from Glasgow Branch is just as encouraging—packed meetings and record sales of literature. Manchester Branch staged a successful mass meeting at Stockport on January 7th, in addition to their normal propaganda.

An indication that the influence of the Socialist Party is widening rapidly is to be found in the ever-increasing number of requests from other organisations that we should send a speaker to state the Socialist case. In many parts of Greater London, branches of such organisations as the Trade Unions and the Peace Pledge Union have been addressed by our representatives. In almost every case the response to our case has been good.

Mid-week outdoor propaganda continues successfully—especially among city workers at Finsbury Pavement, Tower Hill, etc. Excellent literature sales are the rule at these meetings. Our Sunday meetings at Hyde Park continue to attract thousands.

As is to be expected from this increasing interest in the Socialist Party, our membership is growing. Sympathisers of yesterday are the active members of to-day. The Party has thousands of sympathisers—YOU may be one of them. If you are, why not apply for membership? Perhaps you cannot get along to the meetings advertised? Then why not write to us for particulars of branches, or groups, in your locality? The Party has demonstrated its ability to arouse the interest of those workers whom its resources enable it to contact. Your active membership will strengthen our resources—strengthen them for the most vital task of the age—the propagation of Socialist ideas. 
                           Write immediately to: —
                                      The Central Organiser,
                                                     42, Great Dover Street, 
                                                                                            S.E.1.

Two Quotations About Marx (1941)

From the March 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Daily Express (November 30th) had an editorial blaming Marx for the prevailing “worship of the State": —
  This worship of the State as if it were something better than the individual is a foul delusion, a product of the Teutonic bogs and mists. It came from Germany in the form of class war out of Karl Marx. It came from Germany in the form of military tyranny out of Hitler. We can very well do without either Marx or Hitler.
  While we readily agree to State compulsion in time of war, we will remember that we do so to overthrow tyranny, not to enthrone it.
  We will therefore rejoice at every victory for good order and commonsense when it springs from the heart of the individual rather than from a State Order in Council.
There is nothing new in this line of attack on Marx, but error does not become truth because the Daily Express goes on repeating it. If the writer of the editorial and the editor who passed it would give a few hours to reading what Marx had to say about the State they would know that the charge of State-worship is the most absurd of all the charges that can be levelled against him. They would learn that Marx aimed at a system of society in which the State, having no longer the function of acting as the instrument of the ruling class against the ruled, would wither away. Some of the more ignorant journalists would of course say, in good faith, that Russia is Socialist and also a country given over to State-worship, and that therefore Marx can be held guilty. This, however, is not a plea that can be put in the Daily Express, for that newspaper has repeatedly recognised that Russia is organised on the basis of State capitalism.

It is particularly interesting to compare the Daily Express editorial with an article written by Mr. Michael Foot, who is a frequent contributor to Express newspapers. The article, “Karl Marx’s ‘Das Kapital,’ ” from which the following is an extract, appeared in the World Review (November, 1940). Perhaps the Express would like to reproduce it just to show that they mean what they say when they boast of the “ freedom of the Press.”
  "It requires a politician, an historian, an economist, a philosopher, a scientist, to pass final judgment on ‘Das Kapital.’ But those of us who are none or only one of these can grasp something of the terrific scale of his thought. It was no puny, miserable reduction of everything in life to economic terms, as some have suggested, which Marx gave to the world. It was a bold and spacious argument. He had learnt from many masters and defied them all. He quotes Shakespeare as often as Ricardo. He understood pity as well as force. He had wit to match his scorn. He lived only part of his life among books. He moved among men and stirred them as he himself was stirred.
Awe-Inspiring Prophecy  "He was the great prophet of catastrophe when the world believed in progress. He foretold clash when men still had some excuse for trusting in smooth amelioration. He understood the vast significance of the disease of unemployment when the disease was but a germ. He said capitalism would collapse before it had reached its heyday. He saw the State shrivelling to a gang, utterly ruthless, years before Fascism was ever dreamt of. He prophesied wars engulfing the globe.
  "At least do him the favour of judging him on his own works. Do not take it from his disciples. Most of them suffer from carbuncles in their later as well as their earlier chapters.”
Edgar Hardcastle


Death of an Alberta Comrade (1942)

Obituary from the March 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

[Our Canadian comrades ask us to publish the following notice for the information of Canadian readers.]

Readers in Alberta will regret to learn of the death of Comrade Dan Pollitt, which occurred in July of last year, though we have only now received word of it. Though Comrade Pollitt never took the platform, he was a valued and untiring member of the former Calgary Branch, a thoughtful reader, regular in attendance at classes and meetings, and no one could beat him at selling tickets for entertainments to increase the Party funds. . Speakers will recollect with gratitude his services at the open-air Sunday meetings in the Park. He arranged the rostrum and the benches, and his genial countenance radiated encouragement to the speakers. After an afternoon in the scorching Alberta sun the speakers appreciated the hospitality and shade of the Pollitts' pleasant bungalow, where they were welcomed by members of the family. Discussions were engaged in till a late hour and the less informed members received much enlightenment there. Mrs. Pollitt is still in Calgary, and we extend our sympathy to her.

Are The Workers Better Off During The War? (1942)

From the March 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

As happened during the last war there is much exaggerated talk about the supposed high wages earned by workers in munition factories and the demand is frequently made that the Government should put a stop to all wage increases or even reduce the level of civilian pay to that of men in the armed Forces. The policy of the Government is, however, the more cautious one of deprecating all-round increases of wages while leaving the various arbitration and negotiating bodies free to sanction wage increases in certain cases, "particularly among comparatively low paid grades and categories of workers, or for adjustment owing to changes in the form, method or volume of production." This policy of trying to stabilise the general level of wages is linked with the policy of preventing the prices of a number of essential foodstuffs from rising above the present level. To do this large subsidies are paid to producers of such articles as wheat, milk, meat and bacon, and the retail prices are controlled.

As far as it is possible to describe what has taken place with regard to wages and prices, by means of figures, the position is fairly clear. It gives no support whatever to the claim that wages have outstripped the rise in the cost of living. The Ministry of Labour Cost of Living Index shows a rise from 155 in September, 1939, to 200 in February, 1942. This increase of 45 points represents a percentage rise of 29% above the level of September, 1939. As regards the level of wage rates for a normal week’s work, the Ministry of Labour Gazette (January, 1942) shows that the average increase due to wage increases and war bonuses since September, 1939, has been about 26% or 27%. It will be seen, therefore, that wages have barely kept pace with the rise of the cost of living index figure. If in some industries wages have risen by a larger percentage this is offset by the many industries in which the rise has been much smaller.

The critics who talk about high wages ignore the above official figures and either seize upon the few exceptional cases where the increase has been larger or else use a quite different set of figures which relate not to the standard wage for a normal week’s work but to earnings for the very long hours now being put in, earnings which include of course payment for overtime and Sunday work.

A typical case was a complaint in the House of Commons on January 20th, 1942, that youths under 21 were earning "excessive” wages. The figure mentioned was 50s. 5d. a week, but, as the Ministry of Labour pointed out, this happened to apply in only one out of many industries, and the average for all industries was only 40s. 7d.. Moreover, it made no allowance for the fact that owing to the scarcity of adult workers many of the youths in question are doing work formerly done by older men; ’incidentally without regard to the possible danger to their health through undue physical strain and long hours.

One critic of the earnings of juveniles, Lady Bonham-Carter, complained that production has suffered through the fact that a young munition maker may be receiving more than a Civil Defence worker or soldier. “It does not seem," she said, “to rest on justice" (News Chronicle, February 5th, 1942). Needless to say, she did not develop her case and apply it to the whole capitalist class who are much concerned with inequalities inside the ranks of the working class but turn a blind eye on the fact that they as a propertied class receive their incomes simply by virtue of ownership and without the need to work at all.

Another relevant factor in any comparison between the rise of prices and the rise of wage-rates is that the Cost of Living Index is at best a very defective measure of the extent to which the cost of the workers’ necessities has risen since September, 1939. Even the Ministry of Labour do not claim that it is an accurate guide, being based as it is on the kind of articles a working class family bought in 1914. It should be added that even if the index were more accurate it would not make any appreciable difference to the working class. Wage negotiations may be to some degree influenced by such figures, but the index does not lay down a minimum level below which wages should not fall. All it does it to show to what extent the cost of the articles bought by workers has risen over a period of time. If all wages were brought into line with an accurately measured rise of prices since September, 1939, that would still, leave millions of workers in the position they were in before the war of being unable to afford the food and clothing, etc., required to maintain them in health and efficiency, let alone comfort. If, under war conditions of long hours of work, some of them actually earn enough to buy more of the bare necessities, it is only at the expense of their leisure, and in the long run, of their health. Capitalism is still with us. The wages system is still the wages system, and the remedy is not the reformist one of regulating wages and prices but of abolishing capitalism and the wages system in their entirety.
Edgar Hardcastle


Russia's Transition (1944)

From the March 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

A few mouths ago we wrote that, with more detailed information of the internal economy of Russia, workers here and elsewhere would rid their minds of the idea that Socialism obtains in that country.

Now by a ukase of the Kremlin, the "Internationale” has ceased to be the "national" anthem of Russia, a logical step following the dissolution of the Third international.

This comes as an unpleasant surprise to many of the devotees of the “Socialist Russia" myth, especially when they read the words of the new anthem which supplants the other, and its emphasis on the nationalist spirit of Russia.

But a few more adherents lost for the notion that Russia is "Socialism in action" worries the statesmen of Russia much less than heretofore, for Russia is now standing on its own feet, and almost independent of outside “red” support to influence governments in its favour.

The S.P.G.B. had to contend with these “reds" from 1917 onwards, when it stated that it saw in Russia the rise of a working-class whose evolution would bring it face to face with its ultimate enemy—the employing class.

Has the subsequent history of events tended to prove us wrong?

The first world war revealed Russia as a country unable, in spite of its man power, to stand up to the better equipped armies of industrialised Germany. Tsardom had failed, and it had to go. it was hurried off the stage, and the Bolshevik party, having men in its ranks with European experience, had at least some idea of Russia's modern national needs.

On a general mandate of peace, land and bread, they won the peasantry by legalising the seizure of the large estates from the land-owning proprietors, although these same land-hungry peasants later felt the heavy hand of Moscow in its drive to increase production by "urgin" them into collective farms.

For the town-workers—a minority compared with the conservative peasants—the new rulers adopted the slogan of the “dictatorship of the proletariat" contending that only the property-less wage-workers could be the spearhead of the new Russia.

There was some truth in this assertion, for Russia then lacked a developed capitalist class, lacked technicians, and was without a large body of trained industrial workers. Russia, in fact, by the Act of Emancipation of 1861, had but lately emerged from serfdom, and at the risk of repeating the obvious, it should be borne in mind, by those who are dismayed by the arbitrary decrees of the Kremlin, that from Ivan the Great, who built those massive walls in 1600, to Nicholas in 1917, autocratic state rule has been the accepted mode of governing Russia.

The new occupants declared they were bent on world revolution, but the unfulfilled Leninist belief In a workers' revolution in Europe made more urgent the problem of the industrialisation of Russia, because of the not unnatural fear that danger lay in a Russia unready industrially and militarily to meet any enemy in modern war. This fear was implicit in Lenin's earlier slogans, such as “Down with the foreign bondholders" and "Russia shall not be a colony for the imperialists," strengthened by the struggle after 1917 to expel the Allies' intervention troops from Russian soil.

The industrialisation drive was carried out by the wholesale nationalisation of all existing industries by the Soviet State, coupled with a huge sloganised propaganda calculated to influence the minds of the mass of peasants turned wageworkers. The one-party set-up dealt ruthlessly with all elements that were deemed to impede the defence of the “socialist" fatherland, the accused being variously described as "wreckers" or Trotskyists.

In 1933 Stalin, entrenched as successor to Lenin, announced the second Five Year Plan, which, forsooth, was to usher in the class-less society, and, significantly enough, about the same time he made a pronouncement defending piece-work, individual responsibility, and inequality of income, thus making Lenin's equality of earnings—workmen's wages for officials—-a major heresy.

But all this is a far cry from to-day. Proof was needed in those days, before the "Chiska" or party purge commission, that the member holding down a party job was of proletarian origin, untainted by "bourgeois ideology," while the possession of a distant uncle; possibly a Tsarist policeman, could throw doubt on his orthodoxy. Now Soviet millionaires who become state bond-holders are lionised, old Tsarist heroes are recalled from the past for patriotic and military' decoration purposes, and there is set up again the Russian Orthodox Church in all its bejewelled ceremony. That the hard-faced capitalists have “discovered” Russia is portrayed by the film "Mission to Moscow," in which the wife of Davies, the American capitalist, meeting a Soviet official's wife, who runs au emporium says, over tea served by the Russian servant, "We have much in common, and also run a business back home."

Events have proved that we were not mere formula repeaters when we cited Marx in support of the Socialist case, for he stated, "Even when a society has get upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement, it can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments, the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development," which in application means that Russia, not having a full-scale capitalist system in 1917, could not in practice have abolished it.

In fact, behind the cloud of revolutionary slogans of its rulers, Russia has developed state capitalism, based upon wage-labour, and the break with internationalism, as personified by Trotsky and Co.—a fight which began as a polemic and ended in executions—was made by Stalin, the successful nationalist, on the more realistic case befitting Russia's real development, in that Russia could hardly evolve within the orbit of world capitalist economy and at the same time be the centre for promoting world revolution.

Russia's transition from backwardness to that of a great power has led many otherwise intelligent workers to imagine that it was all done by Socialism and leadership, especially when they have been conditioned by the "left" programmes of the various reformist parties, which almost without exception put nationalisation or “public ownership" in the forefront with never a word of abolishing the wages-system, which is the foundation of the profit motive, and the class society they say they wish to end.

These workers have yet to understand that the advent of a Socialist system will be the most intelligent act that society has yet achieved, and that it requires a majority of men and women conscious and willing to play their part in establishing it.

It has to be realised, painful as it is to some, that Russia's "Socialism" has about as much relation to reality as Marx thought the slogan, "Liberty, equality, fraternity," had to the real France of his time.
Frank Dawe

The Workers' Internationals (1945)

From the March 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Much has been written on the "lessons" to be learned from the efforts to set up an international organisation that would co-ordinate the national straggles of the workers against capitalism.

The first experiment arose out of a visit of Parisian workers to the London International Exhibition of 1862. when during the visitors' reception the London trades union officials, Odger and Applegarth, proposed that international congresses of workers be regularly held.

Thus was formed the International Working-Men's Association, whose committee invited Karl Marx to draft their "Inaugural Address," which was delivered at St. Martin's Hall, London, in September, 1864. While in the main dealing with the industrial struggles of Europe’s workers who became affiliated to it, the International essayed to shed light on the steps to be taken by the workers towards their emancipation. For instance, the second part of the Geneva resolution, dealing with the trade unions, might be written to-day. It states:
The trade unions hitherto concentrated their attention too exclusively to the local and direct struggle against capital. They ’have not completely realised their power to attack the very system of wage slavery and present-day methods of production. That is why they keep aloof from social and political movements. 
Born in the period of the turmoil of the bourgeois revolutions, feared and hated by European governments during its life, the International became the debating ground for the working-class thinkers of the day, the main cleavage being that of Marx and his supporters, who held that the workers must gain political power for Socialism, as against the Anarchist section led by Bakunin, which, while acknowledging the economic theories of Marx, argued that only by the forcible smashing of the state by direct action could the workers get their freedom.

Basically the division was that of the industrial workers whose mission is the remoulding of a complex capitalist society where the franchise can be the instrument to effect the economic change, as opposed to those who still had to fight against a despotic feudalistic state, as in Spain and Russia, where suppression led to assassination, insurrection and minority action.

Theoretically expressing these conditions, the anarchists, though hating capitalism, could only visualise a decentralised agrarian economy of individual owners relieved entirely of state interference.

Torn by these ideological differences, together with the reaction arising from the crushing of the workers of the Paris Commune, the General Council decided to remove to New York, where after some activity in workers' organisation, the I.W.A. died a quiet death in 1875.

The First International, though providing a valuable apprenticeship for the workers, and in spite of being guided by thinkers as brilliant as Marx and Engels, was premature in face of the political immaturity of the workers themselves. It nevertheless taught the world's workers how to "walk by themselves" tactically and theoretically in their struggles against capitalism.

With the growth in Europe of parties whose declared intention was the seeking of political power in the name of Socialism, a second International was set up at the Paris Congress in 1880, and by 1907 at Stuttgart 26 nationalities were represented: the British Labour Party joining in 1908.

While without doubt Marx’s Socialism meant the abolition of the wage system and the uncompromising class struggle, these parties very soon abandoned their "Marxism," or, like the Labour Party and Fabians, initially denied it altogether for reformism and revisionism. A brief survey of the principal parties will make this apparent.

At the German Erfurt Congress of 1891, which ratified the merging of the Marxists and Lassallians, William Liebknecht, who had effected this fusion, held the following view :—
The possessor of the means of production expropriates the man who has none, and must work for him for a wage; he pays in the wage only a part of the work performed; the surplus value, the unpaid performance, becomes in his hand (the hand of the possessor of the means of work) capital, and enables him to draw tighter and firmer the worker's chains. . . .  Nothing in the process can be altered by pious wishes. . . . All attempts to remove the "excrescences" of capitalism, while maintaining its basis, are Utopian. These “excrescences" are the logical results, the inevitable consequence of the capitalistic system; whoever wants to remove them must remove it, their cause. By this demand the social democracy distinguishes itself from all other parties, and stamps itself a revolutionary party, while all other parties, without exception, take their stand upon the private ownership of the means of production. ("Modern Socialism," A. C. K. Ensor, 1904, p. 7.)
This stand gave place later to the "revisionism" of Bernstein, within the party, and though countered by Kautsky, Germany's foremost Marxist, opened the door to a huge membership of elements which made it a shade paler than the British Labour Party. It had gathered numbers and votes at the expense of its former concept of Socialism.

While forming a Republican Government after the last war, its ministers Ebert and Noske were responsible for the murder by Government troops of such Marxists as Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg.

M. Beer, in "Fifty Years of International Socialism," says: "Ebert and Noske saved Germany for the Nazis by exterminating all determined men and women of the Socialist movement! Thousands were killed by their mercenaries, thousands maimed and driven into exile." (p. 192.)

Britain's Social Democratic Federation, like the German, began with a display of "Marxism" by its founder, H. M. Hyndman. in 1881. The movement suffered several splits, William Morris breaking away and forming the Socialist League, an anti-parliamentary sect which was finally captured by the anarchists.

Max Beer, in his "History of British Socialism," makes clear how the S.D.F. tried to ride two horses, one the advocacy of "Marxism," the other the more popular one of vote-catching reforms and arrangements with capitalist candidates.

It was on this issue that Scottish members split away and formed the S.L.P., leaning towards syndicalism, while the London secessionists formed the Socialist Party of Great Britain to advocate Socialism in 1904.

The I.L P.. Labour Party and Fabian Societv had all by then been formed with the “practical" policy of reforming capitalism, thus leaving the S.P.G.B. the only party in the field advocating straight Socialism.

The German and British Labour Parties held the largest representation at the Copenhagen Congress of 1910, which confirmed an oft-repeated pledge in a resolution which ran: "If war threatens to break out, it is the duty of the working class to use every effort to prevent war by all means that seem to them appropriate. Should, nevertheless, the war break out, it is their duty to intervene to bring it promptly to an end, and use the political and economic crisis to rouse the masses from their slumbers and hasten the downfall of capitalist domination." ("Everybody's Book of Politics," Odhams Press, Ltd.)

Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik section of the Russian Social Democratic Party, declared that this resolution had been betrayed, and in his "War and the Second International’’ wrote a scathing indictment describing how the "Socialists” had placed themselves behind their capitalist governments, voted for war credits, and made a patriotic case for doing so.

This onslaught on the Second International virtually declared dead by Lenin, together with the apparent success of Bolshevik methods in bringing "Socialism" to Russia, heralded the formation of the Third "Communist" International in 1919. The Leninists built up their organisation on the basis of an elite of professional revolutionaries who were to lead the slow-witted masses to revolution.

Disdaining democratic parliamentary methods as "bourgeois," and only to be used as a "platform," their main urge was to civil war, through which in a crisis such as a war the government would be thrust aside, the "Communists" assume the state power and establish the "dictatorship of the proletariat," as in Russia.

For years the respective national sections disciplined by the "Comintern" talked civil war or supported the Tories in turn, according to the needs of the foreign policy of Russia, even dissolving . completely, as in America. Eventually with Russia's state capitalistic development and its arrival as a “great power," the need for international "reds" fell away and was even an embarrassment to Russia's diplomatic concert with her allies in World War 2, whereby the Third International was formally dissolved by Stalin. Russia's national leader, in February, 1944.

History had played a cruel trick on Lenin's international, for it was killed by a capitalist war, as surely as the Second which he himself declared dead—a war which it declared to be imperialistic, only to change to one for freedom when Russia itself was attacked.

There is left to mention the “Trotskyists," who have declared a Fourth International based on the tactics and doctrines of Lenin. Believing that Socialism would have been established in Russia but for its betrayal by the Stalinists, they perpetuate the illusion that Socialism can yet be won by Bolshevik methods. With a logic all their own, they have demanded “Immediate despatch of arms and material to the Soviet Union," while at the same time stating the war to be imperialistic. The Trotskyists are but the faint echo of the Third International in its Lenin's heyday, and while they think that slogans and leadership can take the place of a majority of convinced Socialist workers in ending capitalism, they are on the same road as their predecessors.

The ruins of the "Internationals" testify to the workers’ urge to put into effect Marx’s injunction, “Workers of all lands, unite." But for what? The S.P.G.B., with its companion parties in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and America, have stood outside the "Internationals" on the grounds that they were non-Socialist bodies, and the failure of Labourism, Fabianism and Sovietism to achieve Socialism is proof of the correctness of our position. We state this in no sectarian spirit, but as a part of the workers' movement struggling for emancipation. Meanwhile capitalism is still here, with its wage system, its national struggles for trade, armed or “peaceful," and the workers have but mentally reached the stage of thinking that state control of capitalism by “labour” is Socialism in practice.

That the workers must challenge the basis of capitalism and end this vicious circle is apparent to many, and we make no apologies to the organised workers in asking them to examine our record and fitness to form the nucleus of a true Socialist Workers’ International.
Frank Dawe

By The Way: The “Jolly Old Empire" (1946)

The By The Way column from the March 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

The “Jolly Old Empire"
The Monarchy is a great institution and the Labour Government is not going to “preside over the liquidation of the British Empire,” Mr. Herbert Morrison told a group of journalists to-day, soon after his arrival here from Canada.

Mr. Morrison was replying to a newspaperman who asked whether the Labour Government would take the same stand as Mr. Churchill, regarding the preservation of the Empire.

"As a matter of fact, we are great friends of the jolly old Empire,” Mr. Morrison said. This feeling, he added, had been greatly strengthened by his trip to Canada, where he found deep loyalty to the Crown. —Associated Press.
—Mr. Herbert Morrison, M.P., interviewed in New York. Manchester Guardian, 12 Jan., 1946.


Production for Profit Not Use 
Mr. Herbert Morrison
"It is,” he said, “sound common sense. Some of those industries, such as coal, iron and steel, and transport are in bad shape.
"They are definitely a drag on other industries and hamper the efficiency and enterprise of trades and industries to which we look for rapid, bold and private development. They were not even making a sound margin of profit. Whether an industry is run publicly or privately one measure of its efficiency is its solvency; another measure is its service.”
—Speech in Montreal. Daily Herald, 8 Jan., 1946.


Labour Government for Bankers!
Net profit of Barclay’s Bank for 1945 was £1,740,594, highest since 1939, and comparing with £1,673,351 in 1944.

Dividend on the "B” and “C” stock is maintained at 14 per cent. Reserve for contingencies gets £250,000 (same), premises reserve account £350,000 against £250,000. Balance forward is £714,052 against £656,577.

North of Scotland Bank profits, £238,275 against £234,921; dividend 16 per cent. (same). Union Discount dividend 10 per cent, (same); net profit £245,671 against £235,004. 
Dally Herald, 4 Jan., 1946.


More Then Before!
"Fighting to regain her place as the leading maritime nation, with the smartest and fastest ships in the world, Britain now has the tremendous total of nearly 3,000,000 tons gross of merchant shipping on order at yards throughout the country.
In the design of all ships the lesson of 1939 has not been forgotten. They will be more readily convertible to war purposes than ever before.
News Chronicle, 4 Jan., 19i6.


"They are Damp but We Like Them"
"Life has moved on at The Bungalows, Poynders Road, Clapham, since Mrs. Hiscock, Mrs. Shea, Mrs. Ashford, and their neighbours moved into their new 'pre-fabs.'

"A year ago they were ‘just getting straight. The News Chronicle called to ask how they liked their bungalows then, after being bombed out of their flats into two-room attics. They liked them pretty well. I called yesterday to see if they liked them still.

"They are damp. 'I’m told it’s condensation,’ said Mrs. Hiscock, 'but I call it damp.’

"In some of the bungalows the water runs off the walls and gathers in little pools on the floor.”
News Chronicle, 4 Jan., 1946.


Food, Health and the Death-Rate
"Reporting an increased death rate, Dr. Oscar Holden, medical officer of health, in his annual report to Croydon Corporation, says: ‘There seems to be evidence that the restrictions and rationing of foodstuffs may be having some adverse effect.’

"Dr. Holden says: 'It would be an exaggeration to say there is a general state of sub-nutrition, but it is not unlikely that the restriction of such articles as milk, butter and meat is not helping to maintain high nutritional standards among all sections of the population.
" 'You do not find it reflected in death-rate statistics; it is something you cannot put into figures.

" 'Doctors who see large numbers of the population are finding that people go down much more easily than they used to. They may look fairly well nourished, but their inherent resistance to illness is not as good as before.

" 'They are more likely to succumb to infection, they suffer more from lassitude, irritability, weariness and are more susceptible to ailments like colds than they were six or seven years ago.’

" 'If there is a virulent flu epidemic similar to the one after the last war, we might get 1918 all over again.’

‘‘The antidote? Better variety in our diet, more fresh fruit, milk, butter and fats. ‘Ask any general practitioner,’ said Dr Holden. 'He will agree.’ ” 
- Sunday Express, 30 Dec., 1945.


Cripps on Compensating the Capitalists
"If we are really going out for a planned Socialist State we have definitely to take up the point of view that the capital value of industries has been created by the workers of this country, and they are not going to pay for them when they take them back into their own ownership.”
—Sir Stafford Cripps (Labour Party Conference Report, Southport, 1934, p. 194).
"Mellor is a politician as well as I am. But he is in principle a confiscationist, and he finished up upon that note. I agree he is willing to give annuities for a period of years as a matter of expediency. The whole blessed thing a matter of expediency and not much else ”
—Herbert Morrison (Ibid, p. 198).


Cripps on the Fate of Labour Governments
"It was mentioned yesterday that when we started on the next Labour Government we should proceed with a number of measures of social reform. It is impossible for the capitalist system to give to the workers the rewards that are promised under a policy of social reform. It is impossible, and if we attempt again, as we did in 1929-31, to carry out a policy of getting as much as we can out of capitalism, it will lead to a fresh crisis in capitalism as arose in 1931 itself, and we shall find that the force, of economic power still residing in the hands of the capitalists will again he called in to defeat the workers’ Government.” 
- Stafford Cripps (Southport L.P. Con., 1934, p. 159).
Horatio.

Work Harder? (1947)

From the March 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The working class, that long-suffering section of humanity, are being beseeched by the Labour Government and powerful organs of capitalist propaganda, to work harder in order that “greater effort now” may mean “better living sooner.”

However, an interesting sidelight on what really is in store for the workers comes from an article in the “Star” (February 1st, 1947) under the heading "Plans to Avoid Post-War Disaster.”

A report issued as a White Paper by the Preparatory Commission on World Food Proposals, tells us that “production capacity has been expanded in many countries outside the combat areas.”

Now from this simple statement of fact, the average worker might deduce that the good time so long promised him cannot be very far off.

However, our capitalists have decidedly different views on the matter, for we read on: "If nothing is done to absorb the infinitely greater production that our efforts in World War II have stimulated, the result may he millions out of work, an unparalleled business recession and social and economic unrest.”

Could anything further demonstrate the futility and bankruptcy of capitalism to solve the world's economic problem? 

Here we see the most gigantic forces of production the world has ever known, where the potentialities exist for satisfying all the material requirements of mankind, yet we are promised nothing more than “social and economic unrest.’’

The cause is not difficult to understand. Socialists have pointed out incessantly that so long as a privileged class in society, the capitalists, own and control the means of production, so long will the motive for producing be one of procuring a profit

If no profit can be realised then production will either be restricted or closed down altogether, to the detriment of the rest of the population, the working class.

Only under Socialism, when the whole of society will own and democratically control its means of production, will the forces of production, unfettered, be harnessed for the common good, the needs and desires of the world’s population being the sole consideration.

The question of overstocked markets, unsaleable surpluses and starving workers, would then belong to a dead and forgotten era.

Fellow workers, wake up !
J. Pizer

Friday, March 24, 2017

Socialism or Chaos (1948)

From the March 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

The members of the Socialist Party of Australia are fewer in numbers than the members of the S.P.G.B. and they have a whole continent to operate upon. Truly a stupendous task. Our Australian comrades often reside so far away from one another that they are unable to meet and are only known to one another by written communication. To maintain an organisation under difficulties such as these is indeed a great task. To publish a monthly journal and other Socialist literature is a feat worthy of commendation.

Their new pamphlet “Socialism or Chaos” is now to hand and we must compliment them on the production. It is a useful addition to a Socialist's library.

To the worker who is seeking an understanding of Socialism it is full of information. It is a plain and straightforward statement of the Socialist case and even to the fully-fledged Socialist it is interesting to read the explanations in the words and phrases of our Australian comrades.

The opening chapters deal with an explanation and indictment of Capitalism and an exposition of the case for Socialism. The remainder of the pamphlet deals with a number of questions and some objections to Socialism. A studious and successful effort has been made to avoid covering the same ground as is covered in the S.P.G.B. pamphlet “Questions of the Day.”

The chapter titles and sub-titles are intriguing. Such headings as "What is the difference between Socialism and Communism?”, Why are there so many different 'Socialists’?” and “Are we armchair philosophers?” invite the reader to continue from chapter to chapter in search of the answers.

Workers in this country who have been lured to speculate on the prospects of emigration to the colonies should read this small book. Addressed, as it is, to Australian workers by fellow Australians, it shows workers in Great Britain that capitalism differs little no matter on which side of the equator it operates. Those who think to escape the effects of capitalism here by “making a fresh start” in some other part of the capitalist world should stop and think when they read in the preface to this pamphlet (page 4)
  "The future for the workers looks black indeed. A slump is inevitable, and once more we shall see the tragic spectacle of the grey army of unemployed queuing up at the labour exchange.”
Supporters of the Labour Party can read the case for Socialism written by Socialists in a land where a Labour Government is no longer a novelty. Here is the answer to those who claim that the Labour Party in this country will lead us to Socialism if only we have patience and give it time. Australia has known Labour Governments for many years. A Labour government was elected in Queensland as long ago as 1922 and remained in power for 15 years. In all that time all that it had done for the workers of Australia was to treat them just as any other capitalist government would have treated them.

This, also from the preface of the pamphlet (page 3) 
  "Your experience, as a worker under various ‘Labour’ governments ought to show you that the Labour Party does not represent the interests of the working class. When in office, it behaves like any other Capitalist party—it runs Capitalism; when you go on strike, you are branded as 'trouble makers,' you are told that you are 'harming the nation.’ ”
   "Have you forgotten the wage cuts under Scullin? The shooting and imprisonment of strikers under the Hogan State Government? The fines and threats of military impressment used against strikers under Curtin? The conscription of labour? The constant appeals for 'national unity and increased production ’ under Chifley?”
It would appear that our fellow workers in the antipodes have little to thank Labour Governments for.
And that last part of the quotation about appeals for "national unity and increased production” has a familiar ring. It makes us stop and speculate on the position of the workers in all parts of the world when they have "united nationally” and increased production to the point where the goods that they have produced can no longer be sold because there is too many of them. Will Labour Governments then find that we are in another sort of crisis and urge us to "unite as a nation” to get out of the mess or attempt to get us to unite with some other nations to make war on yet other nations in order to dispose of the surplus goods and clear some competitors out of the market? There are many possibilities but they all lead to the same answer as far as the workers, are concerned. War, crises and all the rest of the evils are the products of Capitalism and will remain aa long as Capitalism remains.

In the words of Australian comrades " . . .  it is up to you what the future will be: Socialism or Chaos?” 

Limited supplies of this pamphlet are now available from the Literature Secretary at Head Office and from our branches. More are on the way. It costs 6d (plus postage) and should be in the pocket of every propagandist and on the bookshelf of every worker.
W. Waters

Saints and Sinners (1949)

From the March 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

The social atmosphere has recently been disturbed by what is described as an increase in crime. More police are called for to deal with the unsocial elements, and as the self-appointed agents of the Deity consider crime and sin as synonymous these have been particularly vociferous lately in their denunciations of our erring brethren. It is well known to the Gendarmes of God that all working class children are born with a double dose of original sin, and these pious individuals embrace every opportunity to immunise them. It goes for granted that the wage slave is naturally wicked and prone to crime but if we are to accept press reports as correct there are even some of those who make a practice of attending holy communion who fall by the wayside.

It matters not, therefore, how many times you are inoculated with spiritual vaccine you stand every chance of turning out as wicked as the rest of us.

The Archbishop of York wants a State campaign through the Press, wireless, cinema and posters against the causes of crime. He says there is confusion over moral standards. (See Daily Telegraph, January 31st): 
“If public campaigns for road safety, saving, and greater production are successful, why not a campaign for honesty and truthfulness? Greater honesty would save the nation many millions of pounds, and would dry up the sources of the black market.”
The Church has its uses you see, but the conditions under which man lives and works teach him more than his pastors would have him believe. Capitalism is undermining the ghostly influence of religion even without the aid of Socialism. The wage slave is taught science and from what he acquires on the job he gradually realises when, where and how he is exploited. And when the mystery of capitalist production is laid bare the knowledge of reality causes the worker to perceive that the holy trinity is rent, interest, and profit. This is the Deity of the ruling class and the realization of this removes all religious illusions from the wage slaves’ minds.

The law is supposed to deal with the social offender hut in a society where there are classes “oft ’tis seen, the wicked prize itself buys out, the law.”

Sometimes the attempts made by the smart to buy illegally what may bring extra profit become exposed and the class conscious are entertained by the display of “moral integrity” prevalent in some ruling class circles.

The People of January 30th, 1949, published a statement by Sidney Stanley which sheds a lurid light on the morality of the capitalist world.
  “Now, I’m no angel. I’ve never professed to he one. There’s no room for angels, anyway, in the sort of world of big business that has been my background for the last thirty years. And if anyone tells you different you can forget it.
  “Because I know. I came up the hard way. I’m just another East End kid—and I’m proud of that title—who made the grade, from a four- shillings-a-week room in an East End back street to an £800-a-year flat in Park Lane.
  “And I learned all I know in a game where if you don’t outsmart the next guy, then he’ll outsmart you.
  “It’s all very well to talk glibly about straightforward, honest business. That’s okay—up to a point. But when you really get down to brass tacks it’s another story.
  “No one—you can take it from me—is in business for the benefit of his health. It’s a hard, tough game where dog eats dog and you don’t want to be the dog that provides the meal!”
His statement, however, deserves comment. When the worker is called upon by big business in the next war Stanley’s remarks should he kept in mind. We can’t predict what the next slogan will be. The defence of democracy is played out, the defence of “our way of life” may fall flat; it will he hard indeed for the Labour Party to find an appealing battle cry: in spite of nationalisation we own nothing: we have little to live for, and nothing whatever to die for. Some men are more fortunate than Stanley, they win a title, and die in the odour of sanctity without committing the unpardonable crime of being found out. Engels says (p.128 “Landmarks of Scientific Socialism”): 
  “From the very moment when private property in movables developed there had to be ethical sanctions of general effect in all communities in which private properly prevailed, thus: Thou shalt not steal. Is this commandment, then, an eternal commandment? By no means. In a society in which the motive for theft did not exist stealing would only be a practice of the weak-minded, and the preacher of morals who proclaimed ‘Thou shalt not steal’ as an eternal commandment would only he laughed at for his pains.”
  “We here call attention to the attempt to force a sort of moral dogmatism upon us as an eternal, final, immutable moral law, upon the pretext that the moral law is possessed of fixed principles which transcend history, avid the variations of individual peoples. We state, on the contrary, that up to the present time all ethical theory is in the last instance a testimony to the existence of certain economic conditions prevailing in any community at any particular time. And in proportion as society developed class antagonisms, morality became a class morality, and either justified the interests and domination of the ruling class, or as soon as a subject class became strong enough, justified revolt against the domination of the ruling class and the interests of the subject class. That, by this means, there is an advance made in morals as a whole, just as there is in all other branches of human knowledge, there can be no doubt. But we have not yet advanced beyond class morals. Real human morality superior to class morality and its traditions will not be possible until a stage in human history has been reached in which class antagonisms have not only been overcome but have been forgotten as regards the conduct of life.”
The crime wave is the problem of the ruling class: let them deal with it. If the Church wishes to admonish let its message be delivered to those responsible for the past two wars and the misery that has followed them.

There is one thing that arouses the indignation of the wage slave, and that is the smug complacency of the “holier than thou” outfit. At ten minutes to eight a.m. in ten thousand working class homes when the voice of the professor of piety comes over the radio, “Lift up your hearts,” there is one universal cry : 
“Turn that b—dy thing off.”
Charles Lestor

Our Two Election Campaigns (1950)

From the March 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our election campaigns in East Ham South and Paddington North were carried through with the same enthusiasm and devotion by members and sympathisers as on the two previous occasions when we contested North Paddington alone.

We issued in both constituencies an Election Message, containing a general examination of the worker’s position in modern society, a briefer Candidate’s Address, covering the same material (which the Post Office delivered free to each voter), and a Broadsheet in newspaper form containing criticisms of the main political parties, as well as other matter dealing with war, the implications of Socialism, and so on.

The Election Message and the Broadsheet were delivered by helpers to every address in both constituencies; the Broadsheet was also given away at meetings and railway stations.

Members and sympathisers have gathered at Head Office night after night to do the routine job of folding and sticking labels on. Both branches secured good election rooms; Paddington’s was large enough for a good deal of folding to be done there.

Separate reports from the two areas are as follows:

EAST HAM SOUTH 
Long before the election date was announced members were out on the “knocker,” arguing, explaining, driving home their points and obtaining regular orders for the Socialist Standard. As for outdoor meetings, they had been outside the “Cock” Hotel for eight months of every year since the middle of the war, and last Summer they opened a fresh station at the “Boleyn.”

And when the date of the election was announced the campaign began in earnest. An empty shop was rented in the Barking Road and soon its windows were neatly decorated with attractive literature. It became a hive of activity. All day long people were in and out, distributing literature, and sharing all the other tasks that a Parliamentary campaign entails.

The weather was far from perfect and the first outdoor meetings were flops, but to compensate every household was informed of three meetings at the Town Hall and one in a school in every ward. It was advertised in the local press that all other candidates had been invited to put their case in opposition. Those who came to see the fun were sorely disappointed. The Communist was “engaged”; the Tory who had previously expressed his willingness to debate became suddenly “too busy,” and the famous Labour “cock o’ the walk” advanced some incomprehensible excuse with regard to election expenses. Apparently his willingness to “discuss and reason” did not stretch as far as the S.P.G.B. However the three hundred people who had braved the bitter weather heard a case unlike any they had heard before. They asked questions, took part in discussion. The second meeting was less well attended, but the third was the best of the three. Members were highly satisfied.

Meanwhile every house had received a copy of the Party’s Election Message. Again it was a case that could not logically be disputed. It made no grandiose promises nor perversions of fact but merely explained the cause of the workers’ problems and the long hard road to their solution. Many workers were given something to think about. This was clearly demonstrated at the schools, where average audiences of twenty-five not only listened to the Party’s case, but also asked questions directly appertaining to the Election Message or the posted Address which arrived later.

In the last week the weather improved and the outdoor platform came out. Ours was the only party to appear on the street comer, and on the Saturday before the poll an audience of over a hundred was held for more than seven hours. Speakers from all over London gave of their best, dealing with every conceivable type of question. An eve of poll meeting at the “Cock” attracted an audience of two hundred. During the week meetings at factory gates had been well received, and propaganda was extended to the docks. Dockers expressed surprise at the solidity of the Socialist case after the drivel of the Communists. These meetings will continue.

Unfortunately the whole of the constituency was not canvassed. Forty people cannot work miracles. A third piece of literature in the shape of a broadsheet was freely delivered. It dealt with every aspect of current events, and copies have been retained for future reference.

Thus, mainly for the first time, the workers of East Ham South came into contact with the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Most of them were not convinced, but many will remember what this organisation has told them and when the capitalist system takes its usual course into a slump or war they will stop to think again. When the other parties’ talk of peace and full employment has gone by the board, the Socialist position will remain firm.

PADDINGTON NORTH 
Cold and wet weather made it difficult to hold outdoor meetings at the beginning and attendances were poor. The same is true of the indoor meetings. The position vastly improved towards the end. On Sunday, 19th February, an excellent meeting was held at the Metropolitan Theatre. No reference to this meeting was made in the Press. We sent letters to the Daily Express, the Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard and the News Chronicle, drawing their attention to the omission, but without result so far. The following is a specimen of one of them:
21st Feb.
  “I notice that your paper, along with other morning and evening papers, has given space to a meeting at Paddington Town Hall last night addressed by Lady Astor. Paddington Town Hall holds only 200 people and even an overflow would not greatly increase its size. Last Sunday evening we held a Mass Election Meeting at the Metropolitan Theatre, Edgware Road. The theatre was packed with 2,000 people, the doors had to be closed and a number turned away.
  “We invited the other four candidates to come and present their case from our platform. Mr. A. Seabrooke, the Liberal Candidate, and Mr. D. Cohen, the Communist Candidate, accepted, and each had twenty minutes on our platform. Mr. L. Turner, the Conservative Candidate, declined, stating that he did not speak on Sundays; Mr. W. Reid, the Labour Candidate, also declined, on the ground of prior engagements. The meeting commenced at 7 o'clock and ended at 10 o'clock, the last part of it being devoted to questions. The audience was interested, attentive and orderly, apart from some rather wild heckling by some small groups of Communist Party sympathisers after Mr. Cohen had left the platform.
  “We suggest that this type of meeting is unique in election campaigns, is well worth while to help voters to assess the programmes and policies of the various parties and was a practical illustration of our 46-year claim that we stand by the freedom of everyone to express their opinions without fear of evil consequences to themselves.
  “We are giving you these details, which you can check by a ’phone call to the two opponents who participated, because neither you nor the other morning and evening papers mentioned so much as a whisper about what was probably the largest meeting held in London during the present General Election. Are we to take it that your interest is only in the prominent people who support privilege, and that you are indifferent when 2,000 working men and women voters gather to hear other working men and women put their case?
  “I wonder what the people of North Paddington, most of whom know what happened, think of your silence?”
One singular thing we noticed this time at our meetings. Almost all the questions were about the future—what would Socialism be like?

The result of the poll, as far as we are concerned, was as follows: In East Ham our candidate received 256 votes and in North Paddington 192 votes—less than at the By-Election and nearly 300 less than at the 1945 General Election. We received a very favourable hearing this time, many workers said we were right and they agreed with us but—“ after all, bad as the Labour Party is, the Conservative Party is worse; we must keep them out and a vote for you would be wasted.” One day the workers will learn that there is no “worse” and their only sound action is to vote for Socialism.

The notices in the National Press on this occasion showed that we have at last succeeded in getting our candidates described as candidates of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. So one element of confusion has been eliminated. They also recognised our candidates as just tools of a socialist electorate and not “leaders.”