Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Property Rights Act (2006)

The Cooking the Books Column from the January 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Labour got back into office in 1997, one of the first things they did, to show without spending any money that they were reformers, was to sign up to the European Convention on Human Rights. This was supposed to give people more legal “rights”. Actually, as infringements could give rise to monetary compensation, it was more a bonanza for lawyers and has resulted in the further spread of “compensation culture”, capitalism’s tendency to put a monetary value on everything.

But it has also had another effect: to entrench further the rights of property, as two recent legal cases have shown (Times, 18 April and 23 November). Before the entry into force of the 1998 Human Rights Act, “squatters” acquired a legal right to a property after occupying it unchallenged for at least 12 years.

The cases involved property companies which had acquired titles to land which had been squatted by farmers for more than the 12 years. The companies relied on an article of the Convention that states: “Every natural person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided by law.”

The judges in both cases (the second those of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg from which there is no appeal) ruled that the previous English law that allowed the farmers to assume ownership of the land was an infringement of the property companies’ rights as enshrined in the Convention. As a result they will receive as compensation a nice fat cheque, likely to run in one case to millions of pounds.

So-called “human rights” have always been linked to property rights. As C.B. Macpherson showed in his classic study of 16th and 17th English political philosophy, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, the whole concept of human rights was based on the idea of every human being having a property right to their own body. The state is not supposed to stop them using their mental and physical energies as they think fit; this involves not just freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, but also the freedom to exercise their mental faculties in speech, publication and religion.

Property as such came to be regarded as a human right when it was argued that humans also had a right to what they themselves had got from nature by their own bodily efforts, i.e. by their own labour. However, given the existing unequal ownership of property, especially land, the bourgeois “theorists of possessive individualism” shied away from the egalitarian implications of this labour theory of property. Instead they came up with various more or less specious reasons as to why property, however acquired (and including land, which no one created by their labour, and even slaves), was, in the words of the French Revolution’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, “an inviolable and sacred right”.

The freedom of property-owners from arbitrary dispossession by the state was what the French Revolution established in France, but which the so-called Glorious Revolution in England in 1688 and the US Constitution had already established in these countries.

The European Convention of Human Rights is a direct descendant of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, itself a reflection of the theory of “possessive individualism”. It is essentially a Convention on the Rights of Property – as neatly illustrated by the fact that the article under which the property companies won was not some obscure subsection, but Article I of Protocol I entitled “Protection of Property”.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

War Overtakes Russia (1941)

From the July 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

The failure of a policy
There is no such thing an ideal foreign policy. In international politics there is no policy which will suit all times and all circumstances. There is none which can be carried out to give a guarantee of enduring peace. This is true, though most people do not believe it. After every outbreak of war historians and others look back to this or that turning point, and say that if only a certain Government had acted differently, with more foresight, the war would not have happened. This kind of reasoning rests on assumptions that are not justified. It assumes that a Government is a free agent, able to follow any policy that the international situation may seem to call for. It ignores the forces behind the Government which determine the Government’s attitude and limit its freedom of action; the electorates that have to be considered, not to mention commercial, industrial and financial groups whose demands on foreign policy are coloured by their trading and other interests. The view taken by the “wise-after-the-event” historians assumes, too, that if one Government gave a certain lead in international affairs other Governments would react in a simple practicable way, determined either by fear of opposing a strong group of Powers or by mutual desire to maintain world peace. The historians and many other people are obsessed with the idea that international rivalries and alliances are clashes of the personalities of “great man.” They forget that it is not abroad, at international conferences, but at home in their own immediate social environment, that statesmen learn their principles, motives and methods and form their opinions on what is desirable and what is practicable.

The history of the past twenty years is full of illustrations. One popular theory in Great Britain to-day is that if only Mr. Baldwin and his predecessors had built up great armaments to keep Germany down there would have been no war. This theory has for the moment displaced the opposite theory that if only the same gentlemen had relaxed the Versailles Treaty and been kind to Germany there would have universal disarmament. Both theories are fallacious, because they ignore many important factors. They ignore the war-weariness of the workers after the last war and their resulting pacifist tendencies. Faced with such an electorate, any Cabinet which had come out with a big programme of armaments ten or fifteen years ago would have been defeated at the polls. Mr. Baldwin’s defence of himself is on this point well founded. On the other hand they ignore the fact that capitalism forces all Governments to compete in the world market and to strive for aims which cannot be satisfied. In order to solve the insoluble problems of its own industries and financial organisations every Power, great or small, is demanding something which the other Powers cannot afford to yield. And the whole problem is complicated by the sectional interests within each country, each trying to influence foreign policy. Those who talk as if the only problem of the British Government was to prevent the German capitalists from re-establishing German power, forget that in the nineteen-twenties the problem appeared to be that of preventing the French capitalists from dominating Europe and the Mediterranean. The policy of helping to re-establish Germany was at that time supported by British and American business interests, whose markets were in Germany or who suffered from French competition, by bankers who had loaned millions of pounds to Germany, as well as by the Labour Party, which feared French anti-democratic tendencies, and by Imperialists, who thought that French Imperialism had become more dangerous than German. Alongside all this is the fact that the propertied class in all countries fears “subversive” influences and leans towards other Governments which look like firm bulwarks for the defence of property; hence the readiness of influential circles in every country to do a deal with the Nazis. It is this welter of forces that explains the otherwise inexplicable weakness, idiocies, blindnesses and sudden reversals of foreign policies.

Russia wanted a “Strong Germany”
The latest example of the impossibility of escaping these consequences of capitalism by cleverness and stratagem is given by Russia’s forced entry into the war. Why did the policy (or rather policies) of the Russian Government fail? Could this result have been avoided? Why did Germany swing from friendship to enmity with Russia and why did Russia drop Litvinoff for Molotov, only to find itself faced with the situation Molotov thought his policy had obviated?

Immediately the Russo-German Pact was signed it was pointed out in these columns (October, 1939) “it seems certain that now Russia and Germany are neighbours, both intent on dominating Eastern Europe and the Balkans, they will find each other dangerous friends, liable to turn into enemies at any moment.” Germany’s growing need of war materials and, no doubt, the assumption that a war against “Godless Bolshevism” might appeal to wide circles in Britain, the Dominions and U.S.A., has made this the suitable occasion in Nazi eyes.

The people most surprised by a natural outcome of events are the Communists.

The American and British Communist Parties, in the first of their statements “explaining” the position, gave an easy and fatuous answer to one question. They can see one of the factors at work but ignore all the others. The New Masses, an American Communist paper, issued just before the German attack said:-
  “A German-Soviet war is only conceivable if Germany first reached an understanding with Great Britain.” – (The Times, June 25th, 1941.)
The British Communist Party, in a manifesto issued on June 22nd, after the attack had begun, declared that it –
   “is the sequel of the secret moves which have been taking place behind the curtain of the Hess mission. We warn the people against the upper class reactionaries in Britain and the United States, who will seek by every means to reach an understanding with Hitler on the basis of the fight against the Soviet. Only the action of the people can prevent this. We can have no confidence in the present Government dominated by Tory friends of Fascism and coalition Labour leaders, who have already shown their stand by their consistent anti-Soviet slander campaigns.” – (Manchester Guardian, June 23rd.)
This was issued on the Sunday on which the German onslaught began. It therefore preceded the broadcast by Mr. Winston Churchill, in which full aid to Russia was promised by the British Government. Within a couple of days the Communist M.P., Mr. W. Gallacher, was voicing in the House of Commons his “agreeable surprise” at Mr. Churchill’s speech, and the latter gentleman, who presumably falls into the Communist Party’s category of “Tory friends of Fascism,” was being cheered in the streets of Moscow. Molotov, Russia’s foreign Commissar, in his speech on Sunday, June 22nd, was more honest than his Communist admirers. “With unusual candour,” says the Manchester Guardian (June 26th), “he declared his policy towards Germany to have proved a failure.” Let us, then, look at Molotov’s earlier speeches to see what his policy was, and whether, as the Communists claim, the Bolshevik Government has been able in international affairs to be wiser and more successful than other Governments.

Molotov’s predecessor in office was Litvinov, whose policy, like that of Churchill and the British Labour Party, was to use the League of Nations as a means of organising common action by Powers which would together be strong enough to deter Germany. Litvinov failed and was sacked in order that Molotov might try his opposite theory, the theory of the group in Britain who favoured appeasement with Hitler and wanted a strong Germany. Mr. Churchill, it may be recalled, was demanding, in May 1939, “a full and solid alliance … with Russia without further delay” (Evening Standard, February 6th, 1941), and it was about that time, in 1939, Mr. Pollitt, on behalf of the Communist Party, was urging Churchill, Attlee and Sinclair to get together and form a government. Molotov took Litvinov’s place in May, 1939, and was responsible for the secret negotiations which resulted in the Russo-German Pact of August, 1939, a pact which the British Communist Party declared was a “victory for Peace and Socialism,” a “blow to Fascist war plans and the policy of Chamberlain” (Daily Worker, August 23rd, 1939).

What, then, was the Molotov policy which led him to appear in smiling association with Goering and other Nazi leaders? It was, indeed, nothing other than the Chamberlain policy applied to the supposed needs of the Russian Government. It was the much denounced British Imperial policy of the balance power in Europe, the policy of siding with what appeared at the time to be the weaker of the group of European Powers to prevent the stronger group from achieving domination. It was Molotov, not Chamberlain, who declared: “We have always held that a strong Germany is an indispensable condition for durable peace in Europe” (Molotov’s speech to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., October 31st, 1939, published in English translation by Anglo-Russian News Bulletin, November, 1939, page 9). The calculation behind Molotov’s Pact was no doubt that Britain, France and Germany at war would weaken each other and thus (as the Communists claimed in the period of their early support for the war and their present return to support for the war) “Socialist” Russia would succeed in keeping out of “this war . . .  between imperialist powers over profits, colonies and world domination” (Mr. Palme Dutt, “Why This War?” Communist Party, November, 1939, page 4).

Molotov, in the speech referred to above, also put forward the proposition, held by the British Labour Party at one time, and by the late Lord Rothermere and others, that the present war was caused by the Versailles Treaty, and could have been avoided if the Treaty had been different or had been modified.

Molotov said:-
   “Relations between Germany and Western European bourgeois States have in the past two decades been determined primarily by Germany’s efforts to break the fetters of the Versailles Treaty, whose authors were Great Britain and France, with the active participation of the U.S.A. This it was, which in the long run, led to the present war in Europe.” – (Page 9.)
In the same speech Molotov said that his hopes of enduring peace between Germany and Russia rested on the belief that “the new Soviet-German relations are based on a firm foundation of mutual interest,” a phrase very similar to that used by the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Eden, in his speech on June 24th, 1941, when he said that his hopes in 1935 of good relations between Britain and Russia were based on a joint declaration “that there was no conflict of interest between the two Governments on any of the main issues of international policy” (Evening News, June 24th, 1941).

It does not seem that the state capitalist Russia has been able to find anything better than the foreign policies of the older Powers. Even to details Molotov falls into line. In his October, 1939, speech he ridiculed the idea of a war for the destruction of Nazism and condemned the British and French Governments for proclaiming such a war. The British and French Governments, he said, “do not want war stopped and peace restored, but are seeking new excuses for continuing the war with Germany,” the new excuse being "the destruction of Hitlerism." He continued:-
  “But there is no justification for a war of this kind. One may accept or reject the ideology of Hitlerism as well as any other ideological system, that is a matter of political views. But everybody should understand that an ideology cannot be destroyed by force, that it cannot be eliminated by war. It is, therefore, not only senseless, but criminal, to wage such a war for the ‘destruction of Hitlerism’ camouflaged as a fight for ‘democracy’” – (Page 7.)
Now, in his speech on June 22nd, we find Molotov declaring “all the responsibility for this robber attack on the Soviet Union falls on German Fascist Leader. . . . This war has been forced on us . . . by a clique of bloodthirsty Fascist leaders who have oppressed the French, the Czechs, the Poles, the Serbs, the Norwegians, the Belgians, Denmark, Holland, Greece and other nations” (The Times, June 23rd, 1941).

It will be observed that Molotov here lays the whole responsibility on one man, “the German Fascist Leader.” In November, 1939, the British Communist, Mr. Palme Dutt, in his “Why This War?” was attacking the British Government for this very thing. “They call for the overthrow of Hitlerism,” he wrote, “they declare that the enemy is ‘one man’ – Hitler” (page 6).

The lesson of all this is that, while the forces driving to international conflict and war remain, there are no means of making the world safe for peace. Pacts and alliances, Leagues of Nations and World Courts, Federal Unions. An so on, may control minor disputes and delay the major ones, but they have not succeeded in the past twenty years and will not succeed in the future in preventing war. World peace, like the abolition of property, is something only to be achieved through Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

What the Labour Party Represents (1941)

From the July 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

A reader asks us to explain what forces are represented by the Labour Party. He writes:
  “I know that Labour, l.L.P. and Communist Parties are reformist, but what sections of the capitalist class do they represent? What class or personalities went to the trouble and expense of forming these organisations with the object of gaining political power? ”
Not merely the above-mentioned political parties are reformist: all other political parties, by their very title “political party,” have for their object the gaining of political power; but only the Socialist Party aims at power for socialism. Therefore all other contending parties have programmes which are designed to attract anti- or non-Socialists.

These programmes are made up of a series of immediate proposals or demands which, judged from the Socialist viewpoint, may have advantages for the workers, but will be useless in preparing and making the working-class Socialist. Hence our attitude to reforms is not merely that they are of no immediate or lasting benefit to the workers, but that for the party aiming at social revolution the task of making Socialists is paramount. The advocacy of reforms fails to accomplish this, in fact hinders the furtherance of Socialist education.

Now, the approach to all other political parties is not necessarily the same; whilst we oppose all other political parties, it is not correct to lump them all together—Tory, Liberal, Labour Parties, and so on—and just say they are not Socialist, therefore we oppose them.

It is necessary to bear in mind the historical and organisational differences that exist. The historical differences are, briefly, these: the Tory and Liberal Parties express the sectional interests of the nineteenth century capitalist class, now rather clouded by interwoven interests, due to the development of capitalist production, as can be seen by the age-old controversy, Tariffs versus Free Trade, now rendered obsolete.

These parties affirm that they desire to continue the present capitalist system. They argue that the present order of things is the only one possible; but, beginning in the nineteenth century, there was a feeling among sections of workers that there was an alternative system. This developing consciousness was considerably influenced by the writings of Marx and others, and expressed itself in a desire to break away from the old policy of supporting one and then the other of the then existing main political parties—to end the Tweedledum and Tweedledee form of political bargaining. Hence the formation of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Its emergence did denote a heightening of the consciousness of the organised section of the workers: however, that consciousness was insufficiently matured to be Socialist. It could only express itself through the more progressive section of the ruling class, i.e., the industrialists. It will be seen by this that the so-called “ left wing ” parties were, in fact, expressions of the left wing of the capitalists, not of the working-class.

The parties and organisations, such as the l.L.P. and ”Socialist League” and other splinter organisations, form centres for the discontented members of the parent body, the Labour Party. They serve the purpose of grouping the would-be breakaways. The Labour Party leadership, aware of the inconvenience of splinter organisations, supported the £150 deposit for Parliamentary candidature.

Thus it will be seen that the so-called left wing organisations were not engineered by capitalists or ambitious personalities, though both have used these organisations, but rather the workers, having recognised that the purely economic organisation through which they had operated was insufficient, desired to take independent political action though still within the framework of capitalist politics.

The lessons to be learned from the Labour movement throughout the capitalist world are many. Two outstanding features are: first, that it is insufficient for workers to aim merely at political control, but that they must obtain political control through their own independent organisation and for Socialism; secondly, that Socialist action on the political field must be action for the abolition of capitalism, whatever the intentions of the leaders, whilst the mass of the working-class electorate are not Socialists, they can only act within the bounds of capitalism. The problems they set out to solve are inherent in the capitalist system: thus at the very outset they are doomed to failure and will be discredited. Having spent their time popularising reform programmes and catching votes they have had no time or energies for spreading Socialist knowledge.

The workers blame the existence of such problems as poverty, unemployment, etc., upon the men who hold the reins of Government. The Socialist Party is not concerned that these political parties and their leaders should be discredited by their failure, but a serious consequence is the disillusionment and apathy that falls on millions of workers as a result.

The Communist Party cannot be wholly explained along the same fines. The social upheaval that occurred in Russia during the first Great War had its repercussions throughout the working-class movement. Those that were impatient with the Socialist Party’s insistence that Socialism could only he achieved by a working-class understanding Socialism, rushed to assure us that ”the revolution was round the corner.” The impossible had been achieved, they said, in one-sixth of the world—Socialism in backward Russia.

The formation of the Communist Parties throughout the world just after the cessation of hostilities attracted thousands of disgruntled workers who, despairing of the Labour and other parties doing anything for them, looked to the leaders of the Russian movement for guidance in the day to day struggles.

Writing in 1941, it is difficult to imagine that the Communist Party were engaged twenty years ago in training an “army” to fight capitalists at the barricades, but so it was.

Such were the ideas circulating in and around the Communist Party in its early days. These, however, were soon dispelled against cold facts.

It became clearer the role of the Communist Party was destined to play. By the end of the twenties, as the foreign policy of the Russian ruling clique began to take shape, so the Communist Parties began to twist and turn. This has continued up to date, culminating in the grovelling retraction in October, 1939, by Messrs. Pollitt and Campbell of their support for the war. Now, of course, the Communists have about turned once more.

With the explosion of the myth of Russian Socialism, the Third International will be written down as an organisation that has done much to put back the clock of working-class development.

The writer may be excused for seizing the opportunity that the answering of these questions affords in order to review the position of the various parties dealt with.

After forty years of activity, the Labour Party, formed by sincere working men to end the policy of “Backing the Liberals to dish the Tories,” finds itself backing the Tories to dish some of the Liberals, tied to the avowed representatives of capitalism.

The I.L.P., who urged us more than thirty years ago to join with them in order to transform the Labour Party into a Socialist Party, have split from the Labour Party and is now a shadow of its former self.

Those readers who may have been among the many workers whose tireless energies and selfless devotion built up the Labour and Communist Parties should answer this question: If it were possible to start again, with the knowledge that after 20-30 years your organisations would be where they are to-day, would you still do what you have been doing for the past 30 years ?

Surely, the miserable plight of the workers throughout the world, their suffering and anxiety, is a vindication of the attitude taken up by the Socialist Party; that an organisation having for its object the capturing of the machinery of government for Socialism, must devote its energies and abilities to the making of Socialists and organising them to this end.

Dictatorships, poverty and other social evils can only arise in a world where the control behind the management of industry is the production of goods for sale and profit-making. Whilst this obtains peoples will stand in fear and hatred of each other and Governments be driven on to the building of armaments for their eventual use in war.

These problems can only be removed by the world working class establishing a social system which has for its basis the production of wealth solely for the use of all, regardless of race or sex.

This cannot be accomplished by a working class blindly following leaders who have preached to them policies of reforms, nor can violence be a method to make up for the unreadiness of the workers.

Only by the mental development of the working class can the suffering and misery of capitalism be replaced by Socialism.
A. T.

Gentlemen All (1941)

From the July 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ex-Kaiser Wilhelm is dead; Press dogs, who in pre-war days whined at the demise of any minor princeling, gave vent to a few feeble yaps. Imperial Caesar, dead and turned to clay, failed to elicit the funereal modulation affected by throaty B.B.C. announcers; a dead Derby winner (steed, not jockey) would have been accorded less shabby obituaries.

Rich instruction herein for the thoughtful:
“He is every inch a king" ;"He stands for peace.” Thus, A. G. Gardiner, editor of the Daily News in 1909. A. J. Cummings, noted contributor to the same organ, to-day can only feebly bleat about the disadvantages suffered by Queen Victoria’s pet grandson, due to a hard-faced mother and a withered arm. Imagine the splash head-lines and sickening adulation which the News Chronicle and an A. J. Cummings would have indulged in had not the first Great War pitilessly torn the martial cloak from Sidney Low’s “great gentleman” (Contemporary Review, July, 1907), and revealed the Imperial blighter for the barren-spirited nonentity he was.

Biographies on the whole reveal the author to the same extent as autobiographies conceal him; the popular type of “history” indulges in numerous small “character sketches.”  “. . . . He was a perfect gentleman.” Believe it or not, this is the considered opinion of the Right Honourable H. A. L. Fisher on “Bloody Nick.” You may find it recorded on p. 113 of the single volume edition of “A History of Europe.” The degenerate Russian moron had been dead 18 years when the Right Honourable and Christian Liberal “statesman” awarded him full marks in the “gentlemanly” line. If H. A. L. Fisher was not in possession of facts forming the minimum requirement for historical record, why did he foist on an uncritical public his preposterously feeble “history”? Bertrand Russell’s excursion into history (“Freedom and Organisation, 1814-1914”), written two years previous to Fisher’s work, exasperatingly obscurantist on the economic field, does at any rate aim at presentation of salient and pertinent fact; he points out that Fisher’s “perfect gentleman" refused the appeal of an admiral for the mitigation of the death sentence on a boy who had attempted to assassinate a ferocious bureaucrat.

In any case, a little reflection should bring home to the reader of history the futility of “character” sketching, especially of the specific “appreciation” kind. An amusing collection of wildly differing appraisements could be compiled. Even in the matter of personal appearance incredible divergences of opinion occur. Bernard Shaw’s “handsome” Russian Dictator is about as different from David Low’s “pock-marked” Georgian as words and pen could make him (see New Statesman, week ending June 7th, 1941).

Fletcher Moulton was an acute Shakesperean critic. In the “New Shakespeare Society Transactions, 1886,” he characterised Henry the Fifth as a “perfect man and national hero.” David Somervell, to-day, in his little “Europe Throughout the Ages” (p. 41), roundly labels him “our own stupid military hero.” Page after page of glowing tribute by Macaulay to his Orange hero and saint must be compared with a note on William the Third in the chapter on “Primary Accumulation,” in Vol. I of Marx’s “Capital,” and Compton Mackenzie’s frank revelation in p. 82 of hisvery readable “Literature in My Time.”

The sober historian, bent on presenting the deep, main economic currents, will be content to leave the bewildering complexes, vaguely denominated “character” to the novelist and playwright (the film producer of historical “characters” has produced the reduction ad absurdum in this line). Heaven only knows the practically insuperable difficulty of getting “character” across the footlights. Supreme masters of stagecraft, Shakespeare and Ibsen, leave each thoughtful auditor with his own particular image of Hamlet or of Peer Gynt.

In many respects, Marx’s “18th Brumaire” is a model of historical monograph, but it is open to question whether the few mordant strokes of personal detail of its shabby hero do not constitute just the tiny fly of impatience in the otherwise pure ointment of historical presentation.

What can we say of Churchill’s estimate of Hitler in his broadcast last year (May 16th) to the Italian people. “ . . . . He is a great man,” followed by “There stands the criminal ”; the Prime Minister was never more revealing of the general outlook of the governing class. “Greatness" and criminality, if not equated, are at any rate not regarded as incompatible. Let there be no mistake. The present conflict, in spite of a superficial jettisoning of jingoism and lip-service to “Democracy,” has not altered the mental horizon of the capitalist class. The new found touching discovery of “brotherhood” between Bethnal Green and Mayfair is too late and too closely connected with the desperate struggle to save the sweets derived from the exploitation of labour from foreign appropriations to be convincing. There are not lacking signs that with all the powerful assistance rendered by oily-tongued religious pepmongers, with the servile acquiescence or hungry Labour leaders, the game played in 1914-18 will not be so successful after this war.

Hitlerism is more or less the British capitalists’ Frankenstein monster vaguely shaping in the slime of a brutal Imperialism, emerging in clearer outline after Versailles, and rising now to full stature in all its foulness to confront the astounded author of its being—a new Miltonic episode of Sin and Death!
Augustus Snellgrove

Notes by the Way: Well-Known Non-Socialist Becomes Ex-Socialist (1941)

The Notes by the Way Column from the July 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Well-Known Non-Socialist Becomes Ex-Socialist
In his “What Have I To Lose?” (Allen & Unwin. 1941. 2/6) Mr. W. J. Brown explains why he is no longer a Socialist in the sense understood by him. He writes: —
  “In earlier days I described myself as a Socialist. Except in a very generalised sense, I should hesitate to so describe myself to-day. This does not mean that 1 am less radical than I used to be. It means that I am more radical. For I have rebelled against the 'rebels,’ who (I now perceive) are not 'rebels,’ but inverted imitators of the reactionaries. I must explain this a little.
   “Britain and the British are older than the Capitalist system. They are older than the Socialist reaction against the Capitalist system. In their true nature they are not intimately concerned with either, for they are bigger and better than both. The curse of Capitalism (whose historic merit it was that it released the productive forces of society from the constraints and limitations of the feudal system) was that, in doing so, it subordinated Man to Money, and life to the mechanics of life. The curse of Socialism is that it accepts that subordination of life to the mechanics of life, and proposes only to substitute the State for the private Capitalist.”
Mr. Brown’s candour and sclf-assurance are alike amazing. He started off by failing to perceive that State capitalism, which he supported in the I.L.P. and Labour Party, was utterly opposed to Socialism. Being thus self-deceived he was able to preach State capitalism while calling it Socialism. Socialists, of course, never admitted Mr. Brown’s, absurd claim and denied his right to describe himself as a Socialist.

Now Mr. Brown comes forward in a white sheet of repentance—or, at least, he ought to. Actually, instead of admitting that he was wrong and that Socialists were right in condemning him, he continues to blame Socialism for his own caricature of it, and presents himself as a Socialist converted to rebellion against the rebels.

Perhaps Mr. Brown, through his success as a broadcaster, will be better known as an “Ex- Socialist” than he was before, but nemesis will overtake him. Let us suppose that Mr. Brown becomes a front-rank politician (an idea that has perhaps occurred to Mr. Brown). He will then be called upon to help in the administration of capitalism. In that position he will have to choose between introducing more State capitalism and trying to revert to the former state of affairs when private capitalism held undisputed sway. What will he do then? His present mood will turn him to private capitalism, but capitalism itself is not going that way, so Mr. Brown will be at war with himself. He will write another book explaining how he ceased to be an ex-Socialist. But unless, for the first time in his life, he becomes a Socialist he will not be anything but a hindrance to social progress.

A Testing Time for Prophets
This has been a high old time for prophets, both of the astrological and the political varieties. Here are a few utterances already liquidated by explosive events or still waiting their luck.
  “To-day the U.S.S.R. is the mightiest military and diplomatic force on the Continent of Europe or Asia.”— (Mr. W. P. Coates, “The U.S.S.R. and Poland,” October, 1939. Page 32.)
  “In a 6,000 mile journey through Soviet territory Professor Lancelot Hogben, of Aberdeen University, saw nothing to suggest that the Russian industrial system could stand the strain of a prolonged conflict with Germany.”— (News Chronicle, March 11th, 1941.)
   “Only yesterday we and America were faced with the tremendous job of smashing Hitler—with Russia looking on smiling. To-day . . . we have nothing to do but sit and smile while Stalin smashes Hitler.”—(G. B. Shaw, Manchester Guardian, June 23rd, 1941.)
   “Thus it may be admitted that Hitler has a fairly probable, if not absolutely certain, case for assuming that Russia cannot resist for long.”—(George Knupffer, Daily Mail, June 24th, 1941.)
    “I still hold to my forecast that they (Stalin and Hitler) won’t quarrel yet.”—(“What the Stars Foretell,” by R. H. Naylor, Sunday Express, June 22nd, 1941—the day the German, attack began.)
    “We, too, shall remain friends.”—(Stalin to the German Military Attache in Moscow, April, 1941.—Times, May 1st, 1941.)

War on Unemployment
The former Foreign Minister of France, Pierre Laval, is quoted as follows: —
   “First of all she [France] must make peace and then overcome unemployment, poverty and disorder and carry out social reconstruction.”—(News Chronicle, May 27th, 1941.)
Here is the same old confidence trick that has been played so often, that of pretending that it is war that causes and aggravates unemployment and poverty and that capitalism at peace can solve the problems. The answer is to be seen in the well-known fact that capitalism at peace has had ample time to tackle the problems but never did so. Only in war does capitalism reduce unemployment to negligible proportions.

It is now claimed by the Ministry of Labour (Daily Express, May 22nd, 1941), that after cutting out people who are unsuitable for industrial employment owing to age or infirmity, “there remain barely 200,000 workless men and women available for other jobs.” Only in war can the Ministry claim “that unemployment in the ordinary sense has been practically wiped out.”

Quick Changes by the Communist Party
A few quotations from publications and speeches of the Communist Party of Great Britain :—

September, 1939.
  “The Communist Party supports the war, believing it to be a just war which should be supported by the whole working class and all friends of democracy in Britain.”— (“How to Win the War,” by Harry Pollitt, published by the Compiunist Party.)

October, 1939.
  “We are against the continuance of the war. We demand that negotiations be immediately opened for the establishment of peace in Europe.”—(Daily Worker. October 4th, 1939.)

November, 1939.
  “This is an Imperialist war, like the war of 1914. It is a sordid exploiters’ war of rival millionaire groups, using the workers as their pawns in their struggle for world domination, for markets, colonies and profits, for the oppression of peoples.
   “This is a war to which no worker in any country can give support.”—(Mr. Palme Dutt, “Why this War?” published by Communist Party, November, 1939. Page 12.)
    The same month in 1939 Mr. W. Gallacher. M.P., wrote a pamphlet, “The War and the Workers,” which was published by the Communist Party. Among the “demands” made in the pamphlet was: —
  “Formation of a new Government which will carry out these demands, begin peace negotiations and represent the interests of the people against the armament kings and plundering millionaires.”
The week before June 22nd, 1941,
  “Soviet diplomacy has triumphed, the effort of the Anglo-French group of Capitalists to embroil the Soviet Union in war with Germany failed, and to-day it is the Capitalist Powers which are exhausting themselves in a devastating war.”—(From a Daily Worker Defence League pamphlet. Daily Telegraph, June 27, 1941.)
June 19th, 1941.
  "When Mr. W. Gallacher (West Fife), the only Communist M.P., interrupted Mr. Churchill in the House of Commons yesterday, the Prime Minister exclaimed: ‘ You had better be careful; you may get your marching orders— right about turn.’”—(Daily Express, June 20th, 1941.)
June 24th, 1941.
   “In view of the war that has been launched against the Soviet Union, it may be said that in a very short space of time there will be a-considerable shifting of attitude. I am not the only one who will do the shifting . . .”—(Mr. W. Gallacher, House of Commons, June 24th. Hansard, Column 985.)
June 26th, 1941.
   “Declaring that the Communist Party of Great Britain now stands for full co-operation with the Government in the defeat of the common foe, Mr. William Gallacher, Britain’s only Communist M,P., explained yesterday the new turn in his party’s policy.”—(Daily Telegraph, June 27th, 1941.)
    "I admit we have called this ‘a monstrous Imperialist war,’ but when there is an attack against the vanguard of the working class, the working classes in every country must unite.”—(W. Gallacher, reported in Daily Telegraph, June 27th, 1941.)
    “Mr. W. Gallacher, Communist M.P., in a statement yesterday outlining the party’s policy in face of the German attack on Russia, said that the Government would be supported in any steps to further co operation between Britain and the Soviet Union 'in the interests of the peoples of both countries.’
   “They would be prepared, he said, to discuss with members of the Labour or any other party measures to ensure that co-operation, and to inaugurate a big drive in the factories. The situation had now so changed that it was not necessary to put the campaign for a ‘people’s peace’ in the forefront.”—(The Times, June 27th, 1941.)
    "At the same time Mr. Pollitt made it clear that he at least is out to fight the war to a finish.
   “He said: ‘We must go on increasing our production and we must throw all our weight into the fight so that we shall batter hell out of Hitler and Fascism.’ ”— (News Chronicle, June 27th, 1941.)

Nat Gubbins and Mr. Laski
In a speech to a meeting of the London Labour Party, in which he dealt with Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. Harold Laski said: —
  ‘‘The war has proved beyond all question that the conflict of private interests could not produce a well-ordered commonwealth. The Government must control the whole mechanism of national credit—banks and the rest, and transport, coal and electric power.”—(Daily Herald, June 19th, 1941.)
This is the familiar Labour Party plan for State capitalism. A remark that Mr. Nat Gubbins puts into the mouth of one of the characters in his Sunday Express column seems to say all that need be said: —
   “The war has really resolved itself into one issue. Shall the people be exploited by the State or by private enterprise? ”
   “Whatever happens, they’re going to be exploited.”— (Sunday Express, June 22nd, 1941.)

Not What They Expected
Just before the cynical and brutal Nazi onslaught on Russia the National Committee of the Amalgamated Engineering Union voted by 29 to 21 in favour of the programme of the People’s Convention, which includes the demand for “A people’s peace that will get rid of the causes of war ” (Manchester Guardian, June 21st, 1941).

They can hardly have foreseen that the Communists, who were most active in the People's Convention, would be saying a few days later that the war had become a people’s war and that “it was not necessary to put the campaign for a people's peace in the forefront ’—a discreet way of saying that the whole thing is to be postponed indefinitely.

New Champions of Christianity
War produces curious changes and makes strange bedfellows. When the Russo-German Pact was signed in August, 1939, Mr. Duff Cooper said he was not surprised. While conceding that Bolshevism “is indeed less ignoble” than Nazism he found them "fundamentally akin.” “Both,” he wrote in an article in the Evening Standard (September 19th, 1939), “are bitterly anti-Christian.” He was glad that “The Powers of evil are now united. . . . The anti-Christian and anti-God forces are in step.”

But both, it seems, are now anxious not to offend Christian opinion. From Germany comes the news that ”the German episcopate” (a Nazi-controlled body) “has sent a message to the pastors of all dioceses describing the war against the Soviet Union as a fight for Christianity in the whole world ” (Evening Standard, June 25th, 1941).

From Russia a few days later came the news that “12,000 worshippers thronged Moscow Cathedral to-day, when 26 priests, led by the acting Patriarch Serger, prayed for victory for the Russian troops” (News Chronicle, June 30th, 1941).
Edgar Hardcastle

Tit-Bits from the Capitalist Stewpot (1941)

From the July 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

How Much to Tip the Waiter?
War brings many changes, and the Evening Standard (May 24th. 1941) reports that tips have declined considerably in the smaller London hotels, but adds:—
   The reduction of gratuities is not so marked in the more expensive places. The 10s. meal is usually tipped half a crown, and on a 50s. dinner-for-two bill the waiter would expect at least 10s.
That makes three quid for a meal for two. Not bad going, these days—What? Equality of sacrifice and all that.

In the Land of Democracy
The May Reader's Digest summarises an article by Colonel William J. Donovan, in which he affirms the “toughness” of democratic nations, with particular reference to the U.S.A. In this article it is stated : “About a third of our people receive incomes insufficient to maintain a minimum standard of healthy living.”

Science and the Working Class. (1923)

From the January 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

Although many of the bourgeois scientists, like Professor Ray Lankester, complain that the capitalists do not spend more money on the promotion of science, the fact is that they spend sufficient to meet their requirements.

What are their requirements? Profits.

The capitalists live by exploiting the working-class, and only in so far as any scientific discovery will lead to the obtaining by them of a greater share of the world's wealth, will they encourage the promotion of scientific knowledge.

There is, however, nothing new in this characteristic of the capitalists; their whole history is associated with this fact. In their struggle for supremacy over the feudal barons, the early capitalists discovered one of the obstacles to their advance was that pillar of feudal society, the Roman Catholic Church, of which Engels says :—
  “It united the whole of feudalised Western Europe, in spite of all internal wars, into one grand political system, opposed as much to the schismatic Greeks as to the Mohammedan countries. It surrounded feudal institutions with the halo of divine consecration. It had organized its own hierarchy on the feudal model, and, lastly, it was itself by far the most powerful feudal lord, holding, as it did, fully one-third of the soil of the Catholic world.”—(Socialism, Utopian and Scientific. Page 24. Kerr edition.)
Therefore, to undermine the "divine rights" of the feudal rulers, was one of the immediate tasks set before the capitalists; a task that was largely accomplished by the aid of science.

Coincident with the struggle of the capitalists to gain a greater share of political power proceeded the revival of scientific learning, and while science had hitherto been the humble servant of the church, confined within the limits set by the faith, and, says Engels, "for that reason had been no science at all,” it now revolted against the church, and sided with the bourgeoisie in their revolutionary mission.

For the development of industrial production, the capitalists needed a science which ascertained the properties of natural objects and the modes of action of the forces of nature. Thus were they constrained to allow the scientists freedom to study the forces of nature. Natural science and the newly discovered natural laws served as tools in the hands of the bourgeoisie against the nobility, clergy-rights, and feudal lords. Social institutions were proved to be man’s own handy-work, and not the result of divine intervention. So with science unhampered by the restrictions of feudalism, rapid advances were made in scientific knowledge.

At the same time such events as the discovery of the new sea route to India, the "fairyland full of immeasurable treasure,” and the discovery of America "with its inexhaustible supply of gold and silver,” also stimulated the growth of science, inasmuch as these discoveries opened up the possibilities of a world market, and satisfied the demands of wealth production on a large scale, as against the handicraft mode of production which prevailed hitherto.

From then down to the present time science has been harnessed to the car of industry, and it can be truthfully said that, nowadays, with its aid, wealth can now be produced almost as plentifully as water. But to the student of working-class politics, there is another side to the story. The socialist is not at all concerned as to whether the capitalists spend little or no money at all on scientific experiments, he knows that they will see to this themselves; what does concern him is that every fresh application of science to industry is a means of increasing the exploitation of the working-class. As the capitalist class own and control the means of wealth production, they also own the wealth when it is produced; only a minor fraction of this wealth goes back to the wealth producers; this fraction they must have to enable them to repeat the performance of producing wealth. Both classes will strive to obtain as great a share of the wealth as possible, but the capitalist being masters of the situation will be in the most favourable position; consequently, any new device to lower the cost of production will be eagerly sought after them. The most up-to-date machinery, or the latest discovery of science, as long as it can be utilised in the productive process, generally serves to increase their share of the wealth produced.

As an instance of the application of scientific methods as an aid to production, I have before me a report of a lecture delivered at the meeting of the British Association held at Hull. Speaking on the subject of Psychology and Industry, Dr. Charles Myers said :—
  “That the function of the psychologist was to try to discover how unnecessary movements causing needless fatigue could be done away with.”
He then went on to give an instance of an application of this psychological test.
  “He told us how in a well-known chocolate factory this had been overcome, and certain improvements had been suggested and adopted; and by the elimination of many unnecessary movements endlessly repeated, the workers had been able to increase their output ; and not only felt less fatigued, but also more contented at the end of the day/’— Daily News, September 8th, 1922.
Mr. Rowntree, of York, also testified to this in greater detail, and spoke of the excellence of the results obtained. So we learn that, leaving aside the point about the workers being more contented at the end of the day, by the application of the test the output of wealth was greater. As to whether the workers were contented at the end of the week, in the event of their discharge, our psychologist does not enlighten us. So just as the mathematical and other sciences have assisted in the exploitation of the working class, so mental science or, to give it its Sunday name, Psychology, is made to serve a similar purpose. Nevertheless, what has been said does not mean that the workers should not devote their I spare time to the study of scientific subjects, on the contrary they should use every means at their disposal to make themselves acquainted with science. As already pointed out, science in the hands of the master-class served them well in their struggle for their emancipation, as it has served them well since.

The workers must also utilise science to gain a knowledge of the means by which they can achieve their freedom from capitalist domination.

The study of the science of society, Sociology, which covers the entire range of human development, including the social sub-sciences such as history, economics, ethics, politics and psychology, will provide the key to the overthrow of the system under which the workers are robbed. The workers of the world must awaken to a recognition of the necessity of education, that is education that will give them an understanding of the laws of social evolution. They should learn all about the nature of the process by which they are robbed and kept in subjection. With this knowledge they will take the necessary action to establish Socialism; then as owners of the world's forces of production, they will welcome every fresh advance of science as an aid to the happiness of society. Fellow-workers make a study of and organise for the establishment of Socialism.
Robert Reynolds.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Capital Sentence. (1923)

From the January 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the period of the late European carnage, when the world’s youth was engaged in making the world safe for hypocrisy, the manufacture of death-dealing instruments proceeded apace at the Government Arsenal at Woolwich. Mechanics were drafted from all parts of the country to this arsenal in order to provide the “Tommies” the means wherewith to disembowel the “Fritzes.” Sufficient accommodation not being available in the district, the Government perforce had to erect shelters—one could not truthfully term them houses—in which the munition workers and their families could live.

When the capitalists deemed it advisable to call a halt to the slaughter, the demand for armaments became less urgent, and the Arsenal workers, like Othello, found their occupation gone. For various reasons, chief among these perhaps was the shortage of working class dwellings, the munition makers were unable to return to the districts in which they formerly resided. In many cases these workers were unable to pay the rent demanded (for it must not be supposed that a munificent Government had allowed them to live in these houses rent free), and arrears accrued in amounts ranging from £15 to £70. Then did the Government, through H.M. Office of Works, apply to the Woolwich County Court for possession of the “houses." Before the Court, the tenants were represented by a solicitor. The Star (4/10/22) states:—
  Mr. I. H. Macdonald, defending, said that many of these men had been induced to come to Woolwich to work for the Government, and now, being out of work, were unable to leave owing to the housing difficulty. Lewisham Guardians. . . . unlike other boards, had not given relief in cash to pay the rent.
However, these facts did not influence the Court, and so, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not, ejectment orders were granted to the landlords, suspended as long as the current rent was paid, and a certain amount of the arrears paid off. But the action did not end before the worthy Judge, Sir T. Grainger, had unburdened himself of a masterly example of capitalist jurisprudence. Listen to the band :—
  When one defendant said he was not responsible for being out of work. Judge Sir Thomas Grainger said, “I cannot hear you on that. Until Labour can regard Capital as its greatest benefactor there will always be unemployment.—Star, 4/10/22.
Until Labour can regard"—kind regards, Sir Thomas!

The halo of “impartiality” with which the capitalist scribes so dearly love to adorn the court judges, has many times been the subject of comment in these columns, and although this incident serves to show just how much, or how little, favour the worker may expect in the Courts, we may leave this point aside, and, for the sake of the credulous, once more focus the searchlight of Socialist analysis on the cause of unemployment, and see just how long unemployment need last.

The principle cause of unemployment is the fact that, by virtue of their monopoly of the instruments for producing the necessities of life, the capitalists are able to rob the workers of the wealth they (the workers) produce—the capitalists returning, on the average, just sufficient of that wealth to enable the workers to keep physically fit to go on producing, and to reproduce their species. The difference between the total amount produced by the workers and that portion returned to them still leaves a vast surplus of commodities unconsumed. It should be borne in mind that this difference increases as machinery develops and the productivity of labour increases. Now, in spite of all the riots of luxury indulged in by the capitalists, the Royal weddings, and what not, a surfeit of goods still remains. The workers obviously cannot buy back these goods, however much they may be in need of them. Thus the markets of the world become overstocked. As, under the present system, goods are only produced for profit, when the capitalist is not sure of a market for the goods, production is slackened, and the unemployed army increases. And this unemployed army will last just as long as the present system of producing for profit lasts. All talk therefore of capital being a “benefactor” is so much moonshine, intended to mislead the unthinking. “Malefactor” is the right word, and while we find judges ready to mouth such platitudes as quoted above, we can realise how earnest was Bumble’s dictum : “If the law supposes that, the law is an ass—an idiot.”

Bestir yourselves then workers! Study Socialism, and make yourselves proof against the dope issued by the masters daily from pulpit, Press, and platform. Having done that, make yourselves judges of the motives of the master class, and organise in the Socialist Party in order to pronounce the capital sentence on the present system, with its unemployment and the attendant evils — poverty, misery, and disease.
H. W. M

Where does the Labour Party stand? (1923)

Editorial from the January 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the recent election battle the Labour Party, true to the only principle it possesses, fought for votes. The voters, except for an almost negligible minority, are opposed to attack on the present system of society. To get their votes the Labour Party had therefore to offer them something statesmanlike and inoffensive, differing just enough from the programmes of the opposing political parties to gain the sympathy of the discontented. It stood, therefore, as a bulwark against both “reaction and revolution”; but it was going to rap the knuckles of the profiteer with a capital levy. It didn’t explain how the cancelling of State debts to capitalists with money taken from capitalists, would alter the position of the workers as a slave class, and in case of misunderstanding it hastened to point out that Bonar Law had recently been strong in his approval. It advocated nationalisation, a measure definitely inimical to working-class interests, and hid behind the Daily Mail, which during the war, supported this proposal as a means of allaying discontent.

The “No More War” Labour Party was so far successful as to return 146 members to the House, the majority of whom supported the late war.

The election over, a rapid change took place in the attitude of the Daily Herald, the Labour Party’s mouthpiece. The Labour Party exists on money obtained through Trade Union affiliation, and self-preservation and the need to demonstrate the usefulness of money spent on political activities, required that the Labour Party should make at least a pretence of forcing the Government to be more generous to the unemployed and to try to lessen unemployment. They had to make a brave show, and they did.

The Herald made much of the Labour Members’ belligerent attitude at the opening of the House, when by a skilful combining of some revolutionary jargon with the politicians’ ordinary verbal window-dressing, they succeeded in creating the desired impression. Thousands of emotional “rebels,” with short memories and no knowledge of Socialism, felt delightful thrills and settled down blissfully happy to await the coming of the millennium, introduced gracefully but firmly, and above all constitutionally, by J. R. Clynes and Ramsay MacDonald.

To point to the Labour Party’s black record and to remind the over-trustful that the Labour Party was part of the Coalition Government up to 1918, and shared responsibility for all the acts of that Government, is to these people merely partisan bias. “Give Labour a chance,” they say, as if nearly a generation of persistent betrayal were not enough. But why wait?

Are the problems which face the workers capable of solution within the capitalist system, or are they not? If they are, then Socialism is not only an idle dream, but to waste time and energy on propagating Socialism is criminal folly. If they are not, then those who divert working-class energies to a futile attempt to save the present system are of necessity enemies of the workers and must be irreconcilably opposed by the Socialist. There is no need to await events to put this to the test. The workers are slaves to the capitalist class because the latter own the means of producing wealth. The workers will either replace Capitalism by Socialism, or they will retain Capitalism. If they perpetuate Capitalism they will perpetuate their slavery to the capitalist class. The form may change; the slaves may become well-fed and well-clothed; they may be given access to the literary and artistic crumbs from their master’s table; they may become contented, but they will still be slaves.

Wage slavery is inherent in the capitalist organisation of society. The presence of a number, even of a majority of Labour Members in the House of Commons will not alter the fact. When the workers understand and want Socialism, they will have it; not before. Many Labour Members really do imagine, although elected on a non-Socialist programme, that they can take action in Parliament to further Socialism; but they are no less dangerous because it is with sincerity that they propagate their delusion.

What is of chief moment, is that the majority of the Labour Members, from ignorance or with intent, are prepared to support the continued existence of the capitalist system.

As Philip Snowden says :
  “The British Labour Party is certainly not Socialist in the sense in which Socialism is understood upon the Continent. It is not based upon the recognition of the class struggle; it does not accept the teaching of Marx . . .” (Manchester Guardian Reconstruction Supplement. 26th Oct., 1922.)
As Mrs. Snowden says, the object of the British Labour Party is to demonstrate that it is “a practical alternative Government,” led by a man (Ramsay MacDonald), who “will uphold a constitutional Government as rigorously as any Conservative,” and who can be imagined “seconding the suspension of a Labour Member from the Clyde with a dignity and a reverence for the House of Commons, which even Mr. Asquith could not surpass ” (Observer, November 25th, 1922).

The Labour Party’s main argument is that an honest and efficient Government, sympathetic to the aspirations of the workers, can remove unemployment or reduce it to a negligible quantity, abolish war, and in general can solve the many problems of the day without revolutionising society; without abolishing Capitalism.

Ramsay MacDonald, Leader of the Labour Party, said in the House of Commons :—
  “We of the Labour Party are not interested in ameliorative measure prepared by the late Government. We are interested in the blunders of the late Government, which created the conditions from which unemployment sprang.” (Daily Herald, 24th Nov., 1922.)
E. D. Morel, speaking the next day, on foreign policy, is reported by the Herald as follows :—
  “The present situation, said Mr. Morel, was the outcome of the errors and faults committed at Versailles, and the situation could not be remedied until those faults were remedied.” 
and again,
  "The group system [of alliances] was responsible for the war.” (25th November.)
If unemployment, which as a product of modern industrialism has been intermittently acute for 100 years, really is due to the “blunders of the late Government”; if war is caused by a particular foreign policy, and not by the inevitable clashing of capitalist interests, then Socialism is unnecessary. But an elementary study of the working of modern industry is sufficient to show that war and unemployment are natural products of the capitalist system of production.
   “There were misery, want and unemployment under capitalism before the exchanges went to pieces or the indemnity was imposed; and there will be misery, want and unemployment as long as capitalism lasts; but, at any rate, the people who run capitalism might make the best of their own iniquitous system, and not combine with the wickedness of the system the lunacy of making the worst of it.” (Daily Herald, 19th Dec., 1921.)
The choice for the workers is, therefore, not between “the group system and the League of Nations,” it is not between a Tory administration and a Labour administration of the capitalist system; their choice is between Capitalism and Socialism. The Labour Party by past actions and present declarations stands for Capitalism, with modifications perhaps, but for Capitalism nevertheless. If it succeeds in helping the capitalists to "make the best of their own iniquitous system,” they will no doubt be appropriately grateful.

But is there any need, and can the workers afford, to wait another five years for an answer to our question?

Sex. (1923)

From the January 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard
  "The economic structure of society, is the real basis on which the juridical and political superstructure is raised, and to which definite social forms of thought correspond; that the mode of production determines the character of the social, political, and intellectual life generally." K. Marx, Capital, p. 54.
How many times have our opponents warned us that the establishment of Socialism would involve the destruction of family life, which, we are informed, forms the very basis of “our” civilisation and “our” humanity.

The inference being, that despite the refining (sic) influences of war, poverty, unemployment, and other vicissitudes of working-class life, sex relations are still governed by only the purest and most lofty of motives: In sober truth this aspect of their lives forms one of the saddest features in the irksome sameness of the toilers drab existence.

Even the Press treads warily when writing upon such a subject, and reformers employ cunning caution lest orthodox respectability and conventional morality be outraged, and exposed for the sordid and mercenary institution, Capitalism forces it to become: Poets, artists, and singers have exercised their talents to the glorification of that highly developed human emotion, sex love; but does it require a profound wisdom to discern that, to millions to-day, the major portion of whose life is spent in the life sapping process of wealth production for the enjoyment of others, such emotions cannot find an environment wherein the most beautiful expression of such feelings can fructify: Fundamentally, the objective of such relations, must always be the reproduction of the human species, which implies the production of food, clothing, and shelter. Just as there have been varying methods of producing these things, so have there been changing sex relations in the human family.
  "We have, then, three main forms of the family corresponding in general to the three main stages of human development, for savagery, group marriage, for barbarism the pairing family, for civilisation, monogamy, supplemented by adultery and prostitution." "Origin of the Family." F, Engels, (p. 90.)
From the available information collected by travellers, missionaries, sociologists, and aided by the Socialist method of studying social development, as summarised at the beginning of this article, it becomes clear that woman’s economic subjection commences with the early accumulation of property. The further development of property caused the transference of recognised descent from the maternal to the paternal side. This enforced fidelity upon the married female, though still allowing for irregular forms of cohabitation for the male. Concubinage or the sexual submission of female slaves to their owners, was recognised under chattel slavery. With modifications the “rights” of the ruling- class over their economic inferiors, persists through Feudalism, and to this day, under the hypocritical guise of freedom and the monetary purchase of the daughters and sisters of the working-class. The workers in general accept the morality imposed upon them by the possessors of their means of livelihood, the capitalist class. “The ruling ideas of any particular age have ever been only the ideas of its ruling class" (Communist Manifesto). That the property basis of sex relations should give rise to a double standard of morality has ever confused our would-be moral reformers, to whom, these relations appear as man-made laws, or sex antagonism.

But to-day, larger numbers of women than ever before must seek the labour market in order to dispose of their bodily activities, their only possession, to the class who own all the resources of nature, the master class. Add to this the economic inability of large numbers of men to marry, and is it to be wondered at that in the large cities thousands of women and girls, unable to secure the ordinary occupational opportunity to live, drift to that degrading cesspool of Capitalism, “The Streets.” Even marriage, when the primary motive of the woman is the apparent security it confers upon her, inevitably leads to discord and unhappiness. Working-class life and “security” are incompatible: Too often, alas! it means that marriage transforms a bright and cheerful girl into a haggard domestic drudge, worn out with worry and anxiety long before the idle dolls and playthings of our masters lose their bloom and freshness of youth; try as they may, the efforts of our reformers must fail, they can seek to “rescue the fallen,” or extol the blessings of “virtue," combined with work in some capitalist sweat den, but while the same conditions remain which breed the criminals, the paupers, the millionaires, and those who must traffic their sex to live, in short Capitalism, their efforts cannot avail. The vicious conditions of life, whether unemployment, overwork, or the perversion of the most exquisite physical functions, have their origin deep in a system of life which we claim has outlived its usefulness. Our analysis of present-day society proclaims the workers the only useful class; when workers reach that consciousness, they will understand that their emancipation involves the emancipation of humanity irrespective of race or sex. Then women, like men, will become units in a classless society; wherein the useful necessary tasks of that day, will be undertaken by all capable, with the object of securing the best physical and mental development possible. Socialism will assure a leisured and bountiful life to all, because, even with our present powers of production, unfettered by the restrictions of trade and profit, and used with the object of satisfying all our needs, with the minimum of effort, wealth could be produced to almost any quantity we might demand. As yet, we have but scratched nature’s skin; under Socialism the basis of our social order will cease to be a private property one, giving way to common ownership and democratic control by the whole people : Individual egotism can then be pursued through the communal welfare of all, as against the present wasteful competitive cut-throat methods of life. Under such conditions the strongest sex attraction yet known, mutual affection, will have opportunity of free and unhampered expressing, bringing forth a race of intelligent and beautiful men and women.

What is Capital? (1923)

Letters to the Editors from the January 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Sir,

I should be obliged with your opinion on the following: —Is it illogical to say “that under Socialism we cannot or will not have capital ”?

My affirmation of the above proposition brought me into conflict with a person who says: “Yes; you will have capital under Socialism.” His point was that, scientifically speaking, the form of ownership of any given thing cannot affect its name which means or implies certain qualities not altering with ownership, i.e., the qualities of gunpowder, of a rifle, of an engine, etc., are not determined by ownership, but by function.

Thus you have now quantities of wealth reserved for the purpose of further wealth production (capital); of a necessity you would have this repeated under Socialism; consequently you would have capital.
Yours, etc.,
F. G. R.

The above letter was mislaid, and consequently there has been some delay in dealing with it.

Capital is not merely “wealth reserved for the purpose of further wealth production.’’ It is wealth used for the purpose of profit.

To be strictly accurate, capital is a function of money; it is money which begets money; money invested for the purpose of bringing back a larger amount of money than that which was originally advanced.

The starting point of all capitalist operations is the investing of money. A glance at the prospectus of any company will make this evident. A long period of time, and complicated processes, may intervene between the original investing of the money and its final return, plus an increment; nevertheless the increment was the object of the investment.

The increment, or extra money, is the form taken by unpaid labour — surplus value. The cause of the production of this increment is the fact that the worker produces more in a given time than he receives for working during that time; in other words, he produces a surplus of value above the value of his means of subsistence. This surplus goes to the capitalist, as the worker receives on the average only a sum equal to his cost of subsistence.

Production of articles for sale with a view to profit is the basis upon which capitalism is built. Before this can become the rule, two essentials are requisite. First, wealth must be privately owned; and second, there must be a stock of free labourers on the market—free to be bought along with the other articles necessary for the production of wealth. The free labourer is a product of modern times. He is free in the sense that neither family nor territorial ties interfere with the sale of his labour power. He is also free in the sense that he may starve (providing he does not make himself a public nuisance !) if he does not find a buyer for his labour power.

In past stages of social development, capital has appeared here and there, but only as the odd, the unusual element in production. Originally it appeared as lending money in the hands of usurers. It only became the social rule when a new type of worker appeared, who was bound by no feudal or other ties, and was free to sell his energy to whoever wished to buy. Capital is therefore bound up with wage slavery.

To sum the matter up: the existence of capital as the general condition of a society presupposes the existence of a class producing surplus value and a class appropriating it; a robbed and a robber class; a class producing wealth which it does not own, and a class owning wealth which it does not produce.
With the introduction of Socialism, the private ownership of wealth will cease to prevail; wealth will be produced for use and not for profit. Consequently wealth wilt not function as capital. The conditions for the existence of capital having disappeared, capital will do likewise.

There is a well-known case of a fellow named Othello who, owing to certain circumstances found his occupation gone. Pity the poor capitalist—he will emulate Othello!

Vote Swapping. (1923)

From the January 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

How the Labour Party will emancipate the workers.
  “At yesterday’s meeting of Inverness Trades and Labour Council, a telegram was read from Arthur Henderson, stating that in the absence of a Labour candidate, Labour’s interests are to defeat the Government.
  “The Council, therefore, resolved to recommend trade unionists, who numbered about 4,000, to vote for the Independent Liberal candidate.” (Daily Herald, March 4th, 1922.)
  “Widnes Liberals have decided to support the candidature of Mr. Arthur Henderson, the Labour Leader.” (Star, November 1st, 1922.)

Rosa Luxemburg, political democracy and mass action (2019)

SPGB Pamphlet
From the January 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

Rosa Luxemburg, who was murdered a hundred years ago this month, had been a socialist member of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) until it supported the German government in the First World War, sharing its basic positions. She advocated that the working class should win control of political power with a view to replacing capitalism with a society based on the common ownership of the means of production by the whole of society, with production directly for use. She held that the exercise of political power to bring this change should take place within the framework of political democracy, and that even under capitalism political democracy was the best framework for the development of the working class and socialist movements; in fact, a consistent theme of her political views was that the ‘proletariat’ (the working class) had to take up the torch for democracy abandoned by the once-progressive ‘bourgeoisie’.

She also accepted that, in addition to the ‘maximum’ programme of socialism, a socialist party should also have, as did the SPD and parties in other countries modelled on it, a programme of social and political reforms to be achieved under capitalism. In her famous pamphlet Reform or Revolution (1898) her opposition was not to reforms as such nor to campaigning for them, but to reformism as the doctrine that capitalism could be gradually transformed into socialism by a series of social reform measures enacted by parliament. This was the view of the ‘Revisionists’ within the SPD and was the target of her pamphlet.

Elsewhere she explained the official SPD (and her) attitude towards parliamentary action:
  ‘The parliamentary struggle, however, the counterpart of the trade-union struggle, is equally with it, a fight conducted exclusively on the basis of the bourgeois social order. It is by its very nature, political reform work, as that of the trade-unions is economic reform work. It represents political work for the present, as trade-unions represent economic work for the present.’ (The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions, chapter VIII).
This is the correct meaning of the word ‘parliamentarism’. It does not mean participating in elections and going into parliament but using parliament to get reforms under capitalism.

The Revisionists lost the vote but they won the war as the SPD came to concentrate more and more on parliamentary activity, prioritising increases in its representation in national and regional parliaments and pursuing social reforms, in some places through deals with the Liberal or Catholic parties. Luxemburg could see where this was leading. And where in fact it did eventually lead: to the SPD becoming a democratic social reform party, relegating its maximum programme of socialism to a distant future or to conference rhetoric. Naturally, she was opposed to this.

Her alternative was the ‘mass strike’, basically extra-parliamentary action, initially still to get reforms, what the anarchists call ‘direct action’. Her argument was that reforms obtained in this way would not lead to encouraging mere ‘parliamentarism’ but would prepare the working class for the mass action that the establishment of socialism would have to involve.

Knowing Marx’s insistence on the need for the working class to win control of political power so as to be in a position to change the basis of society from class to common ownership, she was at pains to distinguish her position from that of the anarchists. This was obvious enough anyway since the actual ‘mass strikes’ that she supported were aimed at obtaining or extending political democracy.

Mass strikes to get the vote
This was how she analysed the uprising in Russia in 1905 in her pamphlet The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions (1906). She knew perfectly well that a socialist revolution was out of the question in Russia and that what was on the agenda was a ‘bourgeois revolution’ to establish a democratic republic with a parliament within which the working class could press for social reforms. As she wrote:
  ‘. . . the mass strike in Russia has been realised not as a means of evading the political struggle of the working-class, and especially of parliamentarism, not as a means of jumping suddenly into the social revolution by means of a theatrical coup, but as a means, firstly, of creating for the proletariat the conditions of the daily political struggle and especially of parliamentarism’ (chapter 1).
The events in Russia confirmed a view that she had already come to a few years earlier in relation to the campaign in Belgium for universal suffrage, as not just votes for everybody but equal votes for everybody, i.e., with no mechanism to make the votes of rich property-owners count more than those of workers.

Votes for every man had been obtained in Belgium as a result of a general strike in 1893 but with the rich having more than one vote. An attempt to make this more democratic in 1902 by abolishing plural votes had failed despite another general strike. Luxemburg argued that this failure was due to the leaders of the Belgian Workers Party concentrating on doing a deal with the Liberals in the Belgian parliament and calling off the strike to facilitate this. She argued that if the strike had been maintained the aim could have been achieved (see: LINK).

Precisely the same issue came up in Germany itself in 1909 in relation to the electoral system in Prussia. Prussia, the dominant state within the German empire and where its capital Berlin was situated, had a three-class electoral system which gave more weight to the votes of the rich. The SPD launched a campaign for all votes to count equally. Luxemburg fully supported this campaign but argued that mass strikes would be the best way to secure this.

Her position was a bit incoherent because she argued, on the one hand, that mass strikes could not be planned in advance and launched by a decree from on high but had to break out spontaneously from below, while, on the other, she was criticising the SPD leadership for not calling for one. Her position seems to have been that the SPD should accept and encourage the general idea of a mass strike as a weapon to obtain reforms and support such strikes when they broke out.

No Leninist
This position of support for ‘spontaneous’ mass action meant that her views were the exact opposite of Lenin’s. If she thought that the SDP bureaucracy should not seek to call strikes this would apply even more to Lenin’s much more centralised vanguard party. She had in fact criticised in 1904 Lenin’s views in his What is To Be Done? when they became known outside Russia:
  ‘If we assume the viewpoint claimed as his own by Lenin and we fear the influence of intellectuals in the proletarian movement, we can conceive of no greater danger to the Russian party than Lenin’s plan of organization. Nothing will more surely enslave a young labour movement to an intellectual elite hungry for power than this bureaucratic straightjacket, which will immobilize the movement and turn it into an automaton manipulated by a Central Committee’ (Her italics. See: LINK).
Her reaction to the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in November 1917 was to support the overthrow of the pro-war provisional government and the new government’s appeals for world revolution – but she was severely critical of some of the policies the Bolsheviks adopted, including the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (she said they should have called fresh elections to it) and minority dictatorship:
  ‘Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously – at bottom, then, a clique affair – a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins (the postponement of the Soviet Congress from three-month periods to six-month periods!). Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc. (Lenin’s speech on discipline and corruption.)’ (See LINK).
Spartacus League
As it happened, in both Russia and Germany autocratic rule was overthrown as a result of unplanned mass action. By then, following the slaughter of the First World War, Luxemburg had become convinced that socialism itself – the ‘maximum’ programme – was on the agenda and that the alternative was ‘socialism or barbarism.’ She was now a member of the Spartacus League, a party formed by anti-war ex-members of the SPD. Introducing its new programme, which she had drafted, to the party’s conference on 31 December 1918, she identified what had gone wrong with the SPD as the division of its programme into maximum and minimum parts and its concentration on parliamentary activity to achieve the latter:
  ‘Until the collapse of August 4, 1914, German Social Democracy took its stand upon the Erfurt Programme, by which the so-called immediate minimal aims were placed in the forefront, while socialism was no more than a distant guiding star, the ultimate goal. (….) Our programme is deliberately opposed to the standpoint of the Erfurt Programme; it is deliberately opposed to the separation of the immediate, so-called minimal demands formulated for the political and economic struggle from the socialist goal regarded as a maximal programme. In this deliberate opposition [to the Erfurt Programme] we liquidate the results of seventy years’ evolution and above all, the immediate results of the World War, in that we say: For us there is no minimal and no maximal programme; socialism is one and the same thing: this is the minimum we have to realize today’ (LINK).
The programme itself is a 1918 version of the Communist Manifesto of 1848. It reads very well and proclaimed:
  ‘Down with the wage system! That is the slogan of the hour! Instead of wage labour and class rule there must be collective labour. The means of production must cease to be the monopoly of a single class; they must become the common property of all. No more exploiters and exploited! Planned production and distribution of the product in the common interest. Abolition not only of the contemporary mode of production, mere exploitation and robbery, but equally of contemporary commerce, mere fraud’ (LINK).
The programme went into more detail about the form that the ‘mass action’ Luxemburg had always favoured (previously for political reform) would take, at least in the conditions in Germany at the time, when the aim was to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism: workers and soldiers councils which would challenge the capitalist state politically and employers economically. She personally, as in her speech, didn’t rule out contesting elections to the National Assembly and using it for ‘revolutionary purposes’ or as ‘a new school of education for the working class’, a position rejected by a majority of the League’s members. In any event, this wasn’t central to the revolution she believed was imminent.

Unfortunately, just as Marx and Engels had misjudged the situation in 1848 in expecting an ‘immediately following proletarian revolution’, so Luxemburg and the Spartacus League misjudged the situation in 1918. Only a relatively small number of workers supported the League’s programme, and their uprising in January 1919 was crushed. Luxemburg had considered it premature but had loyally gone along with the majority decision. It cost her her life.

We can only speculate as to what position she would have taken later had she not been murdered in 1919 but it is unlikely that she would have abandoned her life-long commitment to democracy or her view that socialism had to be established by the conscious mass action of workers themselves ‘from below’ rather than by the action ‘from above’ of a parliamentary or vanguardist party.
Adam Buick