Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Socialism and "The Third International" (1925)

From the March 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain stands for the International Organisation of the Working Class for the achievement of Socialism throughout the entire Capitalist World. It is not sufficient, however, for parties to call themselves Socialist or Communist to arouse our desires to affiliate with them. To be worthy of the name and to be useful in the struggle for Socialism, every party must be based upon a recognition of the class struggle and the line of action necessary for the workers to achieve victory over the capitalists.

The so-called Second International we long ago recognised as an anti-Socialist body, and therefore refused to affiliate with it. In the pages of the "Socialist Standard" we have exposed the opportunism and compromise of that body. The confusion and reformism exhibited in their International Congresses showed that it must be opposed and exposed, and the pages of this journal will testify to our criticism of the Bebels, Hyndmans, Millerands and Kautskys, who composed the leadership. We not merely exposed the leaders, but showed that the constitution and composition of the Second International were opposed to Socialism. We did not wait for the lessons of "wartime betrayals," but while people like Lenin and Rosa Luxembourg were active within it, we laid down reasons why it could not function for Socialists. The parties composing it were not Socialist, and the policy it pursued was therefore anti-Socialist.

The war gave added evidence to our criticism of the jingoistic and capitalist nature of it. Since the war the Noskes and Scheidemans, the MacDonalds and the Brantings have shown the entire capitalist character of this alleged Socialist International.

The fact the largest unit of it is the British Labour Party, which in no sense even claims to be Socialist, shows how little this International is entitled to be called Socialist. The German Social Democrats have supplied further evidence of the need for untiring Socialist hostility to this mockery of an International.

Those who seceded from the Second International took action following the war to form a "fighting" International—the so-called Third, or Communist, International. It is generally supposed to be a real live revolutionary body such as every revolutionary should join. We propose, therefore, to examine its claims for support. Our previous remarks about the "Second" International should be borne in mind, because it will be shown that, despite all the Moscow denunciations of the "Second International," the two bodies possess sufficient in common to make joint action between them possible, not only in conference, but as allies in government.

Soon after the conquest of power by the Bolsheviki, the call for an International Congress at Moscow was issued. It was signed by Lenin and Trotsky for the Russian Communist Party and by eight other organisations. Amongst these latter was Lenin's Secretary, Boris Reinstein, who signed for the Socialist Labor Party of America, without their consent or endorsement. Whether the other signatures had the backing of their organisations is not known.

The unsound position taken up at the inception of the 3rd International may be gathered from this call or manifesto.

"As a basis for the new International, we deem necessary the recognition of the following clauses, which we shall consider our platform and which have been worked out on the basis of the programme of the Spartacus Group in Germany and the Communist Party in Russia:-

"1. The present is the period of dissolution, and the collapse of the entire world system which will mean the entire collapse of European culture if capitalism with its unsolvable contradictions is not destroyed.
"2. The problem of the proletariat consists in immediately seizing the power of the State. This seizure of the power of the State means the destruction of the State apparatus of the bourgeoisie and the organisation of a new proletarian apparatus of power." The notion that Capitalism was collapsing in 1919 permeated the entire policy of the new "International." The framers of the manifesto knew little of the actual state of affairs outside Russia, and evidently thought the end of the war was the death knell of the system. Thus the passage quoted tells the workers that the problem is the immediate seizure of the power of the State. The danger of such advice was easily proved by the small bodies on Russian lines that arose throughout the world, and adopted these mottoes of "seizing power" and "now is the time," "the revolution is just around the corner." The great mass of the workers were in no mood to seize power and would not know what to do with it if they did. The majority of workers were ignorant of their class interests, and were still saturated with the ideas of their masters. To tell them to seize power was not the message of Socialism, for before they can seize power with advantage to themselves the workers needed Socialist education—an understanding of the system under which they lived and the forces controlling it. To tell the workers of the world to seize power at once was to invite them to be crushed by the forces of the State, whose death-dealing power had so recently been shown on the battlefield.

The other idea preached in the quotation given, that the workers were to destroy the State apparatus is a further indication of the sensational but worthless policy of the 3rd International. The State machine—that is, the instrument of government and the forces controlled through it—could not be dispensed with by a class rising to power in modern capitalist countries until Socialism had been established with the abolition of classes and the consequent dying out of the State.

Engels has well stated the attitude towards the State machine in his Introduction to Marx's "Civil War in France," where he says of the State:-
"At the very best it is an inheritance of evil, bound to be transmitted to the proletariat when it has become victorious in its struggle for class supremacy, and the worst features of which it will have to lop off at once until a new race grown up under free social conditions, will be in a position to shake off from itself this State rubbish in its entirety."
The idea of the immediate destruction of the power of the State is an anarchist policy. Lenin himself has opposed it, for in his criticism of the International of Youth ("Class Struggle," May, 1919) he says: "Socialists are willing to utilise the present government and its institutions in the struggle for the liberation of the working class, and also insist upon the necessity of so using the government in the creation of a suitable transition form from Capitalism to Socialism. This transition form, also governmental, is the dictatorship of the proletariat."

The manifesto of Moscow goes on to lay down its method:-
"The fundamental means of the struggle are mass action of the proletariat even to armed and open warfare with the State power of capital." 
This became the accepted policy of Communists throughout the world, so that in a short time most of them had driven themselves underground into secret societies through such an insane programme. Some of their followers, such as the Spartacans in Germany, attempted to carry out this suicidal policy of armed and open warfare with terrible results to those concerned.

Mass action meant in Communist circles the "spontaneous upsurge of the proletariat." One of the leaders of the Moscow International, Louis Fraina, defines mass action in his "Revolutionary Socialism" (p.196) as "the instinctive action of the proletariat, gradually developing more conscious and organised forms for certain purposes."

"Organisations," says Fraina (the International Secretary of the C.P. of U.S.A.), "have a tendency to become conservative," and he relies upon the workers "acting instinctively under pressure of events."

This mass-action nonsense preached by Moscow is the very thing relied upon by our masters. The only sound action for Socialism must be guided by the workers' intelligence and knowledge. The blind instinctive actions of the workers are dangerous to workers' welfare, and are easily worked upon by capitalist orators and intellectuals in war time and peace time. Mob action is not the action to overthrow Capitalism and establish Socialism. Socialism depends upon organisation plus knowledge. Armed warfare by workers while capitalists control the forces of government is a policy both useless as well as suicidal. The advocacy of such a policy is reactionary, and provides the capitalists with excellent opportunities for butchery of the insurgents. To propose such a method as the 3rd International and its sections did, especially in view of the minority of workers in their ranks, was directly opposed to workers' interests. It betrayed the illusions which the 3rd International suffered and which still are general with that body.

A further examination of the policy of this so-called revolutionary International will be made in our next issue.
Adolph Kohn 

A Rant About the ‘Right to Food’ (2014)

From the May 2014 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a report in January this year the UN Special Rapporteur on ‘the right to food’, Olivier De Schutter, claimed that, 'Most of the food systems we have inherited from the 20th century have failed.' If those systems have failed, could it not be because they were not suited to succeeding within the global capitalist system?

The report’s basic assumption is not that this system is fundamentally flawed but it's just that things have got out of kilter and need reforming to bring matters back into an acceptable state. But it's not as if there is just one particular disaster to be dealt with suddenly and immediately since world hunger and malnutrition is a disaster that has been ongoing for decades. A disaster created by the world capitalist system that requires, nay demands, profit from every transaction.

How many reports do we need to read regarding the amount of available food in the world? The amount of food dumped or wasted in countries around the world? Of food not being distributed because there is no market – ie insufficient funds to buy it?

Empty rights
The report declares the rights of all people to this and that, but this doesn't translate into people getting those rights. This is not a problem restricted to the 'underdeveloped world', the 'third' world, whatever label you choose. It is also happening in your world, my world, your country, my country – everybody's, rich or poor. Poverty occurs in all countries and is rampant in many developed countries, a fact to which the report refers (in particular food stamps and poverty in the US).

The report points out that the 'exclusive focus' on increasing agricultural production has had severe environmental impacts including global warming. Whilst true, this clouds the reality that it is not the amount of food that is lacking but the distribution and availability of it. Remember, food is for paying customers not for hungry people. The report also mentions the unsustainable, destructive practices and the distorting subsidies of industrial agriculture. There is some emphasis on the contrast between high and low income countries regarding consumption and emissions; 'there is no doubt in the scientific community that the impacts of livestock production are massive,' because production of grains for animal feed is diverted from human needs.

Connections are made between the methods of large scale agriculture, putting small scale farmers out of business or off their land, and a return to subsistence farming or urban migration followed by forced reliance on imports. This, coupled with IMF loans or similar, has increased the indebtedness of states without stopping the impoverishment of their populations. De Schutter takes to task the 'weak accountability of governments to the rural poor' – foreign debt leading to the focus on cash crops for export, not food for locals. Note, none of these circumstances have been a result of the personal choice of individuals but of a policy imposed: cause and effect.

Limited choice
Choice in our democracies is limited. With regard to food, for those in the rich world choice should surely go beyond what's put on the supermarket shelves by large corporations. And for those in the poor world, who willingly chooses to give up their land, to be urbanised, to be tied to the market, to aspire to the rich world supermarket model? Have they been consulted? Will they ever be consulted while this money/profit system persists?

If, individually, or even collectively as a minority, one prefers the mass produced, chemically-rich foods of the major corporations, how legitimate is it to attempt to force it onto a majority too? Whose legitimacy will win out? If world trade agreements and international laws serve the corporations above the vast majority of the world’s population can they not be regarded as illegitimate? The market approach seeks to impose an alien process of food production which, for solely profitable economic reasons, completely changes the traditional way of life for many and totally disenfranchises others. The issue is heavily weighted against people in favour of capital. That is the norm in capitalism. But it doesn't make it right. And it isn't written in stone that it will always be so.

So, here we have a report from a world institution, part of the UN, dedicated to investigating (over a six year period) the problems of the world food supply, production and distribution with recommendations and demands which most of us should be able to recognise will not be acceptable to those in charge of the system we live in.                                     

In one paragraph, 'The Way Forward', there are calls for a change of strategy, different ways of organising, investing, diversifying, creating opportunities for income-generating activities and social protection schemes 'to ensure that all individuals have access to nutritious food at all times (even if they have access neither to productive sources nor to employment).' Now, this seems like a mighty big ask from a rather hazy conglomeration of trans-national entities and national states spread around the world currently immersed totally in the 'free market' principle. That is why the problems are as they are now. The best we could hope for from such a call is yet another voluntary agreement internationally which would have no credibility and no teeth.

In reality the majority of the world's population would cooperate gladly to the benefit of all – if they were only allowed to voice their collective opinion and be heard. It is those who currently benefit from controlling the methods used, those for whom the system – the capitalist system – works perfectly well, who will remain unconvinced by such arguments and turn a deaf ear to the call. It is against the logic of their system to be inclusive, to 'take care' of unfortunates, those who are deemed surplus to requirements.

The fact that vast numbers of people are involved in community-based initiatives, with a strong social participation component, demonstrates that people can and do know how to make things better for themselves and do want to live in harmony and cooperation in their communities. It also reinforces the fact that they prefer doing things this way rather than accepting the free market system of everything being a commodity.

Fatuous consensus
Apparently, there is now an international consensus in favour of making the full realisation of another abstract right, that to social security, a priority. This since 12 June 2012 when the International Labour Conference adopted Recommendation no. 202 with 453 votes in favour and 1 abstention. But again, how realistic is such a consensus? When many individual countries can't get political consensus for adequate social security in their own country, when even the richest countries of the world have many people homeless, living below the breadline, unemployed and hungry? It is far from likely, impossible even, however many delegates’ heads nod in agreement, for this to become a reality within this system.

Remember the Rio+20 Conference – 'The Future We Want'? Another talking shop. But who now believes anything they say? Who, if anyone, believes that those 'leaders' putting their names to the document actually believe they are going to do anything more about it than simply agree it's a good idea? The whole thing is totally fatuous.

It will be the same with the UN food report’s ‘right of everyone to have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.'

The big question is how to move from a model in which everyone recognises the profit imperative whether they love it or hate it; profit on a large scale or small, profit from agribusiness or market stall, from pure accumulation to simple survival, from the greedy to the needy, profit which favours minority over majority in all areas. Everyone recognizes this but far fewer question the possibility, the sense, the imperative of implementing a different model, not a few reforms here and there to give temporary help to this sector or that, but one which takes into consideration the needs, aspirations, ideas and ideals of the many rather than the few.

Genuine food security involves the democratisation of food production. It has to be about meeting the self-defined needs of people, not a profit-motivated venture for corporations, agribusinesses and their boards and shareholders. Food security is about meeting the dietary needs of all people, at all times, enabling them to live a healthy life and not to be constantly in fear of the vagaries of the market. Only by eliminating the money and buying and selling element, by coming to terms with the absolute necessity of removing any profit motive from the food supply (and from every area of life) will farmers, peasant or otherwise, consumers and all the peoples of the world have the security of knowing that sufficient food is available to all, at all times and in all situations. Food security for all the world's people is just not possible in a capitalist system.
Janet Surman

The Shadow Show (1928)

From the January 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marx's Letters to Kugelmann (1934)

Book Review from the October 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

Letters to Kugelmann . . . by Karl Marx. 148 pp., 3s. 6d. Cloth; 2s. Paper. Martin Lawrence Ltd., 33, Gt. James Street, London, W.C.1.

A valuable contribution to Marxian literature is the issue in the English language of the letters written by Marx to Dr. Kugelmann during the years 1862-1874. Many of the letters have appeared in various English periodicals, but this is the first issue of the letters in the complete form. With just a slight initial resentment, due to certain defects mentioned below, the book gives a final sense of gratitude and satisfaction. In the past these letters have suffered from interference by Karl Kautsky, who, when he published them in the Neue Zeit, deliberately omitted passages to suit his political purpose, and suppressed one letter altogether. This letter, written by Marx on February 23rd, 1865, exposed the political trickery of Ferdinand Lassalle. Though the Directors of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow realise the importance of this letter, no reference is made by them to the discovery of evidence that finally proved the rascality of Lassalle, and justified Engels in his detestation of that schemer.

Reference should have been made in the Foreword to the finding of material showing that Lassalle had been in secret communication with Bismarck. If one may digress, may it be pointed out that Engels always held the view that Lassalle was a humbug. On June 11th, 1863, he wrote Marx that Lassalle was in the service of Bismarck. ("Der Kerl arbeitet jetzt rein im Dienst von Bismarck." Page 144, Vol. 3, Marx-Engels Correspondence.) But to come nearer to the date of this suppressed letter, Engels, on January 27th, 1865, told Marx (letter 890, Page 219, Vol. 3, as above) that Lassalle was gradually being exposed as a common rogue. This matter of exposure had been in Marx's mind for quite a while, and the letter to Kugelmann was the result. Kautsky suppressed it, and Lenin, when he wrote the preface to the Russian translation of these letters, was unaware of its existence. Absence of comment is curious, because in the issue of selected letters of Marx and Engels, issued in Germany under the imprimatur of the Marx-Engels Institute, details are given of the discovery of the communications. (These letters are in course of translation into English, and will be published shortly by Martin Lawrence, Ltd.)

It is perhaps unfortunate that the type was set up and printed in Moscow, The translation, apparently, originated there, for the letters are now in the archives of the Marx-Engels Institute. Better service would have been rendered to the English-reading public had the entire arrangement for publication been left to competent English experts. The advantage accruing to the possession of the complete series is minimised by an insufficient regard for Marx's original text. The effort to impress the reader by the needless intrusion of italics and inverted commas, is an illusion. Marx knew what he wanted to say, how to say it, and how to express himself with simplicity. He now and again wandered off into Italian, French and English phrases. Those which were in English are not indicated, while the other "foreign" phrases are given in the original in the text and translated in footnotes. Some of the English sentences—or phrases—are neither indicated nor printed accurately. But unless such indication is given, the literary value and sting may be lost, and Marx's meaning and sense of expression nullified.

Also, the use of italics in the letters as printed is mystifying. There seems to be no regular method adopted. For example, on page 31, in the letter which Kautsky suppressed, the translator has this: -
So they want to take the circumstances as they are, and not irritate the government, just like our "republican" "real politicians" who are not willing to "put up with" a Hohnezollern emperor.
But in the German original Marx had only word in quotation marks (the German equivalent of "republican,") and only one word spaced out for emphasis (the German equivalent of emperor). Why then these further modifications?

In another passage on the same page the translator gives as his version: -
We are making a stir here now on the General Suffrage Question, which, of course, has a significance here quite different from what it has in Prussia. 
In the original Marx used no emphasis on these words, and there can be no justification for departing from what he wrote.

With regard to the failure to indicate passages which Marx originally gave in English, Marx knew his method of expression, and when he substituted a phrase in another language, it was because to him, it acquired the precise weight of expression. Therefore, it should be necessary—at least to us who read English, to know which passages Marx wrote in English, in order to gather the impressions of the moment.  

In the last paragraph on page 31 the following words were originally written by Marx in English: "Member of the Association,"—"individual member ship,"—"societies,"—"an English card of membership" (the translator gives Marx's words correctly—"the English society is public," but puts "public" in italics.

This may appear to be captious criticism, but it is a plea for accuracy, and in some cases, the modified version gives an appreciably different meaning.

Notwithstanding this we can heartily recommend the book. It contains 148 pages, printed in clean, clear type, on a very fine paper, in red cloth, with lettering in gold. All foreign phrases are translated, and there is an excellent and informative biographical index which is itself a mine of information. Students of Dietzgen will find an interesting letter he wrote to Marx, and there is a preface by Lenin in which he attacks Plechanoff for his attitude during the Moscow uprising of 1905.
Moses Baritz