Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Broken Reid (1976)

From the April 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

After twenty-five years Mr. Jimmy Reid, the doyen of Left Clydeside, has left the Communist Party where he was an Executive Committee member. His reasons for leaving the Party are obscure, as this institution of meddle and muddle has not altered either in its reformist leadership case, or in its slavish acquiescence to the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. (How could it, when the Morning Star, the Party organ, depends on Russian finance? Russia, and the Iron Curtain countries take nearly 14,000 copies of the Morning Star out of the daily number sold of 41,000 copies: Sunday Telegraph, 15th February 1976). According to the Sunday Telegraph, this amounts to a subsidy of 250,000 a year out of a total of 500,000 a year which is required to keep the paper alive.

This fact must have been known to Mr. Reid as a member of the Executive Committee. The British Road to Socialism, the Party statement upon which Mr. Reid bases his faith, has certainly made a large detour through Eastern Europe.

Unfortunately for the working class of Clydeside, Jimmy Reid did not leave his ideas, so we can expect the usual windy dialogues and mis-information about Socialism when his conscience has settled down, or his career has got the better of it. In an interview given to Ian Smith in the Daily Telegraph 13th February 1976, "Mr. Reid said that if a political party emerged which showed it supported Socialism and democracy he would consider joining it". Where has Mr. Reid been during his twenty-six years in politics if he does not know that such a Party has existed for over 70 years — the SPGB? Not that we are waiting on the doorstep to welcome Mr. Jimmy Reid into our ranks. Fortunately we have a choice over those who may decide to join us, and in his present state of muddle we could not permit an individual as ignorant on the fundamental aspects of Socialism to enter our organisation.

By Socialism Mr. Reid, in common with all left-wing parties, means freedom to worship reforms, State capitalism, a touch of Scots Nationalism, and anything else which will provide a peg for opportunist propaganda. It's all in the pamphlet The British Road to Socialism of which he was co-author.

In an interview given to Peter McHugh of the Daily Mail (13th February 1976) he expresses interest in the newly-founded Scottish Labour Party of Mr. Jim Sillars, MP, who apparently is a personal friend and who also is the same type of modern Labour fakir. Both men have in common their rejection of the organisations which brought them to political prominence. It is people like Reid and Sillars who hold back Socialist propaganda, and expect prestige for doing it, as does every professional left-wing politician.

It has taken twenty-six years in politics to convince Reid he backed the wrong horse in the Communist Party. Instead of making public confessions of his ignorance of politics he should gracefully retire to develop a few real Socialist principles. For his and others' information, Socialism means a social system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of living, and its achievement depends on understanding.
Jim D'Arcy

COMMUNISM NOW (1973)

Book Review from the October 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

Le Mouvemente Communiste. by Jean Barrot. Editions Champ Libre.

We in this country have consistently argued the need for Socialism as a classless, wageless, Stateless world community. On the continent of Europe some groups have claimed to hold the same idea, even if our and their ideas as to how to achieve Socialism are quite different. Jean Barrot has been influenced by one such continental group, which necessarily raises the question whether he really does see Socialism as we do.

For him the aim of the working class movement is the sort of society we call "socialism" or "communism". He sees this as an immediate possibility. The world as a whole, he says, is "communisable", that is, ready for the establishment of Communism. There is no longer any need, as there was in Marx's day, for a period during which the means of production are further developed to the stage where they can provide abundance for all. This stage has already been reached. The immediate task of the Communist (-Socialist) revolution is to re-organise production with a view to eliminating waste and creating interesting and pleasant jobs. To do this, insists Barrot, involves the immediate abolition of production for sale, money, wages, prices and all the other manifestations of the social relation of "value".

Barrot argues that Marxian economics is not simply an explanation of how capitalism works but a social critique of the whole system; that for Marx capital and value are not things but social relations: the relation between stored-up dead labour (and its controllers) and living working labour (and those who embody it, the producers). Barrot maintains that an accurate description of a capitalist, is not simply (or rather, not necessarily at all) a legal owner of the means of production but any group, whether legal owners or not, which "manages capital". Capital is here to be considered of course as a social relation not a thing, so Barrot is not talking about technical factory managers and the like but about whoever actually controls dead labour with a view to exploiting living labour. He points out that at different times and different places, a great variety of people have performed this fucntion from cigar-smoking Victorian capitalists to ascetic army officers. Barrot says that this at least has the advantage of making clear to the working class that what they must abolish is not just "the capitalists" but the whole capitalist system of wage-labour and production for profit.

When it comes to how to establish Socialism our disagreement with Barrot begins, though even here he expresses views worth considering. For instance, he argues that since about 1914 capital has no longer had any progressive role to play in developing the means of production so that Socialists need not support, as Marx did in his day, the spread of capitalism at the expense of pre-capitalist economic and political systems. Their task is to strive for Communism (-Socialism).

But how? Barrot is emphatic in denying that the establishment of Socialism is at all a question of consciousness. According to him, it will be the result of a spontaneous revolutionary outburst which could occur at any time and which will sweep the workers on, almost in spite of themselves, to suppress commodity-production and inaugurate instead production-for-use. It would be nice if it would be as simple as this. But in our view, Barrot seriously underestimates the extent to which workers must understand and want Socialism before it can be established. Of course this is not a question, as Lenin taught, of some outside group "bringing consciousness" to the workers. Socialists consciousness will be the outcome of the practical experiences of the working class under capitalism, including hearing the case for Socialism from Socialist fellow workers (whose Socialist consciousness in turn will have emerged from earlier working class experiences). It's a two-way process in which experiencing the problems of capitalism and hearing the Socialist case interact, eventually producing a mass Socialist consciousness amongst the working class. Until this stage has been reached Socialism just cannot be established. Any attempt to do so, even if successful in dislodging the sitting ruling class, would soon give rise to some other group to take their place as the "managers of capital".

Barrot's book is difficult reading as he makes no concessions to the reader's possible difficulty in immediately grasping the difficult concepts he employs. Nevertheless it is encouraging to see in others the apparent agreement about what Socialism is, even if they're still mistaken as to how to get it.
Adam Buick