Thursday, September 25, 2014

How Capitalism Works (2) (1979)

From the February 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

How Capitalism Works (2): No Profit, No Production
The Law of Profits
The law of profits says that each enterprise strives to make the maximum amount of profits, and that each state strives to have the maximum amount of profits made by enterprises operating within its frontiers.
An enterprise can only be said to "make" profits in the sense of acquiring through exchange more money than it originally had. The real origin of profits, however, lies elsewhere. As profits are the monetary expression of the surplus wealth produced over and above that consumed by the class of wage earners, they are produced in the first instance by human being applying energy to change nature. So the total amount of profits that can be made by all enterprises is limited by the total amount of this surplus wealth that has been produced. In fact the most convenient ways of understanding profits is to see all the surplus wealth produced as first converted into money and then pooled: and to see all enterprises competing with each other to draw from this pool the largest amount of profits they can. If this competition between enterprises were completely unrestricted then each enterprise would tend to make the same rate of profit: the amount of profits made by each enterprise would in other words, be directly related to the size of its capital. Price would then equal cost of production plus a margin equal to the average rate of profit.
This is what does tend to happen, but is complicated by the fact that competition is not unrestricted due to the various monopolistic practices adopted by enterprises, and particularly States, in order to try to increase their share of profits. The competitive struggle for profits is not just a struggle between enterprises selling the same product, but a struggle involving every enterprise irrespective of the particular products they are trying to sell. The more profits one enterprise makes the less are left for the others. Like the law of wages, the law of profits is the outcome of the activities of people: in this case of those in charge of enterprises as they try to make profits.
For enterprises to make profits the price at which they succeed in selling their products must be higher than the cost of producing them. But price is not something enterprises can control at will. The amount of money those who want some product are prepared to spend on buying it constitutes the market for that product, while its market-price is determined by its supply in relation to the market demand for it. Generally speaking, the larger the supply the lower the price. In order for enterprises to make profits from satisfying a particular market, therefore, the total output of ail the enterprises producing for that market must be restricted to the level at which the interaction of the supply and the demand will result in a price high enough, not only to cover costs of production, but also to allow a margin for profits.
Where there are no monopolistic practices, this restriction is not the result of agreement between the enterprises involved, but comes about through ail enterprises seeking to make at least the average rate of profit. If the profit margin is less than average in a particular industry, then some of the enterprises will either stop producing for that particular market or will go out of business altogether. In either case output (supply) will fall and prices rise. If, on the other hand, profits margins are higher than average then new enterprises will be attracted: output will rise and prices fall. The stable situation, under these conditions, is where output is at the level where the selling price equals cost of production plus the average rate of profit.
Where elements of monopoly are present prices will be higher and the output probably lower than this. Few pure monopolies — where only one enterprise supplies the market — exist, but monopolistic practices of one kind or another (from cartels to informal collusion over prices) are fairly widespread. They allow prices to be raised above cost of production plus average profit and so for monopoly profits to be made. These profits are made at the expense of enterprises which supply other markets in that they reduce the pool of profits and so also the average rate of profit.
There is a further, technical restriction on the averaging of the rate of profit. Modern large-scale industry is such that it is not possible for a new enterprise to enter an industry as soon as the profits there become higher than average. This works the other way too. Enterprises cannot withdraw quickly if profits fall below average. Indeed they may even continue producing at a loss for a period just to cover fixed costs until the market, prices and profit margins recover. In the long run. however, a high or low rate of profit will be reflected in a permanent rise or fall in output. For enterprises make their decisions about the amount of wealth they will allocate to expanding the productive capacity of the workplaces they control in die light of such long run profit trends. In this way market conditions equally influence decisions about the size of the stock of means of production as they do about the level of current production.
So enterprises respond to market conditions by adjusting output to prices and then by adjusting productive capacity to output. Normally they will not produce articles, nor build factories to produce articles, for which they believe there to be no profitable market. The general rule which governs the production of wealth today is "no profit, no production".
The reason, for instance, why millions of people are starving in the world today is quite simply because they have no money to buy the food they need and hence do not constitute a market. Again, the reason an abundance of high-quality consumer goods — good food, clothes, household goods, cars — is not produced today is because the market demand for consumer goods is restricted by the amount of money the operation of the wages system puts into the pockets of wage and salary earners. In an exchange economy wealth is produced to meet not what people need, but only what they can pay for.
The law of profits says that States (insofar as they are not profit-seeking enterprises themselves) aim to have the largest possible amount of profits made by enterprises from within their frontiers. States can use their power to help home enterprises in two ways: to find and protect markets and to keep costs down. They can, for instance, impose taxes on goods entering from outside their frontiers in order to protect home enterprises from foreign competition. They can by diplomatic and if necessary military means, seek to acquire protected foreign markets for the home enterprises and, on the cost side too, they can bargain and use force to acquire sources of cheap raw materials for home industry. (These are reasons why the competitive struggle for profits can be said to be the cause of modern wars). Also on the cost side, they can throw their weight behind the enterprises in their struggle with wage-earners over the size of the wage packet or salary cheque.
The need to keep the costs of home enterprises down is the great restriction on the freedom of action of States in the economic field. Any money the State spends must come in the end out of the profits of enterprises. In the case of taxation this is obvious, with taxes on wages and the products wage-earners buy being passed on to the enterprises as higher money wages. If the State tries to obtain more money by using the printing press, it will cause the currency to depreciate and prices to rise. Rising prices at home mean, in relation to the world market, rising costs so that the profits of exporting enterprises and of enterprises facing foreign competition in the home market will be reduced. In other words, these enterprises will in effect be paying for the State's inflation-financed spending out of their profits.
The consumption of the wage-earners is part of the cost of production and cannot rise without threatening profits. This is why no action by the State can bring any lasting improvement in the living standards of wage-earners. Generally speaking, however, most States make no attempt to disguise that their policy is to keep wage costs down. In this sense governments of States have learned to be realistic and that there are certain limits to what they can do in the economic field. In formulating, whether willingly or reluctantly, their policies in the light of the facts of economic life Stales act as a mechanism through which the laws of the world exchange economy are transmitted to those who make decisions about the production and allocation of wealth.
The internal structure of a State, like that of an enterprise, is irrelevant in this respect. A democratic State where the government is elected by a majority of wage and salary earners still has to pursue policies in the interest of the profit seeking enterprises within its frontiers. On the other hand, not even the most ruthless dictatorship can overcome the laws of the world market. Indeed, dictatorships have generally come into being precisely in response to pressures from the operation of the world exchange economy on a particular State.
Artificial scarcity, for that is what the restrictions the world exchange economy places on the production of wealth amount to, is not the only consequence of the production-for-exchange associated with the class monopoly of the means of production. A further consequence is that much of the work that is done is wasted from the point of view of rationally satisfying human needs, as will be examined in the next two articles in this series.
Adam Buick

Wild Strawberries (1958)

Film Review from the December 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

This film, shown at the Edinburgh and London Film Festivals, and now showing, at the Academy cinema, was made by Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish director who has already created a considerable reputation with his earlier films, Sawdust and Tinsel, Smiles of a Summer Night and The Seventh Seal.

Although Bergman has again attempted to reveal the mainsprings of human motives and emotions and made free use of mystical symbols, he has in this film presented his ideas in a much clearer and comprehensible form.

The story is simple. An old doctor, his cold, unhappy life drawing to its close, is tormented by guilt-ridden dreams which, in his own words, "try to tell me things which I cannot admit to myself while I am awake." The dreams tell him that he is hard and egotistical, and without kindness and compassion.

Accompanied by his daughter-in-law, he journeys by car to the town where he is to receive his jubilee doctorate, and on the way gives a lift to two adolescent boys and a young girl, who represent the unfulfilled hopes of his childhood. He also picks up a married couple, who, as in his own marriage, dislike each other intensely, and spend their time quarreling and inflicting verbal cruelties upon each other.

Through these dreams and experiences, and also because of his natural fear of loneliness and death, the old man learns the importance of human relationships, and brings belated warmth into his associations with other people.

With this simple theme, Bergman ably demonstrates the horrors of loneliness, and man's desperate need for kinship with his fellow-humans. Unfortunately, what he does not show is the social foundation of much of man's present-day loneliness and lack of satisfactory human relationships, and the way in which modern life has broken down much of our social contact. However, it would be churlish to let this complaint blind us to the many fine qualities of this remarkable film.

Technically the film is excellent, and Bergman uses a multitude of brilliant devices to accentuate the theme of loneliness, The dream sequences never seem overdone or out of place, and the first dream, particularly, with empty streets, driverless hearse, and coffin which spills its ghoulish contents, is a superb piece of the macabre.

Although Bergman is concerned with man's personal predicament in a world of decaying values and collapsing faiths rather than with the social nature of these changes, such is the quality of his perception that he invariably brings to the screen situations and characters in which we can recognise a social application.

However, Bergman provides a purely personal examination and explanation of human motives, and it would be misleading to suggest that his films are designed as pleas for social change; rather, they are pleas for personal development or change of heart. No matter how satisfying these films may be artistically, they do indicate that the director is mistakenly looking into men's minds for the explanation of human frailty and suffering, whereas the explanation is to be found in the social structure that inflicts itself upon and moulds the minds of these men (including that of Bergman himself).

Loneliness, fear, frustration and unhappiness, if examined closely, in most cases reveal a recognisably social and not personal origin. While sympathising with Bergman's concern for the plight of individual men, one cannot help wishing that he would look a little further for the social basis of much of what he examines.
Albert Ivimey

Obituary: Ian Jones (1992)

Obituary from the February 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is with sadness that we report the unexpected death of comrade Ian Jones in November after missing several Executive Committee meetings due to trouble from asthma. He still had a few years to reach retirement age although he was working a shortened working week. Ironically for a fighter for a world without money, he spent his working life in the employ of National Cash Registers, a multi-national corporation whose activities epitomise what our present society is all about.

Ian hailed from Birmingham and it was there that he joined our local branch in 1951. A few years later he moved to London and transferred to the old Paddington branch, of which he was an active member in the fifties and sixties. He was an occasional speaker for the Party and also wrote for this journal (under the initials "IDJ", his last article appearing in our December issue).

Ian was keenly interested in the theatre and his early articles were reviews of plays by Arthur Miller, Arnold Wesker, Eugene Ionesco and others in which he developed the theme that "if and when the development of a socialist theatre is possible, giving voice to Socialist ideas, aspirations and criticism, it can only be through the medium of 'social' theatre that it can be accomplished". For years he was the stage carpenter of the Questors Theatre, Ealing, and when it was his turn to direct a play he made a brilliant success of Ibsen's The Master Builder. In the fifties when Bertolt Brecht was the cultural figurehead of the odious Leninist dictatorship controlling the German (un)Democratic Republic, Ian was able to prove to a number of us, by chapter and verse, that Brecht's compromise with the oppressive system was of secondary significance as compared to the profoundly Marxian insights which the body of his humanistic drama and poetry provide.

Ian was a musician as well as being a man of the theatre. His first love was the piano, and in recent years found much satisfaction in working with a choir in his home area of Wallington in Surrey. He had reason to be proud of the fact that when his only daughter went to college to study music, such was her accomplishment with the violin she became leader, whilst still a first-year student, of the Cardiff University Orchestra.

Christopher Wren's son had chiselled in Latin on the North portico of St Pauls "if you want a monument, look around you". Reapplying this advice, I have looked around my bookshelves and see a handful of volumes which between them give the measure of our departed comrade. These were either given to me or acquired on my behalf in the course of his assiduous rounds of second-hand and remaindered bookshops throughout the home counties. They serve to reflect his broad and deep Socialisr culture and knowledge.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti's collection of West Coast "beat" poems, The Coney Island of the Mind, given when first published in 1959, is a happy reminder of the introduction Ian gave many of us to this whole new wave of American libertarian thought and sentiment. An old edition in mint condition of Kropotkin's memoirs stands near to a fine copy of the book William Morris wrote jointly with Belfort Bax, Socialism, ITS Growth and Outcome. documentary refutation of the hoary myth of Morris as the unscientific utopian "dreamer of dreams". Lucien Laurat's Marxism and Democracy, a book of major importance to Party thought, published by Gollancz in 1940, one of the surviving voices of classical continental Marxism, uncontaminated with Leninist distortion albeit flawed with a certain amount of Social-Democratic reformist illusions. Such were the kind of books Ian was so adept in tracking down and making available to Party members.

Mr. Enigma (1954)

From the June 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

Once again he's in the news. Once again his name is plastered across the front pages of the national newspapers. Once again he is accused by his Labour colleagues of splitting the party ranks. Once again he has given his opponents scope to make political capital out of his manoeuvres. His supporters applaud, his enemies jeer, he is at the same time a political opportunist, a public-spirited citizen, a Russian agent, and a man of principle. Mr. Aneurin Bevan, the enigma of British politics, has returned to the arena.

The first shot was fired in the House of Commons on Tuesday, 15th April. In the debate which followed Mr. Eden's announcement "that he and Mr. Dulles were ready to examine the possibilities of a defence pact in South-East Asia" (News Chronicle, 14/4/54), "Mr. Bevan has brusquely forced his way to the dispatch box to announce stringent criticism of a proposal which Mr. Attlee had, to a large degree, accepted" (News Chronicle, 15/4/54).

The following day Mr. Bevan resigned from the Labour Party Shadow Cabinet, and the rift in the Labour ranks, opened on the previous evening, was complete.

Explaining the reasons for his resignation, Mr. Bevan said, "I was deeply shocked at the failure of the Parliamentary leadership to immediately repudiate Mr. Eden's acceptance of the American initiative, which is tantamount to the diplomatic and military encirclement of Republican China. This in my opinion prejudices, if it does not entirely frustrate, the possibility of a negotiated settlement at Geneva of the Indo-Chinese war. If the Conservative Government is prepared to follow the American lead in this matter, in my view the British Labour Party should stand steadfastly against it" (News Chronicle, 15/4/54).

Mr. Bevan's first major disagreement with the official party line occurred in 1950 when he resigned from the Cabinet after differences in opinion on the sum to be spent of defence. Here it is interesting to note that Mr. Bevan was not objecting to the principle of defence expenditure, but only on the amount to be spent. In a similar manner people agitate to have the use of atomic weapons prohibited, whilst at the same time turning a blind eye to war in other forms.

Subsequently Mr. Bevan's differences with "the right wing" of the Labour Party became subordinate to the need for greater unity within the movement. Now, however, Mr. Bevan has erupted once again.

It is not for this writer, nor indeed the S.P.G.B., to criticise Mr. Bevan's actions. We are not concerned with discussing the merits of the proposed plan for South-East Asia. These problems may be resolved, but in their very solution they will breed new problems. Capitalism by its very nature periodically produces booms, slumps, wars and unemployment, and all the other social ills of this day and age. Mr. Bevan and his fellow Parliamentarians may be credited with the best intentions in the world, but from time to time they find themselves in the unenviable position of having to run Capitalism from the Government benches. It is then that personalities and party politics count for little, Capitalism sweeps them all along leaving a trail of misery and devastation in its wake.

When the working class understand the nature of society; when they appreciate that society is run not in their interests, but in the interests of the owners of the means of production and distribution for the purpose of producing commodities for sale at a profit; when realisation of this one fact opens the way to a conscious understanding of the position of the working class in society; when the moment of truth transpires: the working class will not turn to the Bevans, Attlees, Churchills or Edens of the world. They will elect representatives to Parliament to end this viperous system Capitalism, and establish Socialism.
Michael D. Gill

How Capitalism Works (1) (1979)

From the January 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

How Capitalism Works (1): What is Economics?

The reason the natural and industrial resources of the world are not used to provide the abundance they are capable of producing is to be sought, not in the realm of technology, but in that of economics.

Economics is basically the study of what happens when wealth is exchanged — that is when it is either bartered for other wealth or bought and sold for money. It is not the study of the production and allocation of wealth as such, but the study of its exchange and how this affects decisions about production and allocation. Exchange is not to be confused with allocation.

Allocation (sometimes called distribution) is about the use which people make of the wealth they have produced: how much they consume immediately. How much they store for future consumption. How much they use to build up or renew their stock of tools and machines. "Allocation" is used here in preference to "distribution" because the latter has acquired other meanings which can cause confusion; it sometimes means transportation (which is really part of production)— but worse shops, which are exchange institutions, have taken to calling themselves the "distributive trade".

In some past societies the amount and kind of wealth that was produced and allocated were decided according to some prearranged plan, even if this "plan" was just a set of tribal customs or some other unwritten code of social behaviour. Wealth was allocated directly for individual and communal use so that the sole aim of production could be said to have been direct allocation, or use.

In societies where the bulk of the wealth is exchanged after it has been produced (and before it is allocated) the production and allocation of wealth is no longer decided according to human plans or customs. The decisions are of course still made by people but within terms of reference outside of their control. Economics is the study of these terms of reference or, perhaps, of the laws or economic forces which come into operation once production for exchange becomes widespread.

An exchange institution is a body set up to take economic decisions; that is, decisions about the production and allocation of wealth in an exchange economy. A shop (where products are sold) or a bank (where money is deposited) are obvious examples. Not so obvious perhaps is the "enterprise" or firm, an institution for making decisions about the use of the large-scale, collectively-operated workplaces where the bulk of the world's wealth is produced. The enterprise is the key modern exchange institution since, apart from the sale of human energy for wages and the purchase of consumer goods by wage-earners, exchange today takes place overwhelmingly between enterprises.

An enterprise is an institution which seeks continually to increase the monetary value of its assets (the instruments of production, the raw materials, the stocks and the cash, including the wage fund, it controls.) The monetary value of these assets is sometimes called "capital"; hence "capitalism" as the name for the modern exchange economy. The aim of inter-enterprise exchange is profit, the difference between production costs and sales receipts.

Enterprises aim to increase their capital through making profits, the ratio of the increase in capital to its original value being the rate of profit.

The internal structure of the enterprise— who makes the decisions? Who gets the profits? —varies from State to State according to their differing historical and political conditions. The two most common types of enterprise are the joint-stock company and the nationalised or state industry.

In the joint-stock company the key decisions are made by a board of directors elected by and responsible to the shareholders who supplied the money to buy the assets of the enterprise. The profits are shared between the share-holders as dividends and the directors (and sometimes the top managers) as fees and high "salaries".

The assets of a state enterprise are usually controlled by a management board appointed by the government. Its profits can be, and are, shared in a great variety of ways. They can, for instance, simply be handed over to the government to use to pay interest to those who have lent it money. Or they could find their way into the pockets of the state-appointed managers, once again through inflated "salaries". Or they could be used to maintain in comfort and privilege those who control the state.

What is significant about the enterprise from an economic point of view is not its internal structure but its role as the mechanism through which the laws of the market are transmitted to those who make the decisions about the production of wealth— whoever they may be and however they may be chosen. The internal structure of the enterprise could be, and in a few cases is, quite different from either private or state enterprises. The workers could elect their own management committee or workers' council, but not even this would make any difference to the enterprise's economic role. The workers' council would still have to take decisions in accordance with what the market dictated. Real control by the producers over the production and allocation of wealth is not possible within an exchange economy.

The production of wealth is now a process involving millions of men and women in even,' part of the world. What used to be the division of labour between individual skilled workers has become, with the development of modern technology, a division of the work of production between hundreds of thousands of collectively-operated workplaces (farms, plantations, mines, ships, docks, railways, factories, offices, warehouses) spread all over the world. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that every article produced today is the product of the world labour force co-operating within this world-wide division of labour.

Wealth production is no longer individual or local or national; it is social and worldwide. A single world society already exists but, because the workplaces of the world are controlled by enterprises, it takes the form of a world exchange economy.

The fact that there is only one, worldwide exchange economy is obscured by the political division of the world into states, each with the power to issue its own currency, impose tariffs, raise taxes and pay subsidies. The different economic policies of these states mean that conditions in the world market vary and give rise to the illusion that rather than there being one world economy there are as many "national economies" as there are states. But although states can, and do, try to change world market conditions in their favour, because of the worldwide character of the productive process they do not have the power to isolate exchange within their frontiers from exchange outside. Far from it. World market conditions are in the end the most important factor states have to take into account when formulating their policies. They, like enterprises, have to work within the terms of reference of the exchange economy. Of course, states do have the power to make laws about the production and allocation of wealth, as about any other human activity, but enforcing such law is another matter. So is their economic effect.

The natural and industrial resources of the world are now controlled by profit-seeking private and state enterprises. In every state only a small minority can draw on these profits as a source of personal income. Whether or not they have title deeds to prove it, they are in practice the owners of the means of production. This applies equally to profit-taking politicians and managers and to shareholders and bondholders. Collectively these owners form a class with exclusive control — a monopoly — over the means of production. This class monopoly is the basis of modern society.

The personal income of those excluded from the means of production is the wage (or salary) they are paid by the enterprise which employs them. These wage-earners form a class of propertyless people since, collectively, they do not own the means of production. As individuals of course most of them do have some personal possessions and savings, but these cannot be used to produce wealth.

It is because they are members of a propertyless class that they are compelled by economic necessity to work for wages. This is the only way they can get money to buy the things they need to live. The wage relation which arises between the owning and the non-owning class is a basic feature of the present exchange economy. The use of wage-labour to produce the wealth of society signifies that human skill and energy has become an article of exchange due to the exclusion of the producers from the means of production. The existence of wage-labour means the existence of production-for-profit and vice versa: they are two aspects of the same social relationship.

The law of wages says that wage-earners tend to receive from their employer a sum of money sufficient to pay for the goods and services they have to buy in order to maintain their working skill and to raise and keep a family at the same standard. It also says that any sum of money regularly paid to wage-earners from a source other than their employer and any goods and services regularly provided free by employers or anyone else means that employers need pay wage-earners a smaller sum than they would otherwise have to.

In terms of goods and services, what this means is that other things being equal, over a given period of time the wage-earners' standard of living is fixed at the amount of goods and services they need to maintain their skills and their families. Except within very narrow limits they can get no more and no less than this. So any attempt, say by the state, to raise their standard of living by providing free services or money payments is bound to fail. The operation of the law of wages will tend to ensure that the overall standard remains the same by causing a reduction in the sum of money paid by the employer. Similarly any reduction in the amount in a pay packet caused by increasing taxes, either on the goods they buy or directly on their wages, will be self-defeating. The law of wages will tend to bring about a corresponding increase in the sum paid by the employer.

Actually this is an oversimplified picture since the law of wages is not an automatic process; it operates only through human activities, through the struggles between the wage-earners and the profit-seeking enterprises that employ them over the size of the wage packet (or salary cheque). Indeed this struggle is the operation of the law of wages and to the extent that the wage-earners cannot, or do not, struggle then their living standards can be reduced. Other factors, like the levels of output and unemployment and the depreciation of the currency, also complicate the picture, sometimes considerably, but the broad outline remains accurate: the wage-earners' standard of living cannot be improved by state subsidies nor can it be reduced by taxation.

This is not to say that the amount of goods and services the average wage-earner gets can never be altered at all. It can be, by two factors. First, by a change in the average skill of the worker. In the 19th century when the skilled handicraftsman was being replaced by a mass of less skilled machine-minding factory hands, often women and children, the average degree of skill did fall, and with it the wage-earners' standard of living. In the 20th century, on the other hand, with the spread of universal education the average degree of skill, and with it the standard of living, has tended to rise. Second, the amount of goods and services needed to maintain wage-earners and their families is not something that could be calculated in precise terms by a team of doctors and scientists. Social factors enter into it too. People's tastes and habits in regard to food, dress, housing, transport and entertainment vary from place to place and change as advancing technology makes new products available. And when, as in a prolonged period of high employment, wage-earners have come to regard as necessities what were once luxuries then what they need to maintain themselves and their families has not only changed but has also increased.

The law of wages does not rule out such changes m living standards but, by their very nature as long term trends, they are increases that cannot be brought about by the actions either of the state or of the wage earners themselves.

But why are wages fixed at a certain level? Wages are a price, the price of the skills and energies wage-earners sell to enterprises, and like all prices are not fixed arbitrarily. Prices, in a roundabout way, reflect the amount of human effort that had to go into producing an article from start to finish. So wages, the price of human energy, are an indirect reflection of the amount of work that has to be done to produce all the goods and services needed to keep a human being alive and fit to work.

Wages are the form taken in an exchange economy of the amount of wealth that must be consumed to create and maintain the supply of human energy for the work of production, while profits are the form taken by the surplus wealth produced over and above this. The restriction on the amount of wealth allocated to the class of wage earners is the inevitable outcome of human energy being an article of exchange.
Adam Buick

"Germany's Dishonoured Army" (1916)

From the June 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard

The present writer, entering one of his Most Gracious Majesty's post offices a few days since, saw therein a grimy placard bearing prominently these words:
Then followed an invitation to all and sundry who desired to regale themselves with the noisome details of "atrocities" British capitalism, at present so busily producing Samaritanian comforts for mankind at large in "controlled establishments," alleges against its brother and erstwhile good friend, German Capitalism, to apply at the counter for literature upon the subject, when, they were assured, they would not be sent empty away.
Somewhere about the same time it transpired, through the medium of the Press, that that gentleman of many and strange experiences (experiences, be it remarked, not always in the region of "beer and skittles"), Mr. Horatio Bottomley, was willing to assist in the worthy work of fanning the flame of hatred against the Germans at a fee which, he carefully explained, when he refunded it, left him out of pocket.
The reader, of course, will see no connection between these two items. The explanation of this is quite simple—there is no connection between them. Far be it from me to suggest that they are anything but utterly independent incidents in the same game—the game of the Anti-German League, the game of the "Got Strafe England " Society, the game of Asquith, Lloyd George, Bethmann-Hollweg, the game of the capitalist and his (st)henchman everywhere, the game of filling the hearts of the workers of the respective countries with fear of the prospective invader, and so reviving their drooping spirits (of double-distilled essence of jingomania) and warding off the time when they shall be sick to revolt of the reek the sacrifice and the stench of "Patriotism's" blood-soddened altars.
In proof of the, how long might one search the columns of the ordinary Press for any record (save a few rare and essentially individual cases) of even passably decent, much less chivalric, treatment being shown toward their enemies by the Germans ?
But the cat gets out of the bag sometimes. One of the most prominent writers on matters connected with the land is Mr. G. A. Palmer, whose eldest son has recently died in Germany from wounds received in an air reconnaissance. "Poultry" for May 12th says among other things concerning the incident:
"The Germans were extremely kind to him and sent air messages over the lines to report his progress. In the final one they said that he was buried in the churchyard at Douai with military honours and a great mourning of the people."
It is not, of course, the Censor's business to give credit where credit is due, but to suppress awkward truths, hence it is not surprising that "human documents" which show the German in any other aspect than that of bestial depravity would find any wider circulation than the Censor could help. Neither, come to that, is it for the Socialist to worry about fair play for the German capitalist—or for the British capitalist either, for that matter. But filthy games are being played, and always, when this is the case, it is the workers who are the victims, not the capitalists. Did our masters, upon the occasion of the Whitehaven mining holocaust, plaster the post offices with placards detailing the horrors of the atrocity ? No, they were only concerned with hiding the cause and shoving the blame on God.
It is quite clear that the case of Lieutenant Palmer does not indicate a mere individual act of kindness, nor is it conceivable that it stands alone. But the point not that, but that it sheds a light on the campaign of vilification, British and German, which goes so far in sustaining the war fever among the workers.
A. E. Jacomb