Thursday, September 10, 2015

Legality and Revolution (1908)

From the February 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

Because, with the International, we shout warnings of the pitfalls to the workers of France, whom it is sought to divert from political action under the pretexts of the general strike and other operations of the holy ghost of Anarchism, some of the bourgeois press conclude that we have more and more the physiognomy of a parliamentary party. According to them we have renounced revolutionary procedure.
But then - you will think - there must be rejoicing among the conservative genus; surely the fatted calf already turns on the spit for the return of the collectivist sheep to the fold of legality.
Hasten to correct yourselves. Our brave quill-drivers start from what they call our rally or conversion to parliamentarism to denounce us with greater vehemence, and to vanquish us under the redoubled fire of their anathemas.
What, then, is this mystery? And how explain such contradictory language? Quite simply by this - which is not at all mysterious - that our adversaries do not believe a word of what they tell their readers. They know that far from turning the back to the revolution we maintain and impel the army of the workers in the revolutionary road, when, instead of allowing it to engage itself in the blind alley of a systematized strike, we show it the political power -the state - to be conquered.
This conquest is, indeed, an indispensable condition of the social revolution, in other words, of the transformation of capitalist property into social property. It is only after and by the political expropriation of the capitalist class that its economic expropriation can be achieved, as is recognised by the common programme of Socialists the world over.
In order to restore the means of wealth production to the producers, there must be a proletariat having become the government and making law. It remains now to be seen how from being as now a governed class, the workers can and will become the governing class. The ballot, which has already installed us in numerous Hôtels de Ville and which has put an important minority into the Palais Bourbon is the first means. But will it be the sole?
No more than we believed this yesterday do we believe it to-day. But since when, because it will not be all, must legal action be therefore nothing? Far from excluding each other, electoral action and revolutionary action complete each other, and have always completed each other in our country where - for all parties - the victorious insurrection has been but the consequence, the crowning of the ballot.
The antagonism that it is sought to establish - useless to enquire why - between the suffrage which commences and the stroke of force which terminates, has never existed except in the hollowest of phrases. History, all history, is there to demonstrate that the deviations from legality have always and necessarily been preceded by the usages and employment of that legality as long as it served as a defensive - and offensive - arm to the new idea, to the new interests in their recruitment, and while the revolutionary situation had not yet been produced.
It was legally and electorally that Orleanism prepared its advent to power. That, however, did not prevent it finally coming to musket shots in a three days’ battle. The “glorious” three days immortalised by the July column.
It was legally, electorally, that Bonapartism installed itself at the Elysée. But this did not prevent it from employing force - and what force! The rifle killing Baudin, and the cannon shattering the Boulevard Montmartre - in order to move into the Tuilleries as the third and last Empire.
The Republic was no exception to this rule. Twice (under the July monarchy and under the Empire) it legally and electorally constituted its army and partly gained the country. But this again did not prevent the Republic, in order to become the 1907 government presided over by M. Fallières, from having to pass through a violent accouchement by means of the forceps of street battles.
Well! Socialism to-day is legalist, electoralist, by the same title as all other political parties which have preceded it, and which are at present coalesced against it with what remains of their virility. We do not pretend to innovate, we content ourselves with the means of struggle and victory which have served others and of which we will serve ourselves in our turn. If anything is particularly idiotic it is the divergence that has been made between the means, divided into legal and illegal, into pacific and violent, in order to admit the one and exclude the other.
There is not, and there never will be, other than a single category of means, determined by circumstances: those which conduct to end pursued. And these means are always revolutionary when there is a question of a revolution to be accomplished.
The vote, however legal it may be, is revolutionary when on the basis of class candidatures it organises France of labour against France of capital. Parliamentary action, however pacific is may be, is revolutionary when from the height of the tribune of the Chambre it beats the call to the discontented of the workshop, field and counter; and when it drives capitalist society to bay in the refusal or powerlessness of the latter to give the workers satisfaction.
Anti-revolutionary, reactionary in the highest degree, would the riot on the other hand be, in spite of its character of illegality and violence, because by furnishing the popular blood-letting that moribund capitalism needs for survival, the riot would put back the hour of deliverance. Not less anti-revolutionary, not less reactionary -and for the same reason - is all attempt at general strike that is condemned, through working-class and peasant divisions, to the most disastrous and abortive results.
The duty of the Socialist Party is to avoid as a snare, as a machination of the enemy or to the profit of the enemy, all that which in spite of its scarlet and explosive character would mislead and uselessly exhaust our forces of the first line; and to use parliament, as we use the press and the meetings, in order to complete the proletarian education and organisation, and to bring to a conclusion the revolution that is prepared by this end of at social order.
(Translated from Le Socialisme)
Jules Guesde

An unofficial Workers' Committee (1968)

From the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Are unofficial committees made up of wreckers? Does the Communist Party finance them? Do the communists and trotskyists work together? A member, formerly associated with one such committee in the printing industry, describes how it worked:

The printing unions, as is well known, are amongst the strongest in the country and are especially well-organised in the national newspapers in Fleet Street. As is also well-known, there are a number of craft unions which feel themselves threatened by the general printing union, the Society of Graphical and Allied Trades. SOGAT organises certain craft sections and also warehousemen, semi-skilled printers, clerks and cleaners. By the autumn of 1966, after the passing of the anti-union Prices and Incomes Act in August, active unionists were growing dissatisfied with Labour. Sensing this mood, a few anarcho-syndicalist printworkers decided to call a public meeting of printworkers to discuss what ordinary trade unionists might do to oppose the wage freeze and the anti-union laws.

At a second meeting, held in a Fleet Street pub on 25 October, thirteen printworkers, mainly SOGAT members, met to discuss the formation of an unofficial workers' committee. Those present besides the anarchists were two trotskyists of the "international socialism" brand, and a few ordinary pro-Labour militant unionists. The promoters had intended that any committee should come out clearly against the Labour Party but the trotskyists opposed this. The week previously, a delegate meeting of the 10,000 strong London clerical branch of SOGAT had carried a resolution calling upon the SOGAT EC
to prepare the Union for a policy of independence from all Governments and political parties and, to this end, suggests that the EC ballot those members who pay the political levy as to whether our present affiliation to the Labour Party should continue.
The trotskyists, both of whom ironically were members of unions not affiliated to Labour, dismissed this. One of them, journalist Paul Foot, said that these people had voted against affiliation because they did not see the point of paying money to a party that froze their wages, and not because they wanted fundamental social change (which was quite true, but their reason seems sensible enough). Foot described this as "mere trade union consciousness". The time to leave Labour, he said, would be when the workers were deserting it for a revolutionary policy.

After much discussion, in which those opposed to Labour made it quite clear that the disaffiliation issue must be raised as this was one of their reasons for proposing an unofficial committee, a compromise was agreed. One of the aims of the Association of Rank and File Printworkers which was established that evening was "to campaign within the printing unions for a ballot of the membership on the question of continued affiliation to the Labour Party". The other aims were: to fight the wage freeze and anti-union laws, including encouraging "sympathetic industrial action" should Labour invoke the penal clauses of their act; one union for printing; and to work with other "rank and file movements".

The Labour government used their anti-union Act three times against printworkers, each time playing on other workers' prejudices against people they believed to be higher paid: against printers and clerks in the national newspapers, against some inkworkers (who, incidentally, did break the law by forcing their employers to pay them more despite the Order. Significantly, the government did nothing) and against clerks in the news agencies. After issuing a journal, the Printworker, the Association, through a SOGAT chapel (as the workshop or office unit is called in the print), organised a meeting to protest against the wage freeze. A left-wing Labour MP. Sid Bidwell (ironically once an IS trotkyist), agreed to speak but withdrew when he learned that the Branch Secretary had declared that, under the rules of SOGAT, a chapel had no right to call a meeting.

At the meeting, held on 29 March and attended by about 70 people, including SOGAT officials Brady and President-elect Flynn, a resolution to organise a strike on 30 June was carried by 36 votes to 12. Brady, a branch secretary, argued that the union leadership was militant enough but they could not act without the support of the members. He felt that most members were apathetic and would not follow a militant lead. Although this was probably true, it was not well received by the meeting. Brady's dilemma was that of all elected officials who want to be militant—elected by a minority of union activists they are responsible to an apathetic majority. Other, conservative officials readily use the apathetic majority to oppose the militants. A committee of eight, including two dissatisfied supporters of the Communist Party, was elected by the meeting to organise any action.

The committee decided to organise a march through Fleet Street on May Day proper, a working day as it fell on a Monday. Some other workers' organisations, mainly influenced by IS trotskyists, agreed to take part and on the day some 200 hundred people marched. A meeting, held after the march, again voted to strike—this time on 3 July, the day the government was expected to invoke Part II of their Prices and Incomes Act, giving them power to delay wage increases. By now it was evident that some members of the Association had grandiose plans for organising a national rank and file movement that would use industrial action against the government. That this was a totally unrealistic aim was soon grasped and it was later agreed to drop industrial action and concentrate on spreading the aims of the Association amongst printworkers.

The Cameron Report on unofficial committees in various London building sites which came out last year refused to believe Lou Lewis, a Communist unofficial leader, when he said that his committee was financed by donations and collections from supporters. The report called him a liar and implied that the Communist Party provided the money. The Report, due to ignorance of working class organisations, could not believe that unofficial committees really had so informal an organisation as they seemed. Though it is true that informal organisation (no constitution, no dues, no minutes) does carry with it the danger of take-ovwer by eltist groups like the Communists and trotskyists, the Report's charge is not backed by any evidence. Certainly, the Association of rank and File Printworkers was financed entirely from donation, collections and sales of the Printworker.

In fact, the Communist Party was opposed to the Association. As the June issue of the Printworker noted:
Already within the Printing industry the people who took part in the demonstration are being branded as 'communist troublemakers'. In fact, although individual members of the Communist party attended the demonstrations and actively worked to make it a success, the official Party made no secret of their opposition to it, and in fact went as far as to describe it as 'adventurist'.
Jack Dash also advised dockers not to take part in the May Day march through Fleet Street.

Present Communist Party industrial policy is to organise discontented workers behind Labour's left and left-wing union leaders like Cousins, Scanlon and, for that matter, Briginshaw of SOGAT. This was one of the reasons why the Association turned down a proposal, sponsored by an IS trotskyist (and Gunther can make what he likes of it!), to join the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unionism, in which the Communists are very prominent.

The theory of the most active members of the Association tended rather to the syndicalist idea of so-called direct action, scorning all political action as useless. Some of its members, and once again they were wrong, saw the Association as a rival and possible replacement of the existing "bureaucratic" unions. From a Socialist point of view (and of course each Socialist Party members makes up his own mind as to what organisation or action is best suited in the place or industry where he works) unofficial committees are a useful adjunct to the unions, putting pressure on the officials from below to act more in the interest of the working class. Certainly they are not an alternative to the unions. 

The coming century (2000)

From the January 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard
Well, this is it! This is what? The brand new century—a row of virginal 0s waiting to be filled in. So what? So . . . so, it's time to take stock. Of what? Of where we are . . . who we are. History. Bollocks!
The first thing to realise is that history does not arrive at midnight, like a rabbit out of a magician's hat. History makes nothing, brings nothing, stands for nothing. History is social motion and the speed and texture of that motion is made by men and women. We make it out of the material environment that exists and in making it transform the material environment and our own existence. We make our own future; it does not arrive as hero or demon, but is the product of our own energy.
Secondly, there is a harsh truth to recognise. The battle to make the future better than the past is about power, not ideals. We all want to be happy, but happiness for Rupert Murdoch is achievable in a different way than for a single mother in Brixton. Murdoch needs to hold on to his power and expand it. The single mother needs to gain power. Murdoch has a class interest based upon the ownership and control of property. The working-class interest is based upon its non-ownership and control of property. Consciousness of these interests and organisation to promote them is the key to changing history. So, the question is not about what the future will bring, but about what we have the intelligence and the political force to take for ourselves.
Thirdly, the future is not a moment and is not Out There, like a Star Trek story. It is a process in which the present second is always a part. The beginning of the future starts with an understanding of where one is. There are no solutions until the problem is recognised. The complexities of our future are inextricably connected to the contradictions of the present. That is why stargazers and prophets are always faintly ridiculous, obsessed as they are by imagined destinies.
We owe them a future
What's rotten
By 2100 it would be rather nice if the world could have seen the last of

  • Nation states—homely prison enclosures in which the inmates sing the prison song and coloured rags fly overhead to remind you of which wing you're in.
  • Banks—repositories of paper and metal tokens that people need in order to buy existence.
  • Sir Cliff Richard—the singing ayatollah of creepy Christendom who has managed against all odds to put a tune to the act of fraud.
  • Wages and salaries—the price on our heads, always less than the value of what we produce, which are the stale air provided for the semi-suffocated majority in a world where they produce much and possess little.
  • Telephone muzak—designed to drive us slowly mad while we wait to speak to people we probably don't want to speak to about matters we'd rather not be discussing.
  • Charities—which redistribute poverty, enabling the abjectly poor to benefit from the guilt of the moderately poor.
  • America—the ultimate trash-empire, based on the principle that no-one ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of the inhabitants.
  • Markets—which are presented as channels of economic access, but are obstacle courses which ration access in accordance with the callous priority of profit accumulation.
  • Lenin-worshippers—those insufferable lefties who see their role in this world to lead the witless masses into a state dictatorship where the Lenin-worshipers will become commissars.
  • Hymns—see Cliff Richard.
  • Government—the means whereby we are coerced into class regimentation by the force of law.
  • Socialists—a redundant label once the job is done.
New millennium—new social order?
The biggest failure of the twentieth century was the failure of humanity to grasp the need for a new social order based on need rather than profit. The consequences have been devastating. The thought of sustaining those consequences, embedded as they are in ever-increasing contradictions of anarchic global capitalism, is not only uninspiring, but deeply depressing. Although there is a prevailing political illusion that Capitalism Has Won, there is a remarkable absence of confidence, even among its supporters, in the capacity for humanising the global market.

The most pressing challenge this century will be to remove capitalism and establish a new social order based upon
  • Common ownership
  • Democratic control
  • Production solely for use
  • Free access to all goods and services
Such a system has never been tried. It conforms to the highest needs of humanity to create a world where order is based upon equality, friendship and freedom. It is humanity's objective in humanising its social environment.
Capitalism reduces us to conformity and obedience
There will be those who raise objections. They should. The most important next step is that at least there should be debate. Others will raise no objections, but continue to uphold the present system in a state of inert, apathetic and cynical resignation. They are the bulwarks of global capitalism which relies not upon enthusiastic support but hopeless acquiescence. Shaking such hopelessness, and offering what Raymond Williams called "resources of hope", may well be the most important political task of our age.
Steve Coleman

Marx: Money Must Go (1985)

From the September 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard
In the section of the Communist Manifesto devoted to "German or 'True' Socialism" Marx and Engels said of "German philosophers, would-be philosophers and beaux esprits" influenced by socialist ideas that "beneath the French criticism of the economic function of money, they wrote Alienation of Humanity', and beneath the French criticism of the bourgeois State they wrote 'Dethronement of the Category of the General', and so forth".
What Marx forgot to add was that it was precisely in these sort of terms that he had expressed himself in the first article he wrote after becoming a socialist in 1843. This article, a criticism of a book on the Jewish Question was published in the Deutsch-Franzosiche Jahrbucher in Paris in 1844. It is important because it showed a clear understanding that the establishment of socialism involves the disappearance of both the state and money, a view Marx held to for the rest of his life but which has been largely forgotten by the great majority of those who call themselves Marxists (but who in fact stand for a state capitalism in which money would continue to exist).
The first part of Marx's On the Jewish Question while supporting the granting of full political rights to religious Jews (as non-Christians) within existing society, argues that political democracy is not enough as it does not amount to "human emancipation", which can only be achieved "when man has recognised and organised his 'forces propres' (own powers) as social forces, and consequently no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power" (Marx/Engels.Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow, 1975, p.168).
The second, shorter part applies the same sort of reasoning to money: "emancipation from . . . money", writes Marx, "would be the self-emancipation of our time" (p.170). Unfortunately for modern socialists, his attack on money took the form of a criticism of the "actual worldly Jew, the everyday Jew" as portrayed in the still widespread but inaccurate popular image of Jews as sharp traders and "men of money". Thus, after writing that "money has become a world power and the practical Jewish spirit has become the practical spirit of the Christian nations. The Jews have emancipated themselves insofar as the Christians have become Jews", Marx gives as an example the situation in America as described by Thomas Hamilton in Men and Manners in North America:
“The devout and politically free inhabitant of New England is a kind of Laocoon who makes not the least effort to escape from the serpents which are crushing him. Mammon is his idol which he adores not only with his lips but with the whole force of his body and mind. In his view the world is no more than a Stock Exchange, and he is convinced that he has no other destiny here below than to become richer than his neighbour. Trade has seized upon all his thoughts. and he has no other recreation than to exchange objects. When he travels he carries, so to speak, his goods and his counter on his back and talks only of interest and profit. If he loses sight of his own business for an instant it is only in order to pry into the business of his competitors.”
So Marx’s argument was not directed against the Jews as people (from one point of view it can be seen as a contribution to the debate then going on among Jews and ex-Jews—like himself—as to their future) but rather against the sort of society described by Hamilton which now exists, to a greater or lesser extent, in all countries. The argument that the solution to the Jewish Question lay, not in the Jews disappearing by becoming atheists or Christians as others had suggested, but in the establishment of a moneyless society in which  “Jewish . . . (money-making) behaviour” would be impossible, was bound to be regarded as anti-Semitic by religious Jews and Jewish nationalists in the quite different political and historical context of the 20th century. This charge is nonsense; otherwise it would have to be pinned on all advocates of Jewish assimilation and on all critics of the Jewish religion (and as an atheist Marx was naturally a critic of Judaism, with its ridiculous rituals and rules governing all aspects of everyday behaviour, as of all other religions).
This no doubt explains why the second part of On the Jewish Question –which is basically an attack on money and a call for the establishment of a moneyless society as the way to achieve 'human emancipation"—has not been given the same circulation as some of Marx's other writings of the same period, for example The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. In a sense this is a pity since in it are to be found some of Marx's strongest denunciations of money and its effects on relations between people:
“Practical need, egoism, is the principle of civil society, and as such appears in a pure form as soon as civil society has fully given birth to the political state. The god of practical need and self-interest is money. Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man—and turns them into commodities. Money is the universal self-established value of all things. It has therefore robbed the whole world—both the world of men and nature—of  its specific value. Money is the estranged essence of man's work and man's existence, and this alien essence dominates him, and he worships it” (p.172).
“Selling is the practical aspect of alienation. Just as man, as long as he is in the grip of religion, is able to objectify his essential nature only by turning it into something alien, something fantastic, so under the domination of egoistic need he can be active practically, and produce objects in practice, only by putting his products, and his activity, under the domination of an alien being, and bestowing the significance of an alien entity—money--on them” (p.174).
Of course this criticism is still rather philosophical—capitalism (a term which Marx doesn't even use) is identified with individualism, "a world of atomistic individuals who are inimically opposed to one another" (p.173). Marx argues that in such a world it is money that emerges as the god to which everything else is subordinated and which completely dominates people’s lives.
Very soon however, Marx (who, it must be remembered, was still working his way towards a full understanding of capitalism and socialism) identified "private property" rather than "egoistic need" as the root cause of people's domination by money, in the sense that it was private property society that led to human beings being obliged to pursue their self-interest as the means to survive. In some unpublished notes he made in 1844 after reading James Mill's Elements of Political Economy (which marked the beginning of what was to become a life-long study, and critique, of political economy) Marx argued that in private property society people produce with a view to exchanging their products for money, so that what they produce becomes a matter of indifference to them as long as they can sell it, and that it is this that leads to money dominating their lives:
“Within the presupposition of division of labour, the product, the material of private property, acquires for the individual more and more the significance of an equivalent, and as he no longer exchanges only his surplus, and the object of his production can be simply a matter of indifference to him, so too he no longer exchanges his product for something directly needed by him. The equivalent comes into existence as an equivalent in money, which is now the immediate result of labour to gain a living and the medium of exchange.”
“The complete domination of the estranged thing over man has become evident in money, which is completely indifferent both to the nature of the material, i.e., to the specific nature of the private property, and to the personality of the property owner. What was the domination of person over person is now the general domination of the thing over the person, of the product over the producer. Just as the concept of the equivalent, the value, already implied the alienation of private property, so money is the sensuous, even objective existence of this alienation” (p.22).
Earlier in these same notes on Mill Marx had explained in more detail how human beings came to be dominated by the products of their own labour, while at the same time giving us a glimpse of how things would be different in a moneyless society:
“The essence of money is not, in the first place, that property is alienated in it, but that the mediating activity or movement, the human, social act by which man's products mutually complement one another, is estranged from man and becomes the attribute of money, a material thing outside man. Since man alienates this mediating activity itself, he is active here only as a man who has lost himself and is dehumanised; the relation itself between things, man's operation with them, becomes the operation of an entity outside and above man. Owing to this alien mediator—instead of man himself being the mediator for man—man regards his will, his activity and his relation to other men as a power independent of him and them. His slavery, therefore, reaches its peak. It is clear that this mediator now becomes a real God, for the mediator is the real power over what it mediates to me. Its cult becomes an end in itself. Objects separated from this mediator have lost their value. Hence the objects only have value insofar as they represent the mediator, whereas originally it seemed that the mediator had value only insofar as it represented them. This reversal of the original relationship is inevitable” (p.212).
This is still fairly philosophical but the meaning is clear enough: in a “truly human" society (to speak like Marx at this time) human beings would produce products to satisfy their needs, and their products would "mutually complement one another"; this movement of products from the producer to those who needed them would not take place via money but would be directly organised under conscious human control; in addition, the value of a product would be the value humans put on it in terms of usefulness or capacity to give pleasure. With private property and production for money, on the other hand, this cannot happen: not only does the movement of products from producer to consumer come to be "mediated" by money, but the value of a product comes to be judged not in human terms but in terms of a sum of money; finally, the whole process of the production and distribution of wealth escapes from human control and is dominated by an alien force, money.
In his well-known Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (which were also never published in his life-time) Marx, in what could be regarded as a prophetic vision of the sort of commercial, advertisers' world we have to suffer today, expanded on the point about the pursuit of money becoming the main aim of life in private property society:
“The need for money is therefore the true need produced by the economic system, and it is the only need which the latter produces. The quantity of money becomes to an ever greater degree its sole effective quality. Just as it reduces everything to its abstract form, so it reduces itself in the course of its own movement to quantitative being. Excess and intemperance come to be its true norm.
Subjectively, this appears partly in the fact that the extension of products and needs becomes a contriving and ever-calculating subservience to inhuman, sophisticated, unnatural and imaginary appetites. Private property does not know how to change crude need into human need. Its idealism is fantasy, caprice and whim; and no eunuch flatters his despot more basely or uses more despicable means to stimulate his dulled capacity for pleasure in order to sneak a favour for himself than does the industrial eunuch—the producer—in order to sneak for himself a few pieces of silver, in order to charm the golden birds out of the pockets of his dearly beloved neighbours in Christ. He puts himself at the service of the other's most depraved fancies, plays the pimp between him and his need, excites in him morbid appetites, lies in wait for each of his weaknesses—all so that he can then demand cash for this service of love. Every product is a bait with which to seduce away the other's very being, his money: every real and possible need is a weakness which will lead the fly to the gluepot” (p.307).
In an earlier passage Marx had once again contrasted this with the situation that would obtain in socialism, where the object of production would be to satisfy real human needs, above all the need for human relations with other human beings. This—a society in which people would relate to people, not as "atomistic individuals", but as a "true human community—was Marx's somewhat philosophical definition of socialism at this time.
Nobody reading these passionate denunciations of money can be left with any doubt that Marx stood for a moneyless society. Although he abandoned some of the more flowery philosophical language in his later published works such as A Critique of Political Economy (1859) and Capital (1867), he never abandoned his view that money should be abolished through the establishment of a society based on common ownership and production directly for human need. Indeed, his later analysis of the process of capitalist production was still based on his early view that in capitalist society the producers (the working class) were dominated by the product of their own labour which had escaped from their control and confronted them as an alien, exploiting force (capital). But, then, the distinction between an "early", philosophical and a "later", scientific Marx has never been all that convincing, since not only are the views of the so-called early Marx to be found in his later writings, but also his early writings are not just philosophising as to the true nature of humanity, as the following passage from the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 shows:
“An enforced increase of wages (disregarding all other difficulties, including the fact that it would only be by force, too, that such an increase, being an anomaly, could be maintained) would therefore be nothing but better payment for the slave, and would not win either for the worker or for labour their human status and dignity. Indeed, even the equality of wages, as demanded by Proudhon, only transforms the relationship of the present-day worker to his labour into the relationship of all men to labour. Society is then conceived as an abstract capitalist.
Wages are a direct consequence of estranged labour, and estranged labour is the direct cause of private property. The downfall of the one must therefore involve the downfall of the other. From the relationship of estranged labour to private property it follows further that the emancipation of society from private property, etc., from servitude, is expressed in the political form of the emancipation of the workers; not that their emancipation alone is at stake, but because the emancipation of the workers contains universal human emancipation—and it contains this, because the whole of human servitude is involved in the relation of the worker to production, and all relations of servitude are but modifications and consequences of this relation” (p.280).

Adam Buick

Under the Concrete Carpet (2015)

The Proper Gander Column from the September 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
Over on BBC4, Professor Jim Al-Khalili is our guide on a rare tour of the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, mostly only seen in old newsreel about radiation leaks and Greenpeace protests.Britain’s Nuclear Secrets: Inside Sellafield gives us useful primers in what a nuclear reaction is, as well as Al-Khalili enthusiastically showing us as much of Sellafield as its tight security allows. Along the way, he says ‘this place is buzzing with activity!’, including the radioactive kind. We visit the ‘legacy pool’ and ‘shear cave’, the misleadingly mystical-sounding areas where toxic, radioactive waste is held. On the same site are the decommissioned nuclear reactors Windscale and Calder Hall, places which split opinions as well as atoms.
The programme simplistically frames the debate about nuclear energy as whether the potential for limitless electricity without much of a carbon footprint justifies creating waste which will remain radioactive for millennia. Al-Khalili’s similarly simplistic solution is that that the nuclear industry has to think more about its long-term effects, regardless of economic and political pressures. But the problem is that those economic and political pressures dictate how much importance is placed on limiting radioactive waste, or indeed whether nuclear energy is worth the risks at all. There are already better ways of dealing with spent nuclear fuel than sweeping it under a concrete carpet and ignoring how much it will make our descendants resent us. But any new methods have to prove themselves as cost effective as well as efficient. Science is as influenced by the market as anything else is, shaping how nuclear technology develops. And because of its connections with weaponry, nuclear power is even more politicised than other industries. Economic and political forces determine how nuclear technology is used, rather than considerations of what’s in the best interests of ourselves and the planet.
Inside Sellafield was part of the BBC Four Goes Nuclear season, marking 70 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed. Another of the season’s shows focused more on the relationship between nuclear power and political power. The press release for Storyville’s Atomic – Living In Dread And Promise, called it ‘an impressionistic kaleidoscope’. In other words, a compilation of footage of mushroom clouds, CND rallies, Chernobyl and CERN, to a soundtrack of Mogwai’s electronic beeps and gurgles. Despite its tricksy editing occasionally being distracting, the documentary highlights the sizeable impact nuclear technology has had on society. Our mixed feelings about this are summed up in the programme’s title, with the emphasis on footage of blast damage and contaminated Ukrainian villages representing ‘dread’ more than ‘promise’.
Together, both shows remind us how splitting the atom has released potential for both benefit and harm, which capitalist society struggles to balance.
Mike Foster

Obituaries: Joe Clarke & Billy Iles (1966)

Obituaries from the February 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Joe Clarke
Nottingham Branch members, have suffered a great loss, by the death of our friend and comrade, Joe Clarke.

Joe was the last of three brothers, all dedicated Socialists, and Party members over 38 years, who lived at Burton on Trent. Their role in the Party did not bring them into great prominence, for they were neither speakers nor writers; the work they did was that performed by the persistent plodders, whom the Party could not do without. Selling literature, discussing and exchanging ideas wherever possible, collecting funds to finance Party propaganda, and last but not least, attending political meetings to question and challenge the veracity of statements made by capitalist politicians.

Joe was able to talk quite freely on politics, economics, philosophy, science and space, astronomy, and a subject uncommon, but nevertheless one which he felt to be important: "health culture". In pursuit of good health Joe took a daily dip in the River Trent winter and summer, during the whole of his adult life, and was a vegetarian. Indeed, he did survive many illnesses in his later years and these were contracted no doubt through cycling long journeys, in all weather, while doing Party work.

Although he was 79 years of age when he died, many of his comrades and friends thought he would go on for ever for he was virile and strong, and carried on his usual activities until his last days.

Men of Joe's calibre are difficult to replace, but there is no doubt that the work that Joe did for the Party with such great enthusiasm will give inspiration to those left behind to carry on the struggle.
J. Cuthbertson.


Billy Iles
In December a group of members attended a crematorium in Guildford, Surrey, to say a last and sad farewell to an old comrade, O. C. Iles, who had been ill for some time with cancer.

Billy Iles, as he was always known to us, joined the Party in 1911 and was active for years in London as a writer, speaker and doing the routine work at Head Office, until his work finally took him to Liverpool.

He was called up during the First World War but refused to join the army. He managed to keep out of trouble during the war, although he never left London, by taking various jobs on night work at Covent Garden, as a milkman, and the like. He lodged for a time with a woman member, Mrs. Chilton, along with other members "on the run"; later with another member in a flat over Head Office until the war was over. In those days we used to collect the Socialist Standard in loose sheets from the printer and folded them ourselves. Billy Iles made many trips to the printer for this purpose and spent many nights folding so that the "S.S." could be out on time.

After the war times were somewhat turbulent and meetings were inclined to be noisy. On one Bank Holiday Billy cycled all night up to Hanley in the Potteries, to hold a meeting during the coal strike in 1921.

During the twenties he was secretary to the Editorial Committee and wrote articles over the initials O.C.I.

Owing to the fact that he lived out of London we did not see much of him during late years, but his optimism and steadfast support continued all through the years and he sent many useful organisational suggestions to Head Office.

The present writer will always remember Billy as a lively and humorous companion on many cycling trips in years gone by.

His illness was a heavy burden to his wife as he only went into hospital during his last few days. To his wife, daughter and brother we send our sincere sympathy.

And so has passed away another of the diminishing group of members, who now only number a handful, who actively pressed forward the Party's principles before and during the years of the First World War.
Gilmac.


A Rose by any other name (1954)

From the August 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are all "socialists" now. Let us witness the parade: The Churchill Tory socialists, the French Radical Socialists, the totalitarian "socialist" governments including the black, brown and red shirts, the New - Deal—Fair - Deal creeping "socialists," the Labour Parties of Europe, the Asiatic "socialist" and "communist" governments as well as those in Africa and South America, the colonial "socialist" groups, the various alleged socialist organisations throughout the world such as the Social Democrats, Trotzkyites, the Communist parties, syndicalists, I.W.W., Socialist Labour Party and the Companion Parties for Socialism in Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand. Then there are the anarchists, Christian "socialists," pacifists and a whole host of others. By no means have we exhausted the list of marchers in the "socialist" parade.

No wonder M. Rubel, in his dilemma: "The Uses of the Word "Socialism" in the Winter, 1954, issue of the American magazine Dissent, would prefer "to abandon the word socialism" and would substitute some other word for it that would "save the conceptual content once attached to this term."

It is significant of the times we live in to see every strata of society and the entire gamut of conflicting and opposing interests express themselves in terms of socialism. They must in order to rally support. Even though Socialism is NOT accepted by the world, it has become recognized and established as the hope of mankind.

M. Rubel describes very well the general nature of socialism that stirs and inspires everyone: "A society from which exploitation would be banished and in which  the unfolding of each individual would be the condition of the freedom of all." This is the basic appeal of socialism as an ultimate objective which serves as a rallying cry to muster support for the various groups marching in the parade of "socialism."

Let us suppose that some other word came into use to express the very essence of socialism, its "conceptual concept." This new word would then be subjected to the very same difficulties. The old word "socialism" would lose its meaning and significance. The new word would become abused in the same manner as the old one. Changing the name would not solve any problem for it doesn't come to grips with the real situation.

The Situation
The views of those who, patently, are supporters of the status quo are of no interest to this discussion, even though they may be listed in the parade of socialists. But we are very much concerned with those who allege adherence to socialism. In the name of socialism, all manner of views are presented. There are those who are disappointed at the slow growth of the movement and propose immediate demands; they feel that socialism is a long way off and, in the meantime, we have immediate problems to solve, that we must face "reality" and be "practical." Some consider reforms and government ownership as gradual steps to socialism. Some consider state capitalism (often called state socialism) as a form of socialism, if not socialism itself. Necessarily, these are efforts to administer and reform capitalism. All this leads to erroneous concepts, particularly, identifying capitalist relationships as being socialist ones. The common characteristic of these viewpoints and activities is to divorce the socialist objective from the policies that are pursued. The means become the goal and objective.

It has become the fashion of many "profound" pundits of socialism to dismiss as dogmatic and sectarian* those who realize the socialist activities must not be disassociated from the socialist objective. We see this same attitude in some of the articles in Dissent.

It is tragic to observe the net result of all these "practical" movements. Being freed from "dogmatism and sectarianism" (which really means: freed from a scientific analysis of social forces), we find what? Hosts of workers are bewildered by the deceptions and disappointments of the "socialist" as well as "communist" election "victories" in all corners of the globe. Especially, we find vast numbers disillusioned because of their false hopes in Russian state capitalism.

At no time have any of these widespread and tremendous efforts been devoted to spreading socialist consciousness. particularly damaging to socialist understanding has been the stress on nationalism and patriotism which is so foreign to the very spirit of socialism, which is a world-wide society, a social system. What a waste of such expenditures of energies! One wonders how much further the socialist movement would have been advanced without these vast diversions and had the same efforts been devoted to socialist activities.

Is it difficult to realize why the word "socialism" has lost its "conceptual content" to so many who never really grasped the socialist content?

What is Socialism?
The case for socialism is not difficult to grasp. It really is simple.

There are three phases of socialism. They are interrelated and interdependent and part of an unfolding process.
(1) Socialism first appears on the scene ideologically. It arose out of the material conditions of the earlier portion of the 19th Century. This is the birth of socialist science. It is materialistic. It recognizes that everything in existence is interrelated and in a constant process of change. (In a very real sense, it might even be said that socialism is the science that integrates all branches of science into a correlated whole.) Specifically, it indicates the general outlines and the process of social evolution and, more particularly, the nature of capitalism. It explains how the seed of the forthcoming society is fertilized within the womb of an old society.
(2) Then, socialism arises as a movement. It is not alone sufficient to understand the world. the task is to change it. Its very raison d'etre is to exert all its efforts to arouse the working class and all others to become socialists so that the vast majority becomes conscious of its interests, and proceeds to institute socialism. The socialist revolution cannot be rammed down the throats of "followers." The socialist revolution is majority, conscious and political. It is and can only be democratic by its very inherent nature. It is not a new ruling class come to power with a subject class having to submit.
(3) Finally, in the course of its evolution, capitalism has laid the groundwork for socialism, a classless, money-less, wage-less society. Socialism is "a society from which exploitation has been banished and in which the unfolding of each individual would be the condition for the freedom of all."
The Answer
In light of all this, what constitutes being a socialist? Broadly speaking, it is one who realizes that capitalism can no longer be reformed or administered in the interest of either the working class or society; that capitalism is incapable of eliminating its inherent problems of poverty, wars, crises, etc.; and that socialism offers the solutions for the social problems besetting mankind since the material conditions and developments—with the single exception of an aroused socialist majority—are now ripe for a socialist society.

If an organization or an individual or a "victory" supports the continuation of capital-wage labour relationships by advocating or organizing to administer an improved, bettered reformed status quo (capitalism) instead of coming out for the socialist revolution (a frightening word which only means a complete social-economic change) then—it is NOT socialist.

The need for educating, agitating and organizing to keep the issues clear cannot be overemphasized. All too many liberals, radicals, intellectuals, and, what is far worse, the much greater numbers of rebellious workers resisting their sad lot in life—all these, sincere, earnest and devoted—have been washed in and out of the so-called socialist organizations and their fringes and in the entire process never did get an insight or an inkling as to what it is all about.

The simplicity of the socialist case is buried by friends and foe alike in mountains of "day-today" ISSUES so that there never is and never can be time for them to become acquainted with the science of socialism, i.e., the socialist case.

The real need today is the understanding and knowledge of socialism rather than changing the word "socialism."
—I. Rab.
(Reproduced from the Western Socialist, May-June, 1954.)

* Just because of their scientific attitude, socialists are constantly re-examining their theories in the light of historical developments and experience. So far, unfolding events have conformed and corroborated the socialist case and nothing of a fundamental nature has occurred to repudiate the general theories of the science of socialism.