Thursday, October 1, 2015

"The World For The Workers" (1909)

From the April 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard


Words & Music by H. J. Neumann
You toilers of the world, arise!
   To bravely speed the day,
When all your forces organise
   King Capital to slay,
And from the master class you'll wrest
   The Powers of the State,
Which, wielded in your interest,
   Your class emancipate.  
There sounds above the class war din
   The battle-cry we use:
Unite! you have a world to win,
   Your chains alone to lose."  
Your lot in life is darkest gloom;
   You sow and others reap.
And want and mis'ry are your doom,
   While idlers treasures heap.
Why have they riches, you distress,
   Though you all wealth have wrought?
It is because the few possess
   The earth, while you have nought.  
There sounds above the class war din
   The battle-cry we use:
Unite! you have a world to win,
   Your chains alone to lose."  
While you an idle class maintain
   For pittances you'll toil.
To own your products you must gain
   Possession of the soil
And of all means the workers need
   To found the Commonwealth,
And thus enable all to lead
   Full lives of peace and health.
There sounds above the class war din  
   The battle-cry we use:
Unite! you have a world to win,  
   Your chains alone to lose." 
Arise! the message to proclaim,
   The message full of cheer:
That Labour's freedom is your aim,
   That brighter days are near.
To men exhausted by the fray,
   To women in despair,
To children wanting food and play,
   To all the message bear 
There sounds above the class war din
   The battle-cry we use:
Unite! you have a world to win,
   Your chains alone to lose."
Copies of the above four-part song S., A., T., B. (which will be sung by a choral party at the Annual Social on April the 9th, complete with pianoforte accompaniment and Tonic-Solfa setting may be obtained, price 3d., or post free 3½d., through the branches or from the Head Office.

"The Need For 'Intellectuals'." (1906)

From the April 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is often asserted by the geniuses of the Fabian Society and other middle-class misleaders of the working class, that the workers to-day, and in the future, require the assistance and guidance of educated, intelligent, middle-class men, both to direct their agitation and energies now, and to manipulate municipal and national affairs in the future. The workers, therefore, should not endeavour to obtain control of the political machinery themselves, but should place the "intellectual experts" in that position and obey their behests.

This, of course, is merely the old conservative idea of "Divine Right and a Class to Rule" presented in new terms. Those who carry on all the complicated and interdependent processes of wealth production from top to bottom; who delve the ore, smelt the metal, lay the railways, cut the canals, manipulate and direct enormous engines and instruments in industry ; who erect structures greater than the Pyramids and more wonderful than the Gardens of Babylon: these workers, according to the agents of the ruling class, are incapable, too ignorant, not sufficiently equipped with organising power, to manage these forces on their own behalf and for their own well-being. Hence the need for "experts" to do it for them.
But with all their care and caution, the capitalists' henchmen sometimes forget to speak by the book. Thus Mr. Chiozza Money, in the Daily News, Feb. 16th, comments upon the reception given to the deputation on Old Age Pensions that waited upon the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and were told that these intellectual giants knew not where to obtain the money for these pensions. "As I have so often pointed out," says Mr. Money, "it is not a case that there is any doubt as to where the money is to come from, and I am sorry that the members of the deputation were not prepared to address themselves effectually to the question of ways and means." And he hopes any further deputation will deal exhaustively with the financial side of the matter.

Mr. Money is somewhat new in the political field. Apparently he is somewhat of a novice in the business of misleading the workers for the benefit of his paymasters, though he has learnt some of the tricks of deliberate falsification of history, as Blatchford showed in a controversy between them on the Liberals and Trade Unions. The old hand would not have "let the cat out of the bag" so completely as Mr. Money has done in pointing out how it is desirable, nay, the duty of the workers, not only to produce and distribute wealth, but also to instruct their superiors how to carry on the business of swindle and sweat.

We may thank Mr. Money for adding his quota to the mass of evidence we already possess, showing the incapability to control, and the want of power to direct, the giant forces of production that have outgrown the power of the modern ruling class to control, and that need a reorganiztion of Society to bring them into harmony.

For if the workers are, in addition to producing all the wealth, to instruct their masters in all the details of administration, then it at once follows that they may just as well do the whole business for their own benefit. Why trouble to elect "experts," either financial or economic, if these geniuses have to be shown what to do by those whose superiors they are supposed to be? Forty years ago Karl Marx completely exploded the "Captains of Industry" nonsense in his masterly way; and Engels and Lafargue, among others, have pointed out the facts around us, illustrating the intellectual bankruptcy of the ruling class. Mr. Money, by his advice quoted above, shows first how he recognises these truths, and secondly how much of a novice he still is at the game of Bunkum.
Jack Fitzgerald

What It Was All About (2015)

The Greasy Pole Column from the October 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
Sprawled out across the lawn it was warm and relaxing until Janet, who was into her third glass of Tesco Finest Chardonnay, blurted: 'So what's all this about Jeremy Corbyn then? I'm going to his meeting at the Town Hall on Wednesday. If I can get in, that is; he's had thousands at his other meetings with overflows so I might have to stand outside'. Jeremy Corbyn. A couple of months before none of them had heard of him but now it was different. Janet told about a friend of a friend who is one of his constituents; they admire his rebelliousness in parliament, where he has voted against the whips' instructions over 500 times (they called it 'challenges') and he was very helpful to her when she took a particular problem to him. At all events he couldn't be much worse than Ed Miliband and that lot who lost the last election. And who were those Labour MPs against him? That Liz Kendall saying she loved Labour but talking more like a proper Tory. What had Andy Burnham ever done to make us think of him as a future Prime Minister? Yvette Cooper? Won't she just perform like Ed Balls tells her to? And Blair having the cheek to prescribe a heart transplant for anyone who voted for Corbyn .
It was in February last year that the Labour Party, nursing some delusions about their chances of winning the next election against the increasingly fragile coalition, adopted a new system of electing its leader. Until then they had fumbled through a three-way performance in which a third of the votes would be cast by each of the Parliamentary Party, the trade unions and individual members. The new procedure was designed to be quicker and simpler and more democratic –one member one vote, to include registered supporters who would be allowed to vote on payment of a fee of £3. The Deputy Leader Harriet Harman was satisfied enough with this arrangement to describe it as 'a robust system to prevent fraudulent or malicious applications'. But the flaws in it were exposed when the Daily Telegraph suggested that the whole procedure could be disrupted by Conservative Party supporters – as well as anyone else with the same intentions – paying their £3 and going on to disrupt the election by voting for the most unsuitable and divisive candidate who would ensure that Labour lost the next general election. And in that role was Jeremy Corbyn of the relentlessly left-wing opinions and breaches of Parliamentary discipline. Piteously threatened, Andy Burnham warned that 'The Tory press are so desperate for Jeremy Corbyn to win that they're making up stories to give the impression that he already has'. Nominations in the leader election had to be supported by 35 MPs, which Corbyn reached by the narrowest of margins, with only minutes to spare on the closing day.
He promised to stand for drastic changes in Labour policy –- like making amends for Blair and his lies by apologising for going to war in Iraq. There would be no more pandering to Tory discipline through austerity, such as in a recent report by the Department of Work and Pensions that between December 2011 and February 2014 there were 2,380 people who died within fourteen days of being struck off Employment and Support Allowances (ESA) after a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) had ruled that they were fit for work. Andy Burnham described the WCA as 'punishing' and promised that a Labour government under him would ensure 'a humane approach to benefits' – in spite of the fact that the punitively inhumane machinery of the WCA was set up by the previous Labour government. This same Andy Burnham also assured the voters that if he is ever Prime Minister he will reduce the National Debt '...towards its sustainable pre-global financial crisis levels' which avoids the crucial question of why and how the 'crisis' came upon us. Then Yvette Cooper, who supported the war on Iraq and the continuation of Trident, promised that she would ensure her government would '...reset Labour's relationships with business'. And Liz Kendall made it all sound so easy: 'We will bring debt down as a proportion of our GDP and will make surpluses in the good times' – assuming that capitalism's economy is always, easily, controllable.
As the leadership campaign began the Labour Party were pleased to represent it as an admirable exercise in democratic organisation. But this confidence collapsed when Corbyn came on the scene and took so convincing a lead. In response there was a move to concentrate the opposition to Corbyn by persuading two of the other candidates to stand down. Or to abandon the contest altogether until the party could re-write the rules so as to prevent the emergence of another candidate like Corbyn. These were not examples of democracy in action but of the subterfuge and denigration typical of relationships within a party of capitalism. No wonder that Corbyn should appeal to people like Janet and her husband Dave, with their mortgage and their jobs and two children coming up to their GCSEs with all the attendant stresses. As a couple they are something of a pollster's dream. Dave's grandparents came over here at the time of the Empire Windrush and now he manages a busy section of a local authority housing department. He sees the brutal reality of austerity every day, putting him under remorseless pressure. Janet has the same type of experiences in her work in one of the caring professions. These two are an example of what David Cameron - as did Ed Miliband - cynically calls Hard-working People. Neither of those twisters used phrases like Ruthlessly Exploited People. Repeatedly Deceived People. Contemptuously Disregarded People. So what was all that about Jeremy Corbyn? We have been here before, when the larger, more established parties were in such turmoil and confusion as to temporarily benefit some smaller, more outlandish group like the SDP and UKIP. It may be that Corbyn succeeds for a time in his stated objective to bring about some changes in society and its politics but our experience tells us that these will be no more significant or enduring than all those others, who are now part of capitalism's disreputable history. That is what's all about Jeremy Corbyn.

Against the Left (Part 5) (1978)

From the December 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The English working class had been gradually becoming more and more deeply demoralised by the period of corruption since 1848 and had at last got to the point when it was nothing but the tail of the "great Liberal party", i.e. of its oppressors, the capitalists. Its direction had passed completely into the hands of venal trade union leaders and professional agitators. (Letter from Marx to Liebknecht. February 11th, 1878)
Reading the above, one's immediate reaction is that things haven't changed very much. The working class is still supporting its oppressors, but today the party which pretends to stand for the workers is Labour, not Liberal. Professional trade union bureaucrats, with their social contracts and their productivity deals, still try to manipulate the workers. The lesson of the First International has yet to be learnt: that the working class must emancipate itself. At a glance it would seem that socialism is a distant prospect. But in fact, there is evidence to suggest that some are rejecting the policies of the Left, even if they are not turning to socialism. Let it be clear that we do not recommend workers to abandon Left Wing ideology so as to turn to the Right. To stop voting Labour in order to vote Conservative or Liberal or not at all is to turn them from one pointless exercise to another.

This series has considered the three main tendencies on the British Left: Labourism, Stalinism and Trotskyism. (We have not examined other currents, such as Maoism or anarchism, because they are relatively insignificant today). In this concluding article it is worth posing the question: what are the prospects for the Left in the days ahead?

Still the most popular organisation by far on the Left is the Labour Party. In a sense it is incorrect to see the Labour Party as a single party as it is made up of a collection of local cliques, affiliated trade unions and political factions. The vast majority of Labourites would not see themselves as Marxists, revolutionaries or even Left wingers. A minority within the Labour Party aims to move it in a "leftwards" direction, by which is meant more nationalisation and even more welfare reforms. Remind a Labour Leftist that, despite six Labour Governments and endless reform legislation, we are not a fraction closer to socialism and he will doubtless agree with you. The problem, he will tell you, is that Labour has the wrong leaders. Alas, the memory of the Labour Left is at fault. Recall the election for the leadership of the Labour Party in 1963. The spokesman of the Labour Left Tribune, had this to say about one of the candidates:
He has not only qualities of political acumen, political skill and survival power which no one denies him. Other considerable qualities too for a Labour leader—a coherence of ideas, a readiness to follow unorthodox courses, a respect for democracy . . . above all a deep and genuine love of the Labour movement (Tribune 22 February, 1963)
Who was this man of impeccable qualities who was about to guide Labour in the required direction? It was none other than Harold Wilson, that well known lover of the working class. Well, Wilson won the leadership and Labour won the 1964 election. What did Tribune have to say about Wilson's 'considerable qualities" when he was Prime Minister?
Socialist principles have been tossed aside with almost indecent cynicism and casualness. Racial discrimination in Britain has been condoned and strengthened. American butchery in Vietnam has been actively supported and encouraged. Social welfare and economic development in Britain have been sacrificed to carry out a reactionary economic programme at the best of international finance capital. What of the Left leaders in Parliament? Tell them off on your fingers, comrades, and think of their words and deeds in recent months while the Labour movement has been sold down the river. It is a sad picture and I can personally neither see nor offer any excuses. Are we finished, we of the Labour Left? (Malcolm Caldwell in Tribune, 20 August, 1965)
In his letter of resignation from the Labour party on 24 September, 1965, Alan Dawe, the paper's education correspondent, wrote in Tribune
We are not right to view the Labour party and its latter day works as having anything to do with Socialism. They don't, they won't and it is time we faced up to it.
Since experiencing the effects of Labour Governments large numbers of Labour activists have faced up to the non-socialist nature of their party. Labour is further from its original sentimental intentions than ever before. As we stated in an earlier article, Labour has never stood for Socialism, but was originally intended to defend the working class within capitalism. Its predictable failure adds weight to the contention that wage labour and capital can under no circumstances have coinciding interests. Attend public meetings or branch meetings of the Labour Party and you will witness its diminishing size and prestige; some Labourites have turned to racist and fascist alternatives. Others remain in the political wilderness. Will they turn to socialism?

Since the death of Stalin, numbers and influence of the Communist Party have been declining at a rapid rate. Its stability was shaken by pro-Maoist splits, and by the reaction to Hungary in 1956 (which gave rise to New Left Review). During that period the Communist Party has been in a dilemma between maintaining rigid adherence to Moscow or becoming an openly social democratic (reformist) party like its Italian and French counterparts. In 1977 the new draft of The British Road to Socialism, the CP's policy statement, strongly supported the 'eurocommunist' line, thus rejecting the old Bolshevik slogans for modern reform demands. ideally, the CPGB would now like to unite with the Labour party, but the possibility seems unlikely as Labour bends over backwards to convince world capitalism that is is as 'safe' and 'respectable' as the Conservative party. Eurocommuism has caused a split in the CPGB, with a loyal group, loyal to the 'Soviet Fatherland', leaving to form the New Communist Party. In its pamphlet The Case For The New Communist Party, the crisis of British Stalinism is ably summarised:
The decline in membership and Morning Star circulation accelerated. The Young Communist League collapsed into a tiny unorganised sect . . . At the base of the party the crisis in organisation was even more clear. Thousands of members were no longer organised and many did not even pay their nominal monthly dues of 25p. The tendency grew for branches to appear in public only at elections or at Christmas bazaars. Consistent and regular political work by branches was now quite rare. Meanwhile there grew a number of groups supporting various brands of Trotskyism and ultra-Leftism. A new generation of potential revolutionary fighters were being diverted into anti-communist and anti-soviet groups. (p. 7)
The New Communist Party has pledged itself to maintain the pro-Kremlin line which the CP has decided to play down. Few workers treat seriously this effort to win faith in Russian state capitalism. The CP is destined to continue its squalid struggle for respectability, during which it could even fuse with the Labour Party or, more likely, go out of existence.

Many workers who would in the past have joined the Communist Party are today attracted by the Trotskyists groups, especially the Socialist' Workers Party. These parties would seem to be on the crest of a wave, but it must be remembered that their membership is based upon the opportunism of reform demands. The Right To Work Campaign, for instance, has been a useful source of members for the SWP. Once the present crisis ends, however, and labour is needed to expand the economy, those who have been attracted to the unemployed lobby because they were out of work will probably leave. A membership based on immediate demands will decline if and when the issues they fight for are temporarily solved. Capitalism is always capable of removing resistance by enacting reforms. Evidence of this is the high turnover in membership of parties like the SWP and the WRP. That is why the SPGB has always appealed to workers as a class and not as people suffering from this or that problem.

To imagine that the political situation has remained unaltered for the last hundred years would be to reject the Marxist theory of history. The working class does learn from its experience. It learns slowly and at the expense of its mistakes, but it is that factor—the ability to learn from history—which differentiates humans from animals and which makes the probability of Socialism more than a question of idealistic hope. Marx and Engels, in the last century, thought that socialism was only a matter of years away, as did the founders of the SPGB in 1904. Modern socialists are less ready to predict the course of the future, but for the general prophecy that if capitalism continues the working class can expect misery and if socialism is established we can look forward to hitherto unexperienced freedom. Socialism is not inevitable unless the working class seriously organises for it. Support for the left is support for utopianism in the extreme. The only solution to the historic problem of the working class lies in its own elimination as a class.
Steve Coleman

Is There a Class War? (1904)

From the October 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard


The "Socialist" humorist of the day is Mr. J. Keir Hardie, M.P. At least, Mr. Hardie claims to be a Socialist. Of his humour there is no question. That it is unconscious humour makes the gentleman's contortions even a little pitiful. Mr. Hardie has Capitalist friends. He is a Reform politician. One of his methods of advancing Socialism is to give electoral support to non-Socialists ― he would, in fact, cast out Beelzebub by means of Beelzebub. Consequently, he appears to find himself in this dilemma : he desires to "moralise" the capitalists; thinks it possible that the wolves of Commercialism will loose their hold upon their prey voluntarily, and, whilst he is incapable of arguing the position, feels instinctively that he cannot reconcile reform with the fundamental principle of the class war, without recognition of which no scientific theory of Socialism is possible.

In order to conclusively prove this statement it is only necessary to place together the contradictory expressions used by Mr. Keir Hardie himself in a recent article entitled "An Indictment of the Class War."

Mr. Hardie states on the one hand: 
"For my own part, I have always maintained that to claim for the Socialist movement that it is a 'class' war dependent for its success upon the 'class' consciousness of one section of the community, is doing Socialism an injustice, and indefinitely postponing its triumph. It is, in fact, lowering it to the level of a mere faction fight."
On the other hand, he also states: 
"Now, it is not disputed that there is a conflict of interests between those who own property and those who work for wages. The tenant and his landlord and the worker and his employer have interests which lead to inevitable conflict and antagonism, and the object of Socialism is the removal of the causes which produce this antagonism."
It appears, then, that "conflict" is not "war" and "antagonism " means ― mutual interest between two opposing classes! Perhaps Mr. Hardie also considers confusion the same thing as clearness.

Later, this amusingly superficial thinker states "the working class is not a class, it is the nation." How it can be a class and not a class at the same time we leave Mr. Hardie to explain, and he may also let us know what he means by the following:
"Socialism will come, not by a war of classes, but by economic circumstances forcing the proletariat into a revolt, which will absorb the middle class, and thus wipe out classes together."
Thus we have a class which is not a class, a nation without classes, which yet contains a working class and a middle class, the revolt ― not war ! ― of the former which is to "absorb" the latter and the wiping out of classes without those hostile operations which, in ordinary language, are tersely denominated war. And all this confused medley of what is either ignorant stupidity or deliberate misleading in order that Mr.  Keir Hardie may somehow or the other cover the defeat of himself, of his friend Jaures and of the Utopians generally at the International Congress.

But whilst we may smile at the scarcely concealed anger and dismay of the Confusionists at the growth of uncompromising Socialism, it becomes a rather more serious matter when we find  this moral philosopher misquoting  the works of recognised exponents of scientific Socialism and claiming that such men as, for instance, Belfort Bax, are supporting his compromising attitude. In his well-known "Ethics of Socialism," this author has stated :
"All class-character qua class character is bad ... The particular class-qualities in the character of the modern capitalist may be roughly indicated by the definition,  vulgarity IN a  solution of hypocrisy ; the particular class-qualities in the character  of the modern proletarian  as brutality IN a solution of servility." 
Mr. Hardie leaves out the   three essential words "qua class-character," and makes Bax's definitions to read respectively ―
"Vulgarity IN a solution of hypocrisy," and "brutality IN a solution of servility." 
By this substitution Mr. Hardie totally alters the character of the thought expressed.

In non-ethical circles this is known as dishonesty.

But not content with mutilating what he does quote, Mr. Hardie leaves out all those portions of the article in question which would enable his readers to gain an intelligent idea of the author's real meaning.   Will it be believed that in this very essay, Mr. Bax contemptuously dismisses the Keir Hardie attitude as that of a
"Benevolent old gentleman who says, 'Let us ignore classes, let us regard each other as human beings,'"
And as that of the "benevolent bourgeois Radical" ?

It seems most remarkable that anyone noting the differentiation between natural class-instinct and the political class conscious action of the workers insisted on by Bax can possibly hold Mr. Hardie's conclusions. For does not Bax say in the same article :
"Classes exist; you may ignore them,  but they will exist still with the respective characters they engender.  Though you ignore them, they will not ignore you. . . .  In the Socialist workman the class-instinct has become transformed into the conviction that, in the words of Lassalle, 'he is called to raise the principle of his class into the principle of the age.'   He knows that in the moment of victory ― of the realisation of the dominion of his class ― the ugly head of   class  itself  must   fall, and   society emerge. Militant, his cause is identified with class; triumphant, with Humanity." 
Poor, indeed, must be the case of the Reformist reactionaries when they have to bolster up their absurd and contemptible position by mis-quotation and suppression. The marvellous thing is that any intelligent being should be duped by such palpable dishonesty.
H. J. Hawkins

The Refugee Crisis (2015)

Editorial from the October 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

Over the past few months Europe has been facing the biggest influx of refugees since the Second World War. They have been fleeing the war zones of the Middle East and North Africa. The biggest group are those trying to escape the particularly brutal civil war in Syria. The major Powers have had a hand in creating this crisis by fomenting conflicts in these regions. The US and British military intervention there has created political instability in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Syria, Russia and Iran are supplying arms to the Assad regime and American and French drones are bombing Isis targets. British drones have joined in attacking Isis targets in Iraq and David Cameron hopes to persuade Parliament later this year to approve British drones being used in Syria. In 2011, Britain and France undertook the bombing of Libya, which has led to the present unstable situation there that has induced many to make the hazardous journey across the Mediterranean.

Rather than receiving the help they need, these desperate people have had obstacles put in their way. In Hungary razor-wire fencing has been built along its border with Serbia and the police have been tear gassing refugees trying to enter the country. Unable to enter the European countries legally, they have had to resort to paying human traffickers to transport them in unsafe boats to European destinations such as Greece and Italy. About 2,500 have died while attempting to make the crossing. On 27 August, 71 refugees were found dead in an abandoned lorry in Austria near the Hungarian border. Some refugees have been killed trying to reach Britain from Calais via the Channel Tunnel.

We are not encouraged to see them as fellow human beings, but as a menace. They are 'economic migrants', who seek to sponge off the good people of Europe. Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, complains of 'millions of marauding African migrants' posing a threat to the EU’s standard of living and David Cameron talks of a 'swarm' of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to come to Britain. Katie Hopkins, the great sage of The Sun, tells us that migrants are like cockroaches. We have been reliably informed by the Daily Mail that British tourists in the island of Kos in Greece have had their holidays ruined by the presence of refugees there. There have been calls by some politicians and some of the press to send the British Army to deal with the refugee crisis in Calais.

However, this all changed when images of the body of three-year old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee, washed up on a Turkish beach, appeared in the world press and shamed European countries into taking action. Germany has since pledged to take in 800,000 refugees this year. David Cameron, who previously took a hard line against accepting more refugees in the UK, has relented and agreed to accept a further 20,000 refugees over the next five years. It has to be said that these pledges are not entirely altruistic. Germany's population is falling and it needs an intake of younger workers to support an ageing population. British employers will, no doubt, find good uses for the skills of these newcomers.

Socialists are heartened by the solidarity shown by workers across Europe, in Germany, Austria and Hungary in welcoming the refugees to their countries with offers of food and drink and toys for the children.

We can only look forward to the day when workers extend their solidarity and work together to abolish capitalism, the system which creates the need for war and the resulting human suffering, and establish a socialist society which does away with all divisions between human beings and the conflicts which give rise to these harrowing tragedies.