Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Report on Trade Unions (1968)

From the August 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

In theory Royal Commissions are set up so that a government, before introducing legislation to deal with some complex problem, can have the advice of an independent body of people who have first collected and then studied all the relevant information. The initiative rests with the government since they lay down the terms of reference, appoint the members, and can please themselves whether they accept or reject the recommendations: though if a Royal Commission makes a unanimous report it is a little difficult for the government to disregard it entirely.

In practice Commissions are sometimes appointed simply as a device to postpone reaching a decision until what may seem to the government to be a more opportune moment. The Donovan Commission on Trade Unions and Employers’ associations appears to fall into this category and the fact that six out of the twelve members, including the Chairman, Lord Donovan, express doubts and reservations about the main body of their own recommendations will enable the government to put a good face on selecting whatever parts it wants to take notice of. It may reasonably be supposed that the government had some such outcome in mind when it appointed to the Commission members whose divergent views were well known beforehand.

The reception of the Report has been equally divergent; from the Times “Few can have expected . . . that Lord Donovan and his colleagues would achieve so much”; to the Economist "A report to forget—its proposals are actively harmful”. If what the Wilson government chiefly wanted was delay, the Commission was a great success —it took over three years to report.

Its main conclusions are concerned with what it describes as the two parallel systems of industrial relations — the system of national negotiations and agreements entered into by trade unions and employers associations on the one side, and on the other, the system of local negotiations through shop stewards at the factory and workshop level. The Commission considers that with near-full employment the centre of gravity has shifted to the local agreements and that these should now largely replace the remote and ineffectual national agreements, leaving to them a much restricted role, largely that of laying down guide lines for the local negotiators.

This part of the report has received fairly widespread approval but trade unionists who remember the years of bitter struggle to achieve national agreements for the protection of their members in less well organised firms and districts may find the change a mixed blessing in face of company decisions to shift factories away from “high wage" to “low wage” areas.

The Report anticipates that the changeover will help to solve the employers’ problem of having to deal with “unofficial strikes" (95 per cent of all strikes are “unofficial”). It explains that lightning unofficial strikes can be more damaging to the employer than an official strike because they are unpredictable and have the effect therefore that they prevent managements from making plans with any confidence of being able to implement them quickly, or at all.

The Report lays much blame on company managements for this situation and expects them to bring about the desired change. They are required to create comprehensive bargaining machinery at company or factory level, conclude agreements on the handling of redundancy, ensure regular joint discussion of safety measures and make agreements regulating the position of shop stewards.

Legislation is recommended to establish a permanent Industrial Relations Commission to advise the Department of Employment and Productivity (the new name of the Ministry of Labour) on the reform of industrial relations and to investigate and report on problems arising, but without any power to compel.

The local agreements will have to be registered with the Department, at first by large firms, but eventually by all firms. Employers are asked to encourage workers to join trade unions, unions are encouraged to amalgamate and to reform their organisation and rules.

The existing industrial tribunals set up under the Industrial Training Act 1964 which also deals with disputes about redundancy payments and contracts of employment would be renamed “labour tribunals” and would have their powers enlarged to cover all disputes between employer and worker about contracts of employment, etc., including a new statutory protection against “unfair dismissal”. These tribunals would also deal with employers' claims for damages for breach of contract.

When the Royal Commission was set up there were those who feared drastic changes in trade union law, measures to cut down the activities of shop stewards and penalties against unofficial strikers. The Report contains hardly anything to confirm the fears—hence the anger and disappointment of the Economist (also of the Sunday Times and Financial Times).
The Economist (15 June) starts off with the following lament:
  The report of Lord Donovan’s royal commission on trade unions and employers' associations represents the high water mark of the particular sort of British indecisiveness which has done most to damage the country in this third quarter of the twentieth century. After three years' study, the commission reports that Britain’s system of industrial relations is in a uniquely horrible mess, but that it is for boards of directors of individual companies to bring about a change: except that it oddly believes directors would be helped to do so by a requirement that all firms with more than 5,000 employees (and, eventually, smaller firms) should register every factory agreement they make with trade unions, or else an explanation why they have made no such agreements, for vague vetting by a body of bureaucrats in a new Industrial Relations Commission, which would not, however, have any executive powers.
  It is not a caricature to say that the establishment of this vacuous research body is the main government action definitely recommended in the general body of the report, although half of the 12 signatories then express significant dissatisfaction with what they have just unanimously signed.
The Economist is particularly irate over the Commission's lack of unanimity about withdrawing from unregistered or deregistered bodies (all unions would in future be registered) the protection which the 1906 Act gives against suits for damages when strikes take place without due notice.

The majority of the Commission’s members want this immunity to continue for registered unions but not for unregistered bodies, but Mr. Woodcock, General Secretary of the TUC, and four other members of the Commission strongly dissented and the Economist fears that the Government will follow the Woodcock line.

The Government did not immediately declare what action they proposed to take on any of the Commission’s recommendations though Mrs. Castle promised quick consideration and an early announcement. The Economist, which wants strong action to curb the unofficial strikes and to remove the immunity now possessed by trade unions under the law, expects nothing to its liking, and is resigned to seeing “the horrible mess” continue—but not indefinitely. Counting on a Conservative Government after the next General Election it looks forward to the reopening of the issue. “The practical result is that the real reform to trade union legislation is now likely to have to be left to the next Conservative government and will probably have to be fought through the next Parliament as a partisan measure against fierce opposition from a Labour Party which will say that a Royal Commission intimated that reform was wrong”.

When the Royal Commission was set up it was given the task of considering the role of trade unions and employers’ associations “in promoting the interests of their members”. Had there been any socialists on the Commission they would have pointed out that the interest of the workers is not to co-operate with their exploiters, the capitalists, but to replace capitalism by Socialism, a social system in which employers and employed, the wages system and trade unions alike would have no place.
Edgar Hardcastle


Bolshevism and Marxism (1968)

From the July 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Russia had lagged behind the western nations in the development of industry and commerce despite Peter the Great’s reforms. The crucial factors in the Russian Revolution were the low degree of capitalist development, the role and aspirations of the peasantry, and the international situation at the time of the Bolshevik coup.

Marx held that under capitalism industrial development would lead to a direct confrontation of the capitalist class and the working class and that this would lead to the capture of political power by the working class. In the light of this we can examine the degree of industrial development in Russia up to 1917 and the potentialities it held for a socialist, as opposed to a capitalist revolution. For it must be remembered that Russia had not yet experienced a capitalist revolution. Industry was in fact not developed to any great extent in Russia. Eighty per cent of the 160 million Russian subjects were peasants. The defeat in war by Germany had shown how inadequately developed heavy industry was in Russia, and yet this was almost the only form of industry that existed in the Tsar’s dominions. The socialisation of production, which Marx had seen as capitalism’s contribution to Socialism, that is, the development of industry into increasingly larger productive units, operated by social labour had hardly occurred in Russia. There were really only two centres of industry, each far from the other, in St. Petersburg and in Southern Russia and the Caucaus. The working class and capitalist class did not yet face each other alone. The social scene was confused by the peasantry — a mere 80 per cent of the population!

The role and aspiration of the peasantry are crucial in any examination of the nature of the 1917 Revolution.

The peasants were susceptible only to Lenin’s promise of land. Their aspirations extended no further than that they should have their own land. When they later protested against state policies on the land, they were hastily suppressed. Thus one of the mass bases of the revolution had to be suppressed, for Lenin had climbed to power partly on the backs of the peasants, when the motive of the peasants were certainly not socialist.

We have noted that Russia was not “ripe” for Socialism. Marxism holds that objective and subjective conditions must coincide for a country to be ready for a socialist revolution. In Russia Lenin could not ask the people to raise the Bolsheviks to power without renouncing every claim to being a Marxist. The objective conditions were not ripe, but neither were the subjective. Had you asked a revolutionary what his views were about the moneyless, socialist economy which was supposed to be approaching, he would probably have been unsure as to what you were talking about.

How, then, did Lenin manage to lead the Bolsheviks to state power in a situation not suitable for a Marxist party? The simple answer, of course, would be that Lenin was not truly in the tradition of Marx. The problem, however, has more to it than just that. The country was in confusion: food was scarce, as was clothing: the armies were in disarray on the front in face of German attacks; some army officers under Kornilov had threatened the Provisional Government which was incapable of imposing any sort of order. In the midst of this confusion Lenin offered the suffering poor a blueprint for planning success that was brilliant because of its simplicity: Peace, Bread and Land. The way he proposed to achieve this was by nationalising large private property (nothing was said about small). The Bolsheviks were the only group organised well-enough to make any kind of appeal to a disillusioned populace. The motto of the First International: “the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself”, was forgotten.

This motto, and the principle behind it, is important in assessing how the Bolsheviks behaved from a Marxist point of view. We must also return to the 1903 London Conference of the Russian Social Democrats. To Marx “the proletarian movement is an independent movement of the overwhelming majority in the interests of that majority”. Lenin, at the 1903 Conference, had argued for the “revolutionary core” leading the masses. He was thus separating the working class movement into a mass-body and a leadership composed of intellectuals. In 1917 Lenin carried his philosophy of elitism to its logical conclusion but found it impossible to impose Socialism on an essentially unsocialist populace.

And yet can all these arguments against the material, social and human possibilities for Socialism in Russia in 1917, be refuted by Marx’s statement in his Preface to Capital: “one nation can and should learn from others”? Marx had taken the stand that Russia could shorten its transition through capitalism if the advanced western nations had revolutionary working class movements who could imbue the Russian people with a socialist spirit, and if Russia had its revolution at the same time as the western nations. Trotsky, and later Lenin, in their theory of the imminence of the working class capture of power accepted that the western working class were about to revolt. Indeed this provided the only real justification for their taking power in a country surrounded by capitalist countries. Yet their assessment of the situation was inaccurate, and in view of the intelligence and shrewdness of Trotsky and Lenin, perhaps it was deliberately so — perhaps they were, to be blunt dishonest. The western working class had joined the national patriotic front in 1914 and promptly gone to war to kill each other. Even in the horrors of 1917, they carried on stoutly supporting their respective governments. Also, the western working class had very small effect on the Russians. The Russians had certainly not been influenced by Marxism. Though Lenin had once called the Populists “stinking carrion” his attitude during 1917 would seem to show that he had learnt a great deal from these apologists of what he had called “adventurism” and “pyrotechnics”. Struve might well have been talking of people like Lenin when he said that only those blinded by “national vanity” could argue that Russia might take a short cut to Utopia.

Lenin’s 1921 New Economic Policy was merely an admission of a fact that the Socialist Party of Great Britain and some others had recognised earlier: Socialism could not be established in Russia at that time; the working class could not successfully get and hold power until the conditions were ripe for Socialism, when capitalism was in its most highly developed form.

This is not to say, of course, that the Bolsheviks were wrong to support the February Revolution. Progress could only have resulted from the overthrow of the archaic Tsarism under which the people of Russia had laboured long. But for the Bolsheviks to wish to take over so soon after the capitalist revolution had taken place in this decaying, agrarian empire, was to deny Marxist history.

In his preface to Capital, Marx stated his view:
One nation can and should learn from others. And even when a society has got upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement—and it is the ultimate aim of this work to lay bare the economic laws of motion of modern society—it can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development. But it can shorten or lessen the birthpangs.
All that Marx had conceded was a shortening and lessening of the birthpangs, and even this only within his context of an international revolution.
Amit Pandya

French Revolution (1968)

Book Reviews from the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

History of the French Revolution by Jules Michelet (edited by Gordon Wright) University of Chicago Press. 32s
The Crowd in the French Revolution by George F. Rudé OUP Paperback 8s. 6d.

At some stage in the year 1789—the precise moment is debatable—there occurred in France a great social and political upheaval. This French Revolution gave rise, in embryonic form, to important concepts such as the class struggle, revolutionary dictatorship and, in the later stages, “elitist egalitarianism" in the form of Babeuf’s Conspiracy of the Equals.

Those, however, who see the revolution as a popular, egalitarian movement have failed to understand its true character. The French Revolution was a successful attempt by the bourgeoisie to destroy the feudalism which shackled their economic enterprise with old-fashioned regulations and which denied them the political rights they felt were their due. Throughout the, revolution’s course it was the bourgeoisie which controlled the various legislatures and executives, and its results were trade and commerce emancipated from feudalism, a law banning any trade unions (le loi Le Chapelier) and a system of indirect election benefitting the well-to-do. This was, of course, before Napoleon imposed upon the revolution the dynastic ambitions of the Buonaparte family.

There are, indeed, those who have protested that the first National Assembly, far from being a body composed of strictly bourgeois elements, was in fact packed with lawyers and other members of the liberal professions. But lawyers have always represented the interests of trade, commerce and industry—activities which are essential to their prosperity. The doctors, journalists and other professional people who sat as legislators were all notably in sympathy with liberal economic doctrines, and they were always shown to be afraid of popular uprisings such as that in Paris in July 1789. Thus the professions had effectively allied themselves with merchants, industrialists, bankers and agriculturalists, and could be relied upon to serve their interest.

These two books represent, in widely differing form, attempts to understand the role of the common people in the revolution. Michelet’s History first appeared in seventeen volumes in the 1840’s (of which this edition is a continuous selection). As such it is a good example of, and a grand monument to its age. Michelet is as much French Romaniticism’s representative historian as Victor Hugo is its representative literary figure. With a vigorous style, full of life, Michelet gives us his impassioned, apocalyptic and panoramic view of the revolution as the climax of the spiritual battle between the Catholic Order and the “principle of Justice”.

Unfortunately, in his eagerness to present the revolution as the victory of a united force—“the people”—Michelet overlooks important points of detail and produces certain inaccuracies. So insistent is he, for instance, in asserting that the revolution was a spontaneous outbreak of “Justice” and “the People” against a misery and oppression which he paints very eloquently, that he overlooks important differences in the interests of the bourgeoisie and “the people”, the main one being the contradictory demands of free trade and controlled bread prices.

Michelet’s book, however, has certain valuable aspects. It contains a brilliantly eloquent denunciation of Christian theology and extremely shrewd assessments of the true character of the so-called Absolute Monarchy and the mediaeval church in France.
Totally different in character and outlook is George Rudé The Crowd in the French Revolution. Originally published in 1959 and now available in paperback, it was described by one historian as “a significant book which opened up some entirely new sources and showed how statistical precision can be brought to the study of riots”. It is indeed a close study of the behaviour and composition of the Parisian crowd. Rudé, writing from the Marxist viewpoint, is concerned with breaking away from the tradition which until recent times treated the crowd, as he says, “as a disembodied abstraction and the personification of good or evil”, and with examining the crowd in a more scientific spirit. (The book is amply supplied with tables showing the composition, geographically and class-wise, of the crowd and the prices of various commodities at different stages of the revolution).

The crowd, or sans-culottes—called thus because they could not afford breeches—was a heterogeneous body, composed not only of the working class but of small shopkeepers and independent craftsmen as well. Rudé paints a picture of a working class still in transition between feudal and capitalist societies, and not truly distinct from other sans-cullote elements.

However, although the wage-earners in Paris had as yet developed little class solidarity, they did have a vague idea of their cohesion as a class. The breakup of the guild system had accentuated the gulf between masters and journeymen, and there had been a strike as early as 1724. Disputes over wages and conditions continued up till 1789. However, the large demands which food made upon a man’s wages produced a situation where the crowd was concerned more with keeping down prices than with raising wages.

Rudé points out that a variety of motives existed for the crowd’s revolutionary actions, among them dismay at high prices and uncertain food supplies, a belief at first in the king as its champion against the aristocracy and the church, and then in a republic. The crowd was not a totally inarticulate mob merely seeking immediate economic gains. Although economic factors may have influenced them, strongly and often, these went hand in hand with beliefs, however unsophisticated, in political principles.

In this context, Rudé well notes that the bourgeoisie, even at that early stage, were determined to prevent the wage earners gaining any influence, and that, although “whenever it (the crowd) advanced . . .  the aims of the revolutionary bourgeoisie, it has been represented as the embodiment of all popular and Republican virtues”, the bourgeoisie were unwilling to share power with this “virtuous” body. Property qualifications were required from would-be representatives. Rudé also points out “the ferocity with which the bourgeois . . .  of the National Guard dispersed the Champs de Mars demonstration” (a protest at Louis XVI’s flight from France).

Rudé’s book is an informative and extremely readable study of the popular aspect of the French Revolution.
Amit Pandya

The Review Column: Martin Luther King (1968)

The Review Column from the May 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Martin Luther King
Even before the killing of Martin Luther King, this summer promised to be a bad one for race troubles in America. Many city authorities, fearing an intensifying of the riots, had armed themselves with some formidable weapons. 

The Negroes were also preparing and waiting, with no lack of black nationalists to advise them on how to use arms, petrol bombs and the like. This menacing situation was ignited by the assassination of Martin Luther King and the death of the advocate of passive resistance was, ironically, marked by a flare-up of the very violence he denounced.

King had, in fact, been losing some ground to the groups like Black Power and this in itself is symptomatic of the change which America has undergone during the last twenty years; The suppression which the Negroes have suffered for so long was bound one day to erupt. For too long have they been denied the vote, subjected to a host of indignities and restraints. For too long has colour discrimination been a part of the American way of life. For too long has a coloured life been cheap so that, in some states, the murder of a Negro counts for little more than the killing of an insect—and the body silently disappears into some southern swamp.

The predictable result of this has been the Negro protest, the riots and the rise of the Black Power theorists. Kill Whitey and Burn, Baby, Burn are sterile remedies for the Negroes’ frustrations—but who, or what, must bear the blame for them?

Martin Luther King, for all his courage, had little more to offer the American Negroes than a place beside the country’s white workers. For most coloured workers, this is their highest aim—the right of access to the same sort of employment, the same sort of working class homes, the same sort of terms from the hire purchase company, as others.

Many have died in the long history of the American Negro, and many will die in the future. Is the result of it all only to be the exchange of one kind of oppression for another?


Wilson's Latest Gimmick
Harold Wilson, it is said, has always thought Macmillan made a serious mistake when in July 1962, in panic at the Orpington by-election result, he butchered so many of his Cabinet.

Wilson, it is true, has shown no comparable ruthlessness—and if ever a Prime Minister had cause to panic he has now. But panic or not the latest government reshuffle, which had already been dubbed by Richard Crossman in fashionable technological jargon as Wilson Cabinet Mark II, was plainly inspired by the government’s low popularity.

The big move was that of Barbara Castle from Transport to the new Ministry which will combine some of the work of the Ministry of Labour and the Department of Economic Affairs. Castle has proved in her term at the Ministry of Transport that she is a cunning politician and a master of the art of public relations. It was a shrewd, if despairing, move to give her the job of kindling the government’s latest pillar of fire—the promise that, if we all concentrate on productivity wage restraint will come off and we shall soon arrive at the Promised Land.

This must have been about the only ember Wilson was able to find, as he raked about in the ashes of his defeats— his unpopularity, the sour memory of his National Plan, the ludicrous impotence of his Rhodesia policy, the long list of broken promises. Castle, the one-time firebrand, Aldermaston marcher, anti-apartheid campaigner, could be just the person to fan the ember into flame and to mislead the working class into a belief that, whatever may have happened in the past, there is some hope for them in the future.

The working class, as we know, can be infuriatingly gullible. But are they really so far gone that they will be impressed by this latent, and emptiest, of gimmicks?


Johnson—All The Way?
Will LBJ go all the way? Whatever he may have said about his firm intention not to run for office in November, there is still a chance that this is no irreversible decision.

The mounting opposition to Johnson's policies, and the explosive frustration at his failure to build the Great Society to order, seemed to have put him on a hiding to nothing. His one chance was to opt for the nothing, and some of his conduct since his renunciation—for example the peace moves in Vietnam—suggests that he is now trying to build up a campaign from there.

Whatever the truth of this, there is no denying that Johnson had found himself with hardly any room to manoeuvre—an unusual plight for the master politician, the ace fixer, the famous wheeler-dealer. This was the man who convinced millions of Americans that he was their saviour, who won an unprecedented victory in 1964, who was so recently the object of mass adulation. Now, Johnson has given up, or at best is struggling desperately for survival.

There is nothing unprecedented in this. One after another, politicians come, see the problems of capitalism and conquer with their promises to cure them. It does not usually take long for reality to assert itself, for the anarchies of capitalism to expose the promises and to turn the blind faith of the followers in their leader into angry disillusionment.

This has happened to Johnson and it has happened in this country to Harold Wilson, who came to power at the same time as Johnson won his famous victory and who is now similarly discredited and disliked. The fact is that capitalism’s leaders cannot control the system and they cannot break its problems. They themselves are the ones to be broken—and usually the more they promise, the greater the enthusiasm for them, the higher they climb in popular acclaim, the lower and harder they fall.

Party News (1968)

Party News from the January 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Kent Debate
Last November members of our Woolwich and Dartford branches put over the socialist case at the South East Model Parliament. Our comrade H. Ramsay proposed:
That this House, recognising the failure of the system of private and state ownership known as capitalism to solve the problems of society, declares that the solution of these problems lies in the establishment of a social system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, by and in the interest of the whole of society.
In what one local paper called “one of the most vigorous and electric debates in the Parliament’s first year of life” the main opposition to the motion came from the Tories who were unable in their arguments to rise much above the profit-is-an-incentive and look-at-East Germany level. Needless to say our members were easily able to deal with such objections. The debate was fully reported in the Kentish Times and the Kentish Independent.


Debate with Plaid Cymru
On December 10 the Party debated the London branch of Plaid Cymru at one of our Soho Square meetings.

Our comrade Buick argued that the basic fallacy of all nationalism, British as well as Welsh, was in seeking national solutions to world problems. The working class, he said, was a world-wide class. A change of state would not help solve working class problems any more than a change of government. For their cause lay not in the form or type of political set-up but in the economic system. Workers of all lands should unite to change this system from one based on the class ownership of the means of life to one based on common ownership and democratic control with production for use, not profit.

Dafydd Stephens, for the Plaid, said that the Welsh people had a long radical tradition and were still today overwhelmingly left wing. Association with England was holding back social change in Wales. Plaid Cymru, he said, could not wait for the people of England let alone the people of the world to change. They wanted an independent Wales now. With independence Wales would be able to push through many radical social measures as had other small countries like Norway.


CORRECTION
In the article "Religion Retreat" in the December Socialist Standard occurs the passage “Catholics and Protestants, Atheists and Jews, are found in any and every political party, according to individual conviction.” This, of course does not apply to the Socialist Party of Gt. Britain where rejection of religion, in theory and practice, is a condition of membership.


BOOKS FOR CLASSES
We require books for the purpose of the Party’s Educational classes. Any member or sympathiser who wishes to dispose of books on Socialist theory, History or Politics is asked either to donate or offer them to us. All books received will be acknowledged.
Party Educational Organiser

Socialists and the "October" Revolution (1968)

Party News from the December 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists were out in force to sell genuine Socialist anti-war literature at the pro-Vietcong, and thus pro-war, demonstration held in London on Sunday 27 October, about which the press spread such hair-raising scare stories.

On the Friday evening, when students of the London School of Economics occupied college buildings to turn them into a sanctuary for the demonstrators, Socialists (including two who were LSE students) were able to hold an impromptu meeting and sell a few dozen socialist standards. A photograph appeared in Saturday’s Morning Star in which one of our members selling this journal could clearly be seen.

At 12.30 on Sunday, thirty or so Socialists were at Charing Cross to get ready to sell literature to the demonstrators as they marched to Hyde Park (we stayed well away from Grosvenor Square and the hooligans). Of course, as with CND, we did not join the march but sold literature to the marchers and by-standers. The cover of the October Socialist Standard can have left no one in doubt as to our position: VIETCONG. NO! MAO, NO! CHE, NO! SOCIALISM, YES! Up to 600 copies were sold in what turned out to be a very successful afternoon’s socialist activity.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Importance of Elections (1968)

Editorial from the November 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

This month, a lot of the Socialist Standard is devoted to the question of elections. One article deals with the American Presidential election, another with the campaign which led up to the Reform Act of 1867. There are two contributions about Votes for Women.

One hundred years ago this month, the first British general election in which most of the voters were workers was held; fifty years ago there was the first general election with women voters.

Elections are important because the party—and the class—that wins them thereby controls political power. It is a sad fact that ever since workers have had the vote the vast majority of them have chosen to support capitalist political parties and so helped to keep in being the system which exploits them and deprives them of liberty, abundance and security.

This has led some to question the usefulness of elections and to turn to so-called “direct action” as an alternative. “Direct action” usually means marches and demonstrations — sometimes violent and provocative-sit-ins, takeovers of colleges, factories and so on. The organisers of these activities hope that in some way they will lead to the overthrow of capitalism.

The one fact which this hope leaves out of account is that “direct action” is necessarily the tactic of a minority; a majority has no need to demonstrate for its demands because it can use its power as a majority to get them.

At the moment the majority are expressing their demand —or preference—for capitalism. They vote for representatives of capitalism who go to the various legislative bodies throughout the world to run society in the interests of the capitalist class, to protect the property rights of capitalism, to administer the state machine and to maintain the “law and order” with its basis in the privileges and exploitation which are part of property society.

There can be no opting out of this. Any threat to “law and order” will be met by the capitalist state, but that state does not act in isolation. The majority of the electorate—which means the majority of the working class—support with their votes the police cordons, the flailing truncheons, the bayonets of the National Guard, the water cannons of Belfast. The experiences of the demonstrators, far from proving the futility of political action, show its power—and (he need to control that power.

Does “direct action”, then, achieve nothing? In practical terms, these are some of its recent results. In France, after the May riots, the Gaullist government came back with an increased majority and so with a clear mandate from the French workers to deal firmly with the insurgents. In America there is a similar story; George Wallace won a lot of votes in unexpected areas from workers who wanted to see the ugliest measures taken against anyone they saw as a threat to the stability of capitalism.

British politics have also been affected; is probably true to say that every demonstration provokes the same sort of reaction among workers here as in America and France and so increases the support for politicians like Enoch Powell with his own particular appeal to working class ignorance and frustration.

Are the demonstrators, then, to stay silent and docile? Must we never protest against the bestialities and degradations of capitalism? No socialist would accept that proposition. But we want our protest to be effective, as no protest can be unless it strikes at the roots of the system— at the political power which keeps the capitalist class in their position of privilege and from which all else flows.

At the moment, in many capitalist countries, the workers have one of the essential tools for this—they have the vote. The capitalists fully recognise the importance of elections; that is why they at first opposed universal suffrage and why they now spend vast sums of money in hoodwinking the voters.

The other essential tool — socialist understanding — is at present lacking. And the way to stimulate it is not by spreading confusion, nor by opportunism, nor by provoking ignorance. There is only one way—the establishment and propagation of the case for the alternative society of Socialism.





Activity in Ireland (1968)

Party News from the October 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The World Socialist Party of Ireland, under considerable difficulties, is carrying on the struggle. They rushed out a leaflet (“under very odd conditions", they report!) on the Czech crisis, of which this is an extract: 
   “The different political regimes involved—Russian, Bulgarian, Polish or even the Czechs themselves—claim that they are “socialist". This is a lie! If Socialism is to have the only possible worthwhile meaning, that of a classless society to replace capitalism, as envisaged by Marx and other socialist pioneers, there is no ‘socialism' in these countries any more than in Labour government Britain or slate capitalist Yugoslavia."
Over one thousand cm these leaflets were distributed at a “protest" meeting in Belfast, where a member of the WSPl managed to get five minutes on the platform to state our case against the confusion of the Young Liberals, National Democrats, N.I. Labour Party, Young “Socialists" and so on. The comrades in Belfast hope this event may have helped to convince the authorities that the streets are now safe for political meetings again. The new address of the WSPl is 13, Queens Square, Belfast 1.



A Marxist Text Book (1968)

Book Review from the August 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Theoretical System of Karl Marx, by Louis Boudin. (Monthly Review Press. 50s.)

It is welcome news that Louis B. Boudin’s book has been republished after being out of print for many years.

The new edition is identical with that published by Charles H. Kerr of Chicago in 1918, based on a series of articles written by Boudin for the International Socialist Review in 1905 and 1906.

In spite of the particular purpose for which it was originally written, in spite of the lapse of time, the intervening wars and revolutions, and the fact that Marx’s writings are now more readily available in the English-speaking world it is still an excellent introduction to the study of Marxism.

In his preface Boudin explained that he started with the intention of giving an account of the movement to revise Marxism, conducted by Bernstein and other Social Democrats in the 1890’s, but found this impossible except at great length because so much of the background was unfamiliar to English readers. He decided instead to provide “an exposition of the teachings of Marx”; not a text-book or detailed statement of economic theory, “but rather an outline of the Marxian system of thought”, with special emphasis on the relation of the different parts to each other and the unity of the whole.

He succeeded admirably, and though the names of the critics of Marx with whom he dealt are now of less interest, many of the points he made are as useful today as they were then.

Of course not all of his views have stood the test of time. He was for example over-influenced by the phase capitalism was going through in the early years of the century and appears to have accepted that the trend towards heavier unemployment was bound to continue.

In Chapter VI Boudin dealt at length with the way in which, consistently with the Marxian theory of value and surplus value, some commodities sell above and other below their value, and all capitals whether in the sphere of production or of circulation tend to receive the average rate of profit. Having explained how each capital shares in the surplus value produced in the whole of society and does not just receive surplus value produced by the workers in the particular firm, Boudin even anticipated by half a century the seemingly difficult poser presented by the automationist dream of a workerless factory. He showed that the individual capitalists can receive profit “notwithstanding the fact that their workingmen created no surplus value whatever or that they employed no working-men at all”.

Writing at the time he did, Boudin had no occasion to deal with the problem of a seizure of power (as in Russia in 1917) allegedly with the object of imposing Socialism on a population not ready for it. We can however read what he had to say about the conditions necessary for Socialism, the vital role of the proletariat and the anti-socialist outlook of the peasantry. It is therefore interesting to read what he said years later in May 1921, in a lecture to the New York Socialist Education Society:
One does not look to a poorhouse for Socialism and it is my belief that when a revolution has occurred in a backward country where the productivity of labour is low, either one of two things must happen; either the productivity of labour must be developed to a point where the prerequisites of Socialism, that is that the workers have sufficient leisure to educate themselves to a point where they are fully capable of administering their own affairs, are in existence, or else classes will appear . . . Private property is not abolished in Russia, and if Lenin has said so then he is mistaken and I must disagree, but what I have read of Lenin’s says just the contrary.
Edgar Hardcastle

To the Workers of France (1968)

From the July 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following manifesto (for distribution in France) was adopted by the Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Gt. Britain on 28th May. This is the English translation.

We address you not as citizens of one country to citizens of another but as world socialists to fellow members of the world working class.

We reject frontiers as artificial barriers put up by governments. All men are brothers and the world should be theirs. All men should be social equals with free access to the plenty that could be if only the means of living belonged to a socialist world community. We oppose governments everywhere, all nationalism, racism and religion, all censorship, all wars and preparations for war.

Workers! We support your class struggle for better wages and conditions against the employers and the government. But do not be taken in by the ease with which you have occupied the factories. They allowed you to do this because they know that in time you must give in. Political power is always in the hands of those who control the machinery of government, including the armed forces and the sadistic CRS. Do not be misled by those who say that universal suffrage is a fraud. Learn from your masters. You too must organise to win political power if you want a new society. Do not let cunning politicians or the discredited Communist Party return to power on your backs. Ignore those who would be your leaders. Rely on your own understanding and organisation. Turn universal suffrage into an instrument of emancipation.

Students! We share your distaste for the indignities and hypocrisies of the present order. We share your wish for a new society with no exploitation of man by man. But do not underestimate what a task it will be to change society. It will be a hundred times more difficult than changing the government. A democratic world community, based on common ownership with production for use not profit, can only be set up when people want it and are ready to take the steps needed to get it up and keep it going. Democratic political action is the only way to Socialism. There are no short cuts. We must have a majority actively on our side. Do not be misled by student demagogues, those who praise Bakunin, Trotsky, Mao or Che Guevara, who would use you for their own mistaken ends. They think that an elite should use unrest to gain power and then set up a classless society. What dangerous nonsense! Look at state capitalist Russia where a new privileged class rules, with police intimidation and censorship, over an increasingly restless population. Look at state capitalist China where power-hungry bureaucrats cynically manipulate the people in their own sordid squabbles. Learn the lessons of history: elite action leads to elite rule. No Socialism unless by democratic political action, based on socialist understanding.

The task you face in France is the same that we face in Britain and our brothers in Germany, Russia, the United States and other countries: to build up a strong world-wide movement for Socialism. What is needed more than anything else in this period of social unrest is a clear, uncompromising statement of the case for a socialist world community . . .

If you agree, please write to us. We will be glad to help you ensure that the voice of Socialism is again heard in France.

Workers of the world, Unite!

Russia and Britain (1968)

Book Review from the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Impact of the Russian Revolution in Britain, by R. Page Arnot (Lawrence and Wishart, 45s.)

Page Arnot's book is a well-documented account of the way events in Russia in the period 1917-1921 were received in Britain—the reactions of the government, the Press, political parties and trade unions. It deals with the Communist seizure of power in Russia, the new government’s withdrawal from the war with Germany, its handling of desperate economic problems, the civil war, and the armed intervention by the British and other governments, and shows in parallel how different groups in this country opposed or supported the Russian Government, organised protest demonstrations and so on.

Undoubtedly in 1917 large sections of the propertied class were badly frightened (just as their predecessors had been at the time of the French Revolution) by the thought that the example of the overthrow of Czardom and confiscation of property, added to war-weariness and industrial strife, might endanger property rights in Britain. Even if they had known then (and most of them did not) that in the long run Russia just like France, would settle down as part of the world capitalist order, they would have feared that in the short run they could expect a few very troubled years. This book will help those who want to recapture the political fears and hopes of the time.

What it lacks is an understanding by the author of what was really emerging out of the confusion of those early years. He shared the common delusion that 50 years ago Socialism was just about to emerge in Russia, Britain and elsewhere.
Edgar Hardcastle

A Challenge to Debate (1968)

Party News from the May 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the days when the Independent Labour Party counted its MPs by the dozen the Socialist Party often gave them a scare by issuing a challenge to debate. The ILP had a special technique for dealing with us. They normally sent back a haughty reply along the lines that “no useful purpose would be served by such a meeting". We were not a little surprised, then, to receive a challenge to debate—dated September 22, 1967—from the general secretary of what remains of the ILP. The Socialist Party replied on October 12, 1967 accepting the challenge and we added that we looked forward to receiving the ILP’s proposals as to the details of the meeting.

Since nothing had been heard from them by the end of December 1967, we wrote a further letter offering to help out if they were having difficulty in securing a hall. At the time of writing we are still awaiting a reply. On two occasions we have telephoned their head office and both times they have answered that they were too busy to consider a debate until some indefinite time in the future! All this seems rather strange when it is remembered that it was they who issued the challenge. If nothing else, this shows consistency. The ILP has been dithering ever since its formation in 1893 and its present members are obviously ably maintaining their party's tradition.

The Review Column: Facts on Race (1968)

The Review Column from the April 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Facts on Race
With another Immigrants Act; with the searing report on last year’s riots in Newark, New Jersey; with the legal battle over the condemned Africans in Rhodesia; with the preparations in the United States for another long, hot summer; race is once more making the news.

In pubs, bus queues, workshops, offices and homes a variety of theories — if they can be graced with the name — is being propounded. It is time, then, for yet another statement of the facts on race, which all workers should bear in mind.

FACT ONE: Although there is any number of racial theories, and of racialists, nobody has yet been able to fix conclusively the dividing line between races, nor indeed the number of races that exist 

FACT TWO: There is absolutely no evidence, despite exhaustive and persistent attempts to get some, that human beings whose skin is of one colour are superior or inferior to those whose skin is of another colour.

FACT THREE: We live in a capitalist society which is world wide and which divides its people into two classes — capitalists and workers.

FACT FOUR: These two classes are also world wide and cut across any other divisions of race, sex or religion. Thus there are “coloured” capitalists as well as “coloured” workers, “white” workers as well as “white” capitalists.

FACT FIVE: The interests of workers are opposed to those of the capitalists.

FACT SIX: All capitalists have a common interest and so have all workers. The workers’ is in unity — as long as capitalism lasts to improve their conditions and, more important, to organise for the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by Socialism.

FACT SEVEN: Racial theories and prejudices, because they are false and because they operate against working class unity, are a barrier to the understanding of Socialism. They are, therefore, against the interests of the workers and should be rejected by them.

FACT EIGHT: Only when we have Socialism will all human beings be able to cooperate freely for the benefit of society. Only Socialism will end the pernicious scourge of racism.


Wages Still Frozen
One of the more famous examples of Harold Wilson’s cynicism is his saying that in politics a week is a long time.

Clearly, it is this principle that has guided the government’s policy on wages. Each time the stop has been put on rises it has been on the understanding that it was only a temporary restraint. Every turn of the screw has been justified on the argument that it was necessary for a time —six months, a year—to ensure greater prosperity to come.

Every restriction on the unions has been represented as a preliminary to greater freedom in the future. On the principle that a week is a long time—that the promises made last week will be forgotten by this—the government has broken every promise on wages.

If their original assurances were worth anything, we should by now be free of the freeze. In fact, restraint is still on; last month’s meeting of trade union executives spent most of their time discussing the pointless issue of whether they would co-operate voluntarily or compulsorily with holding down wages.

The Prices and Incomes Act still hangs over the unions and if the busmen, for example, carry through their campaign for a rise, we may see some prosecutions under the Act. Under Jenkins, as under Callaghan, the clamp down continues. So, too, does the policy of letting prices rise, and of inflating the currency so that the whole operation can tick over.

What this all means is a depression of working class living standards. It means that our wages, held down, will buy less and that the necessities of life will be that much harder to come by — and the luxuries that much fewer and further between.

This is what the government's economic policies have been aiming at, behind the smokescreen of promises, all on the cynical premise that voters' memories last no longer than'a week. Well, do they? That, of course, is a matter for the workers themselves.


How Big a Villain?
Even before David Frost got at him, Emil Savundra was high on the list of public villains. Savundra was skating on very thin ice. The motor car, with all it implies about the economic status of its owner, is an object of almost neurotic pride among the working class. Anything which threatens to upset this little dream world— inadequate roads, higher road tax, unstable insurance companies—is likely to call forth wrath appropriate to frustrated pride.

How big a villain was Savundra? He is, apparently, a man of compelling personality and some ingenuity; when he was sentenced there was the usual regret that he had not turned his talents to some business within the law. That, of course, would have been perfectly alright; capitalism's legal robbery has founded many fortunes and there are many men with honours thick upon them as a reward for running the system.

Indeed, insurance is a part of capitalism's big swindle — as anyone can find out if they fail to read and understand the small print on a policy, or try to cancel a policy before it is fully paid up and expect to get back something like what they have paid in premiums. Savundra broke capitalisms's rules and his mistake was to do so in a way and on a scale which was almost certain to be discovered.

Of course the collapse of Fire Auto and Marine damaged a lot of workers, many of them, as the judge said, “from a modest income group” who could afford only the sort of cut price premiums offered by FAM.

But capitalism is damaging workers all the time. By taking from them the full product of their labour, and giving back only a portion, the system robs and swindles millions of people. Beside that, and beside capitalism's record of repression, Savundra is very, very small fry.

It needs no legal and financial expert to expose capitalism's crime against humanity. The indictment of the system was prepared a long time ago but so far there has not been enough interest in bringing a prosecution.

Labour's Left-wing (1968)

From the March 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Party is a party of capitalism; one of the two political machines that the working class in Britain regularly elect to control the government in the interests of the capitalists. Of this there can be no doubt. The Labour Party have never had Socialism as their aim. It is true that in the past they did use, or rather misuse, the word socialism more than they do today. But to them Socialism meant nationalisation or state capitalism. Now they prefer to speak of the New Britain — a fact which we Socialists welcome as it means that the name of Socialism will be dragged less through the mud by being linked with the war-making, strike breaking, anti-union laws and wage freezes of the various Labour governments.

The Labour Party is organised to run the machinery of government. Their programme and policy is decided by the Leader and the leaders of the Parliamentary Labour Party. It is controlled from the top downwards. In other words it is not a democratic party and the membership do not lay down its policy. The aftermath of the 1960 Scarborough Conference decision in favour of unilateral disarmament is a glaring example of this. The parliamentary leaders and the Leader refused to accept this decision and justified this refusal on the ground that they were responsible not to the Party but to the electorate. As the electorate did not in fact back unilateral disarmament this was a telling point. In fact it gives us a clue to the reason for the ineffectiveness of the Labour Party generally and of its left-wing in particular.

Labour MPs are elected on the votes of people who are not Socialists and so are effectively their prisoner. They cannot go much further than those who voted for them are prepared to go, and certainly they can do nothing for Socialism. For Socialism cannot be established over the heads of a working class who do not understand it. Socialism can only be established by people who understand and want it and who democratically set out to get it. The Labour Party does not—and never has—seek support at elections on a Socialist programme. It has always done so on a programme of trying to reform capitalism. The left-wing also suggest a reform programme, only one less practical than that of the parliamentary leaders. But they are elected, not on their own programme, but on that of the leaders—a fact which gives these leaders the whip-hand. They can use the passive voters who backed their programme against the programme suggested by the parliamentary left-wing and the constieuency activists.

The parliamentary left-wing, of course, have a well-earned reputation for ineffectiveness. Many put this down to the peculiar atmosphere of the House of Commons which is supposed to entice them away from their principles. This is not the case at all. They have been elected on the official Labour programme and not on one of more nationalisation, less defence and the like. They are the prisoner of those who elected them, and also of those who share the views of those who elected them. They know this, and so do the parliamentary leaders who thus can treat them with utter contempt. To repeat: it is not the fact that they are in parliament that makes leftwing MPs spineless. It is how they got there. The lesson is clear: if Labourites are forced even to water down their reform programme, to expect Socialism to be established through the Labour Party is just plain stupid.

Despite the antagonism between the left-wing and the parliamentary leaders and the odd situation where the Leader is really hated by many members, the left-wing does play a useful and essential role for the Labour Party. That role is to persuade doubters that the Labour Party does have the interests of the workers at heart. When talking to party activists even the official leadership will talk of Socialism. Once again this is to reassure doubters who may be beginning to see through the Labour Party.

Seeking support on the basis it does, when elected the Labour Party has no choice but to run capitalism. And capitalism cannot be made to work in the interest of those who work for a wage or salary. It can only work in the interests of the owning class. Any party which takes on the task of running capitalism is sooner or later brought into direct conflict with the working class. The economic forces of capitalism smash the grandiose social reform schemes to pieces. This has happened with every Labour government. After the war troops were used to break down strikes; strikers were put on trial; production of the atom bomb started and the Korean war backed. Labour governments act only as they can: as caretakers for capitalism.

Socialists would never think of joining such a party as Labour any more than they would the Liberal or Tory parties. Labour has always in practice stood for capitalism and even its theory of how to improve the lot of the working class was hopelessly mistaken. Once again, Socialism can only be established by people who want it. No gain can come to a Socialist party from opportunism or compromise. To achieve Socialism a Socialist party must seek the support only of convinced socialists. This is the policy of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. It is the only sound way to build a Socialist party, as the history of the Labour Party well shows. 
Adam Buick

Let Them Eat Cake (1968)

From the February 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

In their Open Letter to the Party (see the Socialist Standard, December 1967) Jacek Kuron and Karol Modzelewski analysed the living conditions of workers in “communist” Poland. Using official, Polish-government data they produced a devastating criticism of the state capitalist system in that country. One passage in particular stands out in my mind—that dealing with meat consumption in working class families.
 Polish food physiologists established 4 norms for meat consumption. Norm A, hardly adequate and not recommended for a long period, requires a monthly per capita average of 3.7 Kg. Norm B, adequate and permitting a normal functioning of the organism over a long period, requires 4 Kg. The data on family budgets reveals that in about 23 per cent of working class families the consumption of meat and meat products is below the hardly adequate norm, and in 18 to 19 per cent of such families, it is within the hardly adequate norm but still below the adequate norm.
  According to a research project conducted at the Warsaw Motorcycle Factory in 1957, 23 per cent of the workers ate meat for dinner once a week or less, and 25 per cent ate it twice a week. One might suppose that data seven years old are no longer true, but in fact consumption of meat and meat products in 1957 was 43.9 kilograms, a level higher than that of 1960 (42.5 kilograms) and not much below that of 1962 (45.8 kilograms).
As can be seen, the statistics used by these two imprisoned ex-Communists go no further than 1962. But a recent article in the Economist (2.12.67) has presented figures for succeeding years. It shows that the trend in Poland at present is for family incomes to rise. This has resulted not so much from pay increases as from the tendency for more members of the average family to go out to work; thus-the labour force has increased by 1,900,000 in the past seven years. As a measure of the poverty of these working class families it is significant that little of their extra money has been spent on so-called luxuries. Instead they have concentrated on buying more of the basic essentials such as foodstuffs. In fact, food products still account for 47 per cent of total consumer expenditure, the same proportion as before. Due to their new-found “affluence” Polish workers have been eating more meat and it is estimated that in 1967 the average working man just reached the adequate level (norm B). The figure given is 4.3 kilograms/month (52 kilograms/year) for per capita meat consumption, compared to the norm of 4 kilograms/month (48 kilograms/year).

Production in state capitalist Poland, however, is not carried on in order to satisfy the people’s needs and the supply of meat products for the market has lagged behind the new demand. This has meant, in classical capitalist manner, rocketing prices of the different types of meat—increases of 16.7 per cent on average, but even higher in some cases (the price of veal, for example, is up by a third). The effect of all this is, of course, quite obvious. It must once more force per capita consumption of meat down below the level which healthy diet demands. The average worker will now only be able to afford 3.7 kilograms of meat each month (44.6 kilograms/year) — the “hardly adequate" norm — if he spends the same money as before on his food. With working class budgets stretched just as tightly in Poland as they are elsewhere, this means he has little alternative than to tighten his belt.

We could not end without mentioning Stefan Jedrychowski, the chairman of the state planning commission. According to the Economist he has “blamed the current shortages in meat supplies on the Poles’ insatiable appetite for meat”! As always, the barbarities of the capitalist system are only matched by the cynical insolence of those in power.
John Crump

What Price Charity (1968)

From the January 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

That the face of society is becoming increasingly more scarred by the demands being made from charity organisations is now only too painfully clear. That the social problems which these organisations were formed to alleviate are becoming more acute also is only too clear.

That there is no new thinking on the question of ends and means only shows the extent to which emotionalism rather than rationalism governs the actions of both those who beseech our support and those who are morally blackmailed into giving their support to charity organisations.

We are bombarded from all directions to support this appeal, or that cause; accusing fingers thrust their way into our faces reminding us that one day age too will menacingly envelope us. That illness, or loneliness, or worse incapacity might strike us down. We are informed that there are homeless children, and homeless aged. Not so very long ago we were seduced into filling tin boxes with metal coins to help the homeless children in China. In yet a later decade the labels on the collecting boxes were changed to the homeless children of Korea. Yet again the labels change to show that the Vietnam children should be the recipients of our help. No Cooks Tour of the world need remind us of those in need in the many parts of the globe. This function is well served by the rattle of little tin boxes. Christian Aid reminds us that millions are hungry. The National Food Survey Committee tells us that 500,000 children live in poverty in England, living on inferior diets. There are fund raising campaigns for diseases of the heart, polio, cerebral palsy, cancer and many others. Money raising is big business, quite often competing one against the other. The Aberfan fund did much to deplete the tin boxes of other charities.

The Jewish Board of Guardians was founded 107 years ago. The ambitions which animated the J.B.G. were similar to those of other reformist bodies, namely that inherent in their activity for voluntary work in such fields as housing, health and general welfare for immigrant Jews was the concept “that the amelioration of physical conditions and the relief of poverty was the key to the solution of all social problems.”

V. D. Lipman. in his book Social History of the Jews in England 1850- 1950 tells us that the various Jewish charities, including the J.B.G., were originally supported by large donations from wealthy and generous individuals such as the Rothschilds; he however does not question the origin of the accumulation of Rothschild’s wealth, neither does he question the fact of riches alongside poverty or physical degradation alongside privilege and comfort. These are accepted as part of some vast eternal plan, but somehow or other to he alleviated.

Mr. Lipman suggests that today's welfare state has replaced many of the functions previously performed by charities. Even if this were true, which it is not, he completely fails to understand that the “welfare" state is in itself a reflection of capitalism's inability to provide for those in want. The Observer agony column of 29 October last carried advertisements from 17 charities advertising the sale of Christmas cards on behalf of bodies concerned with cancer research, the deaf and the blind, spastics. diabetics, rheumatism and arthritis. The plight of sufferers from these diseases is pitiful, particularly when it is reported that economies have to be instituted in the Royal Marsden Hospital for Leukaemia (a killer disease). Because of shortages of funds wards will have to close down (Times 22.4.67).

In the same year that the [Jewish] Board of Guardians was founded in 1859, Karl Marx too had some observations to make about social problems. He wrote “that the working class may improve their material conditions in Capitalist society, but they do so at a cost of their social conditions". In the light of the many demands now being made by charity organisations throughout the world, for so many causes, it would seem that Marx was right. One does not have to look very long upon the social scene to see that the efficacy of charity organisations is being frustrated by the very conditions that have given rise to the problems they have set out to alleviate. That this so is substantiated by the charity organisations themselves.

The Jewish Chronicle of October 27 carries an article by a Mr. Mark Fineman, who gives a quotation from the Jewish Welfare Board’s annual report for 1922: “We recognise that bad times, the crushing burden of taxation, the insistence of appeals for our suffering co-religionists abroad, and for hospitals and for other general charities at home, all make it more difficult to support the Board in the generous way of our forerunners”. Mr. Fineman then concludes with the statement “These words are as true today”. This after 100 years!

Oxfam reminds us that 1967 marked their 25th anniversary. Their current appeal does show more realism by asking us to help put them out of business, but it then goes on to say “how many of the hungry will live to see their (Oxfam’s) 26th anniversary?”

That it is utopian to expect charity organisations to make any inroads into the problems they collect funds for is evident by the title of one particular organisation — World Hunger Week — in other words the title is a reflection of the proportion of the problem. They are no longer local in character or isolated “unfortunate incidents in the life of a nation”. On the contrary, they are increasing in dimension and mote acute in their effects. For example, the Jewish Chronicle quotes Browning “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be” then goes on to say that “for many Jewish citizens old age threatens, fear, illness and isolation at the end.” And then proceeds to tell us that the support Israel fund did much to deplete the funds for the aged and for the infirm! And in another edition God had performed a miracle of divine intervention in order that an Israeli victory was assured, but in his divine inscrutable wisdom failed to intervene on behalf of aged Jews. That must be left to charity!

Neither the supporters nor the organisers are concerned, so it would seem, to establish the cause of poverty in the modern world. They fail to see that the one complements the other. They fail to recognise that sufferers from poverty and social inadequacy, or maladjusted human beings are in the main wage earners, and it is the fact that they are wage earners first, living in a highly competitive industrial society which renders them immediately vulnerable to all the slings and arrows of a rapacious system.

One other aspect of charity worth dwelling upon which organisers themselves might consider is the degradation of being the recipient of charity. Oscar Wilde observed in his essay The Soul of Man under Socialism that “it is safer to beg than to take, but it is nobler to take than to beg.”

Socialism being the conversion of private property into common property replacing competition with co-operation will restore society from one of wanton waste into one of plenty, where human beings will take from society according to their need, freed from the necessity of having to live for others but where man can finally live for himself but in cooperation with others.
Harry Hamme

Party Notes (1904)

Party News from the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the present month there will be two meetings of the E.C., viz., Saturday. December 3rd, 3 p.m. and Tuesday, December 20th. 7 p.m. These meetings will be held at the Communist Club, and any member, by presenting his membership card, is entitled to be present during the transaction of the business.

The practice, initiated by our Provisional Executive, of throwing the Sessions of the E.C. open to the members, is now a rule of the Party and is giving every satisfaction, not only to the members who, residing in London, have the opportunity of attending, but also to those living in provincial centres. A short time ago I received from a member in the midlands a letter from which I quote the following:
   "I am exceedingly well pleased with the tone of our paper. It has the genuine ring about it. I was especially interested in and greatly pleased with your report at the General Meeting. The policy pursued, as indicated in your report, is the very essence of Democracy. No Tammany Hall here! Let everything be done openly and above board. That is Socialism.”
Largely owing to the efforts of our Edmonton and Wood Green comrades, there is every likelihood of a Branch of the Party being soon established in Tottenham, where our comrades have been conducting a successful out-door propaganda. Last Sunday two of our speakers held a meeting at West Green Road at which the names of several new members were obtained. Two persons (not members of the Party) moved a vote of confidence in our organisation which was carried without dissent by the audience.

Our Islington comrades are active, and have not the slightest intention of being excelled by Paddington or any other Branch. They have obtained, since my last “Notes” appeared, more new members and are again at the same rate of increase as Paddington. Of course, mere numbers is not all that is required.

But in addition to keeping well abreast as far as Branch membership is concerned, the Islington Branch has shown the lead in the number of prepaid subscriptions obtained for The Socialist Standard. Comrade Sator, alone, has sent in eight Annual Subscriptions and is no doubt looking for more. Here is an example that could with advantage be emulated by many more of our members.

The sale of the Party Organ will, of course, not be so large during the next two or three months as it has been during the open-air propaganda season. But any possible diminution of income from sales can be to a certain extent compensated for by an increase in the Annual Subscriptions. Now is the time to secure them.

In Battersea the Sunday Night Lectures at Sydney Hall are being continued. I have not yet received the Syllabus for December, but am in a position to announce two subjects. On Sunday, 4th December, C. Lehane will speak on “Ireland, To-day and To-morrow," and on Sunday, 11th Dec., J. Fitzgerald will lecture on “Reform or Revolution.” Time, 7 p.m.

Rumours are afloat that several of our members have quitted the Party and gone back to the S.D.F. This is not so. I am not aware of a single case where this has occurred. But we can readily understand that in circulating the rumour the wish is father to the thought.
Con Lehane

Party Notes (1904)

Party Notes from the November 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

A member whose first name is Sydney, now rusticating in Hellingly, has been good enough to draw my attention to the discrepancy between the announcement, contained in the report of the Executive Committee published in the  October issue, relating to the number of the Party speakers and the number actually contained in the Lecture List.

The report stated “The Party has at its disposal over 15 speakers,” whereas my informant states he has counted the names appearing in Lecture List for October, and finds we have twenty-two "special speakers.” Our comrade is nearly right. I have looked through the list in question, but can only discover 20 speakers.

In any case the number is “over 15,” and the statement contained in the E.C. report absolutely correct. Were we to place on the list every member capable of holding forth from the platform we might perhaps muster 30or 40 speakers, but it is better to under-estimate than to over state our strength. We have no desire to “bluff” anybody by presenting a magnified view of our forces. The Social Revolution cannot be accomplished in a day, and neither can the instrument of that revolution, The Socialist Party, be built up in a few mouths. Our speakers to-day are counted by tens and our supporters by hundreds, but to-morrow these numbers will be increased ten and a thousand fold.

The same correspondent makes a suggestion which may be found useful. This idea is that a good deal of expense would be saved if branch business meetings were, where possible, held in members' houses. Socialists at any time are not very great believers in rent, and with the approach of winter, branches having only a small membership could, with advantage, meet in a comrade's house.

The outdoor propaganda season is now over, but at the Party speaking stations operations will be continued as usual, as for as the weather will permit. During the winter of course many sources of income will be closed to the Branches, and consequently some of our comrades, particularly in the poorer districts of London, may experience some difficulty in maintaining their Branches in a sound condition, financially and otherwise.

These dangers will be minimised if our comrades everywhere make special efforts to push the Party literature. As a clean and clear exponent of Socialist Science, The Socialist Standard has no equal in Great Britain. The sale of our Organ during the winter months will keep alive the local interest, be a means of holding together and securing new members, a source of revenue to the Branches, and finally will prepare the ground for the opening of the spring campaign with renewed vigour.

Things are commencing to move down in Battersea, where our comrades have organised the sale of The Socialist Standard in a really creditable manner. The results achieved are of such an encouraging character that Peckham will soon have to look to its laurels. Hitherto, Peckham has been to the forefront as regards their supply of the Party Organ, but a stride or two more will give Battersea the lead.

In other directions, too, our Battersea comrades are giving evidence of their earnestness in the Cause, indicated in the announcement contained elsewhere in this issue. They have organised a series of indoor lectures, to be delivered in Sidney Hall at 7.30 p.m. every Sunday in November, when various aspects of the Movement will be treated by comrades Elrick, Kent, Watts, and Anderson. Comrades not on duty elsewhere will do well to attend these lectures.

Although our Paddington comrades appear to be quiescent, it would be a great mistake to suppose they are inactive. Since the General Meeting the Paddington Branch has enrolled more new members than any other Branch of the Party. What on earth is Islington doing? Day after day I am seized with great fear and trembling as I open the despatches from the “Vale” containing the signed Declarations of new members. I fear and I tremble because with each upward motion of the Paddington membership barometer recedes the Islington promise to be the best Branch. If our northern comrades do not bestir themselves their Branch will indeed be the “greatest thing on earth”--except Paddington.

Comrades, everywhere, let us be up and doing. Let us pull steadily together. Let there be no resting on oars till, having conquered the adverse winds and the deceptive currents of Capitalism,  our craft is safely anchored in the haven of the Socialist Republic. Comrades, everyone; pass the word along. Onward!
Con Lehane