Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Obituary: George Deval (1983)

Obituary from the November 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

With the death on 30 July of George Deval at the age of 78, the SPGB lost a comrade who unstintingly gave of his time and energy working for the Party for more than fifty years. George was introduced to the socialist case during the twenties and became a member in the early thirties. His employment brought him to Birmingham and he helped to restart the Birmingham Branch during the latter part of the war. He subsequently filled all Branch positions, ending as Secretary. Branch members remember him with gratitude for his dedication and hard work in all the tasks he undertook. We extend our sympathy to his wife and family.

Aberfan: Disaster In The Hillsides (2016)

From the November 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
During the early winter of 1966 Hoover Limited sent a minor manager from their vacuum cleaner factory in West London to the massive plant in Merthyr Tydfil South Wales where they made washing machines. The manager took a train to Cardiff where he was picked up by one of the company cars and chauffer to take him to a hotel where he was to stay for a couple of nights. During the journey both men were silent, without the chatter which usually enlivened their journeys together. When they arrived at the hotel they got out of the car and looked across to some high land where floodlit earth machines were at work. Then the driver spoke. ‘Aberfan’ he said. It was November 1966 and they were looking at the site of the worst mining-related disaster in British history.   
Aberfan is a village in South Wales which was once heavily dependent on employment at the nearby Merthyr Vale colliery. It now has a community centre, flourishing with its swimming pool, fitness rooms and café. There are also two schools, which provoke unbearable memories of that tragedy fifty years ago. Coal mining began there in 1869, when a pit was sunk on the banks of the Afon Taff; in 1875 the first commercial coal was brought to the surface – the beginning of a history proud enough to accentuate the grief and misery which devastated the village in October 1966. On that occasion the deaths did not originate underground, in a coal mine; many of the people who died were buried and suffocated in lethal slurry from the open ground above. A total of 144 people were killed in minutes; 116 were children and no survivors were found after 11am. Many of those who did survive have since suffered from persistent psychological disorders – for example the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2003 recorded that half have suffered from PTSD, which for about a third of them will persist as a lifetime disorder. A typical comment was by the author Laurie Lee who, after visiting Aberfan a year afterwards, described the school children there as ‘…the unhealed scar tissue of Aberfan’.  The colliery was closed in 1989.
Slurry
The basic cause of the disaster was tipping – the deposit of spoil of varying content and consistency  which had been extracted from the colliery, onto the ground overlooking  Aberfan when more convenient lower sites had been filled to their limit. By 1966 there were, looming above the area so that they could be distantly viewed from that hotel, a number of mounds – or tips – which were known by numbers 1 to 7, the last of which was the most ominous. There was no proper regular inspection and maintenance of the tips to check on their stability although they were composed of loose rock and other extracted material within a massive layer of sandstone. This was a dangerously absorbent composition which through the addition of water from underground springs could develop into a slope steep enough to accelerate the descent of the heavier spoil and slurry which would wipe out whatever – and whoever – lay in its path. In fact some local councils had questioned, in 1963, whether it was safe to dispose of the colliery waste in that way, particularly when in the direct path of such a descending geological missile there were the village primary and senior schools as well as other inhabited buildings. But any such questions were effectively ignored by the local National Coal Board.
Schools
On that dreadful day – 21 October 1966 – South Wales had already suffered several spells of torrential rain, which in itself was enough of a problem for the pupils of the local Pantglas School as they scurried from home to the last school day before  breaking up for the half-term holiday. Soon after 9.15 am a mass of liquid containing material brought up from the mine broke free from the tips and began to smash down towards the village and the homes and the schools and the children below. A gang of workmen who were on Tip 7 to inspect a fault with the railway which carried the disposable material from the mine were resting with a cup of tea when they saw the rapidly approaching disaster but they were unable to warn the village about it because the cable of their telephone had been stolen (although the subsequent enquiry was clear that no warning could have improved the situation). The gang watched helplessly as a mass of over 150,000 cubic metres of saturated mining spoil broke free, moving down the slope in a series of surges. Some of it clung to the ground, leaving about 40,000 cubic metres to carry on into Aberfan.  ‘All I could see’ remembered one of them ‘… was waves of muck, slush and water… I couldn’t see - nobody could …’ The first victims were a farm and twenty houses which were swiftly obliterated with all the occupants. At Pantglas School the teachers were checking and recording attendance when the buildings were overwhelmed by a compound of muddy rubble up to ten metres deep. One eight-year-old recalled ‘… a tremendous rumbling sound and all the school went dead … Everyone just froze in their seats. I just managed to get up and I reached the end of my desk when the sound got louder and nearer, until I could see the black out of the window. I can’t remember any more’. The slurry eventually came to halt at about 9.15am; the damage had been done and by 11am the last living child had been brought out from the school; it was several more days before the last body could be found.
Nationalised
The reaction of their employers, in whatever context, and their political defenders was tediously predictable. One of the more prominent of these was the late Claude Granville Lancaster who went to school at Eton then trained at the Royal Military College Sandhurst and who eventually inherited the excessively stately Palladian Kelmarsh Hall in Leicestershire from his father along with the family investments in coal mining and farming. Like his father he was a Conservative MP, in his case for Fylde. When the Attlee government nationalised the coal industry Lancaster recognised the inevitable and ‘… gave all his support to the National Coal Board … to do his best to bring what he felt was much-needed drive and decisiveness to its cumbersome and slow-moving organisation’. He had an early opportunity to live up to these standards when the slurry came down on Aberfan but he was abroad, in what were then known as the Trucial States (since 1971 the United Arab Emirates). Soon after he returned another MP asked him to comment on the possible cause of the tragedy. To which this meticulous expert in coal mining replied ‘I fancy that you will find that it was a trickle of water’.
Another, rather different, example was a man who was raised, not into the ancient land-owning nobility but by Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to be chairman of a key nationalised industry. This was Alfred Robens who was Labour MP for Wansbeck and then Blyth until he took over Britain’s coal mines which also entailed him being ennobled, so that he became Baron Robens of Woldingham. He took to all of this with a determination which was expressed in his car being numbered NCB1 and his  access to a private jet plane and a posh flat in a most expensive part of London. These privileges he defended behind a style of management later described most moderately as demanding.
Chancellor
This style came under focus as the people of Aberfan were grappling with their demanding emergencies. To be specific on that day of 21st October Robens did not, as was expected of him as the overlord of the mines, attend that scene of suffering – although his staff falsely assured the Ministry of Power that he was there soothing the distress of the people. In fact he chose to attend a ceremony at the University of Surrey to be installed as Chancellor. The anger which this aroused locally was aggravated by his opinion that the original cause of the avalanche was ‘some … natural unknown springs’ which was particularly provocative to the grieving local people who had long-standing acquaintance with that very water source since they had played there as children. When the official enquiry was seriously critical of Robens’ behaviour throughout he offered to resign from the NCB but this was dismissed as unnecessary. At the same time the NCB refused to pay the full cost of removing the tips- an attitude which persisted until the first Blair government agreed to meet the bill – although without the interest which would have considerably raised the total. This evasion was pointedly described by another Labour MP Leo Abse as ‘… the graceless pavane danced by Lord Robens and the Minister, as the chairman of the National Coal Board’ and more recently by the Geoscientist –The Fellowship Magazine of the Geological Society of London:   ‘What happened in Aberfan was a mass betrayal of intergenerational equity … not only ripped the heart out of one small Welsh village - it sucked life out of an entire industry’. When Robens took over there were 698 pits; when he left there were 292. Which left the Thatcher government to carry on so that in the Merthyr area nearly 30 percent of the able-bodied were unemployed, apart from the other adults whose industrial diseases had led to them being registered as disabled.
Coal mining was always a dangerous occupation, to be taken up only because there was nothing less threatening on offer. This was the case in Aberfan. At the same time the miners had to struggle against a poverty as concentrated as the risks they endured in and around the pits. And the harsh reality of all this is that the employing class have an enduring priority that production – of coal or whatever – should be as cheap as possible. As they did in Aberfan with the over-looming tips and the workers’ homes. This was untouched by the continuing requirements of nationalisation with the substitution of management by an ex-left wing Labour MP for a traditionally aristocratic Tory. In commemorating that disaster it must not be ignored that Aberfan was an episode entirely typical of the demands of class ownership for human suffering and denial.
Ivan

Amadeo Bordiga as Intransigent Socialist (2017)

Amadeo Bordiga
From the January 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
We begin a three part series on the pre-1917 political views of this Italian thinker who later became the first leader of the Italian Communist Party and then a Left Communist critic of the state capitalist regime in Russia.
Amadeo Bordiga (1889-1970) was probably the closest among Italian political thinkers and activists to the revolutionary ideas put forward by the World Socialist Movement. We would share his consistent opposition to reformism, militarism, and all forms of nationalism as well as some of his views on the use of parliament. We would, however be entirely opposed to his advocacy of insurrectionary violence, his aversion for democracy (which was determined by his identification of it with the freemasonry of his day), and his support for a centralist control model.
His early political activity began when he joined the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) in Naples in 1910 at the age of 21 while a student of engineering.  According to Bordiga’s own later account, his enrolment in the PSI was a reaction to pressure being put on him to join the freemasons, which he despised. The situation inside the PSI when Bordiga joined it was complicated. In theory, it was organized along the lines of the German Social Democratic Party, with the difference that the PSI did not have funds and so lacked organisers and professional politicians. There was a group headed by the leader and party secretary and as well as a parliamentary group elected by party members but there was often disagreement between the two, especially on political strategy. The parliamentary group was headed by Filippo Turati, who had been largely responsible for the creation of the party in 1882 and was a reformist despite the fact that he considered himself, and was often recognized as, an orthodox Marxist. 
The PSI had expelled the anarchists in its ranks at its second congress in 1892 and likewise the revolutionary syndicalists in 1907. Yet in 1910 it was still home to a variety of political  positions. There were ‘right-wing’ reformists such as Leonida Bissolati and Ivanoe Bonomi, the ‘left-wing’ reformists of Turati and Giuseppe Modigliani, and the ‘the revolutionary intransigent fraction’ led by Costantino Lazzari, who, according to Luigi Gerosa, influenced much of Bordiga’s early thinking with his 1911 pamphlet ‘The Principles and Methods of the Italian Socialist Party’. In his pamphlet Lazzari harked back to the Party’s 1892 programme and the various ‘degenerations’ of it that had taken place since then. As explained in a previous article (Antonio Labriola: A strict Marxist?, Socialist Standard, February 2016),  it is arguable that the 1892 programme put forward a vision of Marxist socialism substantially as conceived by the World Socialist Movement today. Bordiga wanted it to remain faithful to its maximum goal, which was the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialism rather than the minimum goal of changing capitalism by means of reforms.  It was at this stage too that Bordiga started to develop the idea of a party that did not need leadership by individuals, but required, rather, a clear and unchangeable programme to be followed by its adherents.             
Bordiga began stating this position in the PSI’s youth magazine Avanguardia  and writing in particular in opposition to the Italian government’s colonial policy and to masonic anti-clericalism. In October 1911 when Italy invaded Libya, which was part of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, Bordiga attacked not just the government but alleged socialists in the PSI who supported the invasion. He also criticised revolutionary syndicalists such as Arturo (not to be confused with Antonio) Labriola who espoused the view of the economist Achille Loria that colonial expansion would present an opportunity for the socialist cause. Bordiga argued from the start that nationalism was a capitalist ideology which had nothing to do with socialism, since socialism was by its very nature anti-nationalist and anti-patriotic. This was an idea he would never depart from.
In the years 1911 to 1914 Bordiga and other like-thinking members of the PSI in Naples engaged in opposing those factions who favoured a policy of coalitions with capitalist parties, so-called blocchisti who they saw as revisionists. Bordiga wrote widely on the situation of the party in Naples, arguing strongly against the right of those factions to be in the Party, and also became the regional spokesperson for the Italian Federation of Socialist Youth. 
In April 1912 Bordiga founded the ‘Carlo Marx Circle’ aiming at propaganda activity and the study of Marxist writings. Already in March that year he had denounced the action of some exponents of the parliamentary group such as Bissolati, Cabrini, and Bonomi for supporting the King of Italy after he had been wounded during an assassination attempt. Bordiga demanded their expulsion from the Party, something that actually took place at that year’s Congress, incidentally allowing one Benito Mussolini to take up a primary position in the PSI. The Neapolitan Portici section had sent Bordiga as spokesperson to the Congress with the following motions: 1. to extend the tactic of ‘intransigence’ to local elections; 2. to exclude from the PSI members of bourgeois political associations such as the freemasonry.    
In the same year, at the Congress of the Bologna Youth Federation, Bordiga was involved in discussions that took place on ‘the question of the culture of socialist youth’.  While some of the participants saw the youth movement as having the role of imparting basic political education to its members while not questioning the party’s rulings, Bordiga proposed that the Youth Federation should have its own autonomy and its own magazine and engage in its own struggles against the system. Bordiga won the day and, in the magazine Avanguardia, he wrote, in reply to Gaetano Salvemini, editor of the newspaper L’Unità, that education should be based on action and that instead of saying to the people ‘you are exploited because you are ignorant, free yourself from the priest and you will be free’, socialists should say to workers ‘you are ignorant and cowardly because you are exploited, you are exploited because you submit to the yoke of slavery; revolt and you will be free and you will be able to become civilised.’ For Bordiga, therefore, socialism was based not on education or political culture but on proletarian sentiment and action.
In November 1912, in the Avanti newspaper, Bordiga wrote a piece on ‘Southern socialism and the moral questions’. Here he described the backwardness and inadequacy of the southern Italian capitalist class. He pointed out that the Italian State, which was managed by the capitalist oligarchy of Northern Italy, did not intend to develop the South, because the economic, agrarian and industrial development of the South could only ‘harm the present monopolistic groups of big industries, which are protected and have in the South their natural market of consumption’. The ineptitude of the Southern capitalist class and the corrupt administration of the South was, he argued, exploited by local political factions to further their own self-interest and this was often with the support and collaboration of the clergy. The main opponents of this he saw as the anti-clerical bourgeoisie, who put forward the ‘moral’ argument that what was needed was an honest bourgeois administration, an uncorrupted and ‘efficient’ bourgeois capitalism. Bordiga opposed this way of thinking too, stating that ‘thieving or honest bourgeoisies are the same thing’ and that the PSI should be ‘ultra-intransigent’ against these ‘moralists’, because socialism demanded something quite different.
Rewriting of the PSI’s pamphlet entitled Il soldo ai soldati (‘On Soldiers’ Pay’) was assigned to Bordiga and was then discussed at the 1912 Bologna Congress of Socialist Youth. In this pamphlet Bordiga railed against the ‘barracks’ as being an institution of bourgeois democracy, but took the position on elections that they should be contested but without any kind of agreement with the  bourgeois parties. At this time he saw electoral activity largely as a means of propagating socialist ideas and winning supporters, but his distrust of the electoral system grew as the PSI suffered recurring defeats in elections despite the considerable effort it put into them. Increasingly Bordiga was developing the view that the PSI had ‘degenerated’, that reformism had ‘drowned’ it and that what was important was a defence of its original revolutionary programme based on the formation of class consciousness and working class anti-militarism. In the article ‘Our Mission’, published in February 1913, Bordiga expressed the view that the PSI’s role was to be the vanguard of the proletariat in the class struggle. In it he quoted the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin on the principle of mutual aid and affirmed what he saw as the natural altruism of the proletariat. At the same time he argued that it would be wrong to believe that the bourgeoisie, the capitalist class, dominated by means of workers’ ignorance; instead it dominated by means of culture, by being able to impose its own culture on workers, so the tenets of bourgeois education took on a ‘moral’ dimension in workers’ minds.
Cesco
(Next month: Bordiga’s attitude to contesting elections)         

Election Report (1979)

Party News from the June 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

Although there has only been a branch in the area for a year, the Islington South and Finsbury election campaign was a successful one. Successful, even though the Socialist candidate, Ralph Critchfield, polled only 78 votes. Unlike the parties of capitalism, in our campaign we only asked convinced socialists to vote for us and actually asked people not to vote for us unless they were fully in agreement. It came as no surprise to us that the number of convinced socialists in the constituency was few. Ten thousand manifestos, three thousand bulletins, 20,000 election specials and a number of Socialist Standards were distributed during the election. Our manifesto was published in full in the Islington Gazette. Two well attended public meetings were held. Extensive canvassing was carried out. We thank those of you who contributed to the election campaign, either by activity or by responding to the request for donations to the election fund. The Socialist Party is not just an election-time organisation. Socialism is as imperative now as it was before May 4.

Successful Rally (1974)

Party News from the November 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

General Elections at three weeks' notice are generally disadvantageous to small organizations, but the Socialist Party had one piece of good luck. We had arranged for a major public meeting in Trafalgar Square on 22nd September, so it turned out that we had the stage in the centre of London immediately after the Election was announced. There was Nelson’s plinth displaying our banners, and the sale of Socialist literature in full swing. BBC Television cameras were there for part of the meeting.

Several hundred people — a large number staying from start to finish — listened to our speakers. Comrades Barltrop, Critchfield, Baldwin and Young gave vigorous expositions of the capitalist system and the reasons for the present economic crisis; the failure of reform programmes; the vote-catching humbug of the parties who are unable to control capitalism; and the Socialist alternative to it all.

Between the speeches we had a roving microphone taken into the audience for questions. It can’t be said that all the questions were of the highest quality, but they gave the speakers opportunities to bring out other aspects of our case. The audience’s interest and appreciation were shown by the fact that a record collection was taken, and sales of the Socialist Standard and other literature were first-class. On a chilly grey day, it was a great success.

Rewarding Election Campaign (1974)

Party News from the November 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

It took a long time to set up: In forty minutes on October 11th it was bare. 307 Finchley Road, our Committee Rooms. 307 is a large corner shop. Its windows ideal for our various posters and propaganda material, read not only by passers by, but seen by hundreds in cars and coaches as day after day they edged along in the almost constant traffic jams. The centre windows had a blown-up copy measuring 8ft. by 4ft. of our Manifesto and Declaration of Principles. The shop was large enough for informal meetings and to display three of the stands from our recent 70th Anniversary Exhibition.

307 became a Socialist centre for just over two weeks. A hive of activity, with some 60/65 members and sympathisers taking part. Our Manifesto (unfortunately not prematurely leaked to the Press — they largely ignored it) came early from the printer. We did not bother with the free post and within seven days had dealt with 18,000 on a house- to-house basis.

All the tube stations in the area were covered night after night by literature sellers. Sales sometimes excellent — sometimes indifferent — but thousands of people in Hampstead now know of the existence of the socialist standard. This activity at some of the stations had been carried on by Westminster Branch throughout the summer and will afford a regular sales outlet in the future.

Never a day went by without a number of people coming into 307 to hear about the SPGB and discuss with us. From mid-morning — often to midnight they came, many hearing of us for the first time. And not just residents of Hampstead. From many parts of the world, Japan, USA, Denmark, Germany, France, Chile etc., they heard the Socialist case. The odd discussion carried on in German and Spanish. Our introductory leaflets in foreign languages were most helpful.

And we held our meetings outdoors, rather grim owing to the weather. Indoors not sparkling, but plenty of informal discussion. We used two sets of public address equipment, one set mounted on a very large mobile caravan, decked from top to bottom with suitable posters.

Literature sales and donations just over £70 (this included about 1,000 copies of the Socialist Standard). We only got a handful of votes (118 in all) but we accomplished our task of making the Socialist case more widely known. Those who took part in the campaign had a most enjoyable and rewarding time; those who were unable to join in missed a treat.

The local press printed a 600-word statement from our candidate (Ralph Critchfield), and we had mention in other local journals and two of the national press. London Broadcasting gave us a couple of minutes and like the other candidates in the area, four minutes on BBC Radio London. This came over very well.
Cyril May

Monday, January 30, 2017

Branch News and Obituaries (1961)

Party News from the December 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Here is a way of increasing sales of the Socialist Standard. For eight shillings a year a copy will be sent to any address in the British Isles. A small amount of money really! Why not persuade a friend to take a subscription for 1962, or pleasantly surprise someone with a gift of one year's “Standards”? It is very simple. Complete the form on page 191 and return it to us at 52 Clapham High Street, with of course the 8s. postal order.

Over 57 years the Socialist Standard has held the torch for Socialism. Consistent, searching and uncompromising has been its advocacy for Socialism. But still our Party journal must be brought to more and more people. The greater its circulation the greater will be the impact of Socialist propaganda, and incidentally, the more economic will be the "Standards" cost of production.

Resolve in 1962 to increase your sales of the Socialist Standard, and redouble your energy in spreading the case for Socialism. 

Wembley Branch were delighted with the success of their first indoor, public meeting on October 30th. “Introducing the SPGB" was Cyril May to a sizeable audience, mainly non-members. More than half the time was devoted to questions and discussion, and the audience took full advantage of it. Collection and literature sales were encouraging. Now for another and more ambitious venture in the near future!

The Branch’s winter lectures are in full swing with a wide range of subjects, every other week. Full details will be found under meetings on page 192. All those who attend will find the meetings stimulating and worthwhile.

Wembley is holding their Xmas Social on December 16th at the Ealing Park Tavern. "Joe's Group” will supply the music, and a repeat of last year’s success is certain. Everything will be laid on, and if you don’t enjoy yourself, it will be your own fault. Full information is on page 191.

Ealing Branch is continuing its winter activities with a showing of Eisenstein’s film "Strike” on December 8th. Comrade Ambridge is providing the comment. Owing to the length of the film, please note that the showing will begin at 7.45 p.m. prompt. Further lectures and film shows are being planned for January, February and March 1962.

Blackpool Lights. Reference was made in this column last month to a literature selling trip made by some members to the Blackpool Labour Party Conference. They hired a van, and throughout the week sold literature, inside and outside the Conference hall, held meetings, and made themselves known very effectively as representatives of the only Socialist Party in the country.

The van was decorated with Party posters and banners, and was stationed at various key points for literature drives and outdoor meetings. Sales totalled £9 6s. 0d. The detailed story of our comrades activities makes interesting reading, but unfortunately space limits us to this very brief report.

What must be said is that the trip was most successful, and the propaganda value was probably much greater than can be assessed at the moment. Next year it is intended to repeat ventures like this, and their growing success will be in no small measure due to the hard (though pleasurable) work done by our comrades this Autumn.

The debate organised by Paddington Branch on October 29th almost didn't take place, and then not quite. Mr. Headicar, the CND representative, “sat down” the previous Saturday and got himself two months imprisonment. At the last moment Mr. S. Cash agreed to put the case for CND. He maintained that Socialism was alright as a theory, but mankind was faced with annihilation and all our energies should he devoted to "banning the bomb.” The SPGB were out of contact with the real world, and death would overtake us all, notwithstanding the propagation of Socialist ideas, unless nuclear weapons were abandoned.

In reply: Melvin Harris for the SPGB showed that CND was similar to many other bodies, which had sprung up in the past, attempting to tackle one or other evil of the capitalist system. These organisations had failed, and CND would fail for the same reason. Nuclear war can not be separated from the problem of war itself. And the constant threat and possibility of war was a direct consequence of the existence of capitalism. The Socialist Party were opposed to all war, and were working for the establishment of Socialism, in which war would be impossible. This was the most important task facing mankind.

A considerable number of questions were put to both speakers, and many of the audience of 200 took part in the discussion. There was not nearly enough time for everyone. The collection was £13 and literature sales were good. Perhaps one day we shall land a debate with the elusive CND?

Obituaries
With sadness we have to record the death of two comrades, Llewelyn McKone and George Sword. Llewellyn McKone died on October 18th at Swansea. He had been a member of the Party since well before the war, and for many years was a member of Wood Green Branch. In recent years he had been working hard with our Swansea Comrades.

George Sword died at the end of October after a short illness. He joined the Party in 1942 and was active with a small group of members at their place of work, where they discussed Socialism and sold literature to their fellow workers. He was a member of Central Branch and until a year ago, when his health began to deteriorate, he worked in the Party Library and helped in the despatch of the Socialist Standard to subscribers.

To both our late comrades' families we extend our deepest sympathy.
Phyllis Howard



No Choice (1982)

Party News from the March 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

The latest series of Sunday night programmes from the Christians at the BBC is very aptly named. The producers of Choices choose what they want to be said on their "audience participation" programme, and make sure they get it. On January 18, six SPGB members sat in the audience. In a "warm up discussion" before the recording began, one of the producers assured us that nothing would be cut out because they don't like it; the amount of time recorded would be roughly the amount of time screened. But in the event, at least ten minutes more was recorded than was screened, and the one SPGB member who managed to get a point raised in the discussion was cut out. Apparently, in a discussion about mass starvation, to point out that there is in fact potentially food for all, but that private property and the profit system leave millions hungry, is considered irrelevant.

The member who had been cut out then contacted the producers and offered to appear on a subsequent programme as one of the special guests who raise propositions which are the subject of the discussions. The proposition was to be that belief in god holds back the human race, and the producer agreed to the idea in principle. Then, an hour later, a phone- call: he has his doubts, it might not be suitable. Two hours later, another call. He has found someone else. A Communist Party member who is also in the Church Army. The proposition is to be the opposite of the previous suggestion: Christians have a "moral duty" to "redistribute wealth". Surprise, surprise. Christianity is compatible with "socialism" after all. The BBC has decided.

The story does have a final twist. We received six tickets as compensation, to attend the programme on which the Church Army "Communist" was appearing. Two members made comments which were both screened this time. But the fact remains, Choices, like the rest of the media, is the opposite of what it claims to be. Free debate on any subject means edited debate on carefully vetted subjects. Serious discussion on important matters means shallow platitudes on side issues. And audience participation by "the public" means a few seconds for a few lucky individuals, out of thousands of hours and millions of people.
Clifford Slapper


Obituary: Death of Comrade A. Jacobs (1940)

Obituary from the February 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

One more of the oldest members of the Party has passed away, in the person of Comrade A. Jacobs.

Very early in his working life he became interested in the struggles of the working class. As a young man he lived in Edmonton, then a rising suburb of North London.

By occupation a cigar maker, he had to make the journey daily to Battersea, in South London, having to rise early every morning to reach the workshop.

With ever-increasing numbers of workers on the platform, and few trains to take them, a fight constantly ensued between them to get into the train.

Soon the workers were aroused into agitating for increased trains and workmen's facilities for cheap fares. Meetings were held, and into these Comrade Jacobs flung himself with zeal.

One morning he was arrested on Liverpool Street Station and charged with disturbing the peace. His trial took place at the Guildhall, and he was defended by Mr. Thompson, at that time Editor of Reynolds News, and acquitted.

He was an active member of the Cigar Makers Union and served on their executive committee. Then he became interested in the propaganda of the old Social Democratic Federation and eventually joined them.

At about this period of his life he experienced considerable unemployment and, with a young family, suffered chronic privation and want.

Very shortly after the formation of  the S.P.G.B. he became convinced of the soundness of the Party’s principles and policy, and decided to join the Party following his resignation from the S.D.F.

For many years he was an enthusiastic worker and spoke at four, five and six meetings a week, very frequently addressing two meetings on Sundays.

He was a loyal and fearless exponent of Socialism, allowing nothing to deter him.

Following the outbreak of the war in 1914 he never hesitated to hold meetings in Victoria Park, East London, notwithstanding hostile demonstrations by workers and interested persons at every meeting he addressed.

When “peace” was declared he threw himself with redoubled energy once more into the struggle for Socialism, and only gave up in recent years, owing to advancing age and decline in his health.

He became almost an institution on the meeting place in Victoria Park, for he seldom missed a meeting on Sundays during many years.

The Party has produced many great workers in its cause, but few gave more ungrudgingly than our old comrade..

He died in his 70th year, leaving a widow in poor health and approaching blindness to mourn his passing.
C. F. C.

Away with hanging (1965)

From the February 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard
“They pull the lever and away he goes,” Mr. Albert Pierrepoint, public hangman, in evidence to the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment.
One of the conclusions of the last Royal Commission on Capital Punishment was that, in the words of one of its witnesses, hanging is “ . . . certain, painless, simple and expeditious.”

Whatever the truth of this (and there are some horrible rumours which contradict it) the fact is that hanging was not originally designed as a quick and humane method of dispatching a criminal. The poor man was often dead before they hung him up. The idea was to display him in as humiliating way as possible, strung up in public for the mob to spit and jeer at—and to take warning from.

Thus hanging was regarded as a particularly abject and dishonourable form of execution. Beheading used to be considered more dignified and soldiers, immersed in the fatuities of military chivalry, still prefer the firing squad.

The capital crimes to which public hangings were supposed to be a massive deterrent could once be as trivial as stealing five shillings from a shop. In 1830 there were no less than 220 offences which carried the death penalty. But far from deterring the criminal, public hangings were something like carnival events for him. When they were abolished in 1868, The Times sighed with relief:
We shall not in future have to read how, the night before an execution, thousands of the worst characters in England . . . met beneath the gallows to pass the night in drinking and buffoonery; . . . how, at the very foot of the gallows, they committed with impunity deeds of lawless violence, scarcely less reprehensible than the crime of which they had come to witness the expiation.
The end of public hanging still left a lot of gruesome ritual, which has been slowly dismantled. No longer is a black flag hoisted and a bell tolled, or a notice posted, at a prison after an execution. No longer does the executed person suffer the last indignity of being left hanging for an hour after his death.

These reforms left the execution a cleaner, more clinical affair, but still a ritual. The condemned prisoner had to be weighed and measured, and secretly observed by the hangman, before the length of his drop could be calculated. (There is an official table on which this calculation was done.) The execution had to be rehearsed with a bag of sand as a stand-in. Finally, amid unbearable tension within the prison, the execution itself. 

Now, it seems, the whole thing is finished. After about 150 years of battle, the abolitionists’ appear to have won. Unless something unexpected—and, let us be clear, unplanned for— happens in the House of Lords, Mr. Sidney Silverman’s private member’s Bill will soon become law. The hangman’s noose has rattled and jerked in this country for the last time.

The origins of capital punishment are obscure; in Saxon England a killing could be expiated by payment of blood money. The method of execution has varied; beheading, stoning and impaling have all been used. The offences which carried the death penalty have also varied. The 18th Century was a bumper period for the executioners; 156 offences were made capital between 1714 and 1830.

The first mumblings of opposition were heard in the early nineteenth century. In 1810 Sir Samuel Romilly tried to introduce a Bill to abolish the capital penalty for stealing five shillings from a shop. It soon became obvious that, to avoid the severity of the death sentence, juries were aquitting guilty men. Plainly, the interests of capitalist law and order demanded that something be done and thus began the long, slow, retreat of the hangman. »

In 1832 cattle stealing was removed from the list of capital crimes; in 1833 housebreaking. By 1837 there were only fifteen capital offences left and by 1861 the number was down to four, where it stayed until 1957, when the Homicide Act changed the definition of murder.

The restriction or the abolition of capital punishment has always provided a battleground of controversy. The Chief Justice of England, Lord Ellenborough, opposing Romilly's 1810 Bill, said:
. . .  the expediency of justice and the public security require that there should not be a remission of capital punishment in this part of the criminal law.
This sort of argument has always been used by those in favour of hanging, who have conjured up lurid prospects of crime running rife once the shadow of the hangman was removed.

In 1930 a Select Committee recommended the experimental abolition of capital punishment for five years, but no action was taken. In 1938 a motion in similar terms was carried by the House of Commons, but was also ignored. In 1949 the House of Lords, its benches thick with blue blooded backwoodsmen, threw out an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill which would have suspended hanging for five years. The Labour government, perhaps with a sigh of relief at the avoidance of an electorally tricky issue, pushed the Bill through without the amendment.

Then came the Royal Commission, to enquire into the modification—not abolition—of the death penalty and the Homicide Act of 1957, full of anomalies and causing more dissatisfaction than ever. All the way along the line the reformers have been bitterly resisted. At one time the bishops and the judges were solidly against any alteration in the law; now many of the bishops and some of the judges are on the other side.

Lord Ellenborough is dead, but his ideas go marching on. These are some of the arguments offered in the Commons against the Silverman Bill: “ . . . we are going to get more children murdered, and it will be entirely Mr. Silverman’s fault.” “I do believe you can deter the professional criminal who goes and acquires a pistol, and goes out to rob . . . ”

This sort of argument is almost wholly inspired by emotion, and although it is easy to become emotional when contemplating the murder of a child, or a revolting sex murder, or a cold-blooded shooting, we should remember that pathological brutality is not confined to murderers. When Derek Bentley was hanged, the Manchester Guardian reported that among the crowd of several hundred outside the prison were people who regularly attended executions. One of them remarked: “Pretty small turn out, all considered. Haven’t missed one of these in fifteen years.” And one of the disquieting facts unearthed by the Royal Commission was that there were an average of five unsolicited applications a week for the job of hangman.

In any case, facts and experience should outweigh emotion, and the facts leave little room for doubt in the matter.

The arguments in favour of capital punishment usually fall under three headings: That society should take its revenge for a murder; that murderers should be restrained, and the most effective way of doing this is to kill them; that the death penalty is the surest deterrent to murder.

These arguments are typically negative. Revenge is quite useless to the murderers victim and so is restraint by execution. In any case, the number of murderers who need restraining— who are so deranged that they are liable to commit a second murder— is very small indeed. Both these arguments ignore the positive fact that the death penalty deprives society of a good chance of preventing future murders, because it destroys the best source of discovering why the murderer committed his crime.

Finally, the supposed great deterrent does not deter. All experience abroad, in places where the death penalty has been abolished, indicates that it has no effect on the incidence of murder. In Italy, indeed, the ending of capital punishment in 1945 (it was first abolished in 1890, but reintroduced under Mussolini) coincided with a decline in the incidence of murder.

It is true that since Mr. Silverman’s Bill was introduced there has been a sudden upsurge of murders and shootings. With or without capital punishment, crime waves have been known before. There was one in the late forties, attributed to a backlash of wartime conditions and training. In early 1961, there were seventeen murders in one period of only twenty-three days.

The annual figure of the number of murders known to the police was rising before the 1957 Homicide Act. A little time after the Act became law the murder figure fell, then rose, then fell again.

What does this prove? The Royal Commission called up a world wide survey on capital punishment by the American criminologist, Professor Thorsten Sellin. He summed up his conclusions:
. . . whether the death penalty is used or not . . . both death penalty States and abolition States show rates (of murder) which suggest that these rates are conditioned by other factors than the death penalty.
The abolitionists' case, then, is made. Even by capitalism's standards, the death penalty is an outworn slice of more barbaric days. But the issue should not be allowed to get out of proportion.

A certain amount of fuss was made about the fact that a free vote was allowed on Mr. Silverman's Bill, leaving M.P.s to vote as what they call their conscience guided them. That may be all very well when the House is discussing something like capital punishment, which after all is only concerned with human lives and then with only about a couple of hundred of them a year.

But the vast majority of crime is not against people; it is against the property laws and privileges which are an essential part of capitalist society. When Parliament is debating these, there is never a free vote and no member exhibits a conscience. The Whips are on, and voting is strictly on party lines.

The opponents of capital punishment—men like Mr. Silverman, Victor Gollancz, Lord Gardiner—have argued that hanging is a futile barbarity. But at the same time they have supported the social system which is just as barbarous, just as futile—and universal in the degradation which it imposes.

Soon after the debate on the Silverman Bill, for example, the Soviet Union essayed yet another sequence in the endless minuet of disarmament talks, by proposing the renunciation of atomic weapons. The United States, who know the routine well, responded in the expected way; they rejected the proposal as “insincere " and instead called on China to sign the Test Ban Treaty.

This is playing with almost universal death and destruction. Yet no M.P.’s conscience was offended and there will be no Private Members Bill to abolish the cause of nuclear weapons.

In the same debate, Brigadier Terence Clarke, Tory M.P. for Portsmouth West, said that the abolition of hanging should be referred to the British public. This does not, of course, mean that members of Parliament intend to consult us on all matters of life and death. We shall not be asked whether we want any more Bomb tests, nor shall our opinions be sought on a possible future declaration of war. The use of nuclear weapons has never been the subject of a plebiscite, and never will be.

Brigadier Clarke is typical of the people who regard murder, and other crime, as an isolated personal failing, unconnected with social influences. To them, criminals are evil, and should be punished in accordance with their crime.

To say the least this is an inadequate conception and not "only because its distinction between “criminal" and “legal" (tilling is convenient to capitalist society. The act of killing an “enemy” in wartime is specifically excluded from the legal definition of murder. Brutal murderers in uniform are heroes; the same sort of person in civvies is a vicious thug.

Crime, like so many other social problems, needs a completely new approach, free of the restrictions arising from the private property basis of capitalism. We have already pointed out that the mass of crime consists of offences against property. To abolish capitalism would wipe all of them out.

Let us go further. The end of capitalism will mean the end of the poverty and the social conceits which are a persistent incentive to violent crime. It will mean the end of the slums where violence festers and where people are in some ways more like beasts than human beings. It will mean the end of the frustrated, the desperate, the sensation-seekers brutalized by the fabulous world of the trash fiction heroes.

It will mean that people will have the chance to behave socially, humanely and to live undistorted lives. In that society of freedom, crime will be an incredible irrelevance. There may be an infinitesimal number of murders, committed by the congenitally sick who wreck their derangements in violence. For the first time in history, such people will be dealt with, in freedom, with sympathy—and effectively.

We have a long way to go, and what sort of a milestone is Mr. Silverman’s Bill? It is no more than a creaky, reluctant step away from a primitive ritual—by a social system which , prefers its barbarians to be more sophisticated.
Ivan.

Two Shocking Books (1953)

Book Reviews from the March 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Your attention, Gentlemen, please. Are any of you interested in a pair of ball-bearing sock suspenders? No? Perhaps some of you would like a chest wig or a combined tooth brush and tongue scraper. No? Well, is anyone suffering from constipation or conjunctivitis; from corns, baldness, body odour, fallen arches, bad breath, night starvation or dandruff? Maybe you have diarrhoea, pyorrhoea or gonorrhoea. Whatever your needs, requirements or fancies, real or imagined, you can bet your last shilling that there is someone prepared to invest a little capital, not primarily for the purpose of satisfying your desires, but in order to collect some profit in the process of satisfying them.

If you have no needs, requirements or fancies, you can still be sure that there is someone ready to kid you or convince you that you do have some. Again with the motive of profit lurking in the rear.

That is the main job of advertising; to so present someones wares to you that you will feel that you must acquire them at all costs. You will be flattered, cajoled, threatened and have the wind put up you. All because it is necessary to sell goods before profit can be realised.

Advertising, although its history may go back well before the advent of the capitalist system, really embarked on its career with the birth of capital. Prior to that, advertisements were little more than announcements of entertainments. Capital, with its ever increasing need to find wider and wider markets, took to advertising like a duck takes to water.

Mr. E. S. Turner has written a book which he calls "The Shocking History of Advertising,” published by Michael Joseph, 15s. This book is a study of commercial advertising in newspapers and magazines, on hoardings, on the landscape, on the sky and in the ether. The field is limited to Britain and America and opens in the early years of the 17th century.

Mr. Turner is not a Socialist, but he has obviously spent much time in research and has unearthed a multitude of facts, information and anecdotes. Mr. Turner bubbles over with humour which makes his book very enjoyable. His object appears to be to make advertising more honest and less nauseous. In the process be has presented us with an interesting and amusing book on one of the sidelights of capitalism.

In a world where profit making is the motive force to production all sorts of rubbish, shoddy and inferior goods are produced. The purpose which such goods will serve is secondary. Whether they serve any purpose at all does not really matter so long as a market can be found for them and a profit realised. The chest wigs and tongue scrapers, etc., mentioned by Mr. Turner are an illustration.

Inferior goods must be presented as equal to superior ones, substitutes must be heralded as of the same, if not greater usefulness than the goods which they replace. The health, wealth and general well-being of the people who buy does not come into the picture from the capitalists’ point of view. Patent medicines, for instance, even if not dangerous in themselves, can cause a delay in the time before proper treatment is applied, and thus be a danger. Advertisers can bamboozle workers into collecting all sorts of goods and create the impression that such collections indicate an improved standard of living. With their collections around them, workers can look back on previous generations and imagine themselves better off than their forefathers, losing sight of the fact that their forefathers had things which they have not, and were without things which workers today might have missed with advantage.

Mr. Turner’s illustration of an advertising man is interesting. He presents him as a
" . . . new Jesuit; ‘Give me your children before they are five and they are mine forever.' To him all values are different. Fog is not something which delays trains; it is something which prevents people seeing posters. Words have different meaning; loyalty means always buying the same hair oil. To him a bride is not a young woman on the edge of a great adventure; she is a conditioned consumer, who, by buying the right cosmetics and the right brassière has captured her man, and who, when she returns from her honeymoon will go into the grocer's and automatically recite those branded names which have been the most loudly dinned into her ears for the last twenty-one years. To him all problems can be solved in terms of advertising. The remedy for absenteeism in the mines is to make miners want more luxuries. He has made women adopt men’s habits (smoking, wearing trousers) and now he wants to make men adopt women's habits (using perfume). . . . ”
On a previous page he says :
". . . the prime object of the advertisers was not to produce these gratifying results (improve the habits of nations); it was to sell more silk, more toothpaste, more disinfectant"
We can add, "with a view to more and more profits.”

We can recommend Mr. Turner's book for its well, nay, its fountain of information and for the fun to be obtained from reading it. He explodes many myths and superstitions and lays bare the “fear” type of advertising which makes people suspect all kind of ills, misfortunes and misadventures, and fly, terrified, to the purveyor of some quack cure or solution. He shows the attempts that have been made to make advertising more respectable and reveals how it has now, itself, become a lucrative field for capitalist investment. He rounds it all off with such anecdotes as the one about the American broadcast announcer who, whilst speaking on a sponsored programme, was supposed to say, “Always demand the best in bread,” but who spoonerised the phrase.

Wisdom without wit is like polish without spit. Mr. E. S. Turner certainly has wit. In an earlier book of his, “Roads to Ruin, the shocking history of social reform,” again published by Michael Joseph, 12s. 6d., he leavens his subject with a superabundance of wit.

The book is divided into ten chapters, each of which deals with the history of a reform that has been enacted during or since the 19th century. Special emphasis is laid upon the opposition to these reforms. Amongst the ten are the stories of the suppression of the use of small boys to climb and sweep chimneys; the struggles of Samuel Plimsoll to achieve what is now known as the Plimsoll line on ships; William Willett’s efforts to secure the passing of the Daylight Saving Bill and early attempts to reduce working hours and secure a weekly half-day respite for workers.

The securing of these reforms has called for much courage and sacrifice on the part of those who fought for them. None of them have in the least affected the position of the workers in the capitalist system, but they have removed some of the worst ills and abuses of the system. We raise our hats to most of the men who strived for them. The Socialist Party of Great Britain aims at the abolition of the system that gave rise to the need for these reforms and, in consequence cannot admit into its ranks anyone whose political objective falls short of that aim. It does not advocate reforms because it is a revolutionary and not a reformist party. That does not prevent us from recognising the merit of many reformers and the value of their work in easing the sufferings of millions of workers.
 
The attitude of the church, the aristocracy and the vested capitalist interests in their opposition to almost every reform that has been proposed is illuminating. Again, as in his other book, Mr. Turner has delved into numerous archives and sources of information and has collected for us much useful and interesting material.

When the Ten Hours Bill was under discussion, Nassau Senior made the most painstaking calculations to show that the whole of a capitalist’s net profit was derived from the last hour of work of his employees. If their working hours were reduced, he claimed, all that profit would go. Peel and Cobden thought likewise. Malthus said that the workers were lucky to be employed at all and doubly lucky to be employed for such long hours.

Samuel Plimsoll spent most of his life and a lot of his fortune in an endeavour to prevent shipowners from sending over-loaded, unseaworthy, over-insured ships to sea. The story of Plimsoll’s campaign, as unfolded by Mr. Turner, reveals some appalling instances of wanton waste of working class life in the interests of capitalist shipowners’ profits.

In some instances there were men who, whilst advocating the reform of one particular abuse, defended to the utmost other evil aspects of capitalism. Sometimes they were activated by their own profit making interests and at other times by a desire to embarrass or overthrow political rivals. The church dignitaries in the House of Lords are shown in a very foul light by Mr. Turner’s researches.

The author brings into play the same talent for wit, satire, sarcasm and humour that makes his book on advertising so enjoyable. Opposite the title page of his book appears a drawing by David Low of the character, Colonel Blimp, in a fighting attitude with a bath brush, with the caption, “Gad, sir, reforms are all right as long as they don’t change anything.” '
W. Waters

Giddy god of luck (1964)

From the March 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

A hush settles over the crowded hall as the gathered folk await the expected signal from the man on the stage. “Eyes down, we shall now play Bingo,” he calls good-humouredly, and the contest is on. The Goddess of Luck is in command.

The game is old and has had many names. It has been clothed in many a dingy raiment and its habitat has been Flanders trenches, army camps, fun fairs and seaside Kursaals. That is all changed now; as often occurs under capitalism, industries that are expanding fall into the ownership and control of large powerful groups, and the small man sinks into the background.

A few years ago it was observed by those whose interest to. human behaviour is pecuniary rather than scientific, that Bingo sessions run by churches (Roman Catholic in particular) were attracting large crowds, many of the adherents having no religious feelings or, if they had, not those of the organising denomination. Alongside this development there was an industry that was on hard times, the cinema. The Telly had drained away its audiences and it was left with half-empty buildings that apparently could not be put to any use. But why not try, said the owners, to put these white elephants into the service of the new craze and so save some of the diminishing profits?

The owners of other halls, such as those used for dancing, also had a desire to extract as much money as possible out of the use of their floor space. Dances are not generally profitable to run every night, and afternoon sessions are limited to a few, if any at all, in working-class areas. So the Big Boys were in need of tapping new sources and here was a field under their very noses with a good chance of expanding enough to satisfy even their dreams. So large capital moved in with bigger advertising and larger prizes; no longer the few bob, but weighty sums rising to the £1,000 jackpots. Refreshments could be provided and, with a fully paid staff, opening times could be arranged to suit the needs and moods of the majority of the customers. As things stand, the small fairground man with his sad pile of tinselled gifts is feeling the draught.

Why has all this happened? Maybe it was a revolt against the television mania and a need to satisfy social contact that the enforced segregation of the “Box” had stunted. The teenagers had already moved away into the atmosphere of pop-numbers, dancing and coffee bars, but the middle-aged generation were at a loose end. Financially this group in the working class are often at their peak. The children are old enough to work or are married and the man has reached the height of his earning capacity. By the time the middle years have arrived they have become more settled in their ways, so what could be more attractive to them than Bingo? No difficult rules! No skill other than the ability to read numbers! No physical prowess, and no additional mental effort! To stop the whole thing from becoming too doughy there is the lure of the prizes, worthwhile wins that will help with a holiday abroad or new furniture in the home. Seeing the winners in person in the hall, night after night being handed the largesse, can only spur them on to come again and again, rather like the fellow with £1 worth of sixpences at a one-armed bandit machine.

The contests for money always arouse latent envies; capitalism with its vast range of income differentials has made a good job in this field. Bingo is just the thing for a display of nail biting and high blood pressure. Nothing can be more distressing than to see someone, who, you feel, does not need it, walk away with the cash. All kinds of rumours are circulated by the losers and if taken seriously, would mean that the promoters and their managers are in some vast and wonderfully involved fiddle.

The mumbo jumbo of magic still plays a strong role in gambling circles—it is as though the science of the twentieth century was but dross, At Bingo different coloured ballpens are used on different cards, this supposedly an influence on luck. The belief in the power of lucky numbers is as varied as the persons present. The lack of success never seems to diminish the belief in the charms and nostrums.

In spite of the thunderings from the anti-gambling bodies and the purveyors of hell fire and corruption, visits to Bingo do not pervert or mentally harm anyone. The addict who goes frequently and is the mainstay of the Bingo industry has already been produced somewhere else along the road of life. He has merely swopped his addiction to the cinema or T.V. for something else, and is merely trying another form of retreat from reality. The problems of capitalist society, such as war, unemployment, poverty and housing press continually in varying intensity against us. These problems must be faced and a remedy found; the head-in-the-sand trick has not worked in the past and will not in the future. No doubt at some time in their youth the middle-aged Bingo devotees felt a need to struggle for and achieve something. But their ideas were wrong or ill-formed, the grim realities of capitalism swept over them, and the rut has become their sole reason for living.
Jack Law


Annihilation or Socialism? (1958)

From the June 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Address by J. D'Arcy at Conway Hall on Easter Sunday

Mr Chairman,

The proposition may seem a phantasy, insofar as we are actually deliberating the effects of the greatest destructive weapon known to man, the Hydrogen Bomb, and yet it is a reality. Socialists are not committed to the view that the Hydrogen Bomb will abolish civilisation, our main point is not only that mankind is taking a terrible risk in introducing Hydrogen Bombs, but the basic question of War itself. A peculiarity of those interested in the abolition of the Hydrogen Bomb is that they are not interested in Socialism, neither are they interested in the cause of war. In fact, the opposite is true. Take the illogical position of the Aldermaston March leaders, Michael Foot, Donald Soper, Ian Mikardo, Canon Collins, among others. These are fervent supporters of the Labour Party, who incidentally were the first British Government to approve the manufacture of nuclear weapons, including the proposals to erect factories like Harwell and Aldermaston.

It is quite useless to apply to these people the normal reasoning processes, as their whole theories and concepts of the nature of the world they live in are irrational, unscientific and in fact unnatural.

The main criterion for abolishing the Hydrogen Bomb is the amount of damage it does, the amount of life and property which will be destroyed. Whilst this is a relative assessment compared with the present methods of waging war, it is an illogical reason. Capitalism itself, outside of War and H. Bombs, literally mutilates human society at all times. So devastating are the effects of the Hydrogen Bomb that a number of local authorities have formed the view that no Civil Defence is possible against such a weapon. St Pancras Borough Council and Coventry City Council have refused to operate Civil Defence schemes, as they regard them as completely futile. Governments naturally can never take the view that no Civil Defence is possible, as they must hold out some hope of protection.

Mr. Bevan, at the last Labour Party Conference, refused to commit the Labour Party to the abolition of the Hydrogen Bomb. He claimed that people must face the facts in the present world situation—facts of a situation largely the creation of Labour Party policy and ultimately Labour Government policy for the retention and running of capitalism. Communist government policy does not differ. Mr. Gromyko, who announced to the United Nations assembly a few days ago that Russia was abandoning Hydrogen Bomb tests (not abolishing the bomb), and invited other governments to do likewise. It would appear that the Russian government have found out all they need to know about the use of this weapon, apart from the fact that they are trying to out-manoeuvre American and British capitalism in the field of diplomacy. It seems that British and American capitalism, trusted allies, will not exchange nuclear secrets with each other.

There is a danger in discussing the abolition of the Hydrogen Bomb as an end in itself, as it tends to encourage political support of the kind Socialists have been asked to give in the past on issues always isolated, such as the Rent Restrictions Act. Democracy."End War" Campaigns, in which all the gentlemen previously named have had more than a passing interest.

The S.P.G.B. has been continually invited to abandon Socialism, join the Labour or Communist parties, or the Independent Labour Party. Above all, it has been advised to abandon its uncompromising hostility to capitalism and its political parties. The question they throw at us, "Where have you gone in 55 years?" they never apply to themselves, for obvious reasons. Political activity today, apart from that carried on by Socialists, is concerned purely with social reforms. There are more social problems today than ever, a bigger variety, and consequently more well-meaning and time-wasting reformers. New social problems such as Hydrogen Bombs, intense Nationalism, Juvenile Delinquency, Drug Addiction and Crime, and Road Accidents, are added to the old recurring problems of Unemployment, War, Disease and Hunger; which are no nearer solution in spite of the energy and time spent on them. Socialists arc. not ignorant of the different kinds of social problems, but they view them with a difference. The difference is—we look for the common factor, the common denominator. The common factor is that these problems are mainly endured by that section of the population, the working class, both here and abroad.

The same common factor operates in the international disputes between Governments—that factor being the monopoly of the wealth produced by that working class and its realisation in Rent, Interest and Profit. The Socialist combines all the parts, and plans his activities accordingly. When you have added up the parts we are left with a world divided into two main social groups— Owners and Non-Owners; buyers of labour power and sellers of labour power.

How can we ignore our own conclusions? Or, for that matter, how can anyone ignore the existence of a class struggle, the existence of social problems, which have a common origin and consequently a common solution? Before the solution, let us take a closer look at the nature of Capitalist society. What is its function? What is the law of its existence and consequently its objects?

Capitalism is a system of society which produces goods incidentally. Fundamentally its aim is the amassing of surplus value. Productivity and Profit are interchangeable and synonymous terms. There is a complete divorce of production and consumption. Production is earned out for profit and not for use. Thus we have the exploitation of the majority of society as a means to enrich a small minority—the capitalist class. Capitalism is contradictory and anti-social.

Governments of all countries seek to maintain this social relationship of owner and non-owners, buyer and seller. Each is struggling for the monopoly. Mr. Khrushchev, the new Russian Czar, in one continent, exhorting the workers to produce more in less time (Sunday Express, 8th April, 1958): Mr. Eisenhower, the American President, endeavouring to satisfy the 5½ million unemployed, who took the same advice from him two years ago, the same bad advice which Mr. Khrushchev now gives to East European workers.

What can we look forward to? The fall of the American Government in the winter, the probable fall of the tottering Tory Government here, and the election of a Labour Government with its sterile and barren policies. The complete inability of French capitalism to deal with the Algerian problem; two or three major strikes, and unlimited exhortations to work harder to stave off unemployment. Are people interested in Socialism or T.V. sets? Can they understand Socialism? Most workers want to be left alone to indulge their hobbies, dig their gardens, or watch their T.V. sets. Most are not interested in politics, and would remain uninterested if it were not for the demands made upon them by capitalism. Capitalism will not let them dig their gardens or watch their T.V. sets. Capitalism, with its social problems, induces them to react along the lines of social reform. We claim that the working class as a whole can canalise their activity for social reform into activity for Socialism. Socialism is the common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production, irrespective of race or sex. This is the kind of society the Socialist Party wants to establish. What is the problem of the Socialist Party of Great Britain? Our problem is to get people interested in Socialism; it is our job and our responsibility —a responsibility to persuade and provoke people into accepting our ideas. This is our object and this will be our achievement.
Jim D'Arcy

The Greater War (1935)

From the October 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

WITH the huge death-roll at Gresford still fresh in our minds comes the news of still further disasters of substantial proportions at South Kirkby and North Gawber, substantial enough to be classed as “acts of God,” and absolve the colliery proprietors from liability for compensation.

The daily loss of lives in the mines, in the course of any given year, exceeds considerably that due to these occasional wholesale accidents. Thus in one industry alone the lust of capital for profit is satisfied only by the annual sacrifice of a thousand workers, with a correspondingly large number permanently maimed and diseased. Expensive machines for saving miners’ wages have been adopted widely since the war; means of saving miners’ lives take second place. There are plenty of regulations to make mining safe, if that were possible, under capitalism, but the application of these regulations takes place under conditions which make “accidents” a practical certainty.

Miners, like all other workers under the present social system, are wage-slaves. They are employed in the production of coal only in so far as that can be done at a profit to the colliery owners. This is the primary consideration, and miners’ lives are cheap.

If miners were scarce enough to command £10 per week, other things remaining equal, a much more strict observance of safety regulations would speedily be enforced. As it is, men holding deputy certificates are ten a penny, and deputies who report the presence of gas with conscientious regularity soon find themselves out of a job. It is not necessary to have explosions, however, in order to kill miners. The Barnsley Chronicle of September 14th reported the inquests held upon the deaths of two youths employed at different pits in the district. In each case the victim succumbed to secondary infection arising from a minor injury. The similarity of the two cases led the Coroner to ask the medical officer concerned if there was any connection between these deaths and lack of nourishment.
“Yes! definitely!” was the reply. “Healthy individuals have falls and nothing happens to them. The boys’ power of resistance must have been low to allow secondary infection.”
Arduous toil, under conditions of risk comparable with those of warfare, fail to guarantee to the miners a sufficiency of food. They are regarded by some as heroes, by others as reckless fools, but it is neither folly nor bravery that sends them to their doom.

Like the sailors who go down to the sea in coffin-ships, the men in the shunting-yard, whose entrails are exposed to the tender mercies of the buffers, or the pottery-workers, whose existence is shortened by lead-poisoning, the miners are just poverty-stricken slaves. They are victims of the class-war, in which all the casualties are on one side and the arms and financial resources are on the other. Their social position was neatly expressed in a prosecution reported in the issue of the Barnsley Chronicle previously quoted.

Two out-of-work miners had used their unemployed abilities to drive a heading into a seam of coal from the back of an outside cellar on a hillside. They laid rails and lit the place with electricity. The inevitable air-shaft, however, gave them away, and the agents of the mineral owners speedily brought them to “justice."

These men had demonstrated their willingness to work in a practical way. They also appear to have astonished both the police and the mining engineer, who inspected the workings, by their up-to-date methods and ingenuity. Doubtless, in childhood they had read the parable of the talents, and heard sermons preached on the demoralisation that overtakes the idle. They determined to find occupation for body and mind and, incidentally, in a true British spirit of sturdy independence, find an alternative to relying on the public authorities. They reaped their due reward—three months' hospitality from His Majesty!

The means of mining coal, among other things, belong to the members of the master-class, and the workers can apply their energies only by permission of these masters. The machinery of Government, including magistrates, police and prisons, exists to protect the property of the masters. In other words, it enables them to prevent the workers from working unless they agree to keep their masters in idleness and luxury by producing far more than they, the workers, require for their subsistence.

Capitalism is a system of robbery maintained by force. It is a war of parasites upon society, dealing out poverty, disease, injury and death to the producers of wealth in order that the balance-sheets may show a profit.

While numerous actual and would-be leaders of the workers try to interest them in wars in foreign lands, we of the Socialist Party call their attention to the greater war at home, from which there can be no peace till the day of their emancipation.
Eric Boden

The Paris Commune (1930)

From the March 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

We cannot let March pass away without a reference to an event of great significance in the history of the Working Class Movement. We refer to the Paris Commune of 1871.

Although nearly sixty years have passed away since the Commune, yet it still has a message for us, a message of hope and a message of warning. Then for the first time a section of the French working class, owing to a set of favourable circumstances, obtained control of supreme power and held it for a period of three months. Their defeat was due to many causes, chief of which were the unity of the International capitalists against them and the as yet unreadiness of the French working class for a social change in their interests.

The story of the Commune is told by Karl Marx in his little book, “The Civil War in France," and also by Lissagary (himself a fighter in the Commune) in his “Paris Commune of 1871.”

Of the objects of the Commune Marx speaks as follows:
  The whole of the educational institutions were opened to the people gratuitously, and at the same time cleared of all interference of Church and State.
 All public servants (including magistrates and judges) were to be elective, responsible and revocable.
 The Paris Commune was to serve as a model to all the great industrial centres of France.
 The Rural Communes of every district were to administer their common affairs by an assembly of delegates in the central town, and these district assemblies were again to send delegations to the National Delegation in Paris, each delegate to be at any time revocable and bound by the formal instruction of his constituents. The few but important functions which still would remain for a Central Government were not to be suppressed, as has been intentionally misstated, but were to be discharged by Communal, and therefore strictly responsible, agents.
Engels in his introduction to the German edition of "The Civil War in France,” points out that the members of the Commune were divided into a majority of Blanquists, who had also predominated on the Central Committee of the National Guard, and a minority, which consisted for most part of members of the International Working Men’s Association, who were followers of Proudhon. He then shows that both the Blanquists and Proudhonists did the reverse of that which the doctrines of their Schools prescribed. Of the Blanquists he writes as follows :—
The Blanquists fared no better. Brought up in the School of Conspiracy, held together by the rigid discipline essential to it, they started from the conception that a comparatively small number of resolute, welt-organised men would be able not only to grasp the helm of State at a favourable moment, but also, through the display of great energy and reckless daring, to hold it as long as required; that is, until they had succeeded in carrying the masses of the people into the revolutionary current, and ranging them around the small leading band. To accomplish this, what was necessary, above all else, was the most stringent dictatorial centralisation of all power in the hands of the new revolutionary Government. And what did the Commune do— which in the majority consisted of these very Blanquists? In all its proclamations to the French people in the Provinces, it called upon them for a free federation of all French communes with Paris, for a National Organisation, which for the first time was to be the real creation of the nation. The Army, the Political Police, the Bureaucracy, all those agencies of oppression in a centralised government, which Napoleon had created in 1798, and which since then every new government had gladly used and kept up as ready weapons against its enemies, were to be abolished everywhere as they had been abolished in Paris. (Page 16.)
Lissagary gives a picture of Paris during the reign of the Commune which is instructive and interesting;—
Sunday the 26th was a day of joy and sunshine. Paris breathed again, happy, like one just escaped from death or great peril. At Versailles the streets looked gloomy, gendarmes occupied the station, brutally demanded passports, confiscated all the journals of Paris, and at the slightest expression of sympathy for the town arrested you. At Paris everybody could enter freely. The streets swarmed with people, the cafes were noisy; the same lad cried out the “Paris Journal” and the “Commune.” The attacks against the Hotel-de-Ville, the protestations of a few malcontents, were posted on the walls by the side of the placards of the Central Committee. The people were without anger because without fear. The voting paper had replaced the Chassepot.” (Page 127.)
In the course of the Commune, working men demonstrated their capacity to organise. The departments of the Mint, Finances, Education, Labour and Post Office were in charge of working men, and the results accomplished in the short space of time at their disposal was remarkable and many were continued after the suppression of the Commune.

But the people were not ready for such a fundamental change, and the forces without were too strong. The French Capitalists had made an arrangement with Bismarck under which one of the first stipulations was the pacification of Paris, and accordingly Bismarck released the captured French troops, who were let loose upon Paris by the Versailles government. The Communards contested with unsurpassed bravery and devotion every foot of ground and resisted for several days after the gates of Paris had been opened by treachery, and bitter was the toll they paid for the rising. The savagery of the government troops, as illustrated by Lissagary are almost unbelievable and even called forth comment from such a conservative paper as the English Times.

Lissagary records that about 20,000 were killed, while the number of the wounded will never be known. More than 40,000 prisoners were taken and trials followed lasting several years. 13,221 men, 157 women and 62 children were condemned. 270 were condemned to death and 7,500 to transportation.

Such was the vengeance wreaked by the French ruling class for an insurrection that failed. It will be well for the working class to remember the Commune and profit by its lessons.
Gilmac.