From the June 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard
Address by J. D'Arcy at Conway Hall on Easter Sunday
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.