Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Eugène Ionesco and the Defeatist Dilemma (1958)

Eugène Ionesco
From the October 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard
"The whole history of the world has been governed by . . . nostalgias and anxieties, which political action does no more than reflect and interpret, very imperfectly. No society has been able to abolish human sadness, no political system can deliver us from the pain of living, from our fear of death; it is the human condition that directs the social condition not vice versa.”
This in essence is the subjective theory of history; it is also the philosophy of the French playwright Eugène Ionesco.

Eugène Ionesco, who is of Rumanian origin, has in the last ten years become one of the leading dramatists of the French avant-garde. Like all such writers his plays were first acted in the tiny left-bank theatres in Paris. He has now acquired a world-wide reputation and his plays are being performed in many languages.

The constant theme of his plays (for example: Armedée. Victims of Duty, etc.) is the personal predicament of the individual in the modem world, expressed in a highly original and unusual style of dramatic writing. In an article on “ The Playwrights Roll ” (Observer, June 29th, 1958), from which the opening quotation is taken, he says: "What is called the 'social' plane (of reality) . . .  seems to me to be the most external, in other words, the most superficial."

It is a characteristic of our times for many people to deny the efficacy of political action and to turn to the sad futility of attempting to solve the inner, personal problem; simply because heretofore, all political action has left us still with each his own personal predicament in an impersonal and anti-social world.

Ionesco says elsewhere in his article: "I believe that what separates us all from one another is simply society itself . . . This is what raises barriers between men, this is what creates misunderstanding.” And again: “To discover the fundamental problem common to all mankind, I must ask myself what my fundamental problem is, what my most ineradicable fear is. I am certain, then, to find the problems and fears of literally everyone.” 

True, society does separate us one from another, but the question, why? is not asked. True, my problems are those of literally everyone, in other words, they are common problems, therefore may they not be social in origin? Society and human beings cannot be considered in abstraction, as separate entities, we have no existence apart from one another and the whole which constitutes society. Our individual condition is determined on all counts by our common (social) condition. Neither is there an eternal paradox whereby the nature of our existence should, or must be, the barrier to perfect communication and harmonious living. If this were true, it would mean that at no time and in no place have men lived without the problems Ionesco poses, and this we cannot countenance. Personal problems are only the manifestations on the individual plane of the social malaise; for all problems can be seen on analysis no matter what their nature, to stem from the wider circle of causality—society. To describe social reality as therefore merely “external” and “superficial,” is to assume à priori that we have an existence which is “extra-social” and in some way superior to the social. Obviously, Ionesco has something in mind as to what this might be and he describes it as “a wider, deeper society, that which is revealed by our common anxieties, our desires, our secret nostalgias.” It is not that these things are not real enough, or for that matter of vital importance, but the emphasis is misplaced; that in some way they are more real, more potent, than the social existence. (There are no realities which can be conceived as being more, or less, real than others; there are only factors of varying powers of determinancy within reality.) This is not to question that our emotions, or rather, say our subjective impulses, do not have their influence on the course of human history, or on life in general (that would be silly), men make their own history and emotions are part of our human composition, but to say that (see opening quotation) what Ionesco calls the human condition, the psychological totality, directs the social condition, is an untenable assumption. Who could possibly give a cogent, convincing explanation of human history by way of such an hypothesis? I cavil at the thought of even putting rhetorical questions on the subject; the result would be so ludicrous, that I can only assume Ionesco does not mean precisely what he says. Perhaps I am wrong in my interpretation of what he means by the human condition, perhaps it is our unique human consciousness; our ability to experience the subjective, to be aware of ourselves, to have powers of abstraction, to be able to plan ahead; but these things are in fact historically the result of the very social reality that to Ionesco is mere external superficiality, as well as being a necessary factor for the existence of society anyway and can only exist itself and have meaning, within the social context. It is important to realise also that each human emotion only becomes overt as a response, and thus never without a reason, and that reason can only emanate from the environment, which is to all intents and purposes—society. Therefore, if our subjective impulses give rise to any problems on the psychological plane, they must be ascribed in origin to the social one. Ionesco rightly says of the “saviours of the world ”; “the founders of religions”; “the moralists” and “the politicians,” that “they make a pretty poor job of it” Yet at the same time he wrongly lays the responsibility for the business of directing human affairs, upon the very people whom he denigrates; contentedly leaving the destiny of the human race in the hands of professional bunglers, thus absolving himself from any responsibility, either as an artist or (one must presume) as a human being for the whole lamentable situation; which being social in origin—the completely insane, inherently unstable organisation of human life—must be tackled on that level, for to put it bluntly: there is no other.

As stated earlier, the question why? as Ionesco rightly contends (though for the wrong reason), that society raises barriers between men was not asked. I do not intend to state at length an answer which should be patently obvious to any one who reads this journal, except to say that in this case, as in many others, if we try to understand human beings in isolation, we find that we have to invent causes to replace those we choose in our ignorance to ignore. In this case the nature of society.

The flagrant contradictions, the class structure, the thoroughly warped relationships and hollow values that characterise the very mode of our human existence, it is well understood can easily lead to Ionesco’s position.

The utter boredom, futility and terror of our world which is fast becoming more and more “the air-conditioned nightmare” (to use Henry Miller’s phrase) of Huxleyan prophecy; which throws people back on themselves. to seek inwardly for peace and security, to escape from the vast, infinite, impersonal, oppressive world beyond, over which they feel they have no power to control. Our social nature pines and withers, for it has nowhere to flourish, for which the penalty has to be paid in full. The case-books of the psychologists attest to this.

In “The Starting Point” an essay which has been prefaced to the first volume of his plays in English (published by John Calder), Ionesco says: “. . . the world oppresses, the universe is crushing me. A curtain, an impassable wall stands between me and the world, . . . the horizon closes in and the world becomes a stifling dungeon . . . I feel I am invaded by heavy forces, against which I can only fight a losing battle.”

It is this highly personal expression of the predicament of the individual, from which he has evolved his theory of Dramatic art. It is from this point of view that he has written his creed as a playwright.

As the “human condition” is to him more important than the “social” condition,” it follows that in Ionesco’s opinion those who write on the wider social aspect of life, commit a host of artistic fallacies, since: “such writers . . . offer nothing that one does not know already through books and political speeches.” On this account he cites Sartre, Osborne, Miller and Brecht.

It is in no way to condone the conclusions of the aforementioned writers (though we may find much to agree with) to defend their dramatic approach, for in their works we are always aware of the world outside the immediate action, so that what the characters say, do and experience, has meaning for us. They are engaged in living; and acting on their environment, not merely thumb-sucking their complexes in a vacuum.

If and when the development of a Socialist theatre is possible, giving voice to Socialist ideas, aspirations and criticism, it can only be through the medium of “social” theatre that this can be accomplished. Apart from this, the pernicious fallacies of Ionesco’s theatre concerning the nature of man and society are opposed to the whole Socialist philosophy, and it is on this score that I draw issue with him and make my criticism.

If, as Ionesco says: “. . .  every work of art is outside ideology,” we are reduced to a conception of art that takes no account of the artist, who as a creative individual, is himself created in turn by the living, vital forces of society which he transforms into artistic terms. 

Ionesco is himself, no more and no less than his particular anathema Bertholt Brecht, a product of some aspect of Capitalism.

"Human kind cannot bear very much reality," wrote T. S. Eliot, but when that reality is inimical to use, we tend, like Ionesco, to hope that by refusing to look at it, it will somehow cease to be; or perhaps—simply go away.

Man’s greatest need is man, that is why we are Socialists and go the Socialist way. "Fellowship is life, and lack of fellowship is death—but we may choose.
Ian Jones

The Passing of the Communist Party (1942)

From the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

My membership of the Communist Party was in the days when it claimed loyalty to the teachings of Lenin and a Marxian attitude to all social questions. In those days the C.P. attracted many an honest and energetic member of the working class to its ranks. In the main they were studious people who believed that the road to Socialism could only be made, by insurrection, led and fostered by an intelligent minority.

They rejected the position that the workers must understand, and that Socialism could only be achieved by a majority capturing the powers of government legally. They argued that the capitalist class would never permit itself to be voted out of power, that Parliament would be closed down if it were threatened by a determined working class bent on its capture. They taught that the workers should build up extra legal organisations to effect the taking of power. Such in brief was the basic attitude of many of us in those days, when cynicism had not bitten into the membership by glaring changes of policy.

Time has had its revenge on the C.P. Contrast the beliefs and hopes of twenty years ago and the position to-day.

How we then propagated the Lenin injunction: turn an imperialist war into a revolutionary civil war. We would, out of the conflict of boss-class, lead the war-weary workers to revolution and Socialism. Moreover, many of us quietly hoped that war would come soon to deliver us from the fetters of capitalism.

To-day, instead of exploiting the violent quarrels of the master-class, the communists are committed to the preservation of capitalism in one form or another, using every device to prove their loyalty to the concept of patriotism.

Civil war or revolution is farthest from their mind.

The membership of the C.P. has changed often in the course of its history; a change of policy has meant generally a change in personnel. Over the past few years the nationalistic and patriotic line of the party has found reflection in the membership.

Revolutionaries of yesterday are now found outside, forming groups such as the Trotskyists.

Others just drifted out of the political scene completely.

Minor changes of policy could be explained by the usual method—i.e., that changing conditions required changing tactics.

But complete abandonment of the class struggle, that day-to-day struggle so beloved by the C.P.? Read Mr. Arthur Homer, at a conference of mine-owners, managers and workers at Cardiff:
The common danger facing owners, managers and workers is the magnet that draws all together.
—“World News and Views," October 11th, 1941.
In international affairs the Communists stand for British capitalism. To quote Mr. Maisky, it will be “based on close collaboration during and after the war" (Daily Chronicle, November 22nd). Now not one communist living twenty or even five years ago would have dared to prophesy what has come to pass.

It would be easy to gloat, to sneer over the dismal end of the much bruited Third International and its affiliated bodies, for events have finally disposed of the claim to be socialist that that organisation pressed in its early days.

Socialists have pointed out, year in, year out, to the Communists that their tie-up with Russia’s foreign policy precluded a clear understanding of the nature of capitalism.

The State capitalism of that country may have distinguishing features from orthodox capitalism, but it was not Socialism.

The road to Socialism is a long one, and unremitting propaganda must make an intelligent working-class fit for Socialism.
Frank Dawe

Party Notes (1904)

Party News from the October 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

The encouraging results attending our outdoor propaganda continue. New members are being enrolled every week. But if comrades in charge of the meetings would keep a sharper look out greater results still would be achieved. 

* * *

At the close of the meetings, one can usually observe a few persons remaining after the bulk of the audience has gone away. In many cases these persons are waiting to be approached by our members. They are a little shy of taking the initiative, but our comrades should break the ice and introduce themselves in a friendly

* * *

Then a quiet suggestion could be made that if they find themselves in agreement with the position of the speaker to whom they have just been listening, they ought to join the party and help to spread the light. On the other hand, any point on which there may exist any misconception could be plainly elucidated and the listeners will go away impressed with the opinion that at any rate the members of The Socialist Party of Great Britain have a sincere desire to impart a knowledge of the true position of the working class.

* * *

The Socialist Standard, if we judge by the first number, has been a success. The sales have been good. We have to thank the many readers who have expressed their appreciation of its contents.

* * *

While we recognise the strenuous efforts made by our comrades in disposing of the papers, we trust that they will not slacken those efforts. We fully realise that we have brought out our paper at the worst possible time—the end of our summer propagandist season. That being so, we must rely on our members to use their best endeavours to boom the paper in the winter months. The paper is the property of the party, and its success is desired by all who have the best interests of the party at heart.

* * *

Since our last issue we have to chronicle the formation of two new branches—one in Clerkenwell, London, and the other in the Romford Division of Essex. All Socialists in these districts should get in touch with these branches so as to make them the nuclei of strong local bodies.

* * *

We have bad further requests for information from various parts of the country, and we think the result will be that in the near future we shall be able to record the formation of branches in the provinces.

* * *

Any Socialist desiring to obtain information as to the constitution or principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain will receive courteous consideration at our hands. We shall always be willing to satisfy any doubts in the minds of our correspondents or to give them any information'

* * *

Any Socialists residing in any district where no branch of the party exists may, pending the formation of such branch, become members of the Central Branch of the party.
Con Lehane

Party Notes (1905)

Party News from the July 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Manifesto of The Socialist Party of Great Britain to the Working-Class has been published in pamphlet form, and can be had from the Party Literature Agent, F. C Watts, 154. Ashmore Road, Paddington, London, W., price 1½d. post free. This pronouncement will, of course, be differently viewed by both the friends and the enemies of the working-class. The publication of the document marks the advent of a new era in working-class polities in Britain.

* * *

The Manifesto deals with the present position of the working-class, the historical developments which brought about that position, lays down the basis of working-class political action, and by a clear and sober analysis shows wherein the various political organisations other than the S.P.G.B. claiming to be the party of the workers fail to meet the requirements of the present juncture. No student of modern politics should be without a copy of the Manifesto.

* * *

What is the difference between the S.P.G.B. and the S.D.F.?—the Fabian Society?—the I.LP. ?—the L.R.C.? Read the Manifesto, which is replete with facts bearing on the differences. What are the tactics of The Socialist Party? Read the Manifesto.

* * *

The Party Organ and the Manifesto should be pushed at all propaganda meetings. During the summer we base the best opportunities of selling the Party literature. Make hay while the son shines.

* * *

Propaganda meetings should always be held precisely at the advertised time. This is generally done, but s few cases have come under my observation where, owing to meetings being opened a little late, our speakers have failed to secure audiences they otherwise would have had. Let punctuality be the order of the day.

* * *

Branches and speakers are reminded that they should regularly send to the centre reports of the propaganda meetings, so that the entire propaganda activity of the Party may be accurately ascertained. If a meeting is worth holding it is worth reporting.

* * *

The West Ham comrades show evidences of greet activity and the East Ham Branch of the Party is in process of formation. More power to their elbows!

* * *

The Romford Division Branch is opening an S.P.G.B. Club at 43. York Road, Ilford, and all Party members residing outside the Romford Parliamentary Division are honorary members. This Branch, too, seems determined to give a good account of itself, and has extended its activity into the East End of London.

* * *

In Islington the S.P.G.B. is at present well in evidence. In Finsbury Park our local Branch appears to have killed the efforts of the other organisations claiming to be Socialist, for during the past few Sundays our comrades have had no opposition “Socialist” meetings.

* * *

In other directions our Branches are doing well, and if the results so far are a fair indication as to the success of our Party during the remainder of the propaganda season, then we may rest assured that our efforts will not have been in vain.

* * *

The Delegate Meeting of the S.P.G.B. will be held at the Communist Club, London, on Monday, 31st July, 1905, 8 p.m., and in order that the E.C. may be enabled to present a complete report Branches are requested to send in their quarterly statements with the least possible delay.

* * *

Photographs of First Annual Conference of the S.P.G.B. are still obtainable, price 2/-. Orders, accompanied by remittances, should be sent to the undersigned.
Con Lehane

Monday, February 27, 2017

Global Tyranny (2000)

Book Review from the May 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Your Money or Your Life! the Tyranny of Global Finance by Eric Toussaint, translated by Raghu Krishnan, Pluto Press, 1999.

This is a potentially useful resource for socialists' campaign of educating the working class about how they are being exploited. It provides an analysis of the "globalisation of capital", and how this has enabled the largest industrial groups and financial investors to operate "with the least possible number of restrictions as far as labour laws and social conventions were concerned". Toussaint provides a useful introduction in which he outlines his 45 "theses" which are enlarged upon in the body of the text. These cover the workings and the consequences of the process from "1: massive impoverishment on a global scale" through to 42: "globalisation hastening environmental decline", and conclude with the need for alternatives, in particular 44: "satisfying human needs" and 45: "rethinking a project for emancipation".

Of course, much has already been written on such matters as Third World Debt, the role of financial institutions including the World Bank and the IMF, and the human suffering resulting from unfair trade and Structural Adjustment Programmes. But this book is a less irritating read for socialists because it uses the language of the class struggle, for example, in thesis 43 referring to "the global offensive of capital against labour", and in 26 stating that the repayment of foreign and domestic debt "has been a tremendous mechanism for transferring the [surplus] wealth created by the workers to capitalists". Toussaint evidently considers himself to be a socialist, dedicating the book to Ernest Mandel and sharing Marx's belief that "the emancipation of the oppressed can only be achieved by the oppressed themselves".

However, there are errors in the book in terms of the socialist analysis of capitalism. For example, Toussaint refers to debt repayments coming out of tax revenues, "which largely come from working people". This is odd given that in the Glossary he defines surplus value as "what remains of the social product once the reproduction of the workforce is assured and its maintenance costs covered". Logically these subsistence costs must be the money actually received by the workers, hence net of tax, and so tax revenues must, in effect, come from the capitalists' share of the spoils. A much more serious error lies in the kind of solution Toussaint proposes. He lists alternatives to the current situation headed by reforms to the handling of Third World Debt. He asserts that the "tyranny" of financial markets can be "disciplined", "if governments decide to do so". He puts his faith in "the wealth of social movements" succeeding in resisting globalisation. How can Toussaint reconcile this trust in reformist measures which only capitalists or their state servants can bring about with his recognition of the unavoidable responsibility of the oppressed for their own emancipation?

One welcome theme of the book is Toussaint's account of the effects of globalisation on the environment. In particular, he recognises that the so-called "Green Revolution" was "carried out to the detriment of communal lands, has led to severe impoverishment of biodiversity, an increase in plant diseases and soil exhaustion". He cites the well-known environmental and social activist Vandana Shiva as seeing that, far from saving India from famine, as is claimed by the World Bank, the Green Revolution was "part of the plunder and exploitation of the peasantry for the benefit of trade and industry". In a socialist society the traditional knowledge and expertise held by small communities will be respected, especially where this relates to local ecology and sustainable systems of land use, and hence priority given to local decision-making over whatever has to be delegated to wider regional or global democratic control.

How much more interesting it is looking forward to the future socialist society than indulging in wishful thinking about how the current economy might be reformed to mitigate its worst effects. However, to be fair to Toussaint, he devotes only ten per cent of the pages of his book to these alternatives, and damns capitalism so powerfully in the rest, that it may be that he intends the reader to draw their own conclusion: that the only solution is to scrap it altogether.
Chris Marsh

Early Bordiga and Electoral Activity (2017)

Amadeo Bordiga
From the February 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
The second part of our series on the views of Amadeo Bordiga up to the 1917 Russian revolution.
In March and April 1913, the magazine Avanguardia published a series of articles by Bordiga entitled 'For the Theoretical Conception of Socialism'. In them he expressed his political vision.
'We should not be philosophers but men of action… the proletariat is still in search of its programme and it will not find it permanently until after a long series of struggles and inevitable mistakes committed in action. (….) We have a programme de facto: the abolition of private property and of the wages system. We have to pay attention to the deceits of bourgeois thought and in particular to idealist forms that seek to distract the attention of the proletariat from the economic problems that it seeks to resolve with the violent suppression of their domination.’
If, on the one hand, this is a Marxist revolutionary position, on the other hand it has a strong taste of anarchist actionism. In a further Avanguardia article, in July 1913, Bordiga commented both on the recently translated book Revolutionary Socialism by the French revolutionary syndicalists Charles Albert and Jean Duchène and on an editorial on it by Mussolini in Avanti, the newspaper of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI).  According to Bordiga, the anarchists and syndicalists were too often criticized from the reformist point of view, that is, for rejecting legal revolution in favour of violence. Instead, for him, the shortcomings of the anarchist and syndicalist movements were in how they wanted to reach their revolutionary aim; the anarchists were too abstract and the syndicalists were too simplistic in believing that the unions would be sufficient to achieve everything.
Bordiga disagreed with the authors that Marxism was a fatalistic doctrine. On the parliamentary tactic, a key element of what would become Bordiga's future thought on the question can be discerned in this article. He agreed with criticism of the justifications the anarchists gave for abstentionism. On the other hand, he accepted Albert and Duchène's criticism that parliamentary action would suffocate any other activity, commenting that ‘it cannot be denied that the facts seem to prove that’. But for him, at this time, it was a question of whether parliamentary and electoral activity was of use or not for the maximum programme of socialism. A few years later his answer was to be that it was not, with the same justification for this given by Albert and Duchène. It was from this that his abstentionism originated.
In November 1913 Bordiga discussed the elections that had just taken place:
'It is, in fact, undisputable that the conquests of Socialism, from the maximum to the immediate, must be a product of the large masses, which form a collective consciousness of their own interests and of their own future. The large masses must be convinced that, to guarantee and effectively materialize those conquests, they should not abdicate their safety into the hands of a few executives; they should also not ask for help of any kind from the economically opposing class. The Socialist Party must nurture and spread this collective consciousness… Nobody can deny the truthfulness of the observation that a man obliged to do manual labour is inclined to delegate to others, to the intellectuals, the management and therefore the control of social life. Even nearly conscious masses tend to entrust the achievement of whatever aim they have to a man or a few men, whom they follow too blindly… We want to deduce from it that, in the current conditions, any form of class action – not only the elections, but also syndicalist action and even street uprisings – present the risk that the masses will give up actual control of their own interests and entrust it to a given number of “leaders”.'
So at this time Bordiga favoured participation in elections as an opportunity for propagandising but at the same time he was concerned that elections could be used as a way for an intellectual elite to take control of the workers’ movement. He already foresaw how easy it was for electoral activity to degenerate into mere vote-catching, 'to lose any aim which was not the numerical outcome’.
At the XIV National Congress of the PSI in Ancona in April 1914, Bordiga gave the leadership’s political report and also a report on the Southern question. He spoke on the Party’s tactic in 'administrative elections', i.e. elections to local and regional councils. He was for a policy of absolute intransigence against any type of coalition with bourgeois parties in the South as well as elsewhere in Italy, against the so-called blockists (blocchisti) who favoured electoral alliances with other parties. Despite the special conditions of the South of Italy, Bordiga invited the PSI to approach the question of the local and regional elections with the same political line everywhere on Italy, and ‘to make socialist municipalities a weapon against the capitalist and bourgeois State’.
On 7 June 1914, to commemorate the Albertinian Statute (the constitutional charter of the Italian monarchy), republicans and anarchists in Ancona organized a demonstration where a large crowd gathered. The gendarmerie opened fire on the crowd killing three people. Workers all over Italy reacted to this violent act with street demonstrations. The reformist leaders of the union, the General Labour Confederation (CgdL) were obliged to proclaim a mass strike. Writing in the 1960s Bordiga commented on what he regarded as a typical conclusion to an insurrection in Italian history:
'... on 12 June when state power and the bourgeoisie were in trouble, the CGdL provided them one of its countless services; it ordered the end of the mass strike. It was straight from the anarchist and Sorelian syndicalist tradition, according to which the Union has the function of direct and violent action and the party the legal one.'
Though he never wrote about it, Bordiga’s involvement in this action had personal consequences for him. He was dismissed from the State Railways where he worked as an engineer for taking part in a demonstration in Naples. He had published a short note in Il Socialista on 25 June in which he extended greetings to the rioters in the name of the Neapolitan Section of the PSI.
When in his article 'Democracy and Socialism' Bordiga stated that socialism 'established itself as the solemn condemnation of the historical failure of the democratic formula, and of the deceits that this contains’ he was referring to bourgeois democracy.  He wrote that democracy (i.e. bourgeois democracy) 'sees in the representative system the means to solve any problem of collective interest; we see in it the mask of a social oligarchy that uses the deceit of political equality in order to keep the workers oppressed’. In a key passage in this series of articles he wrote about what socialism means:
'… socialism means thinking that today, based on an examination of the existing economic and social conditions, a class action is possible, which aims to destroy capitalism and substitute it with a new social order. Acting as socialists means to seek to spread the consciousness of such a possibility in an ever growing number of proletarians and with the greatest simultaneity possible in all countries and nations. Whoever, even if they recognize that the destruction of capitalism is a good thing, does not think that this is the moment to act but believes that it is better to first solve other problems, is not a socialist.'
In this series of articles Bordiga continued to support the ‘municipalist’ thesis that workers should aim to win control of municipalities through elections, close to the argument of Mussolini in Avanti. At this point, for Bordiga, while what might be able to be achieved for workers at the municipal level should not be ignored, the role of the party remained one of propaganda, proselytism and preparation for the final clash of classes.
(Next month: Bordiga and the First World War)
The first article in this series can be read at the following link.

Revolution in France (1969)

Book Review from the January 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marxism in Modern France by George Lichtheim. Columbia UP 20s.

France has provided many of the names well-known in the social democratic and anarchist movements: Saint-Simon. Proudhoun, Blanqui, Guesde, Jaurès, Sorel. Before the first world war the antics of reformists like Jaurès made the workers suspicious of parliamentary politics, a suspicion which expressed itself as Syndicalism, the view that the workers could only project their interests by direct action and the general strike leading to a regime of industrial unions.

After the war the bulk of the syndicalist workers backed the newly-formed Communist Party as they believed that Russia really was a soviet union and, of course, Leninism, with its conspiratorial vanguards and armed uprisings, fitted in well with the views of Blanqui. Today the Communist Party is a mass party, essentially reformist, but with a pseudo-revolutionary ideology. Its militants, however, are still influenced by syndicalism; hence their support for occupying the factories in 1968 as well as 1936.

Marx held that Socialism would be the outcome of the class struggle between the workers and the capitalists which would end with the workers winning political power and using it to convert the means of production into the common property of society as a whole. This view was inherited, in grossly distorted forms, by the Communists (PCF) and the Social Democrats (SFIO)who both saw themselves as expressions of the workers’ class struggle for Socialism.

In recent years they have had to face a crisis of theory: workers no longer seem interested in appeals to class and talk of revolution. Some have concluded that industrial workers are now played out as a revolutionary force and that Marx was wrong. The SFIO, characteristically, turned instead to the technocrats interested in extending state control, while the PCF always held in effect that the vanguard party, rather than the workers, would establish “socialism” (read “state capitalism”).

Lichtheim’s book, republished recently as a paperback, discusses both these views and those of their critics in what is a useful guide to French political thought.
Adam Buick

A hop picking (1988)

From the April 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Over the past four years, like so many other students pressed to the financial limits by a government which apparently no longer values the “good investment" of a university education in political ignorance. I have been forced to sell my labour power in my vacations. One of the least edifying of the available occupations I have experienced is the ritualistic September exploitation of hop picking that this summer (as last) economic survival forced me into taking.

Hop production in England has in recent years been in decline largely thanks to the competition of the mechanised American industry and the ravages of the hop disease wilt, which has destroyed thousands of acres and forced many a poor hop farmer into early retirement in any of a number of tax havens. At a rough estimate around three hundred farms grow hops in England today, mainly concentrated in Hereford, Worcester and, of course, Kent. The farm where I worked was a moderate concern at around 300 acres, about 85 of which were set aside for hops.

Despite recent problems, hops are perhaps the most valuable crop a farmer can grow on his available land and large profits are still made on the backs of exploited hop pickers. Indeed, what better proof of the labour theory of value is there than agricultural production, for what value has a rotten, unharvested crop?

Hop farms, like all farms, tend to stay in the hands of the same families and as a result vast fortunes have been amassed, especially by those families who were in the industry during the boom years of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when hops were picked by hand, pickers were paid at most one (old) penny a bushel (a bushel is worth around £40 today) and workers were housed in sheds designed for animals and had to provide their own food. Some improvements have been made since then. As early as the nineteen thirties George Orwell was reporting such notable improvements as fresh straw to sleep on and a pay rate of two (old) pennies a bushel.

However, changes in the actual production of hops in the latter part of this century and consequently in the structuring of the labour process, have been massive. The invention and adoption of BRUFF hop picking machines in the 1940s and 1950s has reduced the number of pickers required from hundreds to dozens and the introduction of hybrid strands of hops has meant that less have been required to flavour even the increasing quantities of beer demanded.

The typical hop farm today has split production into three discernible processes: the picking and gathering of hops in the "yard” or field: the loading and sorting of hops on the hop-picking machine at the main farm buildings; and kiln work — the kiln being the place where the picked hops are dried, pressed and baled (packaged).

At each stage of production there is a group of workers with a foreman working long shifts. Many farms still work the old twelve hour shift, though the more enterprising have adopted 24 hour picking with two shifts - a response to American productive methods. The farm where I worked had two eight hour shifts: 6am to 3pm and 3pm to 1am. This compromise was probably worked out on the logic that with longer hours it would be a toss-up as to which would collapse first, the hop pickers or the archaic hop picking machine.

The jobs in the hop yard are probably the most strenuous. A gang of four men and a tractor driver cut down the hop vines for the tractor driver to take back to the workers at the machine. In most places this work is still done by men with sickles although the technology to eliminate this menial work has existed for many years.

One of the four men stands in a tower attached to the back of the tractor (called the “crow's nest") and cuts the hop plant away from the wire work on which it grows at the top, around ten feet up. while another worker walks ahead cutting the plants away at the bottom. The tractor is driven slowly through the middle of the row while the remaining two workers load the hop bines onto the tractor trailer. When four tractors are working in tandem the work is continuous, but so long as the weather stays fairly warm and dry it can be enjoyable. However since the advent of night shift work the opportunities for getting cold, wet and miserable have been greatly increased, as has the prospect of serious injury as the night shift is carried out in the totally inadequate lighting of a simple torch attached to the back of the tractor. Industrial injuries increase in number each year but very few workers sue for damages (excluding a few students) for most will have to find work on the same farm the next year. Our boss found it extremely amusing that we were "short handed" when the worker in the crow's nest lost his finger in an accident.

Working on the hop picking machine is among the most boring experiences known. After the hops are deposited at the machine by the tractor driver, it is the job of three workers to load the heavy ten foot hop bines into the large metal hooks of the machine. Once the machine is in motion these hooks feed the machine constantly. With the regular supply of hops from the yard, the work for these three workers is thus both back-breaking and mind-numbing.

The hops are fed through various cutters, choppers and strimmers until reaching the open stage of the machine where two or three women workers sort the leaves missed by the machine from the hop fruit itself. It is a far from pleasant atmosphere, working with the steaming mass of rotting debris which is belched out as surplus by the hop machine directly behind them. The picked hops then travel along a long conveyor belt into the kiln to be dried, pressed and boiled.

Four men work in the kiln which, at my place of work, was a three-levelled building seemingly never below 90°C in temperature. The job of one of these men, the binman, is to fill 12 feet square bins with the hops emerging from the moving conveyor. Once the hops are levelled in the bins they are ready to be pushed into the kiln itself and dried. The drying process seems full of mystique and is usually entrusted to three workers close to the farming family. One more experienced worker is designated "hop man" and makes most of the decisions as to how long the hops should be heated and how many should be heated in one kiln. The three kilnsmen work two shifts a day and actually sleep in the kiln in order to be available at any time of the day or night. Their main tasks are to collect the dried hops on the second level, to feed them through a pressing machine and to sew them into square bales (packages), ready to be sold to the brewery.

Of the two shifts of workers, the student contingent made up most of one entire shift. Students are very popular among farmers as in the majority of cases they don't have to pay employers’ insurance contributions. The student workers are housed in rickety, cold caravans on the farm and are fed (mainly potatoes) in the farmhouse. For both these delights a worker's wage is docked over £3 a day. Very few of the students had any conception of how they were being exploited, most of them this year being local public school boys who thought it rather good fun to rough it for three weeks. The second shift of local agricultural workers understandably looked on the student shift with considerable suspicion and dislike.

Despite these facts most agricultural labourers, while they may dislike the farmer and his family passively accept the agricultural hierarchy as it stands. In fact, with the average agricultural worker's wage being around £51 a week in normal times, most of them welcome and are grateful for the marginally less intense exploitation of hop picking.

Despite the general air of passive acceptance of a rotten and self-limiting system, in my second week of work one spark of light pierced the ideological gloom. I was talking to some of the machine workers about the need for them to join unions when one worker, a former hop farm manager recently made redundant by an alliance of families, turned on me. virtually shouting, "what we need is a revolution, not bloody trade unions". I later handed him a copy of the Socialist Standard but I felt he knew through his own experience all he needed to know, without any help from me or anyone else. How long can it be before the mass of super- exploited agricultural workers like him achieve this realisation too?
Captain Swing

War—what it means and why (1992)

From the August 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

A figure based on statistics for civilians killed in military conflicts throughout the world between the years 1900 and 1990 is a staggering 115,119,000. This estimate given in World Social and Military Expenditures 1991 produced by World Priorities (Box 25140, Washington DC, 2000. USA) is on the low side since it does not take into account the wars of 60 minor nations.

Further, these statistics can only hint at the millions left orphaned and widowed and those who die from the famine and disease that invariably follows war. And we can only gasp in disbelief at the damage done to high-productive arable land, at the loss forever of mineral resources and at the effects of pollution, caused by these wars.

Governments and leaders who instigate wars have become masters of military rhetoric, for they can send millions to their deaths using such excuses as patriotism, religion and democracy. Even in our own century these have been the alleged causes of wars.

Socialists, however, recognise that we live in a world of capitalist domination in which the drive for profit comes before other concerns, and that wars are in reality fought over trade routes (Suez), areas of domination (the two world wars) and mineral resources (Gulf War).

If the recent Gulf War was fought to “defend democracy", then why did $9 billion find its way into Saddam’s hands between 1984 and 1989? Why didn't America retaliate when the USS Stark was attacked by Iraq in 1987 with the loss of 37 US lives, or when Saddam gassed 2000 Kurds in Halabja in 1988?

The Gulf War was fought for several capitalist-oriented reasons: to stabilize the world oil market, to protect Americas strategic imperialist interests in the Middle East and, as Simon Tisdall observed recently in the Guardian (20 May), “Bush also quickly realised that here was a crisis that might be blamed on him: hence the overwhelming magnitude of his response”.

War today means huge profits for sections of big business. For instance, “three quarters of Britain's biggest companies help to support oppressive regimes” (Guardian, 17 May). Between 1985 and 1989, US firms made $52.8 billion from arms exports (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook 1991), while at home British tank manufacturers Vickers bid for orders worth $2.5 billion. As well as this, governments sell military knowledge. Between the years 1979 and 1990 "Britain provided military training for 110 countries . . . Training in Cambodia included sabotage and mine-laying courses" (Guardian, 15 January).

The capitalist system of profit before need is fraught with contradictions. Six times as much public money in the world is spent on weapons research than on health research programmes (World Social and Military Priorities 1987-9). And in the Third World there are slightly over 8 soldiers for every one doctor, in spite of the fact that “the chance of dying from social neglect, malnutrition and preventable disease is 33 times greater than dying from war” (Ruth Leger Sivard, World Social and Military Expenditures, World Priorities, 1989).

During the 80s, NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries provided 89 percent of Third World arms. This has done nothing to bring peace, stability and prosperity, "only chaos and carnage to the very peasants whose sweat and toil earn Africa the foreign exchange to buy these weapons" (New Internationalist, July 1991).

The death of over 115 million people in the interests of profit is proof that the need for world socialism has never been more pressing. War is competition for profit writ large, the continuation of business by other means. It is not enough for the capitalists that the workers must suffer from continual exploitation, earning only enough to keep them in a fit mental and physical state in order to accrue more profits for their "masters". What adds injury to insult is when the workers are conned into fighting workers of other nations suffering under the same exploitative system—all for the right to be exploited by the more affluent victor. The working class has in reality only one enemy: the capitalist system.
John Bissett

The Silliness of Bernard Shaw and the Webbs (1956)

From the July 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reynolds News (10 June, 1956), in the course of publishing condensed extracts from “Beatrice Webb’s Diaries 1924-1932,” had the following about Beatrice’s disapproval of Bernard Shaw for his admiration of Mussolini:—
  "October 21st 1927. G. B. S. has created something of sensation; be has gone out of his way to certify to the excellence of Mussolini's dictatorship—to its superiority over political democracy as experienced in Britain and other countries. . . .  G. B. S. fortified in his admiration of Mussolini by spending eight weeks and £600 in a luxurious hotel at Stresa; in continuous and flattering interviews with Fascist officials of charming personality and considerable attainments . . ."
 "From the published correspondence in the English Press and still more from a private correspondence with Adler, it appears that G. B. S. puts forward the Mussolini regime as the New Model which all other countries ought to follow!"
Of course later on, in the second world war, Shaw hedged about his admiration for the Italian dictator, but in the meantime the Webbs had made the pilgrimage to Moscow, fallen for the same blandishments and published their massively misguided book “Soviet Communism—a new Civilisation." One of its unintentionally humorous chapters is that on "Is Stalin a Dictator?" “Sometimes it is asserted,” they wrote (second edition, 1937, page 431), “ that, whereas the form may be otherwise, the fact is that, whilst the Communist Party controls the whole administration, the Party itself, and thus indirectly the whole State, is governed by the will of a single person, Josef Stalin.”

They hastened to point out (doubtless remembering their earlier disapproval of Shaw and Mussolini) that Stalin, unlike Mussolini and Hitler, was “not invested by law with any authority over his fellow-citizens. . . .  He is, in fact, only the General Secretary of the Party... ." 

In their solemn-silly way they concluded that there wasn’t any truth in the stories about Stalin!
  "We have given particular attention to this point, collecting all the available evidence, and noting artfully the inferences to be drawn from the experience of the past eight years (1926-1934). We do not think that the Party is governed by the will of a single person; or that Stalin is the sort of person to claim or desire such a position. He has himself very explicitly denied any such personal dictatorship in terms which, whether or not he is credited with sincerity certainly accord with our own impression of the facts."
How Stalin must have laughed up his sleeve at such simplicity; and how his “reformed” successors must laugh at the simplicity of the Webb’s successors.

Of course the biggest deception of the Webbs’ book—a deception still being practised by Stalin’s heirs—was that Russian dictatorship-ridden State capitalism was a “new civilisation." It deserves that title as much as did Mussolini's Italy deserve Shaw’s belief in h as a New Model.
Edgar Hardcastle

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Commercialisation of Science (1928)

Editorial from the October 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Another Annual Conference of the British Association has come and gone. The topic of most importance appears to have been the alleged parlous plight of British industry.

Britain used to be “the workshop of the world." Now it is not. Its industrial capitalists no longer receive what they consider to be their fair share of the plunder of the world’s toilers. For some years past the capitalists of other countries have shown a callous disregard for the sensitive Britishers' feelings and betrayed their utter lack of a sense of decency by developing their productive capacity on modern lines, to the detriment of the erstwhile champion thieves of Europe.

Hence our masters are concerned to discover ways and means of intensifying the exploitation of the British workers, and the scientists are the boys they entrust with the job. Professor Sir William Bragg set the keynote by dwelling upon what he described as the intermediary position of the technical expert between capital and labour. The expert, he maintained, could see both sides, and thus help to produce harmony instead of conflict. In gastronomic phraseology, he might be said to play the part of the pancreatic juices operating upon the tender loin of the labour lamb (not so tender perhaps as formerly) within the ravenous maw of the lion capital. The chemist and the physicist improve the processes by which living labour is incorporated in the material framework of capitalist industry. The psychologist studies and seeks to economise the movements of the labourer. All are concerned with the elimination of waste, the reduction of the effort needed to achieve a given result, and thus to increase the return on a given amount of capital invested in wages.

Of course, the industrialists and their henchmen, the scientists, have little choice. Efficiency has enabled the U.S.A. and Germany to become the formidable rivals for world commerce that they are, and Britain has no alternative but to follow suit. We are merely concerned to show the absurdity of the supposition that rationalisation can solve the class conflict..

Industrially, of course, it makes the workers easier prey, but by so doing it intensifies the very evils from which they suffer and seek to escape. Unemployment, on the one hand, and over-work on the other, increase with every scientific advance, while the struggle against these 'effects takes place on a national scale and assumes by degrees (though unconsciously at first) a political form.

Our readers only need to follow events in other countries to see the similarity of causes producing similar effects. They may ask, however, Has science said its last word?

We answer that, so far as offering any solution to the social problem is concerned, technology and the so-called exact sciences certainly have. They are valuable to those in a position to make use of them (at present the capitalist class) mainly in relation to production, but production is no longer a problem, taking society as a whole. The question is what to do with the enormous surplus produced.

The individual capitalist group or nation attempts to answer this question by producing more cheaply than its competitors, and thus getting rid of its share of the surplus by selling at a profit; but as all groups must endeavour to follow suit or expire, the surplus grows and the problem is intensified. War offers temporary relief only, and stalking behind war comes what?—the social revolution! Hence Peace Pacts which do not guarantee peace. Disarmament agreements which do not disarm.

In this social anarchy the professional scientist is a mere hireling tool, an intellectual prostitute. His attempt to pronounce on the social conflict is an arrogant impertinence, insulting the intelligence of the worker, who refuses to put out his thinking as he does his washing.

The Socialist alone points the way of escape for mankind from their disastrous servitude to the diminishing groups of capitalist parasites, because he deals with the basic facts of social existence.

To the Socialist, the production of the means of living is a social process in which the professional scientist is but a unit. Whether he be engaged in the study of the stupendous by means of a telescope or of the infinitesimal by means of a microscope, he has to be fed, clothed and housed by the labour of others. Others have to delve and blast, to fuse, grind and polish in order to provide the materials for his instruments. They have to assemble and adjust these delicate instruments to his exact requirements. Others must collect rags and hew timber to provide paper that others, again, may print and bind in order that the accumulated knowledge of the ages may be stored in a form convenient for his reference.

At every turn he is dependent from first to last upon the active co-operation of millions of his fellow beings, not to speak of those with whom he comes in direct contact and with whom he must compare notes and check his findings.

He is the product of his age. It is no accident that radium was not discovered by a cannibal islander, who would not have known what to do with it.

Seeing, therefore, that the scientist is thus dependent upon society, his status in turn is determined by the particular form of the society which produces him. His means of living are the property of the capitalist class. They subsidise his university and endow his professional chair; maintain his technical institutes, found laboratories and colleges. Is it any wonder, then, that they exact their pound of flesh; or, to be more precise, that, having provided him with the kingdoms of earth, they demand the surrender of his intellectual independence. Professional science plays "Faust” to the capitalist "Mephistopheles.” Its function is the rape of labour.

There is, however, a germ of truth in the hackneyed adage that money cannot buy everything. It did not buy the brain of the great scientist, Karl Marx. With the aid of his friend, Friedrich Engels, he penned the economic masterpiece "Capital" which shatters the pretences and confounds the conceit of the servile, lickspittle bullies of the "intellectual (?) middle class" and provided food for the workers’ brains and nerved them for their last fight.

Trotskyism or Socialism (1963)

From the March 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

Trotskyists claim that the Labour leadership has “betrayed Socialism.” In fact they themselves are no more Socialists than are Wilson, George Brown or Frank Cousins.

What is today known as Trotskyism originated about forty years ago as an opposition movement within the Russian Communist Party to the Stalin leadership, and much of Trotskyist theory is concerned with the nature of Russian society. To them Russia is not Capitalist, but a “degenerate Workers’ State.” They argue that the 1917 Revolution ended Capitalism in Russia but that a few years later, as a result of the failure of the world revolution, a bureaucracy was able to usurp power from the workers. This means that Russia still remains for them "a basis for the international State for the abolition of war, for possibilities as yet undreamed of” (The World Revolution, C. L. R. James), and it is the duty of the workers of the world, we are told, to defend this gain.
If the Soviet Union goes down, then Socialism receives a blow which will cripple it for a generation. And therefore, though seeing the Soviet Union as it is, the Trotskyists, uncompromising enemies of Stalinism, will defend the Soviet Union is peacetime as in war. (ibid pp. 418-9).
The question now arises: Is the Russian economic system “progressive”? Is it any more Socialist than that of the West? We answer that it is not. The economic system in Russia exhibits all the essential characteristic of Capitalism: production for sale, wages, markets, money and profits. Certainly a large part of industry is nationalised but nationalisation is nothing to do with Socialism. As for war, its basic primary cause is Capitalism’s struggle for markets, raw materials and trade routes; since the workers throughout the world have no interest in the maintenance of Capitalism so they have no interest in the prosecution of its wars. The Socialist in fact expresses his unqualified opposition to all wars, whether they be wars of aggression, of “defence” or ‘‘national liberation,” for “democracy” or for anything else. We do not just say, as do pacifists, that men should not fight in wars, but that men should reorganize society to remove the cause of war. Socialism will do away with war since trading and markets will disappear when goods are no longer produced to be sold. Socialists see no reason therefore why the workers of the world should fight and die for Russian Capitalism any more than for British or American or any other Capitalism.

The argument about the “progressive economic system” has even less merit than that employed by those alleged Socialists before the first World War, who held that the workers must be prepared to defend the democratic institutions of their country “ because it is the only means by which they can peaceably achieve their emancipation.” For Russia is not even a democratic country: the workers there have to put up with a dictatorship which denies them the most elementary rights needed to protect their interests—the right to organise politically and the right to strike. Yet the Trotskyists are prepared to make common cause with these, and with similar dictators. They acted as recruiting sergeants in Cuba when the Castro clique was threatened by an American backed invasion in April last year. “Workers’ and anti-imperialist organisations and parties,” declared the Trotskyist Fourth International, “must immediately organize brigades, open recruiting for volunteers to defend the Cuban Workers State.” A cardinal point in the programme of the Trotskyist groups in Britain is nationalization under workers’ control. Young Guard (March, 1962) expands [on] this:
. . . we can say that trade unions under socialism should concern themselves with all questions of wages, conditions, automation (and in these problems they should always have at their disposal the right to strike). But at the same time we should press for the establishment and recognition of the factory committee, whose purpose is the participation with the state in all matters of control and administration of wealth production.
The reference to wages implies, of course, the existence of an employer, presumably the State, and that the workers should co-operate with this employer. We point out at once that a society in which people still have to work for wages cannot be called Socialism. Socialism is based on common ownership, which means that money, wages, profits, buying and selling and all the other features of private property society will have disappeared. The wages system is in fact one of the cornerstones of Capitalism and for this reason we distinguish it from other systems by the fact that those who produce work for wages. The wages system is completely incompatible with Socialism and to talk about a “Socialist wages policy” is nonsense.

What is the Socialist alternative to the wages system? First, let us look at this system a little closer. The wages system cannot flourish unless most people, to all intents and purposes, own none of the means of production, while a few own them all. The majority therefore have no choice: they must work for those who own. Socialism by making the means of production common property will end this inequality of wealth on which the wages system flourishes. What common ownership will mean is that nobody will be denied free access to the means of living, and the ownership of these means by individuals will appear quite as fantastic as does slavery today. Under these conditions the satisfaction of man’s needs will be the sole end of production: the Labour Exchange will disappear along with the Stock Exchange.

How people live under Capitalism is well known. Those who have no ownership in the means of production sell their energies and abilities for a wage and use the money received to buy what they need to maintain themselves and their family in working order. Under Socialism people will work and receive as much as they think they need: they will freely give their labour and take what they require. This is the Socialist alternative to the wages system and anything short of this is not Socialism.

Nor does the fact that the State instead of a private individual is the employer alter the Capitalist nature of society. On the contrary, far from abolishing Capitalism this would strengthen it since all the power of the employing class would be concentrated in the State. It is a fact that Russia, the country with probably the highest percentage of State ownership, is the only country of which it can be said that the power of the working class to resist has been almost completely crushed. Even in Britain it is those in the state industries who suffer most from any Government's wages policy: it takes little imagination to see how much more easily, for example, a government could impose a pay pause if it were the only employer. State control is in fact a form of Capitalist ownership; the State acts as the representative of the employing class as a whole and shares out amongst this class what the workers produce over and above their wages—interest on government bonds, bloated salaries for higher administrators, expense accounts, bonuses, tax concessions and other such privileges.

We can now see that nationalisation under workers' control is a meaningless concept; for as long as the workers own nothing—and they must continue to do so as long as the wages system exists—they can have no control. Power will remain in the hands of the propertied minority, those who benefit from the state industries in the ways we have mentioned.

We say then that the Trotskyists do not stand for the overthrow of Capitalism since they envisage the continued existence of the wages system. They are not, and have never been. Socialists.
Adam Buick

Maxton and Cook: Where do they stand? (1928)

Editorial from the September 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Although several demonstrations have now been held, Messrs. Maxton and Cook have so far, neither by word nor deed, made clear what they stand for. They have said that they are Socialists. Yet Mr. Cook is secretary of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, and in that capacity supports their official policy of nationalisation, or State Capitalism, for the mining industry, with "compensation” for the mine-owners. That is not Socialism, and will not solve the problems of the miners. Mr. Maxton is Chairman of the I.L.P., which also advocates State Capitalism. They are both members of the Labour Party, although they condemn its “liberal” outlook. The Labour Party draft programme is a programme of Capitalist reforms, but Mr. Ramsay MacDonald states that Cook saw and approved the section dealing with the mines prior to publication, and the I.L.P. similarly had the whole draft for amendment. (Forward, July 21.)

The I.L.P., in a circular to its branches (July 21, 1928), published the four amendments to the Draft Programme, which it proposes to move at the Labour Party Congress. Not one of them touches the essential point that the Labour Programme does not aim at common ownership of the means of production and distribution, and is therefore not a Socialist programme.

Has Mr. Maxton the backing of the I.L.P. members? If not, why does he retain the Chairmanship? If he has their backing for his policy, then he could control the actions of the I.L.P. Labour M.P.’s, and he is committed to all of the actions of the Parliamentary Labour Party, since a clear majority of the Labour M.P.s are members of the I.L.P. (It is interesting to observe that Mr. Philip Snowden, who ridicules the I.L.P., and declares that it is not Socialist, was re-elected, largely by the votes of I.L.P. Labour M.P.s, to the Executive Committee of the Parliamentary Labour Party.)

Mr. Maxton’s ambiguous position on State Capitalism is paralleled by his position with regard to Capitalist international relationships.

In addition to being Chairman of the I.L.P., he is also Chairman of the League Against Imperialism. In the July issue of its organ, The Anti-Imperialist Review, appear reviews of books by H. N. Brailsford and J. C. Wedgwood, two prominent members of the I.L.P. Both books are condemned as being “frankly Imperialist." Mr. Maxton is not helping to clear away confusion of thought among the workers by remaining Chairman of two organisations, the members of which publicly denounce each other; nor is he helping Socialism by continuing to support I.L.P. and Labour Party programmes which he knows are not Socialist.

Keir Hardie and the World War. (1928)

Editorial from the August 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the July issue of the Socialist Standard, we remarked, in passing, that Keir Hardie supported the world war in 1914.

Forward” (July 14th), in reply to a correspondent says "This is nonsense." As it is the fashion among communists, and "left wing” Labourites to pretend that Keir Hardie was essentially different from the men with whom he associated in the Labour Party and the I.L.P., we give below the evidence on which our statement is based.

With regard to Keir Hardie’s attitude in general, it would be interesting to learn from the Communists and others who now worship him, why he continued to work with the Labour Party and the I.L.P. if he differed fundamentally from their advocacy of reforms of capitalism. The only important difference between Keir Hardie and MacDonald and Henderson is that he is dead and they are not.

The Socialist attitude to capitalist wars is simple. We seek the abolition of capitalism, of the wages system. In Germany and England the workers were wage-slaves before 1914, and are wage-slaves still. They are wage-slaves in victory and in defeat. Capitalist nations go to war because capitalist interests are at stake. The workers stand to gain nothing, and they risk losing life and limb. There was, in 1914, no interest at stake justifying the sacrifice of a single worker’s life.

Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald and the Labour Party generally, held the view that the workers have something else at stake which is worth defending, i.e. their country. They hold the same view now. They still urge the workers to defend "their” country, although the "country” belongs, not to them, but to their exploiters.

Not being Socialist?, MacDonald and Keir Hardie and their associates never at any time took up the Socialist attitude to the war. They decided the question in the light of their view of the duty of the workers to defend national independence.

Thus in the "Labour Leader” (official organ of the I.L.P.) for August 6th, 1914, Keir Hardie, in an editorial, wrote as follows:—
Many of us hoped, though some of us feared, x that the Government would remain steadfast to the end, and refuse to be drawn into the conflict unless our interests as a nation should be directly attacked.
So Keir Hardie was prepared to support war if "our interests as a nation should be directly attacked.” The attitude of the Socialist is quite different. We ask not about "our interests as a nation” (which means in practice the interests of those who own and control the nation, i.e., the capitalist class), but about our interests as workers. We knew then quite well, and we think Keir Hardie also knew quite well that the capitalist class do not go to war because someone or other is directly attacking the interests of the working-class.

Keir Hardie went further a few months later. In the "Merthyr Pioneer” (August 21st, 1914) he said
Any war of aggression against the rights and liberties of my country I would persist In to the last drop of blood in my veins.
It seems that he soon became convinced that "our interests as a nation” had been directly attacked, for in the "Merthyr Pioneer” on November 27th, he wrote:— 
I have never said or written anything to dissuade our young men from enlisting; 1 know too well all that there is at stake . . .
and not only did he give an assurance that he had not tried to discourage enlistment; he boasted that his efforts at recruiting had been more successful than those of his Liberal opponent.

The same article (“Merthyr Pioneer" November 27th) goes on :—
If I can get the recruiting figures for Merthyr week by week, which I find is a very difficult job, I hope by another week to prove (Keir Hardie's italics) that whereas our Rink meeting gave a stimulus to recruiting, those meetings at the Drill Hall at which the Liberal member or the Liberal candidate spoke had exactly the opposite effect.
We see, therefore, that Keir Hardie held that the workers ought to fight for national independence, and in defence of “national interests" and he urged them to join the army for that purpose. “Forward” (which itself throughout the war allowed regular contributors to carry on propaganda in its pages in support of the cause of the Allied capitalists) describes our original statement as "nonsense." In face of the evidence, will the Editor of "Forward” admit his error, or allow us to give the evidence in his columns?

Maxton and Cook's Catchwords (1928)

Editorial from the July 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent manifesto by James Maxton (Chairman of the I.L.P.) and A. J. Cook (Miners’ Secretary) has received much notice in the Press, but only of a sensational kind.

The manifesto calls for a fight against the Capitalist system, but both the signers are supporters of the Labour Party, which has done its best to maintain and carry on the Capitalist system.

They claim that there has been a serious departure from the views of the founders of the Labour Party, such as Keir Hardie, but no evidence of that is offered or can be offered. Keir Hardie, Macdonald and other prominent leaders did not carry out a war against Capitalism and in favour of Socialism, but always stood for a long programme of reforms which would leave the system intact. Even in the early days of the Labour Party they ridiculed the principle of the Class Struggle, which lies at the root of the Socialist Movement—and the leadership, the policy and the programme of the Labour Party still ignore and gloss over the Class Conflict.

Cook and Maxton refer, with pride, to the thirty years’ work of the Labour Party, which they claim is now being destroyed. What is the thirty years’ work of the Labour Party? It is not as Cook and Maxton claim—work against the present economic system. For nearly thirty years the Labour Party have been recruiting the working class for a policy so much in harmony with the Liberals that several times they have called upon the workers to back up Lloyd George, Asquith and Co. in their Capitalist policies. Budget agitations. House of Lords’ Reform, Land Taxes, and similar anti-Socialist planks have been the common programme of Liberals and Labour. So much so, that to-day the Labour and. Independent Labour Parties’ cry is that the Liberal Industrial Report has been largely compiled from Labour’s Programme.

The Labour Government of 1924, endorsed by the I.L.P., is another example of what Maxton and Cook call, the “thirty years' work” against Capitalism. A Labour Government, maintained by Liberals, to carry on Capitalist policies!

What is the alternative suggested by those two advocates of the Labour Party? Simply that we should return to the policy of Keir Hardie and other founders of the Labour Party. This parade of sentiment about the pioneers ignores the fact that their policy was not Socialism, but actually so directly opposed to the Class Struggle of the workers that these "pioneers,” including Keir Hardie, supported the World War of 1914—a logical result of the anti-working class attitude of these alleged pioneers.
The objection raised by Maxton to the Mond Industrial Peace Conference ignores the fact that a majority of those taking part in the Conference with Mond and other employers are members of the I.L.P., and no action has been taken by the I.L.P. to expel or to repudiate them. A. J. Cook’s objection to the Mond Peace inference is not one of principle. More than once the journal of his supporters (the Communist Party)—The Workers' Life—has denounced Cook’s statement that he would not mind if only the Conference was representative of both sides, and had power to act.

At the Keir Hardie Memorial Demonstration, at Old Cumnock on Sunday, June 24th, Maxton defended the "Living Wage” Policy of the I.L.P., and completely ignored the fact that the "Living Wage” Campaign was simply a programme for the maintenance of Capitalism, with a series of minimum wage laws similar to the Trade Board’s Acts which legalise "sweating.”

There is nothing revolutionary in a policy which proposes to tax the employers in order to relieve slightly the employers' industrial victims.

It may be good election propaganda on the Clyde to talk vaguely about fighting Capitalism, but neither Maxton nor Cook have ever been prepared to lay down a Socialist Policy. They may be very useful to entice into the Labour Party those who are hoping that new leaders mean real changes. The workers, however, will still have to learn that new leaders and new catchwords do not take the place of sound knowledge and a Socialist Policy.