Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Road Ahead (1964)

From the January 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

The case for Socialism rests upon the fact that the capitalist social system cannot provide a decent life for its people and that, in the interests of those people, it should make way for the next stage in social evolution.

It is true to say that man has developed sufficient technical and productive capacity to sustain a social system in which wealth is freely available to all human beings. Capitalism itself has removed the barrier of low-productivity.

The one remaining obstacle to Socialism is the fact that the working class, who make up the majority of the population of the modern world, are not Socialists. Many of them have never heard our case and of those who have heard it most have rejected it. One of the irritations of being a Socialist is that the reasons for this rejection are too often rooted in ignorance—are, in fact, little more than transparent illusions. Many workers, with the tumult of capitalism raging about their heads, prefer to take comfort in these illusions rather than face the facts.

It is, then, part of a Socialist's job to do his best to destroy illusions. This is not necessarily work in which we take great pleasure; there are sickenly too many illusions for that. It is simply work which must be done.

The idea that the working class today are prosperous, and that capitalism holds out a comfortable future for them, must be examined and shown up for what it is worth. The facts on work, housing, health, material possessions, and so on, must be publicised and—especially important—put into their proper perspective. It must be pointed out that capitalism is a social system in which the owning minority will always live off the best while the working majority exist off the mediocre.

The prospects which capitalism offers must be examined. They are not attractive.

The history of the working class has, inevitably, been one of superficial change. Nobody can deny—nobody would want to deny—that working class conditions have changed since the war. What can be questioned is whether those changes have always been for the better and whether those which might have been for the better are not outbalanced by others which have been for the worse.

This is the question which the preceding articles have put. If they do not make pleasant reading it is only because capitalism is still as full of urgent problems and discords as ever. Crime is still a running sore—worse than ever in recent years. Some illnesses—those that are typical of the rush and strain of post war capitalism—are increasing and have replaced the old killers which were characteristic of the days of unemployment. Popular cultural levels can never have been lower. And so on.

What this means is that, no matter how much capitalism changes, it remains the same. Workers are continually being deluded by plausible politicians who promise them that, if they will work harder, restrain their wage claims, and so on. they will soon enter the Promised Land of peace and plenty. Behind the delusion is the implied promise that capitalism is a system in which every prospect pleases.

In fact, it is always the prospects alone which can be made to sound attractive. The reality--the present—is never so good; that is why the politicians must always allude to the present as a sort of pause before the golden future.

It is all an illusion. Capitalism has no future to offer the mass of its people. The one solution to society’s problems is the establishment of i new social order—Socialism—in which the means of producing and distributing the world’s wealth will be owned by the world’s people. The work of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is to spread the understanding and knowledge which Socialism requires.

This month’s Socialist Standard asks the working class: Where Are You Going? The future depends on your answer.

Where are you going? (1964)

Editorial from the January 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

If there is one idea which is firmly held by the majority of people in this country it is that they are now better off than ever before. In this, they are supported on all sides, by newspapers, television, and so on. The result of this, to take one example, is that the years between the wars are remembered as a time of hardship, unemployment and, in many countries, of political dictatorship. There is now a spate of books with the theme that the First World War was a futile, bloody business which cleverer, less avaricious leaders could have avoided. The obvious corollary of this concept of the past as a time of dark misfortune is that of the present as a time of bright opportunity. And this is now a very popular idea.

The first thing to be said about this idea is that it has always been popular. Whatever their conditions, people have always been convinced that they were a sight better off than in the past. The Twenties and Thirties were supposed to be years of enlightenment, in which the hardships and prejudices of Victorian England had been finally cast aside. Victorian England was itself supposed to be a place in which the benefits of the Industrial Revolution were coming to fruition. Society at large has always regarded itself as lucky to be living in its present and has been glad not to have been living in its past

The years since the war have been devoted to this idea. The commonest picture—the adman’s picture, perhaps—of a member of the working class, in England in the Sixties, is of a bright, smooth young man who lives in a gracious house in a leafy suburb, has a charming, intelligent wife and a couple of children who will obviously one day make a name for themselves at University. This young man has a smart car, the latest furniture and clothes. His tastes are impeccably up to date. He has a well-paid job, and one with prospects. He is a man with a background—and with a future. Every line on his face, every hair on his head, shrieks of a comfortable, secure, modern living free from the disabilities of a discredited past.

Well, what is the truth of this?

This issue of the Socialist Standard sets out to take a look, at the beginning of another year, at the working class. It examines their working conditions, their education, their health, the pace at which they live. It takes a look at the way in which they spend their time off and are entertained. It poses some facts and some questions on problems like crime, which are as much a part of the Sixties as the adman’s smooth talk. And it puts the question to the working class: Where Are You Going?

This question can be stated in many ways. Are working conditions really improving? What is happening to our health? Is modern education any good, and is it freely available to all of us? Can crime be eliminated, and if so, how? These questions, and many others, can be summarised into one enormous, overriding issue. Can capitalism give us the sort of life, the health, the abundance, the security, which all human beings should have? Can it offer the prospects of future security which a humane social system would take as a matter of course?

The so-called social surveys can never answer these questions, which probe into the very roots of private property society. Only a Socialist can ask whether the class ownership of society's means of wealth production is the best way of running human affairs, or whether it is wasteful and vicious and inhumane. It is by examining the lives of the people who work and suffer and, tragically, vote for capitalism that this question can be answered. This, within its limits, is what this month’s Socialist Standard offers. And behind the articles we publish is the biggest issue now facing the world working class.

Capitalism or Socialism? Where Are You Going?

Was Antonio Gramsci a Socialist? (2017)

From the April 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
This month sees the 80th anniversary of the death of an icon of the left – Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci (1891-1937) was an Italian political activist who was imprisoned by Mussolini’s Fascist regime in 1926 and died while still a captive 10 years later from a combination of illnesses. He was an undoubtedly courageous figure who fought difficult family circumstances when young to educate himself and became a prolific writer and editor for the emerging left-wing press in Italy in the second and third decade of the 20th century. He wrote intensively of the need for both workers’ rights and workers’ revolution and actively involved himself in the political action he advocated. He was a leading member of the foremost left-wing movement, the Italian Socialist Party, until, after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia, his disenchantment with what he saw as their over-timid approach led him to become, in 1921, one of the co-founders of the Italian Communist Party, which pledged allegiance to Lenin and the Bolshevik regime. Then, in 1922-23, he spent a significant period in Russia as delegate to the Communist International (‘Comintern’) and, on his return to Italy, was elected to the Chamber of Deputies and served until his arrest and imprisonment. Sentenced to 20 years for subversion, he was however able to continue writing in prison, where access to books and the extensive knowledge of history and politics he had accumulated during his years of political activity led him to produce a mass of notes, observations and essays on an astonishingly broad spread of topics, later ordered into what were called the Prison Notebooks. It is largely on these and on the collection of letters he wrote from prison – mainly to family members – that his reputation as a social and political theorist lies.
Gramsci is said, in the Prison Notebooks, to have developed a new and original kind of Marxist sociology, which, over the last half century or so, has engendered a vast range of debate, interpretation and controversy by academics and others – the so-called ‘Gramsci industry’. One of the key matters debated has been his concept of ‘hegemony’ (‘egemonia’). This was the term Gramsci used to describe what he saw as the prerequisite for a successful revolution: the building of an ideological consensus throughout all the institutions of society spread by intellectuals who saw the need for revolution and used their ability to persuade and proselytise workers to carry through that revolution. Only when that process was sufficiently widespread, would successful revolutionary action be possible. So hegemony was what might be called the social penetration of revolutionary ideas.
This outlook is very different from the fervour with which in earlier years Gramsci had greeted the Russian revolution and advocated similar uprisings in other countries. By the second half of the 1920s, with Italy ruled by a Fascist dictatorship and opposition leaders exiled or imprisoned, Gramsci came to see revolution as a longer-term prospect which would depend on the conditions existing in individual countries.
And it is this ‘long-term’ idea of revolutionary change that has been interpreted in very many different ways according to the standpoint or political position of the individual commentator. One way it could be read would seem to tie in closely with the Socialist Party’s view that only through widespread political consciousness on the part of workers and majority consent for social revolution can a society based on the satisfaction of human needs rather than on the profit imperative be established. In this light Gramsci’s hegemony could be seen to have the profoundly democratic implications of insisting on a widespread and well-informed desire among the majority of workers for socialist revolution before such a revolution can come about. Indeed it is clear that Gramsci was not unaware of Marx’s ‘majoritarian’ view of socialism (or communism – they were interchangeable for Marx) as a stateless, leaderless world where the wages system is abolished and a system of ‘from each according to ability to each according to need’ operates. In an article written in 1920, for example, Gramsci refers to ‘communist society’ as ‘the International of nations without states’, and later from prison he writes about ‘the disappearance of the state, the absorption of political society into civil society’. However, though he referred to himself as using ‘the Marxist method’, such reflections on the nature of the society he wished to see established are few and far between and cannot reasonably be said to characterise the mainstream of his thought.
When looked at closely in fact, Gramsci’s thought is overwhelmingly marked by what may be called the coercive element of his Leninist political background. So, while undoubtedly in his later writings he came to see the Soviet model as inapplicable to other Western societies, he nevertheless continued to conceive of revolution as the taking of power via the leadership of a minority group, even if in different circumstances from those experienced by Lenin in Russia. The most important pointer to this lies in Gramsci’s view of the state. Hardly ever does he view socialism other than as a form of state. The overwhelming thrust of his analysis and his recommendations for political action point not to doing away with states and the class divisions that go with them but to establishing new kinds of states. In 1919, enthused by the Bolshevik takeover in Russia, Gramsci wrote: ‘Society cannot live without a state: the state is the concrete act of will which guards against the will of the individual, faction, disorder and individual indiscipline ....communism is not against the state, in fact it is implacably opposed to the enemies of the state.’ Later too, in his prison writings, arguing now for a ‘long-term strategy’, he continued to declare the need for states and state organisation, for leaders and led, for governors and governed in the conduct of human affairs – underlined by his frequent use of three terms in particular: ‘direzione’ (leadership), ‘disciplina’ (discipline) and ‘coercizione’ (coercion).
So, despite what Gramsci himself recognised as changed times and circumstances compared with Russia in 1917, he continued to be profoundly influenced by Lenin’s view that ‘if socialism can only be realised when the intellectual development of all the people permits it, then we shall not see Socialism for at least 500 years’ – in other words that genuine majority social consciousness was unachievable. And in line with this, when looked at closely his ‘hegemony’, far from eschewing the idea of a revolutionary vanguard, sees an intellectual leadership taking the masses with them. In other words the ‘consent’ that his hegemony, his long-term penetration of ideas, proposes is not the informed consent of a convinced socialist majority but an awakening of what, at one point he refers to as ‘popular passions’, a spontaneous spilling over of revolutionary enthusiasm which enables the leadership to take the masses with them and then govern in the way they think best.
Human nature
Underpinning this lack of confidence by Gramsci in the ability of a majority to self-organise is a factor little commented on but particularly significant – and that is his view of what may be called ‘human nature’. In writing explicitly about human nature, which Gramsci does on a number of occasions, he expresses agreement with Marx’s view that human nature is not something innate, fixed and unchanging, not something homogeneous for all people in all times but something that changes historically and is inseparable from ideas in society at a given time. This view of humanity is in fact described by Gramsci as ‘the great innovation of Marxism’ and he contrasts it favourably with other widely-held early 20th century views such as the Catholic dogma of original sin and the ‘idealist’ position that human nature was identical at all times and undeveloping. But despite Gramsci’s stated ‘theoretical’ view on this topic, scrutiny of his writings in places where ‘human nature’ is not raised explicitly but is rather present in an implicit way points his thought in a different, more pessimistic direction.
When he writes about education, for example, his pronouncements about the need for ‘coercion’ indicate little confidence in the ability of human beings to behave fundamentally differently or to adaptably change their ‘nature’ in a different social environment. In corresponding with his wife about the education of their children, in response to her view that, if children are left to interact with the environment and the environment is non-oppressive, they will develop co-operative forms of behaviour, he states ‘I think that man is a historical formation but one obtained through coercion’ and implies that without coercion undesirable behaviour will result. Then, in the Prison Notebooks, on a similar topic he writes: ‘Education is a struggle against the instincts which are tied to our elementary biological functions, it is a struggle against nature itself.’ What surfaces here as in other places, even if not stated explicitly, is a view of human nature not as the exclusive product of history but as characterised by some kind of inherent propensity towards anti-social forms of behaviour which needs to be coerced and tamed.
Viewed in this light, Gramsci’s vision of post-revolutionary society as a place where human beings will continue to need leadership and coercion should not be seen either as being in contradiction with his theory of ideological penetration (‘hegemony’) or as inconsistent with the views that emerge about human nature when his writings do not explicitly focus on that subject. So we should not be surprised that Gramsci’s vision for the future is not a society of free access and democratic control where people organise themselves freely and collectively as a majority but rather a change from one form of minority authority to another – a change from a system of the few manifestly governing in their own interests to the few claiming to govern in the interests of the majority.
The evidence of Gramsci’s writings therefore suggests that the revolution he envisages is not one in which democracy in the sense of each participating with equal understanding and equal authority prevails. Crucially, the leadership function is not abolished. The hegemonisers will essentially be in charge, since they will be the ones with the necessary understanding to run the society they have conceived. What this society might be like he does not go on to say in any detail. But it would clearly not be a socialist world of free access and democratic control that rejects authority from above together with its political expression, the state. For Gramsci any such considerations were at best peripheral to the thrust of his thought and his social vision. And though he did have a revolutionary project, it is not a socialist one in the terms that socialism is correctly understood.
Howard Moss

Monday, April 17, 2017

Where Common Wealth Stands (1944)

Editorial from the April 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sir Richard Acland's Common Wealth is a party of small membership, substantial funds, big ideas and monumental confusion. Formed in July, 1942, it had a membership at the end of that year of 5,000 (1943 Conference Report, page 18), though by April, 1943, it claimed nearly 10,000. Its income from subscriptions and donations in its first nine months was £7,000, of which only about half Was in amounts of under £50. Two individuals. Sir R. Acland and Mr. Alan Good, a wealthy Midlands business man, guaranteed between them £1,000 a month for two years (page 6). For 1943 the Party budgeted for an expenditure of £22,000, and plans to put up candidates in 120 constituencies (News Chronicle, February 16th, 1944). The latest move was to call a meeting of Labour, Liberal, I.L.P. and Independent M.P.s and others with the intention of starting a "Socialist Unity Campaign," which was to bring together members of the Labour Party, Common Wealth, I.L.P., Communist Party and Liberals in the "Radical Action" group to secure a Parliamentary majority at the next general election (Manchester Guardian, March 8th, 1944.) The meeting, according to the Daily Telegraph (March 9th) failed to bring any Labour M.P.s, though the I.L.P. was there in strength, including its M.P.s, its General Secretary, Mr. J. McNair, and Mr. F. A. Ridley. It can hardly be called a success. A cleavage developed between Acland, who is all out for winning the war, and some of the I.L.P. contingent, who adopt a more or less anti-war attitude. It is typical of Common Wealth's attitude of being all things to all men that it should imagine this strange mixture, including loyal Liberals, could be interested in "Socialist" unity. The same confusion is apparent in all its activities. It makes a special point of its religious inspiration and at the Skipton by-election, where its candidate was successful, a voter informed the News Chronicle (January 11th, 1944) that she supported Common Wealth because “ it was the only political party which emphasised the Christian point of view"—yet "Question and Answer" one of its publications, insists that it is open to Christians, Jews, Hindus, Moslems, and Atheists (page 59), and one of its first rebuffs was an announcement that it was to be boycotted by Catholics on the ground that "it has rejected Christianity" (Daily Herald, August 8th, 1942). In view of the infamies committed by politicians of all the capitalist parties, who almost invariably claim to be religious and acting in accordance with religious teachings, this emphasis on religion is hardly a recommendation. Moreover, Sir R. Acland has himself unwittingly exposed how little it means. In a letter to the Times (October 15th, 1943) he claimed for his party that "it is probably more concerned . . . with the inter-relations between religion and politics than any political organisation since the Labour Party as it was in the days of Keir Hardie." If a religious outlook is as Sir R. Acland seems to think, a guarantee that a party will prove a fit instrument for the achievement of Socialism, why did it not prove to be so for the Labour Party? And why is Common Wealth so critical of the present Labour Party, the child of the party of Keir Hardie's day?

Common Wealth will find that the nearer it gets to power (if ever it does), the more its actions will be determined by the economic and class factors imposed by its acceptance of State capitalism. Its religions inspiration will count for nothing, and like many other trimmings, will be dropped or disregarded in the rough and tumble of electoral vote-catching. How little its methods differ from those of the older parties of capitalist reform is indicated by statements made to the News Chronicle (January 11th, 1944) by voters who supported Common Wealth at Skipton. One local councillor gave as his reason, “I am a Gladstonian Liberal with a progressive mind. Common Wealth is the closest approach to what I want." Another voter was concerned with protecting his little business against the combines; a third, a co-operator thought Common Wealth approached her "ideal of Socialism," and a fourth voted "as her husband voted. It is a good thing to get younger people in Parliament—and to have old-age pensions at 30s. a week."

The one outstanding feature of Common Wealth's activities is its opposition to supporters of the political truce, and this is the real reason why it has been able to send what has been dubbed its "travelling circus" roaring successfully into by-election campaigns. The first fine careless rapture of the coalition government has worn off. Labour Party official speakers who had to go to West Derbyshire and support the Tory, Lord Hartington, were plainly ill-at-ease in face of criticism from Labour voters. Common Wealth is capitalising this dissatisfaction. While the electoral truce lasts it can hope to do well, though already its monopoly is being challenged by the Liberal and Communist parties, both of which are veering towards a course which will relieve them of having to support Tories. When the political truce ends and the Labour Party fights on its own against Tory candidates. Common Wealth will have to make the choice either to remain a small independent group or to merge in or ally itself with the Labour Party where it naturally belongs.

What chiefly concerns us, however, is the fantastic claim that Common Wealth is a Socialist organisation.

Those who do not look closely at the programmes and activities of the political parties they support notice that Common Wealth claims to stand for Socialism and "common ownership," as does the S.P.G.B., and they wonder therefore why the S.P.G.B. is opposed to the Common Wealth Party. The explanation is that, in spite of the words it uses, Acland's party does not stand for Socialism or common ownership; it is merely using the words in the same loose way as the Labour Party. Common Wealth has actually taken over its phrases, from the Constitution of the Labour Party, in which appears the declaration that the Labour Party stands for "the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange." Every Socialist will at once recognise that the inclusion of the word "exchange" in the declared aim, both of the Labour Party and of Common Wealth, is itself an unmistakable proof that they are not aiming at Socialism, under which, of course, there will be no need for the capitalist mechanism of buying and selling. Goods will not be produced for sale or exchange but solely for use. Common Wealth is little more than a "ginger" group trying to stir up the Labour Party and at the same time to attract elements in the Liberal and Tory parties and voters outside all parties. In their own words, "We are not against the Labour Party. We regard as our friends and allies all those within the Labour Party who are seeking to promote a more inspiring leadership." (Common Wealth, Bristol, Publication No. 2.)

Socialists are not at all concerned with the qualities of leadership displayed by .the Labour Party or any other party. Socialists do not need leadership; and leaders cannot lead non-socialists to Socialism.
What is the outstanding problem of to-day? It is not the choice between backing the Beveridge plan and backing the Churchill supporters' promise of "something better than Beveridge"; nor is it the choice between capitalism run by competitive private groups and capitalism run by private monopolies or under State control—this despite Mr. Herbert Morrison's shrewd view that “ for some time after the war Britain will be working out a form of partnership between the State and big business" (Sunday Express, March 5th, 1944). The vital question for the working class is one of ownership. Sir William Beveridge—who is not in favour of ending the state of affairs he mentions—-has admitted that “nearly 80 per cent, of the private wealth of the country was owned by 7 per cent of the people " (Times, November 30th,. 1948). This is the workers' real problem. Shall this capitalist ownership of the means of production and distribution be ended, and replaced by ownership and democratic control by the whole community, with its necessary accompaniment—the ending of all incomes from property and the ending of the wages system, or shall capitalism continue. This is the issue between Socialists on the one side and all who are prepared to carry on capitalism, whether in the form of private monopolies or in the form of State capitalism. Common Wealth, behind its muddled ideas and fancy schemes, is not aiming at Socialism. Like the Labour Party (which it chides for lukewarmness about its own programme), Common Wealth aims merely at nationalisation or State capitalism.

There is no room for doubt about where Common Wealth stands on this issue. Their "Manifesto" demands "the nationalisation of the mines and of the biggest arms factories at once " (page 9), and ultimately wants the land, the banks, fuel and poorer, transport, etc., "wholly transferred to common ownership." There is to be "reasonable compensation on a sliding scale to existing owners, starting with 100 per cent, compensation to the smallest owners, and falling to some quite small percentage in the case of the largest" (page 8).

Socialists would ask why the talk of compensation? Are capitalists to be compensated for relinquishing the right to exploit the workers? And if so, how can they be compensated except by allowing them to continue the exploitation-— as, indeed, Common Wealth proposes. How will these schemes of State capitalism solve the workers' problem', and how can banks, which are nothing but instruments of capitalist industry and trade, be "commonly, owned"? What function could they serve under Socialism? The pamphlet continues :—-
Under common' ownership, as in the Soviet Union to-day, the functions of money are: To allocate to individuals groups and industries within the community their appropriate total share in the goods and services of the community. . . .
Here we have Sir B. Acland's Party's real aim, of promoting State capitalism on the basis of a structure of vast and growing inequality (" as in the Soviet Union to-day "), between the fortunate managerial groups and others with their great incomes and investments in State bonds, and the unfortunate hewers of wood and drawers of water on the poverty line, all under the smooth sounding principle of allocating to each "their appropriate total share."

Have we not nationalisation already here, in the Post Office, and near-nationalisation in the Public Utility Corporations? And do not those responsible proclaim that each individual, from the bus-driver to the £12,500 head of London Passenger Transport, and from the low-paid and often unpensioned thousands in tho Post Office up to the £3,000 a year Director-General, all get "their appropriate share"? Yet the fact remains that the "appropriate" share at the top of nationalised concerns, here and in Russia, can be thirty, fifty or more times the amount paid to the workers at the bottom. Well might the Chairman of the Union of Post Office Workers say, "Post Office workers knew that at present there was very little difference between their conditions in a nationalised industry and those of workers outside" (Daily Herald, May 4th, 1943).

Common Wealth is merely carrying on in the long tradition of those who blindly or wilfully confuse the capitalist problem of nationalising the control of certain industries and services, in the interest of capitalist efficiency, with the workers' problem of ending capitalist ownership. A Tory Government in 1868 nationalised the Telegraphs. A Tory Government began and a Liberal Government completed Telephone nationalisation between 1905 and 1912. Liberals set up the Port of London Authority in 1908, and Tories established the Metropolitan Water Board in 1902, and the Central Electricity Board in 1926. Mr. Herbert Morrison began the move to establish the London Passenger Transport Board in 1931, and it was completed under the National Government in 1933. A move in the opposite direction was the handing over of Post Office Beam Wireless and Government cables to the Cable-Wireless merger. It was begun in 1924, and actually the last formal step was completed after the advent of the Labour Government in 1929. None of this has any bearing on the Socialist problem of ending capitalism and establishing Socialism; but because of the prevailing confusion of ideas, Mr. Herbert Morrison could naturally tell the boys at Malvern School that "more Socialism was done by the Conservative Party, which opposed it, than by the Labour Party, which was in favour of it" (Times, February 12th, 1944). Common Wealth is stepping in to do what it thinks the Labour Party is neglecting. Meanwhile the real problem remains untouched, and Common Wealth is not going to do anything about it.

One or two incidental features of its programme deserve notice. While all in favour of nationalisation, the party is warily avoiding having to defend actual operation by Government departments; thus following Mr. Herbert Morrison's lead. Common Wealth does not propose handing over industry “to the present civil service. Let the managers and technicians who are actually doing the job have a free hand to go all-out for production and efficiency" (C. W., Bristol, Publication No. 2). Letting managers and technicians have a free hand recalls the anti-democratic propaganda of those who want industry controlled by a new group of dictatorial "experts," It does not sound much like the "democracy in industry" that Sir B. Acland holds out as a bait to trade unionist voters. Nor is it much altered by the supposedly enticing carrot of Production Councils promised in the Common Wealth Manifesto (page 6);—
Production Councils for war purposes, even working within the limits allowed by private ownership, have shown how workers could share responsibility for the running of factories and industries with technicians and production management.
Workers know very well that behind the camouflage of joint councils, Whitley Committees and so on, effective control still rests with the capitalist owners or the capitalist State. Common Wealth, however, can see that while it offers "security and equality" to the low-paid workers, it can make a separate appeal to the managerial and technical group of the working class by promising them more authority and of course larger incomes. (Despite "equality for all citizens" on page 2, on page 6 is the promise of "higher wages and salaries to men who do skilled and responsible jobs.") Whereas it took the Bolshevists some years to drop Lenin's plea for equal pay for all workers from top to bottom. Common Wealth is managing to combine the promise and the repudiation of equality in the same pamphlet. It need only be repeated, to remove possible confusion, that Socialism involves the abolition of the wages system in its entirety— another proof that Common Wealth does not understand or aim at Socialism.

We shall be surprised if Common Wealth survives the ending of the political truce. We doubt if either the capitalist class or the non-socialist workers will have any use for this new conglomeration of old reforms preached by new reformers. We are, however, quite safe in prophesying that, whether Common Wealth eventually gets crushed between the millstones of Tory and Labour, or whether it survives to reach office, it will not solve the problem of the workers, and it has already—by its confusion-mongering—helped to postpone the day when the workers will understand and demand Socialism.

By The Way: Juries are Wiser To-day (1945)

The By The Way column from the April 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Juries are Wiser To-day
  So says “A Barrister, writing in the Star: “Juries to-day are quite different from what they used to be. They need very different treatment from prosecuting and defending counsel alike, as well as from the judge. Jurors to-day are sophisticated and educated men and women."
  "Bullying witnesses, desk-banging, strident and over-emphatic oratory are useless with modern jurors. . . . Modern juries resent such tactics. Counsel to-day has, to rely on quiet, careful, logical argument. Sophistry and' flattery are often detected. . . . Jurymen and jury women have to be treated as highly intelligent."
  "In war time there are only seven jurors instead of twelve, and they are very mixed—housewives, professional men, tradesmen and mechanics." (The Star, January 10th)
In other words, the working class is growing up. Barristers will find, in future, that when they appear before the final jury in the highest court of all, the electorate, that sophistry, flattery and oratory will no longer do the trick. When "mechanics" and "housewives" prefer "quiet, careful, logical argument" to histrionics, the Socialist propagandist has the ball at his feet.

Boy Gang Chief Shot Dead in Rome
  "Seventeen year old Guiseppe Albano was shot dead in a Rome battle in which 300 police with armoured cars took part. . . .
  "For some time after the liberation of Rome, Albano was known as the 'Boy Patriot.’ He boasted of having murdered 40 Germans or Republican Fascists.
 "He and his followers lived in a villa in the Quarticciolo district, which was surrounded day and night by armed guards with tommy-guns. Clad in a sheepskin coat and throwing out banknotes right and left, ‘The Hunchback’ used to stride through the streets, but always with his bodyguard in attendance."—(Daily Herald, January 16th.)
But Guisseppe made the fatal mistake of failing to distinguish between German "tyrants" and British "Liberators," and raided an Allied car park. He at once ceased to be a "Boy Patriot "and became a "gang leader," like the one-time "patriots" in Greece, and received nine bullets (Mark I., British, Liberation) in his body.

Like Karl Hulten, who said after shooting George Heath, "people in my profession have no time to worry about that"; or Private Smith, the American soldier who shot Sir Eric Teichmann, the diplomat, dead on his estate in Norfolk, about whom his commanding officer asked the psychiatrist, "Does he know it is wrong to kill?" Albano did not understand that it is wrong (at the moment) to kill Allies—but right to kill Nazis. Though, in a war where whole nations have changed sides with bewildering ease and rapidity, perhaps these boys might be expected to be confused.

After all, Mr. Churchill and Sir Walter Citrine and others have now alternately denounced and praised Finns, Russians, Frenchmen, Italians, Slavs, Greeks, Belgians, Roumanians, etc., until at least half of them don't know whether they are "Allies” and "Patriots" or "gangsters" and "ruffians."

The Socialist idea of having nothing to do with any of it is the best.

Coming Down? (Wages)
Lord Woolton has declared in a speech at Bristol on January 20th that the Government’s plan for full employment would be jeopardised if the Trade Unions pressed for better wages. (Reynolds News, January 21st.) "The general wage level cannot lie raised more rapidly than our productivity increases."

This is yet another reference to P.M.H. (Production per Man Hour) which is the main concern of industrialists after the war.

Mr. Oscar Hobson, City Editor of the News-Chronicle (February 2nd), points out quite bluntly: —
  Some of my friends who have a knowledge of conditions both here and in the United States assert roundly that to no small extent America’s advantage in P.M.H. is due not to better mechanisation but to the fact that the American worker does a much better day’s work than the British.
  . . . It is vital to our future prosperity that the facts relating to that and other matters of American and British industrial experience should be established and fearlessly made public, even if they are unflattering to ourselves or to some section of our community.

Fascism will NOT be Eradicated
The issue of the People for 12th February in an article by The Philosopher on "After Victory—Realities," declares:—
  At intervals a figure, absent three or more years, will turn up in each neighbourhood until the event passes unnoticed by all except those intimately concerned.
  Each will be faced with his own problem, re-starting a business, training for a job, resuming an old, or finding a new one.
  There will be common difficulties, too. The house shortage will increase the need of being with "in-laws," and tempers will become frayed.
   When a house is wonderfully come by, home building will prove provokingly expensive.
   Meantime, those conscious of trends outside their own circle will be amazed at the ease with which democratic leaders will forget their war-time promises.
   Fascism in Europe will not he eradicated as we were once told it would be. Murdering Fascists and their accomplices will escape punishment.—(People, February 12th.)
Who were the "democratic leaders” who told us Fascism would be eradicated? Morrison, Bevin, and the Labour Party crew. Which publications re-iterated it? Those of Odhams Press, publishers of The People.

More than a Thousand
  "You are now being told—and in the next few years you will be told again a thousand times—that there is a third way, neither Socialism nor Capitalism, but something culled a planned economy, which will benefit everyone equally. . . .
  “If sacrifices are to be made, there will be 'equality of sacrifice.’ The divergent interests of rich and poor will be obscured by an appeal to emotional nationalism and an emphasis on service and national discipline."—Prof. P. M. S. Blackett, F.R.S., in a talk broadcast in March, 1931, published in "The Frustration of Science," page 139.

Fitness of Service Girls
Mrs. Gowing, who is responsible for organising "vast numbers" of the A.T.S., says that "the fitness of the girls appeals strongly to employers, in a nation which has largely lacked medical attention in the war years; these girls have had their bodies, teeth and feet cared for; they have the energy which breeds initiative." (Observer, November 26th, 1944.)

Perhaps Mrs. Glowing is unaware of the published statements of the authorities, Ministry of Health, etc., claiming that the nation’s health has improved during the war. We agree with Mrs. Gowing—the nation (the working class) has largely lacked medical attention during the war—but it had none during the peace, either. It is not war which prevented medical attention, but poverty—which is here always. We go farther and claim that the nation would not require this sort of medical attention at ALL, if poverty— the main cause of social disease to-day—were abolished by Socialism.

It is interesting to have an official statement that the girls’ bodies, teeth and feet have been looked after—proving that, when needed, the capitalists are quite ready to do what reformers have demanded for years—care for the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The First of The Few (1949)

From the April 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mainly About Ourselves

On the 15th, 16th and 17th of this mouth we shall be holding in London, our 45th Annual Conference. This means that the Socialist Party of Great Britain was formed forty-five years ago. In 1904, some members of the Social Democratic Federation, having done their damnedest to steer that compromising, reformist organisation on to the Socialist road, were expelled from it. With others, they set about creating a political party with which they could work for Socialism. The meeting at which it was decided to launch the S.P.G.B. was held at Battersea on May 15th, 1904, and the meeting to formally constitute the new party was held just off Fetter Lane, London, on the following 12th of June.

The first issue of the Socialist Standard appeared in September, 1904. The first Annual Conference was held at the old (now non-existent) Communist Club in London on April 20th and 21st, 1905, with twenty-one delegates attending, representing thirteen branches. The Party membership was then 150.

The founders of the Party were under no illusions. They knew the task that lay ahead when they gave up the Social Democratic Federation as hopeless. The issue of the Socialist Standard for June, 1905, carried an editorial reviewing the first year’s work. It said: 
  “The founders were fully alive to the fact that much spade work had to be performed; that there could be no mushroom growth for the new party; that its ranks could only he recruited steadily and, at first, slowly.”
It is true that these early members had ambitions that have not yet been realised. They hoped that the Socialist Standard would soon be a weekly, or maybe, even a daily paper. That is something we still hope for.

Our Declaration of Principles was laid down when the Party was founded. Acceptance of these principles is demanded of every applicant for membership, in the interest of the Party and the applicant. We do not want, within our ranks, those who do not subscribe to the principles. Neither would it be honest for workers to be drawn into our organisation without fully realising the implications of the principles and the nature of the Party they were joining. So, our Party has been kept on a straight course since its formation.

It has maintained its opposition to Capitalist wars during two major world conflicts, and although the first of these conflicts was a bad setback for the Party, it did not destroy it. The Socialist Standard has appeared without fail every month since the first issue and every issue stands as a record of the Party’s soundness and consistency.

The report of our 45th Executive Committee to this year’s Conference carries the statement that membership on the 31st of December, 1918, stood at 1,036. Some of our critics will point to that figure and say, "What, after forty-five years you have only just over a thousand members?” We are not satisfied with our numerical strength, but we are certainly not ashamed of it. Of one thing we are extremely proud. That is the quality of our membership. It is the quality—the understanding and determination—of the members, that gives an organisation its strength. We have seen a number of so-called working-class political parties grow into mass organisations — then wither away to nothing. We remember the days when the Independent Labour Party claimed to have over two hundred of its members elected to parliament. Where is the I.L.P. now? Where is the Social Democratic Federation, later called the Social Democratic Party, from which the S.P.G.B. was born? It had numbers, but it did not have a sound Socialist membership. Quantity, but no quality. With the outbreak of the 1914-18 war it just disintegrated. Our growth is slow, painfully slow, but it is a steady, sound, reliable, healthy growth. A graph of our membership will not show any high peaks with following deep declines. The Labour Party and the Communist Party now have numbers and sneer at us because of our size, but their members are recruited from workers who have insufficient understanding of their class interests and have not the knowledge how to replace Capitalism by Socialism, which is essential to a revolutionary Socialist Party. We shall see the day of their decline. In the interim we shall go on steadily and surely making Socialists and enlisting them to our ranks. The process will not always be as slow as it has been during the past forty-five years. The development towards Social Revolution is not to be measured strictly by the growth of the Revolutionary organisation. The workers have been, and are, throwing off the capitalist ideas that have been instilled into them. Many of the arguments against Socialism that the founders of our Party had to answer are seldom heard today. The Socialist case, although it is not widely accepted, receives tolerant attention now-a-days. The days when members of our Party had to defend their speakers from the fury of a jingoistic audience are past. The process of discarding old ideas and accumulating new ones goes on all the time, and the numerical strength of the Party that gives expression to the new ideas can only be taken as an indication and not as a measure of the progress made.
“Who can say whether even the humblest of us will not sooner or later become the medium for quickening the pace of progress and find his hands strengthened and forced by events.”
Thus wrote an early member of our Party to our 1948 Conference. Who can say? Hang weights on the end of a piece of string. Continue adding one weight after another. A superficial observer will see little change up to a given point. The final addition of the smallest increase in weight and the string will snap. Close observation would have revealed that with the addition of each successive weight the strands of the string twisted, writhed and stretched, but held together until they could take the strain no longer. So it is with society. Men’s ideas are not to be emptied from, or crammed into their heads as one empties a sack of potatoes and refills it. Old and unsound ideas can only be removed when new ones drive them out. New ideas are continuously being accumulated until the equivalent of that breaking point is reached. Not until a man’s mind has been cleared of its Capitalist notions by the introduction of Socialist ideas does he embrace the Socialist Party. The minds of all workers in the Capitalist world are undergoing this process and are progressing, in varying degrees, towards a Socialist understanding. Our task is to assist the process.

We are not alone in the task. The undertaker and the midwife are our allies. One carries away those who are so imbued with Capitalist ideas that they can only with great difficulty assimilate any others. The other brings in a new generation, as yet unsullied by the bilge that flows from the pulpits, the radio sets, the film studios and from Fleet Street. The development of Capitalism, including the work of Socialists, will mould them in the right shape.

We are proud of our Party. With all its limitations, its small numbers and its smaller funds, we are proud to be members of it. Forty years ago, Mr. Lawler Wilson, a prominent anti-Socialist, wrote a book entitled, “The Menace of Socialism,” in which he said, referring to the S.P.G.B.:
“The members are Marxians and Revolutionaries preaching the Class War. The catechumens of the party are put through a rigid course of training in the principles of their creed, which they must be prepared to defend at the risk of their liberty. What is most remarkable and disquieting about this organisation is the fact that the members are unquestionably higher-grade working-men of great intelligence, respectability and energy. They are, as a whole, the best informed Socialists in the country, and would make incomparable soldiers, or desperate barricadists. As revolutionaries they deserve no mercy; as men they command respect.”
That is certainly spreading it on thick. We are not higher-grade or more intelligent than other workers, we do not wish to become soldiers and we do not intend to be barricadists. But we are gratified to be members of a Party that drew such comments from its opponents, for our organisation stands as sound now as it did when that was written.

These reflections into the past and the future remind us of the words of William Morris:
  “One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman. Two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad. Ten men sharing an idea begin to act. A hundred draw attention as fanatics. A thousand and society begins to tremble. A hundred thousand and there is war abroad, and the cause has victories, tangible and real. And why only a hundred thousand? Why not a hundred million and peace on earth? You and I who agree together, if is we who have to answer this question.
W. Waters

"Socialist" Unity in U.S.A. (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Two American reformist organisations, the "Socialist Party" and the "Social Democratic Federation," have decided to unite in the blessed name of "Socialist Unity." How little the united organisation will have to do with Socialism is shown in the same issue of the "Call" (S.P. of America) that reports the decision to unite.

In this issue (10th February, 1950) Mr. Norman Thomas, on behalf of the S.P.A., and August Claessens, on behalf of the S.D.F., both complain bitterly about Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Junr., because, at a public dinner he said: —
“Let me make this dear. As a Democrat. I hate Socialism just as much as I hate Communism or Fascism or any other ism."
Of course, the S.P.A. and the S.D.F. are entitled to attack Mr. Roosevelt who is a supporter of Capitalism; what could be more natural? But that is only half the story. Their indignation arises from the fact that these two so-called socialist parties supported Mr. Roosevelt when he was "elected to Congress on the Liberal Party ticket, having failed to get the Democratic nomination." In the words of Mr. Thomas: "Socialists of all sorts took a benevolent view of your candidacy and scores of socialists, especially of the Social Democratic Federation, were very active in your election."

And now, no longer needing their votes, Mr. Roosevelt turns and rends them. As Mr. Thomas indignantly writes: “You didn’t say that when you needed our help."

Mr. Gaessens adds a threat: "Had we known that you hate socialists we surely would not have embarrassed you with our co-operation."

Even this will probably not be taken seriously by Mr. Roosevelt. When the next election comes round this precious united "Socialist" party will doubtless again find reasons for supporting him, or some other enemy of Socialism.

When Mr. Thomas describes his supporters as all sorts of socialists " he could have added, except those who really are socialists.

Evergreen (1951)

From the April 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

To re-read a favourite book is to meet up with an old friend. Sometimes it is more. It is an encounter with a creditor you can never hope to repay. To most socialists this rile is played by the Communist Manifesto.

In these days when the word "communism” is used as frequently as “fascism” used to be, with as many different interpretations, and “marxist” is an adjective applied to everything from the forces of North Korea to the Polish dental service, it is, to say the least, gratifying to hear these words used and recognise them as clear, tangible things instead of symbols for everything distasteful.

The Communist Manifesto provides the information required, and the object of this review is to recommend anyone who hasn’t read it to do so.

Don’t let the title put you off. Any connection between the Communist Manifesto and Uncle Joe’s private army is purely deliberate—but not on the part of the authors. The state of affairs they visualise and that obtaining in Russia are poles, indeed, a social revolution apart. The Manifesto is a brief statement of Marxist ideas written by the old bogyman himself in collaboration with his lifelong partner, Frederick Engels. Straight from the horse’s mouth!

“The (written) history of all hitherto existing societies is a history of class struggles.” So begins the first chapter in which the writers briefly outline the class struggles in the multi-divided societies of the past and their final culmination in capitalism wherein the struggle has resolved itself into one between two classes, the workers and the capitalists.

It continues by describing this system and its differences from those which preceded it; how they relied upon stability while the capitalist must, in face of competition, constantly revolutionise his means of production to produce cheaper goods. He must seek new markets as the mass of wealth increases, and wherever he goes he plants the seeds of his own system.

How correct that is in the light of our own experience. The competition has spread to an international plane with new powers, first Germany, then Russia, eager for a “place in the sun.” Here lies the cause of today’s world crisis.

In spite of their scientific approach Marx and Engels do not overlook the effects of this system upon the lives of men. “It has resolved personal worth into exchange value.” is but one quotation. They comment upon the rise of ugly cities. "The work of the proletarians (that’s us) has lost all individual character and consequently, all charm for the workman.” They condemn the rapid disappearance of skill and the rapid development of a world in which the craftsman is an antiquated oddity.

For its description of capitalism alone, its history, working, and effect, it is worth a careful perusal.

The second chapter “Proletarians and Communists” makes clear the scientific approach of the Marxist.—“The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based upon ideas and principles that have been invented or discovered by this or that would-be universal reformer. They merely express in general terms actual relations springing from an existing class struggle going on under our own eyes,” and goes on to build up the case for our aim—the abolition of private property.

In presenting this aim Marx and Engels were confronted with exactly the same questions as we are today. Are we opposed to personal property? What about lazy people? What about the family or education or sexual relationships? Patriotism? Nationality? There is no need to précis their answers here. Enough is it to quote the last sentence of the chapter. “In place of the old bourgeois (capitalist) society with its classes and class struggles, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

It may well be asked at this juncture why the Socialist Party should subscribe to the Communist Manifesto, or conversely why a party subscribing to it should call itself Socialist. Engels, in his preface explains that in 1848 when the Manifesto was written the word “socialist" was widely used in connection with various reformers whose sole aim was to alleviate the major miseries of the system while leaving the basis untouched, and with various Utopians, most of whom are dealt with in the third section. When we were formed that confusion was at a low ebb. Unfortunately it has since grown again.

The Communist Manifesto is not a gospel On certain aspects they were incorrect. They were as optimistic about the rapid coming of the social revolution as the present writer is about the effect of this short introduction upon the sales of the Manifesto, and being so, laid down certain "immediate aims.” Forty years later in 1888, Engels wrote "that passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded today.” And with regard to the use of force Engels views on barricades and street warfare were considerably revised as can be seen in his preface to the "Class Struggle in France,” written shortly before his death.

The Manifesto is more than a historic document. It is a crisp analysis of the socialist position in its main aspects as correct today as when it was first written.

Shortly you may be asked to fight against "communism.” You won’t be. The struggle will be one between eastern and western capitalism from which the working class can gain nothing. As the Manifesto will show you, communism or socialism isn’t a thing to die for, but a new system of society to live and work for.

Note:The Communist Manifesto and the Last Hundred Years” published by the S.P.G.B., contains the Manifesto unabridged and a forty-eight page summary of the past century of working-class struggles. Price I/- from all branches or Head Office.”

Another Wandering "Intellectual" (1952)

Book Review from the April 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Science, Liberty and Peace" by Aldous Huxley, publishers Chatto and Windus, price 3/6d. net.

The book is a short one (63 pages) and for a while we gallop merrily alongside the author, enthusiastically cheering him on as he sets forth with clearness and precision the evils of the present system of society. “The oppression of the many by the few . . . the unprecedentedly efficient instruments of coercion in the hands of the ruling minority which make nonsense of the old techniques of popular revolt . . . the poverty of the workers, not only propertyless but many deprived of skill, since the operation of semi-automatic machines does not require skill." Mr. Huxley does not believe in the theory sometimes put forward that because atomic missiles are so destructive “it will put an end to men's inveterate habit of making war." At present there is no defence against atomic attack “but that does not presage the end of warfare" as in time instruments of counter-attack will be invented. Regarding present day methods of warfare he points out that “no nation even makes a pretence of observing the traditional distinction between civilians and combatants . . . but all devote themselves methodically and scientifically to general massacre and wholesale destruction."

Mr. Huxley refers to “State Socialists" and their “nationalisation schemes to centralize economic as well as political power" and states: —“ In cases where State Socialism succeeds Capitalist democracy by non-violent constitutional means, the rules of the political game are likely to remain, in many respects identical with those prevailing under the elder regime.”

Regretfully, as we proceed, we find our disagreement with Mr. Huxley growing. He tells us “The chief consequence of progressive science is a chronic social and economic insecurity," a condition, we would point out, which is a direct outcome of the present system of society.

Mr. Huxley suggests that “through organisations scientists and technicians could do a great deal to direct the planning towards humane and reasonable ends," as “applied science has not been used for the benefit of humanity at large." He thinks that scientists should ask themselves “Are they working for the good of mankind if the results of their disinterested research increase the power of the oiling capitalist or governmental minority at the expense of personal liberty and local and professional self-government."

“They should refuse to collaborate if their work involves destruction or enslavement.” In passing we may point out there are a variety of reasons why scientists cannot exercise any appreciable influence on the general trend towards destruction; mostly they work in teams, many are working “blind" and cannot foresee the outcome of their labours. Aldous Huxley himself, quotes the case of Clark Maxwell's “study of light and magnetism," and says “he would have been horrified to know that his conclusions would be developed and used in the dissemination of maudlin drama, cigarette advertising, bad music and government sponsored or capitalist sponsored propaganda." Apart from this we must not lose sight of the fact that scientists and technicians are wage slaves (high grade it is true), and also, to quote Huxley, “not immune to deceitful propaganda, which ensures their compliance, particularly in times of national stress.”

To digress for a moment, it has been demonstrated that science can be effectively hamstrung by a powerful and unscrupulous government. The Lysenko controversy is a case in point. (“Soviet Genetics," by Julian Huxley).

Aldous Huxley then suggests the desirability of internationally organised science, an international Inspectorate and the adoption of a security measure advocated by Lord Strabolgi, namely “the pooling of all scientific discoveries considered by competent experts to be actually or potentially a danger to mankind."

We need only ponder the present world situation for a moment to realise the futility of this suggestion. Also, as he himself says; “Once suspicion is aroused" (between nations), “governments will send their scientists to carry on research in caves, forests or mountain fastnesses away from prying eyes." He continues, “International trade has always hitherto gone hand in hand with war, imperialism and the ruthless exploitation of industrially backward peoples by the highly industrialised powers. Hence the desirability of reducing international trade to a minimum until such time as nationalist passions lose their intensity and it becomes possible to establish some form of world government."

We would like to put on record our unshakable conviction that “national passions" will continue to be roused while the struggle is waged for markets, trade routes and spheres of influence in which to dispose of surplus goods at a profit.

The ever increasing use of machinery, labour-saving devices and speeding up of the workers send production skying to hit the ceiling of limited markets. To-day the Press bewails the return of Japan and Germany to compete in British markets. Mr. Huxley foresees more trouble and sorrow when industrially backward India and China develop and their goods, produced by workers with a very low standard of living come into competition with the goods produced by the “better paid" workers of the west.

We do not believe in Mr. Huxley's hypothetical “Boy Gangster" who lurks in every Foreign office, every war department and every private home and gets a kick out of pressing a button and starting a war if he thinks he stands a good chance of winning it

We diverge on many points, particularly on his suggestions for dealing with the evils he has enumerated. He mentions the idea of World Government then argues that power corrupts and suggests a limitation by “decentralisation and de-institutionalisation" into small self-governing and co-operative groups. We find it difficult to understand how this even if attainable would mitigate the evils of the system or alter its acquisitive nature, in fact, while the profit motive exists, it is likely to complicate and increase competition between groups as well as between nations. Furthermore, as capitalist society hobbles from crisis to crisis “national emergencies" would call for some form of central government. In democratic countries the government (whether central or decentralised) would be voted into power by a politically ignorant working class, suitably well soaked with propaganda and (on the whole) prepared to accept and abide by their decisions.

Mr. Huxley thinks that the workers could adopt Gandhi's idea of “ Satyagrapha,” an organised form of non-violent direct action, but he does not “guarantee success.”

This sort of action (or non-action) might force concessions on a limited scale, similar to a strike, but it would only be “a sop to Cerberus” and the worker's position remain substantially the same, i.e., a wage- slave.

Given the necessary knowledge an enlightened working class can vote for their own emancipation, which will automatically wipe out all “international tension” and war. The present system is beyond reform and Mr. Huxley's ideas only scratch the surface. He has diagnosed the disease but has not delved deeply enough for the cause (i.e. the private ownership of the means of life) so he is unable to prescribe the only possible cure, common ownership by and in the interests of the whole community.
F. M. Robins

The Fruits of False Theories (1953)

From the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Origins of Stalinism

In the eulogies of Stalin, as with those following the death of Lenin, the movement to which both their names are given—Stalinism and Leninism—is represented as an innovation; as an essential departure from the ideas and policies of the social democratic movement, though at the same time it was claimed to be in line with the views put forward by Marx. In fact, however, though both of them broke away from the 2nd International (which had already fallen to pieces), they carried out policies that were implicit in the aims and the practice of the 2nd International. The face of Russia today is the logical working out of these aims and policies. The disputes between the Social Democrats and the Bolsheviks, in spite of the vituperation and clouds of words, was not over aims and policies but over the methods of pushing forward the policies and accomplishing the aims. It was the utter ruthlessness of the Bolsheviks that frightened them.

Both Lenin and Stalin poured loads of scorn and denunciations upon the old Social Democratic Parties and their leaders, as well as upon the syndicalist section of the International, but Bolshevik policy embraced the outlook of them all. Lenin and his associates claimed that the Social Democratic leaders were renegades when, in fact, all that the Bolsheviks could have argued against these leaders was that they were more cautious in pressing forward similar aims. Lenin was a fraternal delegate to 2nd International Congresses and only fell out with these leaders in 1914 on a particular interpretation of the war as the propitious moment to aim at the conquest of power. Although the Social Democrats made much of the minority aspect of the Bolshevik capture of power it was also accepted in their own practical actions in spite of theoretical statements to the contrary.

What has led many people to see a fundamental difference between, for instance, the Social Democrat, the Bolshevik and the Syndicalist in the ranks of the 2nd International is simply that the International contained what is called a left, a centre and a right wing— a group that carried 2nd International ideas to their logical conclusion in practice, a group that vacillated and a group that shut their eyes to the logical outcome of the ideas they advocated.

The Future as seen by Social Democrats
To what, briefly, were the leaders of the 2nd International looking forward? A transition period in which Capitalism would merge into Socialism. And how did they define this transition period? Let us see what they had to say about it. Owing to the limitations of space we can only quote from three sources, but they were leading representatives of the 2nd International on the theoretical side—German, Belgian and American.

First let us see what Karl Kautsky said about the society that would follow capitalism. The quotations are from “The Class Struggle,” a book published in English by Kerr & Co. of Chicago in the early years of the present century.
   “The distribution of goods in a socialist society might possibly continue for some time under forms that are essentially developments of the existing system of wage payments.” (page 141)
  “All forms of modern wage-payment—fixed salaries, piece wages, time wages, bonuses—all of them are reconcilable with the spirit of a socialist society; and there is not one of them that may not play a role in socialist society, as the wants and customs of its members, together with the requirements of production, may demand.” (page 143)
Russia has carried these ideas out.

In 1907 Emile Vandervelde, another leading member of the 2nd International, wrote a book entitled “Collectivism and Industrial Revolution.” In this book he went into considerable detail about the future, and we are quoting from it at some length because the extracts give a fair idea of what the prominent theoreticians of the 2nd International were anticipating as the face of the future.
 “Consequently, under a regime of pure collectivism—to suppose what we do not assume beforehand, that this regime is to be realised some day—the land, mines, manufacturing establishments, the instruments of credit, the means of communication and transport will belong to the community: only articles of consumption would remain personal property.
 “The management of affairs, instead of being as today monarchical or oligarchical, would take the republican form; instead of being given over by right of birth or by right of conquest, to capitalists competing or combined it would belong not to the State, as it is said and repeated in order to mislead, but to autonomous public corporations under the control of the State." (Introduction pages xiii-xiv)
  "By the very fact of its magnitude, this revolution can only be the result of a long and complex series of partial variations. 'Radical changes cannot be sudden: sudden changes cannot be radical.'" (page xv)
   “In fact there is nothing to prevent us imagining a socialist state, in which individual ownership and labour would co-exist with collective ownership and labour." (page 47)
After distinguishing between the authorative and economic functions of the State—the former gradually decreasing and the latter gradually increasing—he projects across the future the “Governmental State" and the “Administrative State" based upon voluntary cooperation and then says of the “Administrative State": 
  "States when thus transformed, regulating in different hierarchical ranks the movements of commerce and finance, presiding over the external industrial relations of the different centres of population, are nothing else than Agencies appointed by more or less numerous associations, and invested with the confidence of those who have chosen them." (pages 160-161)
   "Likewise, in a Socialist state, it is after having satisfied all needs which are of general concern, after having secured for all members of the community the right to existence, that the excess of products, or rather of values produced, should form the object of differential distribution.
   “In the proportion in which it would be socially useful from the point of view of production to allow special advantages to certain workers or to certain categories of workers, in order to stimulate their energies and their power of labour, nothing would prevent a collectivist society from maintaining—mutatis mutandis—the graduated scale of salaries which exists today in the public services.
    “Collectivism does not, then, necessarily imply equality of remuneration.” (pages 177-178)
It will be noticed that at one time Vandervelde uses the State to mean governmental machinery and at another a particular society but, even so, for him the State is still something apart from the mass of people, the controlling and deciding body.

The Practical Result of the Vision
What is the essence of all these quotations but, near enough, what at present obtains in Russia? True, freedom to think does not exist there; the dictatorship is ruthless and bureaucratic—but this was the logical outcome of Social Democratic theory. They held up their hands in horror at the speeding up process which involved the sacrifice of millions of lives, but they accepted, as part of their own idea of protracted development in which millions of lives were also sacrificed in “Offensive" and “Defensive" wars, in which was also implicit the “socialism in one country” idea—the “armed militia,” the “armed people" and the “citizen army.” 

So close was the fundamental identity between the policy of the 2nd International and the policy of the Bolsheviks that leaders of the 2nd International were at pains to try and find some distinguishing characteristic that would enable them to dissociate themselves from the ruthlessness and rebut the criticisms of Lenin. They all had to agree that the Bolsheviks were socialists but —they were doing some things they “didn’t orter do"— they were forcing the pace too much. Not that this would fail to achieve the object, but that it would shake their hold on power.

After the Bolshevik Capture of Power
The third member of the 2nd International whom we will quote, is Morris Hillquit, once a prominent theoretician of the Socialist Party of America. He summed-up the position in 1921 in his book “From Marx to Lenin." Here are some extracts from it:
   "And it is idle cavilling to dispute the Socialist character of the Russian Revolution. A socialist revolution does not mean the immediate establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth. It is only the political act of seizing the power of government on behalf of the workers and with the object of using it for the abolition of private ownership in the means of production and for the development of collective work and enjoyment.
   “The Russian revolution has taken possession of the government in the name of the workers. It has effectively expropriated private capitalist owners and has nationalised the greater part of the industries. It has also written into its program the socialisation of the land. Measured by all practical tests it is therefore a Socialist revolution in character as well as intent.” (Page 33) .
   “What is the historic form of a Socialist government?
  “Every attempted answer to the question must take into account the fact that political institutions are not viewed by Marxist students as static forms, nor as definitely demarcated historical periods. The Socialist political revolution marks the conscious beginning of the process of transformation into Socialism, but only its beginning.
  “The revolution, which is the working-class conquest of the political power, leaves the capitalists for the time being in possession of the economic power. On the day of the revolution the capitalist class still owns the essential means and instruments of wealth production and distribution. It manages the financial, industrial and commercial institutions of the country and controls the whole intricate and delicately interwoven economic life of the people. The transfer of all industries from private capitalist ownership into communal property and public management; in short, the break-up of capitalism and the building up of a pure Socialist order, calls for a series of planful and fundamental industrial and political changes. Such changes will, of course, not be undertaken by the capitalist class. They can only be brought about by the workers. In order to accomplish them the workers must be in control of the governmental machinery and their control must continue until the task of Socialisation of the industries has been fully performed, all economic class divisions have been abolished, the working class itself has ceased to exist as a class, and the working class government has given way to the classless administration of the Socialist regime. The consecutive stages of development roughly succeeding each other may be regarded from different points of view and characterised according to the angle from which they are viewed.” (pages 49-50)
Here again we see clearly expressed the harmony between the outlook of the 2nd International and the practice of the Bolsheviks in spite of the hot air that developed between them over the years. Hillquit identifies the conquest of power by the Bolsheviks as the conquest of power by the workers. Thus, by implication, he illustrates the accepted idea of leadership which was ingrained in the 2nd International, in spite of protestations about capture of power by the workers. Lenin, at a time when he was writing eulogies on Kautsky and the German Social Democratic Party, was also contending that the workers were incapable of developing social democratic ideas from within their own ranks; these, he said, they could only get from outside, from the “ bourgeois intellectuals.” Stalin has only carried on this contempt for the mass of people along with the expansion of the bureaucratic machinery so dear to the social democrats.

Syndicalists and Bolsheviks
Now let us compare the ideas of the advocates of Syndicalism in the International with those of the Bolsheviks. Syndicalists argued that Syndicalism was based on the principles of Marx; they were opposed to democracy as a capitalist form; they contended that the mass of workers were ignorant and inert, requiring an intelligent and militant minority to lead and force them into the promised land; they claimed that Syndicalism was the form at last discovered under which the workers could work out their emancipation; they propagated the idea of violence against both workers and capitalists; they claimed that the days of theory had passed and the days for action had come; they also put forward a number of other ideas which, as well as those mentioned, became a part of Bolshevik propaganda and demonstrate a certain similarity of outlook between Syndicalism and Bolshevism, indicating the common source of both movements. Even the much vaunted Soviet organisation was a reflection of Syndicalist ideas eventually set out in detail as a social organisation by the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905, a group that included a confused mixture of political and industrial action as a means to accomplish the end they had in view.

Syndicalism set out to secure the victory of a militant minority by the use of violence just as the Bolsheviks did. The claim that they were acting in the interest of all reminds one of the anarchist in Richard Whiteing’s novel “No. 5 John Street” who defined anarchism as a system of society in which everyone shall do as he likes, and those that don’t shall be made!
Beginning and End of the Dream
Lenin constantly referred back to the French Revolution and the attitude of the Jacobins for inspiration. The practical policy that grew out of the French Revolution and continued like a red thread through the working class movement afterwards, openly adopted successively by Blanqui, Bakunin, De Leon and Lenin was based upon the idea that an active minority can carry with it an inert and ignorant mass; it is a policy that depends upon leadership and ultimately places power in the hands of one or two outstanding people, finally degenerating into personal quarrels between these leaders as Bolshevism has amply demonstrated. The 2nd International was soaked in this despite the protestations and lip service to the control by the masses by some of its outstanding spokesmen. What Lenin and Stalin did was to stress whatever part of the 2nd International hotch potch best suited their purpose to get and keep control in Russia; thus they vacillated from one aspect to another and then back again, but always moving towards, and eventually achieving, that alleged transition form envisaged by the spokesmen of the 2nd International. Time has had its joke. The “transition form” has emerged as simply a particular form of unbridled Capitalism.

It should be clear from the quotations we have given that the Russian dictatorship, far from representing a fresh and fundamental departure from the ideas accepted by the 2nd International, has only been the logical working in out in practice of those ideas, though at a more rapid pace than was originally anticipated. The end of the process has been—just a particular form of Capitalism. No wonder Wilhelm Liebneckt was apprehensive and took time off from a holiday to write “No Compromise” in 1899, which contained the following pregnant words:
  “We cannot traffic in our principles, we can make no compromise, no agreement with the ruling system. We must break with the ruling system and fight it to a finish." (page 55)