Sunday, August 20, 2017

Turmoil in the Coalfield (1944)

From the May 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

Four days after the Miners Federation, the coal-owners and the Government reached an agreement which it was stated would guarantee peace in the industry for four years, the South Wales Miners' Executive Council recommended to the delegate conference that they reject the proposals (29.3.44). It was also announced that day that 80,000 Yorkshire miners were on strike; only two weeks had passed since 91,000 miners had returned to work in the South Wales coalfield. Four years is a short period for a peace pact when compared with Chamberlain's “peace for our time," but when considered against the background of turmoil in the coalfields, it seems as though the miners' leaders are guilty of wishful thinking. Industrial peace like international peace is impossible in capitalist society and we can confidently state that should the proposals be accepted, they will last only a short time. Little has been said about them but the main features are wage stabilisation and simplification. How these proposals will guarantee peace is not shown; rising or falling prices will compel owners and workers to press for changes in wages. The disputes are resolved, sometimes by arbitration, often by strikes or lock-outs. The miners will discover that like all previous agreements, this will leave their poverty intact.

Underlying much of the recent trouble are the experiences from which the miners have suffered during the bitter struggles of pre-war days, and also that many know that an even more grim struggle lies ahead when the war is over. These experiences and this knowledge makes them hostile to the glib and complacent phrases of their leaders. An example of this was the strike in the S. Wales coalfield which started on March 6th and soon involved 96,000 workers; the miners went on strike against the advice of their leaders. The immediate causes are now fairly generally known. According to the Porter "award" all underground workers (adult) are to receive £5 per week minimum wage. Whilst the terms of payment were drawn up the £5 was made inclusive, i.e., that special allowances for working in excessive dust and water were to be discontinued and also an extra, charge of 1/6 per week was proposed for the "cheap" home coal that miners obtain as a "privilege." These proposals had the effect of reducing the increase to a mere 2/6 for many miners; some had less while piece-workers had nothing. The immediate result of the strike was to hasten negotiations and extract a promise that the anomalies created by the award would be removed. The editors of Fleet-street surpassed themselves in scurrility; from their offices they hurled terms such as "plain anarchy" "intolerable" "industrial sabotage" and "difficult and irrational temper" against the coal producers. The Labour press offered much sympathy but they also "deplored" the strike. From the Times to the Daily Worker advice was offered to the miner that it was in his interest to return to work; it seemed as though the only person blind to the miners' interest was the miner. The Daily Mail discovered cause for alarm in the fact that the miners ignored the advice of their leaders (13/3/44). Our hearts, however, are warmed to the miner who at a mass meeting in the Rhondda, when urged to follow the lead of the officials, yelled "Follow your lead? we will lead you." A sound attitude. The Daily Telegraph added to the lighter side of the struggle, and became comical in its rage; it complained that the miners were able to get their extra 9-oz. of cheese, although idle (14/3/44). So we lost not merely 300,000 tons of coal but also about 20 tons of cheese. An interesting light on capitalist impartiality was provided by the Manchester Guardian Weekly, With the strike in progress they reported: "As for the strikes there is no 'bold imaginative step' open except the appeal to loyalty and common decency" (10/3/44). Four weeks earlier their comment on the explanation advanced by the mine-owners for not paying the increase, was: "The owners explanation is logical enough " (11/2/44). Logic it would appear is the prerogative of the ruling class and its representatives when dealing with discontented workers, who apparently lack even common decency.

Mr. Arthur Horner made an attack on the "comfortable people" who speak in "contemptuous accents" of the miner, who Horner states: "is a sport; when things are bad he can take it on the chin" (Reynold's News 12/3/44). On previous occasions when miners have found it necessary to take industrial action their leaders were the people who helped to create prejudice and spread contempt for them. The following examples of mud-slinging are from Trade Union sources: Mr. A. Horner; "Anarchy in the coalfield," "Certain irresponsible elements" (D. Herald 18/10/43). Durham Miners' Association : "These unwarranted stoppages," "Sabotaging the war effort and assisting the enemy." and "Section of disruptionists." (D. Herald 18/10/43). We agree, Mr. Horner, these "smugly righteous people" should note a few facts.

A Word on Wages
The method of computing wages is extremely complicated, and is very confusing to anyone not connected with the mines; it has been described as "baffling the outsider." Piecework rates are fixed, sometimes by measure, sometimes by weight; there are allowances for working in excess dust or water and also a percentage addition that differs in each district. Because of this confusion there has been agitation for a simplified wage structure which it is understood will be obtained under the new proposals. We cannot see that it will be of any real advantage to the miners as even though the method be simplified the wages will still be roughly the same as before i.e„ barely sufficient to replenish the energies of the worker and to enable him to keep a family. It has always "baffled" the writer how people lived on the wages. We suggest that in place of the reorganisation of the wage structure the miners follow the advice of Marx and substitute "Abolition of the wages system."

While on the subject of wages it is interesting to note that the Economist had the distinction of making a most reactionary proposal:
      "There may even be something to learn from the Soviet Wages system. Traditionally, the response of coalminers to increased wages is "heterodox"; above a certain level of earnings they are satisfied not to earn more by harder work. Increased wages should therefore not be guaranteed ay a flat rate. First the ratio between day wages and hewing pay should be weighted much more in favour of the latter, which is more dangerous, less attractive and more productive. Secondly, according to Soviet example, and contrary to the miners' own proposals, minimum wages should be left unchanged. Thirdly, increases in piece wages should be heavily weighted in favour of output above a certain minimum. Both time and piece rates should be made dependent on minimum attendance and minimum output. Should these fall below it, in the Soviet system, cumulative deductions are introduced. Thus the avenge wage of a miner would rise and fall substantially with output." (1/1/44. Our italics.)
One feature of the strike and its immediate sequel, the new agreement, was the critical attitude of the men to these new proposals and to their leaders. It has just been reported that the S. Wales miners' conference have rejected the proposals (2/4/44). Their attitude to it is that it is merely the "old meat—fresh gravy." It will become even more difficult for the capitalists to submit schemes for dealing with working-class poverty that will satisfy workers. The miners' exhausting toil has made wealth and luxury possible for the mine-owner—his toil has brought the miner only disease and poverty. They have worked hard so that their masters may live easily. They are now urged to forget the past, when their heavy work was no guarantee against poverty, and to work hard now, so that in the future, when the mistakes of the past will be avoided, we shall all enjoy prosperity. Hard thought, not hard work is required. Hard thought will show the miners and other workers the solution to their difficulties —the common ownership of the means of wealth production.
Lew Jones

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Death and Disablement in the Mines (1944)

From the June 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following is from an article, “ Dust in the Mine," The Lancet, April 22nd, 1944: —
   "Those whom the unfortunate events in the South Wales coalfield have made impatient with the miners should remember the risk of pneumokoniosis as well as of accidents that they have to face year after year, in peace or war. Eleven lusty colliers represented a large Welsh anthracite colliery in the League Football Championship of 1930. What are they doing to-day? None is at full work; 7 are totally or partially disabled through pneumokoniosis; 3 are disabled through accidents; 1 has died of rheumatism. And the survivors are still under 45 years old. This is an extreme example, but the Medical Research Council's reports in 1942 and 1943 demonstrated the increasing menace of pneumokoniosis to life and health in South Wales, and more recent figures given by Mr. Morrison in Parliament show that over 1,000 new cases of the disease were certified in 1943 in that area, a rate of about 1 in 100 workers."

The Scottish Workers' Congress: Curious Stuff from Glasgow (1944)

From the June 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

An organisation calling itself the "Scottish Workers' Congress" called a preliminary meeting at Central Halls, Glasgow, on May 21st. What took place at the meeting we do not know at the time of going to press, but, judging from the explanatory leaflet issued beforehand, it is a curious re-hash of reformism, Scottish nationalism and anti-political activity. The 10-point programme contains some of the stock demands of the reformist parties, such as a minimum wage of 3s. an hour, a 30-hour week, double income-tax allowances on all incomes under £600 a year, immediate provision of sufficient decent houses "by prefabrication and other means in Scotland" (our italics), “democratic workers' control of Scottish industry," and “equal pay for the job for both men and women."

Although the leaflet appeals to "all workers to speak and act directly for themselves" (our italics), the 10 points are directed to Scotland and Scotland only, and among them are such points as "an end to the closing down and shifting south of our industry " (our italics).

On its political attitude the leaflet says only that “the Committee is non-sectarian and non-party," and its task "cannot be undertaken by any of the existing organisations. They exist for other purposes."

How it proposes to achieve its aims is not very clearly indicated, though as it apparently rejects political action, and as point 5 wants the factory committee to "take over the workshop where closing down is threatened," we may assume that the Committee intends that the workers shall take "direct action," thus reviving once more the old delusion that working-class political action is unnecessary.

As the 10 points imply the retention of the wages system and minor modifications of the income tax, it is obvious that the Committee does not aim at the abolition of capitalism and the institution of Socialism; which is, of course, made unmistakeable by the narrow nationalist point of view that stands out in all the 10 points.

How thorough-going is the Committee's acceptance of capitalism can be seen from the points relating to minimum wages and to the income tax. It seeks to raise “the standard of living”—but not too much; for not only does the point about income tax envisage some people having more than £600 a year and some having less, but the minimum wage of 3s. an hour for a 30-hour week only means a minimum wage of £4 10s., or £235 a year.

We await further details of this curious organisation.
Editorial Committee.

No Half-Way House to Socialism. (1944)

From the July 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

The war is still going strong, although we are informed by our musters’ press that this year may see the finish of the conflict in Europe.

The wage slave views the cessation of hostilities with some misgiving, especially if he was living on the dole when the struggle commenced. Many never knew what a steady job was, and some had never been employed in any capacity until the war came along.

The wage slave who starts life on the dole, and who, after experiencing the horrors of war, finds himself back on the dole, may view life somewhat differently to the worker who has been on the treadmill of regular employment: the former should provide material for a psychological study; he can’t function on the job or in a trade union, and the question is how will he react to the conditions that prevail in the aftermath of the war?

The answer is that he is likely to become the follower of some leader with large political aspirations. A Fascist Party is a political group with an army at its back: the conditions that brought a Mussolini and a Hitler into being may reappear in an intensified form if capitalism continues to function after the war: and the latter appears to be a safe bet.

Lewis H. Morgan stated that the economic development moves blindly, but social institutions are the product of thought. Cartels and combines are appearing in ever more gigantic forms; these easily leap over national barriers, and refuse to be held hack by out of date political parties. The capitalist class will continue to try and perpetuate those social and political features which promise to them the right to the appropriation of surplus value. As the interests of our masters are now definitely opposed to the interests of society as a whole, we are approaching a period when the class struggle will come into the open. There are indications of this in the ranks of those organisations that function as would-be reformers. These are being forced by moving circumstances to expose themselves as collaborators and defenders of capital. Look at the Labour Party, for instance, openly acting as overseers for the slave owners. The Communists also have ably seconded and supported these henchmen of the exploiter ever since Russia came into the war. Betrayed and bereft, the wage slave looks in vain for a way out, and as he sees no further than the horizon of the wages system, he can find none. He will, however, struggle to live, and be buffeted and knocked around more systematically than heretofore by the powers that be in his efforts to do so. Capitalism has no mercy on an unwanted slave.

The Labour Party leadership in the main consists of ambitions men who consider there is more to be gained by fooling the working class than by arousing them against the capitalist exploiter. Our masters describe them as safe and sane. If they are good they may receive titles, and it is to be noted that the higher they climb the more they function as the willing tools of those who are labour’s enemies. The strutting peacocks basking in the sunshine of ruling class smiles have long ago abandoned the idea of fighting for the emancipation of the class to which we belong, and we may expect nothing but the persistent attempt to rivet the chains of wage slavery perpetually to the limbs of the toilers. When these creatures speak of Socialism, their idea is capitalist nationalisation, which simply means state capitalism: the capitalist class pool their interests and use the public power of coercion to compel the slaves to work in accordance with capitalist requirements.

You can see what would happen by observing what is happening during the war: “You have been late for work on four occasions.” Fined £4.

The working class are, however, beginning to wake up, and the exploiters are getting worried, and when they do the labour leader has to do his stuff: when the worker is doaded beyond endurance and quits work, his trade union leader at the command of capital tries to drive him back: the rank and file are in increasing numbers losing confidence and turning against the co-operating officials. This is causing anxiety in capitalist circles.

The conditions prevailing after the war are likely to be chaotic, and the general confusion may be intensified by the bewildered state of the wage slaves’ mind. The acid test of destiny cannot but find all labour leaders wanting, the ground will give way under their feet, and we may expect them to come tumbling down from their pedestals, being unable to cope with or to understand the meaning of what is transpiring around them.

It is not theory but reality that is the test of truth. Confusion is becoming worse confounded as a result of changing names, whilst allowing the substance of things to remain the same. Public Assistance Boards are poor relief outfits, and Old Age Pensions amount to the same thing. The Labour Exchange is in reality the slave market. By giving things names that denote their real meaning we quicken the intelligence. of our class. We explain the situation as it really is and do not get entangled in ruling class verbiage. Our appeal is to the proletariat, the propertyless class; they understand us best when we express ourselves in terms similar to those they use when on the job. The be-all and end-all of propaganda is to translate into everyday wage slave language the economics of the present system and the necessity for Socialism.

The Socialist tries to get his non-Socialist workmates to perceive that until the means of wealth production are made common property and a system of production solely for use is established, their lot will be that of wage slaves, receiving in exchange for the use of their labour power food, clothing and shelter of a quality and quantity barely sufficient to regenerate in their bodies the energy that is taken out of them when on the jobs.

In other words, the body of the wage slave functions as a mechanism for producing energy for the ruling class to exploit. The labour power of the worker sells at the cost of its reproduction.

The source of all surplus value is living labour. The capitalist instinctively realises this: so does the politician and the priest. The worker is the goose that lays the golden eggs. As the wealth he produces is taken from him practically as fast as it is brought into being, he fails to grasp the facts underlying the real position. He knows his wages are nicely adjusted to what he can live and work upon, but he is fooled by the money trick into believing he is paid for his labour.

The capitalist class use the means of wealth production, the land, factories, railways, mines, etc. us a means of corraling the real thing—the slave.

The slave is the only form of property that brings to the owner a revenue—something for nothing. When the ruling class quarrel amongst themselves, the wage slaves are torn from productive industry and made to engage in war, the industry of destruction.

The workers in different camps are pitted against one another. They re-echo their masters’ slogans of democracy and liberty, but no matter what the result of the conflict may be, the rulers will never sacrifice their right to appropriate unto themselves all the worker produces over and above what is necessary to sustain him. What the capitalist means by liberty and democracy is the full and free opportunity to exploit labour for profit, and those who stand for less than the abolition of the wages system are on the side of labour’s enemies, though they may know it not.

The reforms of the reformers never deal with the source of the trouble: the wealth of the ruling class has not been made less as a result of the activities of those who believe in the inevitability of gradualness, neither has the relative position of master and slave changed. The wealth of the ruling class in normal times steadily increases, and that of the worker becomes relatively less.

Put not your trust in leaders! The Socialist calls upon the worker himself to put an end to the present deplorable state of things. Instead of relying upon others, he must tackle the job on his own. There is nothing to prevent the working class democratically getting hold of the political machinery through the vote. Against the united advance of the working class the capitalist class are absolutely helpless. The interests of the working class are identical on tho class field—the political field. The issue between the wage slaves and their masters is one of ownership.

Shall the means of life become common property, or shall they continue to remain the exclusive property of the master class.

When the change is effected that history decrees must be, mankind will open a new page in its development.

The coming of Socialism will lift human society to a higher plane than it has occupied heretofore: then and then only will man be free in the real sense of the term.

Until the means of life are made common property, no power ou earth can take labour power out of the category of commodities: there it is fixed by the economic laws of capitalism, and all the pious resolutions of the I.L.O. cannot alter that fundamental fact, therefore the worker must establish Socialism or perish in capitalist slavery. There is no half-way house.
Charles Lestor

Unholy Deadlock in Soviet Russia (1944)

Editorial from the August 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

A few years ago a campaign for the relaxation of the British divorce laws resulted in some changes which made divorce easier. Mr. A. P. Herbert, M.P., who led the campaign, coined the phrase “Holy Deadlock” to describe the position of those who wanted to dissolve their unsuccessful marriage, but were prevented by the existing law. The modifications of the law would have been greater but for the opposition of the Churches. The attitude of the Orthodox Church in Russia is not different from that of the Church of England and the Roman Catholics, and it is interesting to observe that the official recognition of the Orthodox Church by Stalin’s Government has been quickly followed by a tightening up of the divorce laws in Russia. Divorce in Russia used to be easy and costless, and Communist and other admirers of all things done by the Bolshevists made much of that fact. Mr. Pat Sloan, in his “Soviet Democracy” (Victor Gollancz, 1937, p. 124), wrote that “the holding of people unwillingly together, by force of law or by economic compulsion, has always been opposed. Divorce has been made easy . . ."

The Webbs, in their “Soviet Communism," describing the earliest official attitude, said that on the “principle of freedom in personal relations, divorce, at the option of either party, was as optional as a registered marriage. . . .” (p. 1054).

The Dean of Canterbury, Dr Hewlett Johnson, writing of the recent position, likewise states that “a woman is free to divorce her husband, though strongly discouraged from doing so. Divorce is granted readily at the request of either party. . . .” (“Socialist Sixth of the World,” Gollancz, 1944, p. 268).

Now all this is changed, at least for the low-paid masses. Divorce is to be both difficult and costly. Miss Marion Sinclair, Moscow correspondent of the Daily Mirror (July 13, 1944), gives interesting details. “By the new laws, divorce has been made a long, complicated and expensive process.” She continues: —
   One must apply to the People’s Court, paying 100 roubles, giving reasons and particulars about the partner, who is then called to court. This means that no one who is at the front, or doing war work in distant parts, of the Soviet Union, can be divorced. An announcement of the forthcoming action must be inserted in the local newspaper, the fee payable by the person seeking the divorce. The hearing must be public unless the court, for good reasons, rules otherwise, and so unpleasant publicity is now added to the troubles of the divorce-seeker. The duty of the People’s Court is to reconcile parties. If it fails, witnesses will be produced and the Court will decide whether there are sufficient grounds for divorce. It cannot, however, grant the divorce, but passes on the parties to the District Court, where the whole proceedings are gone through again. The costs are from 500 to 2,000 roubles, not including the fees of the lawyers who—for the first time—will be engaged in divorce actions, if the petitioner does not succeed with the District Court, he works his way up through the Regional, Provincial and City Courts to the Supreme Court of the Republic—a process which may take years, and which will certainly cost a great deal of money.
The Economist (July 15, 1944) points out what this means : “ . . . the fees to be paid on obtaining a divorce have been fixed so high as to be entirely prohibitive for the working classes. Divorce has become a privilege open only to the high income classes.”

One obvious reason for the change is to be found in the Russian Government's policy of increasing the population to make up for war deaths, which is being energetically fostered by the recently announced increase of children’s allowances and the institution of medals for mothers of large numbers of children. The mother of ten children is entitled to be called a “Mother Heroine,” and is awarded a large medal.

In spite of statements that the change is approved, it needs no special insight to know that the low-paid Russian workers who are barred from divorce will resent the new arrangement, which make divorce a privilege confined to the wealthier sections of the population.

Doubtless the British Communists who praised the former easy divorce will be just as slavishly enthusiastic about the reversal of policy, which puts State capitalist Russia well behind capitalist Britain. It would, however, be interesting to know what Communists have to say about Lenin's statement, quoted in The Economist (July J5, 1944): 
   The example of divorce shows that it is impossible to be a Democrat and a Socialist without at once demanding the full freedom of divorce, because the absence of that freedom is an additional vexation to the oppressed sex, to the women.

The Evolution of Sir Stafford Cripps, The "Revolutionary" (1944)

Editorial from the September 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists are not concerned about the career of Sir Stafford Cripps and his success in the world of capitalist politics. There is, however, a value in observing the evolution of his political ideas because he represents a type with which Socialists have long been familiar. Forty years ago, when the S.P.G.B. first laid it down that Socialism could never be brought about except by the conscious act of a Socialist majority, this principle was criticised by all the reformists because it meant, they said, long postponement of the emancipation of the working class. There were quicker ways, we were told, and the Socialist Party year after year has had to show the fallacy of the advocates of short cuts to Socialism, whether they were preaching the general strike, the seizure of power by a minority, or the formation of Labour Governments which would introduce so-called "revolutionary" reforms to speed us on the way. Nothing daunted by a succession of past failures, there are always new men coming along to preach the same doctrine. Always, as they make their spectacular way, their career takes the same general course. First they denounce the slowness of the S.P.G.B. and demand action to get "Socialism now"; then they climb to high office in the Labour movement or the capitalist State, only to find that they cannot deliver the goods: then they fall back into the ranks of those who accept capitalism and merely advocate the petty reforms that have always been the stock-in-trade of the capitalist parties. Ten years ago Cripps was in full and furious fight. He was in a hurry. Everyone else was holding back the Socialist triumph. He attacked them all and gained the reputation of being the hundred per cent. revolutionary. He declared he wanted Socialism now and nothing but Socialism. He had no time for compromise and compromisers, and no time for the S.P.G.B. view that the laborious task had first to be carried out of making Socialists. Attacking the Labour Party, he declared in his pamphlet The Choice for Britain," “ We must . . . firmly and definitely abandon any idea of working in association with any other political group or party that denies the absolute necessity of Socialism." In particular, he rejected as dangerous the idea that some temporary alliance of pro-democratic forces should be brought about not based on the achievement of Socialism."

From then till now is not a very long period, but long enough for Sir Stafford to have abandoned most of his ideas. As a member of a Coalition Government facing the problem of post-war reconstruction he now quite frankly accepts the fact that capitalism will continue after the war, and that reconstruction will be strictly within the limits imposed by capitalism. In a speech at Belfast (reported in the Times, August 19, ), 1944), he forecast a fall in the standard of living after the war “unless we could get back all our pre-war export trade and add something like another 50 per cent. pretty quickly . . . " This, though he may have forgotten the fact, has been in the line of Conservative and Liberal propaganda for upwards of a century, as also was his further plea for increased efficiency. Finally, he let the cat out of the bag entirely when he admitted that it is to be the same old capitalism—"we shall embark upon the solution of our post-war difficulties largely under the aegis of private enterprise in this country, and that system will have to justify its own continuance by showing that it has the enterprise to meet the new circumstances and to overcome them."

This last pronouncement about capitalism justifying its continued existence comes strangely from one who ten years ago was proclaiming from the housetop that capitalism had long proved its own failure and unfitness to survive. In the same speech Sir Stafford thought that this country might fail to handle post-war problems satisfactorily “because of our innate conservatism.” "What was good enough for my father is good enough for me" is, he said, a “fatal slogan for industry."

The only serious conservatism from which the workers suffer is their habit of clinging to capitalism when Socialism is within their reach if they would have it, and Sir Stafford Cripps, who is now saying in effect, “Capitalism which was good enough for my father is good enough for me," is aiding the capitalist class to keep the workers conservative.

In the post-war years there will be many more self styled saviours of the working class seeking votes and support, shouting urgently for speedy action while they are climbing and then, when they have arrived, imploring the workers to go slow and be content with capitalism. These men are the successors of a long line stretching back to the earliest days of the reformist movement. No matter what their good intentions may be, they will not and cannot do anything for the emancipation of the working class.

The Coming Slump: Does the Gold Standard Matter? (1944)

From the October 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

The correct answer to the question, "Why are the workers poor?" is: "They are poor because the means of production and distribution are owned and controlled by the capitalist class instead of by the whole community, and consequently so is the wealth produced by the workers." This is the starting point from which the working class should view all schemes for improving capitalist trade, currency systems, etc. It is naturally not the starting point for the defenders of capitalism. They take private ownership for granted and leave out of their enquiries any possibility of ending it. As a result, their attempts to find out why poverty, trade depression, unemployment and crises exist, and how to end them, are sterile and fruitless.

The workers are poor because over and above the period of their work in which they are producing the equivalent of their wages they are working further to produce surplus value (rent, interest and profit) for the propertied class. They suffer unemployment because the capitalists, in the limitless search for profits and accumulation of capital which the system imposes on each of them if they are to survive in the competitive struggle, are always seeking new methods and new machinery which will save labour and cheapen the product the capitalist owns and must sell. Every wage increase the workers are able to obtain when conditions favour their struggle gives the employers a new incentive to instal labour-displacing machinery, add to the army of the unemployed, and thus create conditions in which the existence of large unemployment tends again to depress wages. In times of "good" trade and expansion capitalism floods the market with commodities for sale at a rate which increases far beyond the capacity of the workers in employment to purchase the goods they need but cannot afford.

In this is to be found the reason why "overproduction" occurs, with its ensuing crises and slumps, and the efforts of capitalists to remedy their own financial problems by driving down wages, by putting up tariffs to stop foreign competition, and by juggling with the currency only make the situation more acute.

When Mr. George Bell, Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions, says (Daily Express, September 7,1944) that a return to the gold standard after the war would inevitably bring depression and poverty, he is ignoring facts easily ascertainable. The workers have always suffered poverty, whatever the arrangements about gold. The version of the facts offered by the Daily Express in its year-long campaign against the pound sterling being formally linked to gold on the basis that existed before 1914 is that the unemployment and trade difficulties that existed from 1925 (when that basis was resumed) to the crisis of 1931, when it was again suspended, were all due to gold. A variation of this propaganda is that announced in a letter to the Prime Minister by Mr. Craven-Ellis, M.P., that “America’s almost complete cornering of gold since 1929 was the basic cause of the world slump and mass unemployment" (Daily Express, September 12. 1944). “We went to hell," he says. "on a gold standard in 1931 and we do not want to repeat the journey."

To answer this line of propaganda it is only necessary to point out that crises have been occurring intermittently for over 100 years, at a time when neither America nor any other country had cornered gold; and that the periods before 1925 and after 1931 were not different from other periods as far as the workers were concerned. Their poverty continued as before, capitalists then as before complained of trade depression, and unemployment during these periods followed much the same course as at other times. In the years after 1931 unemployment was mostly well above the 2,000,000 level, and just before the outbreak of war was still well above 1,000,000. Likewise, from 1919 to 1925 (the year in which the return to the pre-1914 gold basis was made) unemployment was nearly always well above 1,000,000. It is true that in 1930-31 it reached 2,500,000 or more; but so it did in 1921.

The representatives of the Allied Nations in their recent conference in U.S.A. have been divided, according to the City Editor of the Manchester Guardian (September 7, 1944), about the problem whether the Governments should first settle the currency question and the exchange relationship between the currencies of the different countries or whether they should first deal with trade problems and remove tariffs and embargoes by which Governments seek to protect home industries by keeping out foreign products. A similar division existed at the World Conference of 1933, with the interesting difference that the President of the U.S.A. now takes a changed attitude from the one he took in 1933. But both attitudes ignore the fact that "over-production" and trade depression necessarily arise out of capitalism, and the erection of tariffs and the schemes to give a fillip to the exports of certain countries by lowering the gold content of their currency and thus cheapening their exports in terms of currencies of countries that had not devalued, are alike symptoms of the exiting depression, not its prime causes.

A better view of capitalist trade problems is given by war, which is the one time when there is an unlimited sale for all the goods that the capitalists can put on the market. The capitalist newspapers have been commenting on the slump in share values that has recently occurred because of the approach of peace. The City Editor of the News-Chronicle (September 13, 1944) writes: —
   The stock market slump—it is scarcely too strong a word—continued and if anything gained momentum yesterday . . .
He goes-on to say that some of the “experts” are of opinion that “the proper money-making course" for stock exchange speculators is to sell out their shares now and be prepared to stay out for two years “presumably until the immediate post-war chaos period is over." The Daily Mail City Editor (September 12, 1944) asks the question, “Has the slump come?" and says that the investor “has been depressed by references of industrialists to the difficulties of the transition period from war to peace."

What is, however, most instructive is the explanation given by the News-Chronicle. The City Editor says that for three years or more the minds of investors "have been attuned to a war-time economic system in which profits are more or less stabilised and full production is assured over a particular range of commodities."

This is an inherent defect of capitalism. Except in war it can never guarantee continued full production. Periodically the flood of goods on the market will come up against the problem of finding buyers who can pay the price necessary to provide the profit which alone is the aim of capitalist production.

While we are not in a position to prophecy exactly when the next slump and trade crisis will come, come it will despite all the plans and conferences of capitalist Governments and Labour Parties. The only remedy for the poverty and crises of capitalism is to abolish capitalism.
Edgar Hardcastle



Common Wealth will not Debate (1944)

Party News from the November 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

From time to time members of Common Wealth, Sir Richard Acland's party, invite the S.P.G.B. to debate with their party. When these invitations have been taken up with Common Wealth headquarters, the repeated result has been that a debate is refused. Many reasons are given for this refusal—they are busy getting ready for the election; they aren't keen on debates; they don't agree that their literature indicates that they stand for State capitalism; the "wages system" is a “matter of detail" and apparently not worth debating; they are anxious that all should get together, from Liberals to Common Wealth and Communists, in order to abolish the House of Lords, which, they hold, is a “first step" to Socialism—all of which boils down to one thing: Common Wealth, at least if its Chairman, Mr. R. W. G. Mackay, has the last word on their behalf, is not prepared to enter into debate about its programme and policy.

Will members of Common Wealth who want a debate with the S.P.G.B. note this, and direct their challenges to their own headquarters, not to the S.P.G.B.

The Future of China. (1944)

From the December 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

The history of China during the last hundred years is intimately bound up with the expanding capitalist production of Britain, France, Russia, U.S.A. and Japan in that period. These powers not only struggled with the Chinese, but also amongst themselves for access to the vast market and abundant supply of raw materials which exist in China. That struggle is still raging, but there are signs that it is being resolved.

It would be interesting, as well as useful for the purpose of this article, if we could examine in some detail the salient features of the struggle from 1842 to 1921, but a detailed analysis is precluded by the lack of space due to war-time paper rationing.

With the overthrow of the antiquated and corrupt Manchu Monarchy and the formation of the Republic in 1911, the newly arisen capitalist class had to solve many problems if they were to maintain and strengthen their hold on the State. The instrument which they had fashioned to lead the forces of the republican revolution, the Kuo Min Tang (National People’s Party), was developed to meet the new situation. Reactionary forces were threatening the survival of the revolutionary movement, and had to be eliminated. The conception of nationalism had to be inculcated in the “village-minded” peasantry. Much of the tradition and ideology natural to an agrarian economy had to be dissipated. This was achieved to some extent, partly by propaganda, and as far as possible by modernising the economy.

It was imperative to unify the provinces by establishing a firm centralised authority over them. Not least amongst the problems to be solved was how to compel the foreign powers to relinquish their extra-territorial rights, which were a very serious obstacle in the way of complete native sovereignty. Apart from these sharply defined issues, the country was sunk in indescribable chaos—“War Lordism,” famines, floods and disease were making life a nightmare existence. Nevertheless, the Kuo Min Tang pursued its objective, which is the transformation of China into a modern capitalist state, as the following will show :—
   The teachings bequeathed by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Chinese Republic and founder of the Kuo Mill Tang, who died in 1925, form the ideological basis of the Kuo Min Tang rule in China. His trilogy, the San Min Clin I, or the Three People’s Principles of nationalism, political democracy and economic democracy, constitutes the highest guiding principles in China. The new China he had in mind is free, independent, possesses equality in its relations with other nations of the world, and is a country wherein the people will have a constitutional form of government. There will also be an equitable distribution of wealth through the enforcement of three policies—the equalisation of land ownership, the development of state capital, and the regulation of private capital. (“China after Five Years of War,’’ page 30. Chinese News Service (official). New York.)
The Kuo Min Tang does not label the above as “Socialism”; indeed, its spokesmen go out of their way to make it clear that they are opposed to Socialism.

By 1921 some of the aforementioned problems had been tackled and partially solved. Nationalism had taken hold of a large section of the people. Some reactionary and rival military governments had been smashed. The scourge of “War-Lordism” had still to be eradicated, when a new trouble appeared. The so-called Communist Party of China came into existence, and in the years up to 1927 recruited military forces and set up soviets in certain provinces. As the Kuo Min Tang regards itself as the only legitimate political party in the land, it quickly manifested its violent opposition to the "communists,'' whom it accused of being under the influence of Soviet Russia.

However, as a matter of expediency, Gen. Chiang Kai shek, who had assumed national leadership, entered into an alliance with the “communist” armies for the purpose of crushing the War-Lords. When this job was completed, he broke with the “communists,” and carried out a massacre amongst them in Shanghai in 1928. These two moves enabled the Kuo Min Tang to extend its rule not only to Shanghai, but to a large area of central territory. The remnants of the “communist” armies fled to (he West and North-West.

Meanwhile, Soviet Russia, if not openly annexing the vast border provinces of Sinkiang and Outer Mongolia, had gained control of them by setting up puppet “communist” governments. Britain countered the potential Russian threat to India (in the case of Sinkiang) and her interests in China by increasing her influence in Tibet, another Chinese border province adjoining Sinkiang. Japan countered Russia move by establishing a puppet regime in Inner Mongolia, and invading Manchuria in 1931 for the additional purpose of preparing a springboard for the invasion of China proper.

Britain and the U.S.A. (to say nothing of the minor powers which possess interests in China) were uneasy at the growing menace to their extensive interests by the Japanese and Russian encroachments. But they were not agreed how to deal with the menace.

The Kuo Min Tang was in no position to offer successful resistance to the Japanese annexation of Manchuria, so its attention was again focussed on the “communist” controlled provinces. After a series of sanguinary campaigns lasting until 1934, the “communists” were finally driven to the north-west of the country, and the Kuo Min Tang settled down to developing economic resources. A blockade of the so-called “Soviet Republic of China” was instituted by the National army pending an opportunity to smash it.

Japan struck again in July, 1937, with the object of “beating China to her knees.” In September of the same year, the Communist Party of China rallied to the support of the Kuo Min Tang government: —
    . . . on September 22nd the Chinese Communist Party issued a formal declaration wherein it pledged to fight for the realisation of Dr. Sun’s principles, to abandon its policy of insurrections which formerly were aimed at the overthrow of the Kuo Min Tang's political power, to abandon its policy of land confiscation and subversive propaganda, to abolish the system of soviet government, to reorganise the Red Army and to place it under the unified command of the National Military Council.
(“China after Five Years of War,” page 32.)
Gen. Cbiang Kai-shek accepted this pledge, and expressed the hope that the “communists” would abide by it.

The unity in the years which followed has been more apparent than real. In its issue dated May 1st, 1944, Life magazine summarises the attitude of the Kuo Min Tang to the Communists and vice-versa :—
    The case of the Nationalists against the Communists is explicit. They claim that unity comes before all else, that the nation cannot be strong nor its army powerful if there are two governments independent of each other, two armies under independent command, if the Communists make their own laws, print their own currency and give no obedience to central authority.
     The Communists on the other hand, claim that so long as they receive no supplies from the central government they need give it no allegiance. They claim that they cannot yield up their independence of action for a share in the Nationalist state unless it is a democratic state in which they have freedom of speech, assembly and press. Were they to give up their armies and their independent areas and submit themselves to the present governing group, they would be wiped out as a political entity and many would lose their lives. (Page 109, “Life Looks at China.”)
It is amusing to observe the communists’ concern for democracy: like the Kuo Min Tang, they would not tolerate the existence of Socialists or any other political group in their midst.

The Chinese Government is very touchy on the subject of national unity: it is afraid lest its Allies take advantage of any weakness resulting from a cleavage, hence the heavy censorship imposed on news of communist activities. Although the Chinese Government has never renounced its claim to sovereignty over Russian controlled Sunkiang and Outer Mongolia, it has to exercise restraint over this question, because of the presence of the powerful “communist” armies in other parts of China. Moreover, Russia might cease trading vital war materials with the Chinese. Russia, no less than Britain and the U.S.A., is deeply involved in the sordid game of power politics.

A hint of what may well be the official U.S.A. attitude towards Russian aspirations in China is given in the editorial of Life (August 1st, 1944):—
   For half a century U.S. policy in Asia has stood soundly for a strong China. . . .
  The U.S. needs and wants China as her firm friend in Asia. Why? Not for military security alone; for that purpose, friendship with Russia would suffice, or even an alliance with Japan. (Our italics.) We need China because she is a great potential force for freedom and democracy in Asia. If China should cease to be that, and go the way Japan went, we could not long stay friends.
  The longest border in the world is that between China and Russia. In view of the mounting tension between the Kuo Min Tang and the Chinese Communists, this border may be the world's most dangerous spot after the defeat of Japan. If the geopolitical interests Of Russia and the U.S. must clash anywhere (which they must not), it may be on that border. The nature of our post-war relations with China may therefore be a matter of peace or war for the U.S.
Notwithstanding the passing reference to “freedom and democracy” in the above quotation, could there be anything more revealing of the true nature of the struggle in the East?

Within the narrow limits of an article, we have tried to indicate the trend of China's development, which is often obscured by the maelstrom of international power politics.

Workers throughout the world are becoming increasingly interested in China, but their sympathies are not always identical. Some regard the Kuo Min Tang Government as “progressive,” inasmuch that it professes its intention to establish democracy and raise the standard of life of the people. Others support the “communist-soviet” regime and hope that it will succeed in sovietising all China. Neither of these attitudes is in the interests of the common people of China or the rest of the world. Whichever regime emerges, the masses will be enslaved to some form of capitalism.

Therefore Socialists are hostile to all the rival contenders for power in China. Our sympathies are whole-heartedly with the common people, who for decades have endured horror upon horror. Is there a way to put an end to their sufferings? There surely is. The workers of all lands—especially in Britain, U.S.A., Canada, Germany, and other advanced industrialised countries—must resolve to do away with capitalism and establish in its place international Socialism. The Socialist Party and its companion parties abroad are playing their part by helping the workers to get hold of Socialist knowledge—the pre-requisite for this task. Once established in the advanced areas, Socialism would quickly bring countries like China into line. The masses of China would not be slow to realise the incomparable advantages of common ownership and democratic control of the means of life.

The international working class will triumph in the end: meanwhile, let us redouble our efforts to bring the end nearer.
H. G. Holt

Poland: recession and repression (1982)

From the December 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard
We see that, after all, society has not entered upon a new phase. Instead, the State has gone back to its earliest form, in which the sword rules without shame and club-law prevails
Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire.
Just such a tyranny rules in Poland today. It is no more socialist than Argentina is. It is a land where this autumn workers were murdered behind their impoverished barricades. A land in which a bus driver, walking home with his wife after work, was shot from behind in an empty street. A land where the unemployed, deprived of state benefits, rapidly fall into destitution. A land in which prisoners are often brutally beaten, sometimes tortured. A land where only the “security forces" and those they serve live free from hunger.

1982 was a year in which conscript miners in Poland sweated to produced 200 million tons more coal than in 1981. A number died in the effort. Following reports of dangerous levels of methane gas, military commissars threatened miners with court-martial for desertion if they did not continue work. Explosions killed at least 17 miners. The official report on two such "accidents" proved management's guilt. [1] Conditions of work in the militarised mines are near to slavery: only two free Sundays a month, armed guards, and minimal safety precautions.

The recession, combined with crippling foreign debts and lack of foreign exchange, has brought industry almost to a halt. It is thought that real wages have fallen by 40 per cent, while the unemployment rate has reached 20 per cent. [2]

Polish economic problems are part and parcel of the recession which has hit East European “socialist” countries as hard as those in the openly capitalist West. This can be seen from the decline in the annual rate of growth. Czechoslovakia and Hungary arc now on a "zero growth” rate, while Romania’s claimed growth rate fell from 11 per cent in 1971 to 2½ per cent in 1981. Not one East European state managed as high a growth rate in the second half of the seventies as had been achieved from 1971-75. [3]

In the summer of 1981. desperate measures were being introduced. "Protected" industries were to have priority in obtaining raw material and labour, the "sacrifice" ones were to be run down. [4] “Profit maximisation" is a tacit admission that Poland is as capitalist as any Western country. Where profit exists, there is surplus value which comes into being from workers’ unpaid labour. It results from workers’ exploitation, and is an inevitable consequence of the wages system. There is no difference between the demand of the Polish government for "profit maximisation" and that of Thatcher’s government for “greater efficiency". Both spell a demand for greater exploitation of the workers.

Unlike other rulers in a capitalist crisis, Jaruzclski and his junta hope to shackle the workers with tough new laws which would hinder effective strike organisation. In Poland, the 1981 draft law laid down that strikes would only be legal after approval by the majority of workers and after compulsory arbitration had failed. Afterwards, strikers would only get half-pay until lost production had been made up. Also, the Sejm could declare a 60-day moratorium on strikes if it decided that an economic emergency existed. The 1982 version is worse: many workers will not be allowed to strike under any conditions. [5]

For those "lucky” enough to be in work, it is close to forced labour. Many work 12 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, including Sundays and Bank Holidays. Parasites (the unemployed) can be directed into any kind of work, however unsuited. There is also forced labour, without pay. Workers can be drafted to other areas. Hundreds arc held in internment camps, including those who arc held merely because it is thought possible that they might, one day. break some regulation or other. There are many reports of serious brutality, even torture, and no inspection of conditions in the camps is allowed, even by the Red Cross. Families of internees suffer great hardship, alleviated to some extent by collections and other aid organised by Solidarity or the church.

Yet only two years ago. massive strikes in the shipyards and the coal mines of the south led to the formation of a nationwide union, independent of the ruling Party, backed by 80 per cent of workers. The workers expected that if they had an independent union, everything else would follow and they could coerce the government into implementing reforms. This belief lingers on. Solidarity leaders called for a general strike in June, and a recent statement declared that "it is still too soon to order a general strike" while not ruling this out at a later date. [6]

Lech Walesa and others who urged that the new movement should restrict its role to that of a trade union were unable to prevent it developing into a political opposition. This was mainly a consequence of the growing demoralisation of the ruling party, as heads rolled in corruption scandals, with many criminal charges and embarrassment over the economic mess. As in other countries, economic collapse led to political instability. Poland had four Prime Ministers in 1981, and recently Jaruzelski sacked five Economic Ministers. The economic crisis did not vanish when Solidarity was suspended.

Weak as the government was, there is much evidence that the rulers could not concede to Solidarity. At stake were the Leninist dogma of a vanguard Party with a leading role, the vested interests of corrupt. ambitious members of the Polish Communist Party (PUWP) with a finger in every nomenclatural pie. and the strategic imperative of ensuring that Poland remained a docile, loyal member of the Warsaw Pact; all these combined to make the Gdansk Agreement another "scrap of paper", like the Helsinki Agreement on human rights. By January 1981, Solidarity stated bluntly that there had been a "blatant refusal (by the government) to honour its commitments. . . . The government is not fulfilling its promises given in August-September I980". [7] There was little that Solidarity could do about this: its strongest weapon, industrial action, was weakened by the recession, and already it was having its work cut out trying to resist closures and redundancies.

Yet in the West, left wingers were claiming Solidarity's existence as a great victory. A tendency to see in Solidarity whatever they wanted to see was shown by the Bennite wing of the Labour Party: “Solidarity — a model of workers’ democracy". [8] Solidarity’s success would “demonstrate the enormous superiority of a nationalised economy combined with working class political power over the capitalist system in the West". [9]

While Jaruzelski's officers were preparing their coup. Chris Harman of the Socialist Workers’ Party raved:
Rarely has a workers’ movement historically been in a stronger position for making a bid to solve society’s problems by taking power into its own hands . . . Even within the army and the police, only a few hardliners would put up determined resistance to any serious attempt by the mass workers' movement to bring the present chaos to an end by taking power. [10]
Neither in 1980 nor at any later date was Solidarity able to gain political power. At its strongest, when it surprised the government into signing the Gdansk Agreement making many concessions — on paper — Solidarity gained no political power and had no means of enforcing that agreement, other than by industrial action. But industrial action is at its weakest in a recession when workers fear the sack, while management need not worry about delayed orders since their order books are mostly empty. Without political power, Solidarity’s very existence was always at risk and its independence curtailed by fear of head-on conflict with the government.

Solidarity was also weakened by the fact that, rather than being simply a trade union, its membership included almost all sections of the population including "intellectuals”, shopkeepers, farmers and students. Its demands were mostly for Labour Party-type reforms. While some of these were of a welfare state nature, others were for economic reform in the "national interest".

In 1981 this demand for economic reform became a specific demand for "marketisation”, for the abandonment of the central plan characteristic of the command economy, in favour of enterprise autonomy with a flexible response to market forces. Underlying this was the naive belief that, if left to itself, capitalism works. That is as unrealistic as the left wing expectation that central state planning can iron out the inherent anarchy of the system. Also, as some delegates at Solidarity’s Congress noted, marketisation would involve closures and throw their members out of work. Such a policy might be in the "national interest” but workers threatened with redundancy could hardly regard it as in their interests.

Another reform which Solidarity pursued in 1981 was the demand for “workers’ self-management". In Britain, this was mistakenly seen by left-wingers as “workers' control”. In fact, this demand was put forward as a result of the corruption, mismanagement and incompetence of top management who were appointed by committees of the PUWP. This nomenclature system was held by many Poles — especially those in middle management and in the universities — to be a major contributing factor in the economic collapse. Get rid of the nomenclature system and you get rid of managerial muddle, was their argument. Trying to abolish the PUWP’s treasured powers of patronage brought Solidarity into head-on conflict with the vested interests of the corrupt PUWP.

Neither “marketisation” nor the ability to elect the managing director and decide the policies of the enterprise which employ us could alter the fact that this system can only operate by making profits. Whoever manages capital in a capitalist world has to do the best they can to produce profits. This applies as much to workers elected to run an enterprise as it does to politicians’ nephews. Trade unions should not concern themselves with measures which aim to make industry more profitable: their concern should be to defend workers’ interests.

Solidarity was increasingly side-tracked from its original role as a trade union which, we must remember, could not change the system, even supposing that its members wanted such a change. In fact, the overwhelming majority did not demand fundamental change, only reforms “in the national interest”. Now they are pleading for talks with the government aimed at some sort of “entente nationale” or social contract.

The problem was summed up by Gdansk workers who struck in protest at the banning of Solidarity: “How can you do anything when they put a pistol to your head?” At all times the PUWP retained political power and with it control over the police and armed forces which, as we said before Jaruzelski’s coup, can be used, have been used and may be used again against the workers.

It is probable that other workers’ movements will be crushed, as Solidarity has been, until the demand for independent trade unions is backed by a class-conscious workers’ movement. Tragically, even if Solidarity had achieved all it demanded, Poland’s workers would have remained exploited wage-slaves, alienated from the means of producing and distributing wealth, suffering — as all workers do, East or West — from poverty.
Charmian Skelton

References
[1.] Solidarność: Bulletin d'Information (Paris), nos. 34 and 35, Sept.’82.
[2.] The same, no.35.
[3.] Problems of Communism, July-Aug. ’82; D.M. Nuti, The Polish Crisis — Economic Factors and Constraints (The Socialist Register 1981).
[4.] Nuti (as above); Government Programme for overcoming the crisis, July ’81.
[5.] Time 16 March ’81; The Economist 9 Oct. ’82.
[6.] Solidarność Bulletin 27 Oct. ’82; Time 1 Nov. ’82.
[7.] Solidarność: N.C.C. statement 11 Jan. ’81.
[8.] Socialist Challenge 7 Jan. ’82.
[9.] Labour Focus on Eastern Europe, editorial, winter-spring ’81.
[10.] Socialist Review, Nov.-Dec. ’81.
[11.] Financial Times 14 Oct. ’82.

Friday, August 18, 2017

To the Socialist Working-Class. (1905)

From the January 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Comrades,

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has received a communication from the Secretary of the British Section at the Amsterdam Congress, asking, among other things, whether the Party favoured the holding of a Conference with a view to forming in England a National Committee to deal with matters arising out of the International Congress. We have declined to take part in any such Conference on the grounds that it should be the task of the Socialist Party alone to deal with these questions, and that judging by the composition of the British Section at the Amsterdam Congress, at which the Party was represented, the proposed Committee would consist of men who are in no sense of the word Socialist. Elsewhere in this number we publish the correspondence at length, and take the opportunity of addressing the Socialist working-class concerning the grave issues therein raised. To those who have followed intelligently the deliberations of past International Congresses, it is apparent that these Assemblies have been characterised by a lack of definiteness in their organisation with the result that considerable confusion still exists as to the real nature of the decisions arrived at.

It is of course true that certain dangers and difficulties are inseparable from International Congresses, but we contend that these regrettable results are in a great measure due to the participation in them of organisations and men possessing neither the knowledge nor the right to voice the cause of the working-class.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is strengthened in this opinion by facts well known here which show clearly the principles animating many who took part in the recent Congress at Amsterdam. Our delegates thereto found such organisations as the Independent Labour Party, the Labour Representation Committee, the Social-Democratic Federation, and the Fabian Society claiming and obtaining admission as Socialist organisations. Thus were seen the defenders of Capitalism, the upholders of Child-slavery, the friends of Compromise and Reform, and the cats paw of the Bourgeois reaction generally, masquerading as Revolutionists, prostituting the name and spirit of Socialism, and confusing the workers on questions of vital importance.

The I.L.P. and S.D.F. both support representatives of the Capitalist Class in the political field. The I.L.P. in its official organ definitely repudiate the class-war, while it is admitted in "Justice" by the S.D.F, that there are occasions when the existence of the struggle maybe forgotten with advantage by the workers for the emancipation of their class. The Fabian Society is not a working-class organisation and stands for State Capitalism. The L.R.C. is but the left wing of the Liberal Party and declines to recognise any Socialist Candidate.

The S.P.G.B. declines, therefore, to betray the working-class or to stultify itself by taking part in the proposed Conference when to do so would be to admit the right of those organisations to deal with the findings of the Congress of the International Socialist working-class.

With the object of placing future International Congresses on a definite Socialist, basis, and securing proper and proportionate representation of all bona fide Socialist Parties thereat, the S.P.G.B. is preparing a memorandum for the consideration of the International Bureau and the Socialist Parties affiliated in the hope that measures will be adopted to as far as possible prevent the recurrence of past confusions and place the working-class of the world on a united and revolutionary platform.

The Executive Committee,
The Socialist Party of Great Britain.
London, January, 1905.

À La Classe Ouvriere Socialiste. (1905)

From the January 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Camarades,

À propos de la formation en Angleterre d'un Comité National pour traiter des affaires du Congrès, International, The Socialist Party of Great Britain, vient de recevoir un communiqué du secrétaire de la délégation anglaise au Congrès d'Amsterdam en envitant le Parti à lui faire savoir s'il nous était convenable d'assister à une conférence pour discuter ce projet. Nous avons refusé de prendre ancun part à cette entreprise croyant que le Parti Socialiste seul doit traiter de ces questions, et en considérant la constitution de la section anglaise au Congrès tenu à Amsterdam, où le Parti était représenté, un tel comité ne saurait pas être en salle façon socialiste. Dans un autre part de ce numèro se trouve la correspondance en son entier, et nous profitons de l'occasion pour adresser la parole à la classe ouvrière Socialiste touchant les questions graves dont elle s'agit.

À coux qui ont snivi d'une manière intelligente les délibérations des Congrès Internationaux antérieurs, il est clair que ces réunions sont dans le besoin d'un caratère déterminé vu qu'il y a encore beaucoup de confusion dans l'interprétation des résolutions prises.

Franchement nous admettons que le Congrès International court de grands dangers er difficultés, par suite d'une organisation telle qu'elle est, mais nous sommes d'avis que ces malheueux résultants sont inevitables puisqu'il y a des organisations et individus qui participent aux délibérations du Congrès sans avoir ni les connaissances ni le droit de prendre la parole dans le parlement de la classe ouvrière.

Des faits bien connus ici affermissent le S.P.G.B. dans cette opinion et démontrent clairement les sentiments qu'animent quelques-uns des délégués qui ont pris part au Congrès d'Amsterdam. Nos délégués y ont trouvé des organisations telles que The Independent Labour Party, The Labour Representation Committee, The Social Democratic Federation, et Fabian Society, réclamant le driot de séance dans cette assemblée et parvenant à se faire accorder ce droit comme des organisations socialistes. Ainsi se virent les défenseurs du Capitalisme, de l'exploitation des enfants; les amis du compromis et de la réforme; et les marionettes de la réaction bourgeoise se déguisant en Révolutionnaires pour confondre les ouvriers et prostituer le nom et même l'espirit du Socialisme.

The Independent Labour Party et The Social Democratic Federation, tous les deux soutiennent des représentants de ls class capitaliste dans le champ de politique; le I.L.P. rejète dèfinitivement la lutte des classe dans son organe official, tandis que le S.D.F. admettent dans "Justice" qu'il y ait des circonstances on la classe ouvrière militante pourrait avantageusement mettre de côte la doctrine de la lutte des classes. The Fabian Society n'est pas une organisation de la classe ouvrière et tient pour le Capitalisme de l'Êtat. The Labour Representation Committee n'est que l'extréme gauche du Parti Libéral et refuse d'appuyer aucun candidat socialiste.

Le S.P.G.B. refuse donc de trahir les intérêts de la classe ouvrière ou de se rendre ridicule en prenant part à la conférence proposée vu que d'y assister serait d'admettre le droit de ces organisations de s'occuper au nom du Socialisme des résolutions du Congrès de la classe ouvrière internationale.

Dans le but d'établir les Congrès Internationaux prochains sur les bases solides du Socialisme et d'assurer la representation équitable de tous les Partis Socialistes de bonne foi, le S.P.G.B. s'occupe de préparer une note pour la considération du Bureau International et tous Partis Socialistes dans l'espoir que l'on prendra des mesures pour éviter en quelque sorte le retour de la confusion d'autrefois et réaliser l'unification de la classe ouvrière du monde fondée sur les véritables principes du Socialisme.

Le Comité Exécutif
du The Socialist Party of Great Britain.
London, Janvier, 1905.

Answers To Correspondents. (1905)

From the February 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

  • F. Meyer (Luxemburg).—Thanks for congratulations. We shall do our best to hold aloft the flag here.
  • J. E. (Kirkintilloch).—Back numbers have been sent and your request with regard to future issues shall be complied with.
  • Fr. M. (Hamburg).—If you will state wherein we differ as to the tactics to be pursued by the Socialist Party, we shall be glad to discuss the matter with you. We shall welcome the notes promised. The historical sketches showing the development of free thought in this country would of course be of good educational value, and your suggestion will be borne in mind, but The Socialist Standard functions purely as a Socialist propagandist journal, and the calls on our limited space are too great already. When we can afford an enlarged issue the scope of our observations can be extended.
  • H. J. H. (Euston).—Business communications should be addressed as per official notice on page 4.
  • M. F. (Vienna).—Your request has been attended to. 
  • J. H. W. (Denmark Hill).—Your communication is dealt with separately in this issue.
  • A. S. (Prague).—Remittances need not be crossed. We have not yet opened a banking account.
  • Peckham Branch.—Thanks for sight of document. It is being returned. Please inform your Branch Correspondent that reports should be sent to 5, Arvon Road, Highbury, N. A delay of one week has occurred in the receipt of the last communication owing to this instruction not being observed.
  • J. H. K. (Ilford), J. P. W. (Dulwich), and others.—. Matter received.

From Our Branches. (1905)

Party News from the March 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Peckham.
The condition of the Peckham Branch is very satisfactory. A few open-air meetings have been held when weather permitted. Our members meet regularly for economic study and discussion and are preparing themselves for the season of open-air propaganda. The tone of the membership is admirable: the idea is to steadfastly advocate the social revolution and to leave to compromisers their rose-water for the plague.

Mr. Herbert Burrows, lecturing recently in Camberwell on the unemployed question, argued at the outset that until the workers become class-conscious, and understand the nature of the class-war, no project intended to remedy unemployment can succeed, and then preceded to advocate the institution of farm colonies, in conjunction with communal workshops in urban centres, mutual exchange of produce, and distribution of surplus amongst the producers. Then, seemingly aware of the incompatibility of his contentions, the lecturer endeavoured to show that, while his proposals were not the solution, they were the “seeds of the solution” of the problem. These colonies and workshops, once established, would by their extension and development—one almost sees the S.D.F. sowing and some helpful capitalist administration supplying the water—“dislocate capitalist industry”! Replying to criticism by our comrades the lecturer condemned as futile his own scheme by pleading that it was advocated "only as an infinitesimally small and temporary” measure of relief at the present time. A report of this meeting appearing in “Justice,” designated those who failed to be charmed by Mr. Burrows’ utopian illusions, “impossibilists” ; and the honest reporter was so “amused” by the criticism that he appears to have forgotten that Mr. Burrows was twice challenged to debate the unemployed question, but made specious excuses and declined. The lecturer, however, less discreet than his reporter, asked how he would classify one who, proclaiming the class-war, votes for capitalist candidates, emphatically pronounced such person a fool. Mr. Burrows should be more careful of his public utterances in Camberwell! Vive la Commune!
W. G. Killick

Party Notes (1905)

Party News from the March 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The first Annual Conference of The Socialist Party of Great Britain will be held at the Communist Club, 107, Charlotte Street. London, W., on Thursday, 20th April, 1905, commencing at 7 p.m., and on Friday 21st April, when the proceedings will be resumed at 9 a.m. The constitution of the Conference is defined by Rules 22, 23, and 24.

*  *  *

During March there will be two meetings of the Executive Council, viz., Saturday 4th, at 3 p.m., and Tuesday 21st, at 7 p.m. Usual place. 

*  *  *

A meeting of Speakers and prospective Speakers will take place on Saturday, March 4th, at the Communist Club. Several important matters in connection with the forthcoming open-air propaganda will be discussed. Time —7.30 p.m.

*  *  *

Members and others are requested to note that, a vote of the Party having been taken, H. J. Hawkins was on February 4th, 1905, expelled from membership of The Socialist Party of Great Britain.


*  *  *

Notification has been received from the International Socialist Bureau that V. Serwy has resigned the Secretaryship. Camille Huysmans has been appointed to the position, and the offices of the Bureau are now at the Maison du Peuple, Brussels. 


*  *  *


Will Branch Secretaries and members note that I no longer reside at Birnam Road? All communications should be forwarded to the Central Office, Communist Club, 107, Charlotte Street, London, W.
Con Lehane.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Exhibition Review: '1917 - Romanovs and Revolution' (2017)

Exhibition Review from the August 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Hermitage Amsterdam is a branch of the massive State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, and mainly displays works from its parent museum. This centenary year sees an exhibition ‘1917: Romanovs and Revolution’, which continues till mid-September. As might be expected, there is a lot of emphasis on Tsar Nicholas II, his family and his own political and military weaknesses and miscalculations. There are display panels, newsreels, paintings, original documents and historic objects (such as one of the swords used to execute the royal family).

For the rich and powerful, St Petersburg in the nineteenth century was a luxurious city, with shopping arcades and Art Nouveau-influenced designs, so it was culturally part of Europe. But the rest of Russia, with its vast impoverished peasant population, was completely different. The Russian press was tightly censored and it was left to poets and novelists to express new social and political ideas, often at risk to themselves; Dostoyevsky spent ten years in Siberia from 1849.

Newspapers were forbidden to mention the deaths of hundreds of people in a crowd disturbance and stampede at Khodynka a few days after the Tsar’s coronation in 1896. Over a hundred demonstrators were shot on Bloody Sunday in 1905; the Tsar and government responded with an anti-semitic campaign. The First World War saw the Winter Palace used as a military hospital; and the Fabergé company shifted from making expensive jewellery to manufacturing army and medical equipment for the war.

The February Revolution was initially sparked by protests on International Women’s Day, and led fairly quickly to the Tsar’s abdication, after which his family were imprisoned and eventually executed in July 1918; recent research has identified bodies discovered in the area as those of the Tsar and his family. The exhibition has relatively little material on the Bolsheviks and their takeover of power. There is a reference to ‘Marxism-Leninism’ and an astonishing claim that Lenin’s ideas were ‘far more radical’ than those of Marx, but there is no explanation of what this is supposed to mean, let alone any justification.

Also in Amsterdam, the Nieuwe Kerk was housing the 2017 World Press Photo exhibition, containing some unforgettable and tragic images, mostly of war and refugees. It closed on 9 July, but it will be displayed in many other locations, including the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh from 4 to 26 August. Or look at www.worldpressphoto.org to see many of the photos.        
Paul Bennett