Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Champions of Labour! (1929)

From the January 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

After continually telling us recently that the Labour Party is a third Capitalist Party, we are somewhat amused to find the Communists in the new edition of “Communism is Commonsense” giving us the following:
   Originally we claimed the right to belong to and work in the Labour Party merely because we were a part of the working-class movement, and the Labour Party, formed as it was mainly from the trade unions on a free federal basis, was intended by its founders as a common organisation for the whole workers’ movement. But to-day we demand affiliation to the Labour Party, and our members in the trade unions try to get their union to support Communist affiliation, for a wider political reason, viz., that only the Communists can effectively lead the workers against the reactionary leadership of the Labour Party. The workers in the Labour Party need our Party to champion their cause against MacDonald and Co. (p. 23).
“Only Communists can lead the workers” ! ! considering the brilliant array of leaders of Communism pushed into jobs and afterwards denounced for being worse than the other leaders.

What the workers want is knowledge, not leaders. What the Communists in the Labour Party want is the leaders’ jobs.

The Censor in Australia. (1929)

From the February 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Socialist Standard" Barred.
Mr. E. M. Higgins, a contributor to the Communist journal, “The Labour Monthly” (January, 1929), gives an account of the prohibition imposed by the Australian Federal Government on the importation of various publications.

The Australian Minister of Customs drew up, in December, 1927, and submitted to the Federal Parliament a list of 128 publications which are “prohibited, seized and forfeited.” During 1928 some 40 publications were added to the list. It includes such works as “The Communist Manifesto,” De Leon’s “Two Pages from Roman History,” all publications of the British Communist Party, many works which Mussolini’s Government allows to circulate in Italy. Among the list of English periodicals are the "Labour Monthly.” "The Worker,” "Worker’s Life” (Communist Party), and the Socialist Standard.

The prohibition operates under the Customs Act, which empowers the authorities to exclude the import of certain goods by proclamation. "Seditious” literature has been "proclaimed,” under a penalty of £100.

Such treatment of the Socialist Standard is not, of course, new. Export was entirely prohibited from this country during the War, and we have also since the War been excluded from New Zealand.

While such exclusion naturally interferes with our sales, it is obviously useless for the object the Government has in view, i.e., the prevention of the spread of Socialist ideas. Capitalism, wherever it exists, inevitably leads to the growth of Socialist ideas among the workers.

The work of active propaganda for Socialism can be carried on just as well by native-born Australians as by foreigners. Socialist ideas are not confined to one country nor are they dependent on the written word of foreign residents. Our comrades in Australia are well able to organise their own propaganda, and are doing so with promising prospects. 
Edgar Hardcastle

"Capital," by Karl Marx: A Review. (1929)

Book Review from the March 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

A New Translation of Marx’s famous work, "Capital,” by Eden & Cedar Paul, from the Fourth German Edition, the final edition revised by Engels. Published by George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., Museum Street, London, W.C.l. Price 12/6 net.

The first volume of Karl Marx’s masterly analysis of capitalist production, entitled “Capital,” was published in German in 1867. In the preface he stated that other volumes were in preparation, and outlined the portions of the subject with which each would deal. Unfortunately he did not live long enough to see these latter volumes through the press, and it was left for his life-long friend and co-worker, Frederick Engels, to construct volumes 2 and 3 out of the mass of material left by Marx, aided to a very large extent by his own great knowledge both of the subject itself and of Marx’s views and intentions.

A second edition of volume 1 appeared in German in 1873 and Marx was preparing the materials for a third edition in 1883 when he died. Engels saw this third edition through the press, with such alterations as Marx had indicated in the manuscript, in November, 1883.

It was from this edition that the first translation of volume 1 into English was made in 1886 by Mr. Samuel Moore and Dr. Aveling, under the general editorship of Engels (who took responsibility for the work as a whole) and published by Swan, Sonnenschein & Co., of London. A fourth edition in German was published by Engels in 1890. In the meantime, Engels had published Volume 2 in 1885 (a second edition in 1893), and Volume 3 appeared in 1894. From the materials left behind by Marx and Engels, Karl Kautsky has published three volumes under the title “Theories of Surplus Value.”

The Sonnenschein edition has been out of print for some years and now a new translation from the fourth German edition has been prepared by Eden and Cedar Paul, and published by George Allen & Unwin, Ltd.

For some reason not easy to discover, these publishers have gone out of their way in a stupid attempt to disparage the translation supervised by Engels. On the paper cover to the book they state:—
  This great work has hitherto been available only in a somewhat unliterary translation made from the third German edition, which was not the final edition.
What is “literary” or “unliterary” may be a matter of opinion, but we are quite certain that the majority of readers will hold that the present translation—as far as comparisons can be made—is no way superior, if as good as, the Sonnenschein edition. Thus the use of the ugly word “machinofacture” in place of “modern industry” will hardly seem an improvement to many. Neither is the word “febrile” in any way superior to the word “feverish” as used by Engels, while to talk of the “spiritual” wants of the workers (p. 232), where Engels says “intellectual” is in contradiction to Marx’s essential views. And it may be remarked that the Sonnenschein edition was translated from the latest German edition available at the time.

Neither is it entirely true to say that only the Sonnenschein edition has been available in English. For, if it is agreed that the American language is English, then Kerr & Co., of Chicago, published a translation of the third German edition “revised and amplified according to the fourth German edition by Ernest Untermann," in 1906 that has been on sale here. Untermann also translated the second and third volumes of “Capital" into English. Therefore the matter, if not a word for word translation of the fourth German edition, has been available here. Following the Russian fashion of numeration, we may perhaps call it the three and a half edition!

The chief additions in the fourth edition as compared with the third are the footnote on Bimetallism (p. 126); the footnote on the Factory and Workshops Act (p. 546), four pages of text (642-645) on “Surplus Value Transformed into Capital," and three pages of text (691-694) on “Law of Capitalist Accumulation." The latter section is of special interest because, in addition to treating of credit, it deals with a detail of development—centralisation of capital into the hands of a few—that Marx had been accused of failing to foresee by certain Fabian critics. 

While the present translation is a new one direct from the fourth German edition, it is interesting to note the translators' statement in their preface :—
   Of course Moore & Aveling’s translation, which appeared in 1886, and J.B.’s translation of the first nine chapters (Bellamy Library), have not been ignored; the former, in particular, deserved close study, as it was published under the auspices of Frederick Engels . . . .  In the present version we have relied throughout upon the definitive German text as final arbiter.
It may be mentioned that “J. B.’s" translation is a very poor one and was severely criticised by Engels when it appeared.

The translators are to be congratulated on one decision. “Capital" is a book intended primarily for working-class readers, the majority of whom have little or no opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of foreign languages. Marx’s work abounds in quotations from Greek, Italian, French, etc., that form stumbling-blocks to the average worker. The translators decided to give all these quotations in English without unduly burdening the volume with the original languages, a course which, in our opinion, was the right one to take.

Some printer’s errors occur that should receive attention when the next edition is being prepared. On page 15 the word "twice" is, of course, redundant. The word "being," page 49 (sixth line from bottom) is a misprint for "bring." In the second paragraph, page 102, the word “ diminishes " should be replaced by "increases." On page 391 the description of one of the mechanical powers as an "oblique" plane is incorrect, the proper term being “inclined" plane. The word "not" on page 437 is a misprint for “now."

This new volume, with its black cover and gold lettering, has a striking appearance and is well bound and printed, but one wishes at times that the paper had been a little more opaque, as in several places the print from the other side of the sheet shows through. The price of 12s. 6d., though, unfortunately, high for a worker’s pocket, is certainly cheap for a technical work as books are priced to-day.

But the importance of its contents and the vast store of information it contains renders it a volume well worthy of some sacrifice on the part of a worker to obtain a copy.
Jack Fitzgerald

Love Your Enemies. (1929)

From the April 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Was Jesus a Communist ? I don’t know, search me! Bernard Shaw and the Rev. “Dick” Sheppard say that he was. Prebendary Gough and the Very Rev Dean Inge, of St. Pauls, on the other hand will not stand for this. In fact one could almost say that the latter gentleman in particular, regards Communists as very unnice people. In the course of an article in the Evening Standard (13. 3. 29) entitled “ Should Blood Sports be Banned?” our kindly and Very Rev. Dean becomes almost irrev.:—
  There is the question of field sports and big game shooting, I have never killed anything target than a wasp, and that was in self-defence, and it would give me no pleasure to shoot any noxious animals, except Communists.
Turn the other cheek ? Well, that might do for people with less cheek!

The I.L.P. and the Election. (1929)

From the May 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the “New Leader” (26th April, 1929) the Chairman of the I.L.P., Mr. James Maxton, M.P., issues a special appeal for funds in order that the I.L.P. may play its part “in the achievement of Socialism.” Surrounding the appeal are the photographs of some of the I.L.P. candidates, one of them being Miss Jennie Lee, who was recently elected as Labour M.P. for North Lanark. She was the I.L.P. nominee, and was financed by the I.L.P. It is interesting, therefore, to notice that she played her part “in the achievement of Socialism,” by standing for election on a Programme which contains no reference, direct or indirect, to Socialism. It does not mention the word Socialism, and does not contain any reference to the I.L.P.’s latest programme—“Socialism in our Time.” It does not mention the I.L.P. nor Miss Lee’s membership of that body, and this in spite of the fact that they financed her and were responsible for her candidature. Like every other member of the I.L.P. who succeeds in getting into Parliament, as Labour M.P. Miss Lee was prevented by the Labour Party from running as a Socialist candidate, even if she wished to do so. She was compelled to stand as Labour candidate on a programme of reforms acceptable to the Labour Party, a party of which Mr. Maxton wrote only last year that its programme “must be regarded not as a Socialist programme but an enlightened Liberal programme.” (See one case by A. J. Cook and J. Maxton, M.P. Page 11). Mr. Maxton added:—
  If every measure in the Labour Party Programme was carried, then we would not have Socialism, but rationalised capitalism. (Ibid, p. 17).
Thus does the I.L.P. win illusory “victories” for “Socialism.”

The reason is obvious, and was frankly admitted by Dr. Alfred Salter, member of the I.L.P. and Labour M.P. for Bermondsey, in a letter to the “New Leader” (12th October, 1928). He said:—
   There is not a single constituency in the country where there is a majority of convinced Socialist electors. We have plenty of districts, such as Bermondsey, where there is an overwhelming Labour majority, but it is a sheer delusion to think that the greater number of these people understand what we mean by Socialism. They nether understand it nor want it.
The only way to secure the return of Socialist candidates on a Socialist programme is to win the working class over to Socialism. Instead of doing this the I.L.P. devotes its resources to the preaching of reforms and deludes itself that it is “achieving Socialism” by securing the return of Labour M.P.’s on the votes of non-Socialists. Only the Socialist Party devotes its energies to the propagation of Socialist principles, and refrains from securing Parliamentary seats under false pretences.
Edgar Hardcastle

Saklatvala on Socialism (1929)

Pamphlet Review from the June 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Communist Party of Great Britain have recently published a small pamphlet entitled "Socialism and Labouralism," which is an "edited" report of a speech delivered by Mr. Saklatvala in the House of Commons on March 21st, 1928.

Judging by the speech as a whole, Mr. Saklatvala is either ignorant as to the meaning of Socialism, or is prepared to withhold his knowledge from the workers. Let us take one or two points from the speech. On page 5 of the pamphlet he says:—
  It may be possible without at all disturbing the Capitalist character of society and without coming near Socialism, to extend the ownership of any particular enterprise to all the citizens of a country.
It may be possible, but it is difficult to see how it is possible to extend ownership to all under Capitalism, which is based on ownership by a class. One of the most patent features of Capitalism is that, as the system develops wealth becomes concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, the smaller Capitalists being thrust by competition, etc., into the ranks of the workers, whose numbers become greater and greater in relation to the numbers of the Capitalists. A relatively few people now own the wealth of society as a result of Capitalist development. How in the name of commonsense, then, can the workers have the opportunity to own more whilst the processes that make them non-owners are still retained?

An explanation of this contradiction is given on page 6 :—
   The Post Office is private enterprise, but the shareholders are all the citizens of the nation. . . . That although there is no Socialism about a Post Office in a capitalist country, there is certainly the compensation that the shareholders are so expanded that everybody within the State stands to lose or gain by its losses or profits.
Here we have the familiar assumption that the workers are concerned with taxation, and are therefore interested in the rise and fall of the revenue of the Post Office, or other “nationalised ” concerns. The statement shows a complete lack of understanding of the economic position of the workers in society. Actually, the workers as a whole own nothing but their working power, which they are forced to sell to their Capitalist masters in order to live. The price the workers receive for this labour power is called salary or wages and, like all other commodities, is based on the cost of production. In other words, they receive in the long run a bare sufficiency in wages to reproduce the energy which has been expended in the production of wealth for the profit of their masters. Without wages the workers could not exist to carry on wealth production under Capitalism. We see, therefore, that the high cost of living must be accompanied by higher wages, while, inversely, a fall in the cost of living brings about a fall in wages. Of course, wages will tend to fall in those industries where the supply of "labour-power” is greater than the demand, and a rise in wages is the almost inevitable result of a scarcity of "labour-power.” Here again the strength or weakness of the workers' economic organisations may assist somewhat in determining the measure of gain or loss to the workers under these conditions. But these fluctuations in wages are the effect of “supply" and "demand,” and they do not affect the basis (i.e., the cost of production) which determines the wages of the worker. It will be seen, then, that the incidence of taxation, direct or indirect, cannot permanently influence the condition of the workers, and is of importance only to their Capitalist masters and Capitalist politicians like, Mr. Saklatvala, who, unthinkingly, pander to the political ignorance of the workers.

Another typical example of confusion is to be found on pp. 6 and 7 of the pamphlet :
   What is the real problem before the country as between Socialism and Capitalism? . . .  It is a question of overthrowing the system of private-ownership and introducing public ownership.
But what is "public" ownership? Mr. Saklatvala does not explain. The Post Office, Municipal "Trams," Borough Council Houses and other national or municipal services, are generally regarded by the workers as examples of "public” ownership, because of their pathetic belief that they pay rates and taxes for the upkeep of these concerns. A survey of the list of holders of "Government Consols" and "Municipal Stock," however, would soon shatter this illusion. There is outstanding on the Post Office services a debt of £68 millions and on the L.C.C. a debt of about £120 millions. It is the investors who hold and receive interest on these loans who are the owners of what Mr. Saklatvala calls "public" property.

The Socialist rendering of the last sentence of the passage quoted would be as follows:—"It is a question of overthrowing the system of private ownership, and instituting a system based on Common Ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments of wealth production and distribution.” The substitution of this sentence for the other would produce the change from a foggy abstraction to a crystal clear definition of object.

Again on p. 8 Mr. Saklatvala reveals his ignorance as to what Socialism implies:—
   If we were to apply the real principles of Socialism to the coal mines, the first consideration would be to secure the control of the miners themselves over their own industry.
Substitute "syndicalism” for “Socialism” and this passage would read all right! To bring forward once again this old exploded nonsense of "Mines for the Miners,” "Printing Machines for the Printers,” "Railways for Railwayworkers,” "Sewers for the Sewermen” is surely intended as a joke in these days, when it is so evident that all industries are interdependent and production is social in character. Only the replacement of private ownership by social (or common) ownership can harmonize the relations of wealth production and ownership.

On page 9 we find the amazing assertion, without an attempt to offer any evidence in its support, that
there is one country which hat achieved Socialism. 
Presumably Russia? If so, then it would be necessary to suppose that under Socialism we would still have a wages system, still have peasant proprietorship of land, still have buying and selling, still have an owning and a non-owning class, and still have an ever-increasing army of unemployed workers. Russia has all of these luxuries in abundance! The truth is, unfortunately, that Russia, far from achieving Socialism, which involves the abolition of all of these features of Capitalism, is a very tardy entrant into the ranks of countries seeking development on Capitalist lines.

References to Capitalist society being "unjust” (p. 12), and to "equal remuneration” (p. 14) provide further evidence of "Communist” confusion. "Justice” and "Injustice” are purely relative terms decided by those in power. The Capitalist class are in power to-day, and therefore it is “just” for them to exploit the workers. When the workers have gained control of power (i.e., Political Control) they will abolish this particular form of "justice.” It is the RIGHT OF POWER which decides all questions of "justice ” and "injustice." As “wages” will no longer exist under Socialism, and wealth will be distributed and apportioned according to the varying needs of members of society, the question of "equal remuneration ” becomes ridiculous.

In the introductory note to the pamphlet the C.P. state that in order to ensure wide distribution of the pamphlet at one penny it has been necessary to abridge portions of Mr. Saklatvala’s speech. It is interesting to note that one of the excisions deemed necessary is the following admission regarding Russia:—
  M. Stalin’s argument that, deplorable as the industrial development of Russia is at the present time, the needs and requirements of the people of Russia make them dependent upon other countries for manufactured articles which cannot be supplied in Russia owing to the backwardness and the apathy of the working classes, who have not yet developed as far as a Socialist revolution.
We suspect that space was not the real reason for leaving out this passage.

Many absurdities are to be found in the pamphlet, but enough examples have been shewn to afford an explanation as to why our task of educating the workers in Socialist knowledge is so difficult and to demonstrate clearly that the Communist Party is a hindrance and not a help in the struggle of the workers to achieve their emancipation.
E. J. M.

Friday, September 29, 2017

A World Without Commodities (2017)

From the September 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

In explaining the conditions under which commodity production and money exist, Marx helps us understand the characteristics of a new society in which they would no longer exist. 

A new society without commodity production, money, and markets? A society where production is carried out solely to meet our human needs, with all the social wealth held in common. Why is this idea still so widely ridiculed as a utopian daydream, even by those who are deeply dissatisfied with the ‘status quo’? ‘That sounds nice but it’ll never work’—is the predictable response we hear. 

It seems to our critics that we socialists are offering nothing more than wishful thinking. But the notion that commodities, money, profit, private property, wages, etc. would no longer exist in a socialist world is actually premised on understanding why such things exist under capitalism in the first place. Once we have understood the why (and how) of such economic forms, it becomes possible to imagine the social conditions in which they would no longer have any room to exist.

This crucial relationship between understanding the fundamentals of capitalism and grasping the essence of socialism as its alternative points to the continued importance of Karl Marx’s Capital, particularly its first volume, which was first published 150 years ago. Even though Marx—as many have pointed out—does not provide a ‘blueprint’ for socialism in his book, his critique of capitalism brings the characteristics of that new society into view by clarifying the fundamental boundaries and limitations of capitalism as one historical ‘mode of production’ among others that had existed or might exist in the future.

A short article like this cannot cover all the ways that Capital traces the boundaries of capitalism beyond which lies a new and unprecedented society, so here we will limit ourselves to the crucial first chapter in which Marx analyses the commodity, which he describes as the ‘elementary form’ of wealth under the capitalist mode of production.

Use-value and exchange-value
Today the terms ‘commodity’ and ‘product’ have become almost synonymous because we are so accustomed to the reality of production for the market, but Marx clearly distinguishes between the two. He uses the term ‘commodity’ to indicate products that are produced for exchange, so that they not only have a ‘use-value’ that meets a particular human need (as any product does), but also an ‘exchange-value’ on the market.

Under capitalism, the vast majority of products take the commodity form, as Marx notes in the opening sentence of Capital: ‘The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as “an immense accumulation of commodities”’.

There is ‘wealth’ in any mode of production, which is to say material products that meet human needs, but only when capitalism has taken hold of a society do the vast majority of those products take the form of ‘commodities’ bought and sold on the market. Although commodity production existed under some of the pre-capitalist modes of production, it was subordinate to the dominant production relations in which the products of human labour did not take the form of commodities.

And even under capitalism we can see some examples of products of labour that do not take the commodity form. The tomatoes grown in a family’s garden for its members’ own consumption, for instance, would have the use-value of satisfying their hunger, but no exchange-value under those circumstances.

At the end of the first section of Chapter 1, Marx sums up the distinction between product and commodity, noting that to produce commodities one must not only produce use-values, but use-values for others or social use-values, and that these useful things must not only be produced for others but also transferred to them by means of exchange. He notes, in contrast, how the ‘quit-rent-corn’ and ‘tithe-corn’ produced by the mediaeval peasant for the feudal lord and parson, respectively, are not commodities, even though produced for others, because there is no exchange between the two sides.

The distinction between product and commodity (and between use-value and exchange-value) is not at all difficult to grasp, but it has great significance to the case for socialism: it reminds us that there is nothing eternal about production for the market, which has, in fact, been the exception, not the rule, over the course of human history.

‘Social relations between things’
Marx explains the conditions under which products take the commodity form, writing that, ‘as a general rule, articles of utility become commodities, only because they are products of the labour of private individuals or groups of individuals who carry on their work independently of each other’; adding that these ‘producers do not come into social contact with each other until they exchange their products’. Since these private individuals or groups operate apart from each other, with an eye only to the market, it is only in the act of exchange that the ‘specific social character of each producer’s labour . . . show[s] itself’.

This state of affairs is quite different from the examples raised earlier of the gardening family or the medieval peasant. In such cases, the social relations between those involved in production and distribution are clear from the outset, rather than being established by means of exchange. The family members already form a unit, just as the (subordinate) relationship between peasant and feudal lord is clear to begin with, and the products of labour produced under those conditions are then distributed in line with those specific relations

Instead of ‘direct social relations between individuals at work’, what we have under capitalism, as a system of generalised commodity production, are ‘material relations between persons and social relations between things’. This creates what Marx calls the ‘fetishism of commodities’, where ‘definite social relations between men’ assume ‘in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things’.

An overriding characteristic of capitalism as a society of generalised commodity production is the roundabout way in which production is carried out. Instead of the members of society directly producing useful things to meet their own individual and common needs, we have production carried out for the market. And only those goods that are successfully sold can meet those human needs and constitute a part of the aggregate social labour. This is an almost ridiculously complex way to organise production.

Yet those who take this system for granted dismiss a more straightforward and transparent approach to production and distribution as infeasible. Part of the reason is the notion that without the ‘invisible hand’ of the market to regulate production and exchange, a society would bog down in hopeless inefficiency or descend into the despotism of a select group dictating production and consumption. But really it is the capitalist system itself, as a system of commodity production, that is mired in inefficiency and inequality.

As already noted, objects of utility can only meet human needs under this system if they are successfully sold—otherwise they will rot or rust on the shelf. On top of this, society is unequally divided between a small minority of those who own and operate the means of production (whether as individuals, corporate directors, or state bureaucrats), on the one hand, and the overwhelming majority of workers obliged to sell their labour-power to those owners in return for a wage.

But even the ruling class under capitalism is not the master of the market economy. Marx explains in chapter one that the exchange of commodities is fundamentally determined by the labour time socially necessary to produce them, rather than being under the conscious control of human beings. In this way, the economy manifests itself as a force of nature, whose behaviour is far more difficult to anticipate than the weather. We live in a social world that is beyond human control, even though production is carried out by human beings.

Getting along without commodities
Near the end of chapter one, Marx contrasts the absurdly complex and roundabout system of capitalist commodity production with other ways to organise production, where products would not take the commodity form. These are some of the most illuminating passages in all of Capital regarding the possibility of a new society beyond capitalism.

Marx begins, tongue-in-cheek, by looking at the fictional case of Robinson Crusoe, who is producing for his own needs, using the resources available on his island. He must do a ‘little useful work of various sorts’ to satisfy his wants, but he knows that ‘his labour, whatever its form, is but different modes of human labour’. ‘All the relations of Robinson and the objects that form this wealth of his own creation are here so simple and clear as to be intelligible without exertion.' None of the objects of utility that Robinson creates would confront him as commodities, since there would be no need for any sort of exchange.

The second example Marx raises is production in Europe in the Middle Ages. What ‘characterises the social relations of production’ here is ‘personal dependence’. That is, ‘instead of independent man, we find everyone dependent, serfs and lords, vassals and suzerains, laymen and clergy’. But precisely because these social relations of personal dependence exist from the outset and form the ‘ground-work of society’, Marx explains, ‘there is no necessity for labour and its products to assume a fantastic form different from their reality’; rather ‘they take the shape . . . of services in kind and payments in kind’. The social relations between the individuals engaged in production ‘are not disguised under the shape of social relations between the products of labour’.

In his next example, Marx looks at production in the case of ‘labour in common or directly associated labour’, taking as his example the ‘patriarchal industries of a peasant family’ that produces some articles for their home use’. ‘The labour-power of each individual . . . operates in this case merely as a definite portion of the whole labour-power of the family’, much like the example raised above of a family growing tomatoes in its garden. The aim of production is to meet the needs of the family members, rather than supply the market, so once again we are dealing with simple products or objects of utility—not commodities.

If we expand the case of Robinson or the family to a social scale, we have in essence the production relations in a new socialist world. This is what Marx sketches in his next example, where he describes an ‘association of free men’ who are ‘carrying on their work with the means of production in common’ so that the ‘labour-power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labour-power of the community’.

The only difference in the characteristics of labour in this society with the example of Robinson on his island, Marx explains, is that now everything is social instead of individual. One portion of what is produced would be ‘consumed by the members as means of subsistence’, while another portion would serve as ‘fresh means of production’ and thus remain social.

There is no need in this society for its members to confront each other as individual commodity producers or to first come into a relationship via exchange because they are already in a relationship from the outset as the common holders of the wealth and resources of society, much like the ties between family members in Marx’s earlier example. In socialism, therefore, the ‘social relations of the individual producers’ are ‘perfectly simple and intelligible’ and there is no need for commodities or money to exist.

Here we have only scratched the surface of how Marx’s analysis of capitalism can stimulate an understanding of the characteristics of socialism as a commodity- and money-free world. The better we understand the essential characteristics of capitalism and how they determine the social problems we face, the clearer will be our image of socialism as a realistic alternative and means to overcoming those problems. 
Michael Schauerte

The Strike and the Vote (1929)

From the July 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Although Socialists do not exaggerate the importance of a General Election, much amusement and instruction may be derived from a consideration of the antics of the various parties involved. At the time of writing the Conservative leaders are endeavouring to insinuate into the minds of the workers that their position would have been much more favourable had several millions of them not participated in the so-called general strike of 1926.
  That Strike was directly responsible for the loss of trade and consequent failure of the unemployed to evaporate; the Labour leaders were responsible for the Strike, and have thus contributed to the sufferings of the workers.
Thus argue the Tories.

Of course, the leaders of the Labour Party resent this attack upon their respectability.
  Us responsible for the Strike? Perish the thought! It was the wicked Tory Government which provoked it by refusing to continue negotiations.
The argument never goes beneath the surface. It would not suit the interests of either party that it should do so. The strike was a fiasco from the workers' viewpoint. It certainly did leave their position worse than before; but neither Tories nor Labour leaders are concerned with pointing out why the fiasco occurred.

Each party disclaims responsibility, in order to retain the confidence of their electoral supporters, the majority of whom are members of the working class; and ignores the fact that this very confidence was a contributory factor to the overwhelming defeat which the workers sustained. The rank and file trusted their leaders on the General Council, and the Council trusted Baldwin.

The strike arose, as most strikes do, out of the antagonistic interests of the workers and their exploiters. It was the belated reply to a prolonged process of wage reductions which, in turn, followed upon the collapse of the demand for war materials, and the flooding of the labour market with discharged soliders, munition workers, etc. The argument that the strike is the cause of the aggravated misery of the workers is thus a clear case of putting the cart before the horse.

That the workers failed to accomplish their objects in striking (which were modest enough) was due to the superior organisation of the master class, the better understanding that class has of its material interests, and its grip of the political power of the State. These factors were clearly in evidence throughout the episode.

The workers are not yet organised on the basis of their class; they have a very imperfect knowledge of their position, and their political activity is restricted to supporting different groups of leaders. The steady deterioration of their conditions of life is ample evidence of the futility of this policy, and clear proof of the need for Socialist knowledge, organisation and action.

The open champions of the master class can afford to indulge in gloating over the helplessness of their victims, because they have taken the measure of their pretended opponents. The attitude of the Labour leaders during the war, their readiness to take office in 1924, their grovelling dependence upon negotiations prior to the strike, all testify to the weakness in the workers' ranks.

The Socialist Party exists for the purpose of replacing that weakness with strength; it seeks to substitute knowledge for ignorance, organisation for chaos, a steady class advance for sectional rout. Of what value are the strike and the vote in this process?

Historically, the strike preceded the vote as a weapon of the workers. In the early days of capitalism it was the only means they possessed of placing any limit to their oppression by their capitalist masters. By jointly withholding their commodity, i.e., their power to labour, they managed to obtain its value in the shape of a subsistence wage. They showed their employers that it was as easy to play for nothing as to work for nothing. In doing this, however, they exhausted the value of the strike.

They could not stop the onward march of the machine. Where, here and there, they eliminated competition between themselves, and secured a higher subsistence level, there stepped in the mechanical force which rendered many of them superfluous, and brought wages down again to a point consistent with normal profit-making.

True, so long as the wages and profits system lasts no section of the workers can afford to abandon the strike, but it is equally true that the strike holds out no possibility of solving the problem of working-class servitude. Many of our political and industrial opponents claim that the “day-to-day struggle,” i.e., the succession of strikes and lock-outs, leads of itself to the workers’ emancipation, and they point to the widening of the circle of the strike as evidence.

The fiasco of the “general” strike refutes the argument. Then, if ever, it should have been proved sound; but instead of an advance, we witnessed a demoralising retreat; not even an orderly one, with the enemy held at any point, but wholesale rout.

So long as the workers in the main regard their affairs from the so-called “immediate” standpoint, a continuance of the rout is inevitable. The nationalisation of industry under the control of the financiers, knocks the last nail in the coffin of orthodox trades unionism as a fighting force; and “minority” trades unionism is in no better case.

The “immediate” interests of the workers are invariably special or sectional interests. A given rate of wages or set of hours has a different value in different industries and areas. Even the Communists have at last awakened to this fact sufficiently to “demand” a six-hours day for miners, as distinct from seven for other trades; but it is clear that no general programme of immediate demands can take into account the total variations in the workers’ conditions. To have any real use the demands of any section of the workers for modifications of their conditions under capitalism must be framed by the section itself.

The political party of the workers can only express the general interests; the interests the workers have in common, irrespective of local or industrial variations;, in other words, the interests of their class as a whole. As such it stands for solidarity between the different sections and the rendering of mutual support wherever possible in the defensive warfare waged by means of strikes. Its special function,, however, is to point out the limited value of this warfare, and to emphasize the fact that the fight carried on along these lines only is a losing one.

So long as the workers are content to struggle for a subsistence wage only, that is the most they will obtain, with their security growing ever less. The Socialist Party summons them to struggle for possession of the means of life. Instead of voting sectionally every now and again for a cessation of work, we counsel the workers to vote as a class for the abolition of the system whereby they are compelled to work for the profit of a few, the present owners of the means of life.

Instead of voting first for this party and then for that in the effort to secure the improvement which strikes have failed to achieve, we call upon them to organise to obtain control of the political machinery, which has served their masters so effectively.

In Queensland (Australia) the workers have recently turned out a “Labour” Government merely in order to put a “Nationalist” Party in its place, thus exploding the fallacy recently held in Communist circles that the return of a Labour Party to power was the essential preliminary to the success of the Communists. The pursuit of red-herrings merely leads to apathy, re-action and despair.

Socialist education is the only solvent of working-class difficulties. When the workers realise that, in spite of all the differences in their respective conditions, they are one as slaves, then only will they feel the need and possibility of emancipation, and act accordingly.
Eric Boden

Mr. Wheatley's Lapse (1929)

From the August 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Strange Story of a Little Child
During 1924 Mr. Wheatley, M.P., was Minister of Health in the Labour Cabinet, described by the "New Leader" as being "to an overwhelming extent an I.L.P. Government" (see "New Leader” of February 8, '24). In the present Labour Government Mr. Wheatley has been supplanted by the Right Hon. Arthur Greenwood, M.P.

Speaking in the House on July 15, Mr. Wheatley found occasion to criticise his successor and, in passing, to pat himself on the back for his Housing Act of 1924. He said :—
   The one piece of Socialistic legislation that has been placed on the Statute Book is the Act of 1924. Members opposite have said that, as far as they can manage it, it will be a long time before there is an increase in the family. We must, therefore, go on with this one little Socialist child while they control the House of Commons. (Hansard, 15 July, 1929.)
Those who know of Mr. Wheatley’s political associations and activities, or have seen his Act, will hardly need to be told that the description of the child is grossly inaccurate.

Young Wheatley’s capitalist parentage stands out in every feature, and the birth certificate bearing the father’s signature and dated June, 1924, certifies to this effect. It is, moreover, worded quite emphatically, because the father had had to repudiate certain malicious assertions on the point made by a man called Jix.

Speaking in the House on June 3, ’24 (see Hansard of that date) Mr. Wheatley said :— 
   I notice that the right hon. Member for Twickenham, in criticising my proposals the other day, said, “This is real Socialism! ” I can compliment my right hon. Friend on many things, but I cannot say that he is good judge of Socialism . . . The proposals which I am submitting are real capitalism—an attempt to patch up, in the interests of humanity, a capitalist ordered society.
"Why, then,” the reader may well ask, "does Mr. Wheatley so malign his own five-year-old son?” The truth is, perhaps, that the father, like his friend Jix, is not a good judge of Socialism and cannot be held fully responsible. Certainly, the real fault lies with the mother, a Labour person, calling herself I.L.P., who has time and time again been found misrepresenting herself as a Socialist party. This leads many uninformed persons to believe that the progeny of the Labour Party which the I.L.P. perambulates about are Socialist children, whereas in fact they are only the same little brats as before, dressed up in new clothes. I.L.P. is, however, fairly smart, and it is not often that she allows herself to be caught in the very act of kidnapping capitalist children like this and attempting to pass them off merely by dressing them up differently. She and her 200 members in Parliament are engaged in the business of administering capitalism. Mr. Wheatley, while still standing in some rather uneasy relationship with the Labour firm, has lost his previous lucrative position as producer of capitalist Housing Acts, and in his desire for revenge tries to embarrass his former employers and their new Minister of Health by disseminating these untrue stories about his own favourite son. It can therefore be stated quite definitely that this child of Wheatley and the I.L.P. was born and remains a capitalist child. It has not in the meantime suffered a strange transformation as his callous parent pretends.

All of which goes to show the value of birth certificates when parents are so forgetful or dishonest.
Edgar Hardcastle

Tory Gold in Battersea: An Ancient Gibe (1929)

Party News from the September 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

It was our intention, as we stated before the General Election, to run a candidate in North Battersea provided the necessary financial support were forthcoming. Outdoor and indoor meetings were held making known our intention, but when nomination day came the minimum amount necessary had not been secured.

The former M.P. (Mr. Saklatvala) lost his seat because, although he is a reformist politician, he is not a popular politician. Whether it was as a result of gloomy disappointment at the election results, one cannot tell, but supporters of the ex-member for North Battersea have been trying to spread the view that our adopted candidate was intended to conjure money from Tory pockets. This took the form of a question at an open-air meeting addressed by the present writer, and was as follows : “Is it not a fact that Commander Marsden offered to pay Barker’s election expenses?” Now of all the things ever said about us, the implication in that question is about the silliest, but when the speaker replied to the question in the negative, he was called a liar by another member of the audience. It has since been established that, in spite of the denial, the statement is being given currency by persons who, it seems, do not relish the idea of a Socialist candidate putting up for the first time in the constituency. We therefore declare here that the statement is entirely untrue. No such offer of financial assistance was made by the Tories or anyone else, and if money were offered from doubtful sources it would be refused by the Socialist Party as it has been refused in the past when that situation has arisen.

While on the subject of the North Battersea election, we notice with interest that the Communist Party, who pleaded poverty as their reason for not contesting more constituencies, were able to spend on Mr. Saklatvala’s contest £845 4s. 8d., which is hardly less than the amount (£847 6s.) spent by the Tory, Commander A. Marsden.

The successful Labour candidate spent only £431 2s. 4d. (See Returning Officer’s statement, South-Western Star, July 5th.)
J. B.

The 61st Trades Union Congress. (1929)

From the October 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ben Tillett's Day Out.
The 1929 Annual Congress of the T.U.C. was held this year at Belfast under the chairmanship of Mr. Ben Tillett, M.P.

What decided the choice of Belfast, we do not know. That Belfast is far enough away to preclude the embarrassing presence of embittered workers from the mining and cotton districts is fairly certain. Windy platitudes, therefore, had free play.

Mr. Tillett’s presidential address was received by the Press with more than the usual flattery that is doled out to the trade union and Labour leader.

Says the Daily Herald: “He acquitted himself in a manner which has given the keynote to the Congress—that of business efficiency tempered with humanity." Mr. Tillett’s form—on the one occasion when the present writer heard him, corresponded more closely to Billy Sunday revivalism, tempered with acrobatics. But different audiences call for different turns— as variety artists know.

Mr. Tillett, pre-war firebrand, war-time jingo, and recent communist pet, delivered a flamboyant speech, whose main argument was a characteristic piece of nonsense. He declared “with an air of triumph ” that “To-day the trade unions are an integral part of the organisation of industry" (Daily Herald report, September 3rd).
    They negotiated as equals, and did not deal only with hours, wages and conditions, but with policy and economic organisation in the widest aspects. . . . They hold an unchallenged position as representatives of the working class in all negotiations affecting conditions of employment. . . . There is nothing in the organisation and direction that can now be regarded as the exclusive concern of the employer.
What comforting news to miners and cotton-workers in the desolate poverty-stricken villages of Northumberland, Lanarkshire and Manchester. It might, of course, strike them as curious that there are ever industrial disputes at all. And, more curious still, that disputes of recent years have led to an encroachment on their already low standard of living.

If Mr. Tillett meant that many employers have now learned that it is an advantage to them to deal with an organised body of workers, and that they sometimes negotiate with trade union officials about adjustments of wages, conditions and hours, his statement is not untrue; but why the “air of triumph"?

What cause is there to be triumphant because the cotton masters consulted cotton trade union officials and allowed other trade union leaders to negotiate the recent wage reduction?

If Mr. Tillett’s words were intended to mean what they say, then they were just bluff. The trade unions are not to-day, and never have been, an “ integral part ” of the organisation of industry. They do not, and never have, been able to negotiate “as equals nor do they deal “with policy and economic organisation in the widest aspects.” The trade unions do not do any of these things because they have not the power. They neither own nor control the machinery of production and distribution, and those who own and control have no need and no intention of relinquishing their ownership or their control or the power over policy which accompanies ownership and control.

Turning to rationalisation, Mr. Tillett said:—
   They had already given official support to the rationalisation of industry provided adequate safeguards were given to the workers . . . rationalisation meant the most complete application of science and scientific organisation to industry—in plant, processes and production.
Rationalisation is a new name for a process as old as capitalism. Improvements in machinery are introduced by the capitalists for the benefit of capitalists. They are the outcome of competition between sections of the capitalist class, and can only have the effect of reducing the human labour required in production. The less labour-power required for the production of a given quantity of wealth—the more profits there are for the capitalist. This process is, and always has been, a feature of Capitalism. To-day the only difference is, that the pace has become quicker, and the trusts and combines more powerful. The smaller capitalists are vanishing; the position of the working class grows more insecure ; and their relative portion of the wealth produced becomes less and less.

Mr. Tillett went on to say of rationalisation that, “It was their duty to see that the results of the tendency were beneficial to the workers.” But he omitted to explain how this is to be done. The rationalisation of their industrial organisation is dictated by the employers in their own interest. The trade unions have not the power to stop it (Mr. Tillett himself described it as “ inevitable ”) and they have not the power to impose conditions on the employers. Point was given to this by the admission of Congress that is impotent to save the musicians from the unemployment and other effects of the introduction of sound films. The unions have not succeeded, and cannot succeed, in making it a condition of rationalisation that it shall take place only if the results are “beneficial to the workers." Trade unions can perform a useful and necessary service to the workers under Capitalism, but—not being the owners and controllers of industry—they cannot control industrial development; and when Mr. Tillett states that they can, he is doing a definite disservice to those whose interests he is paid to represent.

Mr. Tillett's further contribution to our knowledge was a boost of Empire trade and Empire development “in the interests of the workers,” and in imitation of the U.S.A. In answer to this dangerous doctrine that working-class interests may be promoted by the development of capitalist industry and trade, whether in Great Britain, Europe, the Empire or in any other geographical unit, it is only necessary to consider the U.S.A., which, for the moment, is the object of Mr. Tillett’s admiration. In the U.S.A. every feature of capitalism as we know it here, is faithfully reproduced— with some aggravations. Inequality of wealth is even more striking than here, unemployment is no less—some estimates place it higher; insecurity there is as great, pauperism, overcrowded slums, the brutal crushing of strikes, and, last but not the less harmful, Yankee Ben Tilletts—all the features of triumphant capitalism exist in their profusion over the water.

At the same time, it is wonderful how ideas catch on. Sidney Webb dines with the King, Snowden stays with the King, Macdonald visits the King to say good-bye when he goes abroad—and, not to be behind, Tillett does his bit and becomes “Imperial.” Of course, Tillett has drunk much that inspires since the celebrated Devonport Farce on Tower Hill years ago.

Industrial Unionism.
Congress rejected a resolution, moved by Mr. A. J. Cook, asking the General Committee to try to promote organisation on the basis of “ one union for each industry.”

Mr. Ernest Bevin, on behalf of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, opposed the resolution, and pointed out that it would mean breaking up his organisation into 180 separate unions. He instanced the difficulty even of defining an industry in the face of continued capitalist combinations, in which financial control extended over all kinds of processes. He stated that "one of the associated companies of the Imperial Chemical Industries controlled 78 distinct processes ” (Daily Herald, September 4th).

The Daily Herald.
On Wednesday, September 4th, it was announced in the Daily Herald that the T.U.C. in private session had agreed, by 3,404,000 votes to 47,000 to make certain new arrangements for the development of the paper. Other newspapers announced that the new arrangement contemplated the handing over the the Daily Herald to a private company, with, however, explicit guarantees that policy will remain under the , control of the T.U.C.

Workers Banks.
A Fraternal Delegate from the American Federation of Labour did his best to outshine Mr. Tillett's home-produced nonsense by advocating "workers' banks.” He described experiments in this direction which have been made in the U.S.A., and expressed the opinion that if all workers patronised their own banks “a chill would be sent along the spinal columns of the financial captains.”

How perfectly simple! How is it that nobody has thought of it before! So easy, fellow workers; just put your surplus wealth in your own banks and show Rothschild and Sassoon what you are made of. What puerile inanities. It is difficult to believe that such piffle comes from paid representatives of the workers. The working class receive as the price of their labour power just that which will purchase the barest necessities in the form of food, clothing, and shelter. They simply cannot save enough to matter. The capitalist class appropriate the enormous remainder.

Then he gave the answer to his own hot-air by informing Congress (Daily Herald, September 5th) that in U.S.A. they are faced with the "difficulty of keeping men of 50 and over employed . . . particularly where labour-saving machinery had been introduced."

It looks very much as if U.S.A. workers of 50 and over are not likely to have any savings or anything else, and those under 50 will be busy enough, when they are in work, trying to provide for their over-fifty relatives. 

The Cotton Arbitration.
Attacks were made on Mr. C. T. Cramp and Mr. A. G. Walkden for their part in the arbitration, which resulted in a 6¼ per cent. reduction in wages for cotton operatives. They made the extraordinary defence (see Daily Herald, September 6th) that they "did not believe, and had never believed, that any wage cut would improve the cotton trade,” but that the terms of arbitration gave full power to the Chairman, alone if necessary, to "give the award both on the principle and the amount of reduction.”

This is, of course, no defence at all, even taken in conjunction with their further plea that if they had not agreed to a 6¼ per cent. reduction, the "cut would have been double.” Since this term of the arbitration was not known to the operatives, but was known to Mr. Cramp and Mr. Walkden, they could either have refused appointment to the Board or have insisted on the operatives making their own decision. It is at least probable that the latter would have rejected arbitration on such terms.

How does this square with the Chairman of Conference’s speech?

The Turner-Mond Conferences.
A resolution calling for the discontinuance of the Industrial Peace negotiations between the General Council and the T.U.C. was rejected by a large majority. Peace! for whom?—robber and robbed? Are the workers to abandon the only industrial weapon they possess, and leave themselves open to the systematic attacks of their masters? What else can peace mean? To babble of peace whilst the cotton dispute is still fresh in the memory and another attack on the miners is impending, is sheer hypocrisy. Peace—who asks for war anyway? The workers cannot afford to strike from pure frivolity. It is they who suffer during a strike, not their masters. It is they who see their children go hungry and without adequate clothing, who see their homes depleted and sold up.

The tone of the Congress was quiet and expectant—their friends now being the Government and A. J. Cook having dropped the game of sniping at the General Council and coining silly slogans. But throughout the five days the cause of all the evils from which the workers suffer were not even glimpsed by the delegates. The cause is the private ownership in the means of life and the only solution is common ownership. Then those parasites who live by robbing the workers and exploiting their ignorance will disappear.
Harry Waite

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Labour Party Conference. (1929)

From the November 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Under the chairmanship of Mr. Herbert Morrison, M.P., the 29th Annual Conference of the Labour Party was held at Brighton during early October.

The Conference was the first to be held during the lifetime of a Labour Government, and the criticisms, therefore, were levelled at their own colleagues.

Mr. Herbert Morrison, in his opening address, reviewed the “record of success” of the Government, particularly in relation to foreign affairs, to which a great part of the time was devoted. He was received with satisfied applause from the whole of the delegates. Mr. A. Henderson, Mr. Philip Snowden, and Mr. J. H. Thomas were each allowed a day in which to state their respective parts in the “success.” Mr. Morrison was guilty of a lapse that was strange in one who recently announced that the Government (in which he is Minister of Transport) were the “friends of the business man.” He said (Daily Herald, October 1st, 1929):—
  We go forward to make material wealth the servant of mankind and not the master of mankind. . . . We aim at a new society—the Socialist Commonwealth—not as an end in itself but as a stepping-stone to the mental and spiritual regeneration of mankind. . . .  It is a great change we seek, it can only be secured if the hearts as well as the minds of the people are elevated.
Such misty stuff might as easily have come from any parson or most of those politicians who sing the praises of the Capitalist system, save for the use of the words “Socialist Commonwealth.” Material wealth is the servant of “mankind.” The obstacle preventing the majority of mankind, that is the workers, from enjoying it is that the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth are owned and controlled by a small section of “mankind”—the Master Class. From this ownership all the economic evils which afflict the working-class arise: poverty, insecurity, and a social existence that is limited to the production of wealth and the reproduction of themselves as wealth producers serving only to pile up wealth for their masters. We seek to change this by transferring ownership of the means of living from private hands to society as a whole. What is the change of heart necessary for this simple procedure? This tale of making yourselves fit for a new Society is the equivalent of the Christian doctrine of being good now in the hope of a reward in the sweet bye and bye.

An I.L.P. Bogey.
Miss Dorothy Jewson was responsible for resurrecting the latest side-tracking reform endorsed by the I.L.P.—family allowance. She moved a resolution calling upon the Government to introduce
   increasing taxation of the wealthy to provide for a wide development of the social services, including an effective system of children’s allowances. (Daily Herald, Oct. 2nd, 1920.)
The debate on this question was a long one, and the remarkable feature about it was that most of the delegates were of the opinion that such a measure would be effective in permanently improving the conditions of the workers.

But would it?

The price of the workers’ labour power on an average covers the cost of keeping himself and his family. If a worker receives from the State an allowance which covers the cost of keeping his children, then the wages he receives from the employers will fall to a level which will cover the cost of his and his wife’s keep only. Where and when such a scheme has been introduced it has been of benefit chiefly to the capitalists. The working class as a whole gain nothing from it.

On the appeal of Mr. A. Henderson to refer the question to next year’s conference, the resolution was lost on a card vote, the votes being cast in proportions of about 3 to 2.

Mr. J. H. Thomas related his difficulties in trying to find work for the unemployed. He stated that
   unemployment could not be solved by merely pouring out money, but by finding new markets for our goods.
   The heads of railways, harbours, docks, and electrical undertakings, etc., had been invited by the Government to private discussion on providing employment by making machinery efficient.
(Daily Herald, Oct, 2nd, 1929.)
The process was not explained. Mr. Wheatley’s contribution to the debate was to the effect that Mr. J. H. Thomas was wasting his time. "While Capitalism remains there would also remain the victims of unemployment,” which was rather unkind of Mr. Wheatley, and also inconsistent with his own support of Capitalism and the Labour Party which administers it.
Jimmie, after all, was doing his best. And doesn’t he get £5,000 a year for trying so hard? Doubtless Mr. Wheatley is sore because he has lost the Ministerial job he had in 1924.

The debate showed that the delegates believed that the “problem of unemployment” could not be solved. Their main plank was that the administration of unemployment insurance by the officials of the Ministry of Labour was inhuman. It must be “humanised,” they said. Hell, humanise cancer or remove it!

It is surprising with what gusto and indignation the Labour Party will shout and make a great noise about effects while accepting their causes. Truly, “much ado about nothing.”

Dealing with Mr. Ramsay MacDonald’s visit to the U.S.A. and the question of the reduction in the number of warships in the fleets of Great Britain and the U.S.A. respectively, Mr. Henderson “outlined his hopes for an early world conference and disarmament.” He said:—
  If that conference comes up to our expectations we shall have opened up an era in which we may see the vast sums hitherto spent on armaments put to better purposes. (Daily Herald, Oct. 3rd, 1929.)
What does that mean? Nothing! On being called upon to answer a question put by a woman delegate concerning complete disarmament, Mr. Henderson said that “he only wished those who held the questioner's views would say what they meant by total or complete disarmament. If they thought the problem out they would see they were asking what was impossible. What they must get down to was reasonable police-forcing.”

Precisely, Mr. Henderson, and you are administrating the Capitalist System, and whilst it exists the interests of the different national groups of capitalists can be defended, in the last resort, only by force. But why the cant and humbug about disarmament and world’s peace. In the circumstances Mr. MacDonald’s visit to America is not a “mission of peace” or a question concerning “disarmament.” In the past, the bow and arrow, the sword, the musket, and many other primitive weapons have in their time been very efficient and up-to-date means of warfare. But as new methods are developed and introduced, so the older methods are relegated to the scrap heap as useless. To-day aerial and gas warfare has developed so rapidly that many comparatively new cruisers are as obsolete as the bow and arrow as a means of destruction. Aeroplanes loaded with the necessary implements could spread desolation and disease, and almost raze to the ground large towns and industrial centres in a few days. It is noteworthy that politicians are never heard proposing the abolition of aerial warfare and the instruments of it. A “war in the air” would be much cheaper than war fought under the older methods, and how easily civil aircraft can be quickly transformed into fighting planes. The way to abolish war lies not in painstaking attempts to get the capitalist class to disarm, but in the abolition of the capitalist system.

Similarly with our economic problems; if all the schemes of new bridges and roads; making the machinery of production more efficient; the “humanising of the dole”; earlier old age pensions, family allowances, etc., are put into operation, the workers would still be faced with the problems of Capitalism as they are at present. The only solution is its abolition and the establishment of Socialism.

The conference ended with the singing of the “Red Flag” to an accompaniment of a violin played by a Cabinet Minister (F. O. Roberts, Minister of Pensions).

Did they sing the third verse?
“It suits to-day the Meek and Base, Whose thoughts are fixed on Pelf and Place,
To cringe before the Rich Man’s frown,
And haul the sacred colour down.” 
Apparently they did not.

It might have disturbed their happy and contented frame of mind. For Mr. George Lansbury, on being asked by a Daily Herald reporter, “What he thought of the conference,” replied:
“Fine, everyone is going home happy, and what more could you want.” (Daily Herald, 5/10/1929.)

Comment on that statement could only be made in words as lurid as Mr. Lansbury’s are placid.
Harry Waite

The I.L.P. in Parliament (1929)

From the December 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is argued on behalf of the I.L.P. that their propaganda methods are justified by their success. As proof of this they point to a relatively large membership and to the fact that more than 200 of their members are Labour Party M.P.'s. How hollow is this success can be seen from the inability of the I.L.P. to control its members in the House of Commons. Mr. Maxton, Chairman of the I.L.P., criticised the Labour Government’s Unemployment Insurance . Bill, and threatened to oppose its second reading. The prompt result, as reported in the Daily Herald of November 19th, was that,
between 50 and 60 I.L.P. M.P.s last night signed a memorial repudiating the right of the I.L.P. officials to speak on their behalf.
Moreover, Mr. W. Leach, M.P., who prepared the memorial and is himself an I.L.P member, explained that he had not approached any of the 80 holders of offices in the Government, and could have obtained many other signatures (apart from the 80 referred to) if he had had more time to approach Labour M.P.’s not immediately available. (Daily Herald, 20th November.)

The following day, November 19th, Mr. Maxton stated his case against the Government’s Bill at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The Daily Herald reports that he received the support of only half a dozen M.P.’s (Daily Herald, 20th November); this, although over 200 of them are members of his party, the I.L.P.

The same evening he stated his case again at a meeting of the I.L.P. M.P.’s, but was turned down by 41 votes to 14 (Daily Herald, 20th November).

On November 20th, Mr. Maxton and his supporters put their names to an amendment, as follows:—
  This House records its profound regret that the Bill, while abolishing the fourth statutory condition for the receipt of benefit, imposes a new condition, which still leaves the burden of proof of his search for work on the applicant for benefit; which does not provide £1 a week for the adult unemployed man, 10s. for his wife, and 5s. for each dependent child, but leaves young persons inadequately provided for; and which fails to restore the waiting period of three days as in the Act of 1924.
It will be noticed that the demand of the "rebels” differs little from the offer of the Government. They only ask for 2s. more per week for an unemployed man, and are presumably of the opinion that £1 a week is enough.

Mr. P. C. Hoffmann, one of the 33 signatories (32 Labour M.P.’s and one Independent, Mr. Scrymgeour), explained to a Herald correspondent that “if the motion were one for the rejection of the Bill, or if it were a vote of censure on the Government, I should have nothing to do with it.” 

That many others of the 33 were in the same boat and were counting on the amendment never going to a division is shown by the fact that 12 of the signatories withdrew their names next day (see Herald, 23rd November). Finally they all voted for the Government Bill. What is obvious is that the members of the I.L.P. who have scrambled into Parliament on the non-Socialist votes of Labour Party supporters are not controlled or controllable by the I.L.P. Elected on the Labour Party’s non-Socialist programme and dependent on the machinery and on the financial support of that party and of the trade unions, these M.P.’s are powerless to work for Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Gus has a shock (1907)

A Short Story from the January 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

GUS: You socialists ought to be grateful for the glorious institution of the free press instead of criticising the great newspapers as you do.

WILL: Grateful to whom? The so-called Freedom of the Press is, in reality, painfully limited; but such as it is, it was granted because absolutely necessary to commercial development. Material interests dictated it; not any love of the people. The capitalist class give us nothing but what it is to their interest to give, either to increase their profits or stave off their defeat, and we know from bitter experience that we have most to fear when our enemies profess a regard for us. 

GUS: But can you deny that the great daily newspapers are glorious and beneficient institutions, fearlessly standing out for truth and purity in public life? 

WILL: I emphatically and entirely deny every word of it!

GUS: Do you mean to say that the modern press is not free, or that it suppresses or perverts the truth?

WILL: I mean to say that the modern newspaper, by its very nature as a commercial venture, cannot exist except by perverting the truth; and that it is absolutely the slave of capitalist interests.

GUS: You surprise me. Explain yourself.

WILL: With pleasure. Now, newspapers are run by limited liability companies to obtain a profit, are they not?

GUS: That is so.

WILL: To get a profit they must sell; to sell they must please, to please they must suit themselves to the prejudices, ignorance or interests of their supporters.

     (Gus opens his eyes)

WILL: They cannot, then, afford to continue any line of policy when it does not pay, or when it is unpopular with the public or with that section of which they have constituted themselves the mouthpiece. To get the largest circulation and the greatest percentage of profit they must say what their readers or supporters want them to say, or else go under.

     (Gus looks startled)

WILL: Nor is that all; they have an even more important person to cater for — the advertiser. He is partly satisfied if the journal panders successfully to a large number of the public; but as a manufacturer he has important capitalist interests, and therefore would not support, by his advertisement, any journal that, through a love of truth, attacked his interests in any way.

    (Gus looks frightened)

WILL: Further, the various sections of the capitalist party have enormous campaign funds, and the newspapers, being run for profit, must slavishly support their capitalist party interest or forgo their reward. And the journalists who run the papers are the wage-slaves of the proprietors, compelled to utter, not what they think, but what their employers consider will sell best, and will please most the capitalist interest.

   (Gus tries to hide himself, Will holds him back)

WILL: Don’t run away, I’ve not done yet. The modern newspaper is thus, in the main, the reflection of the commonest, most superficial and most servile opinions of the public, and at the same time the advocate of the interests of its capitalist owners and advertisers. It is, therefore, against the financial policy of the modern newspaper to enlighten the working class; particularly in any direction that runs counter to capitalist interests. To satisfy its principal clients, the great advertisers and the political leaders, it must expound the views of the ruling class (or of a section thereof) and so doctor these views that the people may easily swallow them. It must, whenever the workers show a tendency to think clearly, carefully draw the wool over their eyes in order to keep them at the tail of the capitalist party and ignorant of the things that should concern them. For the rest, in order to earn its profits, the newspaper must batten on the ignorance and folly of its public.

GUS (who feels that the scales have fallen from his eyes): Well, but how can we alter it?

WILL: Only by abolishing the profit system. But we can help this on by doing all in our power to spread enlightenment among the workers and so show them the utter worthlessness of capitalist journalism; we can help by organising the workers for the overthrow of capitalist domination, and by pointing out that it is their duty to support a press of their own, not run by an individual or company (or profit, but owned and controlled by a genuine working-class organisation for the propagation of definite working-class principles. Thus alone can the education and emancipation of the working class be accomplished, and the freedom of the press from the curse of profit and capitalist domination become a fact.
F. C. Watts