Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Future Belongs To The Workers (1943)

From the September 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are hearing a great deal about the promise of the future just now, and also a good deal about the murky past. We had a similar experience in the last war, and the brave new world of the future we were promised dissolved, like the mirage it was, into a new world with the evils of the old, like unemployment, pressing upon us with greater weight than ever before.

How often we were told .that capitalism could not give us better conditions because industry was not capable of more; that even the taking away of all the income of the capitalists would only produce a trifling increase for each worker. Now, in the feverish urge to produce a vision of a wonderful future, we learn from prelate and statesmen of the niggardliness of capitalists in pre-war days; of how schemes for bettering the workers' conditions were not put into operation owing to the selfish greed of capitalists. What is often overlooked is that the people who are now telling these things with disarming frankness were among those who formerly told us that production could not bear any greater social expenses than it was bearing at the time.

Of course, the war itself has compelled the admission that it was not lack of productive capacity that stood in the way of improvement. The enormous amount of labour now employed in the production of munitions of war, and the sustaining of all the people engaged directly and indirectly in pursuits connected with the war, reveal very clearly what a mass of productive capacity could be freed to make life comfortable for all of us instead of for a privileged few. In spite of this waste of effort, it is sometimes claimed that workers on the whole are better off now than they were in pre-war days!

That which has crippled efforts at improvement in the past will do the same in the future if allowed to continue unchanged, and that is the present social organisation based upon the private ownership of the means of production. Under this system workers produce wealth for the benefit of owners of the means of production instead of for the benefit of society at large. The work of all is governed by this fact. Social improvements, new inventions, scientific work and literary work of all kinds is crimped, scamped and degraded by the overwhelming influence of the private ownership basis of society. Scientists complain that they are unable to carry on their work with sufficient freedom and in sufficient volume because they do not get enough support and enough security. They must earn their wages by ministering to the needs of a system based upon profit instead of upon what ministers to the benefit of mankind as a whole.

The possibilities of enriching science or art are confined to a small number of fortunate individuals instead of being open to everyone in society. Quiller-Couch, in a lecture delivered many years ago under the title "On the Art of Writing,” made a statement that is true of every department of study as well as of literature when he said :
I have spent a great part of the last ten years in watching some 320 elementary schools—we may prate of democracy, but actually a poor child in England has little more hope than had the son of an Athenian slave to be emancipated into that intellectual freedom of which great writings are born (p. 33).
There is no question about it, capitalism as a social system is a failure, even as shown by the evidence of its own adherents, who, in painting a bright picture of the future, unwittingly paint in the shadows. Limited by their outlook they can do no more than promise some amelioration of the worst evils, but not the abolition of those evils. They foresee a scramble for markets after the war, and urge preparation to meet it now by such methods as developing aerial transport with large fast moving planes and far-flung air bases. They envisage a large permanent unemployed army (“two million men will be unemployed anyway"—Mr. S. Morrison Livingston, head of the National Economic unit of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Evening News, May 3, 1943), and a tightening of belts by the workers for many years to come.

Even in time of war, when everything favours a despotic supervision of everything, the newspapers are full of prosecutions for legal evasions connected with "black market" operations and the like. While food and other things are scarce, those who possess money can buy almost anything. At a time when posters and propagandists are pressing to the front the need to sacrifice every penny for the war effort, pictures are being auctioned for thousands of pounds apiece, as well as other indications that wealth abounds in the hands of a privileged section of society, who are determined to enjoy what they have—and let others die for it. There is no cure for this while the present organisation of society continues. The "glittering prizes" will always glitter in the hands of those who are in the position to control tho labour of others and reap the results of that control.

Thus, let its supporters promise what they may, no modification of capitalism can relieve the workers to any important extent of the evils that are bound up with the system— poverty, insecurity and oppression. But these evils will disappear once the source of them—the private ownership of the means of production—has been removed by substituting common ownership by the whole community.

In order that this change may come about, the workers, in whose interest it mainly is, must understand a few broad general principles, and desire and work for the change. It is not necessary that the workers must first of all become erudite students of Marx, or have a first-class knowledge of the sciences, though, of course, if it were possible it would be helpful. All that it is essential they should understand is that they run society to-day in the interests of a privileged and idle few, and that they could much more easily run it to-morrow in the interests of the whole of society; that capitalism is only one stage in social development, and it had a beginning and will have an end, just as other social systems had; that what they can get out of life to-day is determined by the fact that they must find a buyer for their physical energies because they exist in a system where everything is bought and sold; that at election times they present the capitalist class with the political power which enables that class to order society in its interest.

Armed with this understanding, the workers can build a new society that will be well worth while living in. Human labour is so productive and human brains are teeming with such knowledge that once given free play the mind is staggered by the vast possibilities that open up for the human race. There will be no religious bars, colour bars or social bars to stand across the path of anyone in the employment of his faculties for his own enjoyment and the benefit of society at large.

The building of this new society must and can only be the work of the workers themselves; they cannot expect help from above, for privilege will hang on until it is shaken from its perch. In this new society there will be no privileged idlers; unless they have physical disabilities, each will play his part according to his ability. The future belongs to the workers, and the capitalists are already trembling at the vision.
Gilmac.

Labour Leader's Misconception About Socialism (1943)

From the August 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Arthur Deakin, the Acting Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, has taken his place among those self-appointed authorities who instruct us about Socialism.

Trailing along behind Mr. Morrison and Mr. Bevin, he announces (Tribune, May 14th) that the Essential Works Order is not merely a triumph of Trade Unionism, but “a lasting factor" whose retention in industry "Socialists" should support.

The unanimity with which all these leaders agree that “the existing restrictions must be retained, and even extended.” after the war makes us suspect that they know something.

If they are to be believed, the postwar world will be very much like the present, with Control of Employment by the National Service Officer, Rationing, Registration, and other “benefits" in full blast.

Past experience teaches us, nevertheless, that nothing is more uncertain than the post-war world, and the rapid growth of a huge unemployed army will perhaps reduce all their plans and schemes to nought.

In the meantime, following his master. Mr. Deakin is at pains to produce some plausible tale to slip the Essential Works Order over. He admits that the Order “has not been welcomed, in every case, by the workers."

He therefore artfully starts off by claiming that “workers must be conceded property rights in their particular employment."

"Years of honest service, skilled labour and experience are worth something more than a wage adequate for the day; they must be given an accumulating capital value, realisable in the first of the four freedoms."

Socialists will see at once that Mr. Deakin’s knowledge of the economics of capitalism is not enough to cover a pin-point.

First, Capital is not freedom (either first or fourth) —it is Wealth, used to produce more Wealth, with a view to profit.

Workers cannot own it—if they do, they are NOT workers.

Mr. Deakin dimly senses this, and says, “Unlike the investors of capital, the investors of labour cannot cash in on any accumulation of wealth they have helped to create." (Our italics.)

“It is doubtful if this injustice will be remedied within a capitalist structure."

That sounds all right. Mr. Deakin even goes further, and says, “I have examined various schemes which, on paper, professed to give the workers an interest in the business. The motive behind all of them was the retention of skilled labour and experience on terms which satisfy the worker only because he is persuaded that he has been accorded, tenuous status as a partner or shareholder. In every case such a concession is fictitious, and should he attempt to exercise the statutory rights of a part-proprietor at inconvenient times, he will find that, his position differs but very slightly indeed from that of an ordinary old-fashioned wage-earner."

But that is exactly what The Socialist Standard said at the time of the two Labour Governments, and at the time of the Mond-Turner conference of the T.U.C.

Mr Deakin, how can you make such statements during the present Fight for Freedom (four freedoms) and Democracy, when Mr. Churchill has officially stated that your leaders are “full partners"? (“Marx To-day," page 13, H. J. Laski.)

But now we reach the point. “I want a bond between the worker and the job . . . because of my experience of the horrors of casual employment. For this reason, I, in common with every other responsible trade union leader, welcomed the Essential Work Order."

“Employers and workers will have to co-operate in making it workable, as something very like a permanency . . . "

At this point Mr. Deakin actually suggests that National Service Officers may be a feature of Socialist society! “Should we, as Socialists, necessarily oppose the retention in the structure of industry, an officer with similar powers as a lasting factor?"

Having clearly explained that workers cannot be “partners" of capitalists, he concludes by claiming that “Trade Unions must be accepted as full partners in industry." He really means Trade Union leaders.

Mr. Deakin is merely repeating, in a very pompous and involved way, what Mr. Bevin has said repeatedly—for example, in the House of Commons on May 31st, 1942:—
  One of the greatest things that would smooth the working of the war would be for industry . . . to accept the basic principle of the Essential Work Order not only for the war, but for after the war.
We Socialists have to state categorically that Essential Work Orders, etc. (quite apart from the question of their value to Trades Unions), are nothing whatever to do with Socialism.

Those who claim they are besmirch the name of Socialism.

Essential Work Orders are a strengthening of the apparatus of the Capitalist State. Socialism renders the State machine unnecessary because it abolishes private property and classes. The State is a class institution. There will not be any National Service Officers under Socialism, ordering people about; there will not be any police courts or prisons to commit them to, anyway.
  The working class will substitute, in the course of its development, for the old order of civil society an association which will exclude classes and their antagonism, and there will no longer be political power, properly speaking, since political power is simply the official form of the antagonism in civil society. (The Poverty of Philosophy, Karl Marx, Kerr edition, p. 190.) 
In this matter we Socialists prefer the dictum of Karl Marx to that of Mr. Deakin.
  After the enslaving subordination of individuals under division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour has become not merely a means to live, but has become itself the primary necessity of life, after the productive forces have increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of capitalist right be left behind and society inscribe upon its banner, “ From each according to his ability, to each .according to his needs." (Criticism of the Gotha Programme, Karl Marx, Point I.) (Italics ours.)
The citizens of the Socialist community will work voluntarily because they are doing a job they love, for the benefit of society as a whole—i.e., in the long run, for themselves.

All labour in the Socialist society will be essential and useful. There will be no need to try to stop people from doing wasteful and unessential things, like pouring luxuries into the lap of already overfed and jaded parasites.

The most extraordinary thing about this so-called “Essential Works Order" now is that it forces people off making bread and boots to make "essential” bombs and bullets. "Guns, not Butter," are essential.

Mr. Deakin has taken it upon himself to inform his members that the "Essential Work Order" is "a good stroke of business.”

That is a matter for him—and them. But when he endeavours to delude bis readers that the so-called National Service Officer may be a feature of the future Socialist society, then it is incumbent upon Socialists to explain that Socialism must be based on voluntary labour—not force, compulsion, trickery, or deceit.

In fact, even Mr. Arthur Deakin will be engaged on really essential work.
Horatio



Empire and Poverty (1943)

From the July 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Pages from South African History

A corner stone in the British Empire is the Dominion of South Africa, the Prime Minister of which. General Smuts was made a Field-Marshal of the British Army on his 71st birthday two years ago. The approval accorded to him in the British Press contrasts rather forcibly with the rather nasty epithets bestowed upon the politicians of other countries who have accepted office under their conquerors, during the past year or so.

While still in his twenties Smuts became State Attorney of the Transvaal Republic under Kruger, whose administration (according to most British accounts) was one of the most corrupt on earth. After the war of 1899—1902 the Boer politicians were out of the limelight, their territory being annexed and administered by a High Commissioner of the Crown. The grant of responsible government a few years later, however, gave them their chance once more. General Louis Botha (who had succeeded Joubert as commander during the war) formed Het Volk and secured a majority in the first elections 1907. From that time onwards Smuts was in close association with Botha, until the latter's death in 1919, occupying ministerial positions under him and eventually succeeding him as Premier of the Union. He held this office till 1924, when he gave way to General Hertzog and the National Party, triumphant at the polls with the aid of the Labourites. Some eight or nine years later, however, when the economic blizzard had affected the popularity of Hertzog's ministry, we find Smuts again in office as Minister of Justice in a Coalition with his late rival. Since then Smuts has reaped the reward of his pertinacity and occupied the supremacy so dear to him.

Smuts cannot be accused of neglecting his opportunities, a fact which can be appreciated best against the background of history.

His countrymen fought the war of 1899-1902 in the desperate attempt to preserve their political independence. This had been in a precarious state ever since the British occupied the Cape; and some three-quarters of a century earlier the Boers in large numbers had trekked northwards to avoid British control. Their primitive mode of life was gradually complicated by the discovery of minerals and the arrival in the country of prospectors and their hangers-on, and this led to a clamour for annexation. One attempt in 1877 lasted over three years. The Boers tolerated the position while the British were engaged in their struggles with the natives (chiefly the Zulus) and then revolted successfully, resuming' the status of a Republic in 1881. A few years later the discovery of gold on the Rand laid the foundations of the economic “fifth column," which led to its final downfall.

A description of some of the gentry the Boers were expected to tolerate is contained in a small volume, "South Africa" by J. I. A. Agar-Hamilton, lecturer in modern history at Pretoria University. ("South Africa" Modern States Series: Arrowsmith.)
  Pioneers are always pleasanter in retrospect than in close proximity in the flesh, and many of the earliest inhabitants of Barberton and Johannesburg were drunken rowdies and ne'er-do-wells, who were a pest to any law-abiding citizen. In the second wave came international crooks, swindlers and bullies, criminals of every sort who needed a respite from the attentions of the European police. (P. 36.)
More formidable were the large financiers such as Rhodes, who became Prime Minister of Cape Colony in 1890 with the support of Hofmeyr, the leader of the Cape Dutch. The Rand magnates backed the demand for the enfranchisement of the alien element in the Transvaal. .The answer of the Kruger Government was to raise the residential qualification to fourteen years (1890), and any prospect of a more moderate attitude was killed by Dr. Jameson (Rhodes' friend and Administrator of Rhodesia), who "invaded" the Transvaal in 1895 in the vain hope of bringing to a head a much talked of rising on the Rand. The Boers rounded him up with his 500 men and handed the captives over to the British High Commissioner. This magnanimity, however, did not indicate any weakening of their purpose. In October, 1899, the Transvaal and Orange Free State, making common cause, demanded the withdrawal of British troops and the war was on. The Boers could not maintain their initial success. In June, 1900, their capital, Pretoria, was in British hands and Kruger was in flight. None the less, the conflict dragged on, guerrilla fashion, for another two years. To bring it to a conclusion. Kitchener had to evacuate the rural population; concentrate them in camps, and supply them with rations.
The farmhouses were then systematically destroyed and blockhouses and barbed wire sought to restrict the movement of the commandos. ("South Africa," p. 44.)
So great a havoc was wrought that no indemnity from the vanquished was possible. On the contrary, the victors had to advance considerable sums to restore agricultural production.

Although the Boers could hardly be suspected of aiming at world domination, the workers in Britain were fed the customary pap about their "enemies" being skulking cowards who hid behind rocks to snipe the manly British Tommy, who, as often as not, had to beg his bread in British streets when the war was over. The bioscope shows of the day depicted the ruthless Dutch farmers attacking the hospitals (plainly marked with red crosses) and molesting the helpless and attractive nurses. A large percentage of the wounds were supposed to be due to "dum-dum" bullets. Then of course the Boers were brutal to the niggers; but this did not prevent them being allowed to retain their rifles, when peace was signed, "for their protection" against these same niggers, and they were "secured against a native franchise." (South Africa, p. 44.)
From the Orange to the Limpopo the countryside lay waste, without house or inhabitant, and its simplest agricultural needs were imported from elsewhere— Swiss milk, Australian butter and Irish eggs. The whole rural population had to be repatriated, the economic machinery of the country must be set going once more, and a new civil service and administration recreated. (p. 48.)
Under these circumstances it is hardly surprising that Botha and Smuts felt their dependence on their conquerors, and that their policy of conciliation received the support of the majority of their countrymen for a period of several years. In the Orange River Colony which had no large English-speaking population like the mining towns in the Transvaal, this policy was by no means so popular. Nevertheless the Union of the two ex-republics with the British colonies of the Cape and Natal was eventually effected in 1910.

Botha became the first premier. He expanded Het Volk into the South African National Party aiming to include British as well as Boer supporters. The mining interests of the Transvaal, however, combined with British elements in the Cape to form the Unionist Party, which retained its independent existence for ten years. The Labour Party, though strong in the Transvaal towns, was naturally weak in an agricultural country run on unenfranchised native labour, and "direct action" has, on more than one occasion, led to considerable violence on the Rand.

It was not long before the Government found itself in conflict with this element of the working-class. In July, 1913, a miners' strike brought out the whole Imperial garrison to restore order. Six months later an attempt at a general strike, including the State railwaymen, "was countered by the Proclamation of Martial Law. . . . Nine trade union leaders were summarily deported without trial" (South Africa, p. 58.)

A few months earlier, Hertzog (one of Botha's ministers who was dropped on account of his open hostility to the British elements) formed a new National Party. When the European War broke out in 1914, he advocated neutrality. The Botha Government, however, proceeded to send an expedition to invade German South-West Africa. A 'rebellion led, among others, by De Wet, gave them some trouble, but the leaders of the Nationalist Party had little confidence in its success and Botha kept control of the situation; his party lost ground, however, as the followers of Hertzog increased in number. Smuts held a place in the Imperial War Cabinet in 1917 along with Lord Milner, the High Commissioner of Boer War days.

Botha died "execrated among his own people" but "the hero of the Imperialists" (South Africa, pp. 62-3) and " Smuts inherited a peck of troubles. The elections (1920) returned the Nationalists as the biggest single party, while the Unionists lost heavily to the advantage of Labour in the towns" (p. 65). Smuts had only one course in order to retain office. He secured support from the Unionists who sank their identity in his party and allowed three of their members to join the Cabinet. Botha's dream of conciliation was realised—a Dominion of the British Empire in South Africa had been established.

March, 1922, saw a revival of the Rand trouble. Strikers drilled openly on the Reef, the defence commandos were called out and aeroplanes and field artillery were finally required to quell the rising.

At the next election in 1924 the Labour Party formed a pact with the party of Hertzog to avoid splitting the anti-Government vote. As a piece of tactics it was an immediate success. The Nationalist-cum-Labour coalition had a substantial majority and two Labour leaders entered the Ministry.

In order to secure the support of the Labour Party the Nationalists dropped the Republican clause from their constitution. Nevertheless General Hertzog spent some years trying to clarify the status of the Union. He wanted the right to secede recognised and it took two Imperial Conferences to satisfy him. In economic matters his government pursued a policy of Protection coupled with Factories Acts, Wages Boards and Industrial Conciliation.

In native affairs Hertzog stood for white supremacy and repressive legislation (such as the Colour Bar Bill, 1926, which limited natives in mines to unskilled labour, the Riotous Assemblies Act, 1930, and the Native Service Contract Act, 1932) found its way on to the Statute Book. As Mr. Agar Hamilton points out, he "could always rely on the support of ultra-British Natal for the more repressive side of his policy" (South Africa, p. 122). And, we may add, that of the more short-sighted white members of the working-class who fail to realise the necessity for organising irrespective of race or colour.

In 1929 the Labour Party split over the Question of continuing their pact with Hertzog. In the elections of that year the Coalition lost ground but the Government retained its majority. The following year the world depression made itself felt throughout the Union where the number of mortgaged farms is abnormally high. "Long established landowners were ruined and those small farmers and "bywoners" who normally lived dose to the poverty line suffered appalling privations" (South Africa, p. 80),

The diamond mines were closed as the price of their product collapsed and thousands of diggers in the Western Transvaal found themselves destitute. Relief works became the order of the day.

After a vain struggle to remain on the gold standard the Government finally abandoned it in December, 1932. During the following year negotiations were opened between the Nationalists and the South African Parties. The two Labour Ministers were dropped while Smuts and five of his supporters joined the Government. "Parliament was dissolved, but an adroit system of parcelling out the seats ensured the return of the two big parties very nearly as before " (South Africa, P. 84).

Thus the intrigues and trickery with which we are familiar in the case of the Mother of Parliaments, are very closely reflected in her youngest daughter. Those workers who believe that the British Empire is democratic in principle might reflect on these facts; and, further, ask themselves what is the lot of the workers in the latest addition to the Commonwealth of Nations. According to Mr. Agar Hamilton, "two major problems commonly exercise the minds of the people of South Africa, the Poor White and the Native" (p. 105).

The Carnegie Commission reckoned that in 1929-30, before the effects of the depression were felt, 17.5 per cent, of the white population were "very poor." After 1930 the position became more serious, i.e., 20 per cent. Poverty among white workers in Africa has its peculiar features due to local conditions yet Professor Macmillan says: "The poor whites are little more than the 'reservoir' of unemployed to be found wherever Western industrialism has dislocated the old agrarian system." (Complex South Africa, p. 16.)

The native population of five and a half million may be divided broadly into three groups. First some two and a half million have their homes in "Reserves," i.e., "the last vestiges of the land once occupied by independent tribes" (South Africa, p. 111). They are little more than a breeding ground; for the majority of the able-bodied males are away working in the mines or on farms for the greater part of the year. The Reserves are not capable of feeding their inhabitants and the shortage of production has to be made good by imports paid for largely by remittance from the absent wage-earners.

The second group of two million (the so-called "squatters") reside on the farms of the white invaders who annexed and divided up the land. They pay for the accommodation either in labour or produce according to the requirements of the owners. The remaining group work in the towns.

All alike suffer poverty. In the words of Professor Macmillan: "There is little room left for doubt that the natives of the Union as a whole are a community dragging along at the very lowest level of bare subsistence." (Complete South Africa, p. 221.)

From all of which it would appear that the Commonwealth of Nations is not incompatible with the poverty of its people.
Eric Boden




Who Rules Britain? (1943)

From the June 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Who are the Real Rulers of Britain?

This question was set and replied to by Professor H. J. Laski and Captain L. D. Gammans, Conservative M.P. for Hornsey, in the New York Times, and reprinted in the Evening Standard (March 29th and 30th, 1943).

That such a question should be debated at all in the pages of the capitalist press may surprise some of our readers. However, this issue is common topic among the workers here, whilst the dollar kings of the United States find it useful occasionally to deride the feudal moss with which British capitalism is still bedecked.

Professor Laski’s contribution is useful—so far as it goes. But it only goes half-way. For reasons best known to himself, the Professor shrinks at the implications of some of his own conclusions. Where he does not shrink, he clothes the living facts his article does contain with the cap and gown of academic jargon.

Here is how Professor Laski begins.
“The law which constitutes the form of government," wrote Saint-Simon nearly a century and a half ago, “is less important as it touches the happiness of a people—far less—than the law which constitutes property. It is the law of property which determines the real character of the people."
This is merely a half-truth. It draws a distinction between ownership of property and the mode of government. This distinction does not exist. The political constitution of a country corresponds to the needs of its property-owners, the people who own and control the means of life. In Britain the government depends on adult suffrage, and minorities are allowed to express contrary opinions. But to appreciate this fact does not mean that we must endow the British ruling-class with virtues they do not possess.

Professor Laski evidently feels under an obligation to the British ruling- class for their “permission" of political democracy. Such “permission," however, is not the prerogative of rulers. It is a historical product, based upon the needs of capitalism at a particular stage of its development. The decisive fact is this: That this particular form of governmental laws alone enables the owning class of Britain to secure the support of a majority of the population.

Having conceded to the mass of the people the right to elect their rulers, the question stands: Who does, in fact, control political power in this country?

Professor Laski answers, and rightly answers, that it is “the propertied class or their representatives . . . in whose hands all the vital controls of State power remains."

He goes on to specify the ruling-class elements in detail.
"Politically, the ruling class expresses its purpose through the Conservative Party. Anyone who analyses the composition of this Party in the House of Commons cannot avoid the conclusion that its essential purpose is the protection of the interests of private property in the means of production. Forty-four per cent, of them are directors of public companies; between them they hold nearly 1.800 directorships. All important economic interests are represented there—banks, insurance, railways, shipping, iron, steel, engineering, textiles, electricity supply, coal, oil, tobacco, foodstuffs, newspapers, and so forth."
On the role of our land-owning aristocracy he is equally enlightening:
“The great aristocrat of to-day is not merely a landowner. Like the Duke of Montrose, he may be a banker; like Lord Burghley . . .  he may be a director of a railroad, a bank and an insurance company. And if to persons in the Conservative Party connected with the peerage we add members who hold either a baronetcy or a knighthood, we find that nearly 250 members of the House of Commons out of 815 fall into this category."
So far, so good. Since the demise of the Liberal Party after the last war, it is undeniably the Conservative Party which embodies the will and the interests of the propertied class in Britain. But then comes a gap in the argument. Professor Laski is completely silent on the two periods during which a Labour Government was in office. True, on both occasions it was a minority in the House of Commons (though in the second period—1929-1931—they constituted the largest single party in the House). The Professor’s silence is easily understood when it is born in mind that he himself is a prominent member of the Labour Party. For flowing logically from his own arguments is the inescapable conclusion that on both occasions the Labour Government willingly acted as caretakers for the property of the British capitalists.

Here is revealed the fundamental flaw in Professor Laski’s contribution. For there is no recognition of the fact that no matter which party assumes the responsibilities of government, whether it be Conservative, Labour or any other movement which may arise in the future, real power will remain secure with the owning class, so long as the avowed programmes of these parties—their labels notwithstanding—do not solely aim at the expropriation of the present owners of the means of production, etc., and their transference to ownership by the whole of society.

This is Socialism and, of course. Professor Laski's Labour Party does not aim at Socialism. Perhaps that is why he ends his article by asking tamely “whether Britain's ruling-class will adapt itself to post-war conditions by maintaining and extending its well-known capacity for compromise." As if the abolition of capitalism could ever be a matter for compromise!

Nevertheless, the substance of his article merited a better rejoinder than the naive platform-foolery which serves Captain Gammans as "argument."

"The majority of the British people," he says, “will have none of Professor Laski's Marxian theories of class struggles."

And again: "He has revived the theory of the ruling-class conception of government which the British electorate time and time again has refused to accept, and which to-day is as dead as the dodo in British political life."

But the issue of this debate is not which view a majority of the electorate appear to hold at the present time. The allegation which Professor Laski makes and which, as quoted above, is backed up by facts and figures, is that the propertied class impose their political rule  through the Conservative Party. This allegation Captain Gammans does not attempt to refute. The mass of the people, including the workers, seem to have all kinds of ideas floating in their heads, from Churchill-worship to astrology. To what extent these ideas correspond to the realities of the world to-day is quite a different matter. Captain Gammans certainly appears to hold a very low opinion of the intelligence of people when he makes the following claim:
"With two short intervals, the Conservative Party was in power during the twenty years between the two wars. There is no reason for it to be very much ashamed of its record at home."
This is the kind of statement calculated to bring even the deadest of dodos back to life. Mass unemployment, slums, the wholesale reduction of the workers' standard of living (enforced, as in the case of the miners in 1926, by a lockout), all this pitiful record of poverty and downright starvation imposed consciously and deliberately on a people by the wealthiest ruling-class that ever existed—culminating in a world war! It is obviously not in the nature of a ruling-class to have any sense of shame.

Captain Gammans attempts to bolster up his boast by a reference to the social services which he claims "have effected an almost unbelievable improvement in the health and general well-being of the community."
The emphasis here must certainly be placed on the word "unbelievable." Enquiries conducted previous to the war by nutrition experts, such as Sir John Boyd-Orr, revealed that at least a third of the nation did not receive a sufficient income per head to provide themselves with the minimum food required to maintain a reasonable standard of health. And has Captain Gammans asked the Army Medical authorities to give him the percentage figures of working-class recruits found in good health?

What seems to have escaped the Captain's notice altogether is this question:

How is it that one section of the population is in a position to dole out social services and another, a majority, is forced to accept them in order to keep alive?

Surely the answer to that question alone can tell us who rules Britain.
Sid Rubin

Inquest on the I.L.P. (1943)

Book Review from the May 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fenner Brockway's "Inside the Left" (Allen & Unwin, 15/-) contains no original contribution to Socialist thought nor even an adequate restatement of old theories. Brockway says of Sir Stafford Cripps (p. 264) that Cripps "has no experience of the working-class and he has no real knowledge of Socialist theory. . . . I doubt whether he has ever read Marx or any book of fundamental Socialist economics." Brockway has experience of the working-class and has probably read more about Socialist theory than Cripps but it is not unfair to say that he has.no real understanding of it. In this he is a representative figure in the I.L.P. The I.L.P. membership, taking each incident of the working-class struggle in isolation, are able to use what they know of Socialist theory and past experience to discuss the pros and cons of short-term courses of action but have no clear idea of Socialism or of how capitalism is to be abolished. They have no standard, except a sentimental desire to do some immediate good to the workers, by which to measure their actions. When their actions happen to be sound it is only by accident. They have theories but no theory, aims but no aim, enthusiasm and energy but no direction.

Brockway's book is full of interesting incidents and observations. It is written with candour and is honest according to the author's lights. It is like the many books written by competent journalists who have "been there when it happened"; and like some of those books it will be a useful work to the critical reader but without the living of it and the writing of it having been of much use to the author from the point of view of acquiring understanding of what is going on below the surface of things.

The chief use of the book will be to serve as a warning of the futility of attempts to build a Socialist movement on a foundation of sentiment, hero-worship, and reformism and (though he may draw no useful conclusions himself) Brockway is completely candid in showing this, as one or two examples will indicate.

Of the I.L.P. in the war, 1914-1918, he writes: —
   The Party membership was not so united as the National Council. The I.L.P. had no clear-cut philosophy or policy at this time; its idealism impelled it to oppose war, but Socialist sentiment was up against another sentiment, the intense emotion of patriotism, and probably one-fifth of the Party succumbed (p. 47). 
And again: —
    . . . the truth is that the I.L.P. had no unifying anti-war philosophy. One section of it was pacifist; another was opposed to a "balance of power war" on the continent but in favour of national defence; a third, while ready to take part in a class-war, was not prepared to support an imperialist war, though even this section had no thought-out revolutionary tactic (p. 52).
    We were not revolutionary Socialists. We were democratic pacifists (p. 55).
He admits by the way that MacDonald's attitude was never that of complete opposition to the war, and gives (p. 56—59) an interesting and fairly convincing explanation of how McDonald, by a political error of judgment or the swift movement of events, found himself isolated when in fact he was hoping to place himself at the head of a powerful group (including Lloyd George) hostile to Sir Edward Grey's foreign policy.

After 1918 Brockway devoted himself to the anti-war movement, believing that solid resistance to war could be built on the sentimental reaction against war that was then the fashion. He received from Bernard Shaw a sensible comment on its uselessness. This was in a letter (26 July, 1922) refusing to address a peace demonstration:—
   I grieve to say that I don't believe in these demonstrations. People who get emotionally excited about peace are precisely the people who get emotionally excited about war. In this matter, action and reaction are equal. Lloyd George will do all that is necessary to make the nation send Xmas cards to all the other nations until he wants to send them to the trenches again. Ten minutes after that he will have them telling stories of enemy sergeants (probably French this time) with their pouches full of gouged English eyes and throwing bricks at you as you are dragged back to prison (p. 135).
Brockway acknowledges the truth of this—afterwards.
    Writing in this year of war crises, 1939, one realises how. superficial was the effect of imposing No More War demonstrations which we organised from 1922 to 1924 and how justifiable was Mr. Shaw's cynicism.
Another illustration of the I.L.P.S floundering relates to a much later period, 1931-1933.
   I was elected chairman of the I.L.P. at Easter, 1931, and remained chairman until the end of 1933. During this period the I.L.P. disaffiliated from the Labour Party and began its inner struggle towards a revolutionary Socialist position. In the course of this inner struggle the I.L.P. experimented in many directions, at one time approaching the Communist International, and at another moving towards the Trotskyist position, at one stage attaching its hope to united fronts and at another reverting to purism, at one period going all out to prepare for Soviets and at another recognising again the value of Parliament (p. 237).
To see this in proper perspective it needs to be remembered that 1931 was after the I.L.P. had been in existence for nearly 40 years.

A last example is the attitude of Brockway and the I.L.P.. towards leaders and leadership. As a youth Brockway was constantly being swept off his feet by oratory. John Morley's " finely-phrased oratory awed me, but I felt more enthusiasm for the audacious speech of a young recruit to Liberalism—Mr. Winston Churchill " (p. 11).

This was before his conversion to "Socialism" but his attitude to leaders did not change. He was "entranced" by Keir Hardie (p. 17). He was a "Shaw worshipper" (p. 22), and MacDonald "expressed his opinions with the manner of a god and I felt at least that I was in the presence of a great man . . . his rich organ-like voice and oratory captivated me" (p. 35). He tells of a speech (in French) by Jean Jaurès, which Brockway "could not follow" and which probably not "one man in a hundred" of the audience understood, "but we all understood that he was illustrating the rise of the workers from slavery to freedom, and at his final cry of triumph we were all on our feet cheering with him" (p. 36).

Of course it can be said that this emotionalism, like admiration for the art and artifices of actors, is harmless; but in politics where it is played upon by leaders to sway the emotions of followers without regard to their understanding it is not harmless, far from it. Brockway gives a striking example of how harmful it can be. He had become thoroughly mistrustful of MacDonald because, among other things, MacDonald was working early in 1914 for a definite Labour Party alliance with the Liberals at the General Election. When Keir Hardie died MacDonald spoke at a memorial meeting in Glasgow and "many of those who heard him say that his oration rose to heights greater than they had ever known in human utterances. If there were doubts about MaoDonald before in the minds of Scottish Socialists, this speech removed them. The extraordinary loyalty of Glasgow to MacDonald, which was responsible for his election to the leadership of the Parliamentary Labour Party in 1921, and was never dispelled until the betrayal of the workers by the second Labour Government, had its roots in this speech more than in anything else " (p. 65. Italics ours).

Can anyone read this and not perceive the truth of the S.P.G.B.'s claim that dependence on leadership is a menace to the working-clam movement and that not emotionalism and leader worship but knowledge, understanding and self-reliance are the workers' road to emancipation?

Yet Brockway (who incidentally mistrusted MacDonald but for years deliberately refrained from passing on his grounds for mistrust to the workers) is still, at the end of his book, putting the case for leadership and hoping to find leaders who will be "worthy of the name" and who will "not be tempted by careerism" (p. 342), and stating that, in the final struggle for Socialism "and the critical period of the transition following it," of course large power of direction must be given to the leaders" (p. 345). True, Brockway desires that "even then the final decision on issues of principle should remain with representatives of the workers," but he does not explain how a movement of workers brought up to be spell-bound worshippers of oratory and personality are going to acquire the knowledge and self- reliance necessary for the task of breaking the spell. 
Edgar Hardcastle

Laughter At A Price (2017)

The Greasy Pole column from the February 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough! It isn’t fit for humans now, There isn’t grass to graze a cow. Swarm over, Death!
Was John Betjeman’s 1937 despairing plea to Europe’s rampant air forces to put a halt to the menacing industrialisation of that Berkshire town with its vulgar profiteers but to spare the bald young clerks who add those profits? But it was not long after this that Slough nurtured a young man whose talents as a cartoonist were devoted to exposing the very social structure and circumstances that Betjeman despaired of: It’s not their fault they do not know, The birdsong from the radio. Steve Bell was raised in Slough at the grammar school where he enjoyed the Art lessons (and the novels of P.G. Wodehouse) but had something of a conscientious objection to being duffed up on the rugby field. So he moved up north where he could develop his illustrative skills along with burgeoning passions for left wing protest to the point that when his work was published worldwide, he was decorated with numerous honorary degrees and repeatedly named as Cartoonist of the Year. Early on in his time he fathered a succession of characters such as David Cameron as a speaking condom, Harry Hardnose as a newspaper editor and Able Seaman Kipling aboard a Royal Navy warship in the Falkland war. Such disrespect for the noble, enriched eminences of the social system of class was bound to provoke outrage, which served only to emphasise the truth that Bell at his most perceptively offensive was merely illustrating with an unfailing eye the facts of capitalism in its exploitation, cruelty and deceit.
HIGNFY
In whole this process is often referred to as satire, which can yield an impressive income when it is transmitted in the right place and time. For example there was the television programme Have I Got News For You (HIGNFY) – a kind of panel game in which two personalities – Ian Hislop and Paul Merton, each with a partner, presented themselves to ameliorate popular dismay at some current events by exploiting anything about them liable to cause a laugh. Between these two, as a kind of conductor orchestrating the laughter, was Angus Deayton. There were rumours that Hislop and Merton were resentful of the fact that Deayton was paid £50,000 for each programme, which was a great deal more than they got. There was some concern that they took their revenge on him when in October 2002 he was sacked after big headline revelations in the red top press that he was in the regular habit of taking drugs such as cocaine and using a succession of prostitutes – all of which was officially beyond the bounds of the programme. But HIGNFY has lost none of its appeal since then.
Straight Women
One of its recent victims was Nicky Morgan, the Tory Minster and MP for Loughborough. Among her ministerial jobs was in 2013 as Economic Secretary to the Treasury and soon afterwards Minister for Women – excluding the bit in the title about Equalities – which was said to be due to her voting against the proposal for same-sex marriages which, said her detractors, made her just the Minister for Straight Women. She was locked in an enduring clash with Minister of Education Michael Gove   over his proposals which did not prevent her supporting his later bid to become Tory leader. On another matter she accepted donations from a constituent who was at the head of a local radio programme and of a company specialising in security – which involved spying on other political organisations in order to develop legal advice to be passed to the opposition.
Trousers
These events were politically undermining, keeping Morgan in an uncomfortable spotlight and some of her comments led to her leader Theresa May issuing terse instructions that a person she identified as ‘that woman’ should not be admitted to any cabinet meetings discussing Brexit. Then Morgan made matters worse by sneering at May after she had posed on a couch wearing – or perhaps 'displaying' would be a more appropriate word – glamorously patterned leather trousers. The news that this garment had cost £995 did not help May’s efforts to persuade us that she stands for a government of the ordinary hard working struggling folk; even worse that the people who make the trousers in some Far Eastern sweat shop are paid some £1.49 an hour. Dismissing Morgan from the government did not cost anything like that and amid the uproar it was overlooked that Morgan was herself not averse to a bit of expensive leatherwear because she is often seen carrying her bits and pieces in a handbag made of the stuff, which at £950 had cost almost as much as May’s legwear. Morgan’s response to this humiliation was to withdraw from a pending appearance as one of the panel alongside Paul Merton on HIGNFY. Perhaps she did this in the hope of keeping a low profile but that did not happen because the programme responded by substituting her handbag.
Hattersley
That was just one example of how HIGNFY might keep its reputation for ruthless responses to popular politicians who reject an opportunity to appear with them. There was Roy Hattersley, or Baron Hattersley PC FRSL, who when he refused to appear was not substituted by costly luggage but by a tub of lard – which was justified by Paul Merton on the grounds that there were similarities in appearance and style of operation. Hattersley first came into Parliament in 1964 as MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook. He had previously failed to win at Sutton Coldfield in 1959. He then devoted considerable energy to being selected for another seat, trying twenty-five constituencies until he was accepted at Sparkbrook and went on to win there. During his time in the Commons he held a variety of shadow and ministerial jobs and after Labour’s disastrous defeat under Michael Foot in 1983 he became Deputy Leader under Neil Kinnock, who was Party Leader until he had his own disaster in 1987. Alistair Darling admired Hattersley and ‘…enjoyed working with (him). He is good company, convivial and thoughtful’. He remembered the advice Hattersley gave him in 1988 after inviting him to join his shadow Home Affairs team: ‘You’d better remember that in politics there is no such thing as gratitude’. Which should have counted when Leo McKinstry in The Spectator derided him as ‘…this charmless figure of epic mediocrity’. 
Laughter may be a defence against the essential nature of a social system which judges everything through a price and when profit can be reaped from the sale of entertainment. To change that would really be News For You.
Ivan