Friday, February 10, 2017

Race & Violence (1959)

From the July 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

With the recent murder of a coloured man in Netting Hill, race-prejudice has once more become a subject of public interest. It is not possible to say at this stage whether or not Kelso Cochrane died as a result of racial hatred.

What can be said is that passions, hatred and sympathies have been aroused. A large crowd of mourners, both white and black, followed Cochrane’s coffin through the streets. Many organisations have had their say about Notting-Hill; some of them, such as the Union Movement, propagating racial discrimination. There is no doubt that the Union Movement is anti-coloured, and rabidly so. It considers that this country should be reserved for Englishmen. This is a “one way only” policy however. Not so many years ago a main plank in Mosley’s platform was the intensive economic development of British Africa; for the benefit of the British, of course. “Keep out the coloureds” does not mean keeping the Pinks out of South Africa, Kenya or Nyasaland. The left-wing too, have been having their little stir. They, poor souls, are in a bit of a quandary, for the Labour Government’s record does not look particularly attractive. The imprisonment of Nkrumah and the banishment of Seretse Khama must make the collection of coloured people's votes a rather difficult matter. There are, too, plenty of advocates in the Labour Party for the policy of restricting or excluding immigrants. The supporters of such views, to be logical, should exclude or restrict the movement of anybody going anywhere to look for jobs.

One form of violence has been put down officially, and with an iron hand. There are other forms of highly discriminatory violence that are encouraged, and financed with millions of dollars, pounds and roubles. Young men at Cape Canaveral in Florida, with considerable academic, scientific and technical qualifications, are busy getting ready to be very violent indeed. They are engaged in the assembly and launching of rockets that may one day destroy whole cities. The crimes against humanity planned here (and in every other weapons-development centre in the world) make the coshings and brawlings of the “Teds” look like nursery-play. Evidently people can be as violent and as discriminatory as they please—at the right place and time and against the wrong people.

The evidence shows that there is no basis whatsoever for thinking one racial or national group inferior to another; and in fact scientists even have difficulty in defining what is meant by “race.” We are one species, one people, and there is no reason why all people should not live in harmony. This will take a bit of organising but it is where we take our stand. We must organise together to throw off the shackles of class-domination. We are against racialism, nationalism and any other form of persecution and prejudice whatsoever. We want a world of human beings aware of their humanity, in place of a world of rocket-launchers and bomb-throwers. “Racialism” and “Nationalism” are social products, and will disappear along with the bomb-throwing society which gives rise to them.

The Scapegoats
Life is unsatisfactory, not only for those on the bottom rungs of the social ladder, but for those who have climbed rather higher as well; it is so much more painful if you fall. Many people, looking round for a scapegoat to blame for all their troubles, fix on the West Indian, Jew or other “outsider.” The West Indian, being rather distinctive both in colour and culture, makes a particularly choice victim. But bad housing has always been a feature of capitalism, it existed long before the recent influx of West Indians. The West Indian is in the same rotten boat as ourselves. He came here because poverty in the West Indies is particularly bad. To blame him for coming here looking for a job is like blaming one’s own relatives for moving to new towns and new employments in order to better themselves. There is nothing logical in this matter however, they are blamed because they work; they are also blamed because they don’t. They can never do anything right. They are blamed for taking houses, they are also blamed for living in overcrowded conditions. They are blamed for “lowering the tone” of the districts in which they live. There wasn’t much tone to be lowered in Brixton or Hackney, the places have been gradually falling apart for years. It is capitalism, a society that produces satellites and rockets as easy as winking that is at fault. The workers never have had enough.

Prosperous Misery
Capitalism isn’t very successful at making people happy; it is not organised for that purpose, it is organised for the making of profits. Tensions and resentments are easily made, and capitalism is glad of it, particularly in time of war.

Even the “successful.” the “man who is getting on,” has little cause for real satisfaction. Society hasn’t got much to offer except the rat-race scramble for good jobs, suburban brick boxes, bigger and better television sets, and all the thousand and one gadgets that capitalism provides as a substitute for human co-operative happiness. The “go-ahead” man usually gets there by stepping on his fellows; the “crawler” is common everywhere, despised yet surreptitiously admired. Somewhere in the struggle humanity has been forgotten; somewhere part of our sympathies and emotions has been destroyed. In such a world as this, full of tensions and resentments, race-prejudice can explode as suddenly as a bomb, erupting into shrieking mob-violence. There is always the quieter, more civilised way; the finding of mock-rational, pseudo-scientific reasons for hating other human beings. Sale and Profit have deadened our humanity, dulled our sensibilities, thwarted our progress, soured our relations with our fellows, made us into hostile, suspicious “insiders” looking out of our brick-box house or tin car at a hostile world, continuously on our guard against the menace outside.

It is not the Black Man, Pink Man or Yellow Man who is the root cause of our problems, it is our arid society; never more financially solvent, yet never more emotionally bankrupt. Wage-slavery has cut-off the world from humanity, the world is the property of someone else. Socialists want the world returned to humanity, of whatever race or colour. What is even more important, we want humans to return to humanity.
F. R. Ivimey

A View on the Crisis: Paul Mattick Jr interview (2011)

Paul Mattick Jnr
Interview from the October 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Marxist economist and author Paul Mattick Jnr talks to Stuart Watkins about his views on Marx, the economic crisis, and the prospects for socialism

Socialist Standard: In your recently published book, Business As Usual (reviewed in the May 2011 Socialist Standard), you give an account of the causes of our present economic situation. Could you summarise the argument for our readers? In your view, just what is this crisis all about really?

Paul Mattick Jnr: This crisis, like those that have punctuated the history of capitalism since the beginning of the nineteenth century, is due to the inadequate amount of profit produced by workers in the capitalist economy, relative to the amount required for a significant expansion of investment. This problem, which first made itself known in the post-World War II period in the mid-1970s, has been hidden by the enormous expansion of debt – public, corporate, and even private – since that time, which continued the expansion of debt in all capitalist nations in response to the long-lasting deep depression of the 1930s. The credit-money created by governments and spread throughout the system by financial institutions created the basis for an apparent prosperity, though one marked by the usual cyclical pattern of ups and downs. But the underlying problem made itself visible, for those who cared to look, in many forms – the persistent inflation of the 1960s, the ‘stagflation’ of the following decade, the debt crises of Latin America and eastern Europe, the currency crises, real estate busts, stock market crashes, and massive bank failures of the last thirty years, as well as the general tendency, worldwide, to substitute speculation for real capital investment. Finally, the capacity of the system to put off dealing with its underlying problem seems to have reached its limits at the end of 2007.

Socialist Standard: According to most commentators in the mainstream press, the Great Recession, though serious, is now over. Do you agree that it is?

Paul Mattick Jnr: Between the time you asked this question and the present moment, many have become anxious about the arrival of a ‘double dip’ recession. In my opinion, the so-called second dip is merely the continuation of the crisis that began in 2007. There are of course economic fluctuations throughout periods of depression as well as periods of prosperity; in addition the government stimulus after 2008, however inadequate, had a certain effect (for instance in China, where the state promotion of an enormous real estate bubble involved the importation of machinery and other goods from Europe and elsewhere). But the fundamental problem, the low profitability of capital, has not been overcome.

Socialist Standard: And in your view, the low profitability of capital can be explained by Marx’s law of the tendency of the profit rate to fall? Can this law be demonstrated to be true empirically?

Paul Mattick Jnr: Yes to your first question; your second raises complex issues. The theory Marx worked out in Capital is an extremely abstract one: it is an attempt to analyze the dynamics of capitalism as a global system, over the long term. It is couched in terms of the quantities of ‘socially abstract labour’ – labour performed in the production process as represented by money when products are bought and sold – because Marx looks as capitalism as fundamentally, like all social systems, an organization of the process of reproducing the human population (and its social relationships). But in the world of business, money is used to symbolise more than the actual activities of social production – it represents, for instance, claims on the social product based on the control of natural resources, and also – to a large extent, in fact – promises to pay in the future, promises to pay off bets made on the way production prices will work their way through the market. And national income statistics, even ignoring the enormous inaccuracies involved in calculating them, are drawn up on the basis of business accounting systems and orthodox economic theorising, which do not distinguish between actual productive activity and speculative hopes. As a result, the data available cannot really be used to prove or disprove Marx's theory.

This is not to say that Marx's ideas can't be measured against experience. His predictions need to be compared with the history of capitalism over the last 200 years. From this perspective, Marx's ideas come off very well, as the main tendencies he predicted for capitalism – towards the supplanting of human labour by machinery, the concentration and centralisation of capital, the spread of wage labour, the tendency towards widescale unemployment, and above all the recurrence of periods of depression – have been realised. In fact, I would say that Marx's theory of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall over the long term is the only convincing account of the business cycle that there is. A particular aspect of this is of personal interest to me: in the 1960s, my father, Paul Mattick, wrote a book, Marx and Keynes, challenging the generally accepted view that Keynesian methods could control or eliminate the business cycle. He asked: if Marx is right, what will happen? And what he predicted has in general come about. This is one of the very few examples of a successful prediction in the social sciences!

Socialist Standard: Could you expand on your claim that the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is the only convincing explanation of the business cycle? Perhaps the most important new work to emerge from the Marxist tradition on crisis in recent years is that of David Harvey. He says, on the contrary, that the tendency of the rate of profit to fall cannot be made to work – it’s too compromised by the counter-tendencies identified by Marx, among other objections. He instead views all the conflicting Marxist accounts of the business cycle – profit squeeze, underconsumption, disproportionality – as possibilities that represent but don’t exhaust possible departures from balanced growth. What is your view of the competing Marxist accounts of crisis, including Harvey’s?

Paul Mattick Jnr: Many Marxist writers have taken some version of the tack Harvey follows, invoking a variety of causal factors to explain crises. The problem with this is that these disparate factors are not operating on the same analytical level. If wages would really squeeze profits, accumulation will decline, putting downward pressure on wages, so this will quickly correct itself. This is why, so far as we can tell from statistics, there have been no notable profit squeezes associated with important downward movements of the economy, despite claims sometimes made that there have been. Similar considerations hold for disproportionality explanations: capitalism in fact is always developing disproportionally, as there is no central regulating agency, but this is also constantly subject to correction by market forces. The explanation of crisis by reference to underconsumption is one of the oldest – it dates back to Sismondi and Malthus in the early 19th century – but also one of the least convincing: clearly, not all the product can ever be consumed, or else there would be no capital accumulation; as well, a constant feature of the system cannot explain the crisis cycle. As Marx points out, of course there is a lack of effective demand in a depression period. But why? His answer is that accumulation – which equals as it determines demand (for consumer goods, via wages, and production goods) – slows in response to declining profitability. And this is in accord with what statistical information we have, as was demonstrated long ago by the American economist Wesley Mitchell and has been recently shown by a number of researchers. Of course, the profits of statistics are, as I have pointed out, not the profits of Marx. But Marx's theoretical considerations provide an explanation for the fluctuations of observable business profits. What is odd is the resistance to Marx's theory when it is in such good accord with the history of capitalism. I believe this is largely due to the fact that most theorists are still in thrall to the economists' idea of capitalism as a naturally self-regulating system. Thus Harvey, for instance, needs to find a reason why it goes out of balance. In fact, however, capitalism is always in disequilibrium. On the broadest scale, it is the crisis that makes continued accumulation possible, just as it is accumulation that leads to a lowering of the rate of profit.

This highly abstract statement ignores the counteracting factors, the list of which Marx borrowed from J.S. Mill. It is not hard to show – it was done by Grossmann and others – that over the long run these factors cannot overwhelm the tendency of profits to fall. But we already know this empirically, since the history of capitalism demonstrates the effects of a periodically falling profit rate.

Socialist Standard: You say your father was proved right and Keynes wrong. But many supporters of the system would say that Keynesian methods saved capitalism from a Great Depression in the 1970s, and led to the Great Moderation – with capitalism delivering generally and gradually improving prosperity for all and monetary policy moderating the ups and downs of the business cycle. Did that not prove Keynes right? Might the same tricks not work again and pull us out of our present crisis?

Paul Mattick Jnr: I think it's fair to say that Keynesian methods saved capitalism from a deep and long depression in the 1970s. But the cost was the rising level of government debt in all capitalist countries. In the 1980s and after this was joined by an unparalleled expansion of corporate and private consumer debt. What happened around 2007 was that this expansion of debt collided with the continuing failure of the capitalist economy proper to expand at a sufficient rate. So one could say that the chickens of 1975 have come home to roost in the current depression. And since the Keynesian card has already been largely played, capitalist governments are now torn between fears of further unraveling of the private-property system and the dangers of further increasing sovereign debt.

Socialist Standard: Your father was connected with our American party, occasionally publishing in its journal. In a newly published biography of one its members (see here), we see you as a child sat at your father’s knee while political discussions raged around you. Do you have memories of these times? What is your memory and present opinion of the WSPUS and our political tradition generally? You say in your book that the heydey of the left and the trade unions is over and there's no hope of reviving them. So what can be done? What's the alternative?

Paul Mattick Jnr: My memories of the WSP are very good ones – I liked the people involved very much. I still remember going to classes in Marxian economics in Boston, taught by Rab and others, in some ways my real initiation into radical theory. I remember, with equal pleasure, the ‘socials’ – parties – when we kids moved around the legs of smoking, drinking, discussing, lovely adults. But I think these experiences, precious though they are to me as an individual, belong to the past. For most of today's young people – and most of their elders – the political ideas of the past have little meaning. And not only ideas – the political movements of the past no longer exist as serious forces. The trade unions have long been in decline world-wide, and the political parties of the left are either fully integrated into the capitalist political system or have become minute, unimportant sects. To an extent, this is good, as it seems to me that leftwing political organizations have historically stood in the way of creative responses to social crises, obsessed as they have been with their own agendas. But in any case, the response to the coming depression and the suffering to be imposed on people by the world's masters (and nature, as a result of the workings of the capitalist economy) is something people will have to work out for themselves, with little help from the past, in response to evolving conditions. To solve their problems, people will have to take direct, concrete action – occupying empty housing, seizing stocks of food and other goods, and eventually, if all goes well, occupying and beginning to operate the means of production and distribution. This lies in the future, but already one can see steps in this direction, in phenomena like the Greek cry ‘We won't pay!’ and French occupations of defunded schools. Even the action of tens of thousand of young Spaniards, simply meeting in the centre of Madrid and other cities, like the Egyptians in Tahrir Square, to discuss politics, is a step towards autonomy from the political wing of the ruling classes, a step towards an autonomous working-class control of social life.

Socialist Standard: We see your point, but we would also say that as people begin to work these things out for themselves, they will also probably be drawn to some of our conclusions: namely, that state power will have to be reckoned with in an organised way, and alternatives to the present system discussed and agreed upon. That’s at least a possibility, isn’t it?

Paul Mattick Jnr: Both of your points seem to me quite true. We can already see the state mobilising its forces in defence of capitalist social relations, even when they are barely challenged, and radical confrontation with the current social order will definitely involve finding ways to counter the military forces that will be deployed. Meanwhile, exploring alternatives to the present system, after a long period during which even the idea of an end to capitalism has been nearly unthinkable, is of great importance. This is especially true because earlier models of social change have been rendered obsolete by the development of capitalism as a system: for instance, an idea like that of the network of workers councils so important to revolutionary thought after the First World War requires thoroughgoing reformulation in a period when large numbers of workers have insecure jobs, and no longer identify themselves as workers within particular industries, not to mention workplaces, while gigantic masses of people all over the world struggle to exist without employment, and when many production processes involve workers and workplaces in different countries, as when Chinese workers assemble iPhones from parts produced in other places. Then, the developing ecological catastrophe raises novel issues which will require serious, large-scale efforts of a technological as well as a social nature. At the same time, the growing proletarianization of the world’s people and the greater level of international integration of populations and cultures, make the old slogan of “world revolution” in some ways more realistic than ever before.

Socialist Standard: Thank you, Paul, very much for talking to us.

Dead Man Writing (2005)

Book Review from the December 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

Philosophical Arabesques. By Nikolai Bukharin. Pluto Press. 2005. £35 (hardback)

While Bukharin was in prison, awaiting the show trial that would lead to him being sentenced to death and executed in 1938 on preposterous, trumped-up charges of sabotage and treason, he chose to spent the time writing books. One of these was on philosophy. It was found in the Kremlin archives after the fall of state capitalism, published in Russia and now in English translation.

Bukharin was one of the more interesting and able of the Bolsheviks. Even before the Bolshevik seizure of power he had written a couple of books which are quite acceptable as an expression of a Marxist point of view: Imperialism and the World Economy and The Theory of the Leisure Class (a criticism of the Austrian school of marginalist economics), both written in 1914 when he was 26. After the Bolsheviks came to power he was an obvious candidate to codify Bolshevik theory; which he did in The ABC of Communism (written with E. Preobrazhensky) (1919), The Economics of the Transformation Period (1920), and The Theory of Historical Materialism (1921) which are sophisticated defences of Bolshevik theory and practice using Marxian terminology and concepts.

As a member of the Politburo, Bukharin also played a political role. In the struggles amongst the Bolshevik leaders following the death of Lenin in 1924, he supported the policy of consolidating the Bolshevik regime internally (as opposed to trying to foment world revolution) favoured by Stalin and most members of the Russian party. In fact, as editor of Pravda in the 1920s, it fell to him to come up with a theoretical defence of this policy.

It can even be said that he, even more than Stalin, elaborated the theory of "socialism in one country" so reviled by Trotskyists. To do so he had to identify "socialism" with the state sector of the economy, i.e. with what he had once called "state capitalism" (he had temporarily been one of the "leftist blockheads" denounced by Lenin in 1918 for opposing the Bolsheviks' economic policy of the time as "state capitalism": of course it was state capitalism, retorted Lenin, adding that, what's more, state capitalism would be a step forward for economically backward Russia). He opposed the adoption of Stalin's policy of forced industrialization and collectivisation of agriculture in 1929 and so fell from favour, but remained a leading figure in the regime. However, once Stalin decided in the mid-1930s to eliminate all potential rivals he was a doomed man.

Perhaps surprisingly, Philosophical Arabesques represents a return to his earlier Marxist approach to things, in the tradition of Plekhanov who wrote extensively on materialism and problems of philosophy. He does follow rather slavishly Lenin's philosophical views as expressed in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1908) and Philosophical Notebooks (1915), but these were not all that different from those of other pre-WWI Social Democrats in the Marxist tradition. The trouble was that Lenin was intellectually intolerant and in his 1908 book violently denounced other materialists, who didn't agree with his version of materialism, for being not materialists but crypto-idealists, solipsists (people who believe that only their self exists) and what he called "fideists" (religious).

Thus, it is rather off-putting to find in the opening chapters of Bukharin's book the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume described as a "subjective idealist" and a "solipsist", whereas all he had done was to question whether or not such a thing as absolute knowledge was possible (a proposition also challenged, even if from a different angle, by dialectics). Hume - and the others in the British empiricist tradition which includes Bertrand Russell and AJ Ayer, both declared atheists - were not "idealists" in the sense of believing that the outside world only existed in the mind and were certainly not so mad as to think that only they existed.

They are certainly open to criticism for their approach of starting from the point of view of an isolated philosopher sitting in his study trying to work out, on the basis of his personal sense-perceptions, if he really can either know or believe that the outside world and other people exist; instead of from the point of view of humans living and producing as a social and socialised group - a criticism Bukharin also makes of them, pointing out that the fact that the isolated philosopher uses words to think shows in itself that other humans must exist since language is a product of human society. But to call them names that suggest they deny the existence of a world outside the human mind is absurd, in fact a display of ignorance.

Bukharin is more at home with German philosophy (which really was idealist) - Kant, Schelling, Fichte, Hegel. Although he mentions Hegel in every chapter, he provides a balanced view of his system, warts and all (and some of the warts were enormous) and of what Marx took from it as its "rational core".

Basically, what Marx retained and applied to the real world as opposed to the world of ideas was (1) that you should not judge by empirical appearances alone (otherwise you might think that the Sun went round the Earth) but try, by theoretical analysis, to get at what might be behind them, (2) that everything is an inter-related part of the whole that is the universe, and (3) that everything is in a constant process of being transformed into something else, but that this change is not always continuous but involves leaps and breaks.

Add to this the traditional materialist view, that non-living nature preceded living forms of nature, that as an animal capable of abstract thought and consciousness of self humans evolved from animals without this capacity, and that mind and consciousness cannot exist apart from a living body, and you have "dialectical materialism".

Whether dialectics is the basic law of motion of the universe (as Bukharin argues) or a human description and interpretation of what they observe in nature remains a subject of debate, evenamongst Marxists.

Bukharin's book would be of interest merely as the writing of someone who knows he is soon going to be killed but it is also worth reading in its own right as a work of philosophy. Bukharin obviously thought this an important subject to choose it as his last writing. He even asked to be executed by poison "like Socrates". Stalin let him be shot.
Adam Buick

News From Wales (1958)

From the March 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

For many generations the manufacture of steel and tin-plate, together with coal mining, has been the means of livelihood for the vast majority of South Wales workers (see article “How to attract workers" Socialist Standard, May, 1957). Now, thousands of men with years of accumulated skill in the production of steel and tin-plate and not without a certain pride in their craft, despite the notorious arduousness of the industry, find themselves redundant.

At the time of writing, approximately 7,500 are out of employment—with more to follow. The reason given is that the industry is going through a process of modernisation. Automation is, of course, inevitable under a system of mass production and it is not a question of whether we approve of it or not. No Socialist would support a system of manufacture which takes the maximum toll of flesh and blood as the tinplate industry in Wales has done throughout the years.

The concentration of production now taking place in four super factories has improved in some respects the lot of a much smaller labour force. This smaller army, geared to high speed machinery, has already created new records in steel tonnage. Stocks are mounting quicker than they can be sold.

It is obvious that the Steel Company has been forced to increase its investments in modem plant whilst attempting to decrease the labour force. The snag is, of course, that more and more invested Capital needs to be utilized in the attempt to capture markets by means of quantity and cheapness, whilst this very method tends to decrease their rate of profit, compared with the old days of cheap flesh and blood with a minimum of machinery. In the meantime, even their super factories have had to slow down.

Sometime or other demand will no doubt rise again, but these ups and downs present a problem that is insoluble within capitalism.

The army of the unwanted grows. Once again we are back to the dole queues. Once more the pot of jam is making its appearance more frequently on the family table to the exclusion of more sustaining fare. Once more the working class house-wife is forced to deny her family in order to pay the rent Only this time the rents, especially on the Council Estates, are very much on the up and up.

There is, of course, no way out of such a situation apart from taking over the means of production. When this happens the shiny new factories will be really utilized. They will be manned by workers with a new interest in their work. Work will be a necessary task shared by all so that all can obtain the benefit of leisure and product The product itself will be freely distributed so that surpluses and unemployment will no longer arise.

In the meantime, the Welsh steel worker is issuing distress signals to his Union leaders. Councillors and MP.’s, all of whom are scuttling around interviewing Government Ministers, etc. The clergy are praying for the workers too. Congregations suffer when there are upheavals in the community pattern as occurred during the last depression when thousands emigrated to other parts of the country.

The members of the Socialist Party in Wales continue to put forward the case to the best of their ability. It is up to the workers to analyse it. They are going to have plenty of time on their hands in which to do so.
W. Brain

Exhibition Review: The ABC of Capitalism (2017)

Riiko Sakkinen
Exhibition Review from the February 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
‘We live in a capitalist world. Capitalism defines our society, economy, politics and culture. However, it’s not a school subject in the UK or any other capitalist country.’ So runs the publicity for an exhibition The ABC of Capitalism by Riiko Sakkinen, currently on display at Bury Art Museum, which is also described as containing ‘the School of Capitalism for kids’. This sounds potentially intriguing, but it all turns out to be a bit of a let-down.
The exhibition has a lengthy list of varieties of capitalism, including state capitalism, but no explanation of any of these. A map of the world states that there are 204 capitalist countries, and only two that are not capitalist, Cuba and North Korea, but there is no account of why this is the case or what system these countries have instead. ‘Freedom is a Free Economy’, announces a slogan, but this is meaningless as there is no explanation of what counts as a free economy. There is a display of supposed Heroes of Capitalism, from Adam Smith and Henry Ford to Thatcher, Reagan and Deng Xiaoping. A single out-of-context quote from each of these is used, but nothing is said to show why they are considered ‘heroes’. Pinochet is one of them, but it is not stated that he was a dictator who had his opponents tortured and executed. There is no reference anywhere to two of the defining characteristics of capitalism, wages and profit. But in a sense there would be no point in having a school curriculum along such lines, as the social and economic status quo is already implicit in education and the media, anyway.
Does a look at Sakkinen’s website (www.riikosakkinen.com) help at all? Sort of, as it says a bit about his Turbo Realism movement. But consider these quotes from it: Turbo Realism ‘is against the globalized capitalism and all other capitalisms’ but it ‘will be against the post-capitalism, and we will be the first artists interned in its camps’ and its goal ‘is to support the revolutionary forces in the society to establish a global socialist dictatorship’. Probably he is being deliberately provocative, disagreeing with himself, advocating one position and its opposite too.
The exhibition states that many people do not understand capitalism, but it is not clear that Sakkinen understands it either, and little that is said here will help. It may be claimed that art need not spell everything out, but it surely needs to say something more than is done in this ABC.      
Paul Bennett

How To Attract Workers . . . By a Steel Magnate (1957)

From the May 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Steel and tinplate manufacturing in S. Wales has travelled a long way from those early times when the densely wooded valleys resounded with the blow of the hammering forges busily flattening iron into plates to the continuous strip rolling mill of today. Then the industry was in the hands of small private owners, today it has emerged into a mammoth combine employing tens of thousands of workers. Through it all, the role of the worker has remained the same. Despite changes in processes—from charcoal to coke; Bessemer to Semens; hammer to rolls; dipping to electrolytic tinning —the workers status is still that of one who owns no part in this enterprise; remaining, as of old, a seller of labour power.

On the outskirts of Llanelli there is to be seen an old school house—1850—built by the owners of a local tinplate works for the tuition of employees' children. We can well imagine that the curriculum was “well laced” with admonitions, such as submissiveness and respect for the “master” and, of course, the parson. Today, of course, as in industry, education has been centralized and otherwise "nationalized" so that both the old school and the old steel and tinplate works have had their day.

Nowadays, Llanelli boasts the most modern tinplate strip mill in Europe, if not in the world; built by the Steel Co. of Wales, an amalgamation of a number of smaller companies. The circle, it seems, is now complete. Beginning with the introduction of the tinning process brought to this country by Yarranton, who spied on the German method; having a second great phase with the laying of the foundations of the Margam Works in 1915 (this time with the aid of German prisoners of war—forced labour?). Today, the Steel Company of Wales is a giant of the tinplate world.

Nevertheless, the worker has still to be reckoned with and so we find that the Steel Company of Wales is as keen to educate the working class as were its predecessors in the little school house not five miles away from where the present magnificent factory now stands.

A typical example has come our way recently.

Sir Ernest Lever, Chairman of the mammoth Steel Co. of Wales, some time ago, delivered a speech to the Cardiff branch of the Institute of Industrial Administration, which was considered (presumably by Sir Ernest and his fellow executives) to be so good, that copies were distributed free to employees of the Company. We have read the document and feel that it deserves to be answered.

Sir Ernest, in a text of 10 pages, does not mention “Capitalism” or "Capitalists," though he does state that individuals “should . . .  be able to make a little financial profit for themselves." This appears to be a masterly understatement to say the least, from a man whose undertaking has assets of £99 million, with a profit of £14.3 millions.

Sir Ernest begins by expounding the necessity for good management and illustrates it by giving homely examples such as that of the housewife. In this way he discusses the subject on familiar grounds with the reader as a preliminary to leading him along to a more ‘‘academic” plane. Having, he hopes, achieved some measure of agreement first he goes on to say that though Administration is not an "occult art” managers are "born and not made” (page 1). Throughout the pamphlet he plugs the necessity for leadership and the glorious rewards that lie in store for those who, like himself presumably, are born to lead (not forgetting the implication that you, too, the reader, may possess these hidden qualities).

It appears that Capitalist Administration, together with its attendant industrial methods such as "speed ups,” etc., have been grossly maligned by workers and the well known "Time and Motion” study is really nothing more than what the dear old lady meant when she referred to "using her head to save her legs.” We, of course, know that whereas the old lady meant her head, and her legs. Sir .Ernest means your head and legs and the Steel Co.'s profits.

He then dips into history and refers to the Craft Guild System to show the rewards won by the apprentice by obeying implicitly his master’s wishes and instructions and bemoans the fact that the modern worker has lost such humility (p. 10 and 11). Sir Ernest should be told that under the Guild System the apprentice hoped—and usually did—become a Master Craftsman himself; that the Master did indeed command some respect by being a "Master of his Craft" from whom one learned; that today the worker, by and large, does not and cannot hope to became the master: that masters are not masters in the sense that they are “master craftsmen” or are otherwise imbued with extraordinary talents—occult or otherwise: that they exist as masters simply by their control over the means of life with power to employ members of the working class in the laboratory, office, and workshop as happens in his, and every other industrial concern.

Perhaps the biggest “whopper” in a speech that is full of them is the statement that once a worker becomes a charge-hand or foreman, he is on his way to becoming a member of the Capitalist Class! "If you ask me when the employee becomes an employer . . .  I suppose the answer is when he reaches the top grade in the employee scale” (page 4). We notice that such a staggering statement demands a careful "suppose" from an otherwise authoritative spokesman of Capitalism. For our part, we are staggered to think that the "rags to riches” view is still held to be true together with the view that an employee—even a highly paid one—is tantamount to being a Capitalist.

Sir Ernest, drawing to the end of his speech, goes on to say that “in a properly conducted industry there should be no antagonism between workers and employer” (page 6). Of course this is the situation earnestly desired by the Capitalist Class and if the workers follow Sir Ernest’s advice this is the situation they will find themselves in (providing that in the meantime they lose their sanity, self respect and sense of logic). We, of course, cannot see it happening because in a system of society where there exists an antagonism of interests—on the one hand exploitation for profit and on the other the sale of labour power, strife is inevitable and willy-nilly, the Capitalist Class must wield the big stick now as they have always done if they are to remain in business even though Sir Ernest implies that though Capitalists were once bad. they are no longer so (page 6).

As we said at the beginning, Sir Ernest nowhere mentions "Capitalists" or "Capitalism." so we have had to do it for him. He confines the whole of his argument to "workers” and "management” His great aim appears to be to prove the necessity for “Leadership."

We know that the time has come when men can conduct their lives—socially and economically—without boards of directors. We know because we see the Capitalist Class running industry by purchasing the brains and muscle of the working class. When Sir Ernest says "our survival is at stake" he means, of course, the survival of the Capitalist System. We are not in the least interested in its survival, rather the opposite. Under his system our survival is always "at stake.” He cannot point out any period when it was not so.

We suggest that Sir Ernest or any other spokesman for Capitalism, when next they decide to write "homilies for homely working men" really get down to it and tell us what, in their view, are the benefits of Capitalism for the working class.

And we don’t want to be told that the answer lies in the steel company’s recent offer of shares on special terms for their workers. This, an editorial in the Western Mail, says, is intended to give them the idea that they "will have a real stake in the company” (4/3/57). The real purpose—and cheap at the price—is to make the workers more docile wage slaves.
W. Brain


About Productivity (1957)

From the January 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

At Head Office on Sunday, November 25, the film on show was about production and productivity under the title “Room for Discussion.” On the screen were the late Arthur Deakin, speaking for trade unionists, an employer, Mr. Graham Hutton, economist, and Mr. Speakman, of the British Productivity Council. The film showed them taking questions from the audience and giving their separate views. In fact there was little disagreement among the panel or those of the audience who put questions, and none at all about any vital question concerning production problems because no vital question was raised. All the discussion took place within the narrow framework of accepting the present social arrangements and seeing what small things could be done within that framework. Nobody raised the question of the desirability of the kind of things that are produced, such as armaments, nobody dealt with the ownership of factories or division of the product, or wondered whether the class relationship of employers and employed might have some bearing, and nobody mentioned the rest of the world outside this country except as a place in which British exports have to be sold and could be more easily sold if cheaper.

About the biggest suggestion made was that production would go up and costs be lowered if more workers went over to shift working so that the machines could be worked day and night. The panel smoothly agreed that this would be a good thing provided that the workers received some extra pay. It is understandable that the panel took it easily—they don’t work shifts—but none of the audience put the workers’ point of view about the objections to early, late and night work.

Nobody put the Socialist case that the only way to obtain a really big increase of goods and services useful to the human race (as against the comparatively trifling increases of output per worker that is all the productivity expects can show) is to free millions of workers from their present task of producing armaments, and running Capitalist financial and bureaucratic operations, so that they could be employed on socially useful work. In this way production could be doubled, but the Film Panel and audience seemingly have never even noticed the things that ought to hit them in the eye. They were all conditioned to accepting Capitalism as a necessity for all time.

The audience at our Head Office when the film was shown took part in an interesting and useful discussion of all the things the film ignored.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Art Racket Fairy-Godmother (1957)

From the January 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

No, fellow-worker, this does not concern you except in one important way. When you read in the Press £27.000 paid for a painting by Corot, £25,000 for one by Murillo, £2,300 for a copy of “Comrade” William Morris’s Kelmscott Chaucer, thousands of pounds for old silver, jewels, porcelain, etc., you may wonder what Fairy Godmother has visited the buyers. But would you believe it, you are the Fairy Godmother. It all comes from the profits you are bound to make for the Boss. Works of fine art and the fine dwellings to put them in are part of your contributions to His Imperial Majesty the Boss for the privilege of working your life out for wages. Maybe here and there, of all the thousands of works of art sold, a very small proportion go into public museums and galleries, and 90 per cent. of the time , these Galleries are open, you are at work doing the Fairy . Godma act and so your cultural uplift gets the go-bye. When next you go to the Public Library, look at the fine art journals such as The Connoisseur, etc., and you will see this is not just soap box oratory, for from cover to cover you will see works of art and craftsmanship for sale; charming things to solace the Captains of Industry while they wipe the sweat off their brows. Yes, it goes very well with roast pheasant and champagne! Not many crumbs of the sort fall to you from the Rich Man’s table. But be of good cheer for you have just had Christmas, with peace and goodwill to all men.

Now come along and make a New year’s resolution, to find out what is behind the art luxury rackets which run parallel with your lives of rush and insecurity. We can help you; read our case and get to work to make a world of Peace and Goodwill. Compliments of the season.
Ted Kersley

Gradually modernising (2017)

Book Review from the February 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

'Modernity Britain, 1957–62', by David Kynaston. (Bloomsbury £14.99)

This is the latest in Kynaston’s massive history of Britain from 1945 to 1979. It is a detailed combination of political, social, cultural and economic history, with a lot of reference to and quotations from autobiographies and contemporary diaries.

1957 saw Harold Macmillan becoming Prime Minister; John Lennon met Paul McCartney for the first time; the causal link between smoking and cancer was confirmed; ball-by-ball radio commentaries on cricket Tests began; and there was a national bus strike. As the years passed, Blue Peter, Coronation Street and Z Cars started on TV, supermarkets became much more numerous, betting shops and commercial bingo halls opened, and many pubs and cinemas closed. In 1962 the Crazy Gang had their last performance, Accrington Stanley were wound up, the Beatles got a contract with EMI, and the centenary of ‘The Blaydon Races’ was celebrated.

Two well-known political quotations bookended the period. In July 1957 Macmillan announced that ‘most of our people have never had it so good’, and in June 1962 Harold Wilson stated that ‘the Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing’. It is hard to imagine claims along these lines being made today.

Living standards improved for most people. Between 1951 and 1958 the average earnings for industrial workers had grown by over 20 percent in real terms. In the second half of 1957, 56 percent of adults owned a TV set and 12 percent a fridge, and by 1960 82 percent of homes had a TV and 21 percent a fridge. Yet plenty of people still lived in poverty, below National Assistance levels. There were massive programmes of slum clearance and the building of flats (such as Park Hill in Sheffield and the high-rise blocks in Glasgow), but in 1960 there were still 850,000 homes categorised as unfit and slum clearance rates were running decades behind the plans. This was part of more general moves towards town planning, the restructuring of town and city centres and the building of big road schemes, such as Birmingham’s Inner Ring Road.

A few women were becoming prominent, for instance as journalists or newsreaders. But it was generally assumed that most married women would stay at home rather than work, and women on the whole earned far less than men and were more likely to be doing unskilled jobs. Marriage was the norm, and less than three percent of households were lone parents with dependent children. While many men expected their wives to just cook and clean, ‘the sociological evidence was mounting that marriages as a whole were becoming more companionate.’ The oral contraceptive pill could be prescribed from the end of 1961, but only to married women.

Immigration was a live issue, though in 1958 there were just 165,000 non-white immigrants in Britain. The Notting Hill riots that summer were ‘the most serious civil unrest of the decade’, as mobs of white youths rampaged through the streets. Many ads for rented flats stated ‘No coloured people’, and there was discrimination in employment as well. By 1961 it was being claimed that prejudice against West Indians in Birmingham was leading to ‘neighbourhood segregation’; there were no more than 35,000 West Indians in the city.

The Conservative election victory in October 1959 was their third in a row, and led to many arguments within the Labour Party. It was claimed that nationalisation had been the most damaging issue, and Hugh Gaitskell reiterated that it was not intended to take every private firm or small shop into state ownership. In 1957 a motion on unilateral nuclear disarmament had been defeated at a Labour conference; Kynaston says that this was the moment when Labour and ‘radical’ ideas began to become detached from each other, but it needs to be asked how radical Labour had ever been. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was set up in early 1958, and the Committee of 100 in 1960.

This is a very wide-ranging history of the period, but it has little to say about inequality and the lives of the richest people in Britain. 
Paul Bennett

Dissing the Establishment (2017)

From the February 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
The resignation of the UK’s chief representative to the EU, Ivan Rogers, gives us an unusual glimpse into the inner workings of government.  His very public (if formally veiled) criticisms of government ministers goes against the normal practice of confidentiality and secrecy that lies at the heart of the relationship between civil servants and ministers.  This suggests not only a breakdown of the machinery of government, but also highlights the changes of the personnel in office, as well as the enormous difficulty of the choices facing politicians in charge of responding to the Brexit vote.
The UK civil service has been in existence since 1855, established to provide permanent personnel to administer government, and to end corruption and patronage, following the Northcote-Trevelyan Report.  This provided for civil servants to be permanent and impartial, serving through changes in ministry, irrespective of the political complexion of the government of the day.  The watchword became that civil servants advise, and ministers decide. 
Compare this to the United States, where the President appoints most senior offices directly, and Donald Trump has simply handed direct control of the state to people who are themselves direct capitalists: giving state power to one faction of the capitalist class and a world class opportunity for industrial scale corruption.
The UK system worked reasonably well, within its own terms, providing professionalism at the heart of the increasingly complex government machine, as the size of the state expanded through the first half of the 20th century.  In socialist terms, we understand the state to be the executive committee of the ruling class, the capitalists.  The permanent Civil Service, however, did not have to come from individuals who were themselves personally capitalists (indeed, an absence of a personal business interest meant that they could effectively remain neutral between business interests).  The civil servants, however, did remain personally close to the established interests of the country, going to the same schools and universities, intermarrying with their families and pursuing the same hobbies, entertainments and social activities: all the superficial markers that some associate with the 'upper classes' of British society.
This came to be termed 'the Establishment' in the 1960s, a term which is useful for every outsider group to rail against, not least because of the looseness of its definition.  Everyone currently in office becomes ‘the Establishment’ by default.  Obviously, in the UK this appearance was aided by the rump hereditary aristocracy that continued to haunt the corridors of power, providing many of the personnel for the lumpen political class.  Within these terms, the ‘chummocracy’ of David Cameron was a last hurrah for such an 'Establishment'. 
Today’s lumpen politicians come through slightly different structures: the established political parties provide career routes (start as an intern, advisor, get a council seat, stand for parliament), and they are kept in touch with the wider needs of the capitalist class through the open corruption of the revolving door, where politicians go on to work as directors or advisors to firms with links with the government, or on the boards of charities and quangos.
Saloon bar bores
The fallout from Brexit is that the Saloon Bar Bore wing of the Tory Party has had power fall into its lap.  The wider chummocracy has always been largely value-free: believing only in taking and holding office for its own sake.  To do that, they’ve needed to recruit true believers, people who can convincingly reach out to win the electoral coalition needed to get to office: otherwise known as fruitcakes and headbangers.  Professional ideologues, often from outside the social circles of the 'Establishment', they espoused the necessary Euroscepticism and free market fundamentalism to keep the shopkeepers, farmers and associated big fish in small ponds onside.
Now that they are in charge, they are coming up against both the received wisdom of the bureaucracy of state, as well as the enduring interests of many very large and wealthy firms, not to mention the competing interests of capitalists within a large and necessarily byzantine international structure.  So, they are taking to shooting the messenger, and blaming the officials.  Further, faced as Theresa May is with making some difficult and potentially career-ending choices, she has taken the best politician's way out: and avoided taking those choices for as long as possible.
Rogers’ farewell missive ended with a reaffirmation of the traditional role of the civil servant:
  'I hope you will continue to challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking and that you will never be afraid to speak the truth to those in power.  I hope that you will support each other in those difficult moments where you have to deliver messages that are disagreeable to those who need to hear them.  I hope that you will continue to be interested in the views of others, even where you disagree with them, and in understanding why others act and think in the way that they do.'
The only extraordinary thing about that is that basic principles only need to be publicly asserted when they are under strain.  The clear point is that it has been taken by most observers to mean that the ministers Rogers has had to deal with have been displaying muddle-headed thinking with ill-founded arguments.  Put another way, the rational point of view of the outsiders is greatly at odds with the rational point of view of career civil servants and the general interest they represent.  That, far from being permanent, Rogers has had to go, indicates where the real balance of power lies, and it is with the elected side of the state, not the entrenched bureaucracy as some like to believe.
Panic on the bridge
Rogers’ letter also shows how difficult the Brexit planning is, as he notes:
'We do not yet know what the government will set as negotiating objectives for the UK's relationship with the EU after exit.'
Given formal notice of Brexit is due to be given next month, this is an incredible thing to be saying.  Senior diplomatic staff cannot function without direction being given from the very top. If May is not only hiding her negotiating strategy from the public, but also from the officials most in need of political direction, that is a clear sign that it is not Machiavellian, high stakes poker bluffing that is going on, but blind political panic.  Clearly, the Saloon Bar Bores, finding themselves in office, worry they may not be in power.
The real gem given to us by Rogers is this:
'Contrary to the beliefs of some, free trade does not just happen when it is not thwarted by authorities: increasing market access to other markets and consumer choice in our own, depends on the deals, multilateral, plurilateral and bilateral that we strike, and the terms that we agree.'
This is not the voice of a theoretician, but a practical hands-on international trade negotiator.  This has been the socialist case for decades: that markets are not spontaneous, but stem from the infrastructure put in place by the politically dominant class to serve their interests.  It is this reality that is coming into hard collision with the utopians and ideologues who have made up the backwaters of the Tory party.  They need to believe that markets just happen when people are left alone by the state, that they are the natural state of hard-working responsible individuals, because that is the attractive and (in some ways) egalitarian appeal of capitalism to those who are not themselves capitalists ('it could be you, if you work hard enough') and the ideological stick used to justify attacking welfare and the public sphere.
It is this contrast between the Tory utopians (and the small proprietors whose worldview they most closely match) and the big capitalists with their global worldview that lies beneath much of the current upheaval in politics.  In the end, the Saloon Bar Bores will find that the enemy is not 'The Establishment', but the wealth and power of bigger capitalists, and they will have to accommodate to the needs of British industry and finance, one way or another, probably wrapped up in Union Flag gift paper. Otherwise they would need to mobilise a nationalist force.  Such a movement would also have to shackle the working class and any large scale union activity.  Either way, they have nothing to offer the working class, other than not being the current 'Establishment' that oppresses them.
Unlike leftists and populists, socialists do not look to the superficialities of the Establishment theory, and its personnel, but look to the actual underlying class interests that structure society.  Whoever’s name is on the brass plate of public office, they are going to have to find themselves working in such a way as to protect profits.  At most they can play one interest off against another, to persuade us all to join in the bunfight.
The lesson is clear, then.  Fundamental change cannot happen without the exercise of political power, and cannot happen without depriving capitalists of their property and profits. 
Pik Smeet

"The Life of Parnell": A Review (1914)

Book Review from the December 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

To those who are interested in politics Mr. O’Brien’s work will be found instructive. To the Socialist it is doubly interesting, because it brings direct evidence in support of many of his contentions. The working class must, before they can establish Socialism, control the political machine; the history of the Irish Movement, especially during Parnell’s time, has been a record of the efforts of a party to achieve this for a specific object—Home Rule. These efforts took the form of appeals, arguments, demonstrations, and obstruction. The same tactics, with the exception of the last, as the Labour Party adopts. The plain fact that the Irish have not even yet succeeded, though more than half a century has covered their efforts, proves the absurdity of the Labour Party’s pretensions.

The Irish Party was a purely capitalist party, and as such, its success could only mean a change of rulers for the working class of Ireland. The latter had but to examine the condition of the working class of England, or indeed, the workers of any capitalist country, to see that the human parasite makes no distinction in the degree or nature of his exploitation, between the slaves of his own or any other nation.

Mr. O’Brien frequently refers to the object of the Irish Party under Parnell as being revolutionary. It was, of course, nothing of the kind. There has never been anything else in Irish affairs but a quarrel between two sections of the ruling class for the right to govern the Irish working class. Of what minor importance they consider the quarrel is shown in the rapidity with which they patched it up on the outbreak of the present war.

When Parnell first entered Parliament he found the Party composed of men afraid to mention Home Rule, so ultra-respectable were they. Like the Labour Party they were fearful of giving offence. Parliamentary customs, procedure, and conventionality were sacred to them. Like them they acted on the assumption that moderation was best, that they should refrain from actions that might embarrass the Government. And, indeed, the course of moderation and restraint would be best if their object was to keep on good terms with society, or (in the case of the Labour Party) to ensure the goodwill of the Liberals that they might retain their seats—and salaries.

Parnell had been taught to hate the English and cared nothing for their regard; consequently it was easy for him to see how ridiculous was the Irish policy and methods. With the help of Mr. Biggar he systematically obstructed business in the House, earning not only the condemnation of the Government but of his own party as well. His object was to gain the support of the extremists, and, if possible, to reconcile the differences between the various sections. Isaac Butt unintentionally assisted him in the first, when at the instigation of English and Irish members, he reprimanded him for bis conduct in the House. Butt fought strenuously for his position, the forces against him, however, particularly the Fenians, were too strong.

Parnell became the leader and idol of the Irish; and although as ignorant and superstitious as the workers he led, he inspired confidence and received a ready support. Many labour leaders resemble him in this respect, though they lack his audacity and courage. A working class not understanding their class position is the natural prey of these "Born Leaders,’’ whether the latter are conscious of the fraud they perpetrate or not. Parnell openly boasted that he "led a nation.” When differences arose over Captain O’Shea's candidature, he won over the rank and file by merely proclaiming, without evidence of any kind, that he "held a Parliament for Ireland in the hollow of his hand.” On these and other occasions be allowed his ambitious nature to be seen, and showed that he could stoop, as other capitalist politicians, to the usual political confidence tricks. The fact that Parnell was incorruptible and sincere did not make his cause genuine. There are politicians in every party equally sincere, yet from a scientific standpoint equally in error. The workers cannot afford to waste time sorting out the conscious frauds from the mere sentimental babblers. Their wisest course is to ignore the leader and tackle the question on its merits: by careful thought it is easy to discriminate between the sound and the unsound.

Ireland, says Mr. O' Brien, more than any other nation, is addicted to hero-worship. If that is true the reason must lie in their greater ignorance. But hero-worship is common to every country; demagogues with plausibility and eloquence, when they discover the language that tickles the ears of the workers, are promptly idolised. For every hundred that worshipped Parnell a thousand worshipped Gladstone, and have transferred their reverence to his successors —all of them equally fraudulent and hypocritical, and like the Welsh peace and war god of to-day, covering their imposition with false sentiment, vehemence, and professed sympathy for the poverty-stricken toilers.

The ruling class does not rely on one demagogue to “lead a nation,” there are many volunteers and much competition, with almost as many policies and palliatives—most of them quite shallow and easily exposed. It is the workers themselves, by their adulation, that create personalities; that make a man great in the modern sense. When the "Hero” has gone the way of all flesh, the false and unscientific ideas that he foisted on an over-credulous working class are examined by those who come after with coolness and deliberation, and their verdict must necessarily be that those associated with it were either knaves or dupes. There is only one way for the worker to escape this verdict: to study Socialism, when he can no longer be fooled. Once understanding his class position, he has only himself to blame if he so far loses his self-respect as to act against his convictions.

In more than one respect the Industrial Unionist resembles the Fenians of Parnell’s time. Inconsistency is a characteristic of both. As an organisation the Fenians denounced political action, yet their members were at liberty to support Parliamentary candidates; the same applies to every Industrial Union. The Fenians wasted their time and energy in boycotts, outrages, and attempts to release prisoners, which even when successful merely gave a local or individual benefit here and there. The most that the outrages did was quite unintentional on their part; they strengthened the hands of the Parliamentary party, as Parnell discovered when the Land Bill was introduced. The Industrial Unionist copies the lawlessness of the Fenians with sabotage, but has never yet—even in the United States—scored any success worth mentioning.

The constitutional weapon is condemned by them because the class that controls it use it in their own interest They blame the weapon, when they should rather blame themselves for not organising to control it, instead of leaving it in the possession of their enemies. The machinery and forces that enable a class to govern are obviously instruments of oppression, and must be subverted before the oppressed class can be free. Precedents are only of value when the conditions are the same. The political machine has never helped the working class because they have never controlled and used it; they have never been conscious of the necessity.

The Industrial Unionist pretends to think that a revolutionary working-class party, politically organised, is an impossible conception. He purposely declines to see the wide difference that exists between the Socialist Party and the pseudo-Socialists and Liberal Labourites. But this blindness is only assumed to cover the weakness of his case in comparison with Socialism. He thinks that if he asserts the impossibility or non-existence of such a party often enough and loud enough, he will hide the fact that lie has never yet been able to show how, without political organisation of the workers, the machinery of government can be controlled or rendered ineffective.

The life of Parnell is a story of political machination and trickery. Not one of the actors escaped altogether the defiling influence of the struggle for power. It is a permanent example, exposing the trickery and cunning of capitalist politicians. Because Parnell's policy was effective, from the Irish capitalists’ view point. every possible means were adopted to crush him both inside and outside of Parliament. Gladstone imprisoned him, sanctioned a mission to Rome with the object of using the influence of the Vatican to turn the Irish priests against him and undermine his influence with the workers,  and seized with avidity upon the opportunity that Parnell's relations with Mrs. O'Shea gave to drive him out of public life. “The Irish Royal and Patriotic Union.’’ with funds supplied by men so high placed as to be "above suspicion,” employed Piggott, who they knew to be a scoundrel, to find or manufacture the evidence that would implicate Parnell in the Phoenix Park murders. "The Times” transactions with Sheridan showed the eagerness of the Press to help in the general movement to crush him, and sanctimonious pharisees of the Hugh Price Hughes type, while they gave—for an income—a willing support to the system that produces immorality in abundance, condemned him as unfit for public life in England —so pure is it.

There is not the slightest doubt that capitalist politicians will exercise all their cunning against the working class party as it advances. To-day any old tale goes down with the majority of the workers; as their knowledge increases and class hatred becomes general, the wiles of the professional politician will become more subtle, but the Socialist philosophy, based upon science and translated into definite principles, is proof against every form of trickery. It calls upon the workers to organise for Socialism only; to carry on the work of organisation openly; to keep the movement clean and free from suspicion, and to work zealously and fearlessly for the overthrow of capitalism, with all its needless poverty, and the establishment of that system wherein the means of life will be owned and controlled by those who use them. 
F. Foan

Scissors & Paste (1910)

From the January 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

When we are doing good work for our class the enemy is loudest in abuse of our conduct. Indeed, the only condition upon which the capitalists will speak well of us is that we cease to do battle with them and so desert our cause. Therefore we take a pardonable pride in the hostility which our propaganda provokes in the ranks of the exploiters, for we know it is the highest compliment they can pay us. This, however, is by no means the attitude of those “respectable and adaptable” citizens, the “Labour” M.P.’s. The ruling class speaks well of them. They are, in fact, so beloved of the Liberal enemy that he will, an far as possible, avoid the calamity (to him) of keeping them out of Parliament.
Thus the Daily Chronicle says (18.11.09),
“It is interesting to note that in Woolwich and Deptford the Liberals have apparently decided not to put forward a candidate in opposition to Mr. Will Crooks and Mr. C. W. Bowerman. . . . If, as we understand, Mr. Bowerman will be opposed only by a Tory, or two Tories (there is a split in the opposition camp), there is more than ordinary significance in the letter which Mr. A. J. Pease, chief Liberal Whip, addressed to Sir Henry Havelock Allen. In this letter Mr. Pease suggested, as we stated yesterday, that, ’Liberals should, so far as they could, respect the seats of the Labour Representation Committee’s candidates, and the Labour party in return should respect the Liberal seats.’ ”
The Chronicle man, as was natural, set out immediately in quest of the other party to this suggested understanding; and tracked the chairman of the Labour group to earth, only to find him as wily as the fabled fox. As the newspaper states:
Mr. Arthur Henderson, chairman of the Labour party in the House, was seen yesterday by a ‘Daily Chronicle’ representative, but he explained that, as he had not had time to read Mr. Pease’s letter, and was, besides, hurrying off to Portsmouth, he could not express any opinion on the subject.”
Of course the chairman of the House of Commons Labour Party “could not express any opinion.” Was he going to let the cat out of the bag ? “Keep it dark, for goodness sake? Don’t make a fuss over it or the game will be up!’’ was in all probability his muttered comment. And so the game will be up, we may add, when the rank and file understand the game that is being played.

Notice also how the Chronicle fawns on such men as Mr. Snowden. This is how it speaks of him in its issue for November 3rd.
“SOCIALIST MEMBER’S TRIUMPH.
  “These three were all good speeches, but they were overtopped by the fourth, Mr. Philip Snowden’s. His ascetic face lit up by the light of intellect is a familiar feature on the Labour benches. While be has often spoken effectively in the House be has never before won the triumphant success that be achieved tonight. He is heart and soul for the Budget—not, mark, because it is Socialism, but only because it marks a very moderate step forward on the long road of social amelioration.
 “An entranced House listened with every faculty on the stretch as this thoughtful Socialist expounded his creed. On the Government Bench Mr. Asquith sat with eyes fastened on the speaker, and Mr. Balfour, a nearer neighbour, turning round so as to catch every word, was another absorbed listener. The Budget is called revolutionary. It is nothing of the kind, said Mr. Snowden. It is not a revolution but a preventive of revolution. (Loud Liberal cheers.) It means not Socialism but Social Reform. He developed with great ability the distinction between the one thing and the other. In this connection he quoted the definition given by Mr. Balfour in a speech delivered in Birmingham in November, 1907."
Thus does Mr. Snowden proclaim himself the enemy of Socialism. But in order to throw his followers off the scent, he goes on to cunningly confuse capitalist development (which is toward more intense exploitation.and historically makes Socialism necessary while it precedes it) with the development of Socialist society. This dodge enables him to delude the ignorant into believing that he is working for Socialism while in reality be is helping the capitalists. He further says:
  “So far from the Budget being a revolution, it is such a slight movement in the wheel as to be almost imperceptible.”
Its imperceptibility is evidently its greatest virtue. “He is heart and soul for the Budget” because, apparently, it is not Socialism, and because so far from being akin to revolution, it is its very antithesis!

No wonder that Mr. C. F. G. Masterman, M.P. could say in The Nation (24.8.08) that
  "The accession of strength came with the realisation of the mildness of the Labour Party. Here were no wild revolutionists, harbingers of an uprising of the lower orders, determined to break up the recognised courtesies and hypocrisies of England’s benevolent plutocracy. Instead there was a mixture of old-fashioned trade unionists, with a sprinkling of well behaved and pleasant Socialists; more punctilious about the forms of the House than the oldest members; more eager in making a bargain with the Government and proving themselves agreeable supporters than the most truculent of the Radicals opposite.”
Let the toilers ponder this capitalist praise of the Labour Party, and they will find it convincing evidence of the utter worthlessness of Labourism to the working class; evidence, moreover, that is being confirmed by the daily conduct of the Labour members both in and out of the House of Commons.
F. C. Watts



The Quarrel 'Twixt Mr. A. And Mr. B. (1910)

From the January 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard
  “They were standing under a tree, each with an arm round the other’s neck, and Alice knew which was which in a moment, because one of them had ‘Dum' embroidered on his collar, and the other ‘Dee.’ ‘I suppose they’ve each got ‘Tweedle’ round at the back of the collar,’ she said to herself.  . . .
  “Of course you agree to have a battle?’ Tweedledum said in a calmer tone.
  “ ‘I suppose so,’ the other sulkily replied.’’
At the present juncture, now that the nerve-shattering crisis has at last arrived, it may be as well to think for awhile in what way working-class interests will be affected by the result of the present electoral struggle. The gauntlet has been thrown down by Mr. A. on behalf of his party, and has been eagerly taken up by the astute Mr. B. The leaders and their immediate followers are endeavouring to arouse the rank and file to a sense of the solemnity of the occasion. We are in the throes of a life or death conflict, the like of which has not been known for centuries. So we are told, at least. Yet, strange as it may seem, some few of us appear to care very little about this momentous issue. Whisperings have even emanated from certain sceptical quarters that the battle is not altogether genuine, that the Champion of Nonconformity and the Knight of Philosophic Doubt are not such implacable enemies as they pretend.

Perhaps, it all becomes a question of the point of view. The human race, as a whole, has developed, in a more or less perfect degree, the sense of sight. But very few of its members dare face, clear-eyed, the naked truth. Most men, fearful of blindness, and therefore, maybe, wise in their generation, prefer to examine all things through the blurred and smoky glasses of ignorance and prejudice. If the writer were a Liberal or Tory democrat, or, worse still, if he were a member of the I.L.P., he might imagine that the result of the 1910 General Election would change, for the better or worse, his present unenviable position in society. But not belonging to either of the hybrid political types above mentioned, be entirely fails to see how the workers as a class ever have been, or ever can be, affected by the results of the various struggles for political supremacy which take place periodically between certain sections of the capitalist class. Liberals, Tories and Labour men are alike thundering from their platforms their party cries. “Down with the House of Lords!’’ “Tariff Reform forever!’’ “Long live the Budget! ” and so on. Perhaps some of these “leaders of the people” will give us a little information as to whether, for example, the abolition of the House of Lords will change those huddled backed wrecks of humanity, to be seen any night reposing on the Embankment seats, back into men and women; or whether Tariff Reform will stamp out anthrax from among the Bradford wool-combers; or whether even such a munificient measure as “the People’s Budget” will enable the people to live as human beings should live rather than to rot and seethe in the hell of modern industrialism.

All over the country at the present moment the workers are listening, open-mouthed and credulous, to the specious promises of Mr. A. and Mr. B. and their lieutenants. Mr. A. is telling us in his usual lawyer like phraseology, that steps must he taken to see that never again shall the House of Commons be subjected to the indignities to which it has been forced to submit; while the metaphysical Mr. B. is explaining how Tariff Reform is not Protection, but only an attenuated form of Free Trade. In a week or two we members of the working-class will be registering our votes for one or other of our respective candidates. We shall make our choice for many and varied reasons. One of us will vote in a certain way because the candidate has a pretty wife; another because "well, he might do something or other for us if we give the chap another chance." We shall vote for any and every reason except for the one reason that really matters. What a tragic farce it all is! The working-class voters of the country hold in their hands the absolute power to free themselves from the misery and poverty in which they live and by which they are surrounded. And yet, time after time, election after election, they follow the political will-o’-the-wisps dancing before their eyes, to find themselves at the end sinking deeper in the slough of Capitalism, almost without hope of ever altering their condition.

There may be certain critical apologists for Parliamentary procedure, who, on reading the above, will insist that we Socialists have no business to interfere with the freedom of the working class to vote. They will complain, perhaps, that we only listen to Liberal and Tory politicians in order to jeer at them, and that while we are quite at liberty to abstain from voting for any but Socialist candidates, we have no right to attempt to persuade others to do likewise. Well, business or no business, right or no right, we shall continue our tactics, we shall advise our fellow-workers to vote for no one bat a Socialist. It is our class—the working class— that in every case puts these charlatans, these sham knights of a grail they have defiled, into political power. That is the irony and the pity of it. Whether—by means of the working-daw vote, be it remembered—the Liberals or the Tories are returned as a body, the conditions under which the workers exist will not be improved one whit. Unemployment, misery, poverty, intellectual and bodily degradation, will increase year by year whether Mr. A. or. Mr. B. is the titular leader of the House of Commons. Not until the workers understand their own position in society and in Nature will there be any chance of an improvement in their condition. Only when this knowledge dawns upon them, when, as a consequence, they join themselves together into a conscious political force to seize political power, in order to use that power in their own interests, will they be enabled, as a result of so doing, to stand erect, free men and free women, reaping and garnering for themselves the world-wide harvest of their mental and physical labour.
F. J. Webb