Saturday, February 25, 2017

At the street corner (1927)

From the June 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of our earliest, and one of our wisest decisions of policy, was that wherein we allowed an opponent access to our platform. Having heard our case, and subject only to the common usages and decencies of debate, we offer any opponent the right to oppose us, on our own platform. We believe that, as a party, we are unique in this respect. But then, of course, we are unique in having a position that we know will stand the test. Obviously a case can be made out for anything, even the most absurd proposition, if you ignore enough, and throttle the opposition. So that propagandist parties of all sorts, religious or political, who decline to allow their statements to be combated, where and when uttered, stand self-convicted of cowardice or dishonesty.

To allow questions is not enough. Their very allowance is often transparent trickery, for a false position can rarely be overthrown by one question. As soon as a questioner follows up by supplementaries, one usually finds the speaker evading an issue by saying the questioner is selfishly monopolising too much attention. He should give someone else a chance.

Or again, an awkward question is parried by another question from the speaker, or met by a provocative remark, and the succeeding jeers and howls used as a cover, whilst a more congenial questioner is baited. This is notoriously the method of the Anti-Socialist Union, and analagous bodies. They will not permit anyone on their platform to state a reasoned opposition. Oh, no! But questions! Bless you, yes!

There was a speaker the other day in a London market place, representing the British Empire Union. His remarks were a strange blend of sense and fallacy. He said, very wisely, “Do not be led hither and thither by leaders of any sort. Do not read the exclusive literature of any one party; read all, and come to your own conclusions. Read and think deeply,” he said. "Do not hurry to a decision, but let what you read and hear, have time to digest in your brain and then, as an individualist, stick to your own opinion.” How wise! How sensible! It impressed the audience. But someone asked him what he meant by an ”individualist,” a term he had used rather frequently. He replied : "One who believed in making his own bargain with an employer, and not being dictated to by a union.” Then, of course, the storm broke. Howls and jeers from obvious Labour adherents, gradually died down into questions, dealt with as outlined above. Then the mention of China was seized upon by the speaker as a useful get-out, and a peg upon which to jibe at the Labour Party and then invite further questions. Did he think it right, asked one questioner, that the Chinese women and children of Shanghai should have to work 14 hours a day in the cotton mills. As an "individualist,” replied the speaker, he believed anyone should have the unquestioned right to work as many hours as they wished. More howls and jeers, and then a quiet, insistent little man who had evidently thought out a short series of consecutive questions, got a hearing with his first one. "What was the cause of the trouble in China?” he asked. Twice the speaker ignored him. The third time the speaker paused, waved the crowd into comparative silence, and replied : "I don’t know, do you?” Bang went the little man's series. Thrown on the defensive, he said, "But I’m-asking you.” "Yes,” retorted the speaker, "but I don’t know. I’m asking you.” Bravely the little man started to explain conditions in the cotton mills in Shanghai when the lecturer interrupted by asking which mills, British or Chinese. The little man was not quite certain, but said both, when the speaker followed up by saying, "How many British mills are there out there?” The little man got nettled and said "I do not know, and the number is immaterial. What I contend—” "Oh, no!” said the speaker, "you are not sure of your facts. Let us have the facts,” and so on. Collapse of the little man.

So that the acceptance of questions at a public meeting does not constitute it a fair vehicle for the diffusion of views. Politics is essentially a subject for public discussion, and that cannot be called discussion which says "These are our views. You may ask us questions about them, but we will not allow your contrary views to be heard.”

Obviously, the British Empire Union is not concerned with the dissemination of accurate views, for its speakers must know perfectly well that the phenomenon they call an "individualist” cannot exist in human society. They must know that in ten short minutes a capable opponent could make the absurdity of such a claim apparent to the simplest intelligence. They must know, in spite of their waving of Union Jacks and their blether of King and Country, that the Government gave very short shift to "individualists” during the War or during the coal trouble. The B.E.U. therefore, take no chances. The capable opponent is kept off their platform. He may question, but not expound.

The Socialist Party is not built that way. We have a position, a philosophy, a policy, which has been tested in every possible way. Scientists, economists, politicians, have attacked it, belittled it, sneered at it, but Socialism remains. It is the one subject that is the common talk of the whole civilised world. Wherever human progress has attained the stage known as Capitalism, there inevitably the problems it raises are sure to be soluble in only one way. Nothing hinders its steady onward march. Even a world-war, overturning thrones and making hay of political frontiers, leaves Socialism still the talk of the world, and the hope of millions. As a policy, we of the Socialist Party have always realised that Socialism can only come when the majority of people want it. We conceive it our task therefore, to convert a majority of people to our point of view. With this clear object before us, we believe there cannot be too much opportunity for discussion. We are so convinced of the impregnable strength of our position that our platform is open to anyone who cares to try to prove us wrong. We have nothing to hide, no secrets to keep, no leaders to apologise for, nothing but straight Socialism to preach. So we have nothing to fear. If anyone thinks we are crying for the moon, or are on a wild-goose chase, he is at liberty to tell us so. If he can prove it, he will save us wasting our precious time, and so do us a service. On the other hand, if we can in turn show that he is harbouring delusions unawares, he should be indebted to us. We have everything to gain by discussion. Can it be said that any of our political opponents are similarly anxious for discussion, or that they are prepared to offer equal facilities? Try them and see. And in the meantime read our pamphlet called Socialism, still obtainable at the modest price of twopence (plus postage) in spite of its 48 packed pages.
W. T. Hopley


Violence at work (1992)

From the May 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

If Prince Charles falls off his horse or the Queen Mother gets a fish bone stuck in her throat we are invited to grieve over such matters by newspaper headlines and bulletin announcements to the accompaniment of Big Ben's chimes. When 500 workers are killed at work every year, however, this is not regarded as dramatic news. It is often looked at as something pretty much beyond human control. To describe these deaths as “accidents”, however, can be seen as perverse because although they are not intended by employers, neither are they chance, unpredictable incidents. They are, in most documented cases, plainly foreseeable.

In November 1991, Tony Linehan, the government's chief factory inspector, announced that industrial injury claims have doubled since 1985. On average two people a day are killed at work and 3,500 are injured. Almost half-a-million people each year suffer as a result of their working environments.

The violence of commerce
First let us consider the extent of the problem. Employment is violent. In 1989- 90 426 people, a third of them in the construction industry, died in violent incidents at their work. They were burnt, drowned, asphyxiated, electrocuted, crushed and impaled. In the same year over 21,000 suffered “non-fatal serious injuries"—amputations, for instance—and 160,000 suffered “serious injuries".

In addition, it is estimated that each year as many as 10,000 workers or more die a slow and painful death from the effects of industrial disease.

Most of these deaths are unnecessary and easily preventable. According to the Health and Safety Executive over 70 percent of workplace deaths are the fault of management and their failure to provide proper equipment or training or supervision.

Examining the same problem in the USA. one writer has given the issue a particularly striking perspective. He estimates that in 1972 the number of people in the USA dying from occupational hazards (diseases and accidents) was 114,000, whereas only 20,600 died as victims of personal homicide. Represented on a time clock, for murder there would be one personal killing every 26 minutes but:
If a similar clock for industrial deaths were constructed . . .  and recalling that this clock ticks only for that half of the population that is the labour force—this clock would show an industrial death about every four and a half minutes! In other words in the time it takes for one murder on the time clock, six workers have died just trying to make a living! (J. Reman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison. 1979 p.75).
Blackspot Construction is a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report which analyses the circumstances of 739 deaths in the construction industry between 1981 and 1985. Referring to these deaths, John Rimmington, the Director-General of the HSE, said "they represent a very saddening loss of life, particularly because most of the deaths could have been prevented" (Emphasis added). The report shows that the immediate reasons for most deaths were lack of supervision, inadequate training and lack of attention to detail:
   The figures in this report clearly show that the basis causes of the deaths of 739 people from 1981-1985 have not changed over the last ten years. There were, on average, two deaths every week on construction sites. Ninety per cent of these could have been prevented. In 70 per cent of cases, positive action by management could have saved lives. (Emphasis added). (HMSO, 1988, p.4).
   In another report, Agricultural blackspot (1986), a study of 296 deaths between 1981 and 1984 the HSE concluded that in 62 percent of cases "responsibility rested with management”. Again, in Deadly Maintenance (1985), a study into deaths at work in a range of industries, the HSE concluded that "management were primarily responsible in 54 percent of cases".
There is some evidence, as you might expect. that the toll on workers gets worse during an economic recession. Serious injuries, for example, suffered by young people on the government's Youth Training Scheme increased by 86 percent between 1986 and 1990.

In fact, the Health and Safety Commission published research last December indicating that the number of accidents at work is six times higher than the official figure.

Consider the social system in which these deaths and injuries occur. We live in a class-divided society. One economic class of men and women between them own and therefore control the means by which we all live. They own the factories, offices, transport and communication systems and so forth: in short the means of producing and distributing wealth. The empty and fraudulent rhetoric of people like Margaret Thatcher and John Major speaks of a "property-owning democracy" and “classless society”, and the nationalistic nonsense of John Putnam, Neil Kinnock and the Labour Party tries to fool people into thinking that everyone beneath the Union Jack has a common interest.These are shibboleths which are entirely refuted by the economic facts.

As the Inland Revenue, a body not known as an avid supporter of the Socialist Party, reported in January in Inland Revenue Statistics 1991, the richest one percent of the population today own more marketable wealth the poorest 50 percent of the population. In fact, the top one percent owns three times more than the poorest half of the population.

In this system wealth is produced not directly to satisfy human needs but to produce a profit for the owners of the means of production. If something is not profitable it will not be produced. In the cutthroat economic rivalry between companies to win contracts or keep their customers, costs are cut to a minimum wherever that is possible. Employers do not get rich in capitalism by being kind or charitable. Safety is often an expensive matter to a company. It involves paying for training, equipment and, perhaps, using methods which take longer than those which are unsafe.

The reports of the HSE are replete with how the cost-benefit principle of capitalism operates to cause death and injury but two vivid examples from other sources demonstrate what often happens when profits and safety are counterpoised.

On 13 September 1978, Ford Motor Company was indicted in Indiana, USA, for reckless homicide. A Grand Jury decided after three days of deliberation that Ford was to be tried as a responsible party for the deaths of three teenagers, who were burnt to death when their Ford Pinto burst into flames following a low-speed, rear-end collision. Many people had died in similar incidents all over the USA. One writer on the issue has stated that “by conservative estimates Pinto crashes have caused more than 500 deaths”. (M. Dowie, in Injury and Death for Profit, 1987, cd. S. Hills). The actual trial resulted in the company being acquitted but evidence was produced in the case which demonstrated that Ford was aware of the danger posed by the Pinto but had used a cost-benefit calculation to decide that the cars should be left unaltered with their owners. It would have cost less that 11 dollars per car to remedy the defect but calculations had shown that subsequent insurance claims resulting from the number of people predicted to be killed and injured would not exceed the $137 million that it would cost to recall and alter all the Pintos it had sold.

This sort of cost-benefit analysis, which relegates human life below the considerations of profit, is not peculiar to Ford Motor, Company or to recent developments. It is a feature endemic to the system of commerce. Max Weber commented on this issue in relation to its implications for capitalism in American cities. In 1904 he observed that:
After their work, . . . [Chicago] workers often have to travel for hours in order to reach their homes.The tramway company has been bankrupt for years. As usual, a receiver who has no interest in speeding up the liquidation manages its affairs: therefore, new tramcars are not purchased. The old cars constantly break down, and about four hundred people a year are thus killed or crippled. According to the law, each death costs the company about $5,000 which is paid to the widow or heirs, and each cripple costs $10,000, paid to the casualty himself. These compensations are due so long as the company does not introduce certain precautionary measures. But they have calculated that the four hundred casualties a year cost less than would the necessary precautions. The company therefore does not introduce them. (Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, 1958, H. Gerth, C. Wright Mills, p.16).
It is this sort of thing that may have been in the mind of John Cullen, the Chairman of the HSE, when he said in 1989 that:
The enterprise culture, the opening up of markets, and the need to survive competition place businesses under unprecedented pressure . . . the scale and pace of technological change means that increasing numbers of people—the public as well as employees—are potentially at risk. (Guardian, 4 May 1989).
Within capitalism, economic imperatives will always prevail. In a contest between principles of profit, morality and religion, profit will always triumph.The Chairman of British Steel will not keep Ravenscraig steel works open this year because it is morally better that 1200 people should not lose their jobs. The government will not make Sainsbury and Tesco shut on Sundays because various vicars and priests implore commerce to respect religion, neither will they be shut to protect the economic interests of shop workers.

The economic mechanisms of capitalism mean that workers will be killed and injured on the sacrificial altar of profit whenever the pressures are strong enough.

Anyone in any doubt about this can consider the position of workers as a result of health and safety legislation. The annual pattern of death and injury has been no different under Labour governments than it has under Tory governments, and there is no significant change as the result of the introduction of legislation like the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974. The annual profile of deaths at work has remained the same every year for the last 17 years since the coming into force of the Act.

Even now there are people clamouring, often with the best intentions, to bring in new legislation to amend the rules of capitalism. They seek to raise the fines paid by companies who kill or maim workers; to make the police investigate all construction site deaths and to make coroners call directors as witnesses so as to incriminate them.

These proposals, however, even if implemented exactly in accordance with the wishes of the reformers, cannot really deal with the problem because they leave intact the system of commerce and the paramountcy of companies. As Marx observed, within capitalism large employers have an interest in supporting safety legislation. By supporting legislation like the Factory Act of 1867, many capitalists were able to improve their positions by, on the one hand, having a hand in making sure the law was not going to adversely affect them and, on the other, making sure that it did impose conditions which could not be met by their less prosperous rival firms who would be put out of business by the costs involved in meeting the new safety requirements.

Only by transforming the basis of the production of wealth can we eradicate the violence of work and make safety its number one priority. In those circumstances it may even be safe enough to allow walking disaster areas like the royals to have a go at some useful work.
Gary Jay

BEGGING FOR A LAST CHANCE (1992)

From the April 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

BEGGING FOR A LAST CHANCE
"How do you know when politicians are lying? When you see their lips move”. Politicians have failed us so many times it is a standing joke. But it's not a very funny joke. They cruise comfortably through disaster after disaster while in power, but when elections loom they panic completely, lose all dignity and promise anything they can think of.

And what is unfunniest of all is that we believe them. Each election they beg for another chance. Each election we give it to them. And the starvation and misery in the world, the poverty, the pollution, the stress in our lives and the despair of so many, all of these get worse instead of better. In spite of "greening" themselves politicians can do almost nothing to stop the immense destruction caused by pollution, basically because it's cheaper to pollute than to reprocess waste.

And what could they do about poverty? Abolish it? If they do that then they must also abolish riches, surely, because you can't have one without the other. And what will the rich have to say about that? Can they abolish homelessness, perhaps by giving people free houses? Again, what would the rich building contractors say? Can they abolish hunger by making food very cheap? Not if they want the support of rich food producers. Politicians who are smart know this.

They know exactly how helpless they are in the face of problems which defy any attempt to control them. But they know also that to admit defeat is political suicide. Somebody else will make the same promises and get all the votes instead, as we've been seeing with the Greens. So instead they always beg us for one more last chance.

But there could be a better way.


NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
We are going to make some proposals. They are not "common sense" proposals, so "realists" won't be interested. But that's all right, because they have all the rich and clever ideas of ordinary politicians to choose from. We think, however, that it is time to think big. The proposals we make are ambitious. Probably more so than any you will have heard before.

Because the problems are world-wide, we think that the solutions have to be world-wide. First, we are going to propose that the world organises itself democratically. It is not so at the moment, because we rely on leaders. We put people into positions of power, where they can control vast fortunes and vast armies, and then we expect them to act in our interest. That's like putting children in charge of a sweetshop. We should not be surprised when they let us down. But the world is no sweetshop, it is a matter of life and death. If we cannot trust leaders, we must learn to stand on our own feet - without leaders. We are not children, however much we are treated like children. We do not have to be helpless and weak. If we decide to make our world into a democracy, we are well able to do it.

If we decide that we should not be ruled over by tyrants and masters, we are well able to do that too. If enough of us organise together, we can accomplish anything. Which is just as well, because not everyone would welcome more democracy. In fact, there is a tiny minority of people who would not be at all pleased if we decided to run things ourselves. And that's because they happen to own nearly everything on this planet.


SMILE, THERE'S A GUN AT YOUR HEAD
Imagine what life would be like if someone discovered how to stop you from breathing without their permission. That person could charge any price they liked, and you would have to pay. Just how free would you be then? Fortunately, no-one can do that to you, but consider this - can you eat without anyone's permission? If you think so, think again. You will be arrested if you try it.

You must pay the owner first - for permission. It's the same with everything else - heating, clothing, housing, travel, communications - we have to pay for permission to have these things. And what happens when they can't pay because you have nothing to sell? Then you must sell your time and your skills - you must find a job. If you can.

There's nothing wrong with owning things. We all do. But when somebody owns the food you need to live on, it's as if they are holding a gun to your head. They can make you do almost anything. The world we live in is so arranged that a small minority of people holds that power over a very large majority, simply because of what they own. And this affects everything we think, feel and do.

Rich people don't have to wait in queues. They don't have to swallow their pride, or shortchange their kids at Christmas and birthdays, or buy cheap clothes, or take abuse from bosses. They don't go red when policemen look at them, or worry about being late, or avoid people’s eyes. Rich people are beautiful people with beautiful lifestyles. And what, then, does that make us? If we want a real democracy, we must face the fact that property stands in the way.

However huge a step it is, we cannot ever be free until we have abolished the ability of people to hold such terrible power over each other. Property and money are worldwide institutions. To uproot them would mean turning the world as we know it virtually upside down. We do not propose such a change lightly. The implications are so enormous that they cannot possibly be covered in a few leaflets.

We know how much is against us, and we know what the rich and powerful might try to do to stop it.
Yet we believe it can be done, that it can be done quickly, and that it can be done without violence of any kind. In the next leaflet, we'll explain how.


Taken from a series of leaflets produced by our Lancaster branch.



INTRODUCING A DIRTY WORD (1992)

From the March 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

INTRODUCING A DIRTY WORD
There are lots of things in our lives that we don’t find it easy to talk about. Some of them are even "taboo". But there's one thing which we talk about, all of us, all the time, and never give its proper name because that name is, for most of us, a rather dirty word. That thing is Politics. It is such a dirty word that you could well be ready to throw this leaflet away right now. But before you do, think back for a minute on the conversations you’ve had this week.

What were they really about? Did you complain about the price of something which has gone up again? Did you talk about problems with the Council, or with your mortgage, or with your wages? If you work, did your boss get you down again this week, or was it the fighting in the office? If you’re unemployed, were you depressed because you walked past shops and people who all seem to live on a separate planet? Or was it a row with a loved one over money, or with the kids, or just because you’re so tired and full of stress that anything sets you off?

If your week sounded anything like that, you're not alone. What happens in our lives is not entirely up to us, and when we talk about life we are also making political statements about how we would like things to be. Politics is only a dirty word because the Thatchers and the Kinnocks have made it into a game that you play in parliaments and score off the opposition.

Their games are none of our concern, but our own lives matter, and the politics of our lives must matter to us as well. In the coming weeks we will be putting some leaflets through your door. They will be about politics, but don’t be put off by that. The things that worry you, that may be mentioned above, are the sort of politics we want to talk about. Not party politics, or 'real-politik'. but real life.


COMMON SENSE ISN'T EVERYTHING
What happened in 1066? Well, not the Battle of Hastings, for one thing - that was apparently around 1087. It must have happened to you that you’d believed something for years without question only to find out one day that it wasn’t true after all. Life is full of popular myths that, like the Battle of Hastings, may be interesting to explode but don’t really matter to anyone. But one myth that is still around, and matters rather a lot, is the myth of 'common sense'.

If something is ’common sense', it is true. Many of the ideas we hear through the TV and papers are put in this way. We take them very much for granted. They are what is called "realism". In our last leaflet we talked about the dirty word ‘politics'. Politicians are fond of "realism" and "common sense approaches". Nowadays you don't have to prove somebody wrong, you just call them "unrealistic" or "naive". Politicians have managed to make everybody else’s ideas sound childish and naive. Major and Kinnock, like the good Mummy and Daddy they try to be, know all about 'common sense'. They should, they manufacture most of it.

The problems that we have in our lives, that we mentioned in our last leaflet, don't get talked about by the papers or politicians. That is left to us, on our own, in pubs or among friends. Why do we have to work for bosses? What is the point of saving when inflation eats it all up? Why do people starve when supermarkets throw food away? But it's not common sense’ to talk about things that Kinnock is not interested in.

In the next few leaflets we are going to ask exactly the sort of questions that Kinnock and Major are not interested in. The sort of questions you don't read about in the paper, or hear on 'Question Time’.

Some of the conclusions we come up with might well sound like science fiction, and not common sense at all. But they might also sound just like things you've said yourself in the past. Try not to lose patience with us. Things which aren’t ‘common sense' aren't automatically wrong. We ask you to judge for yourself.


COPING WITH A BAD ATTITUDE
In our last two leaflets we have explained why we think politics should not be a dirty word, and why 'common sense' answers aren't necessarily right answers. We hope you saw what we meant by that.

Here are some examples of this 'Common Sense', and underneath, the feelings, or as they are more usually called the "Bad Attitudes" that a lot of people have about them. 

Common Sense: This is a prosperous country.
Bad Attitude: Where is all this prosperity when you're on the dole or three months behind with the mortgage?

Common Sense: If you want to 'make it', work hard and be thrifty. 
Bad Attitude: Like my parents did, and look at them. Besides, what's the point when some yuppie can make my life’s earnings in twenty minutes on the Stock Exchange? 

Common Sense: Other people are worse off than you. If you've got an ounce of decency you should be grateful, and give to charities.
Bad Attitude: Alright, I can't walk past a collecting box without feeling guilty, but however much I pay, the problems don't seem to go away. If anything they get worse. Why don't the government pay?

Common Sense: Politics is for politicians. I wouldn't fancy trying to run the country.
Bad Attitude: Mind you, for £35 thousand a year plus expenses I couldn't do any worse than them, could I? All they care about is their own power.

If you have something like this 'bad altitude problem', don't despair. There are others like you, not in hundreds or thousands, but in millions. Just think of election-time, when you get to make your own mark for democracy. In spite of all the rousing speeches, the rallies and the broadcasts, many people still don't bother to vote. They obviously think it makes no difference to their lives who is in power and who isn’t. This, we are told, is because they have a bad attitude. Perhaps so. Perhaps, too, if speeches and policy reviews don't matter to them, they should get together and find out what does. They might find out they’ve got quite a lot in common. With each other. With us. With you.

Taken from a series of leaflets produced by our Lancaster branch.

Women's Freedom (1935)

From the June 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

How many of the slaves who sing with swelling breast that "Britons never never” ever give thought to what they mean by freedom. It is a word that is given a different interpretation as many times as it is used. Thus the capitalist free trader desires freedom to sell his goods in every market of the world regardless of the fettered millions who have produced them. Freedom to him means freedom to trade and make profit. The so-called free worker under capitalism finds that his freedom leaves him free to starve when he cannot find a boss. The “down and out” under a recent Act of Parliament is now free to sleep under the stars without incurring the wrath of the powers that be and without the doubtful hospitality of a police cell that used to be free to him. The suffragettes fought for the freedom of the vote so that they could have their say in the laws governing their property. The position of millions of working class women who had no property and were, in fact, bound hand and foot by their economic dependence upon the employer directly or upon some employed male relative did not rouse the ire of the suffragettes. Obtaining the vote has done nothing to alter that. Only when working class women learn their true position in society will they know how to use their vote wisely, and for this the suffragette movement had no time. Wilberforce, who was the champion of the black slaves' freedom, was one of the stoutest supporters of the combination laws which forbade trade unions and were designed to keep the white slaves of this country in subjection. The pious utterances of the dealers in cant and humbug stand for nought when we discover how far their principles of freedom take them. The Labour Party, the self-styled champion of the poor and oppressed, supported when in office the killing of natives who were misguided enough to believe that they, too, were fighting for their native freedom. The Labour Party soon taught them, however, that there is no such thing as freedom when capitalist interests are at stake.

Truly “it is a mad world, my masters,” but there are none so mad as the members of the working class who will not use their one freedom, their freedom to think and act in their own interests. The freedom upon which all freedom rests is the economic freedom of a class in society from the domination of another class.

This freedom is the object of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and is the only freedom worth fighting for, because it embraces all liberty that is possible for all mankind without distinction of race or sex. Working class women as well as men will find their political expression in the S.P.G.B. The so-called woman question is no different from any other working class problem. Working women are either in economic bondage to an employer or to their husbands, and Socialism ends both states of bondage. The petty tyrannies of domestic life are often the shadows of those in the industrial world. The worker eats, sleeps, and takes his leisure at the dictates of his job. His life is moulded round his job. In other words, while producing everything worth while in life his ability to enjoy life is regulated by the meagre amount of wages he receives. The man, then, should regard his wife as a partner and as a comrade to let off as lightly as possible and with whom to fight jointly against capitalism. Instead of this he sometimes assumes in his turn the role of master and initiates a fresh set of petty tyrannies. It is useless for women to fight against these various effects of the one great evil. They must break the economic stranglehold which holds the man, and they can only do this by breaking the economic stranglehold of capitalism upon the whole of the working class. On, then, with the fight for freedom, but let us first realise what we mean by freedom.

Primitive society knew no private ownership in the means of production. Nor will Socialism. The means and instruments for producing wealth must be the common property of the whole of society. It will then be out of the power of any person to coerce by threat or promise of material gain, any other person. Personal property suited to the taste and needs of individuals remains untouched, and fresh supplies being always available nobody will covet anybody's things, nor want to hoard up supplies for themselves. Freedom for the first time will be effectively realised and break its own shackles. The worker must first, however, use the faculty that he proudly claims distinguishes him from the brute. He must stage an intelligent revolt against the conditions that keep him as dull as a cow in a field. Then will he become really free.
May Otway




THE MASK OFF IN CHINA. (1927)

Book Review from the May 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

"What’s What in China.” Price 1d. L.R.D., 162, Buckingham Palace Road.

This 16 page booklet is "A description of the forces involved in the struggle in China, and of the interests they represent.” It serves a useful purpose in shedding a little light on the confusion in the Chinese struggles, but it suffers from the stupid and inexcusable vice of assuming that Chinese nationalism is for some reason, never to my knowledge stated, different in kind from Irish, German, British and other brands of patriotism. All forms of nationalism are in origin and effect anti-socialist and anti-working-class. Barely was this booklet off the press when events—as we foretold they would—proved how unsound is the view that the working-class movement should support Chinese nationalism, or any nationalism. On page 7 the author writes of the Cantonese movement that the class conflict within its ranks "has for the time being been softened by the formation of the united front,” and that "Chiang-Kai-Shek (Commander-in- Chief), has not hitherto shown himself any more tender towards the interests of the foreign capitalists than have the Communists or any other section of trade unionists of China” (Page 9), and lastly that “The single control of the Southerners is exercised by a civilian government to which the military are strictly subject ” (Page 7).

There is, of course, every reason why Chinese capitalists should be opposed to foreign capitalists, since they both wish to exploit the Chinese workers, but what we want to emphasise is that the Chinese capitalist nationalist movement is anti-working-class. At the moment Chiang-Kai-Shek is demanding the dismissal of certain civil ministers of the Cantonese Government (Daily News, 16th April), and has, during the past week or so, been busily engaged in dissolving trade unions by military force and in shooting Communists and others who were misguided enough to think that workers who offer themselves up for sacrifice as cannon-fodder in nationalist wars, thereby obtain the right to a voice in the policies of their capitalist masters.

Mr. Arthur Ransome recently interviewed Borodin, the Russian adviser to the Cantonese, on the aims of the Chinese movement. Borodin is quite frank :—"At present and for years to come Communists and Capitalists alike in China must have the same ideal of a prosperous and much more highly developed industrial China and a general rise in Chinese standards of living . . .  The Chinese Nationalists want an agrarian revolution, but they want it in order to clear the way for China’s capitalist development.” —(Manchester Guardian, 20th April.)

We recognize, as Marx recognized, that China, like other backward countries, must pass through the stage of capitalist development, but that is no reason for deluding the workers there or here into the belief that nationalism is anything but a capitalist movement. Premature attempts to seize power before economic conditions are ripe and before the workers are numerous enough and conscious enough to make success thinkable, are foredoomed to failure. Racial prejudices are aroused among the workers by association with Nationalist propaganda, violence is encouraged as a substitute for political education and organization, and the resulting disappointment, bitterness and social unsettlement are not conducive to rapid or orderly development of the working-class movement. Those organisations in this country which support any nationalist movement are deceiving the workers if not themselves, and are demonstrating their unfitness to claim to speak in the name of Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle