Friday, March 24, 2017

Socialism or Chaos (1948)

From the March 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

The members of the Socialist Party of Australia are fewer in numbers than the members of the S.P.G.B. and they have a whole continent to operate upon. Truly a stupendous task. Our Australian comrades often reside so far away from one another that they are unable to meet and are only known to one another by written communication. To maintain an organisation under difficulties such as these is indeed a great task. To publish a monthly journal and other Socialist literature is a feat worthy of commendation.

Their new pamphlet “Socialism or Chaos” is now to hand and we must compliment them on the production. It is a useful addition to a Socialist's library.

To the worker who is seeking an understanding of Socialism it is full of information. It is a plain and straightforward statement of the Socialist case and even to the fully-fledged Socialist it is interesting to read the explanations in the words and phrases of our Australian comrades.

The opening chapters deal with an explanation and indictment of Capitalism and an exposition of the case for Socialism. The remainder of the pamphlet deals with a number of questions and some objections to Socialism. A studious and successful effort has been made to avoid covering the same ground as is covered in the S.P.G.B. pamphlet “Questions of the Day.”

The chapter titles and sub-titles are intriguing. Such headings as "What is the difference between Socialism and Communism?”, Why are there so many different 'Socialists’?” and “Are we armchair philosophers?” invite the reader to continue from chapter to chapter in search of the answers.

Workers in this country who have been lured to speculate on the prospects of emigration to the colonies should read this small book. Addressed, as it is, to Australian workers by fellow Australians, it shows workers in Great Britain that capitalism differs little no matter on which side of the equator it operates. Those who think to escape the effects of capitalism here by “making a fresh start” in some other part of the capitalist world should stop and think when they read in the preface to this pamphlet (page 4)
  "The future for the workers looks black indeed. A slump is inevitable, and once more we shall see the tragic spectacle of the grey army of unemployed queuing up at the labour exchange.”
Supporters of the Labour Party can read the case for Socialism written by Socialists in a land where a Labour Government is no longer a novelty. Here is the answer to those who claim that the Labour Party in this country will lead us to Socialism if only we have patience and give it time. Australia has known Labour Governments for many years. A Labour government was elected in Queensland as long ago as 1922 and remained in power for 15 years. In all that time all that it had done for the workers of Australia was to treat them just as any other capitalist government would have treated them.

This, also from the preface of the pamphlet (page 3) 
  "Your experience, as a worker under various ‘Labour’ governments ought to show you that the Labour Party does not represent the interests of the working class. When in office, it behaves like any other Capitalist party—it runs Capitalism; when you go on strike, you are branded as 'trouble makers,' you are told that you are 'harming the nation.’ ”
   "Have you forgotten the wage cuts under Scullin? The shooting and imprisonment of strikers under the Hogan State Government? The fines and threats of military impressment used against strikers under Curtin? The conscription of labour? The constant appeals for 'national unity and increased production ’ under Chifley?”
It would appear that our fellow workers in the antipodes have little to thank Labour Governments for.
And that last part of the quotation about appeals for "national unity and increased production” has a familiar ring. It makes us stop and speculate on the position of the workers in all parts of the world when they have "united nationally” and increased production to the point where the goods that they have produced can no longer be sold because there is too many of them. Will Labour Governments then find that we are in another sort of crisis and urge us to "unite as a nation” to get out of the mess or attempt to get us to unite with some other nations to make war on yet other nations in order to dispose of the surplus goods and clear some competitors out of the market? There are many possibilities but they all lead to the same answer as far as the workers, are concerned. War, crises and all the rest of the evils are the products of Capitalism and will remain aa long as Capitalism remains.

In the words of Australian comrades " . . .  it is up to you what the future will be: Socialism or Chaos?” 

Limited supplies of this pamphlet are now available from the Literature Secretary at Head Office and from our branches. More are on the way. It costs 6d (plus postage) and should be in the pocket of every propagandist and on the bookshelf of every worker.
W. Waters

Saints and Sinners (1949)

From the March 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

The social atmosphere has recently been disturbed by what is described as an increase in crime. More police are called for to deal with the unsocial elements, and as the self-appointed agents of the Deity consider crime and sin as synonymous these have been particularly vociferous lately in their denunciations of our erring brethren. It is well known to the Gendarmes of God that all working class children are born with a double dose of original sin, and these pious individuals embrace every opportunity to immunise them. It goes for granted that the wage slave is naturally wicked and prone to crime but if we are to accept press reports as correct there are even some of those who make a practice of attending holy communion who fall by the wayside.

It matters not, therefore, how many times you are inoculated with spiritual vaccine you stand every chance of turning out as wicked as the rest of us.

The Archbishop of York wants a State campaign through the Press, wireless, cinema and posters against the causes of crime. He says there is confusion over moral standards. (See Daily Telegraph, January 31st): 
“If public campaigns for road safety, saving, and greater production are successful, why not a campaign for honesty and truthfulness? Greater honesty would save the nation many millions of pounds, and would dry up the sources of the black market.”
The Church has its uses you see, but the conditions under which man lives and works teach him more than his pastors would have him believe. Capitalism is undermining the ghostly influence of religion even without the aid of Socialism. The wage slave is taught science and from what he acquires on the job he gradually realises when, where and how he is exploited. And when the mystery of capitalist production is laid bare the knowledge of reality causes the worker to perceive that the holy trinity is rent, interest, and profit. This is the Deity of the ruling class and the realization of this removes all religious illusions from the wage slaves’ minds.

The law is supposed to deal with the social offender hut in a society where there are classes “oft ’tis seen, the wicked prize itself buys out, the law.”

Sometimes the attempts made by the smart to buy illegally what may bring extra profit become exposed and the class conscious are entertained by the display of “moral integrity” prevalent in some ruling class circles.

The People of January 30th, 1949, published a statement by Sidney Stanley which sheds a lurid light on the morality of the capitalist world.
  “Now, I’m no angel. I’ve never professed to he one. There’s no room for angels, anyway, in the sort of world of big business that has been my background for the last thirty years. And if anyone tells you different you can forget it.
  “Because I know. I came up the hard way. I’m just another East End kid—and I’m proud of that title—who made the grade, from a four- shillings-a-week room in an East End back street to an £800-a-year flat in Park Lane.
  “And I learned all I know in a game where if you don’t outsmart the next guy, then he’ll outsmart you.
  “It’s all very well to talk glibly about straightforward, honest business. That’s okay—up to a point. But when you really get down to brass tacks it’s another story.
  “No one—you can take it from me—is in business for the benefit of his health. It’s a hard, tough game where dog eats dog and you don’t want to be the dog that provides the meal!”
His statement, however, deserves comment. When the worker is called upon by big business in the next war Stanley’s remarks should he kept in mind. We can’t predict what the next slogan will be. The defence of democracy is played out, the defence of “our way of life” may fall flat; it will he hard indeed for the Labour Party to find an appealing battle cry: in spite of nationalisation we own nothing: we have little to live for, and nothing whatever to die for. Some men are more fortunate than Stanley, they win a title, and die in the odour of sanctity without committing the unpardonable crime of being found out. Engels says (p.128 “Landmarks of Scientific Socialism”): 
  “From the very moment when private property in movables developed there had to be ethical sanctions of general effect in all communities in which private properly prevailed, thus: Thou shalt not steal. Is this commandment, then, an eternal commandment? By no means. In a society in which the motive for theft did not exist stealing would only be a practice of the weak-minded, and the preacher of morals who proclaimed ‘Thou shalt not steal’ as an eternal commandment would only he laughed at for his pains.”
  “We here call attention to the attempt to force a sort of moral dogmatism upon us as an eternal, final, immutable moral law, upon the pretext that the moral law is possessed of fixed principles which transcend history, avid the variations of individual peoples. We state, on the contrary, that up to the present time all ethical theory is in the last instance a testimony to the existence of certain economic conditions prevailing in any community at any particular time. And in proportion as society developed class antagonisms, morality became a class morality, and either justified the interests and domination of the ruling class, or as soon as a subject class became strong enough, justified revolt against the domination of the ruling class and the interests of the subject class. That, by this means, there is an advance made in morals as a whole, just as there is in all other branches of human knowledge, there can be no doubt. But we have not yet advanced beyond class morals. Real human morality superior to class morality and its traditions will not be possible until a stage in human history has been reached in which class antagonisms have not only been overcome but have been forgotten as regards the conduct of life.”
The crime wave is the problem of the ruling class: let them deal with it. If the Church wishes to admonish let its message be delivered to those responsible for the past two wars and the misery that has followed them.

There is one thing that arouses the indignation of the wage slave, and that is the smug complacency of the “holier than thou” outfit. At ten minutes to eight a.m. in ten thousand working class homes when the voice of the professor of piety comes over the radio, “Lift up your hearts,” there is one universal cry : 
“Turn that b—dy thing off.”
Charles Lestor

Our Two Election Campaigns (1950)

From the March 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our election campaigns in East Ham South and Paddington North were carried through with the same enthusiasm and devotion by members and sympathisers as on the two previous occasions when we contested North Paddington alone.

We issued in both constituencies an Election Message, containing a general examination of the worker’s position in modern society, a briefer Candidate’s Address, covering the same material (which the Post Office delivered free to each voter), and a Broadsheet in newspaper form containing criticisms of the main political parties, as well as other matter dealing with war, the implications of Socialism, and so on.

The Election Message and the Broadsheet were delivered by helpers to every address in both constituencies; the Broadsheet was also given away at meetings and railway stations.

Members and sympathisers have gathered at Head Office night after night to do the routine job of folding and sticking labels on. Both branches secured good election rooms; Paddington’s was large enough for a good deal of folding to be done there.

Separate reports from the two areas are as follows:

EAST HAM SOUTH 
Long before the election date was announced members were out on the “knocker,” arguing, explaining, driving home their points and obtaining regular orders for the Socialist Standard. As for outdoor meetings, they had been outside the “Cock” Hotel for eight months of every year since the middle of the war, and last Summer they opened a fresh station at the “Boleyn.”

And when the date of the election was announced the campaign began in earnest. An empty shop was rented in the Barking Road and soon its windows were neatly decorated with attractive literature. It became a hive of activity. All day long people were in and out, distributing literature, and sharing all the other tasks that a Parliamentary campaign entails.

The weather was far from perfect and the first outdoor meetings were flops, but to compensate every household was informed of three meetings at the Town Hall and one in a school in every ward. It was advertised in the local press that all other candidates had been invited to put their case in opposition. Those who came to see the fun were sorely disappointed. The Communist was “engaged”; the Tory who had previously expressed his willingness to debate became suddenly “too busy,” and the famous Labour “cock o’ the walk” advanced some incomprehensible excuse with regard to election expenses. Apparently his willingness to “discuss and reason” did not stretch as far as the S.P.G.B. However the three hundred people who had braved the bitter weather heard a case unlike any they had heard before. They asked questions, took part in discussion. The second meeting was less well attended, but the third was the best of the three. Members were highly satisfied.

Meanwhile every house had received a copy of the Party’s Election Message. Again it was a case that could not logically be disputed. It made no grandiose promises nor perversions of fact but merely explained the cause of the workers’ problems and the long hard road to their solution. Many workers were given something to think about. This was clearly demonstrated at the schools, where average audiences of twenty-five not only listened to the Party’s case, but also asked questions directly appertaining to the Election Message or the posted Address which arrived later.

In the last week the weather improved and the outdoor platform came out. Ours was the only party to appear on the street comer, and on the Saturday before the poll an audience of over a hundred was held for more than seven hours. Speakers from all over London gave of their best, dealing with every conceivable type of question. An eve of poll meeting at the “Cock” attracted an audience of two hundred. During the week meetings at factory gates had been well received, and propaganda was extended to the docks. Dockers expressed surprise at the solidity of the Socialist case after the drivel of the Communists. These meetings will continue.

Unfortunately the whole of the constituency was not canvassed. Forty people cannot work miracles. A third piece of literature in the shape of a broadsheet was freely delivered. It dealt with every aspect of current events, and copies have been retained for future reference.

Thus, mainly for the first time, the workers of East Ham South came into contact with the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Most of them were not convinced, but many will remember what this organisation has told them and when the capitalist system takes its usual course into a slump or war they will stop to think again. When the other parties’ talk of peace and full employment has gone by the board, the Socialist position will remain firm.

PADDINGTON NORTH 
Cold and wet weather made it difficult to hold outdoor meetings at the beginning and attendances were poor. The same is true of the indoor meetings. The position vastly improved towards the end. On Sunday, 19th February, an excellent meeting was held at the Metropolitan Theatre. No reference to this meeting was made in the Press. We sent letters to the Daily Express, the Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard and the News Chronicle, drawing their attention to the omission, but without result so far. The following is a specimen of one of them:
21st Feb.
  “I notice that your paper, along with other morning and evening papers, has given space to a meeting at Paddington Town Hall last night addressed by Lady Astor. Paddington Town Hall holds only 200 people and even an overflow would not greatly increase its size. Last Sunday evening we held a Mass Election Meeting at the Metropolitan Theatre, Edgware Road. The theatre was packed with 2,000 people, the doors had to be closed and a number turned away.
  “We invited the other four candidates to come and present their case from our platform. Mr. A. Seabrooke, the Liberal Candidate, and Mr. D. Cohen, the Communist Candidate, accepted, and each had twenty minutes on our platform. Mr. L. Turner, the Conservative Candidate, declined, stating that he did not speak on Sundays; Mr. W. Reid, the Labour Candidate, also declined, on the ground of prior engagements. The meeting commenced at 7 o'clock and ended at 10 o'clock, the last part of it being devoted to questions. The audience was interested, attentive and orderly, apart from some rather wild heckling by some small groups of Communist Party sympathisers after Mr. Cohen had left the platform.
  “We suggest that this type of meeting is unique in election campaigns, is well worth while to help voters to assess the programmes and policies of the various parties and was a practical illustration of our 46-year claim that we stand by the freedom of everyone to express their opinions without fear of evil consequences to themselves.
  “We are giving you these details, which you can check by a ’phone call to the two opponents who participated, because neither you nor the other morning and evening papers mentioned so much as a whisper about what was probably the largest meeting held in London during the present General Election. Are we to take it that your interest is only in the prominent people who support privilege, and that you are indifferent when 2,000 working men and women voters gather to hear other working men and women put their case?
  “I wonder what the people of North Paddington, most of whom know what happened, think of your silence?”
One singular thing we noticed this time at our meetings. Almost all the questions were about the future—what would Socialism be like?

The result of the poll, as far as we are concerned, was as follows: In East Ham our candidate received 256 votes and in North Paddington 192 votes—less than at the By-Election and nearly 300 less than at the 1945 General Election. We received a very favourable hearing this time, many workers said we were right and they agreed with us but—“ after all, bad as the Labour Party is, the Conservative Party is worse; we must keep them out and a vote for you would be wasted.” One day the workers will learn that there is no “worse” and their only sound action is to vote for Socialism.

The notices in the National Press on this occasion showed that we have at last succeeded in getting our candidates described as candidates of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. So one element of confusion has been eliminated. They also recognised our candidates as just tools of a socialist electorate and not “leaders.” 

Who are the dreamers? (1952)

From the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many times, when in discussion with Labour Party supporters, the socialist is accused of being a political dreamer. Let us then make a perusal of the claims of this very practical body before they came to power in 1945.

In the light of recent historical events, the writings in their pamphlet, “Let us face the future” would be humorous if it were not for the human tragedy they reveal.

They start off with the claim that it is a “Declaration of Labour Policy for the consideration of the Nation,” so we may assume from this that the Labour Party have no recognition of the class composition of society. This makes their claim to be “A Socialist Party and proud of it ” mere nonsense.

They inform us “we must consolidate in peace the great war-time association of the British Commonwealth with the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. Let it not be forgotten that in the years leading up to the war the Tories were so scared of Russia that they missed the chance to establish a partnership which might have prevented the war.”

It seems that something went wrong, also as far as the Labour Party is concerned, for it was their government which allocated 4,700 million pounds to the production of armaments.

Just previous to this they state that “No domestic policy, however wisely framed and courageously applied, can succeed in a world still threatened by war.” We were also informed that “Economic strife and political and military insecurity are the enemies of peace,” but economic strife is the very essence of capitalist society. First there is the strife between employers and workers over the distribution of wealth produced by the latter. Secondly we have the economic strife between rival groups of capitalists. The political and military insecurity arise as a direct result.

The Labour Party claimed that “It has a common bond with the working peoples of all countries.” It seems now that we are to demonstrate this common bond by dropping atom bombs on the working people of Russia and the so-called Eastern Democracies.

In accordance with their view of history they said, “Great economic blizzards swept the world in those years. The great inter-war slumps were not acts of God or of blind forces. They were the sure and certain results of the concentration of too much economic power in the hands of too few men. These men only learned how to act in the interest of their own bureaucratically-run private monopolies which may be likened to totalitarian obligates within our democratic State. They had and they felt no responsibility to the Nation.” We can only point out that, after six years of Labour Party government it was business as usual.

The farther we proceed into this quagmire of stupidity, the more inconsistencies and contradictions between claims and practice do we find, and now to top the bill Mr. Butler, of the Conservative Party, has out-laboured the Labour Party in his recent pronouncements. This serves to demonstrate that for the past six years the Labour Party was running capitalism, or rather capitalism has been running the Labour Party. It appears that capitalism is a very wicked lady, no matter how much the wooers woo she remains adamant in her desire not to be controlled.

We return once again to those awkward claims of the socialists, those whom the Labour Party regard as political dreamers. What have they said? So long as we have capitalism we will have wars. We will have poverty. We will,have insecurity. How much do we hate the person who says “I told you so,” but we must be excused if we indulge in that luxury now and again. It only remains for us to emphasise that the uncontrollable problems of capitalism will only be eradicated by the introduction of socialism. The political action necessary to introduce this new form of society needs as a prerequisite a majority of society understanding what socialism is. In this direction great harm is done by the Labour Party, the pseudo Socialist Parties, and the pseudo Communist Parties in their determination to deform the words Socialism and Communism to meet their own political ends.
Terry Lord

Unity with the I.L.P. (1954)

From the March 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have received from the I.L.P. the unity proposals set out in the letter published below. We publish also the reply sent to the I.L.P. by our Executive Committee, which explains our attitude to such proposals.

Socialist Party of Great Britain,                   7th January, 1954.
52 Clapham High Street,
S.W.4.

Dear Comrades,

I have been instructed by the National Council of the IL.P. to give you below copy of a Resolution which was passed at our last Conference:—

NEED FOR A UNITED SOCIALIST PARTY
“Conference realises that it would be folly to allow individuals who know little or nothing about socialist theories and ideas to vote on the formation of socialist policy, and therefore we admit to membership of our party only people who realise the need for the abolition of Capitalism and the establishment of a Socialist Commonwealth.

“It is not surprising to us that well-meaning socialists who are members of the political section of the Labour Party are continually frustrated (as they are bound to be) when their ideas and resolutions are voted down with soul-destroying monotony at every annual conference by the insensate block vote. The block votes are cast in the names of millions of people who are in most cases never consulted.

“It is not incumbent on the Trade Union leaders who wield the block votes to be socialists, and it is obvious that very few of them are.

“We appeal to active socialists and to those who have dropped out in despair, and also to young socialists who have not yet attached themselves to any party, to join with us in the I.L.P., where every member has a voice in matters of policy, and whose conferences are democratic and uninfluenced by outside block votes. The need for socialism is now so great that the I.L.P. appeals for closer united effort with all other parties or groups which agree with the essential socialistic fundamentals for which we stand. If any possibility arises of a united socialist party based on those fundamentals, no considerations of prestige or sentiment should stand in the way of its formation.”

I should be very much obliged if you would kindly give this matter your friendly consideration and let me know at your convenience whether you will be prepared to join with us in an attempt to bring together the socialist forces in the country for a closer united effort as mentioned in this resolution. 

Looking forward to the pleasure of your reply, 
Yours fraternally,
John McNair



REPLY
Mr. John McNair,
General and Political Secretary,
I.LP.

Dear Mr. McNair,

We thank you for your letter of 7th January in which, on the instruction of your National Council, you forward the resolution on the "need for a United Socialist Party” passed by your last conference. The resolution looks to the possibility of forming a united socialist party and your letter asks if the S.P.G.B. is prepared to join with the I.L.P. “in an attempt to bring together the socialist forces in the country for a closer united effort as mentioned in the resolution.” 

Before dealing with other issues raised by the resolution we should explain that the S.P.G.B. has always been unreservedly in favour of common action with parties and groups that are socialist; as for example, in our relations with overseas bodies based on the same principles as the S.P.G.B. On the other hand we are explicitly bound by our constitution to oppose parties whose activities do not promote working class emancipation, that is to say, parties that are not socialist

It is in the light of this that we must consider your proposal that the S.P.G.B. should unite with the I.L.P., and with other parties and groups based on the same fundamentals as the I.L.P.

In effect therefore the S.P.G.B. regards its own declaration of Principles (a copy of which is enclosed) as the sound basis for socialist organization while the I.L.P. resolution invites the S.P.G.B. to unite with the I.L.P. and with other parties or groups on the basis of the LLP’s “essential socialist fundamentals.”

In view of the widespread misuse of the term socialist to mean reforms of capitalism and measures to extend State capitalism or nationalisation it is of course necessary to be clear about the I.L.P’s present proposal to make “socialist fundamentals” the basis of unity. Your letter does not touch on this but the resolution does so itself in the earlier and longer section dealing with the Labour Party.

The resolution condemns the domination of Labour Party conferences by the block vote of the trade unions on the ground that the block votes are wielded by trade union leaders very few of whom are socialists, and that because of this (to quote the terms of your resolution), “well-meaning socialists who are members of the political section of the Labour Party are continually frustrated . . . when their ideas and resolutions are voted down with soul-destroying monotony.” Your resolution goes on to appeal to them to join the LLP. in which there is no block vote to hamper them.

We agree of course that the idea of achieving socialism by tagging the label socialist to a body largely made up of affiliated unions and wholly composed of social reformers is as absurd now as it was when pointed out by the S.P.G.B. in the infancy of the Labour Party; but we cannot agree that the non trade union elements in the Labour Party stand for socialism. The readily available evidence proves this to be quite untrue.

On this we would refer you to the Labour Party document setting out the several hundred resolutions placed on the agenda for the Labour Party Conference 1953. The overwhelming majority of these were submitted not by trade unions but by local Labour Parties, i.e. by those referred to in your resolution as the “well-meaning socialists” whose resolutions are voted down. In vain we search among these resolutions for indication of socialist ideas.

The point can be illustrated from the 30 resolutions on nationalisation only two of which were submitted by trade unions, the rest coming from local Labour Parties. As a body these 28 resolutions assume the continuation of the wages system, of property incomes, of production for sale and profit—in short the continuation of capitalism, modified only by some extension of nationalisation or State capitalism. Not one of them opposes Nationalisation along with private capitalism. Not one of them envisages the emancipation of the working class by the abolition of capitalism. Not one of them could be supported by “socialists” unless the term is again misused to mean social reformers and advocates of State capitalism.

We are therefore left with the impression that the aim of the IL.P. resolution is to secure some re-alignment of social reformist groups in this country on a basis that would be acceptable to many of the Local Labour Parties whose only complaint is that their efforts, to secure Labour Party Conference support for their reform measures are blanketed by the trade union vote. This is of course not a basis for unity for socialists.

If your National Council has in mind any particular statement of I.L.P. principles that in the terms of the resolution it would consider appropriate for the proposed united body perhaps you would provide us with a copy.

At the same time we would ask your National Council to state what is their attitude towards our view that the S.P.G.B's Declaration of Principles is the sound basis for socialist organisation.
                                                                                   Yours for Socialism,
                                                                                                               Executive Committee,
                                                                                                                                               S.P.G.B.

Atheism On The Air (1955)

From the March 1955 issue of the Socialist Standard

It would appear that in over 30 years of its existence the B.B.C. has never once permitted anybody to voice an opinion in favour of Atheism in any shape or form, until one evening in January when Mrs. Margaret Knight (lecturer in Psychology at Aberdeen University), was permitted to state in her broadcast on “Morality without Religion” that we should tell our children that we no longer believed in God although some people still do. She compared God with Santa Claus and referred to the Christian myths as useless for moral instruction. In her opinion if we taught children these biblical myths, when they grew up and learnt that they were at variance with the facts, they would be easy bait for Communism. The problem of evil was one point which she dealt with by declaring that an infinitely wise and all powerful God would not create evil. “If God cannot prevent evil then he is not all powerful, and if he will not, then he is not all Good.” The answer that many Christians give is that evil is man-made and nothing to do with God, or that its existence proves that man has departed from God. But here she said that there are a lot of evil things among the animals for which mankind certainly is not responsible. “The cat,” she said, “takes delight in playing with a mouse and inflicting torture on it until the mouse dies after a long drawn out and painful death.” The rest of the talk was about what she called “scientific humanism” and the education of children without the traditional religious beliefs.

The next day the Press was shocked and upset. The News Chronicle's leading article was headed “Atheism on the Air” in which it declared “Should she have been allowed to put and press her points without a balancing exposition of Christian beliefs? That is where we think the B.B.C. went wrong .” (14/1/55.)

Why this wonderful tolerant idea of a balancing exposition? Has not the B.B.C. been broadcasting religious beliefs for 30 years every day and often several times a day on all programmes and by thousands of exponents? Have they not a committee that on religious broadcasts see that we are all well soaked in traditional religious ideology?

Letters to the Press poured in by the thousand; such an hysterical outburst of injured religious pride has not been seen for a long time. Dr. Garbett (Archbishop of York) said that the B.B.C. had been used as a "nationwide channel through which the speaker attempted to persuade parents to teach their children that belief in God might be compared to belief in Santa Claus” He told his congregation that “Christians had the right to demand that they be answered as soon as possible by some competent layman.” Another divine, Father Joseph Christie, declared, “The primary reason for uneasiness is that the B.B.C. is a monopoly which has the power to sponsor this type of anti-religious propaganda without allowing the other side to be heard. Unless the corporation is prepared to allow competent speakers the, same opportunities as Mrs. Knight, it must appear as favouring attacks of this nature. ” Dr. Matthews, Dean of St. Paul's, a tolerant voice rather eclipsed by reaction stated, “It is surely a welcome sign that freedom of speech is still a reality.” (News Chronicle, 17/1/55.) The facts have now proved that freedom of speech is not much to be seen.

What happened after this outburst? It resulted in a broadcast of a discussion between Mrs. Knight and Mrs. Morton instead of only two talks which Mrs. Knight had arranged to give. In this latter discussion it must have been obvious to all who heard it that Mrs. Knight was rather like the aged Galileo who, in order to save his own life, had to go down on his knees before the Pope and inform him that he earth did not go round the sun as he first supposed. Mrs. Morton opened with a long harangue of the usual sentimental religious slush devoid of any reason. Mrs. Knight’s defence was a climb down where she could have knocked her opponent for six, but did not. Such meaningless statements as “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son,” were passed unchallenged. Did God love the world when, if we are to believe the Bible, he drowned almost the whole of mankind and also millions of innocent animals? That Christ came to bring peace to the world was also unchallenged. Christ himself said “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth, for I come not to send peace but a sword, for I am come to set a man at variance against his father Slid a daughter against her mother.” Matt. Ch X, ver 34. To which any scientific humanist might have added, “then how much better for humanity would it have been if he had stayed away!”

Mrs. Morton said that the whole teaching of the Bible was concerned with the teachings of this world and not the next world. This went unanswered by Mrs. Knight, when she might have declared that life after death, heaven and hell, is the main theme of the Bible.

What was it that caused the promising start of the first talk to be followed by such a dismal failure to answer the easy material of a religious devotee? Can it be that Mrs. Knight was victimised? After all she has a job as a member of the working class even if she is a professor of psychology. She lives by the sale of her labour power to impart knowledge of psychology. She has to go to the senate, or governors of the university, cap in hand for employment, and so face the same economic conditions of all school teachers. Among those who are in a position to engage teachers are many hide bound orthodox conservative die hards restricted by Victorian prejudices. If it be true that “He controls my life who controls the means by which I live” then the explanation is clear. Universities teach theology and grant degrees in divinity, and it must have been very disturbing to the theological professors to hear that another university lecturer was debunking God. If many started to do this, then theology would rapidly decline and their jobs melt away. This, of course, is an important motive in the opposition. The church screamed out through its loudest mouthpiece, the Archbishops because they have the most to lose. Donald Soper reacted in a different way by declaring that Christians have the answer to all this, they need not be afraid. By capitalising this line he could score points against his competitors in the more orthodox sects.

The Materialist Conception of History can find wonderful examples in such religious conflicts on the air, and no doubt if we ever got so far as to get access to the air we should have to be replied to by the Labour Party, Communist Party, Liberal Party, Conservative Party, and several sections of the church. Religious intolerance is not dead, nor is there much freedom of speech on the air. With all the millions of words broadcast favouring these Biblical myths, it needs only a few sentences of honest doubt to cause an outburst of religious revivalism.
Horace Jarvis

Children's Street Games (1956)

From the March 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Free-for-all sample investigation recently conducted by this writer revealed that, of a hundred and fifty children around thirteen years old, only one knew a commoney from an alley taw and none at all could play Jimmy Knacker. On the other hand, almost every one was au fait with TV panel games, space-travel and the Hollywood pantheon. Childhood pleasures have undergone a minor revolution, with most adults uncertain of its merits against the recollection that they had to make their own amusements in their young days.

That is true enough, but it means little. It would be more accurate to say that people of all ages “made their own amusements,” in the not-so-distant past and now take them second-hand, canned and standardized: the front-room piano and the family party have faded equally with Hopscotch and Tip-cat. Television, films and the other leisure-machines are obvious factors in the change, but its real nature lies much deeper in modern society.

Children's games are traditional. Many of them, like skipping, see-saws and swinging, began as ancient work-rituals: the reason why each had its immovable “season.” Hoops were an autumn pastime, marbles were for Lent, and skipping belonged to springtime. So did whipping tops; Greek and Roman boys played with them, as well as leap-frogging and doing the labyrinth mime we know as Hopscotch. And there were the war games—Tom Tiddler's Ground, Prisoner's” Base, and half a dozen others which existed five hundred years ago under names like The Last Couple in Hell and Barley-Break: the hunting and hiding games; the courtship games— Queen Anne, Drop Handkerchief and so on.

There was more than just playing them. Each had its proper ritual, beginning with a counting-out rhyme to choose the victim or the sides. Most, excepting the ones where breath was needed for vigorous action, depended on accompanying chants or songs. There were scores of them, from ball-bouncing and skipping rhymes to things like:
“The wind, the wind, the wind blows high.
Snowflakes flutter from the sky—
Lizzie Gordon’s going to die
For want of the Golden City."
Though the past tense has been used, they are still played, of course. Some of the rhymes have taken strictly modern imagery, like this one for skipping:
“Hi. Roy Rogers, how about a date?
Meet you round the corner at half-past eight.
I can do the rumba. I can do the splits.
I can wear my skirt up high above my hips.”
All of it has become increasingly rare, however. It is not merely that new amusements have superseded traditional ones, or even that road traffic has made the streets dangerous playgrounds. Children's play is functional, a part of the social pattern, and its transformation is part of the change in urban social life that has taken place in modem times.

Education today means schooling—the mass imposition of basic knowledge, skills and attitudes. In its real sense, however, education is the process of adapting children to the world they have to live in. Obviously that process is not limited to school: it takes place at home, in the streets and everywhere, and play is part of it. Through play, young children have learned from older ones the ways and ethics of their communities and the essentials of co-operative living. That is still the case in present-day primitive societies, and it was so in ours until recent times.

This was the real function and significance of all the children's games and songs. Little girls singing "Poor Jenny is A-weeping” or “Wallflowers” were not merely playing an ancient ring game but learning to accept and evaluate the fact of death; just as the Drop Handkerchief game was imitation and rehearsal of the conventions of pairing and courtship; just as, in even the rough games, everyone learned to behave co-operatively so that the game could go on and be enjoyed. Folklore, morality, sex, sociability—all were learned through play, together with agility of hand, foot and eye.

The division of labour in our society is such that one generation’s experience means little to the next. That in itself is one reason why lore and attitudes are no longer commonly handed down. More than that, however, the division is marked out in childhood. Children seeming to have special ability are creamed off, classified and made conscious of the separation at anything from seven years old. So are the “backward” ones. Hewers of wood and plan-makers in prospect are labelled and stratified and pressed along divergent roads without much common ground between.

It is common nowadays to speak of parents’ having abdicated in favour of teachers and administrators, as if the working class were directly to blame for the State’s having assumed charge of their children. In fact, anyone who tried to keep his child out of it all would find things made very difficult for him. The real point is that, as community life has fallen away, the formal communal function of education has been taken over to an ever-increasing extent by specialists with the State’s authority behind them. In the first place it was to instill simple knowledge; now, there are few aspects of childhood life it does not touch.

Thus, the function of children's games has largely ceased to exist. Physical agility is no longer acquired climbing trees, or with rope tied to the railings; it is the concern of the Physical Training teacher, who has hoops and ropes and climbing frames and calls them "apparatus.” Rounders, touch and stump-cricket? in the "organized Games” lesson on the Council’s playing-field. The rituals, codes and knowledge have been transmuted into rules. In “The Reasonable Life,” Clifford Gessler’s delightful book about the Polynesians, children are described as playing with and learning from one another without adult direction; our society, on the other hand, has led to direction in practically every human activity—including those of childhood.

One result of the handing-over of communal and personal responsibilities to authority-bearing specialists is that many people have come to take it as the natural order; the authorities should do this, that and something else. Another, in part, is the amount of tension and frustration which characterizes life in the modern world; the outstanding frustration—and one unprecedented in history—is that of people’s desire for association with and acceptance by their fellows. It is worth considering the matter, however in relation to the lives of children themselves. There is a great deal of alarm nowadays about the apathy and recalcitrancy said to be rife in State elementary schools; there are the juvenile delinquency figures —and, of course, the Teddy Boys.

Why do numbers of young people today adopt and display anti-social attitudes? Various immediate causes are fairly obvious; for example, statistics from all over the world show a clear relationship between delinquency and broken or unstable homes. The bigger, more important point is that anti-social behaviour is a matter of the organization of society. In this case, its strongest single cause is the absence of former communal, co-operative living and thinking.

The Teddy Boy is one product of an un-social society. He has grown up in a world where life is individualized and behaviour depends less and less on communal sanction. He has been educated insofar as knowledge and attitudes have been more or less forcibly inculcated from above: in the wider sense of education, of learning in and from a community, he has not been educated at all. And the dominant ideals of the Capitalist world, the mainspring of his behaviour-pattern, are of ends justifying means and might being right.

Thus, the disappearance of traditional children’s games is part of a change in social life which has taken place in our time and has added fresh problems to those inherent in our society. The latest generations of children know only a world which is atomized, congested but lonely, which can teach them little about co-operation and social harmony. Criticisms of schooling and of the behaviour of young people are easy and plentiful. The real criticism, however, is of society. The millions spent on our educational systems are directed to training children to take their places as workers and consumers. In a world organized for human satisfaction and not for profit, the purpose would be very different.
Robert Barltrop

The Reasonable Life” is published by The John Day Company of New York and Longmans Green of Toronto. It describes everyday life among the Polynesians of the South-East Pacific, who have not so far had the good fortune to discover tension, neurosis and the other benefits of Capitalist society.