Monday, May 15, 2017

Marx's Address for the International, 1864 (1937)

From the April 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reprint of a Famous Speech
(The following address was delivered by Marx on the occasion of the inauguration of the International Working Men’s Association, September 28th, 1864. Apart from its interest as an historical document, it contains many timely lessons for the workers in face of present problems.
   The reader will notice that the tone and phrasing of the Address are moderate and indefinite by comparison with others of Marx’s speeches and writings —the “Communist Manifesto,” for example. This was a restraint imposed on Marx, as he explained in a letter to Engels, by the character of the organisations in the International. They were composed of Trade Unionists and others who had only made the first approaches towards accepting internationalism and towards understanding Socialism. If, too, Marx was more optimistic about some developments of the period than they deserved the essentials of the speech have worn well. How well can be seen by comparing this speech with a typical product of the man Marx was criticising, Mr. W. E. Gladstone. Who cares now what Gladstone said in 1864? Marx, on the other hand, with his remarkable understanding of the slow but inescapable trend of events, becomes every year a more vital figure in the task of moulding the society of the future.
   Some of the points in the speech are dealt with elsewhere in this issue. EDITORIAL COMMITTEE.)
Fellow Working Men: It is a great fact that the misery of the working masses has not diminished from 1848 to 1864, and yet this period is unrivalled for the development of its industry and the growth of its commerce. In 1850 a moderate organ of the British middle-class, of more than average information, predicted that if the exports and imports of England were to rise 50 per cent., English pauperism would sink to zero. Alas! On April 7th, 1864, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delighted his Parliamentary audience by the statement that the total import and export trade of England had grown in 1863 “to £443,955,000, that astonishing sum about three times the trade of the comparatively recent epoch of 1843.” With all that he was eloquent upon "poverty.” "Think,” he exclaimed, “of those who are on the border of that region,” upon “wages —not increased”; upon “human life—in nine cases out of ten, but a struggle of existence.” He did not speak of the people of Ireland, gradually replaced by machinery in the North, and by sheep-walks in the South, though even the sheep in that unhappy country are decreasing, it is true, not at so rapid a rate as the men. He did not repeat what then had just been betrayed by the highest representative of the upper ten thousand in a sudden fit of terror. When the garotte panic had reached a certain height, the House of Lords caused an inquiry to be made into, and a report to be published upon, transportation and penal servitude. Out came the murder in the bulky Blue Book of 1863, and proved it was, by official facts and figures, that the worst of the convicted criminals, the penal serfs of England and Scotland, toiled much less and fared far better than the agricultural labourers of England and Scotland. But this was not all. When, consequent upon the Civil War in America, the operatives of Lancashire and Cheshire were thrown upon the streets, the same House of Lords sent to the manufacturing districts a physician commissioned to investigate into the smallest possible amount of carbon and nitrogen, to be administered in the cheapest and plainest form, which, on an average, might just suffice to avert “starvation diseases.” Dr. Smith, the medical deputy, ascertained that 28,000 grains of carbon and 1,330 grains of nitrogen were the weekly allowance that would keep an average adult just over the level of starvation diseases, and he found, furthermore, that quantity pretty nearly to agree with the scanty nourishment to which the pressure of extreme distress had actually reduced the cotton operatives. But now mark! The same learned doctor was later on again deputed by the medical officer of the Privy Council to inquire into the nourishment of the poorer labouring classes. The results of his researches are embodied in the “Sixth Report on Public Health,” published by order of Parliament in the course of the present year. What did the doctor discover? That the silk weavers, the needle women, the kid glovers, the stocking weavers, and so forth, received, on an average, not even the distressed pittance of the cotton operatives, not even the amount of carbon and nitrogen "just sufficient to avert starvation diseases.”

"Moreover” (we quote from the report), "as regards the examined families of the agricultural population, it appeared that more than a fifth were with less than the estimated sufficiency of carbonaceous food; that more than one-third were with less than the estimated sufficiency of nitrogenous food, and that in three counties (Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Somersetshire), insufficiency of nitrogenous food was the average diet.” “It must be remembered,” adds the official report, “that privation of food is very reluctantly borne, and that, as a rule, great poorness of diet will only come when other privations have preceded it. Even cleanliness will have been found costly or difficult, and if there still be self-respectful endeavours to maintain it, every such endeavour will represent additional pangs of hunger. These are painful reflections, especially when it is remembered that the poverty to which they advert is not the deserved poverty of idleness: in all cases it is the poverty of working populations. Indeed, the work which obtains the scanty pittance of food is, for the most part, excessively prolonged.” The report brings out the strange and rather unexpected fact, "That of the divisions of the United Kingdom," England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, “the agricultural population of England,” the richest division, “is considerably the worst fed,” but that even the agricultural labourers of Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Somersetshire fare better than great numbers of skilled indoor operatives of the East of London.

Such are the official statements published by order of Parliament in 1864, during the millennium of free trade, at a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House of Commons that
"the average condition of the British labourer has improved in a degree we know to be extraordinary and unexampled in the history of any country or any age.”
Upon these official congratulations jars the dry remark of the official Public Health Report: —
"The public health of a country means the health of its masses, and the masses will scarcely be healthy unless, to their very base, they are at least moderately prosperous.” 
Dazzled by the “Progress of the Nation,” statistics dancing before his eyes, the Chancellor of the Exchequer exclaims in wild ecstasy: —
“From 1842 to 1852 the taxable income of the country increased by six per cent.; in the eight years from 1853 to 1861 it has increased from the basis taken in 1853 20 per cent.: the fact is so astonishing as to be almost incredible.”
“This intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power,” adds Mr. Gladstone, “ is entirely confined to classes of property.”

If you want to know under what conditions of broken health, tainted morals, and mental ruin, that “intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power entirely confined to classes of property ” was, and is being produced by the classes of labour, look to the picture hung up in the last “Public Health Report” of the workshops of tailors, printers and dressmakers. Compare the “Report of the Children’s Employment Commission” of 1863 where, it is stated, for instance, that: —
"The potters as a class, both men and women, represent a much degenerated population, both physically and mentally,” 
that the unhealthy child “is an unhealthy parent in his turn,” that a progressive deterioration of the race must go on and that "the degenerescence of the population would be even greater were it not for the constant recruiting from the adjacent country, and the intermarriages with more healthy races.” Glance at M. Tremenheere’s Blue Book on the "Grievances complained of by the Journeymen Bakers.” And who has not shuddered at the paradoxical statement made by the inspectors of factories, and illustrated by the. Registrar-General, that the Lancashire operatives, while put upon the distress pittance of food, were actually improving in health, because of their temporary exclusion by the cotton famine from the cotton factory, and that the mortality of the children was decreasing, because their mothers were now at last allowed to give them instead of Godfrey’s cordial their own breasts.

Again reverse the medal. The Income and Property Tax Returns, laid before the House of Commons on July 20th, 1864, teach us that the persons with yearly incomes valued by the tax gatherer at £50,000 and upwards, had, from April 5th, 1862, to April 5th, 1863, been joined by a dozen and one, their number having increased in that single year from 67 to 80. The same returns disclose the fact that about 3,000 persons divide amongst themselves a yearly income of about £25,000,000 sterling, rather more than the total revenue doled out annually to the whole mass of the agricultural labourers of England and Wales. Open the Census of 1861, and you will find that the number of the male landed proprietors of England and Wales had decreased from 16,934 in 1851 to 15,066 in 1861, so that the concentration of land had grown in ten years 11 per cent. If the concentration of the soil of the country in a few hands proceeds at the same rate the land question will become singularly simplified, as it had become in the Roman Empire, when Nero grinned at the discovery that half the province of Africa was owned by six gentlemen.
(to be concluded).

Unemployment (1984)

Book Review from the September 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

Unemployment by Kevin Hawkins (Penguin. 1984)

It may be one of life's sick jokes to explain to the unemployed why unemployment exists; and to show how one form of poverty can more effectively be replaced by another. Hawkins begins his work by dismissing some of the myths as to why there is unemployment. It does not occur as a result of "the provision of generous welfare payments nor any other such diversionary nonsense" (p. 5). He points out that labour shortages can exist alongside unemployment. This is not because generous welfare payments make the unemployed too clumsy but often because there is a mismatch between the skills of the unemployed and the requirements of labour. Similarly. the existence of "scroungers" does not explain current high levels of unemployment. This myth can be exploded by examination of the levels of benefit which are supposedly being "scrounged”. Between 1971 and 1980, levels of unemployment benefit "fell from 70 per cent to 46 per cent . . .  of average earnings" (p. 26). Without earnings related supplement the figure dropped from 45 per cent to 33 per cent of average earnings.

Hawkins, as Director of the West Midlands CBI, views the problem of unemployment from the standpoint of the industrialist. He talks of the necessary "professional approach to the use of resources, especially manpower" (p. 78) that has arisen out of the current recession. Manpower is simply a resource that must be manipulated for the prime good of a social ethos whose only consideration is profit and “efficiency".

Hawkins accepts unemployment as a prominent feature of British society for the rest of the decade. This may seem to offer little comfort to the long-term unemployed but he does suggest some measures which he believes will alleviate the problem. He claims that his strategy to reduce unemployment is based on principles that are “humanitarian, economic and political in character" (p. 107), yet the humanitarian approach takes a nose dive two pages later when we are told that the rationale must be assessed “not by their effect on the unemployment figures but by the contribution they make towards improving the supply-side performance of the economy” (p. 109).

Hawkins' plan for the future lies in reducing business costs not generated by market forces, and by these he means taxes on employment. He argues that government must stimulate employment in roads and railways and that it should cease subsidising specific firms and increase the supply of highly-skilled manpower. His big plan for the future is to reduce the costs of labour — the main ingredient in this economic soup. He argues that wage costs must be adjusted to the current level, a sufficiently vague phrase which he explains “in more common language, until workers ‘price themselves back into jobs'” (p. 115). This is the old old story of when in doubt blame the workers. We are expected to accept the old adage of what is good for industry is good for the people.

Hawkins calls for an immediate wage freeze that will shock workers into a new sense of realism and keep them in their place. His alternative strategy is to further weaken the power of the unions, presumably to enable industry to dictate all conditions of service and levels of pay. He also advocates the subsidising of employment by central government and applauds the Community Programme Scheme. It is interesting to note the extent to which the humanitarian approach has given way to economic and political considerations when he says:
It has also been argued that the financial incentive to apply for a CPS place is inadequate insofar as the average wage of £60 a week on the scheme is less than the benefit income which a married man with several children can draw. Rather than increase the average wage to take it above the benefit ceiling, thereby increasing the gross cost of the scheme, the remedy may well be to expand the number of places available at the current wage and simultaneously reduce the benefit income. (P 124)
This is allied to such schemes as job-sharing in which the wage is split between two persons, supposedly to ensure a statistical reduction in unemployment but more realistically a statistical increase in poverty. To ensure that even this does not burden the employer by increased paperwork it is suggested that a grant be made available to implement the scheme. Hawkins recognises that his policies may well increase inequalities and social division but “no apology is made on this account", for he has already explained that he is concerned with “the importance of wealth-creation, as distinct from wealth-distribution” (p. 132). In this the book reads like some latter-day Capitalist Manifesto. The working class are punished for the inefficiencies of capitalism and its inability to satisfy the needs of society's members. To cling in desperation to such a system seems absurd. To justify that system by a more systematic exploitation of the working class is contemptible.
Philip Bentley

Municipal Elections (1906)

From the October 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Struggle for Political Supremacy
The tremendous efforts made by the ruling class to retain control of the political machinery when seeking the suffrages supremacy of the workers in National and Local elections, is a most significant, though generally uurecognised fact; and the millions which are spent in parliamentary, and the thousands in municipal, contests should show to the thinking man or woman the immense importance the ruling class attach to this matter. An explanation is thus demanded from those who claim to represent the interests of the class that is ruled — the working class— as to why they also are in the political field and are fighting for the control of this machinery.

Let us at once point out that the term “Political Machinery” means all those methods and arrangements which the dominant class have found it necessary to collectively control in extending and maintaining their domination over the rest of Society. The National or Parliamentary section is. of course, the most important, although, due to geographic and social divisions, local and organic subdivisions of this machinery are formed and perpetuated in the shape of County, Borough, Town, and Parish Councils, Boards of Guardians, Asylum and Education Boards. It must, however, be noted that these are after all only subdivisions, and as such are ultimately under the control and domination of Parliament. This limitation of the powers of municipal bodies needs to be clearly understood by the working class, particularly as the various so-called “reform” and “labour” parties are either ignorant of, or else deliberately conceal the fact at election times, promising all sorts of measures quite without the power of a local body while the present system lasts.

The Necessity for Class Organisation
What must be clearly recognised by the workers is that to-day they are in the position class of articles of merchandise; they are quite cut off from any access to the means of living and wealth production (Land, Machinery, Mills, Railways, etc.) except by selling themselves for such price (termed wages) as they can get upon the Labour Market. All the means of living, and the wealth therewith produced, are owned by another section in Society (the capitalist class) who perform no useful function therein, but live in idleness and luxury upon the wealth they appropriate from the workers. Wealth in all societies being the matter of the globe converted to the use of mankind by human energy, it necessarily follows that if any able-bodied individuals are living in Society without doing useful work they do so by the robbery (direct or indirect, it matters little which) of the useful workers. Between the robber and robbed there is thus a direct and complete opposition of interests.

The capitalist class, however, are able to safeguard and preserve their position only by virtue of their control of the political machinery. They thus make and administer the laws, direct the police and judicial officers, and, above all, maintain the trained armed fighting forces in the country to keep the workers under control and to guard the capitalists' property. In other words the capitalist class know, or are conscious of, their position and interests, while the workers in the main are far from having clearly grasped the situation as it affects them. The first thing requisite on the workers’ behalf is a clear recognition of the deep gulf existing between the robbed working class and the robber capitalist class, and following thereupon the application of that fact to their action in the political field by taking up a position of uncompromising hostility to all supporters of capitalism in any shape or form.

Before the workers can better their position to any material extent, they must wrest the political machinery from the hands of the capitalist class. They should, therefore, ignore the shouting of "Progressive” and "Moderate" factious, admittedly capitalist as they are, as well as the so-called “Labour” or “Socialist” candidates who urge the saving of the rates, and who advocate the municipalization of the trams, gas, etc. for the purpose of providing safe investments for small middle-class capitals, to make sinecures for their friends and relatives, and to use the profit for reducing rates, all of which depend upon the continued exploitation of the workers.

The task of clearing the confusion created by these bogus “labour” parties is truly Herculean, and, were it not that the wage-slaves, municipal and other, are being forced to recognise that in municipal trading they only meet their old enemy capitalist exploitation in a new guise, the task would be well nigh hopeless. But the class antagonism cannot longer he masked. Whether engaged in sweeping the roads or running the trains, whether delivering letters or making army clothing, the fact is being brought home to the workers that to-day municipalization or nationalization is not Socialism, but that on the contrary the workers have to reckon with their must powerful enemy, to wit the capitalist class united in municipal and national government against any of the workers' demands.

The articles which have recently appeared in the columns of that Liberal advocate of municipal trading, the Daily Chronicle, on the strike of the Halifax municipal tramway employees are significant of much. They speak of the coming ‘"Labour Danger" in municipal exploitation, and evidence the determination of the ruling class that the workers shall not be any the less exploited because they happen to be employed by the municipality.

The Advantages of Municipalism Examined.
Upon closer inspection the boasted advantages of municipal or national employment are seen to dwindle: a "paper” ten hours day is in one instance found to cover sixteen hours in reality, and a few pence increase in wages is found to be really a reduction with the greater intensity of work involved. Neither does any greater security of employment exist, as the numerous "odd men" of the municipal services and the recent wholesale discharges from government works, eloquently testify, whilst sweating in government departments is a regularly recurring scandal.
The statement that municipalization and nationalization are object lessons in Socialism, is, then, an absurdity, whilst the assertion that they lead up to complete organisation of production is hardly more true of the municipal service than it is of the huge company or trust, since the officials are similar and the methods of exploitation the same. Indeed, the fact that tramway, lighting, and other services of the municipality cannot overstep the local boundaries. is evidence that, upon those fields at any rate, a huge company or trust would in reality present a greater economic advance by embracing larger areas. Moreover, the workers will have to fight as hard to gain control of municipal or national industries, as they will to gain control of the trusts.

We, however, no more wish to hinder the advance of municipal or national undertakings than to arrest the growth of the trust or combine: but to have them bailed as instalments of Socialism is utterly misleading when they are, in reality, only more efficient means of exploiting the working class for the benefit of property owners.

Let those who regard such things as Socialism ponder the meaning of the use of nationalization by Napoleon, by Bismarck. and even by the Tsar of all the Russia, for the purposes of the ruling class. In truth, it is to be feared that just as a splendid weapon may be powerful for good in just hands but quite as powerful for harm when in the hands of an unscrupulous enemy, so national or municipal industry, however powerful an agent for good when controlled by the workers, may nevertheless be an instrument of fearful economic tyranny when used by the capitalist class for its own ends

The Bogey of the Rates
The present municipalization  movement, however, appears to regard the condition of the workers as quite a minor consideration. Its great concern is, in fact, to save the rates. But where the shoe really, pinches may have been learnt during the past year from the great outcry raised by London property owners and their agents over the rising rates, which, they averred, caused residents and manufacturers to migrate to the outlying to the outlying districts. Their cry was that the high rates depreciated the value of their property. In several districts, as has already been pointed out in the Socialist Standard, there has been decrease in rents owing to the diminished demand for accommodation following on high rates. Obviously, also, anything which increases the advantages of any district or town, increases the competition for house room in the favoured district and forces up the rents.

If through the profits on municipal capitalism rates were abolished anywhere, neither the lodgers nor the tenant ratepayers would in the long run be one penny the better off, for the landlords would, through the increased number of people attracted by the absence of rates, be enabled to raise the rent until it absorbed the whole of what was formerly paid as rates. Indeed, in all probability the landlords would increase the rent immediately by the amount of rates saved, Judge, then, in whose interests the rate-saving munipalizers are working.

Even the Fabian Society realise the futility of grants in aid of rates, although, as might be expected of that middle-class body. their acts belie them. In Fabian Tract No. 107 they say: “You cannot relieve the ratepayer by reducing, or even abolishing, his rates, since freeing a house of rates simply raises the rent. In fact, the ratepayer is only a foolish catspaw for the landlord. At Tonbridge, Bedford, and certain other places, pious founders have endowed the schools so splendidly that education is nobly cheap there. But rents are equivalently high; so that the landlords reap the whole pecuniary value of the endowment. . . . Suppose a misguided billionaire were to take on himself the cost of paving and lighting some London parish, and set on foot a free supply of bread and milk! All that would happen would be that the competition for houses and shops in that parish would rage until it had brought rents up to a point at which there would be no advantage in living in it more than in any other parish. Even parks and open spaces raise rents in London, though, strange to say, London statues do not diminish them.”

The Only Way For The Workers,
Clearly, then, to save the rates is not to benefit the working class, nor is the matter mended if tram fares are reduced and municipal services made cheaper, for a precisely similar thing occurs. An improvement in means of transit, or a reduction of fares, immediately causes a proportionate rise in rents in the districts favoured, as numerous instances have shown during the past few years.

The workers, therefore, must beware of those who would lure them from the path of emancipation with the red herring of municipalization.

Neither municipal nor State capitalism can ease the worker of his oppressive burden. To improve his lot he must organise with his fellows for the control of industry whether municipal or national, whether under company or trust. And the workers cannot gain control of industry unless they first wrest political power from the hands of the master class in national as well as in local government.

But these facts also explain the extensive and untiring efforts of the capitalist class to retain control of the political machinery, often, it is true, masquerading in local elections as "Independent” or "Non-political” candidates: as though candidates for political power could be non-political! The capitalist class are untiring in their efforts to retain supreme political power, because their continued existence absolutely depends upon their control of that power.

The candidates of the S.P.G.B., therefore, whilst quite prepared to use the local powers for such small temporary benefits as may be forced from the capitalists' hands for the workers in those districts, nevertheless do not seek suffrages for this, which can only be a secondary business of the political party of the workers. The fact, pointed out above, must be strongly reiterated, that the powers of the local bodies are strictly limited and are controlled by the Government.

The Limitations of Local Authorities
The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters into municipal contests as a step in the work of capturing the whole political machinery. Fully realising, and pointing out to the workers, the strict limitations of the power of local bodies, making no promises that are beyond our power to fulfil, we ask the members of our class, when (but not before) they have studied these facts and realised their correctness, to cast their votes for the candidates of the S.P.G.B. who alone stand on the above basis/

In those districts, however, where there are no S.P.G.B. candidates in the field, the workers are asked to abstain from voting altogether, since any votes cast under such circumstances can only assist the enemies of the working class.