Friday, May 19, 2017

A "Socialist" Government (1924)

Editorial from the February 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are on the eve of great events—at least, Mr. Garvin, of the Observer, says we are!
  “The reason is that to-morrow in this country will see the end of the last purely Conservative Government—none of the same name is ever likely to exist again—and will instal the first Socialist Government in its place."
We really must take exception to this constant tying of the labels “Socialist” and “Marxian” to the Labour Party. It is not fair. Mr. 'Ramsay MacDonald has frequently pointed out that the Labour members are thorough gentlemen, that they do not propose to disturb seriously existing relations, and that “moral flourishes” will be one of the principal weapons. And is not Dr. Addison one of their pillars?

Anyone in doubt about the policy to be pursued by the Labour Government can obtain fruitful information from the columns of the New Leader. In the issue of January 4th they make the following remarks, under the heading, “ Labour’s Agenda: Suggestions Invited ” :—
   “All of us are discussing the items which may find a place in Labour’s programme, when it takes office, as it almost certainly will, before the end of this month. Everyone understands that many of the bigger changes to which we are committed are excluded by the composition of this House or by the conditions of national finance. As to the main lines of our policy, there is no doubt or division of opinion. We must (1) substitute work for doles, which involves a Housing scheme; (2) recognise Russia and bring to suffering Germany the promptest rescue we can devise; (3) clear up the dangerous tangle over oil, stop the Singapore dock, and drop the territorial claim to Mosul; (4) apply our Labour policy to the urgent case of agriculture as fully as the House will allow."
Can anyone, with even the most powerful microscope, find anything Socialist in these “main lines’’? Capitalism, the present social system, involves the private ownership by the capitalists of the means of wealth production and signifies the enslavement of the propertyless workers, the mass of the population. Socialism involves the common ownership, by the whole of the population, of the means of production, and signifies the end of slavery. The change from Capitalism to Socialism is a revolutionary one and admits of no piecemeal policy. The “main lines” of Socialist action, therefore, are revolutionary ones, definitely laid out to uproot the capitalistic foundations of the existing social system.

The attempt by Garvin and others to identify the ideas of Socialism with the Labour Party’s policy is a convenient method of curbing the workers’ desire for freedom and increasing the Confusion already existing. The tendency of the workers to see in capitalism the real source of their miseries is dangerous from the point of view of the upholders of the present system. Garvin and his kind are astute, so they endeavour to fix the workers’ attention upon the Labour Party as the representatives of the new social idea. In due course the Labour Party will fail at the same obstacles—unemployment, and so forth—as the older parties. The Garvin group will then point triumphantly to this failure as an illustration of the incapacity of Socialism to solve economic problems. They bank on the idea that disappointment will breed apathy. This is one reason why we are so anxious to dispel any illusions the workers may have about the advantages to be expected from a Labour Government.

The Labour Party is not a Socialist body, and it repudiates the views of Marx. It is a snare set for dissatisfied but unwary workers.


From the Fighting Line. (1907)

From the January 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

Branches should see that reports of work, incidents of the local fight, and all matters of Party interest and propaganda value for publishing under this heading, are regularly communicated.

BATTERSEA—“All work and no play.” etc. After the heat and burden of the municipal fight, Battersea took a siesta in the form of a concert and dance at historic Sydney Hall, on the 9th ult. (Incidentally, Battersea also took a collection in aid of the Party Organ Fund, which was thoughtful and helpful.) For the occasion Paddington sent over a troupe of mummers who produced an impressive little dramatic sketch, "Wasted Lives,” which had been specially written by Comrade Fred Leigh. Setting the scene in Moscow during the time of the bloody street fighting between Russian workmen in revolt and the brutal forces of autocracy, Leigh skillfully presented the spectacle of a Fabianesque English doctor being driven by the irresistible logic of events from the position of a dilletante anti-revolutionary, into the necessity for taking sides for or against the struggling factory workers with whom lie finds himself. He chooses the side of the people and in the final tableau falls with the tiny remnant of a barricade defence who, forced to retreat into the house, make a last stand, and are shot dead by the victorious Cossacks.

Having regard to the narrow limitations of stage space and the almost entire absence of stage properties, Messrs. Leigh, Allen, Charles, Hopley and Jackson, (not to mention Stage-Manager Lewis) are to congratulated upon a very meritorious performance.

The musical contributions of Comrades Beale, Stuart, Greenham, Lewis, Passit, Shipper, and others were hugely appreciated, while Comrade Gray took the chair (and the collection) in his own ahem! inimitable manner.

TOTTENHAM has not the vantage ground that Islington Branch possess in Finsbury Park, but Tottenham are by no means depressed. By dint of sheer hard propaganda work they have during the past season almost doubled their membership, and against the combined efforts of local pseudo-labour parties to squelch them, have not only held their own finely, but carried the fight into their opponents' quarters, to the profound discomfiture of the latter every time. Tottenham are now one of the strongest branches in the Party, and have been able to make a weekly donation to the Central Office of 10/- for some months past.

WATFORD. From the home of one of the largest brunches to the home of one of the smallest. Watford at present is the most distant outpost of the Party (although rumour hath it that even this distinction may shortly he lost); its membership is small and the local conditions are exceedingly difficult for straight Socialist propaganda. The town has probably a larger collection of the one-step-at-a-time-and-the-smaller-the-better parties than any other town of the same size can show, and the unhappy effects of their confusionist work is very marked. A branch of the Party several hundred strong could find plenty of work to engage its constant attention. Yet a very few determined members even under these conditions can make their presence felt, and the little Watford Branch can claim to have done that during the past year. Its manifesto on the local elections back in the Spring made an effective case against the candidates claiming to represent the specific interests of the working class with the result that all of them were defeated by large majorities. Sunday open air meetings of a fairly good character have been held throughout the fine weather, and although the seed sown may take longer to germinate under the adverse local conditions, there is no doubt at all but that the work put in will presently bear good fruit. Steady does it at Watford. Better a few members acting as one than a few hundred acting at sixes and sevens.

TOOTING. The Tooting Branch has been very much alive of late, although no reports of their doings has appeared for some time.

The Branch decided to contest the local ward at the recent Borough Council Election, hoping that by participating in a such a contest in opposition to all and sundry, they would clear away some of the cobwebs from the minds of those who, taking their Socialism from the capitalist Press, labour under the delusion that Socialism is simply Liberalism and Labourism in an advanced form.

The contest also answered those critics who contend that our principles only afford scope for a negative attitude. We entered the field of positive political action with Comrades Barker. Dumenil, and McManus, and when the wire-pulling in the capitalist camp had run its course we found we had for opponents 3 Municipal Reformers, 4 alleged Independents (really 2 Liberals and 2 Tories running jointly) and 3 “Labour” candidates. We placed our position before the public against the position of all the others without fear or favour, repeatedly challenging anyone to come upon our platform and show any real difference between the other ten. No one attempted the impossible.

We got an advertisement from an unexpected quarter which is interesting as showing the tactics of the confusionists. Speaking for the S.D.F. in Tooting Broadway, on, the Sunday before the election, T. Glossop, in the course of his address, without any question being asked, advised the working men of Tooting to vote, not for the “Labour" candidates, but for the three run by the S.P.G.B., who were the only Socialist candidates in the field. Posters were up all over the district at that moment announcing that Mrs. Despard. F. Knee and W. H. Humphreys, all S.D.F.’ers, would speak in support of the Labour candidates at Tooting Graveney School on the Monday. We have since heard that Glossop tried hard to induce F. Knee and Humphreys not to address that meeting but without success, for they all kept the engagement. When the public of Tooting want to know why we are opposed to the S.D.F. they can for the future have some local matter as well as national. The gulf between the S.P.G B. and the "Labour" Party (any section) should be now apparent to all interested. The Branch got an election address into practically every house and flat in the ward irrespective of the resident being a voter or not. The Labour Party, who are so desirous of educating the workers, ignored the voteless. which is an advantage as the voteless have less to unlearn. We did no canvassing whatsoever, but held plenty of open-air meetings at which we had a little Radical opposition, which was easily dealt with and a fair number of questions. The public generally showed much more interest in our election meetings, than in our ordinary propaganda ones. It may interest some also to know that a considerable influx of new members is one result of the campaign. Tooting is getting a move on to some tune, as, in addition to increased membership, the speaking capabilities of the members have improved considerably as a result of the increased practice that they have had. The total cost of the election to us was £3 3s 6d and the votes recorded for our candidates were Barker. 94. McManus. 77. Dumenil. 59. Of these 50 were plumpers.

(Notes from West Ham. Romford, and Paddington held over.)


How It Will Come About. (1914)

From the June 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

At Socialist meetings one may very often hear the interjection: “You have said a great deal about Socialism and what a good thing it will be, but tell us how it will come about."

Maybe the request is a reasonable one, but oh! if those who prefer it were only as reasonable. However, they are not: they seem always to expect to receive a curt, cut-and-dried answer.

Before the Socialist has had time to answer the first question the second arrives : "How long will it be before Socialism is here?"

Now, before we can commence to discuss these questions it is of the utmost importance that we understand what Socialism really means. To-day, under capitalism, we are allowed to live (!) under hellish and murderous conditions. Let me deal with that system—the system wherein men, women, and children starve in the midst of plenty.

The whole production of wealth to-day is organised purely with a view to making a profit. It may seem strange to those who have not thought this question out, but the clothes we wear, the food we eat, are not made for us to wear and eat, but are produced in order that a profit may be obtained by the manufacturer.

Do you suppose that the master baker or the master builder, in having bread made or houses constructed, would ask if the bread was pure and wholesome or the houses dry and healthy ? No, they would simply ask : “ Shall I be able to I make a profit out of it?"

This was clearly shown at the enquiry held into a fatal accident that occurred during the erection of a building in High Holborn some time last year. A chain broke and a worker was done to death. The coroner ask the representative of the firm who made the chain whether, after testing a chain, they went over it to see if there were any cracks, and the answer was:

"No, the profits will not allow of it."

The master class do not care if the chains break and you are killed; they do not care if you eat bad food or live in death-dealing, insanitary houses: You can perish and rot so long as their profits come rolling in.

You, the workers, produce all economic wealth. All such wealth is produced for profit, and that profit, that wealth which is made but which is filched from you, goes to overstock the markets, and then you are shown the door. You produce all wealth, and then you starve.

All we ask you to do is to look round at all the good things of life that you have created, and then ask yourselves why you are poor. We only ask you to sit down and seriously try to find out the cause of your poverty. For when you have discovered this the only remedy, obviously, is to abolish that cause.

Now we Socialists claim that the cause of poverty and of all the evils which arise from it lies in the fact that all the means whereby you live are owned and controlled by a section of society. These people not only own the factories, ships, mines, etc., but, by virtue of this fact, own your very lives. You are slaves—aye, worse! For you are doomed to watch your wives and children starve.

You are allowed, not to live, but merely to exist as profit making machines, because all the methods of getting a living are taken from you except that of placing yourself on the labour market. You are forced to sell your energies. So you go to the factory gate, the pit-head, or the office door in order to sell your labour power to the owner.

You ask for work, and when "hands'' are wanted  you are informed that you can go inside, you can use the machinery, and you can produce wealth—all on the condition that the wealth you produce belongs to the owners of the means and instruments by which you produce it. This is where the robbery takes place; this is the cause of poverty.

You receive only a fraction—from one-eighth to one third of what you yourselves have produced, which, generally speaking, is a bare sufficiency to keep you in a condition to continue to work.

Now it should be very plain that the cause of poverty is that you do not own the means and instruments of wealth production and distribution and are denied free access to them. Your masters, the owners, do not allow you to work except when they can make a profit out of you.

The cause of your poverty being the robbery by the master class of the wealth produced by the workers, the only remedy is to abolish that property condition which gives the master class the power to rob you—the private ownership of the means of living —and to introduce ownership by the whole people; to establish Socialism and produce wealth, not for the profit of a few useless "ladies and gentlemen” who would probably drop down dead if you were to tell them that to morrow they must start work, but for use—bread to feed you, houses to shelter you, and clothes to cover your bodies.

As to the second question—"How long will it be before Socialism is here?"—that rests with the working class themselves. They are the obstacle. When they have come to realise the need for Socialism, and to see that the road lies through the capture of the political machinery by an organised and class-conscious working class, when they have organised themselves in the political party of the workers—the Socialist Party—for the capture of this political machinery, then Socialism will be at hand.
N. E. Gwynn.