Sunday, July 23, 2017

The I.L.P. Peace Motion (1941)

Editorial from the January 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

On December 5th, 1940, the I.L.P. group of M.P.s (Messrs. Maxton, McGovern and Campbell Stephen) put forward a motion calling for a peace conference. They condemned the Government because it has failed to set forth the terms upon which peace could be made, and
has failed to propose that a conference should be called to bring this conflict to an early conclusion, on the basis of the restoration of freedom in each country, and the pledge of all the contending governments to put at the disposal of the conference all their resources, at present being massed for producing the instruments of destruction and death, for the production of all instruments of well-being for rebuilding the homes in Europe and the establishment of a new social order which would mean the end of German, British, and other imperialism and provide a decent home and standard of life for each family in every country of the world.
The motion was rejected by 341 votes to 6. The six who supported were the three I.L.P. M.P.s, together with two Labour M.P.s (Dr. Salter and Mr. Kirkwood), and also Mr. W. Gallacher, the one Communist M.P. (Hansard, December 5th, 1940, col. 763).

Mr. Gallacher explained to the Daily Worker (December 7th) that he voted for the motion but did not agree with it: —
    William Gallacher was unable to speak in the debate, but commenting on it afterwards, he pointed out that his vote for the motion was in order to demonstrate his opposition to the Government.
   “The I.L.P. amendment,” he declared, "is typical of a loyal, orthodox opposition. It raises no question of class. It does not present the question of ending the war as a task of the people in the warring countries, but proposes a peace conference of the Imperialist Powers to end war and imperialism.’
   “I went into the lobby against the Government,” said Mr. Gallacher, “in order to express the determination of the Communist Party to organise the fight of the people against the war and to achieve a People’s Government and a People’s peace.”
The Daily Worker's editorial attitude was summed up in the words, “Peace through an appeal to Hitler! The proposal is farcical. . . .”

The Labour Party officially opposed the motion, and Mr. Attlee devoted some time to showing the impossible position in which the I.L.P. put themselves. They ask for a conference of Governments and make it a condition that they shall not only restore the position of August, 1939 (i.e., German and Russian evacuation of occupied territories), but also that they shall pledge themselves to establish “a new social order” which would mean the end of all imperialism and provide a decent standard of life for all. What happens if one side or the other refuses to accept the conditions?

Mr. Attlee pressed the question on Mr. Maxton:—
    “Mr. Maxton is suggesting that this Government should put forward certain terms of peace. If the Government does, will he support them? If it comes to a conference and Herr Hitler refuses to listen to the so-called voice of reason and rejects Mr. Maxton’s idea of liberty and social justice, what will Mr. Maxton do then? Will he fight, or will he give way? ”
Mr. Maxton’s answer, after first seeking to avoid it by saying that it was a hypothetical question was : —
     “If he and His Majesty’s Government accept my suggestion, I and my hon. friends will not be found wanting.”—(Col. 758.)
This was, in fact, precisely the same situation that arose during the last great war, when Macdonald and Snowden, for the I.L.P., proposed peace negotiations. When pressed to say what they would do if the terms were rejected by the German Government, they replied that they would go on with the war.

No other answer was logically possible, then or now. If Mr. Maxton were to say that his present answer does not mean going on with the war but some action not directed to capitalist Governments but directed to the workers, he only shows up still more clearly the illogical nature of the I.L.P. motion with its call for a conference of Governments.

That, of course, is a difficulty inherent in the situation. Effective control is in the hands of Governments, none of which will or could pledge themselves to introduce Socialism (if the motion does not mean a pledge to introduce Socialism then it is meaningless altogether, for it assumes that wars and poverty can be abolished without Socialism). Mr. Gallacher points this out, but is in no better case than Mr. Maxton. How does Mr. Gallacher imagine that the Russian workers can represent their views at a Conference, over and above the heads of their own dictatorship? What does he think would happen to Russian workers who, for example, had sought to end the Russo-Finnish war by seeking direct contact with Finnish workers against the will of the Russian Government bent on capturing territory and controlling resources that happened to be inside the Finnish frontiers?

It is, as the Daily Worker says, farcical to appeal to Hitler, but it happens to be Russian Government policy to enter into friendly relations with the Hitler gang, both for the purpose of providing materials required by the German forces and for sharing the spoils of conquest. (What has happened to that onetime popular slogan of the Bolsheviks, “no secret diplomacy” ?)

The question of appealing to workers over the heads of Governments, either to end war or for the purpose of helping Socialism, has a double aspect. No workers are going to be influenced by appeals to oppose the Government in their own country, no matter how much they are opposed to it or its policy, if the appeal comes from quarters associated with the Government of some other capitalist country. Those who could address an appeal to the workers of all countries without their own bona-fides being suspected are those whose every word and every action demonstrates their single-minded concern for the establishment of Socialism.



The Post-War Mirage (1941)

From the February 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Turning aside from the horrors of the present, people are thinking about the world that is to be when the war is over; or, more accurately, a few people are telling the others what kind of world is being prepared for them. Socialists welcome this interest, but are alive to its dangers. It is so easy for those workers who are not experienced in political and economic questions to be taken in by proposals that are useless or worse than useless, and what is at once obvious to the Socialist in all these proposals is that none of them are even fresh—all have been tried before and found wanting.

The inquirer may, however, reply to this criticism by pointing out that many of the public men who support these various schemes claim to be Socialists. This claim need not detain us for more than a moment. Don’t stop to study what the salesman says about himself; look rather at the article he is trying to sell. Is it the genuine thing or is it a cheap and nasty substitute? And just give a thought to the question, whether you have been caught once before by buying the same spurious product from this man or another.

Is it true that capitalism, with its private ownership of the means of life, its rent, interest and profit, its buying and selling, and its system of wage-labour has been abundantly proved to be a wasteful, callous, and out-of-date form of social organisation? Is it not true that only Socialism can meet the needs of our age and abolish once and for all poverty and war and the other products of capitalism? If this is true, and it is, then anything other than Socialism is not what is needed. There is no half-way house. If the world does not go over to socialism it will remain under capitalism.

The Politicians Who Run Away
Judged by this test, all of the social reform proposals, pledges and promises filling the speeches of Liberal, Labour and Conservative leaders, bold as they are claimed to be, may be only ways of evading the plain issue1: “Shall socialism be introduced or shall capitalism remain in being?” The position of the Conservative who says that capitalism is on the whole satisfactory, and is certainly necessary, but that legislation about unemployment, housing, old-age pensions, etc., must be made more comprehensive, is understandable. We know that he is wrong, but we have the satisfaction of knowing as well exactly where he stands. The same cannot be said of those who profess to agree that socialism alone will solve the problem, but who go on to rely upon everything except socialism.

In this group is the Labour Party. “Socialism comes to the City,” says the retiring City Editor of the Daily Herald (December 31st, 1940), but when we read his article it is only to find that what came to the City was “Government control of foreign exchanges, of the new investment market, and of almost all the commodity markets.” Very interesting to those who are concerned with the financial apparatus of capitalism but nothing whatever to do with socialism.

“We are never going to move back to pre-war 1939,” says Mr. Attlee (Daily Herald, January 16th, 1941). “We have got to move forward into a new world.” “Never again must we have unemployment and poverty in the distressed areas.” 

Again very interesting, but those who know that socialism alone can solve these problems are entitled to ask Mr. Attlee to state plainly whether his new world is to be socialism or not. After all, Mr. Attlee claimed in his speech to be speaking for “the British Socialist movement.” The answer he gave was not a very plain one, but its meaning cannot be mistaken. The Daily Telegraph, in its report of the same speech, contains a passage omitted from the report in the Daily Herald: —
    Mr. Attlee, Lord Privy Seal and leader of the Socialist party, speaking at a luncheon of the Labour Book Service and the Fabian Society in London yesterday, said: “We are never going back to pre-1939. We have got to move forward into a new world.”
    He and his colleagues were working with people who disagreed with their Socialist ideas, and “we disagree with many of their ideas.” They had to work together. National unity was not attained by one lot of people putting all their ideas aside and accepting somebody else’s. (Daily Telegraph, January 16th, 1941.)
It is as certain as the rising of the sun that after Mr. Attlee has come to an agreement with people who disagree with socialism, the product of their joint labours will not be socialism.

Look, too, at Mr. Bevin’s declaration that social security and not profit should be the motive of our national life. Some Conservative newspapers attacked Mr. Bevin for his speech, and the Daily Herald, official organ of the Labour Party, came to his defence. The Herald did not show any of the boldness it is always urging upon other people, but hastily repudiated all idea that Mr. Bevin was proposing to abolish the capitalist system of society. Here is an extract from the Herald's editorial (November 25th, 1940):—
     . . . Mr. Bevin is sharply rebuked by a Tory newspaper. He is told, in a patronising tone, that profit must go on playing a part in our lives and that social security is already one of the great objectives of political effort.
     But in that case why quarrel with Mr. Bevin, who admitted that all profit could not be abolished?
Now, why cannot the timid leader-writer of the Daily Herald show some courage and sense of responsibility and say outright that he does not believe that the introduction of socialism is practical politics? Why cannot he quit shuffling and say in a way his readers will understand that the Labour Party believes the only possible new world after the war is a world based on capitalism, shorn of some larger degree of its worst evils?

We, as Socialists, are all for honesty and clarity in politics, and would be interested to hear from the Daily Herald why the profit-making system must be retained, how it is to be curbed, and what results are expected to flow from curbing it. Nazi Germany claims to have restricted capitalist profit to 6 per cent., and Fascist Italy to 7 per cent., while Bolshevik Russia has suppressed profit, while retaining the wages system (with vast inequality of incomes), and a growing burden of bondholding and interest payments to bondholders. Socialists are not at all impressed with any of the three forms of State capitalism or State-controlled capitalism.

Tho Soldier Who is Not Afraid
While the so-called “Socialists” in the Labour Party are busy repudiating any belief in the practicability of socialism, a touch of boldness sneaks into the columns of the Daily Herald from another quarter in an article by Captain Liddell Hart, described as “the world-famous writer on military affairs."

At the end of an article on winning the war, he writes: — 
       . . . Our new order should combine a guarantee of economic security, based on the free provision to everyone of the material necessities of life, with the largest possible measure of individual freedom outside the economic sphere. (Daily Herald, January 7th, 1941.)
Captain Liddell Hart may or may not have considered what would be the consequences of his proposal. It would at one stroke end the profit system. It could only be carried out by instituting socialism, the system of society based on common ownership, advocated for 36 years by the S.P.G.B.

Apart from a letter written to the Daily Herald by Mr. F. Montague, M.P. (January 11th, 1941), the implication of Captain Liddell Hart’s proposal appears to have passed unnoticed by the Labour Party and its organ, the Daily Herald. (It would have been appropriate if Mr. Montague, when he claimed that he had advocated this "for years, without much support,” had added that the S.P.G.B. had consistently preached socialism throughout its existence.)

So much for the bold planners and reformers and builders of new worlds. The new world will be socialism, or it will be remarkably like the old one in all essentials.
Edgar Hardcastle

A Financial Expert and Socialism (1941)

From the March 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Douglas Jay will be known to readers of the Daily Herald. Until recently he was the City Editor of that newspaper and, among other things, gave advice on how best to invest one’s money. This was, indeed, a useful and noble service to the worker-reader, in view of the latter’s ever-present problem: that of making ends meet. Now, however, Mr. Jay has given up his job on the Herald, having obtained another with the Ministry of Supply; but—and note this— he has the satisfaction of knowing that he has done his duty well.

In his farewell article, published on New Year’s eve, he explained how, on account of the war, financial reform measures, urged by himself and the Labour Party, have been carried in this country. With a feeling of satisfaction, he writes: —
“Almost all the reforms proposed by Socialists four years ago have been carried through. Almost all the causes championed in this column have been victorious." 
And the title of his article is: “Socialism Comes to the City.”

These remarks of Mr. Jay’s bring to mind similar ones made during the last war in the Labour Leader, the organ of the I.L.P. in those days. Like the Douglas Jays of to-day, some l.L.P.-ers claimed, during the 1914-18 war, that Britain had embraced Socialism.

To refer back to the quotation from the City Editor’s article, we must point out that by “Socialists ’’ are meant “Labourites,’’ for, in no respect, can it be said that Socialism has been established in “the City.”

The S.P.G.B. has on numerous occasions, both in these columns and on the platform, shown that the Daily Herald is not a Socialist newspaper, nor the Labour Party a Socialist Party.

The trouble is that for most supporters and members of the Labour Party anything that savours of State control is Socialism. Enthusiastically, Jay continues : —
“Throughout industry itself, Government control has become almost the rule rather than the exception.”
And again: —
"We have to-day full Government control of the foreign exchanges, of the new investment market and of almost all the commodity markets.” 
Judging from the standard set by Mr. Jay, the Nazis, too, could rightfully claim to be Socialists, so could the Bolsheviks. So could Bismarck or any other supporter of State control.

The fact is, of course, that Socialists do not aim at Government control of finance and industry. They have always emphasised that nationalisation and such things are not Socialism, but State capitalism. Such changes leave the fundamental position of the worker untouched. Always under capitalism—whether State controlled or not—he is a wage-slave, who, in order to live, must sell his energies (or labour-power) to the capitalist class. Because he is divorced from the means of production, he can work only if by so doing he produces profits for the owners of these means of production, i.e., the capitalist class.

Socialism involves the abolition of capitalism. It involves the abolition, therefore, of the roots of capitalism, i.e., wage-labour and capital. Under Socialism there can be no wages-system, no finance, no investments. In Socialist society the means of production—land, factories, railways, and so on— will belong to all society; all its able-bodied members will take an active part in production and each and every one will have free access to the means of life.

Before leaving Douglas Jay we must point out one or two other things. First, even he is not quite sure that, although “Socialism has come to the City,” things are as they should be. Otherwise, why should he state: —
  "The Daily Herald will continue . . .  to keep a vigilant eye on such City activities and personalities as still need watching’’?
Secondly, the whole idea underlying the viewpoint of Douglas Jay and many Labour leaders— the idea that Socialism can come without our being aware of its coming, without effort on the part of the workers—is extremely dangerous.

The workers will certainly need no one to tell them when Socialism replaces capitalism. As Marx and all Socialist thinkers have emphasised, Socialism will only be achieved by a working class that knows what it is about, that wants Socialism and that organises politically to capture the State machine in order to introduce it democratically.

The Jays, and such-like people, ignorant of Socialism, confuse the minds of the workers; by making believe that Socialism can come without an effort on the part of the workers, they cause apathy among those who alone can establish Socialism— the working class. Therefore, whether they mean to do so or not, they play into the hands of the capitalists.
Clifford Allen


Industrial Conscription in Russia (1941)

From the April 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the time the Daily Worker was suppressed the Government here were about to introduce a scheme of compulsory registration of workers for various industries producing war and other essential materials. The Communists, indeed, maintained that the two events were connected. Thus Mr. Harry Pollitt in a meeting at Manchester:
  He said it was significant that the suppression of this newspaper should coincide with the attempt to introduce industrial conscription. (Manchester Guardian, February 10th.)
Those who do not know Mr. Pollitt and the Communist Party to which he belongs may imagine that the Communists are opposed to industrial conscription. Nothing could be further from the truth. They object to it only in this country, never a word of criticism came from them about industrial conscription in Russia.

The following particulars of the Russian industrial conscription measures decided on by the Russian Government late in 1940 are taken from the Anglo-Russian News Bulletin issued by Mr. W. P. Coates, the well-known supporter and defender of all the actions of the bolshevik Government. The issue is dated December 14th, 1940.

In his introductory explanation, Mr. Coates explains that formerly there was a more or less constant flow of people from the villages into the towns attracted “by the higher wages and by the superior amenities of town life.” Now, owing to the fact that village life is approximating to town life this flow has declined. In addition, large numbers of people have tried to enter what Mr. Coates calls the “more spectacular careers, such as aviation, science, literature," although “in many cases with no natural ability for such careers.’’ In consequence the less “spectacular’’ careers are not receiving a large enough supply of labour. Mr. Coates appears to be puzzled or even pained about this, for, as he explains, “the Soviet leaders have always emphasised that every form of work . . . is equally honourable in the U.S.S.R.” He does not dwell on the fact that they may be equally honourable but there are vast differences of pay between the “spectacular” careers and the others.

Now the Russian Government is going to force the workers into the desired direction.

The first step is to abolish free education in the “three upper forms of the secondary schools (the pupils in which are aged 15, 16 and 17) and in the Universities" and to charge a “small tuition fee.” This is intended “to regulate and stimulate the flow of young people into the free vocational schools and from thence into industry.”

After finishing their training in the various vocational schools the pupils “will be required to take up work in the trade for which they have been trained for at least four years.”

At this point Mr. Coates explains that the Soviet Government had in the past “spent enormous sums on the training of young people for trades and professions,” only to find that some of the trainees were unwilling “to take up work in places other than the large towns,” or else were given to changing their place of work very frequently.
      The decrees on labour discipline, etc  . . . have to  a large extent put an end to this constant changing of jobs, but they have not solved the question of ensuring a constant planned supply of labour for the ever-expanding industries for the new plants, railways, etc.
The new Decree (paragraphs 9 and 10) deal with this problem in the following drastic manner:

     (9) To obligate the Town Soviets to designate annually by drafting (mobilising) youths (male) of 14 to 15 years of age to Trade and Railway Schools and of 16 to 17 years of age for Factory Workshop Training Schools, the number being fixed annually by the Council of People’s Commissars of the U.S.S.R. 
   (10) That all these who graduate from the Trade Schools, and Factory Workshop Training Schools, are to be considered as mobilised and are obliged to work four years continuously in State enterprises, as directed by the Central Labour Reserves Administration under the Council of People’s Commissars of the U.S.S.R. Their wages at their place of work are to be in accordance with the general rates.
(Mr. Coates explains that those wage rates will be the same as those received by other workers performing the same duties.)

The tuition fees to be charged at Secondary Schools and Universities in order to discourage entrants range from 150 roubles a year up to 500 roubles a year, and Mr. Coates gives the equivalent in English currency as from £6 to £20 a year.

It need hardly be said that this elaborate scheme for preserving the privileges of the favoured minority under the Bolshevist regime is characteristic of the State capitalism that prevails in that country. It has nothing whatever in common with Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Our Head Office (1941)

Party News from the May 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

As a result of an air raid in the middle of April, our Head Office was badly damaged and had to be demolished. Through the co-operation of a number of comrades, the greater part of our movable stock on the ground floor and above was got out and temporarily stored nearby. Along with stock in the basement which had escaped damage, it was subsequently moved to a place of storage out of London. Correspondence addressed to 42, Great Dover Street, will, by arrangement with the Post Office, be forwarded to party officials until some other premises can be obtained. Members and friends will appreciate that this loss of our head office will increase our difficulties and delay answers to letters, despatch of literature, etc.

____________________

Bombed!
This was a big, beautiful bomb that did the job, and 42, Great Dover Street is no more. We are pleased to say, however, that as a result of some prompt work on the part of members, most of our records and office equipment were successfully salvaged from a tottering building.

A fresh office is now being sought from which the Party's all important work can be carried on, and the new address will be announced as soon as possible.

This unfortunate incident has entailed certain extra expenses—hire of room for meetings of the Executive Committee, removal and storage expenses, etc. Consequently, any contributions which members or readers can make to help defray these expenses will give some necessary help to the Party in these difficult times.

Cheques and P.O.s, crossed and made payable to the Socialist Party of Great Britain, should be addressed :-Mr. J. Butler, 37, Heyworth Road. Stratford, E.15.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hess (1941)

Editorial from the June 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

The landing of Rudolf Hess by parachute was rather more than a nine days’ wonder. People are still debating whether he is mad or sane, whether he left Germany in a hurry in order to escape a vindictive Fuehrer or a jealous husband, whether he came to sue for peace or to warn us of the wrath to come, whether he was Goering’s emissary offering to bump off Hitler, or Hitler’s emissary offering to liquidate all the other toughs.

In short, at the time of writing, nobody knows anything, and any guess is as good as any other. Time alone will reveal what Hess is after and whom he wants to betray. It is, however, possible to consider the point of view from which Hess has been surveyed by various people. From the military standpoint of gaining an advantage over the Nazis it is no doubt a sound policy to work on the lines of the saying:
“ My enemy’s enemy is my friend.”
It seems fairly clear that, with this in mind, those public men who were convinced that Hess is now an enemy of Hitler, were at once inclined to find merit in him. Hence the remarks in The Times (May 14th): “It is thought that Hess, essentially an idealist, may have acted out of disillusionment,” and “Hess has always had a quite false and idealised view of Hitler.”

Are there “good” idealists and “bad” idealists, as The Times defenders say? Is he a “good” man or a “bad” one, or, like the curate’s egg, good in parts? Or good only sometimes, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

Which brings us to the fact that the Labour Party, and, to some extent, the Communists, have always acted on these lines in their political dealings. Hess, a leading figure in German Nazism, apparently quarrels with his associates and is suspected of being willing to help in their destruction. Politics in Great Britain in the past 40 years have had many Hesses, and almost invariably the Labour Party has been willing to welcome them, support them, and even give them positions of influence. In the early years of the century Mr. Lloyd George was savagely denounced by the Conservatives and some sections of his own Party, and this was sufficient to make him popular with wide circles in the Trade Unions and the Labour Party. They regretted it afterwards, when Lloyd George was Prime Minister of the Coalition Government, particularly in the years immediately after the last war. Yet, when Mr. Lloyd George was out in the political wilderness he found favour once more with the Labour Party. Mr. Winston Churchill has been the object of similar changes of affection in the same circles. Again, the Labour Party gladly received into its ranks the group of Liberal M.P.s who quarrelled with the official Liberal Party over the last war. The Labour Party never stopped to ask whether these men had radically changed their political principles. From the same short-sighted viewpoint the Labour Party has always been ready to support and associate with groups of industrial capitalists who from time to time denounce the bankers, or to identify itself with free-trade capitalists against those who were imposing import duties. Over a period of years the Labour Party has supported the small capitalists against the big ones, supported the co-operatives against the small trader, supported the farmers against the Government, and the agricultural workers against the farmers. Always the principle —if it can be given that dignity—is the same. Always, if a political Hess quarrels with, or is kicked out by, a political Hitler, the Labour Party feels drawn to him.

Not so the Socialist Party. Socialists only want to know whether an individual understands Socialism and is prepared to work consistently for its achievement. If he is not, and if, indeed, his utterances and actions show that he stands for capitalism, we are not moved by the fact that he may have quarrelled with the other defenders of capitalism.

That the Labour Party behaves as it does indicates weakness and uncertainty and confusion of mind. They are unaware of the nature of capitalism and of their own aims; hence their inability to distinguish between socialist conviction and a mere quarrel about the recurrent problems of capitalist administration. The Socialist Party knows where it is and what it wants and does not need to cling to Lloyd Georges and other disgruntled Liberals for the illusion of strength.

For the workers who are concerned with the real problem of their emancipation and the building of a different and better social system, the only sure line is to give up trusting and hoping in the temporary convulsions of the political Jekylls and Hydes.


It Also Happened a Long Time Ago (1941)

From the June 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the year 415 B.C., at the height of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, a young Athenian landed from the sea on the Peloponnesian peninsula and made his way to Sparta. There he addressed the assembly and declared that be had never really been in sympathy with the Athenian democracy, whose policy, he declared, was to conquer Sicily and then make herself mistress of of all Greece. He proposed measures to resist Athens, which were acted upon by the Spartans and resulted in the total annihilation of the two strongest fleets. Athens had ever sent out, and proved to be the turning point in the war. Athens never recovered from the blow.

The young man responsible for this disaster was of noble birth, handsome and wealthy. He was a clever political leader, a persuasive speaker and a successful general. He is referred to as having been “popular without being respected, and followed without being trusted.” 

The name of this young man was Alcibiades, and he was one of the three generals in command of the expedition sent by Athens in 415 B.C. (the finest ever organised in Greece) to conquer Sicily. He left the expedition at Sicily and sailed for Sparta.

It is true Rudolf Hess landed from the air and not from the sea, but it is curious how incidents in history of a sensational nature are repeated.

Alcibiades was the ablest general of his time, but he was ambitious and a member of a privileged aristocracy, and this latter fact was the determining factor in his conduct. He subsequently deserted Sparta and went over to the common enemy—Persia, urging the latter to let Athens and Sparta wear each other out.

The motive behind Hess’s aeronautical adventure is still shrouded in mystery, and in this fantastic world, where real information is so scarce, one guess is as good as another.
Gilmac.

A Comparison (1941)

From the July 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Comparisons are odious,” says the proverb. They may, nevertheless, be informative. Marx avers that history repeats itself, the first event being tragedy, the second farce. Occurrences in the political world—especially in parties claiming to speak on behalf of the working-class, here and abroad, since the outbreak of the second World War of 1939, will evoke Homeric laughter from posterity.

World War No. 1, despite the flood of imperialistic enthusiasm it released, also produced a certain amount of luke-warm opposition from the officials of the Labour Party and T.U.C. On Sunday, August 2nd, 1914, these gentry were to be found on the historic plinth at Trafalgar Square haranguing a considerable crowd, who subsequently passed a resolution, declaring their common interest with workers of other nations and calling on British workers to maintain neutrality.

The war had not been long waged before signs of a vigorous anti-war, pacifistic tendency appeared; a mish-mash of religious and moral reformers. Quakers, dissident Churchmen, humanitarians, side by side with the numerous sentimentalists of the I.L.P. One of their activities was to found the Union of Democratic Control, which played some part in moulding public opinion in regard to the war.

The situation in Germany was similar. A definite anti-war wing of the German Social-Democracy had established itself. Karl Liebknecht had already attained prominence, eliciting a considerable response from German Labour.

On May 1st, 1916, despite the official prohibition of the Berlin Police President, a multitude assembled to welcome his return from the Front.

Neither should the presence of numerous political refugee groupings in Switzerland—Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Polish, Hungarian, Italian, and other elements who maintained regular contact with both sides of the war fronts, and supplied much valuable material and information, be overlooked.

Therefore, though Labour leaders had joined the Government quite early in the war, the Labour Party tended, during 1916-1917, to profess internationalism, drafted war aims calling for a Peace Conference, and demanded the introduction of a Capital Levy.

Following the staggering Russian example. Ramsay Macdonald and Philip Snowden signed their appeal for the convoking of a Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council, which was subsequently to be their ticket of admission to the House of Lords and 10, Downing Street, respectively.

We now have official confirmation in the innumerable volumes of memoirs by all the “Big Shots'” involved, that these movements expressed the growing dissatisfaction of the people during the War of 1914-18. In fact, they were elevated in Germany to the height of the “explanation” of the Fatherland’s defeat; subsequently becoming the infamous "stab- in-the-back” theory of the Hitler Party, and his main justification for dealing harshly with politicians “who had betrayed Germany.”

Mention must be made, also, of one of the most remarkable developments of the post-war world, viz., the formation of the Communist Party, by the fusion of the British Socialist Party, Workers’ Socialist Federation, South Wales Socialist Society, and Socialist Labour Party.

Despite the speciousness of the "unity” plea, the S.P.G.B. remained true to its declaration of principles and steadfastly refrained from participation.

1941
The second World War finds a different situation. Far from showing any interest in working-class internationalism, the Labour Party has called for war to free the German worker from Hitlerism; while the child of the last war, the Communist Party, celebrated its coming-of-age by publishing Pollitt’s sanguinary phillipic on "How to Win the War.”

This has confused more than one sincere worker. Many, to whom the mere mention of Churchill, or even Bevin, is anathema, accept the jingoistic appeals to Mars at face value, when they bear the signature of Mr. Pollitt.

The fact is, however, that any party claiming to represent the workers’ interests which calls upon workers to support their masters’ wars, thereby surrenders its rights to an independent existence and eventually finds itself superfluous.

This was perceived by the leaders of the C.P., who, under leadership from Moscow, then started a circuitous retreat back to pre-war policies, which ended with suppression of the Daily Worker. Whereupon the clowns of the Communist Party promptly don the garb of "Defenders of a Free Press.”

We may draw two conclusions, from a consideration of over twenty years’ experience, between two World Wars, of value to enquiring workers.

It is impossible for a Socialist Party to tamper or flirt with any "Anti-War.” “No Conscription," or similar temporary pro-capitalist organisation of the fleeting moment. Experience has shown that such organisations are non-Socialist, spread confusion, and do more harm than good, dissipating energies and raising false hopes.

The Socialist is concerned with the abolition of capitalism, without which war cannot be eliminated.

That is why the future is bright for the S.P.G.B., because experience has shown that its policy has been sound. Numerous organisations have arisen during these years, only to pass into limbo. The Socialist Party has been proved correct.
Horatius.



The Impermanence of Reform (1941)

From the August 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party supports Trade Union organisation; so does the Labour Party. Yet there is a world of difference between the two attitudes. On the political field the Socialist Party does not deny that a particular piece of legislation may, for a time, relieve extreme hardship to workers affected by some outrageous failure of the capitalist system; yet the Socialist Party logically and consistently opposes reformism, the policy of building up a political party on a programme of demands for legislation to relieve all the separate evils. The difference is rather like that between the attitude of the A.R.P. expert and the attitude of the Socialist. The man whose efforts are devoted to studying the problem of defence against air raids is not required to have any knowledge of the ultimate causes of war. He may simply take war for granted, one of those things that happen. So the Trade Unionist, for the most part, and the advocate of reform, takes capitalism for granted. His aim is to improve wages or to help the old-age pensioner, or reduce the special hardship of the low-wage earner who has a large family. For him capitalism, the wages system and the comprehensive, problem of poverty are things in which he is only remotely interested, if at all.

That does not mean that the Trade Unionist or the reformer is satisfied with the results of his efforts. He sees that they are not achieving what he wants, but he does not know why. He is usually able to lay the blame on other shoulders than his own. He blames the non-Unionist, the apathetic, the members of other Unions, or the advocates of other reforms. He asks why all the workers cannot get together and act unitedly; but what he really means is, why will not other workers forget their sectional interest and pet reform and back me up in my sectional interest and the reform which, for the moment, seems to me to be the really vital one. He does not see that Trade Unionism and reformism have the limitation that they encourage and provoke sectional activity and all the friction arising from it. The skilled craftsman necessarily gets into the habit of mind of trying to enlarge what he calls the “value” of his work against that of the unskilled or semi-skilled grades. The woman worker asking for “equal pay for men and women” is always in danger of blaming male workers for her plight, and, like the craftsman, is equally indifferent to the problems of other groups of workers. The advocate of family allowances is blind to the real cause of working-class poverty, and bolsters up his argument with the claim that poverty is due to the number of children the working-class father has to support.

True there has been progress in the outlook of the workers as a whole. It is an advance that after the organisation of workers in Trade Unions had got beyond the individual factory to all the factories in a neighbourhood it has gone to whole industries, whole countries, and, in many cases, beyond national frontiers. But still the sectional outlook and inter-union rivalries remain, as can be seen in the preoccupation of the Trades Union Congress with inter-union disputes and its tacit acceptance of the fact that it must not interfere with the self-interested policies of its bigger affiliated unions.

War shows up as nothing else does the limited usefulness of all non-Socialist activities. War brings with it increased prices, but because in war-time the war industries are working at pressure while other industries are curtailed, it is only in the former group that wages advance in anything like the same proportion as the cost of living. Other workers find the purchasing power of their wages drastically curtailed without even the possibility of making up the difference by working overtime.

Pensioners are equally badly hit. At a stroke war destroys the work of a generation. Trade Unions have to struggle hopelessly behind rising prices, and all the work of the reformers has to begin over again. The post-war years will be devoted to trying to regain what little had been achieved in the 20 years after the last war. And still there will be no permanence. If it is not war it will be one of capitalism’s recurring industrial crises, which blast away those jerry-built structures of the social reformers.

The question for the workers is what to do about it. For the non-Socialist it will be another effort to build up what war has destroyed. For the Socialist the question is not whether capitalism can be reformed, can wages keep up with prices, can pensions be increased, but how to end the capitalist system of society. With the replacement of capitalism by Socialism, the problem becomes how to handle the economic problems of a system based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution. Production being then solely for use there are no profits, interest or rents to be considered, no problems of prices or wages, no insurance or old-age pensions or workmen’s compensation. All members of society will be provided for as a matter of course, not in accordance with the present absurd system based on piecemeal legislation for each particular sub-division of poverty.

Mankind’s efforts will be given a new direction, helped on by the vast release of thought and energy.
Edgar Hardcastle

"Two Years." (1941)

Party News from the September 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

September, 1939, to September, 1941: two years of warfare on an unprecedented scale. Death and devastation rained from the sky on countless cities, with appalling consequences for the working class of this and other lands.

Looking back to the early days of this vast and terrible conflict, few of us in the Socialist Party then dared hope that conditions, even for a few months ahead, would permit us to continue propaganda for Socialism. But, here we are, after two years of war, still proclaiming that Socialism is the only way by which the working class can achieve a genuine “New Order” out of the present chaos of Capitalism.

It is true that in this period our meetings are not as numerous or as widespread as they were just prior to the war, but we can record that wherever they are held larger and more appreciative audiences are the result. Further, our literature sales are being effected in every part of the country.

Our difficulties, though, have been many and hard to overcome. The majority of branches were seriously dislocated as a consequence of the air raids. Many of the most active of our comrades were, through force of circumstances, compelled to leave the main centres of Party activity in order to follow their employment in distant parts of Britain.

Our Headquarters were bombed and demolished, causing us much extra work and not a little anxiety about meeting the inevitable expenses of transferring to new premises and the replacement of ruined equipment. 

Despite the long winter of night raids, which are not exactly conducive to study and research, our writers somehow contrived to pen their articles in order that THE STANDARD might go forward each month as a challenge and an inspiration to the working class in the present gigantic upheaval of world Capitalism.

Comrades and friends—you got your STANDARD every month, and you were grateful for it. You proved it by your generous contributions to the Party’s coffers, by your efforts to increase our literature sales, and, not least, by your splendid support of the Party’s great mass meetings in London, Glasgow, etc.

We face another winter, perhaps even more trying than the last; Nevertheless, Socialist propaganda must go on, Socialist literature and THE STANDARD must reach the working class from one end of Britain to the other.

You, comrades and friends, can help to make this possible if you will act NOW.

Give us the money to pay our way. Place your orders with the Literature Department for bundles of current STANDARDS and pamphlets for distribution amongst your friends and workmates. In this way you will help to ensure that the Socialist Party will emerge from this war stronger and better equipped to wage the struggle to establish the International Socialist Commonwealth.
H. G. Holt,
Party Funds Organiser.

An Open Letter to the "Elementary" Teacher (1941)

From the October 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Thirty-five years ago I ventured to address an Open Letter to my " Elementary” colleagues. At that time, old age prospects were dreary; pensions were yet in a foggy offing. The deadening system of “Payment by results” had only been recently lifted; official bullying from Whitehall and local "Boards" meekly borne and too often crudely reproduced by the heads of the "Three Departments" for their unhappy staffs. The drab degradation of the earlier days of "Elementary” education for all concerned (often accentuated in rural districts by clerical tyranny) has yet to be adequately portrayed.

Yes, there has been some amelioration since those bad old days; there has been a marked change for instance, in the relation between teacher and pupil—the free use of Christian name for the latter is significant. But let us not lay the flattering unction to our souls, that the humane teachers and their unions have been the main instrument in salutary changes. Relative amelioration in all directions have followed profound movements rooted in economic soil. The heyday of a lusty, brutal Industrial Revolution period had perforce to give way to a milder, a more cunning, exploitation of the worker, lest the goose that laid the golden egg perish from sheer inanition. A lessening of the awful gap that yawned between inspectors and school staff, improvement in financial position, a more generous curriculum were found by the more farseeing members of the dominant class to be necessary if the rival and formidable Robber Gang across the German Ocean were to be adequately met in the world market. A tamely contented army of "elementaries” was as essential as the “theirs but to do and die" red-coats; one would automatically follow the other. The Iron Duke, reviewing recruits who all stood a first-rate chance of military flogging in a near future, dryly remarked: "I don’t know what the enemy will think of these troops. They frighten me." . . .  It paid the hirers of cannon-fodder to abolish flogging (Bishops protesting), to introduce reforms which produced a Kipling Tommy for the sorry ruffian who stormed Badajos and stood up to Napoleon at Waterloo. It pays the exploiters of the working class (of whom we are members, sweet colleagues) to assist in organising a "loyal" flag-wagging, religious Education Service.

In 1906, Lord Rosebery was referring to the members of our craft as "Captains and Guides of the Democracy." A young man of that year wrote in the Socialist Standard : "The declared reason for the existence of the National Union of Teachers is a furtherance of the interests of the child. Is there not a danger that it may become the happy hunting ground of the eloquent Party man in a hurry to round his own life into a success?" Unfortunately, long intervening years have effected little to make the query out of date. Captains arid guides help to push their paid servants into first-rate political jobs, Macnamara yesterday— some persistent heckler to-day?

The outlook of captains and guides to-day gives small hope of an awakening to stark realities which will face the worker after the war. To exemplify: —

The London Teacher, organ of the Big Unit of the mother Union, only recently, on the occasion of the Tercentenary of the English translation of the Bible, indited enthusiastic and uninformed blurbs on our "precious heritage." Nine-tenths of the Book is, like the ill-gotten grapes of Mark Twain’s Innocents, "quietly but firmly dropped" by high dignitaries of a National Church which is now putting across by broadcast a devitalised and gutless hash which should infuriate the Roman Catholics no less than the genuine Hot Gospeller. I have always understood that the official policy of the N.U.T. is Secular Education. At the present time, trading on the inevitable upsurge of superstition which has always accompanied threat of dire calamity, a determined effort is being made to insinuate definite "Christian" teaching into the elementary schools . . . if only the Soviet Union would substitute a National Day of Prayer for Big Tanks, Kiev might yet be saved! 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_County_CouncilI strongly appeal to the big body of "indifferents" to aid in stemming the new clerical offensive. Vigilance is required, as an event clearly showed when "agreed syllabuses" were in the air. The facts are these: The Head Teachers’ Association, unknown to the rank and file, were approached by a Roman Catholic member of the L.C.C. with a view to gaining a measure of support for the scheme. A general meeting passed certain resolutions (it was a hard and bitter fight), whose main intent was to nip the pretty little plot in the bud. Instructions were given to the chairman to forward resolutions to specified persons. The vigilance of a member discovered that the resolutions as passed had been emasculated by the chairman, who pleaded necessity for not offending any religious susceptibilities in high quarters.

As an example of clerical intolerance, and of Union feebleness (or worse), I invite you to ponder an incident which happened during this war.

The Folkestone Education Authority (dominated by Church interests) dismissed a young teacher who had gained exemption from military service on C.O. grounds. He asked his "Captain" for a testimonial which might enable him to continue his job under another authority. The testimonial writer went out of his way to state that "the teacher was a C.O. but as far as he knew, no attempt had been made to influence pupils." The young man appealed to his Union (the National Association of Schoolmasters, engaged in the noble work, as you are probably aware, of preventing a woman from teaching in boys’ schools, incidentally fighting "equal pay" tooth and nail). As might have been expected, the affair was shilly-shallied out of existence.

In 1913, said: "What a bad bargain we are making in allowing children not properly furnished physically to attend schools which are set up at great expense to the country; such children are not being trained into useful citizens and useful industrial machines." Here you have it, plain and plump. Go to it, comrades of the Chalk and Duster Brigade. Help to manufacture the pliable tool, for great will be his reward of Pie in the Sky when the not too Silver Bowl is broken.

Make no mistake. The Socialist Party of Great Britain is keenly interested in Education. It is at the present juncture practically an educational body. Propagandist and educationist are substantially parallel terms in the long run. Superior methods in instruction, in pedagogical technique, are recognised and welcomed by the Party, but in the realm of education for life, we insist upon the vital necessity of giving every scope for free thought; we regard dogmatic teaching, whether it touch the divinity of a shadowy Carpenter, or whether it embraces fulsome and unthinking homage to a Hitler, a Stalin, or a Winston Churchill, as a thing which menaces the indispensable values held by “Democrats," let alone Socialists.

Noble educational aspirations cannot be implemented within Capitalism. Who can gainsay the penetration of much that Wordsworth wrote on the subject in the Third Book of “The Prelude," where he saw
"Blind Authority beating with his staff
    The Child that might have led him "?
Let me end on a sober note:

I put it to my colleagues that it is meet, right, and their bounden duty as teachers to make an effort to grasp the essentials of all big movements. Why will you continue to be cheated into the belief that the various varieties of State Capitalism advocated by Labour Leaders, by “Communists" (from the grip of the O.G.P.U. good Lord deliver us!) by fluffy and well-meaning I.L.P.-ers, worshipping at the shrine of Saint Hardie, that all these are Socialism. Study our "eight points." Ponder them. Challenge them. We will reply.

With kind regards to all evacuated colleagues who are finding it desperately hard to keep the financial end up, and in the fervent hope that a second appeal of a more than ever convinced member of the S.P.G.B. will prove more fruitful than the first appeal of the young enthusiast of 1906,
             
I am, yours for the Child,
A. Reginald