Friday, September 1, 2017

A General Election in 1938? (1938)

From the February 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Herbert Morrison, leader of the London Labour Party, has been prophesying a General Election in 1938. He may possibly have inside information about the intentions of the Conservative Party, but this is hardly likely. More probably, as far as Mr. Morrison is concerned, it is no more than a means of keeping his own party on the alert and of disturbing the confidence of the supporters of the Government. It is extremely unlikely that the Conservative Caucus has yet made any decision about an election. All the same, political correspondents, who are well-informed about the way influential Conservative circles are thinking, are more and more discussing the likelihood of an appeal to the country not later than the autumn. One or two whose opinions are worth taking notice of say confidently that it is a certainty, and that the only reason for delaying it is the hope of a settlement with Germany and Italy which will make it easier for the Government to win.

There is reason to believe that the forecasts of an early election are to be relied upon, not because of their authenticity but because that is undoubtedly the way the wind is blowing just now.

Consider the position of the Government. They were elected in 1931 to rescue the country from the economic crisis, and re-elected in 1935 because they claimed they were well on the road to permanent prosperity. Now they say that prosperity is here, and that we shall never have a crisis again. But if the working class cannot believe in the prosperity, the Cabinet Ministers do not believe in their own talk of “never again." Already unemployment, after declining steadily for about five years, has taken a sudden turn for the worse. The amount of unemployment is now down to approximately the level of the last peak of “prosperity," 1929, but shows ominous signs of climbing again. And when the Cabinet and the captains of industry shout in unison that prosperity is here for good they do not believe it. They begin to have uncomfortable visions of a general election at the normal date, 1940, coinciding with another considerable trade depression. What more natural than that they should seek to escape that misfortune by having an election now and thus putting themselves in office for another five years until 1943? Perhaps by 1943 the inevitable slump will again have receded ? Or, alternatively, there is the chance of letting the Labour Party carry the baby again, as in 1929-1931.

If that is how the Ministers' minds are working, what of the Labour Party? They may reasonably hope that an election in 1940 would send them back in increased numbers if depression has arrived, and they can denounce the Tories for failing to ward off an “economic blizzard." But what a spectacle of the unreality of capitalist politics! In 1929 we were at a peak of capitalist prosperity, but hardly anyone realised it. Instead of seeing that a slump was in prospect the childlike innocents of the Labour Party fought and won an election on a promise to abolish unemployment, and appointed three very special unemployment commissioners to do the job within the framework of the capitalist system. Up came the normal economic blizzard, unemployment rose to a record height, and the first casualties were the three special Commissioners (Thomas, Mosley, Lansbury), two of whom are now outside the Labour Party and the third highly critical of its policy. The rest of the Party are now not a bit abashed and are prepared to offer themselves again as solvers of unemployment and preventers of crises. Only this time, profiting by their past experience, they hope to launch their Government when trade is down and likely to go up, rather than at the top of the tide.

The one changed circumstance that both Government and Opposition can discover is that the currency is now “off the gold standard." Spokesmen in both camps proclaimed in 1931 that this difference was vital and that it alone would forever prevent a return to crises and depression. Already events have shown that the expansion and contraction of capitalist industry goes its normal way, on or off the gold standard—Socialists, of course, pointed this out in 1931. An election in 1938, brought about by the Government to forestall a big increase of unemployment, would therefore find the Labour Party—itself unable to prevent the last depression—trying to prove that the way to prevent crises is to be off the gold standard, and at the same time trying to prove that this had not prevented the coming slump!

The moral for Socialists is obvious. It is our task to expose both groups and drive home the lesson that Socialism is the only way to cure unemployment and the rest of the evil effects of capitalism.
P. S.


The Communists and the I.L.P. Change Places (1938)

Editorial from the March 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is not often that two political parties change places so completely as the I.L.P. and the Communist Party. In 1919-1924 the I.L.P. was busily engaged in securing the election of a Labour Government, in the belief that such a policy would secure certain immediate gains and pave the way for the gradual reform of the capitalist system. The Communists, on the other hand, denounced Parliamentary methods and preached Soviets and armed revolt. In the intervening years experience has disillusioned the I.L.P. and sent them sneaking into the position vacated by the Communists, while the latter, under Moscow orders, are seeking a Parliamentary alliance with Labour and Liberals in the guise of a Popular front.

The following is a passage from Mr. Fenner Brockway's recent book, "Workers' Front" (Martin & Seeker, 3s. 6d.):—
  The hope that Capitalism can be transformed to Socialism through the means of the Capitalist State . . .  is an illusion. Socialists should use the constitution of the Capitalist State as fully as possible . . . but they should recognise that finally they must conquer the Capitalist class through their own action and organs, through Workers’ Councils or Soviets . . . and in the last resort, if necessary, through their own Workers’ Army . . .
And now the Scottish I.L.P., at its conference on February 13th, 1938 (The Times, February 14th, 1938), is attacking the Communists because the latter advocate the policy “of collaboration with sections of the capitalist class and capitalist governments,” in other words, because the Communists have adopted the I.L.P.'s own past errors and the I.L.P. has adopted those of the Communists!

The I.L.P., of course, is as wrong now as it was then, so are the Communists.

Another Russian Sacrificial Feast (1938)

Editorial from the April 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

It had been assumed by many newspaper correspondents in Russia that the series of trials of Stalin’s opponents and potential rivals had ended, and Stalin himself had talked of stopping the judicial persecution at least of the more obscure victims. But the trial of the twenty-one Old Bolshevists is barely ended before there are reports of further public trials involving highly placed generals and others.

The trial of the twenty-one in March followed the general course of the earlier trials, but with some differences. There were the same confessions, but this time one or two of the defendants, notably Bukharin, stoutly repudiated some charges while admitting others. Another prisoner, Krestinsky, who signed a confession in jail, repudiated it in its entirety in open court; only to confess again after a short interval. During the interval, or so it is reported, his wife was arrested, and he was confronted with her. When he repudiated his repudiation he gave the curious explanation that he had pleaded “not guilty” in court because of a momentary weakness, and because he "had not strength to face world public opinion.” The explanation hardly makes sense. It is more reasonable to suppose that the pressure that could be brought to bear on him by his jailers (who also had power over his wife) would be much more powerful and immediate than the kind of “world public opinion ” he would meet in a Moscow court room.

It is worth noticing that the apologists for the Stalin Government are no longer in a position to ridicule the theory that confessions may be induced by threats against the prisoner's relatives. One of the prisoners, Dr. L. G. Levin, when asked why he helped to kill Maxim Gorky, explained that he was made to do it by Yagoda, chief of the Ogpu, who threatened otherwise ”to annihilate” Levin’s family. If a threat against a doctor’s family could make him commit murder it could also make a prisoner confess to whatever the authorities put before him.

This particular confession also throws an interesting sidelight on the working of the Russian bureaucracy. Levin said that Yagoda sent him “French wines and splendid flowers,” presented him “with a home in the country,” and enabled him to travel abroad and return to Russia “bringing in goods without paying any duty.” It looks as if power and corruption work on the same lines in "Socialist ” Russia as in the frankly capitalist countries.

As in previous trials, prisoners confessed to things that did not or could not have happened. Bessonoff stated that he sent Trotsky a letter from Krestinsky, and received a reply two days later. This was alleged to have happened "in December, 1936, or perhaps the very beginning of January, 1937.” Trotsky was in Norway until December 19th, 1936, when he sailed, under police supervision, to Mexico. The Norwegian authorities assert (Daily Telegraph, March 8th, 1938) that Trotsky's correspondence was censored from September, 1936, till he sailed for Mexico, and that no such letters as those mentioned by Bessonoff exist. Also, according to The Times (March 5th, 1938) the Norwegian police, who controlled Trotsky on the boat, prevented him from using the wireless or disembarking en route.

Again, while Rakovsky accused the late Michael Farbman of being a British Secret Service agent, and said that he met Farbman first in 1925, in London, Farbman's daughter denies the charge, and asserts that her father made Rakovsky's acquaintance many years earlier, in Moscow, where he was correspondent for the Manchester Guardian (Manchester Guardian, March 7th, 1938). It may be as well to recall that Farbman was one of a handful of correspondents who ceaselessly defended Lenin and his associates and helped to make their case known in England.

Regarding the abjectness of the Russian confessions one interesting parallel has been brought out by The Times (March 14th, 1938) in an article which points out that in Elizabethan England such abject confessions were common. The words of the Earl of Essex—"I must confess to you that I am the greatest, the most vilest and most unthankful traitor that has ever been in the land ”—have a ring made familiar to us by the series of trials of broken Bolshevists.

Alongside many incredible stories of murders, spying and so on there was much in the prisoners’ stories that sounds plausible enough. Apparently there were many of Stalin's associates who disagreed with his policy and wanted to see a different one adopted. But under a dictatorship, since every form of legal opposition is forbidden, opposition becomes treachery, propaganda becomes rebellion, the writing of letters becomes spying. So some of the less abject prisoners, while confessing that they opposed Stalin and sought to remove him, firmly repudiated the construction put on their activities.

Just as this political opposition to the dictatorship was bound to exist, so it is also quite understandable to Socialists that ambitious military men may have conspired to seize power. That is precisely what Socialists expect to happen under dictatorship, sooner or later.

Was Lenin a German Agent?
The usual confessions were made by these Old Bolshevists that they had been the agents of Japan, Germany, Great Britain, and so on, but with the difference that the dates of the treachery were placed much farther back. Rakovsky “confesses" that he was in the pay of the British Secret Service in 1924. Sharangovitch was spying for the Poles in 1921. Rosenholtz began his espionage for Germany in 1923. Trotsky (but he isn’t in Moscow, so someone else had to confess for him) worked for Britain from 1926 and for Germany from 1921. Bukharin confessed that he was plotting against Lenin in 1918.

All of this leads to an interesting speculation. Either the confessions are false or they are genuine. If the latter, then we have to believe that right back in the early days, during and after the Bolshevist seizure of power, the leaders were secretly conspiring against each other. It will be recalled that Lenin and other exiled leaders reached Russia in 1917 in a train which crossed Germany and was placed at their disposal by the German military authorities. The charge was made that Lenin and his friends were nothing but German agents paid by Germany to disorganise the Russian army. The charge was denied by Lenin and the denial was accepted by the working-class organisations generally. But if, as the Communists say, these Moscow confessions are genuine, then many of the men concerned were at the very beginning hopelessly corrupt. If the rest of them, why not Lenin? If these things were going on how could Lenin and others in the Bolshevist movement have had no inkling of them? If the confessions stand then it would seem that the whole gang would be under suspicion of being, as they were charged at the time, a crowd of murderous adventurers. “Adventurers" is actually the word applied to himself and his fellow-prisoners by Rakovsky.

"Stalin Secretly a Fascist"
One of the prisoners in the present trial is Bukharin. He it was who years ago informed some foreign democrats that in Russia there was room for any number of political parties so long as one was in power and the others in prison. Now time has had its revenge and he is dead, as a conspirator, after he had actually stated in court that he was in favour of legal rights for opposition parties! Bukharin is also reported by Barmine (who recently fled from his post as Russian Chargé d’Affaires at Athens) to have made the following prophetic remark to Kamenev just before the latter was arrested: —
    We are all lost. This monster, this sinister Genghis Khan, will strangle us. If we resist, he will crush us. If we submit, he will pick us off one after another.
This is the calamitous outcome of 20 years of Communist dictatorship. One of the men who created this thing discovers just before he falls victim to its rapacious lust for killing that instead of helping to advance the cause of Socialism he had helped to place in a position of unrestricted power a being whom he describes as a sinister monster, a 20th-century Genghis Khan.

How great is the harm done to the working-class movement by the whole sordid disintegration of the Bolshevist party can be seen from Mussolini's declaration (Times, March 7th, 1938) that Stalin is not only rendering “a praiseworthy service to Fascism,” but is himself "secretly a Fascist.” For who can contemplate the Bolshevist regime to-day without having to admit that it becomes every year more and more like Fascism and Nazism?

Herzen's remark that the Russian Czarist government was ”despotism tempered by assassination” becomes more and more applicable to Soviet Russia, especially if the confessions be accepted as even substantially true.


The Communists Re-write Working Class History. (1938)

Book Review from the May 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Communist Party has issued some amazing pamphlets, but the “March of English History" (September 4th, 1936), illustrating, as it does, several sides of "Communist" mentality, calls for the consideration of all who are looking forward to working class emancipation.

The front page is adorned with fourteen "great figures of English History" and "while we bear aloft the red flag of Modern Socialism, we continue on the road trodden by the great names of England's people" (page 11). An elementary knowledge of English history will prompt the question: “What is Oliver Cromwell doing in that collection?" Two of his most noted feats were the violent expulsion of a Parliament and the bloody suppression of the "Levellers," a political party with a very substantial social and democratic outlook which threatened the triumphant squirearchy represented by Cromwell. But people who speak of the "Glorious Revolution" (1688)— without quotes—are capable of any misinterpretation of history. Up-to-date representatives of “Modern" Socialism include John Bums, Keir Hardie, and Tom Mann. One of-.these worthies is no longer with us, so we will not linger long to enquire his right of admission to Socialist ranks. On page 8 we read: "1889—Tom Mann, Ben Tillet, and John Bums . . . launch their Socialist Movement, together with William Morris, Keir Hardie, and many others."

Keir Hardie: “There is not, and cannot be, any antagonism between Christianity and the Labour movement " (Browning Settlement, December 5th, 1910). From the “Communist" point of view, of course, this "Keir Hardie transfigured into the impassioned Christian," to quote the report, certainly deserves including. Communists to-day are holding the "outstretched hand" to Catholics. (See February Labour Monthly.) J. R. Campbell (Daily Worker, February 10th, 1938) holds the "outstretched hand" to Christians, all and sundry. He outlines "a few of the issues on which Communists and Christians can easily find a basis for co-operation." . . . Enough to make the mummified remains in the Red Square at Moscow rise and walk!

John Bums, who was once denounced by the Battersea branch of the Social Democratic Federation as a renegade, is now promoted by the Communist Party (which absorbed a large part of the organisation which succeeded the S.D.F.) from the political Chamber of Horrors to take rank with Shelley and Morris. (Oh, yes; Shelley and Morris are among the fourteen: you will know now what the big intellectual “ leaders " in die Communist Party mean when they murmur " Dialectic." It would be funny if there were not a proportion of really decent young people who are taken in by the brag and bluster of the C.P.

Tom Mann is one of the star turns of the Communist Party. "May Day, 1936," issued by the Party, gives a short biography of their hero-—omitting some very significant facts. It would be interesting to know whether the very damaging account of his formation of the “Socialist Party of Victoria," given in The Socialist of May, 1909, has ever been answered. In any case, an advertisement which appeared in the official organ of the S.P. of Victoria gives some indication of the outlook of this organisation: "A white Australian uses white American 'White Rose' kerosene, because it is made by highly-paid white Labour." This will surprise no one who follows current expression of political opinion. Says Tom Mann, in January Labour Monthly, after visiting the very source and fount of "Communist" inspiration: "Over a period of many years in the movement, I have seen many demonstrations; but never, not even in Russia, had I seen anything approaching this magnificent celebration of efficiency in all departments. Of necessity, the Red Army was there, in many thousands. The great March Past was extremely impressive, every section of the fighting forces in full equipment, telling of millions of others, ready on the instant to spring to the defence of the Fatherland." (Italics our own.)

—And such a "Fatherland"! In the next issue of The Socialist Standard it is hoped to marshal a few facts (culled, many of them, from Soviet official sources) which will give a genuine picture of this “Fatherland" as it affects the gagged, deluded underdogs of the Red Fascist régime.

Meanwhile, in choirs and places where they sing, the Communist Party in this country will "raise their glasses" and join His Excellency the Soviet Ambassador (still living, lucky dog!) in drinking a toast to His Britannic Majesty.
Reginald.

Blogger's Note:
See 'Reginald's' article, 'Stepfather Stalin',  in the August 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard.

Still Another Mining Tragedy. (1938)

Editorial from the June 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

China is news, Russia is news, Austria, Czechoslovakia and other places where capitalist interests are strongly affected remain news, and daily figure prominently in the papers. But the Markham Colliery disaster was not even a nine days' wonder. After the first few days it has hardly been mentioned, although 80 men lost their lives in a peace-time occupation that has already claimed thousands of working-class lives.

Working in a coal-mine is not spectacular, but it is exceedingly unhealthy and dangerous under present conditions. When the miners ask for higher wages or improved conditions their demands are met with opposition by the people who live on the dividends resulting from the miners' work. When disaster, like that at the Markham Colliery, or the many other disasters that darken the record of coal-mining, occurs, then for a day or two there are loud protestations of sympathy for the victims and their dependents, there are photos of pitiful scenes; then, after a short interval, the tragedy is forgotten by those outside the narrow circle of the victims.

There will be an inquiry into the cause of the disaster, but the finding will not place the responsibility for the tragedy on the head of the real criminal—the system that lives on the exploitation of workers—the profit-making system of capitalism.

While this system continues tragedy will always hover over coal-mines. When the principle of wealth production is changed to production for the benefit of all, coal-mines will only be operated in a manner that will be safe for the workers in them. If coal-mining, or any other occupation, cannot be carried on without danger then some substitute for coal will be found, because under Socialism human life will at once become of supreme importance.



Notes by the Way: Will the Forty Fall for it? (1938)

The Notes by the Way Column from the July 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Will the Forty Fall for It?
It is Lord Beaverbrook’s boast that he allows much latitude to his writers and cartoonists— Low in particular—to say or draw what they like. This lands him often in the peculiar position of having the feebleness of his policies exposed by Low’s wit or some telling fact in an article. Recently, during a period of five or six weeks, his editorial arguments for national defence were blown sky high by displayed articles in his Daily Express. First came an article showing how “our" England is owned by a handful of landlords, so that not one in forty of us owns any soil in the land we call our own. Then came an editorial saying that it is only right and democratic that we should have conscription in war-time; every man should take part in national defence. Then this was elaborated in an article which assured the dictators that an attack on England would cause every man to leap to the defence of his native soil!

All of which boils down to this, that the 40 who own no soil are to be conscripted to defend the monopoly rights of the 41st. A very excellent doctrine for the latter, but a strange interpretation of democracy.

The answer of the workers to Lord Beaverbrook—and to the Labour Party advocates of “war to defend democracy"—should be a very determined declaration that they will be willing to defend their native soil when they own it and not before, and that in the meantime they intend to devote their whole energies to gaining possession.

* * * *

The Slum Empire—New Landlords Want to Move In
In order to justify the seizure of the German colonies after the Great War the Allied Governments, their own hands red with the blood of natives slaughtered to protect profits, dwelt on the unfitness of Germans to administer colonies. They lacked, so it appeared, that inherited capacity of the Britisher to rob the native and make him like it at one and the same time.

Now come the West Indian troubles to upset the legend, at a very awkward time, too, just when the Germans are preparing to resume the “white man's burden."

Here are a few of the things said by Mr. Lloyd George in the House of Commons on June 14th, 1938, based on what he saw when he was in Jamaica last year:—
    . . .  he spent over three months in Jamaica, and he was perfectly appalled at the conditions. He felt ashamed that we should have tolerated—and for a very long time—such a state of things under the British flag while we were boasting about our great Empire.
  There was no language, however violent, adequate to describe the conditions (in Kingston, Jamaica).
     In Jamaica wages were incredibly low—he did not know how the people lived and kept a family—and the housing conditions were indescribable. We did not want a slum Empire.
(The Times, June 15th, 1938.) 
Promptly the German Press has drawn a moral in conformity with the desires of the German capitalist.

The official German newspaper, Diplomatic Correspondence, says (Manchester Guardian, June 16th) that the Jamaica disturbances prove that new blood is needed in the government of the Colonies —German blood, of course. The British Government shows “a lack of the right attitude towards the natives. . . . It is once more seen that the nation which likes to be called the first and oldest colonial Power in the world is repeatedly confronted with tasks with which it cannot adequately cope . . ."

The Diplomatic Correspondence goes on to re-inforce its argument from the Palestine troubles

* * * *

How to Spell "Slump"
During the last industrial crisis a writer in The Socialist Standard jeered at the capitalists and their economic advisers because of their inability to learn anything from a crisis or a dozen crises. Always they cherish the same illusions and twitter about the same "remedies," only to discover afresh each time that the permanent prosperity they believed in had crashed again.

We owe our masters an apology. They really have learned something new and refreshing this time. It consists in the remarkable discovery that there will never again be a slump because slumps are in future to be called “recessions."

* * * *

"Basic Incomes": Another Effort to Reform Capitalism
An organisation called the Society to Promote Human Equality has published a pamphlet on “Basic Incomes," which contains for its size (16 pages) a remarkable amount of error and confusion. The scheme, one which has appeared before under various names, is that each individual should receive from the Government an income of 4s. a week; the amount to be increased later on. It would be paid to everyone, from millionaire to pauper.

The authors discuss such questions as the way the money will be provided and the likely effects of the scheme, but are so delightfully vague about everything that it is a little difficult to pin them down. In their own words, the scheme is "experimental" and we would have to wait and see what result it produced.

An example of their vagueness is the following statement on raising the money: —
   How is the money to be found? Three ways only seem to present themselves: (a) By taxation; (b) By the creation of currency or credit; (c) By profits arising from publicly-owned industries. We are concerned mainly that the money should be found by one, or by a combination of the three methods, (p.6.)
The writers are not quite sure whether there are only three ways of doing it, and they are even less sure which way they will use, so they are concerned (but only "mainly") to do it by one, or possibly by all three, of the ways.

They are equally unsure of the effect. They recognise (page 8) that when the worker gets his 4s. per head of his family, his wages may be reduced as a consequence, but, they add, “the cost of production would be reduced, prices would be lower, and real incomes would advance." They leave out of account the more obvious conclusion that, if an employer is able to reduce his wages bill, his profits will be correspondingly increased.

In short, the scheme is an example of the futility of trying to cure a disease before understanding it. The writers live in an abstract world and do not know the real one, in which wages roughly correspond with the workers' cost of living. They do not know that the workers must be kept poor, otherwise they would not work to produce profits for the capitalist class. They do not see that subsidies paid by the Government to supplement wages only result in bringing down the wage level correspondingly, yet this was well enough known a century or more ago, when the practise of subsidising agricultural wages with poor relief was common.

* * * *

The Man Who Did Not Know When To Be Cruel To Children
The military mind is a remarkable thing. An aircraftman who made his seven-year-old son pick up hot coal has been dismissed. For being cruel to a child? But surely that is what aircraftmen are for! Bombing planes are kept precisely for the purpose of slaughtering children’s fathers in foreign air forces, destroying homes, and maiming mothers and children wholesale. Of course, “our" Air Force, like all the others, will protest with their hands on their hearts that they are only for national defence, and that they will only bomb military objects and points of use to military forces. But as that includes railways, factories, roads, bridges, food supplies, etc., etc., and as nobody but a fool believes that bombs can select their targets, the truth is that all air forces are babykilling brigades. Imagine what would happen in war to this particular aircraftman if he returned from a raid with his bombs not thrown, with the excuse that he could not be sure he did not hit some enemy child.
Edgar Hardcastle

Sky and the Market for Sports Coverage (2017)

The Action Replay column from the September 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

In July Sky re-aligned its sports channels, dropping the numbered services in favour of separate channels devoted to their core sports ‘properties’, including cricket, Formula One, golf, and two football channels (with one specifically dedicated to the Premier League), and three channels dedicated to general sports coverage.

The change reflects Sky’s concern at the threat to its dominant position in the UK broadcasting market from viewers watching of sport via the internet both legally and illegally. Roughly 10 percent of live sports viewers use illegal streams.

With each passing year viewers become more adept at circumventing legal ways of watching live sport. This is why the Premier League has stepped up attempts to combat pirate viewing streams which deprive Sky of viewers and revenue.

Sky’s rebranding can also be seen as an attempt to protect its position against upstart rivals offering sports content at a cheaper price. In Germany DAZN, which broadcasts sport on demand via the internet for only £9.99 a month, has been rapidly collecting rights to broadcast sport since its launch last year and is already posing a challenge to Sky.

Other threats are other looming to traditional broadcasters. Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have already begun live streaming sports in the US, and will soon try and show marquee sports events to a UK audience.

There is also the risk of sports leagues streaming their content directly to the fans, as Major League Baseball and the National Football League do in the US. If this happens over the next decade or so, the foundations on which Sky has built its commercial empire will become more than a little shaky.

For sports themselves, the future is just as uncertain. Games are competing against each other more ferociously than ever before, and some sports may realise they are not as popular and worth less then they imagined. But surely competition and business rivalries are the very ingredients that constitute capitalism?

If the sports economy is seen as a large cake Sky Sports is used to enjoying the largest slice. With every potential rival that enters the lucrative Sports TV arena (streaming or otherwise) the risk to Sky’s market share increases, their share of the cake may diminish and create unhappy shareholders. This is a mirror image of the inherent ruthlessness of capitalism.
Kevin.


Stepfather Stalin (1938)

From the August 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

May Socialist Standard quoted Tom Mann’s 
The great march past was extremely impressive, every section of the fighting forces in full equipment, telling of millions of others, ready on the instant to spring to the defence of The Fatherland.”
A few facts (mainly derived from Soviet sources) will assist the reader to glimpse what this ”Fatherland” means for the Russian underdog.

It is difficult to convey to the average reader the obstacles which are deliberately placed in the way by the Soviet Union to prevent the truth leaking through; there is, after all, a long tradition among the governing clique in Russia of hiding facts skilfully; even the cute Catherine “the Great” could be taken in as to the real condition of the peasantry by her cunning ministers (all the sinister features of the Soviet regime have their roots deep in the past). Sheer weight of suppression of free speech and a rigid censorship of writing, eked out by shameless misrepresentation in other countries by their respective “Communist Parties,” renders the task of getting the truth across an exceedingly difficult one; it must be grasped that branches of the "Comintern” outside Russia are, in effect, contingents of the Soviet Foreign Office. It is not generally known that the Daily Worker repress advertisements of the Socialist Party, and even of an organ like Controversy, which, at any rate, opens its columns to all parties, including the Communist Party; as significant a straw is the fact that "Intourist” visitors to Russia have to undertake not to stray from a very strictly conducted fold.

But the truth is gradually seeping through. André Gide, a foremost man of letters in France, was prepared four years ago “to die for the Soviet Union”; to-day, on revisiting Russia, he writes: ” It was the steepness of your bluff which made the downfall of my confidence.” BLUFF!!

A member of the Communist Party, at a meeting on Clapham Common last year, said to a speaker of the Socialist Party, on being cross- questioned : —
 "We’ve got to bluff the people” (was he “purged” for blurting out this naive admission indicative of the general outlook of his party ?).
A few outstanding indications of what “Fatherland” means for peasant and proletarian: The News Chronicle of January 4th, 1936, reproduced a photograph of “12-year-old Mamulokat Nakangova, wearing the order of Lenin, which she has received for harvest work during her holidays, addressing a meeting in Moscow." Do the daughters of Kalinin and other surplus-value eaters harvest during holidays? Kalinin (alive up to date) cabled condolences to Queen Mary on the death of George V.

A French miner (Kléber Legay) visited Russia. His report appeared in the Daily Telegraph, December 13th-16th, 1937. (It is simply silly to snarl Daily Telegraph!! Are the facts recorded by the President of the Miners' Union true? Has any refutation been attempted? Motives for inserting report by D.T. are irrelevant.)

“On the way to the Red Square we passed crowds of people, most of whom were poorly dressed, while many were dirty.
   
“Everywhere there were representations of the genius Stalin.” (Visitors to Paris Exhibition last year will call to mind the impossibility of being out of range of Stalin’s mug in the Russian Pavilion.) J. C. Taylor, in Popular Psychological Fallacies (an excellent book), gives evidence of the hysteria produced by this leader worship (p. 187). He quotes “ the poet Kazak Djambul": —
   There is none left with whom the writers can compare thee.
   The poets have no longer enough pearls to describe thee !
Pravda (August 28th, 1936) weighs in with: — (
O great Stalin, O ruler of the peoples,
  Thou who did’st curse mankind to be born
    . . . Thou sun reflected by millions of hearts, etc. 
Which, as Bret Harte remarked, “is coming it strong,” but, as J. C. Taylor comments: “These are the words not of genuine poets, but of men who are terrified into irrational behaviour.”

Disappointed with the dwellings of the “rulers of their country,” the deputation decided to forgo any more visits, but on pressing they consented. “Our visit was a shocking disappointment.” Legay (troublesome fellow) asked a few questions on his own. “What do you eat?" Miner to wife: “ Show these comrades the stewpot.” With great reluctance the contents were revealed: beetroot leaves and potatoes with a little lard. “He refuses to eat it,” added the wife. Discontented, unpatriotic brute; shortly after, the officials “explained” : “The man was drunk”—a son of Belial, flown with insolence and — beetroot juice.

Yvon’s “What Has Become of the Russian Revolution" (One shilling; order from 42, Great Dover Street) should be read by all who desire to learn the facts. A manual labourer, eleven years' experience in Russia and an ex-Communist, he writes with knowledge.

Poor little Kama apparently worked voluntarily during her holidays; the fathers of the Kamas "have to implore their bosses for permission to work during their vacation. . . . We know old fellows who have laboured 50 years in the same factory in Moscow and now get 35 roubles as retirement pension, the price of two kilos of butter." The merry “homes" of Moscow: “In Ural the complaint in every house is 'bed-bugs, bed-bugs.' "

There is a tale told at teachers' meetings of a child in a poor school who refused a picture for a prize because he had no wall to hang it on: his family occupied the centre of a room. They manage these things better in Moscow. Frequent advertisement in newspaper: “ Wanted, an angle” said “angle" being a corner of a “common" room.

Russia’s “houses of rest" for “the people" bring painful memories to some of certain “convalescent homes" in England—the advantages, on the whole, however, being certainly not on the side of Russia. Dormitories contain 30 to 40 sleepers. “You dare not tarry too long on the beach for fear of losing your meal or being disciplined." The final end of “rest" for the people is set forth in a pamphlet issued by the Soviet “trade unions": “The repose of our Socialist worker ought not to be the old 'rest after labour.' but should be transformed into ‘rest for labour, rest for the raising of the workers' productivity'." Sounds very reminiscent of our old friend “Rationalisation,” “Business Efficiency," carried to the n'th degree, but Russia To-day assures us that the bug-ridden homes, eked out by semi-penal "homes of rest," are “the lot of those who toil and dictate to those who don’t."

Little Kama chose her father unwisely. Had she chosen a Stalin, a Molotof, a Vorosilhof, or even a “specialist” worker, she could have shared in sumptuous apartments, “furnished with a special housemaid’s room.” (Note that wages range from 20,000 roubles down to 80 roubles.)

Would the process of “Building Socialism" by the Communist Party of this country entail penalisation of the Kamas for the benefit of the great-brained Pollitts and Gallachers?

Claims for a general wide-spread, all-round amelioration of conditions for the worker must be received with the utmost caution. Yvon asserts: “The Russian worker under Tsarism had simple but plentiful fare, foodstuffs were cheap, daily he ate his food and kasha; he had sugar, lard, tea and good bread in large quantity.” Acquaintance with Russian novels, let alone works of economic writers, like Stepaiak, will bear this out.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain stands four square upon the belief that Socialism can only be attained by a working class invincibly strong through Socialist knowledge; all its activities are directed towards the spreading of this knowledge.
Reginald.


Blogger's Note:
There was a follow up to this article in the December 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard, where a reader in Manchester took exception to some of 'Reginald's' statements.

Sea Dogs (1938)

Book Review from the September 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

"The Floating Republic" by Bonamy Dobree & G. E. Mainwaring (Pelican Books, 6d.)

"The Floating Republic" (Pelican Books, 6d.) should be read by all who desire to get a truthful presentation of sheer facts about the Spithead and Nore Mutinies of 1797. Deliberate suppression, distortion, misplaced emphasis: these have been the main instruments of historians writing in the interest of their class, or of the class to which they have prostituted, in many cases, their undoubted literary powers. It required centuries to reveal the fact that Thucydides (great Greek historian and no mean admiral) was more actuated by a desire to safeguard his interest in silver mines (2,360 years ago) than by Athenian “patriotism.” Macaulay’s touching picture of William of Orange’s affection for his joint-sovereign queen must be valued in relation to such facts as recorded in “Capital” (Vol. 1, S. Sonnenschein, p. 747; “Everyman,” Vol. 2, p. 801). Look it up. Compton Mackenzie’s blunt statement that Macaulay’s hero was a “homosexual” is not wholly irrelevant here. (“Literature in my time,” p. 82.)

A specific example of misstatement amounting to deliberate lying is afforded in the Rev. J. Franck Bright’sHistory of England ” (Period III, p. 1195): “Under [Parker’s] influence, the demands of the mutineers assumed a political character.” He characterises the mutiny at Spithead as “wholly unpolitical.” Readers of the “Floating Republic” will be able to judge whether by any stretch of the word, “political” considerations differentiated the two mutinies—any more than at Invergordon “political” motives governed that very mild “mutiny.”

Bright also states that Lord Spencer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, “was met with nothing but insult.” Actually, Spencer refused to hear the men except through intermediaries, and “insult ” may be judged by the fact that, while negotiations were proceeding, the Royal Ensign was hung out on the King’s birthday; both at the Nore and at Spithead the mutineers were pathetically anxious to testify love and loyalty to their gracious monarch. In this connection, it is worth noting that George III “unreservedly concurred” in Spencer’s “express determination not to add to concessions already given.” What these “concessions” amounted to, readers of the “Floating Republic ” will learn for themselves. A petition to “His Majesty’s sacred person and Government,” backed to some extent by a captain of a ship, left His Sacred Majesty “ unmoved.” . . . When the game of Sacred Majesty jamboreeing with Boy Scouts is over, when monarchy is revealed once for all as a tawdry instrument of the capitalised class, we shall learn the real sentiments of the parasitic crowd circling round it—in the lifetime of not a few of us we have seen an Edward-the-Peacemaker’s warm friendship for the Gallifet, who found a fiendish pleasure in massacring working-class men and women who had dared to challenge the position of the governing classes in France in 1871.

Vague impressions of the brutality prevalent in the Navy at the time of the Mutiny—and persisting in its worst forms scores of years afterwards —should be replaced by clear knowledge. Of flogging : “Six blows tore the flesh horribly, after a dozen the back looked like so much 'putrified liver.' After a time the bones showed through, blood burst from the bitten tongue, and expelled from the lungs, dribbled through nostrils and ears. . . .” We apologise to those whom the catalogue of horrors in pages 67-69 gives a sleepless night. . . .

Impatient readers may ask: Why this recital of, and invitation to, nightmare horrors?

A quite pertinent question.

It is to emphasise several important facts which History has established. One is, that an exploiting class, despite all “humanitarian” pretensions, in the face of an alleged “Brotherhood of Man based on the Fatherhood of God,” or any other such meaningless formula, is, and of necessity must be, fundamentally brutal, based as it is upon force, especially in its relations to the exploited class. At the time of the Mutinies, the sweat and blood of men, women and children was being coined into the wherewithal to assist in contesting naval supremacy with France. Admitted scallawags and gaol-birds formed a goodly proportion of “Ye Mariners of England ”—the system manufactured this particular type of goods—it still remains that class distinction spawned also a breed of sadistic bullies who rewarded the rank and file protectors of their invested interest in the sea with contempt, with unspeakable conditions, with flogging, with keelhauling, and with downright theft (for details, see book, which, by the way, is most praiseworthily documented).

Another point emerging is that, faced with dangers arising from the Class Struggle, the capitalist class will stick at nothing—the lying allegation is often made at propaganda meetings that the Socialist Party of Great Britain refuses to face up to this fact. Clause 6 of the “Declaration of Principles” sufficiently refutes the allegation. Control of the “armed forces of the Nation” by a politically informed Socialist working class will not imply imposing march-pasts in Hyde Park with eyes-right to some giant “leader.”

Parker was hanged—Camperdown was won mainly by the sailors who left him to his fate. Whatever may have been his defects, Parker must stand high in the estimation of the Socialist worker. . . . There is no call for Parker martyrs, however, to-day. Since Marx’s analysis of society, the political position has been entirely clarified on broad issues. A Socialist working class will brook no “leaders,” there will be none, therefore, to sell out and there will, on the other hand, be none for the working class to leave to their unhappy fate.
Reginald.

'Might is Right' - Famous Last Words? (2017)

Editorial from the September 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
When the  Russian bloc collapsed, it was widely believed that the Cold War had ended and that the danger of a global nuclear war had passed. Since the 9/11 attacks, the received wisdom is that the threat to humanity lies not so much in a war between the major powers, but in acts of  terrorism carried out by groups, such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Yet, here we are, in the 21st Century, facing a nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea. Much of the discussion has focused on the volatile behaviour of the two protagonists. In response to  threats made against the US by Kim Jong-un, the North Korean president, Donald Trump's reply -- 'fire and fury like the world has never seen' --  signals that he is prepared to nuke the country with the potential loss of millions of lives.  Kim Jong-un has countered by threatening to fire four missiles towards the sea around Guam, a US territory.
However, this is more than a tale of two narcissistic psychopaths. The trading of threats and insults between the two countries is nothing new. In January 1968, North Korea seized a US spy ship, Pueblo, and held the crew prisoner for eleven months, and in June 1994, President Clinton drew up plans for a pre-emptive strike against the country.
The origin of this conflict can be traced to the end of the Second World War, when Russian forces occupied the  northern part of the Korea peninsula and American forces occupied the remainder, thus ending thirty-five years of Japanese rule. In 1950 the North, with the backing of Russia and China, launched an invasion against the South, and the US and its allies, including Britain, retaliated by sending in troops to beat back the North Korean and Chinese forces. Fighting continued until a truce was declared in 1953.
The Korean Peninsula became a focal point for the geopolitical struggle between the Russian bloc and the Western states for the control of global markets, which defined the two countries.  North Korea emerged as a state capitalist dictatorship, fraudulently claimed by its rulers to be Socialist. South Korea is an openly capitalist state, backed by the US, which stations thousands of troops there.
After the USSR collapsed, North Korea became more reliant on its remaining ally, China. With its increasing international isolation, the state has become less able to provide for its workers, many of whom are on the verge of starvation. Thus the ruling class relies more heavily on a repressive and well armed state, and  its provocative military manoeuvres are partly designed to rally the population against what they define as the outside enemy, the US, but also to send a warning that the regime  cannot be overthrown in the way that Saddam Hussein and Col Gaddafi  were. It is this context that has driven the North Korean state to develop nuclear weapons.
To seek a solution to this crisis, we should be concerned less with the sanity of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, but more with the insanity of the capitalist system that creates the fertile ground for such crises.