Sunday, September 3, 2017

Is Housing a Right? (1971)

From the April 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

I have in front of me an expensively produced broadsheet from Shelter which is designed to push the special place of housing among the problems that face society under capitalism. But any notion that Shelter understands the first thing about the social system which produces our present housing conditions is rather hard to come by. In the first place is housing a "right” at all? In this country, for example we have a few rights, some tenuous, some fairly solid. We have a right to say what we like if we can find someone to listen; to print what we like if we can find the cash; to vote; to put up candidates to oppose the government and other parties. We can tell these are rights because we use them. To say we have a right to housing, however, is clearly tampering with the language. We know we have a right to vote because nobody stops us doing so. But housing? Three million families live in slums or near-slums says Shelter. It does not seem very likely that they have a "right” to enjoy first-class housing and prefer to condemn themselves and their children to slum conditions. The fact is, of course, that there is no more right to good housing under capitalism than to good food, or good clothes or good holidays or good anything else. All good things are available under capitalism but not as of right. They are there for those who have the money to pay for them.

It is perhaps natural that the housing problem should always seem to generate more emotion than the countless other problems of our present social set-up. One cannot live a decent life without a decent home. But before looking a little further into housing, it is necessary to dispose of the silly notion of single issue groups like Shelter that housing is by definition in a class by itself and that anyone would prefer to live on bread and water in Buckingham Palace than on caviar and chips in Notting Hill. It ain’t necessarily so. And anyway, it is obvious that as things are, the people who have the best houses are by a capitalist law of nature the ones who have the best everything else as well. They are the owning class for whom there is no housing problem; there is no shortage of delectable houses in the property columns of the posh papers. So it would seem to be fairly obvious that the class division of society has something to do with the matter. But you wouldn’t think so from reading Shelter's stuff. Quite the contrary. "Our researches show that bad housing and overcrowding is the root cause of nearly all our social problems.” Is they really? I should have thought that bad housing was one of our social problems itself. It is not a cause but an effect.

It is a perennial mystery how reformers have been busy solving the housing problem for so many generations and yet each succeeding generation needs to solve it afresh. It is as though they were conditioned by the gods, like Sisyphus, to go on and on with a task which will never end. At least he used to get the stone near the top before he had the mortification of having to start all over again. The housing reformers have never had a glimpse of their summit. The housing problem is as old as capitalism (or rather as old as property society — but only for the non-propertied). It is universal. If it were a "right” surely some workers somewhere would exercise it. They don’t seem to do so in advanced spots like the capitals of rich countries. Slums are an even bigger scandal in Washington than in London. As for “backward” places like Calcutta (where there is any amount of opulence among the capitalists of the "socialist” Mrs. Gandhi’s India), imagination boggles. But what about Western Germany? All one hears from there is the story of the wirtschaftswunder, the economic miracle, the envy of the capitalist world. Harold Wilson told us that we must wait for our salvation till “we have got the economy right”, till the precious balance of payments is secure (as though anything is ever secure under the anarchic system of capitalism). They can’t tell that one to the German workers, can they! It is in fact their "success” in creating a huge surplus of exports which has been the cause of the very surplus of imports which has upset the applecart here. And I must confess that as I had heard nothing about housing conditions from Germany I had assumed this place may have been an exception to the rule. And after all, the RAF had done them the favour of bombing the place flat so they would not have the same legacy of housing which had been crumbling for a hundred years and more. But no. Two homes in three are reported as having no bathrooms of their own. Nearly two million families have no lavatory of their own. An old lady who won the pools (a million marks, nearly £200,000) could only say how happy she was to look forward to her own bathroom for her last years. I hear that a prize of another million marks is being offered for the correct answer to the question: Which class in Germany is the one without the lavatories? It could be the answer is the same one as here and India (and Russia where the rulers have their country houses and their Black Sea villas). When are the workers going to claim their real right: to the resources of the entire world? Which will then be applied to the one task: making a decent life for human beings and not to such delights as going to the moon (which, in view of the conditions of most people on earth, is nothing short of an obscenity). It happens that I have met a few people who have taken up their alleged rights. Squatters who have occupied slum-clearance houses in Hackney. They actually have the idea that it is wrong to allow houses to lie empty while people are without homes. And they even say nasty things about "our so-called socialist council in Hackney”. But of course they were a long way from understanding that occupying a few derelict houses (while they are allowed to get away with it) is not the answer to the housing problem. Any more than the efforts of people like Shelter. Isn't it time that more people got down to the idea of changing society to one where homes and food and clothes and everything else are made not for profit but for people?
L. E. Weidberg

Another Anti-Strike Bill (1971)

Editorial from the May 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Payments by the State to workers who are old or disabled or sick or unemployed or on strike are useful, if only in the sense that they are better than nothing. But such social reforms as may in a small way benefit the working class under capitalism are always precarious, as the history of the National Health Service has shown.

Now other State doles (sometimes called “social benefits”) are under attack. At the end of March the Secretary of State for the Social Services, Sir Keith Joseph, announced cuts in payments not only to sick and unemployed workers but also to the families of strikers.

In 1968 Roy Jenkins as Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed to abolish the retrospective payment, after two weeks, of benefit for the first three days of unemployment, sickness or industrial injury. Tory spokesmen pointed out, quite correctly, that this would be “the first occasion since 1931 when a government has cut sickness and unemployment benefit” and, under pressure from the TUC and backbench MP’s, the Labour government dropped the measure. It was revived last October by the Tory Chancellor Anthony Barber and is now incorporated in Sir Keith Joseph’s Social Security Bill. The measure would, Sir Keith boasted, save £19m. a year which — he didn’t add — can be used to reduce the burden of taxation on the profits of the capitalist class.

The Bill also provides for the families of men on strike to be reduced below the government’s own poverty line, at the moment £8.50 plus rent a week for a married couple. A striker cannot get anything for himself (except in cases of desperate personal need) from the State, but his family can. To calculate her “supplementary benefit” (a silly name since its supplements nothing and is not much of a benefit) the wife of a striker is treated as a “non-householder” and her income made up to the appropriate poverty line of £4.15 plus rent. But offset against this is any money her husband gets while on strike over £4.35 a week, the difference between the poverty line of a married couple and that of a non-householder.

This means that at present a striker can get up to £4.35 a week as tax refunds or union strike pay without reducing his family’s benefit. Since in many cases a striker’s income will, for a few weeks at least, be around this figure the effect of the present procedure is, as Sir Keith Joseph told the House of Commons, that “the total household income is often brought up to the full supplementary benefit level’’, that is to the poverty line!

This is precisely what he said. He really did mean to imply how disgraceful it was that a family should not fall below the poverty line when the breadwinner was on strike. This may seem a strange sentiment coming from the man in charge of “the social services”, but then the modern Poor Law he runs was not brought in to benefit the poor. Its task is rather to provide a back-to-work and labour-maintenance service for employers. From their point of view, Sir Keith’s complaint is perfectly logical: the less financial hardship strikers and their families suffer the more often and the longer will they be able to strike.

The answer, too, is logical: the families of men on strike must be made to suffer more. The government plans to achieve this vicious aim by disregarding only £1 (or in some cases £2) instead of £4.35 of a striker’s own income when calculating his family’s benefit. This means that in future the State will be obliged to make up the income of a striker and his wife to 60 per cent only of the official poverty line.

The extra suffering this will cause should please employers like Lord Stokes who from their well- upholstered boardrooms have been complaining of strikers being featherbedded. Extreme poverty will once again become an important factor in weakening the workers’ side in strikes. How useful financial hardship amongst the strikers can be to the employer was well shown during the Post Office strike and the postmen would undoubtedly have had to give in earlier had this new Bill been in operation.

The government’s Social Security Bill is a vicious anti-working class measure which is intended to hurt the wives and children of workers in order to discourage strikes and force strikers back to work. Like the Industrial Relations Bill, it will strengthen the overall position of the employing class in its struggle with the working class over wages and conditions. For this reason the Socialist Party of Great Britain is opposed to this Bill.

But in doing so, we have no illusions about the role of governments in capitalist society. We do not really expect them to subsidise strikes against their masters, the capitalist class, and are not surprised that the present government is taking advantage of working class apathy and ignorance to cut back on some social reforms which, however marginally, favour the working class. This apathy and ignorance is partly the result of the failure of reformist parties like Labour and of the propaganda of the capitalist press. The old socialist saying that the best way to get or defend reforms (if that is what you want) is to build up a strong revolutionary Socialist movement remains true. That is our policy for dealing with the current Tory attacks on long-standing social reforms.


Gospel According to St. Eldridge. (1971)

Book Review from the June 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Conversation with Eldridge Cleaver (Algiers) by Lee Lockwood. (Jonathan Cape. Paperback. 60p.)

The blurb of this book describes Eldridge Cleaver as ". . . an outstandingly fine writer, a brilliant theoretician and polemicist . . .  a dynamic, eloquent and fascinating talker.” And if that does not put you off you deserve all you get.

In fact the contents — a brief account of how Cleaver came to leave America and end up in Algiers, followed by a record of Lockwood interviewing him — is not so overpoweringly obsequious. Yet it is still, in the familiar Playboy style, a vehicle for telling us by phony probing, aggressive questions, just how brilliant a man Cleaver is.

And what does the brilliant man have to say? His conception of Socialism is something which can happen in one country, any country but which he wants in America — “a Yankee Doodle Dandy version of Socialism" he calls it. He defends what has happened in Russia with the wearisome excuse that ". . . the whole process of developing a socialist system has been distorted by security considerations.”

Little wonder that he is also a hopelessly confused admirer of the set-up in Cuba and China and that he thinks Socialism can be reality only through a violent upheaval. In fact, like Old Mother Shipton, he even has a date for this — by 1972 there will be full scale war going on in the United States and the Presidential election will be out of the question. After that the revolution . . .

In the meantime, this eloquent, fascinating talker expresses himself in such ways as ". . . the shit gets all fucked up and twisted up and you end up in the John Birch Society.” Of course Cleaver is capable of better than that; presumably it is in the book just to prove how human and earthly he is and that after all this is 1971. Perhaps we ought to be warned off by that blurb, after all.
Ivan.

The Back-To-Work Service (1971)

Aneurin Bevan by Vicky.
Book Review from the July 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Private Practice within the National Health Service, by Joan Sohn-Rethel and John Carrier. Socialist Medical Association. 20p.

Your Health Service in Danger. Socialist Medical Association. 5p.

The Mental Health Services. Socialist Medical Association. 5p.

Nobody could object to the original idea behind the National Health Service: that medical advice and treatment in and out of hospital as well as drugs and appliances should be provided free to those in need. This is essentially what will happen in Socialism.

The point the Socialist Party of Great Britain made was that, introduced under capitalism as a reform, a free health service would never work as intended. These pamphlets by the “Socialist” Medical Association (a Labour Party affiliate) unwittingly confirm this.

Hospitals were nationalised in 1948 in the sense that a nation-wide hospital system was created out of the private and municipal hospitals which had grown up in the previous two hundred years. Whilst recognising the benefit to workers of not having to worry so much about finding the money to pay for medical treatment, we pointed out that the NHS was, and could only be under capitalism, essentially a back-to-work service for employers whose primary function was to patch up sick workers as cheaply as possible so that they could resume producing profits. Those who no employer will take on—the chronic sick, the mentally ill, the old and the disabled—are under capitalism just a charge on profits to be dealt with as cheaply as possible.

This of course is not meant as a criticism of the dedicated work under difficult conditions of workers employed in the NHS. They are making the best of a bad job. But the NHS has always been starved of funds, quite apart from the fact that in many cases the treatment can only be a palliative since a basic cause of some conditions is the poverty and insecurity of capitalism.

Another development was predictable too. Since the NHS was basically a service to patch up workers and since financial stringency led to growing waiting lists, the rich would try to buy themselves better treatment. Hence the growth of “private practice”.

Doctors must obviously play a key role in any health service and, as reformist governments in many countries have found, are a conservative group. The SMA wanted (and still wants) all doctors to be salaried employees of the State and all private practice to be banned. The doctors, and especially the consultants, however, wished to remain independent professional people or “private contractors” and were strong enough to force this on Bevan, the first postwar Minister of Health and to get him to allow some special pay-beds in NHS hospitals (which Bevan, the hypocrite, was later to use when he was ill). According to the SMA this was the thin end of the wedge which has undermined the Health Service.

Private consultations and treatment are, in their view, merely queue-jumping. They even go so far as to hint that in some cases (where a consultant is paid for a private examination and then gets a patient into an NHS, rather than a private bed) it is a hidden form of bribery. Maybe, but this sort of thing is inevitable in the conditions of shortage which will survive as long as capitalism lasts.

Judged by its original aims the NHS has been a failure. It is in a state of perpetual crisis. Once again the economic forces of capitalism have overcome the intentions of well-meaning reformers.
Adam Buick

How Green Was My Peregrine (1971)

Book Review from the August 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Myth by Peregrine Worsthorne. (Cassell.)

This is a comical book which might still do some members of the Labour Party a bit of good by exposing some of their prejudices. Worsthorne has discovered that
If Labour’s last six years made anything clear, it was surely that a Labour Government . . .  is forced to do many things which actually increase rather than decrease working class suspicion.
But, says Worsthorne, this is what the success of “British democratic socialism” depends on. This sort of drivel is a fair sample of the book; for Worsthorne. democratic socialism is the Labour Party. But as he does not know what Socialism is, or what the state is, or democracy, it is natural for him to think of nationalisation as socialism. From that it is easy to point out that
In practice (the workers) no more feel they own the nationalised industries than sailors feel they own the Royal Navy.
With his main conclusion that Labour government does not and cannot work we agree; in fact we have been saying it for over sixty years. So far we have not come over enough; bad luck for Worsthorne that, although he thinks Labour's function is to be the opposition, the workers are returning to supporting them at elections, at least until they are disillusioned about Labour again.

The reason for this is clear. The vast majority of electors do not read clever books like Worsthorne’s. They tend to judge entirely on their limited personal experiences and at present their experience of the Heath government is such as to persuade them to try Wilson again. They vote for lesser evils and against what they dislike most — until they become socialists.
Horatio.

Engels: The Man and His Work - Part One (1971)

Engels as a young man.
From the September 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

The first of a two part tribute to Marx’s co-worker Friedrich Engels

Seventy six years have passed since the death of Friedrich Engels, the friend and co-worker of Karl Marx. Much of the interest that has been shown over the years in the Socialist movement has tended to obscure the reputation of Engels by an exclusive pre-occupation with that of Marx — a process which Engels himself encouraged — so it seems more than fitting that we should pay tribute, in recognition of the debt present-day Socialists owe to Friedrich Engels.

Marx’s pre-eminence in their partnership was stressed by no one more emphatically than by Engels himself:
  I cannot deny that both before and during my forty year’s collaboration with Marx I had a certain independent share in laying the foundations of the theory, and more particularly in its elaboration. But the greater part of its leading basic principles, especially in the realm of economics and history, and, above all. their final trenchant formulation, belong to Marx. What I contributed — at any rate with the exception of my work in a few special fields — Marx could very well have done without me. What Marx accomplished I would not have achieved. Marx stood higher, saw further, and took a wider and quicker view than all the rest of us. Marx was a genius; we others were at best talented. Without him the theory would not be by far what it is today. It therefore rightly bears his name (F. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach, Marx-Engels Selected Works Vol. II, Moscow, 1958). 
This leaves little room for doubt in so far as it concerns Engel’s generous renunciation especially in the reference to “we others.’’ If we differ from it, as in fairness we must, it can only be in respect of the fact which Engels passes over as of no account: the fact that but for Friedrich Engels, there is every possibility that Karl Marx would have been relatively unknown.

We do not refer only, or even mainly, to the possibility that, without Engels’ aid, Marx would have probably starved to death or been driven insane by privation and disappointment in the years after the failure of the revolt of 1848-9 in Germany and the suppression of the paper (Neue Rheinische Zeitung) in which he had sunk what little money he possessed. This is important enough, but it can be negligible in comparison with the fact that the capability of Marx was fully developed made stronger and richer by his association with Engels and the stimulus of his companionship and talented collaboration. The same process also applies to Engels and his enrichment by his association with Marx. So that the net result is much as Engels expresses it in a letter to Franz Mehring (July, 14 1893):
   If I find anything to object to it is that you give me more credit than I deserve, even if I count in everything which I might possibly have found out for myself — in time — but which Marx with his rapid coup d’oeil and wider vision discovered much more quickly. When one has the good fortune to work for forty years with a man like Marx, one does not usually get the recognition one thinks one deserves during his lifetime. Then, if the greater man dies, the lesser easily gets overrated and this seems to me to be just my case at present; history will set all this right in the end and by that time one will have quietly turned up one’s toes and not know anything any more about anything (Selected Works, Vol. II).
Now that Engels has “turned up his toes” it is his due that while reserving to Marx that pre-eminence which belongs to him, we must also appreciate and value the work of Friedrich Engels.

The friendship of Marx and Engels began in 1844, after having met previously in the office of the Rheinische Zeitung of which journal Marx was the editor. Neither was, at this meeting, much drawn to the other.

Engels, the son of a cotton manufacturer and importer, was born in 1820 in the town of Barmen, now merged with Elberfield and four small towns to form Wuppertal in the province of North Rhine Westphalia. At the time he met Marx, he had just completed his year in the army as a lieutenant in the guard artillery, and although he was deeply interested in the philosophy and and republican-democratic politics of that period, he appears to have been still a rather stiffs “officer of the Guards”. His background in a rigid Lutheran and commercial home was very different from that of Marx who had lived in an atmosphere of eighteenth century culture based on the Rabbinical tradition and legal studies of his father. Marx as a young editor had obtained his knowledge of classical German philosophy and democratic politics by a method opposite to that of Engels, although each was a man of intense feeling and wide sympathy, yet, at their first meeting they did not appear to. have had much in common.

Engels went to England to fill a clerical appointment at his father’s factory in Manchester where he found it necessary to take up the study of commerce. Marx, in his work as editor, found himself engaged in numerous conflicts with the authorities and the censorship. He found himself handicapped by a lack of knowledge of political economy and, what at the time, were new ideas about “Socialism” then prevalent in Paris and from there, spreading out into Germany.

When the Rheinische Zeitung was suppressed in 1844, Marx made his way to Paris expressly to study these subjects. A friend, Arnold Ruge, invited Marx to collaborate with him in producing, from Paris, a review-magazine — the German/French Year book, which was to feature critical philosophical studies upon all the topics then current in Germany. A magazine of this type was impossible to produce in Germany due to the censorship of that period. The collaboration of Radical writers in France and Germany (Feuerbach, Bruno, and Edgar Bauer, Heine and Proudhon among them) were invited and in response to this appeal, an Article “Outlines of Political Economy” was received from Friedrich Engels in Manchester. This led to an invitation from Marx to Engels suggesting a visit to Paris.

Engels’ arrival in Manchester in 1842 coincided with the second upheaval of the Chartist Movement with the strikes and rioting which accompanied it. He was deeply interested in the aims of the Chartists, and through that movement came into contact with the ideas expressed by the supporters of Robert Owen, which ideas overlapped with the Chartist Movement. As a student of commerce, he was naturally brought into a study of classical political economy. It was his association with the Chartists, Owenites and others, which made him aware of the critical conclusions, drawn from that political economy by the other champions of working-class aspirations. These studies, carefully combined with his knowledge of classical German philosophy, resulted in two works. The first, a study of the working class in England in 1844 upon which he was at work when he was invited to contribute to the German/French Year Book. The second was the article he sent in response to that request.

Engels followed his article to Paris, where he and Marx for the next ten days compared notes and views. As a result, they found they had each independently reached the same conclusions; that the capitalist system was historically a transitory phenomenon and bound to give place to a new system, based upon the common ownership of the means of production and that it was the historical mission of the working class to bring the new form of society into being. The fact that each had reached this conclusion by a different method; Engels by the study of classic English philosophy (political), Marx by a study of the French Revolution and its outcome on French proletarian movements, made them complementary to each other. The friendship born out of these circumstances lasted for the remainder of their lives. 

The immediate effect of their friendship was that they both commenced upon their life task; to get an understanding and acceptance by the working class of what they regarded as its historic role in society.

Each, in his own way, settled down to the work of propagating the ideas of scientific socialism as opposed to the Utopian ideas of that period. Engels wrote the opening instalment of the Holy Family which Marx completed and published Engels’ fine work The Condition of the Working Class in England was first issued in Germany in 1845. The following quotation is from the preface for the English Edition of 1892: “The author, at that time, was young, twenty four years of age, and his production bears the stamp of his youth with its good and its faulty features, neither of which he feels ashamed”.

This is a statement with which we must agree. There is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. It is a classic, readable and rewarding; a splendid record of working class life as Engels saw it in 1844, together with its historical background. This was in opposition to the "respectable” and complacent view that saw the working class as the ‘mob’ the 'lower orders’ and sometimes as the ‘swinish multitude’. Engels formulated the proposition that this despised section of society contained the force prepared by historical development for the overthrow of capitalist society, and which would make possible and necessitate the establishment of Socialism.

The collaboration of Marx and Engels is best shown in the Communist Manifesto. So close was it, that in the final result it is hard to say which is Marx and which is Engels.

When Marx, driven from France, settled in London, Engels joined him and did his best to help Marx get a living by journalism whilst he, in order to get the money for their joint purpose, went to work in the factory owned by his father. Thereafter, for the rest of their lives they never lost contact.

How close their relationship was and how much Engels’ stimulus and encouragement helped in promoting the development of Marx can be seen by this extract from the Marx/Engels correspondence. Marx had completed years of work on his Capital and the first volume was ready for the printer. Marx writes to Engels:
      London, 16 August, 1867 2 o'clock at night 
Dear Fred, . . . So this volume is finished. It was thanks to you alone that this became possible. Without your self-sacrifice for me I could never possibly have done the enormous work for the three volumes. I embrace you, full of thanks! (Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1956). 
After 1869 Engels retired from commerce and in 1870 he came to live in London. The correspondence was now replaced by daily visits. He was also able to relieve Marx of the stresses of his early years by his kindly act of endowing him with a small annual income. It was fitting that it should be Engels himself who found that Marx had died peacefully in his chair and that to Engels should fall the task of making the speech over the grave at Highgate cemetery, March 17, 1883. It included the words: "On the fourteenth of March, at a quarter to three in the afternoon, the greatest living thinker ceased to think . . ", "his name and his work will endure through the ages." (extract from Graveside Speech).

With the name and work of Marx which has endured must be coupled the name and work of Friedrich Engels. With the death of Marx, Engels, at the age of 65 undertook the monumental task of preparing from the notes left by Marx, Volumes two and three of Capital for publication, and spent the rest of his days, vindicating and popularising the work of his friend.

Of Engels’ personality, a word or two is appropriate. He appears to have been a genial person, fond of the open air and country walks, good eating and drinking. He differed from Marx insofar as he was more immediately likeable. But they were as one in their enthusiasm for their joint life's work. In all he did; in his studies and writings he gave all he could. To the Marx children he was an elder brother. When writing of a man like Engels, it is almost impossible not to use superlatives. He was a man in the best possible sense of the term.

In March 1895, he developed cancer in the throat. By August 1895, he was dead. At his own wish his body was cremated and the ashes thrown into the sea off Eastbourne.

(to be concluded)
Bob Ambridge


Engels: The Man and His Work - Part Two (1971)

From the October 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

The second and concluding part of a tribute to Marx co-worker

The writings of Friedrich Engels are indispensable for the study of the growth and development of Scientific Socialism. His writings derive their importance from the fact that even when they were not produced jointly with Marx (as was the case with the Communist Manifesto), they were (until Marx’s death) produced in collaboration with Marx in the sense that the whole plan was discussed by them jointly before the works of either were written The result in each case was submitted for the critical revision of the other.

Engels capacity to explain in a popular manner the ideas and theories of Marx have probably never been excelled. The proof is to be found in the worldwide circulation of Socialism, Utopian and Scientific. Originally this consisted of portions of certain chapters in his polemic against Eugen Dühring. At the request (or suggestion) of Paul Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law, a separate pamphlet was made out of these sections, which, with Engels’ approval he translated into French and issued in 1880. Translations into other languages and re-prints in the original German text were followed in 1892 by an English translation for which Engels wrote an Introduction which is probably one of his best essays. It has been translated and undergone re-prints in many languages. In 1892 Engels commented upon its great popularity. It remains to this day the best approach to the study of Marxism.

Engels qualities as a writer were shown no less well in his Ludwig Feuerbach. In this essay he shows the connection between the Marxian world-outlook and that of German classical philosophy which came to an end with Feuerbach. Engels skilfully compresses the most profound implications of the Marxian world-outlook into terms that are clear and at the same time carefully guarded against any possibility of over-statement.

In one sense, the essay on Ludwig Feuerbach is a summary of the main theme of Engels’ longest work, his Anti-Dühring. The two works differ in tone and temper; the larger work is a point by point argument against a pretentious, badly-built theory of Socialism while the shorter essay is a straight-forward exposition of the historical origin of the Marxian world-outlook. But while the essay gives that outlook in a summarised form, the Anti-Dühring reaches it in a succession of arguments in which the proposition of Dühring is fully exposed and finally the whole field of philosophical thinking is established for the Marxian view of historical materialism and of revolutionary class-struggle.

The most specialised work of Engels can be placed under three heads:— (a) Military studies, (b) Historical and Political Essays, (c) the completion of Marx’s Capital. Of the works in the first category we need not here concern ourselves.

Engels’s Historical and Political Studies form the largest single section of his writing. For convenience of characterisation they may be sub-classified as (a) the group dealing with the German Revolution, (b) social theory group, and (c) the group dealing with the English working class struggle.

In the first category is his The Peasant War In Germany (one of his neglected writings and now almost forgotten) dealing with events of the early 16th century. Engels traces the historical causation which led to the outbreak in 1515, from which he draws the moral expressed by Marx as “The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself”, The Peasant War is valuable for its handling of the historical causes of the alliance between peasantry and the working class. During 1851 and 1852 Engels also wrote a series of articles under Marx’s name on the events of 1848 in Germany for The New York Daily Tribune. These were later published as a book, Revolution and Counter Revolution in Germany and still erroneously attributed to Marx.

The social theory group consists of one polemic volume The Housing Question, a study of The Origin the Family, Private Property and the State and an essay The Mark dealing with the form in which tribal communal land ownership, all necessitating a consideration of the nature of the State.

The Origin of the Family deals, in method, with the sociological discoveries of Lewis Henry Morgan, who was the first to prove that human society had undergone a process of historical transformation before even the most ancient of historical records began. At the time when Engels wrote, the notion of a ‘history before history begins’ had barely been discussed. Today the amount of literature on anthropology and related subjects is so vast that the significance of Engels’s work tends to be overlooked. Engels did what modern writers are careful to avoid; he drew a moral from the lessons of the past. Just as Man existed for great lengths of time without developing the idea of such thing as a frontier, so it was possible to envisage a future in which frontiers had disappeared and mankind had become united into a co-operating whole. So with private property; as this, too, was an institution which had evolved by degrees, so it was possible to conceive it passing out of existence and giving place to a form of common ownership on a higher plane. So with the family. As this had its history in the past, it could not he doubted that its future form would change. On all counts the “necessary conditions” of human society — the State with its frontiers, property and the family — which were often regarded as sacred and fixed, were shown to be transitory products of social development and not its immutable causes.

Engels not only draws these Socialist conclusions from his subject matter in a general form; he draws them concretely in his analysis of the State, expounded Anti-Dühring as well as the Origin.

This he shows to be likewise a transitory phenomenon and the product of class divisions based upon property differentiation. He concludes here, that the working class will constitute itself a State force as the capitalists did before them, but under radically different conditions. Since the essence of the State is to coerce and since, further, the essential object of the working class struggle is to abolish class differences, the working class organised as a State, and using its State force, will eliminate all class divisions and must in the end achieve a result in which the State has ceased to be a State at all. So far as the working class eliminates all privileges based upon private property in the means of production and makes the means of production the common property of society, it converts all members of society into workers who are also collective owners. But in doing so, the working class will have abolished distinctly its own working class status. Its own class character will have disappeared with the disappearance of the property relations and the privileges by reference to which it was a class. Its State will therefore cease to be a State since there no longer exists any subjects over whom it can exercise coercion. “The function of the organisation of society will change”, Government over persons will be replaced by administration over things”, the State will die out.

It is extremely difficult to place Engels’s works in any precise order of merit and having in mind the undoubted pre-eminence of the Anti-Dühring, it can be said categorically that Origin of the Family is very necessary for a proper grasp of the ideas expressed by Marx.

The essay, The Mark, is in one sense a foot-note to the Origin. It is useful, however, as showing Engels’ grasp of the various changes and exchanges possible in the ownership of land during its transformation from primitive forms of common ownership to private ownership.

The ‘English’ sub-group contains two works. Engels’ first work The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, and a later work, a series of articles which appeared in the Labour Standard in 1881 (since re-published under the title of The British Labour Movement.)

In the decade after the Paris Commune of 1871 the independent labour press had practically disappeared but the London Trades Council produced their paper the Labour Standard. Its editor, George Shipton, invited Engels to contribute a series of articles. From May to August Engels wrote ten articles, in which by means of current events he demonstrated that old style trade unionism whose objectives were summed up in the slogan “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work” was absurd. It is in the article “Trade Union of May 28, 1881, that he stresses the need for a movement for the “Abolition of the wages system altogether”. Simply worded, quietly and carefully reasoned, these articles are as readable today and as rewarding as when they were written.

These articles, along with the Condition bear testimony to the fact which a perusal of the Marx-Engels correspondence will verify, that Engels’s association with the working class in Britain continued from the time of his contribution to Owen’s New Moral World and O’Connor’s Northern Star down to the date of his death. To the last, he showed pleasure at the memory of the Chartists’ struggle and he never lost his conviction that the British working class would sooner or later find its place in the forefront of the world revolutionary movement of the working class.

The final group of Engels’s writings consists in his completion of volumes II and III of Capital. It was characteristic of him, that with the death of Marx, he should undertake as a matter of course, the completion of the immense work which illness had compelled Marx to leave unfinished. Engels realised and understood that the full importance of Marx’s analysis of the laws which underlie capitalist society could not be appreciated from the first volume alone. Volume I looks at the process of capitalist production only in a general and abstract form. The work of Volumes II and III is to carry forward the analysis to a study of the concrete process which links together production, circulation and consumption. It is these later studies that show the contradiction of capitalist society as a developing whole. In order that Marx’s scientific discovery (The Law of motion of capitalist society) should be presented to the world complete, Engels, at sixty five years of age undertook a task whose immensity can be appreciated by all who have studied the result and compared it with what had been done before in the field of economics.

In connection with his completion of Capital must be considered the number of prefaces written by Engels to new editions of his own works and those of Marx. During the later years of his life, he congratulated himself upon the fact “That there is but a limited number of languages that he could be called upon to assist translators” (Preface to Volume III of Capital). Added to this mass of work of a uniformly high quality must be the enormous amount of correspondence. Nothing Engels wrote ever failed to be interesting and informative. Without the work of Engels, the theories of Marx would be much less known than most people realise. Marx and Engels both stressed the importance of correct theory arising out of historical development as a preliminary to any revolutionary activity. A last quote from Engels’s 1880 preface to The Communist Manifesto is a fitting end to a tribute of this character:
The proletariat cannot obtain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class — the bourgeoisie — without at the same time, and once and for all emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class-distinction and class struggles.
Bob Ambridge

To Join or Not to Join? That's not the question (1971)

From the November 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

It has been claimed that Britain’s application to join the Common Market has been made ‘without a mandate from the people.’ If the issue is so vital and opposition to entry so widespread, why are ‘the people’ continuing to give their support to the Labour and Conservative parties which, when in power, negotiated with the Six? It is because they accept the present social system from which trade with its international rivalries; markets and tariff walls; cost of living; national sovereignty and grouping, such as the European Economic Community, are inseparable. This gives a clear indication of the level of political maturity of ‘the people’ of Britain. The idea that ‘the Nation’ is made up of people having a community of interests within it, and conflicting interests outside it, is a myth which is accepted to their detriment by the working-class majority in all countries.

The most important social division is world-wide between the minority which owns and controls the means of living and the majority who are propertyless wage and salary workers. Between them there is an antagonism which cannot be reconciled. The interest of workers in pursuit of better wages and working conditions is detrimental to those of the capitalists who must maximise their profits. The so-called national interest is, in fact, nothing but the interest of the owning minority — the capitalist class. The problems of trade and sovereignty are their problems. Hence the working class, who own no part of the country they live in and are faced with an antagonism of interest, with those who do own it, can have no national interest! In fact, they share with other workers throughout the world common problems and interests associated with their wage slave status.

“The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.” This was a fact noted as long ago as 1848 by Karl Marx and is as true today as it was then! The Common Market debate has shown this well. The Labour party now say they are against entry on Tory terms, although some of their leaders claim that these terms are not different from those they were prepared to accept. The Common Market debate was the highlight of this year’s TUC conference. They decided against and found themselves in the same political bed as the so-called Communist party, Enoch Powell, and the National Front. Neither the pro- nor the anti-marketeers have ever questioned the relevance of their attitudes to the working class as a whole. This comes as a result of accepting the capitalist mode of production with the wage labour and capital relationship as unalterable.

For the Socialist Party of Great Britain there is only one question — capitalism or Socialism? In other words, should the workers of the world continue to operate a social system that can only serve the interests of a minority; or establish a system that works in the interests of the whole of mankind. The Common Market involves changes within a private property society. Socialism involves the abolition of private property in the means of production along with all markets and the profit motive and replacing them with common ownership and production solely for use. The interest of the working class of all lands is to unite to achieve this end
Joe Carter

Non-Revolutionary Unionism (1971)

Book Review from the December 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Revolutionary Syndicalism in France, by F. F. Ridley. Cambridge University Press. £4.20.

This is a study of the theory and practice of the French equivalent of the TUC, the Confédération Génerale du Travail, in its syndicalist period from 1900 to 1914.

The basic unit of worker organisation in France at this time was the syndicat, or local union of workers in the same trade. Hence “syndicalism”, which on its own is really just the French word for trade unionism. The CGT leaders described their policy as “revolutionary” syndicalism. They were anarchists and wanted the unions to stage a general strike to overthrow capitalism and set up a moneyless, wageless, Stateless society where the unions would control production.

The bulk OF the CGT members, however, were just militant trade unionists, interested mainly in fighting the day-to-day struggle to improve wages and conditions within capitalism. Most of the CGT’S policies for this struggle—political neutrality so as not to divide workers who need unity to defend their economic interests; recognition of the class struggle between the workers and the capitalists and their government; strike action; the only real gains are those the workers get by their own action—were just good trade unionism. Others such as sabotage and intimidation were, as we shall see, a sign of the movement’s weakness.

The anarcho-syndicalist leaders of the CGT were in the same sort of position on the industrial front as the Social Democrats were on the political front: workers supported them not because they wanted to overthrow capitalism, but because they felt that their policies would bring some improvements within capitalism. Like Socialism for the Social Democratic parties, the General Strike became for the CGT a more and more ultimate aim which had little reference to its day-to-day activity, except perhaps as an inspiration. Ridley brings out this point well.

The CGT was no more an anarchist organisation than the Social Democratic parties were socialist. Its pretensions too were exposed at the outbreak of the first World War, though it seems to have been a reasonably good trade union body for its time.

Ridley brings out a number of other valid points. Wage and salary earners were a minority both of the population and of the electorate in the France of this period. Of the 12 million wage and salary earners, only about 836,000, or less than 7 per cent, were organised and less than half of these were in the CGT. The CGT, in other words, only represented about 2 to 3 per cent of the working class. As Ridley says,
  in a sense, violence is the only path open to the weak. There is a close relationship between weak, unorganised labour movements and the outbreak of revolutionary or anarchist activity in Russia, Spain and Italy, as well as in France.
French industry too was backward. The syndicalist slogan “The Workshops to the Workers” was taken literally to mean that the small-scale workshops where many French workers were employed would be run by the syndicats, or local unions. It is significant that the nation-wide unions representing workers employed in large-scale industry—mines, textiles, railways, post office—though in the CGT were opponents of its anarchist leaders.

The General Strike was originally put forward as an alternative to the ballot box as a peaceful way to end capitalism. But, as the Socialist Party of Great Britain pointed out at the time, experience of much lesser strikes showed that any such move would be met by the violence of the State. And. why if a majority can be persuaded to strike for Socialism don’t they at least try the easier way—the ballot box—first?

The cult of action, or action-for-action’s sake, some syndicalist theoreticians espoused was shared also by extreme nationalists and monarchists which, as Ridley suggests, is why after the first World War so many of them found it easy to go over to fascism. Mussolini himself, though never an anarcho-syndicalist as such, was a leading figure on the direct-actionist wing of the Italian Socialist Party before the war. Ridley also says that it is wrong to see Sorel’s Reflections on Violence as a statement of syndicalist principles since Sorel was not a syndicalist leader or militant; he was only someone who happened to sympathise with some aspects of syndicalism at the time he wrote his book.

Unthinking activism and contempt for democratic discussion and peaceful persuasion—break-up of meetings, lectures and sports matches, confrontations with the police, physical attacks and threats against people with different views—is again being indulged in by the assorted followers of Mao, Guevara and Trotsky without their realising its dangers. This is vehemently opposed by the Socialist Party.

Professor Ridley’s book is a good analysis of syndicalism, though some may find the philosophical discussion in the third part a little abstruse.
Adam Buick

A Duke on Hard Work. (1919)

From the January 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

The “Daily Chronicle” of December 11th ult. gave us the following intoxicating toothful in spite of the no treating order:
HARD WORK THE REMEDY.
  According to the Duke of Northumberland the only firm foundation for reconstruction was self-denial and hard work, and politicians should draw attention to this instead of trying to persuade people that they could get something for nothing.
One would hardly have thought that the noble gentleman would have deemed it necessary to point the way to politicians just at the present moment, at all events, for ever since “reconstruction” showed its head above the political horizon politicians have done precious little but preach toil and abstinence on the part of the workers.

In all the election promises which have recently flooded the country—mere humbug to catch the wage-slave’s assent to his own undoing—there is not one but which is found on analysis, if it means anything at all, to mean hard work and penury (for this is what the duke really means by “self-denial") for the working class. All their schemes of “reconstruction,” from Adult Education to Afforestation, are schemes for securing hard work for the class which does not include the Duke of Northumberland, while the politicians’ idea of the importance of “self-denial” in the scheme of “reconstruction” reveals itself in the provision of a paltry dole equal to FOUR DAYS’ COST OF THE WAR to tide their teeming millions of human cattle over the hard times of the “transition period” !

How little respite the political and other hirelings of the master class intend to fall to the lot of the toilers is shown in a score of ways. No windy gasbag from the Welsh Messiah to the Lib-Lab Pensions Minister who declared that no soldier was going to get a pension out of him in order to live without working, has held out any hope of the worker getting something “for nothing.” Everywhere the claims of the broken warriors to not by any means “something for nothing,” but to something for all they have suffered, and all they have given of health and limb, to keep contemptible and useless dukal parasites safe in their lordly domains, are being repudiated without scruple. No poor cripple, tormented by the agony of his wounds, is there but must, if he has within him any atom of industrial capacity, be “trained” in order that he may yield it up—a paltry additional “something for nothing”—to those who are not satisfied with having robbed him of his joy in life, but desire to “reconstruct” him on the basis of what little strength he has salved from the shambles—to pare down his niggard pension. Even the blinded soldier is not prey beneath the contempt of these ghouls, and St. Dunstan’s “reconstructs” on the foundation of “hard work," and not of “something for nothing."

It is only the master class who get anything for nothing, and they get everything for nothing. This “reconstruction" is THEIR RECONSTRUCTION and it is quite true that it must be founded upon hard work and “self-denial". But it will be the hard work and the forced abstention of the wage- slaves, not of the Duke of Northumberland and his like.

There are signs, however, of the approach of the day when we, the workers of the world, will undertake a “reconstruction," and it will be upon the foundation of the labour of all who are capable of labour, including those who are quite strange to work nowadays. No dukal coronet will then protect loose jawed humbugs from sampling the work they are so fond of prescribing for the workers, and the Duke of Northumberland may yet support the “dignity of labour” with a scavenger's broom in the glorious day when, in William Morris’s beautiful words—
“. . . a man shall work and bethink him, and rejoice in the deeds of his hand,
Nor yet come home in the even too faint and weary to stand.
Men in that time a-coming shall work and have no fear
For to-morrow's lack of earning and the hunger-wolf  a-near.
I tell you this for a wonder, that no man then shall be glad
Of his fellow’s fall and mishap to snatch at the work he had.
For that which the worker winneth shall then be his indeed,
Nor shall half be reaped for nothing by him that sowed no no seed.

B. B. 

Every Point But The One At Issue. (1919)

Letter to the Editors from the February 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Sir,

May I, as one who disagrees with your remarks in this month’s Socialist Standard with reference to the Socialist Labour Party and the fight for their Press, be permitted to say a few words on the subject?

You give as the reason for the Government being able to force strikers to accept their terms the fact that they, the Government, control the “armed forces of the nation.” This is certainly true, but it is important to remember that the “armed forces of the nation” are composed of workers who do not understand the fight that is being waged against their own class, so as to enable the masters to obtain a maximum return for a minimum expenditure. For one can hardly conceive class-conscious workers obeying the commands of the Government to shoot down their fellow-men who had come out on strike. So we find that the power of the Government rests upon the ignorance of the workers, and not upon the “armed forces of the nation” at their command. For it must be clear to all that once the workers realise their position, the “armed forces of the nation” cease to exist. Even the Government have realised this, and attempt to prevent the workers from obtaining the truth, by suppressing such papers and pamphlets from which they would be likely to obtain it.

Therefore it appears to me that what we have to do is not to work for the capture or control of the “armed forces,” but to educate the workers, and to do this one must at least have a free Press. It is because the Socialist Labour Party realise this that they are fighting so hard to recover their Press.

My friends and I would he much obliged if the Editor would allow the above to appear in next month’s “Standard.”
—Yours, 
G. Manne.


REPLY:
It is evident from the first sentence of his letter that our correspondent has failed to grasp the claim of the S.L.P.

Clearly it was not the fight for the S.L.P. Press that was in dispute, but their claim that this fight was one for “the Principle of a Free Press.” Here is the quotation from their own letter published in the November “Socialist Standard”:
  Quite apart from the fact that we are at a great disadvantage and suffering considerable loss, . . . the Principle of a Free Press is at stake.
We showed quite conclusively that no such principle existed, or could exist under capitalism, therefore it could not be “at stake.” This was the essential point of our criticism, and as our correspondent carefully avoids this point, his letter calls for no further comment.
Editorial Committee.

The Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation (1919)

Editorial from the March 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

On our front page we print an invaluable report of an outrage perpetrated by the Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation, with the assistance of the local authorities, upon striking workers. Read it.

This is not the first case of a similar kind that we have given the publicity of our pages. Older readers will remember the Lawrence affair, and the ghastly firing of a camp over the heads of the trapped workers in another case, and the shooting of the poor wretches who tried to escape. We draw especial attention to these items of capitalist villiany in America at the present moment for the reason that they show with perfect clearness the hollow fraud and sham of all the drivel about the Americans entering the war to “make the world safe for democracy.”

From Peterloo to Tonypandy and Belfast in the British Isles, from Homestead to Bisbee in the United States, the same tale is to tell. All the forces which political supremacy everywhere places in the hands of the master class are and will be used to keep the capitalist world safe from democracy. There’s a difference.

What We Want. (1919)

Editorial from the April 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

A lot of make-believe capitalist sympathy has been slobbered over the working class recently as the result of the revelations of some of the horrors of working-class existence in the mining districts and in the East End of London; That the capitalists may make a genuine effort to improve these conditions is quite possible. The war has shown them that they have a C3 nation of workers, and the latest births and deaths returns have revealed to them the unpleasant prospect that unless they bestir themselves they will soon have no nation of workers at all on which to found the military and commercial supremacy of their Empire. But even if they do improve the workers conditions; if they stable them in palaces and harness them in “Workmen’s Charters"; if Lord Leverem finds that he can exhaust his men in six hours and does it, and Mr. Ford discovers anew that high wages, as the Dutch say of paint, cost nothing—what then?

Such things, realised far beyond the realms of possibility, would leave us unmoved. We are out for LIFE for the workers. The world is beautiful. Life is glorious. Even work is joy if a man may, as Morris said, “rejoice in the work of his hand.” Evolution has given us the possibility of producing by work, as distinct from toil, wealth in such abundance that the amenities of civilisation shall be the portion of all, without stint.

A place in the sun, a draught of the sweet air of the meadow, the tranquility of the country sunset, relieved of the shadow of our slavery—are they not worth fighting for? Are the workers for ever to be content with the mentality that can raise a singer to fame and fortune on such a song as “Champaign Charley”? The earth sings a better song after rain, but how many of us have heard it? The World with all its beauty is for the Workers if they will but take it.

A Few Words To Those About To Celebrate "Peace." (1919)

From the May 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

Six months now have the dogs of war been leashed, yet still their snarling is the most audible sound throughout the world to-day. Orlando has gone back to Italy, and the jingo Press of Allied Europe foams ink at the mouth at Wilson, the Peace with honour—the clean Peace—indeed all those Peaces of which we have heard are still in the balance. For as the war was confined to this unhappy planet alone the dogs of War have only one bone between them.

Yet what is this Peace of which you talk so much? How will it effect the Working Class? ("How absurd the writer is," you are saying, “everyone; knows that Peace is the cessation of War.") Will Peace then resuscitate the dead? Will it restore sight to the blind, limbs to the limbless? Will it strike off the shackles of slavery that bind the proletariat? Will it demolish the sunless slums of Bethnal Green or make it possible for women to obtain bread without selling their bodies? Will it prevent future War? If it will not do these things it is no Peace for me.

Peace to me means the end of wage-slavery. The abolition of private ownership of the means of production and the passing of them into the hands of those who produce. It means the creation of a new and beautiful world by the overthrow of the system of society which makes wars and widows and blind men.

But, perhaps, I am exacting, think you. Maybe I am not satisfied to remain a slave on the promise of a Peace which affects my slave position not at all. You are. Ah, well, perhaps I am only a Socialist after all, and you are—well, what are you, friend ? I have heard you call yourself a Free Citizen. What are you free to do? Can you exist without selling your labour to a master? Have you access to those very tools even with which you manufacture the wealth of the world? What proportion of that wealth do you receive back in exchange for your labour power? Is it enough to satisfy you; does it suffice to clothe, feed, and educate your children, as you would wish them to be clothed, fed, and educated? Or are you not forced to send them out on the labour market at the very earliest moment? And suppose you cannot find a master to employ you, does not your boasted freedom resolve itself into the freedom to starve?

What, then, if Italy does have Fiume? Will you or the Italian worker be any better off? If the German colonies be divided between the Allies, will the German workers be the losers and the Allied workers be the gainers proportionately ? Not a bit of it! The capture of foreign markets as the result of War means nothing more to you and me than the continued exploitation of the working' class. You wear two gold bars and four service chevrons, you have fought, and captured cities, in all theatres of war, but if you cannot find a master to employ you, you must starve. But was not that your position before the war? If, therefore, the division of territory, the readjustment of national boundaries, the “reparations, indemnities, and effectual guarantees" do not alter one iota the slave position of the international proletariat of which you are a member, why in the name of Reason do you worry yourself about them?

In conclusion, if you are interested in Wars, why not take an interest in your own War—the Class War—and join up in the ranks of the Socialist Party, organise with your fellows consciously and politically to overthrow Capitalism with its bloody wars and hollow peaces, and to erect in its place the Socialist Commonwealth.
Stanley H. Steele