Thursday, September 7, 2017

Beyond the Grants Campaign (1973)

Party News from the May 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

The National Union of Students is conducting a campaign to:
  • Raise the Student Grant.
  • Abolish Discretionary awards.
  • Give married women students a full grant. 
  • Abolish the parental means test.

Students, most of them members of the working class, should recognize that, like the rest of the workers, they cannot escape the limitations imposed on them by the capitalist system in which we live.

We understand their efforts to prevent a deterioration of their position. However, such action is only defensive. If students don’t look beyond the grants campaign they will find they will have been running fast only to stay on the same spot. As trade unionists have discovered, inflation soon undermines economic gains and the whole struggle has to be gone through again. Moreover, students should understand that education at present is primarily a means of training a labour force for the organization of commodity production in capitalist society. The dominating influence of examinations and the totally undemocratic hierarchical organisation of the university are expressions of this. Education should be a social amenity for the development of individuals’ talents, which it cannot be under capitalism.

So how do we get off the treadmill? 

Some people are advocating throwing the Tories out and electing a Labour government. But what did the last Labour government do? Allowed students’ living standards to decline drastically. Attacked workers’ living standards by means of wage freezes and inflation. 

Changing governments changes nothing.

The only way forward is a revolutionary change to a completely different society:
  • World-wide common ownership of resources— not minority class ownership.
  • Production to meet human needs — not for private profit.
  • Free access to goods and services — not the rationing of a monetary system.
  • A free, democratically-run, non-authoritarian, non-compulsory educational system giving equal opportunity for all.

This can only be achieved by the conscious action of the majority of the working class—and that includes most students.

We urge you to join us in the fight to establish world Socialism.
— from a leaflet issued by Socialist students at Aberdeen.

Russia 1917: As We Saw It (2017)

From the September 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Bolsheviks seized power in November (October under the old Russian calendar). The Socialist Standard commented on it in January 1918. In March we mentioned Lenin for the first time.
The doings of the Bolsheviks is the topic of the moment. They dwarf all other events connected with the war. We are not in a position to say much regarding the position of affairs in Russia, for we have little information regarding it beyond the lying messages of our masters’ lickspittles. These reptiles send home accounts which in their obvious animus show what while concoctions they are, seemingly oblivious of the fact that it is patent to all that were terrorism reigning in Russia to the degree they pretend, they would not dare write their filth, whether it were true or not, for fear of becoming a sickening disfigurement to a lamp-post.
Whatever may be the final outcome, the Bolsheviks have at all events succeeded in doing what all the armies, all the diplomats, all the priests and primates, all the perfervid pacifists of all the groaning and bleeding world have failed to do – they have stopped the slaughter, for the time being, at all events, on their front.
How much more than this they ever intended to do the future may reveal. They may have higher aims, yet to be justified by success or condemned by failure; but it is an astounding achievement that these few man have been able to seize opportunity and make the thieves and murderers of the whole world stand aghast and shiver with apprehension.
The British Ambassador would not recognise them, but the British Ambassador is coming home, we are told, and some one “in marked sympathy with the Bolshevik Government” is to be appointed in his place. The Germans arrest Socialists all over Germany, and are at once reduced to denying the fact when Bolsheviks declare that Socialists everywhere are under their protection. The Bolsheviks publish their demands, and immediately the Allies’ war aims are whittled of most of their truculence and proclaimed from the housetops. Verily, not all the decisions of capitalist hirelings can hide the fact that all the belligerents are uneasy in the face of Bolshevik success. (January 1918)
Quite recently the penny sensations came out with scare headlines proclaiming that Lenin and Trotszky, the Bolshevik leaders, were in receipt of German pay. Shortly after came an official denial from M. Litvinoff, the plenipotentiary of the Bolshevik Government, "denouncing the documents as forgeries, the work of some agent of the ex-Tsar's secret police, or of some agent of the German Government, which is anxious to get rid of the Bolshevik regime, lest it should prove infectious and kindle the fire of a revolution in Germany." Thus are we enlightened concerning the activities of those in other climes. (March 1918)

The Streets of London (1973)

Book Review from the June 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

Community Decay. By Jon Rowland. Penguin Special, 50p.

This rather slim volume consists of a general essay on the subject followed by a case study of the area of North London between Hornsey Rise and the Archway (very near where this reviewer lives).

The introductory section is, as Rowland admits, written at a very high level of generalization. Its vagueness is reinforced by the use of undefined terms such as “worker” or “middle class”, with the latter group, it seems, almost being regarded as the villains of the piece. Nevertheless, there is some valuable material here, for instance on alienation, which Rowland sees as “a manner of living by which a person experiences himself as an outsider", and on the all-pervading depersonalization of the money system. At one point Rowland speaks of "a potential abundance of hardware”, adding that "we may be paid a salary not to work”! And he makes a point of major importance when he concludes that "poverty” is more than just lack of money and cannot be solved by a mere redistribution of wealth, since this “does not necessarily remove the specific frustrations of the environment.”

The area of Upper Holloway studied in the second part of the book has now deteriorated into streets lined with yards of corrugated iron punctuated here and there by dismal-looking houses. Rowland first presents an economic survey of families living there; through all the graphs and figures there emerges an appalling picture of a depressed urban area, of overcrowding, poor sanitation and high unemployment. For example, 30 per cent, of all households (note: not wage-earners) had an income lower than £17. The worst hit families were found to be those who had lived in the area for less than five or for more than twenty years. In particular, the latter were especially badly off concerning hygiene requirements, with a mere 13 per cent, of them having the luxury of an inside toilet. An interview with the headmaster of a local school completes the picture of hopelessness and apathy.

In the last chapter Rowland draws his conclusions and makes some suggestions, which mainly consist of a radical decentralization of local government and greater participation by all the inhabitants of an area in local decision-making. His main source of error is revealed when he says that the vast urban conglomeration was "man’s choice of the way he was to live.” Surely this is precisely what it wasn’t—huge cities like London were forced on the vast majority of their inhabitants, the working class, by the demands of growing capitalism, and it is the unplanned and unplannable anarchy of the profit system which maintains them in their present inhuman condition. The small cells advocated by Rowland would have to work within this same framework, so it is hard to see how they could do much to improve working-class conditions. It is a pity that Rowland does not develop the theme of abundance which he mentions once or twice in passing, since the only way to solve the problems described in this book is within the democratic society of abundance which Socialism will be.
Paul Bennett

Obituary: Bob Rose (1973)

Obituary from the July 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is with deep regret that we record the death of Comrade W. Rose on 18th April. The news came as a sudden shock just before the Annual Conference, at which his cheery presence was taken for granted.

Bob, as he was known to everyone in the Party, joined the Lewisham Branch in 1938. Throughout the years he attended the Branch regularly and was one of its mainstays; of late he had taken on the job of organizing the Branch lectures.

He retired from his job as a fitter with London Transport only two years ago, and was often heard to say that he looked forward keenly to retirement—his “release from wage-slavery”—so as to be able to give all the time he could to the Party. He did so. In the recent GLC election campaign he was continually active, helping in the Clapham area with all the jobs that had to be done. Perhaps he did too much.

Bob was a member of the Party’s Executive Committee for a time. In recent years he joined the Propaganda Committee and took on the job of keeping the records of meetings everywhere. He was always ready to speak on the outdoor platform when required; he often spoke in Hyde Park, where his blunt and down-to-earth approach to the Socialist case engaged the interest and sympathy of his audiences. He also represented the Party in one G.L.C. election.

He was cremated at Croydon, with a number of members present. To Ellen Rose, his widow, we extend the sympathies of all her and Bob’s fellow-Socialists—and do so in the knowledge that she will be carrying on with Socialist work where he so prematurely and tragically left off. Members like him—dependable, ever-willing, and always full of enthusiasm—are not easy to find or replace.

Man — The Creator (1973)

From the August 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

Man is a conscious being. He does not toss and sway with the forces of Nature; he is able to view his situation within the natural world and turn the earth’s resources to his own use.

From the time that the first crude tool was taken up until our days of powerful industry, men have gradually overcome the domineering influence of the external world and its processes.

Such a situation would certainly have been impossible if human beings were merely passive creatures acting as their instincts directed them. We are not like the honey-bee whose existence is purely a mechanical process directed towards reproduction and the continuation of the species. Men have the biological potential for creative behaviour and are able to learn and store a mass of information, and can utilize these abilities to mould life for maximum advantage.

People may even act in pure pleasure of creativity. So we see the artist and the writer, the scientist in his laboratory, the part-time inventor, women choosing pleasing and colourful food in an artistic manner, men training racing pigeons and building furniture for their home; all these are creative pursuits, far from the machine-like behaviour of instinct. Humans, with their dynamic abilities, are able to observe their existence, develop techniques that will ensure their survival, learn from the mistakes of their history, and change the organization of their society. All these features place man in a position of biological and social superiority over other animals.

The loss of purely instinctual behaviour in men means that there is no static “human nature”. Theoretically, the ideas, values and general behaviour that an individual develops are open. In reality, a child is born into a society and will learn the behaviour of the group surrounding him. However, no individual’s situation and experiences are identical and everyone acquires slightly different ideas. This promotes criticism, synthesis of thoughts, and new ideologies. Combined with technological advances, societies gradually undergo change. The relationship between ideas and the structure of society, and the manner in which ideologies alter, are extremely complex and cannot be dealt with here. Suffice it to say that ideas and technological developments which react upon society are themselves products of society, i.e. they are both effect and cause.

At particular times in history a change may be dramatic in comparison to the steady, but slow, alterations that normally take place, as was the case in the revolution from a feudal world of lords and peasants, based mainly on agricultural existence, to that of our capitalist world of property-owner and wage-worker, based mainly on industry and involving the competitive market system. The important point to note here, however, is that human nature changes with society. It is ludicrous to justify any society with its faults by saying that the horrors and inequalities are an inevitable result of the restrictions of man’s biological drives.

Indeed any study of anthropology will show a range of “human natures” across different cultures, which in their turn may be dramatically altered by the imposition of a foreign power. For instance, tribal societies may abhor competitive behaviour and “greed” but, once Western authorities impose themselves demanding taxes, their members may be forced to join the market to earn money, eventually becoming imbued with a competitiveness which had, at first, only been economic necessity.

Socialists oppose the unequal ownership of wealth that is intrinsic to the present organization of our society and which results in hardship for so many individuals. Technology has reached the stage where men can produce sufficient for everyone to live comfortably— if society was run on Socialist lines.

However, comfort is not enough.

Biology and history show that all men are creative beings who have raised themselves above Nature. Most creativity has been degraded under capitalism to the almost futile monotony of work, where the product of labour is taken from the wage-earner, whilst he is paid a pittance and other people reap in wealth without any active productiveness. We must demand to control and organize our own society. We must rebel against the indignity of being passive tools within a market system and being at the mercy of (usually incompetent and ineffectual) leaders. We must free our minds and free ourselves from a humiliating situation, and in doing so fulfil our potentialities as human beings.
Judith White

Marxism's Relevance to China (1973)

From the September 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the bits of evidence produced by Maoists to show that the policies of the Chinese rulers are “firmly rooted in Marxist theory” is to point to the widespread circulation in China of works by Marx and Engels (and Lenin and Stalin too, of course). In itself, this is an absurd argument: one wonders how many bibles there are in that Christian and neighbour-loving country, the United States. Nevertheless, the prospect of large numbers of Chinese workers reading Marxist writings is one that Socialists can only welcome.

A reading of the writers mentioned above will reveal that they cannot all be fitted into a single system of thought. Marx and Engels provided a scientific basis for the establishment of Socialism, that is, for the emancipation, by their own action, of the propertyless wage-workers who had been brought into being by capitalism. The Bolshevism of Lenin and his successors, in contrast, furnished an ideology for the capture of political power in countries where capitalism was still in its infancy by a minority who would then develop the means of production in those countries along state-capitalist, not socialist, lines. The atrocious experiences of the Russian people under Stalin were an example of such state-capitalist development carried out in a particularly ruthless and violent manner — they were in no sense regrettable aberrations of Marxism.

Exactly which works are published in China is not always clear. One of the works which ought to see the light of day in China is Stalin’s pamphlet Anarchism or Socialism?, originally written in 1906-7. In this quite remarkable tract, the future dictator makes it quite clear that Socialism (he makes no distinction between Socialism and Communism) will be a society without buying or selling, with no need for political power, and without wage labour. No-one could read this section of Stalin’s pamphlet and believe that China was socialist.

However, there are some passages in the writings of Marx and Engels which, considering that they were written upward of sixty years before the Chinese revolution of 1949, are amazingly appropriate to developments in China.

For example let us examine Engels’ essay Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. At one point Engels discusses the way in which the social nature of the productive forces causes competition to give way to monopoly, with the creation of joint-stock companies or trusts. Following this, the state itself (“the official representative of capitalist society”) will have to undertake the direction of production. But, says Engels, the capitalist mode of production remains, whether ownership is in the hands of joint-stock companies or of the state:
The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalist, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage workers — proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with.
What better description could there be of state capitalism as it exists today in China, Russia and (in the case of nationalized industries) in Britain? Only one step remains to be taken (though Engels does not take it), the realization that under such a system those who control the state machine can be identified as the ruling class.

Another passage which readers in China would do well to ponder occurs in Engels’ introduction to the English edition of this same pamphlet. He discusses the struggle of the bourgeoisie against the strictures of feudal society, a struggle which ended in the eclipse of feudalism and the victory of capitalism, and singles out “three great, decisive battles” — the Protestant Reformation in Germany, England in the seventeenth century, and the Great French Revolution of 1789. In comparing the features of these revolutionary movements, Engels comments:
Curiously enough, in all the three great bourgeois risings, the peasantry furnishes the army that has to do the fighting, and the peasantry is just the class that, the victory once gained, is most surely ruined by the economic consequences of that victory.
This is a brilliantly accurate picture of what was to happen in China. Peasant armies defeated both the Japanese invaders and the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek, bringing to power the Chinese Communist Party. Land reform, the aim of the peasantry and the main reason why they supported the CCP, was carried out over the period of 1950-2, and resulted in a more equitable distribution of landholding, but it was followed by various types of collectivisation, culminating in the communes. There are now no peasants in China (in the sense of agriculturalists who produce primarily for their own consumption on family holdings), only rural wage-workers. The peasantry as a class have certainly been ruined by the consequences of the victory for which they fought so hard (though their material standard of living has certainly been improved — but that is not the point).

One text which certainly ought to be available in China is Marx’s Capital. Its opening sentence is justly famous: “The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as an immense accumulation of commodities”. This is undeniably correct with regard to China. However much one reads about state regulation of prices, and so on, this does not alter the fundamental reality of commodity production there. Let us look at a recent and naively enthusiastic account of the Chinese economy, Joan Robinson’s Economic Management: China 1972. How can an economist like Robinson, who has read her Marx, reconcile claiming that there is "production for use not profit” with saying “so long as industry yields profit to the state overall, it does not matter that some commodities are sold at a loss”? The proposition that exchange-values and production for use can co-exist is not one that would have appealed to the author of Capital.

Study of the section of Capital dealing with accumulation would help to explain some elements of the Chinese economy which Chinese workers may otherwise find puzzling. The need to accumulate capital is eloquently reflected in labour legislation in China: trade unions, for instance, were urged to organize labour emulation drives and strive to increase production, while workers involved in disputes with management were to maintain production (i.e., not strike). The legislation which set up the first communes laid down that the rate of increase in members’ wages was to be slower than the rate of increase in production; indeed in 1959, about thirty per cent, of commune income was allocated for accumulation. A dilemma of the sort familiar to capitalist governments the world over occurred in 1958: it was found that higher urban wages tended to attract country-dwellers into the cities, so the regime called on enterprises to lower the wages of the lowest-grade workers to the level prevailing in nearby rural areas in order to stem the flow of manpower into cities — in other words, part of the Chinese working class suffered a decrease in their standard of living as a calculated part of national policy. None of this makes sense if one believes that what exists in China is a higher kind of social system than capitalism, but if one views China as a late-developing capitalist country in a hurry to catch up, it is all perfectly natural.

It should be said that some Chinese workers have already realized the true nature of the social system they live under — the Sheng-wu-lien group in Hunan; see the Socialist Standard for November 1969. (In passing, one would like to ask those who believe that the Chinese dictatorship is “democratic”, whether the Sheng-wu-lien document is openly available in China.) Anyone who is able to use his eyes in China is quite likely to come across some of the usual features of capitalism, such as pollution (which is especially bad in big cities like Peking; see the Guardian, January 13), a wealthy élite (who apparently still exist today: see our companion journal the Western Socialist, 1972, No. 3) and, less concretely, an increasing concern with foreign trade. The Chinese rulers may perhaps be aware that in encouraging their subjects to read the basic works of Scientific Socialism, they are placing in the latter’s hands an exceedingly dangerous weapon — a knowledge of Marxism. In other words, capitalism, in China as elsewhere, produces its own gravediggers.
Paul Bennett

Trotskyism; Stalinism; What's the Difference? (1973)

From the October 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

Trotskyists frequently bemoan the outcome of the power-struggle between Stalin and Trotsky. While the former became undisputed dictator of the Soviet Union, the latter was exiled and was eventually assassinated in August 1940. It is claimed that the many atrocities committed by the Stalin régime were a departure from Bolshevism and that if Trotsky had held power, then the course of events would have been different. What Trotskyists label the “degeneration” of the Russian Revolution is blamed on Stalin.

George Novak, in his introduction to Trotsky’s pamphlet Stalinism and Bolshevism, makes the claim that Lenin’s Bolshevik party represented the working class “in its striving for equality, democracy and Socialism” while Stalin’s regime merely represented a bureaucracy which seized power after Lenin’s death. Now this is the standard Trotskyist position; Stalinism is somehow alien to Bolshevism. Socialists reject this view. Far from Stalin undoing the “good” work of Lenin and Trotsky, he merely continued the anti-working class policies of those two dictators. If Trotsky rather than Stalin had succeeded Lenin, the history of the Soviet Union, in the years that followed, would not have been substantially different. To say that Trotsky’s actions, while he held power, left a lot to be desired would be an under-statement.

Trotsky, in exile, seldom refrained from denouncing Stalin’s dictatorship. However, he was being inconsistent in his concern for lack of democracy. In his Where is Britain Going?, written in 1925, he defended Lenin’s dictatorship on the grounds that a strong leader was essential after the 1917 Revolution. Trotsky was no democrat. Provided it was the “correct” type, he favoured dictatorship. (“Correct” is a favourite word in Bolshevik circles). Stalin’s dictatorship, in Trotsky’s view, did not come into this category. Undoubtedly this was mere sour grapes.

In his Terrorism and Communism he replied to critics of the Bolshevik substitution of Soviet rule by party dictatorship by claiming that the Bolsheviks represented the interests of the working class. Whether or not the workers agreed was, of course, irrelevant. Lenin refused to accept the results of the 1917 elections to the Constituent Assembly because the Bolsheviks polled a minority of the votes.

Trotsky fully supported Lenin on this issue. It was claimed that the voters changed their minds almost immediately the election was over. After all, the vanguard always knows best.

“Those who do not work shall not eat” was a slogan used by the Stalin regime. However, even this appears somewhat mild when compared with what Trotsky said in 1921 — “It is essential to form punitive contingents and to put all those who shirk work into concentration camps.” (Quoted by D. and G. Cohn-Bendit in Obsolete Communism, The Left-Wing Alternative — which itself fails to present an alternative). Present day Trotskyists would undoubtedly be horrified if, as has been suggested in some quarters recently, conscription was re-introduced. We can envisage the countless demonstrations against the move. Trotskyist journals such as Workers’ Press would denounce it as a step towards fascism and inform its readership that in order to deal with the crisis revolutionary leadership would be essential for the working class. What, we wonder, do they think of their hero’s view that the young Bolshevik government should have had the “call-up” in operation to direct workers to where the State needed them? Cohn-Bendit quotes Trotsky as saying "The workers must not be allowed to roam all over Russia. They must be sent where they are needed, called up and directed like soldiers. Labour must be directed most intensely during the transition of capitalism to socialism.”

“Hands off the Unions” is a favourite slogan of the Trotskyists. But in Leon Trotsky’s “workers’ ” state trade unions were necessary, not to protect working class interests, but on the contrary, “To organise the working class for the ends of production, to educate and discipline the workers” and “teach them to place the interests of production above their own needs and demands”. (Also quoted by Cohn-Bendit). Forced labour; the working class organized like a military unit; trade unions shackled to the state; and all this from a Socialist! Who needs enemies?

When reading Trotskyist accounts of the 1956 Hungarian uprising and of the 1968 Czechoslovakian events, we are informed that the Russian-led suppression, in both cases, was the work of the wicked Stalinists. But in 1921 Leon Trotsky was active in the suppression of a revolt against Bolshevik rule by workers at Kronstadt. In their programme the Kronstadt rebels demanded such elementary rights as freedom of speech for workers; right of assembly; liberation of political prisoners; new elections to the soviets. Trotsky, with other leading Bolsheviks, vehemently denounced the revolt. Groundless accusations that the uprising was a royalist plot, and that English and French imperialism were involved were levelled at the mutineers. Extreme dissatisfaction with the Bolshevik dictatorship — that was what the revolt was about. Needless to say to the self-appointed guardians of working-class interests this was intolerable. Clearly the Bolshevik regime was no dictatorship of the Proletariat. (Engels, in his introduction to Marx’s Civil War in France spoke of the democratic Paris Commune as an example of the dictatorship of the Proletariat).

Trotskyism and Stalinism are both branches off the same tree — Bolshevism. To the Bolsheviks the working class is too stupid to understand the Socialist case. Their view is that only an intellectual élite, a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries can lead the workers to Socialism. Compare Lenin’s view in What is to be Done? that “on its own the working class cannot go beyond the level of trade union consciousness”, with Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto — "The proletarian movement is the self-conscious independent movement of the immense majority.” (Emphasis added). Socialism is only possible when the majority of the working class understand and desire it. This is the Marxian view. As Karl Kautsky put it in The Dictatorship of the Proletariat — “The will to Socialism is the first condition for its accomplishment.” (Prominent Trotskyist Ernest Mandel reluctantly admits, in his Leninist Theory of Organisation, that Marx “totally rejected the idea of a vanguard organisation”).

When the working class reaches political maturity the theories of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and all other Bolsheviks will be thrown where they belong — on the political scrap-heap. All leadership will be shunned as being unnecessary and irrelevant.
R. Battersby

A Gold-Filled Irrelevance (1973)

From the November 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

How conditions have improved! At the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, or George V’s Silver one, or the Victory Parade, and even the present Queen’s wedding, to see any of it meant notable hardships for the workers. Up half the night to get a place; standing in the street for hours; shouting oneself hoarse; then having to get back home through all the crowds. Compare that with what progress has brought us today. This month loyal subjects will be able to sit in comfort at home, watching on colour TV the romance of Princess Anne brought to its consummation (well, not quite, but no doubt that will come).

Should one laugh or weep ? On one hand, millions riveted to this idiot’s spectacle; on the other, its reduction to only another pattern of moving wallpaper. While the gilt-edged incantations are pronounced, the Golden Oldies of the dirty-joke index are revived for a generation fresh to the ambience of royal weddings. The souvenirs pretending patriotic fervour but representing only fervour for Mammon — cheap mugs and tee-shirts in the High Street, silver and Wedgwood trophies to be hoarded as “investments”. And the sight of radicals and make-believe socialists, straight from the Labour conference, bowing obsequious knees and kissing the fat backside of opulence. Ugh!

In the working class, schoolchildren have the benefits from an occasion like this. For one thing, a day off. But the longer-view benefit is that one day they will be told truths about those they are now supposed to adulate. Elderly people who still remember Queen Victoria could have heard A.J.P. Taylor on television last year describe her as “a woman of the lowest intelligence who wouldn’t have obtained employment as a cook”. Her grandson the Duke of Clarence, who would have become King in this century had he lived, has been brought forward as a candidate for Jack the Ripper’s identity. And George III, we are told (BBC 1, 30th September), “was probably a criminal lunatic”.

But when they do tell you these things, son, don’t be mistaken about what you are learning. “Revelations” about royalty and rulers do not matter. The real truth being told concerns the politicians and pressmen who hoist these preposterous figures for worship by working people. If there are legal reasons why the low-down cannot be given at the time, there are different reasons for sustaining the story which isn’t true. It is like tellings backers that a horse-race was once fixed: if they knew but could not say, why did they go on shouting their odds?

What is the purpose of it all? Royalty is a pretended ruler long since denuded of power but maintained still in glittering barbaric splendour: a mediaeval survival. In most countries those who really rule have decided they are better without it, and in some they still find a use for what history has left them. If class-divided society is to be believed-in, here is a symbol of it. If privileged riches are a social ideal, here they are personified. And if rulers have to provide bread and circuses, here is the Big Top where the horses prance and the troupers have the style.

To be enthralled by this kind of thing is to be m the clutch of capitalism. Remember, however, that capitalism has alternatives. It does not need royalty — and that is why royalty doesn’t matter to the working class either. Working people are no better off in the countries where kings and queens have been superseded or never existed. In the United States the cheering and drum-beating go into presidential election circuses; in the one-party regimes, to ceremonial displays of the State’s might. Better to regard royalty as, in John Osborne’s phrase, “the gold fillings in a mouth full of decay”; then to see about the reasons for the decay. Of course a sane world would have no place for such nonsense, and it is society we must change first.
Robert Barltrop

Some Implications of Socialism (1973)

From the December 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain holds that it is not the task of the Party to draw up blue-prints of future society, Socialism. In expounding the case for Socialism we stick to what is warranted by the evidence of contemporary experience, what is in line with history, and that which flows logically, from Socialist assumptions.

Those who recognize that existing society — capitalism — cannot solve the major social problems of the world, but on the contrary is the cause of those problems, will agree that from the standpoint of human interests capitalism is obsolete. It has long since developed modern technology and industry to a level where a world of abundance and free access is possible. Capitalism is incapable of using these resources for the satisfaction of human needs, because of its private and state-property relationships.

It follows that the only fundamental way of changing society is by ending private/state property relationships and establishing common ownership of the means of production, so that human instead of property relationships can develop. Any policy or party programme which goes no further than tinkering with the effects of capitalism, while leaving the system essentially intact, is therefore useless.

In referring to Socialism as a “world of abundance” we are not trying to foster the illusion of a press-button world where everything endlessly gushes forth for the asking. We are well aware that at whatever stage Socialism is established, there will be a world-wide aftermath of slums and general ugliness in almost every aspect of society. The task of rationally redirecting productive resources, to create an entirely different world environment, will be a vast one. Abundance must therefore be understood as developing with Socialism, not as an automatic hey-presto. With the elimination of all the wasteful and destructive activities of capitalism, immense resources both in human and industrial terms will be available for useful production. When the sole commitment of all resources is the satisfaction of human needs, all the evidence shows that a continuous ample supply of food, clothing and shelter is possible.

It is obvious that when Socialism is established, a great many things familiar to us today will vanish from the face of the earth. Conversely, a great many things unfamiliar to us today will become commonplace parts of life throughout the world. We could in this sense represent an understanding of Socialist ideas as a series of negative and positive propositions.

The first negative can only be the end of class-society and private-property relationships. The positive pole is classless society and human relationships. When wealth is no longer “an immense accumulation of commodities” the people who produce wealth (all the goods and services of society) will themselves be free from the degrading need to sell their own working abilities as a commodity. Socialism necessarily means the abolition of the wages system.

Today nothing could be more familiar to our lives than the various usages of the word “market”. To imagine a world where there would be no market of any kind, no sense in which the term would be relevant, is a good way to grasp the fundamental nature of the change involved with the establishment of Socialism. Despite the fact that most workers still get bogged down with their bosses’ interests and believe “we” must export to live, and that the world market and the “Common” Market somehow concern them, the irony remains that the working class exports nothing and owns no country, and their only “market” is the labour market where they mortgage their lives for wages.

The world of common-ownership will have no trade, either in goods or people. The negation of commercial activity and the struggle for trade will mean, as a matter of course, that those institutions and social practices which coexist with buying and selling will disappear. These include banking and all monetary transactions, investments of all kinds, barter and exchange in any form, customs and excise, tariffs, industrial espionage, and the waste of human and natural resources that all these things involve. In Socialism, every job that is done will be a necessary part of the total social effort. Production will have no other purpose than the welfare of the entire community. Free access follows logically from common ownership, as the only rational way to distribute the things people need.

Given modern industry operated on the basis of class ownership, wealth will be produced for sale and profit. Poverty and social insecurity will blight the lives of the class of employees, and riches will accumulate in the hands of the few. Given the market economy and the profit motive, there will be legal property barriers between the producers and the products. There will be an antagonism of interests between those who produce but do not possess, and those who possess but do not produce. The State will constitute the coercive political machine of the dominant class, because class society needs a political force to maintain the privileges of private property, to fashion a legal code conducive to its continued dominance, and to resist the encroachments of rivals both from within and outside the national framework.

Nationality is itself a development of capitalism. Militarism and war are inseparable from capitalism and can only be understood against the background of commercial rivalry. Socialism will have no State apparatus, no frontiers and no military machine.

We are sometimes asked “who will carry on the work of administration?”. This question only arises because workers are conditioned to equate the existing political power structure with administration, and to believe therefore that whoever carries out organizational or administrative work in Socialism will become a new set of rulers. The fact is that those who wield political power are not at all engaged in administration. Today, the purely administrative tasks of carrying out what has been legislated are performed by ordinary members of the working class, employees, who have no political power.

When the various kinds of social needs, for example food, clothing, shelter, health, education, transport and communication, are stripped of the commercial imprint of capitalism and freed from the bureaucratic dead-hand of power-politics, there will only remain the purely practical aspects of catering for the needs of people. For instance, if we regard postal services as a major part of communication in society, then all the monetary aspects of its operation under capitalism, are only so many obstacles.

Postage stamps hinder delivery of letters and parcels. Coin-boxes obstruct access to the telephone. The keeping of accounts and sending out of bills is a waste of human effort, time and resources. The pathetic queues at the counters on Monday mornings, when the old and infirm are reminded of their poverty, are there because of capitalism. Visualize a postal service where, having dispensed with capitalism, only communication is left. The administrative work involved in planning an efficient communications service will be just one necessary part of the over-all job. In every other sphere the same will apply. Those who organize and administer will occupy a place no more or less important than any other. Neither does it follow that there will be a permanent group who only do one kind of work; this idea projects into Socialism the stinted existence of most workers under capitalism. Socialism will mean diversity, the widest development of the many-sided potential of human beings. To clinch the point it only remains to say that the conscious, democratic majority who will get rid of class society and social privilege will not be willing to allow a new elite to climb upon their backs. It is the apathy and acquiescence of the world’s working class that enables the misery of capitalism to continue.

The anti-human contradictions of capitalism can no longer be hidden or defended even by those who seek to preserve it. The systematic destruction of masses of food while millions starve (in the wealthiest as well as the less developed countries), the condemned lives of millions who rot in squalid slums all over the world, while a few waxed fat on that wretchedness: such anomalies cannot be soothed away by reforms, they can only be abolished by revolution.

The abandonment of reformism will be paralleled by the growth of understanding of the need for revolutionary change. Political power will be wrested from the hirelings of the capitalist class, through the enlightened use of the ballot box. This, too, is only logical. Capitalist politicians only get into power because workers vote for them. The rule of one class over another can only be ended by a democratic majority using the vote to gain control of the political machine. The act of making the means of production common property will end all class divisions. The understanding and unity of the world’s working class must come before a Socialist transformation of society is possible. If you think capitalism is slow at producing “its own gravediggers”, we could do with your help.
Harry Baldwin

Capital's Augean Stable (1926)

From the January 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

We do not profess a special indignation over the degrading sex relations Capitalism begets. We fail to see that the degradation of armies of women in this respect is worse than that of their sister domestics or of those in the Jam Factory, the Mills, or the Millinery and Dressmaking sweat dens. The recent Morris case is an instance of the contempt in which our Masters hold the Workers and serves to emphasise our claim that social evils have their being in class domination.

It was the necessity of obtaining a living that placed these hapless girls—and children—in the toils of this wealthy roue. The evidence showed that the dazzle and display of wealth coupled with threats of dismissal, served to weaken the resistance of his Working Class victims in order that he might gratify such desires as a wealthy idler would consider it an impertinence to question. It may be claimed that such cases are unusual, but disclosures made on past occasions, together with the evidence forthcoming as a result of recently raided West End night clubs, show that there is an organised ‘“traffic” drawing its clientele from those in the “best social positions.” Society people crowding the divorce courts bear striking witness to the words of Marx, written over 80 years ago :—
Our Bourgeois not content with having the wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each others wives (Communist Manifesto).
It is interesting to note the difference in sentences passed upon Morris and his accomplice, and that upon a man and woman for burglary with violence reported in the same issue of the “Daily News” (18-12-25). The latter appealed unsuccessfully against seven and three years’ penal servitude respectively, the man to receive twenty lashes with the cat. In the latter case the violence consisted of gagging and binding with threats, but it was a crime against property, and it is well known in legal circles that the punishment for such crimes is relatively greater than that for crimes of other natures. Even the smug “Daily News” Editorial (Ibid) says “‘the contrast between the two sentences constitutes a challenge to the common sense and to the moral sense of the community.’’ The truth is that it is the contrast between the standards that exist in private property society.

Labour Leaders like Mr. J. H. Thomas ought to display great moral indignation considering that when Colonial Secretary he justified the procuring of native girls for the use of the navy in the brothels of Hong Kong on the grounds that it would afford protection for European white women. We wonder how he and his Capitalist friends would have liked their own daughters to suffer a like fate or how they would have liked them to be protected by a “white man” as was the fate of these working class girls in the Morris case. Only the Social Revolution can free women, like men, from economic servitude with its consequent evils. Then no woman will need to sell her sex and no man will have power to coerce her affection. With a ruling class whose mentality is circumscribed by the buying and selling nature of their plundering system, relations of sex cannot be understood by them beyond those that exist as a result of the present private property basis of society. Like the Christians, they treat such subjects either as unclean, or with hypocritical silence. The Free Love of mutual affection that must arise as a result of the removal of property and class domination is therefore ever an enigma to our would-be moral reformers.

Trade Unions—Sick Benefit Clubs. (1926)

From the February 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Clyne's Confession.
Mr. J. R. Clynes, speaking at Southport on Saturday in support of the benevolent fund established by the local branch of the National Union of General Municipal Workers, said he thought the trade union was the proper organisation through which the spirit of benevolence that was in most of them should work. Many people were under the impression that trade unions existed only for making mischief, that they were always trying to stir up discontent. There could be no greater delusion than that. If trade unions did not exist we would have a condition of mob law.
His answer to those who grumbled about the work of trade unions was that 6d. out of every 10d. subscribed to trade unions went back again to those who paid it in the form of benevolent benefits of innumerable kinds. Most of the money contributed to trade unions, amounting to £5,000,000 a year, was not spent on strikes or even in support of men in lockouts. It was not spent in fighting employers, but in sick benefit, in out-of-work pay, in supplementing the money workmen received as compensation during periods of injury. It was a pity the press did not give more attention to that side of trade union activity. If they did anything wrong it at once got into the papers; it had its news value. But they could live an absolutely perfect faultless life and would never be mentioned.
—(“Manchester Guardian,” November 2, 1925.)