Sunday, October 1, 2017

Slaves of the Farm U.S.A. (1946)

Book Review from the March 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

Seldom do town workers have an opportunity of seeing for themselves the conditions of life of their fellow beings, the farm' workers. Mr. C. McWilliams, in “Ill Fares the Land” (Faber and Faber), gives valuable information regarding the conditions obtaining in rural U.S.A., that great land of “opportunity, freedom and democracy.”

The author was a member of the La Follette Committee, which was self up to investigate the disclosures of another book, “Grapes of Wrath,’ by J. Steinbeck. That book was fiction, whereas this one is an authoritive statement on the effects of large-scale big-business farming on the agricultural community.

Until the development of the internal combustion engine had made its mark on agriculture, it was possible for the small farmer and share cropper to compete with the great bonanza farms, because the methods and tools of production were identical. The small farmer, together with his usually large family, toiled long hours, and if there was a hired labourer or two, they lived as members of the family. It is true that after paying mortgage interest or rents the return for their labours was little more than subsistence level, but they had a sense of independence.

In the early twenties it was possible to observe a gradual change taking place in farm production methods with the advent of the “ armall tractor ” in 1924, and other new machinery. following closely in its wake.

An industrial revolution in agriculture had taken place and farming was clearly being drawn into the vortex of industrialism. Big business was taking a hand in this hitherto backward section of the producing community and it was now possible to establish factories in the fields with mass-production methods.

With the depression of 1929, banks, insurance companies and other lending agencies foreclosed on thousands of farms and, in consequence, a large proportion of American farming became highly industrialised by the creation of large-scale enterprises, equipped with the most efficient technical brains and modern machinery.

The dispossessed farmers, tenants, and sharecroppers were not allowed to carry on as managers for the farm factories, because they might be swayed by personal and local considerations in the management of affairs, so “Professional Farm Managers” came into being. These men were thoroughly trained in the new farming technique, and to them the profit motive justified any amount of human suffering.

Here are two examples of the companies that operate throughout the U.S.A. producing fruit, cotton, grain, sugarbeet, etc. Earls Fruit Co. operates under central management, and as one unit, 27 farm properties in California, and lease 11 additional properties. It also owns 11 packing houses, the Klamath Lumber and Box Co., two vineries, one of which is the largest in the U.S.A., the Baltimore Fruit Exchange, and has important holdings in auction houses in Chicago, New York, Cincinatti, and Pittsburgh. Through subsidiary companies it owns 13,833 acres in other states. In 1938 the book value of lands and improvements was 10,955,418 dollars. The type of corporation which obtained land by foreclosure is California Lands Inc., a subsidiary of the Bank of America. The company boasted in 1936 that it had the largest diversified farming organisation in the world, owning and operating 600,000 acres of land.

In 1937 the company’s income from farm operations was 2,511,643 dollars. The figures do not include farm mortgages held by the Bank of America on 7,398 farms, totalling 1,023,000 acres, amounting to 40,340,000 dollars, nor do they include finances to crop pools and marketing programmes, which give them a large measure of control over agriculture generally.

What of the dispossessed farmers and their families, the army of farm workers no longer required under the new order of things? These became the mobile rural proletariat, moving from nowhere lo nowhere in search of casual work on seasonal crops, ft was estimated in 1940 that from one to two million men, women and children move from state to state seeking farm jobs and that 8,500,000 people in American agriculture are trying to struggle along on an average income of 2 dollars per week each.

The migratory workers are usually recruited by labour contractors in excess of the number required, so that wages can be kept down. They are herded into labour camps, mostly shack towns or squatter camps, by the roadside, under the most appallingly squalid conditions. Disease is rampant and the mortality rate for young children is very high, with pneumonia, diarrhoea and enteritis being common among them.

In one instance thousands of cotton pickers poured into a district and cold rain set in, so picking could not proceed. These families had no means of shelter and the growers would do nothing for them as they couldn’t earn money until the rain stopped. The official report said that it was never known how many children died from exposure. Workers do not sing in the cotton fields, except in the mind of the film producer.

The growers have a strike-breaking organisation known as the Vigilantes, which deals very ruthlessly with any attempts by the workers to improve their conditions. One occasion, when the workers attempted to organise themselves, they were set upon by mounted Vigilantes, armed with rifles and shotguns. The strikers battled with fists and stones, and, needless to say, were beaten down and made to walk like cattle ten miles to the gaol.

Although few were actually charged, about 200 were imprisoned from August until the following spring.

In his summing up, the author points out that, although the committee took thousands of words of testimony from the best of experts in every field on the question of what should be done about agricultural migration, the six volumes of testimony are likely to stand as an enduring monument to the bankruptcy of ideas.

Nearly every witness confined his suggestions to what is possible within the existing framework of society.

He concludes that our economic order—industrial, agricultural, financial—is neither owned nor administered democratically. It breeds poverty and want, scarcity and insecurity, not by accident, but by necessity. It can no more eliminate unemployment than an engine can run without fuel. We agree, but what of the solution? The author says we need to refashion society to a more democratic one, but there he leaves us to form our own conclusions.

Finally, we must emphasise the fact that the slave of the farm, no matter what country he may be in, will never change his status until the slaves of industry in general have changed theirs. Workers on land and in industry are enslaved by the capitalist system and will only attain their freedom when they have replaced the present system by one in which the land, machinery and other means of production are commonly owned and administered for the equal benefit of all mankind.
A. E. P.

The Labour Government's Prisons and Detention Barracks (1946)

Editorial from the April 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

The prisons and military detention barracks are always being “reformed and made humane” by succeeding generations of well-meaning reformers, but the principal effect of each reform appears to be merely that of fobbing off exposure and gaining another period of immunity from criticism for the same old pernicious system. The six months of office of the Labour Government has witnessed several outbreaks in various prisons, and latterly the attempts by military prisoners to wreck the “glasshouses” at Aldershot and elsewhere. It may well be asked of those who hastened to assure us at the beginning of the war that all was now changed in the military prisons, whether they were being fooled themselves or whether they were knowingly fooling others. The Scottish Labour weekly Forward (2/3/46) demands a searching public enquiry “to end our miniature little concentration camps under military rule." The sentiment is admirable, but why should Forward suppose that a new enquiry will be any more useful than the several that have already taken place? Prisons and detention barracks are not accidental happenings due merely to the stupidity of governmental and military officials. They have a purpose, that of intimidating would-be offenders against civil laws and military discipline. Can you destroy the institution without first destroying the conditions that make it necessary? Without going into the details of the different kinds of crimes under the law it is obvious that in the main crimes are directly concerned with capitalist property laws or with the attempt to force unwilling conscripts to fight. Let Forward and other supporters of the Labour Party administration of capitalism start at the right end. If they are content to maintain capitalism and to wage capitalism's wars, then let them not deceive themselves into supposing that they can materially lessen the brutality of imprisonment in civil and military prisons.

They should also remember that an inevitable result of war is that many men have become so bred to killing and destruction that they continue their habit of violence; it may take longer for them to return to the ways of civil life than it did to become soldiers.

If the supporters of the Labour Government are really concerned to abolish the prisons, then let them recognise that, instead of persisting in their efforts to reform and patch up the capitalist system, they have got to get down to the job of abolishing it.

"An Enemy of Society" (1946)

From the May 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

Here is the strange case of a girl who was sentenced, at the Leeds Assizes, to six years’ penal servitude for robbery with violence. On the face of the evidence, as it appeared in the News of the World, she simply invited arrest. According to the statements made in court, she is apparently suffering from some kind of nervous ailment. It was said that she did not drink, did not smoke, and was not known to mix with other thieves. So far as is known she avoided men. Time and again she had been found sleeping in odd places like air raid shelters. Probation officers had tried in vain to help her. She had already served three terms of imprisonment, and been to Borstal twice.

Looking at the facts closely, it seems clear that she is absolutely unable to adapt herself to any work normal to a working-class girl, even though she is described as a domestic servant. She did not steal in order to obtain luxuries or clothes for display; she stole to get food. It was the only means she had of keeping herself alive. The truth of the matter is that she does not seem to care whether she is in prison or out of it It may be that she prefers prison as the most convenient refuge from the unsweet realities of freedom. There is nothing terrifying about prison to someone who looks upon the whole world as a prison. 

It is difficult to conjecture about a person’s mind, but it appears that she is highly strung and rather unsociable. There is no doubt that the sudden shock of war conditions on a delicate nervous system has brought her to a state of melancholy and misanthropism. It is significant that she has spent practically half the war years inside prisons. It shows how desperate was her longing for an atmosphere of peacefulness. She is not mad, she is sick of the world. Her actions are, to some extent, calculated, and they give us an insight to her misery.

No doubt the judge meant well. His idea was to keep her out of the asylum and give her a chance of recovery. Unfortunately for his good intentions, the existing prisons are definitely unsuitable for people suffering from mental troubles.

If the prisoner were a rich girl she could get the right sort of treatment, which is very expensive, and would become known as a wealthy “recluse.” As she is only a pauper she is compelled to linger for a number of years in the discomfort of a prison.

This case, insignificant as it may seem, is in itself a terrific indictment of a civilisation which offers six years penal servitude to a sick and unhappy girl.
Kaye.

May Day Demonstration (1946)

Party News from the June 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

On Sunday, May 5th, the Party ran its own May Day Demonstration, and a very successful one it was. The day was a very wild one, but members turned out to sell literature, speak, and do other necessary work. In Hyde Park the speakers spoke from two vans to audiences of five or six thousand people. In the evening the Metropolitan Music Hall was filled with an audience of nearly two thousand. Thus several thousand workers in London heard the Socialist message on May Day, bought about £15 worth of literature and contributed nearly £50 to the collections for the purpose of furthering the cause of Socialism. The tide is rising, the slaves are working at their shackles and the day of emancipation is getting appreciably nearer. It remains for us to keep the tide flowing.
Gilmac.

Engels and Russia (1946)

Book Review from the July 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a revised edition of “The Life and Teachings of Friedrich Engels” (published in 1945 by Lawrence & Wishart, 100 pages, 4s.), Zelda K. Coates quotes Engels in support of Russia’s economy and institutions. She approvingly quotes from Engels’ “Origin of the Family,” wherein is shown the development of woman from the equality of early communal society to that of her modern legal status of a monetarily assessed "chattel,” and where he prophesied that: — 
   "With the transformation of the means of production into collective property, wage labour will also disappear and with it the necessity for a certain statistically ascertainable number of women to surrender for money ” (p. 91, Kerr Edition).
The view of Engels was that with the end of the wages system, which typifies capitalism everywhere, marriages based on property and money would give way to sex unions based solely on mutual affection. Believing that Socialism has been established in Russia, Coates declares:—
   "It is certainly no accident that this [mutual love as the only tie] has been attained almost completely and in actual fact and not merely in theory in the U.S.S.R.—the first really Socialist country, the national economy of which is based on a social collectivist system ” (p. 77).
The facts easily dispose of this assumption. Divorce, for instance, is only for those who have money in Russia, where legal costs make it prohibitive for most of the lower-paid workers. Russia’s easy divorce proceedings were ended recently by decree, as was legal abortion, while money grants and medals are offered as an inducement to women to raise large families. Furthermore, the likelihood of those in the large income and privileged stratum to wed in their own circle rather than with the lower-paid wage-labourers is too obvious to be stressed. Coates advances the usual case that Russia, under Lenin, established the "dictatorship of the proletariat,” but significantly adds that the peasantry have now attained political equality with the workers and, while not denying different modes of life and earnings of different "sections” of Soviet society, she says : —
    "In general the difference between the early Soviet Constitutions and the Stalin Constitution of 1936 reflects the progress of the U.S.S.R. towards a completely class-less society ” (p. 88).
The logic of which is that Russia’s "class-less” society now ceases to need the dictatorship of the proletariat, there being no other class to dictate to. Before the phrase therefore sinks again into its intended oblivion, from which it was dragged by the "communists,” it would be interesting to consider its origin and meaning. It occurs in the early views of Marx and Engels in the epoch of violent capitalist revolutions, where the newly formed political organisations of the wage-workers of Europe (often in a minority compared with the peasantry) could, thought Marx, lead a government over the feudalists and early capitalists—the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. Nor was armed force excluded, as witness Marx’s "Address to the Communist League,” 1850, in which Marx advised the workers to organise on military lines while yet emphasising that "the proletariat must see to it that no worker shall be deprived of his suffrage by the trickery of the Local Authorities or Government commissioners.” In his “Critique of the Gotha Programme” (1875), Marx deals with some proposals of Lassalle and makes the point that the proletarian dictatorship is the transition stage to communism. Arguing a like case, Lenin and his party —the Bolsheviks—won support in 1917 from the land-hungry peasantry and war-weary soldiers of Russia for the slogan of peace, land and bread. Czardom abolished, the "communists” created a state apparatus in the name of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which, now under Stalin, acts ruthlessly to any political opposition. But to return to Marx's "Critique,” which Lenin publicised so much. Marx envisaged a lower and higher phase of communism, first the transitional stage of inequality, based on the amount of each individual’s labour, for which he receives a certificate from society, drawing its equal in labour terms from the social stock of the means of consumption, a society where "everyone is only a worker like everyone else.” With the development of the means of production and the individual the stage is reached where society can say "From each according to his ability to each according to his need.” The state, as such, once needed by the proletariat to hold down its adversaries, "ceases to exist.” The "communists” revised Marx’s lower and higher phases as "socialism” and “communism” respectively, and proclaimed that socialism, i.e., the lower phase of communism, had been set up in Russia. Since then, the rise of Russia’s rouble millionaires, priests with substantial fortunes to invest, the charging of education fees, banking, inheritance, national debt, etc., and a huge armed state, that refuses, in Engels words, to “wither away,” must provide a first-class headache for the most ingenious "communist” apologist trying to square Marx’s transitional period with Russia’s economy. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, for the march of social history shows that backward countries, whatever their political set-up, cannot go ahead to a class-less, moneyless society, especially as an isolated unit.

Marx, with this obviously in mind, wrote in his preface to "Capital” that:—
   "Even when a society has got upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement—it can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments, the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development, but it can shorten and lessen the birth pangs.”
Coates book gives no indication of the altered views of the later Engels; and a serious omission in this respect is Engels’ preface to Marx’s "Class Struggles in France,” one of the last things he wrote, revising his earlier opinions on insurrection and favouring the use of the franchise.

In this preface, written in 1895, Engels first refers to the views held by Marx and himself in 1848:—
   "History has proved us, and all who thought like us, wrong. It has made it clear that the state of economic development on the Continent at that time was not, by a long way, ripe for the removal of capitalist production. . . .”
(“Class Struggles in France,” by Karl Marx. Preface by Engels. Published by Lawrence & Wishart, 1936. Page 16.)
Engels then refers to the period of the Paris Commune, 1871, and writes: ". . . once again, twenty years after the time described in this work of ours, it was proved how impossible, even then, was this rule of the working class ” (p. 19).

In his 1895 Preface, Engels goes on to extol the growth of the German Social Democracy; he was spared the knowledge of its later reformist development. ". . .  the bourgeoisie and the government came to be much more afraid of the legal than of the illegal action of the Workers’ Party, of the results of elections than of those of rebellion ” (p. 23).

He had remarked a little earlier (Page 22) that "the franchise has been, in the words of the French Marxist programme . . . transformed . . . from a means of deception, which it was heretofore, into an instrument of emancipation.”

Engels describes armed revolts, street fighting and the barricades as obsolete. The soldiers see, not the people behind the revolts, but agitators, rebels and plunderers; on the other hand he lists the new weapons and training of the state military forces. The workers of the “atomic age” can now add more to Engels' list, and thus reinforce Engels' case of the hopelessness of insurrection in ending capitalism.

Engels, as the faithful collaborator of Marx, helped to bring to the working class the epoch-making work “Capital.” Its analysis of capitalist society describes the main features as commodity production, wage labour, surplus value and money. It follows, therefore, that Marxists must perforce describe Russia as a capitalist country, even though the Russian State directs and controls the whole economy, and where capital in the main is nationalised. Notwithstanding those who, like Coates, point to nationalisation as the substance of socialism, socialists agree with Engels, who, in his “Anti-Dühring,” wrote; — 
   “The modern stale, whatever its form, is an essentially capitalist machine; it is the state of the capitalists. The more productive forces it takes over the more it becomes the real collective body of all the capitalists. The workers remain wage earners, proletarians. The capitalist relationship is not abolished, it is rather pushed to an extreme. State ownership of the productive forces is not the solution of the conflict, but it contains within itself the formal means, the handle to the solution.” (Martin Lawrence Edition, p. 313.)
The challenging stand of the S.P.G.B., with its companion parties abroad, in that we alone stand for the abolition of capitalism and its wage system, is firmly upheld by political history and endorsed by the matured opinions of Engels and Marx.

Engels recognised that modern developed capitalism must cede, for inherent social reasons, the legal means of revolution to the workers. The duty of the socialists is to see that the vote is used not for reforming capitalism, but to abolish the relationship of capitalist and wage worker and establish not state capitalism, but common ownership of the means of life.
Frank Dawe

A Socialist Message to the Workers of All Lands (1946)

From the August 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nearly 100 years after Marx and Engels, in the “Communist Manifesto,” 1848, appealed to the workers of all lands to unite for the overthrow of capitalism and the inauguration of Socialism, the workers of the world still stand divided by national frontiers. Socialism has not yet been achieved and the capitalist class are still strongly entrenched in possession of property and power.

Large numbers of workers now realise that capitalism cannot provide comfort, security and peace to the populations of the world, but much has yet to be done before mere discontent with capitalism can be transformed into an understanding of the need for replacing capitalism by a social system in which the means of production and distribution shall be commonly owned and democratically controlled by the whole community. Much of the discontent of the working class, instead of being directed to the building up of political parties having Socialism as their aim, is being frittered away uselessly in “Labour” parties aiming to reform capitalism by democratic means or in "Communist” parties which have the twofold object of furthering the foreign policy of the Russian Government and of introducing state capitalism under dictatorship.

Neither in aim nor in method does the Socialist Party of Great Britain or its companion parties in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and United States of America fall into either of these two camps. The S.P.G.B. and its companion parties hold that the sole aim of the genuine Socialist movement is and must be to achieve Socialism; that this can be done only when a majority of the workers have become Socialists; that the road to Socialism is by gaining control of the machinery of government by democratic, parliamentary means; and that the Socialist Party, while extending the hand of fraternity to the workers of all lands, must on principle refuse to ally itself with the parties of capitalism, whether they openly avow themselves such or whether they pursue the aim of capitalist reform under the name of "Labour” or “Communist.”

Many of the adherents of reformism and advocates of State capitalism and dictatorship give lip service to internationalism, yet, like the British Labour Party on the one hand and the Communist Party on the other, are prepared to lend themselves to the furtherance of capitalist imperialism. Socialists can have no part or lot in capitalism and imperialism, whether of the British, the Russian, or any other variety.

Unlike those parties, which degrade the name of Socialism, the Socialist Party of Great Britain and its companion parties have an unbroken record of loyalty to Socialism and working-class internationalism in peace or in war. In the Great War, 1914-1918, and in the World War, 1939-1945, the Socialist Party of Great Britain stood by the principles of Socialism and proudly proclaimed its refusal to give support to capitalist war. Repeating the historic words of our manifesto issued in August, 1914, we say now as in the past:—
    "Having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our fellow workers of all lands the expression of our goodwill and Socialist fraternity, and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism.”
True to our international Socialist principles we seek contact with Socialist workers in other countries who take their stand on the same principles, with a view to setting on foot at last a genuine Socialist International free from the national prejudices and compromise policies that up to the present have hindered the march of the Movement.
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE,
S.P.G.B.

The Waning Status of the "Intellectual" (1946)

From the September 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

The death of H. G. Wells and the celebration of the ninetieth birthday of G. B. Shaw is a reminder of the social influence of a group of which they were outstanding representatives. Wells may have been a first-class novelist and Shaw an equally first-class dramatist, but what concerns us is their advocacy of the pernicious doctrine of “ intellectualism,” based upon a mythical middle-class layer of society; this group of self-styled intellectuals have so often, during the post hundred years, striven to control the working-class movement, basing their claim to leadership upon the alleged incapacity of the workers to handle their own affairs. Although the modern claim is rooted in the losing battle of small and pushful proprietors for independence and for protection against the crushing power of large industry, it is not new in history. The children of these small traders found and eagerly swallowed it, as a foundation for their conceit, in the course of their educational training, especially in the writings of Aristotle, who had the intellectual’s contempt for those who were bereft of the sources of learning. For two thousand years or more it has been argued that the people who comprise the lowest class in society were a dangerous rabble, born without the intellectual capacity to rule society; this in spite of the fact that it was ex-slaves who administered the system that built up and held together one of the largest empires the world has ever seen, by means of the Roman civil service. Some of these ex-slaves even rose to the imperial purple and proved no worse, if no better, than their former masters.

In the period between.the last two wars, and partly fostered by the experiences of Russia, a group of professional people of one kind and another banded themselves together to give vent to their wails against unkind providence, and to their ambitions, in the name of Technocracy. They had, however, learnt wisdom in their method of pushing their claims; they did not press the idea that the workers lacked intelligence, that was one of the Fabian failings they did not wish to repeat, and anyhow they had to bring forward something new in order to arrest interest. They put the matter another way. They urged that society itself, as well as the productive forces, had become so complicated that direction requires a high measure of technical skill, that only people who have had a long and intense technical education, out of reach of the mass of the population, are capable of acting as directors, which is a highly specialised occupation; and that these directors come from a special group which is neither capitalist nor worker. Need we add that the technocrats themselves belong to this group of prodigies.

Before looking a little closer into the social origin of the “intellectuals” let us take a passing glance at something that seriously affects their conceited claims. During the war thousands of office boys, errand boys, grocers’ assistants, carters, mechanics, and hosts of other similar young workers, male and female, received a thorough technical education in the course of a year or less while training for the Army, Navy and Air Force. They became extremely efficient, performing highly technical jobs that had previously been the private preserves of a favoured few. This settled the question and proved, on the one hand, that there is no inherent lack of capacity on the part of the worker, and, on the other hand, that technical efficiency can be rapidly acquired, given the means find the inclination. It may be argued that capacity is not now in question, that the point is will there be the opportunity for the capacity to be trained in peacetime. The answer is that the capacities of the workers are being trained, and to an increasing extent as time passes; even the ranks of the “intellectuals,” already honeycombed with average workers, is threatened with an avalanche. The training of these capacities to an ever greater extent is one of the necessary outcomes of modern machine industry. The worker of to-day is educationally a vastly different type from his fellow of a hundred years ago, and the growing demands of industry compel an intensification of technical education. As an example of the mental capacity of an ordinary member of the working class we may legitimately ask what chance the average technocrat would stand against the tatterdemalion who haunts racing circles and engages in the complicated and highly technical business of putting a shilling on horses in successive races in such a way than an initial capital of a shilling may give him an afternoon’s pleasure and agony? Are those who attain ruling positions in society sprung from a special class? Hitler was a house-painter, Mussolini a journalist, Napoleon a soldier. Are Morrison, Bevan, Bevin, Shinwell, Ben Smith and the rest products of this special class? Yet these are the people who did and do occupy the seats of government, directing social affairs.

From whence come the "intellectuals," what are they and what special power, if any, presided at their birth? As already indicated, the "intellectuals," in the main, sprang from the ranks of the small-trading section of society; that section whose members rarely rise into the capitalist class and who are frequently reduced to the ranks of the ordinary worker. At present their real position is that of small producers and distributors working for the large concerns and suffering all the agonies of a precarious independence. In times of crisis they face ruin, at all times their working and sleeping hours are haunted with the fear of losing the little to which they cleave so tightly, and which stands between them and bankruptcy. They are fertile soil for currency schemes, which promise the money they are so short of for their petty operations, and for all kinds of illusory short cuts to wealth. Little removed from the ordinary worker, they cling all the more fiercely to a sham superiority. Sons and daughters from this section become scientists, doctors, civil servants, bank clerks and members of the various professions. Even when they produce scathing social criticisms they rarely forget their social halo. Educational facilities, born out of the needs of capitalism, introduced the children of the average worker, through scholarships or fortunate circumstances, into the charmed circle of the "intellectual," where they imbibed the current ideas of superiority and shamefacedly try to forget their past. The passing of time with the pressing needs of capitalism has lowered the prestige and eased the process of producing "intellectuals"; nowadays they can be produced like sausages from a sausage machine, and are as like each other as are sausages.

So much for the origin of the  intellectuals"; now what is their social position? Simply that of wage slaves producing surplus value for the capitalists, individually or collectively. The scientist, the writer or the bank clerk sells his services to the capitalist just like any other worker does. In return he receives a wage, a salary, or a fee that represents his cost of subsistence. The value of the services he renders is greater than the value of his cost of subsistence, and the difference between the two represents the surplus value taken by the capitalist. Thus the "intellectual" is subject to the prevailing system of exploitation, dependence, insecurity of livelihood, and oppression; this in spite of the fact that here and there a Wells or a Shaw may succeed in acquiring wealth.

These facts may be galling to the pride of the "intellectual" and take a long time to sink in, but in the fullness of time a glimmering of the truth does sink in. Not many years ago the "intellectual," with his "middle class" delusion, was convinced that he had a fundamental identity of interest with the capitalist, but experience began to raise doubts; some sections, including bank clerks, commenced to form defensive organisations. That was a step forward. Lately there has been a giant stride forward.. For the first time bank clerks have engaged in a strike on a large scale. The Irish bank officials have been on strike for five weeks, coming at last into the main stream of the class struggle and taking a belated step towards recognising the fundamental identity of interest of all those who depend for their livelihood upon the sale of their mental and physical energies. In the not far distant future the other grades of workers afflicted with the "middle class" obsession will be forced to accept a similar outlook and the halo surrounding the "intellectual" will finally disappear.
Gilmac.

"Social Democracy Versus Communism" (1946)

Book Review from the October 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Social Democracy Versus Communism" by Karl Kautsky (Rand School of Social Science. New York)

This book, “Social Democracy versus Communism’’ (Rand School of Social Science. New York. $2) comprises selections from the various writings that Kautsky published in German during the eventful years 1932-37. The selection of subjects is good and covers theory and events: The Materialist Conception of History, The Origin of Socialism, Marxism and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, The Beginning of Bolshevism, Lenin and the Russian Revolution of 1917, The Road to Power, Socialism and Democracy, to mention a few. Many of these subjects Kautsky has dealt with in larger works. In this small volume (142 pages) he touches on them again with a freshness, lucidity and soundness which lack nothing because of compression and show that Kautsky maintained his outstanding abilities as a Marxist up to a great age.

Kautsky’s anti-Sovietism was never based upon petty party considerations. His opposition to the Soviet régime and to Bolshevism arose out of his fine understanding of history and Marxist theory. His case for Democracy is not one of sentiment or preference for one form of working-class struggle as against another, but that without Democracy there can be no Socialism. Two simple propositions form the basis of Kautsky’s opposition to the Communists in Russia and elsewhere: (1) Democracy and free discussion are the only means upon which could be built a Socialist party which could give the working class the experience and knowledge which would fit it to achieve its purpose. (2) Socialism was not possible in Russia because the material conditions which would permit it were not there. These two propositions he argued with scholarship and closely reasoned deductions which were never answered by the early Bolshevists nor by their apologists and admirers since. In the section “Lenin and the Russian Revolution of 1917 ” he restates and re-examines the circumstances in which the Bolshevists took power in Russia in 1917. He argues a strong case that Russia would have developed industrially and politically more rapidly than has been the case under the dictatorship. Briefly the facts stand repeating. The Bolshevists were brought to power in 1917 by military and administrative collapse and the inability of a weak and immature capitalist class to take control of the situation. Up to the time they took power the Bolshevists demanded a Constituent Assembly based upon universal suffrage. After the election the voting revealed 9,000,000 votes cast for the Bolshevists and 23,000,000 for the other “Socialist” parties, the Menshevists and the Social Revolutionists, the openly bourgeois parties receiving only 4,000,000 votes. Thus the Bolshevists received only a quarter of the votes cast. Here was an opportunity for the “United Front” ! Ignoring the bourgeois parties, all the other parties had similar aims, and in and through the Constituent Assembly could have carried out all that was realisable at that time in the interests of the workers and peasants, allowing for the limitations imposed by the backwardness of Russia. Instead the Bolshevists watched their opportunity and used their control of the armed forces, which they had through their control of the soldiers’ soviets, to crush the Assembly. That was the last that was heard of Democracy and freedom of speech in Russia. Civil war followed with disastrous consequences for the recovery of Russia. And, Kautsky notes with emphasis, the civil war and the reign of terror followed the Bolshevist suppression of the Constituent Assembly and did not precede it. Instead of co-operation and support, which the Constituent Assembly would have received from the people through the safety valve of Democracy, there were years of civil strife, organised and unconscious resistance to the plans for industrial development and reform. The Bolshevists were only able to hold power through a ruthless dictatorship and police-ridden bureaucracy. Thus the Bolshevists overthrew the pretence of democracy. Before they came to power they had defended dictatorship within the party organisation as a necessity imposed by the secret nature of Russian political organisations in the days of the Czar.

As to whether Kautsky is right in believing that the course of European history after 1917 might have been profoundly different had the Bolshevists remained faithful to Democracy will not be discussed at length here. Certainly Sidney Hook makes a point in his preface when he says:—
   “ . . .  If one denies that there are major alternatives in history, and makes his moral judgement completely dependent on historical fact, not only must he believe that Stalinism and Hitlerism were inevitable, but that whoever wins is right.”
The “right” or “wrong” of Hook’s deductions will not be argued here. But both Kautsky and Hook deliver a blow to what was a popular assumption, and is to-day a widely held belief, that the Bolshevist Dictatorship was inevitable and justifiable in Russia in 1917, and that there was no alternative. The "major alternative” the Bolshevists might have chosen was support for Democratic and constitutional freedom for the workers. A mature understanding of the part that they were playing in Russian history would have shown them that in the circumstances as they existed they could not achieve more than this. In their blindness they chose Dictatorship. The Russia that exists to-day followed logically from that step. If there was anything "inevitable” about the Bolshevist Dictator- ship it was because of the limited Socialist understanding among the select few in the ranks of the Bolshevists who claimed it. Can it be argued that the Dictatorship was any the less inevitable when history, in producing the alternative, did not at the same time produce the men who could see it and grasp it? The picture of the Russian Revolution as being an example of the "enlightened few” imposing its paternal will upon the ignorant majority was never historically true. Those who accepted the picture were mostly those who saw "Socialism” in the glorified state capitalism in Russia, and who aim at a similar state of things in this and other countries, though with the pious reservation that it should be achieved in a constitutional manner. History has shown that the "enlightened few” were very immature in their Socialist understanding and were a reflection of the general backwardness in Russia. There are many to-day who see this who were unable to do so before. If there is one lesson that comes out of the Russian Revolution above all else it is that Democracy is the life force of working-class politics, without which it cannot emancipate itself. It is an essential principle of Socialism, and to betray one is to betray the other. Russia and the Communist organisations that it controls are a warning to the workers that they abandon Democracy at their peril.

Kautsky was among the few who saw the Russian picture clearly from the beginning.

The section "Is Soviet Russia a Socialist State” is potent in facts and argument. It would be a service to the workers if it could be distributed to members of all working-class organisations. Space forbids more than a quotation:—
   "Collective ownership and management of large enterprises with fullest freedom for the workers is Socialism, which is superior to industrial capitalism. But this capitalism is superior not only to the small industry of the guild craftsman, but also to large industry with compulsory labour, as well as to every form of state economy based upon conscript labour. Every economy of this sort must be rejected in spite of the fact that it is not capitalist.
    Our duty is not merely to abolish the capitalist order, but to set up a higher order in its place. But we must oppose those forces aiming to destroy capitalism only to replace it with a barbarous mode of production.
    It is for this reason that the democratically-minded portion of the working class must oppose all tendencies toward dictatorship threatening the freedom of the workers, tendencies manifested not only by the capitalists, but also those that originate with anti-capitalist groups.
     What we see in Russia is, therefore, not Socialism but its antithesis. It can become Socialism only when the people expropriate the expropriators now in power, to use a Marxian expression. Thus the Socialist masses of Russia find themselves, with respect to the problem of control of the means of production, in the same situation which confronts the workers in capitalist countries ” (p. 90).
It is fundamentally true that the workers in Russia are faced with the same problems as workers elsewhere. But it is not the "control” of the means of production by the workers which will bring Socialism, but the ownership of them by Society. Kautsky appears to indicate here that his alternative to the prevailing form of capitalism in Russia would be "Collective ownership and management of large enterprises with fullest freedom for the workers ”; in short, a form of State Capitalism without "conscript labour.” This would conform to his position in the reformist Labour Movement and to the habit of the Labour parties everywhere in describing any form of State enterprise as Socialism.

Quoting Otto Bauer, Kautsky says:—
    "Russia is a State of unlimited absolutism, much more than it was under the Czar. The Government is all-Powerful. No meetings are permitted except those agreeable to the Government, no newspapers except those of the Government party. Members of all other organisations are at best jailed, at worst shot. The control of the police over the population has attained a measure which can hardly be imagined in free countries. It is a régime of absolutist dictatorship, of a power quite without any limitation, which holds every human being completely in its hand but is itself subject to no control.
   Such a system of dictatorship destroys all intellectual liberty. In Russia there is only one form of science—that officially authorised by the Government. He who entertains scientific views other than those prescribed officially is thrown out to starve and must, indeed, consider himself fortunate if he is not exiled or shot ” (p. 91). 
Kautsky continues:—
    "In this manner there has been set up, after the destruction of the old classes, a new differentiation of classes, a hierarchy headed by a Pope.
     The fruit of the Bolshevist régime has been the establishment of a new class rule. The Bolsheviks, to be sure, have destroyed the old classes, but new classes, new elements of aristocracy, have arisen under their régime. They have arisen of necessity from the conditions of the Bolshevist dictatorship, although they may be invisible at first glance because they had not been foreseen in Bolshevist ideology and phraseology. But they are there, nevertheless. They are striking ever deeper root and are becoming in ever increasing measure the determining factor in the actions and aspirations of Bolshevism. Its ultimate Communist objective is becoming more and more a matter of decoration, a mere memory or allurement for Socialist idealists whom the dictator seeks to utilise for his own purposes” (p. 98).
   "Erstwhile Communists who preached the doctrine of equality have become the parvenus of a climbing party hierarchy, archbishops and cardinals of the pope of the Bolshevist church. The new generation of Communists, however, consists for the most part of conscienceless careerists, whose Communism is limited to mere lip service and whose activities are devoted solely the attainment of power and the privileges it implies.
       Acquisition and retention of these privileges is their only aim ” (p. 99).
Sidney Hook, in his preface, takes Kautsky to task for starting off this section with the proposition that the Communists are a working-class party. He argues that it mars the strong case that he has made out, that the basic loyalties of the Communist parties are not to a set of values or principles, but to the concrete interests of the Russian State, that to abandon the working class of any nationality in order to serve the Russian State brands them the servile instruments of that State, and the enemies of the workers who have long since removed themselves from the working-class movement

To assume that the Communist Party might so betray the workers in the future charges them with no more than being consistent. But to say that the Communist Party has removed itself from the working-class movement is to ignore the fact that in some countries the workers are organised in considerable numbers in the Communist organisations through which the class struggle manifests itself.

A work which will repay time and money if the reader does not waste time trying to understand why so outstanding a Marxist theoretician was at the same time a Labour reformist.
Harry Waite

Death of A. E. Jacomb (1946)

Obituary from the November 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regret to inform readers of the death of A. E. Jacomb, who had suffered from heart trouble for many years. He was an active member of the Social Democratic Federation at the end of the last century and the beginning of this, and was a member of the group which came out of that organisation to form the Socialist Party of Great Britain in 1904, helping to shape the Party’s fundamental principles and policy. He was a compositor by trade and in the early years of the Party, in fact up to the beginning of the ’twenties, he was responsible for the printing of the Socialist Standard and pamphlets. In this work he was a tower of strength, for the job was certainly not a sinecure. Often enough there were not sufficient articles to fill the paper and Jacomb had to make up the rest, under various pseudonyms, as he was doing the composing.

For many years, up to the end of the first Great War, Jacomb was a member of the Executive Committee and the Editorial Committee. He was a fine writer with a keen and caustic humour, contributing many excellent articles to the Socialist Standard. He also drafted two of the Party pamphlets : “Socialism” and "The Socialist Party: Its Principles and Policy.” He gave the best he could do to the Party although his life was one long struggle against financial difficulties.

It was a pitiful business that, towards the end of his life, Jacomb found himself in opposition to the Party about his attitude to the Spanish upheaval and to the last Great War, which led him to make a number of extravagant statements in the heat of controversy. But although he believed the policy of the Party was wrong, he still held fast to his fundamental socialist convictions. The vehemence of his criticism was due to his belief that the Party was on a wrong and fatal track, and to his anxiety to put it back again on what he thought was the right track.

Jacomb was a very fine character; simple and sincere, and a genuine and earnest champion of socialist principles for the whole of his long life. The good that he has done will live long after him.



North Paddington Gets Another Chance (1946)

From the December 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

November 20th, 1946
Once again we have entered the parliamentary campaign in North Paddington. Once again working men and working women of Paddington have the privilege of striking a blow for Socialism. Writing on the eve of the poll, we do not know how many will take advantage of this grand opportunity to send a shiver through the capitalist world, but we do know this: whatever the number of those who cast votes for our candidate, they will be socialist votes, and these are the only ones worth while; all the rest are wasted votes.

This time our masters’ press have had to take notice of us as an entirely new phenomenon on the political horizon, the real voice of the workers’ interests at last; a party that is antagonistic to all the other political parties, whether they call themselves Labour, Liberal, Tory or Communist; a party that alone represents the fundamental interests of the workers, advocating nothing but Socialism as a solution to the workers’ many problems.

Members and sympathisers have rallied splendidly for the contest; canvassing, speaking, organising, folding literature, bill-posting, and doing all the other work necessary to get socialist ideas over to the electors as clearly as possible. Our insistence in our literature, at our meetings, and on the doorstep, that we do not want votes unless they are registered by workers who understand Socialism, is a new attitude to electors and a revolutionary and mystifying one to newspaper reporters. The latter are still further mystified by our insistence that our candidate is only the mouthpiece of socialist workers; they were also perturbed by the lack of the customary biographical details.

The Tory candidate was a very unwilling guest on one of our outdoor platforms in a debate—though it is a travesty to call it a debate. He was given an opportunity to state his policy and defend Capitalism. He attacked the Labour Government but made no attempt either to deal with our position or to defend Capitalism. He was given a second opportunity, after our speaker had stated the case for Socialism and challenged him to defend Capitalism. The Tory candidate then only occupied the platform long enough to say that he did not agree with what our speaker had said, but he could not stay any longer; off he went without another word, in spite of jeers and boos from members of the large crowd who had been expecting at least some defence from him.

We have had two excellent meetings on two Sundays at the Metropolitan Music Hall, about 1,600 attending on each occasion. At the second meeting there were a great many questions, and Communists turned up for the first time in the election. They had had time to consider the wobbling "party line” and at the last minute decided to support the Labour Party. The collection at the two meetings amounted to nearly £110. We have also had good meetings at smaller halls, but bad weather has seriously interfered with outdoor meetings, although we have had some very good ones.

We got out an Election Address and an “Election Special" (a large news sheet), both of which were delivered by hand to every house in the constituency; also the Candidate's final address, which went through the post to every elector. One of the articles from the "Election Special” is reproduced in this issue (“ War and Increased Production ”).

In spite of the fact that we have had only two weeks to get things going, we have had an excellent campaign, and members and sympathisers have thoroughly enjoyed themselves explaining the socialist position to the workers of Paddington.

On the eve of the poll we held an open-air meeting at the Prince of Wales, a well-known place for outdoor meetings. Although it was a cold, wet evening, over five hundred people came to listen and remained until late at night. A Conservative opponent, who asked questions, was invited to take the platform for twenty minutes to state the Conservative policy in opposition to our case. When he got upon the platform he informed the audience that he was Major Beamish, Conservative Member of Parliament for Lewes. All he did was to attack the Labour Party. Our speaker then pointed out that we were just as much opposed to the Labour Government as we were to the Tories. He then put the case for Socialism, dealt with the past history of the Tories, and invited Major Beamish to have another twenty minutes dealing with our speaker's contribution. Again Major Beamish restricted his remarks to an attack upon the Labour Party. He showed total ignorance of the Socialist position that had been laid down, which was evidently new and bewildering to him. Groves pointed this out, and also asked him why he was opposing Nationalisation when the Tories agreed with it and had already nationalised various industries themselves. Major Beamish, from the ground, said emphatically that he opposed Nationalisation. He was asked if he would restore the Post Office and other nationalised industries to private owners. He said “No." He was offered another ten minutes to state a case in opposition to ours, but declined. He offered to go on the platform for thirty seconds to wish Groves luck, and wanted to shake hands, but the latter pointed out that when we said we were bitter antagonists of both Tory and Labour parties we meant it, and there was no room for hypocritical gestures.

To-day, election day, we have stopped all activity. A Press reporter called and we pointed out to him that we had done all we could to convince the working men and women of Paddington that our case against Capitalism and for Socialism was sound, and it was now up to them to show how far they had travelled on the road to understanding Socialism. We are opposed to doing anything on polling day that could in any way influence their vote, in spite of the fact that the opposition parties have loudspeaker cars running round, and supporters at the polling booths. Our loudspeaker was dismantled this morning.
 
Our effort in Paddington will have an effect far outside the narrow limits of a London district. It will bring fresh hope to, and enthuse, those who think like us in the provinces and the lands beyond the seas. We are now in the parliamentary contest in this country to stay, and we will not rest until the working class have captured the control of Parliament for the purpose of introducing Socialism. That day may not be as far distant as many imagine.
Gilmac.

Since going to Press we have learned the Election result, the figures being:—
Labour       13,082
Conservative 10,165
S.P.G.B.            286

What Socialism is Really About (2017)

Editorial from the October 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
Prior to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, there was an understanding among many workers, that socialism was a society of common ownership of the means of living where the state, money and national frontiers would be rendered obsolete, and that it could be established peacefully and democratically.
That all changed after the Bolsheviks seized power. The Bolshevik leaders understood that socialism could only be achieved worldwide and hoped that the revolution would spread to the West. Lenin admitted that what existed in the new Soviet state was really state capitalism. After the failure of similar uprisings in Europe, their hopes were dashed. Stalin, as the new Soviet leader, came to terms with this reality by promulgating the theory of ‘Socialism in One Country’ to describe the regime.
Therefore, the prevailing view of socialism was no longer a world society of human cooperation and freedom, but a state capitalist dictatorship imposed on its population. It would not be brought about by a socialist, conscious working class but by a vanguard party leading the working class through a violent uprising. ‘Communist’ parties were formed worldwide and had become mouthpieces of the new regime and were influential in the trade unions and had some electoral success in countries such as France and Italy. This allowed governments and employers to claim that the ‘Communists’ were behind many strikes and other manifestations of working class discontent. One example was that during the 1966 seamen's strike, Harold Wilson, the Labour Prime Minister, alleged that the latter had been taken over by the ‘Communists’.  Trotskyist and Maoist groups, although critical of the Soviet regime, still defended state capitalism in the guise of ‘socialism’ and the tactic of a vanguard party leading the working class to revolution.
However, events like the violent suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion in 1921, the Stalinist purges in the 1930s, the crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the existence of prison camps in Siberia exposed the oppressive nature of the Soviet regime, where workers lacked trade union and other rights.
Not only was the USSR a political dictatorship, its economy was falling behind those of the Western countries too, and the living standards of its workers were low in comparison to Western workers. When the USSR finally collapsed, supporters of private-enterprise capitalism were not slow in proclaiming that not only had socialism been oppressive and economically inefficient, but that it no longer worked and that there was no alternative to the free market. Unfortunately, this tenet has defined global politics for at least the last quarter of a century. Many workers who looked for radical change became disillusioned and either dropped out of politics altogether or settled for more mainstream reformist parties.
Needless to say, this has all made it rather more difficult for the Socialist Party to get our message across. However, capitalism always throws up social problems for the working class, and therefore it draws workers into political action. We are confident that more workers will come to see through the fiction that the USSR was ever a ‘socialist state’ and come to understand what socialism is really about.