Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Fallacies of the "Minority Movement." (1925)

Editorial from the March 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

The very people who always shout "Be with the masses" and "Form a Mass Party" are now busy pushing forward a body called "The National Minority Movement." The utter stupidity of the title should strike even the doubly-dense Communists who are promoting it.

The aims of the "movement” are in no sense revolutionary. A minimum wage of £4 per week and a 44-hour week is their modest slogan, and if carried out by the capitalists generally would create no real alteration in the system.

With the present cost of living and the growing intensity of labour demanded by employers, these "Minority” aims are just a stabilising of capitalist conditions. Demands like these have been adopted by capitalists who have increased their profits by so doing.

General practice has shown that Minimum Wage Laws and Trade Boards act generally to make the minimum wage the maximum. Our "four pound a week revolutionists" would be compelled to fight against their own aims as carried out by employers, just as miners were compelled to strike against the much-fought-for Eight Hour Law when it was put into action.

Forty-four hours a week is another ridiculous demand for a movement supposed to be militant. Modern highly-developed exploitation can skin the workers quite well at 44 hours, as is shown by employers like Ford and Leverhulme who boast of their rising profits from reduced hours of employees. In fact the exhausting effect of modern industrial methods and machinery is such that the employers are often compelled to shorten hours to avoid having reduced output from tired workers. The miners have long since found this out, and a 44-hour week for them is as reactionary a proposal as a Tory could invent. The miners have made continual protests against the League of Nations' 8-hour statute being adopted.

Another demand is Nationalisation of Mines, Minerals, Banks, Land and Railways without compensation, and with workers' control. With all the lessons of the effects of Government ownership upon the workers, these Communists are still busy with such anti-Socialist proposals. Workers' control without worker ownership is an empty thing in practice. "Those who own control," and unless the workers are in possession of the State power, and therefore the ruling class, their so-called control could never be made effective. When the workers are in possession of the State machine and are revolutionary, the time for nationalisation would be gone, for then common ownership would be in order and possible.

They further demand "An Adequate Housing Scheme” without telling the workers that such a thing is impossible under Capitalism, for even if houses are plentiful, sufficient and regular wages are not. The fact that plenty of rooms were available before the war did not make it any easier for poverty-stricken workers to rent them. The capitalists will give the workers barracks, huts and iron boxes to live in when it suits their purpose.

A curious demand is the "Repudiation of the Dawes Report." Seeing that the party most of these minority men belong to is the Labour Party, it is rather sad that they have to demand the repudiation of the Report adopted by their own Party when in office : A very curious demand to make in view of the action of the leader of the Minority Movement during the General Election. Mr. Cook, the Secretary of the Miners, then came to the support of the Labour Party who were defending their action in carrying out the Dawes Report. Practically all of the Communists in the Minority Movement were then busy supporting the Labour Party which had adopted the infamous Dawes plan they are now demanding the repeal of.

In general, all the items on the “charter” of this Minority Movement are worthless. The fact that they call themselves a Minority Movement damns them from the start, for on the economic field numbers count when a contest is on for obtaining some advance. Not minorities, but majorities, are then required, and a minority movement left to fight for some demand is doomed. The mass of the workers must be united in support of a national advance before we can expect them to obtain it.

The nature of the demands we have shown above to be capitalist in their nature, and they can all be carried out without making any radical change for the better in workers’ conditions.

These demands take no account of the vastly accelerating rate of exploitation in modern industry. They ignore the increasing power of capitalists combined in federations and rings to defeat the efforts of labour on the economic field and their growing financial strength to conquer the puny purses of working men in times of strikes and lock-outs.

Such demands in terms of a set rate of wages and length of working day are reactionary in face of the ever-growing need of workers to struggle  on the economic field for increase of wages and shortening of working day.

The political proposals of this movement could only be carried out if those in control of government passed the demands into law. To appeal therefore to capitalists and their Labour agents to pass certain legislation is to support the present system and those who rule it. It is to ask the workers to prolong capitalism by voting for those politicians who have a programme of properly selected reforms. The Minority schemers thus ignore the class nature of modern society and its resulting class rule in the interests of the class who rule capitalism—the employers.

The Communists largely run this “movement” with its conferences of “delegates” who are supposed to represent large numbers. What is the real nature of the Communists’ efforts in it? Are they arousing the workers to a knowledge of Socialism and spreading an understanding of the social revolution and its necessity? The answer is “No.” The Communists are spreading reform programmes like nationalisation, etc., and advocating support of the reactionary Labour Party. They are carrying out the 21 points and theses of Moscow in getting the jobs in trade unions and similar bodies. In other words they are trying to capture the jobs, but they do not attempt to win the workers’ minds for Socialism. That is too long and too unremunerative a job. It is easier to plank down some demands which are suitable to Capitalist rule and get support for that and become prominent in such an agitation. Then it is easy to get adopted as a Labour candidate.

Displacing a trade-union leader and putting in his place a so-called advanced man is a matter which in itself achieves small results. The lesson of Cramp and Hodges and dozens of other “forward” men should show that. The fundamental thing is to displace the ignorance of the rank and file and then their growing knowledge will express itself in their choice of and control of officers. Otherwise with an ignorant membership the same game of betrayal can be played by the new “leader” they choose as played by the previous one.

The replacing of one official by Robert Williams, the Communist, did not make any difference on “Black Friday” or on the workers’ support of the leaders who smashed the alliance on that classic occasion.

The Socialist policy is one of spreading revolutionary ideas amongst the workers, organised and unorganised, in order that capitalism shall be abolished and Socialism established. That is the work of a mass movement, not a Minority Movement.

Catholicism and Socialism: Mr. Wheatley's Lie (1925)

From the April 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the “Daily Herald” (March 23rd) Mr. Wheatley defended the Catholic Church against the charge of being anti-Socialist. His argument took the following form. The Catholic Church does not oppose State ownership as advocated by the Labour Party; the Labour Party is a Socialist party; therefore, the Catholic Church does not oppose Socialism.

In this Mr. Wheatley is using his customary Jesuitical method of reasoning. Of course the Church does not oppose State capitalism; why should it? But as Mr. Wheatley himself showed (“The Catholic Working Man”) the Pope and the Church do oppose the abolition of private ownership. The latter means the end of exploitation, while the former merely makes the State the direct instrument of exploitation. The capitalists as bondholders still control production.

He says:—
  It is merely playing with words to differentiate between the Labour Party and the British Socialist Party.
Unfortunately for him, Mr. Wheatley declared (”Forward,” November 3rd, 1923)
   There is no good blinking the fact that the policy pronounced at Plymouth will seriously strain the Labour Party. It would not do so if it were a Socialist Party. But it isn’t.
He omitted to mention or deal with the fact that the only organisation in Great Britain, calling itself the Socialist Party, opposes the Catholic and every other religion.

He is reported to have stated last year at a public meeting at Barlanark, that "The Roman Catholic Church is the Church of the Proletariat.” What he no doubt really means is that the Catholic Church promises him security as an exploiter of labour.
Edgar Hardcastle

Self-Denial: A Millionaire's Advice. (1925)

From the May 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

With tiresome regularity the defenders of capitalism from Leverhulme to Lansbury reiterate that a dreadful catastrophe awaits “us" if the workers lose the taste and desire for work. The demoralisation resulting from the drawing of the “dole" or the workers craving for pleasure (heavens!) are themes for daily discussion in the press. Discontent is considered by our masters and Labour politicians as almost criminal, and an attempt is made to counter the weariness of monotonous toil by carefully-constructed appeals for hard work and sacrifice to save "us" from utter ruin. What stinking hypocrisy! To our masters, men and women of the working class are but their beasts of burden or their playthings. Hearken how they voice their contempt for you :—
  Some people, he said, asked what chance there was for the young man when all businesses required so much money . . .  The answer was that what the young man required for success in business was the practice of self-denial. (Lord Leverhulme, “Daily Chronicle,” 14.4.25.)
It is a commonplace to the Socialist that to such lengths are our masters and their agents put to defend their rotten system that they invariably contradict their statements in an effort to give them plausibility. A fuller report of the above specious reasoning was given in "The Grocer,” 18.4.25 but with the addition of the following sentence in the space we have indicated " . . . . an amount of money that even with the greatest care and saving, it might take any man far past the prime of life to acquire."

How significant this omission on the part of the "Chronicle,” considering that the noble Lord shatters the beautiful dream of "self-denial” and damns his case with his own words. How unfortunate too for the soap magnate’s plea that the same issue of "The Grocer” contains three pages of reports of bankruptcies in that trade. Within the present system, the slave condition of the workers is one of finality; only in the most exceptional cases do they ever rise to become masters. Even the rare cases of the self-made man, so-called, are relics of an age of small businesses and small capitals, now almost departed. Leverhulme’s soap trust is itself an example of the wiping out of the small concern. Liptons, Lyons, the multiple stores, etc., are other examples that support our case. No need for harder work while your efforts only multiply the pleasures of the Capitalist loafers; no need for self-denial when for countless generations you have practised it with a brutal and callous indifference to your own welfare. Hurl back the lying insults at those who rob you of all life’s enjoyments. Hurl them back in the only way that will matter by your organised action for the ushering in of a system wherein the Capitalist absurdities of self-denial, over work, and parasitism, can have no place.
Mac.

Our Revolutionary Position (1925)

From the June 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a world of political opportunism, the Socialist Party of Great Britain occupies a unique position, a position that has never been gainsaid by even its most inveterate enemies—it still adheres with unremitting persistence and firmness to the principles on which it was originally founded. Its Declaration of Principles remains, word for word, exactly the same to-day as it was when first printed. Is there in this country any other political party of which it can be said that it knew from the first the impregnability of the basis on which it stood, and that the test of time and experience has only gone to prove the sure judgment of those who, at its inception, conceived the idea of such an organization being in fact what it claimed to be in name? Is there any other political party that has not, at some time or other, thrown overboard its principles (or its alleged principles) tacking this way and that to catch the popular wind that should waft its leaders into the pleasant harbour of position and power and monetary advantage?

It is rather strange, when one considers it, how the strict adherence of the Socialist Party to its original principles irritates the majority of people. We have been and are criticised for being “narrow-minded"; have been likened to certain very dogmatic religious sects; have been continually reproached and admonished, both in sorrow and in anger, for our refusal to swerve aside from our business of Socialist propaganda into any of the numerous side tracks —such as the advocacy of woman’s suffrage, land reform, nationalisation of industries, etc.—which have, within the last few decades become popular with certain self-styled “advanced" and “modern” people, who seem to think that any activity, however futile, must be an advance, and any stunt, however foolish, a means to intellectual progress.

If our critics would take the trouble to analyse the actions and motives of the late Labour Government they might possibly come to the conclusion, that a strict adherence to principle is not so narrow-minded and reprehensible as they suppose. Nominally the Labour Party was in proud possession of the seat of Government. Actually what happened was that a number of men and women, some of whom call themselves leaders of labour and some who by no stretch of imagination can claim that they in any way represent the minutest fraction of the labouring class, were allowed, by the somewhat contemptuous consent of the Liberal and Tory parties, to act for the time being as the agents of the capitalists in national and international affairs. Neither in kind nor in degree were these Government Ministers distinguished from the other political parties when in office. They are as assiduous in attending archaic court functions; as eager to present their wives and daughters to the notice of royalty; as ready to hobnob, openly and shamelessly, with all sections of the capitalist class. The Parliamentary Bills they pass are but such as might well have been the production of Liberals and Tories (as in some cases they actually have been); and their methods of repression and secret diplomacy are all well in keeping with their predecessors' traditions. As for the fulfilment of the promises made to the rank and file of the Labour Party whilst the Labour leaders were struggling for power, as might have been expected the things promised are now found to be “impracticable," are “not possible under the circumstances," are “regrettably impossible," and so it has always been with these and such-like good shepherds of sheeplike followings.

Recently a writer in “The Star" recapitulated very effectively the exploits of some of the many Labour leaders who have in the past thrown over their erstwhile followers and tools, and have kicked away the props by which they had risen to positions of eminence, in order to place their services wholeheartedly at the beck and call of the political agents of Capitalism. Henry Broadhurst, John Burns, George N. Barnes, Isaac Mitchell, David Shackleton (plenty of others might have been cited) are shown as passing in procession before the reproachful and mildly indignant eyes of their deluded and forsaken followers. The workers' past bitter experiences of the value of their leaders' promises seem at times to have left the workers in very much the same position of blind trustfulness as hitherto. However many times they may find their confidence misplaced yet once again they are somehow able to assure themselves that at long last a leader will appear who will fulfil his promises, will justify the faith placed in him and will miraculously lead them to the promised land of plenty. They are too little informed to realise that most of their leaders' promises could not be fulfilled in any case and that their leaders would cheerfully promise the moon or the millennium to anyone who could and would assist them in their rise to place and power.

And then these trustful beings, still retaining faith in the faithless, and hoping for what they should know is hopelessly impossible, will in one breath take us to task for holding firmly to the principles of Socialism, and in the next make the statement that any Socialist elected to Parliament would do as the rest do, would forswear his principles and seek only to further his own ends. Such people have not yet realised that it is simply because of their own weakness and ignorance that the political leaders whom they trust continually fail them; that the wisdom and strength of the electorate is the only guarantee that can be given for the honesty and integrity of the men and women elected.

In the meantime the Socialist Party will continue its business of propagating Socialism and making Socialists, and expose the MacDonalds and Snowdens and Thomases, knowing that it is but a matter of time before the curtain is rung down on the wretched political farce now being played by the Labour puppets of capitalism and their Liberal and Tory masters. One day the curtain will rise on an empty stage; the workers will not always be satisfied to be the contented spectators of a caricature of life; they will, by facing reality, learn how to live, and then goodbye to the political charlatans and the “captains of industry." Goodbye also to Capitalism and the slaves of wagedom. But till then we of the Socialist Party will hold fast to the political and economic truth of life as we know it and leave the social, political and religious humbug to those who are content to sell their manhood for “a handful of silver ” or “a riband to stick in their coat."
F. J. Webb

Is Compensation of the Capitalist Possible? (1925)

From the July 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

Under the heading of a “Socialist Dilemma,” the New Statesman describes the contortions of the Independent Labour Party, in conference assembled. It seems that they struck a snag. Not that this is unusual or unique. A party that views society as a vessel that will imperceptibly drift into the port of Socialism, with occasional help from a pole in difficult places, is bound to find snags. As one of their leaders put it some years back: “Socialism will come as a thief in the night.” Frankly, we never liked the comparison, but equally frankly, we never liked the I.L.P. We have even said they are not a Socialist party at all. We say so still, and perhaps their latest dilemma will illustrate our differences. What is this great question that agitates the I.L.P. after its thirty odd years of vigorous torpidity? What is this tough nut that defied the teeth of the delegates assembled and had to be referral back to the branches for another year? It is, briefly, compensation versus confiscation. Shall we buy the capitalist class out or kick them out? Small wonder the delegates were flabbergasted. Thirty years of “Socialist” propaganda doesn’t leave much time for questions of that sort. Leave it another twelve-month. Perhaps by next year’s Conference another dilemma will have become sufficiently prominent to enable them to forget the last one. And, anyhow, one must have something to discuss during the hot weather, mustn’t one?

Before dealing with this profound enigma, it may be useful to enquire what has caused this sudden interest in such a question. Obviously it arises from the possibility of the Labour Party finding itself in power as well as office at a future date. This possibility exists, and it must be faced. Having made itself look as much like the late Liberal Party as possible; having broadened its base until it is all width and no depth; having stuffed itself full of Colonels, Majors, Knights, Solicitors and Clergymen; the possibility is becoming a probability with all its awkward implications. But why awkward? Because if the Labour Party is returned to power, it will be by the votes of people who are not in favour of real Socialism; who will have been told that nationalisation is Socialism; who will be doomed to be immensely undeceived within a few short months; and who, with the increasing worsening of conditions under Capitalism, will become increasingly desperate. But the Labour Party wants power. To get power it must capture the votes of politically ignorant people. And if politically ignorant people are told that the advent of the Labour Party to power means that their five shillings in the bank will be nationalised as well as the railways, they will not vote for the Labour Party. So that, as it is easier to trick and cajole people into voting for you than to educate them, the question arises, what sort of a tale shall we tell them?

This is where the Nemesis that will ultimately destroy the I.L.P. and the reformers generally, appears. They have insistently propagated the doctrine that Socialism was an evolutionary process of which the steps were nationalisation or public ownership. The Post Office has been repeatedly quoted as an example of Socialism in being. Now, say the opponents of nationalisation are you going to compensate the shareholders of concerns taken over by the State or are you going to confiscate? If the first, where are you going te get the money; if the second, where are you going to stop, and what are the distinctions you are going to make? This lands the reformer into a labyrinth of discussion on State Bonds, Sinking Funds, Tax Relief, and other financial jargon, together with interminable difficulties with small investors, savings bank depositors, and petty enterprise generally. We do not recollect it, but the New Statesman assures us, there was a time when the I.L.P. was whole-heartedly in favour of confiscation. That was when power and office seemed remote. The obvious absurdities consequent on trying to reconcile piecemeal nationalisation with confiscation would have given pause to any party but the I.L.P. They did not see that railway companies owned land; that engineering companies owned railway shares; that colliery companies owned engineering shares; that shipping companies held colliery shares; in short, that Capitalism was a system. They therefore did not see that to confiscate the capital of one basic industry was inherently as difficult as to confiscate the Capitalist system. That is if the New Statesman is right. Our recollection is that the I.L.P. has always stood for State Ownership on the lines of the Post Office, existing shareholders simply becoming Government Bondholders. Their view was and is that when a sufficiency of industries were thus nationalised the resulting state of things would be called Socialism. Their view always implies compensation, for wherein essentially does the holder of Government shares differ from the holder of company shares? Shareholding implies profits, and profits connote unpaid labour. So that the I.L.P. has always floundered in an illogical morass. How they are to get out of it will provide them with some food for thought. We shall watch their deliberations with some interest. If they pursue them far enough they may discover that Socialism is not a narrow principle which can be applied in homoepathic doses to the body politic, and so cure it of a chronic malady. They may discover that Capitalism is a system of society based upon, and permeated throughout with, the robbery of productive labour; that Socialism is a system that will have for its basis, the return to labour of the whole fruits of its industry. They may discover that the two systems are so fundamentally different as to be entirely incompatible; that the replacing of the one by the other, necessarily involves the complete change we term a revolution. That revolution may be peaceful or otherwise. It can be peaceful only by the majority of people realising the nature of society, the supreme need for the change, and the overwhelming necessity for capturing the political machinery by a clear and conscious effort. Faint and woolly formulae, speciously designed, appeals to ill- informed, politically ignorant people, can only result in the other sort of revolution, the non-peaceful. The Socialist Party has no wish for a bloody revolution. That is why we have had to devote so much time to the denunciation of the I.L.P. and the other reformist bodies, whose activities can only result in that catastrophe. Our policy is less flamboyant, and consequently our growth is slower. Our appeal is to the intellect rather than the emotions. We want people to think; Capitalism will see that they feel.

So that to solemnly debate at this date, compensation versus confiscation implies an ignorance, a divorce from reality, pitifully amazing—if it were not the I.L.P. Socialism means the taking from their present owners, of the means whereby society exists, and their conversion into social property. With what shall we compensate? With what should we compensate? With what can we compensate? Money ? Money will cease to exist. Shares? Shares are a form of parasitism, peculiar to Capitalism. Property? They will have enough: so will the rest of society. What else? Nothing! There is nothing else. We shall therefore confiscate.
W. T. Hopley

Lansbury's Weekly (1925)

From the August 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

The object of this publication is "to present news in such fashion as will make 'Socialists of our readers.” Those who know Lansbury’s career of manoeuvre for place and position by the use of emotional muckraking, will not expect anything of a Socialist nature from that quarter. A perusal of this literary mixture will confirm expectations. Page 1 (20.6.25) is devoted to "Problems of Real Life,” with solutions by one "Martha.” It is difficult to describe its piffle :—‘‘Here is a woman in love with her daughter’s husband. What should I do?” she says. “Martha" advises some “real hard work” and the "atmosphere of a dozen howling babies.” Mrs. A., who has “labour principles,” six children and a policeman husband who is a “rank conservative,” possibly as rank as the “labour principles.” “Martha” settles this problem with the true Lansbury flavour. “Mrs. A.,” she says, is a “heroine,” she ought to “live spiritually ” and “resist not evil.”

Much of the other rubbish, even its Labour items are the merest surface skimming, inferior to the ordinary Labour Magazine. The unemployed are advised to march out with banners to agitate “until work, honest, decent work, is found for those capable of working” : not “all” capable, of course, only the workers. The Capitalists are asked to give them the whip hand by the removal of unemployment and thus abandon their privileged position in society.

But Lansbury knows better, he merely plays upon the Workers’ weakness, their insane love of work. In columns of egotistical slobber he gives his experiences among parsons and high-brow labour women. He “felt a thrill of real joy that it has been my good fortune to be a soldier in our Socialist Army.” What lying impudence from one whose party and himself have done more to besmirch and hinder the cause of Socialism than the Anti-Socialist Union. Of the crowds he addresses Lansbury writes: “I don’t suppose any of these . . . could pass an examination in Marxian economics; they are ignorant of these and the 'Materialist Conception of History,’ as are most of those who write and talk so glibly about these so-called eternal verities.” We have supplied the evidence from time to time that without this ignorance Lansbury and his tribe could not command a following. Neither will Lansbury receive the patronage of his "rich friends ” nor the Labour Party receive Capitalist financial support unless they endeavour to perpetuate such ignorance. In this journal are other items all equally puerile. "As God sees it,” childish cartoons, quack adverts, and a rebel song. People who claim that this material will make Socialists are either liars or fools. Nevertheless it is what we expect from one who for years has flourished upon Working Class credulity with a mixture of sentimental slosh and political trickery.
Mac.

The Blackness of "Red" Friday (1925)

Editorial from the September 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Miners' Leaders and the Labour Press have hailed the outcome of the mining dispute as a tremendous victory for the Miners.

The Daily Herald, in large letters, blazoned it forth as “the greatest victory in Labour’s history.” Mr. Cook described it as “a great victory” and Mr. Purcell added that it was the greatest victory for trade unions in 25 years.

Black Friday compensated for by "Red” Friday is the style of jubilation quite common in "labour” papers.

When we seek the nature of the victory we find that it is a victory for the mine-owners.

The Government have agreed to secure the profits of the mine-owners by subsidising them to the tune of 20 odd millions. The miners are to continue working at the old rate of wages for nine months pending reports of a Committee of Enquiry appointed by the Government.

Mr. Cook’s colleagues in the minority movement announced during the dispute that "The miners’ officials have promised to fight for the 1914 standard of wages plus cost of living increases. They must be kept to that promise and the whole Trade Union movement must support' them.” (The Worker, Aug. 1.)

The "Great Victory,” however, means that the miners are to work at a wage 10 or 15 per cent. below that of 1914 and under conditions where there are 300,000 miners workless depending on insurance benefits or poor law doles when they can get them.

This happens in an industry where Mr. Cook admits the owners have made admitted profits of over 58 millions since 1921. So what the miners have won are wages (when they can get a job) far less than the 1914 level of poverty.

The long-continued demand of the miners for higher wages was swept upon one side by the owners insisting upon a reduction and the result of all the negotiations is that the miners will get no increase for at least nine months. The employers will get the profits they asked for. An inquiry will be held by "reliable gentlemen” and their report will be binding upon nobody. In the meantime the coal will be accumulated by mine-owners who can afford to wait till it is disposed of. During the nine months the Governing Class can make all preparations to deal forcibly with a strike on a large scale.

What can the miners prepare! At the very best they can arrange to entirely stop work and face the almost empty exchequer of the Union. Strike pay would last a very short time for in these days of reduced wages and unemployment the unions' funds are heavily depleted. Faced by want and menaced by force the miners’ outlook will be a black one.

Even with practically an industrial union like the Miners’ Federation and threatened by few blacklegs, their ability to cope with the worsening effect of capitalism has been nil. With all the experience of years of struggle the Miners' Leaders understand little of the situation they are in and so they are unable to advance the only remedy.

How little they appreciate the class struggle is shown by the speech of the President of the Miners’ Federation at the Scarboro' Conference. The Sunday Worker (July 19) gives the following report:—
  Mr. Herbert Smith, who presided, in his opening remarks, declared that the present crisis in the industry was largely due to the fact that the mine-owners had not attempted to take the miners into their confidence.   Whether or not the country believed in nationalisation, he said, it would be driven to adopt that as the only way to save the mining industry.
   He hoped the owners’ attempt to lower wages and lengthen hours would be opposed by the whole trade union movement.
   Continuing, Mr. Smith said that more than one in every four of the miners were unemployed, and two out of every three were earning less than £2 a week (italics ours).
The idea that the conflict between owners and workers is caused by the workers not being taken into confidence by the owners is a stupid one. What are the mine-owners to confide to the workers ? This is the old idea of conciliation between robbers and robbed and those who preach it are blind to the facts of economic life.

Mr. Smith’s foolish notion of nationalisation “as the only way to save the mining industry” is another idea that is injurious to the workers’ welfare and its advocacy by the leaders, including Mr. Cook, and supported by the Communists, shows how little they have learned of the system.

The demand the miners' leaders make that the mines be re-organised and made more efficient is one that all capitalists can support.

All the demands the miners can make upon the system will leave their position fundamentally the same. The shortening of hours, upon which they banked so much, has been accomplished, the 12-hour day has become 7, and there are infinitely more miners unemployed than ever before. Their past victories and the mining legislation have left them with wages that mean hopeless poverty and a greater struggle to make both ends meet than in the past.

The very efficiency of re-organisation of the mining industry will mean that fewer miners are required to get the same quantity of coal. Therefore, more unemployment.

Nationalisation will be a boon to owners of many mines, but to the workers it will mean a stabilising of their poverty with no greater chance for work than now. Actually, less workers will be required, because the wasteful methods under competition that labour leaders criticise will be abolished and with their abolition the men who do this wasteful work will be eliminated.

Examine these schemes and plans of the Miners’ Leaders ! Do they touch these causes of the miners’ present position? The stronger position of the owners due to combination of firms and rings; the development of substitutes for coal reducing the number of miners required; the markets abroad absorbing reparation coal under the Versailles and Dawes schemes, supported or arranged by Labour Leaders; and, above all these, the fundamental cause, the dependence of the miner upon the owners for permission to work with the resulting robbery of the worker.

Trade Unions, financially bankrupt, are faced to-day by the wealthy owners, made wealthier by the enormous surplus wrung from labour in the years of “good trade." The miners, like other workers, may “gain” some sudden concession in a competitive system by striking when there is a danger of losing trade to competitors. But in the long run the fact remains, as Marx put it 60 years ago in Value, Price and Profit, that on the economic field labour fights where capital is strongest. Trade Union leaders ignore the economic development of the system which, by its concentration of wealth and evolution of industry, makes all real and lasting improvement for the workers impossible within capitalism.

Instead of preaching nostrums such as conciliation and nationalisation, Socialists teach the working class to understand the class struggle and the causes of their slavery with the object of organising them as a class for the abolition of capital, and the establishment of Socialism.

Not the “Mines for the Miners” but the World for the Workers.

Private Property and its Catholic Defenders (1925)

Pamphlet Review from the October 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party has never sought to hide its hostility to all forms of religion. It frankly opposes all organisations, from the Church of Rome downwards, which seek to maintain the mental thraldom of the working class. In a special pamphlet and frequently in these columns attention has been drawn to the fact that religion in its present form is a part of the capitalist society, standing or falling therewith.

Additional evidence in this direction is afforded by a twopenny pamphlet recently issued by the Catholic Truth Society, entitled “The Catholic Church and the Principle of Private Property.” by Hilaire Belloc. Herein the author attempts to defend private property; not indeed, in its present-day capitalistic form, but in its pre-capitalistic, medieval or catholic form. Apparently Mr. Belloc regards capitalism as being almost, if not quite, as immoral as Socialism; not least because Socialism is the logical outcome of capitalism! To him the economic relations existing during the Middle Ages were the only normal, and therefore moral, relations possible, and his remedy for the present-day social conflict is a return to these relations (p. 28). He would reverse the process of capitalist accumulation by "just fiscal laws” (p. 13).

The Socialist can afford to smile at such childish proposals, for the simple reason that they have not the remotest chance of being adopted by any political party in real earnest. The fate of Anti-Trust laws in America, for example, is a painful object-lesson for all would-be reformers on those lines. Further, if Socialism arises out of capitalism, as Mr. Belloc correctly points out, it is equally true that capitalism was the inevitable outcome of Feudal society.

The principle of private property (which Mr. Belloc holds is a fundamental human institution) is no “eternal truth.” It has varied from age to age in accordance with the variation in the means and methods of production. The development of these means and methods forms the basis of social development. It was not, as Mr. Belloc holds, the revolt against Rome which gave rise to industrialism. On the contrary, it was precisely the other way about. The expansion of trade and the rise of manufacture was the cause, not the effect, of the Reformation. The burgesses of the rising towns opposed the Church, not primarily because they disagreed with her doctrines, but because they saw in her landed possessions and political power a bulwark of the system which oppressed them.

At one time the Church held a third of the land of Christian Europe. Her wealthy prelates were feudal lords, able to raise small armies of tenants and retainers, and were admitted to the seats of the mighty as part of the second estate of the realm. No wonder, then, that the zealous Catholic of to-day looks back with longing on the vanished past and views with jealous hatred the class which has usurped wealth and power; but the Church has learned to temper her celestial pretensions with worldly wisdom, and has accommodated herself to the requirements of her new masters. Whatever she may proclaim as theory, her actions are circumspect and law-abiding, and her heaviest denunciations fall on the rebel workers.

Similarly, Mr. Belloc, a "critic” of capitalism, was for years an active member of the capitalist Liberal Party and supported with "commendable” literary courage the Allied capitalist Governments during the recent war. The fact that his fellow-Christians were slaughtering one another for the sake of trade routes and markets, oil-wells and cotton lands, did not seem to worry him. This, however, by the way.

The medieval system of society collapsed largely because it was founded on the isolation of the producers. The peasants in the country and the craft guilds in the towns were unable to withstand the nation-wide activities of the merchant class. Assuming that by some miracle the workers could again enter into individual possession of the means of production, it would require another miracle to prevent history repeating itself.

Collective production as organised by capitalism is more economical than individual production. Machinery which is used against the workers by the capitalist class so long as they possess it will be used for the workers when, the latter assume possession; but how are the workers to become individually the possessors of machinery? Mr. Belloc does not tell us ! "The workers operate the machines in common; let them be possessed in common.” That is the proposal of the Socialist. A system of society based upon the common ownership of the means of life —that is Socialism; but Mr. Belloc assures us that "there is nothing new nor anything requiring a moment’s study in the proposal” (p. 22).

He is not averse, however, to betraying his ignorance. Thus he confuses Marxism with Proudhonism, and describes Marx as a mere populariser of Proudhon’s ideas. Apparently he has never read or even heard of "The Poverty of Philosophy,” in which Marx tore to pieces Proudhon’s "Philosophy of Poverty.” According to Mr. Belloc, Proudhon was brilliant, while Marx was dull. The latter merely "sat down to write a book,” which the former (although "a literary genius”) presumably could not do. It is interesting to note, however, that while the compilers of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica” consider Marx’s theories important enough to devote two or three columns to, they confess their inability to reduce Proudhon’s ideas to any system.

The simple fact is that there was a fundamental divergence between the views of the two men. Proudhon took his stand, as Mr. Belloc points out, on the view that private property was immoral under all conditions. Not so Marx. The doctrine of historical materialism formulated by him showed that moral conceptions themselves arose from economic conditions which varied from age to age. While Proudhon, as the spokesman of "eternal justice,” pleaded for an "equal exchange” to abolish exploitation, Marx showed that, on the average, exchange already was equal and that the exploitation took place, not in the realm of exchange, but in that of production! Finally, Marx held that capitalism was doomed, not because it was "unjust" but because it was a fetter on further economic development and inimical to the interests of an ever-increasing majority in society.

Details like these, however, are beneath the notice of smart men like Mr. Belloc. Consequently, he proceeds to confuse materialism with fatalism. To hold that the human will is determined or shaped by the conditions of its existence is to deny its existence! This is his idea of logic !

After this the reader will not be surprised to learn that Mr. Belloc shows a common inability to distinguish between democracy and bureaucracy. He trots out the moth-eaten bogey of despotism. This may indeed prove useful for flattening out the Labour Party and other advocates of "nationalisation"; but our withers are unwrung. The bureaucrats stand or fall with the capitalist class; and, although he would probably not admit it, Mr. Belloc knows that so does the Catholic Church! Hence his animosity to Socialism, his mean, Jew-hating sneers at its scientific founder.

The mother of Marx was no immaculate virgin, but the Son of Mary uttered nothing so inspiring as the slogan—"Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains, you have a world to win.”
Eric Boden




The Economics of Marx (1925)

Book Review from the November 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

"The Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx." By Karl Kautsky. Translated by H. J. Stenning. Published by A.& C. Black (1925), 4, 5 & 6, Soho Square, W.1. Price 5/- Net.

The essential economic teachings of Marx are to be found in the three volumes of “Capital” and the “Poverty of Philosophy.” The three volumes of “Capital,’' as published in English by Kerr and Co., Chicago, contain about 2,400 pages, and Kautsky has endeavoured to epitomise this huge mass of material in 248 pages octavo.

Two reasons may be advanced for attempting such a task. One is to give a short survey of the main conclusions of the work in question for the purpose of saving students the time and trouble required to read the original.

The second is to present those conclusions in such simple language that a reader unacquainted with economics may be able to understand what he is reading.

On this second reason Kautsky has certainly failed. In no place is the book more simple than Marx, while in some cases, owing to the need for compression, it is more difficult for the beginner because the illustrations and detailed working out given in the original are absent in the epitome. This is noticeable in the two points that seem so difficult to the beginner, namely, the twofold character of labour, and the fetishism of commodities.

Against the first reason it may be urged that such an epitome tends to superficial study and the formulation of ready-made answers in the place of a solid understanding and firm grip of the subject.

But if these objections are overlooked, then one may agree that Kautsky has succeeded in his task with all the skill of a master. The essential points of Marx’s teachings are grouped together and their connection and interdependence clearly shown, while the chapter and sub-headings enable the reader to find any particular section with ease, despite the lack of an index.
Jack Fitzgerald