Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Purpose of Devaluation (1949)

From the December 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

The alleged purpose of devaluing the £ was to enable British exporters to sell goods in America and elsewhere which they otherwise could not sell, the idea being that an article formerly priced at 4,000 dollars (or £1,000) would be much more attractive to an American buyer if he could buy pounds at a cheaper rate. To take the extreme case of the price remaining at £1,000 the American buyer can now get it for 2,800 dollars instead of having to pay 4,000 dollars. Actually some British exports much in demand have remained at their old dollar price which means that they sell for a higher price in pounds. Thus if the export continued to sell at 4,000 dollars its price in pounds. will have been raised from £1,000 to about £1,430 (at 2.8 dollars to the £).

Most articles will in practice be sold somewhere in between the two extremes, that is to say, sold at a smaller number of dollars (i.e. something less than 4,000 dollars) but at a larger number of pounds (i.e. something above £1,000).

Exporters who can sell at the old dollar rate and get a larger number of pounds will of course make much larger profits unless their costs of production rise equally through having to buy raw materials in America.

Those advocates of devaluation who think that it is a wonderful cure-all are living in a fool’s paradise. Obviously if it were so simple all countries would have done it long ago.

Devaluation is only a method of achieving a result that could be achieved in another way; and what we have to seek is the reason why Governments, including the Labour Government, sometimes prefer to resort to devaluation.

Since the purpose of devaluation is to enable British exporters to sell the goods that they could not sell before, it will at once be seen that this could have been achieved by the simple method of reducing the price of the articles. But what would have happened if the Government had ordered exporters to cut their prices? In the first place it would have reduced their profits, and if the reduction had been big enough it would have put the companies out of business—they would have gone bankrupt.

So if the Government had enforced a reduction of prices instead of devaluing the £, it could not have stopped there; it would have had to take the next step of saving the exporters from bankruptcy either by reducing wages or by getting cheaper production by trying to force the workers to work harder for the same wages.

This is the key to the situation. Rather than try to reduce the capitalists' costs of production by lower wages or harder work, the Government looked for a way out which works differently though designed to achieve the same result. It achieves the same result because devaluation raises prices at home through importers now having to pay a larger number of pounds to buy the same amount of goods as before in dollar markets.

The broad alternatives before the Government were (a) no devaluation but lowered wages or harder work, or (b) devaluation with a higher cost of living and wage freezing.

In practice the Government, knowing that it could not succeed, except by bitter struggle, in preventing any rise of wages at all, aims to hold wages back as far as it can while at the same time trying to get greater production as well (in some cases by longer hours).

One other thing devaluation was expected to achieve, that was to enable exporters to make a quick sale of otherwise unsaleable goods in order to get dollars needed for imports and thus buy a short breathing space for the rest of the Government's increased production campaign to bear fruit

The whole business of devaluation may be illustrated by taking the example of a concern which urgently needs cash to pay overdue bills, and which has stock on hand which is selling too slowly to enable the firm to find the cash through ordinary channels. In such a situation the firm may decide to have a sale to turn the stock into money. To do this it may have to sell the stock at less than it cost to produce but will think it worth while because it "buys time” and avoids bankruptcy.

Naturally they can’t go on selling their goods at less than cost of production, but they may hope to solve the problem by reducing wages or by inducing their workers to produce more at the same wages and by one or other method to be able to reduce their cost of production and gain a wider market for their goods.

The sale (like devaluation) solves no problem except to gain time. The solution to the problem for the firm as for the Labour Government is to gain markets at the expense of the working class, the workers having to accept a lower standard of living or to accept increased intensity of work.

And the “solution” itself is no solution in the long run because every capitalist country is striving to sell its goods competitively in the same world markets. It is just a phase in the never-ending treadmill of capitalism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Tom Mann Retracts! (1924)

From the January 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

For years Tom Mann has been held up to public admiration as the sturdy champion of the General Strike as the only means by which the workers can achieve their emancipation. He has written much rubbish on the subject, and he has poured much scorn upon those who pointed out that the working class must either capture the political machinery or give up all hope of getting out of wage slavery. But history will have its little joke! Tom Mann has thrown up the sponge—the, pillar of fire was after all only a pillar of smoke.

Enshrined in the columns of "The Communist" Sydney (17/11/1922), the official organ of the Communist Party of Australia, is the renunciation. Here is what he wrote:
  “Now, however, the experience of the war and after the war has shewn conclusively that we can no longer think simply of an industrial struggle, and industrial organisation is not enough. Whatever is done by industrial organisation, the organised State machine will continue to function, and will beyond question be used by the plutocracy in any and every available form against the workers. The dominant ruling capitalist class, the plutocracy, have complete control of that highly efficient machine for class purposes; the interests of the community are ever secondary to the maintenance of power by the master class, and that machine will continue to be theirs until it is wrested from them by the workers.  .   . .
   “The most sanguine amongst us, as believers in the power of industrial organisation, are compelled by facts and experience to realise that the State institution in the hands of the master is not merely a danger to our success, but makes our success impossible no matter how perfectly we organise in our respective industries."
The article from which the above is taken is entitled “Syndicalism, Communism, and Revolution : An Answer to the Reformists of Australia and elsewhere.”

Another fallen idol! Working men, here is one of your trusted leaders—one who has incited you to the shambles many a time. But what is this?
   "In a rousing speech, Mr. Mann advocated the policy of the general strike as the 'only means of bringing the boss class to its knees.'
    “ ‘Do I advocate,' he asked, 'the killing of anyone? Nay, all you need do is to fold your arms, go to bed if you like, and three days would be sufficient. No strike pay would be required.' " (Daily Herald, 11/4/1923).
Notice that he advocates the “General Strike” as the “only means.” Perhaps, you think, Tom Mann is merely a shameless turncoat. He is not, he is an opportunist— searching for opportunities to the advantage of one Thomas Mann. For example, in spite of the above, he went to Scotland to assist Walton Newbold’s candidature for Parliament. Perhaps that partly accounts for Newbold’s failure to "get in” !
   One of the most enthusiastic election meetings over held in Motherwell was that addressed by Walton Newbold and Tom Mann, in the Pavilion Picture House, on Tuesday evening.  . .
Newbold and Mann were in splendid form, especially Mann, who gripped the big audience right away, and the cheering at the conclusion of his rousing speech could be heard all over the district. (The Workers' Weekly, 7th December, 1923.)
What do you think of him? The chameleon is constant compared with him!

They are all the same, these precious leaders. They change their tune with the change in their interests. Their object is to obtain pelf and place.

Have done with leaders. Direct your own movements, and let leaders go beg for their bread.
Gilmac.

Freedom! (1924)

From the February 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard
  “But the man who is always hovering on the verge of want is in a state not far removed from that of slavery. He is in no sense his own master, but is in constant peril of falling under the bondage of others, and accepting the terms which they dictate to him. He cannot help being, in a measure, servile, for he dares not look the world boldly in the face; and in adverse times he must look either to alms or the poor rates. If work fails him altogether, he has not the means of moving to another field of employment; he is fixed to his parish like a limpet to its rock, and can neither migrate nor emigrate.”

Editorial: Peace At Any Price! (1924)

Editorial from the March 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

On February 12th Mr. Ramsay MacDonald made his first speech in Parliament as Prime Minister. The Daily News, commenting on the policy outlined in this speech, made reassuring remarks directed to those who feared revolutionary action might be taken by the "Labour” Government.
   “The proposals put forward in general terms by the Prime Minister are such as any liberal-minded man should welcome sympathetically and without, misgiving. . . . The vast problem of unemployment is not to be approached by dangerous short cuts, necessitating 'the diminution of industrial capital,’ but through a policy aiming first and foremost at the restoration of trade.” (Daily News, 13.2.24.)
The view of this Capitalist paper is quite sound; the Capitalists have no need to fear any radical change in their profit-making system whilst the Labour Party occupy the seat of power. In fact, the former can congratulate themselves at being relieved of some awkward jobs. The strike on the railways threatened to interfere seriously with business, so the Labour Government stepped in and was instrumental in settling the strike. At the moment of writing a dock strike has been declared and the Labour Government are again moving in the matter. The aim of the Government is to “settle” strikes as they are so "inconvenient" to a newly elected "Labour" Government. The outlook of the Government in such questions is suggested by the following quotation :
  “The Minister of Labour (Mr. Tom Shaw)' says: ‘The proposals of the Government to overtake shortage of some types of building trade labour are not in any sense intended as an attack upon either the trade unions or the employers. The object of the Government is to secure goodwill and co-operation.' ” (Daily News, 4.2.24.)
This benevolent neutrality; this desire for "heavenly harmony” between the robbers and the robbed can hardly be supported as a sound outlook, on the part of the self-styled representatives of the working class, by the staunchest supporter of the Labour Party, unless such a supporter is outside the ranks of the workers.

The Editor of the New Leader laments the occurrence of the strikes and hopes for speedy settlement of the dock dispute. His comments are so instructive as an instance of the Labour Government’s outlook that they are worth quoting :—
  “It is well that the railway strike is over, but our congratulations on this event go primarily to the mediators of the General Council who worked so patiently for peace. Whether the men have gained anything which they might not have won without a strike seems doubtful. Their gain in any event is a small thing to set off against the moral and material damage of this conflict.”
After referring to the dissensions of the Railway Unions the editor goes on :—
  “Another of them underlies the threatened dock strike. Again, the competition of two Unions and two sets of leaders have brought upon us the tactics of emulation, and here also they may involve a stoppage of national trade which would thwart the efforts of the Labour Government to deal with unemployment.
  "In this case, however, we are confronting one of the tragedies of industrial life, and the whole movement, political and industrial, will back the demand for a prompt solution. The more hopeful way is, however, as George Lansbury argued last week, to tackle the problem of casual labour at the Docks and to aim at the guaranteed week.
  “Mr. Bevin has allowed a little more time than Mr. Bromley did for mediation, and the openings for diplomacy are in this case wider. A way out must be found. Nothing would end the experiment of a Labour administration so surely as an epidemic of hasty strikes.” (New Leader, 1.2.24.)
Could Lloyd-George speak fairer—on behalf of the masters? The writer of the above can well afford to talk calmly of "mediation” and hasty strikes; he gets £1,000 a year for h& editorship. If the railway man and the docker were in a similar position perhaps they also would not desire to "thwart the efforts of the Labour Government.” Note the refrain that is becoming the common inducement to "let things remain as they are"; sit tight and in semi-starvation until the Labour Government have had a chance! Don't embarrass them by action to increase wages or for better conditions!


Socialist Tactics. (1924)

From the April 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

People are frequently met with who assure us that though they agree with our principles they regard our tactics as "too theoretical” ! Apparently, in their minds, tactics are something to be guided or determined, not by the theories or principles, but exclusively by outside "conditions,” though our opponents are seldom clear as to what they mean by "conditions.”

They will admit that present-day society involves the enslavement of the working-class and, consequently, a struggle between that class and its masters; they will accept the statement that the workers must free themselves by converting the means of life into common property and that they must seize political power for that purpose; yet, they will boggle at the last jump and decline to admit that we are right in opposing all other political parties.

The particular brand of opponent to whom I refer usually calls himself a "Communist” nowadays. Not many years ago the term "British Socialist” or "Socialist Labour” man was good enough for him and previous to that "Social Democrat” was fashionable.

The so-called Revolution in Russia, however, induced him to change his name again without altering to any appreciable extent his mental outlook. He still continued to attach more importance to names than to things, and was more concerned with advocating Soviets than Socialism. Indeed, he habitually expresses profound scepticism regarding the possibility of interesting the workers in the latter proposition. He does not consider them capable of rising to his own lofty intellectual level; nor does, he hesitate to deride those of us who have greater trust in our class.

The alleged "Communist” believes in his ability to capture the Labour Party and "lead” it. So he alternately condemns that Party’s present “leaders” and supports them at election times.

He endeavours to justify this attitude by referring to a phrase in the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, to. wit:— "The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties.” In this he shows his lack of logic and historical knowledge.

In the first place the present-day "Communists” do form a separate party and the alleged "Labour” Party has opposed their admission into its ranks. Secondly, the phrase quoted above is, in its practical application, "antiquated, because,” in Engels’ own words, "the political situation has been entirely changed and the progress of history has swept from off the earth” the working-class parties referred to. (See Engels’ preface, "Communist Manifesto,” Reeves Edition, 1888.)

What was the political situation at the time Marx and Engels penned their historical document? Briefly, the open political. arena was confined to the representatives of. the various sections of the master-class. The workers were not enfranchised and were reduced to a fight for political elbow room. Under such conditions it was practically impossible for the Communists to form an independent political party.

They stood for the conquest of political power by the workers as the means of achieving the social revolution, but the technical means of this conquest, i.e., the franchise, had yet to be acquired, Hence the Communists supported, in England, the Chartists and similar bodies on the Continent. This in itself is a significant fact which the workers would do well to bear in mind when latter-day “Communists” pretend to ridicule the franchise as a political weapon, what time they are not urging the workers to use it to put in office the traitors of the Labour Party.

Conditions broke up the Chartist Movement, but the ruling class could not stop the advance of industry and the increase of the working-class. Neither could they dispense with the assistance of their slaves in the political field. Hence in the long run they were compelled to furnish the workers with the very political weapon which will serve as the instrument of emancipation. The masters enfranchised their slaves not because they loved them but because they could no longer hold back the wheel of development.

Since that day the modern Socialist tactics have been both a possibility and a necessity. Nothing now prevents a revolutionary party openly proclaiming its objective and calling upon the workers to organise for its establishment. While, on the other hand, every political party seeks the support of the workers only one party can represent their interests. That party is the Socialist Party. No other party can use the political machinery except as an instrument of oppression. Parties which stand for Capitalism in any shape or form, no matter what superficial changes they propose, can only maintain the system by force against the workers.

The Socialist Party, standing as it does for a social revolution, can only achieve its object by means of a political revolution.

The legislative, and administrative powers must be torn from the hands of the agents of the master-class by the working-class consciously organised in a political party for the purpose. Only then can the means of life become the property of all.

If the foregoing outline is correct (and we challenge our opponents to point out an error) the Socialist Party has no alternative but to oppose all other parties. There can be no compromise between the robbers and the robbed, the rulers and the oppressed.

Hence we carry on our work of Socialist propaganda, confident that with further economic development our task will become easier, that the workers will see the lights and organise for Socialism.
Eric Boden

The Quick Change Artist. (1924)

From the May 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the moment Winston Churchill is very much in the public eye on account of his latest change of front. He was once a Conservative, then he became a Liberal, and lately he appears to have returned to the Conservative ranks again. But in one thing he is at least consistent, he has always supported Capitalism and has not pretended to do anything else.

There is another man, once very much in the public eye, but now a setting star. This other man is Tom Mann. He has also changed his front many times, but he also has at least been consistent in one thing— consistent in advancing the personal interests of one Tom Mann.

For years Tom Mann waved the big stick of Industrial unionism and cut capers on platforms whilst pouring scorn upon Political Action as a weapon in the working class struggle for emancipation. We have, on previous occasion, given examples of the way in which this platform pantaloon at one time backs industrial action and at another political action. A recent illustration of his change of front moves us to extract one or two more examples from his record.
The Labour Leader of June 20th, 1918, issued an appeal inviting workers to join the I.L.P. The following extract is from this appeal:—
  We must not go back to pre-war conditions— else why all the sacrifice of the. war? We must have a fuller life—which is only possible on Socialist lines advocated by the I.L.P. This Party, of which we, the undersigned are members, is growing rapidly, is a fine propagandist body, and will assist to co-ordinate the industrial and political efforts of the Unions. We must not forget all we owe to the I.L.P. in the past.
Amongst the names of those who signed the above appeal (wherein it is stated that the “undersigned are members” of the I.L.P.) appears that of Tom Mann, the industrial unionist!

Later on Tom Mann signed the Trade Union Leaders’ 'Manifesto supporting the League of Nations. Item 4 of this Manifesto runs as follows :—
 4. The prospect of another and still greater war is one we must either prepare for by vaster armaments than ever, or prevent. The first alternative is unthinkable. There remains only prevention. Prevention is possible by the League of Nations to enforce the peace. There isno other way.—The Times, 7.11.19.
Is this Tom Mann the Industrialist or Tom Mann the I.L.P.’er who signs the Manifesto? If the “League of Nations” is the only way to prevent war, then where does Socialism come in? A very little examination of the “ League of Nations” should convince those who will look at it from the working-class standpoint that it cannot prevent wars in a Capitalist world because it leaves the cause of wars untouched. It has a two-fold object. It is a method by which a section of the Capitalist Class hope to cut down the enormous sums they have to throw away on large armaments, and it is also a convenient method of throwing dust in the eyes of the workers and keeping them from finding the real cause of wars—the profit-making nature of the Capitalist system. The Capitalist hoodwinking scheme then has the support of Tom Mann.

In 1920 a pamphlet was issued by “The Labour Abstentionist Party” (a party that was still-born). This party advocated
  (a) Securing the election of Parliamentary Candidates pledged to abstain from taking their seats; (b) Propagation of the futility of Parliamentary action.
The “Foreword” to the pamphlet was written by Tom Mann and the following extracts are taken from it:—
  The workers are travelling rapidly in the direction of obtaining control of industry. They will travel with accelerating speed as they learn the unwisdom of relying upon Parliament. .   .   .
 The glamour of Parliament naturally has attractions which many good men are reluctant to forego; as these comrades grow in strength and clearness of view they will discard the plutocratic institution and learn the wisdom of Direct Action, and complete. control of industrial affairs in the communal interest.  .    .    .
  I therefore heartily commend this pamphlet as being in my judgment calculated to be really educative in enabling readers to estimate Parliamentary action correctly, and to see the necessity for Industrial Solidarity.
Here we have a change back again to Direct Action—he has apparently grown (backwards!) in strength and clearness and discarded the “ plutocratic institution ”

But now we come to the cream of the business—the “real currant bun.” The monthly journal of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, number forty-four, March, 1924, has been brought to our notice, and was the immediate inspiration of this article. On turning to page 6 we find the following:—
ELECTION OF THREE PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES, 1924.
The following have accepted nomination for the above positions. All pay the Political Levy and accept the objects, policy, and programme of the Labour Party, and are prepared to accept a constituency in the event of being selected. (Italics ours.)
On looking down the list of those who "have accepted nomination," etc., we find among them
Mann, T., Woolwich, 6th.
So the Labour abstentionist has grown further in “strength and clearness” and is back in the Parliamentary fold trying to get a seat in the "plutocratic institution” ! He accepts "the objects, policy, and programme” of the party which assisted in sending thousands of working men to the battlefield and whose present programme includes the settling of strikes, the increase of armaments, and the attendance at glorious feeds provided by their wealthy patrons—the Capitalists.

We have given the above particulars not because any great importance attaches to Tom Mann (as a matter of fact among “labour leaders” he is practically a back number at the moment), but because his record offers a convenient illustration of the futility and foolishness of trusting in "leaders.”

The antidote to the blind following of blind or tricky leaders is to arm yourself with the necessary knowledge that will acquaint you with the road you must travel to achieve your freedom from wage slavery. Once you have grasped the fundamentals of your position in society you will lay down the policy to be carried out and you will not require ‘‘leaders.”

Popular idols are the abomination of working-class movements. Away with them !
Gilmac.

The Fraud of Reform (1924)

From the June 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

In spite of the manifest failure of the "Labour” Government to solve the problems facing the working class the majority of its supporters still seem to cling to the idea that such a government contains their only hope. The failure is excused on the ground that the Labour Party are in office but not in power, and it does not appear to strike those who echo this excuse that it is in itself an admission that the Labour Party is prepared to depend upon the support of sections of the master class in turn and to give the necessary services to that class in return. The execution by the “Labour” Government of various items of policy inherited from.their Tory predecessors is overlooked and we are asked to be grateful for the abolition of the gap, promises of increased pensions and the reduction of indirect taxation.

The Labour Party’s supporters appear to consider these acts as real measures of improvement of working class conditions, and that with a “Labour” majority in the House of Commons more blessings will descend on their patient heads. Let us examine the grounds for such assumption.

Take the abolition of the gap. The present writer recently heard one unemployed leader declare that even if the Government had done nothing else, this act alone entitled them to working class support. Yet, why was the unemployment insurance established in the first place? Was it to make existence easier for the unemployed? If so, then Lloyd George is entitled to support rather than the Labour Party, who have merely modified one of his measures; but the object of National Insurance in all its forms for that matter was no piece of Capitalist philanthropy. The master class have not yet commenced to give us something for nothing.

Shortly before the abolition of the gap, the chairman of the Glasgow Parish Council gave away the key of the situation. In an interview with the Minister of Health, reported in the Daily Herald, he stated that the gap cost his Council £200,000 in outdoor relief. The Minister in the House of Commons announced that the abolition of the gap would cost the Stale an additional £500,000

Thus, it is easy to see that two-fifths of the amount laid out by the State will be saved by the Glasgow property owners alone. Two other cities, saving similar amounts would wipe out the outlay and show a profit for the ‘‘nation” of £100,000. The unemployed are merely transferred for the purpose of relief from the local to the national authorities because such centralisation is cheaper.

The same remarks apply to pensions. When Lloyd George introduced old age pensions, he pointed out that it cost more to maintain old slaves in workhouses than to give them a State pension. The State simply relieved the local authorities of part of the increasing financial burden caused by the increase of poverty among the workers. The Labour Party propose to carry the process a step further. They propose that a still greater share of the burden shall fall on the National Exchequer knowing full well that this will result in a reduction of the amount paid out by the master class as a whole in proportion to the number of slaves pensioned.

What working man can seriously consider that the miserable pittances suggested really relieve poverty. If the intention is to make the pensioned ones comfortable and free from care, how are we to explain the scantiness of the means? Remember, fellow slaves, the millions squandered to make your masters’ property safe by means of four years of carnage before you repeat the silly lie that there is not enough wealth to do it.

What applies to old age pensions, of course applies equally to mothers’ pensions and so on. Mr.. Arthur Henderson, during the Burnley bye-election, stated that the Government’s object was to prevent needy mothers applying to the Poor Law authorities.

Generally we find the same dodge on the part of our masters. They pretend to give with one hand something but it is less than they take away with the other.

The anxiety of the Labour Government and its supporters to justify their existence in the eyes of the property owners was well exemplified in the debate on the administration of the Poplar area. The Minister of Health showed that the inability of his predecessors to enforce the Mond order proved that the Poplar Guardians had (in spite of accusations to the contrary) kept relief down to the minimum possible in view of the extreme destitution in the area concerned. George Lansbury proudly claimed that they had kept the peace in the East End for years. Who for? There is only one answer. The masters see in the rising tide of destitution a standing menace to the security of their property. The more starving men and women there are, the more danger there is of theft and other such crimes being committed. The choice is between increased protection in the shape of an additional police force and so-called "relief.” It is cheaper to dole out a few "bob” per head to the hungry than to feed, clothe, house and equip a large staff of extra police, and so we find that as the years go on and the army of the unemployed mounts from hundreds of thousands to millions and the general scope of destitution grows larger, the dole has to be enlarged and the need for economy in its administration becomes more keenly felt by the masters, from whose coffers it must come.

Hence we find centralisation schemes being adopted, extended and revised as experience and growing pressure dictates to our rulers. There is no "new spirit” embodied in the Labour Party’s policy in this matter. All the pious bosh of Ramsay Macdonald and his gang merely accentuates their disgusting meanness and contempt for the interests of the class in whose name they profess to act. Their "Socialism” is merely the bourgeois variety mentioned by Marx and Engels in the "Communist Manifesto” which professes with its lips to serve the workers but in its actual practice simplifies and economises Capitalist government.

The reduction of taxation in any shape or form cannot benefit the workers as a class for the simple reason that their energy is a commodity, the price of which is based on the cost of living. Even if we grant for sake of argument that taxes affect prices in the long run, the reduction in the cost of living involves no improvement in the general condition of the workers. It only provides the masters with an opportunity and excuse for reducing wages. In fact, the greater part of the existence of the workers on the economic field may be summed up thus :—Fighting for a rise when prices go up and fighting against a reduction when prices fall.

Yet, in spite of these perfectly obvious facts, we have sentimental humbugs proclaiming themselves the workers’ saviours because they have taken fourpence off tea. We are not impressed. They are merely imitators. Their Liberal precursors have given us our stomach-full long enough ago.

Fellow workers, so long as a small class possess the means of life, you will toil in poverty for them; and reforms will do nothing to lift the burden. Socialism alone will do that. Organise for the common ownership of the earth and all that the workers’ hands have wrought.
Eric Boden

The Labour Party Votes for Strike-Smashing Bill. (1924)

From the July 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard
We are threatened with strikes and lock-outs, and disputes and disturbances. How childish it all is! How foolish it all is! What has happened? Why is there now no mutual confidence? Surely these things can be arbitrated.—Mr. Ramsay Macdonald’s speech to Free Churches at Brighton, March 6th, 1924.
“The Right to Strike" is supposed to be the charter of Trade Unionism. Ever since unions were formed the masters have used every device to smash strikes. Now comes the Labour Party, when in office, supporting a Bill to make strikes illegal.

The Industrial Councils Bill provides for the setting up of joint industrial councils whose decisions will become law. Every individual who refuses to abide by them will be fined £50.

At the Trade Union Congress in 1922 the present War Secretary said that “if this Bill were passed it would mean compulsory arbitration." The Congress voted against it. Mr. Naylor, of the Compositors, spoke against it there. The Delegate of the Distributive Works pointed out that his experience of the Trade Boards Act showed that in many cases nothing was done when employers infringed the Trade Boards Act. The Bill was also denounced at the Congress by Brownlie, of the Engineering Union.

When the voting on the second reading of the Bill took place in the House of Commons only 16 voted against it. The majority of the Labour members voted for this anti-strike measure, and the second reading was carried by 236 to 16.

In spite of the agreements continually ignored by employers, and the paralysing effect of Whitley Councils, the so-called spokesman of Labour joined with the capitalists in supporting the Bill. The fact that Conciliation Boards on the railways played havoc with the railwaymen, that trade unionists have continually been compelled to strike to get “awards" carried into effect; and that in Australia and elsewhere compulsory arbitration has been a strong weapon in the hands of the employers; despite these glaring facts, these alleged Labour men vote for even stronger powers to be given to the ruling class against the victims of the present system.

The quotation which heads this article explains the reason. The Labour Party tells the workers to have confidence in employers who live by the robbery of labour.

The reason capitalists supported the aims of this Councils Bill was stated by Dr. Macnamara, the capitalist politician during the debate. “Whitleyism is the reply to Socialism” was his defence of the Bill the Labour members supported.

The anti-Socialist actions of the so-called Labour Party were made plain by Dr. Macnamara's answer to David Kirkwood during the debate. This Liberal member quoted the report of the Sub-Committee on Reconstruction made to the Government in 1917. The report begins with this gem :—
  In the interests of the community it is vital that after the war the co-operation of all classes, established during the war, should continue, and more especially with regard to the relations between employers and employed.
The report was signed by Robert Smillie, Susan Lawrence, and J. R. Clynes!

If further proof were required of the anti-strike attitude of the Labour Party, it is supplied by the vote on Lansbury’s amendment to the Army Annual Bill. In 1923, when they were in opposition, 101 Labour members voted for this same amendment. The amendment states that when enlisting in the army the recruit shall have the option of refusing to take duty in aid of the civil power in connection with a trade dispute. When the same amendment was voted upon this year (April 2nd) under a Labour Government, out of nearly 200 Labour members only 67 voted in favour of this amendment. It was defeated by 236 to 67. The members of the Labour Government voted against it, and included amongst them were many of the so-called pacifists who voted for it in 1923.

Apart altogether from Lansbury’s consent (which is implied in the amendment) to the building up of an army at all, for capitalism, the fact that the Labour members continually supported it before they took office confirms our charge against them of unblushing hypocrisy and reaction.
A. C. A.