Monday, July 2, 2018

H. M . Hyndman (1922)

Editorial from the January 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

The death of Mr. H. M. Hyndman, at a ripe old age, removes a figure of some prominence from the public life of this country.

He was an example of how an individual, without any outstanding abilities, could become noticeable by association with a set of ideas - not his own - that have stirred the modern world.

When the discoveries and ideas of Marx and Engels were first being spread in this country, H. M. Hyndman took up those ideas and, despite the fact of their unpopularity, became an advocate of them. The fact that he was a rich man added spice to the position he had taken up.

His grasp of the economic teachings of Marx was good and probably one of the most effective displays he gave in this connection was his lecture on "The Final Futility of Final Utility", given before the Economic Circle of the National Liberal Club.

It is interesting to note that the great defenders of Jevons’s theory of "Final Utility" - like G. B. Shaw, Professor Foxwell, Wicksteed, Sidney Webb, etc - though specially invited, failed to attend that lecture to defend their favourite theory. Maybe the reason is not difficult to find.

The other great discoveries of Marx and Engels, particularly their philosophy of history, he never assimilated, nor even appeared to understand. This lack of understanding led him into various anti-Socialist activities. In opposition to Marx and Engels he held to the Blanquist position that the establishment of Socialism would be brought about by an "intelligent minority" leading the working class to their emancipation.

It easily followed from this that he was ready to indulge in political compromise - to the great confusion of his followers - and carried this to its logical conclusion when, at the outbreak of the Great War, he became a rabid "patriot", although, with curious inconsistency, he declared that the position of the workers would remain the same no matter which side won.

As one of the so-called "well-educated class" who stood for Marxian economics when others claiming to be Socialists, like Webb, Shaw, etc., were opposing those theories, he will be remembered as something of a pioneer of those days. It was inevitable that his misunderstandings of the Marxian philosophy should have resulted in mis-education and mental confusion among the ranks of the advanced sections of the working class with whom he came into contact either by pen or platform. Some would argue that this confusion and misleading did harm to such an extent as to far outweigh the value of his work in other directions. This is probably true, but it does not obscure the fact that he stood for Marxism when it was being reviled in the early days, and he will be remembered much more for the position he then occupied than for the errors and anti-Socialist actions of his later years.
Jack Fitzgerald

Quantity and Quality (2018)

The Cooking the Books column from the July 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
A surreal exchange took place between the British and Russian ambassadors at a meeting of the UN Security Council on 11 April to discuss whether or not to bomb Syria (they didn’t decide to, but the US, France and Britain went ahead anyway).
The British ambassador, Karen Pierce, threw Lenin at her counterpart, taunting ‘to quote Lenin, quantity has a quality all of its own.’ It is not clear what the quote is supposed to mean. The most plausible interpretation is that it means simply that numbers make a difference, that more counts for more than less. Lenin may well have agreed with this trite statement though there’s no evidence that he uttered it, but so would nearly everybody else.
The Russian ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, answered with what he said was another quote from Lenin that ‘it is better to have less but better.’ This time the quote was genuine as Lenin did indeed write an article Better Fewer, But Better.
The British ambassador retorted:
‘Karl Marx must be turning in his grave to see what the country that was founded on many of his principles was doing in the name of supporting Syria.’
No doubt Marx did turn in his grave at this suggestion that Russia had been founded on some of his principles. Two of these were that socialism involved the end of working for wages and could only be democratic; neither of which was the case in the former USSR.
But he would not have been surprised at Russia trying to establish and maintain a naval base in the Mediterranean, as it now has at Tartus on the coast of Syria. This is what Tsarist Russia had been trying to do in his day. He might have been surprised that even after the overthrow of Tsarism it wasn’t long before Russia was pursuing the same expansionist policy as the Tsars, more successfully in fact as for some 45 years Russia dominated the whole of Eastern Europe, including a part of Germany and most of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire.
What made the exchange surreal was that neither took into account that, since 1991 and the collapse of the state capitalist regime there, Russia doesn’t claim any more to be ‘socialist’ or to be founded on Lenin’s let alone Marx’s principles. It is now openly capitalist like the West, the only difference being that the ruling class there are called oligarchs rather than billionaires.
Lenin did actually use the words ‘quantity’ and ‘quality’ together. He had read Hegel and was aware of the Hegelian ‘law of dialectics’ of changes in quantity leading to a change of quality. Engels gave the example of water changing from a liquid to a gas when the quantity of heat reached a certain point. This is more a description than a law, but has nothing to do with the statement that ‘quantity has a quality all of its own.’
Better Fewer, But Better was one of Lenin’s last articles (he died less than a year after writing it). In it, as in his other articles from 1923, he acknowledged that those who had said that socialism could not be established in Russia in 1917 because of its backwardness had been right, writing that Russia lacked ‘enough civilisation to enable it to pass straight to socialism.’ It was of course one of Marx’s principles that socialism could only be established when capitalism had created the material basis for it in the form of a technology capable of providing plenty for all and a working class capable of using it.

Tenth Betrayal of the Working Class 1904-1935 (1935)

Editorial from the November 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since 1904, when the S.P.G.B. started out on its task of pointing out to the workers that there is no solution of their problems except Socialism, and that there is no way of achieving Socialism except through independent organisation in a purely Socialist Party for the conquest of the powers of Government, there have been nine General Elections. This is the tenth. Nine times the politicians have sought and obtained a mandate for continuing capitalism, modified only in this or that small detail. Nine times—indeed continuously for 31 years—the S.P.G.B. has proclaimed that it makes no essential difference what is the label or programme of the political group which takes on the administration of capitalism. Nine times the workers have placed their trust in one or other of the non-Socialist parties, and nine times their trust has been repaid with poverty and distress instead of the promised prosperity, with the blood and tears of world-war instead of peace, with disillusion and despair instead of hope and progress.

Nine times the political leaders who were successful at the polls have solemnly pledged themselves to remedy those evils which now stare us in the face more menacingly than ever before.

In 1935 as in 1906: “Great Want in a Land of Plenty.”
In 1906 Mr. Lloyd George described the condition of the workers. It is a description which fits exactly the state of affairs to-day. He said that after “tinkering for generations with reform . . .  the end of it all is slums, pauperism, and great want in a land of plenty.” (Speech at Birmingham, October 22nd, 1906.)

Since 1906 we have had nearly 30 years more of reforms—reforms by Liberal Governments, reforms by Labour Governments, reforms by Conservative and Coalition Governments. The result is that we still have “slums, pauperism and great want in a land of plenty,” and still the working class have trust in politicians who solemnly pledge themselves to abolish these things by the vain method of reform.

In 1906 Mr. Lloyd George, on behalf of the great Liberal majority, promised a solution within three years. Five years after making the promise he confessed that “to-day you have greater poverty in the aggregate in the land than you | have ever had” (Cardiff, September 29th, 1911).

Another traditional promise of the Liberals was peace. After the struggle with the House of Lords, and the ensuing two elections which occurred in 1910, the Liberal Government kept their pledge of peace by landing us in the Great War!

A Land Fit for Heroes.
Re-elected in 1918 with promises to make this a land fit for heroes, Mr. Lloyd George’s Coalition Government collapsed in 1922 in an economic crisis which produced the then record number of 2½ million unemployed.

The pledges of 1906 were still wholly unfulfilled.

The Government which followed, with Mr. Bonar Law as premier, was the counterpart of the crisis Government of 1931-35. It came into office pledged to secure economy, to deal with the Budget and taxation questions, and to find a remedy for the unemployment arising out of the crisis. It went out of office having solved no problems of the working class.

At the next election, in 1923, the Conservatives, under Mr. Baldwin’s leadership, asked the electorate for a mandate to introduce tariffs. Failure to secure the desired mandate led to the formation of the first Labour Government in Great Britain. It ruled for a brief period during 1924 without solving any of the problems of the working class. The only change between 1906 and 1924 was that the pre-war Liberal Government, backed by Labour M.Ps., had given way to a Labour Government backed by Liberals. When that Liberal support was withdrawn, the short-lived Labour Government collapsed, leaving capitalism just as they found it.

Tory Social Reform, 1924-1929.
Then came five years of Tory Government, 1924-1929. The Tories were elected on a programme of promises of more and more social reforms—for the aged, the unemployed, and the sick. Their election address, under the heading “From the Cradle to the Grave" told how the capitalist State, with fatherly benevolence, watches over the welfare of the worker from, birth to death.

Throughout that period the workers remained poor, unemployment remained at about 1¼ millions, and pauperism at about double the level it had been when Mr. Lloyd George, in 1906, pledged his party to deal with it.

Labour Administration of Capitalism, 1929-31.
From 1929 to 1931 the second Labour Government was in power. The S.P.G.B. had predicted its inevitable failure, as it had the failure of every Government committed to the administration of capitalism. During those two years, every one of the Labour Party’s beliefs was discredited and its pledges broken. Wages fell, unemployment rose to a new high record, and Labour Party rule showed itself completely unable to prevent or mitigate the rising tide of capitalist economic crisis. When the Labour Government collapsed, and its leaders betrayed it to the National Government, it had earned the contempt of millions of workers who had voted for it with high hopes only two years earlier.

“National Government," 1931-1935
The “National Government" came into being pledged to deal with the crisis which Labour rule had been unable to prevent. It was supported mainly by Tories, but was aided by Liberal and Labour groups, and had the biggest majority known in modern times. In five years it has done nothing except carry out the traditional capitalist policy of economising during a crisis in order to allow capitalism to take its normal course of recovery from depression. The panacea offered on this occasion has been Tariffs. After a long period of poverty under “free trade" the workers have now experienced poverty under "protection." As a result, the working class are still poor; unemployment, after two years of trade expansion, is still 2,000,000; and the international situation is more threatening than at any time since 1914!

What of the Future?
Now once more, for the tenth time during the life of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, the workers are being asked to vote into power Liberal or Tory or Labour Parties, each of which will continue, with or without minor modifications, the capitalist system of society. Again, as on each previous occasion, the sole remedy that is being offered by those who wish to modify existing arrangements is a programme of still more social reforms to add to the fruitless accumulation of reforms of the past 100 years.

Only the S.P.G.B. stands simply for the abolition of capitalism and the institution of Socialism.

The S.P.G.B. makes no Pledges.
The history of General Elections is the history of new and ever more cunning methods of catching the votes of the worker by promises of reforms. It is a history of pledges made only to be broken.

The only Party which has never promised to solve the problems of the workers for them is the S.P.G.B. The S.P.G.B. does not promise to do something for you in return for your trust in us. The S.P.G.B. only assures you that your problems can be solved by you, and by you alone, just as soon as you have the knowledge, the will, and the political organisation to make your will effective. It is your task to understand Socialism, and then to join the S.P.G.B. to bring it about.
The Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, October 22nd, 1935.


Let the Capitalists Fight their Own Wars (1935)

Editorial from the October 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

It has been a common experience of Socialist Party speakers in recent years that, when they have referred to the support given by the Labour Party and Trade Unions to the last Great War, opponents have replied that those happenings are now ancient history, and ought, in fairness, to be forgotten. “Never again,” we were told, “would the Labour leaders and their followers fall into the trap set for them in 1914. They had learned their lesson for all time.” Of course, they had done nothing of the kind. They have learned nothing and forgotten everything. Because the bait has been presented in another way they are walking into the same trap as they did 21 years ago. The Manchester Guardian, only a few months back, gave the Government its lead in the matter by raising the question whether a war waged under cover of the League of Nations (of which “Socialist” Russia is a member), could be regarded as a “Capitalist” war. The General Council of the T.U.C. used just the same argument to fog the issue at the recent Congress, and it has been featured several times in the Labour Party’s privately-owned organ, the Daily Herald.

The League of Capitalist Governments
First let us examine the League of Nations. Its name obscures the truth. It is not a League of Nations, but a League of Governments, that is to say, it is directed and controlled by the representatives of the different sections of the capitalist class. If the importance of that is not at once apparent it is only necessary to point out that each of those Governments is occupied at home with the relentless suppression of the working class, by armed force if necessary. Never do those Governments set the armed forces in motion to promote or defend the interests of the working class, but always to protect capitalism and capitalist property rights. Yet we are asked to believe that these gentlemen undergo a surprising change on their journey to Geneva, and become representatives of the interest of humanity as a whole, or even of the working class in particular. Do our Labour Party opponents not recall that the same ridiculous spectacle was once a commonplace in the electoral held, of trade unionists voting into Parliament the very employers with whom they were engaged in bitter wages struggles?

Again, the League is an organisation of some of the Governments only, and this also is important. America, Japan and Germany are outside of it. It is dominated by France and England and is primarily an instrument for safeguarding the gains acquired by those Powers in the Great War. For a similar reason it is backed by the smaller countries, which gained territory, or whose very existence was the result of the Versailles Peace Treaty. The English League of Nations enthusiasts in Labour circles regard the League as an imperfect but highly commendable organisation. They have persuaded themselves that working class interests and League interests go hand-in-hand. They fail altogether to appreciate that their view is typically that of the Powers who dictated the Versailles and other Treaties—on friend and foe alike—and that the view of the other Governments and of the unthinking workers in their countries is a very different one. To the mass of German, Italian, Hungarian, Japanese and Turkish workers the League is regarded as nothing but the tool of Anglo-French capitalist imperialism. When, therefore, the Labour Party and Trade Unions line up and back the League they are separating themselves from the workers in those countries as rigidly as they did when they backed their capitalist Government in 1914-1918. They are destroying what is the only possible basis for securing Socialism and peace, that is the international solidarity of the working class. The only organisation which can ever hope to gain the confidence of the working class in other countries is the one which can show that it is not the direct or indirect tool of the capitalists at home. Its integrity and independence must be above suspicion.

New Bait for an Old Trap
The Trade Union leaders implore us to back the League in order to stop Fascism. “If Mussolini is allowed to win,” they say, “then Fascism will triumph everywhere.” A plausible argument, but it has a familiar odour. It stinks of 1914. “If the Kaiser is allowed to win then Prussian militarism will triumph everywhere. Make the world safe for democracy." At the cost of millions of workers’ lives the Kaiser was not allowed to win. And now Prussian militarism, in a revised and rather worse edition, is triumphant in Germany, and democracy is almost everywhere on the defensive against Fascism. Can they not see that, in addition to the destruction and suffering that war entails, it is itself a prolific breeder of all the violence and oppression in which Fascism flourishes and in which the Socialist movement stifles? The Labour leaders may pretend that a war resulting from League sanctions against Italy or some other Power, is a war against Fascism, but the Governments which will continue to have absolute control of the League and of their own armed forces are not going to fight against Fascism. They are going to fight in defence of capitalist interests. Indeed, many of the Governments—Spain, for example—. are themselves making use of the violent repressive measures which go by the name Fascist, and if the capitalists in democratic countries find that similar methods suit their interests they also will try to use them.

The truth is that capitalism is triumphant everywhere because the working class are blind to their own class position, and are still persuaded that they have an interest in leaving power in capitalist hands. It is only a degree worse that in some countries large numbers of workers go further on the road of stupid servility, and help to place power in the hands of Fascist demogogues. The only people who can end this are the workers themselves. When they sicken of Fascism they will be well on the road to destroying it, but it can only be done from within the country concerned. Overthrowing Mussolini by war waged by rival capitalist Powers will only have the same kind of result as the overthrow of Kaiserdom had in Germany. It is the duty of each national section of the working class to struggle against their own capitalist masters, aided to the extent that is possible by the international movement. Backing a League of Nations war will not help, but will hinder the spread of understanding and organisation among the workers everywhere. It is the policy of unchaining ten mad dogs of war to deal with one of them.

Junior Partner or Doormat?
Alongside their other arguments the Labour leaders who support war under League auspices profess to believe that by lining up with the Government they will exercise great influence on the Government’s conduct of the war and on the eventual peace settlement. What does the last Great War tell us about this? The Labour Party, when it joined the war-time Coalition Government, told us it was going to see that the peace was a real and lasting peace, not the dictation of onerous terms by victors to vanquished. Some of the Labour leaders (those who were not too much choked up with vile jingoistic sentiments themselves) gave their advice accordingly. And what amount of notice did the Government take of their advice? Not the slightest as regards the main terms of the settlement. For proof ask any Labour leader if he is prepared to defend the savage terms of the Versailles Treaty; ask if he is prepared to say that the Labour Party’s advice was taken and that he stands by the result.

Again, consider the special question of the Trade Unions. They helped British capitalism to win the war. One of their spokesmen wrote a pamphlet in 1914 defending their support of the war on the ground that if the “Huns" won they would reduce English Trade Unions down to the level of the German Unions. The German capitalists did not win, but in 1926 the English capitalists made a frontal attack on the British Trade Union movement in order to help the mine-owners force down the miners’ wages. They followed it up in 1927 by legislation severely restricting the legal rights of the Trade Unions. What happened? Where was the influence of the Labour leaders on the British capitalists and their Government? What reward or consideration did they get for having helped capitalism to win the war? None whatever. Not a shred. Force, naked force, was the order of the day. The Labour M.P.s and Trade Union officials threatened and bluffed, wept and pleaded. They appealed to sentiment, patriotism, religion, to the preservation of order, and even to the interest the capitalists themselves have in exercising power with mercy. And they got precisely nothing.

Now they ask the working class to line up with British and French capitalism in defence of democracy and peace! They have learned nothing. Even the greatest war the world has ever known— yet—could not teach them.

The Class Struggle (1935)

Editorial from the September 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Timely Reminder
There are so many people who do not understand what is the nature of the class-struggle of which Socialists speak, and so many others who choose to misrepresent it, that the essential facts cannot be repeated too often. The class-struggle is something which exists owing to capitalism. It is not an idea invented by Socialists. It existed before there was any Socialist Movement. The existing class-struggle is a fact arising from the division of human beings into two social classes. They are not divided into classes by Socialists, or by their own ideas and outlook, but by their possession or non-possession of property. The capitalist class are those who own sufficient property to be able to live on the income which flows to them through their ownership. They are the receivers of rent, interest or profit. The working class are those who, because they do not own sufficient property to be able to live on property income, must work for their living. They must sell their physical and mental energies, their labour-power, to the capitalist class and the agents of the capitalist class. In return, they receive wages or salary. The working class includes those who perform practically all of the work necessary for the production and distribution of wealth, from the making of bricks to the task of organising and directing. They are all workers, working to order, producing wealth for the capitalists to own. These are facts, and it is remarkable how rarely the defenders of capitalism even attempt to dispute them. Given this private ownership of the world’s means of producing and distributing wealth, a class struggle is the necessary consequence, expressing itself as a struggle by the propertyless to gain control of property, or as a struggle over the division of the product of industry—strikes, lockouts, etc.

The part played by Socialists is not that they have created this struggle, but that they point it out, explain it, and show how it can be abolished by the abolition of classes.

The part played by some of the defenders of capitalism is to pretend that the struggle has no basis in material conditions but exists only because certain people hold and preach views regarding it. Thus The Times, in an editorial, on August 21st, takes the Trades Union Congress to task for not rejecting the class-struggle theories it is supposed to hold. The T.U.C. is invited to observe that employers, far from seeking to reduce wages during the crisis, “have had for their object that maintenance of the general standard of living which has also been . . .  the anxious concern of the Unions,” and to observe further that in the newer industrial areas, where workers are employed “in agreeable surroundings” and have “welfare amenities,” the “conflict of interests between employers and workpeople . . . has scarcely arisen.”

The phrasing of this betrays at once that The Times writer does not understand what conflict of interests means. It is not something which may or may not arise, but something which exists in the nature of capitalism. To him, the absence of trade union organisation in some of the newer industrial areas, particularly round London, shows that there is no conflict of interest. It shows nothing of the kind. The absence of trade union organisation may be due to the employers being able to forbid trade union membership, or to the fact that the workers are not yet aware of the value of organisation. Conflict of interest does not have to show itself in one form only, that of trade unions and strikes. Each individual worker when he weighs up the amount of pay offered to him, and his chance of standing out for more in face of the competition of the unemployed is taking part in the struggle, and is more or less dearly conscious of the conflict of interest between him and his employer. The very relationship of employer giving orders and employee having to take orders is a distinguishing mark of the class-struggle. Again, if The Times writer were familiar with one of the most outstanding examples of modem capitalist organisations in which trade unions are as far as possible prohibited—Ford's— he would recall that only two or three years ago a savage conflict occurred at the Detroit works in which lives were lost and many workers and police were injured. Moreover, in 1933, there were strikes at Ford's Dagenham Works, and at those of his subsidiary, Brigg's Bodies. During August of this year a wages dispute occurred at Ford's Dagenham works and led to the defeat and dismissal of strikers.

The Times writer betrays himself again when he admits that “the conflict of interests between employer and workpeople" has in the past been the “raison d'├ętre of the Unions." He mentions a certain gilding of the chains of wage-slavery in the form of “welfare amenities" but apart from this he nowhere shows that the conditions in the newer industries are more than superficially different from those in the older ones. And again, how, on his supposition, does he accounts for the persistence of the unions and their 100,000 increase of membership in the past 12 months?

Before leaving this topic we would like to refer The Times writer to an earlier editorial which appeared on June 22nd of this year. In it we are given some interesting facts about the ownership of wealth in America. First, a quotation from a speech by President Roosevelt, in which the President declared that for three generations there had been “a constantly increasing concentration of wealth and power in fewer hands," and secondly, a statement by Mr.. Ickes, United States Secretary of the Interior, to the effect that 80 per cent. of the wealth of the country had accumulated in the hands of 2 per cent, of the population. Let us put a question to The Times editor. He denies that class-struggle and class-conflict have any necessary existence outside propaganda. Knowing that wealth in America (and also in England) is concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of the population, will he deny the existence of a propertied class and propertyless class, and will he affirm that conflict of interests need not exist between those who own the means of life of the whole of society and those who do not own?

Labour Party Dissensions (1935)

Editorial from the August 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nearly thirty years ago the Labour Party was formed out of the various organisations which had made up the Labour Representation Committee. Before the formation of the Labour Party, trade union leaders seeking to become members of Parliament did so mostly under the patronage of the Liberal Party. The change meant that there was now a working-class political organisation with trade union backing aiming to get control of the machinery of government in the interests of the working class—or so it appeared to its optimistic supporters.

Many thousands of working men and women believed that it provided the solution to their economic problems. With all its faults and limitations the early Labour Party was of a distinctly working-class character, and most of its prominent members were workers from the factory and mine. There were also a sprinkling of “intellectuals” and the inevitable political adventurer (Mr. R. MacDonald in his letter to Keir Hardie when applying for membership stated as his reason for joining the Labour Party the fact that the Liberal Party would not choose him as a candidate for Parliament!).

Time has brought changes. The Party has grown, has been the Government and has tasted the sweets of office. Many of its prominent members whose chests in their youth wore the sashes of their trade unions, now wear the decorations of another sort. A few erstwhile “reds” and “enemies of society” have reached the House of Lords. Much anxiety is shown on the important questions of what to wear for royal and State functions by former working men who in the ’eighties were anxious about obtaining a “tanner" a day for the dockers.

That the Labour Party is not, and never was a Socialist party we have shown all along. Nevertheless, it was quite probable in its early days that many of its leaders believed it to be the only party which the worker, in his own interests, could support. To-day, however, after holding the reins of office, the appearance of the Labour Party to its members has changed considerably. A series of incidents connected with a by-election at Putney in November, 1934, illustrate this change.

Putney had always been regarded by the Labour Party as a “middle class” area, and its candidates had never been successful there. When the seat at Putney became vacant the Labour Party’s candidate was a Mr. Mander who had been chosen by the local organisation twelve months earlier. Other by-elections in 1934 in areas similar to Putney caused officials of the Labour Party to believe that their chances of success were considerably improved, partly because there had arisen quite a lot of anxiety about war. Despite its own war-time record, and relying on the proverbial short political memory of working-class electors, the Labour Party came out as a party of peace, and exploited the peace sentiment for all it was worth. The chances of success at Putney having improved, high officials of the Party intervened and persuaded Mr. Mander —not without the use of pressure—to stand down in favour of another candidate. Members of the Putney Labour Party resented the back-door methods used to induce Mander to stand down. They also flatly refused to accept as their candidate the nominee of the officials, a Mr. Bowles, whose claims for fitness to represent the Labour Party in Parliament, according to statements submitted by the officials to the Putney Labour Party, were his wealth, his financial connections in the City and the numerous motor-cars at his command. The Putney Labour Party was successful in thwarting the Headquarters officials, but the result was that the Putney Party was suspended.

Many lessons are to be learned from the Putney by-election. The Labour Party has reached the stage at which it is unwilling to be associated with ideas of destroying the private property rights of the capitalist class. Its chief business more than ever now is to get itself elected. It chooses its programme of social reforms solely with an eye to getting votes. In this it is little different from the openly capitalist parties.

There are, of course, members of the Labour Party who criticise the way the machine is run, among them the expelled members of the Putney group. They say that they do not want the Party to seek electoral success on a non-Socialist programme, nor do they want candidates foisted on the local organisations by the Headquarters officials.

They want men chosen by themselves for their principle, not for their wealth and social standing. All of which sounds very well, but is really an empty dream. A movement such as the Labour Party can be successful or unsuccessful at elections according to the swing of the political pendulum and the nice choice it exercises in drawing up its programme, but it cannot turn itself into a Socialist Party. Its membership and officials, its funds and its structure are what they are because of the theories on which the Party has been built up. It cannot cut itself off from its past and become something entirely different. Even were it possible for the Party now to be run in the way the Putney rebels say they desire—on a strictly Socialist non-reformist programme—that would be the end of the Party. It would disappear as the largest opposition Party and potential future Government, and its millions of votes would attach themselves elsewhere, to a Party offering the reforms they have been taught by the Labour Party (and by the Putney group) to value. The Putney rebels are deceiving themselves.

Their choice is not between running the Labour Party as a great vote-catching machine or running it as if it were a Socialist Party, for the latter is impossible. If they want the kind of immediate electoral success the Labour Party offers they must seek it in the Labour Party and work for it by the methods they profess to dislike. If, on the other hand, they want Socialism they must seek it in the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1935)

Editorial from the July 1935 issue of the Socialist Standar

It is an unwritten law of the newspaper world that the rich and the politically powerful must always be represented in a favourable light. Their vices must be veiled if at all possible, and if they are so glaring that they simply force themselves on the notice of the general public, then they must be given a certain twist. They must be made to appear as the pardonable eccentricities of genius, or lightly turned aside with the sycophantic snigger which our Press and literary gentlemen reserve exclusively for their capitalist masters. Thus it happens that Mr. X—, where friends know him to be a drunken gambler, appears to the readers of the newspaper as a jovial soul, with heart of gold—all because he is a powerful instrument for deluding working class electorates in the interest of capitalism. This courtesy is also extended to foreign potentates, and only temporarily abandoned for purposes of war. Newspaper readers soon forget, and are not at all shaken in their trustfulness when they see Lord Rothermere, for example, heaping praises on the head of that “great man," the ex-Crown Prince of Germany, only a few years after Lord Rothermere's newspapers had represented him as the world’s prize buffoon.

Then there is the Polish Marshal, Jozef Pilsudski, who died recently. This loud-mouthed renegade from the Labour movement (his speeches were sometimes so filled with violent obscenity that journalists dared not report them), was given thousands of words of extravagant praise in the English Press. The Times gave him nearly four columns, and discussed with its usual show of impartiality his greatness as soldier and statesman, and the “daring and romantic" qualities of his character. Some sentiment had to be brought in, so we are told that “his chief happiness was found in the company of soldiers and children.” He gave many children's parties, and in his later years they were almost his only recreation—it is curious how often the world's principal pests are fond of children—but the Times does not trouble to estimate how many soldiers were slaughtered and children orphaned to further the limitless lust for power of this megalomaniac. Among his early activities was naked banditry, raiding mail trains and similar activities, calculated to harass the Russian Government at a time when Pilsudski was a Russian citizen. It may be remarked here that if the banditry and the insurrectionary movements had failed instead of succeeding, Pilsudski's death would not have received four columns. It would then probably have contented the Times to publish a three-line paragraph, notifying the death of the notorious Polish bandit and assassin.

Great Man—Great Liar.
An interesting pendant to the career of this “great statesman" was provided in a letter which the Times published on May 23rd. It was a report of a statement Pilsudski made to a fellow prisoner on his release from exile in Siberia: —
   During these years that we suffered together I learned to love and respect you, and 1 now know that the whole of Russia does not consist of gendarmes, police spies, and other torturers of my people. But when I come home I will not tell the Poles of this my new experience; let them think that all Russia is one undivided hostile and beastly camp, lest their will for fighting for freedom should become blunted!
So the great statesmen was a great liar, prepared to indict a nation in order that his dupes, the Polish workers and peasants, might be kept at the appropriate fever-heat for the slaughter of Russian workers and peasants, who, for their part, were similarly duped. Give heed to this, you workers who may some day again be called upon to "fight for freedom." Remember that the political tricksters who rule all the nations of the world, all make us of the same vile methods of deceiving you. When they tell you that the "enemy" country is “one undivided hostile and beastly camp," and appeal to you not to allow your “will for fighting for freedom" to be blunted, remember Jozef Pilsudski's indiscreet confession, and know them for the liars they are. Know that they will be asking you, the working class, to fight each other in order that they, the capitalist class, may continue to enjoy the privileges of an exploiting class.

Peace—in Principle (1935)

Editorial from the June 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

The statesmen of Europe are in high feather just now, travelling thousands of miles and engaging in pow-wows, dinners, and triumphal tours that delight the hearts of politicians. And it is all being done in a good cause. Over and over again they point out that they are determined to secure peace, perpetual peace.

Capitalist interests may be what they will, but all representatives are agreed on peace—in principle. That is why they are engaging in such a terrific armament race. Building numerous fast and powerful bombing 'planes. Concluding pacts of mutual support in case of attack. Staging aeroplane attacks on towns and teaching the citizens the art of dodging gas attacks. No expense is grudged in convincing all and sundry of their peaceful intentions.

In the bad old days it was customary to show peaceful intentions by going forth armed with an olive branch. In these enlightened days such things simply are not done. A fleet of aeroplanes armed with several tons of explosive are considered more convincing evidence of a fundamental desire for peace in principle.

The capitalists assert they are too poor to pay workers a wage that will ensure a comfortable existence. Now surely this seems strange when wealth to the value of thousands of millions of pounds is used up providing battleships, tanks, 'planes, guns and the men to man and use them, and the people to minister to these armies of men. And more extraordinary still, all this wealth is simply wasted because none of the powers that be have warlike intentions—at least in principle!

If a recent report is true, and not just a game of bluff, the bulk of what has been spent on armaments in pursuit of peace has been simply thrown away; it has produced just colossal white elephants.

The Evening News for May 15th says that a new defensive weapon is reported to have been perfected by a scientist in Bavaria. It consists of a wireless ray of long range and great penetrating power, which can put out of action aeroplanes, tanks and armoured cars. Properly handled, an invisible barrier of rays could be constructed along a frontier which would stop all invading aircraft.

If the report is true the pursuit of peace will change its course and there will be plenty of material for the scrapheap.

In the meantime, however, perhaps workers will awake to the silliness of it all. Peace is only pursued so ferociously because capitalist private property interests have to be served. If there are no capitalists’ interests there will be nothing to go to war over. The only way to secure this is to make the means of production the common possession of all. Then we will have peace in fact as well as in principle, and many more human arms and brains to lighten the labour of producing enough to enable all to live comfortably.

Politics and Party Funds (1935)

From the April 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

The possession of huge funds will not alone create a movement nor will lack of funds destroy one, but money can go a long way towards achieving speedy success where conditions are otherwise ripe. Nothing shows so clearly as the inflow of funds the gulf between the Socialist movement and its many rivals, from Labour to Conservative. The S.P.G.B. is always hampered by lack of resources, and even its present limited expenditure is only met with difficulty from the small donations of workers who cannot afford more. Not so with the other parties. There is going on at the moment a revolt led by Churchill against Baldwin’s leadership of the Conservative Party. At once it is announced in the News Chronicle that “associates of a well-known millionaire are willing to spend £200,000 in forcing both the resignation of the Prime Minister and the withdrawal of the India Bill.” (News Chronicle, March 4th.) Parallel with this is the Government’s semi-official propaganda organisation managed by the Postmaster-General, Sir Kingsley Wood. When this was first announced some months ago it was widely reported that wealthy business men had supplied the necessary campaign funds.

Mr. Randolph Churchill, a member of his father’s rebel Conservative group, stated on February 24th that “he was already assured of powerful financial backing.” (Evening Standard, March 4th.) Rumour has it that Lady Houston is one of the backers, and Lord Rothermere another.

Everyone knows that Sir Oswald Mosley’s political adventures have not been financed on the subscriptions of his misguided or place-hunting followers. When he formed the New Party tens of thousands of pounds must have been spent on propaganda by poster display and on financing his short-lived journal. Mr. Tom Johnston, Lord Privy Seal in the Labour Government, said that from £30,000 to £40,000 had been spent on the poster display alone. Mosley did not offer to disclose the source of his funds, and of course neither he nor his Fascist organisation will do so now, but he promptly hit back at Mr. Johnston by pointing out that the Labour Party was in the habit of sending out a special appeal to rich men for donations to its secret fund. (Manchester Guardian, April 28th, 1931.)

The way in which wealthy men subscribed to the Liberal and Tory funds is, of course, notorious, and Hitler and the other new political Messiahs who promised a clean sweep of old-gang methods have not shown any intention of getting rid of the method of collecting big funds from, big business.

Mussolini’s “Corporative State” Jest (1935)

Editorial from the April 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the propaganda stunts of the Fascists all over the world is their promise to replace “political” control by “corporative” control, i.e., that the ultimate control of industry and all economic affairs should be handed over to a body representing employers and workers in industry, transport, etc. Parliament and the present State power in Italy were to be replaced by a Corporative Legislature. Mussolini has been in undisputed power now for 14 years, and he has carried out his pledge to the very last word, or rather, to the last word but one. He has established his Council of Corporations and has created his 22 corporations, representing different industries. He has given them—-on paper—wide powers, but he has discreetly provided that they may do nothing whatever without the consent of Parliament and of himself as head of the State. Read the following account by the Rome correspondent of the Observer (November 18th, 1934): —
   We must remember that the law of 1930, instituting the Council of Corporations, is still in being. It established that the Council, and, therefore, the corporations of to-day cannot pass legislative measures regarding those subjects which have been regulated already by laws passed in Parliament. This prudent reservation avoids confusion, and also shows how successive developments will come about.
  The Council of Corporations, on the other hand, has the right to form any regulations referring to collective and economic relations which have not passed through Parliament, and these are fully valid so long as they bear the signature of Mussolini. This limitation is the only one to be withdrawn so as to arrive at a complete Corporative Parliament.
From this we perceive that the Council can do everything on paper, and nothing important in fact. Not only must they not infringe Parliamentary statutes, but their own acts are invalid without Mussolini’s signature; and he is himself President of every one of the 22 corporations!

A Monopolist Scheme for Control (1935)

Editorial from the March 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since the advocates of “nationalisation” of industry switched over to preaching State supervision of private monopolies on the lines of the London Passenger Transport Board there has been a noticeable increase of friendliness in the relationship between leading trade union officials and Labour leaders on the one side and what are called “progressively minded" captains of industry on the other. The progressive mindedness means nothing more than that the individuals in question have an interest in replacing the existing small and medium-sized concerns by large-scale monopolies or semi-monopolies. That they are in favour of change at all is sufficient to bring the Labour Party to view them as potential allies on the road to office, and that party obligingly popularises the terms “Public ownership" “public utility corporation," and “socialisation" as a cover under which those large-scale capitalists who are out to devour their smaller and weaker brethren, can operate. The Labour Party and the trade unions are thus to throw their weight on the side of the workers’ most powerful enemies, or are to remain neutral while these enemies consolidate their position.

The lines on which the bigger capitalists are thinking has already been disclosed by the merger of London transport and the schemes propounded in various quarters for amalgamating the iron and steel industry, the mines, the electricity concerns, and so on. A detailed scheme applicable to a whole series of industries is contained in the Industrial Reorganisation (Enabling Bill), presented in the House of Lords last autumn by Lord Melchett (price 4d., from H.M. Stationery Office).

Some interest attaches to the promoter of the Bill. He is the son of the late Lord Melchett, formerly Sir Alfred Mond, the Liberal who went over to the Conservatives at about the time that the Conservatives’ Derating Act bestowed very substantial rating reliefs on Imperial Chemical Industries, the firm of which he was head. The present Lord Melchett is director of I.C.I. and of other chemical, coal, and finance companies, and of Barclays Bank. Although a Conservative, he holds what are regarded as unorthodox views on currency and banking, and like his father, has been heard to denounce the rapacity of the money-lending capitalists. Because of this he is much admired in certain Labour and currency crank circles where the sectional antagonisms of the various groups of capitalists are thought to be of concern to the workers who are exploited indiscriminately by all capitalists. One can guess that Lord Melchett would show the same lofty disregard of the party line as did his father, and he may some day be seen graciously allowing the Labour Party enthusiasts for remodelling capitalism to pull chestnuts out of the fire for him.

The Big Fish devour the Little Ones.
The object of the bill “is to provide for the self-government of industries by enabling the majority of producers in an industry, notwithstanding the opposition of a small minority, to introduce and cause to be enforced schemes for the reorganisation of the whole or part of that industry with the general object of promoting greater efficiency, eliminating wasteful competition, and of facilitating the production, manufacture, and supply of the products of that industry.”

Now what could be more reasonable, innocent sounding, and democratic than that? Who would not want to see mining, chemicals, textiles, tobacco, foodstuffs, etc., etc., made more efficient in the interest of all?

But not so fast. The voting is to be “democratic,” the "majority" is to decide the issue (subject to inquiry, supervision, and possible veto by Government and Parliament), but the majority is not to be a majority of the population or of those engaged in the industry. It is only to be a majority of persons who have “an ownership interest,” in other words, the capitalists alone, although they are only a small minority in relation to the workers they employ. Thus this democratic self-regulation of industry is just the same as the so-called democratic control of industry preached by Sir Oswald Mosley and the Fascists generally . The workers are to get a look-in not in proportion to their numbers, but simply as a trade union having a “special interest" in the industry, and thus entitled merely to express opinions. Lord Melchett, like Sir Oswald Mosley, is determined that the workers shall not decide. Capitalism, reorganised, is to be preserved intact.

Moreover—and this is where the bill exposes the particular aim of the big capitalist—the “ownership interest” of any person or persons putting forward a scheme of reorganisation to the Board of Trade must be a “substantial one having regard to the ownership of all other persons having an ownership interest in the industry." Thus weight is to be given in the question of promoting a scheme, not to the number of capitalists, but to the size of their capital. Eventually, after any scheme has been published and discussed, a poll of all persons having an ownership interest shall take place, and if 75 per cent. of the recorded votes are in favour the scheme shall go forward for Parliamentary approval notwithstanding the objections of the minority. The use of this to crush the smaller fry in any industry is obvious, and that no doubt is why Lord Melchett’s bill was drafted. Those of his admirers who think that his criticisms of the banks arise from a disinterested desire to see the small man helped to keep his head above water by means of easier credit facilities are invited to study the bill, and note what its effects would be if it or a similar measure is eventually adopted by a Government and becomes law.
 
Anyone who is interested in the way large-scale industry is developing will find much useful material in a study of Imperial Chemical Industries, published in the Economist (January 19th, 1935). This £77 million combine made £7,664,000 profit in 1933.

What this means is perhaps best conveyed by relating it to the number of workers employed. According to figures published a few years ago, the number was then about 60,000, and on this basis the profit represents about £128 per head of the workers employed. (The number has, possibly, increased somewhat in the meantime.)

I.C.I. is interested in chemicals, explosives, fertilisers and many other trades, “as diversified as sporting cartridges and soda crystals, motor components and motor fuel, and property It has connections by shareholdings or agreements with powerful concerns in Germany, U. S. A., Canada, S. Africa, and elsewhere. It has a “footing in many countries (from China, literally, to Peru).”

In view of the popularity so-called planned economy is attaining in the eyes of members of the Labour Party, we read with interest the opinion expressed by the Economist that:
   the modern world indeed, under a regime of private enterprise, has produced no more perfect an example of "planned economy," centralised for policy and finance, decentralised in administrative functions, and aimed at all points in its relations with suppliers, customers, competitors and the State.

Flaming Folly in the Saar (1935)

Editorial from the February 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

In an editorial entitled “Flaming Patriotism" one of the less vicious of Lord Rothermere’s newspapers, the Evening News, tells us (January 15th) what the Saarlanders have done, and why. Before considering his Lordship’s contribution to world hysteria, let us cast an eye over some other contributions. A great battle has been fought and won. A glorious triumph has been achieved by the enthusiasts for reunion with Germany. The small band of supporters of continued administration by the League of Nations, and the microscopic handful favourable to France are correspondingly depressed. But what are they fighting about, these Saarland workers? What would they gain by any of the three courses open to them? What did they stand to lose? The Communists gave one answer. The Communists, who in Russia suppress every independent trade union or political party, told the Saar workers that Hitler would suppress their independent trade unions and political parties. So little did the workers care about this that they voted in overwhelming numbers for Hitler. The I.L.P., which for years has advocated returning the Saar to Germany, and which denounces the League of Nations as an imperialist instrument, implored the Saarland workers on no account to return to Germany, but to remain under the League. The Liberals and Labourites all wept bitter tears over the awful fate which would befall the workers under Hitler, forgetful of the fact that large numbers, if not a majority of the workers already under Hitler apparently find life so little different from what it was under the German Labour Governments and Coalitions that they do not mind, or are even enthusiastic Nazis. But none of these parties, nor the legions of journalists and expert commentators who have overrun the Saar, have told us what there was at issue which merited the bitter campaign.

Let us, then, seek an answer from Lord Rothermere, for his organ is at least definite. It tells us that the Saarlanders were stirred by the call of race and language and blood. Seemingly this was so attractive that for it “they willingly face the chances of poverty and unemployment.” Mark those last words well. They contain the distilled wisdom of a great capitalist newspaper. They are a mark both of the impudence of the capitalist Press and of the simplicity of the non-Socialist mass of workers who read it. The Saarland workers, we are told, have voted for re-union with Germany, even though it means the “material hardship” of poverty and unemployment! Just think of it. We are asked to believe that members of the working class only suffer poverty and unemployment in Germany, and that if they remained under the League or joined France they would escape these things. The tragedy is that there are British workers, intelligent and experienced in many things, but not yet intelligent in politics, who will read the Evening News and believe what they read, though it flies in the face of all working-class experience everywhere. And there are Saarland workers subject to just the same paralysis of the mind, so that when they read the lying propaganda of their masters, or the stupid nonsense of their Labour and Communist leaders, they believe it. What are the facts of the situation? The Saar is capitalist. It has capitalism to the west of it and to the east of it, north of it and south of it. Everywhere the means of production and distribution are owned and controlled by the master-class. Everywhere the workers produce wealth for others to own. Everywhere poverty and the risk of unemployment are the normal features of working-class life. Yet, knowing this, so-called leaders and counsellers of the Saarland workers, at home and abroad, egged them on to take sides in this master-class dispute about the ownership of the Saar. Members of the working class were thus divided into two bitterly antagonistic groups about the momentous question whether the proceeds of their own exploitation should flow to capitalists under the French or German or League flags!

What was needed in the Saar and what would have happened had there been any organised Socialist (as distinct from reformist) movement, was a clear presentation of the Socialist case. The workers would have been shown that their interests were not at stake in this Capitalist bickering, and that the surface differences between French and German and League capitalism are not vital, and cannot be dealt with by the working up of national hatreds. The workers would have been shown that the prime need of the occasion, as of every occasion, was a demonstration that they could no longer be drawn into capitalist rivalries, but stood for the abolition of capitalism, without conditions and without delay. Even as a minority gesture an organised Socialist refusal to vote for either of the three forms of capitalist administration would have done more to proclaim the message of Socialism, and would have caused more consternation to the capitalists on both sides of the frontier than all the misdirected efforts of the anti-Hitler United Front. The organisers of that movement failed to seize the opportunity of putting the Socialist case because they do not know what the Socialist case is. They displayed their courage and energy in a worthless cause.

The result, in the absence of a Socialist movement among the Saarland workers, is that Hitler and Lord Rothermere, and the capitalists of all the countries in all the world are able to sit back, reassured that they and their system are still safe, safe behind the patriotic and capitalistic illusions of the working class.

Reflections for the New Year (1935)

Editorial from the January 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

A new year has come round again, and brings to mind the annual question, “How long, oh, Lord, how long," must we work, and hunger, and squirm under oppressive social conditions? Outside the ranks of our Party there are thousands and thousands of workers who feel the pressure of servile conditions and bitterly complain, yet they are deaf to our message. To such our view is the “long view,” but they want “something now." For over a century workers have been struggling for “something now," and how has it left them? Bound tightly to the wheel of capital, faced with the poverty and insecurity, that is their common lot to-day.

As we have so often pointed out the problem is a simple one. The insecurity and bondage that is the lot of the working class arises from the private ownership of the means of living. The conversion of these means of living into the common property of society will enable the product of industry to flow wherever needed, instead of only to those who have the money to buy. As the working class performs the work of producing and distributing the wealth to-day nothing can be lost by the changeover, except the privileges of an idle and parasitic class.

The simplicity of the Socialist position is a guarantee that if it is sufficiently pressed to the attention of workers it must ultimately convince them, and gain their support. But it is the pressing that is the trouble. The small amount of leisure available to those who are advocating Socialism makes the spreading of our views a long job until our membership has reached dimensions which will enable our view to be put everywhere and at all times.

Yet, slow though our growth is, we are growing, and every year shows increase in activity, new forms of activity, and the wider spread of our views. In particular, there has been, in recent years, a gratifying increase in the number of, and attendance at, indoor meetings. We are gradually building up a large staff of competent speakers which will have fruitful results in the near future.

There is always the central fact that is both a spur to our efforts and a solace, and it is that the abolition of private ownership of the means of production and the establishment of Socialism is the only solution to the economic evils of to-day, and further, that this can be accomplished when the workers understand it and want it.

Those who wish to make New Year resolutions of an unusual kind—resolutions to be kept—have an excellent opportunity. Let them make up their mind to study Socialism, and work for its achievement in the way that is open to them: By joining us and helping with voice, pen, funds, and other ways to speed the birth of a new and much-needed social order.

That is our New Year message to all workers.