Monday, October 15, 2018

Letters: A Glaring Light (1974)

Letters to the Editor from the November 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Glaring Light
The coincidence of my handling a copy of New Statesman rummaging through as though the print actually suggested thoughts led me to the end rather suddenly. Your column had the effect of a sharp glaring light unsheathing suggestive substance. You’ve stated your goals clearly, I’m interested in your means to obtain this equalitarian world community. Principally if you view this action from a scientific basis or from a derivative nature espousing fragmented Marxist excerpts. If the latter don’t feel obliged to reply.
Mark Goldwater
Israel

Reply:
To establish socialism the working class must wrest control of the machinery of government and of the armed forces from the hands of the capitalist class and use them to convert the present class ownership of the means of production and distribution into common ownership by the whole of society. In other words it is necessary to take political action to establish a free society.

This conclusion is reached from an analysis of society which is scientific rather than Utopian, and is based on the pioneer work of Marx and Engels. We maintain, and can demonstrate, that Marx’s analysis of capitalism is still valid today, and applies to the West and to the State capitalist economies of Russia, China, Cuba etc. We also hold that his theory of history — the materialist conception of history — is the key to the way in which societies change. The different stages of social development are the result of classes in society pursuing their material interests. Socialism will be the outcome of this class struggle. It will be the outcome of the conscious political action of the vast majority of the working class — the last class in history to achieve its emancipation. It cannot be the work of "enlightened” √©lites or of a vanguard party of intellectuals.

We also hold, as did Marx and Engels, that Socialism means the abolition of the wages system and the institution of a classless, stateless, moneyless world community with common ownership and democratic control of the means of life with production for use not for sale.
Editors.


Shut Up and Shut Out
At the meeting of the "Hackney Committee Against Racialism”, controlled by the IMG, I explained to the chairman that I wished to explain the Socialist case. Though I was invited, as my name is in the Hackney Council brochure, the chairman stated that I was not to speak. I did not quarrel at all but suggested a speaker from the Socialist Party. "Oh dear no, Tariq Ali is our man.” In brief, red fascists are no different from black fascists.

Recently a poster on the wall at the London School of Economics announced a meeting of IS. I knocked at the door and asked if it was all right to sit and listen. They knew I was a member of the Socialist Party. The answer was "No”. I suppose they’re a secret society.
S. Highams
London N.1


Ourselves and the CP
I am writing to protest at your waste of good Socialist space in the S.S. I refer to your continual obsessive carping on the misguided thinking of the CP in comparison to yours. Surely, with all the futile waste, almost criminal of the capitalist system, this includes state capitalism masquerading as communism, you could leave the CP to its usual smearers in the Labour and Conservative parties. After all there must be something wrong with the CP to warrant this continuous smearing — apart from yours.

A member of the CP can never expect honours from the establishment while still an active member. In order to attain these he must leave and get control of a Union if possible, and duckshove his way to the top, to manipulate its business in capitalism’s favour. A case in point is the ETU where three communists with the help of the present Lord Feather secured controlling positions in that key Union. One became Sir Leslie Cannon — if that was any consolation to him. The establishment know how to reward working-class treachery in their favour.
J. Maryon
Hornchurch.

Reply
We have never gone in for the “smearing” of other political parties. Our criticisms are always based on verifiable fact and never on smear, guilt by association or any of the other tactics employed by capitalist parties.

Our criticism of the so called “Communist" Party is quite different to those used by the Labour and Conservative Parties. We are unique in attacking the CP on the grounds that they are, whatever their proclamations may be, an anti-working class party. The CP advocates not Communism or Socialism (the terms are the same thing although the CP confuse the issue by differentiating them) but State Capitalism.

Nothing that the CP advocates can change the economic position of the working class. When they contest elections they do so on a reform platform talking nonsense such as “The British Road to Socialism” or more nationalization. The suggestion that they want a fundamental change in the basis of society can easily be refuted. For example John Mathews writing in their fortnightly review was full of “criticism” for Labour chancellor Denis Healey’s recent mini-budget because it failed to deal adequately with the problems facing British capitalism. Mathews suggested that Britain should go in for selective import controls, planned investment and that self contradiction in terms “planned trade”. And what did he have to say about capitalism?
  There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the size of the [trade] deficit, and the interest charges to be paid on loans, but no solution — only appeals to make a "national effort”, etc. It needs to be said that the British economy is running down not because of shoddy workmanship, or absenteeism, or any of the pseudo-explanations advanced but because of the economic sabotage of the owners of capital. It is the management of the economy which is at fault, not the economy itself. (Comment August 10, 1974 — emphasis in the original.)
Our unmasking of these political frauds masquerading as revolutionaries is fully justified. The fact that some ex-CPers seek places of privilege and power in the capitalist establishment is not surprising but does not alter the case. Once in power Communists pursue anti-working-class policies. Ken Gill, newly elected to the TUC general council brags that “. . . this mighty Congress has committed itself to wage restraint . . . we hated restraint under Heath but we welcome it under Wilson” (Daily Telegraph 5 September 1974.) 

Need we say more?
Editors.


Russia and the Abyss
The otherwise excellent piece on Russian elections (August Socialist Standard page 133) concludes that 200 collective farm workers and 50 others automatically means 1,000 non-workers. But be careful! Russian classifications are abstruse and devious, many are classified as “Peasants”, several “Intellectuals” (Intelligents) even “Technicians”. I readily agree that it’s all baloney anyway, even a Peasant member of the Supreme Soviet is an “Apparatchik”. Perhaps it’s better to say this, or that we are well aware of Soviet nomenclature.

Secondly with reference to the series on the famous books. Good idea and sure to take. But can we be careful to point to the fallacy of facile comparisons between then and now otherwise we fall right into the Labour Party trap — “There you are how much better now . . .”

So long as we emphasise that in a 1970 world of electronics the “Abyss”, as it was, could no longer exist. Or as we say about The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, many similarities still exist.

The new high-rise flats are an abomination and disaster.
Horatio.


Joy in Living
Reading the SPGB pamphlet Art, Labour and Socialism persuades me that in his Joy in Labour theory, William Morris’s failure to pose and answer a simple but pertinent question restricted the development of his subject.

He has convinced us of the joy useful labour will give, but why? Surely the joy serves a biological end, and is nature’s reward for the fulfilment of that end. But the primary aim is the perpetuation and improvement of life, of which labour is but an ingredient. Our Joy-in-Labour concept could perhaps be logically amended to Joy in Living.

Denied its expression in wage-labour, the impulse finds a compensating gratification in spurious pleasure drawn from the vast arts, entertainment and sports industry. An industry quite distinct from productive processes, that surely provides overwhelming evidence of alienation. An industry much of which, possibly all eventually, a healthy Socialist society will make obsolete.

One quality this industry seeks to express is vitality: an interesting commentary on the condition of its audience. Much of literary and theatrical fiction is clearly vicarious living. A bogus satisfaction rewards the reader of the popular “Whodunit” in which is exploited a perversion of the evolutionary impulse — effort which should be directed to improving life involving the tackling of problems (“challenge”) is reduced to a trivial mental exercise.
F. C. West
London E.2

The Observer Guide to Voters (1974)

From the December 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

The front of the Observer Review of Oct. 6 was headed To help readers make up their minds on how to vote on Thursday, we asked some prominent non-politicians how they will vote. The page was then devoted to the views of these famous people. As The Observer is regarded as the leading journal of the so-called quality press, and would naturally claim that its readers fail into the same top category, why on earth should they need this to help them make up their minds? Having lived in this world for some years, if they haven’t formed some view by Sunday, it would seem odd that they should be able to by the following Thursday with the help of these assorted names. In fact, the whole page should really be an insult to the intelligence of the readership. But I don’t doubt that the people who run the paper know better about that than I do.

So let’s have a look at advice from this bevy of intellectual beauties. First the only woman, the authoress Muriel Spark. (It goes without saying that in the following issue there was a whine: “Why only one woman?’’ On the face of it, I should have thought it clear that there was one woman too many.) Her advice was that as the Tories and Labour had both been useless in office (well, hear, hear ! so far anyway), she advocated voting for the Liberals to see what they would be like. This sage advice is about the level one can hear in any taproom. On this basis, if the third party was the Nazis, one must give them a chance to show what they can do too. I have never read any of her novels and on the strength of her political wisdom I shall keep it that way.

Professor Max Beloff, head of the Open University (you can’t get brainier than that), tells us to vote Conservative because he thinks the Labour Party is circumscribed by its relationship with the Unions. Well, no doubt it is, Prof. Well spotted. What about his Tories? Are their actions not circumscribed by something called capitalism? You think they have been free to organize the world so as to give us all a nice pleasant, secure and peaceful life? But why have they not given us that during all the years (well over a hundred) that they have held power since capitalism first blighted society? You yourself have lived through many periods of Tory rule and know how meaningless it has all been in relation to the little details like poverty, slums, unemployment, wars. You didn’t have to learn (or teach) about that in University. You were there. With such advisers, who needs ignoramuses?

Let us listen to an intellectual who is a nice chap and as thick as they come, Colin Cowdrey, the cricketer. Surprise surprise, he is going to vote for the Tories who will preserve “our heritage” and “produce the best sort of country for my children to grow up in”. Well played, sir. Well hit, indeed. You see Cowdrey’s kids are growing in the best sort of country for them. Because they chose a father who had one flash of inspiration better than all the brains. He married a millionaire’s daughter. Now that’s what I call sound advice — far better than voting Tory. But I fear Colin’s advice is not very practical for the millions of wage-slaves who read it (oh, yes; Observer readers might not like to be called wage-slaves. But nine out of ten of them are).

Let’s get back quick to a brainbox. John Osborne, who has done well as a playwright (for which he can largely thank the Observer, whose then Drama Critic, Ken Tynan, so boosted his “Look Back in Anger” that the thing couldn’t possibly miss). What does Osborne advise? Vote Labour. And he then goes on to castigate that party till in the end he says that it “has been largely responsible for the moral slum and squalid climate we have created since the heady days of 1945”. Vote more squalid slums! Vote for more intellectuals! They are obviously all round the twist, but if they are in the Observer . . .

Illustration by 'Tony' from the original article.

Another Laborious type is James Cameron, the famous columnist. At the end of a famous career with the quantity press, he is interviewed in the Guardian and says (in language which is de rigueur for the trendy press nowadays) he would “give his knackers” to write for the Guardian. Presumably, Mr. Hetherington happened to be in need of a spare pair at that moment, for Cameron is now aboard the great leftist paper. He will vote Labour “as ever”. And does he really think Labour is so good? No: like Osborne, he votes Labour even though the only thing he says about it is that he “waited in vain for someone (his italics) in Government to resign over this year's H-Bomb Test while a splendid Health Service withers for lack of money”. Someone should tell Cameron that it was Attlee’s government which first started this country on the H-Bomb road. Because you can be sure he knows nothing about it. Too busy pompously advising others to have time to learn a damn thing himself.

Then we get a trendy-lefty Bishop, John Robinson. (You know, Honest to God.) “The one thing that unites me is getting shot of Heath and the Unfair Society.” He doesn’t tell us why he thinks we had a “fair society” under Attlee or Wilson (or what the devil he means by the term). And although he is contributing advice on how to vote, he does not tell us how he would vote himself but actually says that if the election had been on the 3rd instead of the 10th he would have voted differently! If you think I am pulling your leg and even a South Bank fake-socialist couldn’t utter such drivel, go to the library and see.

There is no room to deal with them all so just one more; yes, another Professor, the well-known Crick. What do you think the Professor’s subject is? Politics! Now there’s an expert for you. “My prediction is that I’ll vote Labour again, out of habit.” So on Sunday your actual Professor of Politics does not know how exactly he’s going to vote on Thursday; he can only predict. (Perhaps he had a bet with Ladbrokes on which way he was going to vote.) But, as he indicates, he is really a Labourite. He speaks thus of his Fuehrer: “A leader who has narrowed politics to the business of staying in office regardless, who has betrayed the country over Europe and who, in industrial relations, has become a past master of the pre-emptive cringe”. Which is worse or more lunatic: to vote for a leader because you are a starry-eyed nit who worships him, or to do so even though you know and say in print that he is an opportunist so-and-so?

Let’s squeeze in a reference to Kingsley Amis. He clearly hasn’t a clue and admits this. What he says is that all the parties are a lot of rubbish and he refuses to vote at all. Well, in a way that’s refreshing. He doesn’t understand. No doubt doesn’t care, either. Lucky Jim is all right, Jack. Which leaves one with a thought that has occurred before. The SPGB has always warned against workers following leaders, even if and when the leaders seemed people of some quality. Workers must do their own think. But how much more sensible does our advice appear when it is obvious that the famous names who monopolize the media and make sure that a Socialist voice is almost never heard, are such obvious nincompoops as these professors and bishops and all. Wake up, ye wage-slaves. You can’t possibly be as blind as the moronic specimens who lead you.
L. E. Weidberg

In Socialism: Who Will Do What? (1974)

From the December 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the introduction of Socialism millions of people will be released from currently useless, harmful and degrading jobs to undertake all kinds of useful work of their own choosing. There will be no shortage of labour in the form of interested minds and willing hands liberated from such occupations as the armed and police forces, the armies of insurance and other salesmen, accountants and income-tax workers, to mention just a few, necessary under capitalism.

It is interesting to speculate how the changed circumstances might affect occupations with the advent of Socialism. There would be no leaders in a Socialist society, since leadership implies the blind following by a majority of a minority and under Socialism the majority would be politically conscious and mature. The leaders of capitalism will be replaced by the delegates of Socialism. Those with a flair for administration might well become the servants of Socialism in the work of distributing wealth and organizing services in the interests of the world society.

Erstwhile accountants would no longer have to spend most of their time balancing the books of capitalism’s looting systems. Men and women good at figures would be required to calculate the needs of society and to make sure that the outputs of the various industries were always in good supply everywhere and that all resources were most efficiently used.

The degradation of “cheap lines” would not happen in a Socialist society; only the best would be produced, and for all. When people visited for instance a clothing store, no worry about money would be involved and the tailor would be able to offer his advice upon, and make to measure, the best man could produce.

Artists and writers would no longer have to struggle along in poverty whilst being compelled by their calling to carry on at all costs. They would not only be free to express what they wished without fear of persecution, but also to spend all the time they needed to satisfy their own urge to communicate.

Currently a doctor’s calling involves him in ministering to the needs of the wealthy so that the latter might enjoy their wealth, and patching up the workers so that they can continue to supply it. Research workers seeking the cure for today’s incurable diseases have to tolerate the painfully slow progress of their efforts because of lack of funds, whilst watching enormous resources being expended in military and space research. Under Socialism all the achievements of medical science would be devoted to the enjoyment of good health by all.

Architects in Socialist society would find their scope infinitely extended. No more cheese-paring, no more graft and chicanery; a free and full horizon would be laid open to them to produce beautiful and functional buildings to meet the varying wishes and needs of people.

Workers in hotels and restaurants would choose their job because they enjoyed rendering that particular service. There would be no servility nor class distinction about this, no ingratiation, no bitterness caused by “inadequate tipping” and the worker would enjoy the same good living as the diner.

Just what would be the fate of those unfortunate individuals at present condemned to stand at the top of escalators punching holes in tickets is hard to speculate. Certainly they could do nothing so useless and degrading. Even the most simple contribution to creative work would enrich and alter the lives of so many so radically.

One could multiply indefinitely such examples of the fruitful and satisfying work open to men in a sane order of society.

Only Socialism can offer this.
R. B. Gill

Memorable Happenings in 1958 (1959)

Editorial from the January 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

The events recorded by sensation-seeking journalists are not always the most important in the long run, and some of the happenings in 1958 that will do much to change the thoughts of large numbers of people will not find a place in calendars.

The year 1958 will be memorable because it will have forced a number of workers to look again at some ideas that have been blindly accepted for a quarter of a century or more. The first is the idea that State ownership of an industry and employment by a government department or public authority would rid the world of many evils and hardships. But coal miners, and railway and bus workers must have been doing some hard thinking during the past 12 months. They have found themselves forced to strike or threaten to strike over wages, just as they used to do when their employers were private companies. They have had to face the problem of what is called “redundancy"; there are more of them than the employer needs, and there will be fewer jobs for them in future. Hundreds of miles of railway line have been closed, and train services cancelled, bus routes have been thinned out, and now there are thousands of miners who are going to be hit by the closing of pits that don’t pay. That is the link between all these developments—the mine, the railway route, the bus service, that “does not pay” that doesn’t show a profit, has to be shut down.

The idea of nationalising the mines, railways and bus services, was that nationalisation would get rid of the old profit-seeking motive. The workers concerned should think this over and remember that the S.P.G.B. alone of the political parties warned them years ago that they would be wasting their time backing nationalisation.

Of course, it is not only the nationalised industries that have been affected. The falling off of production and decline of sales have hit privately owned textiles just as hard as the State-owned railways and mines, and the textile industry presents us with a harsh example of another illusion that ran parallel with the nationalisation campaign and was held by the same people. This was the illusion, prominent after World War II. that things were not going to be as they had been in the depressed ’thirties. No more would there be unemployment and the dole queue; for those “in the know” had learned how to plan for full employment.

It is reported that the Lancashire cotton towns are presenting petitions to Parliament, soliciting help because of the decline of the trade. One of the men they ought to single out for a hearing is Mr. Herbert Morrison, for it was he who, as Lord President of the Council in the Labour government, promised Lancashire that it would never happen again. It was in a speech he made at Manchester on 17th April, 1948, when he addressed 6,000 managers and workers from the Lancashire mills. We quote from a report of his speech published in the Sunday Despatch (18th April, 1948):—
  “Mr Morrison dismissed as a ghost from the past Lancashire's fear that slump must follow boom, the fear that the cotton people ‘might work themselves out of a job.’ Last year the whole output of the industry was only 5,000 tons more than home consumption before the war. For years to come, the home market alone would probably absorb nearly all that Lancashire turned out last year.”
Mr. Morrison said:—
  “Even if the rest of the world was only half as hungry for Lancashire cotton goods as it is today, you’d still be perfectly safe as an industry to go all out. If you make the right stuff at the right price you’re in a safe position as far ahead as any man can see.”
Much the same kind of optimism marked speeches being made in the other large branch of textiles, the woollen trade. Major (now Lord) Milner was telling Leeds workers of “a great future for the Leeds clothing industry” and Dame Ann Loughlin told them “they should be able to capture the world market in women’s wear.” The occasion was the opening of a new factory. (Yorkshire Evening Post, 30th September, 1946.) After 1947 the textile industry as a whole did go on expanding, but inevitably now it has struck the depression that was not going to happen and from a top figure of about a million the numbers in the industry have dropped to 840,000, of whom 50,000 are unemployed.

Unemployment for all industries is now on the way to 600,000, a figure that does not take account of the many who have lost their jobs but do not register as unemployed, and though the government professes to be sure that things will get better “in the Spring” they have yet to explain the whys and wherefores of what has already happened. What has happened to their supposed control of the employment situation and their readiness to step in at short notice to head off depression?

The Labour Party and the Tory Party, the latter with its belief in managing “full employment” and the former believing as well in nationalisation, can look back at 1958 as a year in which their theories were demonstrated to be unsound and useless to the workers. The S.P.G.B. alone can justifiably claim that it predicted both failures.

Our Man in America (1959)

Party News from the October 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Air Mail report to hand as we go to press—Comrade Gilmac, the Party's representative to the W.S.P. Annual Conference, is that he is now (September 15th) in Vancouver after a very busy fortnight of travel and meetings. A successful television half hour interview in Hollywood was one of the high-lights of the trip. All questions on the Party case were excellent, and it is reported that Gilmac’s answers “were all meat." If time had permitted, more television interviews would have been available. There seems no doubt that this extensive tour is a successful one, and a detailed report should be in the November Standard.

A Visit to the U.S.A. (1959)

Party News from the November 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Boston
After an all night plane journey I arrived in Boston early on Saturday morning, the 5th September.

The Confcrence commenced at 3 p.m. with Comrade Fenning in the Chair. Telegrams were read from the associated parties and members in different parts of the world. There were about 25 delegates present representing Boston, Rhode Island, New York, Detroit and Los Angeles. I was the only companion party representative present.

The report of the National Secretary, Comrade Gloss, was read, which stated that the Party had not only held its own, but had made some progress. The ''Western Socialist" had been issued regularly and also 100,000 leaflets. Finance had greatly improved. Not many outdoor propaganda meetings had been held, but there were plans for an improvement. Unfortunately the Party did not appear to be attracting sufficient young people. There had been a considerable growth in correspondence with companion-parties and sympathisers from all over the world.

Reports from various locals (branches) were given which showed uneven results. Los Angeles, in particular, had been extremely active with outdoor meetings, attending other groups to take part in discussions and distributing a considerable quantity of literature. Comrades Evans and Miller were addressing meetings regularly in the Los Angeles Area.

The circulation of the “Western Socialist" had increased.

A resolution was passed that there be a monthly issue of the “Western Socialist," commencing with the January issue. A resolution was passed to reconsider a previous resolution that had opposed the acceptance of articles from non-members. Both these resolutions were the subject of considerable debate.

There was also considerable discussion on opening up new areas to propaganda, and it was agreed that Comrades Rab and Orner start the ball rolling by a visit to Chicago in the Spring, and other places be included as circumstances permitted. 

Many other matters were discussed at length, but there is not space to include them. At the end of the Conference there was a discussion under the title “Good and Welfare.” This ranged over many matters and, to me, was the most interesting part of the Conference, as well as the most enthusing. At 2 a.m., on the morning after the Conference, I heard the tape of part of this discussion. It was remarkable how clearly the voices came through, although the speakers were speaking from different parts of the hall. Altogether, I thought it was a very good Conference and much useful work was done.

On the first evening there was a dinner and a social gathering—many more members, and sympathisers coming along for the purpose—making it a very jolly evening. On the third day there was a picnic in the morning in a park just outside of Boston, and in the afternoon a meeting on Boston Common—where the heat was stifling. Comrades Morrison, Miller, Gloss and Orner spoke, but it was hard work under the circumstances.

Through the herculean efforts of Comrade Gloss, who fixed the times with clock-like accuracy, a speaking tour had been arranged for me, which included Los Angeles, Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg, New York and, finally, Boston. 1 was met on time at every point.


Los Angeles
On Tuesday, the 8th September, I left for Los Angeles by jet plane. It took only 5½ hours to do the journey. In Los Angeles Comrade Evans had fixed up six meetings and a TV appearance.

On September 9th I spoke to an audience of about 70 at Long Beach Open Forum, which is by the sea. I spoke for half-an-hour and then answered questions for half-an-hour—it was quite lively. The same evening I went to the house of an old member of the S.P.G.B. —Bob Housley—and answered questions until late at night to a group gathered there.

On the 11th September I went to Long Beach Open Forum again to answer criticisms of my previous talk and answer further questions. Again, it was a lively meeting, although only about 75 present. The size of audience was affected by the heat. Many found it too hot to sit out in the open at a meeting. All the time I was in Los Angeles the temperature was around the 100° mark—and smog added to the discomfort.

On the evening of the 11th I addressed a gathering of about 60 people, aged between 20 and 40, under the strangest circumstances I have ever spoken. It was a gathering of the Unitarian Laymen's League, and we had been invited to a steak dinner beforehand. It turned out to be a Barbecue, held in a large and pleasant garden where the steaks were grilled over three fires. When the dinner was over—at 8 p.m.—the group gathered around me in a semi-circle in the gloom. 1 spoke from beside one of the fires and the audience were just shapes in the darkness. They kept me on my feet for over two hours—speaking and answering questions. They were a mixed group of lawyers, doctors mechanics, teachers, and so on, and the questions were good and interesting—generally covering conditions in England. It was again a very hot night--96° in the house, I was told.

On the 12th there was a meeting in Comrade Evans garden—it was too hot to hold it in the house. He expected about 50 to 60 to come along, but only 20 showed up. A certain Max Shactman was speaking in Los Angeles, and, as Evans place was twelve miles out of town, the majority stayed in town to attend that meeting. However, though the meeting was small it went off alright.

On Sunday, the 13th, 1 addressed a meeting at Santa Monica in the morning—that was about 30 miles from Comrade Evans house, where 1 was staying. It was still very hot and only 40 or so turned up, but there were good questions and some opposition.


On TV
In the evening I was in Hollywood on TV for half-an-hour. It was on Dan Lundberg's Channel 13 at 9 o'clock, I saw Lundberg at his office two hours beforehand and, at his request, gave him a brief history of the Socialist movement. His questions on TV were all concerned with the Socialist attitude to various problems, such as War, Russia, Imperialism, reforms, and so on. A tape recording was taken of the interview and a selection from it will appear in the next issue of the Western Socialist.


Vancouver
On the 14th I travelled north to Vancouver, stopping at San Francisco to meet Comrade Macdonald, with whom I spent a very interesting two hours. When I reached Vancouver I found that Comrade Roddy had done the best piece of one-man advertising I had seen. Wherever I went I saw in shop windows bills advertising the forthcoming meeting. He also chased reporters and radio people so successfully that the two principal papers there printed reports of the meeting; I had ten minutes on the radio and my comments were included in a radio news broadcast. Comrade Sid Earp took care of excellent accommodation for me in a hotel, and Comrades Roddy and Ahrens took care of the arrangements for the only meeting I had in Vancouver. The meeting was held on the 18th. It was a very wet night, which affected the attendance. Seventy turned up; there were plenty of questions and a little opposition—mainly from the C.C.F. (a similar body to the Labour Party here). The collection at the meeting was 25 dollars, five subscriptions were taken, and some literature was sold.

I had discussions with members and sympathisers and spent a considerable time with Comrades Johnny and Margaret Ahrens, who were exceedingly hospitable to me. It appears to me that Vancouver is a very favourable place for the Socialist Party of Canada to concentrate upon. Comrade Ahrens and Roddy are two knowledgeable and dependable comrades and there should soon be a good centre of activity there.


Victoria
Whilst at Vancouver I spent two days visiting Victoria. Here again I witnessed an excellent piece of one-man advertising by Comrade Jenkins, very similar to Comrade Roddy's efforts in Vancouver. Comrade Luff, who is getting on in years, had been active in Victoria for many years and has spread the Socialist message there very thoroughly. Comrade Jenkins arranged an interview with the local paper which gave me considerable space on the front page.

Comrades Luff and Jenkins arranged the meeting, which appeared to me to be about the best one 1 had during the tour. There were 70 present in a small hall. The meeting lasted two hours and forty minutes, and there were numerous good questions. One sub. was taken at the meeting, 10s. 6d. worth of literature sold, and a collection of £7 10s.— about the same as. at Vancouver. Subsequently, four of those who attended the meeting (young fellows) have formed a class at Comrade Luff's house. A complete tape recording of the meeting was taken which I have borrowed and taken home with me. In Los Angeles, Vancouver and Victoria, I met many very old members of the Socialist Party of Canada.


Winnipeg
On the 22nd I left Vancouver for Winnipeg, where I received the same warm and hospitable reception as I had done on my visit two years ago.

All the members and sympathisers combined to make my visit as enjoyable as possible.

Unfortunately they have difficulty in attracting young people and the attendance at the two meetings I addressed was small but interested. It seems, somehow, that Winnipeg is now out of the hub of political activity. However, they are holding regular meetings and distributing large numbers of leaflets, a selection of which have already been printed in the Socialist Standard


New York
On the 30th September I left Winnipeg for New York, where I stayed with Comrade Sam Orner. On the next evening I went with him to Union Square, where he spoke for well over two hours to a good audience who plied him with plenty of questions. Union Square is somewhat like the meetings and discussions at Marble Arch in London, and is the best meeting place I came across in the tour. It should be an excellent propaganda spot for the New York comrades. Comrade Davis did yeoman service, distributing leaflets advertising the indoor meeting the following night.

The indoor meeting was held in a room on the 14th floor of a building at the corner of Union Square. It seemed to me that the inaccessibility of the meeting place detracted from the attendance—which was not large. However, it was lively, with good questions and discussion.

On the 2nd October I returned to Boston where I addressed one meeting composed of members and sympathisers and spoke for a quarter of an hour on Boston Common. The rest of the time I recuperated at the home of Comrade Rab, where my stay was made as comfortable and pleasant as it could possibly be. On the 6th October I regretfully returned to London.

One matter I have overlooked. Comrade Smith of Los Angeles took an excellent recording of the TV interview and followed me by bus to Vancouver to present me with the tape. For this I am much beholden to him. It was played over at Vancouver, Victoria and Winnipeg and heard by a large number of members and sympathisers.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all the American and Canadian members and sympathisers for the warm way they received me. and the manner in which they went out of their way to make my visit as successful and pleasant as possible. I have only mentioned a few of the names of the many who helped me.
Gilmac

Charity (1959)

 From the January 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

A giant activity prevails in modern society, one that approaches people in their places of employment, stops them on street corners, enters their homes, reaches them through the mail and over the telephone, appeals to them from the press and pulpit and over radio and television, one that in fact overlooks no means of making its presence and its wants known.

This activity is carried on in the name of organised charity.

Society in its present form is widely regarded as the only acceptable form of society. Its educational establishments have no alternative to offer and will concede none, even though they recognise that modern society was itself an alternative to a previous form. Its public figures pour scorn on suggestions of change, even though the less ignorant among them will agree that change permeates all things. And the daily press and other agencies of publicity and information deliberately lie about the views of those who advocate change, even though there will be found on their masthead a resolute attachment for truth and progress.

Yet those who find nothing seriously wrong in society, also find nothing seriously wrong about being periodically called upon to make greater appeals to gain greater support for growing numbers of charitable organisations!

Working people produce wealth that must, under the law, be delivered in its entirety to the owners of the places where the wealth is produced. In return, the producers receive sufficient of the needs of life to enable them to continue producing. This condition prevails through all the years they are capable of working. After that, the ones who are still living, if they qualify under certain government regulations, or if they have subscribed to certain plans, receive a pension entitling them to complete their “twilight years” under conditions of greatly aggravated want.

There are some released from industry who for one reason or another do not qualify for pensions. There are some who die or become maimed or suffer chronic ailments and have families. There are mothers, widows, children, limited in ability or opportunity to help themselves. There is a section of humanity that depends on the rest of humanity for help.

And the modern world, rather than deal simply and directly with this need by providing ready access to the storehouses of goods, as would occur in a sensible world, prefers instead to deliver the great mass of wealth to the privileged minority and tear-drenched appeals for charity to the impoverished majority.

Charity! Sweet charity! Upheld as evidence of the innate goodness of man! Bringing comfort to the bosom of the idle uplifter, salve to the conscience of the brutal exploiter! Providing an outlet for the energies of people who feel that something ought to be done and who might otherwise find time to think about doing things really helpful! Bringing relief to government funds and so, too, to the wealth of the owning class who provide these funds! Deepening the needs of workers by causing them to shoulder burdens of others more victimised by the rottenness of modern society! Degrading and humiliating those on whom it is bestowed, imposing itself on them as punishment for their sinful and contemptible failure to be useful beasts of burden! Hovering darkly over the mass of mankind, grim reminder of society’s benevolence towards all who falter in the field of exploitation!

Indecent, unwholesome charity! Preying on the natural willingness of ordinary people to help one another, even to the extent of depriving their own of needed things! Deliberately pursuing, hounding, intimidating, embarrassing those whose lives are already depressed, consciously designed to depress them further!

Charity! Symbol of a society insistent on preserving the extravagant extremes of wealth and want! Symbol of a society that neither intends nor desires to end the conditions that ensure its existence! Destined to remain and shame humanity as long as man clings to the property relationships of modern times!

The day will come when the human race will rise above its fawning subservience to an owning class. On that day the means of producing and distributing the needs of life will become the common property of collective man and will be operated for no purpose other than to provide abundance to all the members of society. On that day a Socialist society will be established, bringing an end at last to the exploitation of man by man, together with all the other abominations of Capitalism, including charity.
(Leaflet issued by Socialist Party of Canada.)

Class Collaboration in Communist China (1959)

From the February 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

[The Trade Union Law of the People's Republic of China makes strikes illegal.]

“New China” is not a Socialist country. Despite the claims of the Chinese Communists that the working-class of China has achieved political power: is the leading class in the country; and that “New China” is “a people’s democratic dictatorship” (whatever that is supposed to mean), a Socialist society does not obtain there.

The Chinese Communists in their struggle for power have—following the “revolution” of Sun Yat Sen in 1911—completed the destruction of Feudalism, overthrown the War Lords and have driven the so-called Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek from the mainland of China to the island of Formosa: and despite their claims to the contrary are building Capitalism—not Socialism—in the People’s Republic of China.

With this development of a bourgeois mode of production of a Capitalist industrial revolution; and with it a propertyless wage-earning class owning nothing but its labouring power; conflicts and disputes between Capital and Labour are bound to arise. And since the days of Sun Yet Sen, Chinese workers, often with the help of the Communists, have struggled to form Trade Unions in an attempt to improve their standards of living. Since coming to power in 1949 Mao Tse-tung’s Communist government has not abolished the Trade Unions; has not forbidden the workers to join them; but has, in fact, encouraged the “All-China Federation of Labour.” In fact, like all other “Communist” countries, the Trade Unions are now part of State apparatus—they are “company unions” writ large! This is borne out by The Trade Union Law of the People’s Republic of China; the Provisional Rules of Procedure for Settling Labour Disputes and Labour- Capital Consultative Councils in Private Enterprises (published by the Foreign Languages Press, Peking).

According to the Communists there are four classes in China today—the working class, the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie; but only wage workers may join Trade Unions. “All manual and non-manual wage workers in enterprises, institutions and schools in Chinese territory whose wages constitute their sole or main means of livelihood, and all wage workers in irregular employment shall have the right to organise trade unions.” (Article 1 of the Trade Union Law of the People’s Republic of China). At the present moment the majority of China’s 600 million or so people are not yet wage workers. But in the cities more than half the population constitute wage earners and their dependants. For example, in 1951, about 400,000 of Peking’s 2,000,000 people were wage workers, and with their dependents, exceeded 1,200,000. In Shanghai about 3,200,000 of the population of over 6,000,000 in 1951, were wage workers and their dependants.

All Chinese Trade Unions are bound by law to affiliate to the “All-China Federation of Labour” (Article 3) and any organization not belonging to the Federation of Labour “shall not be called a trade Union” (Article 4). Articles 5, 6, 7 and 8 state that:—
  “Trade Unions in enterprises operated by the State or by cooperatives shall have the right to represent the workers and staff in taking part in administering production and in concluding collective agreements with the management.'’ 

#    #    #    # 
  "Trade Unions in private enterprises shall have the right to represent and staff members in conducting negotiations with the employers, in taking part in the labour-capital consultative councils and in concluding collective agreements with the employers.” 

#    #    #    # 
 “It is the duty of Trade Unions to protect the interests of workers and staff members, to ensure that the managements or owners effectively carry out labour protection, labour insurance, wage standards, factory sanitation and safety measures as stipulated in the laws and decrees of the government, and other relevant regulations and directions, and to take measures for improving the material and cultural life of the workers and staff members."

#    #    #    # 
  "Trade Union organisations at all levels in enterprises operated by the State or by cooperatives shall have the right to ask the managements of the corresponding levels to submit reports on their work lo the trade union committees, to the general membership meetings or to representative conferences. They also have the right to represent the workers and staff members in taking part in administrative boards or administrative meetings at the corresponding levels.” 

#    #    #    #
But they do not have the right to go on strike if their claims are not satisfactorily met!

Where a dispute arises between management and labour, and where one side or the other considers that the other party has violated the collective agreement, they may take their complaint to the Government’s Labour Bureau. If the complaint is taken to a local government Labour Bureau it may set up an investigation and mediation committee. If agreement is then reached by both sides, through the activities of the investigation committee of the Bureau, it will be signed by the representatives of both parties for registration. If mediation should fail, then the Labour Bureau will set up its own arbitration committee. And, in the words of Article 8 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure for Settling Labour Disputes, “The award rendered by the arbitration committee shall be signed by the representative of the Labour Bureau who presides over the committee, and after the award is approved by the Director of the Labour Bureau it shall be notified to both parties to the dispute which it must carry out.” Both parties must abide by any agreement reached. If either party does not agree it must inform the Labour Bureau within five days, and must lodge an appeal with the “People’s Court” for a final verdict. This is as far as the Trade Unions can go. No worker in Communist China may withdraw his labour-power under any circumstances. Strikes are forbidden. Article 11 is quite clear on this point:—
  “After a dispute has broken out, both parties, during the period of consultation, mediation or arbitration, shall maintain the status quo in production. The management should not resort to a lock-out, suspend payment of wages, cease providing meals or take any other measures which lower workers' living conditions. Labour shall also maintain production and observe labour discipline. After arbitration by the Labour Bureau, even if one party disagrees and calls for settlement by the Court, the two parties shall nevertheless abide by the arbitration award pending the verdict of the Court.”
#    #    #    #

From The Trade Union Law of the People’s Republic of China it can be seen that the workers of “New China” are unable to organise in genuine Trade Unions; that they are not allowed to call strikes whatever their grievances may be, and that the so-called Trade Unions affiliated to the “All-China Federation of Labour” are Unions mainly in name only, similar to Hitler’s “Labour Front” in pre-war Germany. China’s “Trade Unions” are allowed to negotiate. But that is all. Their main functions, according to Article 9, of The Trade Union Law of the People’s Republic of China, are to organise the workers to support the laws of the government, carry out the policies of the government; to get the workers to adopt a new attitude towards labour—that is, to observe “labour discipline,” to organise “labour emulation campaigns and increase production to ensure the fulfilment of the production plans: to protect public property; to oppose corruption and bureaucracy and to fight “saboteurs” in enterprises operated by the State". In privately-owned enterprises the Trade Unions must help in developing production, “benefitting both labour and capital" — in other words, increasing the exploitation and subjection of the Chinese working-class. The outlook for the masses of China is indeed bleak.
Peter E. Newell.

Sidelight on Engels (1959)

From the March 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marx’s lifelong friend rarely refers to his own distinct activity and personality in his writings. For information concerning Engels’ personality we must have recourse to those who were acquainted with him. But there is an exception! On one occasion and this at the early age of 25, Engels tells us in English something about himself. Yet even this English writing has never been presented to the English reader. It must have been Engels himself who insisted on its exclusion (although written as a preface in English) from the translation of his work Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 authorised by himself. The Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England in 1844 published in Germany in 1845, from which the Winchnevitsky was made contains this preface (in English) in full, and in the 1892 final edition of this work, authorised by Engels, the preface (in English) is re-included.

A certain explanation is necessary to the reader concerning Engels’ expression “middle class” or “middle classes”. By this Engels does not mean highly paid workers or shopkeepers etc. but the actual capitalist class itself. There existed in England in 1844 three distinct groups of the community – the proletariat, the landed aristocracy and the bourgeoisie or industrial capitalists. Until 1832 the landed aristocracy had held control of political power and had fleeced the bourgeoisie for its own benefit. Engels then refers to the bourgeoisie as the “middle class” i.e. the class between the proletariat and the landed aristocracy. It should be noted, however, that not three years later Engels abandoned this categorization of his – the landed aristocracy – a social class. In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels write:
  “Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie possesses however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile classes directly facing each other – bourgeoisie and proletariat.”
Marx, too, in one of his other writings refers to the landlord as a sleeping partner to the capitalist.

At the present day landlords, so-called industrial capitalists, merchants and bankers are economically directly interwoven and intermingled – a collective holding group for the most part – one social class.
Solomon Goldstein

See also 'To The Working Class of Great Britain'.

To The Working Class of Great Britain by Frederick Engels (1959)

Engels as a young man.
From the March 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Working men!

To you I dedicate a work in which I have tried to lay before my German Countrymen a faithful picture of your condition, of your sufferings and struggles, of your hopes and prospects. I have lived long enough amidst you to know something about your circumstances; I have devoted to their knowledge my most serious attention. I have studied the various official and non-official documents as far as I was able to get hold of them—I have not been satisfied with this, I wanted more than a mere abstract knowledge of my subject, I wanted to see you in your own homes, to observe you in your every-day life, to chat with you on your condition and grievances, to witness your struggles against the social and political power of your oppressors. I have done so: I forsook the company and the dinner parties, the port wine and champagne of the middle-classes and devoted my leisure hours almost exclusively to the intercourse with plain working men; I am both glad and proud of having done so. Glad, because thus I was induced to spend many a happy hour in obtaining a knowledge of the realities of life—many an hour, which else would have been wasted in fashionable talk and tiresome etiquette; proud, because I thus got an opportunity of doing justice to an oppressed and calumniated class of men, who with all their faults and under all the disadvantages of their situation, yet command the respect of everyone but an English moneymonger; proud, too, because thus I was placed in a position to save the English people from the growing contempt which on the Continent has been the necessary consequence of the brutally selfish policy and general behaviour of your ruling middle-class.

Having, at the same time, ample opportunity to watch the middle-classes, your opponents, I soon came to the conclusion that you are right, perfectly right, in expecting no support whatever from them. Their interest is diametrically opposed to yours, though they will always try to maintain the contrary and to make you believe in their most hearty sympathy with your fate. Their doings give them the lie. I hope to have collected more than sufficient evidence of the fact, that—be their words what they please—the middle-classes intend in reality nothing else but to enrich themselves by your labour while they can sell its produce, and to abandon you to starvation as soon as they cannot make a profit by this indirect trade in human flesh. What have they done to prove their professed good will towards you? Have they ever paid any serious attention to your grievances? Have they done more than pay the expenses of half a dozen commissions of inquiry, whose voluminous pages are damned to everlasting slumber among heaps of waste paper on the shelves of the Home-Office? Have they even done as much as to compile from those rotting blue-books a single readable book from which everybody might easily get some information on the condition of the great majority of “free born Britons” . Not they, indeed these are things they don’t like to speak of—they have left it to a foreigner to inform the civilised world of the degrading situation you have to live in. A foreigner to them, not to you I hope. Though my English may not he pure, yet, I hope you will find it plain English. No working man in England—nor in France either—ever treated me as a foreigner. With the greatest pleasure I observed you to be free from that blasting curse, national prejudice and national pride, which after all means nothing but wholesale selfishness—I observed you to sympathise with every one who earnestly applies his powers to human progress—may he be an Englishman or not—I found you to be more than mere Englishmen, members of a single, isolated nation, I found you to be Men, members of the great and universal family of Mankind, who know their interest and that of all the human race to be the same; And as such, as members of this family of “One and Indivisible” Mankind. as Human Beings in the most emphatical meaning of the word, as such, I and many others on the Continent, hail your progress in every direction and wish you speedy success. Go on then, as you have done hitherto. Much remains to be undergone: be firm, be undaunted— your success is certain, and no step you will have to take in your onward march, will be lost to that common cause, the cause of Humanity!
Barmen (Rhenish Prussia) March 15th. 1845.
Friedrich Engels.



Obituary: Cecil Thurlow (1959)

Obituary from the March 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regret to inform members of the death of C. Thurlow, of West Ham Branch. Comrade Thurlow had been a member of the Party for many years. Originally he was in the I.L.P., but soon found his way to the Socialist Party and became an active member. In the nineteen thirties he was on the Executive Committee and also served for some time on the Parliamentary Committee. About six years ago he was disabled by a severe illness, which ended his working life and obliged him to remain inactive. In spite of his poor health he continued to attend Branch meetings and take as much interest as he could in the affairs of the Party. Much of his time during this enforced retirement went into his other great interest, his stamp collection, which was a remarkably fine one and had been arranged in unorthodox fashion to provide a source of historical, geographical and other knowledge. Latterly, however, his health deteriorated and he died shortly before the end of last year.

Our late Comrade’s own words fittingly describe his years of staunch fighting to spread the Party’s case: “I died as I lived, hostile to Capitalism and religious superstition.”

Our sympathies are extended to his wife, Comrade Violet Thurlow. and his daughter.
E. W.

Mikoyan’s Bluff Called (1959)

Editorial from the March 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Recognition of the truth sometimes comes out of strange places and no one could have been more surprised than Mr. Mikoyan that it should have been Mr. Dulles who told him that he, Mikoyan, does not know what Socialism is. But so it happened.

It was at the end of the Russian Deputy Prime Minister’s visit to America. When all the dinners and interviews, the speeches and cocktail parties were over, the time came to part. Mr. Mikoyan gave his farewell message to reporters at the airport, and said :—
  “Socialist society in our country will develop whether you like it or not, and whether we want it or not. American capitalism is still strong. The conclusion is that we must be tolerant of each other and come to agreement.” (Daily Telegraph, 21st January, 1959)
Then came the slap in the eye from Mr. Dulles, in a telegram to Mikoyan :—
  “The President is aware that you operate under a system of State capitalism, and he hopes that has been useful to you to have seen the progress of our people under our system of individual capitalism. We are sure that you have found the experience interesting.” (Daily Telegraph, 21st January. 1959.)
We have no doubt that Mr. Mikoyan found it a novel and interesting experience to have his bluff called at top level about the fake “Socialism” of Russia, and bluntly to be told that Dulles sees it for what it really is, “State Capitalism.”

May we hope from this beginning that the representatives of all the countries will, at U.N. and other international gatherings, develop the habit of calling State and private capitalism by their proper name everywhere and on all occasions?

And while we are pondering the curious ways in which truth may emerge we should not fail to comment on one little truth Mr. Mikoyan spilled unintentionally. In his own message he said that Socialist society will develop in Russia “whether we” (i.e., Mikoyan and his friends) “want it or not.”

We could not have put it better ourselves.

The Affluent Society (1959)

From the March 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Part 1

Professor Galbraith, the author of The Affluent Society, is an urbane and incisive commentator of contemporary Capitalism, especially its American version. As an iconoclast he is in the Veblen tradition. We shall, however, leave for a subsequent article, his views in general and only concern ourselves, here, with his comments on Marx in particular.

Marx (long dead) still wears a contemporary larger-than-life look—Professor Galbraith warily measures him up before seeking to cut him down to size. Marx, he notes, was a powerful and subtle thinker, a great deviationist from the stock ideas and sentiments of his age— called by the author “the conventional wisdom.” His influence, he thinks, both direct and indirect, has been enormous.

Marxism dead but won’t lie down
But, says the author, it is not only Marx who is dead, the main body of his doctrine has also atrophied, having presumably no further useful function to perform. It would appear from Professor Galbraith’s interpretation that Marxists have long resorted to artificial respiration in the belief that the body still breathes. Marxism, the author holds, has exhausted its impetus and originality and hardened into a dogma. It is now an article of faith which has acquired a religious quality. That is why for Marxists their opponents are not only in error but in sin. That is why, says Professor Galbraith, you cannot discuss Marxism with Marxists, at least not rationally. Marxists, he says, will always assure their opponents that whatever their criticism of Marx they have failed to understand him. One can at least reply to Professor Galbraith by saying that the history of anti-Marxist argument goes some way to confirm the accusation. For our part we, as Marxists, are eccentric enough to welcome any rational discussion on Marxism with anybody and everybody.

Who are the Marxists?
Professor Galbraith’s description of Marxists as those who assume the role of hard-headed realists, facing the unlovely prospect of ever-greater immiseration (poverty) of the workers, ever-greater slumps, leading to final economic collapse and bloody revolution is certainly concise, clear cut—and wrong. To fasten on Marx such catastrophic views shows how catastrophically Professor Galbraith himself has misunderstood Marx, and regretfully he must be included among the legions who simply cannot discriminate between the “Marxism” of Moscow and the Marxism of Marx.

That the Bolsheviks and latter-day Communists never made Marxism the basis of their activities and yet made it their official creed, is sheer historical irony. Yet the paradox loses its enigmatical character if we know what precisely the role that theory had for them. Theory was not something acceptable, because it provides a systematic and logical picture of social events, theory for them was an ideological instrument, pressed into the services of political strategy and struggles. In this sense and only in this sense are we to understand the cardinal Communist dictum: “Theory must be a guide to practice.”

There were, however, good Bolshevik reasons for claiming Marxist paternity for their views. Unable or unwilling to father a theory of their own, they took over an established and ready-made doctrine which not only gave a semblance of authority to their views, but an ideological basis to which shifts and changes in policy could be ultimately referred and, of course, justified.

And so the dialectic which made all things possible, turned Marxism into its opposite. From a method of free scientific enquiry it was transformed into an authoritative dogma unsurpassed even by the Holy Catholic Church. Its high priests dispensed official Marxist decrees with encyclical infallibility. It was the greatest “negation of the negation” of all time. In Communist hands Historical Materialism became Dialectical Materialism, and Marxist economic doctrines were taken apart and reassembled for the construction of the “Communist model.”

As formulated by Marx, “the law of the tendency of the falling rate of profit,” which he said was a tendency annulled by counter tendencies was converted by the Communists from a tendency to an iron law which had the terrifying and remorseless character of the law of gravitation. Given this iron law of the falling rate of profit, there would go a continuous and progressive decline in the fields of capital investment. This decline in turn would produce slumps of an ever more massive order, more massive unemployment and a greater mass of poverty for the workers. Out of this economic chaos the Proletarian Dictatorship would emerge and give rise to Communist “law and order.”

This was Communist theory, but never Marxist fact.

Marxism and the Intellectuals
Communist theory was then nicely attuned to Communist propaganda whose source of inspiration and direction was Russia. Communist Parties all over the world attempted to follow the Leninist pattern, viz., creation of a mass organization, conditional collaboration with Social Democratic parties, etc. It sought to undermine Western Capitalism by fermenting and organising mass discontent. It inspired its adherents with a belief in the inevitable break-down of Capitalism and inculcated the feeling of a tough realism which not only required that Communism must by all means expedite the decline of Capitalism, but be the organised force to take over power from the bourgeois or left parties.

This was the essence of the Communist ideology, an ideology which created many Communists among its victims. With its insistence on an intellectual elite it sought and at least to some extent succeeded in making an impact on some sections of the intelligentsia. For intellectuals in the twenties and thirties who were in despair, Communism gave them hope. For many in doubt it provided invincible certainty. To the tougher minded the Communists dared them to walk the plank of Communist realism. Many did, although they walked back afterwards.

And so Moscow Marxism provided many of the angry young men of the thirties with an escape route via Russia. In their angry youth they violently proclaimed it. In their mild middle they violently repudiated it.

Enter Mr. Strachey
It is not surprising that when Professor Galbraith, who takes these once angry young men seriously, turns his eyes from East to West, he discovers that angry young man of old, Mr. Strachey, as the most articulate Marxist of the thirties. Mr. Strachey certainly had a flair for writing a lot about which he knew little. No doubt the Communist intelligentsia had groomed him for “Marxist” stardom. Like many other stars groomed by Communists, Mr. Strachey severed his contacts and transferred his talents to rival producers. His Theory of Capitalist Crises merely repeats the Communist economic errors on an expanded scale.

No doubt Moscow Marxism and people like Mr. Strachey provide a barn door of such dimensions that nobody would miss even at a distance. That is why perhaps so many pundits are indulging this pedestrian pastime. One hoped that Professor Galbraith was made of sterner stuff. It is so easy to set up skittles like a Marxist theory of absolute poverty. Of workers living for the most part on the margin of destitution. A Marxist stark under-consumption theory of ever increasing wealth and ever increasing poverty. Of a Marxist “law of the falling rate of profit” where the system comes to a sudden end like an engine with not enough steam pressure behind the piston. It is easy to scatter that lot and walk jauntily into the next chapter.

But we are ready to yell after him, hi, professor, in the hope he hears us, Marx never formulated such propositions. In actual fact not only did he say different things to what Professor Galbraith thinks he said, but even in some respects the opposite.

In the next article we shall discuss rationally and in detail not the errors of Marx but the errors of Professor Galbraith in respect of Marx.
Ted Wilmott

(To be continued)

Marx and Under-Consumption (1959)

From the April 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Link to Part 1.

The Affluent Society -  Part 2

A Reply to Professor Galbraith
It often happens that when people look for a criticism of Marx, not being sure where to look, they look in the wrong places. Professor Galbraith, for instance, looked to Moscow, to Mr. Strachey and even to Mrs. Joan Robinson.

Poverty, Crises and Catastrophe
He gathered from some of these sources that Marx had formulated an absolute law of poverty and that the system’s chief defect was acute and chronic under-consumption. Along with the ever greater ability to turn out wealth the workers’ living standards would decline, capitalism would choke under the weight of its unsold commodities and collapse. As if “all this—and purgatory, too,” was not enough. Professor Galbraith adds another alleged Marxian theory of crises, of a continuous fall in the rate of profit and hence capital investment, with slumps of ever greater magnitude and final breakdown. Which one Marx was really supposed to hold we are not informed. Our view is that he held neither. However, let our motto be one crisis one article, and it is the under-consumptionist variety which will be its subject.

Marx not an under-consumptionist
In view of all that has been said of Marx as an “under-consumptionist” theorist, the only statement which has any bearing on the matter is in Vol. 3 of Capital, where he says,
“The last cause of all real crises, always remains the poverty and unrestricted consumption of the masses as compared with the impulse of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as if only the absolute powers of consumption of society were their limit.”
This statement is merely an interpolation by Marx when he is discussing at length the view that shortage of capital is a cause of crises. This statement seems out of context with the passage, but even so, it is obvious that Marx was drawing attention to the contradiction between the tendency of capital to expand in an absolute way the powers of production, and the limits imposed upon it by the antagonistic income distribution inherent in capitalist society. This has nothing to do with under-consumption theories as understood, but implies the conflict between productive powers and productive relations.

To put it simply, capital accumulation logically leads to a demand for labour power and hence to a rise in real wages. It is true that wages are part of the consumption fund of capitalist society and an increase in real wages means increased consumption for workers. But wages are also the purchase price of labour-power and if as a consequence of increased capital investment, wages rise, this means for capitalists an increase in costs and a lowering of the rate of profit. Should wage earnings reach a level which threatens the customary rate of profit yield, then capital investment may sharply recoil.

It is the essence of this society that wage advances can never wholly absorb capitalist profits. The ceiling of wages and hence consumption cannot extend beyond the point where additional wage advances annul profit returns on capital outlay. Even an approximation to such a state of affairs will suffice to induce a downward trend in capital accumulation. The impulse then of capitalist production to expand the forces of production in such a way that only the entire satisfaction of social needs is its ultimate limit is inhibited and finally checked by the antagonistic class income distribution of capitalist society—wages and profits. The forces of production come into conflict with the social relations of production.

The fact that extant society is not one of conscious motivation, directed towards social ends, but of profit motivation, places grave restrictions on its productive powers and hence consuming powers. As Marx points out : —
  ". . .  It is not a fact that too much wealth is produced. But it is true that there is a periodical over- production of wealth in its capitalistic and self-contradictory form. . . . The capitalist mode of production for this reason meets with barriers at a certain scale of production which would be inadequate under different conditions. It comes to a standstill at a point determined by the production and realisation of profit, not by the satisfaction of social needs.” Vol 3 (p. 303).
This is why Marx indicted capitalism as a system of organised scarcity. In this sense and only in this sense can there be a Marxist view of under-consumption.

Marx and Rodbertus
How little Marx had in common with the underconsumption theory of crises which Professor Galbraith thrusts upon him, along with so many others, can be seen by his criticism of the economist Rodbertus, who formulated in essentials the generally accepted under-consumption theory of crises. It holds that crises are the result of a deficit of purchasing power of the mass of people and would be remedied by raising wages. Marx himself emphatically repudiated such a view, thus:—
  “It is purely a tautology to say that crises are caused by the scarcity of solvent consumers or paying consumption. The capitalist mode of production does not know of any other mode of consumption but a paying one, except that of the pauper or of the thief . . . But if one were to clothe this tautology with a semblance of profounder justification by saying that the working class receive too small a portion of their own product and the evil could be remedied by giving them a larger share of it or by raising wages; we should reply that crises are always preceded by a period in which wages rise generally and the working class get a larger share of the annual product intended for consumption. From the advocates of simple common sense such a period should remove a crisis. It seems then that capitalist production comprises certain conditions which are independent of good or bad will and permit the working class to enjoy that relative prosperity only momentarily and, at that, always as a harbinger of a coming crisis.” Vol. 2 (pp. 475/6.)
There is also a footnote to this passage by Engels which says, “advocates of the theory of crises of Rodbertus are requested to make a note of this.”

Is there a defective monetary mechanism?
The under-consumptionist theory of crises always depicts capitalist society as what it is not and cannot be; a system serving the needs of the community. For them crises are not the outcome of capitalist relations of production, but a defect in the monetary mechanism which can be regulated via banks and state action. This comprises the essentials of Keynes’ theory.

Under-consumptionists hold that the cause of crises is due to deficit purchasing power, i.e., the inability to buy back the ever-increasing amount of commodities thrown on the market. But as we have already noted, before the boom breaks, the workers’ purchasing power is at its height. It is not then lack of purchasing power which causes a cut back in investment by capitalists and unsold stocks to appear on the market, but because from the capitalist standpoint wages are too high and profit margins too low. It is this which can give rise to a crisis (a sharp break in price equilibrium) and if big enough brings about depression.

If this happens there will be a falling spiral of wages and profits and unsold stocks will pile up. This is not a cause, but an effect of certain conditions and has nothing to do with a defect in the monetary mechanism or some absolute deficit in purchasing power. What actually takes place is that a number of capitalists—members of the ruling social group—take decisions as to the future trend of capital investment and, of course, production. If they decide not to invest at the existing profit level or cut back, it is because from the capitalist standpoint the existing income distribution is an unsatisfactory one for them. Profit margins are too small and wage bills too big. As has been already stated it is not a question of workers having too little purchasing power (wages), but from the capitalist view too much. But supposing a crisis does break out. It does not follow there is an overall lack of purchasing power. There is plenty of available purchasing power in banks, holdings, reserves, and the pockets of capitalists to buy up surplus stock for needy workers. But capitalists do not choose to spend their money that way.

There are good reasons why they should not redistribute purchasing power this way. As Marx pointed out, the capitalist, if not a miser by nature, is one by necessity. Being realists they know in any depression period they must husband their resources—even seek to increase them, conditions permitting, if they are to successfully ride the next wave boom.

Capitalism knows of only one form of consumption and that is paying consumption, and as we have seen the system operates in such a way as to impose in relation to the ability to produce wealth, a restrictive consumption on the working class. To say this is due to a lack of purchasing power is the merest tautology. Actually capitalist society generates the purchasing power necessary for the realisation in terms of money, of the wealth it produces. For instance, suppose a boom starts in the capital goods industry (it could, of course, start elsewhere), increased production of the means of production will by employing more and more labour-power, generate increased purchasing power among workers which will be transmitted to the industries producing consumption goods. These industries will expand and order further machines and auxiliaries for this purpose and so a continuous process will go on in the generating of purchasing power. Under the stimulus of demand, prices will rise and the purchase price of labour-power will rise also. In fact, generally speaking, labour-power during the later stages of the boom tends to rise faster than other commodities. Increased purchasing power is synchronised with increased production.

What causes a crisis?
Capitalism, however, is based on anarchy of production. Capitalists do not meet beforehand to harmonise production in accordance with social aims and ends. Capitalists for that reason, invest with little regard and knowledge of other capital investments being carried out at the same time. As a result different industries expand at a different rate and disproportionality of production, as Marx calls it, takes place. If then one industry—say the one producing capital goods—over-expands in relation to the industry producing consumption goods, it means they have over estimated demand and if on a big enough scale, the realisation price of their products will be unremunerative. This disproportional development relative to other industries will, however, have cumulative effects. Not only will the industry affected by over-expansion cut back investment, but as a consequence reduce orders to other concerns linked with them. In turn, these other concerns will do likewise and so on from trade to trade. As a result of cancellation of orders and contracts, unsold stocks will pile up. Relative over-production, which started in one industry, then assumes the proportion of general over-production—but, it must be stressed, not absolute over-production.

In such a situation production and employment will fall sharply and so, of course, will purchasing power. To say that if the workers’ wages were higher, all this could have been avoided is to utterly misunderstand the nature of capitalism. In the first place the cut back in investment by the industry that had over expanded its demand was not a question of purchasing power, but profit margins due to unremunerative prices. What is more, workers do not spend their money in the capital goods industry. Again, from the standpoint of the employers in the capital goods industry, wages are too high and a factor in helping to reduce profit margins.

It is not then a question of too much wealth being produced and too little purchasing power to buy it back which brings a crisis, but simply that an over-expansion in one sphere of industry has been big enough to start a downward spiral of investment and profits. Thus there comes into existence a volume of capital investment too great to be consistent with former profit earnings. As Marx points out, “Since production depends on investment [such a situation] constitutes an over production of capital which takes the form of an over production of commodities” (italics ours).

It might be argued that increased taxation of capitalists might be a means of disbursing extra purchasing power among workers in times of a crisis to prevent a slump. Increased taxation at such a time would, however, be most inappropriate and meet with strong resistance from capitalists. Not only would increased taxation deplete capital funds necessary for future expansion, but the purchasing power generated via taxation at one phase of the cycle, will as the result of restricted expansion, not be available at another phase of the cycle (the boom). But this in no way supports some under-consumptionist view of a total deficit of purchasing power being the cause of crises. It merely means a redistribution of purchasing power via a redistribution of income. Neither Keynes nor the Labour Party have made such proposals.

If Marx had believed in a law of absolute poverty based on absolute under-consumption, why he took such pains to analyse the trade cycle of capitalism—Boom— crises—depression, must for ever remain a mystery. For on the premise of absolute under-consumption, it is not a question of how slumps come to start, but how under such conditions a boom can ever begin.

Some Labour economic theorists have claimed to have gone beyond Keynes by advocating a further period of extensive investment just prior to the boom breaking. (Planned Capitalism). It is, however, at the top of the boom that demand for labour-power is greatest and its purchase price highest. To maintain investment at a high level would deplete the existing labour reserves, cause increased competition among employers for labour-power, and so enhance its price. Along with increased labour costs would go the increase of the supply price of the various factors in production and repeat the process of mounting costs and the narrowing of profit margins to the point where the volume of capital investment would yield too small a profit margin at the existing level. Such theorists seem to forget that capitalism is and always must be a profit motivated society. A profitless capitalism is a contradiction in terms.

We have, of course, dealt with much of this in past issues. We believe, however, it might still be of some benefit to readers, even Professor Galbraith, if he should by any chance read it.
Ted Wilmott