Thursday, January 24, 2019

Season of Goodwill (1987)

From the December 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

It’s that time of year again. The colour supplements are full of advice on how to avoid making a fool of yourself at the office party, while at the office party insecure, immature males attempt to take advantage of female colleagues whose only encouragement to these would-be Lotharios is being in the same building.

Normally friendly colleagues can be observed watching each other closely each time a visiting representative brings in his company’s bribes. Hell hath no fury like a recipient of a bottle of scotch last year who receives only a bottle of sherry this year.
Speaking of drink, the result of alcoholic over-indulgence can be induced without recourse to the spirit bottle. This state may be attained on December 25 by using your gift-wrapped calculator to add up the amount of money that the ’celebration" of some Palestinian's birthday has cost.

Another method of inducing nausea is to tune in to the annual broadcast by a London pensioner named Betty. Betty's recipe for a happy life is to have millions of pounds in the bank and to take lots of holidays during the year.

There is a 16th century saying that "Christmas comes but once a year but when it comes it brings good cheer". Christmas certainly brings good cheer to those capitalists who make those commodities considered so necessary for this time of year; plastic Christmas trees, artificial snow, inflatable reindeer and all the baubles that a gullible public buys in the mistaken belief that possession of these "festive" goods will in some way bring a little happiness into their lives. It’s all a bigger con trick than the virgin birth.

"Of course", s/he says, "I'm not bothered about Christmas myself, but it's so nice for the children". Take a walk around a toyshop and see children's confusion at all the attractive objects that they so badly want but are forbidden to them unless their parents can afford them. It might be Christmas but we're still living in a capitalist world.

Christmas is great for reinforcing sexual stereotypes. Do you want your daughter to be just like mummy? Wouldn't your little girl just love to wake up on Christmas Day and find her Wendy House fully fitted with a kitchen, microwave and ironing board? Let's not forget to strengthen her maternal instincts. There is a wide range of dolls to choose from. For the doll who wants everything there are prams, push-chairs, layettes and baby doll care sets. But who would want to buy their child that obnoxious capitalist product, a talking Cabbage Patch Kid?

Do you want your son to become an aggressive, competitive, insensitive person? The sort who sexually harasses women at office parties? If so, the shops have the ideal Christmas presents for him. There is the Laser Tank — "blow the tank into bits and pieces"! The Phaser Force Gun Set; practise shooting a friend. How about the "good and evil" Masters of the Universe type action figures — recommended for instilling respect for leaders, especially those with more brawn than brain.

Letters: Green debate (1987)

Letters to the Editors from the December 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Green debate

Dear Comrades,

I think the Socialist Standard production committee and the other members concerned are to be congratulated on the interview with Jonathon Porritt which appeared in the August Socialist Standard. It was topical, interesting and, above all, reasonable in tone.

I agree entirely with the member of the Green Party who wrote to you the following month to say he was impressed by it for its lack of any "we have an answer to everything" boast. I have sometimes heard members boast that a Party speaker has "wiped the floor" with an opponent in debate. It doesn't seem to occur to them that if you want people to join you in a difficult task of creating revolutionary consciousness you probably won't have much success if you first wipe with the floor with them.

Socialist propaganda can be put without aggression, arrogance, condescension or abuse. The contents of most copies of the Socialist Standard these days prove that. More power to your (our) elbow.

Yours for socialism,
Keith Graham
Bristol


Does human nature exist?

Dear Editors.

I particularly enjoyed the September issue of the Socialist Standard but was astounded to read, in the very last column, the emphatic assertion "Human nature does not exist". Unquestionably it does exist, in both physical and psychological terms. To assume otherwise would surely imply that, uniquely in the animal kingdom, no human activity could ever be deemed natural. Including, of course, "our rational desire for comfort and welfare"

Obviously however, the way that human nature manifests itself through our behaviour is significantly affected by environmental, social and cultural conditioning. The relative influence of nature or nurture in this process remains a matter for legitimate debate but I have great respect for what I always considered to be the socialist position. Succinctly stated on the first page of the same issue.

Does Steve Colborn really believe that it is as unnatural to make love as it is to make war? And do other socialists agree with him?

Yours sincerely,
Richard Headicar
London, NW5

Reply
It is nice to know that Richard Headicar enjoyed the September Socialist Standard; we hope he will go along to his local branch of The Socialist Party to discuss his opinions about socialism.

As Richard Headicar points out, our behaviour varies under the influence of our conditions, yet human behaviour is what our opponents are really referring to when they say that "human nature" would make socialism unworkable The problem is in deciding what is natural to human beings; to begin with, whatever is natural must be fixed, which counts out human behaviour which changes with its conditioning.

This leaves us with very little which can be properly called human nature. As far as the case for socialism goes, it is so insignificant as to justify the phrase that it does not exist
Editors


Material needs

Dear Sir.

After reading your journal for a few months now, I find myself in broad agreement with most of your aims. However, there are one or two points.

In particular, you advocate a socialist society mainly for material reasons: for houses and general consumer goods. The criticisms you make of our present society are normally only ones of material deprivation. You do not seem to consider the point that man has inner, non-material, needs. I do not mean religious or spiritual needs, but man as a social animal needs to feel at one with his surroundings. his work and his fellow human beings. These yearnings come from inside man and need a harmonious society externally to be satisfied. By often ignoring these inner and social needs of men you seem to be denying that there is a psychological and emotional basis for socialism as well as a material basis. Or perhaps the SPGB claims that our present society has no effect on our inner stability?

One other point of criticism. The language of your paper is surely dated. Whether we like it or not. people today do not generally use terminology such as "capitalist class", "class struggles" and "surplus value". Instead of using language that you talk to yourselves in, shouldn't you choose words and terms that ordinary non-socialists use. They are, after all, the people whom you have to convince. Your Declaration of Principles uses terms that it needs a dictionary to make sense of

Yours for a non-market world,
Simon Pearson

Reply
The Socialist Party is most certainly a "materialist" party in the sense that we argue that to understand society fully we must look first at the ways in which people are organised to meet their material needs, how the goods and services that are necessary for life are produced. In capitalist society that production takes place only for profit and people are divided into two classes — the capitalist class which owns the means of producing and distributing goods and services, and the working class which owns nothing except their ability to work. These two classes have opposing interests which cannot be reconciled within the capitalist system. The effects of this class division — and the conflict which it entails — are both material, in the sense that workers never receive the full benefit of their labour, and non-material in the sense that capitalism also engenders insecurity, conflict and division.

We do indeed recognise that people have what Simon Pearson refers to as "inner needs" — to live in harmony and cooperation with each other — but would argue that the material conditions created by capitalism frustrate the meeting of those needs. Socialism, by contrast, will ensure not only that people's needs for a decent standard of material life are met. but will also create a society in which people can live in peace with each other.

On the question of the language used in the Socialist Standard, we accept that the language of the Declaration of Principles is dated — they were after all drawn up in 1904. Nevertheless, as a statement of what the Socialist Party stands for they are as relevant today as when they were drafted. The language may have changed but the basic features of capitalism still exist. And it is the ideas contained within the Declaration of Principles which are the basis for the analysis of society and contemporary events presented in the Standard. Although we do at all times try to use ordinary language in the articles we print, it is not always easy to find words and expressions which carry the same meaning as "capitalist class" and "class struggles".
Editors


Socialism and democracy

Comrades,

Let me commence by saying that I'm in broad agreement with your analysis of socialism; what it is. how it can be achieved and the absoluteness of its necessity.

However I do have one query. One of your prerequisites for socialism is that it must be on a worldwide basis. Does this infer that the development of a universal socialist consciousness will arise uniformly? If so, is this not an unrealistic assertion?

My point is that it is quite possible and even probable that a realisation of the need for socialism will gain uneven support between the various nations of the world. For instance how is it possible for socialist thought to take seed in the state capitalist regimes where dissension is not tolerated and a parliamentary process is non-existent. Ditto for right wing dictatorships. Thus it would seem inevitable that socialist thought is more likely to advance in the partially democratic nations of the West, over the aforementioned totalitarian regimes.

If a socialist majority should arise in these Western nations whilst socialist awareness remained hindered in other countries, what route then for socialism? Would such a problem be irretractable? I should hope not!

I await with interest your reply

Yours sincerely,
James Ryan 
London SW16

Reply
This is a vital question, which often bothers people who are in "broad agreement" with our case.

Socialism must be a worldwide social system because a stateless, moneyless, classless set-up could not exist, as a separate enclave, amid a capitalist world of nations, wars, class division, commodity production and so on. It follows that socialism must be established at pretty well the same time throughout the world but this does not imply that workers develop socialist consciousness at exactly the same rate everywhere. Inevitably, there is some unevenness but in terms of social movement this is so slight as to be insignificant.

Ideas mirror material conditions. At present workers all over the world support capitalism and this support takes just about the same form wherever we look. The same false ideas help to keep capitalism in being on both sides of the Atlantic, on both sides of the Iron Curtain . . .

The development of socialist ideas faces many problems and political dictatorship is one of them. An absence of democracy reflects a low state of development of workers' consciousness; its presence is one of the fruits of a flourishing consciousness. That is the direction in which society is moving, as workers' ideas react to capitalism's contradictions.

We hope James Ryan will feel able to assert his own political awareness by joining in the work for socialism.
Editors


Who runs the world?

Dear Editors.

I am not a member of the SPGB but I must say that the letter from Reg Otter in the October issue annoyed me immensely. Obviously he has contempt for the great mass of people forgetting that they run the world.

I have no doubt that when Mr Otter is in trouble he sends for the plumber or the doctor or seeks the attention of a dentist; when he travels he may well fly in an aircraft made, serviced and flown by working people. Every day "miracles" are happening throughout the world carried out by working people. These people are not socialists neither are they dumb or stupid, were Reg Otter not so cynical and bigoted he would see that there is a tremendous amount of goodwill and sacrifice in the community in spite of the pressures of capitalism.

I have lived for nearly 65 years and know that the main political parties have nothing to offer but division and delusion. Socialism appears to be the answer when people are prepared to listen and act.

Yours fraternally.
W. Cozens
London NW8

50 Years Ago: Russia was never socialist (1987)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the Russian Revolution took place in 1917, the Socialist Party of Great Britain pointed out that it would not result in Socialism, but in a development of capitalism. We laid great emphasis on the fact that Russia, being still very backward, was not ripe for Socialism. The population of Russia was composed chiefly of peasants. How could they, illiterate and individualistic in outlook, have any understanding of Socialism, or any desire for it?

Whilst we were urging these views, other parties, claiming to represent the working class, asserted that the Bolsheviks had discovered a short cut to Socialism. They ignored the lessons of history, which show that there are no short cuts, that society passes through various phases and that none of these phases can be "jumped" in the course of society's evolution. They ignored the past failures of workers to establish Socialism by intelligent minorities. After claiming to be "Marxists", they paid little real attention to the theories of Marx and Engels.

Alas, thanks to these parties (chiefly the Communist Party and the Independent Labour Party) a legend was created, a legend that Russia was Socialist.
[From an article "Aspects of Russia" published in the Socialist Standard December 1937 ]

Soft Drink, Hard Labour (1987)

Book Review from the December 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Soft Drink Hard Labour: Guatemalan Workers Take on Coca Cola. Mike Gatehouse and Miguel Angel Reyes (Latin American Bureau London. 1987).

Guatemala is a country of violent repression. According to a British Parliamentary Delegation who visited the country in 1984 as many as 100,000 people had been killed and 38,000 had disappeared in the previous thirty years. Guatemala is also a country of poverty in which 63 per cent of the population live below the official poverty line and in which 2 per cent of the population own 65 per cent of the land. Against this background the study examines the industrial dispute that took place over a nine-year period involving Coca Cola workers and their union STEGAC and the owners of the Coca Cola bottling plant in Guatemala City.

Coca Cola does not directly own or manage local companies but allows franchise contracts to bottlers. In this particular case it was Embotelladora Guatemalteca SA (EGSA), owned originally by a Texan family, the Flemings of Houston. In 1975 the workers in the company attempted to re-establish a trade union which had been crushed after the military coup of 1954. The process is complex and involves legal registration of a union followed by recognition and granting of bargaining rights by an employer The factory manager, John C. Trotter, attempted various tactics to stop the union, including physical violence and intimidation. He hired members of the Mobile Military Police to act as armed guards, based on a fixed charge per day per guard payable to the army:
EGSA managers began to make explicit threats to Coke workers active in the union. On 10 February 1977 the personnel manager threatened Angel Villeda and Oscar Humberto Sarti. On 1 March, both were shot and wounded. The following day. the Coke workers' lawyers, the Torres, were seriously injured when their car was deliberately bumped and forced off the road by a jeep driven by a government employee, (p.8)
Worse was to follow. Manual López Balam, STEGAC General Secretary, was killed by a group armed with knives and iron bars while he was delivering crates of Coca Cola. The 16-year-old daughter of a union lawyer was arrested, beaten, raped, tortured and temporarily blinded. Further workers and union officials were killed or disappeared or were violently assaulted, as in the case of Amulfo Gómez Segura whose lips were slashed with a razor, his tongue cut out and placed in his shirt pocket.

Pressure was put on Coca Cola including that by the Interfaith Centre for Corporate Responsibility, a group of shareholders from churches and religious orders. They were responsible for bringing Israel Márquez, a STEGAC General Secretary, to Coca Cola's AGM in 1979. It was Márquez who coined the phrase "in Guatemala, Coca Cola is a name for murder". There was also pressure from the Geneva based International Union of Food and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF). Coca Cola denied responsibility, maintaining that franchisees were independent operators. Nonetheless cooperation between Coca Cola and the licence holders was seen to constitute complicity. The IUF called on its affiliates to put pressure on Coca Cola which controls 44 per cent of the world's soft drinks sales. The effect of that pressure was to give bad publicity to the image of Coca Cola and it was this to which the company responded. The EGSA franchise was transferred to new owners and a new management team was brought in. The backlash for Coca Cola was that they were increasingly criticised by the business world for allowing "the dangerous precedent of multinational trade union intervention (the IUF) in multinational corporation affairs".

Meanwhile the new management at EGSA were gradually undermining the company, a policy which could not have gone unnoticed by Coca Cola as they held overall financial control. Under threatened closure the workers occupied the factory in February 1984. A new policy was adopted to deal with the dispute. Further bloodshed would have looked bad for Coca Cola who were that year major sponsors of the Olympic Games. The Government of General Mejia Victores was looking for foreign aid and loans and was promising elections for a Constituent Assembly so again bad publicity was not desired. The occupation of EGSA is a testimony to working-class self-organisation. There were some unusual elements. There is the ironic detail, quoted from Jim Wilson of the IUF. that "every day a sympathetic priest comes in from the outside to say mass before a makeshift altar surrounded by high stacks of Coca Cola crates". Yet the ability to maintain that occupation for a year in a land of poverty and violent repression cannot be underestimated. Nor should the ability to withstand the economic pressure brought to bear by EGSA/Coca Cola. Again there was multinational trade union support for the Guatemalan workers and finally Coca Cola re-negotiated with STEGAC, although insisting that the IUF must not be involved in any settlement.

There are lessons to be learned from this study. A multinational corporation was pressurised into allowing a victory, although limited, to the Guatemalan workers. The occupation testified to the resilience and persistence of a group of workers in establishing and maintaining a trade union against awesome odds. The discipline of those workers during the occupation ensured a majority support and a willingness to sustain the daily routine of maintenance, cleaning, guard duty, assemblies and education and leisure activity. Yet we ought not to forget that no victory guarantees the future while capitalism is maintained. Guatemala may have an elected government but the military bureaucracy still exists. With more than 50 per cent of Guatemala's workforce without permanent employment many fear that contact with a trade union can only take place at the expense of employment. It may be that the security forces are also biding their time. In the struggle for reforms it is the effects that are tackled and not their causes.
Philip Bentley




Party News (1987)

From the December 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dundee election campaign
In May, Dundee Branch of The Socialist Party will contest three district wards around the city in the local elections.

We are planning a wide range of activities, including:

  • Public Meetings
  • Leaflet distribution
  • Selling literature
  • Debates and Forums
  • Canvassing
  • Distributing a free sheet
  • Literature stall in town centre.

All readers and sympathisers in the area should take this opportunity to get involved in the vital, rewarding work of putting socialism firmly on the political agenda.

Come to our informal weekly meetings in the lounge bar of the Tay Bridge pub (Perth Road) on Mondays at 8pm or see address in the Branch Directory (inside back page) under Dundee.


Socialist activity in Aberdeen
A wide range of activities will spread the ideas of world socialism in the Aberdeen area in the near future.

Sympathisers, readers of the Socialist Standard and anyone interested in the case for a sane socialist alternative should get in touch with The Socialist Party:
lan Ratcliffe 
5 Ellon Road.
Bridge of Don
Aberdeen
(Tel. 0224 822XXX)

We want your help in developing the growing interest in the ideas of socialism in North East Scotland.


Members of Eccles Branch manned a literature stall in Wythenshaw Park during the annual fair, organised by the Manchester City Council in September. Literature sales, and the useful contacts made, proved this event to be a worthwhile party activity.

Wally Preston sitting down. Andy Pitts in the foreground.













The General Election (1959)

Party News from the May 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party needs money urgently for the General Election.

In East London our members have already been working for months, preparing an all out campaign In the Bethnal Green constituency. Meetings are being held, canvassers are going from door to door, the local papers are advertising our activities.

This work is going on NOW. Every week we are spending more money in Bethnal Green—and this is only preliminary to the final attack in which the candidate’s deposit alone will cost us £150.

We have great hopes for this campaign. Last year’s L.C.C. elections in the same area gave the encouragement we needed. This time we believe we can achieve still more for the Socialist cause in this constituency.

But—we only have a fraction of the money we need. If you want to strike a blow against Capitalism with us, please send whatever you can to E. LAKE, S.P.G.B., 52, CLAPHAM HIGH STREET, S.W.4, and earmark it “Parliamentary Fund.”

Turmoil in Tibet (1959)

From the May 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

The rebellion in Tibet, its draconian suppression, and the escape of the Dalai Lama, have exploded like a star-shell to illuminate a world in the Iron Curtain's dark shadow. Events in Tibet have been compared with the recent suppression in Hungary and while there is a resemblance, both revolts and the backgrounds have been reported everywhere befogged with misunderstanding or misrepresentation by people who do not seem to have a clue as to what the factors are that make society tick.

A Britisher says his piece
Mr. Hugh Richardson, the last British representative as Officer-in-Charge of the British Mission in Lhasa from 1947-1950 writing in The Observer, 5th April, 1959, gave a sincere, emotional, but woolly-headed review of the happenings and the historical background there. He said that the benefits of science conferred by the Chinese were illusory to the Tibetans when compared with the freedom to retain their old customs. He also naively berated Mr. Nehru for the part he played, “There is still no word from him of condemnation of the use of force beyond anything that an internal affair could warrant. Is such circumspection necessary or honourable?” He also makes out a case against the Chinese invasion on grounds of pure illegality.

Because Tibet has been off the beaten track of world trade, surrounded by land and without any ports conveniently available, she has been left severely alone by the great Capitalist groupings of the world whose main basis of transport is the steamship. Trade with Tibet had to be carried on with the aid of caravans for moving the merchandise, and this obsolete method renders out of the question cash crops and mining ventures, two of the great standbys of this profit-making age.

But there is a certain amount of trade with the contiguous countries, and this is to a large extent in the hands of the Tibetan nobles who, unlike the British aristocrats of last century, do not consider indulging in trade to be beneath them.

Tibet entered the Twentieth Century committed by the leanings of its ruling theocracy towards isolationism, and straining to get rid of its vassalage to Peking. The nobles wish to keep all of the profits of exploitation. The Tibetan ruling class is closely supported by the princes of the Buddhist church, who co-operate to preserve a subject-class docile, and amenable to the demands of their masters. Marx was by no means the first to realise that religion is the opiate of the people! Both British and Russian governments at that time had ambitions which extended to Tibet. But Prime Minister Arthur J. Balfour stated the British case simply, “It would be a serious misfortune to the Indian Government and a danger to our northern frontier, should Tibet fall under any European influence other than our own ” (Eastern World, December, 1956).

Tibet, a weak country, was but a pawn in the game of power politics then, as in the present fracas.

Would the Chinese Nationalists act the same ?
Chiang Kai-shek, the discredited Nationalist from his retreat in Formosa, criticised the Chinese government for their part in the affair and promised the Tibetans his support. He also proposed to organise an airlift, but the Tibetans, though they have not studied the Bible, probably know better than to lean upon a broken reed. Both the “Communist” and the Nationalist governments of China act on behalf of Chinese Capitalism. The “Communist” government of China has taken over from the Nationalists the map of China showing Tibet as being included within the country's boundaries.

But the tongue-in-cheek protestations of Chiang Kai-shek ring hollow to those who remember his activities in 1950, when the Chinese “liberated” Tibet. Lhasa's appeal of November 7th, 1950, to the United Nations for help against “the armed invasion of Tibet for the incorporation of Tibet within the fold of Chinese Communism, was presented in the United Nations, as a resolution by El Salvador. The Chiang Kai-shek delegate from Formosa opposed entering the item on the agenda on the challengeable grounds that Tibet had been part of China for 700 years.” In fact, as hollow as the sympathy for Tibet expressed by the press both here and in America. Chiang Kai-shek was allowed to have his way: neither Britain nor the United States rose to make an issue of the Tibetan nobles' right to self-determination, i.e., the right of the Tibet ruling-class to exploit the subjugated and keep the loot all to themselves. Apparent good intentions on the part of ruling-classes, when probed in the light of Socialist knowledge, so frequently appear as having economic motives. Whenever principles conflict with self-interests it seems as though it is always the principles that are jettisoned. The right to self-determination becomes the right to exploit: a rose by another name! The Tibetan government, standing alone, was forced in May, 1951, to submit to "Peaceful Liberation,” otherwise known as invasion and subjugation.

“Liberations”
The “liberation” of Tibet by the so-called Communist government of China in 1950-1 was by no means the first time that the country has seen invaders. The first Gurkha invasion from the south was in 1788, but in 1792 the Chinese government despatched an army of both Tibetans and Chinese under Chinese leadership and in the arctic cold of winter forced the Gurkhas to retire. The Chinese closed the frontier, but in 1841 an invading force from Kashmir were almost exterminated by the Tibetans. A Gurkha invasion of 1855 opened the country up to trade with the Indian sub-continent which was then governed by the British.

But Tibet, long regarded romantically by Europeans as the Land of the Lamas, is of strategic importance in the virtually New World that is Asia, and the country can be compared there much in the same way as control of the Middle East is regarded as vital by Western interests. Fairly recent events surely underline the truth of this contention. But Tibet no longer acts as a buffer zone; instead, it constitutes a forward area for Chinese penetration into South Asia.

Missiles from the Roof of the World
The Chinese are constructing airfields in Tibet. The Tibetan plateau of 12,000 foot altitude provides, in this age of jet bombers, an air base unique in the world. Calcutta is only about 550 miles from Lhasa. According to a report in the Eastern World, December, 1956, north of Tibet, through Kansu and Sinkiang, work is progressing on the Lanchow-Urumchi Railway, scheduled for completion (with a link to the Soviet Turk-Siberian Railway) in 1960. In August, 1956, Georgi Pokrovsky, a Soviet natural scientist, in a magazine article, proposed the construction of a Trans-Hymalayan railway running from the Soviet Union across Sinkiang to Kashmir and on to Delhi, thus connecting the Soviet Union, China and India by rail.

Those are all tremendous undertakings, and some of them are only projects for the future. But it is to the future that Peking and Moscow are looking, and the blueprints fit together. And in that context Tibet is being developed as a base from which China would be enabled to manoeuvre. For land power, not sea power, dominates Asia. Tibet thus becomes a factor in world strategy.

China and Tibet
Most of the 4,500,000 Tibetans actually live within the confines of China in the areas bordering on Tibet. Only about 1,000,000 live in Tibet proper, under political allegiance to Lhasa. Their social classification is roughly: 50,000 nobles and merchants, 150,000 monks, 800,000 serfs. About one-seventh of the population is in the monastaries—more than one man in four. Those who are not in the church have mostly swallowed the religious bait, hook, line and sinker, and live in subjection to the nobles. They live, imprisoned by the ties of their religious convictions.

A Reuters report published in the Far Eastern Review (November 1952) on developments in Tibet describes how the Chinese, using the Tibetan ruling-class governmental control of the population, are developing the country. As a reprisal for the Chinese occupation, the U.S.A., who are the main buyers of the wool crop (the chief item of export to the outside world), stopped purchases, in conformity with their policy of no trade with Communist countries. This brought about a minor crisis among the Tibet traders, but the Chinese met it by buying about 4 million pounds of wool for the China home market. While the Tibetan ruling-class co-operate with the Chinese government and the latter rally to their aid in time of trouble, it is only those who believe the State Capitalism of China is really Communism, that would consider these two groups to be other than two of a kind.

Industrialisation goes on apace
  Many factories, including an automatic repair plant, an iron works, bricks and tiles plants, saw mills, and a chemical plant, are now in operation. Hydro-electric or steam power stations have been built in Lhasa, Shigatse and Chamdo. Many Tibetan homes which once used yak-butter lamps or had no illumination at night at all, are today using electric light. Over 4,000 miles of motor roads have been constructed and many bridges built; some of them are remarkable feats of engineering skill. These roads link up all the major cities and towns and the principal agricultural, pastoral and handicraft areas which seven years ago were solely dependent on yak, horse and donkey caravans for the transportation of goods. They also connect Tibet with Chinghai, Sinkiang. Szechwan and other parts of China. A passenger air service is now running between Lhasa and Peking. Several airfields have been constructed both for civil and military aviation. Many towns and settlements have sprung up along the newly built highways. Nagchuka, a point along the Chinghai-Tibet highway where there were only a few cottages and tents before, today has become a town with banking, postal and telegraph, trading and health services. A free primary school has also been opened. New dwellings in great numbers have been added in Lhasa, Shigatse, Chamdo and Gynagtse. Industrial activities have given Lhasa a modern look. Its uninhabited northern outskirts are now dotted with factories and living quarters.
  More than 500 species of farm crops and vegetables have been successfully cultivated by the three agricultural experimental farms located on the high Tibetan plateau. Corn has been grown in Shigatse, nearly 12,000 feet above the sea level. Tibetans are being helped by Chinese workers to develop agriculture and livestock breeding. There are now about 80 primary schools attended by more than 6,000 pupils. Last year the first secondary school was opened. Students are given free board, clothing and books. During their study period they get pocket money. There are now three well-equipped general hospitals and several smaller hospitals and clinics in Tibet. About 4.000 Tibetans are now studying in higher institutions in Peking and other cities of China. More Tibetans are being trained locally and in China as doctors, nurses, teachers, radio-operators, tractor drivers and skilled workers.
 The China-geared economic revolution is gradually creating a new social consciousness. Radio, newspapers and cinema are gradually breaking the long-standing barrier of backwardness.
But it must not be thought that China is acting from purely altruistic motives. Tibet is rich in a range of minerals, including uranium—the raw material of atomic power and atomic bombs—according to Chinese surveys.
  China is doing a very commendable job in improving the economic conditions of Tibet. Industries are being developed, agricultural reorganisation is being carried out, the transportation and communication system is being rapidly extended, illiteracy is being removed and health improved, and, above all, mineral surveys are being conducted to utilise vast untapped resources. So far the surveys have revealed that there are more than 30 kinds of mineral resources of industrial value in Tibet. Besides precious metals, coal and iron, Tibet is said to be rich in uranium. There is no doubt that preliminary exploitation of Tibetan mineral resources will be undertaken before 1962. When the envisaged industrial revolution takes place Tibet will become an important economic unit of China. Already it has been established that about two-thirds of the northern Tibetan plateau is very good cattle grazing ground. Hence plans are afoot to make the area China’s major livestock breeding zone in the future. Specially picked Chinese families are being settled in Tibet to help the projected industrialisation of the region and to render smooth the Sino-Tibetan racial unification. The region therefore has become a reservoir for Chinese settlers. Tibet, which has an area of about 12.3 per cent, of that of China, has a total population of only about 1,200,000.
Eastern World, August, 1958.
Chinese in Mongolia—a foretaste of happenings in Tibet
Mongolia bordering China in the north has already experienced a full-dress rehearsal of what is now taking place in Tibet. The former country, also remote, with a lama dominated population, has already had a taste of "liberation,” Chinese style. Mongolia, a vast country dominated by its cattle baron aristocracy, who look askance at the teeming Chinese settlers. As in Tibet, some are engaged in mining. The coal deposits there, for instance, are estimated at 2,000 million tons. Chinese agriculturalists are swarming in, turning the ancient open pasture lands into farms. Mass trials of Mongolians and killing off the disaffected have been the order of the day, and make a mockery of Article 72 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China dealing with the protection of minorities.

In Mongolia as in Tibet when economic motives beckon, all other considerations have to give way, and the Chinese government behave like any old-time colonial power, except that they falsely act in the name of Communism. 

Who are the transgressors in Tibet ?
The Chinese authorities, probably feeling more secure in their grip of Tibet, and therefore more independent of the services of the Tibetan ruling-clique, had begun clamping on taxes, especially on the monasteries, which have tremendous influence, and had never before been taxed. The Tibetan court, steeped in traditional ways of thought, probably found that a conversion of their feudal economy, almost overnight, into a colonial appendage of a Capitalist power, was a bit too much to stomach, and that they could no longer co-operate, and so they went whilst they still had the chance to get away.

The Dalai Lama and his retinue has been reported as having crossed the Indian frontier, no doubt with heavy hearts, but also with a caravan loaded with gold and jewels. Moreover, it appears that the contents of his palace, reported as having been looted, are insured in India for a vast sum. The Indian government are considering whether they will allow him to build a palace there. Whilst the Dalai Lama may feel miserable he will, apparently, at least be able to be miserable in comfort.

But what is the lot of those who have been left behind: Newspapers report that practically all the young able-bodied men in Lhasa have been separated from their families and driven off by the Chinese apparently to forced labour camps. The Chinese appear to be trying to close the frontier, when, liquidation, a euphemism for extermination, will become the order of the day. The sum total of human suffering there mounts up. Once again, there is a resemblance between the fairly recent events in Hungary, in the plight of the refugees, who, for the moment, are fleeing across the frontiers. Once again, there is a break-up of families and the horror of both young and old at being uprooted and driven out, but this is an almost continuous process in a class-dominated society. The Tibetan refugees now join the grim procession: before them the Dutch from Indonesia, the Hungarians, the 900,000 Arab refugees in the Middle East, the Muslims who fled from India, the Hindus from Pakistan and the continuous stream from East Germany. This column of spectres will go on, it seems, while Capitalism lasts.

The trouble in Tibet is a revolt of the feudal rulers against the imposed rule of State-Capitalist China—these are the transgressors in Tibet. Whichever side wins, the underprivileged on either side will still continue to be exploited, even though serfs become wage-slaves. Tibet compares with Hungary in that, once again, it is a quarrel between ruling-cliques and is not worth the shedding of one drop of workers' blood on either side.
Frank Offord

The All-Mine Osaurs (1947)

A Short Story from the June 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

Prior to the “Atomic Age" the earth was ruled by the All-Mine Osaurs. For many years these creatures' main habitat was in and around London, but they soon spread to other cities and lands. Eventually they also established themselves in very strong numbers on the American continent. They were chiefly to be found in large blocks of offices and flats, centrally heated, as well as in the dining-halls of exclusive clubs and hotels. In appearance they were not unlike human beings. Heavy jowls, protruding ears, bulbous noses and gimlet eyes hidden behind glasses often gave them a frightening quality, especially when pictured in the press of the day sitting behind large wooden desks. Their waistlines had the tendency to wander beyond their circumference and get lost.

Their nomenclature is still the cause of many arguments. In their day this group liked to be known as "Captains of Industry." Other names such as "Managing Directors," “Chairman of the Company," were also applied to them. In the United States they liked to be known as “Presidents" after the titular head of the country. But most scientists agree on the first classification because of their enormous acquisitive powers.

Their possessions were fabulous in size and variety; there was nothing on the earth, below or above it which they did not own once they perceived that the object had some value. Their appetites being insatiable they would kill off the weaker ones amongst them and devour their property. Periodically whole groups engaged in battle. Then the earth shook under the conflicts of the monsters.

To a certain extent their origin is shrouded in mystery. The folk-lore of their day speaks of many of them being found under the counters of shops when young. Also several pictures that have been preserved bear the caption: “From Office-boy to Managing Director." This metamorphosis must have been as startling, if not as colourful as that of the caterpillar to the butterfly.

Some data exist as to their life and habits. It makes strange reading. An abnormal extension of their biological functions enabled them to sit on numerous different "boards" at one and the same time, many sitting on sixty or even more. They also read reports to company meetings, made after dinner speeches and played golf. The last two functions appeared to have been their main occupation. Scrupulous in adhering to the customs of the group, they never missed eating their dinners before making their speeches and this gave them paunches, flatulence and acidity of the stomach and speech. Then they attempted to rid themselves of these complaints by means of golf, a game played with wooden sticks and a ball. So the two functions seemed to have been complementary.

They were continually harassing the other species to produce more. "More Production and Greater Speed in Travel." The records speak of fantastic achievements in these spheres and of innumerable thousands of the lesser species who died of overwork or fell victims to the beserk speed of travel by crashing from the air or being hit by moving objects on the ground.

Except in rare and notorious cases, the All-Mine-Osaurs were never observed in the actual act of hatching wealth. Consequently legends were told to explain their enormous wealth. The few who attempted to spread a rational explanation were scoffed at by the majority, although the evil effects of their rule was plain for all to see.

However, after many years of popular clamour the government of the day issued an edict ordering their gradual extinction. For a time hopes were high, but after a while the decree was seen to have achieved nothing. The All-Mine-Osanrs simply disguised themselves as "Chairmen of Public Utilities," "Directors on Government Boards" or as “Government Stockholders" and continued to pile up wealth as before.

Finally, during the Atomic Upheaval, they disappeared without a trace.
Sid Rubin

The Great "Work Harder" Mystery (1947)

From the June 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

In Great Britain we are told we must live austerely, work harder and forego claims for higher wages and shorter hours. If we ask why, the answer is that this is a poor country, dependent on the loan from America, and that we have to reduce our imports and avoid spending precious dollars except for absolute necessities. If, of course, we were in the happy position occupied by America how different would be the attitude towards demands for higher wages.

Well, just how different would it be? In America production and profits have been rising fast—“Corporation profits after taxes are running a third higher than a year ago” (Financial Times, 28/4/47). In the economists' fairy tales the American Government and the employers would hurry forward to press wage increases on the workers. In real life what they are doing is to preach just the same stuff as is plastered on the hoardings by the British Labour Government. 
  “To Labour, the President’s advice is that there should be restraint in asking for further wage increases, since substantial increases must lead inevitably to further price increases.” (An American Correspondent in Financial Times, 28/4/47.) 
And read what the Daily Mail (23/4/47) prints from Don Idden, its New York Correspondent:—
  “There are many exhortations to work harder, and both Bernard Baruch and Alfred Sloan, chairman of General Motors, proclaim that the only solution of current troubles is working a lot more for a lot less.”
We now have the whole thing in a nutshell.
Part I
  “In Britain not enough is being produced. If the workers will do a lot more work without more pay everything will come all right and we shall be like America where production has reached record heights.”
Part II
   “In U.S.A. too much has been produced and things are in a bad way. If the American workers will work a lot more for a lot lees pay everything will come all right."
In truth it is not so daft as it seems to be. The American and British capitalists are both out for the same thing, making as much profit as possible out of the exploitation of the workers, and they can always find some plausible propaganda to help on their aim.

The Capitalist Ethic: Don't be a racketeer in a small way (1947)

From the June 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The late Stephen Leacock wrote a humorous story on borrowing money. The man who wanted to borrow a trifling sum was rebuffed, with insults. At a few hundred dollars the insults disappeared. At the four-figure level it was possible to do a deal; but it was not until a loan for millions was asked for that the bankers obsequiously hailed the borrower as if he were a benefactor entitled to a royal reception. So it is also in the matter of running a capitalist racket.

A street hawker “who admitted overcharging for apples, oranges and lemons, was sent to prison for nine months at Manchester.” (News Chronicle, 30/4/47.)

Up the scale a little are the people who resold Cup Final tickets. These “ racketeers,” according to the Sunday Express (27/4/4,7), “made hundreds of pounds." “One seller boasted that he had made more than £100 profit in an hour.”

Higher still we reach the big money, but they are no longer described as racketeers. The Evening Standard (22/4/47) told of a house in Mayfair, sold in 1935 for £15,000 freehold. Slightly bomb-damaged it was sold as business premises in 1943 for £45,000; and resold in 1946 for £65,000. Nine months later it is sold again for £75,000. The Evening Standard gave publicity to the agent’s ingenious argument to show that the price “is not so extravagant as it sounds.” The argument is that it will be cheaper for the buyer to pay £75,000 for the freehold than to pay £7,000 a year as rent, at the market rate of £1 a square foot.

Higher still up the scale we read (Daily Mail, 26/4/47) of the Marquess of Bute who had just died. His fortune was “once reputed to be worth £60,000,000.” A lot of the family wealth came from the lucky possession of land in Glamorgan under which vast coal deposits were found. One of the astute deals of an earlier Marquess was to build Bute docks at a cost of £350,000. “When, in 1922, the family sold the docks to the Great Western Railway, the purchase price was £5,000,000.”

The man in jail will have nine months to ponder over the golden rule that if you want to plunder your fellow man you should take care to be born into the propertied class and consult the best lawyers to see that it is legal.

Party News Briefs (1947)

Party News from the June 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Overseas Secretary has been asked by the Executive Committee to co-operate with the Editorial Committee in preparing a short leaflet suitable for translation into foreign languages. Its purpose is to introduce the party to workers abroad. The Overseas Secretary wants to get in touch with members competent to translate the statement. Write to him, or contact him personally, at Head Office. It is urgent.


May-Day Meetings were successful both in London and Glasgow. Manchester report has not yet arrived. In London there were 400 at the Central Hall, Islington, on May 1st, and about 1,000 at the Metropolitan Theatre on Sunday, May 4th. Total collections were £54 and literature sales approximately £16. Bad weather and the action of the police in stopping all literature sales in Hyde Park on Sunday, kept our literature sales down for the day. Before 1939 the Hyde Park regulations which forbid the sale of literature were not so rigidly enforced on May Day, but the attitude of the police now is a very different one. As usual our outdoor meetings in Hyde Park on Sunday afternoon were better supported than the counter attractions provided by Labour and Communist “stars.” In Glasgow we had 400 in the Central Halls, Bath Street, and there was a bright meeting with a barrage of stimulating questions about the party. Literature sales were good. The traditional May Day procession during the afternoon was poorly supported and must have been uninspiring to its organisers. The workers can hardly be expected to respond enthusiastically to appeals to work harder.


The Treasurer reports a continually sinking amount of party funds in the bank. Our activities are increasing all the time and we need a lot more money. There are three funds open for contributions, the General, Parliamentary and Provincial Organisers’ Funds. If the party is to continue to progress you must provide the financial backing.


The Socialist Party of Canada is giving us the issues they have in stock of the Western Socialist for the period prior to the date of its transfer to the Workers’ Socialist Party of U.S.A. The Literature Secretary will have these for disposal when they arrive.


The Annual Conference was successful all round and showed a favourable financial balance of over £13.


A National Party Poster is being considered by the Executive Committee to act as a counter-blast to the Government's "Work or Want” poster. "We work sometimes but want always ” has been suggested.


Kingston-on-Thames group is now a branch, and is getting to work straight away with two outdoor meetings a week (Saturday evenings, Castle Street, Kingston, and Sunday afternoons at Hampton Court). An educational class is being run after branch business is completed on Wednesday evenings. Suitable branch premises have not been obtained yet, but the Co-operative Society’s rooms at Hampton Wick are being used once a fortnight, and on the alternate week the branch meets at 19, Spencer Road, East Molesey. Dates of meetings will be announced in the branch directory.


The Publicity Committee organised a sales drive for Socialist Standards of the January and February issues. A loud speaker van was used and sales made at a large public meeting. Surplus Standards of the two months were sent to Emergency Training Colleges and secondary schools throughout the country. The campaign is to continue with the March and April issues.


Hackney Branch invited local Labour Party officials and M.P.’s to their "We challenge the Labour Party” meeting on May 9th. Those who replied found themselves "unable”(?) to be there owing to other engagements.


Paddington Branch had the unusual and arresting title of "Workers and Labour Pains” for their meeting at Paddington Town Hall on May 8th.


Leyton Branch have started a Socialist Standard canvassing campaign in their area. Other branches had excellent results with these canvasses last summer.


Bloomsbury Branch are running outdoor meetings at Warren Street (a few yards from the Underground station) on Wednesday evenings and have C. Lestor talking to them on "The Materialist Conception of History and Music” at Head Office at 8.30 p.m. on Thursday, June 5th. He will illustrate his lecture with gramophone records.


(Branches, officials and sub-committees who have items for these notes must give them to the General Secretary by the 8th of the month preceding issue. Publication cannot be guaranteed owing to shortage of space).
C. C. Groves,
General Secretary.

Debate: Baxter backs out (1947)

Party News from the June 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Beverley Baxter agreed to represent the Tory Party in a debate with us and all details were arranged. We booked a hall, advertised the debate extensively, and now we are informed that “other engagements” prevent Mr. Baxter from carrying out his part of the contract. If we are to accept the plea put forward then we are at a loss to understand how Mr. Baxter came to agree to the debate without knowing that he already had an engagement the same evening, unless it is an example of Tory incompetence. We would remind Mr. Baxter that it is better to fight and run away than never to fight at all, because workers are bound to suspect that he who backs out after committing himself has no confidence in his ability to defend his case against the case put forward by the representative of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

We will still hold the meeting as arranged so as not to disappoint those who have been misled by Mr. Baxter, and we invite any representative of the Tory Party who, unlike Mr. Baxter, has the courage of his convictions, to come to the meeting and put his party’s case against ours. Failing a Tory, a representative of any other party will be gladly given the same privilege. We know our case is sound and, therefore, we are not afraid to defend it against all comers.

"A Century! Declared" (1947)

From the June 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

Karl Marx published his first major work, “The Poverty of Philosophy," in June, 1847. Written in French in the winter of 1846/7, it was the fruit of lengthy discussions which young Marx, then 27, had with Pierre Proudhon, the founder of the chief school of French Utopian Socialism, in Paris in 1845.

Marx himself wrote:
  "During my stay in Paris, in 1844, I had personal relations with Proudhon. I recall this circumstance because up to a certain point I am responsible for his ‘sophistication,’ . . . In our long discussions—often lasting all through the night —I infected him with Hegelianism, to his great prejudice, since, not knowing German, he could not study the matter thoroughly.”
(“Poverty of Philosophy.” Kerr Edition. P. 196.) 
The work is a polemic. It is a criticism of Proudhon’s chief work, “The System of Economic Contradictions” or “The Philosophy of Poverty.”

When writing this, Proudhon informed Marx in a letter saying "I await the blow of your critical rod.” The “Poverty of Philosophy,” which Marx wrote in reply, was more a Torpedo or “Block-Buster,” than a “Critical Rod.” It blew Proudhon out of the water. This is not to say that Proudhonism, as a number of political ideas, was subsequently without influence in France. On the contrary, it was many years before the strongest critic of all, bitter experience, finally deposed Proudhon’s ideas among the French workers. In fact some twenty years later, Marx himself was to write “that little devil Lafargue is still plaguing me with Proudhonism” (“Karl Marx,” p. 345) about his own son-in-law to be. Chief among these—their most practical expression, was the formation of the “labour banks” or the theories of “labour notes” and the “constitution” of value. The “Mutuality” persist in Paris, in name only, to this day.

Pierre Proudhon was a remarkable man. It is not true that he was entirely self-taught (he gained a three-year scholarship to the Academy of Beqancon, the city of his birth, near the Swiss Border); it is true that he was a proletarian, a working compositor, who originally earned his living with his hands. For a working man, in the conditions of 1842, to produce a book such as "What is Property?” and wrestle with profound problems of philosophy as he did in 1844, striving to apply German thought to French politics, was an achievement of no mean order.

Proudhon, the Frenchman, like his contemporary Wilhelm Weitling, the German, really merited the appellation gratuitously bestowed on so many insignificant nonenties to-day—he was a genuine ”outstanding personality.”

Marx was almost the only thinker of his day to appreciate the significance of the first appearance of such men; worker-thinkers and writers.

Franz Mehring says finely:—
   "They were both well-built men, strong and vigorous and made to enjoy the good things of life, but instead they gladly suffered the severest privations in order to pursue their aims. 'A modest bed, often with three persons in the same room, a piece of board as a writing desk and now and then a cup of black coffee.’ That was the life Weitling was living when his name was already a sound of fear in the ears of the great ones of the earth, and Proudhon was living similarly in a Paris attic ‘clothed in a knitted woollen jacket with his feet in clattering wooden clogs'; at a time when he already enjoyed a European reputation.” (”Karl Marx,” p. 117.)
In 1847 Paris was the axis of European trade and commerce and the centre of world culture. During the previous years, the basis of the great French textile industry had been laid. Paris was established as the world city of the luxury trades. Paris fashions, jewellery and perfumes were making the position then, which they hold to the present day. French literature was blooming. Victor Hugo had won world renown. Balzac was writing his immortal “Comedie Humaine.” Thousands of refugees from the tyrannical rulers of Eastern Europe flocked to Paris. Chopin and Liszt were electrifying audiences at the Royal Salon. George Sand had published her social novels. To Paris among other political fugitives, came Heinrich Heine and Karl Marx. The acquaintance with Proudhon was but one of the contacts he made there.

Proudhon started with a quite sound contempt for the unscientific features of French Utopian Socialism —St. Simon and Fourier. Attracted by the great weight of German philosophy, he sought to apply it to the findings of the economists—particularly Ricardo’s “Labour Theory of Value.” Thus, in a sense, he essayed the same task as Marx; an attempt to synthesise the thought of his day, but failed because he never grasped the practical features of Hegelian Dialectics. As Marx indicates in his rejoinder to Proudhon, the latter tried to artificially construct a series of “Contradictions” or “Antinomies” : to propound his “solutions."
  “From the moment that the development of the dialectical movement is reduced to the simple process of opposing the good to the bad, of posing problems tending to eliminate the bad, and of giving one category as the antidote of the other . . .  the idea functions no more, it no longer has any life in it ” (says “Marx,” p. 192).
Starting with Ricardo, and his Theory that Labour-Time determines Value, Proudhon announced a great original discovery. Accepting the fallacy of Sismondi and others (Lord Lauderdale), that Use-Value and Exchange-Value were in “inverse ratio,” he declared the “cost of production” as the synthesis of Use-Value and Exchange-Value. This “synthesis” value he proclaimed as “Constituted” value, and concluded that the whole trouble was that value was not properly (legally) "constituted.” A start had already been made, he thought, with money—which he held, derived its value from the reigning monarchs, who issued it. All that was necessary, therefore, was for the value of products to be “constituted” in hours of labour, and workers would receive just as much as they give. If a man worked six hours he would receive a chit, or docket, for six hours, and draw products to that “value.” All men will be wage-workers, growing richer as productivity increases.

It is in reply to the “equalitarian” application of the Ricardian theory that Marx for the first time (if we except the somewhat immature lectures on “Wage Labour and Capital”) puts the idea of labour-power as distinct from labour.
  “If the relative value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of labour required to produce it, it naturally follows that the relative value of labour, or wages, must be equally determined by the quantity of labour which is necessary to produce the wages. The wage, that is to say, the relative value, or price, of labour, is then determined by the labour-time which is necessary to produce all that is required for the subsistence of the worker. ” (“Poverty of Philosophy,” p. 54.)
Proudhon hud confused the workers’ commodity, which he sells (Labour Power or Labour commodity, as Marx still calls it here) with his product which he makes. The two have no connection. Marx had little difficulty in showing that, although this "labour-note” idea might be new in France, England has been drenched with a huge literature, including "plans” worked out in detail, from 1810 onwards.

He quotes John Bray, “Labour’s Wrongs and Labour’s Remedy”; John Gray, "The Social System,” "Political Economy”; Hopkins, William Thompson, T. R. Edmonds, etc., displaying encyclopaedic knowledge of English Utopian writers.

Thus, instead of being the "revolutionary theory” of the emancipation of the Proletariat which Proudhon claimed it to be, relative value measured by labour-time is "fatally the formula of the modem slavery of the worker,” says "Marx” (p. 55).

Proudhon had tried to re-translate Ricardo, or the "equalitarian” application of the Ricardian theory of the English Utopian Socialists (Bray, John Gray, Thompson, Robert Owen) into French, using German metaphysics (Hegel) as his lexicon.

In fact he merely propounded in metaphysical terms as a "new system” what Ricardo had already analysed with all the curt precision of a world-famous banker; the normal operation of the existing capitalist system.

Marx made very short work of J. F. Bray, John Gray, etc., by informing Proudhon that several "equitable labour-exchange bazaars had been founded in London, Sheffield, Leeds, etc., all failing miserably.” He pointed out in the "Critique of Political Economy” twelve years later "bankruptcy would play the part of the practical critic” for any bank foolish enough to issue "labour-notes.”

Much more instructive is the demolition of Bray’s "equality” argument, i.e., the notion of the exchange of equal quantities. of labour to insure social equality.

Taking Bray’s fundamental axiom that an hour of the labour of Peter is exchanged for an hour of the labour of Paul, he shows that production for individual exchanges (commodities) cannot result in anything but inequality.

Even if we assume all to be workers, exchange of equal quantities of hours of labour is only possible on condition that we understand beforehand the number of hours necessary to employ on material production. "But such an understanding denies individual exchange." (P. 83.)

In other words what the Labour Party is doing in England to-day, planning (?) an unplannable system.

"Thus there is no individual exchange without the antagonism of classes.” ("Poverty of Philosophy,” p. 84.)

So far from the value of money being "constituted” by reigning monarchs, they do not “create” or "constitute” its value. In any case, they stamp upon money, not its value—but its weight.

Proudhon and his English predecessors got the cart first. It was not kings which made gold become money; but money which made kings coin gold. The economic power of the rising capitalist class expressed itself in the social supremacy of its most characteristic product —money, the universal equivalent of all labour products, now transformed by Capitalism into saleable commodities.

In actual fact, the only way that individual exchanges can realise themselves is through a universal equivalent, which, whether "labour-notes” are issued or not can only be MONEY.

(Marx remarks in "Capital” (p. 106 Kerr Edition) that Robert Owen’s "Labour Money” "is no more 'money’ than a ticket for the theatre.”)

What these Utopian Socialists, true to type, like our Labour-Fabians of to-day wanted to do, was abolish the worst effects of Capitalism. Not understanding the nature of commodities as Exchange Values—they sought to ameliorate social disparity by equalising exchangee. They wanted products to be produced as commodities but NOT exchanged as such. They wanted to prevent Use values from becoming Exchange values while still remaining commodities produced by private OWNERS. This could be nothing but an empty dream and the vast capitals of our modern Co-operative Societies to-day are its epitaph.

Having dealt with economics, Marx turns to philosophy, and really "goes to town.” Whereas one can almost feel him groping his way to his conclusions in the first part—when dealing with Proudhon’s attempt to be a French Hegel, he is obviously in his element.

Quoting from Ricardo in the first part, who as he said, "turned men into hats” by saying that a reduction in the cost of production of the one was identical in its operation with the other; in the second he says, "If the Englishman transforms men into hats, the German transforms hats into ideas. The Englishman is Ricardo, a rich banker and distinguished economist; the German is Hegel, a simple professor at the Berlin University.”

On pages 117/118 Marx outlines the Dialectic of Hegel, i.e., the conception of the thought process in the human brain as an endless series of partially reconciled contradictions. This is to explain the reasons motivating Proudhon to give his treatise its forms and title:—
 "The System of Economic Contradictions.”
As we have indicated, whereas Marx applied the dialectic to actual reality, to the economic conditions as they were, Proudhon constructed or invented a series of antinomies based on a number of questions, such as: The Division of Labour; Good Side—Bad Side; Solution (by Proudhon). Competition and Monopoly: Good Side, Competition is essential, Bad Side; Competition is ruinous, Problem to solve; Find equilibrium. Property and Rent (where Marx, exactly the opposite to Proudhon, says, "Rent proceeds from society, NOT the soil”); and lastly, Strikes, and Trade Unions or Combinations, which Proudhon condemned.

With an astonishing similarity to claims made by tin-pot peripatetic "philosophers” of to-day, Proudhon wrote:—
  "We will not make a history according to the order of time, but according to the successions of ideas. The economic phases or categories are in their manifestation sometimes contemporaneous, sometimes in inverse order . . .     "Economic theories have also their logical succession and their series in the comprehension. It is this order which we flatter ourselves with having discovered.” (Page 113.)
This is the notion that the Ideas create the conditions.

The conception that the rotation of human thought has produced social systems.

Thus, Feudalism, e.g., arose because men first conceived the ideas of the feudal system.

Marx, in reply, says bluntly there are no eternal ideas or "categories”. "They are historical and transitory products ” of the conditions.

What Proudhon calls the “bad” side of feudalism, serfdom, privilege, anarchy, etc., e.g., was precisely the side responsible for its break-up and the subsequent development leading to capitalism, the bad side of which, poverty, contains its progressive elements! “It is the bad side that produces the movement which makes history, by constituting the struggle." (P. 132 ) Thus, Proudhon is not dealing with really existing contradictions but those posed in Proudhon’s own head based on conceptions of “eternal justice,” "eternal right” and "eternal law,” which turn out on close examination to be the typical notions of the French petty-Bourgeoisie, or in Marx’s own words, "a petty-chandler's phantasy” (see "Capital,” Vol. I, p. 96, Kerr edition).

Whereas Marx investigated the actual effects of "hats,” e.g., in a certain way on men, Proudhon juggled with noisy paradoxes created out of the ideas into which Hegel turned the hats.

In one of the brilliant epigrams in which this remarkable work abounds, Marx declares, in reference to Proudhon’s "eternal categories”:—
   “The windmill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist.” (P. 119.)
  "Monsieur Proudhon does not know that the whole of history is nothing but a continual transformation of human nature.” (P. 160.)
    ". . . . in a society based on poverty, the poorest products have the fatal prerogative of serving the use of the greatest number.” (P. 67.)
It is quite impossible to give any complete idea of the breadth and depth of this astounding performance of the youthful Marx, then a mere stripling of 28, within the limits of an article. There is only one word for it: Genius. For one hundred years now it has lain almost dormant on the shelves partly because of the massive and conclusive character of the works like the "Critique” and "Capital” of which it was the brilliant precursor. '

Unlike previous occasions, 1933, e.g., when those with temporary axes to grind, showered peons of fulsome praise on Marx and his works, no self-styled "Marxists” (?) have now rushed forward to try to suck a little political marrow from his smouldering bones.

Working men who turn the pages of this work to-day will find (although some references, which we have tried to elucidate may be somewhat obscured through passage of time) an almost inexhaustible source of purest gold.

We Socialists are not Marx idolators—we have never been adulators like those prompting Marx to say he was "no Marxist,” or self-appointed "High Priests” of Marxism, as Mehring called Kautsky and Co. We have never postulated Marxian Papal infallibility—or produced a special "interpretation” of Marxism. It is perhaps for this reason that we have not forgotten Marx’s first brilliant contribution to working-class thought, the exposure of the Poverty of the Philosophy of 1847 as a Philosophy for our poverty.
Horatio

Another Critic of Marx (1947)

Book Review from the June 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Tradition,” by Alexander Gray, is interesting to socialists because it provides, if nothing else, an illuminating illustration of how little the type of criticism he offers of Marx has changed over the last fifty years or so.

Some idea of his approach to Marxism is seen when he informs us (p. 306) that Engels in later years became satisfied that there had been an early golden age. The fact that Engels in "Anti-Duhring” (p. 201) points out that early society far from being a primitive paradise, was marked by a low degree of productivity, is apparently unknown to Mr. Gray. The astonishing statement is then made (same page) that Marx and Engels thought the human race had taken the wrong turning. To give colour to this false conception he adds his own words, "the evil thing being the division of labour.” Again it was Engels in "Anti-Duhring” (p. 203) who pointed out that the slave society which superseded the primitive communities represented an advance in productive powers and under the condition of the times was a great step forward; and adding that without slavery there could be no Greek culture, no Roman Empire, and consequently no modern Europe. Likewise the strongest justification offered for the coming of capitalism was the classic tribute Marx and Engels paid to it in showing that its great historic function was to multiply the productive forces and capacities to an unparalleled degree and thus provide the basis for the free and full development of associated humanity—Socialism, and this from men profoundly and intensely aware of the human costs involved in the accumulation of capital. For Marx and Engels the path of social development is not a consequence of the good intent or bad intent of individuals, but the result of the objective possibilities provided by a given historical situation. This indicates to what extent Mr. Gray has in his approach to Marxism taken the wrong turning.

Mr. Gray (p. 306) says that history cannot be explained in terms of the economic factor alone. He merely repeats a fallacy Marx himself exposed. What Marx did say was that the central point in the life of society consists in the way the productive forces are organized by the social activity of men at any given time—its mode of production—and constitutes in the last analysis the preponderating influence in determining the general social structure, viz., its institutions, laws, politics, etc. It follows then that in the functioning and development of these productive forces is the key to social evolution to be found. This evolution, since the advent of private property relations, has taken place through the agency of class struggles. For instance, from the growth of trade and commerce in feudal society there evolved a commercial class—the early bourgeoisie. In quest of profit they strove to expand the productive forces free from feudal let or hindrance. In the class struggle that ensued feudalism was destroyed and modern Capitalism appeared. As the final result of the class struggle to-day Capitalism must also disappear and the widest expansion of the productive forces secured by instituting a classless society based on production for use.

In the light of the foregoing, Mr. Gray’s contention (p. 329) that the materialist conception of history provides an interesting technique in historical interpretation, but Marx unfortunately linked it with the class struggle, wears a comical aspect. To attempt by some ghostly process to abstract the centre piece of Marxist doctrine would reduce it to a meaningless absurdity. One might as well attempt to retain Newtonian physics apart from the concept of gravitation.

The great man theory as an objection to historical materialism is then advanced. An idea rooted in the tribal conception of hero worship enshrined in the philosophy of Carlyle and at length turned into a political instrument of fascist demagogy. We are told (p. 307) "doubtless great men are conditioned by their environment, but not produced by their environment.” The great man thus appears on the scene like a sudden revelation or a divine act. In the course of history emperors, generals, statesmen and, finally, the so-called great captains of industry have all been called upon to play this mysterious role. It is, of course, a typical piece of bourgeois fetishism that ascribes the great advances in production due to the division of labour, improved technical processes, etc., as being the result of the creative intervention of rare individuals, just as bourgeois economists have thought that the unpaid labour appropriated by the capitalist is the result of some creative attribute inherent in capital. Men make history, says Marx, which includes, of course, both "great men” and "little men.” The kind of history that men make is not, however, derived from the impulses, ideas or theories which actuate certain individuals, but the outcome of specific social factors in a given environment, which not only conditions these mental concepts, but limits their range and effectiveness. Further the action and interaction of all the forces in a given social environment act selectively on these ideas, theories, ideals, etc., and only those concepts which correspond and are in line with the objective conditions can constitute effective mental instruments for changing the world. Thought and action (theory and practice) in so far as they are informed by a knowledge of the conditions and limits imposed upon them by the nature of the social environment in which they operate constitute a purposeful and effective force and are presupposed in Marx’s system. Mr. Gray’s silly remark (page 305). "that the materialist conception of history is a view that tends towards fatalism,” is further evidence of his mysterious conception of Marxism.

According to the author, mighty repercussions in history might spring from trivial non-economic causes (page 307). This is confused thinking, for history can only be the outcome of what was important in its making. He then invites us to speculate on the consequences of the Tudor Queen Elizabeth marrying and having issue. Thus the Scotch James would not have come to the throne. The opportunity for the Union of England and Scotland thus missed, “Who knows,” he adds, "when it might have recurred.” The Union of Scotland and England was not decisively the outcome of James ruling both countries, but the need of an expanding capitalism to secure a single economic unit and the economic advantages that went with it. The accession of James did not prevent the quarrels and war that broke out between the two countries later, the product of commercial and economic jealousv and rivalry. Indeed, the Union was dissolved in 1660 and it was not till 1707 that the economic advantage due to the further economic development of a rising Capitalism was finally recognised by the respective interests. The Union then was a direct outcome of economic trends.

It might be of interest to note that the personalities and ideas of the catholic Stuarts had little effect on the course of history. The civil war precipitated by the personality of Charles I against an English Government well advanced in the stages of a mercantilist system was only an incident in English history. The triumph of the political revolution of the English bourgeoisie was assured by the economic revolution which had preceded it. Reactionary ideas may postpone but they cannot prevent economic development. The key to the understanding of the events of that time can only be found in the developmental economic changes which occurred in the womb of Tudor society and not to any hypothetical developments that might conceivably have taken place in the womb of one of its queens.

Mr. Gray, on page 307, then tells us “that factors such as religion and. patriotism attain to an independent existence in defiance of economic interests.” As this statement, like most of Mr. Gray’s statements, is uncomplicated by any evidence, we can only say that far from these factors being independent they can be shown to be closely interwoven into the economic fabric of ruling class needs and interests. Patriotism, for example, is itself the spurious by-product of nationalist sentiment, itself an ideological outcome of a long historical process, a process which consisted of the efforts of the early capitalist class to establish a geographical and political unit—the nation and strong central government—consistent with its own productive needs as against the sprawling ramshackle territories of feudalism. Thus the nation-states of Capitalism evolved. But the "free” young capitalist states of yesterday are groups of rival powers to-day. It is this economic rivalry that makes war as the final instrument of economic policy, inevitable. Patriotism in its modem guise becomes an indispensable ideological instrument for mobilizing the workers for willing sacrifice. A so-called identity of interests between exploiters and exploited is supposed to take place around abstractions like "pride of common possession,” love of country, etc. To the worker the issue is presented as a threat to life, liberty and family and social security. In face of the seeming threat to the common interest, powerful social impulses, themselves the age-long product of social evolution and invaluable in the struggling primitive communities, are invoked. Propaganda, press, radio, etc., then facilitate the process of subordinating these social impulses to ruling class interests.

Nevertheless Mr. Gray discovers, on page 331, that Marx has proved the most influential figure of the 19th century. We can only add that the ideas of Marx, dead this sixty years or more, are still a greater intellectual force than any of his motley crowd of critics— dead or alive.

We cannot deal with Gray’s so-called economic criticism for reasons of space, but in hoping to review Professor Schumpeter’s book, "Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy,” we shall be covering much the same ground. In conclusion we can only warn our readers that the potency of Marx’s historical method must be judged by the way Marx himself used it and not how people who have not taken the trouble to study him seriously attempt to interpret it. Mr. Gray’s handling of it irresistibly reminds one of a small child playing with his grandfather’s sword.
Ted Wilmott