Friday, March 29, 2019

Marxism in Chile? (1971)

From the March 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Salvador Allende is not the first president of Chile to proclaim himself a revolutionary. When Allende’s predecessor, the Christian Democrat Frei, was elected in 1964 he pledged himself to a “revolution in liberty”. Two years later found him sending in the army to break a strike in the copper mines; eight people were killed. As Fidel Castro rather neatly put it: “He promised revolution without blood and has given blood without revolution.”

Like Allende, Frei was elected on the strength of his promises to solve two basic problems. Firstly the concentration of land in the hands of a few vastly wealthy families while 350,000 peasants have no land at all. And secondly the domination of Chile’s economy by foreign (mainly American) capital, which is held to be responsible for the chronic unemployment in the country (currently running at about 7 per cent.) and the destitution of a large section of the population (one half of all families live on less than thirty dollars a month).

Frei’s initial boast was that 100,000 landless peasants would be settled on their own farms. But his attempts at redistributing the land were firmly resisted by the great landowners and in the six years between 1964-70 less than a third of those who had been promised plots of land got them. Estimates of the number of peasants resettled vary considerably, from 18,600 families relocated (Economist, 12 September, 1970) to 30,000 families (Time, 19 October). Similarly American interests in Chile (total US capital in the country stands at about $1,000m., including more than $500m, in the copper mining industry) fought vigorously to avoid Frei’s tentative moves towards nationalization. The Christian Democratic programme involved such schemes as the ‘Chileanisation’ of the $200m. American-owned Anaconda Company, with the government arranging to buy 51 per cent. of the company’s stock, as well as putting pressure on foreign companies to promote more Chileans to top management posts.

Predictably enough, Frei’s inability to fulfil his promises and make any significant inroads on peasant and working class misery, while at the same time he scared conservative elements with his talk of land expropriation and nationalisation, led to a polarisation in Chile’s politics in the 1970 presidential election. The slump in the popularity of the Christian Democratic candidate (Frei had got an overall majority in 1964, while his party’s nominee — Tomic — got only 27.8 per cent, of the vote in September 1970) has been partly explained by the behaviour of the frightened landowners and others who switched their allegiance to the right wing candidate, Jorge Alessandri. But, of course, the landowners form only a tiny fraction of Chile’s population and for Alessandri to get the 34.9 per cent, of the votes which he did, he had to attract the support of hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants committed both to capitalism and the traditional form it takes in Chile. That this was the case is made quite clear by the fact that Alessandri topped the poll in Chuquicamata, the principal copper mining centre in the country and obviously therefore an area with a high concentration of workers.

No less committed to capitalism were the 36.3 per cent. of the voters who opted for the ‘Popular Unity’ candidate, Salvador Allende. Allende has built up a popular front around the so-called ‘Communist’ and ‘Socialist’ parties which also takes in the Radicals and a number of smaller organisations such as ‘Independent Popular Action’ and an offshoot from the Christian Democrats — the ‘Action Union for Popular Unity’. These movements have allied themselves on the basis of an extensive reform programme which, if carried through, will lay the foundation for a restructuring of the Chilean economy along state capitalist lines. Its broad outlines consist of nationalising the copper industry, the banks, the strategic industries and the monopolies in the distributive sector — or, as Popular Unity jargon has it, of nationalising “all the activities which conditions the economic and social development of the country”. Tied in with this, there is to be an “extension of agrarian reform”, measures “to assure monetary stability” and a “plan for social security: health, work, housing.”

All this has been expressed by Allende in popular slogans such as “A half litre of milk per day for each child” or “We want our people to eat, to have work, to have homes, to have the guarantee of health.” And it is small wonder that he has found a responsive audience (including, as he points out himself, the “enlightened capitalists”) when more than half of all children in Chile are recognised to be undernourished and hundreds of thousands live in tenements where one or even two families jammed in a single room is considered normal.

Yet not only does the united front programme not represent an advance towards Socialism as many Popular Unity supporters imagine, but the fact is that Allende’s policies will not even radically alter class relations within the existing capitalist society in Chile. Those who are pinning so much hope on nationalisation should remember that this will not be an entirely new phenomenon. Already the state in Chile controls the power industries (including oil), the steel industry, the railways and — in part — telecommunications. As for the banks, which the new government is in the process of nationalising completely, even under Frei sixty per cent. were controlled by the state. It is obviously relevant, then, to ask just what benefits previous experiments in nationalisation have brought to Chile’s working men and women — and why this new wave of takeovers by the state should produce any different results?

In a public announcement to mark the constitutional amendment which will allow the state to take over the copper industry, in December 1970, President Allende said: “Since 1930 the big companies which exploit the copper deposits have realised profits totalling $3,700m., which represent 40 per cent. of the total wealth of Chile . . . The nationalisation of copper will be worth $70m. a year to Chile.” The popular interpretation which is being put on statements like this is that these profits from the nationalised industries are to be directed towards building more houses for workers, pushing up wages and generally improving the quality of life of the masses of the people. But will capitalism allow such priorities to influence the running of Chile’s economy?

Since Allende is proud to announce that he has read his Marx, he must know that:
  … the development of capitalist production makes it constantly necessary to keep increasing the amount of capital laid out in a given industrial undertaking, and competition makes the imminent laws of capitalist production to be felt by each individual capitalist, as external coercive laws. It compels him to keep constantly extending his capital, in order to preserve it, but extend it he cannot except by means of progressive accumulation.
Allende’s Chile, just like any other country operating within the world capitalist economy, will have to compete on the international markets to sell its products. The prices of its commodities can be made competitive only by Chile keeping abreast of world developments in industrial innovation, by constantly reinvesting in new plant — by constantly accumulating capital. And this can be done only by Chile’s industries — whether nationalised or not — pumping surplus value out of the working class. That these “external coercive laws” are continuing to operate was made quite clear in a radio speech by the new President when he announced that daily production of coal is to be stepped up from 3,800 tons to 4,700 tons — and then called on the miners to make sacrifices so that Chile’s coal can be sold at competitive prices on the world market.

Because the popular front government is responsible for Chile’s capitalist economy, inevitably it is being brought into conflict with the workers and peasants. Already there have been several strikes, some involving the occupation of factories, both in the capital Santiago and in the provinces. In December 1970 telephone workers in Santiago took over the central telephone building and held some hostages, calling for the immediate introduction of new salary scales which the government said it would introduce in time. In the same month three thousand municipal workers stopped work for 48 hours after demanding pay rises which the ‘Communist’ Minister of Finance refused, while fifteen thousand administrative workers were on strike too.

It could happen, as a result of events in Chile, that as the anti-working class policy of the Popular Unity government emerges more and more clearly, this could be blamed on its electoral strategy. There will, of course, be a number of confused people prepared to argue this way, suggesting that it was Allende’s reliance on the vote which prevented the building of Socialism in Chile, but socialists must explain that it was not the method of using the democratic machinery of elections which has proved inadequate. The capitalist system has persisted for the far more elementary reason that all of the movements in the popular front stand for capitalism and were voted into power by workers and peasants who are also still thinking along entirely capitalist lines.

Indeed, far from elections having been proved worthless, perhaps the only positive lesson for the working class to come out of Allende winning the Presidency is the way it showed how control of the state is all important.

Chile is politically the most advanced country on the South American continent, where there has been no coup d’état for almost forty years. The fact that workers there have achieved basic democratic rights which enable them to organise trade unions and vote freely is a measure of the level of political maturity reached. Once in power Allende found he could push through the reform programme of his government, even against considerable minority opposition, because the armed forces were always at his disposal. In the same way, when there is a socialist majority in Chile, the most ready means of advancing to Socialism will be for the workers there to use their votes to capture the state machine . In that way, they will be able to reorganise society on the basis of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, a very different thing from nationalisation. That will be the real socialist revolution — but, meanwhile, the good name of Marxism is being dragged through the dirt in Chile.
John Crump

Aspect: Karl Marx and the Paris Commune (1971)

From the March 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

What happened in Paris in March 1871 must have seemed at the time a tremendous political upheaval. The French government lost control of Paris for a few months to a municipal council, or “commune”, made up of extreme republicans whose banner was the Red Flag and who proclaimed the Emancipation of Labour. What happened was indeed unprecedented. Never before had any government even claimed to represent the interests of the working class; never before had so many workers taken part in the political administration of a large city. Since 1871 of course there have been many governments, at national as well as local level, that have labelled themselves “Labour” or “Socialist” or “Communist” and in which workers have participated, but the Paris Commune was the first.

In 1870 Marx was still actively working in the International Working Men’s Association, now known as the First International, which had been set up five years previously. His long-term strategy was to encourage the working class in all countries to act independently in order to prepare them for Socialist political action. He was consistently opposed to immediate working class uprisings as advocated by, among others, the anarchist Bakunin. Indeed opposition was his first reaction to the idea of an uprising in Paris following the defeat in September 1870 of France in the Franco-Prussian War. A manifesto, drafted by Marx and issued by the IWMA in September to mark the overthrow of Napoleon III and the proclamation of a Republic in France, advised the French working class:
  Any attempt at upsetting the new government in the present crisis, when the enemy is almost knocking at the doors of Paris would be desperate folly. The French workmen . . . must not allow themselves to be deluded by the national souvenirs of 1792 . . . They have not to recapitulate the past, but to build the future. Let them calmly and resolutely improve the opportunities of Republican liberty, for the work of their own class organisation. (1)
This was a call, not to insurrection, but to work within the new Republic to gradually build up the strength of the French working class movement.

The Paris revolutionaries who, despite this advice, did attempt uprisings in October 1870 and January 1871 were composed of two elements: Jacobins and Blanquists who did look backwards to the First French Republic of 1792 and who were in the majority, and the Paris section of the IWMA who were more interested in organising the workers. Only a handful of them were Socialists in the sense that Marx was, but all of them were in favour of social reforms for the workers (which was enough at that time to be regarded as a socialist).

When on March 18, 1871, Paris did rise in answer to the provocative attempt of the government to take away the cannon of the National Guards, a mainly working class militia, Marx conceded that the revolutionaries had no choice. To have allowed the government succeed would only have demoralised the working class (2). So Marx gave his full support to the insurrectionary Commune once it had been established, even though he knew that it could not survive for long and that it was not really socialist.

Most people must rely for their knowledge about the Commune on the manifesto Marx wrote in May 1871, on behalf of the IWMA called The Civil War in France (3), just after Paris had been brutally suppressed amid great slaughter. This is essentially a propagandist document defending and honouring the name of the Commune and those who died for it. In many respects, however, it gives a misleading impression of what the Commune really was and invests it, as Paul Lafargue who was a close associate of Marx at this time later admitted, with a socialist character it certainly never had (4).

Marx wrote of the Commune that it was “to serve as a lever for uprooting the economical foundations upon which rests the existence of classes, and therefore of class rule”. Answering charges in the capitalist press that the Commune was “communist”, he went on:
  Yes, gentlemen, the Commune intended to abolish that class property which makes the labour of the many the wealth of the few. It aimed at the expropriation of the expropriators. It wanted to make individual property a truth by transforming the means of production, land and capital, now chiefly the means of enslaving and exploiting labour, into mere instruments of free and associated labour — but this is Communism, “impossible” Communism!
This suggests that the conscious aim of the Paris Commune was the establishment of Socialism. But this was not so (and even if it had been it would not have made any difference to its chances of survival). Those who held this view of the tasks of the Commune were only a minority, the majority being made up of the Jacobins and Blanquists who looked back to 1792 rather than forward to Socialism and who wasted their time with revived “committees of public safety” and even with the old revolutionary calendar.

Further light in Marx’s view of the Commune is revealed by some draft notes he wrote for the manifesto in April and May 1871 which were not published till 1934 (5). Here Marx says that the most important point about the Paris Commune was its mere existence; was the fact that workers were actually governing Paris. He described the Commune, as a form of political organisation, as
  not the social movement of the working class . . . but the organised means of action. The Commune does not do away with the class struggles, through which the working classes strive to the abolition of all classes . . . but it affords the rational medium in which that class struggle can run through its different phases in the most rational and humane way.
It is quite clear from this that Marx regarded the Commune not as Socialism or even a transition to Socialism, but merely as the political framework within which this transition could take place. He had always advocated that the working class should win control of political power before trying to establish Socialism. He now saw, as the quotes above indicate, the Commune as the form political institutions should take during the period of transition to Socialism. He was not necessarily saying that Socialism was the policy of those who controlled the Paris Commune, but merely that the political institutions they had established — where democratic administration by and for the people replaced the bureaucratic dictatorship of the State machine over the people — were the sort a Socialist working class would also have to establish after they had won political power.

In these draft notes Marx expressed the view that the Commune, as a democratic political institution, would be tantamount to “working class government” in places like Paris where the workers were in the majority. Before the numerical predominance of the working class could become politically significant the old bureaucratic government machine had first to be taken over, then broken up and be replaced by a democratic regime such as the Commune. This is what he meant by the often-quoted (usually out of context and nearly as often misunderstood) statement, which occurs in three different forms in the draft; that “The working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made State machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.” It must be admitted, however, that Marx sometimes seemed to ignore or underestimate the need for the working class to have Socialist ideas as well as democratic institutions before their numbers could be a force for Socialism.

One difficulty in trying to assess Marx’s views on the Paris Commune is that he did not always clearly distinguish between the Commune as a system of democratic government and the Commune as the actual regime which governed Paris from March to May 1871. Whatever may have been the merits of the Commune as the type of administration the workers should have established had they won power anywhere in 1871 — and in 1971 this can only be an academic issue — the real Paris Commune was not a political instrument in the hands of a conscious Socialist majority. Indeed it was not even as democratic as the picture Marx gave of it in The Civil War in France, admittedly before he had a real chance to check the facts. The members of the Commune, for instance, were not paid ordinary workmen’s wages but at least three or four times the wages of the average craftsman (6).

Ten years later Marx by implication admitted that in 1871 he had given a misleading picture of the Commune — though his political conclusions that the working class, after winning control of the machinery of government would have to put it onto a fully democratic basis before using it as an instrument of emancipation was, and still is valid. In 1881 a Dutch Social Democrat, Niewenhuis, wrote to Marx about what the Socialist movement should do once it had come to power. Marx replied on 22 February that he did not think that the Socialist movement would come to power in any country unless at the same time it was strong enough to overcome any capitalist resistance. He went on:
  Perhaps you will refer me to the Paris Commune, but apart from the fact that this was merely the rising of a city under exceptional conditions, the majority of the Commune was in no wise socialist, nor could it be. With a modicum of commonsense, however, it could have reached a compromise with Versailles useful to the whole mass of the people — the only thing that could be reached at the time. (7)
So in 1881 Marx openly recognised that the Commune was not Socialist and that it could not have succeeded beyond reaching some compromise with the French government. We can only speculate what sort of compromise Marx had in mind, but it was probably the establishment of a (capitalist) Republic which would have allowed the working class to organise politically and industrially.

The failure of the Paris Commune in fact vindicated the perspective Marx had of the workers gradually building up their political and industrial strength, rather than trying to stage immediate armed uprisings against the capitalist State. The Paris Commune was one such uprising, an important but exceptional incident in the history of the working class which demonstrated both the need to win political power and the futility of the barricade as the way to do this.
Adam Buick

(1.) K. Marx, The Civil War in France, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1966, pp. 35-6.
(2.) Letter to L. Kugelmann, April 17, 1871, Marx Engels Selected Works, Vol II, FLPH, Moscow, 1958, p.464.
(3.) All quotes are from the Peking edition above.
(4.) “The manifesto of the civil war drawn up by Marx for the General Council invested the Commune with a socialist character it had certainly not possessed during its ephemeral existence”, wrote Lafargue in 1897 (quoted in Tsuzuki, The Life of Eleanor Marx, pp.33-4).
(5.) Included as part of the Peking edition of The Civil War in France.
(6.) F. Jellinek, The Paris Commune of 1871, 1937, p.391. J. Rougerie, Procès Des Communards, 1964, p.246.
(7.) Letter to F. Domela-Nieuwenhuis, 22 February 1881, Marx Engels Selected Correspondence, FLPH, Moscow, 1956

50 Years Ago: More production, more unemployment (1971)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Most newspapers are advocating the cutting of governmental administrative expenditure and continually criticise government schemes at home and abroad. These papers say the government must economise so as to relieve the taxes upon the merchants, landlords, and so on . Mr. Lloyd George has soon taken the hint and delivered his cheese-paring speech to the Chambers of Commerce. It does not require a Solomon to see that the world’s markets are glutted — the 'produce more’ stunt has come to fruition. The next step to producing more is to consume less — and that is quite logical in a system of wealth production which belongs to the few in society.

What a vicious circle! Terrible war, awful armistice, horrible peace! Whatever is claimed to be the solution — whether it is producing more, consuming less, economising, going dry, being wet, praying long or short, tariff on goods, profit-sharing, nationalisation — all, all lead to poverty in the midst of plenty.

A while ago a datum line was fixed for the miners, and our bosses made out that it was imperative that at least the miners should turn out so much coal, so that industry generally may flourish and make for good trade. But in spite of the miners producing more than the desired quantity, the discharging of workers has been continuous and it has been computed that there are 1,500,000 workers unemployed. Really if the situation were not so serious it would be comical to note the 'directive ability’ of those who strive to maintain capitalist conditions.

'Produce more’ was the cry; 'the workers are not producing enough’ — and then thousands are discharged so that they can produce nothing.
(From an article The Slump by S. W. in the Socialist Standard, March 1921).

Nostalgia (2019)

The Woods for the Trees Column from the March 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

As adults almost all of us have memories from our childhood and adolescence that produce intense emotion; for this reason they cannot to be relied upon as representing some kind of accurate chronicle of the actions of the self and others in the past. They are, however, essential for the development of the identity of the individual. It is the synthesis of the emotional development of identity and these memories of the past that produce the bitter-sweet phenomena we call nostalgia. It seems that as we get older this particular emotion becomes ever stronger until, with some, it almost entirely eclipses the ideas and emotions of their contemporary experience. This can be seen as one of the reasons for the political conservatism of the older generation within any population. Memories that have been selected and processed are, of course, safer and far more stable than the continual confusion and challenge that everyday life confronts us with. We find comfort in the illusory feelings of safety and structure that some memories provide; but there are also other memories that can pose a threat to this illusion and for this reason we process them in a very different way – we usually repress them. We tend to choose the memories that sustain the identity we want to believe in rather than those that can reveal another side of our character that we are not so comfortable with. This complex internal struggle is often at the very core of our political beliefs and can be revealed by the nature and type of nostalgia that we embrace.

My father’s nostalgia for the kind of football played in the 1960s that allowed England to win the World Cup was very different from my own – he saw it as a triumph for the old-fashioned authoritarianism of the England manager (Alf Ramsey) and I saw it as an expression of the cultural liberation inherent in the ‘swinging sixties’. The decadence that he perceived (in contrast to his belief in the authoritarianism that, for him, had won the Second World War) was to become my ‘golden age’ of nostalgia. Conversely I also have a nostalgia associated with his work as a union shop steward and his role within the working class community that flourished at that time. It would seem that most cultures, like individuals, have a memory of a ‘golden age’ that generates part of its identity. Of course the cultural and the individual are engaged in a reciprocal relationship which enabled my father to embrace his ‘Englishness’ and me to reject mine. Listening to the music and watching TV shows from that time will always evoke nostalgia in me but I’m very aware of the danger of an uncritical and quasi romantic embrace of what they represent. I love the hope and confidence but dislike the naivety and superficiality.

In retrospect one of the most obvious elements of naivety can be seen in the narratives that many of the films and TV of that time possessed. There always had to be a resolution that punished the wrongdoer and rewarded the ‘good guys’. Undoubtedly this fed into the politics of the time and seemed to render a ‘black and white’ solution to the problems of the age. This moral illusion lies at the heart of a lot of nostalgia – a belief in a simpler time when there was a shared consensus in terms of social values. The moral ‘high ground’ that had justified the militarism used to defeat fascism was now utilised to defend the use of violence against the much more ambivalent ‘enemies’ of the moral morass that was the ‘cold war’. In the 1969 movie The Bridge at Remagen a German officer who is about to be shot as an enemy of the Reich looks up at the sky and seeing aircraft he asks: ‘Ours or theirs?’. The SS attending officer replies, ‘Enemy planes, sir!’ ‘But who is the enemy?’ muses the officer – surely a sentiment born of the many wars of ‘national liberation’ that were raging during the making of the film.

In contemporary TV we see a stranger kind of nostalgia that reaches back even further to the pre-war Edwardian period. In shows like Downton Abbey and Berkeley Square we see an undisguised enthusiasm for portraying the rigid class system of the time when everyone knew their place. The English working class seems to indulge and even delight in the excesses of the aristocracy. There is certainly an element of class envy but it goes much deeper to the very essence of the identity of what it is to be English; the contemporary casual dismissal of the importance of class identity hides a deep obsession with it. The royal family has become the paradigm of celebrity soap operas due to nostalgia and its obsession with class – there still lurks a suspicion that there must be some reason for their ‘entitlement’ other than the accident of birth. Theirs is the most celebrated ‘family tree’ and many who research their own family history secretly nurse a deep longing to find a connection with it.

Undoubtedly there were periods in history that possessed elements superior to our ‘post-modern’ social context but this is not really the origin of the intense emotion we call nostalgia. It is much more akin to religion where what is absent (justice, moral integrity, meaning, structure etc.) are projected into a supernatural realm; nostalgia likewise finds a place for such a longing in a non-existent past.

The Ways of Imperialisms (1947)

Editorial from the July 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

If nature abhors a vacuum so does capitalism; the “vacuum" for this purpose being a weak State with a stronger neighbour, especially if the weak State has within its borders such a valuable prize as uranium deposits needed for the production of atomic weapons. The Chinese Government complains that Sinkiang is being invaded by troops from Outer Mongolia, aided by planes bearing Soviet markings. (The Soviet Government denies this.) According to a Chinese Government spokesman Soviet agents had been discovered before the attack making “unauthorised mineral surveys" in an area where uranium deposits were recently reported (Manchester Guardian, June 13th, 1947), though the explanation given by the Mongolians for the invasion was the arrest of eight of their soldiers.

It all reads like the customary procedure when a powerful State has designs on its neighbours. Outer Mongolia is a Russian puppet state and between 1933 and 1939 Sinkiang too came under Russian influence, "when the province was governed by Sheng Shih-tsai, who won his position with Russian aid after a brief but bloody civil war” (Manchester Guardian, June 16th, 1947). As Sinkiang, though ostensibly part of China, is separated from that country by over a thousand miles of semi-desert and is more easily accessible from Russian-dominated Outer Mongolia, it looks as if Russian expansion is bound to gain the day unless some other major Power, equally interested in uranium, considers it of sufficient importance to take a hand as welL

The people who are least likely to be consulted by any of the Governments concerned are the inhabitants of Sinkiang, who probably only want to be left alone to live their own lives in seclusion, free from interference by China, Russia, or any other Power.

Perhaps, if this position develops further, the puppets of the Russian Foreign Office (foreign Communist parties) might do worse than consult Lenin’s "Imperialism" published by themselves.

"The Anatomy of Peace" (1947)

Book Review from the July 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

A very major war is followed by a spate of declarations and statements relating to its cause and purporting to provide for its future prevention. Such a book is the "Anatomy of Peace” by Emery Reves. It has been a great success in America and will probably be so in this country, particularly as it has been published in a cheap form. (Penguin books, 1s.)

The book is a restatement of World Federalism, an idea popular to-day with various political groups, notably those who are not faced with the actual task of administering the affairs of Capitalism.

After discussing at some length Capitalism, Socialism and Religion in the light of their relation to the problem of war and peace, Reves concludes that they have failed, and then proceeds to give a fairly adequate statement of the nature of war and peace from the Federalist standpoint.

The essence of the doctrine is stated in two propositions : (i) “War between groups of men forming social units always, takes place when those units—-tribes, dynasties, church, cities, nations—exercise unrestricted sovereign power; (ii)"War between these social units ceases the moment sovereign power is transferred from them to a larger or higher unit" (page 110). This is followed by the axiom "War takes place whenever and wherever non-integrated social units of equal sovereignty come into contact" (page 111).

To some extent the idea is a measure of the failure of previous attempts to solve the problem of world war, for as each succeeding war increases in intensity and in the area affected so the plans and schemes for its future prevention become more and more drastic.

After the first World War a League of Nations is thought to be the panacea, but it fails. The second World War sees the rise of the Federalist idea, revolutionary to the extent that it requires the surrender of National Sovereignty. A proposition certainly unacceptable to the world of 1919-1939.

Experience shows that political ideas often precede the necessary economic preconditions of their realisation, and this is an observation which is particularly apposite to such a book as the "Anatomy of Peace." For whilst, superficially and as stated syllogistically by Reves, the fundamental propositions of World Federalism seem to be logical and require only the acceptance of humanity for their realisation, there is one all important factor which reduces the ideal to impotency. It is the factor of Capitalism, and for an illustration of the basic fallacy of Federalism Reves need not have gone further than the history of his own country America.

In 1861 America was engulfed in a civil war over, in its immediate aspects, the rights of the southern states to secede from the higher federal unit, the United States. Now that in itself knocks the ground from beneath Reves' feet, for here is a case of a war between two groups existing within the orbit of a higher or larger unit. But why did this war take place? What force was at work which made nonsense of this principal of the "higher unit"? It was the force of economic conflict between two rival Capitalist groups, one exploiting slave labour, the other exploiting the seemingly expensive free wage labour.

If Reves says he is concerned only with wars between sovereign states, then he must explain the phenomena of sovereign states changing their line-up in different wars. 1914-1918 found America and Japan allies. 1939-1945 finds them enemies. Why? The factor of contact obviously has no bearing on this question of alignment.

Reves attaches great importance to the factor of "contact" between sovereign states, and yet he again appears to be unable to learn from the history of his own country. For since the time of Napoleon America has never been at war with Canada, yet they enjoy geographical, political and economic contact. Common economic interests have made the pursuit of war unnecessary and pointless, and this condition precludes many other contacting sovereign states from engaging in war.

Were it not for the chapters on Capitalism and Socialism the book would not deserve the attention of the Socialist movement, for there is nothing new in it, but there is much in these chapters which requires consideration and discussion.

He states that Capitalism has failed to produce freedom, and whilst it would be possible to quarrel with Reves' idea of freedom it is not really necessary to the argument. What is important, however, is the idea that the purpose and function of Capitalism is to provide freedom. He sees Capitalism not as a system which has developed along inevitable lines, but as a system resulting from some preconceived set of principles which have been set into motion, one of them being universal freedom. He says for instance, "The purpose of mechanical industrial economy is maximum production of consumer goods" (page 45). This statement implies a motive for production guided by no other consideration than the satisfaction of human needs. If this were so, then the deliberate destruction of foods, the shelving of labour-saving devices, lockouts, cartels and any other of the restrictive practices of Capitalism would not occur. It is a half-truth. Maximum production is the motive of Capitalist production only provided it is compatible with maximum profit This is partially recognised when he says, "High tariff walls, export subsidies, exchange manipulations, dumping, cartels, the artificial creation of industries through government financing, etc., have completely distorted the free play of economic forces as understood by the classical theorists of the early 19th century"' (page 51).

Further he states the dominating motive of all economic activity outside existing national boundaries to be the determination to strengthen by all means the economic power of the nation states. Reves does not explain how or why the nation states are strengthened by external economic activity.

In the chapter "The failure of Socialism ’ Reves displays even less understanding. His confusion is shown most clearly when he is discussing the problem of Russia (it is notable that he does not distinguish between Socialism and the Bolshevist system). The following quotations will suffice to demonstrate his confusion :
  "Twenty years after the creation of the first Communist state based upon the principles of Marx, Engels and Lenin . . ." (page 66).
   "To state that Russia's development in the first 25 years of the Soviet regime has virtually nothing to do with Socialism and Communism is not to be interpreted as disparaging the positive achievements of the Soviet government . . . " (page 67).
   "Only in Russia has the Communist system been established . . . " (page 88).
It is not surprising that he finds little difference between freedom, foreign policy and methods in Russia and elsewhere. Had he read Engel’s "Anti-Duhring” with greater care (he quotes from this book when dealing with the question of the State) he would never have fallen into the common error of supposing that state ownership and control of the means of wealth production and distribution is Socialism. State Capitalism, for that is the most suitable term for such a system, means wage-slavery; production for sale and profit; coercion by poverty; money; investments, in fact all the paraphernalia of Capitalism, often with the absence of political freedom.

In this chapter Reves is mainly concerned with the question of Socialism and the State, and, not unsuccessfully, he shows the divergence between the theoretical principles of Marxism on this issue and the actual course of events in Russia.

Strangely enough the development of the Russian social system displays once again the accuracy of Marx’s observation on the time lag between the idea and the conditions of its realisation.

Since Feudal Russia of pre 1917 had no virile bourgeois groups capable of assuming the role of harbingers of the Industrial Revolution, the revolutionary movement took on a predominantly proletarian form. Strengthened theoretically by Marxism this group, the Bolshevists were successful in overthrowing the existing ruling class. However, as anticipated by the S.P.G.B., the Bolshevists having achieved power were forced by the prevailing economic conditions to throw overboard most of the ideas of the nature of the Socialist revolution and its eventual development, and resort to the usual practices and methods required to administer the affairs of a class society. Since then their international propaganda machine has devoted most of its energies and resources to explaining away, by doubtful "dialectics,” this apparently contradictory development

We repeat, the preconditions of Socialism were not present in Russia in 1917 and the economic and political trends since that time have justified our original analysis, based upon the understanding of Marxist principles.

Reves' criticism of Socialism from the theoretical standpoint can be reduced to two main arguments: (i) That the state is not the instrument of class oppression, 14 freedom,” he says, 44 is exclusively the product of the state ” (page 65), and (ii) that the common ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth is a fallacy insofar as it is claimed to promote the wellbeing of society.

He sees the state behaving as a policeman in civil society, settling the internal disputes of the nation, affording protection to the weak against the advances of the powerful and ruthless. Yet he also sees the nation states promoting terrible conflicts between themselves, oppressing and ravaging. The dual character of the state mystifies him. He does not see that the external affairs of the state are but the extension of those very internal practices which he admires so much. The state does perform certain humane functions within its domestic province, but in the main the motive is the maintenance of the fundamental status-quo. It reforms, it adjusts certain anomalies of the social order, but only to placate the increasing temper of the offended. To summarise our position, "The state is the public power of coercion. It makes and administers the laws, and it does so in the interests of the class which is economically supreme at the different epochs.”

The recent development of state power has mesmerised some into imagining that it is a self-motivated organism, beyond the control of any human group, a passionless machine. It is not. As any other social instrument it. is subject to human control, its forms of behaviour are determined by the group controlling it, and in modern society it acts in the interests of the Capitalist class whether controlled by avowedly Capitalist or alleged Labour parties.

On the question of ownership Reves uses the usual arguments that the diffusion of ownership in modern Capitalist society is so great that "it is managed more or less as a Socialist or state owned enterprise” (page 55). We do not quarrel with the idea that the relationships between owners and employees under state owned and privately owned industries are the same. But we do reject the notion that Socialist production can ever produce the same social relationships as Capitalist production. The reasons are obvious. Capitalist production is production for profit, and whether ownership of a particular concern is widely diffused or is in the hands of a small group, the motive is the same.

In any case, recent surveys of the distribution of Capitalist holdings, in America for instance, have shown that this wide diffusion of capital is a myth, and that the great bulk of capital is still in the hands of a numerically insignificant minority.

Reves' proposition that if the total annual world production was divided equally among the members of the entire human race the result would be poverty is probably true. He also says: "In spite of our pride in the miraculous industrial achievements of the U.S., England, France and Russia, our production lags miserably behind existing scientific and technical potentialities" (page 57).

Reves, probably unknowingly, has hit upon one profound objection that the Socialist movement has against the Capitalist system. Capitalism we say has served its historical purpose, it has shown the way by mass production and the division of labour to potential plenty. To-day huge areas such as China and India stagnate and corrode. Great masses of society fritter away their energies pursuing tasks which in a rational society such as Socialism would be regarded as socially unnecessary and accordingly eradicated. The "not enough to go round anyway" idea is a malthusian throwback and would not concern a society properly organised for maximum production for maximum satisfaction of human needs.

In conclusion we say again if the working class dissipate their political energies by pursuing plans and schemes calculated to solve the problem of war by adjusting the political relationships of nation states, then they will be faced in the future with more war and all the horror and tragedy it brings. War is a product of Capitalist society and its conflicts, and the solution lies in the abolition of this system and its replacement by Socialism; there is no other way.
J. L.

Notes by the Way: Peter Petroff on British State Capitalism (1947)

The Notes by the Way Column from the July 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

Peter Petroff on British State Capitalism
Peter Petroff, who was active in the British Socialist Party before it merged into the Communist Party and became Russian Vice-Commissar for Foreign Affairs soon after the Bolshevists seized power, died on June 9th, 1947. He had long ceased his connection with the Russian Government and returned to this country, but his former association with the Bolshevists and his later Labour Party activities add interest to the views he recently expressed in an article in the Railway Review (January 3rd, 1947). Under the title “The Trade Unions Under State Capitalism” he opposed the fallacious idea that because there is a Labour Government the workers have less heed of trade union organisation. Here are some extracts:—
  “We are entering a new era. Britain is gradually progressing from private capitalism to State capitalism. The Bank of England has been taken over by the State; the coal mines have at long last been transferred to public ownership; now the nationalisation of the railways and other branches of transport is on the order of the day. These important changes in society raise the question, what role the Trade Unions may be called upon to play in the near future . . .”
Although he held the mistaken view that State capitalism “is likely to change fundamentally the position of the Trade Unions in public life,” he had no illusions about the possibility of dispensing with their only weapon, the strike.
  ". . . under more or less developed State Capitalism the Trade Unions can by no means afford to weaken their protective functions in defence of the wage-earners whatever may be the character of the government in power. The right to strike is under State Capitalism even more important than under private capitalism . . . strong, virile and mighty unions are required to protect the workers collectively and individually against dictatorial tendencies of the State employer . . ."
It must have occurred to some of his railwaymen readers to ask themselves why, in face of the above, Petroff and others should nevertheless urge the workers to support Labourism and State Capitalism instead of working for Socialism.

What Machinery will do for the Miners
On June 23rd, 1947, the Manchester Guardian published an interesting article on the use of machinery in American coal mines, strongly recommending mechanisation as the salvation for British mines also. Along with details of the higher wages the American miners have been able to get from mechanised mines, (though only ‘‘by fighting a hard and sometimes violent struggle for their share of the proceeds ”), the article tells also of the other side of the picture, quoting the President of an American mining machinery company:—
  ‘‘The miners have to be persuaded to accept pay by the hour instead of by tonnage. They have to face up to such a speed-up of work that it takes them several years to adapt themselves fully. Some conservative foremen and engineers have to be removed before you can get the best out of the new equipment, and you may have to retire some of the older men who cannot stand the pace.”

The Activities of the National Union of Mine workers
That governments and employers should spend money on persuading the workers to work harder is an old story but it is surely new (and a spectacle to make the gods laugh) that workers should pay contributions to a trade union in order to spend the money persuading themselves to work harder. The following extract from a letter written by Mr. Will Lawther, President of the National Union of Mineworkers and published in the New Statesman (January 4th, 1947) deserves to be placed on record.
   ‘‘I should be the last person to deny the effective part played by Mr. Shinwell, the Minister of Fuel and Power, in this difficult situation, but surely it must be admitted that without the effective co-operation of the National Union of Mineworkers the position could not have been tackled successfully. Last winter the Union appointed a National Production Officer and Production Officers in the Areas. The salaries of the National Production Officer and eight of the Area Officers, who were appointed for six months, were paid for out of the funds of the Union. Indeed, the Minister of Fuel and Power himself, addressing the Miners' Annual Conference last June, paid a tribute to the work of the Union, and especially that of Mr. A. L. Horner, the National Production Officer. In addition, leaflets and posters were also prepared explaining to the mineworkers the importance of increased coal production. Moreover, during the past year the National Union of Mineworkers has taken the initiative in organising a large number of meetings and demonstrations in every coalfield in the country.
  ‘‘The fact that the National Union of Mineworkers is the first trade union to use its own funds (about £20,000 was spent last winter) to assist in a production drive is surely worthy of mention.
Will Lawther,
President, National Union of Mineworkers.

The Tories and Nationalisation
Speaking at Woolwich on June 28th Mr. Herbert Morrison had the following to say about the attitude of the Tories to nationalisation.
   "In the latest declaration of a committee of the Tory Party they have declared that if they return to power they would not undo much of the nationalisation which we have achieved and are achieving. The truth is they have no alternative policy within the defined field of Government policy in this regard which would stand up to public debate.” (Observer, 29/6/47).