Saturday, October 12, 2019

Film Review: The Way Back (2012)

Film Review from the April 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Way Back (2010) Directed by Peter Weir

This DVD is bleak, long and grim. In these respects it may accurately represent the allegedly true story of an escape from a Siberian gulag in 1942. It is based on the bestselling book The Long Walk by Slawomir Rawicz who claimed to have escaped the gulag with six other POWs and walked 4,000 miles south through the Gobi Desert, Tibet and the Himalayas to British-ruled India. In a concession to commercial pressures, the dialogue is in English with a Russian accent, which does little for its credibility. Colin Farrell portrays a violent Russian petty criminal with nationalistic ideas and a tattoo of Lenin and Stalin on his chest. As by far the most interesting character it is a shame that he decides to stay in Russia out of some misguided loyalty “to the motherland”. As might be expected, the film makes some attempt to tie valid criticism of the Soviet Union into criticism of Communism by including, for instance, a desecrated church. Even if you can put this to one side (and these parts are small enough to ignore) the film is still only averagely enjoyable.
DJW

50 Years Ago: Nonsense About Race (2012)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

The latest piece of nonsense to come from race-obsessed South Africa is the news that there has been an official ruling that the Japanese are to be classified as white.

Looking for the base economic motive that is usually to be found lurking behind the high-sounding racial twaddle, we find that the South African government is very anxious just now to encourage trade with Japan. Naturally, it would not do to make the Japanese suffer all the indignities which are the common lot of the black part of the population. A Japanese businessman thrown out of a hotel reserved for whites or pushed into the dingy part of a post-office to wait his turn with the downtrodden blacks might cancel his order for South African wool!

As so often happens with this racial nonsense, the perpetrators find themselves getting more and more involved in their own idiocies. On this occasion it appears that the locals find it hard in practice to distinguish between the Japanese and the Chinese. Since the Chinese are officially labelled as non-white, the Japanese are still being insulted since they are continually being mistaken for Chinese.

The whole affair has become all the more absurd because South Africa is now very keen on developing trade with China and is having to consider classifying the Chinese also as white.
(Socialist Standard, April 1962)

Action Replay: Naming Ceremonies (2012)

The Milk Cup back in the day.
The Action Replay Column from the April 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

You may well have thought that the Zambian football team won the Africa Cup of Nations back in February. But in fact it was the Orange Africa Cup of Nations, since this is one of the increasing number of international sporting competitions that have adopted sponsorship to the extent of incorporating a multi-national company into their name.

It is, however, mostly domestic competitions and stadiums that have attracted sponsors’ names. Football’s Carling Cup has had several, such as the Milk Cup when it was sponsored by the Milk Marketing Board (something scarcely credible now).  It had started life as the simple League Cup. Rugby union has the Aviva Premiership, rugby league the Stobart Super League, and cricket the Clydesdale Bank 40. Some mileage is got from the fact that it’s the FA Cup with Budweiser, rather than the Budweiser FA Cup, as if that made a big difference. Alcohol, banking and insurance seem to be popular sources of sponsorship.

The trend to new stadiums in recent years has led to sponsors’ names being commonly used to label the new ground, such as the Etihad and the Emirates. Sometimes existing stadiums have been renamed, if only temporarily: for a few years, York City’s ground rejoiced in the name of KitKat Crescent, under a deal with Nestlé. Newcastle United have played at St James’ Park since 1892, but last year the owners decided that this was not ‘commercially attractive’ (St James himself not having very deep pockets presumably) and so renamed it the Sports Direct Arena after the company run by the club’s owner. This is only a temporary move, mind, pending the identification of a long-term sponsor.

Clearly sport is just part of the increasing importance of the global brand in modern-day capitalism.
Paul Bennett

Our First Municipal Fight (1906)

Editorial from the December 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

In another column we publish the results of our first municipal fight and exceedingly gratifying they are when the circumstances under which the contests were conducted are taken into fair consideration. This is not our view solely. Men intimately familiar with local conditions have expressed astonishment at our polls. As one of them put it, “In view of the fact that your only election literature was a manifesto which would only appeal to a deep-thinking man such as the average elector is not, and seeing that the speakers on your platforms did their level best to prevent anybody except those who were prepared to swallow your manifesto holus bolus from voting for your men, it is quite astonishing that you succeeded in recording the vote you did. It was at least twice as high as I, at any rate, expected.” That statement, we think, expresses the bare truth. Our only programme was the manifesto which appeared in these columns two months ago.. We endeavoured to see that every member of the working class in the wards contested had a copy of that. We issued no other literature. We neither deluded nor attempted to delude anybody with promises. We buoyed them up with no false hopes. We asked only for votes from those who were prepared to endorse the position set out in our manifesto in its entirety. We did all that was humanly possible to prevent any but the class-conscious recording their votes for us. No other party putting forward candidates in London can say as much or nearly as much. To them, therefore, every X they have garnered is indeed an unknown quantity. But we can say with truth that there is very little of the unknown quantity about our votes, they were votes for principles—class-conscious votes, and we congratulate most heartily our comrades in Battersea and Tooting upon the good results they can show of the propaganda work they have performed in their districts. Better to-day than ever are 50 votes for principle than 500 or 5,000 votes for prejudice or personality.


The Russian Revolution (1906)

From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mediaeval Russia.
The appeal from the International Socialist Bureau on behalf of the Russian revolutionaries which we publish elsewhere, is an interesting document and, like the Revolution itself, gives a working man much food for thought. We by no means desire to dogmatise respecting the events which are now passing in Russia, the more so since reliable news from that quarter is scanty and unsatisfactory. Yet the evidence before us, the news from the seat of the revolution, and the communication we publish from the Bureau, give rise to grave misgivings.

The other great nations of Europe have long ago burst asunder the feudal bonds on industry and commerce, and the few survivals are more picturesque than effective. The aristocracy, where it has been able to continue in existence, is merged into the plutocracy and forms one compact mass against the workers. Russia, however, lags behind; and her economic backwardness is reflected in her mediaeval system of government. Hence in the other nations of Western Europe a straight fight is possible between the proletariat and the capitalist ruling class; whilst in Russia the rising capitalist class has yet its emancipation from Autocracy to accomplish: so that, in contrast with practically the whole of civilised nations, the working class and the capitalist class in Russia have, in the abolition of Tsardom’s tyranny, a step to go together. This historical circumstance, which is at once the strength and weakness of the Russian movement, distinguishes it from that of all capitalist countries.

The Nature of the Struggle.
No Socialist, therefore, can withhold his sympathy from the great struggle of the Russian people for the elements of political liberty, and all must heartily wish that the great barrier to economic and political progress, Tsardom, may be speedily broken down.

It is satisfactory to note that, in the present communication from the Bureau the idea (which was so common at an earlier period of the revolution, and which was proclaimed by many who called themselves Socialists) that out of the ruins of Tsarist Russia the Socialist Republic would arise, is absent; whilst the elements of political liberty, the creation of a Constituent Assembly, or at most the inauguration of a Russian Republic, are taken for granted as the probable outcome of the present struggle. It has been insisted upon in these columns that the Socialist Republic cannot be the outcome of the defeat of autocracy in Russia because the economic elements are lacking or insufficiently developed. As Marx said: “No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and the new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions for their existence have been matured in the womb of the old society.” The industrial development of Russia is still in its infancy, and vigorous though the infant may be, the greater part of the empire is yet untrodden by it. It is indeed probable that whatever government succeeds that of the Tsar will be compelled, if only to appease the peasants – the bulk of the nation – to bring about that most reactionary of things in which the land is split up among the peasants as their private property.

The Driving Forces.
But the student who watches with as little emotion as possible the flowing tide of social life, is sickened at noting for how little human suffering and human blood count in great social movements, and how often the masses of the people have been struggling and fighting for a victory the fruits of which when won are not for them; and the present case appears to be but another illustration of this sad fact. The Russian revolution is a struggle, headed at first by the capitalist middle-class, for the free and untrammelled development of capitalism; and, as in former revolutions, it is the proletariat which later forces on the hesitating bourgeoisie to the completion of their revolutionary work. The hesitancy of the capitalist class is natural under the circumstances. They have an unholy fear of the proletariat which is only a degree less than their fear of the Autocracy that is throttling them.

We have misgivings, however, that the Russian working-class movement, not fully conscious of its mission, will lose its identity in the struggle for middle-class emancipation, and be absorbed by the party of the small capitalist, so that after having been the catspaw of the middle-class, the proletariat will have to start afresh the work of educating and organising the workers for their own great battle. Nevertheless the struggle must go on, even though the spoils of victory go to the capitalist class, freed from autocratic restrictions and oppression, and the workers, who remain wage-slaves and subjected, have only started on the road to their emancipation, have only cleared away one enemy in order to have a straight fight with the other whom their victory has placed in power.

The Duty of the Socialist.
Let us then do all in our power to help our Socialist comrades in Russia in the hope that they will not be deceived as to the outcome of the present upheaval: in the hope, also, that they will sternly keep their separate identity and distinct aim, so that the Russian bourgeois State of to-morrow may find a militant class-organisation of Socialist workers heading the final struggle against the capitalist class whose defeat must herald the triumph of Humanity.

In the body of the Manifesto all Socialists are urged, innocently enough, to bring pressure to bear on their governments to prevent the lending of money “at high interest” to the Government of Russia. Our Russian comrades have an object lesson close at hand as to the value of bringing pressure to bear on a government with any other object than that of defeating it. It is to be feared that the recommendation rests on a misapprehension. If the Socialists in any country are doing their duty in waging incessant war with all their power upon the capitalist government, it should be clear that the Government, knowing that the Socialists as soon as they can defeat them will immediately do so, will pay no attention to Socialist threats and will not yield to pressure in any particular except to superior force or for their own interests, being aware that the Socialists are doing their worst all the time and can do no more. It is conceivable that the capitalist class would, in order to get the support of some or all of the Socialists, or to avoid being defeated by them, make some small effort to get that support or avoid that defeat. But a Socialist movement which supports Capitalism ceases to be Socialist. The movement which begs a crumb when it has power to take its fill is – well! words fail to describe it. The spectacle of Socialists attempting to prevent the capitalist class lending money at high interest is pitiably amusing. The capitalist class would buy shares in hell itself, if hell could pay a dividend! In this connection the only word for the Socialist to concern himself in is the taking from the capitalist class the power to lend at all.

————————————————————————————————————-

International Socialist Bureau, 
Maison du Peuple”, Brussels

TO THE WORKERS OF ALL COUNTRIES.

In spite of his given word, Nicholas II, twice perjured Tsar, has dissolved the Duma as he had violated the constitution of Finland. After having concentrated his troops in St. Petersburg and forced the deputies to disperse, he has, to draw away the attention of Europe, issued a manifesto of which each word is an untruth. He accuses the Duma of having committed illegal acts, – after having illegally imposed the fundamental laws upon it, contrary to his promises of the 30th October. He accuses it of impotence, – after having refused it any power, after having compelled it to be but a tribune, which has served, at least, to denounce the crimes of the bureaucracy. He reproaches it with having done nothing, – after having made it impossible for it to realise a single parliamentary act.

International Socialism will not lose its time in vain protestations. It is to the action of all that it once more appeals. 

The new outrage of the man of the 22nd January has not at all surprised the Socialist Party and does not find it unprepared. The Duma was doomed as soon as the clique of secret councillors, the officials and Grand Dukes, saw the weakness of the majority of the assembly; and the latter, despite the efforts of the Social Democratic and Labour Groups, has followed tactics which could but weaken it.

An odiously restrictive electoral régime, administrative pressure of the most shameless kind exercised on the voting, popular suspicion keeping from the ballot boxes the few proletarians who had access to them; all this has created a fictitious majority which in no wise represented the aspirations of the majority of the country. The elected of the liberal bourgeoisie have themselves proved, by their attitude after the dissolution, that they were wrong to show themselves vacillating before the government, and hesitating before the most urgent reforms. Have they not lost the confidence of the peasants by promising only an insufficient agrarian reform, the adoption of which would not have restored the land to the people of the country districts? Have they not discontented the workmen in offering miserable palliatives to them instead of fundamental reforms? Have they not deceived all those who ardently aspired to liberty, by not knowing how to be firm and energetic respecting the amnesty, the pogroms, and the death penalty? And in spite of their repeated declamations of loyalty, the Tsar has had nothing but contempt for them. At the opening of Parliament he praised the fundamental laws before them, and, during the whole of the session, he refused them everything. At last, when by their own fault they found themselves without support and without power, they were dispersed without effort like dead leaves before the winds of Autumn.

The consequence of the coup d’état of Nicholas II will be to compel the liberal bourgeoisie to abandon the phase of speechmaking and to choose between absolutism and revolution. Compromises and delays are henceforth done with. After recent experience the most naively optimistic must be convinced that it is useless to try to conciliate contraries. The creation of a Duma without power of executive could not prevent the bureaucracy from pillaging the public treasury, from starving the peasantry, from organising with the pecuniary assistance of the occidental bourgeoisie, massacres and outrages upon the liberty of the workers.

But the revolution does not founder with the Duma. The revolution, on the contrary, enters upon a new phase, more decisive. Before putting an end to the parliamentary comedy, Nicolas II consummated the financial and economic ruin of his empire. He killed the idea of a constitutional Tsarism in the minds of the conservative classes. He opened the eyes of the peasants in refusing them the land. He rallied a portion of the navy and army to the cause of the people, who, after having ascertained the impotence of the liberal bourgeoisie, come again on the scene, grouped under the flag of Socialism. As at the beginning of the struggle it is the proletariat that leads, in the front rank, the struggle against absolutism. With the workmen of the towns, the peasants are joining, who understand better every day that only that union can give them the land, and so also are the intellectuals, more permeated with our doctrines than in any other country. Liberal bourgeoisie itself, if it will not be condemned to a radical impotency, will be, in many cases, compelled to follow the stream.

Two armies thus find themselves henceforth face to face: the army of the Tsar and the army of the people, and between the two, whose conflict is inevitable, victory will be by so much the more decisive for us as the revolution will have been better able to concentrate its forces, realise a unity of action, and utilise more abundant resources. The revolution commenced by the strike, will, at the proper time, be pursued by the strike, by refusal of taxation and of military service, by the occupation of the lands of the crown, of the aristocracy, and of the church, by armed revolt with the aid of the soldiers and sailors whom the Socialist propaganda daily wins to the new ideas. It will be pursued without truce and without weakness until the day when Tsarism, having neither troops nor money, neither credit nor power of any sort, the people will be at last the masters of their own destinies.

The past of the Russian Socialists speaks for the future. They will know how to compel the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, and to do their duty to the end. Let us know how to do ours. We can aid in the common work by two means: BY PREVENTING THE AUTOCRACY PROCURING MONEY, – AND BY SENDING MONEY TO THE SOCIALISTS OF RUSSIA.

The radical government of France, the reactionary government of Germany, the capitalist class of all countries, have made themselves the accomplishes of the Tsar in lending him at high interest the pay of his gendarmes, of his executioners, and of his black bands. Let us bring pressure to bear on the governments to put an end to their compliance! Let is warn the possessing class that the Russian Republic of to-morrow will not pay the infamous debts which the Tsar contracts in order to hire assassins! Let us rally all useful support to the cause of Liberty to end that millions of men may be delivered from an implacable tyranny. And, if contrary to all expectation, the Holy Alliance of the international reaction attempted to intervene in the conflict to break the revolutionary effort and save the Tsarist oppression, let us know how to take the necessary measures to effectively help the people of Russia, who, united still closely in that conjuncture, would make no distinction between Tsarism, already stricken to its death, and the foreign invader, guilty of attempting to outrage the autonomy of a nation conscious of its rights. Let us give, then, and give generously! Let the accumulated pence of the poor decide the victory!

Let the pass word be: MONEY FOR THE VICTIMS OF TSARISM.

Let each Socialist, let each worker, send his mite, be it to the central organisation of his party, be it to the authorised delegates of our Russian comrades, or to the Secretariat of the International Socialist Bureau.

DOWN WITH AUTOCRACY!
LONG LIVE INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM!

The Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau (Belgium). Eduoard Anseele, Emile Vandervelde, Camille Huysmans, Secretary. (November 1906)

Have we libelled Mr. R. Bell, M.P.? (1906)

From the October 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Courts To Decide
A writ, claiming damages for libel alleged to be contained in an article which appeared in the August issue of the Socialist Standard, has been issued against the Executive Committee of the S.P.G.B. by Mr. Richard Bell, M.P., the General Secretary, and the Executive Committee of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants.

Comrades desiring to contribute to the Defence Fund should send in their contributions early and often to the Head Office, 28, Cursitor, Street, E.C. It is essential that the Party should be in a position to fight the matter out. All contributions will be acknowledged direct to the senders.

Why are we revolutionary? (1906)

From the September 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Reformer’s “Case”
Probably few of our comrades have failed to meet the kind of working-man who cannot repress his disgust at the depravity of those of the working class who adopt an attitude of political antagonism to the heaven-appointed “classes” – the working-man who apes the nauseating mannerisms and shallow opinions of the middle class under the impression that it is “respectable” and “superior” to do so. Such superficial minds as our would-be superior friend fall an easy prey to the charlatan who devotes his energies to rounding up the workers to the support of middle class interests.

When such a “superior” person condescends to speak to the revolutionary Socialist, it is often to repeat, parrot like, the formulae: “Don’t be ridiculously extreme and shout for the moon. You must be prepared to work with anybody who is going even a little way in your direction. It is nonsense to talk of revolution. You must work for Socialism in small doses, such as Nationalisation of the Land, Mines or Railways, or Work for the Unemployed; for these are practical steps of a ladder reaching to Socialism”.

The answer to this parrot cry is not difficult, and need not be long. Rarely, however, can our opponents be got to discuss this important matter so we would fain do so here, the more readily since such an attitude toward Revolutionary Socialism is a very common one. It betrays a misconception of the meaning of the word “revolution”, and an outlook upon political affairs that is by no means taken from the standpoint of the working-man’s well-being; and this results from a blindness to the class structure of Society and to the real purpose of the “reforms” that are so loudly advocated.

The Judgment of History
In politics, owing to the diversity of interests which divides men into classes, it is safe to say that no change from one form of Society to another has been accomplished without a period of revolution. Russia to-day, in her transition from Feudal to Capitalist rule, is a modern example of the revolutionary period. Revolution, however, is not synonymous with bloodshed and disorder, (although owing to the blindness of vested interests they often go together), It means something quite distinct, to wit, the control of political power by a fresh class, whether accomplished peaceably or the reverse. It is of necessity a period of more than usually rapid change, for the new class immediately seek to use their newly acquired power for the purpose of bringing the political system more in accord with their own interests.

That which determines the directions of the various class interests, and in fact forms the basis of political Society, is the manner in which wealth is obtained and distributed; but the manner in which wealth is produced changes gradually along the line of least resistance, (in the direction of greater economy), and is in reality an evolution of industry, taking industry in its widest sense.

This changing industrial basis enables favourably situated groups (a class) to  command greater wealth, to become increasingly powerful, in short to become the “fittest” under the prevailing conditions. The warlike rulers of Ancient Society, the Patricians and slaveholders of Antique, and the Lords of Feudal Society, are examples of this, as are the capitalists of modern times.

Although a rising class becomes more and more powerful it is unable to make any deep and lasting impression to its advantage on the political affairs of a country until its power is greater than that of the hitherto ruling class; for the ruling class controls not only the making of laws but also the administration of the laws that are made.

In almost every instance the class suited to the outworn form of Society has clung tenaciously to power in face of the growing opposition. It has, aided by the advantage of possession, clung to its interests, to the spoils of power, in short to its existence as a class, until forcibly ejected by the more virile power beneath. Of this fact history gives repeated instances, at times as in the great French Revolution at one fell swoop, at others as during the English Rebellion and Revolution as the culmination of a series of more or less violent oscillations. In truth all history is the record of a series of class struggles thinly veiled.

Society’s Class Structure
The importance of a recognition of this class structure of Society can hardly be over-estimated, for it alone can keep the working-man’s policy clear and show him the way to his complete emancipation. Upon the basis of the class struggle the policy of reform pedlars and sentimentalists stands condemned, because it is obvious that the ruling class can, and will always so long as they rule, thwart the aspirations and interests of the class upon which they live. The ruling caste can and will by their control of legislation and administration prevent the people’s will being done in any particular that clashes with the interests of the master class. The only hope of the people is to dislodge their oppressors.

We see, then, that the revolution is the culmination of evolution; the landmark, as it were, in the evolution of Society. Taken in its broad aspect the revolutionary method is seen to be logical, and when contrasted with the methods of the reformer who seeks Socialism on the instalment plan, this fact is made still more striking.

Reforms intensify Unemployment
Let us by analysis of a typical radical reform or two show what is meant. The panacea of Railway Nationalisation is an example to hand. The annual waste of separate railway management and working in this country is estimated at £30,000,000. Nationalisation would therefore, in addition to other economies considerably reduce the amount of labour (number of workmen) required to work the railways. Not only would it cause the discharge of those required to run the superfluous trains now running (through the waste of competition) nearly empty to many towns, but even though by reduction of tariff extra business were attracted to the railways, it would mean the discharge of those working the other means of transport thereby out-competed. Nationalisation of the Railways under capitalist rule will therefore tend to increase the unemployed and to intensify competition on the labour market. It is a reform that may safely be left to capitalist interests. It is an advance in organisation and economy obviously, – for the master class; and so long as the workers are a subject class the benefits of the inevitable improvements in organisation, efficiency and economy, will go to their masters. It is by no means our purpose to oppose reforms, but to show that the workers can only derive benefit therefrom when they control political power. Under capitalism, profits would be made for Bondholders and in relief of capitalist taxes by such reforms as Railway Nationalisation, whilst the workers would be more under control of the capitalists united in government as in Germany and Austria.

The same applies to most municipal and national monopolies under the present regime. Their object is to save rates and taxes and to economise “labour”. Like the Trusts (to which they are placed in apparent opposition) they represent economic advance, and like them also they are intended to enable sections of the ruling class to extract more wealth from the labour of the people. And it is this that is the secret of the advocacy of these “reforms” by the bureaucrats and ratepayers of the middle class.

We cannot stem, and have no wish to stem, the march of economic progress, but we are forced to recognise the unpleasant fact that so long as capitalists control the State every increase in industrial organisation and economy renders the workers more redundant and their existence more precarious; and this unpleasant fact provides at once the necessity and the stimulus for our revolutionary propaganda.

The reformer, denying the class struggle, mistakes the progressive organisation of production for the progressive improvement in the lot of the working class, and ignores  the fact that the fruits of organised production are denied to the wage-slaves until they emerge victorious from that very class struggle.

Land and mine nationalisation are also mentioned as “reforms” to benefit the workers, forsooth. But again it is the Bondholder, the Landowner and, perhaps, the Capitalist Farmer who would benefit, while the labourer remains a slave with his wage kept down by competition as now. And even if he could hire land cheaply from the Government he would be utterly unable to compete with organised capital at home and abroad.

The “Right to Work” Farce
Then we come to what is perhaps the most fatuous of all the reform cries: “Work for the Unemployed”. The unemployed can never be abolished under capitalism, as every Socialist is aware. The progressive displacement of the workman by the machine must continue and the capitalist could not, if he would, prevent it. A reserve army of labour is necessary to provide for the expansion of production in times of good trade; and, in times of bad trade, when every capitalist feels how necessary it is to keep down expenses, the unemployed are a godsend to him, for they enable him to reduce the wages of those in work.

Let our reformers try to imagine what would happen if there were no unemployed. Instead of men undercutting one another to gain employment we should have employers bidding against each other for additional workmen. Just imagine a strike taking place with none to take the place of the strikers! One has visions of the re-enactment of the Statute of Labourers, of profits vanishing, wages rising, and capitalists working for a living!

The master class realise this to the full and will never even attempt to solve the unemployed problem. They will promise, and give a few crumbs in charity, or exploit a few of the out-of-works by setting them to useful work at half the usual rates, but – give work to all? Never! Their very existence depends upon it. The abolition of the unemployed is a “reform” that it will require a social revolution to accomplish.

The Revolutionary Method vindicated
The great problem would, however, be untouched by the majority of the reforms proposed. Various sections of the exploiting class would benefit, but, even though these reforms were inscribed upon the tablets of the law, the workers would remain competitive wage slaves and a subject class. We have always to remember that all energy spent on these side issues is lost to the great movement forward. The working class have their own battle to fight in unconfusing opposition to the interests arrayed against them, to the end that production organised now by Company, Trust, and State may be then co-ordinated and controlled by and for those who produce the wealth; in order that improvements in production may lighten the worker’s burden instead of throwing him out of work or intensifying his toil; in order that an increase in productivity may increase his wealth instead of glutting a market and starving his family. But this Industrial Democracy is a possibility only when the capitalist class have ceased to rule the State. Hence the class struggle is the greatest struggle, and the revolutionary method the only correct one.
F. C. Watts

SPGB Lecture List, September, 1906. (1906)

Party News from the September 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard


The General Federation of Trade Unions. (1906)

From the September 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard
  I have not spilled much ink in praise of the Federation because there was nothing to praise. . . . The biggest union in the Federation, the A.S. E., is in it to-day simply and solely because its money is in it, and not because of any recognition of its value or usefulness. And this I know, that if the A.S.E. could withdraw its money, the members would be glad to be rid of their obligations. The Engineers have paid in something near a third of the Federation funds. The idea of forfeiting £40,000 or so is not pleasant. . . .  It seems that there is a serious doubt in many minds regarding the wisdom of contributing more money to the support of an institution that has failed to justify its existence.
Frank Rose in the Clarion


Found Out ! (1906)

From the August 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

LABOUR LEADERS SELL THE UNION
 MEMBERS AND THEIR APOLOGIST 
GETS A WARM RECEPTION.
A mass meeting of railway men was held in the Palace Theatre, Newcastle, on July 15, to hear an address from Mr. Richard Bell. M.P., General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, on the subject of the mens grievances as discussed at the recent conference.

Mr. Bell was received with applause and much booing, and failed to get a hearing for some minutes. After the chairman had intervened, Mr. Bell said the movement which was commenced in November, 1903, was an all-grades movement, which meant a movement in the interest and for the benefit of those for whom the Society’s books were open for registration. Under the all-grades movement there would be in round figures 28,000 men. of which 11.000 were to-day members of the Society, He ventured to think that that was not given full consideration at the time the programme was formulated at Darlington in 1903. That programme had two points which, he ventured to think, had never had the full consideration of the men. (Laughter.) If, Mr. Bell continued after further interruption, the argument in support of higher pay for night duty was on the ground that night duty had so considerably increased, why not confine it to the grades thus affected? Instead of this, they were asking for time and a quarter for night duty for all grades. If they took time and a quarter for night duty for 28,000 men it meant that if everyone worked alternate weeks there would be a 12½ per cent. advance all round. The total cost of time and a quarter for night duty worked out by himself on under estimated figures, amounted to £123,000 per annum. That was one item in the programme. Another was the demand for an advance of 2s. per week for men with under 24s. It was estimated that at least 18,000 men were now in receipt of wages under 24s. per week. (Cries of “shame.”) If this increase were granted, it would mean an additional expenditure by the Company of £93,000 per annum. Here they had two items on the programme which alone would mean £216,000. (Cries of ”What are the profits of the Company?” and “Are you here for the Company or the men?”) He was there for the men— (laughter and booing)—and he was there to do that which was fair and just, in spite of all the hisses, hooting, and other circumstances.

The Chairman appealed for order.

Mr. Bell (resuming) said at the first interview with the Company they were told point blank that the Company were not prepared to discuss certain items in the Darlington programme. They considered the situation and tabulated the grievances. The conference sat eleven days, and he believed they had got more than they could have secured by any other means. (“No.”) There was absolutely no reduction to any single individual on the North Eastern system. (Uproar.) Enginenmen and firemen would all benefit to the extent of £7,800 per annum. The shunters’ hours had been brought down from ten to eight per day. There had been a slight improvement to passenger servants, and the increases altogether would amount to £25,000 per annum. That had been obtained without a strike. without causing bad feeling between the Company and the men. (Derisive laughter.) Was he to accept, then, that they desired that ill-feeling should exist between the Company and the men? (Cries of “Yes.”) Then they were about the funniest lot of men he had ever met. (Uproar.) The Executive had decided that he should write to the Company accepting the agreement and trusting that a conciliation board be formed. He was going to advise them to abide by the decision of the Executive. If some of the men had been itching for a strike, they must not forget that they had fellow-workmen in other places who had first to be considered. What had been done had been done in the interests of railway men alone, and he asked them to place some confidence in those whom they had elected.

Mr. James R. Bell, secretary of the all-grades movement, said be refused to sign au unconditional recommendation to accept the concessions, and only agreed when the matter was referred to the Darlington conference. That Body considered the concessions, and asked that the men. through their branches, should have the opportunity of considering them. That opportunity was denied them by the Executive Committee. (Applause.)

Mr. Dickinson moved a resolution to the effect that that meeting of the all-grades movement absolutely refused to accept the decision of the Executive Committee, or of the deputation having control of the all-grades movement owing to the unconstitutional methods adopted, also that they should continue a movement of their own to secure time and a quarter for night duty and 2s. per week for men under 24s. per week. He said he did not believe there were 28,000 men in the North-Eastern system eligible to join their society. He thought they might take 8,000 off that number. Very few men would benefit by Mr. Bell’s “substantial concessions.”

Mr. Brodie seconded, and said they had heard the Company's side from Mr. Bell. He was going to put the men’s side. Rule 13 provided that the men should be consulted. Their general secretary seemed to think the men had got an all-round advance, which was a mistake. Whilst the company were building big engines and putting two trains into one the men were getting nothing. The signalmen's advance of 1s. per week worked out at a 1s. per week reduction. (Laughter.)

Mr. Bell, in replying to the discussion, said he got his figures about the 28,000 workmen from Board of Trade returns, He disliked the sneers of men who talked about pilots getting only 4s. 3d. per day. Well, 4s. 3d. per day after seven years was better than 3s. 9d. which they had received. It was absurd to say that porters could look forward to a reduction. It had been said that only 3,000 men would benefit, but he calculated that 7,000 men would benefit. They could carry their resolution, but it would have no effect. They would get no support from the Society , as it was unconstitutional. (Loud hooting.)

The resolution was carried and Mr. R. Bell was hissed as he left the platform.

Answers To Correspondents. (1906)

From the September 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

J. C. (Battersea): - Mr. R. Bell's speech, extensively quoted in our August issue, was fully reported in the Newcastle daily papers for July 16th, and in The Railway Review for July 20th.

SPGB Lecture List, August, 1906. (1906)

Party News from the August 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard


A “Clarion” mare’s nest. (1906)

From the August 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Clarion is a comic paper, but never more so than when it treats of economics. Its latest outbreak is entitled, with unconscious humour, “Mind Your Own Business”, and advocates the adoption on a large scale of the Guernsey plan of raising money for municipal expenditure by issuing notes redeemable at term and acceptable in payment of taxes.

The people of Guernsey are reputed to have raised £4,500 in this way, about 100 years ago, calling in £450 annually to be destroyed until this whole had been redeemed, and they are understood to have never repeated the experiment.. The Clarion writer, however, to rid the municipalities of their debts and to obviate all further borrowings, advises the wholesale adoption of the Guernsey idea, no doubt upon the principle that since a man may take a fraction of a grain of strychnine without serious harm, he may therefore take a few ounces with impunity.

To show what an utter nostrum this currency fad is, it is only necessary to pass in review the conditions governing the currency.

The earliest form of exchange we have knowledge of is barter – the direct exchange of one thing of use for another, as, for example, cattle for implements of war, or these for ornaments, and so on. A stage higher in civilization we find the exchange of goods has become more frequent and that the old method of barter has become too cumbrous. Among tribes whose chief wealth was cattle we naturally find cattle being used as measure of the values of other things and as the medium of exchange. Cattle, however, soon gave place to the “precious metals”, whose use for ornament, whose durability, convenience and divisibility peculiarly fit them for use as exchange medium or money.

Gold and silver would, therefore, tend to be generally accepted in exchange for other things of equal value: that is to say, for things requiring approximately the same amount of toil to obtain. With the further advance of Society, and the still greater frequency of exchange; the numerous disputes between buyer and seller respecting the quality or weight of the silver or gold used to facilitate exchange, led to the adoption of an official stamp or coinage to secure uniformity, and as a guarantee of weight and quality of the metal. Here we have money in its complete form; but whatever metal may be serving as the universal equivalent it had its origin as a simple commodity, and was singled out by reason of its convenience to serve as the expression of value in general.

It will now be seen that money is wealth, although the Clarion man cannot grasp the fact because he does not distinguish between popular and scientific terminology. Popular phraseology calls everything money which serves as circulating medium, whether it really be money or only a credit substitute for it. Accurately speaking, however, money comprises solely the coins of the standard metal; since notes and tokens are merely instruments of credit and not really money any more than theatre or soup tickets.

The significant fact is that to-day through no matter what mechanism of exchange, it is only those who have commodities for sale which are desired by others, who can exchange at all, either directly or indirectly; and only then when there are individuals in the same position as themselves (i.e., having commodities for sale desired by the other commodity owners) to exchange with. The fact is at the bottom of all exchange, whether the medium of circulation be gold, notes or whatnot. Clearly, then, the amount of circulating medium is determined by the value of the goods to be exchanged by these possessors of the desired commodities, who are facing each other so much more easily through the institution of money.

It is, therefore, the disorganisation of production and distribution which causes gluts and crises, and the currency fluctuates in quantity as required by the circulation of commodities.

The remedy, then, is not the inflation of the currency with paper, for that cannot improve the conditions of production, but to so organise industry that what is required is produced, and that those who produce are not robbed but get the full value of their product. The remedy, in short, is SOCIALISM; and there are no short cuts through the currency.

We can, by considering briefly the credit side of our question, more clearly see the childishness of the currency faddist’s idea, that to be rolling in money we need only set our printing presses to work turning out millions of paper notes.

In a system of production for exchange a large amount of circulating medium is continually going from hand to hand, being sought after, not for its intrinsic worth, but for the purpose of being exchanged again for the article desired. Obviously, then, so long as the Government is stable and has a monopoly of the coinage, it, or its agents, may replace part of the currency by tokens or notes, provided always that the credit of the Government be good and that the total issue does not exceed the minimum amount of currency at par that is always required in circulation. The difficulty of making mere tokens acceptable is got over partly by their convenience, and by making them legal tender in payment of debt in certain proportions.

Should, however, the Government swell the currency beyond the amount which the circulation of commodities can absorb, then the standard is depreciated and the value of the circulating medium is diminished by the amount of the excess.

Modern Governments, in their own interests and from bitter experience, go quite as far as is safe in the issue of paper currency, (indeed, only the financially bankrupt oversteps this limit) and the more extensive use of symbols or tokens can only have the effect of increasing the speculative character of industry and adding to the existing distress; whilst if the paper issue inflates the currency beyond the amount needed at par to do the work, then prices rise and the separation of real and nominal value commences; and although a £1 note might still purchase a nominal £1 worth of provisions, the £1 worth of provisions would, with every fresh issue, grow smaller by degrees and beautifully less, the workers, as is usual being the first to suffer.

From the time of the Assignats of the First French Republic to our own day we have numerous instances of the dire effect of the inflation of the currency with paper, and at the bar of History the currency faddist stands irrevocably condemned. For confirmation one has only to turn to some of the instances given by Mulhall and other statisticians of the United States in 1836, 1864 and 1868; of Russia from 1817 onwards; of Austria from 1810 to 1850; of Italy in 1867; of Sweden in 1834, instances when the paper issues depreciated the currency from 15 to 80 per cent., causing a corresponding rise in prices and terrible distress. Even in England in 1814 owing to an over issue of notes the price of an ounce of gold had risen (in notes) from £3 17s. 10 ½d to £5 4s., other prices rising proportionately.

We see, then, how “credit money” works in practice, and to clearly understand why that is so let us here recall the economic law: – “The amount of circulating medium that can be absorbed is governed by the sum of the prices of the commodities to be purchased during any period, divided by the number of times the average £1 in coin or notes changes hands during that time”. If the amount exceeds this there is an over-supply of the medium and prices rise, for the currency is depreciated. Paper is not hoarded, since it is entirely useless and valueless out of circulation, the gold is held in preference, (since it is intrinsically of value) and, if the currency is depreciates by an overissue of notes, the gold remaining in circulation becomes more valuable as bullion than as coin, and is consequently melted down or exported. Thus it is that “bad money drives out good”. With a sufficient margin of standard metal circulating side by side with notes the currency adjusts itself naturally to the fluctuations of trade by the coining or the melting down of gold, but if all the gold be driven out of circulation, then every fluctuation in the volume of trade causes either a shortage or an over-supply of circulating medium with corresponding fluctuations in prices; because a pure paper currency even under the best conditions can only be adjusted artificially to the fluctuations in the amount of trade, and that only when the evil has been made manifest by the rise or fall in prices.

But, it may be objected, although you show us under what conditions notes may circulate and the limits under economic law to their quantity, you do not show why municipalities cannot issue notes in order to avoid borrowing.

Having disposed of the general principle of the “paper money” faddist, let us answer this final objection.

Provided that sufficient of the standard metal is left in circulation as a safety valve to provide against fluctuations, and the notes are issued cautiously and from one central authority, municipalities may issue notes with safety as Guernsey is reputed to have done. Those, however, of the middle class who are anxious to reduce taxation by this means, conveniently forget that by the proposed redemption of the notes in payment of taxes a large portion of the revenue is thereby turned into so much unprofitable waste paper. The point which we wish to emphasise in this connection is that the amount the municipalities can issue, even under the most favourable conditions, is ludicrously small compared with their needs; and that is the joke.

In the first place, by far the greater part of the commerce of this country is carried on already (as far as the master class is concerned) by means of a perfectly sound system of credit. As long ago as 1889 the business of the principal clearing houses alone amounted to £7,620,000,000 for the year. Indeed, as Marx has pointed out, gold is practically driven into the retail trade, and the amount in circulation is much smaller than most people suppose, whilst it does not increase proportionately to the increase in trade.

In order to give the municipal note enthusiast plenty of rope, we may even for the moment disregard the historic and economic evidence which, as we have seen, shows the dangers of an increase in “paper money”; we may even assume that the amount of gold in circulation may be entirely replaced by credit notes. They admittedly cannot exceed this without causing a depreciation of the currency and a rise in prices. But when all the gold is driven out of circulation by the notes, where are we then?

Mulhall shows that the amount of gold circulating in this country to be about £102,500,000. We will, therefore, to please the currency faddist, assume that no ill effects follow from the displacement of this sum by notes. Now (excuse me smiling) the outstanding liabilities on loans of local authorities in Great Britain are over £400,000,000, or about four times as much as would be available from the currency! Could folly farther go? Some even have intimated that the National Debt also could be liquidated by this means, but the National Debt alone is over £762,000,000. Yet it is proposed to make the currency an universal milch-cow!

Verily, instead of a milch-cow the Clarion has found a Mare’s Nest.
F.C.Watts

SPGB Lecture List, July, 1906. (1906)

Party News from the July 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard


United Irish League. (1906)

Party News from the May 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

WANT AN S.P.G.B. MAN TO DEBATE SOCIALISM, BUT ARE NOT ANXIOUS FOR THE ENCOUNTER AFTER ALL.

#    #    #    #

THE following correspondence has passed between the “Irish Parliament” Branch of the United Irish League and The Socialist Party of Great Britain :—

United Irish League,
“Irish Parliament” Branch,
205, High Holborn, W.C,
21/1/06.

Dear Mr.

I am told your friend Mr. C. Lehane is a great debater on Socialism. Could you secure him for the ”I.P.” for either the last Friday in February or the first Friday in March to open a debate. A speedy reply will greatly oblige.

Yours fraternally, 
J. Benting.

_______________________________________



The Socialist Party of Great Britain,
1a Caledonian Road, N.
17th Feb. 1906.


Mr J. Benting,
Sec. United Irish League,
“Irish Parliament” Branch.

Dear Sir,

With reference to your communication dated 21st ult., which has been forwarded to the undersigned at this office, I am directed by the Executive Committee to invite your organization to nominate a representative to meet me in debate. The proposition to be discussed could be:
  “That the economic and political freedom of the people can be secured only by the establishment of Socialism, and that any political party, e.g., the United Irish League, not based upon this principle is unworthy of the confidence of the people.”
I will take the affirmative, your champion to take the negative.

Please let me know when you have selected your representative so that the necessary arrangements may be made.

Yours faithfully,
C. Lehane
General Secretary.

________________________________________________



United Irish League,
“Irish Parliament” Branch.
1/3/06. Mr. C. Lehane,


Mr. C. Lehane
la, Caledonian Road.

Dear Sir,

With reference to yours of the 17th ult., I regret that we are unable to accept your kind offer of debate. Our programme of fixtures is now full up for the next 6 weeks, and we have had already two debates on Socialism within the past month and have another fixed for next week. On some future occasion the “Irish Parliament” will be glad to meet you. Thanking you for your kind offer. 1 am,

Yours faithfully,
J. Benting
Hon. Sec.

___________________________________________________


We note that “on some future occasion” the “Irish Parliament” will be glad to meet our Comrade. Now or in the future the S.P.G.B. is prepared to meet the representatives of any other Parties claiming the confidence of the people, but in the present instance, seeing that it was the ‘”I.P.” which first broached the proposed debate, it would have been thought they would have been prepared for an immediate discussion of the question. Perhaps it is that the “I.P.” not feeling sure of its ground has put a champion in training, but seeing that the Chairman of the “I.P.” Branch of the U.I.L. is John O’Connor, Esq.. B.L., M.P., he at any rate ought to be in a position to defend his organisation without deferring the debate to some indefinite “future occasion.” Be that as it may, the S.P.G.B. is at the service of the “Irish Parliament” whenever the latter deems fit to nominate a representative.

The ”Irish Parliament” judging by the contents of the last letter seems to be devoting a good deal of time to discussing Socialism, but, we venture to assert that the “Socialism” hitherto propounded to its members by those who have undertaken to explain it to them is of that nebulous character which has caused so much confusion in the minds of the people here and elsewhere. In Great Britain individuals are frequently to be met with who claim to be Socialists and at the same time Liberals, Socialists and at the same time Conservatives. Socialists and at the same time United Irish Leaguers. It is the mission of the S.P.G.B. to see to it that these anomalies are removed and. by its educational propaganda, to clarify the issue so that Socialists will stand out us a political party distinct from and antagonistic to every other party. If all those who call themselves Socialists were organised in a Socialist Party, Socialism would be a power in the land to-day.

Farce or Tragedy? (1906)

From the May 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1901 at the French Trade Union Congress, the delegates, by an overwhelming majority, decided to inaugurate a general 8 hours strike on the First of May, 1906. At the time of writing this the period is near at hand when the unions will be expected to put to the test this anarchistic idea of which they are enamoured. The wretched betrayal of the workers by Millerand and the compromising policy that was pursued by the bloc in the Chamber had its effect by throwing the militant proletariat into a fierce anti-parliamentary campaign. One can only admire the spirit of revolt which animates these wage workers who are tired of the dilettante performances of their “Socialist” reformers ; still, in spite of, or perhaps because of, that admiration, we must not overlook the means by which, they are going to try and get the 8 hours’ day.

The General Strike as such, without being backed up by a political force (and an armed force at that), has never been successful. And although some may point to Russia as a refutation of this position, the fact is that even there it has simply been used in conjunction with an armed political movement. In Italy recently the general strike did not last long, and notwithstanding that on the railways the “passive resistance” of the employees, severely hindered the work of the railroads, it did not prevent them being used. After all, our comrades of the working class of France at this juncture only contemplate a general strike for an 8 hours day, and afterwards, presumably, whether won or not, they go back to work for their masters just as before. An 8 hours day, if attained, does not necessarily mean any permanent reduction of the unemployed. Machinery is used when it is cheaper than human labour, and a restriction of the hours of labour will only mean an impetus to the introduction of machinery, and a greater intensity of labour for those at work, with a quicker wearing out of the wage slaves.

An 8 hours day is not high enough goal for the workers to try to gain, by pitting their empty stomachs and pockets against the full ones of their masters. To enter into a prolonged struggle in this manner, and for such, an object, is somewhat foolish. They are going to strike by walking away from the workshops and factories and leaving them as the full and undisputed property of their masters to be kept by them till the workers return to be still farther exploited.

The French workers have not a sufficiently extensive economic and political organisation at present for a general strike to be a success. They will have to organise as a class on the political as well as on the economic field. There must be no division, no walling-off of skilled and unskilled, employed and unemployed, no splitting up of the workers in one industry into a number of antagonistic autonomous units, but their organisation as a whole in one body. When the workers are organised as a class, understanding what the aim of a militant body of workers should be (viz., the overthrow of the capitalist system of the private ownership in the means and instruments of producing and distributing the necessaries of life), they will not attempt a general strike for an eight hour day, but working intelligently with, and as part of, a revolutionary class party, they will use their organisation, not to the exclusion of their members from the workshops and factories, but to the end that the workers may run them in their co-operative capacity as the property of the working class. It will not be a general strike but a general lock-out of the master class.

The economic arm alone is not sufficient, it needs the political arm to break down the ramparts capitalism has erected in its defence. The political is not sufficient unless it has the economic to lay the foundation of the co-operative commonwealth. As the French workers are not organised in this wise, as the strike contemplated is not with the active co-operation of a revolutionary political force, and as the workers have evidently not yet grasped their mission, things point to it being a farce. A farce it will be unless the armed forces of the government are brought down on the strikers and convert a farce into a tragedy.
E. J. B. Allen

The New “Force” in Politics. (1906)

From the February 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

So! We are, it seems, to rejoice in the advent of a new force in English politics. We are to observe “the descent of a bolt out of the blue” and be happy. We are to note that “Labour” no longer sits on the “doorstep” but is inside the House of Commons and will do things. We are even to accept the fact as a sign of victory for—Socialism! Well! This is interesting. Because in our ignorance we thought this sort of  “Labour” force descended from the blue, or, to be more accurate, ascended from the black, very many moons since. We seemed to have recollected even of a “Labour” minister in a Liberal administration before Mr Burns. It is true these old-time “Labour” representatives received the support of the Liberal Party. True also that the Rt. Hon. Thomas Burt was for very good reasons persona grata with Liberalism. But then so also was and is Mr Burns, the chairman of the “Labour” group in the last parliament. And is it not the indisputable fact that with few exceptions, the present “Labour” members were the unofficial candidates of the Liberal Party and were backed by most of the local Liberal associations? Then why should we rejoice?

Weighed in the balance
What if this sort of “Labour” representation has got inside the House of Commons in rather larger force than usual (which we suppose is what our enthusiastic exhorters mean when they have called upon us to be glad)—what then? Have they some greater power behind them by which they will be capable of performing greater deeds than their predecessors? What power? Are they not the nominees of an organisation whose members have not reached the stage of political development wherein they can dissociate their interests from the interests of the capitalist political factions? Are not these “Labour” members’ wages therefore dependent upon the manner in which they approach the measures introduced by the capitalist parties? Can they freely attack these measures and the parties introducing them and be sure that their action will not be misunderstood by those who pay the piper? If so, what becomes of the argument in favour of the strict independence of the LRC candidates on the ground that if they were associated with the Liberal Party (for example) the Tory members of the LRC would break away? If not, are they not obliged to give their support to capitalist legislation (unless, of course, that legislation is so glaringly anti-Labour that even the members of the LRC could appreciate it) for fear the contrary action would be misunderstood? Are they not for the same reason forced to proceed with exceeding circumspection in their endeavours to induce the capitalist government to adopt measures they (the capitalist government) do not desire to adopt?

Found Wanting
Is it not the fact that the majority of these “Labour” representatives are themselves, in everything but name, Liberals, and, not understanding the reason for the position of the working class, cannot act as champions of working-class interests? And is it not undeniable that those who do profess to understand, and who at other times are prepared to call themselves Socialists, have repeatedly obscured their Socialism in order to secure the position (as when they stood for election) and confused the minds of those whose intellectual clarity they are supposed to desire, by associating themselves with the representatives of capitalism for capitalist objects? Then what can be expected from these more than their predecessors? What is the use of their separate party and separate whips? The fact is that nine out of ten of them have been elected in alliance with the Liberals; they are by education and sympathy Liberals; they are paid by an organisation overwhelmingly Liberal, and they may be expected to act, as Crooks and Shackleton and Henderson, and in a slightly modified manner, Hardie, have all along acted Liberal. The man who expects more from them is likely to be disappointed; the man who regards their return as a victory for Socialism simply doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Why the “Labour” men will not do
Our position is that these men, whatever their intentions, are actually retarding the development of the only organisation of the working class that can enter into effective conflict with the forces of capitalism, because they obscure the fact that this conflict exists always in industrial affairs, and do not insist that it must be waged upon the political plane also. By association with capitalist representatives in both political and economic affairs they induce the idea (which capitalism does everything possible to foster) that the hostility does not exist, yet until that fact is grappled with and clearly understood there can be no material improvement in the workers’ condition. It is unfortunate, of course, that the workers do not understand. It makes the task of those who are concerned with the overthrow of capitalism, and the emancipation of the working class from wage-slavery, very difficult. The results of their work seem so very slow a-coming. And some of them tire and drop out of the movement, and others—the Irvings and the McNabs of the SDF for example—curse the stupidity of the working class, while others again—the Hyndmans and Quelches and Hardies and the rest—weary of the work, endeavour to secure some immediate consolation by pandering to the ignorance they once may have thought to dispel, and so simply increase the difficulties in the way.

The irreconcilable few
Only the few remain in the forefront of the fight, waging unceasing battle for their class. These are they who, belonging themselves to the working class, have been at pains to obtain information as to the causes of the ignorance of their fellows; who have seen how, for generation after generation they have been oppressed and misled, sent off upon a barren quest by one set of supposed friends, confused by the actions and instruction of another set; now buoyed up with the hope of happiness, now plunged into the apathy of disappointment and despair. Knowing these things the few set out with no delusions upon the score of  the reception their propaganda will receive at the hands of their class, and are not downcast and peevish when the results desired fail to materialise as quickly as they wish.

We of The Socialist Party of Great Britain are of this few. Our mission is simple. We have to proceed with our educational propaganda until the working class have understood the fundamental facts of their position—the facts that because they do not own the means by which they live they are commodities on the market, never bought unless the buyers (the owners of the means of life) can see a profit to  themselves in the transaction, always sold when the opportunity offers because in that only can the necessaries of life be obtained. We have to emphasise the fact that no appreciable change is possible in the working-class condition while they remain commodities, and that the only method by which the alteration can be wrought is by the working class taking the means of life out of the hands of those who at present hold them, and whose private ownership is the cause of the trouble. Before this can occur the workers will have to understand the inevitable opposition of interests between them and the capitalist class, who, because of their ownership of the means of life, are able to exploit them, so that they will not make the mistake of voting into power, as they have always done hitherto, the representatives of the interests of those owning the means of life, because those who dominate political power dominate also the armed forces that keep the working class in subjection.

The justification of hostility
Therefore are we in opposition to all other political parties, holding on irrefutable evidence, that these other parties are confusing what must be clear to working-class minds before a change can be effected. This is our mission, and we shall conduct it with all the energy we have at our command. We know that the row we have to hoe is likely to be a long one. That does not affright us—because we know that were the row twice as long it would have to be hoed. There is no dodging the duty. There are no short cuts. Naturally, however, we wish the work to be covered as soon as possible, and that is why we oppose and expose those gentlemen who, sometimes with the best of intentions, blur the issue that must be kept unblurred, and so prolong our labours.

That is our position. If it contains flaws we shall be glad to hear of them. Meanwhile we regret that the entrance of the “Labour” men into the best club in Europe is not a Socialist victory and cannot be a Labour triumph. Labour only triumphs where Socialism wins. Meanwhile also, those who thought that the entrance of Burns into ministerial position would result in administration to the advantage of the unemployed should note that the Local Government Board has refused to sanction that portion of the loan applied for from Tottenham which was intended to meet the difference between the cost of work performed by a contractor and its cost if executed by the local unemployed. And those who thought that the advent of a new Liberal administration implied a large-hearted and sympathetic Labour policy should observe that sixty men have been sent to prison for five days each, and fifteen to one month each, for taking up collections in the street during unemployed demonstrations.
A. J. M. Gray

Notes of Interrogation. (1906)

From the February 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Lord Durham and Sir .James Joicey, both large Colliery owners, sent letters to Mr. Thos. Burt, miners' candidate, wishing him success and enclosing £100 each towards his election expenses. Why?

#    #    #    #

Mr. C. D. Hodgson, Liberal, declared he had spent £10,000 in fighting elections. Why? 

#    #    #    #

Every responsible member of the capitalist Liberal Party has disposed of all the really awkward questions relating to the condition of the working-class by the easy method of referring to the appointment of Burns to the L.G.B. Why? 

#    #    #    #

The "Daily News” says the election was fought not upon what the Liberals may or may not do, but what the Tories have done. Why ? 

#    #    #    #

Mr. W. C. Steadman (Sec. Trades Union Parliamentary Committee) and Mr. Isaac Mitchell (Sec. Federated Trade Unions), were strongly supported in their election campaign by these well-known democrats and Labour sympathisers: Lord Carrington (Board of Trade) and Sir Edward Grey (Foreign Office). Why?

Socialism and Darwinism. (1906)

From the January 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists are reproached for being revolutionists, by alleged Darwinians, (who have never studied evolution) as well as by some pseudo Socialists, who pretend to apply Darwinism to social movements. Both sections object to revolution, as unscientific. This objection can only arise from a misunderstanding of evolution, or from a deliberate attempt to switch the working-class off the revolutionary path. Socialism, as expounded by the S.P.G.B, through its official organ and its lecturers, is essentially scientific, never pandering to ignorance or prejudice, or attempting to escape from scientific truths by bowing to unscientific sentiments. This being so, and science being considered from the standpoint of evolution, we must consider the laws of evolution.

“The survival of the fittest,” is the law arising from the fact that all things constantly change. It means that an organism, out of harmony with its surroundings, must either adapt itself to the new conditions, or perish, Let us apply this law to society and see if the position taken up by the Socialist is tenable, bearing constantly in mind that man can consciously act on his environment, and thus help to bring it into harmony with his needs.

To-day capitalist society is composed of two classes, a working class producing all the wealth of society, and, a capitalist class that, as such, produces nothing. The members of the working class own none of the means of living, and are only allowed to use the means owned by the other class, on the condition that a profit is made out of their power to labour by hand or brain, which, being their only possession, they are forced to sell to obtain the necessaries of existence. This system of society has evolved from previous forms in which were other class distinctions. Just as, following the lines laid down by Darwin, we trace the evolution of man from his ape-like ancestors, so, from that stage onward, we trace his social evolution.

The Socialist deals with society, that is with man as a social being. He does not run counter to the laws which govern physiological development; rather does he find the same laws running parallel, both in biology and in sociology.

Take man as he was just a few stages ahead of his fellow animals, He lived in caves and trees; his means of subsistence were the spontaneous products of nature – roots, fruits and nuts, The development of articulate language, and the discovery of the use of fire enabled him to convert fish into an article of food, and caused a revolution in his means of securing an existence. Stationary conglomerations of individuals were transformed into migratory co-operative groups, following the shores of lakes and seas, and the courses of rivers. The numerous dangers that now confronted man, and the more easy acquirement of food by co-operative effort, caused the cementing together of various groups on a co-operative principle, holding wealth, that is, food, etc., in common. Thus the earliest known form of society was what is termed Primitive Communism, that is, a society based upon the common ownership of the means and necessaries of life, with those means used co-operatively for the benefit of all members of the community. This had its reflex in a form of government, crudely democratic, to correspond with the economic basis of that society. Thus, man carried on collectively the struggle for existence.

The next stage was common ownership within the consanguine group, i.e., within a group whose members considered themselves to be descended from a common ancestor, With the growth of chattel slavery, first of all in the Eastern hemisphere, the domestication of animals and the development of agriculture, we can trace the growth of the patriarchal system. This system was a further step from primitive communism, as, while it was still mainly a system of consanguine collectivism, it contained the beginnings of private property – other than purely personal articles, such as ear and nose rings, &c.

In other tribes property was held by the women. This, the matriarchal system, arose from the fact that the earliest known forms of property were the weapons of fighting and hunting and domestic utensils,  and, as the division of labour took place along the line of sex, the women, who had control of the domestic utensils in the first instance, continued to control other property as it came into existence, though the nature of that property had changed. This lasted throughout the earlier forms of society, down to the Greek and Roman civilisations, with the exception of the minority of tribes who had established the patriarchal system.

Even in early society, after the break-up of primitive communism, there were struggles over the ownership or non-ownership of wealth. After the discovery of the art of writing, and the ascendancy of man’s power over Nature, the struggle for existence took the form, not so much of the character of man against Nature, as class against class. Then, after generations of. development of the matriarchal and patriarchal systems, a revolution took place in some parts of Asia and Asia Minor that completely overthrew the form of society based upon a real or fictitious blood-relationship of its members, and established the system of political society based upon territory rather than kinship, the basis of modern civilisation. The various struggles that took place in the old Roman Republic are common knowledge to most students of history. The struggle for political supremacy between the holders of large and small estates, the ownership of chattel slaves, etc., continued till that form of society, a bastard form as it was, was finally overthrown and feudalism became general in Europe. The struggles that took place between the old feudal nobility and the rising merchant class that had developed out of the old guildmasters, the growth of manufacture, &c., with which all historical students are familiar, culminated in the overthrow of feudalism and the establishment of capitalism. The development of machinery and the application of steam thereto, completed the work and put the capita1ist class into supreme power. To-day the struggle proceeds between the capitalist class and the working-class.

Present day capitalist society is, therefore, seen to be the result of evolution, consisting of a series of revolutions, mainly consummated by the force of arms. Sixty years ago, in the Communist Manifesto, the evolutionary theory had been applied to society, even before Darwin’s Origin of Species had appeared. It is pointed out in that manifesto, how the economic factors develope within society until the political and social superstructure of that society prevents their further development. Society then undergoes a revolution in order to harmonise its social and political conditions with its economic foundation.

To-day the production of wealth is a social act, but the wealth is appropriated by individuals; and although man’s power of producing wealth is greater than ever it has been in the world’s history, yet we see the greatest poverty. Each class that controlled the means of living in the past, did so by virtue of controlling the political power and endeavouring to maintain the politica1 and social superstructure best suited to the maintenance of its economic power. Society only entered upon a new stage of progress when the class beneath overthrew the class above and established its own particular social and political forms. To-day the ruling class, the capitalist class, is wholly destitute of the ability to govern society. It performs no useful function; and the biological law, that when an organ or organism becomes useless, it atrophies and finally perishes, will apply here. The ring, combine, and trust have proved the capitalist class to be superfluous, while the chronic poverty of the workers in the midst of plenty, the evil of unemployment, and the thousand-and-one evils that afflict modern society, show it to be unable to control the productive forces. It must, therefore give way to a more vigorous class that shall establish a new system in consonance with the social character of production. That class can only be the working-class.

Professor R, Darwin, in delivering the first portion of his inaugural address to the British Association at Cape Town recently, stated that in applying the evolutionary method to the state, we found that the state would progress until it reached the point when it could no longer properly perform its functions; then a revolution was necessary for that progress to go on and a new state to be established. This from the son of  the man whom these pseudo-scientists and bogus Socialists would use against us! Thus after 60 years of comparative obscurity, the revolutionary scientific principles are acknowledged as correct. So will the revolutionary scientific attitude of The Socialist Party of Great Britain be acknowledged as correct, and rescued from obscurity when those ill-balanced evolutionists and bogus Socialists have been prevented from misleading the workers, and attempting to rob them of the vigour which a clear knowledge of the scientific principles of Socialism imparts,

Socialism, then, is a necessary complement to evolution. He who admits  evolution in Nature generally, but denies it to society, has grasped only half its application and cannot form a correct judgment, He who would deny that revolution is a necessary factor in social evolution, is a dangerous misleader who must be opposed on every occasion. The revolution from capitalism to Socialism can only be accomplished by a conscious act on the part of the working-class. For the workers to clearly understand their position in society and the historic role they are called upon to play, they must be educated along these lines. To educate them in these principles, and organise them on this basis, is the work of the Socialist Party. When the unconditional surrender of the capitalist class shall have been demanded by an educated intelligent proletariat, the hour of revolution will have struck. With the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth by the workers, it will have been demonstrated that the effete and corrupt capitalist class has perished – that the workers have survived. It will have been demonstrated that Socialism means “the survival of the fittest.”
E. J. B. Allen