Monday, March 30, 2020

"The Master(s') Key." (1920)

From the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

The high priest of Nonconformity—Dr. John Clifford—reached his 83rd birthday recently and was duly interviewed by a "Star" correspondent. Some very amusing opinions on the "Labour Outlook" were expressed by Dr. Clifford. To quote the " Star" (16.10.19):
  Dealing with the situation in the Labour world, Dr. Clifford said he thought the outlook was healthy and reassuring.
  "What is necessary is the internationalisation of labour conditions. There are four classes of people that have to be considered, and it is only when they meet and try to arrange matters on just and sound principles that there can be harmony.
  These four classes are the men with means, called capitalists ; the men who have land and rents ; the men who live on dividends and make their demand for their share on the profits of labour ; and the men who are really doing the work. They all have just claims, and these claims  can be met.

  The great thing is to foster the spirit of trust. Nothing wrecks labour so much as distrust, and our business is to fight everything that is creative of distrust and to nourish and strengthen all that creates confidence.
  Hence, the dissemination of the spirit of brotherhood is the key to and the secret of the full productiveness of industry and of the happiness of the world."
One would have thought that 83 years of experience in a world torn with social strife and the results of capitalist exploitation, and an ever-increasing class war caused by a damnable system based upon the enslavement and robbery of a propertyless working class, would have given him an insight into the fundamental fabric of society.

Unfortunately, the "internationalisation of labour conditions" necessary, in Dr. Clifford's opinion, is already accomplished, for everywhere the workers are wage slaves—exploited and robbed of the greater part of the wealth they alone produce. The "internationalisation of labour conditions" exists in the fact that the


is at present under the blighting, ruthless, influence of capitalism.

King Capital rules. The Earth is the capitalist's, aud the fulness thereof. Unemployment, chronic poverty, overwork and exploitation, like the poor, are always with us. War after war is waged for the sacred rights of the profit-mongers.

Yet the outlook is "healthy and reassuring," says Dr. Clifford. What optimism! What frankness'.

He mentally visualises, and tries to create, harmony out of the inevitable social discord ; out of a chaos of conflicting interests, order.

But he brings no philosophy built out of facts, wherewith to formulate scientific proposals. There are many notes on the piano keyboard : the science of musical composition alone can arrange them to avoid discord and create music.

Amid essentially warring claims he cries


when there can be only strife.

Let us consider the validity of the "just claims" of the "four classes of men."

(1) The capitalists own all the means and instruments of wealth-production and distribution, essential to life. They produce as a class—nothing! They appropriate, nevertheless, all the wealth produced by their human, wealth-producing machines—the working class.

(2) The men who own lands and exact rents tax the community for living on and using that land, which rightfully should belong to the whole people.

(3) The men who live on dividends are simply unproductive, anti-social parasites. They live by appropriating a portion of the surplus-value created by the workers.

(4) "The men who are really doing the work" are the working class. Divorced from the land, and possessing no means and instruments of production, they have to sell, in order to gain their livelihood, the only thing they possess—their labour-power of hand or brain.
That they sell as a commodity to their capitalist masters. They must either sell it or starve, and 


because they are unable to sell their labour-power. They only sell it— in other words they only get work—when it suits the masters' purpose to employ them. They are compelled by economic conditions to accept the terms which the masters dictate, and for the time which they desire them to labour. They are employed, as the machine is, for the owners' use and benefit. As wage slaves their sole function is to create surplus-value. 

Receiving on an average only sufficient to keep themselves and an average family in a state that just suffices to provide the continuity of efficient workers required by the exploiting class, the workers are used to produce far more wealth for their capitalist masters than they themselves receive in the form of wages. All the surplus-value—all the value, that is, which the worker adds to the material in excess of the amount of his wages—is appropriated by their exploiters.

The latter divide the spoils amongst other sections of non-producers.

A portion of the surplus-value, in the form of economic rent, goes to the idle landowners, etc. Interest goes to moneylenders, financiers, and the like, who also do not create wealth. Profit, the remaining portion of the surplus-value or unpaid labour, is appropriated by the employing capitalists.

Thus the result of the present system is that a whole band of plutocratic brigands exists on the proceeds of working class robbery, and the workers themselves are daily strengthening


Result: the capitalists as a class grow ever richer, both absolutely and in relation to their wage slaves, and the poverty of the workers is deepened with their increasing exploitation.

Thus, in dealing with adamantine facts, the Socialist smashes the fabled "identity of interest of Capital and Labour."

The "harmony" of those who are robbed and those who rob cannot be "arranged" on "just and sound principles"—even by Dr. Clifford and his fellow magicians. So long as the capitalist system continues there will be robbers and robbed, and so long as there are robbers and robbed there will be discord and strife.

Exploitation and the plunder of a property-less class through the wages system is the very essence of the present system, and will accompany it to the end.

The pro-capitalist John Cliffords will also continue to be a characteristic of the capitalist regime as long as it endures. They help to support the rotten fabric of an effete social order. Their part is to obscure the issues, to be "all things to all men" and keep the workers docile and diligent while the shameless plundering proceeds.

"The great thing is to foster the spirit of trust," says Dr. Clifford. There is an old saying:


Bad Pay killed him." The workers do all the work of the world, and get damnably paid for doing it! They have lost trust in their leaders and their kind masters : they are beginning to take their blinkers off and to see around them some of the facts of things as they are. Let them bat study economics find Socialism, and then trust—THEMSELVES ! The working class alone can and will effect its own emancipation.

"Our business is to fight everything that is creative of distrust," declares the hoary old dope merchant. We have been urged to "trust Asquith" ; to "wait and see." We have had a notorious Welsh wizard conjuring up visions of "The Future"—a fantastic dream that resolves itself into a future menace of dire reality to the workers. With ever-increasing poverty and distress, and an accentuated class struggle, with the price of necessaries ever soaring and unemployment stalking the land, who amongst us can think the labour outlook "healthy and reassuring" ?

Dr. Clifford can, and does. He holds "the Key to the secret of full productiveness of industry and of the happiness of the world." It is evidently the master-key that unlocks the door barring the way to Lloyd George's


Or is it—the Masters' Key?

Yea, verily it must be so, for by his doctrine the capitalists, the men who have land and rents and the men who live on dividends, "have all just claims," as well as "the men who are really doing the work."

That word "really" is most appropriate. It is amusingly used, too, to qualify things by implying that there are others who are not doing anything.

Dr. Clifford has hit the mark. There are men really doing the work. They are doing all of it because idlers do nothing to produce the wealth they appropriate.

The class that does all the work—the working class—receives the least benefit, which is a very fine example of "inverse proportion." But that state of affairs is not conducive to fostering a "spirit of trust."

It is because the workers keep a class of parasitic idlers in affluence that they themselves have to work so hard, so long, and for such a pitiful reward for their toil.

The "spirit of brotherhood between Capital and Labour" is an impossible thing to realise. The "full productiveness of industry" only means an increased production, and a consequent glut of the goods for which our exploiters must seek a market.


has resulted through competition for markets. "Full productiveness" is inevitably bound to produce the usual over-production, the consequent stagnation and unemployment, the same old struggle for markets, and the next war.

No! Dr. Clifford's key is no key to better conditions for the workers. It is our masters' key that is used to help  increase the wealth and power of the capitalist class.

The "spirit of brotherhood" can only come with Socialism, when the means of wealth-production (even to-day socially produced) are socially owned and controlled for the use and benefit of all.

The master-key that opens the door to mankind's splendid future is POLITICAL POWER. When the workers understand their present wage-slavery and the plundering of their class by the capitalist system, they will see also, if they study Socialism, that in freeing themselves from the bondage of capitalism they will set the whole world free. They will then


to do so. Organising on the economic field, in factory, workshop, and. every sphere of toil, they will fit themselves for controlling wealth-production for society's needs and benefit. Organising, above all, on the political field for the capture and control of political power, they will, in obtaining it, hold the key to freedom in their hand, and will use it for the paramount purpose of establishing the Socialist Commonwealth. The World for the Workers !
Graham May

A Brief Exposition of Socialist Theory. (1920)

From the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

Contrary to what many people suppose, Socialism is based upon a very solid foundation of scientific formulae. These scientific explanations of social phenomena, or in brief, theories, though not numerous, are of immense value to the cause of working class emancipation, for they give a proper direction to those longings and aspirations which must inevitably arise within a slave class not utterly beyond redemption, instead of leaving those worthy and very desirable emotions to the mercy and misdirection of uneducated sentiment. The writer proposes to briefly survey these theories in this series of articles, and to show their significance.

The first of the formulae to come under our notice is that which goes by the name of the Materialist Conception of History, the formulization of which we owe to Marx and Engels, although the principle was independently discovered and expounded by Lewis Morgan, the great American sociologist.

The Materialist Concept is a key to the interpretation of history. As its name implies, it attributes to material things the cause of that ceaseless change which is the subject matter of history, and is directly opposed to other interpretations of history, which ascribe historical change to human and superhuman intelligence.

The Materialist Concept declares that the roots of social change are to be found in the means and methods by which society gets its livelihood. Society gets its living by production. Men "only produce when they work together in a certain way," says Marx ("Wage-Labour and Capital"). "In order to produce they mutually enter upon certain relations and conditions, and it is only by means of these relations that their relation to nature is defined, and and production becomes possible."

This being so, it is plain that the nature of those relations must be determined by the stage of development reached by the means and methods by which they get their livelihood. Let us find an example in the old threshing flail and the modern threshing machine.

The flail, being a nonexpensive tool operated by one man, could be and was. at all events in the period which it typifies—the Middle Ages —owned by the man who operated it. It is clear, however, that the modern threshing machine cannot be owned by the operator, since it takes not one, but about a dozen men to operate it. It might be jointly owned by them all, in which case the relations set up between them would be those of partners ; it might be owned by one of them, or by somebody who took no part in the working of it, in which case the relations between the operators and the owner would be those between employees and employer, or it might be owned by the community as a part of the socially-owned means of production, in which case an entirely new set of social relations would arise. The same relations, however, which arose out of men getting their living together with the flail (as one of the instruments of production) can never shape themselves out of the co-operative operation of the threshing machine.

It must not be taken that our example shows that what has converted the peasant, operating his own flail for his own benefit, and standing in a certain group of relations to those about him, into a wage worker operating a threshing machine for a master, is the development of the threshing tool into the threshing machine merely. As a matter of fact, of course, this development was a slow and tortuous process, and various means have been resorted to to knock grain out of the ear—treading out by oxen and threshing by horse-driven machines, for instance. The relation of wage worker and employer, also, developed generations before the modern threshing machine was invented. Indeed, it is quite plain that before the latter could becornr a practical proposition this one thing essential to its operation as a general means of production had to exist—a class of men who were willing to work for wages.

Nevertheless our example shows that the flail (the terms are used as symbols of the prevailing
instruments of labour), as a means of enabling men to work for themselves, and the threshing
machine, as a means of employing men for wages, are the foundation of two separate and utterly distinct sets of relations between men, social relations, in short.

(To be Continued.)
A. E. Jacomb

"So spake Mr. Churchill . . . " (1920)

From the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard
  ''We are continually being told that we should not trade with Germany, but how are we to get our indemnities if we do not trade with her? France and America are already taking all steps to trade with Germany, and we should not be called upon to stand aside." So spake Mr. Churchill at Sunderland on Jan. 3rd.
And once again events have verified us. We said, at the time that magnificant piece of bluff the Paris Economic Conference, was staged, that it was sheer bamboozle, and now—.

The Programme of the Blanquist Fugitives from the Paris Commune. by Frederick Engels. (1920)

From the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard
 [The general line running through this criticism of the Programme of the Blanquist refugees is still so applicable that despite the praise given to the German Workers' Party, it is well worth reprinting. The misunderstanding of social development by the Blanquists has been parallelled during the war period by groups both here and in Germany and Russia. Engels' criticism tells with even greater force against these groups than it did against the Blanquists, because the social conditions are more highly developed now than then, and there is, therefore, even less excuse for the misunderstanding.]
After the failure of every revolution or counter revolution, a feverish activity develops among the fugitives, who have escaped to foreign countries. The parties of different shades form groups, accuse each other of having driven the cart into the mud, charge one another with treason and every conceivable sin.

At the same time they remain in close touch with the home country, organise, conspire, print leaflets and newspapers, swear that the trouble will start afresh within twenty-four hours, that victory is certain, and distribute the various government offices beforehand on the strength of this anticipation.

Of course, disappointment follows disappointment, and since this is not attributed to the inevitable historical conditions, which they refuse to understand, but rather to accidental mistakes of individuals, the mutual accusations multiply, and the whole business winds up with a grand row. This is the history of all groups of fugitives from the royalist emigrants of 1792 until the present day. Those fugitives, who have any sense and understanding, retire from the fruitless squabble as soon as they can do so with propriety and devote themselves to better things.

The French emigrants after the Commune did not escape this disagreeable fate.

Owing to the European campaign of slander, which attacked everybody without distinction, and being compelled particularly in London, where they had a common center in the General Council of the International Working Men's Association, for the time being, to suppress their internal troubles before the world, they had not been able, during the last two years, to conceal the signs of advancing disintegration. The open fight broke out everywhere. In Switzerland a part of them joined the Bakounists, mainly under the influence of Malon, who was himself one of the founders of the secret alliance. Then the so-called Blanquists in London withdrew from the International and formed a group of their own under the title of "The Revolutionary Commune". Outside of them numerous other groups arose later, which continue in a state of ceaseless transformation and modulation and have not put out anything essential in the way of manifestos. But the Blanquists are just making their program known to the world by a proclamation to the "Communeux".

These Blanquists are not called by this name, because they are a group founded by Blanqui. Only a few of the thirty-three signers of this program have ever spoken personally to Blanqui. They rather wish to express the fact that they intend to be active in his spirit and according to his traditions.

Blanqui is essentially a political revolutionist. He is a socialist only through sentiment, through his sympathy with the sufferings of the people, but he has neither a socialist theory nor any definite practical suggestions for social remedies. In his political activity he was mainly a "man of action", believing that a small and well organized minority, who would attempt a political stroke of force at the opportune moment, could carry the mass of the people with them by a few successes at the start and thus make a victorious revolution. Of course, he could organize such a group under Louis Phillippe's reign only as a secret society. Then the thing, which generally happens in the case of conspiracies, naturally took place. His men, tired of beings held off all the time by the empty promises that the outbreak should soon begin, finally lost all patience, became rebellious, and only the alternative remained of either letting the conspiracy fall to pieces or of breaking loose without any apparent provocation. They made a revolution on May 12th, 1839, and were promptly squelched. By the way, this Blanquist conspiracy was the only one, in which the police could never get a foothold. The blow fell out of a clear sky.

From Blanqui's assumption, that any revolution may be made by the outbreak of a small revolutionary minority, follows of itself the necessity of a dictatorship after the success of the venture. This is, of course, a dictatorship, not of the entire revolutionary class, the proletariat, but of the small minority that has made the revolution, and who are themselves previously organized under the dictatorship of one or several individuals.

We see, then, that Blanqui is a revolutionary of the preceding generation.

These conceptions of the march of revolutionary events have long become obsolete, at least for the German Workingmen's party, and will not find much sympathy in France, except among the less mature or the more impatient laborers. We shall also note, that they are placed under certain restrictions in the present program. Nevertheless our London Blanquists agree with the principle that revolutions do not make themselves, but are made; that they are made by a relatively small minority and after a previously conceived plan; and finally, that they may be made at any time, and that "soon".

It is a matter of course that such principles will deliver a man hopelessly into the hands of all the self-deceptions of a fugitive's life and drive him from one folly into another. He wants above all to play the role of Blanqui, "the man of action". But little can be accomplished by mere good will. Not every one has the revolutionary instinct and quick decision of Blanqui. Hamlet may talk ever so much of energy, he will still remain Hamlet. And if our thirty-three men of action cannot find anything at all to do upon what they call the field of action, then these thirty-three Brutuses come into a more comical than tragic conflict with themselves. The tragic of their situation is by no means increased by the dark men which they assume, as though they were so many slayers of tyrants with stilettos in their bosoms, which they are not.

What can they do? They prepare the next "outbreak" by drawing up lists of proscription for the future, in order that the line of men, who took part in the Commune, may be purified. For this reason they are called "The Pure" by the other fugitives. Whether they themselves assume this title, I cannot say. It would fit some of them rather badly. Their meetings are secret, and their resolutions are supposed to be kept secret, although this does not prevent the whole French quarter from ringing with them next morning. And as always happens to men of action that have nothing to do, they became involved first in a personal, then in a literary quarrel with a foe worthy of themselves, one of the most doubtful of the minor Parisian journalists, a certain Vermersch, who published during the Commune the "Pére Duchene", a miserable caricature of the paper published by Hébert in 1793. This noble creature replies to their moral indignation, by calling all of them thieves or accomplices of thieves in some leaflet, and smothering them with a flood of Billingsgate that smells of the dungheap. Every word is an excrement. And is with such opponents that our thirty-three Brutuses wrestle before the public !

If anything is evident, it is the fact that the Parisian proletariat, after the exhausting war, after the famine in Paris, and especially after the fearful massacres of May, 1871, will require a good deal of time to rest, in order to gather new strength, and that every premature attempt at a revolution would bring on merely a new and still more crushing defeat. Our Blanquists are of a different opinion.

The rout of the Royalist majority in Versailles forebodes to them "the fall of Versailles, the revenge of the Commune. For we are approaching one of those great historical moments, one of those great crises, in which the people, while seemingly sunk in misery and doomed to death, resume their revolutionary advance with new strength."

In other words, another outbreak will "soon" come. This hope for an "immediate revenge of the Commune" is not a mere illusion of the fugitives, but a necessary article of faith with men, who have their mind set upon being "men of action" at a time when there is absolutely nothing to be done in the sense which they represent, that of an immediate outbreak.

Never mind. Since a start will be made soon, they hold that "the time has come, when every fugitive, who still has any life in him, should declare himself."

And so the thirty-three declare that they are: (1) atheists; (2) communists,; (3) revolutionaries.

Our Blanquists have this in common with the Bakounists, that they wish to represent the most advanced, most extreme line. For this reason they often choose the same means as the Bakounists, although they differ from them in their aims. The point with them is, then, to be more radical in the matter of atheism than all others. Fortunately it requires no great heroism to be an atheist nowadays. Atheism is practically accepted by the European working men's parties, although in certain countries it may at times be of the same calibre as that of a certain Bakounist, who declared that it was contrary to all socialism to believe in God, but that it was different with the virgin Mary, in whom every good socialist ought to believe. Of the vast majority of the German socialist working men it may even be said that mere atheism has been outgrown by them. This purely negative term does not apply to them any more, for they maintain no longer merely a theoretical, but rather a practical opposition to the belief in God. They are simply done with God; they live and think in the real world, for they are materialists. This will probably be the case in France also. But if it were not, then nothing would be easier than to see to it that the splendid French materialist literature of the preceding century is widely distributed among the laborers, that literature; in which the French mind has so far accomplished its best in form and content, and which, with due allowance for the condition of the science of their day, still stands infinitely high in content, while its form has never been equalled since.

But this cannot suit our Blanquists. In order to show that they are the most radical, God is abolished by them by decree, as in 1793: "May the Commune for ever free humanity from this ghost of past misery (God), from this cause of its present Misery." (The non-existing God a cause !) There is no room in the Commune for priests; every religious demonstration, every religious organisation, must be forbidden."

And this demand for a transformation of people into atheists by order of the star chamber is signed by two members of the Commune of the first place, that a multitude of things may be ordered on paper without being carried out, and in the second place, that persecutions are the best means of promoting disliked convictions. So much is certain, that the only service, which may still be rendered to God to-day, is that of declaring atheism an article of faith to be enforced and of outdoing even Bismarck's anti-Catholic laws by forbidding religion altogether.

The second point of the program is Communism.

Here we are more at home, for the ship in which we sail here is called "The Manifesto of the Communist Party, published in February 1848." Already in the fall of 1872 the five Blanquists who withdrew from the International had adopted a socialist program, which was in all essential points that of the present German Communism. They had justified their withdrawal by the fact that the International refused to play at revolution making after the manner of these five. Now this council of thirty-three adopts this program with its entire materialist conception of history, although its translation into Blanquist French leaves a good deal to desire, in parts where the "Manifesto" has not been almost literally adopted, as it has, for instance, in the following passage: "As the last expression of all forms of servitude, the bourgeoisie has lifted the mystic veil from the exploitation of labor, by which it was formerly obscured: Governments, religions, family, laws, institutions of the past and the present, finally revealed themselves in this society, reduced to the simple antagonism between capitalist and wage workers, as instruments of oppression, by the help of which the bourgeoisie maintains its rule and holds the proletariat down."

Compare with this "The Communist Manifesto", Section 1: "In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation. The bourgeoise has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverend awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers. The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation, etc." 

But as soon as we descend from theory to practice, the peculiarity of the thirty-three manifests itself: "We are Communists, because we want to reach our goal without stopping at any intermediate stations, at compromises, which merely defer the victory and prolong the slavery."

The German Communists are Communists, because they clearly see the final goal and work towards it through all intermediate stations and compromises, which are created, not by them, but by historical development. And their goal is the abolition of classes, the inauguration of a society, in which no private property in land and means of production shall exist any longer. The thirty-three, on the other hand, are Communists, because they imagine that they can skip intermediate stations and compromises at their sweet will, and if only the trouble begins, as it will soon according to them, and they get hold of affairs, then Communism will be introduced the day after to-morrow. If this is not immediately possible, then they are not Communists.

What a simple hearted childishness, which quotes impatience as a convincing argument in support of a theory !

Finally the thirty-three are "revolutionaries."

In this line, so far as big words are concerned, we know that the Bakounists have reached the limit; but the Blanquists feel that it is their duty to excel them in this. And how do they do this? It is well known that the entire socialist proletariat, from Lisbon to New York and Budapest to Belgrade has assumed the responsibility for the actions of the Paris Commune without hesitation. But that is not enough for the Blanquists. "As for us, we claim our part of the responsibility for the executions of the enemies of the people" (by the Commune), whose names are then enumerated; "we claim our part of the responsibility for those fires, which destroyed the instruments of royal or bourgeois oppression or protected our fighters."

In every revolution some follies are inevitably committed, just as they are at any other time, and when quiet is finally restored, and calm reasoning comes, people necessarily conclude: We have done many things which had better been left undone, and we have neglected many things which we should have done, and for this reason things went wrong.

But what a lack of judgment it requires to declare the Commune sacred, to proclaim it infallible, to claim that every burnt house, every executed hostage, received their just dues to the dot over the i! Is not that equivalent to saying that during that week in May the people shot just as many opponents as was necessary, and no more, and burnt just those buildings which had to be burnt, and no more? Does not that repeat the saying about the first French Revolution: Every beheaded victim received justice, first those beheaded by order of Robespierre and then Robespierre himself! To such follies are people driven, when they give free rein to the desire to appear formidable, although they are at bottom quite goodnatured.

Enough. In spite of all follies of the fugitives, and in spite of all comical efforts to appear terrible, this program shows some progress. It is the first manifesto, in which French workingmen endorse the present German Communism. And these are moreover workingmen of that calibre, who consider the French as the chosen people of the revolution and Paris as the revolutionary Jerusalem. To have carried them to this point is the undeniable merit of Vaillant, who is one of the signers of the manifesto, and who is well known to be thoroughly familiar with the German language and the German socialist literature. The German Socialist workingmen, on the other hand, who proved in 1870 that they were completely free from jingoism, may regard it as a good sign that French workingmen adopt correct theoretical principles, even when they come from Germany. 

(From “Der Volksstaat,” No. 73, 1874. Translated by Ernest Untermann.)

Life-Like Portraits of Marx & Engels. (1920)

From the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sketches. (1920)

From the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

The issue of an alleged organ of patriotism— the "Daily Sketch"—for the 18th November, 1919, contains an attempt to score off a contemporary, in which the author—"The Man in the Street"—as may be expected, misrepresents the working-class position.

He says: "I want the people who 'create all wealth,' to take special note of the fact that Mr. Churchill's challenge (in the 'Illustrated Sunday Herald' of the 16th November, 1919) was couched in the following terms :
  There can be no contrast more striking than that presented by the sober, solid weight and influence of British Trade Unionism and the ruthless, crazy, devastating doctrines with which it has allowed itself to be saddled. These doctrines, and the mood and feeling which support them, can clearly be seen whenever a Labour newspaper is produced. They arise from a thoroughly jaundiced outlook on things in general.
  "The British Empire and all that goes to build it up is regarded as a sordid, quasi-criminal, company-promoting affair. The fighting services, in which the average working man takes so much pride, are treated as mere wastrels in themselves, and tools of ambition. The British Constitution, with its ancient traditions and all its wonderful adaptability, which have won for it the admiration, and to a large extent the imitation, of the entire world, is depicted as a base device to favour monopolies and existing vested interests.
  "An internationalism of the most extravagant kind; an extreme pacifism that in the war manifested itself as an unaffected defeatism; a wholesale repudiation of national and private obligations ; a frank and spontaneous adoption of the point of view of every country but their own, combined with an extraordinary levity in regard to practical and immediate consequences—these are the characteristics of Labour propaganda." 
The foregoing contains more errors to the acre than any statement of similar area on record.

We are just now concerned with the second and third pars, set out above.

Winnie tells us that "the people who create all wealth" say that "the British Empire is regarded as a sordid, quasi-criminal .... affair," etc., etc.

Well, my winsome Winny! And "The Man in the Street"—"What abaht it"? Isn't it true? Is this indictment in any particular inaccurate ?

No. On the contrary, every word of it stands proven from the pages of history, or the teaching of modern science.

For instance, can any one study the history of India—especially the annals of the East India Co.—and the struggles between the English and the French around Pondicherry and else where, purely over questions of commerce, without coming to the conclusion that the British Empire—and for that matter every other form of capitalist government—is a "sordid, quasi-criminal, company-promoting affair".

Seeing that "the fighting services" are used entirely for purposes of destruction, and never produce anything, by what process of logic can they be described as being other than "mere wastrels in themselves, and tools of (capitalist) ambition"?

As for the third par quoted above, "The Man in the Street" goes on: "The B.W.M." (the British Working Man) "can at least count up to five beans; and then asks if Churchill in the hunk of him I have quoted, put down five beans or five bits of bogey ?

"I say that he has put down five beans."

Our author goes: "I say that they are true and irrefutable beans, and that if they hadn't been true and irrefutable the 'eager' Labour news paper would have hopped on to them like the machine-minder's labourer hopped on to the blackleg—namely, with a spanner."

Yes ! my dear "Man in the Street," they are five beans—"true and irrefutable," and because they are "true and irrefutable" you are going to cop it even as the poor wretch of a blackleg copped it —with a spanner; for unlike the miserable Labour newspaper that "lies low and says nuffin," the present writer will smash your argument.

Here is the first "bean."

"An internationalism of the most extravagant kind."

The interests of the workers of every country are, in the main, the same: to sell the only commodity they possess, that is their labour-power, on the best possible terms; and any change in the conditions of labour in one country must necessarily find its reflex in other countries. Therefore the workers must organise internationally for the purpose of ending the exploitation of their class, which exploitation is the object for which the employing class buy labour-power.

The second "bean" is: "An extreme 'pacifism that in the war manifested itself as an unaffected 'defeatism.'"

Inasmuch as Socialists strongly object to taking any part in capitalist wars, it may be correct to describe them as "pacifists," apart from this reservation, that the Socialist Party is AT WAR—in the class war—with the capitalist class of the world.

Then we come to the third "bean" : "a whole sale repudiation of national and private obligation."

Terrible indeed! As regards the first item in this truly marvellous "bean," who was it entered into these aforesaid national obligations? The fact that they are national precludes the workers from taking any part therein, for the working class is a slave class, and while they occupy that status cannot be a part of the nation, and therefore cannot be concerned in the fulfilment or otherwise of agreements arranged between different sections of the exploiting class.

Next, the fourth "bean" : "A frank and spontaneous adoption rf the point of view of every country but their own."

Now, will winsome Winnie or his docile disciple "The Man in the Street," tell us what country the workers can claim as theirs? They do everything necessary for the production of the whole of the wealth of society, but they have not a jot or tittle of ownership in either the raw material, the means of production, or the wealth when it is produced. The ownership of these things is vested entirely in the people who comprise the "nation." The workers are out casts in the land of their birth —whatever part of the world that may be—living a mere Ishmaelitish existence.

The fifth ''bean" is a continuation of the fourth, as follows : ". . . combined with an extraordinary levity in regard to practical and immediate consequences—these are the characteristics of labour propaganda."

Really, this is a serious indictment of the working class! In face of these charges how can we hold up our heads and look our owners in the face?

But hold on! Our gallant (!) critics need not worry. Churchill's diatribe, and his understudy's comments thereon, do not apply to us, but to the Labour Party. And the Labour Party is quite tame and subservient to the interests and dictates of the capitalist class. It is not out to destroy capitalism, but to reform it —
" To rub off the warts and pimples,
To iron out the cracks and dimples."
Did they not allow their spokesmen to support in every possible way the ghastly outrage on mankind during the past five years ?

Did not Brownlie write an infamous letter to the last T U C, demanding increased production? Has not the late Food Controller written in the Press to the same effect ? Does not the Labour Party allow their members to take office in capitalist governments ?

Any organisation which claims to be out for the emancipation of the working class must of necessity, if it is to make good its claim, be hostile—in every sense of the term—to every section of the slave-owning class, "whether avowedly capitalist or alleged labour."

It must fight, fight, fight, at every opportunity, with every available weapon that will serve its cause.

Such an organisation is the SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN.

Comparisons. (1920)

From the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

Discharged and demobilised soldiers are starving and homeless in the country they "defended"; officers who cannot find work here are being sent abroad to cultivate the wilderness ; Field Marshal Haig is appealing to employers "on behalf of the unemployed ex-officers and men, who number between 300,000 and 400,000" ("Daily News," 11.11.19); workers throughout the country are continually striking in order to try and keep up with the increasing cost of living; employment is becoming relatively scarcer, and, among the workers, the struggle to live is becoming fiercer.

Dr. Saleeby, giving evidence at the meeting of the National British Rate Commission on 7th November last stated that he estimated the cost of feeding a small baby properly to day to be 30s. per week ("Daily News," 8.11.16). What chance has the average member of the working class of feeding his babies properly? It would take his whole wages to feed twins, according to Dr. Saleeby's estimate.

Such is the position the working class finds itself faced with twelve months after the ending of the war that was to work so many miracles.

And what of the masters ?

Lord Leverhulme, Lady Rhondda, and such folk are spending millions acquiring new companies; undertaking after undertaking is combining and vast new companies are being floated, the shares being subscribed for in a twinkling of the eye—in fact, among the capitalists there is literally money to burn at the present moment. Commenting on this fact the City Editor of the "Daily News" (3.11.19) makes the following observations:
  Not since the rubber boom of 1910 has such a flood of company prospectuses appeared asking for subscriptions. . . .
  Many important industries have drawn together so that for several years there has been a continuous absorption of smaller concerns by bigger neighbours . . .
  Over and above these special considerations, it must be remembered that the higher range of prices for commodities and of values in the country, which has accompanied the inflation of credit produced by the expenditure connected with the war, has played a great part in assisting the boom in business under takings during the past few years. . . . Profits, represented in the new money now circulating, are much larger, while fixed charges on Debenture and Preference capitals have often remained unchanged, with the result that the divisible profits of these under takings have been largely increased. 
In the "Daily News" (10.11.19) there appears an article by their Special Commissioner on the Lancashire cotton boom, from which I take the following extracts:
 Never, I suppose, in the world's industrial history has there been a parallel to the cotton boom in Lancashire to-day. It dazzles the imagination like a new goldfield. . . . Lancashire is in a position to squeeze humanity. And to be brutal, Lancashire fully intends to squeeze. . . .
  Humanity is crying out for cotton as it has never cried before. Not only its chest of drawers, but its hack is bare. Africa, India, China, Australia, South America—all those populous regions where cotton goods are the chief clothing material—need cotton, after five years of short supply, with an unexampled urgency, and the demand of the colder countries is only less eager. They are willing to pay from three to four times as much as five years ago, and the quantity they are prepared to take at this price has no limit that can yet be fixed. 
Further on he says the mill owners are "piling up mountainous fortunes."

In the same paper for 13.11.19 the same writer says, referring to Yorkshire :
  It is hardly necessary for me to tell you that there is only one boom that approaches the Lancashire cotton boom, of which I wrote recently, and that is the Yorkshire wool boom. Indeed the manufacturers of woollen goods are, if anything, better pleased than those of cotton goods, because their supply of raw material is more certain, both as to quantity and quality. Profits in some branches of the wool trade rule, too, a good deal higher than in any section of the cotton trade. 
Compare the above quotations  with the following:
  A case of poverty so distressing that the police officer who went to the house to make an arrest himself offered money to buy food and firing was before the Guildhall magistrate yesterday. . . .
  When Detective Bryant visited the house there was no furniture, food, fire, or light, and Mrs. Page, her husband and five children were absolutely destitute. The husband, crippled with rheumatism, had been unable to find work. " ("Daily News," 21.11.19.)
Or take another example—the case of an ex-service man, demobilised last February after three years' service, out-of-work since leaving the Army in spite of "weary journeys round the labour exchanges":
  The man's wife was nearly blind and partly deaf, and he had eight children, whose ages ranged from six months to 16 years. The furniture in the house, said Mr. Biner, consisted of beds, four chairs, and a table— nothing else. Ten were sleeping in one room. The children had poor clothing and boots and were under-led, and there was no coal in the house. " ("Daily News," 11.11.19.)
And they who, though "piling up mountainous fortunes," will not even care for the shattered living, insulted the memory of our deluded dead with "two minutes in which the wheels ceased to revolve while all mourned the loving dead"! Yes, a two minutes' stoppage of work cost the hypocrites comparatively nothing, but it was cold comfort for the bereaved.

The quotations relating to Lancashire and Yorkshire show what was behind the crusade for increased production. Increased production (other things remaining the same) means a cheapening of the cost of the labour-power, and consequently an increase in the already enormous profits. The propaganda for increased production illustrates to what depths of callousness our masters are prepared to sink in order to extract more surplus-value—callous of working-class misery, and oblivious of the cant in which they have lately indulged when driving the budding manhood of the working class to the European shambles.

Yorkshire and Lancashire are standing examples, all through the last century, of the way the industrial magnates have built up their vast wealth out of the sweat and misery of working men, women, and even children. The following extracts, which have been taken from an article headed "The Decay of Lancashire," which appeared in the "Penny Magazine" for June 28, 1919, give an idea of the condition of the workers where the "boom" is on :
  There are long hours of work under unhealthy conditions, the exploitation of female and child labour, and Lancashire's methods of screwing out the last ounce of production at the lowest possible price by speeding up machinery and by actual robbery of the operatives. Add to these the recurring periods of unemployment, low wages, often bad housing, and you have the explanation of the high death rate . .
  The work has to be carried on amidst the ceaseless roar of machinery in artificially heated and often humidified room. It is monotonous and enervating. As to its monotony, it is sufficient to point out that mechanical invention has reached such a pitch of perfection that the machine is almost human and the human is little more than a machine. . . .
  The temperature of the mill is often from 80 to 90 degrees. In such an atmosphere youths and girls are forced into maturity before their time, like plants in a hothouse. And they pay the penalty by becoming old before their time. They also pay for the contrast between the heat of the mill and the inclemency of the Lancashire climate by a great burden of sickness. They are, many of them, pallid, stunted, and narrow-chested, easy victims of consumption and bronchial affections.
  It may be said that the great masses of the industrial population of Lancashire are ailing from the cradle to the grave. Nowhere do the quack doctors, the herbalists, and the venders of pills and patent medicines reap such a rich harvest as in the cotton towns. 
The leopard cannot change his spots nor the appropriator of unpaid labour his methods. The capitalist class in the early days filched from the workers the product of their labour and kept them at their toil with the whip of starvation. In its old age it spreads misery, want, and desolation among the working class to an increasing extent. The only hope for the toiler is lo work for the overthrow of the system that is rooted in the servitude of the wage-worker.

S. P. G. B. Propaganda Meetings For January. (1920)

Party News from the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Aspect: A Question of Class (1970)

The Aspect column from the March 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ask any reasonably literate but otherwise typical Lefty for his appraisal of the class structure of capitalist society and he will probably inform you that there are two classes in society — the working class and the capitalist class. There is even a reasonably good chance that he will be able to recite Marx’s definition of these from the Communist Manifesto :
 By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern Capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage-labour. By proletariat, the class of modern wage-labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour-power in order to live. [1]
But give him a couple of minutes more and he will no doubt be at least neck deep in the regular assortment of complex arguments about the relative roles of the working class and the middle class/petty bourgeoisie/salariat which collectively represent his grand design for the socialist revolution.

In other words, nearly all left-wing groups exhibit a very definite schizophrenia on the question of social classes. At an abstract, intellectual level they will adhere to the Marxian position, but for all practical purposes (that is for deciding their overall strategy and their day to day tactics) they rely on an entirely different analysis of society. As an illustration of this we could refer to the ways in which such organisations reacted to the upheaval in France in May 1968. They all argued that this episode had an enormous significance not just because millions of ‘workers' showed their dissatisfaction and contempt for Gaullisme through strikes and demonstrations but also because “many sections of French society followed the lead of the workers — footballers, office workers, customs men, hotel workers . . .” [2]

Ideas such as these are as dangerous as they are confused. Not only do they lead to a completely false assessment of what constitutes the socialist revolution but they also serve to reinforce the divisive pressure which capitalism is bound to exert on its workers, They encourage the already widespread belief that wage earners in different sectors belong to different social classes and therefore do not have identical interests — a myth which as much as any other helps to keep capitalism secure. By way of contrast, the Marxist approach of the Socialist Party of Great Britain offers a means of uniting workers around an understanding that all “wage-labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour-power in order to live” are members of the working class and therefore have a common interest in getting rid of capitalism.

Perhaps we can clarify this by taking a group of workers regarded by most people as impeccably ‘middle class’ and showing how they arc exploited. The dental profesion is particularly interesting in this respect because not only are they a relatively small body of workers on whom a considerable amount of data has recently been published but also because they are in the uncommon position of having been ground down into working directly for wages within the last generation. Up till roughly twenty years ago dentists in Britain really were self-employed people. But the transfer of most dental surgeons to the National Health Service in the immediate post-war years meant that they were now nearly all employed by the state. (Out of 15.000 dentists in Britain in 1967 only 500 were estimated to still be working in private practices).

Like many other workers, dental surgeons in the general dental services are paid on a piece rate system. There is a complex mechanism for fixing these rates but basically it amount to the government periodically laying down a target annual net income for the average dentist, providing he works a specified number of hours per year. The Dental Rates Study Group then draws up a set of fees designed to produce average earnings at the target level. This method of payment has been described by many dentists as the ‘treadmill system’ "for, as more treatment is carried out each year by dentists working faster or more efficiently than previously with the help of technological changes, the scale for that treatment will fall, or at least not be increased to the extent that it might." [3] To give an example of how this works in practice we could mention that the fee being paid for a single surface amalgam filling in the mid-sixties (13s.6d) was less than it had been ten years previously (15s.). How this affects the individual dentist was well summed up in the report just quoted:
  The system is such that income is in fact related to the total number of courses [of treatment] an individual practitioner undertakes since the more the profession accomplishes, the lower the income per course. Thus if an individual dentist maintains only a constant performance his income falls. [4]
The pressures acting on this group of workers over the last twenty years have given rise to enormous increases in productivity— and an equally enormous upsurge in the rate of exploitation. The total number of courses of treatment carried out in the general dental services by roughly the same number of dentists throughout has more than doubled since 1949, while the cost to the government of providing this treatment has fallen from more than £5m. to around the £2m. mark (at constant 1949 price levels).

The ways in which dentists react to this situation are no different from those of other workers. Two recent surveys on the attitudes of dentists towards their wages and working conditions [5] showed that 55 per cent objected to the long hours they were forced to work to maintain their incomes, a similar percentage found the pace of the work gruelling, and 78 per cent disliked the restrictions placed on their work by their method of employment. Despite these sort of data, however, many left-wingers would object that although it might be possible by these means to demonstrate that objectively groups like dental surgeons are members of the working class, subjectively they remain intransigently capitalist minded. Such sections, they would say, can be “integrated into the system, to monopoly capital” by the relatively high wages and other benefits which (according to the Leninist theory of imperialism) capitalism can use to buy off parts of the working class in the most advanced countries. And as evidence of the overriding capitalist ideology of professional workers like dentists they would point to the fact that they do not consider themselves working class. Perhaps more than anyone else they differentiate between their own status and that of manual workers and other lower paid strata.

But objections such as these can be shown to be sociologically quite naive. The conviction that higher paid workers can be bribed into accepting capitalism by the level of their salaries rests on the assumption that in their attitude towards society they will be predominantly motivated by money or material rewards. If this were the case, it would be clearly shown in their work motivation. Such a theory has a very long pedigree, but at the same time has very little else to recommend it. As Tom Lupton, the professor of industrial sociology at the Manchester Business School, has put it:
  It is easy to fall into the error of supposing that because the desire for money is by common consent a compelling motive for working that it is also the overriding motive. Work is a social activity, that is it involves the worker in relationships with others. If the worker is faced with a decision whether to attempt to maximise income or to sacrifice possible gains for the sake of establishing or maintaining satisfying relationships with his workmates, he might well choose the latter course. [6]
Researchers like Lupton arrived at these conclusions mainly by studying the working behaviour of piece rate workers in factories. Research into the motivating factors for dentists has given results almost identical to those for other piece rate workers. Thus a recent survey carrying the question ‘What are the things you like most about your work?’ elicited the following responses:

These sort of figures, then, do not give a very impressive backing to the contention that higher paid workers like dentists arc primarily concerned with the defence of their supposedly privileged position and must therefore be considered as being distinct from the bulk of the working class. But, for all that, it does remain true that white collar workers (and among them the example we have been using of the dental profession) generally do regard themselves as different from industrial workers. But, of course, this is not a one way process. Blue collar workers reciprocate with similar prejudices about non-industrial workers, regarding them as ‘middle class’ and so on. It is quite illogical to use the common left-wing argument that subjectively white collar workers are outside the working class because they do not identify themselves with their fellow workers. Exactly the same stricture can be applied to blue collar workers.

An unbreakable sense of working class solidarity can only spread at the same rate as socialist understanding develops among all sections oft he workers. The Socialist Party constantly attempts to foster this unity in its work of analysing capitalism and its class structure and presenting the socialist alternative to present society. On the other hand, the divisive activity of the Left is entirely symptomatic of their slovenly attitude to Marxist theory. Almost to a man they are committed to ‘leading the working class’. A hard task indeed when they don’t even know what the working class is!
John Crump

[1.] The Communist Manifesto. SPGB, 1948. p. 60
[2.] Socialist Worker. June, 1968
[3.] The Dental Service. London, 1969. p. 20
[4.] Ibid. p. 27
[5.] British Dental Journal. September, 1969. p. 222
[6.] Industrial Society. Penguin. 1968. p. 297
[7.] Adapted from BDJ. September, 1969 p. 222

Socialism and Planning (1970)

From the March 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism will be a planned society. For the first time in human history man will have not only extensive control over his physical environment but also — more importantly — control over his own social relations. With the ownership of the means of production vested in the community, and under its democratic control, we will be able to produce goods and services directly to satisfy human needs, without the intervention of the market or any means of exchange. People will freely determine, and take, what they need to live and to enjoy life. Information regarding the types and quantities of goods required will be fed back, either direct to the places of production or possibly to some control communications agency. Those people in the particular production units concerned will then decide, on the basis of the existing level of technology, how best to arrange their affairs so that the necessary goods may be supplied. The problems which a Socialist society will face will be of a purely technical and administrative nature, without the complications of capitalism involving wage bargaining, investment, buying and selling, insurance, banking, etc. The government over people will give way to the administration of things.

Because Socialism is a planned society however, it is not to be thought that conversely all planning means Socialism. Socialist planning means Socialism. Socialist planning is by and for the community; capitalist ‘planning’ is a futile attempt to regulate the market in the interests of profit and those who live off profit. Capitalist society, far from having a community of interests, is firmly based on an irreconcilable antagonism of interests between owner and non-owners of the means of production — the capitalist and working classes. Attempts at planning by the State, where they are not laughed at, are feared by the working-class and rightly so. The coercive state machine will not exist inside Socialism, for the class division in society having been abolished there will no longer be any function for it to perform.

The confused association of any kind of planning with the object of Socialists is particularly dangerous in the field of "Town Planning” where the state, both nationally and locally, is playing increasingly extensive roles. Many town planners, it is true, have a genuine desire to arrange matters for the benefit of all, but they are working with an established set of priorities over which they have little influence. Inevitably profits are taken into account first, so that in deciding on the retention or phasing out of villages and towns, or the construction of transport systems, what is "reasonable” and "practical” often conflicts with human happiness. The sad fact is that people who suffer directly from such moves, because they accept capitalism, are forced to accept its priorities, or at least the terms in which any discussion of priorities is to take place. Thus a natural beauty spot cannot generally be saved from the intrusion of overhead electricity pylons, merely because it is beautiful. It would usually have to be proved that the profits made from, say, tourism were enough to cover the extra cost of excavation for underground cables. More often than not where people do protest against the designs of the planners they are accused of being selfish, holding up "progress" or not being concerned for the “general good”, which the fluent town planner is all too able at claiming to represent.

There are those of course who point to the "irrational” objections made to much town development, which they claim would be as much a problem in Socialism as under capitalism: East Enders preferring London slum life to New Town conditions for instance, or the inhabitants of a small decaying mining village preferring their present life to that in a large modern housing estate. These objections however are only irrational if one accepts the myth that rising material consumption in the form of an extra bathroom, television set, etc. is the panacea for human satisfaction. It is here that the two sides of planning show themselves to be in conflict. For it is the inability to plan for the economic and social security of people, that makes them reluctant to accept the benefits of town planning. Both the East Enders and the mining villagers have established a degree of community through long contact, and common suffering which has bound them into a force capable of withstanding some of the pressures of capitalism. A bathroom and central heating are no compensation for the loss of this to the atomised existence of the big city dwellers.

Only Socialism is capable of solving this problem, by enabling people to have control over their own lives, with democratic organisation of the productive process, geared to satisfying human need. To take a simple illustration, if in Socialism it would take less materials and human effort to have one large town instead of two smaller communities, if the people concerned preferred the second arrangement, then that would be the course pursued. There is no question here of which would attract and retain industry, for in both cases industry would be under the control of the community, and would consequently be sited in accordance with their needs and not the needs of a privileged minority for profit as to-day.
M. Ballard

Who are the Democrats? (1970)

From the March 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism cannot be established until and unless a majority of the class of wage and salary earners want and understand it. Most workers now support capitalism so the immediate task of socialists is to convince other workers that they are wrong to support capitalism and to persuade them that Socialism is the only solution to the problems they face. All that now prevents the establishment of Socialism is this lack of socialist understanding among the working class, and such understanding can only come about as a result of the successful propaganda activities of a socialist party. The best conditions for socialist propaganda and for the growth of socialist understanding is the limited political democracy of capitalism. This is the main reason why the Socialist Party of Great Britain has always stressed the importance both to the socialist movement and to the working class of the freedom to express ideas.

The classic statement of our case against the suppression of opinion appeared in the Socialist Standard in February 1941 in an editorial on the banning of the Daily Worker the previous month.
  True to our basic principle we do not support suppression of opinion, however false we believe that opinion to be. We have always thought and always said that the activities of the Communist Party have been a continual menace to the Socialist movement and the interests of the workers . . . All the same the S.P.G.B. is opposed to suppression of opinion. In our view the way to counter any kind of propaganda, and in the long run the only way, is to meet it in the open in unfettered discussion. We are entitled to add that we practise what we preach and have always thrown open our platform to our opponents.
We stand by this today and still open our platform to all our opponents to state their case against Socialism. However, some of our opponents take exception to our debating other of our opponents. The ragbag of assorted trotskyists, maoists, castroists, etc, etc., known as “the left" have taken us to task for opposing in public debate racialist parties like the National Front and Mosley’s Union Movement. And not only do they criticise us for this, but they have tried to prevent us doing it.

Most of their arguments for doing this can be traced back to the mistaken theory of fascism concocted by the Comintern in the 1930’s in order to further the foreign interests of state capitalist Russia. In 1935 the Russian government began to work through the League of Nations for an alliance with Britain and France against Germany, Italy and Japan. The role the overseas “communist” parties were to play was to win support of workers in Britain and France for an alliance with Russia. This, however, had to be justified in pseudo-Marxist terms. Hence the theory that fascism served the interests of the “most reactionary” sections of finance capital. This paved the way for an alliance with “less reactionary” capitalist parties (and States) against the fascists.

The singling out of the fascists for special opposition using methods (like breaking up meetings and threats of physical violence) not used against other capitalist parties is thus a left-over from the pre-war foreign policy of the rulers of state capitalist Russia. It amounts to a policy of compromise with capitalism. It encourages illusions about ‘‘the lesser evil”, thus pointing to a policy of support for one capitalist party against another.

1942 edition
The analysis of what fascism was and how to combat it made by the Socialist Party of Great Britain was naturally different from that of the Russian government:
  Fascism does not exist in the blue of the heavens: like every other social phenomenon, it is related to, and has its origin in, a social background. And that background is the democratic capitalism that “popular fronters” and other exponents of working class compromise with capitalism, wish to administer. That capitalism inevitably gives rise to working class problems has already been mentioned: but with equal inevitability it also gives rise to problems of a specifically capitalist nature, such as maintaining the profitability of production; securing new, and retaining old markets; the necessity of forging “national unity" when faced with war with rival capitalist groups, etc. And it is precisely in an attempt to solve these problems that the ruling class has recourse to Fascism. That these problems can be permanently solved is precluded by the nature of the capitalist system itself; but that will not prevent the capitalists from making the attempt where no other means will serve. Fascism, then, is a political form best adapted to meet the needs of certain contemporary capitalist states. 
   As long as the working class supports capitalism and capitalist policies, it will be tempted ultimately to give its support to that policy best calculated to meet the political and economic needs of capitalism—even though that policy may be fascist. 
  Democracy for the working class can only be consolidated and extended to the extent that the working class adopts a socialist standpoint. To renounce Socialism so that democracy may be defended, means ultimately the renunciation of both Socialism and democracy (Questions of the Day, 1942 edition).
The way to oppose fascism then was to continue to campaign for Socialism. To do otherwise, to abandon Socialist propaganda for mere anti-fascism, was dangerous for, as we pointed out, ‘‘provided the ‘fascist menace' is real, the formation of a bloc of non-socialist antifascists does not impede the advance of Fascism, but if anything, serves to expedite its progress".

Of course fascism is not a threat in Britain today, but if it were the policy of those who try to stop us putting up a socialist opposition to racialist and fascist parties would be helping it on. Besides, many of ‘‘the left” are themselves advocates and defenders of dictatorship ; they aim to seize power and set up a state capitalist dictatorship in Britain along the lines of those they support in Russia or China or Cuba or Yugoslavia or Algeria or Egypt, etc. etc. But even though they, like the fascists, are a threat to democracy we still say they should be allowed to express their obnoxious views and we are equally prepared to debate them as we are the National Front and the Union Movement.

Coronavirus crisis. When, if ever, will a vaccine be widely available? (2020)

From the World Socialist Party of the United States website

There would seem to be good prospects for safe and effective vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

First, numerous teams of scientists are working in parallel, applying diverse approaches to the problem. According to Dr. Stanley Plotkin, inventor of the rubella vaccine, [1] at least forty possible vaccines are already under development. Besides European and North American biotech companies, Chinese, Indian, and Japanese companies are now in the race. China alone is developing nine potential vaccines.

In addition, the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations is funding several research efforts by non-commercial organizations. [2] Non-commercial projects are of special value, because they are not bound by the commercial secrecy that impedes cooperation among scientists working for different companies.

The Boston-based company Moderna has already begun a first-phase clinical trial of an RNA vaccine – a new type – on human subjects. [3]

Second, the evidence so far indicates that the virus is slow to mutate. Genetic differences among the strains that have emerged in different countries are slight. This greatly simplifies the task. Any vaccines developed to protect against the virus in its current forms will probably remain potent for a considerable period.  

Third, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is new but not completely new. It bears some similarity to other coronaviruses and especially to the SARS coronavirus of 2002—2003 (this is why it is labeled as SARS No. 2) and also to the MERS coronavirus of 2012—2014. This family resemblance to viruses that have already been studied facilitates the search for a vaccine. [4]  

Squandered advantage
However, much of the advantage that this family resemblance could have given was squandered when research into SARS and MERS was discontinued after the corresponding epidemics ended. In particular, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi and her team at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development developed early vaccines against SARS and MERS but in 2016 were unable to obtain funding to conduct clinical trials. Such trials that would have given a head start to current work on a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Researchers would already have some idea of how humans react to one class of possible vaccines against members of the SARS family of coronaviruses. [5]

Why then was ‘no one interested’ in funding trials of these vaccines? Presumably, funders saw little if any point in developing vaccines against viruses that had apparently disappeared and seemed unlikely to return. That attitude would have reflected not only a poor understanding of the science but also a narrowness of vision typical of a profit-driven society, in which decision makers see no palpable advantage in contributing to a broadly conceived research program. 

It is precisely such a program that we humans need in our present predicament. To quote another scientist [6]:   
  We need coordinated research, worldwide, on virus illnesses, to be prepared for the next mutation. It will be impossible to cover all possible variants, but we would be much closer to a new mutation than we are now.
This makes good sense. A socialist world community would do it that way. But is such a high degree of global coordination feasible in a world of competing producers and rival nation-states?

Delay, delay
The time needed from the start of research on a new vaccine until it is marketed is commonly estimated as 12—18 months, although many commentators say that it could easily take two years and some give an upper limit of three years or even longer. Dr. Plotkin recalls that ‘it took at least five years before a vaccine [for rubella] was on the market’ and adds: ‘We cannot afford to have that kind of delay in an emergency like this one.’ He urges companies to ‘go into superaction’ immediately, with a view to having a vaccine available in the event of a second wave of the pandemic next winter – that is, within about 8 months. 

One major reason why the process takes so long is the number and duration of the clinical trials required to get a vaccine licensed by regulatory agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration. The official purpose of licensing is to ensure the safety and efficacy of drugs and vaccines. In practice, the FDA was long ago ‘captured’ by the companies it is supposed to regulate, with most of the scientists who sit on its advisory committees dependent on those companies. [7] FDA decisions therefore tend to reflect the interests of the companies that have the most political clout at the time.  

Monopolization and extortion
Another recommendation made by Dr. Plotkin is that the FDA should license not one but several vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, ‘because if we need millions of doses a single manufacturer will not be able to make enough for the world.’ This too makes good sense. Or at least it would if production were carried on to satisfy human needs. However, we live under a global system in which production is for profit. 

How then does a company that develops and produces vaccines act in order to maximize its profit? It seeks to monopolize the market for a vaccine against a specific disease by ensuring that its vaccine – and its vaccine alone! – is licensed. Then it applies for a patent on its vaccine – another significant cause of delay. Monopolization sets the scene for extortion. The company sells its vaccine at an exorbitant price that makes it unaffordable to most of those who need it.   

How many times this has happened in the past! A few years ago, for instance, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, one of the committees that advises the British National Health Service, recommended that a new vaccine against Meningitis B manufactured by Novartis NOT be made available to all children in the UK, even though this terrible disease afflicts 1,870 people per year. It was ‘highly unlikely to be cost effective’ – in other words, it was too expensive.[8] And this in a country that for over seven decades now has had what ‘progressive’ Americans politicians call ‘Medicare for All’! Vaccines against the scourge of viral hepatitis are likewise too expensive for large-scale use. [9] 

Indeed, there has already been an attempt to monopolize a future SARS-CoV-2 vaccine – one that does not yet even exist. In mid-March, the German press reported that the Trump Administration was trying to secure exclusive rights to any vaccine created by the German pharmaceutical company CureVac. Research and development would then be moved to the United States and the vaccine made available only in the United States. [10]
Stephen Shenfield


 [1] Interviewed here.

 [2] As of March 21, six projects. See

 [4] See the article by researchers at La Jolla Institute for Immunology in the March 16 online issue of Cell, Host and Microbe.

[5] See here. For a detailed assessment and references to articles by members of the Bottazzi team, see comments by pharmaceutical engineer Christopher C. VanLang on the question-and-answer website  

 [6] Physicist Cees J.M. Lanting on the question-and-answer website

 [7] This includes scientists directly employed by companies, scientists working for them on contract, and the many university scientists who depend on corporate money to fund their research. In fact, there are so few genuinely independent scientists that the FDA would be unable to rely mainly on them even if its leading officials wished to do so. 

 [8] 10% of victims die, while many survivors become deaf or blind or have to have limbs amputated (The Independent, July 24, 2013; Daily Mail, August 24, 2013). 

 [9] Vaccines exist for types A and B of this disease. See here. For a discussion of the availability of vaccines in underdeveloped countries, see here.

 [10] The Washington Post, March 16.