Tuesday, January 21, 2020

War and Civil War — Who Are the Friends of Democracy? (1945)

From the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Collaborationist chickens are coming home to roost and some of those who for five years have worshipped Winston Churchill and preached the doctrine of collaborating with democratic capitalism against Nazi capitalism are in a dilemma. In the British House of Commons on December 8th, 1944, when Churchill demanded a vote of confidence for the Government's policy of using British troops to support the Greek Government against rival armed bodies, he got his vote (279—30), but though the Labour Party strength is 170, only 23 voted for the Government. More than 80 were present in the House at the time, and of these 35 abstained and 24 voted against (Daily Express, December 9th). Gallacher, Communist, also voted against. Churchill roundly declared the Government’s intention to go on with its policy, and the dilemma of the Labour and Communist parties is whether they shall continue to support the Government on the old plea that it is “for democracy and against Nazism,’’ or oppose it because it is backing dictatorship in Greece and supporting reaction generally in the liberated countries. They are bewildered and cannot understand the seeming inconsistency of the Government's policy, the gulf between its professions and its actions. There is at bottom no inconsistency. The prime purpose of the ruling class in capitalism everywhere is to preserve the private property system. When democracy seems to be the way to preserve it, then democracy is the slogan; but if and when dictatorship seems to be required, then they are for dictatorship. It is the fate of the capitalist class that they have to handle an insoluble contradiction. They have a common interest in preserving the private property system and the exploitation of the propertyless working class, but also they have sectional rivalries which make individual capitalists and national groups come into violent conflict with each other. Compete they must, even to the point of “total war," but they must also see that war does not endanger the capitalist system itself. They all talk about the complete unity of the population inside their respective countries, but they know that the class struggle is a reality, and they fear the possibility of the discontented propertyless class gaining control of effective armed force and thus endangering the system itself. Hence the unanimity with which the ruling class everywhere hastens, when war is ending, to disarm those whom it has been forced to arm for the purpose of war. After the last war “allied" and “enemy" powers co-operated to try to suppress the potentially dangerous uprisings in Russia. Germany and elsewhere, and it was noteworthy that the “disarmament" of the defeated powers stopped short at the point of allowing them sufficient arms to suppress their own insurgent workers.

This time, even before the war is over, strenuous efforts are being made everywhere in the liberated countries to disarm the guerrilla troops who have been fighting against the occupying German army. During recent months the British Press has carried headlines which tell their own story: —
“De Gaulle crushes Militia revolt." (Daily Express, October 31st.)
“Police shoot in Brussels." (Sunday Express, November 26th.)
“Strike Plot crushed in Belgium." (Daily Telegraph, November 29th.)
“More Fighting in Athens." (Times, December 5th.)
“Spitfires blitz Athens Troops.’’ (Daily Express, December 7th.)
It is in Greece that the issue came to open war, with British troops, tanks and aircraft being used to crush and disarm the guerrillas who sought to overthrow the British-protected Papandreou Government. Mr. A. ,T. Cummings (News-Chronicle, December 8th) wrote as follows:—
  My postbag includes impassioned letters from the parents and wives of officers and men in Greece who are horrified at the thought that their men are to be killed in fighting, not the enemy, but an allied and friendly people, who not many days ago were decking them with garlands. For, make no mistake about it, our soldiers are now fighting the Greek people. It is a barefaced lie to pretend either that they are fighting “a gang of Communist revolutionaries” or that they are “preventing civil war ” between two equally matched factions. The so-culled opposition, now being attacked by Spitfires, is a cross-section of the whole community, and represents nearly the whole community. . . . Papandreou's Government now includes only individuals or minor groups. 
Mr. Cummings adds that:—
  Recent events in Greece, Belgium and Italy certainly give colour to a deep and widespread suspicion that British official policy is designed to stabilise dead or discredited monarchial systems in Europe and to strangle, if it can, the new spirit of radical democracy which is the only hope of a new and suffering generation.
He sadly admits that he is beginning to have doubts about his hero Winston Churchill.

A typical cynical comment on the Greek civil war comes from the New York Times, which supports the British policy : 
  Now that the enemy is driven away, not only is there no further need for these underground armies, but the existence of private armies on Nazi storm-troop model becomes a menace to the restoration of orderly government. (Quoted in Evening Standard, December 6th. Our italics.)
The heroic underground fighters of yesterday are to-day likened to Nazi storm-troopers!

The rival Allied powers criticise each other for their respective policies in different countries, but they all betray the same opportunist outlook, being willing to further their strategic, trading and investment interests by supporting any likely group, however reactionary. The U.S. Government, which supported Petain and Darlan in France, and whose General Eisenhower gave the orders that Allied troops be used to save the Belgian Government, yet denounces Britain's support of reactionaries in Italy, Greece and Argentina. Russia, supporting so-called left-wingers in Poland, was nevertheless the first Allied Government to give recognition to the reactionary Badoglio Government in Italy (Times, March 15th, 1944), and it was reported two weeks later that the Italian Communists, doubtless in consultation with the Russian Government, called off their demand for the abdication of Victor Emmanuel. In a later crisis the Communist Party of Italy entered the Bonomi Government and recognised the authority of Prince Umberto as Lieutenant of the Realm, while the “Socialists" stood outside because, they are opposed to the House of Savoy (Observer, December 10th).

In Greece the Communists now denounce King Nicholas and his reactionary supporters and Nicholas opposes the Communists, but not so long ago the Russian Government gratefully received and replied to a congratulatory message from Nicholas on the 25th anniversary of the Red Army, and Soviet War News (February 26th, 1943) thought it of sufficient importance to publish the message and reply.

Likewise in Rumania and Bulgaria, “the Communists have so far agreed either to serve under King Michael or, as in Bulgaria, which now has a Communist Regent, to preserve dynastic institutions, for the defence of which many a moderate Liberal would hardly lift a finger (Observer, November 12th). When Russian troops entered Rumania, Russia gave a pledge not to change “the existing social system of Rumania” (Soviet War News, April 4th, 1944), in spite of all its past denunciation of that social system. Of course, at any moment new Communist tactics may be decided on.

One of the tragedies of the present situation is that self-styled “Socialists” are to be found taking leading parts on both sides in these struggles. “Socialist” Russia opposes the Polish Government in London, and the latter has as its Prime Minister “Socialist” Arciszewski: which recalls the Polish-Russian war of 1920, when he led a Polish workers' contingent against the Red Army and “the red flag fluttered over the trenches on both sides.” In the Greek struggle “Socialists” back the guerrillas against the Government, while the Prime Minister, who uses British forces to crush them, declares “I am a democrat and a Socialist and the enemy is Fascism" (Daily Telegraph, December 8th). In Finland, too, “Socialists” backed the Government in alliance with the German Nazis against “Socialist” Russia in order to preserve Finnish independence and democracy. In the British House of Commons the “Socialist” Labour Party evenly divides itself for Churchill's Government and against it.

What is more material than abstract theories of democracy in Greece is the fact that much of the Greek National Debt is held by bondholders in London. Reynold's News (December 10th) points out that interest payments had been suspended under the Republican Government, and it was only when the present King of Greece returned in 1935 and established a dictatorship that interest payments were resumed. British bondholders have therefore a vested interest in the present “Socialist” led Greek Government.

Thus is the name of Socialism defamed, and thus does the reformist-communist policy of supporting capitalist governments work itself out to its ultimate futility.

One of the causes behind all these movements of discontent is, of course, the poverty and misery to which the workers are reduced under capitalism everywhere. As the correspondent of the Observer in Paris stated : —
  There are two main elements of potential trouble. One is political. The other is economic. The latter is the underlying cause. Tremendous inequalities of wealth and poverty exist in France to-day. The most lavish luxury continues side by side with pitiful poverty. (Observer, October 8th.)
This is, however, by no means the only factor in the various opposition movements sweeping the liberated countries. As always where working-class blind discontent exists, capitalist groups in opposition to the ruling group seek to use that discontent to raise themselves to power for purposes of their own; not to mention the foreign powers which, openly or secretly, intervene to promote their own strategic or economic interests.

But, however divided by sectional rivalries, and no matter what professions are made of sympathy with democracy and with the workers' claims, no capitalist group will willingly give up the means of production and distribution or relax its hold on the machinery of government by which private ownership is maintained.

Reluctantly they will make small concessions to allay extreme discontent, hut they will not abolish working class poverty. They cannot even abolish their own international rivalries leading to war. No one should be misled by their fine words and airy phrases about democracy and idealistic solutions. Whether they nakedly expose their own profit-seeking interests or whether for reasons of tactics and expediency they mask them in phrases about democracy and international friendship, it is the same cynical capitalist interest that guides them. This was neatly put by an American newspaper in its comments on the abortive Allied conference on civil air power at Chicago. Britain advocated international regulation, while U.S.A. (which will start with a big preponderance of aircraft, and therefore prefers competition) opposed international regulation. The New York Post explained why the approach was different:—
  From a purely cynical viewpoint, what have been termed British idealism and America's realism may be attributed in large measure to the fact that, as things now stand, America is way out in front of Britain in the fields of air transport development and potential transoceanic flying. If the positions of the two nations in this respect were reversed, we doubtless would find Britain much more “realistically" inclined all of a sudden and the U.S. more “idealistic.” (Daily Express, October 20th.)
The answer to capitalist intrigue and power-politics is not to be found in supporting one capitalist group against another or in attempted armed revolt to establish another government in power. Even if revolt succeeded, no system but capitalism is practicable while the majority do not want Socialism. The task before us is still that of winning over the working class to Socialism as a necessary step to using the vote to gain control of the machinery of government for the purpose of introducing Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Wartime Reflections (1945)

From the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

The attitude of the Greeks is ungrateful and depressing. Why should they be free to mind their own business while the rest of the world is sacrificing the cream of its glorious youth minding other people’s business? Surely it is absurd to suggest that Britain is actuated by other than noble and elevating ideas! It is true that in the sordid and regrettable past perfidious Albion stained the pages of its history with bloody fingers, but all is changed now: we have made progress in philosophy and culture. The Boers, the Kaffirs, the Basutos and all the other peoples of the lands we painted red in our triumphal march extracting wealth from subject people and subtracting liberty may well decay in their unmarked graves; they were the unwitting instruments of our elevation and ennoblement. In the much to be regretted days gone by our rude forefathers just marched in and grabbed the territory they coveted, dealing death and destruction on the way. How different it is nowadays. Operations are preceded by philosophical and political discourses couched in courteous language, pointing out the supreme advantage of being fleeced by a nation of our cultural standing. If the ignorant recipients of the olive branch should realise that an impatient block-buster is waiting overhead in tremulous anticipation, that surely has no bearing on the good intentions of the message!

It is curious to reflect on the various attempts to forecast the appearance of post-war Europe by anxious and hopeful people. At the present rate of progress it should not be a matter on which there is doubt. It will be a gigantic and festering graveyard.

#    #    #    #

We are pleased to notice the stern attitude of the Church towards the clergyman who was alleged to have imbibed too much of the spirit of forgetfulness. The prominence of the case in question is an excellent comment on the ennobling influence of a creed whose principal advocates instil in our minds for five precious minutes on the radio every morning those prime virtues of resignation and patience. It is a great pity that bombed-out people living in wintry conditions in dug-outs and hovels, without the necessary sanitary and cooking amenities of decent life, are precluded by lack of a radio from hearing these sweet and soothing words. It might change their attitude towards a venerable Church which blesses with such unction what they hold to be the unavoidable slaughter of brother by brother. Is it not more important that a priest should not tipple than that the earth should not be converted into a morgue?
Gilmac.

Socialism and World Unity (1945)

Book Review from the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists hold that the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race. They also hold that international warfare is the outcome of capitalism, the various national States being nothing more than political agents necessary for the protection of capitalist property.

At the Trade Union Congress recently held, a resolution was passed supporting the report of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Union Committee, which contained a clause singling cut the German people as being responsible for the war. No mention, appears to have been made of the responsibility of the peoples of other countries in this connection.

The report was presented to Congress by Sir Walter Citrine, and it is interesting and instructive to recall that this same gentleman published a small book, little more than four years ago, entitled “My Finnish Diary,” a Penguin Special, price 6d.

After describing the damage done by Russian bombers in Finland during the winter of 1939-40, Sir Walter observes on page 43: “I thought bitterly to myself,’ what a curious mentality it is which seeks to justify the wanton destruction of the homes of these .poor people, under the hypocritical guise of liberating them and opening up the vista of Soviet Socialism.' Socialism! It is a vile insult to associate the excesses of the imperialist Stalin and his coterie of despots with a word which has provided the inspiration and hope of millions of mankind.” Did Sir Walter hold the Russian people responsible? Turn to page 63: “It was awful to think that men could be hurled into slaughtering one another without having the least opportunity to control the governments who made the decision they had to obey.” The “responsibility” of the German workers for the war is on a par with that of the workers of other countries. Seeking relief from the pressure of their poverty, they supported the clamour of certain political groups for power, not realising the eventual outcome of their own act. Like the workers of other countries, they have already paid an appalling price for their political ignorance. The workers of this country returned a Conservative Government to power under the delusion that by so doing they were helping to keep the peace. Mr. Baldwin admitted later that he dared not let them know that he contemplated a programme of re-armament! Ironically enough, this same programme was instrumental in reducing the numbers of the unemployed, resembling in this respect the armament programmes of Russia and Germany; and, in spite of a lot of tall talk, not even Sir William Beveridge is able to show how to maintain “full employment” without armaments! But to return to the Trade Union Congress.

The reference back of the above mentioned clause was moved by Mr. Walter Padley, who has recently published a little volume—viz., “The Economic Problem of the Peace” (Gollancz, price 6s.). This has the merit of throwing considerable light on the historical and economic background of the present struggle for world supremacy. Mr. Padley squarely places the responsibility upon capitalism as a system, and in spite of various illusions of his concerning the nature of Socialism, does endeavour to show that Socialism is the only solution to the problem presented to his readers.

Most children of school-leaving age, who have paid any attention to their history books, know that Britain, in the course of its commercial struggle, has fought all the principal European powers in turn. Mr. Padley reminds us of the conflicts with Spain in Elizabeth’s time, with the Dutch in the time of Cromwell and Charles II., and finally with the French from the time of Queen Anne to the early nineteenth century. Control of Canada and India was wrested from the French in 1703 during the Seven Years War. In the course of this particular campaign Frederick the Great established Prussia as a power equal to any on the Continent. While British armies dealt with France in America and Asia, and the Navy followed suit upon the high seas, the German monarch of these islands gave useful help to Frederick both in money and in men. Having interests of his own to protect in Hanover, this is not surprising. So far from being regarded as the eternal enemies of mankind, Prussians were welcomed as convenient allies. The same thing occurred half a century later in the Napoleonic Wars. Blucher and the Prussians were in at the death with Wellington at Waterloo. Incidentally, in this final battle, Wellington’s army consisted mainly of foreigners, only 5 per cent, at most being British. This campaign settled for the time being the question which power was to dominate the world. The map of the world showed ever larger chunks of red as trade and the flag marched hand in hand.

Russia’s bid for .power in the Near East caused Britain and France to unite in the Crimean War in the middle of the nineteenth century, and it was not until a decade later that Prussia began to show political symptoms of the increasing industrial development of Germany. This is shown by Mr. Padley to have outstripped that of France by the close of the nineteenth century and to be threatening that of Great Britain. Lacking an overseas empire, Germany found scope for expansion on the European Continent. Sir J. M. Keynes (now Lord Keynes), in his “Economic Consequences of the Peace” (pp. 14-15), showed that “the statistics of the economic inter-dependence of Germany and her neighbours are overwhelming.” The present-day pleaders for the smashing-up of Germany as a preventive of war may as well advocate the destruction of Europe and be done with it.

These overgrown children, rotten with wealth, want all the advantages of capitalism and none of its disadvantages. They profess to believe in competition and squeal like rabbits whenever they meet a competitor capable of giving them a dose of their own medicine. Their invective, however, will probably know no bounds when their allies in this war follow in the footsteps of their allies in the last war.

The accumulation of capital in America seeking investment overseas reminds one of the words of Marx: “Face to face with the old queen of the seas rises, threatening and more; threatening, the young giant republic” (“Capital.” Vol. I., p. 735, Swan Sonnenschein edition.). In Mr. Padley’s opinion the future holds for Britain no brighter prospect than that of a junior partner to Uncle Sam in return for acting as policeman in Europe. Be that as it may, those who take the uproar against Germany seriously would do well to reflect upon Mr. Padley’s quotations from a couple of military historians. Major-General J. F. C. Fuller, who can hardly be suspected of anti-British tendencies, in his “War and Western Civilisation,” tells us that: “Between 1870 and 1900 Great Britain acquired 4,754,000 square miles of territory . . . between 1884 and 1900 France acquired 3,583,000 square miles . . . and in these same years Germany, a bad last, gained 1,026,220 square miles.” Captain de S. O. C. Stephens, in “A Century of War, 1815-1915,” tells us that in that period Britain waged 38 wars, lasting 64 years in all, while her peace-loving partner, France, spent 58 years in 17 wars. Russia occupied 28 years in 13 wars, while Germany, by some unaccountable oversight, only scraped up a total of 6 wars of 10 years' total duration.

“This, of course,” says Mr. Padley, “has nothing to do with innate vice. British or German, but arises from the later industrial development of Germany” (p. 116).

The present scribe cannot pretend to follow Mr. Padley in his speculations concerning his proposed “Socialist United States of Europe.” On page 106 Mr. Padley postulates that under a “Socialist economic system” a financial system will be necessary to secure the distribution of goods. He appears to have overlooked the fact that during the past five years millions of members of the working class have been fed, clothed and housed by their rulers' governments, after a rough and ready fashion, without cash payments on their part. It is up to Mr. Padley and those who share his views to let us know what are the obstacles which will prevent a Socialist administration providing for the wants of every man, woman and child without the aid of money. When the means of producing wealth are owned in common, the products will become a common store from which all may draw. This will involve organisation, not money, which is the outcome of lack of organisation in the sphere of distribution, resulting from private ownership

While Mr. Padley does not accept uncritically the view that Russia has established Socialism, he persists in asserting that state property and economic planning provide this particular nation-state with a “Socialistic economic basis” (page 133). This is playing with words. Can the close relationship between the State and industry in Russia be explained except by referring to the later development of industry there? No capitalist power on earth is able to administer capitalism along the lines of century old Manchesterian Liberalism.

Mr. Padley is also far too ready to regard Russia's attack upon Finland, Poland and the Baltic States as being simply a piece of military strategy. The restoration of the empire of Peter the Great cannot be dismissed in that lighthearted manner. Mr. Padley has gone to considerable pains to make it clear that nation-states express capitalist, needs. Military strategy is but a means to an end. Socialists are entitled to ask, “What has the recovery of the Russian nation-state to do with the emancipation of the international working class?"

Socialists have no blue prints to offer the world. Their task is to. mobilise the workers for the destruction of the system which robs them of the fruits of their labour. That is our only purpose in calling upon them to organise for the conquest of political power.
Eric Boden

Tory-Labour Agreement On Capitalism (1945)

Editorial from the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Everybody knows that the Conservative and Liberal Parties stand for capitalism and have no intention of seeing it abolished or undermined, but many people are confused about the intentions of the Labour Party. They think that the Labour programme of nationalisation or public utility boards under Government control and the programme of social reforms mark off the Labour Party from the others and prove that it is a Socialist party. Socialists are under no such illusion, nor are the more astute representatives of capitalism. Three recent pronouncements show this unmistakably. One is a statement made by Major-General G. S. Szlumper, Director-General of Supply Services of the Ministry of Supply and former General Manager of the Southern Railway. Speaking in Cape Town, he said:
  After the war all transport in Britain should be run as a sort of public corporation with pooled funds. It should have neither exclusive Government control nor be run by private companies on competitive lines. (Daily Express, November 5th.)
The second is a declaration made by Mr. Dingle Foot, Liberal M.P., and Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare, in a speech to the London Regional Branch of the Liberal Party. The News-Chronicle reported him as follows :—
  Liberals were not afraid of nationalisation in particular cases. . . . It was a matter of expediency and not of principle where a line was drawn between public and private enterprise. (News-Chronicle, October 30th, 1944.) . 
The third is u pledge given in the House of Commons (December 1st. 1944) by the Conservative Foreign Minister, Mr. Anthony Eden. He declared that if the present Government's “great social reform programme” is not completed before the general election, and if a Labour Government takes over, the Conservatives will back the Labour Government to see the programme completed :—
  I have no doubt that if there were an election and if a Labour Government were returned, that Government would put through what was outstanding in that programme, and I can say, on behalf of my right hon. friend, the Prime Minister, that we, as members of the Conservative Party, would give them support in putting through what remains of that programme, to which members of both parties have put their names.
He went on to say that if a Conservative Government came in at the election, they would likewise “feel that we had the right to ask the gentlemen opposite to give us their support."

In other words, the forthright upholders of capitalism are quite prepared to join with the Labour Party in backing social reforms because they know the continuity of capitalism would be preserved by that party. We need not labour the obvious point that the Conservatives and Liberals would not help the S.P.G.B. to carry out its programme of introducing Socialism.

Before leaving this speech of Mr. Eden's we would like to mention the way in which William Barkley, the Parliamentary reporter of the Daily Express, reported the matter. It suits the Express always to refer to the Labour Party as the Socialist Party, although the latter is not its own chosen title—(indeed, a resolution to adopt that title was many years ago not accepted by a Labour Party conference)—and although the Express is fully aware that the Labour Party does not stand for Socialism.

For example, in an editorial on October 1st, 1936, the Daily Express admitted that the Labour Party is not a Socialist party, declaring that though hostile to Socialism, the Express was not hostile to the Labour Party :—
  The Daily Express is not the enemy of the Socialist Party, though Mr. Bevin and others profess to think so. The Daily Express, it is true, opposes Socialism, but that is a very different thing. If Mr. Bevin, or Mr. Morrison, or Sir Walter Citrine, came to power here the Daily Express would not tremble at these men nor fear their policies.
Yet when Mr. Barkley reported Eden’s speech in the Daily Express on December 2nd, 1944, and although he put the statements in quotation marks to indicate that the words quoted were supposed to be those actually used by Eden, where the latter used the word “Labour ” Mr. Barkley rendered it “Socialist." Is Mr. Barkley an incompetent reporter, or did he alter the words deliberately? And, if so, was it by his own choice, or is it the policy of the Daily Express that reports should be handled in this way ?

The Finest Flower of Capitalist Culture (1945)

From the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. A. V. Alexander, M.P. (Labour), First Lord of the Admiralty, celebrating the launching of a new naval vessel, tells us what is mankind's greatest mechanical achievement: 
  The modern battleship is perhaps the greatest of man’s mechanical triumphs, and this ship is possibly the greatest of them all. (Daily Mail, December 2nd, 1944.)