Saturday, June 13, 2015

Our Re-Union (1905)

From the April 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Re-union of members of The Socialist Party of Great Britain to celebrate the anniversary of the Paris Commune was held on Saturday, March 18th, 1905, at the "Rainbow Hotel," Newgate Street, E.C. At 7 o'clock the members began to gather in goodly numbers, and it was soon seen that they were not only bent upon having an enjoyable evening, but that they means that this, the first Re-union of members, should be a notable success. This was also anticipated by the organisers of the gathering who had provided a splendid programme of musical and elocutionary talent. Comrades Kent and Fitzgerald were expected to preside during the evening, but pending their arrival the chair was taken by Comrade Crump, who opened the proceedings. He vacated the chair on the arrival of Comrade Kent, who delivered the usual chairman's speech. Amongst those who so splendidly contributed to the evening's entertainment were: the Misses Beale, Mrs. Newlands, H. Young, D. Newlands, E. Fairbrother, T. Tarrant, H. Belsey, F. S. Leigh, T. A. Jackson. We also had a stirring address from Comrade Anderson, and the meeting terminated by singing the "International," and with cheers for the Social Revolution and for The Socialist Party of Great Britain. Over a hundred of the members of our party were present and they fully expressed the opinion that the success of the re-union would more than justify the holding of many similar functions in the near future.
O. C.

See also:

Socialists and Membership of the Labour Party (1933)

Letters to the Editors from the August 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent asks the following question: —
Towards the end of your declaration you state " . . . the party seeking emancipation should be hostile to every other party." This, of course, includes the Labour Party.

I fully appreciate that the S.P.G.B. cannot afford to dissipate its energies in lending support to the reformist policy of the Labour Party. It seems to me, however, that individual members could do good work (until they were expelled) within the D.L.P. in opposing and criticising its present policy.

I believe it to be a fact that a large number of Labour Party supporters are under the impression that the principles which they support are truly revolutionary.

At the Leicester Conference it was reiterated time after time, that the object of the Labour Party (unlike the Conservatives and Liberals) is the establishment of Socialism "by substituting community-owned and publicly-controlled industries and services for disorganised competition and domination of vested interests."

Anyone who is not familiar with the whole of the Labour Party's activities may be forgiven for reading "community-owned and publicly controlled" to have the same meaning as the "the common ownership and democratic control" in the statement of objects of the S.P.G.B.

The concrete proposals which the Labour Party put forward each year, however, that this is not the case.

It is in the belief that the fluctuating principles and policy of the Labour Party are not a true reflex of the views of the whole party membership, that I suggest that a strong leaven of Marxist Socialism in the local D.L.P.s might force a wider recognition of the fallacies underlying the official brand of Labour Party "Socialism."

If membership of the S.P.G.B. definitely precludes membership of the local Divisional Labour Party, I should be obliged if you will meet the points I have raised.

Membership of the S.P.G.B. does carry with it the definite and absolute prohibition of membership of any other political party in this country. The primary reason for that condition of membership is explained in our Declaration of Principles. Having made up our minds that the paramount need of to-day (not of some distant time in the future) is Socialism, we came together in a Party which exists only for that purpose. In addition we have learned by observation and by the past experience of the founders of the S.P.G.B. when trying to work inside the Social Democratic Federation (prior to the formation of the S.P.G.B.), that any advantage there may be in working inside or in association with a reformist party is enormously outweighed by its disadvantages. If members of the S.P.G.B. were allowed to be member so the Labour Party they would have to choose between admitting their membership of the S.P.G.B. or concealing it.If they concealed it they could not carry on open propaganda for the S.P.G.B. Their attempts to preach Socialist principles robbed of the essential principle that there must be an independent non-reformist Socialist political party, would in practice be interpreted not as a condemnation, but as friendly criticism of the Labour Party. It would help the Labour Party, not the S.P.G.B.

Open support of the S.P.G.B. inside the Labour Party would, of course, be in flat contradiction of the Labour Party's programme and constitution, and would lead automatically and speedily to expulsion. Obviously the Labour Party would not permit members to oppose its own candidates at election times and to denounce the Labour Party's aims and activities.

Our correspondent perceives that expulsion would result, but, nevertheless, thinks that good work might be done. We think he overlooks the weakness of the position in which the individual would find himself. At present, members of the S.P.G.B. appear before members of the Labour Party as frank and open opponents, who hold fundamentally different views, and say so. Their position is open and above-board. They are known for what they are. Contrast this with the position of the Socialist who joins the Labour Party. To become a member he must declare that he accepts the Labour Party constitution and that he is not a member of an opposing party. He then declares this, knowing it to be false. He then devotes himself, not to the promotion of the objects of the Labour Party, but to a different and hostile purpose. As soon as this becomes apparent to his fellow members of the Labour Party he is dubbed a "disruptionist" and his chances of securing a dispassionate hearing are at once destroyed. He is rightly regarded as having received membership under false pretences and any views he may express, either then or subsequently (after his expulsion) will be discounted accordingly.

The only method for the Socialist Party to adopt is the one which avoids confusion and which stresses the need for the working class to recognise the unbridgeable gulf between reformism and  Socialism. We do not gain by implying that a man can consistently hold membership in the Labour Party and the S.P.G.B. at the same time. We want it to be known from one end of the country to the other that the Labour Party and the S.P.G.B. are opponents and that there can never be a truce to the conflict between them.

The Methods of the Professional Strike Smasher (1913)

From the October 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent death of James Farley, the notorious American strike breaker, calls to mind the function of the blackleg in capitalist society, and also one of the principle reasons strikes so frequently, instead of benefiting the workers, actually worsens their position.

In the first place it is, of course, understood that the efforts of workers in Trade Unions, fighting the masters with their only weapon, the strike, in order to sell their labour power to the best possible advantage, is only a necessary part of capitalism, and does not aim at emancipating the workers from wage-slavery.

When a strike occurs the only way the workmen can bring it to a successful issue is by completely or partially paralysing the particular industry concerned, or, for that matter, many industries, and so compelling the masters to capitulate. But the whole record of Trade Unionism has shown in this respect an almost complete failure. When we look for the reason of this failure we generally find it to be due to the fact that, although the Trade Unionists have all, in particular cases, come out on strike, the masters have been able to utilise other labour to keep the concern going until the strike had been tided over and the men forced to submit.

The weapon the masters beat the workers with is the most efficient weapon ever used by the dominators of human society—a weapon that could only be brought to perfection under capitalism. This weapon is starvation, which the masters can do wield through their control of the food supply. Workers with their wives and children must have food in order to live, and the only way to obtain food short of capturing the political machinery, is to work for a master.

As the capitalists are not out merely to injure the workers, but to make as much profit as possible, their first act is to weigh up the gains or losses likely to be incurred through their giving way or holding out. If the masters consider the demands of their employees to be hardly worth involving themselves in the trouble and inconvenience of a prolonged strike over, they will accede to their workers' demands. But if they think the inconvenience of a fight outweighed by what they will lose by departing from the old conditions, then they will not hesitate to fight.

When a strike is declared the first act of the masters is to try and obtain other workers in place of the strikers, because if this can be done the strike must automatically collapse after a very short time, as starvation will soon compel the workers to submit. To obtain blacklegs is usually fairly easy, because capitalism by producing an immense army of unemployed, has the material ready to hand. Men who are watching wives and children dying of slow starvation, who have tramped the streets for weeks in the hopeless quest for a job, make just the right material for a scab-hunter, although in the last resort the masters can frequently fall back upon the armed forces to act as blacklegs, as they showed at Liverpool and other places a year or two ago.

This was where Farley came as a boon and a blessing to the American capitalists. Having had some experience of strikes, and being a particularly unprincipled ruffian, he saw how he could make a fortune (which he soon did) by putting into the employers' hands the means of crushing the workers' industrial movements.

He provided the masters with a stock of professional strike breakers, specially picked men whom he sent to any part of the country at any moment, to undertake any work. By means of these any industry could be kept going until such time as the strikers were exhausted and wished to be taken back.

Where professional strike-breakers were not obtainable the blacklegs were generally imported from some other part of the country, and it was in this way that the strikers were so badly hit after the fight, for when the strike was settled the blacklegs were still kept on, and only a limited number of the strikers were taken back.

Very much the same thing occurs in England in similar circumstances, as witness the dock strike of a year ago. A representative of the "Daily News and Leader," after a visit to Dockland, made the following statement (26.6.13):
"The distress in Canning Town is acute and wide-spread, and it is largely because the strike enabled the P.L.A. and shipowners to increase their margin of surplus labour. Where already there were two men for each job in the docks, a thousand more have come to live, to compete for the same amount of work."
To sum the matter up, the chances of even a section of the workers improving their position under capitalism is therefore seen to be practically nil—the weapons of the masters are too powerful and too easily brought into operation. The condition of the working class gets steadily worse with each succeeding year, and Trade Union action at its best (as Karl Marx points out in "Value , Price and Profit") can only act as a brake on the downward movement of that condition. It therefore behoves the workers to give up these vain fancies and time-wasting views, and to organise with us in the Socialist Party to get control of the political machinery and the armed forces of the nation, for the purpose of abolishing the wages system, and then the blackleg, like Othello, will find his occupation gone.

Father knows best? (1984)

From the September 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

A recent article in Spare Rib (May 1984) commented on the relationship between the women's peace movement and women's liberation:
Some fear it's a diversion, that the women's liberation movement has been taken over by the women's peace movement. Their argument is that we must go direct to the cause of war—patriarchy—and that we'd all do better to tackle the "man next door".
Patriarchy is the concept that links only movements for sectional goals whether they be "liberation" or a ban on the use of nuclear weapons. The arguments of the women's liberation movement (WLM) are that the subjugation of women exists due to men. During the 1960s the WLM gained in popularity, developing its arguments around the bondage of marriage, the economic and emotional poverty of housework and the use of females as a reserve army of labour.

What is patriarchy and how does it relate to the struggle of socialism? It is a word used by the sociologist Max Weber, to describe a particular household organisation incorporating an extended kinship network in which the father dominated and controlled the economic production of the household. Feminist writings assign two meanings to the concept — the domination of women by men and the rule of the father. The concept of patriarchy has led some sections of WLM to dissociate themselves from men and attempt to develop a particular female consciousness such as that of political lesbianism, which argues against the institution of male domination by claiming that heterosexuality is central to women's oppression.

Radical feminists like Shulamith Firestone have argued against men's control of women's fertility and reject women's biological role entirely. Some feminist writers such as Kate Millett argue that patriarchy is the fundamental political division in society and is therefore independent of any mode of production. Patriarchy is seen as not only pre-dating capitalism, but continuing after capitalism has been replaced by socialism. Therefore, socialism is regarded as irrelevant to some radical feminists who believe that it will merely succeed in replacing one group of men by another.

Does socialism have to be a male-dominated society or should the struggle for socialism be postponed until patriarchal ideas have been overcome? Is patriarchy the cause of women's oppression and are women's political movements therefore correct to exclude men?

Capitalism's private property relationships and class division are the cause of the oppression of both men and women. As is becoming clear to those who imagined otherwise, for women to demand equality with men in the labour market changes nothing. The majority of women remain members of the working class and are therefore dependent on the sale of labour power in order to buy food, clothing, housing — the things we need to live. Many women are now realising that the exchange of one oppressive situation for another is not liberation and have abandoned the assumption that male wage slaves had something worth striving for.

Women's present position in society means that they are often excluded, used as cheap labour and required to fall in with sexual expectations. Given the future prospects mapped out for young girls at school where they learn to cook, clean, mother and type (always a handy skill for part-time work) it is hardly surprising that more and more women are rejecting the role assigned to them from childhood. What is frustrating is the divisive political conclusions of women-only political movements that patriarchy is to blame for the world's problems.

The political aims of the various sections of the WLM are divisive and reformist, preferring to put immediate aims before a revolutionary change in society. Under capitalism it is not only women who are oppressed. All human beings who depend on a wage or salary in order to live are oppressed and even if many men misconceive their role in society and their relationship with women it does not alter the basic fact that men are degraded too.

If capitalism is to be overthrown women and men have to work together for socialism in the knowledge that the oppression of both sexes results from private property relationships and class divisions. In a world of common ownership there will be no husbands and wives because marriage derives from private property relationships. That is not to say that monogamous relationships will not exist in a socialist society, if people want them to.

Common ownership will foster new kinds of relationships between human beings. Women and men will at last be free to live life as they choose, to cooperate with each other in building a future in which we will no longer be exploited sexually or for profit. The prerequisite for this new society is socialist understanding and the desire to cooperate — with men as well as women.
Cathy Gillespie