Sunday, August 2, 2015

Propaganda in the Provinces: A Cycling Diary (1906)

From the November 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

When I arranged to spend a week of my fortnight holiday in pushing the interests of the S.P.G.B. I expected to have either the redoubtable J. Kay or some other valiant and experienced comrade as a companion for my cycling tour, commencing August 11th; but some unkind strokes of Fate prevented that expectation being realised, and I had to sally forth alone.

I am asked to write an account of my tour, and to do it briefly, so in order to fulfill this condition, I am putting my experiences in diary form.

Saturday. Aug. 11. Had my first day's riding — 53 miles against a stiff wind. Reached Bedford at noon. Was unable to hold meeting here, no pitch being available tried to secure stall in the market for sale of literature but failed, so had to be content with looking up a few old friends  and disposing of a Manifesto or STANDARD where I could.

Sunday. Aug. 12. Reached Northampton at 11 a.m. and proceeded to the market Square. The local branch of the S.D.F. presently put in an appearance and started their meeting, during which I got amongst the audience with the literature, the result being that the people had parted with their spare coppers before Justice came on the scene, The speaker urged his hearers never to support Liberal or Tory candidates, and when question time came I asked him why the S.D.F. branches had frequently supported Liberal candidates and also why they had done it in Northampton. After a brief consultation the chairman dealt with the question, or rather made a long rambling statement in which he admitted that the S.D.F. in Northampton made a grave mistake, but defended the action taken in support of Naoroji in Lambeth and generally defended the go-as-you-please policy which has characterised the actions of his organisation during the last few years. The meeting was then closed (although I had intimated my intention of offering opposition) but fortunately the crowd remained, and I dealt as fully as time allowed with the differences between the S.D.F. and the S.P.G.B. Literature sales: — Manifestoes 13, Standards 25.

Monday. Aug. 13. After a delightful ride to Leicester, and an equally delightful rest when I arrived there, I opened out in the market-place at 7.45 under rather trying circumstances. I had a very vigorous evangelist in close proximity to my meeting, and a band playing sufficiently near to draw the usual market-place crowd. Socialist propaganda is badly needed here, in fact there did not seem to be any one present among my questioners who had got much further than Labourism (dependent or independent according to circumstances). One friend—whom I judged to be an I.L.P. man—seemed very wroth at my attack on the L.R.C. and his idol Ramsay MacDonald, and whilst we were engaged in a little argument as to whether J. R. M. is, or is not a Socialist, an incident occurred in which made myself and every one in the crowd (except my opponent) laugh very heartily. Along comes a young man who has not heard the discussion, but hears me use the sentence, "the only hope of the people lies in a social revolution"; working his way to the front of the meeting, he shouts, "We don't want you Socialists down here, we've got MacDonald!" After this I did not think it necessary to follow the matter further as it seemed that, whatever the local Labour party may claim, the "man in the street" does not look upon Mr. MacDonald as a representative of Socialism.

Several other questions were asked and answered mostly from the reform point of view and a fairly good meeting was brought to a close at 9.30. Literature sales: — Manifestoes 14; Standards 25.

Tuesday. Aug. 14. This was a blank day so far as propaganda was concerned, owing to the fact the my bag, which had been sent on, had not arrived at Loughborough where I had intended holding a meeting. No literature, no meeting.

Wednesday. Aug. 15. This was the first wet day of my tour, but the weather was fair when I reached Derby and hoisted my poster on to the statue railings in the market place. Here I met the Secretary of the Woolwich I.L.P., who was holiday-making like myself and also a prominent member of the local Socialist Party. Whilst in argument with them preparatory to commencing the meeting, the rain began to fall in torrents and continued for about twenty minutes. When it was fine enough to venture forth from shelter I found that someone had commandeered the box which I had at much difficulty secured as my platform, also at the same time, some papers which the box contained. This and the prospect of further rain made me decide to give up the meeting. Sales: — Manifestoes 6; Standards 3.

Thursday. Aug 16. Nottingham. Here the weather looked very threatening but about 7.30 it cleared up and was beautifully fine. I consulted a policeman as to the best place for holding my meeting, the market-place being quite covered with stalls. Robert was very polite and indicated the bottom of Derby Road as the best pitch. but added that I had better be careful as to what I said, as he had seen many a speaker upset the crowd and be glad to escape by hopping on to a tramcar. However, I held a meeting from 7.45 until 10.20. an hour being taken up with answering questions which were very numerous and varied in character, but fortunately were asked at the proper time and in decent order. This was one of the best audiences it has ever been my pleasure to address, and I am hoping to visit Nottingham again shortly (with a companion for preference). Literature sales: — Manifestoes 27; Standards 42.

Friday. Aug. 17th. I had promised to hold another meeting in Nottingham: but it rained hard the whole evening.

Saturday. Aug. 18th. Kettering. Weather improving, and had a delightful ride here from Nottingham. My experience here was not very gratifying, as I made two attempts to get a decent meeting in the market-place, but without success. The first time, the Band came along and effectually silenced me: on the second occasion, a smart glee-party came along and captured my crowd. I had one rather rude young fellow who several times interrupted me and who at length shouted, "You think you're clever, mister, but you only evolved from a monkey!" When I replied by asking him if he could give me any idea as to when the process of evolution from monkeyhood would commence in his case, he sobered down somewhat, and, in a few minutes, disappeared. Literature sales: — Manifestoes 6; Standards 7.

Sunday. Aug. 19th. Rode to Luton with the intention of holding a meeting at night; but literature had not turned up and two bands were busy in the town so the idea had to be given up.
From which it seems
The best laid schemes
Of F. E. D.
Oft gang agley.
My tour concluded with a delightful ride home via Hatfield, Hertford, Waltham, High Beech and Woodford.

Next year I hope to do something rather more ambitious with the assistance of a good speaker. There is excellent scope for our propaganda in Leicester and Nottingham, and a "Party Outing" to Nottingham by one of the Sunday League trains is worth consideration from a propaganda point of view. Any members anxious to distinguish themselves in this way can at any time rely upon the presence and support of
F. E. Dawkins

"Overpopulation"—Bugaboo and Biological Scapegoat! (1980)

A chapter from Samuel Leight's 1980 book, World Without Wages (Money, Poverty & War)

Many are under the impression that the world is overpopulated and that this condition results in a variety of social evils all of which are due to the prolific nature of men and women. People, and especially the very poor, are accused of indiscriminate procreation, and as a consequence creating poverty, shortages, unemployment and overcrowding. Workers are admonished to exercise discretion, use restraint, and practice birth control. On the surface it might appear to the unsophisticated and naive that the ruling class and their spokesmen are prompted by genuine compassion. Socialists, however, have learned to regard philanthropy, charity and advice with a jaundiced eye and to seek economic reasons when they receive ruling class counseling. 

Let us examine the facts, and trace the origins of the "over­population" bugaboo. In 1798 the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, a professed English economist and member of the holy orders, published anonymously the first edition of "An Essay on the Principle of Population," with subsequent additions which finally became a book, the sixth edition of which was published in 1826. His thesis was based upon the premise that population tends to outrun the growth of production; that it develops, if unchecked, in a geometrical progression whilst the means of subsistence increases only in arithmetical progression. These two different ratios result in a condition of overpopulation, and consequently the quest for social happiness must forever be elusive because population will always tend to exceed the capacity to sustain it. He maintained that food supplies, although they could be increased by various methods, would nevertheless always fall behind population increases, which could double in comparatively short periods of time. He viewed contraception as a "vice", accepted the "misery" of the workers as inevitable, approved of workhouses for the poor, as long as they were reasonably uncomfortable and provided a hard existence for the occupants, and favored late marriage and "moral restraint". And he regarded wars, famines, disease and plagues as a divine balance in the scheme of things. 

It can easily be recognized that such an approach would have, and still does have, an overpowering appeal for the capitalist class. The blame is placed fairly and squarely on the poor for their own misery—the starved and destitute are responsible for their own starvation and destitution. They have taken the word of the Good Lord literally—they have gone forth and multiplied, but excessively! In addition these topsy-turvy notions provide a justification and excuse for war and other atrocities. After all, if our problems are caused by being overburdened with millions and millions of people, and if this overpopulation produces premature death and disease—war, famine and human destruction should be accepted as inescapable and unfortunate cures. This pernicious, anti-working class doctrine is accepted by some—incredulous as it may seem. 

In the summer of 1976 I was aboard a freighter heading for South Africa. I became involved with two of my fellow passengers on the subject of "overpopulation". Sam was a farmer from Ohio, and was blaming many of the current social problems on overpopulation, and Marc was a youngster of 18 who was agreeing with Sam in his moronic and morbid presentations. Finally, Sam made the statement that because of the tremendous problem of overpopulation, although it was regrettable to say, possibly Hitler's massacre of six million Jews was not such a tragedy after all. Poor Marc, who not only was Jewish but was fervently nationalistic towards Israel, became deathly white and looked as if he was ready to pass out. He wasn't getting seasick but he sure was sick of Sam! I chided him gently, but firmly, "You see, Marc, where this type of thinking must eventually take you." He understood, and I know that he will never forget the lesson or forgive his shipmate. 

The Malthusian theory of overpopulation represented a welcome change inasmuch as it diverted the attention of the workers away from the true cause of their problems, capitalism, shifting the blame from an economic base to a biological and sexual one. It is always a necessity for the ruling class of any era to find a scapegoat, and" overpopulation" can be just as useful as racism, opposing nationalities, or "indolent" workers. Different times are conducive to different lies—just so long as the truth of how capitalism really functions is never discovered! 

We readily admit that should human beings increase geo­metrically and indefinitely, a time would arrive when the food supply would be unable to sustain a population that had grown to numerical infinity. But this is an unacceptable, completely false hypothesis. There are no biological or natural laws that explain population growths. History will show that increases in population have not taken place with any formula of mathematical progression but, on the contrary, have varied from time to time, and the fluctuations are related to social, economic and material conditions. Population growths, therefore, cannot be regarded in a vacuum as a separate entity, operating automatically, independent of the dynamics of society. 

Malthus also does not take into account the human factor of the ability of man to use science, technology, and his own energies and ingenuity to master all his production and distribution challenges, whatever they might be. In addition when Malthus refers to "moral restraints" he concedes by implication that human beings can control their birth rate, and that the size of a family can become an elective choice of the individual, under certain given conditions, due to the existence of modern birth control techniques. This has been amply demonstrated in many countries during recent years when birth rates have dropped through the extensive use of artificial prevention. Of course birth control has been used as another red herring when it focuses attention on population as a cause unto itself, and ignores the limitations and restrictions that are inherent within capitalism, and result in food supplies being determined and conditioned by a market economy. If socialism would have been researched by the workers with as much diligence as has been displayed in the pursuit and relentless quest for new and improved birth control methods our movement would have greatly benefited. 

Incidentally, many of the comparatively recent innovations in birth control, whilst affording the manufacturers substantial profits, have proved to be injurious to health and have produced side effects that are undesirable and which can ominously threaten our future well-being. 

The term "overpopulation" in itself has no meaning or social significance unless it is related to specific conditions and has an applicable framework of reference. Countries are not over­-populated in relationship to land mass, but modern industrial cities have concentrations that are completely disproportionate to other areas. In 1975 the United States had an estimated 213 million, and more than 3 out of every 4 lived in cities or suburbs, which occupied only 1.5 per cent of the land.

As far as food supplies are concerned, there is no over-­population problem relative to society's capacity for producing an overabundance either today, or within the foreseeable future. The resources of the earth have never been fully utilized and it has been established that of the approximate 50 per cent of the globe's soil which can be cultivated only 10 per cent is being used. According to the United States Department of Agriculture there are about 25 million square miles of agricultural exploitable land, which means approximately 16 billion acres that could be cultivated. On this basis, with a present world population of approximately 4 billion, there would be available today about 4 acres per person. There are many large areas in Africa, South America and Australia that are still virgin lands awaiting development that possess the potential for sustaining millions.'

The sea represents an untapped larder rich in minerals and vegetables. It is a veritable treasure house of food supply and energy which can also be used as an additional means of irrigation through the conversion of sea water. Many modern ships today have their own distilling equipment which converts sea water to completely pure distilled water. 

The possibilities for potential food supplies are unlimited but even under the restricted and restrained economy of capitalism, producing not to satisfy human needs, but for a market and for profit, overabundance and overproduction have often been the problem and not the reverse. 

World grain production for the 1975-76 season was at a record high. United States wheat harvests achieved records. Wheat and rice production in China did likewise. The United States Food and Agricultural Organization in November, 1975 was about 2 to 3 per cent above 1974. Agriculture and food supplies are of course related to sources of energy and at present petroleum is a prime necessity for transportation. Recent newspaper articles in February, 1977, refer to an estimated 600 billion barrels of oil trapped in oil shale rocks in the Rocky Mountains awaiting development and equivalent to a 10-year supply of oil needs for the United States, and a disclosure that Mexican oil reserves top 60 billion barrels.

Apart from food, the working class have clearly demonstrated their unique ability to produce way in excess of what is needed for them to live on. The survival of the capitalist class should attest to the accuracy of this statement because they have been living on this surplus, in the lap of luxury, since the time of the Industrial Revolution. 

Poverty and deprivation are of course not caused by so-called "overpopulation", but on the contrary unhealthy and unwholesome conditions of poverty result most frequently in large families. Karl Marx aptly stated in Capital that "The size of the family is in reverse ratio to the height in wages." The miserable conditions produced by abject poverty give rise to overcrowding, lack of proper sanitation, and an apathetic attitude born of despair and hopelessness. Add to this a lack of proper education and malnutrition and human beings become incapable of properly organising their personal lives even on an elementary basis. The terrible poverty to be found in India, with millions living in the streets, is an example. If all these impoverished and destitute humans became childless and sterile overnight their misery would still endure, because they are propertyless, have no work, and have little or no access to food, clothing and shelter. To blame their condition, and the similar ·plight of millions of workers throughout the world, on "overpopulation", in a society capable of producing untold wealth and abundance, is to add a terrible insult to their social misfortunes. Even in countries where the populations are small relative to the large areas of land, such as Canada and Latin America, poverty and hunger are prevalent and conspicuous. 

There is, however, one outstanding feature common to all countries irrespective of their size and population. And that is the existence in each nation of a fortunate, privileged minority who never have to contend with problems of poverty or large families because they own and control the wealth of the world. They became rich through the efforts of the working class, and irrespective of their sexual or biological habits, and they will remain in this same economic position until their employees realize the true nature of the system that enslaves them. When this time arrives the age of scapegoats, red herrings and political baloney, no matter how it is sliced, will be at an end. And you can be certain that men and women who have finally obtained their emancipation and freedom, and have be come the common owners of the world's wealth, will also have the intelligence to control their numbers according to the desires and requirements of a socialist society. 
Samuel Leight

Paddington Branch Report. (1908)

From the June 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

Yes! we are still keeping the flag flying, surrounded though we may be with the cohorts of reaction. Their name is legion. No sooner does the I.L.P. get upon its thin and gnat-like legs, than a branch of the S.D.F. becomes a matter of immediate import.  A "Trades and Labour Council" follows as a matter of course, whilst upon its heels treads the Clarion Fellowship. We understand there are still some vacancies. The earnestness with which they deplore the "disruptive" tactics of the S.P.G.B. is only equalled by the eagerness they evince to establish further factions of what they call "our great and glorious movement." However, such is the environment in which we luxuriate.

There are, of course, the Tariff Reformers and the "Friends of Labour" but their activity seems more sporadic than that of the other capitalist parties just mentioned. We were successful recently in getting the Tariff Reformers to accept a challenge to a debate, but up to date cannot get a hall in which to hold it. One excellent hall we found, they averred was out of their district. True, we have had one generous offer, and that from the "Friends of Labour"—the Liberals—who mistook us for the S.D.F. We approached them for terms of hire of their own hall at Paddington. Back came their very "Liberal" offer. Could we have their hall in which to flatten out the Tariff Reformers? Certainly! have it and welcome. And the terms? Don't mention it; we'll give it you. And, what's more, we'll provide your chairman for you and do all the needful advertising.

There's generosity for you! When you want it laid on with a trowel apply to the Paddington Radical Club. Our reply was as follows:—
"For the first time, perhaps in your history, you are dealing with a Socialist party. We are as much opposed to the S.D.F. as we are to the Tariff Reformers, the Paddington Radical Club, or any other capitalist agency; and, further, we shall be happy to demonstrate the extent of our differences with you whenever you feel so graciously disposed as to accept the challenge we now formally tender.
"We, the Paddington Branch of the S.P.G.B., challenge you, the Paddington Radical Club, to debate "Socialism versus Liberalism" or 'Socialism versus Free Trade," or any similar proposition where the issue is perfectly clear.
"Regarding your offer to supply the hall, advertise the debate, and provide the chairman, it only appears to fail in one respect: you should have insisted also on providing our speaker for us. We can only conceive of a party entirely "destitute of political aptitude", such as the S.D.F., or a party in nothing but name, such as the I.L.P., giving the proposal serious consideration.
"Awaiting your early reply," etc.
W. T. Hopley.
The rest is silence.  

The Materialist Conception of History (1980)

A chapter from Samuel Leight's 1980 book, World Without Wages (Money, Poverty & War)

The socialist is politically opposed to the system in which he finds himself; this opposition arises from an analysis of capitalism, and the realization that socialism will solve the majority of the economic and social problems that exist today. We further claim that a policy of reformation will do nothing to alter the basis of capitalism, and therefore no major social evil can ever be removed by any reform or group of reforms.

Socialists attempt to survey the historic development of society, to ascertain how society has evolved, and to discover the prime causes that have been responsible for the changes that have taken place. It is indisputable that society has passed from one system to another, but the underlying dynamics for this is not initially obvious, and has been a matter for conjecture and controversy. The answer to this question is of paramount importance, because armed with the correct scientific approach to the historic development of mankind it is reasonable to suppose that this same method will enable us to properly examine the system under which we now live, and by so doing create first, the theoretical sound solution to current social problems, and second, the practical application of the theory.

The interpretation of history put forward by Karl Marx and supported by The World Socialist Party and its companion parties is referred to as The Materialist Conception Of History. The name itself implies that it is distinct from other approaches, and that there are contrary concepts.

The Materialist Conception Of History asserts as its fundamental proposition that it is the economic basis of any society, and the way in which production and distribution of wealth is organized, that is the main determining factor of the social structure of society, and the foundation on which the outlooks, ideas, conduct, social relationships, legal and political structures rest. Further, that these conditions are never static, but are continuously in the process of change and development; that they constitute the main element of historic change, and are the predominate dynamic influence responsible for social evolution. This social evolution has been reflected in different systems of society with different economic basis that have evolved one from the other.

Since the advent of private property history has been a record of class struggles, and the control of the state machine has always been of prime importance to the ruling class of any era. Man acts within his environment and is conditioned accordingly. He affects and makes history but only within the scope of the material conditions in which he lives. There is, therefore, an interplay between man and his surrounding material conditions that react one upon the other and out of which change and development occur. The Materialist Conception Of History does not preclude other influences upon historical development, such as geographical and climatic conditions, or, for example, traditional social hangovers from the past, but the economic factor constitutes the main determining and dominating condition—the way people associate together in order to produce a livelihood.

We can now compare this materialist approach to history with other concepts and recognize the fundamental differences.

The socialist discards the "Great Man Theory", although we have already acknowledged that man plays an active part in reacting to his existing circumstances. But to view history as the record of the deeds of so-called great men, leaders, kings, and emperors is to ignore the fact that these historic figures were the result of the prevailing material conditions and not vice versa. Such an approach perverts historic truth, but nevertheless is taught openly, or implied covertly within the educational system, affording the ruling class with a technique for preserving their power position, by encouraging nationalistic and patriotic ideas, and propagandizing youth to accept misconceptions of leadership, and the glorification of war with its legalized violence.

To the extent that one considers Divine Providence and God's will as the determining factor of historic development we find ourselves in the realm of mental fantasy, becoming divorced from reality. A true working class materialist approach to the world is sabotaged and never given an opportunity to mature.

While the Materialist Conception accepts the influence of ideas upon history we at the same time relate the ideas to the material conditions from which they have developed. Ideas themselves are the result of the action of the brain, which is the phenomena of thinking matter. These ideas originate from their material surroundings and are the mental products resulting from an evolving society. The universe exists apart from man's consciousness, and ideas as we understand them have only existed since the advent of man, through the function of his brain. The materialist approach recognizes that man's awareness of the universe is registered through his thinking faculties, but that the totality of things existed before man, and that man is a comparative recent arrival upon the scene.

The socialist rejects all metaphysical and supernatural approaches, and regards astrology, associated outlooks, and predictions as having no scientific value or supportable proof.

Members of the working class should discard in their entirety these false approaches to history, because not only do they do an injustice to intelligence, but they create yet another intellectual barrier to the comprehension of the socialist case.

It is unreasonable to presume that capitalism represents the final cycle in social development. We contend that socialism is the next logical progression and that capitalism has long age fulfilled its historic purpose and has outlived its usefulness. Man has journeyed through changing and different systems of society. To contend that he has reached the pinnacle of economic development with a system that has produced poverty amidst plenty, and economic insecurity along with production techniques that have virtually unlimited potential capacities, is to close one's mind to the future and to ignore the historic facts of the past. Society has never been static, it is always on the move, forever changing; every past system has evolved into another. The advent of socialism, for the first time in history, will mark the conscious social and political effort of a majority establishing a new system of society, and being at the same time fully aware of the meaning, implications, and social justifications for this revolutionary act. The social consciousness of man will have arrived, somewhat belatedly, at a new, inspiring plateau.

Regressing to trace man's progress through organized society, we find a period wherein he lived in tribal groups, referred to as primitive communism. Everyone within the tribe had the right of access to whatever was owned by the tribe. In good times their simple needs were satisfied, and in periods of shortages there was hardship. Man lived by picking his food from the trees and vegetation, and by the killing of wild animals. Initially his tools were simple in construction. Fire was discovered, stone clubs and spears fashioned, the bow and arrow invented, and polished stone instruments were made. The art of pottery was developed, the taming and herding of animals, together with the use of bronze, and primitive agriculture and the cultivation of crops. Then, with the discovery of the process of smelting iron and the making of iron tools, together with the advances made in agriculture, man began producing in excess of the needs of the tribe. Private property made its appearance; with this there came a need for protection, and the authority of government.

A new society was developing which took the form of warrior chiefdoms that covered vast areas of the world, and which comprised the patriarchal warrior chief and the clansmen who owed allegiance to him. The main mode of production was agricultural. Chattel slave empires developed in Egypt, Babylon, Greece, and Rome. The economy was mainly agricultural, with some trading; the slaves formed an economic basis in society and were owned outright by their masters. The city-state came into being and was an instrument of power used by the ruling class, and these states later grew into empires.

From this society feudalism evolved. Manorial estates were established; instead of the warrior chief there was the lord of the manor, with serfs who were tied to the land, but unlike the chattel slaves were not physically owned by their master. The serfs tilled a small portion of the land for themselves for a part of the week, and the balance of the week worked for the lord on his estates. All their rights were subordinate to the feudal lord. Within this feudal system merchant capitalism began to grow and small home manufacturing was started. Steam was utilized, harnessed to tools, and production was revolutionized.

With colonial expansion, commerce and trade prospered and feudalism, with its aristocracy, came into conflict with the new emerging capitalist class. The Industrial Revolution of 1760 in England, in France in 1789, brought with it large scale manufacturing based upon wage labor, and the production of commodities for sale and profit in the market place. The handicraft, and the mode of individual production under feudalism, had undergone a transformation to social production based upon wage labor, with the private ownership of the means of production and distribution by a minority of the population—the new ruling class. Capitalism had arrived—and with it new forms of misery, inequality, and deprivation for the majority. To complete the picture, the 1917 Revolution in Russia marked the commencement of capitalism in the U.S.S.R. operated on a national basis through the state machine, with the so-called Communist Party in dictatorial control.

Socialists maintain that to properly understand the ideas of any period of social development it is essential to examine the economics of that era, and to realize that the prevailing ideas are co-related to the economic base.

With this approach as a political yardstick, and if it is understood that the capitalist system can only operate in the interests of the capitalist class, all overtures made by reformist and capitalist parties for continued support should be rejected. Social problems must be analyzed from a materialist standpoint and all promises made by so-called leaders regarded with profound skepticism. They function as agents representing the interests of the capitalist class—it can never be otherwise.

We have often been accused of possessing a cold approach towards humanity because of the connotation inaccurately applied to the term "materialism". But on the contrary, we state that in order to eliminate all the inhumanities of capitalism a materialist approach is mandatory. The application of materialism in the social sense means an investigation that leads unerringly to socialism as the logical next stage of man's organizational development.

Together with Karl Marx we say: "Our task is not only to understand the world but to change it!"

(This essay first appeared in 'World Without Wages (Money, Poverty and War!), a series of Tuscon Radio Broadcasts presented for the World Socialist Party of the United States by Samel Leight)
Samuel Leight

Action Replay: Women’s Football Team Earn Roar of Approval (2015)

The Action Replay Column from the August 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

England’s women’s football team, dubbed ‘Lionesses’ by the popular press, earned third place in the Women’s World Cup in Canada by overcoming Germany 1-0 with a penalty kick by Fara Williams in the 108th minute. The World Cup winners America defeated Japan in a 5-2 romp.

As the tournament progressed the team became better known with each performance as did the individual players. England’s first goal was scored by Fran Kirby who stopped playing football at 17 – she suffered depression after her mother’s death. Playing park football rekindled her love for the game. Karen Carney has also experienced depression and once had to be pulled from a car to attend training by Laura Basset the current centre half, then a team mate at Birmingham City.

Veteran midfielder Fara Williams became homeless as a teenager after being estranged from her family. She has spent years playing for England while living in hostels and on the streets. Extrovert striker Lianne Sanderson and former captain Casey Stoney (MBE) are two players who are role models in the gay community. Casey recently had twins with her partner Meg Harris.

The quality of the England team’s football has been mixed. But there has been very little diving, barely any dissent and no rolling around in fake agony which is commonplace in the men’s game – when Bassett was elbowed in the eye by a French player, she simply got up and played on.

Admiration for England’s male footballers is qualified by resentment of occasional boorish behaviour and massive wages. The women however are well behaved but relatively poorly paid. If they had won this competition their bonus would have been £35k each. Had the men won in Brazil last year they would have received £350k

Most female England players do reasonably well, considering they are subsidised by the men’s football.  They have a central contract with the English Football Association worth £20- £25k, plus club contracts that can reach £40,000. 

It appears that the shared experiences and the obvious empathy of England’s ‘Lionesses’ create a sense of wellbeing in the team squad. In contrast the macho approach in male football – not talking about their problems and seeking resolution in alcohol is a poor substitute for the openness in women’s football.

The withering away of the State: From Marx to Stalin (1946)

From the March 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists from Marx and Engels onwards have always held that with the establishment of Socialism the State will disappear. The State, which exists where society is divided into an owning class and a propertyless class, and is a coercive institution through control of which the dominant class imposes its will on the subject class, would lose its function when society ceases to be divided into classes. The Marxian view was put by F. Engels in his "Socialism, Utopian and Scientific":—
"The first act by virtue of which the State really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society—the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society—this is, ay the same time, its last independent act as a State. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The State is not 'abolished.' It dies out."
—Sonnenschein edition, 1892, p. 76.
(The phrase "dies out" has sometimes been translated "withers away.")

Claiming to be Marxists the Communists have repeatedly tried to explain away the continued existence of the coercive State in Russia, long after the alleged establishment of "Socialism," when, according to the theory, it ought to have withered away. Before dealing with these "explanations," it may be useful to point out that Socialists are in such quandary. Socialism (which, of course, will be international—"Socialism in one country" in the midst of a capitalist world is a myth) will see the withering away of the State. Russia is not Socialist are therefore no Socialist imagines that the State could wither away there.

The earlier Communist line was to claim that the Russian State was withering away. Thus the Communist "Labour Monthly" (Sept., 1931) wrote:—
"There are, in fact, in the Soviet Union to-day . . . elements of this 'withering away' already perceptible . . ."
Some six months later Molotov, Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, admitted that the class struggle in Russia had not ended, and of course the existence of a class struggle means that the State must still exist. He said:—
"Not only does the class struggle not end, but in some sections and at some periods it may and will become considerably sharpened."
Labour Monthly, April, 1932.
The Labour Monthly went on to summarise Molotov's further observations. "The Thesis also considers the question of the 'withering away' of the State, but points out that while the establishment of the proletariat dictatorship has already transformed the State into a semi-State, the conditions of internal and external class-struggle demand a strengthening of the State in the immediate future . . ."

Now comes the last chapter of this tortuous attempt to explain away an inconvenient truth. Having said that the State is withering away, then that it is not a State but a semi-State (whatever that means), and that it was getting stronger before it could get weaker, we are now told that the whole theory has been thrown overboard.

The Times correspondent in Moscow sent to his paper (1 Feb, 1946) a report of a speech made at a Lenin Memorial meeting by Aleksandrov, chief of the propaganda department of the Russian Communist Party. Referring to the Stalinist theory of "Socialism in one country." he said:—
"There were two aspects of this policy. There were internal obstacles to be swept away and dangers from aboard to be met. To-day there was no force within the Soviet Union capable of preventing the further development of Socialism and its gradual transition to Communism. Vigilance against attack from without had necessitated the rejection of the Marxist theory of the withering away of the State, based on the assumption of international Socialism, and the adoption of the Stalin theory of building a strong State with a powerful army and its own military science capable of winning in war and of achieving the military and diplomatic consolidation of victory."
It will be noticed that whereas in the earlier explanation the State was said to be necessary in Russia because of the internal class struggle, the reason now given is vigilance against attack from without.

In conclusion, it is interesting to see that the Marxian view of the State as essentially a coercive institution is shared, though from an opposite angle, by Mr. Winston Churchill. General Spears, in the Sunday Express (28 Jan. 1945) quoted Mr. Churchill as saying: "You cannot have a State without some sort of a national army."
Edgar Hardcastle