Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Red Revolutionists (1914)

From the January 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

They have got a "Socialist" Government in power at the local Parliament down Thornton Heath way. The Prime Minister is a Mr. E. S. Evans of the I.L.P. This gentleman at the last General Election spoke for the Liberal candidate, as no Labour man was running. This, as will be readily guessed, supplies the key to the position. It might be expected that the King's Speech, as presented by such a government as would be scraped together by a Socialist (!) of this type, would be in no vital principle different from one that King George himself, with Queen Mary at his elbow to keep him from losing himself in the abstract speculation as to what the contents of the ink-bottle would taste like, might draft if the business had not been taken out of his hands.

The "revolutionary" Cabinet state in their "King's Speech" that: "Widespread dissatisfaction with the working of the Insurance Act serves to show that philanthropic intentions are of less value than the careful application of scientific knowledge." Great Scot! Liberal legislation based on "philanthropic intentions"! This is what blindness to the class struggle brings one to. When the Liberals apply with quite uncanny care, more scientific knowledge than there is room for in the fat heads of these I.L.P. wights, to the task of giving the workers 4d. for 9d., the latter think they meant to give 9d. for 4d., and say that they have failed because their "hearts" were better than their "heads."

Is it out of the plenitude of their I.L.P. experience, though, that they assert that the "funds at the disposal of political organisations are a prolific source of corruption"?

Nothing more revolutionary than "nationalised production of armaments" is even hinted at in the speech and it might have been quite epoch marking in its way. The Secretary for Home Affairs, Scotland and Ireland is a Mr. T. Irving, who left the I.L.P. because it wasn't revolutionary enough. This gentleman ran for the local Council last November, and a leaflet he issued then bore the proposal that, inserted in the Speech, would have made the walls of capitalism quake. It is "Grow your own vegetables."
A. E. Jacomb

A Message for Aldermaston Marchers (1963)

Editorial from the April 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

This might be your last Aldermaston. The March has lost its impact and become an "Easter habit." These marches were originally organised in the belief that with mass support you would be able to force the British Government to renounce nuclear weapons. You have had the support. You have engaged in all types of activity on a vast scale. You have captured the energy and enthusiasm of tens of thousands; you have distributed leaflets and pamphlets by the million. And yet you have failed.

The past six years has seen the development and stockpiling of all types of nuclear weapons in this and other countries. Polaris submarines (and no doubt their Russian counterparts) keep their patrols day in and day out. Bombers with their loads are on round-the-clock alert. The neutron bomb—"the ultimate weapon"—is on the point of production. In fact, nuclear-wise the world is "hotter" today than ever before. Russia, alike with the other capitalist powers in her concern for expansion and supremacy, proudly tells of her multi-megaton explosions. The British Government defence estimates of £1,838 million will be passed by Parliament without any real opposition. The United States armaments bill this year will be about £19,000 million.

Your protests, both constitutional and direct action, have had no effect on the Government. The Labour Party, like the Conservatives, are committed to nuclear weapons. Your own leaders have spoken evasively and you have found yourselves wavering.

In the knowledge that you have not "banned the bomb," many of you have widened your interest, and nuclear disarmers are brought more and more into other forms of protest. You have protested about housing, about poverty and hunger, in the hope that you may be more successful in these fields than with the Bomb. But you will not succeed, and your continued disappointments are leading to apathy and disillusionment. Before this happens to you, why not face certain facts about which there can be no dispute.

We live in a world if private property relationships—where the minority have and the millions have not. A world ruled by buying and selling with profit as the driving force. Competition and tension dominate our lives. Men compete for jobs and capitalists compete for trade. Exports are a "must" for every country, and the big fish eat the small ones. Today America and Russia face each other, armed to the teeth, both proclaiming their desire for peace and the need to preserve their "way of life." But "peace" and "preservation" lead to the brink of war as in the recent Cuban crisis.

War solves nothing. You say that you are not in favour of war, yet you support the very system that gives rise to it. Your main concern is that war should be "humanised." For you it is war with nuclear weapons that is immoral and suicidal.  We can understand your desire to abolish these weapons, but the position you take is inconsistent and unrealistic. Socialists are opposed to war in all its forms. But first and foremost we are opposed to the capitalist system which gives rise to war among other social problems. You are concerned with removing evils in isolation. This cannot be done. Policies of social reform over decades have not fundamentally altered the class basis of society; poverty, unemployment and insecurity are still with us..

Many of you, supporters of the Labour Party, will be in a difficult position at the next General Election. Your loyalty will be tested to the point that you will vote Labour in order to keep the Tories out. You hope that a Labour Government will be more likely to renounce nuclear weapons, a hope that has no justification, for the Labour Party is committed to protecting British capitalism. And to do this, they will ask you to fight with all the monstrous weapons of modern technology.

Have you ever thought that Socialism might be the answer? Not nationalisation, or some vague talk of public ownership but a world based upon common ownership of the means of wealth production. A world where men will co-operate to serve the interests of all. Not production for buying and selling and killing, but to serve people's needs—for use, not for profit. Socialism will be world-wide and means the abolition of classes. The Socialist Party of Great Britain and its companion Parties in other countries work to this end. It is the only solution to war and the other major social problems.

A pipe dream you may say. But only so long as you and millions like you are prepared to waste your time dealing with the effects of capitalism instead of removing the causes. The Socialist Party offers you no easy way out. Socialism will not come about by marches, sit-downs, or days of prayer. Socialism requires the understanding of men and women. It is not a blind faith, but a conviction based on knowledge.

The choice is in your hands. Either the present type of world continues with its threats of war, unemployment and poverty, or you get down to the job of building the only desirable alternative that will be in harmony with social development. The real choice before mankind is Socialism or Capitalism. Where do you stand?

An Important Event (1930)

From the December 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

Formation of the Workers' Socialist Party, (U.S.A.)

Ten months ago we announced that our comrades in the Socialist Educational Society of America had launched a monthly paper, "The Socialist." After a short but useful life, publication of the new journal had to be suspended owing to the aggravated unemployment which hit the U.S.A. The promoters of the paper found their own pockets less able to meet the expense of publication because many of them were out of work, and the audiences at street corner meetings were in a similar plight, and could not buy the paper, or give so generously to collections. For the time being the American organisation has to manage without a journal, but this has not prevented the carrying on of meetings and educational activities, and we are pleased to chronicle the founding of the "Workers' Socialist Party of the United States," on September 8th.

Like ourselves, the members of the American Party are asked why they are adding to the number of Socialist parties. Is America not already blessed with a multiplicity of so-called Labour, Farmer, Socialist, and Communist parties? Why start another? Why increase the confusion? The answer is the one given by the S.P.G.B. in this country; there is no way of challenging and destroying the confused theories and spurious programmes of the parties which promise to reform capitalism except by building up from the ground an organisation of Socialists working only for Socialism.

It will, perhaps, sound odd to justify the new party in America by referring to something outside America, but it will, nevertheless, be found true on examination that the condition of the working class in Great Britain is proof enough of the need for the Workers' Socialist Party in the U.S.A. In Great Britain we have the counterpart of all of the reform parties of the U.S.A., but with a difference. Here they have been more successful, and one of them, the Labour Party, has twice formed the Government, and before that was represented in Coalition Cabinets. In this country, a very large part of the reform legislation demanded by bodies such as the "Socialist Party of America," which is the American equivalent of the I.L.P., has been put on the Statute Book. But to what effect? Every year that passes, despite its certain crop of new reforms, shows the working class rather worse off than before in relation to the wealth and power of the capitalist class. Every year shows more clearly the need for a Socialist Party striving for Socialism, and the uselessness of all of the parties of reform. Reform of capitalism through Communist violence is no better than reform through the Fabian "inevitability of gradualness." Only the Socialist Party has consistently pointed to the one sure road. After our years of effort it is, then, encouraging to see comrades taking up the task for themselves in other countries. Like the Socialist Party of Australia, the Workers' Socialist Party of the United States is based upon our Declaration of Principles, with only the minor alterations required because of the different terminology of the institutions of that country.

We offer our congratulations and good wishes to our companion parties.

Darkness at Noon (1969)

Book Review from the February 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Great Terror by Robert Conquest, Macmillan, 84s.

Robert Conquest is no friend of Russia and that fact alone will probably be enough for most supporters of the Russian regime to discredit his account of Stalin's purges. 

The one unfortunate fact, for the  tireless Russophiles, is that Conquest's stuff is carefully documented, with even its trivia with testimony. And what is perhaps the most terrifying part of the book ― "casualty figures" of the purges ― computed in part from Russian government population statistics.

It is arguable, whether most of the book was needed. There is little to be  gained from yet another account of the Kirov murder, the trial of Kamenev and Zinoviev, the pitiless system of arrest, interrogation, execution or slow, living death in the labour camps. Most of it has been done, somewhere or other, before.

The casualty figures are another matter. There are of course no official details to go on; it must all be done by combining the evidence of participants ― some of them NKVD officers ― with official statistics and matching it all up with the Census of 1959. Conquest's conclusion, which is staggering but difficult to argue against, is that, as an under-estimation, twenty million were killed ― by execution, in the “collectivisation drive", in  the  camps ― under the Stalin state capitalist regime. 

The Nazis could hardly have improved on this. And for some of the time this wholesale murder was going on, we were told that the Russians were our gallant allies, contented under the solicitous care of Uncle Joe. Henry Wallace, who was then the American Vice-President, visited one of the worst camps in 1944. The place was specially tarted up and Wallace duly found it "idyllic".

This sort of story should make even the most obstinate Tory pause for thought. What happens to a man who fights for power over capitalism? The answer cannot be avoided and the last forty years have given evidence galore. He does the job as the system demands and on those terms everything ― murder, torture, everything ― is justified.

Between the Lines: Timewasters 1 & 2 (1992)

The Between the Lines Column from the January 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

Timewasters: I

This year will see another gang of Labour fakers doing the rounds of kissing babies and promising the moon. Those who recall the records of past Labour governments will be insulted by such appeals; those who do not will be massively disillusioned if they place faith in Kinnock and Co. to build the New Jerusalem (or even a few more council flats) for them.

Those who fall for Major's smooth-talking deception about the creation of a classless society will be no less betrayed. Michael Cockerell's four part Class Rule (BBC2, Tuesdays, 9.50 pm) was a series which made great use of the archives to show how since 1945, British governments have repeatedly appealed to workers on the basis that they would abolish class, and have consistently confined such hopes to the empty realm of rhetoric.

After the Second World War Attlee defeated Churchill on what seemed to be a genuine tide of working-class desire for a more equitable society. When Labour won Hartley Shawcross is supposed to have said that "We are masters now", and Ministry of Information propagandists were paid to make films about how Britain belonged to everyone. Of course, the harsh reality of who owned Britain intervened and the Attlee government ended up using troops to smash strikes and telling the wage slaves to accept austerity for the sake of economic success -  for their bosses. Attlee was voted out and there then followed the thirteen wasted Tory years during which the aristocratic slob Churchill was removed and Macmillan, born into inherited class parasitism, posed as being an ordinary chap. The Macmillan Tories appealed to the One Nation fraud that Britain belongs to us all.

Cockerell's programme (number two in the series) showed how the Tories used sociologists to tell them that they needed to win over the skilled, aspirant workers if they were to hold on to power. In the "never had it so good" fifties the Tories built council estates for "respectable" wage slaves who would be bribed into submissive contentment. Tory MP's adopted proley tones for broadcasts which sought to depict them as just one of the lads - like vicars talking at youth clubs or Maxwell addressing his ex-employees at the pension fund meeting. It was all a disgraceful fraud. Unlike Maxwell, who had the fortune to drown before he was caught out as a transparent crook, the Tory Ministers were caught while still in office, and after Profumo the "we're all in it together" rhetoric of One-Nation Tories had an altogether hollow ring to it. In a desperate bid for sympathy the Tories appointed an unelected Prime Minister called Alec Douglas Home who did not know that feudalism had ended.

Home's undisguised condescension towards the lower orders was exploited fully by the super-opportunist Harold Wilson, a Labourite con-man who got to power by telling lies about the hardship of his miserable northern youth. (In fact, the liar had been an economics don at Oxford before taking up major criminal fraud in Westminster).

It is easy to forget that Wilson won the 1964 election on an appeal to working-class sentiments of wanting to do away with the rule of chauffeur-driven Lords and rich men. Today Wilson is a rich Lord and so is the fraud who followed him, Jim Callaghan. These lying tricksters perpetrated every known Tory stunt in their bid to run British capitalism on behalf of the minority owning class - yet it is a fact (not reported by Cockerell) that when Wilson beat George Brown for the Labour leadership in 1963 he was sent a telegram by the Central Committee of the Communist Party stating that at last a genuine socialist had become Labour leader!

Another fact missed by Cockerell, in an otherwise well-made series, was that Major was not saying anything different from Thatcher when he made his hollow promise about creating a "classless Britain". Often forgotten by political observers is a radio interview given by Thatcher in 1985 in which she said:
"I want people to have the right to property, the right to occupational pensions, the right to shares; the right to be the same as everyone as everyone else because they have that independence. That is my dream . . . Like Karl Marx, I want to get totally rid of class distinctions."
(Quoted in The Times, 6 May 1985).
Under Thatcher the number of people living in official poverty more than doubled. Major's efforts will be no different from that of Thatcher or of Macmillan; and who but the most naive expects the future Lord Kinnock to be any different from Messrs Wilson and Callaghan? The lesson of the Cockerell series is that this century has been one of broken political promises and shattered working-class dreams of equality. It is time for a change.

Timewasters: II

But still the pseudo-socialists emit their poisonous ideological gas. On Question Time (BBC1, 5 December) a faceless, nameless (at least, I have forgotten) Labour MEP spewed out the same old Labour cliches about how they would re-organise capitalism. On the panel with her was Tony Benn, who thinks that it is still 1945 and that what Attlee said he was doing was true. The MEP looked at Benn like something you scrape off your shoe; he sneered at her undisguised Toryism. While Labour's soul was being fought for all whispers of a socialist revolution were strictly off the menu.

Not so the following night when Timewaster III, Anne Murphy, appeared as one of the guests on the appalling midnight Channel Four phone-in show, Ring My Bell. Murphy is a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain -  that's right, the one that folded its tents and agreed to die of shame. Murphy's crowd want to hang on to the ghost of the old Stalinist monster, and in so doing she did more harm to the case for socialism in her replies to callers than MI5 could wish to do unaided. Murphy told callers that "under" socialism workers would be paid more and that, while we might be "critical" of Ceausescu, he was the leader of a good socialist country. Murphy plans to stand against Ken Livingstone in the next General Election as a Revolutionary Communist. Perhaps the workers of Brent East can hold a competition to decide which of them comes from a more dishonorable, detestable and failed tradition.
Steve Coleman 

Cooking the Books: The Other Adam Smith (2015)

The Cooking the Books Column from the August 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘Socialist flat-earthers must wake up to reality,’ ran the headline in an article in the Times (11 June) by ex-Tory MP Matthew Parris, ‘Capitalism has conclusively won the day but Conservatives need to get over their reluctance to defend private profit.’ According to him, ‘free-market economics’ has been proved right compared with ‘socialist economics’ just as Darwin’s theory of evolution has when compared with creationism; so ‘socialist economics’ should be treated in the same way as creationism.

‘This century’s intellectual consensus should show Marxism the door. Whether strictly defined as public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, or more loosely as state direction of the “commanding heights” of the economy, socialism must be counted as definitively discredited.’

He’s talking about state-run capitalism of course, not genuine socialism. As a way of running capitalism it could be said to have failed (certainly failed to improve workers’ lives), though not to the extent that Parris suggests. The state is involved so much today in the running of capitalism, via taxes, subsidies, regulations, laws and economic policies, that to call the modern capitalist economy a ‘free-market’ is a misnomer. It’s a state-regulated production for profit market economy.

Basic to any form of capitalism is the pursuit of profit. This is what drives the economy, whether it is the private profit of private capitalist firms or the surplus of state-owned industries. Where, as in most countries currently, most industry is owned and operated by private enterprises, governments have to recognise that these enterprises have to be allowed to pursue profits. All governments have to be ‘business-friendly’ to avoid provoking an economic slowdown.  As Parris put it,
‘You cannot have free-market economics without the profit motive. You cannot have the profit motive without letting the pursuit of private profit weave itself intimately into the fabric of ordinary citizens' lives.’
He wants Adam Smith to be taught in schools in the same way Darwin is ‘as a scientist whose analysis is now the consensus amongst most thinking people.’ Smith certainly tried to analyse in a scientific way the market economy that operated in his day and he did correctly conclude that, under it, ‘it is only for the sake of profit that any man employs a capital in the support of industry’ and that:
‘The consideration of his own private profit is the sole motive which determines the owner of any capital to employ it either in agriculture, in manufactures, or in some particular branch of the wholesale or retail trade.’
There is no harm in teaching this scientifically-established fact in schools, irrespective of whether or not this is considered the best way to organise the production and distribution of wealth (which it isn’t but it’s what we’ve got). There are other things in Smith. He outlined a labour theory of value (Marx got the idea from him) and suggested that it was labour that added value to materials in the course of production and that this was the source of profits as well as wages. As he put it:
‘The value which the workmen add to the materials … resolves itself … into two parts, of which the one pays their wages, the other the profits of their employer …. He could have no interest to employ them unless he expected from the sale of their work something more than what was sufficient to replace his stock to him.’
Labour as the source of profits! This may explain the reluctance that Parris noted of supporters of capitalism to defend private profit as this would have to involve defending the exploitation of labour.