Sunday, September 20, 2015

Why The Light of Truth Should Be Extinguished. (1915)

From the December 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

There recently appeared a new weekly devoted to matters of interest to those who patronise the Cinema. Its title is "Film Flashes," and one of the plashes that illuminated its first number is reproduced below. It is worth noting as a manifestation of the class war: as one of the methods employed by the master class to suppress anything that would tend to enlighten the workers. The cutting follows.
We should regret to see exhibitors give much prominence to the new Metro picture, "The Bigger Man," recently exhibited at a trade show at the Shaftesbury Pavilion. "The Bigger Man" introduces the highly controversial subject of Capital and Labour, and shows a fight in progress between Strikers and Strike-breakers, which culminates in the appearance of a large body of troops under orders to fire on the mob. It is obvious at a time like this it would be very unwise, if not dangerous, to awaken thoughts of the old and bitter strife of past years, and we sincerely hope that Ruffells will reconsider their attitude in regard to the release of this picture. Many of the scenes, which are intended to contrast the great gulf existing between the master and man, are overdrawn and although these things may portray American labour life correctly enough, they are happily not true in regard to this country. (Italics mine.) 
Choice, isn't it?

In these days it is "very unwise, if not dangerous," to comment too freely upon the doings of our masters. (I believe it is considered treason even to whisper to your next-door neighbour that you always preferred Kiel butter to British waggon fat.) Else the writer would dearly like to quote from a few other sources, material is never wanting with which to confute the case for capitalism. Further that this the writer makes no comment, preferring to leave it to thinking readers to provide their own.
May Field

Edinburgh: Working Class Housing (1961)

From the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

How many boxes of shortbread have caught the customer's eye with a gaudy picture of Edinburgh Castle? And very nice, too: they would not sell much shortbread by showing Edinburgh's slums, although there are enough of them.

Yes, Edinburgh has a slum problem, just like any other great city. Panorama went there a few months back, showing up the damp and rotting houses around Arthur Street, where the workers pay rent to live with the rats and broken sewer pipes.

And like a lot of other places, Edinburgh also has dwellings which are not classified as slums, but which are not much better; it has its prefabs. These, as the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch said recently, are " . . . the relics of the immediate post-war housing crisis . . . " which are " . . . still with us, although when they were built they were intended to be only temporary makeshifts."

Are the prefabs likely to come down soon? The Edinburgh City Council Housing Committee has said that, because the process of removing them is long, and because alternative housing has to be promised for the tenants before the sites can be cleared and new dwellings erected, the prefabs will be with us for some time yet.

Let nobody be deceived that as the slums come down new housing is bound to take their place. Sometimes the land on which they were built has what is called a high site value. In narrow Kirkgate and the surrounding streets a lot of tenements, some of which have been standing for a century or more, have been demolished. No new houses have gone up on the site; instead, a whiskey bond store is being built there and Woolworths are putting up another of their red and gold shops.

What is to the point in all this is that the working class, although they build the beautiful mansions and palaces, can only afford to live in the slum, or the prefab, or the council house, or the little semi-detached. And why is this? Simply because the workers have only one method of getting their living by selling their energies and skills to the capitalist class. These workers own little more than their ability to work. The great cities of Scotland are not theirs, nor are the Lochs and Highlands which they sing about. Sad Irish lads may dream of the Lakes of Killarney, but they are owned by an American capitalist, just as the song said they never could be. Proud Cockneys own nothing of London Town. The working class of the world, in fact, own no country, no city, no land—most of them do not even own the place where they live.

No use to approach that problem with just another slum clearance scheme. It needs a world in which society's first concern is for the security and happiness of the human race. 

The prefabs were supposed to be temporary, but they have been temporary too long. In a way, that applies to capitalism as well.
David Lamond.

Overlords and underlings (1999)

From the November 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard
What an extraordinary notion it is that so many members of the human race should be forced to remain on that small section of the earth's surface in which they happened to be born. Who gave the world's rulers the right to tell us which bit of land we should live on?
When journalists write on "the great issues of the day" for the capitalist newspapers, they often seem to have turned their brains off. A lot of noise has been made recently about "foreigners" arriving in Britain, for example on the Kent coast. They aren't really genuine refugees, the cry goes up, only "bogus ones", who have the nerve to try to cross the capitalist-ordained boundaries to make themselves a little better off. The press, radio, and television are full of the protests. Yet all those making such a noise are living here in Britain, the country where industrial capitalism first came to prominence, and which therefore grabbed a vast Empire in all parts of the world—amounting at its height to a quarter of the entire surface of the globe, and to a quarter of the globe's population.
In every continent the British were found, running this enormous Empire for the benefit of the British ruling class-in Asia, in Africa, in America, in Australasia, and even here in Europe. Yet without turning a hair, British politicians and journalists are now trumpeting the idea that everyone should stay at home. Isn't it a bit late in the day for the champions of British capitalism to attack what they have been supporting for the last three hundred years?
It's worth mentioning, too, that when British capitalism sent its soldiers and settlers abroad, they went as conquerors, subduing and ruling over the native populations which had the misfortune to be living in the countries which Britain subjugated. Sometimes, indeed, they not only subdued the original inhabitants, they literally exterminated them. For example, the people who lived in Tasmania when the British arrived to settle there were all wiped out, the last ones in the middle of the nineteenth century.
In contrast, the immigrants who now try to settle in Britain come at the bottom of the social scale, taking the worst houses, accepting the worst conditions. Yet many publicists cannot contain their indignation that they should try to come here at all. It is strange that these propagandists can accept the British ruling class sending its emissaries to annex and govern dozens of foreign countries, yet cannot accept these deferential incomers, coming here merely in the hope of securing the worst-paid jobs.
Conflicts within the ruling class
Like all the other great political questions of which the papers and the airwaves are full, this one is being debated within the ruling class. For no ruling class is ever completely unanimous. It is painfully obvious that the ruling class of each particular state has interests which conflict with those of every other state's ruling class, and that every so often these conflicts ripen into open warfare, in which the rest of us are kindly allowed—indeed forced if we are reluctant—to rush forward loyally and kill the workers (and their families) who support some other state's ruling class. But capitalism also creates conflicts within each ruling class; no two capitalists have interests which are exactly the same.

The question of immigration, for example, causes disputes within the British ruling class. Some property owners want to establish the principle that when a particular industry or trade is short of workers, its owners have the right to bring in workers from any other country, and thus help to counteract the danger of having to raise wages and salaries. Other capitalists apparently feel that the native British working class should not be diluted. After all, our rulers pay for an education system, and a vast media industry, both of which work their socks off to produce a population fiercely loyal to the British ruling class, and which will therefore support its masters to the hilt whether in peace or war. So some members of the capitalist class feel it would be a mistake to let in too many workers from other countries, who have not been conditioned for years by British patriotic propaganda, and which therefore—perish the thought—might not be one hundred percent devoted to the British ruling class.
As a result journalists and publicists charge into the fray to support whatever view is held by the capitalists who pay them—some to attack immigration, some to defend it. Like all other issues, this one will be decided by whichever opinion finally wins the greatest support among the members of the ruling class.
This is not to say that the way these big "issues of the day" are resolved will have no effect on any member of the working class. Capitalism inevitably involves continuous tinkering with the system, as this or that group of capitalists force through changes which they think will benefit them. And some of these changes do affect the position of the working class, or of some sections of it. If a more liberal view is taken of immigration, it could be that some of the immigrants will be prepared to work for lower wages, and thus exert a depressing influence on wage levels. In the nineteenth century, capitalists in Britain welcomed many thousands of Irish immigrants, in the belief that they would keep wages down.
So some English or Scottish workers may have felt that their pay was less than it might have been, without the competition from these Irish newcomers. From this point of view, then, immigration might be a minus for British workers. On the other hand, the arrival of people from other countries, who have not been brainwashed from birth with notions that the British are clearly superior to all other peoples, may make it harder for chauvinists to whip up anti-foreign feeling in wartime. So from this point of view, immigration might count as a plus for the British working class.
Nationalist feeling
Some members of the capitalist class take advantage of any "foreign" immigration to whip up nationalist feeling, which is always valuable to the ruling class in its struggles (in peace or war) with the ruling class of other countries. Without the constant propaganda against "foreigners", where would "nationalist" feeling come from? Such feelings are not inborn. Small children are not hostile to other children with different-coloured skin, any more than they are to those with different-coloured hair, or different-coloured shoes. Why should they be? No two human beings are identical. If each individual member of the human race could not get on with other people despite their differences, then there would be no human society at all. Nationalist feelings arise because of the incessant propaganda of the ruling class in each country to persuade the working majority that they are in some way essentially different from and superior to everyone from other countries. Without this propaganda, each country's government would find it very difficult to get its people to join up and fight in its unavoidable wars with foreign states.

What an extraordinary notion it is that so many members of the human race should be forced to remain on that small section of the earth's surface in which they happened to be born. Who gave the world's rulers the right to tell us which bit of land we should live on? These restrictions apply chiefly, of course, to members of the working class. Members of the capitalist class don't stay put. They travel freely round the world, from London to Paris, from grouse moor to ski slope, from Caribbean island to Mediterranean cruise, from the chateau in Switzerland to the ranch in Arizona. And no-one dreams of telling them that they can't. Like many laws enacted by the ruling class, restrictions on the crossing of borders really only hit at members of the working class. The apologists for capitalism who try to foment ill-feeling towards "foreigners" landing here, whether they come to escape persecution, or to obtain slightly higher wages, never attack those many members of the upper class, including many newspaper proprietors, who swan about the world as if there were no such thing as state boundaries. But then, in a capitalist society, you can't really expect the rulers and the ruled to be judged by the same yardstick, can you?
Alwyn Edgar

Frederick Engels in Manchester: His Relations with Marx (1933)

Letter to the Editor from the March 14, 1933, issue of The Manchester Guardian

To the Editor of the Manchester Guardian.

Sir, - The note on "Links with Engels" in your issue of March 11 concludes with the observation that "Oddly enough, neither the directories of the time nor the accessible biographies tell us where Engels lived  . . . Here is a problem for some local historian." May I inform your readers that Engels lived at two addresses during his stay in Manchester; first in Tennant Street, then at 86, Mornington Street, Stockport Road?

What the local historian is needed for is something more important. An effort ought to be made to trace the activities of Frederick Engels during his stay in Manchester.

He came here in 1842 from Barmen, where he had been engaged in his father's mill. His transference to the Manchester business, which was under the name of Ermen and Engels (later Ermen and Roby), brought him in touch with the appalling factory conditions and roused him to write his famous book on the question. He contributed to Bronterre O'Brien's "The Northern Star" and Robert Owen's "New Moral World." This before he had seen, met, or corresponded with Karl Marx. Socially he was a bit of a lion, riding to hounds, shooting (he was an expert shot) and participating in the "high" social life of the district.

He returned to Germany for a few years, and, after a series of political adventures in association with Marx, retuned to Manchester in 1850, residing here until 1870. He was a member of the Royal Exchange—that ought to help the "local" historian—and was a frequent contributor to the "Manchester Guardian." On foreign affairs, military matters, and later the volunteer movement, Engels was considered the most authoritative person in the North of England. His contributions to the "Pall Mall Gazette" were on occasion reprinted in the "Times." He was accepted as an expert on the rifle and artillery.

He was a welcome—and constant—visitor to Owens College, being very intimate with most members of the faculty, but particularly with Professor Schorlemmer, who in the late sixties acted as intermediary for the correspondence of Marx and Engels. Despite these activities little or nothing has been gleaned in Manchester about the life of Engels. He was responsible with Marx for the founding of the modern Labour movement. Surely these facts are sufficient to induce some student—or graduate—of Manchester University to undertake the research to disclose the immensity of Engels intellectual attainment.

A careful study of the works of both Marx and Engels convinces me that Engels was the greater genius. Marx time after time admitted this mental superiority. Engels could analyse a situation and come to a scientific conclusion with greater facility than Marx, who never came to a political decision without first consulting his friend. Marx's reference to Engels is appropriate. He said Engels "was a real walking encyclopædia, capable of work at any hour of the day or night, drunk or sober, swift with his pen, and alert as the devil." Though Engels could have been a success at press or literary work, he decided in the spring of 1854 to remain here in Manchester, in this "damned business," instead of undertaking other work in London. As we know, that decision was final.

A survey of Engels' work in Manchester will disclose that he was mainly responsible for brilliant articles written by Marx on foreign affairs and military matters. The shrewd speculations on diplomacy and politics, part of Marx's published works, germinated in the head of Engels. His encyclopædic knowledge was ever at the disposal of Marx. To study any subject Engels would not rely upon a translation. He would learn the language first. He was proficient in twenty languages, these including Russian, Arabic, Persian, Ancient Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Erse. His linguistic proficiency was much praised by some of the great Owens College professors.

When he became partner in his father's firm, he allowed Marx 350 per year, besides handing over much extra money for other purposes. After Marx's death he enlarged, revised, and prepared the third edition of "Das Kapital" for the issue, supervised the English translation undertaken by Aveling and Moore, and arranged the whole of the material for the second and third volumes. A careful study of these volumes proves that the work was that of Engels, not Marx. Before his death in 1895, Engels was revising the whole of the literary efforts of Marx. Unfortunately his illness in Eastbourne became serious and he returned to London to die. Having no issue he left the bulk of his fortune to Marx's children. It may seem curious to take so much credit from Marx, but these are undeniable facts.

Manchester has something to her credit of which she ought to be proud. If civic consciousness counts for anything, some Mancunian ought to begin research into the life of one of the finest men who ever honoured the city with their presence.
Moses Baritz.
2, Alford Road,
Heaton Chapel,
March 10.

Engels — his 20 years in Manchester (1934)

From the October 10th, 1934 issue of The Manchester Guardian

Frederick Engels, the friend and adviser of Karl Marx, lived in Manchester for more then twenty years. But historians, in this country at any rate, have paid little attention to the details of his stay, and some facts which have recently come to light may be worth publishing.

Engels first came to Manchester in 1842. He then held the radical views which later developed into the Socialist theoretical position. He had direct association with the working-class movement and was familiar with the Chartist leaders. He was friendly with Fergus O'Connor and George Julian Harney.

Engels's first known article was "The Progress of Social Reform," which occupied the front page of the "New Moral World." On December 27, 1842, an able analysis of the Corn Laws appeared in the "Neue Rheinische Zeitung." This was followed by his first work on economics, "Umrisse zu einer Kritik der Nationalekonomie" (The Outlines of a Criticism of National Economy) printed in the "Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher," 1844. More important was the "Condition of the Working Class in England." These works, all written in Manchester, expressed the proletarian ideology, at that time time unknown to Marx.

Nevertheless, Engles gravitated to the bourgeois circles appropriate to his social status. He joined the Albert Club, them situated in Clifford Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, and became a friend of the brothers Ernst and Julius Delius, the latter father of the famous musician.

Engels left Manchester in 1844 for his home at Barmen, visiting Marx in Paris on the way. The next year he and Marx visited Manchester expressly to observe social conditions and stayed several weeks.

Returning to Manchester in 1850, Engels lived at first in Strangeways, at 70, Great Ducie Street; in May, 1852, the number was altered to 44, and in October to 40. About this time both he Marx were held suspect by the authorities, and had to evade the inquisitiveness of the police by correspondence through intermediaries—Marx asked Engels (October 28, 1852) to write to him "c/o A. Johnson. Esq., Bullion Office, Bank of England." Engels, a fortnight earlier, had asked Marx to address him "c/o Dr. J. W. Hudson, secretary of the Manchester Athenæum." Another intermediary was Karl Schorlemmer, Professor of Organic Chemistry at Owens College, to whom the calico printing and dyeing industries are greatly indebted. Engels in one of his letters describes how Schorlemmer openly upheld Marxism in the dining-room of the Faculty—the first eminent scientist to endorse the Marxian position.

Engels had during his first visit made the acquaintance of an Irish working girl, Mary Burns, who by her knowledge and experience of factory life gave impetus to his revolutionary fervour and induced him to investigate the history of the Irish people. Depressed at the social conditions of the workers in Manchester, he became sympathetic with the miserable situation of the Irish people.

Mary Burns impressed Engels, and the pair became attached to each other. When Engels settled down in Manchester in 1850 he provided for her, and later they lived as man and wife until her death in the first week of January, 1863.

Engels's sympathy for the Irish became active, and he gave some support to the Fenians in 1867, until Marx made him realise the foolishness of such conduct. Engels admitted it and, after the execution of the Manchester Martyrs, abandoned his previous attitude.

Engels left Strangeways with Mary in April, 1858, and lived at 6. Thorncliffe Grove, Oxford Road. Next, he, Mary, and her sister Lizzie took rooms at 252, Hyde Road, Gorton, next door but one to the gaol. After a return to Thorncliffe Grove they moved to Tennant Street. On September 2, 1864, he took up his final residence at 86, Mornington Street, Stockport Road.

Engels established a reputation as an authority on military strategy by the military articles contributed to the "New American Cyclopædia." He wrote a series of articles on the Volunteer movement for the "Lancashire and Cheshire Volunteer Journal," published by W. H. Smith and Son, and printed by the "Guardian" Steam Press. One of these created a stir in the United States, and was printed—in another form—in the New York "Tribune." The greatest impression was made by the publication of a pamphlet in February, 1860, with the title of "Where shall England rally her Volunteers?" Engels signed it "A General Officer."

The "Manchester Guardian" published several military articles by Engels. On February 16, 1864, there was a letter dealing with the disposition of the troops in Schleswig-Holstein. Later, during the Austro-Prussian conflict, a series of five articles was inserted in the "Manchester Guardian." They were headed "Notes on the War." They appeared on June 20,25,38, July 3 and 6. It is amusing to read the rehashing of these articles by the London periodicals.

Engels mentions that the "Manchester Guardian" paid him better than the "Pall Mall Gazette," for which also he wrote on military topics.

This was work done by Engels to provide Marx with funds and time to complete his "Capital." Engels denied himself many things in order to help Marx. During the years 1850-1883 Engels provided Marx with about £4,000, mostly after 1864.

A very interesting episode in the life of Engels in Manchester was his association with the Schiller-Anstalt. In November, 1859, Germans throughout the world celebrated the centenary of Schiller. In Manchester the festival was held at the Free Trade Hall on November 11. Though an artistic success the deficit was £150. This did not deter the German community, and it was resolved to form a Schiller-Anstalt. The organiser was Karl Siebel, a nephew of Engels, an admirable fellow and poet. Engels refused to participate, but attended the rehearsals of the theatrical troupe. The institution was started, the old Mechanics' Institute in Cooper Street being rented at £225 per annum, with a lease ending in June, 1867. Karl Siebel was the first president, a position he retained until 1864. Engels remained aloof because he objected to the rules and statutes but when these were altered joined the club.

On September 20, 1861, V. Stoessel, the librarian of the Schiller-Anstalt, addressed a note to Engels demanding the immediate return of a book to the library, and imposing a fine of £1 1s. 7d., with a proviso that if the book were not returned within 24 hours the fine would be increased to £2 1s. 6d. This enraged Engels, who wrote to the committee complaining of the tone of the librarian, observing that it was reminiscent of Prussian police tyranny, and that such a disgusting act would not be tolerated in the other club (the Albert), of which he was a member. An apology was demanded, but whether this was forthcoming is not known. To pacify Engels he was invited to address the members, an offer he indignantly declined.

However, on July 7, 1864, he was installed president, retaining the office for four years. During this period the institute prospered, and Engels saw to it that the library was improved. By the end of his tenure of office there were 4,000 volumes (some of which were in no other library except the British Museum), fifty-five german periodicals, and the principal English dailies. New premises being desirable, Engels addressed an appeal to the German citizens of Manchester asking for subscriptions for the erection of a new building at a cost of £11,500. In a few days £1,200 was subscribed, but little progress was recorded after that. The old lease expiring, new premises were decided upon in the All Saints' area. In the meantime the landlord of the premises in Cooper Street permitted an extension of the lease for one year at £450. A removal was made to Rylands House in Oxford Street, and finally the premises in Nelson Street were taken over on December 18, 1885, where the society remained until the dissolution in 1911. In 1866 there was a membership of 300, but this was doubled later on by affiliation of the Turnverein and the Liedertafel.

Until his departure from Manchester at the end of September, 1870, Engels remained on the committee and attended all its meetings. He severed his connection when he went to London, but retained his membership in the Albert Club. He was a member of the Committee of the Society for the Relief of Distressed Foreigners, and, what is more surprising, when the German community started a fund for the alleviation of distress created by the Franco-Prussian War Engels headed the list with the first subscription of £50.

He did not return again to Manchester. He forced a good price for the dissolution of his partnership in Ermen and Engels, enough for him to guarantee Marx 350 a year and to live independently himself for the remaining years of his life. He died on August 5, 1895, was cremated, and his ashes scattered at sea three miles from Eastbourne.
Moses Baritz