Sunday, January 31, 2016

Towards three million again (1993)

Editorial from the May 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

May Day 1993 and what is the main problem facing the organised Trade Union movement? Unemployment, job insecurity and their effect on wage levels. Just as it always has been on a regularly recurring basis.

Unemployment is now heading for 3 million again, as it did ten years ago. But this time we are not seeing marches and demonstrations demanding “the right to work”. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.

Most people know quite well that there is no such thing as a “right to work”, and so not much point in demanding it. If an employer can make a profit out of employing us (or thinks he can) then we can get a job. But if companies start making losses, they put us on short time or make us redundant, or even close down altogether. “Rights” don’t come into it for workers. The employers own the factory or the shop or the office. If they decide to close down, that is their right—the right of ownership.

Because we have no control over the work we do, most jobs are pretty unsatisfying, or even dirty or dangerous. It is not the work we want—it’s the money, the price our employers pay to hire us. Without money we can’t live. We can’t buy the things we need to keep ourselves and our families. Most people have to go to work to get money, whether they are shopfloor workers, office workers, teachers or managers. Some don’t have to—those who own the workplace. They live off the profits—unearned income.

The present economic system is based on capital being accumulated and invested for the purpose of making profits. Unemployment never falls to zero, but periodically it rises alarmingly. Slumps are inevitable and necessary every so often. Business booms until too much capital is chasing limited profit, and then collapses. Large firms make losses. Small firms go bankrupt. Governments are powerless to prevent it. Economists fail to explain it.

Economists are paid by governments to find cures for slumps—but they always fail. Just as governments always fail when they promise to cure poverty, bad housing, crime and unemployment. All these things are part of the essential nature of capitalism. They are a direct consequence of a small section of the population owning, or controlling through the state, all the land, mines, transport, factories, offices and other places of work, and employing the great majority of us only when there is profit to be made.

Capitalism has played its part in developing technology (at great cost in human life and misery). But it is now a barrier to progress and full production to meet needs. In fact it distorts technology, as in nuclear weapons—a threat that is still spreading as more and more states (the latest being North Korea and South Africa) join the nuclear club.

Unemployment occurs because the system of employment exists. Millions of us are tied up in it. We may feel powerless, but we are not. We do all the work in society, throughout the world. We run it from top to bottom—for the employers. When they say production must stop, it stops.

What we must do is take over and run industry for people, not profit—for welfare, not warfare. We must organise together to take democratic political action to dispossess the employers. Then booms and slumps will stop. Then their nation-states and frontiers and wars will fall into disuse. We shall run industry and agriculture and transport for everyone, democratically. This is socialism. It is the only future worth working for.

The Bourgeois role of Bolshevism (1970)

Book Review from the November 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Insurrectionists, by W. J. Fishman. Methuen. 55s.

The theme of this book is one we ourselves have often advanced: that, as we put it in the April Socialist Standard, Lenin’s theory of the vanguard party can be traced back through Russian revolutionaries like Ogarev and Tkachev to French revolutionaries like Babeuf and Buonarroti.

Fishman writes as an obvious opponent of what he thinks is Socialism and so does not really know what Marxism is all about. Nevertheless he does describe well enough the evolution of insurrectionist ideas as they spread from 18th century France to 20th century Russia and he does make some useful points.

The original Jacobins under Robespierre ruled France for a brief period in 1793-4. Though not against private property, they were on the side of the poor against the rich and believed in the ruthless use of violence to crush any opposition to Equality, one of the supposed aims of the French Revolution.

The first to combine the idea of an armed uprising and then a temporary exercise of armed power with that of communism was Babeuf (1760-1797), who was executed for his part in an abortive such coup in 1796. One of his collaborators was Buonarroti, whose account of the uprising under the revealing title of Conspiration pour L'Égalité served as a handbook for the following generation of would-be insurrectionists. Buonarroti, who lived on as an active conspirator till his death in 1837. argued that, since the old order so degraded the masses that they were unable either to see where their interests lay or to act for themselves, it was only an active, conscious minority that could overthrow the old order. This minority should be organised as a secret society with the aim of seizing power in an insurrection.

Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881). who spent most of his life in prison, was the man who more than any other personified this kind of insurrectionism. He, too, stood for a vague communist society and again argued that the masses were so ignorant as a result of the old order that its overthrow would have to be the work of a minority. Marx had a great respect for Blanqui as a man of action, but their ideas of the social revolution was quite different. For Marx it was not a question of a minority insurrection followed by a minority rule leading to communism, but rather a question of a majority capture of power (perhaps by peaceful means) followed by democratic majority rule leading to communism (or Socialism—he gave the two words the same meaning). The emancipation of the working class, proclaimed Marx in a famous slogan, was the task of the working class itself. Although Fishman quotes Engels’ well-known repudiation of minority insurrection in 1895, he does not bring out the important difference between the theories of Marx and those of previous communist revolutionaries like Babeuf, Buonarroti and Blanqui. He stood for majority revolution; they stood for minority insurrection. What he learned from them was the need to win and use political power ("dictatorship" as it was then called) to carry through the social revolution.

French revolutionary ideas spread all over Europe, including Tsarist Russia where an attempted coup was made as early as 1825. Here the secret society was the only possible form of revolutionary organisation and it was strongly advocated by Ogarev (1814-1877), a collaborator of Alexander Herzen. Ogarev was well acquainted with Buonarroti’s book and it was through him that French ideas on how to organise an insurrection — including the secret “vanguard” party — were transmitted to the Russian opponents of Tsarism.

The view that because of their oppression the masses were so ignorant that a minority organised as a secret society would have to act for them was held by many well-known Russian revolutionaries, including Nechaev (1847-1882) (the man who made a fool of Bakunin) and Tkachev (1844-1886) and even by Bakunin himself.

Tkachev, who associated with the Blanquists while in exile, is particularly important in that he anticipated some of Lenin's views on how to overthrow the Tsar. He realised that by themselves the revolutionaries could not overthrow the Tsarist bureaucracy; they needed a mass basis. He suggested the peasants as the weapon the revolutionary leaders should wield. He even realised the possibilities of using the then developing urban working class as the main element in the mass struggle. In the insurrection, said Tkachev, the Tsarist bureaucratic State should be completely smashed but the victorious leaders should set up another State in its place — an idea Lenin later tried to foist on Marx with regard to the modern bourgeois State.

By Lenin's time the use which a revolutionary minority might be able to make of the urban working class was even more obvious. Lenin, sticking to the by now well-established Russian revolutionary idea of a vanguard party and the ignorance of the masses, suggested a new tactic: the anti-Tsarist revolutionaries should concentrate on using the working class as their main weapon.

It is here that Fishman’s lack of understanding of Marxism leads him astray. He thinks that Lenin advocated this tactic as a means of establishing Socialism in Russia (in fact he mistakenly thinks there is now Socialism there, but that’s another matter). But until 1917 Lenin’s aim was the traditional one of the Russian revolutionaries: the establishment of a democratic republic. From his study of Marxism, he knew that this was the task of the bourgeoisie and one they had carried out in some West European countries. Lenin saw that in Russia the bourgeoisie was too weak to do this and applied Marx’s analysis of the period of Jacobin rule in France to the Russia of his day. By their drastic actions against the old feudal order. Marx pointed out, the Jacobins though not themselves of the bourgeoisie had furthered the bourgeois revolution by taking measures the bourgeoisie was afraid to take itself, Lenin’s suggestion was that this was more or less what would have to happen in Russia: Russia’s bourgeois revolution (the establishment of a democratic republic) would have to be accomplished without the bourgeoisie by the vanguard party leading the workers and peasants.

Trotsky argued that if the working class were to gain power in the course of Russia's bourgeois revolution they would, and should, go on to take "socialist” measures. Fishman does not seem to realise that Lenin did not come round to this view till 1917, nor that Trotsky did not accept the vanguard party idea till 1917 either. He has them as collaborators from 1902 on, an elementary mistake.

Lenin’s switch in 1917 from aiming at a democratic republic to a "socialist” one took him even further away from Marxism, but it did not invalidate his previous analysis of how Russia’s bourgeois revolution would come. The role of the Bolsheviks in Russia’s bourgeois revolution did indeed turn out to be the same as that of the Jacobins in France’s, that is, to carry through measures against the old order the bourgeoisie themselves were incapable of. The great difference was that while the Jacobins' rule did not last, the Bolsheviks’ rule did and the Bolshevik rulers gradually evolved into a new bourgeoisie (or capitalist class) themselves. Lenin and Trotsky confirmed their own earlier prognosis: their seizure of power in 1917 and subsequent short rule paved the way for the further development of capitalism in Russia.
Adam Buick

The new US bogeyman (1995)

From the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Back in December 1992, Ronald Reagan gave a speech in which he announced that “the end of the communist tyranny has robbed much of the West of its uplifting common purpose”.

The “common purpose” he had in mind was the US’s old claim to be defenders of democracy and global peace that “communism” had threatened for so long. In a nutshell, Reagan was mourning the end of the Cold War, which had taken away every pretension the US had to play globocop, using its hegemonic passport to interfere everywhere from Grenada to Korea.

For five years the US has tried to sell its old image to the world, looking for bogeymen to defend us from under every rock. First came Saddam, then the warlords of Somalia and later on Kim II Sung in North Korea. Now Iran is being held up as a threat to the interests of “the international community”, and once again the US is inviting the world to listen to its prophecies of impending doom and to swallow its rhetoric of possible salvation beneath the stars and stripes.

Current US hype stems from Russia’s recent agreement to build a nuclear power station for Iran at the Gulf port of Bushehr at the cost of $1 billion (supposedly capable of producing material to equip 23 atomic warheads) and is strengthened by Iran’s annual $2.5 billion spending spree on Chinese and Russian military hardware (inclusive, lately, of two Russian submarines) and the recent Iranian deployment of 6,000 troops on the Gulf islands of Queshm, Sirri and Abu Musa.

More recent US-lsraeli rumours state that Iran, with the help of Libya, has acquired a hefty arsenal of Rodnong ballistic missiles from North Korea, and that the two states are jointly working on a project to increase their range and destructive power. All of which must be set against the backcloth of Iran’s attempt to stop the indefinite and unconditional extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, as favoured by the US, Britain, Russia and France.

What commentators found a little more than coincidental was the fact that the cant regarding Iran’s threat to world peace coincided with the Index International Arms Exhibition in the United Arab Emirates in March, at which the US, Britain, France and Germany would compete hard for business.

Dr Rosemary Hallis of the Royal Institute of International Affairs said as much, pointing out that “it has been used as a justification to sell more defence equipment to the Arab peninsular”. Middle East expert Heine Kopietz agreed that it was all “hype” and that “the Pentagon is not at all convinced that Iran is aggressive” (Guardian, 24 April).

Weeks earlier, the Speaker of the Iranian parliament was trying to calm the fears of neighbouring countries, scared silly by US rumours, declaring them that “Iran guarantees your security and stability ... [that neighbouring countries] . .. should not, therefore, provide the excuse for aliens to come to the region and create a market for the sale of their weapons by creating an adverse climate” (Independent, 6 April).

In an attempt to get other nations to fall in line with its get-tough-on-lran policy, the Clinton administration set an example by halting all commerce with Iran, blocking the contracts that Exxon, Texaco, Mobil and Caltex had with Iran, involving up to 650,000 barrels of oil per day, a deal worth $4.25 billion to the Iranian economy.

US attempts to isolate Iran economically were even evident in Azerbaijan where pressure was put on the Azeri government to halt a deal giving Tehran a five-percent share in a $7.4 billion contract to develop three oilfields in the Caspian Sea.

Russia too has been threatened with a withdrawal of nuclear co-operation with the US unless they cancel their $1 billion deal with Iran—a threat that brought a swift response from the Russian ambassador to Iran, who announced that “Moscow will not accept any advice from America about its relations with other countries, in particular with the Islamic Republic of Iran” (Guardian, 18 April).

For once, few countries seem to be taking the US seriously, least of all those in Europe. The Pentagon and the Commerce Department were warning in early March that abandoned US business would only be picked up by other countries.

Indeed, the Times (2 May) would go on to report that “British industry is ready to pick up the Iranian orders made available by the ban”. British capitalists, after all, are Iran’s fifth biggest trading partner, with exports of £289 million and imports of £133 million.

Economic catastrophe
The US would have us believe that they are simply aiming to frustrate Iran’s nuclear ambitions by direct economic action. Iran, however, as the US government is well aware, is facing economic catastrophe already, as well as political crisis. By the end of 1994, Iran had foreign debts totalling $16 billion. The rial is steadily being devalued and January saw the price of foodstuffs rocket by 30 percent and rioting in Tehran.

Iranian street culture, reported the Observer (12 February), “is dominated by petty crime, prostitution and drugs. Police turn a blind eye to most offences”. Such is the situation that government employees are accepting bribes just to supplement their wages and Iranians are reported as having to offer a bribe to get a hospital bed.

When Rafsanjani came to power, the West saw in him a “pragmatist” who would at least restore the US-lran relationship they had enjoyed before the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. After two terms in office, Western hopes have been dashed chiefly because all moves to stabilise relations with the West have been blocked by radical mullahs unable to conceive of coexistence and compromise.

Some commentators believe that Iran’s political and economic situation, aggravated by the US attempt to cast them in the mould of international pariah, together with next year’s contentious parliamentary elections, might foster a regression to a more radical foreign policy and bring about a military showdown with the US.

The US over years has become quite adept at profit-oriented long-term scenarios. So it would come as no surprise to Socialists if, under the guise of wishing to save the world from nuclear terrorism, the US is wittingly sowing the seeds for an Iranian civil war or, worse, a second Gulf War.

By intimidating Iran, manipulating their religious and secular sensitivities, they may force the mullahs to go on the offensive, if only to deflect Iranian attention from domestic ills. Bordering states are even nurturing ideas that they can now challenge Iran over disputed territory, lulled into a false sense of security because of the huge arsenals they have amassed, and more importantly, because a precedent has been set for the West to come to the aid of threatened Gulf states should things get out of hand.

March found Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd in Abu Dhabi openly siding with the United Arab Emirates in its dispute with Iran over strategic Gulf islands. Such shit-stirring is what the Gulf region needs least of all at the moment. It is enough that the people living here have to put up with reactionary regimes without living with the additional threat of war sparked by the hype churned out by the agents of Western capitalism. But, in a world ruled by the laws of capitalism, such is the price that has to be paid for living on a coast along which flows 40 percent of the world’s oil.
John Bissett

Political Notes: Farewell, Harold! (1981)

The Political Notes column from the April 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

Farewell, Harold!

Ah, how Harold Wilson will be missed! Who can rival that calm defusing of the difficult TV question, lighting his pipe and losing the interviewer in a literal and metaphorical smokescreen so that he could get away without answering the question, or with answering one which hadn’t been asked!

Is there another such master of the facile, memorably headline-catching phrase, Like the “white hot technological revolution” which, in the early sixties, was going to bring in the age of boundless prosperity for us all. Like “a week in politics is a long time”, which meant that workers’ memories are peculiarly stunted about capitalism—a defect which its leaders exploit for all it is worth.

Will there be an equal in the art of the bland assurance that all things could be planned into docility by the magic Wilson touch? For nothing, if we are to believe Wilson, ever surprised him; his resignation as Prime Minister had, apparently, nothing to do with the mess of British capitalism under Labour but had been planned years before. Even the announcement of his impending retirement from Parliament has, he says, no bearing on the present split in the Labour Party.

Shall we ever see again such unshakeable audacity? Whenever the breath of scandal passed across him —which happened more often than a politician might hope—Wilson dealt with it by a simple denial. So it was that he wriggled out of a threatened exposure of Labour’s condoning Rhodesian sanctions busting. It was unlucky for him that the recipients of his infamous Resignation Honours exposed themselves so soon as crooks—or at least as the sort of crooks capitalism is liable to punish. But by then it had gone too far.

Yes he will be missed for he was a master politician—which means that he is the master of all the arts of manipulation, cynicism and plain deceit which capitalism’s politics require. And no doubt capitalism will reward him generously for his service.


In the 1945 election Tory newspapers often published the famous photograph of Clement Attlee giving the clenched fist salute at a Republican parade in the Spanish Civil War. This salute, the Tories warned us, meant that Attlee was really a Communist and if he ever became Prime Minister the way would be open for a full blooded revolution which would obliterate the monarchy, the House of Lords, cricket, tea on the lawn and everything else which is dear in the British Way of Life.

Well immediately on their taking power Attlee’s ministers were seen to be visiting the various royal homes and nervous defenders of the British Way of Life might have assumed that they were doing so in order to give the ruling class notice to quit.

Such paranoia would have been blind to the evidence, of which there was plenty, that the position of the British ruling class was being stoutly defended by that Labour government and that ruling class figureheads like the royal family were going about their business in complete assurance of their continued existence.

And now we have been given a glimpse of what actually went on during those visits. True, this glimpse (and it is secondhand at that) comes from the jealous, vindictive pen of Richard Crossman, whose contempt for his fellow politician was palpable (what must he have thought of the workers who voted for them?) but who did not tell lies all the time.

And Crossman has it that Labour ministers—including the austere, foreboding, one-time darling of the left wing Stafford Cripps—made fools of themselves in order to please the royals. Queen Elizabeth, for example, was always liable to be amused by the sight of ministers of the crown goose-stepping in line into a room.

So Attlee’s ministers goose-stepped. And the Queen laughed and perhaps commented on what nice, reassuring, unthreatening ministers she had in this supposedly revolutionary government. When the fun was over, the ministers returned to their labours of trying to control British capitalism while telling the working class that they were building socialism.

These people might well have felt contempt for the workers who with their votes acquiesced in such obscenities. When the workers express their contempt at it all—that is when we shall be making discernible progress.

Turning Thatcher

Come back Ted Heath, all is forgiven. Only by ignoring everyday facts can the Tories pretend that their policy is not in tatters. Thatcher’s defiant assurance to her party’s conference last autumn that “this lady’s not for turning” is becoming ever more embarrassing.

At the 1979 election the Tories claimed that solving the problems of British capitalism was really a simple matter; it had just escaped the attention of former governments, including Tory ones under Prime Ministers like Heath. One essential of the cure was that the governments should not interfere in wage disputes or to save unprofitable businesses. Left to themselves, to sink or swim in capitalism’s market economy, if they survived they would have proved their worth. If they went under well that would also be healthy because it would get rid of an industrial and commercial liability. So in the end we would all be more secure, richer.

Heath’s version of the same policy was that his government would not bale out “lame duck” firms and he too promised that his programme was a blindingly simple and effective remedy. Well it did not work out like that and Heath had to abandon his theories, with firms like Rolls Royce marking his retreat like tombstones.

In fact, the days are long gone when a capitalist class will allow basic industries to expire simply because their books don’t balance. Some industries have to be run at a loss in the overall interests of a national capitalism; thus most advanced industrial states subsidise their railways and their airlines — which means they pay to keep them going because they can’t afford to let them collapse.

Thatcher’s government is now openly recognising the force of this; they are pouring vast sums of money into British Leyland, British Steel and part of their climb down to the miners was a huge financial injection into the National Coal Board. Heath could not have been more generous.

With better luck in capitalism’s affairs, Thatcher’s rule might have coincided with a boom, which would have allowed her to claim that “monetarism” works. As it is, Saatchi and Saatchi have a big job on their hands for they must not only try to prove that “monetarism” is working but that it has even been tried.

A typical mess of deceit.

Marx on Force (1935)

From the February 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

“ Force is the mid-wife of progress!” How completely this expression is misunderstood by many who use it! What Socialist Party speaker has not been confronted at some time or other by a callow youth or a bewhiskered old fogey who has either indignantly demanded to know why the S.P.G.B. has thrown the teaching of Marx overboard, or has condescendingly, not to say pityingly, “explained” that nothing can be done through Parliament. To most of our critics, “force” means almost anything but action for the capture and control of the State machine. It may mean the “general strike” or, as Daniel de Leon preferred to call it, the “general lock-out of the capitalist class." It may mean the blind, spontaneous upheaval of an unorganised mass or the deliberate insurrection of an armed minority. It may mean a combination of all these reactions to capitalist pressure; but nowhere does Marx indicate that it is to action on these lines that we must look for deliverance from our fetters.

Let us take a glance at the context of the pregnant phrase as Marx uses it. It occurs in the fifth paragraph of Chap. 31 of “Capital” (p. 776, Swan Sonnenschein edition), which reads as follows: —
The different momenta of primitive accumulation distribute themselves now, more or less in chronological order, particularly over Spain. Portugal, Holland, France, and England. In England, at the end of the 17th century, they arrive at a systematical combination embracing the colonies, the national debt, the modern mode of taxation, and the protectionist system. These methods depend in part upon brute force, e.g., the colonial system; but they all employ the power of the State, the concentrated and organised force of society, to hasten, hot-house fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode, and to shorten the transition. Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power.
The chapter is entitled “The genesis of the industrial capitalist,” and is packed with examples of how the State, in the hands of the capitalist class, wiped out the old classes of feudal society at home (including the peasants and handicraftsmen) and also destroyed the social organisation of more primitive peoples in other parts of the world, in the quest for markets, raw materials and labour power. This was done partly by military and partly by economic measures; for the State, being “the concentrated and organised force of society,” can use either, as the need arises. It is itself an economic power, appropriating and expropriating by taxation, direct and otherwise, the incomes and means of livelihood of the small property owners whose existence stands in the way of capitalist development. At the same time it converts itself into a channel of investment by the huge loans it floats. The holder of State-bonds escapes the risks accompanying the various non-State forms of commercial, industrial or financial enterprise.

There need, therefore, be no confusion as to what Marx and Engels meant when they wrote of “the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions” at the end of the “Communist Manifesto.”

The authors state that, “The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class.”

The State, in the eyes of Marx and Engels, is the supreme expression of force in society. In the hands of the master-class it checkmates every move on the part of the workers which might endanger the property rights of the masters. Let some of the workers seize what few arms they can and it meets their puny force with greater force. Let them indulge in a widespread strike, whether of the stop-in or the stay-out variety, and it mobilises this same force to ensure to the capitalist class the control of the food supplies and essential services.

Throughout the struggle between the workers and their masters the control of the State power decides upon which side victory lies. The capture of this power by the workers, consciously organised as a class for the purpose, is the essential first step towards their emancipation. To choose any other line is, in the words of Marx to the First International at the Hague, in 1872, “To renounce the things of this world.”
Eric Boden

What is the function of the Capitalist? (1906)

From the August 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

THE amazing assertion is sometimes heard that under Socialism the community will assume the function of the capitalist! This, too, from the lips of men popularly supposed to be Socialists. It would at first glance appear that the worst accusations of the enemy are supported by this, and that the robbery of the workers which is now done by the capitalist will become the function of the “nation," and that Socialism is but state capitalism.

When, however, these alleged Socialists are taken to task upon this question, it is found that their grave error has its foundation in their ignorance of the real function of the capitalist: for it is by them asserted that his function is the organisation of industry! In the face of the gluts and crises, the unemployed and the overworked in capitalist society, it is difficult to take this last assertion seriously; whilst it is, at best, only remotely excusable by the fact that capitalism, in spite of itself, leads up to the organisation of industry, which is Socialism.

Under capitalism, in the race for profits, it is a fact that the production of wealth in the individual factory becomes better organised, and that these organised units of production grow in size until they reach the ‘'trust” stage. But although the community must seize these instruments which have matured in capitalist society in order that production and distribution may be organised; although, in fact, Socialism must stand on the economic foundations laid during capitalism, it is nevertheless no more true that the function of the capitalist is the organisation of industry than it is that the function of the criminal is to create houses of correction and a system of judicature because these follow from his presence.

Just as capital is that part of wealth which is used to obtain a profit, so the function of the capitalist, as such, is the obtaining of profit from the labour of others, in short, the robbery of the workers. This is quite obvious because the capitalist seeks his profit as readily in the disorganisation as in the organisation of production. Nevertheless, because the largest profits, on the whole, come from the better organised units of production; because in the evolution of industry “natural selection” in most cases favours organisation on a large scale, organised production has become a feature of modern industry; a feature that must be controlled, perfected and socially co-ordinated with distribution before industry can really be organised, and the terrible antagonisms of growing poverty against growing wealth, and of increasing unemployed against more intense toil for those in work, can at last be ended.

In another way, equally, the assertion that the organisation of industry is the function of the capitalist can be seen to be nonsense. What comprises the “activities" of a typical modern capitalist? He will be found most of his time on the shores of the Mediterranean or at some other equally desirable place—organising industry? Not a bit of it; he is enjoying himself with his profits. Occasionally, it is true, he glances at the quotations on 'Change with an eye to the purchase or sale of stock, and at certain intervals he receives his dividend warrants, which he sends to the banker and is credited with the dividends. He knows practically nothing but the names and share tallies of the various companies from which he draws his revenue. The whole of the organisation (or disorganisation as the case may be) is done by hired workers, and he, by the ownership of wealth, by the monopoly of the means whereby wealth is produced, is enabled to exact toll from those whose labour-power is their only property. He is master of the situation and all are eager to serve him; his manager in consideration of a promised increase in pay will endeavour to screw more profit for him from those beneath, and so soon through the whole gamut of his slaves.

The ownership of the mine, land, railway, factory or machinery thus enables the capitalist to exert an economic tyranny over the non-possessors of wealth, robbing them of the fruits of their labour. It is those who work who are organising industry, and they, in broadcloth or fustian, are distinct from the capitalist; his peculiar function it is to obtain profit somehow, for only while he ran obtain it is he a capitalist.

Notwithstanding, then, the asseverations of alleged Socialists, whose deficient knowledge makes the task of the scientific Socialist so much more difficult, it is obvious that the function of the capitalist is not the organisation of industry, but the robbery of the workers. It is also obvious that the community under Socialism will not assume the function of the capitalist, but will abolish both the capitalist, as such, and his function; whilst the organisation of industry will at last become an accomplished fact with his disappearance.
F. C. Watts

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Labour's logic (1985)

Book Review from the June 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Breaking the Nation A Guide to Thatcher's Britain Edited by Tony Manwaring and Nick Sigler. Pluto Press and New Socialist.

This book has been researched and written by fifteen members of the Labour Party Research Department. and its title sums up its purpose — to blame what has happened in Britain since 1979 on the Tories, and in particular Margaret Thatcher. As such it is not a serious political analysis but a 240-page political tract that could provide material for numerous Labour Party political broadcasts.

The authors' approach and their whole attitude to politics can be seriously questioned. They seem to have started with a pre-conceived notion and then only sought information to support it, disregarding other material. The argument is that Thatcher = Tory = Uncaring of social problems; therefore Thatcher is the cause of our problems. This idea that the fault lies with certain personalities in the government can only harm the attempt of socialists to turn workers' minds away from petty party squabbles and to look instead at how society functions regardless of who governs.

There is no doubt that recently the working class in Britain have been suffering cruelly. But this observation can be made of nearly all countries in the world. These other countries do not have Thatchers or Tories and some even have governments that carry out policies identical to those which a future Labour government would apply in Britain. The world economy as a whole has been going through a depression and Britain has been seriously affected because it is more dependent on selling goods on the world market than most other countries.

The book examines many aspects of the Thatcher government and the result is very embarrassing for any Tory. Official government statistics are used to show how the Conservatives have failed miserably in a whole range of the aims and goals published in their election manifestos. Claims to create "real" jobs, to wipe out inflation, reduce taxes, reduce crime, and to decrease centralised bureaucracy by giving people more control over their own lives, are all past promises that hang heavy around the necks of the Thatcher crew. Sadly, the impression is given that these policy aims could have been achieved if only the government was made up of Labour and not Tory politicians.

Because the authors do not envisage a society free from the restrictions of the market their thinking is trapped in the logic of capitalism. To them, what is wrong with society is not the market system but rather a particular version of it — the free market version. In particular, the book shows that the Labour Party embraces the nationalist ideology of most workers:
British industry needs to invest in modem technologies if it is to have any chance of competing in world markets (page 96).
It (the 1984 budget) made manufacturing investment less profitable (page 83)
Tory monetarism has made British industry less competitive than ever before (page 91).
For the first time ever in our industrial history Britain now buys more manufactured goods from abroad than it can sell overseas (page 89)
The Labour Party solution — to rebuild Britain's manufacturing base and sell more goods on the world market, thus stimulating job growth in Britain at the expense of workers abroad — is one that could come from any other capitalist party. Much is also made of the decision of the Tory government to abolish exchange controls, which facilitates British capital investment overseas rather than in Britain. Even more is made of the fact that British goods are about 20 per cent less price-competitive against foreign currencies (other than the dollar) since 1979. Such blatant nationalist propaganda is in direct opposition to the socialist case, which requires the abandonment of workers' nationalist prejudices and an acknowledgement of the interests of their class worldwide. If you accept the logic of the profit system then the Tories seem to have the most logical policies: free movement of capital and labour appears to suit the needs of capital accumulation.

The authors, then, are not against the profit system — they simply attack its inefficient operation in Britain. They barely mention socialism, which, to them, is capitalism with full employment. Britain outselling commercial rivals, plus Labour leaders in power to administer the system on behalf of the "British people". In other words, it is the claim that Labour can make capitalism do what the Tories cannot.
Gareth Thomas

Capitalism and globalization (2002)

Book Review from the November 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marx's Revenge – The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism by Meghnad Desai (Verso Books)
Ever since the collapse of the USSR and the so-called “communist” regimes in Eastern Europe, many column inches have been written and words spoken proclaiming the triumph of capitalism and the demise of socialism. Karl Marx, we are told, has been thoroughly discredited and his theories have been consigned to the dustbin of history. The “End of History” had arrived.
Meghnad Desai, Professor at the London School of Economics and a Labour Peer, however, argues in his latest book Marx's Revenge – The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism (Verso, 358 pages) that, far from discrediting Marx, the events of the last twenty years would have vindicated him. Not only would Marx not have supported the Eastern European regimes, but he would have welcomed their downfall. According to Desai, Marx argued that socialism could only be successfully established when society's productive capacity had been fully developed under capitalism. This was certainly not the case in Russia at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Desai, however, maintains that capitalism is still far from having reached its potential. Although, he entertains the possibility of genuine Marxian Socialism, he relegates it to a distant future.
Desai begins his investigation at the end of the eighteenth century when feudal society was giving way to industrial capitalism. Adam Smith was developing his theories on the historical or “stadial” progress of society, in which Smith considered the newly emerging free market capitalist society as the highest stage. Hegel was propounding his theory of dialectic: the idea that human society would develop greater awareness over time through a process of struggle. This sets the historical context in which Desai discusses Marx's political and economic ideas. He examines Marx's economic theories as set out in Capital and finds that they do not suggest that capitalism will inevitably collapse. On the contrary, capitalism could continue indefinitely. Even the 'Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall' as described in the third volume of Capital only suggests a long-term tendency, with countervailing tendencies against it.
State capitalism

The period from the end of the eighteenth century until the First World War is described as the “first episode of modern globalization”. Here the development of capitalism in Western Europe and America is characterised by free trade and minimal state intervention. Classical economic theory was the prevailing philosophy. The First World War changed all this. The use of central planning by the German state in directing the economy towards the war effort, known at the time as “war socialism”, impressed many including Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who used it as a model for the new regime established in Russia in 1917. This, along with the establishment of the Bolshevik regime, set the scene for the next seventy-five years where the state would take a larger, and in some cases predominant, role in directing the national economy. Desai calls this the period of “deglobalization” or “capitalism in one country”.

Desai remarks that Russia, at the time of the revolution, was mainly an agrarian country where the industrial working class constituted a small part of the population. In these conditions, the Bolsheviks were forced to embark on a course of rapid industrialisation. The Bolsheviks and their supporters look to the earlier works of Marx and Engels, which optimistically predict an immediate revolution as justification for the Russian Revolution being a genuine workers' revolution. They overlook the later and more mature works of Marx that argue that capitalism must be fully developed before a socialist revolution can be successful. Thus Leninist ideas on capturing the state through the vanguard party and organising society on state capitalist lines became the orthodox interpretation of Marxism. Although Desai describes, at least in the early years, the Soviet Union as state capitalist, he also rather inconsistently refers to it as an example of “Socialism outside Capitalism”, the attempt to build a state controlled society, alongside the privately run capitalism of the Western countries.
Desai also discusses what he calls “Socialism beyond Capitalism”, what Marx argued in theCommunist Manifesto would supersede capitalism after it outlived its usefulness. Desai describes this as “a self-conscious society, aware now that capitalism as a system of private property profiting from the social division of labour could not offer any further betterment, that would proceed to take control over the economy – society, mind you, not state.” In chapter 12, entitled “Can Socialism Work?”, Desai briefly discusses the theories of Otto Neurath on the feasibility of establishing a moneyless society. But these appear to apply to a centrally planned economy rather than a democratic socialist society. Desai also appears to not fully understand how a genuine socialist would be able to function, when he asks “how such a society would decide about saving and investment”.
Desai contends that the Great Depression in the 1930s undermined the general belief in the free operation of the markets, and Keynes' arguments that markets failed to perform efficiently and that state intervention was required for the smooth running of the economy gained ground. In the years after the Second World War, Keynesian economic theory clearly emerged as the dominant influence in the Western universities and on Western government policies, particularly in Britain and to a lesser extent the US. It heavily influenced the reformist policies of many Western Labour and Social Democratic parties, to which Desai refers as “Socialism within Capitalism”.
At the same time state capitalism expanded its influence with the coming to power in China of the “communists” in 1949 and the inclusion of most East European countries in the Soviet bloc. Many of the new countries that achieved independence from the former European colonial powers in the post-war years looked to the Soviet system as a model for economic development.
The 1970s saw something of an upheaval: the onset of a long-term economic crisis in leading Western countries, involving “stagflation”, where both inflation and unemployment rose together. Conventional Keynesian demand management policies were found wanting. The advocates of free market economics, such as the monetarists, who began the fightback in the universities in the 1960s, gained more credibility and the Keynesians were in retreat. In the late 70s and early 80s, the tide turned in favour of free market economics, with the coming to power of conservative leaders such as Reagan in America, Thatcher in Britain and Kohl in Germany.
Back to 1914

The USSR and Eastern Europe went into terminal economic decline, culminating in the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. This marked the end of what Desai calls “the short twentieth century” and the beginning of the second period of globalisation, where restrictions in the movement of capital have been removed in the major industrial countries; free trade prevails; the former Soviet countries and many third world countries are integrated into the global capitalist order. The world has returned to where it left off in 1914.

The Leninist regimes in Eastern Europe have fallen. The reformism of the Western Labour and Social Democratic Parties is in retreat. However, Desai will not be joining us in working for world socialism. He declares that “there is no rival mode of production on the horizon as a viable alternative. Capitalism is the only game in town”. He claims that, far from collapsing, capitalism has been rejuvenated. He points to the latest developments in telecommunications and computer technology, and that many third world countries are modernising along capitalist lines. The world is not ready yet ready for real socialism (“Socialism beyond Capitalism”). Desai suggests that Marx would agree with him. He wonders if genuine socialism will ever be achieved.
The main problem with Desai's analysis is that he treats the state capitalist regimes in the USSR, China, Eastern Europe (“Socialism outside Capitalism”) and even the reformist policies of the Social Democratic parties (“Socialism within Capitalism”) as separate modes of production. It is true that the state capitalist regimes attempted to insulate themselves from the world economy in their earlier years. However the economies of these regimes were based on wage labour and production for profit and so were capitalist. The Western Labour and Social Democratic parties introduced policies to regulate capitalism not to replace it. Both were failed attempts to control capitalism. But as Desai well knows, and argues in this book, capitalism is resistant to any attempts to transform it into anything other than a system based on profit.
Looking at capitalism from a global point of view, it has already created the productive capacity world-wide, which would allow a world socialist society to produce abundance for the world's population. All further developments only aid the capacity of capitalist society to further enrich the capitalist minority, while their potential use in enhancing the well-being of the human race is restricted by the profit-seeking structures of capitalist society. What is now required is for the world working class to become class-consciousness and work to replace capitalism with socialism.
The Leninists may have appropriated Marx for the cause of state capitalism. But Desai wishes to appropriate him for free market capitalism. He seems to want to join with other academics and New Labour, in celebrating the triumph of free market capitalism, while at the same staying true to the left-wing idealism of his youth.
Oliver Bond

Goals and penalties (2016)

From the January 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
In September the UN adopted seventeen Global Goals, intended to build a better world by 2030 ( These include such aims as ending poverty and hunger, promoting clean water and renewable energy, achieving gender equality and combatting climate change. All very worthy, and at least the global nature of problems and solutions is recognised, but let’s step back a bit and look at the background and history of such efforts.
The Global Goals are a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the UN in 2000 (, though with 1990 often taken as a benchmark. There were just eight MDGs, from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger to reducing child mortality and combatting HIV/AIDS. For a discussion of one aspect of this, see Material World in the August Socialist Standard.
The UN’s report on the progress of the MDGs was published in July this year. This speaks of ‘profound achievements’, but, even if we accept the claims at face value, what emerges is at most a series of qualified successes. Among the achievements (all quoted from the report):
•    The number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015
•    The number of out-of-school children of primary school age worldwide has fallen by almost half, to an estimated 57 million in 2015, down from 100 million in 2000
•    The global under-five mortality rate has declined by more than half, dropping from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births between 1990 and 2015
•    Since 1990, the maternal mortality ratio has declined by 45 percent worldwide, and most of the reduction has occurred since 2000
Yet as the report also notes, ‘the poorest and most vulnerable people are being left behind’. For instance (again quoted from the report):
•    About 16,000 children die each day before celebrating their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable causes
•    In the developing regions, children from the poorest 20 percent of households are more than twice as likely to be stunted as those from the wealthiest 20 percent
•    About 800 million people still live in extreme poverty and suffer from hunger
•    In Latin America and the Caribbean, the ratio of women to men in poor households increased from 108 women for every 100 men in 1997 to 117 women for every 100 men in 2012
•    By the end of 2014, conflicts had forced almost 60 million people to abandon their homes – the highest level recorded since the Second World War
Thus it would seem that the fifteen-year project established in 2000 was so successful that another fifteen-year project, covering many of the same aims, was set up when it came to an end. Extreme poverty, for instance, was reduced but it had certainly not been eradicated, as the goals had it.
As far as hunger was concerned, the true aim was not that nobody should go hungry but that the proportion in developing countries suffering from hunger should be halved between 1990 and 2015. The reduction allegedly achieved was in fact from 23.3 percent to 12.9 percent, which is not quite a half. This was against a background of higher food prices, extreme weather events, natural disasters and the economic recession. Much of the reduction was in China, as the economy there saw short-term expansion and the country became a source of cheap labour power for global capitalism. But progress was much slower in the Caribbean, Oceania, Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. South Asia alone has 281 million undernourished people.
So what conclusions do we draw from this? That the new Global Goals will not deliver either? That the whole enterprise is a charade intended to cover up the continuation of poverty and inequality? That the UN is hardly the best organisation to oversee such projects? That yet more such projects will be needed subsequently?
A more appropriate response would be to say that in technological terms it is perfectly possible to meet the real goals of ending poverty and so on, and to do so straightaway: that the planet and its inhabitants are perfectly capable of growing enough food for everyone; that maternal mortality can be significantly reduced if the required resources are put to it; that no child needs to grow up hungry or stunted or illiterate or abused; that the environment can be properly nurtured. In other words, the current suffering and premature deaths are quite simply unnecessary. But it will take a revolution to achieve all this, not tinkering within the present system. 
Paul Bennett

Friday, January 29, 2016

"'Should Socialists Affiliate With The Labour Party?'" (1913)

From the September 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

A debate upon the above subject was held at the King and Queen Assembly Rooms at Brighton on 25th July.

A local celebrity, Mr. Winchester, took the chair, and introduced what he called “the two gladiators” to the audience. Mr. J. Ingham (I.L.P.) took the affirmative, and Mr. J. Fitzgerald (S.P.G.B.) the negative.

In opening the debate MR. INGHAM said the subject was not what was Socialism, nor even whether the legislation supported by the Labour Party leads to Socialism, but whether Socialists should affiliate with that party with all its shortcomings.

For the sake of clearness, the speaker went on to say, it would be as well to state that Socialism implied three changes—economic change, political change, and mental change. That was the theory or aspiration of Socialism. In practice it meant the revolt of the masses; but this revolt must have power behind it, and this power was both economic and political.

The power behind the vote was the power of nomination, which the working class have only had in late years.

As far as the capitalist class were concerned the S.P.G.B. or I.L.P. or B.S.P. didn't matter much, and the only menace to the rulers in society today were the Labour Party. They were demanding the right to manage affairs for themselves. It might be true that they were not doing this in the best way from the standpoint of the Socialist, and he aid not uphold the part played by the Labour Party in the House of Commons, but they represented the social consciousness of the the unions, who laid down the policy of the party.

The Labour Party consisted of the I.L P. and the Fabians—who formed the intellectual Socialist wing—and the mass of the organised workers. In all historic movements the intellectuality followed, it did not lead, the movement.

The question the Socialist had to face was, should he help the movement of the organised workers—the Labour Party—by being inside, or should he play the part of the so-called intellectual and stand outside on a mountain criticising and carping at their actions. Despite all their shilly-shallying and support of the Government the Socialist should be inside, doing his best to help it and to help it to take the right road.

The Revolution would be carried out by the workers becoming class-conscious and taking hold of political power to overthrow their rulers. In this connection he would point out that there had never been a traitor in the House of Commons. Every member there represented the views of those who sent him there. No member of the Labour Party could represent others than those who sent him to Parliament.

Intellectual Socialists should be inside of the Labour Party, guiding it by getting hold of the reins for that purpose. (Bell rang.)

MR. FITZGERALD said one fault he had to find with his opponent’s definition of Socialism was the order in which the changes were placed. Before the working class could carry through the political change having for its object the change in the ownership of the means of life, there would have to be a change in their understanding of the situation and a determination to alter it. Hence the mental change must precede the political and economic changes involved in the establishment of Socialism.

His opponent had said that the revolt must have power behind it. Exactly. But what power? What must it consist of? To answer the question it would be necessary to examine the power in the hands of, and used by, the present rulers. The working class to-day were in want and misery because they had no access to the means of life except by permission of the master class. How did the master class retain their possession of those things? Leaving out the various secondary agencies, the essential force came to the front when any big dispute occurred, as a railway strike, a miners’ or a transport strike. Then the army and navy and the judicial machinery were used, rapidly and ruthlessly, against the workers.

These forces received their instructions from the War Office, Naval Office, Home Office, etc., but the officials in the departments were appointed by the House of Commons, and this was done without any reference to the Hones of Lords, showing the character of the Labour Party’s campaign against that institution.

Hence the capitalists must have control of Parliament for the purpose of using the armed forces for the preservation of their property. To get this control they must be voted into Parliament.

The people possessing the majority of the votes were the members of the working class. Hence the political promises, the election red-herrings, and the buying of the “leaders” of the working class when elections were on. The capitalists clearly saw the importance of political power, and spent millions to obtain it.

Where did the Labour Party stand in this connection? They acted as decoy ducks to the capitalist class. From their first formation to the present day they had refused to lay down any principles or policy in the interest of the wording class. The Socialist Party’s Manifesto gave numerous instances and proofs of their treachery, but one or two cases having a particular bearing on his opponent’s statement would be useful.

In 1906 a group of nearly 40 “Labour” leaders were returned to Parliament with the help of the Liberal Party. So much were they really part of the Liberal party that when, a little later, a by-election took place at Leicester, the Labour Party dared not contest the second seat. The same thing occurred at Newcastle, but it was left for the January 1910 general election to completely pull the veil away. A short time previously the Labour Party had received an immense addition to its membership and leaders by the affiliation of the Miners’ Federation, yet after the election they had only about 43 seats. This result by itself was a collapse of the Labour Party, but worse than this had happened. His opponent had said “those who nominate control," and had stated that the members of the Labour Party had nominated their representatives. At the 1910 general election the nominations of the rank and file were withdrawn by the score at the orders of the Executive acting on the instructions of the Liberal Party. Again, the election had been fought by Liberal and “Labour” Parties on the Veto of the House of Lords and the Budget. When the election was over Mr. Asquith announced that the Veto question would be deferred until after the Budget had been taken. A paper called the “Labour Leader” described Mr. Asquith’s action as one of treachery to his constituents. When the matter was first voted upon the Labour Party voted for the Government. They therefore were equally as guilty of treachery as Mr. Asquith.

In March 1910 the Labour Party moved an amendment on the Army Estimates over the wages of Government employees, and when it was voted upon about 22 were absent and 15 of the remainder voted against their own amendment to save the Government.

The fact that the Labour Party had lost every three cornered contest—as well as several others—in the January election, showed how completely dependent upon the Liberals they were.

While the working class accepted “leaders” they would always be misled. It showed that they had not yet reached that stage of class consciousness that was necessary for their emancipation. When they became Socialists they would abolish “leaders” and “leadership,” and keep control and power in their own hands.

Mr. INGHAM in his second speech said it appeared to him that the philosophy of the , S.P.G.B. had changed since the issuing of their pamphlet on “Socialism and Religion” according to Mr. Fitzgerald’s statements. There they laid down the materialist conception of history as their basis, while his opponent took up the idealist position. He was beginning to believe the S.P.G.B. had no intellectuality.

The working class must be free mentally from the influence of their rulers, but every class who had revolted had leaders. His opponent had stated that the S.P. were going to take control of the army and navy when they had a majority in Parliament. Did they think the capitalists would let them? Without organised labour outside political power would be useless. Men always had had and always would have leaders. It would not be by teaching but by economic pressure that the change would be brought about, and the mass would follow leaders at the period of change. Bat ae they would nominate these leaders they would control them. TheTories controlled those they nominated. Mr. Lloyd George was controlled by his nominators, who forced him to introduce measures that threatened his political career.

Snowden and Macdonald occupied the position of himself (Mr. Ingham) and the S.P.G.B, fifteen years ago, while men like Broadhurst then took up the attitude of Macdonald & Co. to day. Despite this, Labour politics must lead to Socialism and the future laid with the trade unions.

If the majority were with him at the Conferences the clique would soon be turned out. So long as the working class thought a clique represents their interests they would support them. It was because they thought the Liberal clique thus represented them that they supported them to day.

MR. FITZGERALD said that his opponent clearly contradicted himself, and in parts admitted the correctness of the policy of the Socialist Party.

If the workers must be free mentally from the influence of their rulers, obviously a mental change was the first requisite. With reference to the point of the lack of intellectuality on the part of the S.P.G.B., what he (Mr. Fitzgerald) had said was that the S.P. contained no “intellectuals” of the type condemned by his opponent. To try and twist this into an admission of "lack of intellectuality ” was both cheap and childish.

With regard to leaders, it was, perhaps, a trifle elementary, but as his opponent had introduced the point he must deal with it.

Under any system of organisation various activities had to be delegated to different individuals, but this delegation of function did not necessarily mean a sheep-like following, or the placing of power in the hands of the delegates. Thus in the Socialist Party certain members were delegated as speakers, some as writers, others as organisers, etc. But each and all were under the control of, and obeyed the directions of, the membership. The position of Mr. Ingham was similar to that of Keir Hardie, who stated that mankind was a herd who followed leaders, and that that was "the purest form of democracy” ! That, of course, was the sort of following the clique who run the Labour Party wanted, so that they could make their bargains with the Liberals for posts and positions a la Shackleton, Cummings, Mitchell, and others.

His opponent's statements on the army and navy showed how little he understood the power of the ruling class. They controlled these forces because they possessed the political machinery. When this machinery was wrested from them by the working class, how could the capitalists prevent the workers controlling those forces? He had dealt with these matters in his first speech and his opponent had not shown a single point to be wrong.

His opponent’s next statement showed how completely he was misled by the Anarchist rubbish re-labelled Syndicalism, that an economic organisation can destroy capitalism. No matter what the form of organisation or how complete its membership, such a combination of unarmed men would obviously he powerless against the armed forces while the capitalists had political power.

Macdonald and Snowdeu may have occupied a position fifteen years ago similar to that of his opponent to-day, but neither then nor now did they take up the attitude of the Socialist Party — i e., the Socialist attitude.

If his opponent agreed that he must get a majority on his side to get his views adopted, he was admitting the correctness of the policy of the Socialist Party, for this was their position.

MR. INGHAM in his last speech said that delegation of function was exactly the position of the Labour Party. To take up a position of delegate of the organised workers one must be in their ranks, not outside. The Macdonald crowd would be pushed aside by those inside the Labour Party, not by those outside. While they (the S.P.) remained outside their organisation, criticising and fault-finding, they antagonised the workers and had no influence upon them.

By economic pressure, not by intelligence, the workers would be forced to take control. The great trade unions were endeavouring to express themselves upon society, and would change with the growing consciousness of the workers. Thus the railway unions formed their great combination from inside; it was not formed by any men outside. The economic pressure would force the workers to realise the necessity for the Revolution, and the Socialists should be inside, aiding this development and bringing to a realisation the Socialist hopes and aspirations.

MR. FITZGERALD denied that the Labour Party adopted the policy of delegation of function that he had described. Their policy was one of delegation of power —and this made ail the difference. If a position outside the Labour Party would antagonise the workers, then opposition to the Liberals would antagonise a still larger number, as the working-class following of the Liberal Party was much greater than that of the Labour Party. And actually what his opponent was defending was Socialists joining the Liberal Party, for as he (the speaker) had shown them in his previous speeches, the Labour Party was but a portion of the Liberal Party.

Take the question of nomination continually insisted upon by his opponent. The rank and file could, within certain limits, make nominations, but they did not control them. As shown in mass in Jan. and Dec., 1910, as shown in various bye elections, the Liberal party controlled them, and at their instructions scores of nominations were swept aside. The support of the Government, even against their own amendments, coupled with these facts, showed that the liberal managers held the Labour Party in their grip, and dictated the policy as well as selected the candidates to be put forward. Hence his opponent's whole plea was for Socialists to join the Liberal Party.

The Socialist knew the majority of the workers were still below the stage of mental development necessary for the revolution, but experience showed that the most effective method was to fight all the enemies of working class interests, i.e., Socialism, to add to the education, and so shorten the time required for the establishment of Socialism.

Republican and Democrat united (1985)

From the March 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

The supposedly opposing Republican and Democratic Parties are both 100 per cent united in their support of the existing society, seeking solutions and palliatives to the problems that result from its very nature, that forever remain immune to the never-ending "cures".

Two crucial political fallacies permeate thinking at voting time. First, that the present system can be so organised that it will operate in the interests of the majority, through a process of applied reformism, and second, that "proper leadership" is an essential requirement. However, neither of the foregoing will ever remove any of the major social evils. An examination of the economics of capitalism, together with its awesome history, supports this contention.

American workers are urged to be concerned about an approximate $175-200 billion annual Budget deficit while 8,000,000 of them are unemployed, surviving on a pittance, and those slightly more fortunate are doomed to a precarious wage-grubbing existence that keeps them perpetually mired in the red ink of their own debts. Since the election in November the Treasury Department has announced a plan to overhaul taxes including the full taxation of all unemployment compensation. Under the guise of "taxation”, unemployment benefits are to be reduced. Is it not an insult to intelligence to expect the working class to ponder the problems of the national Budget while enduring the inequities of a system that creates their own, personal, ongoing deficits and deprivations? The whole question of taxes belongs squarely with the capitalist class and their representatives, and should be recognised as a non-issue as far as the working class is concerned. In any event the gigantic US Budget deficit is likely to remain for years to come, fuelled by an armament programme with an insatiable appetite.

Taxation techniques create the illusion that both the rich and the poor have joined hands in the mutual maintenance of the capitalist state. Such is not the case. The working class are solely responsible for the production of the surplus value from which their employers derive a livelihood and from which the financial burden of the state is paid. In reality the bulk of the taxes "paid" by the working class constitutes a bookkeeping item only, reflecting mythical earnings that never in actuality reach the recipient. Net wages figures are the ones that count, in conjunction with what the money can buy. Nor is the trade imbalance of nearly $70 billion in 1983 a working class issue. The workers are limited in their "trading" to the sale of individual labour power and therefore should turn a deaf ear to such matters that remain extraneous to their own affairs.

Interest rates (which have dropped somewhat) and inflation (which is supposed to be under control but still persists in a slow upward trend) are constantly varying factors which adjust to the economic climate, more susceptible to the inordinate workings of the system than to the tinkering afforded by governments. Thirty years ago US houses, masonry constructed, could be purchased with approximately 5-6 per cent financing. Today, homes literally built of wood and cardboard/stucco are predominant in, for example, Arizona with a current mortgage rate of approximately 13-14 per cent.

Over the years inflation has been progressive, with utility bills in many instances equalling the mortgage payments of bygone eras. In fact, in many parts of the country people's lives are in jeopardy during the winter because of utility costs and the danger of cut-offs when bills are not paid, resulting in sickness and death through lack of heat. In the final analysis, notwithstanding inflation and interest rates, working class wages will guarantee poverty and insecurity — "perpetual recession" during employment. "depression” for the job-seekers. The elderly, those who have endured a life-time of toil, with a limited few years remaining on government handouts, are assured an income that is way below the official poverty line. As to the destitute, during an NBC TV news broadcast on December 4 we were informed that “there are more homeless on the streets than at any time since the Depression".

The working class are conned, by innuendo and incessant misrepresentation, into a tacit acceptance of a concept of common interests wherein the problems of the capitalist class and the state machine are theirs also. The suggestion is that we in the US all belong to one of the world's mightiest military and industrial powers, sharing equally in the glory; and let's all work still harder to increase the arms and wealth of the rulers. The belief that there exists a community of interests from which we all derive common benefits is mistaken. The capitalist class and the state are primarily concerned with safeguarding and improving the efficiency of a society geared for the realisation of rent, interest and profits. Those who, in order to survive, have to depend on wages should approach these problems from a completely different angle
Samuel Leight
World Socialist Party of the United States

Fifty Years After: The Crisis in the Labour Movement (1953)

Editorial from the October 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Just fifty years ago, in 1903, the workers who, in the following year, were to found the S.P.G.B., were weighing up the claims of those who argued that the sure road to emancipation had already been found by the Trades Union Congress and its political offspring, the Labour Party (then known as the Labour Representation Committee). Their view—and a most convincing one it seemed to most workers who had begun to think about the matter—was that the separate unions would conduct the struggle for improved wages and working conditions, the TU.C. would formulate general claims for protective legislation and, along with the Labour Party, would work towards independent working class representation in Parliament. They were able to combine activities at home with the belief that war could be abolished through the international trade union and Labour movement, and their ultimate aim of a reconstruction of society had already been formulated in a resolution passed by the T.U.C. in 1903, which supported “the principle of collective ownership and control of all the means of production and distribution." That such a resolution was passed at that time was due more to the zeal of a politically active minority than to any conviction on the part of the rank and me, but the minority hoped and believed that in time acceptance of this ultimate aim would become general. They were soon congratulating themselves on their success in popularising the demand for “Socialism” when they succeeded in getting more and more workers to become enthusiastic about the prospect of a Labour Government which would introduce, along with numerous social reforms, the general nationalisation of industry.

Against this flowing tide the warning of the S.P.G.B. that the reform of capitalism, Labour administration of capitalism and the extension of State capitalism would solve no working class problem, had little chance of being heard. The S.P.G.B.'s insistence on the paramount need to build up a Socialist movement, having as its sole aim the replacement of world capitalism by a Socialist system of society was fated to be dismissed as a well-intentioned but impractical policy that would soon be forgotten as the trade union-Labour movement triumphantly advanced.

Now, at the recent Trades Union Congress and at the Conference of the Labour Party, the rights and wrongs of that controversy of fifty years ago come to mind once more. But with what a difference after this passage of time!

On a superficial view, and if the opponents of the S.P.G.B. had been correct, the T.U.C. and Labour Party should be celebrating their final victory and the inauguration of the new society they had vaguely dreamed about but never seriously examined. Their membership has grown enormously; they have achieved social reforms in great number and of a magnitude they could hardly have hoped for at the beginning; they have had years of Labour Government and have seen the transfer of large industries to State ownership. Yet, instead of self-congratulation and confident progress to new victories they find their movement split into warring factions. While one group presses for more nationalisation with the kind of arguments they used 30 or 40 years ago the majority of their political and trade union leaders warn the rank and file that such a policy has now become unrealistic and unrelated to the real needs of the present situation. The lengthy report of the T.U.C. General Council that was endorsed by the Congress urged a “go-slow” policy on nationalisation on the grounds, among others, that the hasty and ill-considered extension of nationalisation, particularly to manufacturing industries, would show a failure to appreciate the financial and trading needs of this country and would not be in the interest of the workers.

From the standpoint of those who tacitly accept the position of making the best of British capitalism in a capitalist world this is, of course, a powerful argument and it was not surprising that the Report received the approval of the capitalist Press. But this brings us back to the point we were at fifty years ago, when the S.P.G.B. foretold that the T.U.C.-Labour Party policy meant just that and could mean nothing more.

This is indeed where we came in. Half a century of further experience of capitalism, with its poverty, unemployment and wars powerfully reinforces the case consistently advocated by the Socialist opponents of reformism and State capitalism. Workers seeking their emancipation and the inauguration of a Socialist system of society should now more easily appreciate how unanswerable was and is the case of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.