Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Woe to the Vanquished (1934)

Editorial from the March 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour parties in different countries that go under the names of Communist or Socialist, in spite of the futile nature of their reform policies, are, as a rule, an expression of the discontent of the more advanced workers. In spite of the trickery and place-hunting of leaders the rank and file is made up of many who are prepared to give up their all in the defence of ideas and parties that they believe will bring an end to working class suffering.

The civil struggles that have become such a common feature of social life on the continent of Europe during post-war years are instances of two important problems that the capitalists as a class are endeavouring to solve. On the other hand, they want to cut down the huge state expenditures, much of which is looked upon as an unprofitable employment of money by large sections of the capitalists who object to some of their brethren living upon them, and, on the other hand, they want to curb the dangerous tendencies of working class discontent.

For both purposes they require a stronger and more centralised state power, free as far as possible of party strife.

During the building up of this more centralised state power different groups of capitalists endeavour to exploit the movement for their own ends. Hence the bewildering welter of warring parties with apparently conflicting aims. Upon one question, however, these capitalist parties are united, and that is on the need to crush out anything that suggests an attempt by the workers to lift from their shoulders the burden of exploitation. It is for- this reason that antipathy to “Marxism” is a prominent feature of all these capitalist movements. The name of Marx is synonymous with the class struggle and Socialism. Hence the ruthless means employed against individuals and organisations that pay court to Marx—even when his name and ideas have been taken in vain—by those who for a while obtain the spoils of power.

The ferocity of the repressive measures is often the offspring of panic on the part of the ruling class, who, fancying their privileged position challenged, let loose the feelings of the jungle and savagery has its way.

There has just been an example of this in Austria during a struggle that has been long anticipated. The struggle was provoked by the Government with a cunning that is familiar, and of which we had an example here during the War, when the bulk of the men of this country were brought into the army and the munition works by the skilful use of Derby Scheme and Conscription Acts. The Austrian Government has recently made no secret of its intention to crush out the Social Democratic Party and the haste with which it brought into use artillery against the workers makes glaringly evident the grimness of its determination. The Government intends that the lesson shall be salutary and that neither women nor children, neither the aged nor the non-combatants, are safe from its ferocity when they let loose the revengeful guns.

While the guns were still booming the gallows were put up and the executions began in haste lest the opportunity might slip by that was provided by the excuse of unbridled passion.

The dispassionate savagery behind the directing of the guns was illustrated by the fact that in the midst of the strife the cessation of the bombardment by artillery was ordered in one of the districts of Vienna because damage was being caused to valuable property—and this was done while the artillery continued to blow to pieces even women and children who were cowering in terror in the blocks of working class flats that were the centre of the chief bombardment! Let the workers remember such incidents.

Whatever we may think of the mistaken policies of the Austrian labour movement we have nothing but admiration for the Austrian workers who put up such a determined if despairing struggle against the attempt to destroy their organisations.

As was obvious from the beginning, the Austrian Government have been successful in their object. Many working class homes mourn the death or the mutilation of participants in the struggle. The destruction of their organisations is being pursued with vigour and mercilessness.

The Austrian ruling class have been successful. They believe they will stamp out all tendency to revolt against exploitation. Their success, however, can only be temporary. The fire they have smothered will smoulder and break out again later on. When it does so, we hope that the Austrian workers will be guided by greater knowledge than they have been in the past, and will base their movement on a policy that has for its single object the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production and the establishment of Socialism.

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