Saturday, September 17, 2016

Perils of an elitist system (1969)

Book Review from the December 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our Own People, by Elisabeth Poretsky OUP 42s.

This is not a book for the squeamish, it is not only more horrific than a Bond thriller; it bears the stamp of truth.

The author is the widow of one of a group of six young men from the same small town (often referred to but never named) in Poland who were fired with what they thought were communist ideals and became professionally attached to the Soviet Communist Party, mainly as members of the secret police, the dreaded NKVD. The story traces their history over a period of some twenty years between the wars till all six of these comrades had been duly liquidated. The title is taken from a remark made by one of the six that they would either be hanged by the enemy or “our own people” would shoot them. In fact all except one were murdered by their own NKVD which they had served so faithfully. The exception hanged himself.

The book teaches yet again the fatal trap of expecting that an elite of intellectuals and professional revolutionaries can lead the working class (who are not socialists) into Socialism. It led them instead into a murderous dictatorship which killed millions of ordinary people, as well as innumerable dedicated Bolsheviks. And which still maintains its grip on the Russian workers. But perhaps the most tragic aspect of the book, perhaps even worse than the nightmare atmosphere of Moscow at the height of the Stalinist purges, is that the dreadful lesson was, even at the bitter end, not learned by the highly intellectual victims whose fates are here described. The author’s husband, who finally broke with the regime when he could no longer tolerate its sheer horror, wrote in a resignation letter to the Communist Party that he intended to devote the rest of his life to the cause of Lenin and of Trotsky’s Fourth International. With sublime indifference to the fact that it was precisely they who had laid the murderous foundation on which Stalin was to' build. In practice the rest of his life was a mere few days before the NKVD murdered the letter writer in Switzerland. Once an agent’s number was up, he merely had the choice of obeying the summons to return to Moscow to be killed there, or to refuse and be killed in the country where he was on assignment. And the author describes how the murderers in the latter case were usually emigre Tsarist officers who obtained both pay and pleasure out of killing communists.

Nothing in the book indicates that the six friends realised that the Russian masses were the victims of spurious communism even more than the NKVD men who waited paralysed with fear for their apparatus to liquidate them. Nothing in the writing, that is. But there is one photograph which speaks volumes. It shows a fat and well-dressed Russian bureaucrat addressing a factory meeting calling for a vote of thanks to Stalin for butchering his opponents (and even Stalinists). One does not need to be specially sensitive to have nightmares from looking at the terrified faces of the thin and ragged workers as, without the slightest sign of enthusiasm, they dutifully raise their arms to condemn Radek, Zinoviev and the rest.

The question of why all these people confessed in the great trials is again raised and the pertinent point is made why Radek, for example, who had risen so high, should want to spy for fascist enemies. What possible motive could he have had? There is no doubt from this book, any more than from Khruschev’s “secret speech” twenty years later, that fear of torture for themselves and their families was reason enough. The columns of the Socialist Standard in those days were just as prescient on this issue as they were in 1917 when they stated that the revolution could not produce Socialism because neither objective conditions nor the minds of the workers (still less of the peasants) were ready. Yet on the confessions the position of such as Koestler was that the old Bolsheviks all confessed to save their revolution. Despite the fact that the arch-victim, Trotsky, tried in absentia in all the trials, never dreamt of confessing to the preposterous crimes they were charged with. (On the contrary, he did not even confess to the real crimes which he and Lenin committed such as the massacre of the sailors at Kronstadt.) The difference being, of course, that he was out of reach of the NKVD torturers.

The photograph referred to above contrasts vividly with the pictures of well-fed and well-dressed Soviet families which were to be found at the same time in the pro-Russia press of the West. This book shows how these pictures were faked by the minions of Willi Münzenberg, well-known before the war as the “communist millionaire”. The book tells us what happened to him. He eventually quarreled with Stalin and was found hanging from a tree in France. Suicide, clearly. But French police found something odd. He had been strangled before being strung up. “Our own people” had struck again. We also read how other German communists were handed over by Stalin to Hitler to be murdered in Nazi concentration camps instead of Russian ones.

One could go on with these gruesome stories but the moral has been pointed often enough. Only an informed socialist working class can bring a socialist revolution. And only free democratic conditions can produce such enlightenment Leninist elitism can lead only to disaster.
L. E. Weidberg

A Blow for Socialism (1915)

Editorial from the March 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

At a period when the space in our last issue was already allotted, there came to hand from the Socialist Labor Party of America, a letter addressed to "the Affiliated Parties of the International Socialist Bureau.”

The fact that we are not one of the affiliated parties need not prevent us subjecting this very silly epistle, with all its wild claims and shallow assertions, to the test of Socialist criticism.

The general purpose of the letter we are criticising is to seize the opportunity provided by the wide spread discredit thrown upon Socialism by the pseudo Socialists of Europe for the purpose of attaching the confused and bewildered workers to the pseudo Socialism of America. In other words, it is a deliberate attempt to prevent the workers from seeing and understanding the real cause of the failure of working-class political organisation in the present crisis, and the break-down of the "International,” in order that the workers shall turn their wearied eyes, not to class conscious political action, but to that snare and delusion, Industrial Unionism, with its kibosh of “taking and holding” and “locking out the masters.”

We are told that: “The events in Europe are likewise a demonstration of the principle that a pure and simple political party of Socialism, however revolutionary it may be in its utterances, cannot be of real service to the proletariat, let alone accomplishing [sic] its emancipation." In a mass of vague statements and ambiguities this assertion and its implications are clear. If it means anything at all it means that a Socialist political party has been called upon to stand the test of the present crisis and has failed. Only thus could "the events in Europe” be a “demonstration of the principle that a pure and simple political party of Socialism . . cannot be of real service to the proletariat." This implication is nothing but a sophism intended to discredit the class conscious political organisation of the workers—the reason for it we shall see presently.

The authors of the letter indicate who they regard as the “pure and simple political party of Socialism” when they say in an earlier passage, “ the European Socialist movement—and that means largely the movement in Germany, France and Austria,” and go on to talk of the “vast numbers which the movement in general in Europe enlisted under the banner of Socialism, the great vote cast in the various countries,” and so forth. They leave no doubt at all that it is those gigantic parties on the Continent who take up a similar attitude to that adopted by the Labour Party in this country whom they hail as the “pure and simple political party of Socialism"—for no other purpose than to be able to claim that Socialist political organisation has failed.

Against such deliberate falsehood, such treacherous misrepresentation, we rise indignant to defend the Socialist position. We repudiate the implied statement that Socialist political organisation has failed. We claim, on the contrary, that in the only instance we know of where Socialist political organisation has been put to the test, it has emerged unshaken, unsullied, and triumphant.

What are the facts concerning the political organisation of the so called “European Socialist Movement” ? What is the true significance of the failure of the “vast numbers” and the “great vote” that movement attracted to itself to count as a force against the machinations of high anarchists who have drenched the lands and seas of the world with blood? These questions are easily answered.

The political organisation which has failed to stand the strain of recent events was not Socialist political organisation at all, and the significance of its failure is that working class political organisation is useless to the workers unless it is firmly grounded upon Socialist principles.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always held that the essential principle upon which the political party of the working class must be based is the principle of the class struggle. The implications of this are several. The first is that only the class conscious may be admitted to membership in the organisation, since only those who are conscious of the working-class position in society can understand the class struggle, and only those who understand the class struggle can intelligently prosecute it on the political field. The second implication of the principle of the class struggle is that the political party of the working class must be uncompromisingly hostile to all other parties, for the reason that political parties are the expression of class interests, and the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class.

We claim that only upon this basis of the class struggle is it possible for the “political party of Socialism” (to use the phrase of the S L.P. of A.) to be founded. Political organisation which is not based upon this principle, no matter by what name it goes or how many millions of votes it may succeed in capturing, if it pretends to be Socialist political organisation, is spurious and fraudulent.

Political organisation is not merely a matter of enrolled membership. It is much more than this. It is the organisation of the vote both inside and outside of the political organisation. While its strength for organising the vote to the ballot box lies in its organised membership, its strength for political conquest lies in its vote. It is through this vote that the class struggle is to be ultimately decided. But the vote is only an expression of opinion, and its only value lies in the opinion that it expresses.

The logic of this is clear enough. If it is important that the organised members of the “political party of Socialism” shall understand the working class position, it is equally important that the organised vote, upon which the political party must lean in its assault on the political supremacy of the master class, shall be the expression of opinion of class-conscious, revolutionaries.

We are now at the root of the whole matter of the failure of the “European Socialist Movement” to take up and maintain the Socialist position in the recent crisis. These gigantic political organisations which disposed of so many millions of votes were not Socialist organisations. They were not founded upon the principle of the class struggle. They had not done the work of politically educating their supporters. They had not built up their strength upon an electorate understanding the working-class position and desiring revolution. These millions of so-called Socialist voters did not understand the class division in society, and did not, therefore, realise the unity of interest of the workers the world over, and the clash between the interests of the working class and the master class, at every point, nationally and internationally. Their votes had been attracted by all manner of nostrums and side-issues, and simply expressed opinions thereon, and not on the vital matter of working-class emancipation.

That is how the matter stood at the time of the outbreak of the war. We had always foreseen that political organisation upon such a basis must fail the moment it should be put to the test, and that in the time of crisis it could only bring disaster upon the working-class movement. In innumerable articles in our official organ we have stated this clearly, and events have justified us to the full. The so-called Socialists did not understand the class struggle, with its clear call, "workers, unite!” They were of that school (to which the S.L.P. of A. belong) who (here we quote the letter before us) “recognise the fact that the Socialists of Europe have been confronted with many problems which had to be solved before the real issue, Socialism versus Capitalism, could be decided.” They lacked, indeed, every essential of the mental equipment necessary to enable them to take up the line of action which their interests demanded—in short, they were not Socialists.

Before proceeding farther let us turn for a moment to another aide of the matter. The S L.P. of A. claim in their letter that had their views been adopted “certain measures could have been taken at least to minimise this terrible catastrophe ” ; indeed, they go further, and say that they believe that, “had the various brother-parties listened to our voice and adopted our suggestions, the present catastrophe now crushing the proletariat, might—if it had happened at all—have been turned to the defeat of the capitalist class, the overthrow of this barbarous system, and caused the ushering in of the Co-operative Commonwealth, the Industrial Republic of Labour.”

The real significance of this extravagant claim is that the S.L.P. of A. believe that the Co-operative Commonwealth can be established by an unclass conscious proletariat— a point to be farther dealt with.

We know that whether our teachings or those of the S.L.P. of A. had been propagated in Europe the course of events as far as the war and its conduct are concerned would have been very much the same. It may be noted in how many ways the mentality of the Socialist Party differs from that of the quasi-Socialist Party, and how this difference is revealed at every turn. The S.L.P.'s lament is that the European “Socialist” Movement failed to prevent or moderate “this awful catastrophe”; our complaint is not this at all for the reasons we have given. What we regret is the spectacle of what so many regard as the “great Socialist Movement” failing to make audible protest against the butchery of millions of the working class on the battlefield in capitalist interests. Nor is this all—these exploiters of our sacred cause have everywhere identified themselves with the war, and urged the workers to take up arms against their fellow wage slaves. To us this is the great injury inflicted upon the workers’ cause because we know how much this great betrayal will impede the work of spreading class-consciousness among our follow workers. Such education is not necessary in the minds of the S.L.P. of A., hence they are not concerned with this point.

We now come back to the matter of the contempt of the S.L.P of A. for the class-conscious political organisation of the workers. They assert that "the correct form of the economic organisation (industrial unionism) is the embryo, the undeveloped form of future society.” And what is this “industrial unionism”? The following quoted from the letter before us helps us here : “ . . . no one man can represent the varied interests of the different industries which are found within a given territory.” So industrial unionism, the undeveloped form of future society, is based, not upon the unity of the interest of all, but upon antagonism of interests by industries! It is quite clear that it is utterly hopeless to try to make this idea and class-consciousness — the very essence of which is the recognition of the unity of the class interest— run in harness together.

A moment’s consideration will show how little justification any organisation can have for describing itself as a Socialist body, that holds that “industrial unionism is the embryo, the undeveloped form of future society.” The idea is anti-social and anti-democratic. It is anarchistic to the very marrow. It is founded upon antagonism of interests; it presupposes that the means and instruments of production and distribution are to be controlled, not by the whole community, but by the industry! Just as it is the abnegation of working-class unity before the Revolution, so it is conceivable only as the antithesis of social unity after the revolution. It has, however, the same advantage from the point of view of those who want to shirk the arduous but necessary work of educating the working class that the compromising policy of the European “Socialists” has; i.e., it does not demand a class-conscious proletariat —indeed, it can only thrive on working-class ignorance.

The S.L.P. of A. talks as if it were the only body claiming the Socialist title who realises the necessity for the workers to organise on the economic as well as on the political field. This is far from the truth. The S.P.G.B. has always maintained the need for economic organisation, but has ever insisted that such organisition must be on class lines, and must be thoroughly class-conscious. Granted these essentials, it is quite clear that Socialist political organisation must, in point of time, proceed Socialist economic organisation. For both the political and the economic organisation must draw their adherents from the same general body of class-conscious workers, and the direction in which organisation can be maintained with the smallest numbers is the direction in which organisation will take place first. Economic organisation brings the workers into direct conflict with their employers who hold their livelihood in their hands It brings them also into direct conflict with the present trade unions. For these reasons it is sheer folly to talk about organising Socialists on the economic field until there are vast numbers of Socialists to organise, for the class-conscious few would be quickly starved out between the masters and their fellow workers.

How mad is the statement in S.L.P. of A. resolution to the Stuttgart Congress that the "economic organisation of Labor" (and by that they mean industrial organisation) is "the only conceivable force with which to back up the ballot”! Only the "take and hold” cranks, whose brain cannot get away from the idea that what is to be done on the day of the Revolution is to nip round to the workshop early and turn the key on the master, could harbour such a suggestion. As a matter of fact it is just as conceivable that political organisation could provide the force with which to back up the ballot as that economic organisation could do so. There are innumerable instances of political organisations backing their objects with force, and in capitalist society the supreme force is politically controlled.

Economic organisation of the working class is necessary for other reasons than the shallow one set forth by the S.L.P. of A. It is necessary for the fighting of the workers’ battle on the industrial field under capitalism; it is necessary for the maintenance of industrial order in the new-born Socialist Commonwealth. In order that it may perform the first function it must be organisation on a class basis; in order that it may perform the second function it must know nothing of any division of interest within itself, whether along the lines of crafts, industries, sex, nationalities, color, or whatnot. Obviously, then, Industrial Unionism cannot fill the bill.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain calls the attention of the workers of this and other lands to the fact that, founded as a political organisation upon Socialist, principles, it has maintained the true working-class position in relation to the war without difficulty. We cannot boast of the support of millions of voters at the polls, but no one can point to a single word or deed of ours, in this time of crisis, which has been a betrayal of the cause of the proletariat. Well for Socialism, well for the stricken workers, well for the great cause of humanity, if, when the present riot of anarchy is over, and those who have to pay for it in blood and tears come to count the cost and apportion tho blame, they realise that the political party of Socialism, weak though it was in numbers, was strong enough to denounce the war on all sides, strong enough to expose the misleaders of Labour and their purchased “patriotism,” strong enough to avow and maintain, in the face of a frenzy of insane nationalism, the unity of interest of the Workers of all countries, strong enough to remain Socialists and keep the flag of Socialism flying.

Editorial: The Suppression of the 'Daily Worker' (1941)

Editorial from the February 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard
It was announced in the Press on January 2nd, 1941, that the Home Secretary, Mr. Morrison, had suppressed the Daily Worker and a journal known as The Week, because of their "systematic publication of matter calculated to foment opposition to the prosecution of the war to a successful issue." This action was taken under Regulation 2D of the Defence (General) Regulations. The Times (January 22nd) gives the following further details : ―
  "The effect of the Orders (the announcement continues) is that if any person prints, publishes, or distributes, or is in any way concerned in printing, publishing, or distributing either of these papers, he will be committing an offence.   The regulation provides that an Order under it, specifying a newspaper by name, shall have effect not only with respect to any newspaper published under that name, but with respect to any newspaper published under any other name if the publication thereof is in any respect a continuation of, or in substitution for, the publication of the newspaper named in the Order.   Orders have also been made under Defence Regulation 94B by the Home Secretary directing that the printing presses and other apparatus shall not be used until the leave of the High Court has been obtained, and authorising the police to take such steps, such as the taking possession of the plant or premises as may appear necessary for securing compliance with the Orders."
Most of the daily papers had editorials giving approval to the suppression, even if, in some instances, with a certain uneasiness. Hardly anywhere in the Press did the Daily Worker find a friend. Even the Manchester Guardian, which might have been expected to take an independent line, did not do so. Its reason is interesting. The Guardian (January 22nd, 1941) held that the Daily Worker's activities "might be excusable if the motives were honest, if it were really desired to help the country in its struggle to keep democracy alive in Europe. But the Daily Worker did not believe in the war or in democracy; its only aim was to confuse and weaken, We can well spare it."
This is a curious justification for suppression. Are the Communists dishonest? If by dishonesty is meant that they sought to gain members, influence, and power by exploiting every conceivable grievance, small or great, while not worrying whether the supporters thus recruited understood and accepted the more distant and fundamental aims of the Communist Party, then indeed the Communists are dishonest; but is not some degree of such dishonesty an old English custom among all political parties except the S.P.G.B.? And is it not obvious that the only way of limiting the influence that can be gained by such a group is to keep them right in the open where the very reticent Communist leaders and speakers can be constantly called upon to explain their motives and inspiration, their somersaulting policies, their associations, their tortuous methods and semi-secret organisation? Even from the declared standpoint of the Manchester Guardian one might have supposed that there is much to be said for the view of the "Londoner" in the Evening Standard, who says: "The Daily Worker does less damage when printed than when suppressed " (January 22nd, 1941).
The S.P.G.B. has its own, quite different, point of view. True to our basic principle we do not support suppression of opinion, however false we believe that opinion to be.
We have always thought and always said that the activities of the Communist Party have been a continual menace to the Socialist movement and the interest of the workers, not least the calculated dishonesty of their manoeuvres. It was not for nothing that Lenin urged Communists to resort to "strategy and adroitness, illegal proceedings, reticence and subterfuge, to anything in order to penetrate into trade unions, remain in them and carry out Communist work within them at any cost." The Communists have applied these unprincipled tactics in every field of their activities and propaganda. Among their schemings may be mentioned their support for the present war in the early weeks and their alternate support for and opposition to the Labour Party and its leaders. Since 1920, when the Communist Party was formed, it can truly be said that they have on some occasion or other urged the workers to support and then to oppose every prominent Labour leader, from MacDonald and Thomas to Morrison and Bevin. More recently (Daily Worker, March 30th, 1939) they were appealing by personal letter to Churchill, Sinclair and Attlee to get together to overthrow the Chamberlain Government and form a Government of their own in order "to save the country in the rapidly deepening crisis." It may well be said that they got the war they wanted (and then soon ceased to want it when Russia decided to be friends with Hitler) and got the Government they asked for and now it has got them.
So tortuous are the ways of the Communists that it is by no means impossible (the contents of the Daily Worker in recent weeks rather suggest this) that for some obscure reason they now no longer wanted the immunity from prosecution they sought last year by setting up a board of "influential persons" to run the Daily Worker but wanted to be suppressed.
All the same the S.P.G.B. is opposed to suppression of opinion. In our view the way to counter any kind of propaganda, and in the long the only way, is to meet it in the open in unfettered discussion. We are entitled to add that we practise what we preach and have always thrown open our platform to our opponents.
A further point to be noticed is that the Communist Party, while giving lip service to democracy in this country ― at least since they discovered that their early propaganda for dictatorship was not popular ― has never on any single occasion criticised and denounced the rigorous suppression of all independent parties and journals by the Bolsheviks in Russia. It is one of the unfortunate consequences of the suppression of the Daily Worker that the Communists, who are enemies of democratic methods, will be able to pose as martyrs in the struggle for democracy. Fundamentally an anti-Socialist organisation, they will be able falsely to represent themselves in the eyes of many workers as victims in the fight for in Socialism.

Children's fiction (1986)

Book Review from the October 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Stove Haunting. Bel Mooney (Methuen, price £6.95).

Bel Mooney is a journalist, and The Stove Haunting is her second novel written for children It is what is known as "time-slip fiction": an 11 -year-old boy from the twentieth century finds himself, through the medium of an old kitchen stove, entering the mind and body of an eleven-year-old kitchen boy of the nineteenth.

"The year." says the blurb, "is 1835, and the countryside is in a state of unrest; through his friend George. Daniel becomes involved in the plans of the local farm workers to improve their miserable wages by forming a Friendly Society — a union. But the laws forbid such 'treason' and soon Daniel must try to save his friends from the most terrifying fate of all.”

Judged from the purely literary viewpoint, the book is competent without ever really rising above an acceptable level of mediocrity. Judged from the social viewpoint, it presents its story of deprivation and injustice vividly enough; but "absorbing insight", as claimed in the blurb? It is not impossible, even in a children's book, to lead one's readers towards an understanding of how deprivation and injustice come about towards an understanding of how society functions. This book makes no attempt to do that.

It is all too easy, too superficially attractive, to conjure up the miseries of the past — to arouse the young readers' compassion for the poor and ill-treated, their wrath at the unfairness of "those times But the "unfairness" of those times is still with us. whereas all too often (not always: the children's book world is changing) the impression is given that these wrongs have been righted, that we no longer have the rich and powerful, the masters, the rulers, controlling the lives of the rest of us, the masses.

In 1835 the workers were fighting to establish the right to form unions: in 1986. as far as the child reading the book is concerned, this is a battle which has long since been won. A wrong has been righted and there is an end of it. But of course, in essence, nothing has changed: the relationship between the rulers and the ruled remains as it ever was save that now. terrifyingly, with the rapid advance of technology, those in command have even more power over the rest of us than they had before; and at the same time as they have more control over us. the people, they have less control over the things the bombs, the nuclear reactors, the chemicals — which technology has created and which threaten us all.

It has now become essential that we mature sufficiently to organise ourselves on a co-operative and democratic — socialist — basis, world-wide, before the precipitous onward rush of technology, with this competitive, power-structured society, fatally outstrips us. And in this regard, any writer for children who chooses to illustrate the social wrongs of the past without linking them to those of the present is falling down badly on a common duty to humanity.

I don't doubt that children will enjoy The Stove Haunting — will empathise with the downtrodden poor, wax indignant at the wicked rich; but they will almost certainly be left with the comfortable feeling that "it is not like that now". And never at any point will they be induced to question the present structure of society or consider the urgent, desperate, need for radical change in the way we organise ourselves.
John Usher

Obituary: Bob Marshall (2012)

Obituary from the March 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sadly Bob Marshall died on 30 December at the age of 89. He was a long-standing member of the Party having joined the old Southend branch in 1945. Later he was a member of West Ham branch. He was a man of many talents and dedicated to the Socialist cause. He had been called up for military service when he was 17 and registered as a conscientious objector, but his case was not upheld and by his refusal to enroll got a prison sentence which he spent in Feltham Young Offenders prison. On his release he had to do alternative service and opted for land work and he, along with other COs were directed to work on various farms. He worked mainly in SE Essex, the Rochford and Southend area. Collectively the COs were not very productive. They spent most of their day debating with each other, as they held a rich collection of attitudes to war in particular and to varied social and political ideas in general: there were pacifists and believers as well as anarchists and socialists. He said this was the happiest period of his life except that he was strapped for cash.

When he finally left the land he joined the Crown Agency helping to look after the Empire.  Prior to the war he had been apprenticed in high class hand-made leather ware, and after the war continued to ply his trade in his spare time to augment his income, making wallets etc for Harrods and folders for Rolls Royce. He was a keen sailor and DIY enthusiast so he decided to design and build his own ten metre yacht in his garden. His ambition wasn’t to sail the oceans but to just potter around the creeks and backwaters of Essex. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to devote the necessary time to complete his boat until his retirement, some twenty years later, when it was lifted over the roof of his house on a huge crane and transported to the coast where it was launched to the cheers of dozens of his family and friends.

On his retirement he fulfilled another ambition to visit his twin brother in New Zealand by train. Trains, especially steam engines, were another passion, so he and his wife Daphne caught a train from London and with many changes arrived in Moscow, for a short stay before flying eastwards to join the Trans-Siberian Railway for three days to the Pacific coast, then by ship to Japan and air to New Zealand. They continued their circumnavigation after spending a few months with his brother by flying to the west coast of USA and crossing America by train. In his retirement in the 1990s he took on the post of Head Office assistant at Clapham for a number of years. He then had time to read a lot and to indulge in another love, painting. He was a talented artist in oils and acrylic, painting landscapes and seascapes featuring trains and boats.

He was a very gentle, private and quiet man who saw the inequalities in capitalism and contributed what he could to help change it. He will be greatly missed by his wife, family and friends.

Derek Deutz

How Christians Awoke to the Slaughter (1935)

Book Review from the January 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

Arms and the Clergy, 1914-1918. By G. Bedborough. Price, 1s. (Pioneer Press, 64, Farringdon Street, E.C.4.)

The writer and publishers of this booklet are to be complimented upon presenting us with a few hundred of the many thousands of utterances made by the soldiers of Christ during the late war. In these days, when everyone is talking “peace" and will continue so doing until the next war, when the few who then talk peace will be persecuted or put into gaol, it is useful to have this record to hand. The followers of the “Prince of Peace" have ever been known to be on the side of the big guns; their allegiance and adhesion to the powers that be is as insistent as it is unctuous. “Divine sanction" for killing, maiming, persecuting and lying. And why not? Does not the Holy Bible give us this “sanction"? Of course, it does. Is not the “reason" for our ripping each other up in wartime always a "holy" one, which becomes “holier" according to the material advantages at stake? Read your Bible; it is a veritable chamber of horrors masquerading under the guise of “moral law." The secular arm of the capitalist state has at least in its favour the fact that it relies upon its own material organisation to win it victory in war.

But its religious limb presents us with the tragicomic scene of having the same “God" operating on all sides at one and the same time. But, as the nigger said, “Dere is no daht abaht it dat God am a good all-round man." If we could but impart the philosophy of that nigger into the general human mind we should be bidding a fair good-bye not only to Christianity, but all religions. For, expressed in psychological terms, “God" being a “good all-round man," in reality means that humanity makes its own gods; there are no others. They therefore think and do what humanity thinks and does, a fact well known to all scientific students of religion. “God" wills what man wills.

However, let us resume company with Mr. Bedborough and his parsons. He reminds us that from the moment of the outbreak of hostilities the clergy of England were anxious that they should not run the risk of becoming active participants in the trenches or other danger zones. Presumably they might avoid the risks if they became recruiting sergeants. So “Onward Christian soldiers” went to fight, but not parsons. Many of them preferred to sing their hymns of hate in safety and to counsel their sheep to the slaughter. After all, what does the loss of one’s life matter in the realms of Christian teaching? What is this life for but a preparation for the holy kingdom hereafter? The “spiritual world” of Christian fancy has ever been of more importance than the world of reality in which we have our being. The following are a few of the “lofty" or “spiritual" sayings cited by Mr. Bedborough, and taken at random.

The Bishop of London at St. Paul’s Cathedral, August 9th, 1914: —
May it not be that this cup of hardship which we drink together will turn out to be the very draught which we need. And at the bottom of the cup there will be joy.
The Rev. William Adams Brown, D.D., at Memorial Hall, London, October 16th, 1914: —
  God is in history, and because He is, we may be sure that the ultimate outcome will be good.  . . , How the Old Testament lives again in the light of contemporary events. What a grim commentary upon Isaiah and Jeremiah are the events which are even now transpiring in Belgium and France—the country desolate, the cities burned with fire, the land devoured by strangers. . . . What does the Christian see as he contemplates the mysteries of God’s Providence ? . . .
   In the first place, he sees God at work. . . . What we see, so far from being a disproof of God’s moral government of men, is the most august demonstration the world has ever seen of the inexorableness of the moral laws. . . . Once again God is teaching us . . .
What a God and what a moral law! What a teaching! From the “Christian World Pulpit," October 30th, 1918, Rev. Lucius Bugbee: —
  To those who fall I say you will not die but step into immortality. Your mothers will not lament your fate, but will be proud to have borne such sons. Your names will be reverenced for ever by your grateful country, and God will take you unto Himself.
We like that stepping into immortality. Most of the clergy kept a firm step on Mother Earth, and a firm hand on the pay envelope. The Archbishop of York: —
In my judgment, every Christian man may give his whole-hearted loyalty to King and country in this war, and earnestly believe that in so doing he is not disloyal to the Kingdom of God. We can carry this cause without shame to the presence of Him Who is Judge of the whole earth, and ask Him to bless it.
— (“Church Times," August 14th, 1914.)
For sheer bestiality, some of the American Christians would be hard to beat. Take this one, for example: —
  Never miss an opportunity to destroy the eyes of the enemy. In all head-holds use the finger on the eyes. They are the most delicate points in the body, and easy to reach. The eye can easily be removed with the finger.
—A. E. Marriott, Y.M.C.A,
physical director at Camp Sevier.
Here is another of like kind : —
(Pointing to the location of his vital organs.) Three inches are not enough, seven inches are too many, and twelve inches are more than too many, for while you are pulling out the bayonet you are losing the opportunity to drive it into another man five inches.
—Herbert S. Johnson, Pastor of Warren
Avenue Baptist Church, Boston. 
And so of such things are Christians made. They have ever chanted of the “moral uplift" of Christianity, but the Socialist knows differently. Like all religions, this off-shoot of the holy Roman Empire has been a tool in the hands of those who are interested in human enslavement. Either as a guide to an understanding of social forces or a means of working-class emancipation from capitalist exploitation Christianity is more than useless.

To propagandists we recommend getting this booklet. Mr. Bedborough has provided us with a handy friend to help smash the false claims of our foes.
Robert Reynolds