Monday, February 6, 2017

The Church's One Foundation (1959)

From the April 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

From the Sunday Express (January 18th, 1959): “The Church of England stands to make millions of pounds if the Tories win the next election. The money will come from investments in free enterprise steel. The Church’s 2,187,000 shares put it among Britain's top ten investors in steel. . . . The investment is worth around £3,400,0000. Growing confidence that Tory success at the polls will end the threat of renationalisation has brought a rise of nearly 50 per cent. in steel shares from the low points touched last year. This suggests that the Church is already showing a profit in the region of £1,000,000 on its holding . . .  Soon the Church’s advisers will face the problem of reinvesting the £1,100,000 to be received from the take-over of its $260,000 British Aluminium shares.. This single transaction has brought the Church a profit estimated at £500,000."
The prophets of the early days for truth made spartan search,
     They lived on nuts and wore apparel strange;
But now in more enlightened times the profits of the Church
      Are made in dealings on the Stock Exchange.
"Take no thought for the body,” said the Gospel of St. Luke,
    “Consider ye the lilies of the field.”
They considered: but, while thinking, much more worldly steps they took,
     And placed their Cush to get the highest yield.
Do they pray, in their churches, that the Consols may not fall?
     Do they beg, as they kneel, that oil may rise?
Do they summon the Almighty to keep closer on the ball
      So their shares, like their prayers, may hit the skies?
The Church complains it cannot reach the workers—it despairs
      That it doesn't find them very fruitful soil;
But the Church can reach the workers other ways—by buying shares,
      And grabbing surplus value from their toil.
Alwyn Edgar

The Passing Show: Another Colonial Plot (1959)

The Passing Show column from the April 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Another Colonial Plot
In Nyasaland the Governor proclaims a state of emergency because, he says, a plot by. the Africans to massacre the whites has been discovered. Southern Rhodesian security forces have been drafted into the country. There are three million Africans in Nyasaland, a sea of Negroes in which are scattered a handful of whites, no more than eight thousand all told. Despite this enormous disparity of numbers, the number of whiles so far killed as a result of the “massacre plot” is—none. But more than forty Africans have up to now been slain by the security forces.

The disturbances in Nyasaland originated in the desire of the Southern Rhodesian ruling class for aggrandisement. In Southern Rhodesia, the situation is much like that in South Africa. The white farmers and planters insist on "apartheid’’--although they don’t call it that. Hotels, restaurants, schools, are run strictly on racial lines. Political power lies in the hands of the whites. Theoretically anyone can vote, but the great majority of Africans are barred because they must pass a means test before they can exercise the franchise. If too many Africans apply for enfranchisement, then the means test can be stiffened—this, says a writer to the Manchester Guardian (March 11th, 1959) has been done twice in the past.

The devil they know
But the parallel with South Africa goes further than this. Successive governments of the Union, while pressing the desirability of keeping whites and blacks apart, nevertheless regularly, demand the handing over of Bechuanaland. Basutoland, and Swaziland—although these three territories together would add nearly a million Negroes to the population of South Africa. What the white South Africans want is not separation, but white domination: and so it is in Southern Rhodesia. Fcderation—which is in fact rule by Southern Rhodesia—was imposed on Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland against the wishes of the great majority of the Africans living in those countries. Many Nyasas travel far afield to find work: they have seen the subjection of the Africans of Southern. Rhodesia to the whites, and they don’t like it.

Not British
These developments have aroused much uneasiness in Britain. Modern capitalism demands educated workers; at school the worker learns enough arithmetic and English to labour at his employer’s bench or keep his employer’s books. Capitalism also demands enfranchised workers; the worker who votes from time to time —whether in Britain. America or Russia believes he is ruling himself, and this encourages him to think that the prevailing economic system is fashioned in his interests, fhc Southern Rhodesian ruling class, whose power is based not on industry but land, has shown itself hostile to both of these requirements. Hence the divergence of views between Britain and Southern Rhodesia. Sir Robert Armitage, the British-appointed Governor of Nyasalund, has been markedly less active in the latest developments than Sir Roy Welensky, the Southern Rhodesian Prime Minister of the Federation, and Sir Edgar Whitehead, the Premier of Southern Rhodesia itself. In Southern Rhodesia, where there had been hardly any civil disorder reported except some stone-throwing by strikers, a state of emergency was declared on February 26th. On the same day in Nyasaland, where the trouble was, a spokesman of the Government "said, “there was no question of a situation requiring a state of emergency in the protectorate" (Manchester Guardian, February 27th, 1959): the Nyasaland state of emergency was not in fact declared until March 3rd.

As in South Africa, the inevitable industrialisation of the country will settle these problems as capitalism wants them to be settled.. Socialists can leave capitalism to get over its own difficulties, and concentrate on the spread of Socialist ideas.

In 1954 Mr. Henry Hopkinson, then a Conservative Minister, stood up in the House of Commons and said that there were some British colonies which could never hope to achieve independence: as an example he cited Cyprus. For the next four years the island was torn with violence: hundreds of human beings—British, Greek, Turkish—died: repeatedly British Governors announced that they could not bargain with violence, and that law and order must be restored before any constitutional advance could be made. Last month, with the terrorist groups still at large in the hills, Cyprus was granted its virtual independence. But do not expect the Ministers of the Crown to be at all abashed at having done what they said could never be done. To make a meal of their own words is no new experience for our present political leaders. They seem to thrive on the diet.

And Mr. Henry Hopkinson, whose use of the word “never” started it all? Like many another unsuccessful politician before him, he has been rewarded with a peerage. The costly struggle of the British ruling class to keep Cyprus has, at least for Mr. Hopkinson, not been entirely fruitless.
Freedom from the oppressor
The Cypriot workers, who have now exchanged their British musters for a home-grown variety, and the Nyasa people, who arc trying to do the same, might ponder an item of news from Pakistan. The long light against the British with its killings on both sides, its violence, its long jail sentences, its executions — which is only now ending in Cyprus, and seems to be getting under way in Nyasaland, has long been over in Pakistan. A decade and more ago, the British handed over authority to the new Pakistani rulers, and withdrew. The Pakistani workers expected their long struggle to result in a new and better era. How disappointed they must be now..

A letter to the Editor of the Manchester Guardian (March 12th, 1959) runs in part as follows
   "A little less than a month ago you briefly reported a large strike at the largest jute mill centre in the world at Narayanganj, East Pakistan. This involved some twenty thousand workers, and the dispute resulted worn a demand for the continuance of Sunday as a day of rest, instead of staggering holidays throughout the week as ordered by the managements on alleged technical grounds.
   "On the following day there was a partial return to work, and a large cavalcade of officers descended on the mills, led by Major-General Umrao Khan, the East Pakistan Martial Law Administrator.
    "Addressing the workers, he proclaimed that 'the strike being illegal, everyone who had absented himself from work had committed an offence, and was liable to punishment under the Martial Law Regulations. He made it clear that the ringleaders who had been arrested, would not in any circumstances be released and those who continued to play into their hands would not escape punishment.'
    "That this was intelligent anticipation has since become clear by an announcement that Lieutenant-Colonel S. A. Zaman Khan, President of the Special Military Court trying the ten employees of the Adamjee Jute Mills under the Martial Law Regulations, had sentenced them to between five and six years' rigorous imprisonment and flogging for resorting to an illegal strike.
Five years’ jail, and a flogging, for going on strike to keep Sunday as a day off! The British themselves could hardly have been worse than the new rulers of Pakistan. What a lesson this is on the futility of those who mislead the workers into fighting for the removal of one ruling class, and its replacement by another. If only the Nyasa workers could learn this lesson now, instead of when they have firmly saddled a new Nyasa ruling class on their own backs, what years of useless strife could they save themselves. Even if the fight for “independence” is won quickly, the real battle will still have to be faced: the struggle for an end to all ruling classes, the struggle for Socialism.
Alwyn Edgar

The Passing Show: The Optimists (1959)

The Passing Show column from the January 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Optimists

How times change! For a dozen years after the war successive Governments, Labour and Conservative, exhorted the coalminers to sweat and strain and push up coal production at all costs. The National Coal Board regularly took advertising space in the papers to tell us all how much the miners were earning, and to insist that never in our lifetime could there be too much coal. The miners, they said, had an assured job for as long as they wanted. Unemployment, dismissals, the dole—they were all things of the past. The future could not have been rosier.

Occasionally lonely voices were heard to observe that there is no security under Capitalism: that Capitalist industry has its booms, but also its slumps: and that the strenuous drive to produce more coal might well lead only to a situation in which there was more coal than people could buy—which would mean the sack for many miners.

But the N.C.B. and all the great parties derided these fears. Much scorn was poured on the “pessimists,” who were "living in the past.” All these things, it was said, might have been true in Marx’s day, but now everything was different. The laws of Capitalist economics, of expansion and recession, had somehow ceased to operate, so we were told. Capitalism in the coalmines was transformed now that it was administered by a state board instead of by the private owners. Many a well-phrased sneer was launched at those who "hadn’t moved with the times,” who "sought to apply nineteenth-century theories to twentieth-century conditions,” and so on.

The Pay-off

And now, what happens? On December 3rd last the N.C.B. announced that it had too much coal, and that it was going to close thirty-six pits. Between twelve and thirteen thousand miners will be affected. Of these, there can be found no other jobs for four thousand: they will have to "leave the industry.” Many of these are in Scotland and Wales, where there is already a high degree of unemployment. Their chances of getting other jobs near their homes must be slight.

So much for the pledges made to the miners that their jobs were secure. So much for those who said that Capitalism in the nineteen-fifties was not at all the same thing as Capitalism in the nineteen-thirties.

Sound Economics

Of course, these sackings are not the fault of the Coal Board. It has too much coal—to sell. If every family had all the coal it needed to keep warm this winter, no doubt the stocks the Coal Board have been accumulating would disappear quickly enough. But the system of society under which we now suffer does not operate like that. Coal is not dug out primarily to burn: it is dug out to sell. If people can’t buy it, even though they may want it to put on their fires, then, in the language of the Capitalist economists, there is “too much coal.” And when the Coal Board cannot sell all the coal it produces, it simply closes down mines, and sacks miners. In this it does exactly the same as would the board of Tate and Lyle’s, or the Imperial Chemical Industries, or any other private concern, in the same circumstances. Coal is a Capitalist industry just as much as sugar or chemicals.

Dr. Attlee’s Remedy

Back in the brave days of 1945, the Labourites used to claim that nationalisation was Socialism. Some of the simpler ones still do. But even these ardent souls must have been given a chill by the latest news. As for the Labour Party spokesman in the Commons discussion on the announcement, Mr. Robens, he had no explanation of how an industry now dismissing four thousand men could be called “Socialist” (The Times, 4th December, 1958). True, he pointed out that the losses on imported coal had been unfairly thrust by the Government upon the Coal Board, although strictly speaking they were nothing to do with the Board at all: and that apart from this fiddling with the accounts, the Coal Board had made a surplus of forty million pounds in its ten years of operation. This argument, while quite justified, only goes to show that the coal industry is now a profitable state Capitalist concern.

The moral of this story is that Capitalism doesn’t change merely because it is twenty years older.


On December 4th there were two illuminating items side by side in the Manchester Guardian. The first was about the recent strike of the Argentine railwaymen for better pay. The Argentine Government’s answer to this was to mobilise the railwaymen under military law, and court-martial two hundred of the strikers for “indiscipline.” The strikers were sent to jail for terms from five days to fifteen months.

Workers who go on strike are merely acting on the fundamental assumptions upon which our society is based. Everyone has something to sell, and everyone tries to sell it for the highest price obtainable. The great majority, the workers, have nothing to sell but their labour-power. The small minority, the Capitalists, sell the goods and services the workers produce for them. When a chain of baker's shops put up the price of bread from sevenpence a loaf to eightpence, all that has happened is that the baking firm has gone on strike as regards the sale of loaves at sevenpence, and is now demanding eightpence before it will sell. When workers demand a rise in pay from seven pounds to eight pounds a week, they are not refusing to work, for that would mean greater privation: they are simply putting up the price of a week’s labour-power from seven pounds to eight pounds. They are just as much available at the new price of eight pounds a week as loaves are at the new price of eightpence.

It all depends who does it

What the Argentine Government has done, by jailing those workers who refuse to work for the old price, is to introduce a policy of forced labour at a forced wage. The most the railwaymen can be guilty of is a breach of contract: and under the Capitalist’s own law this is only a civil wrong, for which a defendant can be made to pay damages, but not sent to prison. But apparently the Argentine ruling class doesn’t consider itself bound by pre-existing law when profits are at stake.

When evidence comes through of forced labour in the Soviet Union, how horrified are the rulers of Britain and America! What denunciations are made of the Russian tyranny! But not a word has yet been said of the forced labour in the Argentine. The reason is not hard to find. The Argentine Government, with all the other South American rulers, is the close ally of what is called “the free world.” In the column next to the news about the Argentine railway strike, the Manchester Guardian remarked (about the United Nations debate on Cyprus):—
  “At this point the mute allies of Britain thought wistfully of the Latin Americans: the only reinforcements always available to the Anglo-Americans in a jam, but only to be recruited at the bidding of the United States, who had sought and cherished a back seat in the grandstand. Mr. Lodge was faced with the unpleasant alternative of risking the victory of the Indian resolution or mobilising the Latin Americans behind an opposing resolution, and so enraging the Greeks.”
There we have it. The Latin Americans, including the Argentines, can always be relied on to back the American Government in world affairs. No wonder the American and British rulers have nothing to say about the denial of human rights in Argentina. But what a commentary it makes on the claim of the British and American Capitalists to be fighting for freedom and democracy, when they openly accept the support of a country where the ruling class introduces forced labour to safeguard its profits.
Alwyn Edgar

A Land of “No Class War.” (1926)

From the September 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Dream of Dean Inge

The Newspaper Press has lately been flooded with articles by prominent pillars of the Church upon social questions. Not only do these articles bring material reward to their "spiritual" authors, but they perform a valuable service to the ruling class. That still large element of workers saturated with religion are inclined to be guided by the clergy and hence the clerics are hired to sing the praises of the present system of society.

One of the busiest writers in defence of Capital is Dean Inge of St. Paul's Cathedral. In an article in the Evening Standard (August 26th) illuminated by his photo, he discourses on "The Class War." The gloomy dean has become very optimistic about the Kingdom of Capital, in fact, more hopeful than he is about the "Kingdom of God." This "cultured" cleric, who spent twenty years of his life studying the mystics of the ancient World, has spent about twenty minutes studying Socialism, and hence miles of articles denouncing "the horrid thing."

Let us hear the brilliant words of the very reverend divine:
All who are interested in social questions—and who can escape from these painful problems?— should study the conditions in America, for there we have an alternative to Socialism in working order. Two results have followed. There is, as I was assured last year when I visited America very little Socialism there now, because every working man is himself a capitalist. That is one result; the other is that no country has ever been half so prosperous as the United States is to-day. 
Notice his discovery on his brief lecturing tour in America. He discovered or "was assured," that every working-man is himself a capitalist."

Just previously, we are given the reason for this amazing example of an Eldorado. We will again quote the Dean:— .
    The fact is, simply, that while Europe has been following various will-o’-the-wisps which are usually described collectively as Socialism, America has adhered to the economic creed of the Benthamite Radicals and the Victorian Liberals. Bentham, for example, said that "if the laws do nothing to combat it, if they put no shackles on industry and trade, in a prosperous nation there is a continual progress to equality.” Marx said the exact opposite—that the natural progress under "capitalism” is towards a nation of millionaires and beggars. Mill’s remedy for unrest was to turn labourers into capitalists, which is easily done in a joint-stock limited company, though it is not so easy in a private firm.
    The much-abused economists of 80 years ago have now been proved to be right, while every prophecy of the Socialists has been completely falsified, and every one of their schemes, as soon as it has been tried, has been proved to be unworkable.
"The continual progress to equality" is a fine phrase. While it may be true of the dead—the special field of the Dean—it certainly is not true of America. Not only so, but America is the country, par excellence, where the gulf between the worker and the owner gets wider every day.

If figures are required, they have been marshalled in many books, and our new pamphlet on Socialism quotes some of them. The actual income-tax returns of the United States showed that even with assessing the tax on incomes of over £200 per year for single persons, only a minority came within the tax. That figure of two hundred pounds or 1,000 dollars annual income in America meant a very low standard of existence.

America, the land of "no class war" is actually the country used as an illustration by many anti-Socialist writers of the truth of Marx's prophecy of the concentration of wealth.

Since the millionaire, Henry Laurens Call, wrote his statement of “The Concentration of Wealth,” there have been many proofs of the truth of Marx’s prophecy applied to America. The most carefully selected body ever convened by the United States Senate to study Industrial Relations reported that 2 per cent, of the population owned 60 per cent, of the wealth. (Report of Industrial Relations Committee, 1916.)

The country of the most brutal and bloody suppression of striking workers is chosen by the Dean as a country without a class war! Recent industrial history in the United States shows a record of textile workers in Patterson (New Jersey), striking for a bare existence; the millworkers of New England, the metal miners of Minnesota, the mine workers of Virginia, the steel toilers of Pennsylvania and Indiana—a whole series of struggles brutally suppressed and with starvation driving the workers back to work. Read the almost suppressed report of the Inter-Church World Movement upon the Steel Strike! A report made by Church investigators which showed the terrible conditions of the steel workers that caused the strike and the bloody methods used in its suppression. Does the Dean of St. Paul’s tell his readers of horrible steel towns like Johnstown, Pennsylvania where over 200 out of every thousand born die in their first year ?

Our Dean, who writes of America’s every working-man a capitalist, seems to doubt his own statement, for we read the following little qualification of his Eldorado:—
There are no doubt extreme and violent Labour associations in America. There is the notorious I.W.W., which stands for “Industrial Workers of the World,” though its enemies say that “I Won’t Work,” would be, more descriptive, a society which has been guilty of many murders and other crimes. In the Pennsylvania coal mines there were, a few years ago, conditions of labour, which we should consider scandalous. But on the whole there is far less antagonism between employers and employed than there is in England. The American employer grudges his men no wages that they can really earn ; and the workman understands that if he wants good wages he must earn them. The machinery is usually better in the United States, which makes mass-production easier; but the spirit of co-operation is the decisive factor. The American workman does not feel that the employer is his natural enemy, whom he must try to injure in every possible way.
The spirit of co-operation as shown in the long and bitter struggles referred to in John R. Commons’ “History of American Labour” or Brissenden’s “History of the I.W.W.”

The spirit of co-operation is easily explained, however, by the Dean. Each working man being a Capitalist, he cooperates with himself!

Later on our reverend writer forgets his contrast between European class war and American brotherly love. He begins to urge that the difference is really not so much, after all.
Besides, we must not exaggerate the contrast between American prosperity and English distress. There must be a great deal of sound work and sound economics in the country, or we should be worse off than we are. We are still, I believe, second only to the United States in national wealth per head of the population, or, rather, third, for my readers will be surprised to hear that Cuba has passed us. And the British working man saves more than is usually supposed. 
But the most pathetic picture painted by the Dean is in his closing paragraph :—
A house divided against itself is brought to desolation. This is the fate which threatens us now. If the evil were caused by moral decadence, it might be useless to preach against it; but if it is largely caused by a gigantic economic heresy, it may be possible to combat it successfully. We have two object-lessons before us—on one side America, faithful to sound economic traditions, and rolling in prosperity; on the other side Russia, the Russia of Lenin, of whom Mr. Cook boasts to be a “ humble disciple,” ruined, miserable, paralysed with terror. May we not say, ” Look on this picture, and on this”?
Consider the marvellous amount of information gained by the Dean on a short tour in America. How much more marvellous is the information gained about Russia by his complete absence from that country? But perhaps this is another instance of where he was “assured” that it was so.

Somebody, not a clergyman, who wished to compare Russia and America would at least deal with the economic development of both countries. The forgetful Dean had only just finished telling us of America’s highly developed machinery and technical progress. Did Russia ever have that? No, Russia’s most noted possession, apart from Czars, right up to a few years ago, was a highly-organised Christian Church which preached no class war and stifled every attempt at education and progress. While America was developing machinery, Russia was making more ikons! But what are facts to a very reverend?

The greatest horror which haunts Dean Inge is the painful fact stated by him in the article, that although Marx theories are all wrong, have all been disproved, are completely surpassed, there are evidences, in spite of all this, that Marx's ideas are appealing to the working class.
Adolph Kohn

Reality (2012)

Book Review from the September 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Atheist’s Guide to Reality by Alex Rosenberg. Norton, 2011

A frustration shared by socialists and many scientists is the persistence of belief in a god to explain the world. This is partly because ‘god’ is such a quick and easy answer to so many important questions: How did we get here? Why should I behave morally? Why am I here? While science has provided a comprehensive explanation of how and when we got here, and what we are made of, it is less certain when answering the question, why?  Instead, many people have turned to religious or other unfounded explanations. This potentially leaves a gap in the atheist’s belief system. How can the scientifically-minded atheist explain issues like morality and purpose? In The Atheist’s Guide To Reality, Alex Rosenberg aims to prove that science can explain these matters. He argues that a consequence of science – and physics, in particular – is that we should abandon many of our fundamental assumptions.

Science – especially neuroscience – has explained the workings of our brains, and this entails that we abandon the concept of a ‘soul’. Moreover, science requires that we should also jettison related concepts like ‘mind’ and even ‘self’. As our brains are organic machines, they function by responding to learned inputs with predictable behavioural outputs. So, it is wrong to describe the brain as a ‘soul’, ‘mind’ or ‘self’. Self-awareness and even consciousness are just by-products of non-conscious, involuntary functions of the brain. This also means that the thoughts, intentions and meanings we attach to ourselves aren’t really about anything; they’re just mechanical processes. And therefore we lack free will, as well as a mind and a self.

According to Rosenberg, evolution by natural selection has led to our false assumptions about ourselves. Our ancestors survived long enough to reproduce by using the most expedient beliefs and explanatory frameworks, regardless of whether they were correct. Now, science has exposed how wrong these assumptions are, and atheists should adopt a different way of thinking about life.

Rosenberg says that this should lead to ‘nice nihilism’, a stance which combines niceness (which has been evolutionarily advantageous) with no longer believing in moral facts. He doesn’t devote quite enough space to discussing the political implications of his theory. He says that his science-based outlook should encourage “a fairly left-wing agenda” (p.292). But while he says we should act co-operatively and helpfully towards others, he also argues that we shouldn’t believe we have any purpose. This is not only because science doesn’t need non-physical concepts like ‘purpose’, but also because it doesn’t use narratives, like we use to explain how we live. So, history, sociology and politics are based on false premises, and should only be seen as a type of entertainment.

Rosenberg’s fascinating, imaginative theory is argued clearly and convincingly. If he is right, then science requires us to rethink all our beliefs about ourselves. He claims that future scientific developments won’t discredit his argument, as the basics of physics are already known. But if we’ve got the physics right, should we agree with what Rosenberg says? By downplaying the role of politics – and, by extension, economics – in favour of science to explain the world, he ignores how science is itself influenced by economic forces. It is these forces and their impact on our ideologies which shape science and how we view it. Rosenberg’s views are also influenced in this way. So, science is not the objective, all-encompassing explanatory framework he believes it to be. Despite this, his argument remains persuasive and important to all Marxists and atheists. Exercise your free will by reading it for yourself.
Mike Foster

Obituary: Walter Ford (1958)

Obituary from the January 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are sorry to announce the death of another old member. Comrade Walter Ford died peacefully in his sleep on November 26th, he was in his 94th year.

Loyal to his last wish his family buried him without religious ceremonial at Putney Vale Cemetery on Tuesday, 3rd December. Comrade McLaughlin conducted the oration at the graveside and the General Secretary and Comrade Rhoda Taylor attended and paid their last respects on behalf of the Party. Unfortunately, due to his age, Walter Ford had outlived most of the older members who knew him when he was active in the old Battersea and Tooting Branches.

He joined the Party during the first World War, but had been a sympathiser for many years before then. In his younger days he was very active in the Tooting area, and was for a time Secretary of Tooting Branch, which used at that time to meet in his home at Beechcroft Road.

When Tooting Branch closed he became a member of S.W. London Branch. He was probably unknown to many younger Branch members because in his latter years he became extremely deaf. Unable to follow branch business he decided not to attend the branch, but he never lost complete contact with the Party and its members. He made a point of "looking in ” during Conference to meet older comrades and talk about the old days.

He delighted in meeting younger members at his home to discuss current Party matters, and up until his death he personally delivered copies of the Socialist Standard to about half-a-dozen old contacts whom he had interested in the Party.

Although he will not be remembered as a speaker or a writer, he will remain in the memory of those who knew him as a loyal worker for Socialism.

We extend to his family our deepest and sincere condolence.
V. W. Phillips

The Socialist Party and the Trade Unions. (1931)

From the February 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party and the Trade Unions have a common origin in the class struggle. The former is the organised expression on the political field of the conscious recognition of that struggle by the workers. Its growth is the measure of their determination to end the struggle by converting the means of living into common property, and thus establishing a harmony of interests within society.

The class struggle, however, does not commence with the conscious recognition of it as a fact. “In the beginning is the thing ”; the idea follows in its wake, and is, in fact, its reflection in the human mind.

Long before the origin of the Socialist Party the class struggle was in progress. Strikes and lock-outs, machine-breaking and penal legislation have all testified to the antagonism of interests in modern society for over a century.

With the rise of the factory system, the workers found themselves involved in the struggle in grim earnest. It was no choice of theirs but thrust itself upon them with relentless and increasing force with every step in industrial evolution. At first the workers acted instinctively rather than rationally. The Luddite machine-smashing riots were a type of this phase of the conflict, but with further experience and time for reflection, the need for some form of organisation impressed itself upon the workers. The grouping together of the workers in the factories provided a basis for the organisation. They began to realise that the machines had come to stay; that henceforward they were condemned to lives of toil for the profit of the factory owners, and the former independence which they had enjoyed, while still often working in their own homes under the handicraft system, had gone for ever. Hence the Trade Unions arose, uniting the workers in similar or allied occupations in order to get from the masters the best terms obtainable.

From the first the strike was their most important weapon. Under the handicraft system, in its decay, the workers had to bargain with the merchant capitalists over the price of the goods produced; but the factory system changed all that. The price of the workers' own labour-power became the object of dispute. They sold their energies piecemeal by the hour, day or week, and the system of piece-work, which was retained here and there, only disguised; did not alter that fact. The individual worker had lost all substantial freedom, and his only alternative to working at the terms of the master was starvation. Hence the right to withhold his labour-power in conjunction with his fellows became an essential means of resistance. Without it the workers would have been crushed beyond power of recovery, and would have become, in Marx’s words, quite incapable of “initiating any large movement.” (See the pamphlet, “Value, Price, and Profit.”)

From the outset, however, the Trade Unions found arrayed against them, not only the individual masters or groups with whom they were directly struggling, but the forces of the entire master-class, as represented by the State. For long enough the Unions were subject to legal persecution as unlawful conspiracies and monopolies, and only by dint of considerable perseverance, were those obstacles overcome. The workers, indeed, had their backs to the wall, and only the fact that the Unions were rooted in the new conditions saved them from annihilation.

By degrees, however, the master class saw the unwisdom of trying to destroy the new organisations, and the Unions were granted a legal status. In like manner the teeth of the Chartist’s movement were also drawn by the partial granting of their demands.

In the course of time the masters discovered that respectable labour leaders, whether upon the field of industry or politics, were useful in helping to maintain industrial peace, which was so much needed by the employers.

Judicious flattery, not to speak of more tangible inducements to make terms favourable to the employers, have stimulated the ambitions of numerous leaders whom the workers have all too readily trusted. Underlying this process, however, has been the steady progress of capitalist industry. The constant improvement of machinery, methods of working, and financial organisation on the part of the masters, have placed very strict limits upon the demands of the workers for generations past, because the latter’s power to exact these demands has grown steadily less. Trade Union organisation has failed to keep pace with its capitalist counterpart, if only for the simple reason that competition between the workers grows keener as the army of the unemployed increases and the number of competing capitalist concerns grows less numerous. Under these circumstances, the efficiency of the Unions as fighting forces has been steadily undermined, until it has become recognised as a matter of course among observant workers that even on the rare occasions when market conditions favour the workers they are fobbed off with a meagre concession.

More ominous than any of the factors mentioned above is the part played by the armed forces of the State. As the magnitude of the forces engaged in the struggle on either side increases, so the intervention of the State in industrial disputes is rendered more certain. The necessity of maintaining order under capitalism leaves the Government no alternative, and as the technical efficiency of the forces at its disposal (as exemplified in aeroplanes and poison-gas bombs) has now reached a terrifying pitch, the futility of the strike as an offensive weapon against the State authorities should be obvious to every thinking person.

What, then, is to be the future of the Trade Unions? At present they appear to have become to a large extent merely jumping-off grounds for so-called Labour politicians and to that extent less useful to the workers; but there is no obvious reason why, with the spread of understanding among their members, they should not be once again valuable centres of resistance to capitalist attack.

As we have seen, the Trade Unions arose from the pressure of their immediate needs upon the workers in the early days of capitalism. They necessarily took the form most convenient at the moment, and have adapted themselves to changing circumstances more or less blindly. They have, therefore, invariably over-emphasised the importance of sectional distinctions between the workers. The Socialist Party, organised as it is for the emancipation of the workers as a class, insists upon the necessity of subordinating all such distinctions to class solidarity. On the political field the workers have but one interest, and that involves winning political power, and dispossessing the master-class.

The supreme conflict with that class leaves no room for sectional antagonisms between the workers.

The Socialist Party, therefore, advises Trade Unionists to offer their utmost resistance to the worsening of their conditions, but never fails to point out that under capitalism the pressure upon the workers is inevitable. It is insufficient, therefore, merely to apply the brake. We must change the direction of social development, and for that purpose the establishment of Socialism is essential.
Eric Boden

The Wages of Wisdom (1965)

From the January 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many working-class folk, scratching along as best they can on their meagre wages, cast envious eyes on the minority whose income is well above the average. Generally this high income is derived from rent, profit and interest, these things being in themselves a sign of property ownership. However, modern capitalism pays some people large salaries for performing functions that the capitalist class, or sections of them, often through the State apparatus, regard as useful.

When ordinary wage earners grumble about this, sure enough out come the same old arguments from their political and economic masters. To get first-class brains we must pay first-class money, they say. Thereupon the masses, taking another long steady look at their odd assortment of small change, think that they must indeed be dull fellows. Because they believe in and support property ownership, class society, and the wages system, there is no other attitude they can adopt; their only outlet for dissatisfaction is grumbling envy of each other.

The last Conservative Government, wanting to make the railways pay, acquired the aid of Dr. Beeching. We shall place the railways under the control of this businessman, they said, and because he is so clever, we shall pay him £24,000 a year. Incidentally, the Conservative Government went on controlling not only the railways, but Dr. Beeching as well. Should one be naive—and, surprisingly many are in these matters—one would reason that a person earning £24,000 p.a. must be the Great Khan of business acumen—no task, even one as formidable as that of making British Railways solvent, could withstand such an intellectual demon.

However, the problems of capitalism are not all that easy to tackle. A social system based on buying and selling the things of life, where the very ownership of these things leads to conflict, is hardly conducive to firm control Some items of recent news show that even the astute Dr. Beeching does not shine through very well.

The Sun reports that Dr. Beeching’s run-down of services, in which some 3,600 covered trucks and an unknown number of open wagons have been condemned, was overdone. Now some Goods Depots have only one-third of the trucks they need. Trucks in Norfolk sold to scrap dealers are being hired back for the sugar beet harvest.

At the same time Mr. E. S. Fay, the Railway Board’s Counsel, forecast a £250 million deficit by the end of the year.

(He was applying to the Transport Tribunal for permission to increase season ticket charges.) He explained that the Railways Board had been guaranteed £450 million to meet any deficit over the first five years, but in two-fifths of the time, five-ninths of the money had been used.

Capitalism cannot be made into a neat, workable, smooth running operation. No doubt when estimates are made on such things as streamlining railways and making them solvent, the plans look waterproof enough. But what if prices and wages rise, avenues of future exploitation contract or expand? In no time at all, the plans are shot full of holes like a fish net.

Perhaps those who for ever argue that capitalism is worth retaining will laugh away the nonsense of paying one man £24,000 p.a. without affecting the bankruptcy of a rail system while the train drivers and signalmen’s yearly wages are measured in hundreds.

To grumble, whine, protest and strike is of no great use if you are at the same time defending and maintaining capitalism. To defend the system is to deserve what it throws at you. 
Jack Law

Why Socialists are contesting Islington South and Finsbury (1981)

Party News from the May 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1922, after Mallory had turned back from the north face of Everest at 27,000 feet, he gave lectures on climbing beyond the height of human survival. Baffled listeners could not understand the point of such a man-versus-mountain contest. Why did he still want to go back and climb it? “Because it’s there” said Mallory.

Socialists are contesting Islington South and Finsbury in this month's GLC elections because it’s there. Were our resources and members greater we would contest everything that's going. For elections are capitalism's weak spot, they are the time when the social system is up for grabs.

What could a Tory or other politician do with Islington South and Finsbury if they won a seat? Little more than sit down in the council chair provided, give and receive congratulations, then get swept away by the blizzard of capitalism. What can the councillors of Greater London do about the bomb and the dole queue, urban decay, shrinking allocations of money from the central government and wages that don’t match prices for the workers? Hardly more than shake hands and commiserate with those who suffer. Who can plan activity in any large city, when practically everything that goes on involves the chaos of buying and selling commodities? Who can guarantee that goods and services will be there for all, in the face of the laws of this society; no cash, no sale; no profit, no production?

Yet socialists are contesting Islington South and Finsbury. In our campaign there will be no shaking hands all round, no kissing of babies and no election promises. The job of the candidate will not cease when his bottom hits the council chair. We are after this constituency as the first step in the working class conquest of the powers of government.

Put your own, your parents and your grandparents experience together for once. A society with a labour market where people are bought and sold like, goods cannot be governed in your interest. Because of this we do not stand as governors of the GLC. Socialists stand only as potential representatives of those workers who want to capture the powers of government. Once a majority of such seats ate gained locally and nationally, then the government and employers of the world will be paralysed, unable to oppose the reorganisation of society into a harmonious commonwealth.

Workers of Islington South and Finsbury: In the past most of you have not bothered to vote in the GLC elections. Implicitly, you may have felt that, whoever gets elected, they will do nothing for the workers. And you were right! Whichever party you put into government, still the same social system continues, grinding out problems for you and riches for your employers. What then have you got to lose by becoming supporters of the SPGB? Capitalist society will tick over in the same way under Labour, Tory or whatever. Withdraw your consent and support from this society and the way to peaceful revolution is open. You can help to get socialism.

The meaning of socialism is simple to grasp, and grasp it you must, if you wish to support it. Socialism describes the future world that socialists think you ought to desire as the creators of wealth. It will be one world of common ownership, democratic control and free access to the products of labour. A social system like that is yours for the taking. It will be a struggle to get. but there will be a new world waiting for all at the end.
B. K. McNeeney

Inspiring Conference in U.S.A. (1957)

Party News from the November 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Report of Our Fraternal Delegate 

As a delegate from the Socialist Party of Great Britain I attended the Conference of the World Socialist Party of the United States on August 31st and September 1st and subsequently visited Detroit, Winnipeg and New York.

The Conference was attended by about 30 members and sympathisers, many of whom had made a Long journey to get there. One had come over 3,000 miles from Los Angeles, three about 800 miles from Detroit, and four about 200 miles from New York. This is an example of the difficulty our comrades in America are faced with owing to the scattered nature of the membership in such a large country. Some who wished to attend were unable to do so owing to the distance from Boston and the time they would have had to take off from work.

The proposals, ideas, arguments and general discussion were almost identical with what takes place at our own conferences, and was a striking example of how parties based on the same principles react in a similar way to conditions that are largely the same.

On the evening of the first day a social was held, which was attended by about fifty members and friends. At the social films of activities were shown and the recordings from groups in different parts of the world. This was a very inspiring part of the Conference, and an indication of the genuine international character of our movement. Recordings came from Los Angeles, San Francisco, on the west coast of the U.S.A.; from Canada, Australia and London, the latter included a recording of our Austrian comrade. There was also a recording from Ireland, which came too late for the Conference, but was heard afterwards, and also a cable with greetings from Iceland.

The recordings were a considerable advance upon the customary cables of greetings. To me it was very heartening to hear comrades from so many distant places actually speaking to us; particularly when I recognised the voices of two former members of the S.P.G.B. speaking from Australia.

The recordings had such an effect that at the Conference the next day resolutions were passed recommending that recordings should be taken of public and class lectures to be exchanged between parties and branches for their mutual advantage.

On the second day of the Conference there was a dinner in the evening, at which the Conference discussions continued until the room had to be cleared. The next day there was a picnic to a park just outside Boston. After this most of the delegates had to make their way home.

The warmth and comradeship of my reception at the Conference was something I will always remember. Also the work of one of the Boston comrades, who spent most of the first night and the next day transferring the different recordings on to spools so that they could be sent abroad without delay for others to hear.

On Friday morning, September 6th, I went with Comrade Rab to Detroit, taking films and recordings with us. Here again I met the same warm and comradely reception. I spoke at a meeting on Saturday evening, at which there were many questions and a lively discussion. Owing to a misunderstanding, the meeting was not advertised as early as it might have been, and I understood afterwards that some who would have attended learned of it too late to do so. There was another meeting later, in a member’s house, to which about 40 turned up. I said a few words and then Comrade Rab took over. We both answered questions.

While in Detroit a number of members and friends went for a picnic across the Canadian border to Lake Erie and had a very pleasant time. I was also taken for a trip to the factories and learned that there were about 150 thousand out of employment. Some huge factories had completely closed down, partly due to automation, which requires only one storied buildings, and partly, I was informed, because industry was slowly moving out of Detroit

On Friday, 13th September, I left for Winnipeg. There I also met the same warm reception I had become familiar with. I arrived after 1 a.m. to find four members waiting to collect me. They took me to the member’s house where I was to stay, and I was staggered to find a group waiting up to greet me. After a short time they had to disperse, as most of them were due at work the next day.

On Sunday afternoon I spoke at a meeting. The attendance was not what the members had hoped, but there were over fifty present. There were good questions and discussions, and a collection that covered the expenses of the meeting and left some over. There was also a good sale of literature.

On the following Wednesday evening I was given ten minutes to address the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council. I had a good reception, and a considerable number of Western Socialists and Socialist Standards were distributed. It seemed to me, after listening to a political discussion at the council meeting (about 100 delegates were present), that there was good material there for our Canadian comrades to work on.

On Thursday morning, the 19th September, I left for New York, arriving there at 6 p.m. I spoke the same evening at a small meeting that was hurriedly arranged. The next two days I was shown around New York.

On Saturday evening, 21st September, I left for Boston, arriving at midnight. On Sunday night I spoke at a meeting of members and friends at Headquarters, largely giving my impressions of my visit. On Monday night the Boston comrades held a farewell party for me, where I said goodbye to those I had met for such a short and inspiring time. The next morning I left for London.

I would add a few words on my impressions—necessarily scanty.

The standard of living appears to be much higher than in England. Apart from the rush hour in the subways, there is no sign of rush and tear. The cities are cleaner and more open. Even the factory districts I saw are clean and fresh looking compared with European. Boston has a factory, which I only saw by moonlight, that is graceful, set in gardens, and looks like the type we hope to see in the future. In general there is none of the smokiness we see here, and the factories are not crowded together. I was told it is different in Chicago, but I did not see that city. The streets are very wide, and there are special roads for fast moving traffic. The buildings are huge—apart from the skyscrapers—and the shops immense, clean and light,. The houses I have been in are charming and mainly built of wood.

All the time I was in the U.S. and Canada the members everywhere could not do too much for me. The hospitality I received was amazing. It was the best time I have ever had in my life. Everywhere I went I was struck with the enthusiasm of members who are ploughing a much harder furrow than we are. They have told me of their intentions to stir things up in the future, and I am convinced that the next member of the party that goes there next year will witness the result of these intentions. I have made many new friends that I will take care to keep contact with, and whom I will always remember with warmth.

Before concluding, I must pay a tribute to the herculean efforts of Comrade Gloss in securing recordings from distant parts and for organising my trip so successfully. Also to Comrade Rab, with whom I spent many cordial and exciting days. With these two and other members and friends I had numerous pleasant and inspiring discussions.

Finally, I must add how valuable I think these interchanges of visits are, and I hope it will be possible for a much larger interchange in the near future. The better we know each other and the more closely knit our international movement is, the faster we will progress towards the end we all have in common

Crime—What Is It? (1951)

From the May 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

An expert cracksman who, it was stated, was called in by Scotland Yard during the war for secret safe-blowing missions behind the enemy lines was sentenced to five years' imprisonment at the High Court here today. He was John Rawsey, 45, and he pleaded guilty to having blown open a safe in a Glasgow sub-post office and having stolen £410 and a number of savings stamps. Mr. Ross Maclean, K.C., defending, urged that Rawsey's war-time exploits merited a special judgment. 
  “Counsel said that Rawsey's life of crime began when he was sent to Borstal at 16. In 1938 he was sent to prison for five years in Aberdeen for opening a safe by explosives.
  “He came out in 1942 and after he had been at home for a short period was asked to go to Scotland Yard. There he was told that a Commando unit had need of someone with his experience in the use of explosives. Rawsey volunteered. He eventually became an instructor. He was sent on several missions behind enemy lines, sometimes being dropped by parachute, to blow open safes containing enemy confidential documents and secret records.
  “His release book had the word ‘exemplary' under the heading 'military conduct.' On his return to civil life Rawsey tried to reform. He became a bookmaker, and it was when he ran into financial difficulties that he turned again to his old profession of blowing safes. He served another five years penal servitude and was discharged only six or seven weeks before being caught by police climbing down from the roof of the post office.
  “Lord Russell said that he had listened with a certain amount of respect to the qualities which Rawsey possessed and had demonstrated during the war. But for his record a heavier sentence would have been imposed."
The above is a news item printed in the Daily Telegraph (21/2/51).

Such are the ways of capitalism, to open “Nazi" safes during the war was an act of “exemplary” conduct. To use this skill to feather one's own nest is a Crime. Still the theologians preach about an absolute right and wrong, even the “sacred'' rights of property may occasionally be flaunted to one's advantage. Now we hear that the “Nazi” war criminals are to be released, apparently their “sins” are now forgiven.

What a maze of contradictions, today a hero tomorrow a criminal, or vice-versa, everything depending on the policy of those who are in control.
P. J. Mellor

The World and the Vegans (1951)

From the May 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the 1st of March in the Daily Mirror, appeared an article on the Vegan Society, a body of people described by the writer, Eric Wainwright, as a “red-hot splinter group” which spun away from the vegetarian movement in 1944. According to the article the main object of the Vegan Society is to live without exploitation, and a number of instances are given where this 600 strong group go without or find substitutes for some of life's necessities, on the ground that to be produced, somebody, human or animal, has had to be exploited. Eggs, milk, silk, wool, coal, rubber and leathers are some of the things deemed wrong to use by Vegans because in their production someone is being exploited. The thing which struck us as rather stranger was the fact that nowhere in the article do they tell us what exploitation is, or how it takes place.

Of course to take the argument literally would be impossible, because to avoid exploitation they could not stop at eggs, coal, rubber, etc., they would have to give up living in houses or wearing any clothes, stop sending or receiving letters, walking on roads or anything else produced by social labour. Even the plastic substitute for leather, although it may stop the slaughter of animals, would not stop the workers from being exploited in the production process. It must then be understood that these well-meaning people cannot stop exploitation just by seeing it as something undesirable in life and seeking to isolate themselves from it. Surely exploitation, in common with all other social problems such as poverty, hunger and war, can only be abolished when their cause is understood. It is of little use to tinker with effects whilst the cause remains untouched and unchanged due to the fact that those who tinker with the effects are ignorant of the cause. When, and only when, a majority of the world's workers understand that ownership by the world capitalist class of the means and instruments of producing and distributing wealth, means perpetual poverty, shortages and wars for those who have to humble themselves for wages, will they be able to replace class ownership with common ownership, produce goods for use instead of profit and see that people receive in accordance with their needs instead of the limited confines of their wages packets.

To turn our eyes away from a problem is no solution, for the problem still remains. A leader of the Vegan Society is quoted as saying they are “a group of persons who have come together in response to. an intuitive stimulus which has not yet crystallised into words." Well, when it does, we hope they will let us know because we socialists have the answer to man’s major social problems. Exploitation takes place whilst workers throughout the world are earning wages for themselves to exist on, and profits for their masters to live on, and unless they see that their interests can only be served by unity on a basis of understanding they cannot put the solution Socialism into practice.
Harry Baldwin 

Nobody Really Cares (1960)

From the January 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

I knocked on the door and the sounds echoed through the bare hall. After a short while, bolts were withdrawn and chains undone. The door creaked open an inch or two and Nanny H—peeped out. “Oh! It's you, Sir! Just wait while I get the money,” and she disappeared into the musty back room of her ground floor flat, to reappear with money for “The Book” and a couple of extra coppers “for the good cause.”

My first encounter with Nanny had occurred several years before, when canvassing a London suburb for Socialist Standard sales. A woman in her eighties, she had a mind as alert as a person many years younger, and despite the privations of working class old age, she was never without a cheery word whenever we met. She lived entirely alone—not even a cat to keep her company.

Sometimes, I managed to glimpse the interior of her flat. It certainly bore the marks of neglect. An old mattress had been rolled tightly against one wall of the hall, and against the other stood numerous empty jars and bottles. What little wallpaper was left, hung in odd strips here and there. The drain outside in the front garden, its original purpose forgotten, was blocked with all manner of filth, and some of the window panes were stuffed with rag.

Yet Nanny herself was always neatly and cleanly dressed and managed to assume a calmness and dignity, doubtless a relic of better times. Indeed, I learned during our many doorstep discussions that she had for a number of years been employed as a nurse for the children of a wealthy family, and was now living on a small pension. With true working class humility, she was most grateful for this pittance.

Her one fear was the loss of her independence. “They want to put me in a home, Sir,” she confided fiercely on one occasion, “but I won’t let them ” And for some time she managed to withstand efforts to this end by various social welfare visitors. But advancing age was taking its toll, and even this courageous soul could not hold out for ever. Besides, the landlord was getting mighty worried about the depreciation of his property and was making regular complaints to the local health authorities.

So into a home she went, and there she died. I had managed to visit her twice before a bout of winter bronchitis carried her off. The matron at the home allowed me to keep a portrait of her as a memento, for there was no one else to claim it. Her few relatives and previous employers had been informed of her illness and death, but had shown not the slightest interest or concern. They did not even bother to attend her funeral. She died as she had lived for many years —alone and unwanted.

Could it be argued that her's was an isolated case? It could be, but it would just not be true. The problem of old people—working class old people—has become one of the scandals of the modern world. It is well known that many are forced to lead a miserable existence after retirement. As the Royal Commission on Population has stated:
“Enquiries have revealed the existence of very large numbers of old people living in most unsatisfactory conditions.” The Monthly Digest of Statistics for September, 1959, tells us that of 5,340,000 persons drawing old age pensions, some 894,000 are also having to receive National Assistance grants.

But worst of all, it is the loneliness and hopelessness of such conditions which illustrate the essential inhumanity of our private property society. Some idea of the desolate existence which old age entails for many people is given by Trevor Howell, M.R.C.P. (Edin.) Writing in his book Our Advancing Years (page 18), he tells us:
It has been estimated that there are 85,000 old age pensioners over the age of 80 who live alone, as well as some 200,000 married couples over 70. Loneliness becomes one of the greatest enemies of such people. There is evidence that senile mental changes occur more readily among those old folk who live a solitary existence.
Nobody really cares very much about the “Nannies" of this world, for the appalling truth is that they are the human scrap-heap of modern industrial Capitalism. They are one of the uncomfortable problems which the politicians swear to solve when out of office and signally fail to solve when in. The few shillings more which they were offered in the recent election manifestos of the Labour and Liberal Parties barely scratch the surface. And as for the Conservative promise that the old ones would “share in the rising prosperity of our country"—this probably meant most things to most people and precisely nothing to the pensioners.

Let us face it! For the majority of us under Capitalism, old age is an insult. We have worked for the best years of our lives in the interests of a parasitic minority and at the end are told that we in our turn are parasites. Mr. Howell is quite blunt about it and tells us (p. 13) “. . . . from the economic point of view, most old people are parasites.” Thank goodness there is an alternative to a social system which condemns old people to a sordid existence, instead of the dignity which is their due.
E. T. C.