Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Commercialisation of Science (1928)

Editorial from the October 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Another Annual Conference of the British Association has come and gone. The topic of most importance appears to have been the alleged parlous plight of British industry.

Britain used to be “the workshop of the world." Now it is not. Its industrial capitalists no longer receive what they consider to be their fair share of the plunder of the world’s toilers. For some years past the capitalists of other countries have shown a callous disregard for the sensitive Britishers' feelings and betrayed their utter lack of a sense of decency by developing their productive capacity on modern lines, to the detriment of the erstwhile champion thieves of Europe.

Hence our masters are concerned to discover ways and means of intensifying the exploitation of the British workers, and the scientists are the boys they entrust with the job. Professor Sir William Bragg set the keynote by dwelling upon what he described as the intermediary position of the technical expert between capital and labour. The expert, he maintained, could see both sides, and thus help to produce harmony instead of conflict. In gastronomic phraseology, he might be said to play the part of the pancreatic juices operating upon the tender loin of the labour lamb (not so tender perhaps as formerly) within the ravenous maw of the lion capital. The chemist and the physicist improve the processes by which living labour is incorporated in the material framework of capitalist industry. The psychologist studies and seeks to economise the movements of the labourer. All are concerned with the elimination of waste, the reduction of the effort needed to achieve a given result, and thus to increase the return on a given amount of capital invested in wages.

Of course, the industrialists and their henchmen, the scientists, have little choice. Efficiency has enabled the U.S.A. and Germany to become the formidable rivals for world commerce that they are, and Britain has no alternative but to follow suit. We are merely concerned to show the absurdity of the supposition that rationalisation can solve the class conflict..

Industrially, of course, it makes the workers easier prey, but by so doing it intensifies the very evils from which they suffer and seek to escape. Unemployment, on the one hand, and over-work on the other, increase with every scientific advance, while the struggle against these 'effects takes place on a national scale and assumes by degrees (though unconsciously at first) a political form.

Our readers only need to follow events in other countries to see the similarity of causes producing similar effects. They may ask, however, Has science said its last word?

We answer that, so far as offering any solution to the social problem is concerned, technology and the so-called exact sciences certainly have. They are valuable to those in a position to make use of them (at present the capitalist class) mainly in relation to production, but production is no longer a problem, taking society as a whole. The question is what to do with the enormous surplus produced.

The individual capitalist group or nation attempts to answer this question by producing more cheaply than its competitors, and thus getting rid of its share of the surplus by selling at a profit; but as all groups must endeavour to follow suit or expire, the surplus grows and the problem is intensified. War offers temporary relief only, and stalking behind war comes what?—the social revolution! Hence Peace Pacts which do not guarantee peace. Disarmament agreements which do not disarm.

In this social anarchy the professional scientist is a mere hireling tool, an intellectual prostitute. His attempt to pronounce on the social conflict is an arrogant impertinence, insulting the intelligence of the worker, who refuses to put out his thinking as he does his washing.

The Socialist alone points the way of escape for mankind from their disastrous servitude to the diminishing groups of capitalist parasites, because he deals with the basic facts of social existence.

To the Socialist, the production of the means of living is a social process in which the professional scientist is but a unit. Whether he be engaged in the study of the stupendous by means of a telescope or of the infinitesimal by means of a microscope, he has to be fed, clothed and housed by the labour of others. Others have to delve and blast, to fuse, grind and polish in order to provide the materials for his instruments. They have to assemble and adjust these delicate instruments to his exact requirements. Others must collect rags and hew timber to provide paper that others, again, may print and bind in order that the accumulated knowledge of the ages may be stored in a form convenient for his reference.

At every turn he is dependent from first to last upon the active co-operation of millions of his fellow beings, not to speak of those with whom he comes in direct contact and with whom he must compare notes and check his findings.

He is the product of his age. It is no accident that radium was not discovered by a cannibal islander, who would not have known what to do with it.

Seeing, therefore, that the scientist is thus dependent upon society, his status in turn is determined by the particular form of the society which produces him. His means of living are the property of the capitalist class. They subsidise his university and endow his professional chair; maintain his technical institutes, found laboratories and colleges. Is it any wonder, then, that they exact their pound of flesh; or, to be more precise, that, having provided him with the kingdoms of earth, they demand the surrender of his intellectual independence. Professional science plays "Faust” to the capitalist "Mephistopheles.” Its function is the rape of labour.

There is, however, a germ of truth in the hackneyed adage that money cannot buy everything. It did not buy the brain of the great scientist, Karl Marx. With the aid of his friend, Friedrich Engels, he penned the economic masterpiece "Capital" which shatters the pretences and confounds the conceit of the servile, lickspittle bullies of the "intellectual (?) middle class" and provided food for the workers’ brains and nerved them for their last fight.

Trotskyism or Socialism (1963)

From the March 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

Trotskyists claim that the Labour leadership has “betrayed Socialism.” In fact they themselves are no more Socialists than are Wilson, George Brown or Frank Cousins.

What is today known as Trotskyism originated about forty years ago as an opposition movement within the Russian Communist Party to the Stalin leadership, and much of Trotskyist theory is concerned with the nature of Russian society. To them Russia is not Capitalist, but a “degenerate Workers’ State.” They argue that the 1917 Revolution ended Capitalism in Russia but that a few years later, as a result of the failure of the world revolution, a bureaucracy was able to usurp power from the workers. This means that Russia still remains for them "a basis for the international State for the abolition of war, for possibilities as yet undreamed of” (The World Revolution, C. L. R. James), and it is the duty of the workers of the world, we are told, to defend this gain.
If the Soviet Union goes down, then Socialism receives a blow which will cripple it for a generation. And therefore, though seeing the Soviet Union as it is, the Trotskyists, uncompromising enemies of Stalinism, will defend the Soviet Union is peacetime as in war. (ibid pp. 418-9).
The question now arises: Is the Russian economic system “progressive”? Is it any more Socialist than that of the West? We answer that it is not. The economic system in Russia exhibits all the essential characteristic of Capitalism: production for sale, wages, markets, money and profits. Certainly a large part of industry is nationalised but nationalisation is nothing to do with Socialism. As for war, its basic primary cause is Capitalism’s struggle for markets, raw materials and trade routes; since the workers throughout the world have no interest in the maintenance of Capitalism so they have no interest in the prosecution of its wars. The Socialist in fact expresses his unqualified opposition to all wars, whether they be wars of aggression, of “defence” or ‘‘national liberation,” for “democracy” or for anything else. We do not just say, as do pacifists, that men should not fight in wars, but that men should reorganize society to remove the cause of war. Socialism will do away with war since trading and markets will disappear when goods are no longer produced to be sold. Socialists see no reason therefore why the workers of the world should fight and die for Russian Capitalism any more than for British or American or any other Capitalism.

The argument about the “progressive economic system” has even less merit than that employed by those alleged Socialists before the first World War, who held that the workers must be prepared to defend the democratic institutions of their country “ because it is the only means by which they can peaceably achieve their emancipation.” For Russia is not even a democratic country: the workers there have to put up with a dictatorship which denies them the most elementary rights needed to protect their interests—the right to organise politically and the right to strike. Yet the Trotskyists are prepared to make common cause with these, and with similar dictators. They acted as recruiting sergeants in Cuba when the Castro clique was threatened by an American backed invasion in April last year. “Workers’ and anti-imperialist organisations and parties,” declared the Trotskyist Fourth International, “must immediately organize brigades, open recruiting for volunteers to defend the Cuban Workers State.” A cardinal point in the programme of the Trotskyist groups in Britain is nationalization under workers’ control. Young Guard (March, 1962) expands [on] this:
. . . we can say that trade unions under socialism should concern themselves with all questions of wages, conditions, automation (and in these problems they should always have at their disposal the right to strike). But at the same time we should press for the establishment and recognition of the factory committee, whose purpose is the participation with the state in all matters of control and administration of wealth production.
The reference to wages implies, of course, the existence of an employer, presumably the State, and that the workers should co-operate with this employer. We point out at once that a society in which people still have to work for wages cannot be called Socialism. Socialism is based on common ownership, which means that money, wages, profits, buying and selling and all the other features of private property society will have disappeared. The wages system is in fact one of the cornerstones of Capitalism and for this reason we distinguish it from other systems by the fact that those who produce work for wages. The wages system is completely incompatible with Socialism and to talk about a “Socialist wages policy” is nonsense.

What is the Socialist alternative to the wages system? First, let us look at this system a little closer. The wages system cannot flourish unless most people, to all intents and purposes, own none of the means of production, while a few own them all. The majority therefore have no choice: they must work for those who own. Socialism by making the means of production common property will end this inequality of wealth on which the wages system flourishes. What common ownership will mean is that nobody will be denied free access to the means of living, and the ownership of these means by individuals will appear quite as fantastic as does slavery today. Under these conditions the satisfaction of man’s needs will be the sole end of production: the Labour Exchange will disappear along with the Stock Exchange.

How people live under Capitalism is well known. Those who have no ownership in the means of production sell their energies and abilities for a wage and use the money received to buy what they need to maintain themselves and their family in working order. Under Socialism people will work and receive as much as they think they need: they will freely give their labour and take what they require. This is the Socialist alternative to the wages system and anything short of this is not Socialism.

Nor does the fact that the State instead of a private individual is the employer alter the Capitalist nature of society. On the contrary, far from abolishing Capitalism this would strengthen it since all the power of the employing class would be concentrated in the State. It is a fact that Russia, the country with probably the highest percentage of State ownership, is the only country of which it can be said that the power of the working class to resist has been almost completely crushed. Even in Britain it is those in the state industries who suffer most from any Government's wages policy: it takes little imagination to see how much more easily, for example, a government could impose a pay pause if it were the only employer. State control is in fact a form of Capitalist ownership; the State acts as the representative of the employing class as a whole and shares out amongst this class what the workers produce over and above their wages—interest on government bonds, bloated salaries for higher administrators, expense accounts, bonuses, tax concessions and other such privileges.

We can now see that nationalisation under workers' control is a meaningless concept; for as long as the workers own nothing—and they must continue to do so as long as the wages system exists—they can have no control. Power will remain in the hands of the propertied minority, those who benefit from the state industries in the ways we have mentioned.

We say then that the Trotskyists do not stand for the overthrow of Capitalism since they envisage the continued existence of the wages system. They are not, and have never been. Socialists.
Adam Buick

Maxton and Cook: Where do they stand? (1928)

Editorial from the September 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Although several demonstrations have now been held, Messrs. Maxton and Cook have so far, neither by word nor deed, made clear what they stand for. They have said that they are Socialists. Yet Mr. Cook is secretary of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, and in that capacity supports their official policy of nationalisation, or State Capitalism, for the mining industry, with "compensation” for the mine-owners. That is not Socialism, and will not solve the problems of the miners. Mr. Maxton is Chairman of the I.L.P., which also advocates State Capitalism. They are both members of the Labour Party, although they condemn its “liberal” outlook. The Labour Party draft programme is a programme of Capitalist reforms, but Mr. Ramsay MacDonald states that Cook saw and approved the section dealing with the mines prior to publication, and the I.L.P. similarly had the whole draft for amendment. (Forward, July 21.)

The I.L.P., in a circular to its branches (July 21, 1928), published the four amendments to the Draft Programme, which it proposes to move at the Labour Party Congress. Not one of them touches the essential point that the Labour Programme does not aim at common ownership of the means of production and distribution, and is therefore not a Socialist programme.

Has Mr. Maxton the backing of the I.L.P. members? If not, why does he retain the Chairmanship? If he has their backing for his policy, then he could control the actions of the I.L.P. Labour M.P.’s, and he is committed to all of the actions of the Parliamentary Labour Party, since a clear majority of the Labour M.P.s are members of the I.L.P. (It is interesting to observe that Mr. Philip Snowden, who ridicules the I.L.P., and declares that it is not Socialist, was re-elected, largely by the votes of I.L.P. Labour M.P.s, to the Executive Committee of the Parliamentary Labour Party.)

Mr. Maxton’s ambiguous position on State Capitalism is paralleled by his position with regard to Capitalist international relationships.

In addition to being Chairman of the I.L.P., he is also Chairman of the League Against Imperialism. In the July issue of its organ, The Anti-Imperialist Review, appear reviews of books by H. N. Brailsford and J. C. Wedgwood, two prominent members of the I.L.P. Both books are condemned as being “frankly Imperialist." Mr. Maxton is not helping to clear away confusion of thought among the workers by remaining Chairman of two organisations, the members of which publicly denounce each other; nor is he helping Socialism by continuing to support I.L.P. and Labour Party programmes which he knows are not Socialist.

Keir Hardie and the World War. (1928)

Editorial from the August 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the July issue of the Socialist Standard, we remarked, in passing, that Keir Hardie supported the world war in 1914.

Forward” (July 14th), in reply to a correspondent says "This is nonsense." As it is the fashion among communists, and "left wing” Labourites to pretend that Keir Hardie was essentially different from the men with whom he associated in the Labour Party and the I.L.P., we give below the evidence on which our statement is based.

With regard to Keir Hardie’s attitude in general, it would be interesting to learn from the Communists and others who now worship him, why he continued to work with the Labour Party and the I.L.P. if he differed fundamentally from their advocacy of reforms of capitalism. The only important difference between Keir Hardie and MacDonald and Henderson is that he is dead and they are not.

The Socialist attitude to capitalist wars is simple. We seek the abolition of capitalism, of the wages system. In Germany and England the workers were wage-slaves before 1914, and are wage-slaves still. They are wage-slaves in victory and in defeat. Capitalist nations go to war because capitalist interests are at stake. The workers stand to gain nothing, and they risk losing life and limb. There was, in 1914, no interest at stake justifying the sacrifice of a single worker’s life.

Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald and the Labour Party generally, held the view that the workers have something else at stake which is worth defending, i.e. their country. They hold the same view now. They still urge the workers to defend "their” country, although the "country” belongs, not to them, but to their exploiters.

Not being Socialist?, MacDonald and Keir Hardie and their associates never at any time took up the Socialist attitude to the war. They decided the question in the light of their view of the duty of the workers to defend national independence.

Thus in the "Labour Leader” (official organ of the I.L.P.) for August 6th, 1914, Keir Hardie, in an editorial, wrote as follows:—
Many of us hoped, though some of us feared, x that the Government would remain steadfast to the end, and refuse to be drawn into the conflict unless our interests as a nation should be directly attacked.
So Keir Hardie was prepared to support war if "our interests as a nation should be directly attacked.” The attitude of the Socialist is quite different. We ask not about "our interests as a nation” (which means in practice the interests of those who own and control the nation, i.e., the capitalist class), but about our interests as workers. We knew then quite well, and we think Keir Hardie also knew quite well that the capitalist class do not go to war because someone or other is directly attacking the interests of the working-class.

Keir Hardie went further a few months later. In the "Merthyr Pioneer” (August 21st, 1914) he said
Any war of aggression against the rights and liberties of my country I would persist In to the last drop of blood in my veins.
It seems that he soon became convinced that "our interests as a nation” had been directly attacked, for in the "Merthyr Pioneer” on November 27th, he wrote:— 
I have never said or written anything to dissuade our young men from enlisting; 1 know too well all that there is at stake . . .
and not only did he give an assurance that he had not tried to discourage enlistment; he boasted that his efforts at recruiting had been more successful than those of his Liberal opponent.

The same article (“Merthyr Pioneer" November 27th) goes on :—
If I can get the recruiting figures for Merthyr week by week, which I find is a very difficult job, I hope by another week to prove (Keir Hardie's italics) that whereas our Rink meeting gave a stimulus to recruiting, those meetings at the Drill Hall at which the Liberal member or the Liberal candidate spoke had exactly the opposite effect.
We see, therefore, that Keir Hardie held that the workers ought to fight for national independence, and in defence of “national interests" and he urged them to join the army for that purpose. “Forward” (which itself throughout the war allowed regular contributors to carry on propaganda in its pages in support of the cause of the Allied capitalists) describes our original statement as "nonsense." In face of the evidence, will the Editor of "Forward” admit his error, or allow us to give the evidence in his columns?

Maxton and Cook's Catchwords (1928)

Editorial from the July 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent manifesto by James Maxton (Chairman of the I.L.P.) and A. J. Cook (Miners’ Secretary) has received much notice in the Press, but only of a sensational kind.

The manifesto calls for a fight against the Capitalist system, but both the signers are supporters of the Labour Party, which has done its best to maintain and carry on the Capitalist system.

They claim that there has been a serious departure from the views of the founders of the Labour Party, such as Keir Hardie, but no evidence of that is offered or can be offered. Keir Hardie, Macdonald and other prominent leaders did not carry out a war against Capitalism and in favour of Socialism, but always stood for a long programme of reforms which would leave the system intact. Even in the early days of the Labour Party they ridiculed the principle of the Class Struggle, which lies at the root of the Socialist Movement—and the leadership, the policy and the programme of the Labour Party still ignore and gloss over the Class Conflict.

Cook and Maxton refer, with pride, to the thirty years’ work of the Labour Party, which they claim is now being destroyed. What is the thirty years’ work of the Labour Party? It is not as Cook and Maxton claim—work against the present economic system. For nearly thirty years the Labour Party have been recruiting the working class for a policy so much in harmony with the Liberals that several times they have called upon the workers to back up Lloyd George, Asquith and Co. in their Capitalist policies. Budget agitations. House of Lords’ Reform, Land Taxes, and similar anti-Socialist planks have been the common programme of Liberals and Labour. So much so, that to-day the Labour and. Independent Labour Parties’ cry is that the Liberal Industrial Report has been largely compiled from Labour’s Programme.

The Labour Government of 1924, endorsed by the I.L.P., is another example of what Maxton and Cook call, the “thirty years' work” against Capitalism. A Labour Government, maintained by Liberals, to carry on Capitalist policies!

What is the alternative suggested by those two advocates of the Labour Party? Simply that we should return to the policy of Keir Hardie and other founders of the Labour Party. This parade of sentiment about the pioneers ignores the fact that their policy was not Socialism, but actually so directly opposed to the Class Struggle of the workers that these "pioneers,” including Keir Hardie, supported the World War of 1914—a logical result of the anti-working class attitude of these alleged pioneers.
The objection raised by Maxton to the Mond Industrial Peace Conference ignores the fact that a majority of those taking part in the Conference with Mond and other employers are members of the I.L.P., and no action has been taken by the I.L.P. to expel or to repudiate them. A. J. Cook’s objection to the Mond Peace inference is not one of principle. More than once the journal of his supporters (the Communist Party)—The Workers' Life—has denounced Cook’s statement that he would not mind if only the Conference was representative of both sides, and had power to act.

At the Keir Hardie Memorial Demonstration, at Old Cumnock on Sunday, June 24th, Maxton defended the "Living Wage” Policy of the I.L.P., and completely ignored the fact that the "Living Wage” Campaign was simply a programme for the maintenance of Capitalism, with a series of minimum wage laws similar to the Trade Board’s Acts which legalise "sweating.”

There is nothing revolutionary in a policy which proposes to tax the employers in order to relieve slightly the employers' industrial victims.

It may be good election propaganda on the Clyde to talk vaguely about fighting Capitalism, but neither Maxton nor Cook have ever been prepared to lay down a Socialist Policy. They may be very useful to entice into the Labour Party those who are hoping that new leaders mean real changes. The workers, however, will still have to learn that new leaders and new catchwords do not take the place of sound knowledge and a Socialist Policy.

Our 24th Annual Conference. (1928)

Editorial from the May 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our 24th Annual Conference.

The best attended and generally the most helpful Annual Conference held for many years! Such was the opinion expressed on all sides. Next year we want to see more provincial delegates, as these are occasions when all, near and far, should make the utmost efforts to attend. The following are some of the outstanding features of the Conference:

A report was presented by the official engaged in maintaining communications with parties abroad similar to our own. Comrades in Austria are engaged in spreading our principles and a translation into German of our pamphlet “Socialism" is well under way.


A party has been formed which subscribes to the Object and Declaration of Principles of our Party. Readers of the Socialist Standard are being referred to the Secretary of this Australian Party, with whom they are asked to get into touch and so hasten the growth of a strong, virile fighting wing of the Socialist International. Their activities will be eagerly watched by our comrades over here.

From Canada and U.S.A. reports were given of groups who are making strenuous and untiring efforts towards the formation of a party in line with ours. Speed the day! is our message.

We were also told of efforts to get in touch with readers of the Standard in India, Egypt, South Africa, South America, Japan and China, and Russia. To all these scattered revolutionaries the Conference extended fraternal greetings and the hope for the early birth of the Socialist International.


The desire on the part of the majority of the London Branches to contest the next General Election is being met by the inauguration of a Parliamentary Fund. All sympathisers are asked to forward their contributions without delay.


The need for fresh party literature was expressed by many of the delegates. In order to meet this need funds are urgently needed.


Negotiations have been entered into with the view of taking over a large and suitable building in a main thoroughfare on the south side of the river.

The building contains a hall for indoor meetings and the E.C. strongly recommended the Conference to support their endeavours to their utmost.

For many years the party has been handicapped by lack of room. The present opportunity is one which, if taken advantage of, should mean a great step forward in the party’s activities. Again, therefore, all who can are asked to forward contributions or offers of loans to the Head Office for this purpose. The amount promised and collected to date is over £63.


This was well maintained. Indoor meetings in London broke all records and provided our speakers with good opportunities to place the party’s position before large and attentive audiences. Good work has also been done in Manchester, with an encouraging effect on the Manchester members.

During the summer season it is proposed to organise propaganda meetings at places within 30 to 50 miles of London.

All sympathisers of the party within this radius are invited to communicate with H.O. with a view to making the necessary arrangements for such meetings with the object of forming branches of the party in their localities.

On Good Friday evening, following our usual custom, a Reunion and Dance and Concert were held. These were the best attended for many years.

World Disarmament! (1928)

Book Review from the March 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Russia’s Disarmament Proposals,” by W. P. Coates, with preface by Arthur Ponsonby, M.P. Price 3d. (The Anglo-Russian Parliamentary Committee.)

This pamphlet is a report of Litvinov’s speech at Geneva and the Russian Memorandum calling for complete disarmament. Litvinov’s speech, however, shows the futility of expecting capitalism to disarm :
“The Soviet Government adheres to the opinion it has always held that under the capitalist system no grounds exist for counting upon the removal of the causes which give rise to armed conflicts. Militarism and big navies are the essentially natural consequences of the capitalist system.”
Armies and navies for the suppression of the workers at home and aggression abroad will always be needed and used by the capitalists. To ask them to disarm is to spread the view that such a thing is possible under capitalism.

The praise of the Russian proposals by the Daily Herald and the Labour Party is a piece of pure impudence considering the record of the Labour Government in building cruisers and the Labour Party’s support of the Great European Butchery.
Adolph Kohn

The Liberal Industrial Fraud. (1928)

Editorial from the March 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Report of the Liberal Party Industrial Enquiry has at last appeared, but it should be called “The Capitalists White-Washing Programme." From beginning to end it calls attention to bad conditions, but never once does it enquire into the cause. The remedy proposed is more of the conditions that caused the evils. More Capitalism. Empire Development of—Capitalism. More shareholders in—Capitalism. More Free Trade in goods—and labour power. Less taxes for the industrial lord. Cheaper coal. More roads, and similar pills for the Economic Earthquake.

The dependence of the working class upon the employers for a chance to work; the resulting exploitation and insecurity of work, together with actual unemployment all the time under Capitalism—this situation is not dealt with by these Liberal experts. All these quack doctors can suggest is the workers should buy shares where they work and get a share of the profits in large concerns, and when jobless they can work on the roads or in the forests — developing capital for the capitalists. They tell us that ownership is far too concentrated, and while they report thus, the Liberal capitalists, like their Tory friends, are busy amalgamating, centralising, combining and trustifying modern capital in more powerful concerns, whether like Sir Ernest Benn in the publishing world, or like the Brunners in the chemical industry.

The Labour Party are angry because the Liberals have pinched their policy and put it in the Liberal Report. The MacDonalds and Hendersons say the Report embraces much of Socialism, but any Socialist who looks into the Report to find the Socialism will wear his eyes out in vain. What the Labour leaders mean by Socialism is municipal trams and beer and such schemes, to run things by a Capitalist State when it pays better than ordinary capitalist ownership.

The Labour Party’s programme is proved to be a capitalist one by its adoption by Liberals. 

Tear Away the Veils that Blind! (1928)

Editorial from the February 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

The system that oppresses us to-day has centred in the hands of a few the control of the wealth produced by the many. Like an echo of this the blind strivings of the workers for freedom from oppression has centred the control of their organisations in the hands of a few trade union and political leaders. For decades the cult of leadership has lain like a blight on the struggles of the workers. The International Working Men’s Association opened full of promise, but was split and broken by this foul disease; its successors were born with this birth-mark upon them and linger a living testimony of futility.

The parties that claim the suffrages of the working-class to-day are, with one exception, saturated with the worship of the “great.” Avowed enemies, or professing friends, they alike deserve the uncompromising hostility of the workers.

The Labour Party, which opened its political career as the self-appointed guardians of the interests of the working class, after a long period of active work quenching the fires of revolution, and heading off almost every aspiration that promised progress to the workers, has finally graduated into the official opposition, the grave of dead hopes. Its leaders preach and pen empty platitudes, futile reforms that have seldom even the merit of simplicity. Intellectually bankrupt, undisciplined and eternally torn with dissension, it forms a solid barrier across the path to working-class emancipation.

The Independent Labour Party, having been built up on the same shifting sands of reform, is useless, and worse than useless, for the purpose of' achieving Socialism. It is irrevocably bound up with the Labour Party. It is in name “independent,” but one single independent blow for Socialism would bring upon it the open opposition of the Labour Party machine, would rend it from top to bottom and destroy the illusion that it is a real political force.

The Communist Party spurns Parliament and watches leaders, in theory. In practice, it helps into prominence and position the ghouls of the social battlefield, and prepares, a shambles for its guileless victims. With every change in the Russian situation it changes its policy and tactics. The “heroes” of yesterday are the “Petit Bourgeois” of to-day, and the “trusted leaders” of to-day will be the “traitors” of to-morrow. And as Russia, in harmony with historico-economic laws, daily proves more and more clearly that a society “can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments, the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development,” so the water of capitalism enters the milk of Communism in increasing abundance. The latter loses its driving force, and the wiser political charlatans turn to the richer field of spoil in the Labour Party.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain was formed to propagate great principles and not “great” men. From the beginning the Party unflinchingly rejected all attempts at taking out of the hands of the working-class the control of its destiny, taking as a motto the watchwords, "The emancipation of the working-class must be the work of the working-class itself.” The social sufferer, like the sick, is slow to grasp the cause of his sufferings and prone to place his trust in those who promise quick relief —at a price. Hence we, who urge the worker to raise himself and conquer the world for himself, have made headway very slowly, and only after much toil. But we have made progress. Slowly the seed we have sown is bearing fruit. Here and there through the world, modest though it be at present, the germs of a greater International than the world has ever known is struggling into being. Here and there in the mighty cities that crowd the earth the voices of brother slaves have echoed our message: “Too long have the toilers been the playthings of the idle and the ambitious; let the capitalist world tremble at the upward march of its grave-diggers.”

Editorial: Where Bolshevism Fails. (1928)

Editorial from the January 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ten Years that prove our case.
It may appear paradoxical to write of the failure of a movement which has controlled the political machinery in the largest country in Europe for a decade. Success or failure, however, must be measured in relation to the avowed object of the movement. In England we have had, for generations, a movement (known as the Co-operative) which claimed to supersede capitalism. In fact, it has developed into a department of capitalist society. Similarly the Soviet Government employs wage slaves (like any other State), produces commodities for sale at a profit and arranges concessions with other capitalist concerns, private or national; at one time feared and execrated by capitalist politicians it is now treated on level terms at World Councils of the Powers. Why?

The Bolshevist coup of November, 1917, was no miracle. It was in line with the general history of Russian conditions for a century past. The development of industry, and, consequently, capitalist society had been held in check both by external and internal forces for generations. Britain and France had throttled expansion in the Baltic and the Black Sea, while the new capitalist power, Japan, put the finishing touch on the process in the East.

Capitalist industrialism must have markets, but the population of Russia consisted (and still consists) of millions of peasants producing mainly to satisfy their own requirements. Such surplus as they raise is under pressure from the tax-gatherer. According to Trotsky, "More than two-thirds of the consumption of the scattered peasant holdings is excluded from the market, and only the lesser third has any influence on the economy of the country.” — "Towards Socialism or Capitalism” (page 43).

Depending upon such immature productive resources the Tsarist bureaucracy plunged into the war with Germany (a highly industrialised nation) with the inevitable result that three years later its armies melted away, underfed, ragged, ill-armed and ill-equipped, to listen to the agitators. Revolt and the collapse of the governmental edifice followed. Party after party attempted to stem the rising tide. The Bolsheviki alone had the organisation, discipline and insight which enabled them to ride the storm.

Overthrowing Kerensky and his facing-both-ways supporters they endeavoured to obtain the support of the workers along parliamentary lines. Failing in this they proceeded to disperse the assembly by force and have "dictated" by the same means ever since.

Their leaders. Lenin, Trotsky and the rest had studied Marx and professed Socialism as their ultimate object. This, however, does not distinguish them from opportunist parties in other countries.

This programme upon which they gained the support of the army was certainly not Socialism; nor could any army establish Socialism, except under the direction and control of a Socialist working class, and this in turn could not have been found in Russia in 1917.

The army, drawn mainly from the peasantry, wanted to get back to their villages. Along with the workers in the towns they wanted food, and an end to the war in which they had no interest. The Bolsheviki promised them these things.

Although the new rĂ©gime excluded all other parties from control, it dished them by stealing their programmes. Thus it legalised the Social Revolutionary Party’s ideal, peasant proprietorship, and eventually by means of the New Economic Policy opened up the avenues of development for the petty bourgeois elements in towns hitherto championed by the Mensheviks. It nationalised the large industries by the simple process of confiscation and then paid the capitalists to restart them (vide Trotsky’s book quoted above, page 38). The unreadiness of the workers themselves to assume ownership and control provided the dictators with both the opportunity and the excuse for the policy of compromise, economic and political, which they have since followed.

In foreign affairs, intrigue has been the weapon with which they have endeavoured to make terms with other capitalist powers.

Ostensibly they set out to initiate a world-revolution, ignoring the enormous amount of propagandist spade-work that still remains to be done before any such event is likely. Again the unreadiness of the workers of the world furnished them with the opportunity and excuse for entering into negotiations with the leaders of the "Second International,” whom they professed to be out to smash. Their "sympathisers” throughout the world, who suddenly conceived a respect for the magic of the name "Communist,” similarly commenced by attacking the Right Wing leaders both of Labour Parties and Trade Unions, and wound up by calling upon the workers to support these self-same leaders at the polling-booth. Where Marxian phraseology has appeared to meet their requirements they have used it only to disregard its real meaning whenever that has proved inconvenient.

The high-sounding phrases with which the movement proclaimed its alleged mission to the world have long since degenerated into empty verbiage, repeated parrot-like by the hot-headed "enthusiasts” who encumber the pathway of the scientific revolutionary party.

In Russia the proletariat (i.e., the wage-earning, working-class) is in a minority. Hence any movement on their part is a "minority movement.” In Britain the same class is in an overwhelming majority. It only needs to organise consciously and politically to have its way. Yet we have in this country a "minority movement”! What interests does it represent?

In Russia dictatorship is the traditional mode of government. It is made possible by the unorganised conditions of the majority of the population whose outlook is local rather than national; where politics are concerned the peasants "leave it to others.” In Britain the wage slaves have struggled for and gained legal and political rights which serve as a stepping stone to the control of society along democratic lines.

The Bolshevist movement has failed to teach the workers of Western Europe and America anything new concerning their position and has assisted but little to help forward their education in the task ahead of them. It has fogged the issue by introducing controversy over points long ago settled so far as this country is concerned. Let the workers study the history of their class and they will discover that the methods advocated by so-called Communists were tried and scotched by the ruling class over a hundred years ago.

When the army was quartered among the workers at the time of the French Revolution and the workers themselves were seething with discontent brought about by the advent of the machine industry then, if ever, was the time for seducing the troops from their allegiance. Destitute of political rights, it appeared in those days the only logical policy. Capitalist statesmen, such as Pitt, however, foresaw the danger to their class and segregated the army in barracks. To-day there is only one road to political power and economic emancipation. That is the slow but sure road followed by the Socialist Party. 

Cooking the Books: Marxists Under the Bed (2017)

The Cooking the Books column from the February 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
Anyone reading the Times over the end of the year period could be forgiven for thinking that the paper was waging a witch-hunt against 'Marxists'. An article by Philip Collins, once Tony Blair's speechwriter, on 16 December was headed 'Ministers must stand and fight RMT Marxists'. Another, on 3 January, by Melanie Philips, former Daily Mail columnist (and it shows), on Obama was subtitled 'The outgoing President is poised to return to his Marxist roots and lead opposition to Trump.'
What was the basis of these claims? Collins's argument was that the current series of strikes on Southern Rail was not an ordinary trade union dispute over workers' terms and conditions of employment but a political strike against the government. He cited talk by some of the union's officials about strikes to bring down the government, one of Arthur Scargill's illusions. Even if this was the union's official position (which it wasn't) this would not be 'Marxism' . The view that trade unions should take industrial action to overthrow the government is a syndicalist position, not one Marx held. He always stressed the need to win control of political power, via the ballot box if possible, as a preliminary to ending capitalism.
Collins also pointed to the fact that the RMT has supported TUSC, a Trotskyist front organisation. At least those behind TUSC do describe themselves as 'Marxists', even though they aren't. Trotskyism is a fundamental departure from Marx's own views and TUSC's policies are just Old Labour.
Melanie Phillips's case is even weaker. She can't even cite anybody who even claimed to be a Marxist. Her argument goes like this: Obama used to be a community activist; Saul Alinsky was a community activist; Alinsky was a Marxist; therefore Obama was a Marxist. The logical fallacy is glaring, but one of the premises is not even true. Alinsky never claimed to be a socialist, let alone a Marxist.
But what is a Marxist anyway? Marx himself of course once famously said that he wasn't a Marxist. The term originated in the dispute in the 1870s within the International Working Men's Association. Marx's opponents in the dispute dubbed those who took his side 'Marxists'. They retorted by calling them 'Bakuninists'. Some accepted the description 'Marxist', and, despite Marx, it stuck.
A Marxist is not a dogmatic follower of everything Marx wrote or did, but someone who shares his approach to history and economics and his insistence on the need to win political control before attempting to end capitalism and bring in communism (as Marx preferred to call socialism). In this sense, we would call ourselves Marxists, although our case rests on the facts, not on what Marx said, and stands irrespective of what Marx may or may not have said and even if he had never been born.
We wouldn't want to claim to be the only 'Marxists'. There are historians, such as Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm, who have brilliantly applied the materialist conception of history, but only to history. When it came to applying the same method to contemporary society they had a blind spot, believing that Russia was socialist or had been on the way to socialism, whereas the exploitative, class-divided, state-capitalist society there had nothing in common with what Marx envisaged as the next stage beyond capitalism. But one thing is certain, neither the RMT leaders nor Obama are in any way Marxist.