Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Socialist Unity (1904)

Editorial from the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the most important questions raised at the International Socialist Congress at Amsterdam was that of Socialist Unity. This is by no means the first time that consideration has been given to this subject. It has often been felt by many of those who have taken part in Socialist propaganda and Socialist organisation that much harm was done by the existence in this and other countries of rival Socialist organisations. And those who have thus felt have been anxious to find some means of unifying the Socialist parties in each country. The International Congress has on the present occasion contented itself with passing a pious resolution recommending the various groups in any country to use their best endeavours to secure this end.

We confess that we are not sanguine that anything will be done. And we are by no means certain that if anything could be done that such thing would be desirable. We are all for unity. We believe that unity of party organisation based upon unity of purpose, unity of principle, and unity of method is the one thing desirable. But to-day we are only too sure that such unity of party organisation, so far as the various groups of Socialists in any country are concerned, would be at the expense of unity of purpose, principle, and method.

In the field of Socialist thought and Socialist action there are to-day two distinct tendencies to be found: the revolutionary and the revisionist. At one time the main trend of Socialist development was essentially revolutionary, but today the Socialist movement has been overtaken by a wave of revisionism.

In every country where there is anything in the nature of a Socialist party we have a struggle for supremacy between these two opposing tendencies. And these tendencies manifest themselves in opposing groups. The differences existing in France between Jaures and Guesde and their respective parties are not isolated cases. In Italy we have the patties of Ferri and Turati; in Germany we have the Bernsteinianers; in Belgium the Socialists are almost purely revisionist; in America and elsewhere we have similar dissensions.

In this country we find the same forces, the same influences at work. There are in England —in addition to The Socialist Party of Great Britain three organisations closely identified with Socialism, viz.. The Fabian Society, The Social-Democratic Federation, and The Independent Labour Party. Of these four organisations the three latter are revisionist, the former is revolutionary. Hence while there exists no apparent reason—except the jealousy of the individual members—why the three revisionist bodies should not unite, The Socialist Party, taking its stand on the class struggle, which The Fabian Society and The Independent Labour Party in their writings, and The Social-Democratic Federation by their actions deny, is fundamentally opposed to these other parties.

Unity is an important factor in the growth of a party, but it is not the most important. Better far to have a party, however small, with common principles and a common end, than a party, however large, which is bound by no tie save party interest. We, therefore, who differ from these other parties in essential principles—inasmuch as we accept the principle of the class struggle while they do not—cannot consent to unite our forces with theirs. It would weaken both parties—and the weakening would he more disastrous to the uncompromising section than to the revisionist.

But, it may be objected, does not at least the Social-Democratic Federation accept the principles of the class struggle? Judging from their writings one would imagine that they did. But judging from their actions they do not. And when a party pretends to believe something which their actions belie, the most charitable construction to put upon the matter is that they are avowing their belief in principles which they do not really understand. Their allegiance is but lip-allegiance.

The latest action of the Social-Democratic Federation is proof conclusive that they have little faith in the principle of the class struggle. In the columns of “Justice” recently, the claim was put forward that the Social-Democratic Federation controlled a million votes in the United Kingdom—an avenge voting strength, that is, of nearly 1,500 in each constituency. The absurdity of this claim is shown by the fact, first, that the total strength of their organisation does not exceed, if we judge by their subscription list, 1,500 in all or two in each constituency, and, second, that in those constituencies in which their voting strength is the greatest, as shown by their being selected for contest, their vote has ever failed to reach this number of 1,500. If in selected constituencies they cannot secure this number, how much less can they secure it on the average in all the constituencies?

Why do they raise this absurd claim? Is it not that they hare ceased to be a purely Socialist party and are going in for mere reform? In the first number of The Socialist Standard we expressed our opinion that they had become a reform party seeking only to secure free maintenance of the children. Now they are acting in the stereotyped method of all reform parties and are coquetting with the Liberal Party. They have written to the Liberal Leader asking him for a pronouncement as to the position of the Liberal Party on the question of free maintenance of the children and of the payment of members. Now, what is their position if he affirms that the Liberal Party are in favour of these two principles? They are morally bound to throw the million votes they say they control on the Liberal side: they are morally bound to give their utmost support to the Liberal Party. Hence their million votes! And the Liberal Party, knowing that the million votes are but the figment of the Quelchian imagination, treat their communications with studied contempt.

The Fabian Society is a collection of middle-class men who cannot possibly, if the class war theory be correct, believe in that class war. They think the best method of furthering what they understand to be Socialism is to join other political parties—Tory or Liberal—and educate them from within. And with their type of Socialism they may be perfectly right. But the Socialism of the Fabian Society is not the Socialism of the class struggle, not the Socialism of the Dresden resolution, not the Socialism of anti-revisionism. Their Socialism is a commercial type—the Socialism of the merchant, of the market: as mongrel a breed as the Manchester brand of philosophic radicalism.

The methods of the Independent Labour Party are such as might be expected of a party which was avowedly the child of political cowardice. "We find” said the founders of that "we find that many people dislike the name of Socialism and, therefore, we must start a party with Socialist principles but without the name.” Since its initiation it has held unswerving and uncompromising faith in the principle of compromise. And now it has entered into an unholy alliance with the Labour Representation Committee and is already quarrelling with the other organisations represented therein as to who should have the dominant voice in the administration of that wing of the Liberal Party.

We cannot see, therefore, how we can secure unity by joining hands with these organisations. They are carrying out a policy with which we cannot agree, and we, and with us the Socialist movement of this country, of which we claim to be the truest representatives, would be hindered for a space. We are all for unity, but it is for a unity firmly established on a common aim, and a common method. Any other unity is but a delusion.

We shall continue then to carry on our work of propaganda and organisation in our own way, trusting that our party will gain the support of all those in this country who are desirous of achieving unity, and that as time goes by our present party nucleus will widen until such time as its strength will have rendered it in reality as in name the worthy political expression of the whole of the Socialist movement in Great Britain.

We, for the present, think that a unification of Socialist forces in this country is neither possible nor desirable. As the years go by our work will bear good fruit and we shall grow in numbers until the accomplishment of Socialism shall have rendered our party unnecessary. Its only remembrance will then be in the hearts and minds of a happy and contented people— the children of The Socialist Republic.

The Unemployed (1904)

Editorial from the November 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fontenelle has said that mankind must exhaust the possibilities of error before he can reach the true path. This maxim seems to be fully borne out by the events which have transpired in the political world during the past month. It is true that the capitalist machine at Westminster has for the present completed its “deliberations." The talking shop with its mockery of democratic legislation hiding the rule of the non-producer has closed. But the great organised hypocrisy of which Parliament and Parliamentary government is the chief political symbol is ever with us. Outside Parliament the agents of the great capitalist class are ever at work and of these agents the most powerful workers in the capitalist interest are those who, consciously or unconsciously, seek to lead the workers along non-Socialist lines. Socialism, which is the organisation of the industry of the country on a basis of common ownership and equitable distribution of industrial products, is the only remedy for the evils of present-day Society and therefore any man or section of men who pretend to show .that something short of Socialism would prove a remedy thereby constitutes himself, consciously or unconsciously, an enemy of the working class.

The main question which has come prominently before the public during the past month has been the question of the unemployed. Now anyone who was unaccustomed to the practical politician and his powers of exhausting the possibilities of error would imagine that as a necessary preliminary to solving the problem of the unemployed must come an enquiry into the causes of unemployment. But not so the practical politician. He does not like exhaustive enquiries into causes. He likes to be practical, and being practical cannot search below the surface of the social phenomena immediately before his eyes. For him those causes which are obvious and on the surface are given forth as the real causes of unemployment. Our practical man knows someone who was discharged for his drinking habits, hence drunkenness must be the cause of unemployment. Another politician of the practical school sees cases of thriftlessness, of laziness among the working-class and knowing that the rich are never extravagant and never idle, predicates these characteristics also as causes of unemployment.

The political economist, the apologetic theorician of the capitalist regime rejecting those as true causes of unemployment, seeks them in the fact that we possess  a gold standard of circulation, or that we have a system of free imports under which we pay 15s. per head of the population in import duties as opposed to an average of 8s. per head in countries with protective tariffs, or, like Mr. William Stanley Jevons, he sees in the periodicity of sunspots a relation to the periodicity of magnetic storms in the earth and through this to the periodicity of bad harvests and trade depressions. We have a maximum of sunspots every eleven years, a recurrence of magnetic storms about every eleven years, and trade depressions every decade. Hence sunspots are the cause of unemployment!

The Socialist opposes both the practical politician and the orthodox political economist and seeks for the causes of unemployment, not among the moral characteristics of man nor among the physical configurations of the Solar System, but among the economic conditions of production and distribution. The Socialist first looks to the earth as the primal repository of all potential wealth and asks if the earth can furnish sufficient raw material to satisfy all the material needs of man. The answer of the Socialist may be given in the words of Kropotkin in the July “Nineteenth Century and After":
   “Mankind has reached a point where the means of satisfying its needs are in excess of the needs themselves. To impose, therefore, as has hitherto been done, the curse of misery and degradation upon vast divisions of mankind, in order to secure wellbeing for the few, is needed no more; well- . being can be secured for all, without overwork for any."
Nature with the aid of man’s labour is prolific in the supply of raw material which can be wrought into the means of satisfying man’s wants. Men there are in abundance capable of turning this raw material into finished products. Labour there is in plenty to produce sufficient to supply the “effective demand.” If this ‘‘effective demand" meant the sum total of the things required by human kind, existence of the unemployed would simply mean that man had limited demands and it only required the work of a limited number of people to produce the food, clothing, houses, &c. of all, and this could be dealt with by a reorganisation of industry, but the existence of the working-class unemployed means, however, under present conditions, the existence of hunger, of semi-starvation, of lack of the means of livelihood of the unemployed. In the midst of plenty they are devoid of the means of sustenance because they can find none to employ them.

We have then to seek in the process of converting raw material into manufactured products for the cause of the “industrial reserve army of the unemployed.’’ In some phase of this conversion, in some period of manufacture, we must find the main cause of the throwing of men out of work; and to the Socialist this main cause is the introduction of the machine as the dominant factor in production. We who are Socialists are, of course, fully aware that the introduction of machinery with its potentialities of reduced labour time for those employed is an important stage in Social and industrial evolution. Under the control of those who use it, who work with its aid, it would have been followed by a continually diminishing working day, but owned and controlled by a few, by a small section of the community, it has been used as a factor in the oppressing and enslaving of men and has proved a curse.

The machine, produced by machinery, is ever producing a greater and greater output with the aid of fewer and fewer men and, therefore, as we find has been the case in the textile industries, there is at the end off every decade a smaller number of workers employed, and the number displaced is greatly augmented by the displacement of men’s labour by that of women and children. We contend then, that so long as the machinery of production is owned by a class which uses the growing power, of the machine to throw men out of work rather than to reduce the duration of the day’s work, so long shall we have an unemployed problem.

It is true that many off those who have been displaced have been reabsorbed in the creation of luxuries and the satisfaction of the needs of the capitalist few. The production of luxuries has grown to an enormous extent during the last few decades, while the number of those who are engaged as domestic servants or who find a living in other ways, all having for their end the pleasures of the rich, has grown greatly. This process of the multiplication of workers performing comparatively useless functions has its limitations and when these limits have been reached there will exist no means of absorbing those thrown out of work by the development and speeding up of better machinery. We must, then, look forward in the near future to a constant increase in the number of the permanent unemployed.

What are we to think, then, of those who, knowing these things, are yet to .be found in brotherly harmony with the capitalistic sections of the community seeking for means for dealing adequately with the unemployed problem and yet afraid to say that they think the only solution of the unemployed problem is to be found in the establishment of a Socialist system of society. This is what we find at the present moment. Men styling themselves Socialists, the members of a body claiming to be Socialist are found to-day hobnobbing with men whose interests are essentially bound up in the maintenance of the present system of society which produces the unemployed, and putting forward as means for solving the unemployed problem, farm colonies and such like nostrums.

We refuse utterly to accept these men as true exponents of Socialist principles. Prating of the class-war, in which they say they believe, they yet are found in alliances with middle-class parties, thus placing themselves in opposition to the class-war. Bound by the Dresden Resolution, for which they voted at the last International Socialist Congress at Amsterdam, and which protests against
  “the substitution, for the conquest of political power by an unceasing attack on the bourgeoisie, of a policy of concession to the established order of society," 
they are among the first to make concessions to the established order of society by virtually admitting the non-Socialist, non-class-war principle that the unemployed problem can be solved within that capitalist system of society of which it is really the outcome.

We of the Socialist Party of Great Britain remain firm in our conviction that nothing but uncompromising propaganda of our principles and the political organisation of the masses upon a basis of uncompromising Socialism can do aught to solve the unemployed problem, or any other of the Social problems, engendered by the capitalist system. End the capitalist system. Establish a Socialist system in its stead, and we shall have once and for all laid the foundation of a regime in which the labour of all men and all women can be usefully employed during such limited time as may be determined by our needs, and then having no unemployed problem, we shall not have any of the evils, the miseries, and the degradation which spring from unemployment.

The Socialist Policy and the Strike (1913)

Editorial from the October 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

What has been called the “labour unrest” continues to be as much in evidence as ever. Up and down the country there are strikes and lock-outs, and rumours of strikes and lock-outs. Askwith, the peacemaker, is kept pretty busy rushing hither and thither, tendering hie services at the moment when the men are exhausted in the struggle, in order to aid the pretence that the powers that with ride and baton have cleared the way for the blackleg and the strike smasher, really do take a detached view of the case, really do desire to “keep the ring" impartially, really do feel solicitous regarding the welfare of the worker. Here and there the workers have tasted the fruits of victory, and won perhaps a few pence advance in wages, to go with the increased cost of living, or have gained an hour or two more leisure, as a set-off against the increased speed of their labour, or have established the right to wear a button—an emblem of freedom, to give the lie to the police badge and other trappings of slavery. In more numerous instances the men have suffered defeat, and have had to return, where they have not been supplanted, to as bad conditions of toil as before—or oven worse. And in some cases the protracted struggle goes on, with terrible consequences in working-class “homes"—and not one whit less terrible because bravely endured.

No one in his senses will deny that, under the present social system, these battles and the suffering they involve are both necessary and inevitable. They are inevitable because in a competitive system, with labour-power possessing the commodity nature, the price of that labour-power can only be determined in the way that all other prices are determined, that is, through struggle.

But to say that the strike is a necessary weapon is by no means to say the last word about it. After all, the strike is but an attempt to withhold labour-power, an organised effort to prevent the masters from purchasing that human potential energy which they must have. And it is just because the strike to day almost invariably fails—not to win the strike: the significance of the situation does not lie therein — but to withhold labour-power, that it has become the object of the Socialist's criticism.

That the general policy of the trade unions in restricting admission to the organisations is one of the contributory causes of the failure of the strike weapon cannot be denied, but the fact is not of first importance. The inroads of machinery in the vast majority of trades is every day making it easier for the masters to replace strikers with blacklegs, partly because of the increasing number of unemployed, but still more because of the lower proportion of “skilled” workers required in industrial processes. One baker, for instance, can direct a score of labourers who have only to feed material into machines in order to produce bread.

It is this increasing supply and availability of blackleg labour that presents the problem to the striker. It is a growing power in the masters’ bands. It grows in spite of the workmen’s frenzied attempts at organisation and it undermines their position in the very hour of victory, and crushes them to the ground in helpless ruin even as they reach up for the meagre reward of their pain and suffering.

The unions at present have no other idea of combatting the terrible scourge of blackleg labour than the crude one of opposing it with bottles and brickbats. It is safe to say that all but an infinitesimal portion of the “rioting” which almost invariably accompanies strikes is directly due to the endeavour of the masters to introduce blacklegs into the positions vacated by the strikers. Of course the latter cannot afford to let this pass without putting forth every effort to prevent it. The result is collision with the armed forces, and maimed and murdered workers.

In such circumstances—with an ample reserve of men who are driven by hunger to the detestable crime of “scabbing,” and an armed force sufficient to ‘‘ preserve the peace," which means in this connection to enable the masters to smash the strike with their blackleg reserve— the strike weapon falls inert and innocuous, st least u far as the masters are concerned.

Nor is this all. Emboldened by the impunity with which it may be done, those in power show a marked tendency to resort to the murder of the workers upon progressively smaller “provocation” or excuse. The use of the military in the great railway fiasco—placed under arms before the strike had commenced; promised to the masters even before they dared to drive their miserable slaves to extremities—and the brutal smashing up of peaceful meetings at Liverpool, and more recently st Dublin and other places, proves this. The Law, which seems to be helplessly paralysed in the face of the Carsons and Smiths fulminating flagrant treason and wholesale sedition, can be strained to outlaw every movement of the workers, and even to shatter that imaginary, but firmly believed-in institution, free speech!

The reason for this growing contempt for the liberties the workers had got into the habit of thinking their fathers had won for them is not at all obscure. Time was when any Government thought twice before they antagonised the vast body of working class voters by open acts of brutality for which even the most plausible of them could find no passable excuse. But that political retaliation which the politicians feared has, as far as the Liberal party is concerned, been effectually scotched by the Labour Party. Bitterness against the open and avowed Liberals will express itself simply in more votes for the sneak Liberals masquerading in Labour’s robes.

Those workers who placed their faith in this precious party of traitors which dares to call itself the Labour Party, may now cast a dubious or even rueful eye upon their chicken when it comes home to roost. But at least it should have taught them one useful lesson. Is it conceivable that astute politicians, so eager for pelf that they cannot keep themselves clear of Marconi entanglements, would jeopardise the sweets of office by placing the armed forces at the disposal of every trumpery concern that chose to butcher its employees on the question of 6d. a week? In the face 42 true Labour men who could throw the politicians out of office at any time they would not dare to do it. In the face of ten, or five, or two men elected on the class struggle, who would get up in the name of their party and proclaim such acts of aggression what in fact they are —simple acts in the class war—they would certainly be more circumspect

For every such act then, instead of merely shifting the workers’ allegiance from Liberalism to Laboralism, would drive home to thousands the need for uncompromising hostility to all capitalist political parties—and it is just this that all capitalist politicians, from Asquith in the clouds to Macdonald in the gutter, hate and dread.

It is for this reason that, even for the immediate purpose of fighting the question of wages and conditions under capitalism, the political policy of the Socialist Party is superior to the trade union policy of political alliance with those to fight whom on the economic field they ostensibly exist.

But it would be prostituting our cause and our ideals to leave the argument there. It is not for the advantage of the moment that we Socialists strive. That the Socialist political policy is the best one for the worker engaged in the everyday struggle on the economic field, is so because the same facts environ every phase of the class struggle. The same armed forces face the striker endeavouring to obstruct the blackleg as faces the revolutionary aspiring to overthrow the system. The same police and military uphold the right of the masters to smash a strike as uphold and preserve the system of wage-slavery. For this very reason the course of trade unionist, seeking to restore to the strike weapon some of its old-time efficiency and power, and that of the revolutionary aspiring to the abolition of the master class as such, lie along identical lines. It is to get their hands on the instrument controlling the movements of all the armed forces.

This instrument, of course, is the political machine. So it amounts to this—the trade unions must adopt the political policy of the Socialist Party, even for their own purposes. They have tried the experiment of getting their “leaders” into the House of Commons with the aid of Liberal votes, only to find that they have been attached to the tail of the Liberal kite. They have allowed ambitious men to climb to place over their backs, assisted by the friendly hands of their masters, only to discover that when times hands are reeking with the blood of murdered workers, the “Labour” members, instead of repudiating them, but cling to them more tightly, because to let go is to fall.

It is clear, then, that the trade unions, even for the purpose of playing their part as a brake on the downward trend  of working class conditions, must aim at placing the greatest possible restriction upon the use of the armed forces for strike-smashing purposes. But to accomplish this they must rely upon the working class alone. They must take their stand upon the class struggle, because the only thing the masters are afraid of is that their acts of brutality may illumine the line of class cleavage. They must take control of their own political power, and so order things that it is they who command, that it is they who must be obeyed, that it is them, and not the masters, with whom their representatives dare not break faith.

To achieve this end it is clear that neither the workers nor their representatives may owe anything to the master class. All must be gained in the teeth of the enemy. Hence there must be no compromise. The masters fear only the growth of the recognition of the class struggle. It is through this fear alone that the workers, until such time as they have captured the entire machinery of government, can hope to exercise any restraining influence upon the brutal instincts of the masters fighting for their profits. They must stand, then, upon this class struggle, giving the utmost prominence to it, so that every aggressive act of the masters shall stand clearly out as class aggression, and, by increasing the class-consciousness of the workers, frighten the rulers into second thoughts before they serve out ball-cartridge to their minions.

Only the revolutionary candidate can fulfil the requirements of the trade union (or any other) worker, because it is only of revolution the masters are afraid. Only the properly so-credited candidates of a sound working-class political party can meet the needs of the worker because only through such an organisation can the workers’ representatives be guaranteed and controlled. Only the Socialist Party is a sound working-class political party, because it alone is based on the class struggle and is hostile to all other parties. The moral is obvious.

H. G. Wells on the Home (1908)

Book Review from the May 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

Will Socialism Destroy The Home? by H. G. Wells (I.L.P. 1d.)

Two points are introduced in this pamphlet, with both of which we disagree. The first is the idea of remuneration under Socialism being relative to the size of the family. The second is the suggestion of municipal baby-farm for children of unworthy parents.

With regard to remuneration, all Socialists will object to the proposal “to make a payment to the parents for their children.”

Prognostics in the name of Socialism as to how the family after the revolution will be constituted, need a sound recognition of the basic principle's of Socialism and of science generally, for even approximate accuracy. We have no evidence that Mr. Wells possesses any such recognition. Although he soundly criticises the existing system for the difference between the family as it is commonly supposed to be, and the family as it is, yet he fails to indicate the causes which have produced the difference. Those causes are economic and have been traced in the second part of Das Erfurter Program published under the title of “The Working Class,” shortly to appear as the fourth of our pamphlets, nor has the economic base of the impending change been made of sufficient clearness. Yet only by this means can an insight be had. The main factor would seem to be the complete freeing of women from economic dependence on men. This means the freeing of love from the influence of social position and the cash nexus, and a corresponding increase in the importance of the mutual consent of both parties to a marriage, whatever form that marriage takes.

The ability or worthiness of the parents need never be questioned, as the factors which to-day promote unworthiness will have gone, while the wilful neglect of children by parents able to attend to them would, under Socialism, probably indicate the necessity for the services of a mental physician! Just as the other bugbear to the non-Socialist—the won’t work will probably be a subject for similar treatment.

The brief historical sketch of the family with which Mr. Wells concludes, might easily have been made fuller, and for the purposes of the pamphlet carried a little ahead with more definiteness. For the rest it is an interesting speculation, admirably written, but it does not get far enough away from the idea of State baby farms and State boarding schools to satisfy those to whom “uniformity” and “regeneration ” are as objectionable as ever thcv were.
R. H. Kent

The People (1908)

From the May 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Written in 1600.)
"The people is a beast of muddy brain,
That knows not its own strength and therefore stands
Loaded with wood and iron. The powerless hands
Of a mere child guide it with bit and rein;
One kick would be enough to break the chain.
But the beast fears, and what the child demands
It does, nor its own terror understands
Confused and stupefied by bugbears vain.
Most wonderful! With its own hands
It ties the gags itself, gives itself life and war,
For pence doled out by kings from its own store.
Its own are all things between earth and heaven;
But this it knows not, and if one arise
To tell this truth, it kills him unforgiven.”
                                                                               - Father Campanella.

At One With Us (1908)

From the May 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard
  “For our party, and for our party tactics, there is but one valid basis: the basis of the class-struggle, out of which the Socialist party has sprung up, and out of which alone it can draw the necessary strength to bid defiance to every storm, and to all its enemies. . . . We may not do as other parties, because we are not like the others. We are—and this cannot be too often repeated—separated from all other parties by an insurmountable barrier, a barrier that any individual can easily surmount; but once on the other side of, and he is no longer a Socialist. . . .  Just in this fact lies our strength, but that we are their deadly enemy, who have sworn to storm the Bastile Capitalism, whose defenders all those others are. Therefore we are only strong when we are alone."
Wilhelm Liebknecht

Just a Russian Revolutionary (1970)

Editorial from the April 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why we criticise Lenin
Those who read Marx and Lenin cannot fail to notice some difference in the views of these two revolutionary thinkers. Few, however, realise the full nature and extent to which Lenin's views differ from those of Marx. In this issue of the Socialist Standard on the occasion of the centenary of Lenin's birth we analyse Lenin's theories, particularly those concerning imperialism, the state and social evolution, and show how they are radically different from Marx's.

Now that Russia is obviously just another capitalist and imperialist state, it has lost the attraction it once had for many confused critics of society. The tendency, however, is to blame Stalin for distorting Marxism into the ideology of a state capitalist ruling class. Lenin is still widely regarded as a genuine Marxist. That this is so the Socialist Party of Great Britain emphatically rejects.

It is undeniably true that Lenin, and the Bolshevik party he led, spoke the language of Marxism and sought to justify their policies in Marxist terms. This requires some explanation in terms of the materialist conception of history.

Capitalism in Russia, which began to develop in the last quarter of the 19th century, had its own special features. The capitalists there were weak and dependent on both the Tsarist government and on foreign investors. As a result they were politically isolated and incapable of leading the revolution against Tsarism which was necessary for the full development of capitalism in Russia. The task of overthrowing the Tsar — Russia's bourgeois or capitalist revolution — thus fell into other hands, those of the intelligentsia, a social group peculiar to the Russia of that time made up of university-trained people employed in various professional capacities by the government.

The anti-Tsarist struggle, and its theory, was started by sections of this intelligentsia. In view of the weakness and cowardice of Russia's capitalists (and, in the early stages, of the virtual absence of capitalism) it was not really surprising that these revolutionaries should be attracted by anti-capitalist ideas. The great bulk of them, even though they never claimed to be Marxists, always regarded themselves (wrongly in our view) as socialists. Later some, including Lenin, did pick up a few of Marx's ideas but this still did not mean that their theories served she interest of the working class.

Lenin's theory of the vanguard party — his most notorious departure from Marx which says that the revolution can only be achieved by a party of professional revolutionaries leading the discontented masses — was taken straight from the Russian revolutionary tradition. Its pedigree can be traced back through Tkachev and Ogarev to West European thinkers like Babeuf and Buonarroti whose idea of revolution was coloured by the Great French Bourgeois Revolution.

It is true that Marx began has political activity as this kind of old-fashioned revolutionary democrat, but he soon realised that the socialist revolution would have to be radically different from what had happened in France because it would be the first revolution carried out by a majority conscious of its own interest. Marx went beyond, and specifically repudiated, the idea of self-appointed liberators leading the mass of ignorant people to freedom. Lenin never really advanced much beyond this. He remained, in his theory as well as his practice, essentially a bourgeois or capitalist revolutionary. In fact it was because Russia in the opening decades of this century was ripe for such a revolution that his ideas had any social or political significance.

Stalin did indeed twist Marxism into the conservative ideology of a state capitalist ruling class, but he was merely building on Lenin's previous distortion of Marxism into the ideology of that same class while it was struggling for power.

Lenin was just a Russian revolutionary, while Marx was a revolutionary Socialist. This is the great difference between them.

A Christian History. (1912)

From the April 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

Universities, having grown out of cathedral schools, have ever been pillars of the Church. In this country these “seats of learning” are even more bigoted and reactionary than the rest of the ruling class. Here is an example.

There is now being published by the Cambridge University Press, a new work called “The Cambridge Medieval History,” in the words of a familiar advertisement, as a supreme product of a great university. If past experience of a bulkier product from the same source is a guide, copies are already being specially reserved for us, and soon we may expect the postman’s knock to herald the avalanche of Yankee swank inadequately describing its merits. It is not, however, the marriage of medieval thought with bustling methods of advertisement that need concern us here. Perpend.

"The Observer," an influential Conservative organ, has reviewed the first volume of this eventful history, and some of its remarks are worthy of note. It said:—
   “After a glance at the table of contents one is not surprised to find that the hook has a strong theological bias.   . . . Whereas Gibbon assailed Christianity with the most subtle reasoning, the present volume assumes (an assumption which the facts of the period show in a peculiar light) that the rise of Christianity was the steady conquest of good over evil: fine theology, doubtless, but a little presumptuous, perhaps, as history. This is seen, too, in the importance given to the actual creed of Christianity as apart from its importance as a political factor or organisation.”
Your theologian is ever the greatest falsifier of history. He writes “history,” invents an Atheist shoemaker, and imagines a death bed scene of a Darwin, with but a single aim —the greater glory of his trade. And “The Observer" goes on to say : —
   “It is Professor Gwatkin (The Rev. H. M. Gwatkin, one of the editors) who is the most marked partisan; he writes of ‘the heathens’ with a scornful unction, seen in his description of Constantine’s anxiety to unite Paganism and Christianity. . . . And he writes a little later: ‘After all, Christianity is not a monotheistic philosophy, but a life in Christ,’ a definition which is, of course, clear as sunlight to the initiated, but is the kind of phraseology which is better suited for a British Weekly than for a European History. After all, Christians and not 'heathens' scraped the philosopher Hypatia to death with tiles in the church called Caesariitm, A.D 115."
  “In consequence, however, of such ideas as those expressed by Professor Gwatkin, one turns back to the wider view of Gibbon or of Dill with an added recognition of its value. Whatever the influence of religion may be upon individuals, it is generally the authority a nation gives itself for doing what is profitable."
The Italics are our own.

It would appear that, in the best informed capitalist circles — as distinct from the bigoted medieval obscurantism of the theologians — a dim recognition of the essential truth of the Socialist case against religion cannot be suppressed. Like murder, it will out.
F. C. Watts