Saturday, July 1, 2017

Housing in Industry (1963)

From the May 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the most persistent fallacies with which the worker seeks to explain away bis present miseries is the belief that things were handled much better in the past. Nowhere is this more apparent than when we are confronted by the tragedy of bad housing. “It never used to be like this,” runs the argument, “there was once plenty of accommodation available, especially for young people who could start life with a decent home.” We have all heard this line of reasoning as well as the inevitable conclusion, “that our problems are a product of the modern world and could be cured by a return to ancient virtues.”

History, however, proves such an idea to be quite wrong and that, far from being modern, housing problems are as old as property society itself. Unfortunately poverty and suffering are not considered to be very interesting, so that while there is a mass of information on the great buildings of the world, very little is available on the dwellings of those who by their labour made such works possible.

In the lands where the winters are hard and cold, shelter is a desperate necessity, a matter of life and death, while to be homeless is a grim experience. The burning of houses and the destruction of cities has long been one of war’s cruellest weapons, and throughout history the exploitation of the need for somewhere to live has been one of the nastiest and most profitable of rackets. It is in the great and thriving cities of the world that this racket has had the greatest, scope.

Ancient Rome was the capital of a vast empire, and people flocked to it as today they flock to London and New York. This created a situation that was ideal for exploitation on a grand scale. Most people lived, not in the elegant villas that are usually portrayed as typical Roman houses, but in blocks of tenements. Built of brick and concrete, their construction was shoddy to an extent that would have shocked even a modern jerry-builder. Builders economized on bricks to such a degree that the buildings often collapsed, and a decree of Augustus forbade the building of tenements more than 70 feet high. Tenants could purchase a room or a floor, but usually rented space at an exorbitant price. Water on the premises was rare, and fires a common disaster. Many of the famous figures of Rome owed their wealth to this source. Such was the hardship, that Julius Caesar used it to buy political advantage by giving a year's rent to all below a certain income level.

Nearer to our time, the 16th century was the turning point for England in general and London in particular. Previously London bad been a town on the edge of the large network of European trade; now it became the centre of a much greater one, spreading over continents. Its population mounted steadily and suburbs sprawled beyond the city walls. People flocked in from the country, many driven by economic changes, and overcrowding became intense as ground rents soared. Meanwhile from France and the Netherlands came thousands of craftsmen to start up business. These were accused of taking the houses of the Londoners, and there were anti-alien riots. A popular demand was that provincials should be sent back home, where it was alleged there were “plenty of empty houses,” and to  "stop pestering the houses of London.” Or in modern terms, “Stop the drift to the South.”

Another common misconception to be found mainly amongst “progressives," is that grim housing conditions began with the Victorians and the Industrial Revolution. Most books on town planning and urban development give this impression by swinging from the expensive buildings of the Georgian era and contrasting them with working class housing of the 19th century.

But the conditions described by Engels in 1848 in such terrible slums as the Rockeries could have applied equally to earlier periods. Already in the 17th century, the pattern of the 19th century slum, large houses originally built for the wealthy and broken into make-shift tenements, was well established. It is a pattern which persists to this day. In Commonwealth London a house in the Dowgate Ward was reported to hold 11 married couples and 15 single persons, while a ten room house in Silver Street was inhabited by 10 families, all of whom managed to fit in lodgers. Even the 20th century would be hard put to rival this for overcrowding.

But if the Victorians did not invent degrading housing conditions, they certainly spread them far and wide. Mean housing estates covered what had been a green and pleasant land, and this not only in the old industrial areas but in hitherto thinly populated parts of the country. So now the workers, in addition to living in crumbling old houses, could live in cramped badly built ones put up specially for them.

The 19th century saw the beginning of modern methods of compiling information, and reports and accounts from this period are numerous. But statistics make dull reading: far better to go into the streets of any town, large or small, and look at the rows of grim little houses known as bye-law houses. These were built as a result of Acts of Parliament that gave to local authorities powers to introduce bye-laws controlling housing conditions. The point about these houses, bare brick terraces of the meanest proportions, often back-to-back with no garden and with the living room opening on to the street, is that they were an improvement on what had existed before. This fact speaks more eloquently than any report of what conditions had been like before.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic in New York City similar legislation was being enacted. An act of 1867 made it unlawful to cover the entire lot when building a tenement. A backyard of 10 feet had to be provided. It became illegal to let rooms that were completely underground. The ceiling had to be 1 foot above kerb level. A later Act insisted on such luxuries as a window in every room. Again, these were improvements. And as with England even these meagre efforts came after many years of agitation.

The 20th century has continued this story. Numerous reports, years of work by well meaning people, constant propaganda and political promises, have produced a string of feeble Acts and bye laws. The success of which readers can judge for themselves.
Les Dale

Exhibition Review: The Peace Museum, Bradford (2017)

Exhibition Review from the July 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are plenty of museums that cover wars, the armed forces and military history, but rather few that deal with peace and peace movements. The only accredited one in Britain is Bradford Peace Museum, founded in 1994, which has connections with the International Network of Museums for Peace ( and the Division of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. In 1997 the local council declared Bradford a ‘City of Peace’, though it is hard to see what that achieves.

It’s not a large museum, but there is plenty of interesting material, covering the period from World War One down to the present day. There are original documents, banners, posters and other objects relating to the two world wars, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, in the main, as well as material on migrants to Bradford, including recent refugees and asylum seekers. Aldermaston Marches and activities at Greenham Common illustrate some of the efforts of peace movements. In the last two years of World War One there was an active, if nowadays little-remembered, anti-war movement among women in Bradford.

A copy of the 1919 Versailles Peace Treaty is accompanied by a quote from Ferdinand Foch, who was Supreme Allied Commander during the war: ‘This is not peace, it’s an armistice for twenty years.’ He meant that Germany had not been punished sufficiently, but even talk of an armistice was a bit optimistic, considering all the fighting that took place between the two world wars.

There is a mention of a claim made (it is not said by who) in 2003, that there were two superpowers, the USA and worldwide public opinion, which is just wishful thinking. A quote is shown from Norman Angell (who wrote a best-selling book The Great Illusion in 1910, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1934 and was for a short period a Bradford MP): ‘The obstacles to peace are in the minds and hearts of men.’ Unfortunately this naive remark underlines the fact that the museum exhibits do not include any attempt to explain why wars break out, or references to the role of capitalism. 
Paul Bennett

Colonialism (1961)

Book Review from the November 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Twilight of European Colonialism By Stewart C. Easton. (Methuen, 50s.)

When the Second World War started, there were about 700 million people living under colonial rule. Twenty years later there were not many more than 100 million; most notably, the number under British rule had been virtually cut in half.

It was to all intents and purposes inevitable that the colonies should have developed their nationalist organisations, to demand that a native ruling class should have the right to exploit their country's mineral wealth and human labour. In the Congo, this desire has bred nationalism within nationalism, with the Katangese wanting to be left alone with the immense riches that are under their feet.

Apart from such complications, and unless a colony has a settler population— as in Central Africa—or unless there is a military problem involved—as in Cyprus —the road to independence is usually fairly smooth. Ghana is the classic example of this; and it has had its effect all over Africa.

When independence has been agreed to, there is a lot of political work to be done. A constitution must be drafted, political parties must work out their programmes for the new state, elections mast be arranged. This, and the political events which have preceded independence, make the subject matter of Mr. Easton's book.

It is obvious that such a work will leave a lot unsaid. The author knows what the suppression of the African native has meant, and what it must lead to. The African’s dignity, he says, " . . . was constantly insulted”; he was regarded as ". . .  a menace to the most uncomely white woman . . .” And now, such is the tradition of bitterness that it is too late to make amends.

On the other hand. Mr. Easton has a trick of playing down the savage history of colonialism. He almost whitewashes Leopold II. The black story of the missionaries is summarised; “Inspired by Livingstone's exploits, thousands of missionaries entered the field, and traders followed soon after.” A simple soul would think it was all one big coincidence.

We should be able to take all this in our stride. There is need for a political reference book to supplement the economic studies of the colonies, and the blood-chilling works of men like E. D. Morel. Political developments have their place in history, and we should all be familiar with them. For this Mr. Easton, in his agreeably smooth and economical style, has produced a very adequate book.

A Week of Meetings in London (1967)

Party News from the October 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Gt. Britain organised a demonstration for Socialism in Trafalgar Square on Sunday afternoon, September 3rd. Despite uncertain weather there was a large crowd throughout the 2½ hour meeting, listening to the socialist case and putting questions to the speakers.

Over £16 worth of socialist pamphlets and journals were bought by interested workers, including 480 copies of the Socialist Standard. (In addition 300 Socialist Standards were sold in Hyde Park on the same day.) Our introductory leaflets in different languages were also much in demand and helped us to explain the Socialist Party’s position to workers from France, Germany, Turkey, Vietnam and elsewhere.

A photograph of the meeting which appeared next day in The Times picked out very nicely one of our slogans calling for “Abolition of the Wages System”. Surely the first time that phrase has appeared in those august columns!

Monday September 4th
The newly formed Camden group held its first meeting—on “Israel, Vietnam, Biafra— Problems for the Left”—on Monday evening. Over forty people turned up to discuss these issues.

The group meets at ‘The Enterprise’, Chalk Farm Road—which is opposite the Round House. The room is comfortable and the atmosphere relaxed and informal. So if you want to discuss socialist ideas, or have other views which you would like to give an airing, why not come along to the next meeting?

Thursday 7th September
The Socialist Party held two teach-ins on Thursday evening. One was at Conway Hall, where representatives from Oxfam, the United Nations Association, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the SPGB opened a discussion on “World Hunger—What is the solution?" Although most of those present were not members of the Socialist Party, the audience was keenly aware of the deficiencies in the ‘solutions’ to world hunger put forward by the various reformist organisations. The socialist analysis of food shortages came across as the only positive and constructive answer to this problem of capitalism.

The other teach-in, organised jointly by West London and Greenford branches, was also well-attended. There was a wide-ranging discussion on Socialism and socialist tactics, with various brands of trotskysists and other would-be socialists ‘arguing’ a case for entrism.

Sunday 10th September
The week ended with a five-hour meeting in Hyde Park. A string of party members spoke from a specially erected platform on the grass. There was some lively discussion and on more than one occasion a member of the audience was given the platform in order to explain his objections to Socialism, a socialist speaker then replying. Party literature was again selling briskly and—many workers from Germany and Austria were interested in the Wiener Freie Wort—the organ of our comrades in the League of Democratic Socialists.

Germany Revisited (1950)

From the September 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party is not interested in travel articles or personal reminiscences, as Socialism is essentially an impersonal movement on philosophy. But perhaps in this case as I visited Germany for ten consecutive years before the war, and again for the first time since the war this summer, with a knowledge of Germany and plenty of good contacts, this should be useful in assessing the situation, and these reminiscences might not be so much out of place.

Firstly there are no Nazis now in Germany, nor anybody who ever subscribed to the Nazi philosophy. All the present population in British, French, or American zones were never supporters of Hitler, or at least so they say!

Those who knew Nazi Germany well will remember how almost every man, woman and child went out of his or her way to assure you that everybody was for Hitler, and the few communists or Jews that were anti-Hitler had fled abroad in shame. The towns in Nazi Germany were no place for a holiday because of the ceaseless propaganda night and day which made the atmosphere more like that of a boiler house. Munich station was always covered with a mass of flags and banners to remind visitors that Munich was “Die Hauptstadt der Bewegung” (chief town of the movement). To-day it is a ruin with no roof over the major portion. A photograph of the ruin of “ Haus Wachenfeld ” (Hitler’s mountain chalet) adorns the walls of the station at Berchtesgaden alongside a picture depicting its former beauty. Foreign visitors are interested in these things, but German’s aren’t.

Nobody talks about Hitler unless you first raise the matter. A change-over from the days when everybody had to greet everybody else or a business house or shop had to greet their customers with Heil Hitler. There was no good morning or good bye in Nazi Germany, it was all “Heil Hitler.” Everybody had to salute the banners carried by storm troopers every few minutes of the day. Photos of Hitler besmirched the walls of every cafe, restaurant, shop, business house, etc., just like those of Uncle Joe in Red Fascist Russia!

If the working class have forgotten Hitler and his night-mare, then what are they thinking about to-day? Like the working class in England, they are in a state of mind oscillating between confusion and apathy. Those who used to argue that Nazism was a special type of Socialism applicable to Germany and adapted to German needs, have now chucked over-board this argument, but they have got nothing in its place. Those many thousands one meets who have, fought on the Russian front and been prisoners of war, say they are thoroughly convinced that the Soviet system is not Socialism, and that the Russians have a much lower standard of living than the Germans were accustomed to. They were also much impressed by the high standard of living of the Commissars, and the tyranny over the masses, with the indescribable poverty of the peasants.

In Austria the present Christlische-Volks Partei, which is in power, have not been slow to capitalise anti-communist ideas by plastering the place with pictures of Austrian soldiers behind the barbed wire in Russia with the caption “Listen to us, we’ve tasted Socialism in the workers Fatherland.”

The harm that has been done to Socialism, as we of the Socialist Party understand it is incalculable both from the Nazis calling themselves Socialists and also from the Russians, who not only persist to-day, but are everywhere on the continent pretending to champion democracy. Indeed the official designation of the Russian zone of Germany is “Demokratic Deutsches Republik.”

One sees in Germany, and Austria, no Marxist literature and no indication that the workers are making up for time lost in getting an understanding of Marxism. There is nothing of the nature of a Socialist Party based on Socialist knowledge. The bookshops contain no literature which indicates that things are moving in an enlightened direction. After the first World War Germany produced a great crop of anti-war books, such as the famous “No More War” and “All Quiet on the Western Front” and hundreds of others. At present the best sellers are Churchill’s “War Time Memories,” and Rommel’s book. Anti-communist books, so common in Switzerland, are entirely absent in Germany and Austria. Nothing is rationed in either country and the black market and cigarette currency has disappeared. One sees and hears little about unemployment. Germany is busy making consumer goods perhaps one day destined to compete with England’s for the export market when trade gets really going. Austria is experiencing a wave of “prosperity” brought on by the many tourists plus Marshall Aid. In both countries American troops spend lavishly (by Austrian workers’ standards) and bring their relatives from home there.

Neither the War nor the Nazi experiences seem to have taught the workers anything useful, for many of them to-day would be only too pleased to fight against the Russians with the knowledge of America behind them, with all the financial aid and equipment that can mean.

Our case has always been that you can’t get Socialism out of war, nor does war lead to Socialism, as Lenin and others have claimed. The Germans have been through a lot of tragic experiences from which very few have learned anything, except that it is unpleasant. If the present position of Germany has any lesson for us, it is that it confirms our philosophy that Socialism comes and can come only from understanding.
Horace Jarvis

Editorial: People's Capitalism (1956)

Editorial from the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

It had to come and here it is—"People’s Capitalism,” the description given to the U.S.A. in an advertisement of General Electric (New Yorker, June 16, 1956). We have had "peoples' democracies,” the name given by Communists to Russia and her East European Satellites—now admitted to be thug-ridden police-states. We have had "people’s courts” in the same countries, where framed-up victims of political and personal vendettas "confess” to non-existent crimes. We have been told that this is the century of "the common man,” in which the common man is not only exploited, conscripted, intimidated and humiliated—just as he was in the century before—but in which, in addition, he is now expected to take pride in being master of his fate. Oscar Wilde’s definition of democracy seems to be particularly appropriate, "bludgeoning of the people by the people, for the people.”
The General Electric claims that American Capitalism is quite different from Capitalism anywhere else:—
   “Around the world me term 'capitalism' has been applied to economic systems which bear little resemblance to each other. Our American brand of capitalism is distinctive and unusually successful because it is a 'people's capitalism.’ All the people share in its responsibilities and benefits.”
The advertisement goes on to list the ways in which the American brand is supposed to differ from the others—and in almost every particular the list shows the falsity of the claim. Those who run Capitalism in London, Delhi, Moscow, Warsaw, governments in all the continents, all the Powers, big, medium and small, make almost identical claims. Here are the eight principles in which Americans are said to believe:—"We believe in providing opportunities for the individual to develop himself to his maximum potential mass production and low prices; high wages, high productivity and high purchasing power; "we in America believe in innovation and in scrapping the obsolete”; instalment buying; shorter hours and more leisure; "broad share ownership of American business . . . and almost everyone indirectly owns shares through insurance policies, savings banks, pension plans, mutual funds, bank accounts and other investments ”; "and finally, we in America believe deeply in competition versus the cartel.”

So little does Capitalism in the different countries differ from the above eight-point declaration that an all-in conference of Governments in United Nations would probably vote unanimously for a resolution embodying them—and then each Minister would go home to preserve the realities of Capitalism, poverty for the mass, and wealth and privilege for the few. Capitalism takes on many masks and disguises, and ingenious party vote-catchers have invented innumerable names and slogans to make capitalism acceptable to its victims, but everywhere its economic features (production, for sale and profit, the system of wage-labour, and capital investment in company shares and government bonds) sufficiently conform to a common pattern amply to justify the common destination capitalism.

What Comes After The Labour Government? (1947)

From the July 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Shinwell, Minister of Fuel, has resurrected an old legend. Speaking at Margate on May 7th he said: “There was a lot of talk of what kind of a Government would come in after this one, but there was only one possible kind which could come in and that was a Government even more to the left.” (News-Chronicle, May 8th, 1947.) Ever since the first Labour Government in any country took over the hopeless task of making the bitter fruits of capitalism palatable to the exploited class there have been a series of defences put out by Labour leaders. This is one of the series. The first, which does not long survive their taking office, is that Labour Government is very successful. The next is that it isn't successful but just remember the difficulties it faces. The third is that all would have been well if the workers had not embarrassed it by demanding higher wages. The fourth is that its policy was successful at home but that it ran into trouble with foreign countries (or alternatively that its foreign policy was sound but it was weak in home affairs). Fifthly and lastly, that it isn't much good, being too "right-wing," but that it will be followed by something better, something more "Left.” Space precludes going into the woolly nonsense that lies behind those terms “Left” and “Right,” beloved of the hazy and lazy-minded, but one thing we can do to enlighten Mr. Shinwell. Probably he sees himself cast for a leading role in the “Left" successor to the present Government. What he overlooks is that the reputation of being a “Leftwinger” is lost as easily as it is gained, and once lost is gone forever. All the ”Right-wingers” whom Mr. Shinwell loved to trounce in his earlier, irresponsible days as oppositionist started as he did, on the "Left." They lost their status when they joined Labour Governments and accepted responsibility for defending capitalism. Mr. Shinwell is now among them; the erstwhile critic of increased production campaigns, of conscription, and of the use of troops in strikes has now got to defend them all, and a harsh world insists on judging politicians by what they do, not by what they used to say twenty years ago.

On another score Mr. Shinwell's myth lacks foundation. History is all against it. There have been numerous Labour Governments and their experience makes nonsense of the theory that electors, having tasted of the diluted Labour brew and found it unsatisfying demand a more potent draught of the same brew next time. In Britain the 1924 Labour Government was followed by a Tory Government, the 1929 Labour Government by a Tory-Liberal-National-Labour coalition. The Australian Labour Government which was swept out of office at the 1931 election was heavily defeated by the anti-Labour United Australia Party. The present Federal Labour Government in Australia and the Labour Government in New Zealand have been losing support and seats but not to what Mr. Shinwell would call "Left-wingers.” In Western Australia a Labour Government in office for 14 years lost six seats at the recent election and is likely to be succeeded by a Liberal Government. In Germany as a whole, and in Prussia, Labour Governments after the first World War were succeeded by anti-Labour Governments and coalitions and eventually by Hitler.

It not only happens thus but it is all very natural. Those electors who supported Labour Parties ‘‘as an experiment,” or “to give them a chance,” are much more likely, when experience disappoints them, to turn back to the Tory or Liberal parties. In Germany the sequence of events was particularly disastrous. The failure of the Labour Governments to make a success of capitalism brought the Parliamentary system itself into disrepute and paved the way for the Nazis.

Only when the workers have finally shed the belief that capitalism can be made to work in their interests will they decide not to support any party of capitalism. When they do reach this level of understanding we shall not have a “ Left ” Government but Socialism.

Mr. Shinwell may perhaps have in mind the experience of Russia where the Kerensky “Labour” Government was overthrown by Communists who promptly abolished the elected Assembly because it had not a Communist majority, installed their dictatorship, and suppressed all the opposition parties, including parties like Mr. Shinwell’s.

If Mr. Shinwell shares the opinion of most of his Labour colleagues he does not regard the Communist dictatorship as an improvement on the British Labour Government and therefore cannot be hoping that the latter’s “Left” successor will be a Communist Government : If by chance he does think that a Communist Government is better than his own Labour Government he would be under the obligation of explaining his position in the Labour Government and Labour Party and of explaining why he remains in a Government that has so signally failed to harmonise its foreign policy with that of Russia.

The fact that Mr. Shinwell should feel it necessary to look on the prospect of a Government to some extent different from the one in which he serves is an indirect admission of the correctness of our case that Labour administration of capitalism is bound to fail; for if Labourism can succeed, as Mr. Shinwell and the Labour Party say it can, why should the workers want anything different from what they have got under Mr. Attlee and Mr. Shinwell? Yet, as the Manchester Guardian points out (April 29th, 1947), in all the resolutions placed by Labour supporters on the agenda of the Labour Party Annual Conference, there was hardly one that did not criticise the Government and demand a different policy. Almost the only resolution expressing approval was one from Dulwich: “That this Conference fully approves the present policy of the Government, which is ethically sound, and, therefore, must be politically right.” Even this reads more like an attempt to convince themselves that the policy must be right than a confident belief that it is. 
Edgar Hardcastle

"It Makes Your 'Eart Bleed" (1949)

From the June 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

In an article packed with vital and fascinating information, Mr. Charles Graves in the Sunday Express of May 8th gave his readers the facts about the miserable plight of this year’s debutantes, and in doing so performed a valuable public service which should not pass without comment. Further, since it is possible that in some remote corner of this island there are those whose week-end reading is confined to the Bible and News of the World and remain therefore unaware of this grave social problem, it is felt that the greatest possible publicity should be given to Mr. Graves' article, of which the following is a brief summary.

First let the writer make it clear just what debutantes are. “Official debutantes,” says Mr. Graves, “are girls between the ages of seventeen and nineteen, who will be attending the Presentation Parties at Buckingham Palace on May 18 and 19.” It is not clear from Mr. Graves as to how the 584 young debutantes who are being launched this year are chosen, and this detracts slightly from the value of his article. It can be assumed, however, that in this democratic day and age and in the fourth year of Labour Party Rule that they are elected by popular ballot, and their attendance at Buckingham Palace is in no way connected with their membership of the ruling class.

What is their social function? They are the great providers of employment for as Mr. Graves points out, “What may seem to some people, at first sight, to be a great extravagance is actually of direct benefit to hundreds of workpeople in London—dressmakers, salesgirls, manicurists and other beauty parlour specialists, taxi-cab drivers, car hire firms, florists, dance academies, contract bridge teachers, waiters, wine merchants and the like.” Let the reader imagine the social unrest that would follow mass unemployment among contract bridge teachers. As the great providers they are related to the various workers mentioned above in the same way as horses are to road sweepers, rats to rat-catchers, disease to doctors, burglars to policemen, and so on. Another of their functions is in the words of Mr. Graves to provide “the traditional reason for having a season at all.” 

As is so often the case with public benefactors it is only at great personal cost and sacrifice that they become of such value to the community. The following details will give the reader some idea of the cost that they, or at least their parents, incur in “doing good.” According to Mr. Graves the lowest price for dinner frocks and ball gowns is about sixty guineas. Many of the parents in these days of Crippsian austerity are buying at less exclusive shops, but even so “cannot escape the fact that evening shoes cost six guineas or so.” The cost of a dance or ball during the season is nearly double the pre-war figure and this year a mere forty have been planned at Claridges and Londonderry House and elsewhere. Bands, flowers, food and drinks are twice the pre-war cost and £900 is not an extravagant estimate says Mr. Graves for a dance of 400 people. “One way and another it will be impossible to launch a debutante this year for less than £500. And that is a real utility price.” Such is their sad plight!

Does the writer hear a low ominous rumble of protest at what appears to be extravagance? In one poignant sentence Mr. Graves quiets this. He says, “As for the girls themselves, they are surely entitled to taste what little glamour they can before they start the drudgery of earning a living and thinking about P.A.Y.E.”

Yes, that is the gruesome unvarnished truth. Not only do these slaves to the community provide work but actually work themselves. Mr. Graves is quoted again. “The Monkey Club in Pont Street has a number of debutantes among its students who are taking such subjects as domestic science, cookery, foreign language, arts award (the history of music and art from the sixteenth century until today), music, secretarial courses, and from now onward, interior decoration. Debutantes, however, are released from any studies until the afternoon, with an occasional lecture at midday. The Principal realises that a girl who is doing the season will not have the energy to study at 10 a.m. if she has been dancing until one or two in the morning.”

Sally Ann Vivian, daughter of Lord and Lady Vivian, for instance, has had automatically to learn about red and white wines, but has still to learn bridge, which is part of the education of any modern young lady. What is more, among the many post-war deb’s who have taken jobs Mr. Graves informs us that one is actually third cook at the Bank of England.

Should the reader imagine that the strain of public duty on these young women is too great and that they are in danger of treading the path of dissipation, the writer hastens to assure him that “The average debutante does not really like even champagne. It tastes much the same to her as cider and she would just as soon drink water,” There is, of course, no connection whatsoever in the reference to champagne and the fact that the deb's are said to be launched into the season.

Enough has been said to demonstrate the unenviable lot of these young women and the plight of their parents who foot the bill, “so spare them your jealousy,” says Mr. Graves, “if you feel any. Especially when you remember that after their brief butterfly existence for three months they will go back to the cocoon of austerity like the rest of us.”
J. Lockwood

A Paddington Placard (1913)

Party News from the May 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

We desire to announce to the workers of Kilburn and North Kensington that Paddington Branch is holding meetings at Victoria Rd., High Rd., Kilburn, on Wednesdays at 8.30 p.m., and at Lancaster Rd., Portobello Rd., North Kensington on Fridays at 8.30 p.m.

This announcement will also constitute an effective salute to “our nearest friends,” the sympathetic scribes of the local sheets, who want Socialism in rag-time, please.

They are somewhat perturbed at the approach of summer, and with it the Socialist Party’s street-corner propagandists. This should allay their fears.

And then there is that Paddington pest, who revels in mouthing that miserable lie about the Socialists of Great Britain who hibernate during the winter to blossom forth with the flowers in May. There will be no plausible excuse after this— he will know where to find us in future, when he can present a case against us without resorting to dirty innuendoes and lying misrepresentation.

We are enjoying large audiences at Kilburn, and the prospects of forming a branch are promising. The wiseacres of Anti Socialists are in attendance twice a week when sober, and they regale their dupes with the ancient wheezes about us, which occasionally make them grin, but never prompt an intelligent question.

To get the workers to think and act is our business, not theirs, and in making this raid upon the preserves of these agents of reaction and confusion we shall ruthlessly expose and condemn them.

The local B.S.P. members boom the “Daily Herald,” advocate Syndicalism, and consciously do everything to frustrate the workers in realising what Socialism is and what it implies. For the workers to support such frauds as those is tantamount to committing suicide. We counsel them to ignore with contempt such a treacherous party. Have nothing to do with them! Attend our meetings, give an attentive hearing to our speakers and question them if need be.

We don't ask you to take for granted what we say just because we say it. We implore you to stop and think — stop and consider what your position in modern society represents. Reflect upon the value life has for you under the present hellish conditions! Listen to the Socialist Party’s propaganda and ponder over it. Procure our literature, the finest obtainable, and read it up, because men and women must be educated in order that they may be free.

Then, having achieved education, organise on class lines for the conquest of political power, making for the overthrow of slavery and bringing about the birth of the Society of the future.
Ben Carthurs.

Cooking the Books: The Magic Money Tree (2017)

The Cooking the Books column from the July 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
In the leaders' debate on BBC1 on 31 May, the Tory substitute, Amber Rudd, kept on accusing the Labour Party of relying on a 'Magic Money Tree' to conjure up the money to finance their election promises. She was repeating a Tory mantra designed to get people to believe that Labour's attractive reforms were impossible as there was no money there to pay for them.
In fact, there is plenty of money there, in the form of accumulated profits which, in theory, a government could tax or borrow. It's just that the Tories are against this as they want to protect profits (or want to spend it on vital things for capitalism like weapons of war). But, more importantly, to overdo this would disrupt the workings of the capitalist economic system.
Capitalism is a system of production for sale on a market with a view to profit. Profits are what makes it go round as an economic system. It is driven by investment for profit. If the prospects for this are good, then there's expansion and a boom. If they are not, then there's an economic downturn; which happens quite normally from time to time as part of the way capitalism works, when a boom leads to overproduction in a key industry whose fall in investment then has a knock-on effect on other sectors.
This can also happen through government intervention. If the policy a government pursues threatens profits or makes conditions for profit-making worse, this will have an economic effect – investment and so production and employment will stall. Capital will go on strike.
Left-wing governments that have set out to increase popular consumption have experienced this many times and have attributed it to a 'bankers' ramp', a 'wall of money', or 'gnomes of Zurich'. But there is nothing they were able to do about it and in the end they had to capitulate to the economic forces of capitalism and give priority to profits and profit-making. Two examples within living memory would be the Wilson government of 1964 and Mitterrand in France in 1981. Both demonstrated the limits of reformism.
A Corbyn government would have come up against these forces too and failed, not because the money wouldn't have been there, but because it can't be used to improve people's life at the expense of profitable investment. Profits are the forbidden fruit on the Money Tree – one reason why it makes more sense to end the whole capitalist system rather than try to make it work in a way it just cannot.
In one sense it's capitalism that is a Magic Money Tree – for the capitalists. They invest money in production – buy premises, machinery, materials, hire workers – and sell what it produces, and end up with more money than they started with. Magic. But, like all magic, it's an illusion. What happens away from appearances is that the workers they employ produce goods of a greater value than what they are paid as wages. It is this surplus value that is the source of profits and, further down the line, of the interest of bankers, the ground rents of landlords, and what governments spend. To stop this workers need to take an axe to the root rather than merely trying to get back some of the fruit.

The Economics of Housing (1963)

From the May 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

The worker who cannot get a house, or has to put up with overcrowding, or who struggles for years with payments on a mortgage, will ask why something is not done about it. He may be surprised, though not helped, to be told that a great many people for a long time have been vainly busy with the problem.

Since 1851, when the first Housing Act was passed by Parliament, there have been nearly forty governments, Liberal, Tory and Labour, and every one of them has been pledged in some way or other to deal with the housing problem. Many fact-finding inquiries have been made by government departments, Royal Commissions or private organizations; hundreds of books and reports have been issued; and Lord Shaftesbury, who sponsored the 1851 Act, has been followed by a long line of well intentioned social reformers who, on humanitarian or other grounds, sought the abolition of slums and overcrowding or tried to keep rents down. One Royal Commission on Housing, 1885, had as a member the then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

Yet after all this time the housing problem has not been solved and it shows no sign of being solved now. What is more, it never has been solved at any time in the past century: there was never a time when people could look round and say that the things had at last been done.

The problem has been there all the time, though to succeeding generations it has seemed to take on different forms. At present it is the overall shortage of decent accommodation which makes the sufferers think how much better it would be if there were so many houses that you could see in every street “ House for Sale ” or “ To let” signs. But that is just what people did see earlier in the century.

In 1911, in England and Wales, there were over 400,000 uninhabited houses, with landlords looking in vain for tenants or buyers, yet at the same time there were another 400,000 houses officially described as “overcrowded.” Rents were much lower then than now, but so were wages, and the tenants of the overcrowded houses could not afford to move into the “empties." Anyone who imagines that housing problems started with World War I, or anyone who blames overcrowding on immigrants, should note that date, 1911. It was before World War I and was at a time when hundreds of thousands of people were leaving this country every year to settle in America and what were then British Colonies. The flow of immigration was out, not in.

The reason the housing problem has never been solved is that it is not really a housing problem at all but part of another and larger problem. The nature of this problem is indicated by the names of some of the housing Acts, names such as “Housing of the Working Classes Act,” “Artisans Dwellings Act "—but whoever heard of an Act for the housing of landed aristocrats or one for millionaires and company directors?

In the capitalist world we live in, the making of profit is the driving force behind production, and the employing class to whom the profits flow therefore have a continuing interest in keeping wages down. But they also have an interest in the health and efficiency of the workers they employ. In the nineteenth century, governments and employers were alarmed at the effects on health, physique and working efficiency of slums and overcrowding, but they were and are also concerned about its cost. So all the measures to improve housing or to reduce rents by subsidies or rent restriction have had the wages situation in mind.

When a Tory minister in a coalition government started rent control in 1915 it was because the rise of rents when building stopped during the war was causing violent discontent, and workers were pushing for higher wages. Rents were restricted (at the expense of the landlords) in order to help keep wages down. The same thing happened in other countries, and it. was shown by an International Labour Office inquiry into the effect of rent control in some continental countries in 1925 that the low rents had primarily benefited the employers.

In 1956 when the Tory government announced its intention to lift rent control on many houses the spokesmen for the Labour Opposition attacked it on the ground that the raising of rents would provoke determined and successful pressure by the workers for higher wages. This is indeed what happened. The year 1957 was a peak year for strikes. Wages went up by more than the average rise of the cost of living, and the addition to the total wage bill of the employers in fact exceeded the increase in rent gained by the landlords.

The employers had never minded the landlords being squeezed by rent control in the first place, but it became evident in the course of years that restricted rents and low profits for landlords had as one of their consequences the deterioration of housing and the creation of more near-slums. All three of the big political parties recognised this, though the remedies they offered were different. While the Tories imagined (wrongly) that decontrol would bring into the market spare accommodation where tenants were clinging to controlled houses larger than they needed and that this would prevent big increases of rents and house prices, and the Liberals slated them for not having done it sooner, the Labour Party proposed allowing some increase of rents conditional on improved maintenance. They linked this with the retention or reintroduction of control allied with the policy of wage restraint, as under the last Labour Government.

None of the three parties claimed in 1956 that the existing housing policies had been successful and should be left as they were. For one thing, with an acute shortage, control was to a large extent unenforceable: a writer in The Times (17.6.61) estimated that more than half a million houses that were supposed to be controlled were let at illegally high rents. And, in face of the facts, nobody claims that the housing problem has been solved after a hundred years of solutions. Nor will it be as long as capitalism lasts. Only when ALL production is carried on solely for use, by and in the interest of the whole community, will the production of houses be brought into line with human need.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Housing Problem (1963)

Editorial from the May 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

This month we publish another special issue of the Socialist Standard. As many of our readers will know, we do this from time to time when we wish to deal more fully with a topic of current importance. Sometimes our subject is what we might call a “perennial” feature of capitalism, something that is linked with and indissoluble from it—like war. At other times we have concentrated our attention on particular, perhaps passing, features or events—such as Africa or the Common Market.

In this issue we give our special consideration to a topic that many people are inclined to dismiss, rather surprisingly, as something new, something temporary, something that will soon be coped with and disposed of. We speak of the housing problem.

Yet the harsh fact is that the problem of housing, far from being a temporary inconvenience or a passing hardship, is a problem as old as capitalism itself and one that will remain unresolved as long as capitalism lasts.

Over ninety years ago, Frederick Engels was writing about housing. In a pamphlet called The Housing Question he exposed the pretensions of the reformers of his day to be able to solve the problem, and the hopes of their successors to do anything better, so long as capitalism lasted. What is the situation now, almost a century later?

Many of the houses that in Engels’ day had already been standing for thirty, forty, even fifty years, are still standing now. I.T.V.’s Coronation Street was named, not after George VI’s coronation in 1937, nor George V’s in 1910, nor yet after Edward VII’s in 1901, but after Queen Victoria’s in 1837. And in Salford, which Engels knew well, they have only just got round to pulling down Waterloo Place, built in 1815 and named to commemorate the victory over Napoleon.

Today, there are more than one million houses in this country, probably worse than those in Coronation Street, reckoned to be unfit for habitation. Be that as it may, people still inhabit them and many will do so for a long time yet. And so low are the standards that “qualify” a house for this category that even one million is certainly an underestimate. In Liverpool alone there are 88,000 houses beyond any prospect of repair; in Birmingham 50,000 families are on the waiting list for houses for which the average waiting time is eight years; in Oldham it has been estimated that the staggering proportion of one house in four is unfit to live in. And in London, where the situation is perhaps the most acute of all, the families of the homeless are forced to walk the streets.

The political parties of capitalism all profess to be concerned with the problem, of course, just as they have been doing since Engels’ time. They engage in mutual recrimination about it, just as they have always done. The Labour Party reproach the Tories for building only 300,000 houses a year; the Tories retort that while the Labour Party was in office the annual housebuilding rate only once exceeded 200,000.

We are treated, it goes without saying, to all the usual promises of what each party intends to do if elected next time. In 1945, before they became the Government, the Labour Party boasted “We shall build four or five million houses and knock down any amount of slums”. Said the former Conservative housing minister only last year, “The Government intend to see that, every family has its home, and a decent home, that is the pledge”. Switch the promises, or the parties saying them, or the times when they were said, it does not matter very much. The game goes on much the same.

Frederick Engels, we have no doubt, would find it all rather familiar. Certainly familiar enough to be able to say, as he did over 90 years ago and with just as much relevance and justification, "The so-called housing shortage, which plays such a great role in the press nowadays, does not consist in the fact, that the working class generally lives in bad, overcrowded and unhealthy dwellings. This shortage is not something peculiar to the present; it is not even one of the sufferings peculiar to the modem proletariat in contradistinction to all earlier oppressed classes. On the contrary, all oppressed classes in all periods suffered more or less uniformly from it. In order to make an end of this housing shortage there is only one means; to abolish altogether the exploitation and oppression of the working class by the ruling class”.

Would he find anything about the present housing problem to cause him to change even one word of this statement?

He would not. Capitalism is the real problem we must deal with. It was then. It is now.

Greasy Pole: Theresa - Strong And Stable (2017)

The Greasy Pole column from the July 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

We were told that Theresa May decided, flushed with optimism, to hold a general election on June 8 when she was hiking with her husband through Dolgellau, a small market town lying at the base of the Cader Idris range in Snowdonia. Dolgellau was once a woollen town but it was taken over by the automatic looms. Now it relies on tourists, who walk and climb or stay at the hotels there. When May was a small toddler a group of Socialist Party members climbed to the summit of Cader Idris, where one of them who was pregnant stood deeply awestruck by the view. That evening in the hotel there was a lot to be discussed – such as capitalism’s abuse of the world’s beauties, like the political conceits of the system’s rulers to the misery of its people. For May it is rather different now from her relaxed stroll through Dolgellau.

Speaking Out
One who would have been particularly interested in that discussion was Ed Balls, whose book – Speaking Out – has recently been published. This is an account of his political experiences including a previous election when, according to Balls in an advisory mood: ‘What we badly need in Britain is a return to the sort of leadership exemplified by Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister and Gordon Brown as a Chancellor…’ without speculating on how this proposed combustible partnership might have operated. Speaking Out is about Balls’ time as an Oxford undergraduate, then as an economist at Harvard followed by the Financial Times and a place at the Treasury until with the election of the Labour Government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown a succession of ministerial posts preceded the defeat of that government and had him emerging as shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

That was when he achieved a kind of notoriety appearing on the TV screens exchanging insults and indecipherable hand gestures with David Cameron during Prime Ministers Questions – which entailed the exposure of Cameron to lasting scorn among the fans by mistaking West Ham for Aston Villa. Those broadcast clashes earned Balls a reputation as a left-winger inspired by a passion to help establish a more equal society. Except that he denied this with his very own words: ‘But being Labour doesn’t mean that I can’t also believe in a market economy which creates wealth and good jobs . . .  you couldn’t build a stronger economy on a fairer society through opposing business; it had to be a partnership between the dynamism of business and the helping hand of government. And my arrival from the Financial Times, the pink-papered global business newspaper, to work for Labour in 1994 was one symbol of that change they were pursuing’.

This was a preamble to Balls’ next, heavily publicised, ambitiously gratifying, personal appearance on TV when as the news came in late on polling day he picked over the tastier morsels with George Osborne. It was not comforting for Theresa May – but then how was Osborne to react when one of her first responses to becoming party leader was ruthlessly to eject him from being Chancellor of the Exchequer – even if he could then take his revenge as editor of the Evening Standard? And in any case May herself had never hesitated to make enemies. Apart from her infamously informing the Tories that they were better known as The Nasty Party there was the matter of her costly tastes in clothes, like a ‘Deliciously Soft Escada Cashmere Coat’ priced at £1950 and her revealing underwear such as headlined by the Express as ‘The Day Theresa May’s Boob-Busting Bra Sparked Twitter Meltdown’.

Walking that day with her husband through Dolgellau Theresa May could feel easy about fixing the date of the election. She had cleared a number of rivals out of the Party, leaving her supreme to assure the voters that she alone would ensure Strong Stable Government. She would see off Jean-Claude Juncker along with those other tiresome European mediocrities. The Tories were a long way ahead with every opinion poll, leaving Jeremy Corbyn behind in what seemed a swamp of defeat. But as the campaign got under way another, profoundly unsettling, picture emerged. And when it came to that fateful day Jeremy Corbyn was returned in his constituency with 73 per cent of the vote and the Labour Party gained 30 seats. After all those confident boasts May’s party did not have enough MPs to set up a government. There was plenty of advice and predictions. In the end she turned up with yet another surprise by announcing that, along with her guilt and despair about the outcome of her campaign she would ensure that at least she could be at the head of a government, even if it entailed being in alliance with the Democratic Unionists – Ian Paisley’s original sprouting in Northern Ireland.

The DUP was formed in 1971 and has survived during various disciplines of militarism known as The Troubles. It is now the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and its ten seats at Westminster make it the fifth largest in the Commons. But as it was typically known as ‘a coalition of crackpots’ it seemed unlikely that May would aggravate the chaos in her party by trying to survive as a government with their support. But that is what emerged from the chaos, with May as the titular leader of a minority government intended to operate on only ‘matters of mutual concern’, which left her enemies to speculate hopefully on exactly how it could fail. There is no lack of evidence that this will happen, if only in the recorded attitudes of the DUP leaders. One is in the Caleb Foundation opinion that the origins of the Earth – by god over six days – should be taught in schools. The party is hostile to LGBT groups and opposed to same sex marriage: ‘Peter will not marry Paul’. Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK where it is illegal to have an abortion, with a prison term of life for cases of drug-induced abortion. In December 2015 Arlene Foster became the party leader but in January 2017 she had to step down from the post of First Minister after presiding over a disastrous Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme costing the Budget some £400 million and ensuring that Theresa May’s effort to survive through an alliance with the DUP would look very unlikely. Which should divert us no more than on that long gone day on the Welsh mountain.

The Communists, the Labour Party, and Parliament (1943)

Editorial from the April 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

We hold that as the Labour Party is committed to the policy of trying to reform capitalism, instead of the policy of abolishing capitalism, no purpose useful to the Socialist movement would be served by the S.P.G.B. seeking affiliation with the Labour Party. Consequently the S.P.G.B. never has tried to affiliate with the Labour Party or any other party in this country. We could not pledge ourselves to give loyal adherence to the non-Socialist programme of the Labour Party.

On the other hand, the S.P.G.B. is not opposed to the Parliamentary system. We hold that the only important thing that is wrong about Parliament, from our point of view, is that it is controlled by the wrong people and for the wrong purpose. Its M.P.s at present have been sent there by electors who want capitalism to be retained. When a majority of the electors have become Socialists they will send their delegates to Parliament with the mandate to establish Socialism. In the words of our Declaration of Principles, the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, will be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation. We have always held the above views, and have never been beguiled by the various opposing views that have had their long or short periods of popularity. The S.P.G.B. never went in for theories of armed revolt or general strikes, or "taking and holding" the factories by industrial organisations. Nor did we ever give support to the idea of soviets or dictatorship.

All of this is by way of providing a background to the dispute between the Communist Party, which wants to affiliate with the Labour Party, and the Labour Party Executive, which doesn't want the Communists to win enough support to be able to force a way in. The Communist Party's position, judged by any ordinary standards, is peculiar—but then, if any such standards are applied, the Communist Party itself is revealed as a peculiarly irresponsible and dishonest organisation. It has proclaimed for years that the Labour Party is this "third capitalist Party," yet it wants to be inside. It has proclaimed that the road to emancipation lies through soviets not parliament, and through civil war and dictatorship not votes and democracy, yet it unhesitatingly affirms its belief in Parliamentary democracy when trying to wheedle its way to affiliation.

The Daily Worker (March 6th, 1943) published an article by J. Walker, M.P., putting the Labour Party's view against Communist affiliation, and alongside it a reply by W. Gallacher, M.P., writing as a Communist M.P.

Here is a question put by Walker, followed by Gallacher's reply:—
Walker: "Does the Communist Party believe in the British, system of democracy and democratic elections, or does it still believe in a policy of dictatorship?"
Gallacher: “ Of course, we believe in parliamentary democracy. That is why I am in Parliament. That is why I am such a regular attender and why the Party is so anxious that I should give a good account of myself.
   The dictatorship of the Proletariat applies to quite different conditions from those we are discussing now. It arises out of the attempt of the dispossessed exploiters to overthrow by violence the victorious forces of the working class."
Anyone who knows what was and is the official policy of the Communist International, of which the British Communist Party is a subordinate part, will recognise at once that Gallacher's reply is not by any means full-blooded Communist doctrine. Why Gallacher does not state his own Party's case only he knows. Perhaps he has forgotten what it is. Let us therefore recall a few earlier statements made by the Communists.

The fundamental document is the "Statutes and Conditions of Affiliation of the Communist International," as adopted at the Second Congress, Moscow, August, 1920 (published by the Communist Party of Great Britain at the time, price 2d.).
The opening statement contains the following:—
   The aim of the Communist International is to organise an armed struggle for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and the establishment of an international Soviet Republic as a transition to the complete abolition of the capitalist state. The Communist International considers the dictatorship of the proletariat an essential means for the liberation of humanity from the horrors of capitalism; and regards the Soviet form of government as the historically necessary form of this dictatorship. (Page 4.)
Another interesting little item is contained in the first of the 21 Conditions which are binding on bodies like the British Communist Party which are affiliated to the Communist International. Condition No. 1 lays it down that adherents of the Third International must use any means of propaganda that are at their disposal, "in the columns of newspapers, at public meetings, within the Trade Unions and Co-operatives," to " denounce not only the capitalists, but also their allies, the reformists of every colour and shade."

Another document worth recalling is the answer the Communist International gave to the I.L.P. when the latter contemplated seeking affiliation. It was drafted by Lenin, and published by the British Communist Party under the title "The Communist International answers the I.L.P." (1920, reprinted 1932, price 2d.).

This is what Lenin wrote on Parliament:—
    "Whoever tells the British working class that it can overthrow the capitalist dictatorship in the British Empire through any other means than the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is by taking the full power into their own hands by depriving of political power all those who defend capitalist exploitation, and by organising a Red labour army—deceives himself and others."
Lenin went on to say that even supposing the unlikely event of a working class gaining power by parliamentary elections, "even in that case the Communists are not for a minute freed of their duty of saying to the workers the following: (1) that it is most unlikely that the English bourgeoisie . . . will give up its power without a struggle and become subject to the paper will of the parliament; (2) that, therefore, the workers should prepare not for an easy parliamentary victory, but for victory by a heavy civil war; (3) that should the workers have succeeded in gaining power without this civil war, that would only signify that the necessity of civil war would confront the working class as soon as it set out to realise its will to defend itself from capitalist exploitation and speculation; so soon as it began to liberate the masses in the colonies, now oppressed by British Imperialism." (Page 21.)

It will now be seen that Gallacher's "Of course, we believe in parliamentary democracy" is quite a long way from the whole of what good Communists are supposed to believe.

Above all, Gallacher did not recall what Lenin wrote in reply to Gallacher about the question of supporting the Labour Party. This was in Lenin's "Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder" (1920, published by Martin Lawrence, 1/-) Gallacher at that time was opposed to Parliamentary action and to voting for Labour Party candidates. Lenin replied to Gallacher by showing why Communists should take such action.
   At the present time the British Communists very often find it hard to approach the masses and even to get them to listen to them. If I as a Communist come out and call upon the workers to vote for the Hendersons against Lloyd George, they will certainly listen to me. And I will be able to explain in a popular manner not only why Soviets are better than Parliament, and why the dictatorship of the proletariat is better than the dictatorship of Churchill (which is concealed behind the signboard of bourgeois " democracy”), but I will also be able to explain that I want to support Henderson with my vote in the same way as a rope supports one who is hanged—that the establishment of a Henderson Government will prove that I am right, will bring the masses over to my side, and will accelerate the political death of the Hendersons and the Snowdens, as was the case with their friends in Russia and Germany. ("Left-Wing” Communism, p. 68.)
Last of all there was Gallacher's original opposition to Parliamentary action altogether. He used then to describe himself as “anti-Parliamentarian,” and wrote about his views in a letter to the Workers' Dreadnought (February 21st, 1920).

"Any support given to Parliamentarism,” he wrote, "is simply assisting to put power into the hands of our British Scheidemanns and Noskes. Henderson, Clynes & Co. are hopelessly reactionary.”

    The rank and file of the I.L.P. in Scotland is becoming more and more disgusted with the thought of Parliament, and the Soviets or Workers' Councils are being supported by almost every branch. This is very serious, of course, for the gentlemen who look to politics for a profession, and they are using any and every means to persuade their members to come back into the Parliamentary fold.
Gallacher in his letter had a final word of disgust for those "who are so eagerly clamouring for Parliamentary 'honours' (?) and who are so anxious to prove that they can rule as effectively as the 'boss' class politicians themselves.”

Now all is changed. Gallacher now has Parliamentary honours himself and wants to take what he regards as his rightful place alongside Henderson's successors in the Labour Party. 

Socialism In The Village (1921)

Pamphlet Review from the March 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism In The Village by C. A. Pease (I.L.P. Pamphlets 1d.)

This is the title of an I.L.P. pamphlet written by Mr. C. A. Pease for the rural workers, professing to tell them how to remake “Merrie England.” The last and most successful attempt to organise agricultural labourers has opened a new and promising field for political propaganda, and the I.L.P. no doubt hopes to compensate itself here for the loss of numerous members who could not resist the charms of the British Bolsheviki. For this purpose the pamphlet may be useful enough, but its educational value to the workers is just nothing. It is almost to be regretted that it is simply written and costs only one penny.

To start with, there is nothing in it about Socialism.

Mr. Pease begins by saying that the war has left the villages unchanged. This is hardly correct, but curiously enough, the one thing of vital importance to the workers, their exploitation, which must necessarily remain while capitalism lasts, is utterly misunderstood by him.

There certainly have been movements worth noting. First, there has been a striking development both in the technical side of agriculture and in working conditions. The acute shortage of food and labour, arising out of the war, has led to an enormous increase in the use of labour-saving machinery, and at the same time the machinery itself has undergone rapid improvement. The growing use and simplification of the milking machine during the last few years are but one instance of this. The effect of the minimum wage clause of the Corn Production Act, and of we spread of trade unionism, has been a very considerable reduction of hours, accompanied, as was to be expected, by a proportionate intensification of labour. If a farmer has to pay fixed minimum wages for a certain number of hours, he will see to it that no time is lost, and whereas farm life in the past may have been somewhat leisurely, it is no exaggeration to say that now every minute counts. It is the boast of the new type of farmer or farm manager that his men have to work under factory conditions, in spite of the repeated cry that industrial methods couldn’t be applied to agriculture. In addition there has been, of course, an equal change in the kind of skill required of a competent farm hand; the man who drives a tractor is expected as well to be able to do his own repairs, or at least to know sufficient to be able to locate faults in his engine.

Secondly, rising prices of farm produce and land have been the cause of great activity in buying and selling agricultural property. Increased profits have enabled tenant farmers to clear themselves of debts and mortgages, the relic of pre-war stagnation, and purchase their holdings while the former landowners have been only too pleased to sell out at double and treble 1914 prices, as they have been able to do. The countryside can almost be said to have changed hands. Although he does not understand how it happens, Mr. Pease realises that both farmers and landowners live on the agricultural workers; he sees there must of necessity be a struggle between employer and employed over the division of the produce of the latter's labour, and that organisation helps the workers to  get a larger share than they otherwise would. He then, however, makes the following sweeping statement:
"But no sooner have wages risen in agriculture, as in other industries, then farmers and manufacturers, shipowners, coal owners, and the employers of every sort, have raised prices to such an extent that their profits, far from falling, have been greatly increased, while the wage earners find themselves little, if any, the better for their rise in wages."
One naturally wonders why, if this is true, the I.L.P. does not advocate the break-up of the unions, except for the fact that it derives much of its support from them.

If the capitalists can raise their selling prices at will, why do they fight against demands for wage increases? and why should they delay price juggling until after higher wages have actually been given? Why should prices in Germany have increased so much more and prices in America so much less than in this country? Why in 1914 did prices jump sometimes as much as 50 per pent, while wages had an opposite tendency ? The fact of the matter is, of course, that a manufacturer or farmer always sells his goods for as much as he can get, and if a farmer asked 70s, for a quarter of wheat, and imported wheat was being sold at 40s., well, he might go on asking and asking and asking; Wage increases cannot be passed on in this way. Rising' prices compel the workers to demand more in order to live; the existence of unemployed will always prevent them from getting much more than the bare necessaries of life and they frequently get much less.

Mr. Pease has the usual I.L.P. attitude towards the State.. He says “when the Government makes any genuine attempt to control prices it is met by the difficulty that farmers and manufacturers will cease to produce goods unless they are sure of a profit which will satisfy them.” What is a “genuine attempt to control prices”? The Government represents the interests of the capitalist class; it must on occasion, such for instance, as when famine threatened during the war, artificially stimulate production and limit a too extravagant soaring of prices, but can it seriously be expected to control prices in the interests of the workers and to the detriment of any considerable section of the employing class?

Mr. Pease continues: “By combining and forming trusts, capitalists have now become so powerful that they can defy trade unionism and even Parliamentary control.” Mr. Pease has yet to show when the capitalists were not in a position to “defy trade unionism," but it is the concluding few words which are the real puzzler. When Mr. Pease has explained how the capitalists have become so powerful as to defy themselves, perhaps he will answer the following question put to a religious orator: "Can God make anything so heavy that he cannot lift it?"

Still, even if he does not understand the working of the capitalist system our author tells us how to end it, "Make capital as well as land public property"; “as long as capital is owned by individuals the capitalist will control trade and industry”; “By capital is meant not only money, but such means of producing wealth as buildings, machinery, rolling stock, mines, etc.” What is meant by "public ownership of money” must he left to the economists of the I.L.P. to explain, but the rest is clear enough. Capital is to be owned collectively by the State instead of by individuals. The Post Office is instanced to show how it would work. The workers are to have “a really sufficient livelihood,” and the surplus will be used for “public services—and the expenses of government.” That “expenses of government” means interest paid to our old friend the capitalist, and if the standard of living is that of the postal workers, or say the clerks employed by the I.L.P., the surplus left for the interest will be big indeed. It is, of course, unfortunate that the postal workers should choose this moment to decide that it may be necessary for them to strike to better their conditions. Mr. Pease does not attempt to explain how the paying into the Treasury of profits made in the Post Office benefits the workers either in or out of the postal service.

Our reformer has difficulty in making up his mind whether the landowners ought to be compensated when the State takes over, but decides finally that they may, because “it can be done without costing a penny. The landowners shall he given Government bonds in return for the land, the interest on which will be more than covered by the rents paid to the State. ” It is all so simple that one wonders why its discovery should have been left to Mr Pease, who doesn’t appreciate the real beauty of it. This will be the position. The “people” will own everything, including the land; they will let the land to themselves, pay themselves rent, hand some of it over to the ex-landowners for giving them their own property, “all of which will cost the nation nothing.”

To make it doubly secure the nation “can recover any part it pleases of the bond-holders incomes by means of the Income Tax.”

He probably thought it might not be quite convincing, so he naively adds, “however, we are more concerned with the results of Land Nationalization than with the method by which it will be carried out.”

This means that Mr. Pease, and presumably the I.L P., does not aim at the abolition of wage slavery, but only at the improvement of the position of the slaves. It will no longer be possible to argue that “farming won’t pay unless the labourer is a low-paid wage slave.” He has not grasped the fact that capitalists normally make profit by paving for labour-power at its value in the cost of keeping the labourers and enabling them to reproduce themselves.

All that Mr. Pease has to offer the agricultural labourer is already guaranteed him by the Corn Production Act, but apparently the I.LP. has room for farmers too. They are to get “security of tenure” and “compensation for improvements” which, however, are already promised in the Government's Agricultural Bill; in return they must undertake to cultivate their farms according to the laws of good husbandry—here again Mr. Lloyd George has forestalled Mr. Pease.

In case the workers prove sceptical our author produces the goods—in Australia, in the shape of the State agricultural enterprises of the Queensland Government. The I.L.P. used to be very keen on the Australian Labour Governments, but just recently Mr. Ramsay Macdonald has found another “typically I.L.P. State ” in Georgia. Perhaps some disillusioned victims of this earthly paradise have been declaring that it is all moonshine.

The “Daily Herald” recently indignantly repudiated the suggestion that under nationalisation the workers would be forbidden to strike. What they, and Ramsay Macdonald, have to explain is why strikes should be necessary.

Mr. Pease has the same difficulty. His theory requires the Trade Unions to make a graceful exit; it really is unkind of them not to do so. “As a fighting force, protecting Labour against Capital, it should no longer be required.” But the Trade Unions will still be necessary "to guard the interests of their members.” Against whom? Mr. Pease does not say.

However, he makes the best of a bad business and turns the Union into a Guild, which solves a whole host of difficulties. The Guild, however, has its problems too. The Guild will control the farming industry and will therefore require capital; it then “might easily become a wealthy corporation, making profit at the expense of the community.”

Having protected the agricultural workers against the “nation,” we now have to protect the “nation " against the agricultural workers. How? Oh just suppose it is done, “A workable plan may be found ! ”

There are heaps of other delightful things that might (and might not) happen which as Mr. Pease says, “would be pleasant and interesting to picture,” but it is to be feared that if the agricultural labourers read such rubbish as this it will be a long time before we see “the country gentry retiring from the countryside” and handing over their mansions to the workers. As I would not like to think that Mr. Pease had laboured in vain might I suggest that the I.L P. supply this pamphlet to the “courtly, kind- hearted country gentry” to help lighten the tedium of rural life for them ?
Edgar Hardcastle