Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Future of Sir Stafford Cripps (1939)

Editorial from the March 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sir Stafford Cripps has made clear his policy of bringing together political parties and individuals on the basis of a limited programme of reforms and the defence of democracy, but what will happen now that the Labour Party Executive have expelled him and are threatening his supporters in their ranks is not easy to decide. The News Chronicle, which backs Cripps, claims that he is receiving a big volume of support inside and outside the Labour Party and trade unions. The Daily Herald, which opposes him as a disruptionist, stresses the solid block of opposition from the ranks of most of the big unions. He has made one thing clear, his opposition to the formation of a new party. Speaking at Birmingham on February 10th (News Chronicle, February 11th), he is reported to have said that he had received thousands of letters urging him to start a rival organisation, but, in his view, “that would be the most tragic folly.”

It certainly would be a strange way of securing unity to divide the Labour Party just before a general election. Whatever Sir Stafford Cripps’ present intentions are, he may find himself pushed or persuaded into forming a rival party if the Labour Executive succeed in getting a conference vote against his policy.

In view of his skill in Parliament, and his personal popularity in East Bristol, it certainly seems that he can safely depend upon holding his seat there against the Labour Party Headquarters if they put up a rival Labour candidate. In many respects, Sir Stafford Cripps resembles another onetime leader of revolt against the Labour Party Headquarters and the trade union executives—Mr. James Maxton. Mr. Maxton has equal popularity in his own constituency and equal skill as a Parliamentary and platform orator. Maxton, too, tried to combine the leadership of revolts with a determination not to split the ranks of the Labour Party. He found himself in due course outside the Labour Party and fighting against it in the constituencies. But after several years in the “political wilderness,” faced with declining popularity and membership, Mr. Maxton and his remnant of the I.L.P. are now on their way back into the fold. Every new experience of this kind confirms the soundness of the attitude of the S.P.G.B. in recognising that there are no short cuts, no advance to Socialism without Socialists. 

Why We Must Organise Politically and Industrially. (1913)

Letter to the Editors from the June 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

M. Geeson (Toronto) writes:—
  “In reading the editorial of the S.S. for February 1913, I came across a statement which I would like you to explain a little fuller. The statement is this: ‘In regard to the revolutionary economic organisation the Socialist position is identical. That such an organisation will be called for as part of the organisation of the working class for the achievement of their emancipation must be admitted by every Socialist.' The question I would like to ask is, does not the political organisation exterminate the economic organisation, or vice versa, as the case may be, for one or the other must be incorrect for the emancipation of the working class, and if that is so a person accepting the double position must, consciously or unconsciously, deny the class struggle.”

It would have been much easier to deal with this matter had Mr. Geeson attempted to support his statements with arguments. As life is too short, and energy, at the present price of provisions, too valuable, to permit one or the other to be wasted in slogging at ideas which perhaps exist neither in Mr. Geeson’s mind nor in anybody else’s, the present penman is forced back on to the request for a fuller explanation.

The emancipation of the working class must not be conceived as a simple, single step to be taken either on the political or the industrial field. It is nothing of the kind. On the contrary it is to be a process, and an elaborate process at that, carried out upon both the political field and the industrial.

The process commences on the political field, and ends on the economic. That, at all events, is the Socialist position. The Anarchist position is that it commences on the economic field and ends there. A certain party in this country (the S.L.P.) has taken up the position that it commences upon the economic field and ends on the political. It is left for Mr. Geeson, however, to complete the round in the implication that the process of emancipation begins and ends in the political arena.

Now the Socialist and the Anarchist argue that the end aimed at is economic transformation. The former says that, under present conditions, this transformation must be preceded by the capture of the machinery of Government, while the latter cries out upon political action. The S.L.P. man stands upon his head and does his thinking with his feet, for the implication of his position is that we must bring about Socialism in order to capture the political machinery. But Mr. Geeson—ah! courtesy forbids.

The Anarchist thinks that the machinery of government is to be overthrown by merely ramming the people’s heads against it. They would oppose the rifle and bayonet, the prison and the hangman’s noose, with the petard that so often goes off in its maker’s pocket, and the hunger-strike that so effectively prevents its devotees doing any mischief. Such people, logically enough, have no use for political action, and hence no use for a political organisation.

The Socialist, on the other hand, holds that the process of emancipation involves, first of all, the disarming of the master class. This must be the fruit of a political struggle, and therefore renders political organisation necessary at all events up to the time of its achievement.

But would Mr. Geeson have matters stop there? Does he think that the emancipation of the working class is completed with the disarmament of the master class and the decreeing of common ownership in the means of life? It is quite a while now since food came down from heaven. It is because we can only feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves through the means and instruments of production and distribution that we are going to so much trouble to obtain possession of these means and instruments. But they will no more operate themselves as the common property of society than they do as the private property of a class. On the contrary, their economical operation will, for obvious reasons, call for far more perfect organisation than exists to-day.

Such organisation is, of course, economic, not political. It is economic from the very nature of things—from the very fact that it is organisation on the economic field for an economic purpose. Whatever the organisation may call itself, or whatever its members may think themselves, directly it takes concerted action on the economic field, the action is necessarily economic action and the result of organised economic effort. Such action becomes imperative for the simple reason that when the political organisation has shot its bolt, or, if you like it better, when the revolutionary working-class organisation has shot its political bolt, it has not by any means emancipated the working class. It has only, by destroying the State, made it possible for the workers to complete their emancipation. This they must do by taking possession of the means by which alone they can live, and operating them intelligently and collectively so that they may live.

This, then, is what we mean when we say that the workers must organise both politically and economically. The emancipation of the working class necessitating organised action upon both the political and the economic plane, obviously necessitates both political and economic organisation.
A. E. Jacomb

War. (1923)

Book Review from the May 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

War: Its Nature and Cure by G. Lowes Dickinson (Allen & Unwin, 4s. 6d.)

War: its nature, cause and cure,” is the title of a book by Mr. G. Lowes Dickinson (Allen & Unwin, 4s. 6d.), which opens in a promising manner, but concludes in a manner decidedly disappointing, by reason of its utter lack of logic. A few remarks upon it, however, may serve to illustrate the. Socialist view of a problem of vital importance to practically every member of the working class.

Mr. Dickinson brings out, in his terse, vivid style, the sheer senseless horror of modem warfare. He shows clearly and emphatically that its mechanical character leaves no room for the chivalrous sentiment which was supposed to find a place in the conflicts of the mediaeval and ancient worlds. Indiscriminate slaughter and destruction, aided by all the resources rendered available by science, limited only by the limits of the productive forces controlled by the warring units, respecting neither age nor sex, recognising no distinction between “combatants” and “civilians,” logically tending towards the complete exhaustion and annihilation of the human race itself—such is the picture the author draws for us. And who, remembering the four years from 1914- 1918, and faced with the facts that the powers that be are arming to an ever-increasing extent and show no signs of settling their differences by any other methods, can say that this picture is overdrawn? Airships, submarines, poison-gases and liquid fire have made war a reality to the stay-at-home individual as it has never yet been in history. There is no escaping the issue; we must either end it, or it will end us. That is Mr. Dickinson’s contention, and so far the Socialist has no quarrel with him.

Equally well can the Socialist agree with him over the cause of war, which he defines as “the greed of individual states for power, territory and markets” on the one hand, and the susceptibility of the working class to bellicose excitement on the other. 

At the psychological moment the ruling class play upon the blind passions of their slaves in order to secure the necessary support in the pursuit of their political ambitions, arising out of their economic interests. Yet, left to themselves, the workers have no more desire for war than they have actual interests at stake therein. It is simply their ignorance concerning their interests which renders them pliable tools in the hands of their exploiters.

Mr. Dickinson deals with the recent conflict in the light of these facts. He shows how each power manoeuvred to try and make its enemies appear in the light of aggressors, in order to influence its own subjects with the false idea that they were fighting a purely defensive battle. He outlines the history of the Entente, and shows how it arose from the failure of the British Government to carry their negotiations with Germany to a successful conclusion. The German was proved to be the most dangerous manufacturing and commercial rival of Britain; hence the latter’s policy of isolating him.

A secondary cause of the actual conflict Mr. Dickinson considers to be the existence of armaments. No armaments, no war, of course; but as the will to construct and use them precedes their existence, we are compelled to fall back upon the interests and ambitions of the class which controls the machinery of government as the prime and sole sufficing cause of war under present conditions.

To the logical mind it must appear that the cure for war lies in the removal of the cause, and this is where the Socialist parts company with Mr. Dickinson. His cure is not the removal of the cause, but rather that the cause itself shall somehow act contrary to its own nature. He proposes disarmament, and the League of Nations as the solution to the problem. The capitalist class are expected to surrender the only weapon they possess to protect their interests simply out of respect for the general welfare of humanity.

This shows clearly that the author does not fully appreciate the nature of the system of which war, as he deals with it, is the inevitable outcome. The capitalist state, no less than the capitalist individual, is compelled to avoid extinction by ceaseless expansion at the expense of its competitors. Markets are not things which can be utilised or dispensed with at will. They are the essential necessity to capitalist production. “Sell, or go out of business ”— that is the law! And when all the various sections of the international capitalist class have more goods to sell than they can find purchasers for, what then, Mr. Dickinson? Will the League decide which section is to go bankrupt? If so, how will it keep order in the dominions of the bankrupt power without armaments when the starving out-of-works are clamouring for maintenance?

No! Peace under Capitalism is a chimera! Even could the rival groups of financiers come to terms, it would only be in order to crush more firmly their rebellious slaves. It would be but an indication that war had changed its form and that the class struggle had at last overshadowed, in urgent and immediate importance, the sectional struggles of the masters. Armaments then would be more in demand than ever, for the masters never have dealt, and never will deal, with the workers in kid gloves. Force is the mainstay of their rule; without it they vanish.

Does Mr. Dickinson wish them to vanish? Nowhere does he face this plain issue. He disregards the fact the capitalist class control, through their political power, the economic vitals of society, and that nothing short of their removal from this dominant position will destroy the influence of their ambitions upon political affairs. Nothing less than the social revolution can make peace possible, for nothing less can abolish the competitive character of the existing mode of production which is at the root of all wars.

Mr. Dickinson gives no evidence that he understands what the social revolution means. He regards it as a danger, for which “foreign war” is the readiest cause. He has in mind events in Russia, and suggests that similar events in Western Europe can only have similar results. Thus, he evades the issue which is not: “Shall the workers of the West imitate those of Russia?”; but rather: “Shall they organise as a political force to convert the socially necessary instruments of labour into common property? ”

“Constituencies,” says the author, “determine policy . . .  it is, therefore, to the electors that I have addressed these pages.” But the electors are left in the dark as to what policy they are to pursue even to gain the limited aims of their adviser. The political party which is to achieve the latter remains unmentioned. One can only infer that the author pins his faith to the Labour Party, since that Party is the loudest in its support of these aims. And what is the history of the Labour Party?

When the great call, “To Arms,” in defence of British capitalist interests arose, the “party of peace” echoed the call, and later shared the plums of office in Coalition with the other parties of the bosses! Do not forget that fact, fellow-workers! If you want a peace which is of any use to you, study Socialism; all else is illusion!
Eric Boden