Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Fryatt and Others (1916)

Editorial from the August 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard

The fate of Captain Fryatt has caused another violent outbreak of cant to sweep over the larger part of the civilised globe. Such a bowl of indignation from those who are urging men on to wholesale murder might lead one to the conclusion that murder itself is a harmless and unimportant matter compared with the method and circumstances of the murder. Men are torn from their homes and sent willy-nilly into death-trap trenches to slaughter and be slaughtered in a quarrel that is not theirs, and that is doing glorious work and dying glorious deaths. The Cain-mark upon their foreheads takes the form Victoria Crosses or Iron Crosses and the like, while they who send them to their crime and their doom have their names inscribed on the “pegs of history" that is not placed in tbs category of the Newgate Calendar. There is no hint from our masters' paid mouth pieces, whether of Fleet Street or of Canterbury and York, that there is anything foul in all this. Crime under authority savours of heaven.

Authorities have a habit of making laws to support their authority, and it is characteristic of them that they never make the mistake of asking the concurrence of those they make subject to those laws If "Thou shalt" or "Thou shall not" are insufficient, then the requirements of the case are fully met with the noose or the bullet. Whatever wordy warfare may centre around the fact of the offence, it is always recognised that the question of tbs justice of the law will not stand argument, and there never is any. Thus in the Casement business not one word has been argued by the prosecution as to whether the prisoner's motives were grounded on patriotism or some baser sentiment. To let the evidence prove the former—it very well might—would by all the rules of logic place Casement on the same plane as Nurse Cavell—and that would never do. It would also have opened grave doubts as to the standing of those misguided Dublin rebels who shared the adventure with Casement, but not being of aristocratic blood, were shot out of hand. Were they not patriots also, and did they approve of the laws under which they were butchered in cold blood ?

The fact is all rule is coercion, and all rulers are bullies. The bullies make laws to suit their own needs without reference to the point of view of those whom they put under the laws, and to talk of justice in the case is laughable. For those who shot the Dublin prisoners in cold blood to complain of the judgment of the German court-martial is incongruous.

Of course the execution of Captain Fryatt was murder—foul, brutal, and stinking. But our masters want us to view it as something standing in a class by itself, something typically and peculiarly German ; but in truth it is nothing of the kind. It is simply another capitalist outrage upon a member of the working class, committed to suit capitalist ends, and accepted and exploited by other capitalists to fan the flame of hatred and feed the declining war-fever. That is our judgment of all these "atrocities."

Frederick Engels: A Tribute (1916)

From the September 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard

The early days of August are eventful ones for the international proletariat. This terrible war was ushered in on the fateful 4th and it was on the 5th of August, 1895, that Marx's great co-worker passed away. Unfortunately no adequate biography of Engels has been written and the short sketch of his life by Karl Kautsky has long been out of print. A brief resum√© of his life story is therefore timely, especially when the so-called “leaders of Socialism” in England are busy reviling the memory of every Socialist of German birth.

Marx and Engels paid the debt they owed to society with compound interest, and it is for us who still hold fast to the principles they laid down to make their writings known.

Frederick Engels was born in Barmen on the Rhine on Nov. 28th, 1820. His home was in the most developed part of German capitalism with its accompanying militant burgher and rising working class. For twenty years the district had been French territory and when it passed into German hands in 1815 it inherited the traditions of the French Revolution. German philosophy was at its zenith and Henrich Heine, Fuerbach and Hegel were active in the society in which Engels was born. Educated at the local school and afterwards at the “Gymnasium” at Eiberfeldt, he grew to hate the official life and politics of the German bourgeois and left his studies to take up work in a merchant house at Bremen and later at Berlin. His father was part owner of a textile firm in Manchester known as “Ermen Engels,” and from 1842 to 1844 he was employed in the business. Those days of break-neck speed capitalism, with its fearful exploitation and murder of women and children in the mills, made a lasting impression on Engels, and he threw himself into the incipient working-class movement of that time. Those who are interested can consult in the British Museum the files of the Bronterre O’Brien’s (Chartist) “Northern Star” and in Robert Owen’s “New Moral World’’ for many contributions from his busy pen.

In 1844 he returned to Germany and thence to Paris, where he revived his friendship with Karl Marx which had begun two years before. Their common views led to their joint authorship of “The Holy Family’’ or a Review of the Critical Critique against Bruno Bauer and his followers. Published in Frankfurt in 1845, this work dealt a mortal blow at the idealist philosophy of the Hegelian school and showed that changes in the “world of ideas” cannot lie explained by themselves hut only by the previous changes in the material world.

Soon afterwards he published the result of his investigations into proletarian life, entitled “Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844,” a work which is widely quoted to-day and shows that even in 1844 Engels studied material conditions in order to found a social science. Here he traced the effects of the industrial changes on the social life of the workers and showed that the reformism of Chartism and the idealism of Owenism could not he the basis of a Socialist movement. He wrote for the "German French Year Book" in 1844, ''Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy," which was the first attempt to found Socialism upon Political Economy.

Upon his return to Barmen to complete the “Condition of the Working Class” he grew disgusted with the piety of the town and left his orthodox and conservative family to go to Brussels. He gave up mercantile life and joined Marx here alter the latter had been expelled from France through the “kind" offices of the Prussian Government. They cut themselves off from the Bourgeois philosophers of Germany and the young Hegelians, and promoted an international workers’ movement, The Communist League. Engels went to Paris and by means of educational work laid the basis for a democratic organisation to replace the secret societies that had formerly existed. Marx and Engels became so well known and relied upon that after two Congresses of the League they were instructed to prepare a manifesto of its aims. Back in Germany at Cologne they took control of the daily "Neue Rheinische Zeitung." Its work was difficult as it stood alone in its clear conception of the necessities of the time.

The ’48 revolution showed that the politically and economically unripe Germany was full of illusions as to the meaning of the struggle and mistook the struggle of the small property-owners against the government for a social revolution.

The labourers were betrayed by the small bourgeoisie after they had helped the latter and the “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” was suppressed. Engels was persecuted and fled to Switzerland. Marx went to Paris, where a new revolt was seething, and after the bloody June days in Paris was ordered to leave. He went to London and was followed by Engels, who escaped the French authorities by travelling by ship from. Genoa.

In 1850 in Hamburg they re-established the- “Zeitung,” and Engels wrote for it his series of articles on “The Ten Hours Bill” and also his criticism of the German bourgeois revolt in “The German Imperial Plan of Campaign.”

Here he also published the articles forming his book on "The German Peasants’ War,” and through dispelling the fond illusions of the small property owners the circulation of the paper fell. Many of the Communist leaders were thrown into prison and Marx’s defence may be found in his “Communist Trial.” All literary expression was afterwards denied to them in Germany, being banned by Democrats and Government alike. Publishers and papers closed their doors to them. Marx returned to the Reading Room of the British Museum and planned his magnum opus—“Capital.” Engels joined his father’s woollen business and afterwards became a partner, but finally severed his connection with it in 1869.

Whilst Marx is chiefly known by the great works that bear his name, Engels expressed himself chiefly in the smaller books he wrote from time to time and in the large number of articles he published in many journals, now obscure. His popular style of exposition made his application of the Socialist philosophy to specific questions and problems a fruitful field of propaganda. An example of this may be found in his lucid introduction to Marx’s “Wage, Labour and Capital." He wrote much on militarism, science and philosophy between the busy hours of his business life. “The Po and the Rhine," published during the Italian War of ’59, where he dissected the methods of the Prussian Liberals, and after the war he wrote “Savoy, Nice, and the Rhine.” During the Prussian struggle of 1865 he penned “The Prussian Military Question and the German Labour Party" a further message to the proletarians of Germany. His profound military knowledge served him well when he wrote the military articles for the “Pall Mall Gazette" (London) during the Franco-German War, and also for the "Manchester Guardian." “The Prussian 'Schnaps" in the German Reichstag’' is still worthy of application to-day though written in '76.

His masterpiece, "Anti-Duhring" was written in 1877 and represents for us the classic of Socialist philosophy. The three chapters from it known as “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific” is still (next to his Manifesto) the most widely read of Socialist literature and deservedly so. It is a thorough exposition of the scientific character of Socialism, and an example of that Materialist Conception of History which he jointly discovered with Marx. “The Housing Question" was written as a reply to the Proudhonists, and "Social Conditions in Russia” against the wild theories of the Bakunists. Here he applied social science to Russian conditions and examined the mir in the light of modern Socialism.

The clear grasp of the class struggle made itself manifest in the formation of the International— ruined though it was by the reformers and Nationalists who disrupted it within whilst the agents of capitalism attacked it without. The second so-called International has again been killed in 1914 by the jingoes who have given the lie to every principle International solidarity stands for.

On the General Council of the International Engels had to fight the efforts of English Labour Leaders on the one hand and Continentai Physical Force theorists on the other.

Amidst all his writings Engels had to assist the many comrades from all parts of Europe who flocked to him and Marx for advice and to correspond with the many friends of the movement everywhere. The editing of .Marx’s works also occupied him largely.

In 1883 he brought out the 3rd edition of vol. I of “Capital,” enlarged and revised according to the wishes of Marx and provided with notes. In 1884 he published the 2nd volume dealing with Circulation, after much energy spent in finishing the preparation of the material left by Marx.

Lewis Henry Morgan’s classic work on Ancient Society appeared in 1877 and Marx and Engels were practically alone in their recognition of its value. As the Professor of Finance at Columbia University (New York), Prof. E. R. A. .Seligman, says [1],  Engels advanced Morgan’s discovery one step farther by his “Origin of the Family.”

Seligman further admits that the great founders of modern Socialism were the first to get the real significance of Morgan's work recognised. Engels showed that gentile society was transformed owing to the first fundamental division of labour—the separation of the pastoral tribes from the rest of society with the consequent intertribal exchange and rise of private property—the coming of slavery and the decline of the matriarchate.

The death of Marx in 1883 left Engels with two men’s work. He revised the English translation of the 1st vol. of “Capital” made by Dr. Aveling and Justice Moore, and worked steadily at the great task of preparing the material Marx left for the 3rd volume of “Capital.” The tremendous difficulties Engels had in this may be read in his preface to that volume. His growing eye weakness made work by gas impossible and yet he lived to accomplish his task. It stands to day as much Engels' work as Marx's, and is Engels’ undying tribute to his comrade of 40 years. “Capital” lives when thousands of critics are forgotten, and it is read more to-day than ever. Even here in America, where superficial reading is the order of the day, “Capital” is being studied as never before. In 1888 he wrote his “Feuerbach.

The last debt Engels repaid to Marx was to edit and put in book form the articles Marx wrote for the “Rheinische Zeitung" in 1850 under the title “Class Struggle in France, 1818-1849.” In the preface Engels showed how the change in economic development had made former methods of warfare useless. It is a complete answer to the “direct action” element and its truth may he seen from the terrible defeat of the Irish insurgents under Connolly, and the massacre of the striking workers here in America recently at Pittsburg. The quick-firing gun, says Engels, has destroyed the hope of the barricade but the suffrage has given the proletariat a more powerful weapon, against which the ruling class are helpless.

Whilst working on Marx’s “Literary First Fruits” Engels was taken ill and he returned from Eastbourne to London, and after two month’s suffering with cancer of the throat he passed away in the presence of his old friend, Edward Bernstein. By request he was cremated and the ashes scattered to the winds from Beachy Head.

Thus died a man who laboured restlessly all his life for the emancipation of the working class. He bequeathed his money to Marx’s children and thus brightened their closing years.

The three volumes of correspondence between Marx and Engels published by Franz Mehring, as the “Manchester Guardian” well says, are a beautiful and rare example of lasting friendship of two gifted men whose work was indissolubly interwoven. What they owed to each other and what we owe to both may be glimpsed from their almost daily correspondence.

The test of Engels' foresight may be seen to-day, 21 years after his death, in the action of the so-called leaders of Socialism in England and Germany. Engels never trusted H. M. Hyndman, and the latter retorted by calling him the “Grand Llama of Regents Park Road ”

But if Engels could see Hyndman supporting the jingoes and bitterest enemies of our class as he is now doing, what a justification he would feel! For the Palmers Weekly he wrote , whilst he was in the grip of his illness, an article, "The Awakening," which closed with words so appropriate in spirit for our time.
    "Above all let the oppressed close up their ranks and reach out to each other across the boundary lines of every nation. Let the International Proletariat develop and organise until the beginning of the new century shall lead it on to victory."
Adolph Kohn

[1] The Economic Interpretation of History by Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman

Whose Party Is It? (2017)

From the August 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the recent general election I heard several enthusiastic Labour Party supporters, when confronted with the war crimes of the last Labour government, state that Blair and ‘New Labour’ were never a part of the ‘real’ Labour movement. It struck me as a very weak defence of the Labour Party’s actions when in government as opposed to the promises they make whilst out of power. If one is to regard this statement as anything other than hypocritical then what does it say about the identity of any social organisation? Can we ever conveniently disregard the recent activities of a group that we support, or belong to, in the name of a desperate optimism that it ‘will be different next time’?

Despite the prediction that the ‘cyber age’ we live in will increasingly alienate us from each other socially we see a continuing need for people to join social groups of almost infinite variety: Sports clubs, support groups, literary societies, orchestras, bands, churches, pressure groups, historical re-enactment societies, etc. Then there are so-called ‘secret societies’ like the Freemasons, Illuminati, Knights of Pythias, Mafia etc. Somewhere between these two variants we find the political parties. What they all have in common is something we might call ‘factionalism’. This occurs when individuals within the group find themselves in disagreement with an element of the majority consensus and so gravitate toward each other, thus forming a faction within the movement. Despite being a minority within the group they can use certain justifications for opposing ‘from within’ the policies or even objectives of the majority in terms of a departure from authenticity or betrayed values. Some years ago I joined a literary society and found myself almost immediately in a minority when I attempted to defend the literary merits of science fiction. I was joined by another member and we found ourselves evangelising the genre at every opportunity (and not just because it was fun to bait the ‘high-brows’).

The question arises concerning the inevitability of dissension within any social grouping. Disentangling what might be thought of as justifiable ideological dissent from an egotistical power play is sometimes extremely difficult. Occasionally it may be purely a matter of individuals disliking each other, as happened in a philosophical group I occasionally attended when one ‘queen bee’ was displaced by another via a ‘coup d’√©tat’. Many organisations have what might be described as authoritarian social structures where individuals or groups acquire, legitimately in terms of their rules, more power than other members which, also inevitably, leads to conflict. Given all of these internal pressures it is surprising that such groups survive at all (and, of course, many don’t) but if they do they acquire a history which becomes a definitive element in terms of the group’s identity.

Political parties are ‘nothing but the expression of class interests’ according to Marx. We might modify this statement by adding that they are also the expression of perceived class interests which, in the case of the Labour Party, results in them acting directly against the interests of the class that they claim to represent. Once the reformist route to the establishment of socialism is taken class consciousness becomes blurred and eventually disappears entirely in the fruitless and endless struggle to control capitalism and make it beneficial for all within the community. But this anti-revolutionary (and so therefore anti-socialist) dogma and its persistent failures seem immune to a logical critique especially when the working class are confronted by the realities of the morally and socially degenerate Tory Party.

Of course the Conservative Party is also divided by factionalism which, together with the other elements already mentioned, is driven by the same misconceptions that are present in Labour; ignorance of how capitalism, stripped of its ideological mythology, actually operates in reality. It is a great irony that only its great enemy (Marxism) has a clear understanding of capitalism. Given all of these pressures and divisions it has become a necessity that the Labour Party, in particular, must deny its own history; a clear example of this is the attempt to disassociate itself from New Labour and the warmonger Tony Blair. That this can be done is testament to the power of ideology (the need to believe) which has enabled such Leftist idiocies as the support of Bolshevism and even for the likes of Stalin in the past. How then, one might ask, does any political party avoid the consequences of the internal social dynamics outlined above?

The Socialist Party has built-in structures specifically designed to counteract the tendencies we have defined. We are the only political party to insist on an ‘entrance test’ so we can be certain that any prospective member has a sound understanding of our political analysis and the actions that this implies. That we do this also emphasises our rejection of elitism because our case relies on the belief that fundamental political consciousness is available to all and not just a minority. We have no leaders or group of mandarins to ‘guide us’. Every important action is subject to democratic debate and vote. Above all we demand of ourselves and each other that we constantly critically review what is believed to be true, so avoiding the intellectual dead-end of ideological dogma. These are the building blocks of a revolutionary socialist organisation which contrasts starkly with the idealism and elitism continually expressed by the Left and the so-called ‘labour movement’ with their ‘behind closed doors’ deals and compromises.

Has the Socialist Party ever experienced serious internal dissent in its over one hundred year existence? There have been the same sort of factionalist pressures as in other organisations but the very fact of our continued existence together with the consistency of our analysis and values illustrates the strength of a thoroughly democratic organisation that restricts membership to those who share its revolutionary perspective; our political structure and the coherence of our case has meant that the attempted subversion or hijacking of our revolutionary identity has always failed. The possibility that we would ever have to deny our own history (which, after all, is an essential element in any group’s identity) is as ludicrous as an individual denying responsibility for his actions on the basis that he promises to do better next time.

Has Conscription Come To Stay? (1916)

Editorial from the October 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ever since honest, open, above-board, avowed, unblushing Conscription took the place of the filthy, taunting, “What will ye lack, Sonny?” “Go or be sacked! ” form of compulsion, the labour leaders whose treachery undermined the position of the workers and made organised resistance to the encroachments of militarism impossible, have been trying to cover up their renegade footsteps, in order that they may escape the accusing finger that sooner or later will mercilessly point out to the outraged working class who the real arch-fraticides of this stupendous shambles really are. One of their devices is to clamour for the immediate removal of that instrument of tyranny “so foreign to the traditions of our country” (to quote their flowery Pekoe), Conscription, when the war is finished.

It is easy to see that these same “leaders” are going to find themselves in a devilish awkward position upon the return of what is euphemistically termed “peace.” They had their hands full of trouble when the war broke out. Time after time they had divided the workers’ forces at the critical moment, and so doing had given victory into the masters’ hands. As a result they were becoming increasingly discredited. No longer could they rely upon the obedience of the rank and file of the organisations which they for so long had bossed; no longer was the orthodox bond of bondage, signed, sealed and given beneath their traitorous hands to the highest bidder (who must always be the masters), assuredly worth the price that was paid for it. Defiance, or even mutiny, was rife, and indeed, a very awkward situation was relieved by the outbreak of the war.

But if they found momentary relief in this world-convulsion, the bloody part they were compelled (as the consequence of the alliance they had long before made with the enemies of their class) to play in it can only result in a compound interest of trouble when “peace” brings their day of judgment and they are called upon to render account of the stewardship they have betrayed.

It is because they know this so well that they are now screaming against Conscription in principle. They know to what uses, other than military, the master class can put the instrument of Conscription which they, the so-called labour leaders, have had such a large share in imposing upon the working class of this country. They know, moreover, that in the terrible times of industrial strife which must follow the war, and at no very distant date, when the masters, writhing under the mountainous taxation that their deeds of butchery will have heaped up on their shoulders, will stretch every nerve to screw more out of their slaves, even to mobilising worker conscripts against themselves, Conscription will be anything but a bed of roses for labour leaders to lie upon. Hence they are anxious to dissociate themselves from the idea before it becomes impossibly unfashionable. For they are well aware that, in spite of the fact that they are the masters' hirelings’ and henchmen, it is upon the workers they depend in the final analysis—the masters will have no use for them when they present themselves alone and on their own feet; pelf and place are only their reward when they call for them mounted on the backs of mokes, bridled and saddled and blinkered, and warranted thoroughly broken to harness, and quiet to ride or drive.

But unless we are a long way out in our reckoning (a concession, this, to our reluctance to don the prophet’s mantle), Conscription has come to stay. The present war has placed that question beyond the pale of party politics, at least as far as the orthodox political parties are concerned. It is patent to all now that militarism is essential to the support of capitalism. The retreat from Mons, when so little stood between the German army and a decisive victory, vindicated Lord Roberts in all capitalist eyes, and the history of the first eighteen months of the war, when success was never a great way out of the reach of the German generals, will provide the argument that will confound the labour leaders at every turn. Once having subscribed to the necessity for Conscription they can have no logically firm ground on which to base any resistance to compulsory military service as a normal feature of life in Great Britain. All the arguments are against them.

If it was necessary to resort to Conscription in view of the situation which faced our rulers in the year of grace 1916—and the labour leaders in assenting to it confessed that it was— then those who held that view will be finally forced to admit that the necessity is a constant accompaniment of capitalism. So long as the working class are the instruments of enrichment for those who can exploit them, so long will there be wars to decide who shall control their labours and appropriate their surplus. Moreover, since the present conflict has emphasised the fact that the first shock of battle may very well be decisive, the capitalist must more than ever act upon the wise old saying from the Scriptures concerning the advisability of “getting your wack in fust."

The idea of any general disarmament is already abandoned. In the early stages of the war our statesmen regaled us regularly with the figures of the immense saving they were going , to effect in naval expenditure as the result of smashing the “German menace," but you never hear it mentioned now. No, Uncle Sam put the tin hat on that delicate dove from the realms of peace when be voted the dollars to make his the second navy in the world, and started his campaign of “preparedness” to fight for the world’s markets — in which, of course, Canada is included. This cute gentleman does not intend to rely upon angels should ever a “ Mons” come within the range of his experiences.

Conscription has come to stay. From the capitalist point of view everything calls for it. As the development of production results on the one hand in the vast increase of surplus products which cannot be consumed at home, and on the other hand in a relative contraction of the markets abroad, which constitute the only outlet for them, the capitalist need to struggle for those markets becomes more urgent, more vital, and more than ever a struggle of military forces. In addition to this, the development of new methods of attack, both submarine and aerial, having rendered a gigantic navy something less of a safeguard against invasion than it used to be, has given Conscription additional importance. The modern tendency of the larger nations to pool their interests and the smaller to follow the stronger, is another among several obvious arguments for compulsory service. But a greater reason than all is provided in the disintegration of the Trade Union position and the employment of women labour. Under the plea of shortage of labour an attempt will probably be made to retain the women in the fields of labour they are now engaged in, and to set the sexes against each other in the endeavour to prevent the workers regaining the labour conditions of pre-war days. In this struggle military control over the workers will help the masters by enabling them to keep male workers off the markets and in other obvious ways.

Socialism Still International. (1916)

From the November 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard

In an editorial in the “Daily Chronicle” of' October 4th appeared the following:
Nothing in this war of revelations and revolutions has astonished the world more than the failure of all forms of internationalism to be international.—Christianity, Socialism, civilisation have all become as distinctively national as the several belligerent armies themselves, and in Germany they fight for the Zeppelins and in England against them. Nationalism appears to be the master virtue of the day to which all others have to conform.
This, of course, as regards Socialism, is a deliberate lie. The truth is that the very essence of Socialism is internationalism. Christianity never has been, never even bas pretended to be international— that is, based on the unity of interests of all nations ; it is not even, and never bas been, based on the unity of interests of all Christians. More than that, it is not based on so broad a base even as the unity of interests of all the Christiana of a given country. Far indeed from being a form of internationalism, it is too narrow, too mean, too wretched, and too sordid to be even truly national. Its pulse beats for no nation, but only for the capitalist element of the nation.

Socialism, on the other hand, has remained international, as it must ever do. That which passes with our masters' hireling Press for Socialism, and which they assert to have failed to be international, is not Socialism at all. We, years before the war broke out, denounced the so-called Socialist International for what it was, and events have simply proved us correct.

The very fact that the International Labour and Socialist movement, so-called, was split asunder by the first trumpet-call to defend national interests, reveals the fact it was built on the shifting sands of ignorance and compromise. Had it been reared on Socialist principles, grounded in science and unswerving in purpose, capitalist battle-cries, entreaties and arguments would have been met with derision and scorn.