Friday, September 8, 2017

The Trump Card of Trotsky (1939)

From the August 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

The international situation is changing with the rapidity of a film, and amidst the many voices clamouring to elucidate the cause of what is happening we are attracted to the statements of the refugee who, when driven from Moscow, and after attempting to reside in various countries, has been allowed to stay in Mexico.

The French papers recently circulated a report to the effect that Trotsky's grandson had disappeared and inferred that the latter had been kidnapped by the secret police of the only “Socialist" country in the world.

When one reads carefully Trotsky’s “Revolution Betrayed," it requires no great stretch of the imagination to arrive at the conclusion that Stalin and Co. will go to any lengths to silence his vitriolic pen for a more deadly indictment of the Soviet regime has never appeared in print.

There is also another aspect ably dealt with, the treachery of the “Left"; we can well understand the silence in certain quarters regarding the book; our respectable Fabians are stripped so naked that their real bourgeois character stands plainly revealed: the Webbs will feel towards Trotsky much as Stalin does, and unless we judge incorrectly, so will Sir Stafford Cripps. These evangels of Fabianism—that is, of traditional respectability and worship of what exists—haven't changed, apparently.
   “There can be no talk of any sudden change in the views of the Webbs during recent years. These same people who, during the war, supported their bourgeoisie, and who accepted later, at the hands of the King, the title of Lord Passfield, have renounced nothing, and changed not at all, in adhering to Communism in a single and, moreover, a foreign country.
   “Sidney Webb was Colonial Minister—that is, chief jail-keeper of British imperialism—in the very period of his life when he was drawing near to the Soviet bureaucracy, receiving material from its bureaux, and on that basis working upon his two-volume compilation.
   “As late as 1923 the Webbs saw no great difference between Bolshevism and Tzarism (see, for example, the Decay of Capitalist Civilization, 1923). Now, however, they have fully recognised the "democracy" of the Stalin regime. It is needless to seek any contradiction here. The Fabians were indignant when the revolutionary proletariat withdrew freedom of activity from 'educated' society, but they think it quite in the order of things when a bureaucracy withdraws freedom of activity from the proletariat. Has not this always been the function of the Labourites' workers' bureaucracy? The Webbs swear, for example, that criticism in the Soviet Union is completely free. A sense of humour is not to be expected of these people. They refer with complete seriousness to that notorious ‘self-criticism' which is enacted as part of one's official duties, and the direction of which, as well as its limits, can always be accurately foretold.
   “Naiveté? Neither Engels nor Lenin considered Sidney Webb naive. Respectability rather. After all, it is a question of an established régime and of hospitable hosts. The Webbs are extremely disapproving in their attitude to a Marxian criticism of what exists. They consider themselves called to preserve the heritage of the October Revolution—from the Left opposition. For the sake of completeness we observe that in its day the Labour Government, in which Lord Passfield (Sidney Webb) held a portfolio, refused the author of this work a visa to enter Great Britain. Thus Sidney Webb, who in those very days was working on his book upon the Soviet Union, is theoretically defending the Soviet Union from being undermined, but practically he is defending the Empire of His Majesty. In justice be it said that in both cases he remains true to himself . . .     “The older generation of the foreign 'friends' for decades regarded as Real politiker the Russian Mensheviks, who stood for a 'people’s front' with the Liberals, and rejected the idea of dictatorship as arrant madness. To recognise a dictatorship when it is already achieved and even bureaucratically befouled—that is a different matter. That is a matter exactly to the mind of these ‘friends.’ They now not only pay their respects to the Soviet State, but even defend it against its enemies—not so much, to be sure, against those who yearn for the past, as against those who are preparing the future. When these ‘friends' are active patriots, as in the case of the French, Belgian, English, and other reformists, it is convenient for them to conceal their solidarity with the bourgeoisie under a concern for the defence of the Soviet Union. Where, on the other hand, they have unwillingly become defeatists, as in the case of the German and Austrian social patriots of yesterday, they hope that the alliance of France with the Soviet Union may help them settle with Hitler or Schussnigg. Léon Blum, who was an enemy of Bolshevism in its heroic epoch, and opened the pages of Le Populaire for the express purpose of publicly baiting the October Revolution, would not now print a line exposing the real crimes of the Soviet bureaucracy. Just as the Biblical Moses, thirsting to see the face of Jehovah, was permitted to make his bow only to the rearward parts of the Divine anatomy, so the honourable reformists, worshippers of the accomplished fact, are capable of knowing and acknowledging in a revolution only its meaty bureaucratic posterior.”
*   *   *   *

Trotsky holds the view that the ruling class in Russia cannot correctly be classified as “State Capitalists,” because the bureaucracy has neither stocks nor bonds.
     “The bureaucracy enjoys its privileges under the form of an abuse of power. It conceals its income; it pretends that, as a special group, it does not even exist. Its appropriation of a vast share of the national income has the character of social parasitism. . . .
      “A collapse of the Soviet régime would lead inevitably to the collapse of the planned economy and thus to an abolition of State property. . . . The fall of the present bureaucratic dictatorship, if it were not replaced by a new Socialist power, would thus mean a return to capitalist relations, with a catastrophic decline of industry and culture.  . . . .
     “As a conscious political force, the bureaucracy has betrayed the revolution. But a victorious revolution is, fortunately, not only a programme and a banner, not only political institutions, but also a system of social relations. To betray it is not enough. You have to overthrow it. The October Revolution has been betrayed by the ruling stratum, but not yet overthrown. It has a great power of resistance, coinciding with the established property relations, with the living force of the proletariat, the consciousness of its best elements, the impasse of world capitalism, and the inevitability of world revolution.”
     "Victor Serge, who lived through all the stages of the repression in the Soviet Union, has brought startling news to Western Europe from those who are undergoing torture for their loyalty to the revolution and hostility to its gravediggers. “I exaggerate nothing,”- he writes, “I weigh every word. I can back up every one of my statements with tragic proof and with names. Among the mass of martyrs and Protestants, for the most part silent, one heroic minority is nearer to me than all the others, precious for its energy, its penetration, its stoicism, its devotion to the Bolshevism of the great epoch. Thousands of the Communists of the first hour, comrades of Lenin and Trotsky, builders of the Soviet Republic when Soviets still existed, are opposing the principles of Socialism to the inner degeneration of the régime, are defending as best they can (and all they can do is to agree to all possible sacrifices), the rights of the working class. . . .  I bring you news of those who are locked up there. They will hold out, whatever be necessary, to the end. Even if they do not live to see a new revolutionary dawn . . .  the revolutionists of the West can count upon them. The flame will be kept burning, even if only in prisons. In the same way they are counting upon you. You must—we must—defend them.”
*    *    *    *

Trotsky shows that there is an even greater distinction between the rich and the poor in Soviet Russia than in many of the capitalist countries of the West. About 20 per cent, of the population devour 50 per cent, of the wealth, the remainder going to the 80 per cent.! The bureaucracy has its house servants, “the slave sleeps often with the cockroaches and the calves.”
   “The Soviet State, in all its relations, is far closer to a backward capitalism than to Communism.” It cannot yet even think of endowing each “ according to his needs.” But for this very reason it cannot permit its citizens to work “according to their abilities.” It finds itself obliged to keep in force the system of piecework payment, the principle of which may be expressed thus, “Get out of everybody as much as you can and give him in exchange as little as possible. . . . ” The most brutal as well as the most refined methods of exploitation run into limits set by nature. Even a mule under the whip works “according to his ability,” but from that it does not follow that the whip is a social principle for mules. Wage labour does not cease, even under a Soviet regime, to wear the humiliating label of slavery. Payment “according to work” —in reality, payment to the advantage of “intellectual” at the expense of physical, and especially unskilled work—is a source of injustice, oppression and compulsion for the majority, privileges and a :happy life ” for the few.
Trotsky's ideas of the transformation of society are not ours. Like Engels, he has a military psychology, but his views are interesting, nevertheless.
   “Military defeats, although they customarily entail great political changes, do not always of themselves lead to a disturbance of the economic foundations of society. A social régime which guarantees a higher development of riches and culture cannot be overthrown by bayonets. On the contrary, the victors take over the institutions and customs of the conquered, if these are beyond them in evolution. Forms of property can be overthrown by military force only when they are out of accord with the economic basis of the country. A defeat of Germany in a war against the Soviet Union would inevitably result in the crushing not only of Hitler, but of the capitalist system. On the other hand, it is hardly to be doubted that a military defeat would also prove fatal, not only for the Soviet ruling stratum, but also for the social bases of the Soviet Union. The instability of the present structure in Germany is conditioned by the fact that its productive forces have long outgrown the forms of capitalist property. The instability of the Soviet regime, on the contrary, is due to the fact that its productive forces have far from grown up to the forms of Socialist property. A military defeat threatens the social bases of the Soviet Union for the same reason that these bases require in peaceful times a bureaucracy and a monopoly of foreign trade— that is, because of their weakness. . . .
   “The very possibility of a rule of the Nazis over the German people was created by the unbearable tenseness of social antagonisms in Germany. These antagonisms have not been removed, and not even weakened, but only suppressed by the lid of Fascism. A war will bring them to the surface. Hitler has far less chances than had Wilhelm II of Germany of carrying a war to victory. Only a timely revolution by saving Germany from war, can save her from a new defeat. . . .
   “The population of Japan is suffocated under the combined yoke of Asiatic agrarianism and ultra-modern capitalism. Korea, Manchukuo, China, at the first weakening of the military pincers, will rise against the Japanese tyranny. A war will bring the empire of the Mikado the greatest of social catastrophes.
   "The situation in Poland is little better. . . . The workers are shaking the country with continual strikes and rebellions. Trying to insure itself by a union with France and friendship with Germany, the Polish bourgeoisie is incapable of accomplishing anything with its manoeuvres, except to hasten the war and find in it a more certain death.
   “The danger of war and a defeat of the Soviet Union is a reality, but the revolution is also a reality. If the revolution does not prevent war, then war will help the revolution. Second births are commonly easier than the first. Once it is begun, moreover, the revolution will not this time stop half-way. The fate of the Soviet Union will be decided in the long run, not on the maps of the general staffs, but on the map of the class struggle. Only the proletariat, implacably opposing its bourgeoisie, and in the same camp with them the 'friends of peace' (italics mine) can protect the Soviet Union from an allied stab in the back. Even a military defeat of the Soviet Union would be only a short episode, in case of a victory of the proletariat in other countries. And on the other hand, no military victory can save the inheritance of the October Revolution if imperialism holds out in the rest of the world. . . .
    “It is not under the banner of the status quo that the European workers and the colonial peoples can rise against imperialism, and against the war which must break out and overthrow the status quo almost as inevitably as a developed infant destroys the status quo of pregnancy. The toilers have not the slightest interest in defending existing boundaries, especially in Europe—either under the command of their bourgeoisies, or still less, in a revolutionary insurrection against them. The decline of Europe is caused by the very fact that it is economically split up among almost forty quasi-national States, which, with their customs, passports, money systems and monstrous armies in defence of national particularism, have become a gigantic obstacle on the road of economic and cultural development of mankind.
   “The task of the European proletariat is not the perpetuation of boundaries, but, on the contrary, their revolutionary abolition, not the status quo, but a Socialist United States of Europe.”
*    *    *    *

Trotsky trumps the hand of Stalin with the ace of living fact: he proves that the policy of the latter is formulated, not in the interests of the working class, but is consciously designed to aid the exploiter.

Those who run may read the “Revolution Betrayed" but what were those doing who allowed themselves to be betrayed? The working class of Russia did not understand: the vast majority were, and still are, ignorant of what is essential to the establishment of the new social order: those who were true to Socialism manfully did their bit, but the soil was not there—the tree of economic freedom could not be nurtured; its seeds, however, will take root in the days that are coming! The faithful never struggle in vain.

Many a comrade who to-night lays his weary bones on a prison-bed in the vaults of Moscow will realise to the full the real nature of the bureaucracy. Socialists, when detected, are placed in jail in the only "Socialist" country in the world, . . .

In the fermenting vat of wage-slave misery the true spirit of class-consciousness is now everywhere being distilled; it is up to those who understand to take every advantage of the present situation to explain to their inquiring fellow-workers the nature of the job our class is called upon to tackle.

The lesson we learn from this article is that we of the working class must know before we can do. It is a class proposition: It is essential that we should work now, as never before, to enlighten our fellows.

When they understand then are we free—not before.
Charles Lestor

Who Divides the Workers? (1939)

From the September 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a recent debate with the Labour Party, one of the points raised was, that we divide the workers by separate parties. From this the workers are led to assume that the Labour Party unites them. Now, before anything can be divided it must first have been united. When making this charge Labour men conveniently forget to mention on what the workers as a class are united. Socialists know that the working-class has one common interest around which it can be united—its status as a wage-earning propertyless class. In order to unite the workers on their class basis, it is obvious that only one thing can be taught them—the abolition of class ownership, which keeps them a wage-slave class. Thus, a party teaching this is teaching that which will unite the workers as a class. This the Socialist Party does. How about the Labour Party and its teaching? The propaganda of the Labour Party is not one of unity, it is not even united about what reforms it shall advocate. Not only does the Labour Party obscure the class struggle by its reformism, but it advocates contradictory measures at the same time. In order to obtain votes anyhow, the Labour candidates advocate anything and play upon the ignorance and petty prejudices of the workers, and in this way prevent unity of outlook.

Let us consider how it works out.

One of the most heated controversies of recent times was the much-boosted “popular front.” Was the Labour Party united on this? In my own city we had prominent Labour Councillors speaking to working-class audiences both for and against this Moscow manoeuvre, and then asking the workers to vote for them. Some years ago Mr. John Scurr introduced into Parliament the “Catholic Education Bill.” In one of our constituencies (mainly Catholic) the Labour member declined to support the measure and a Labour Councillor then resigned from the Labour Party—as a Catholic. During the election of 1929 the writer was busy in a Northern constituency, and the Labour candidate proudly proclaimed: “I am the only Free Trader ”; at the same time the Labour candidate for a cotton area was advocating a measure of “protection.” Such double-crossing was made possible because of the distance dividing the two regions. Were these two men to speak in the same area, the game would be up. When the Government launched a shipbuilding programme the Labour members on the Clyde and the Tyne fell over each other in their competition to show why the orders should be placed in their shipyards, because each M.P. was considering his own votes. In the war of 1914-18 the Labour Party advocated policies ranging from the stunt Jingo war support of the Tillett-Clynes group to pacifism of the Lansbury end. To-day, on Conscription, National Service and other aspects of Capitalism, you cannot obtain a single pronouncement endorsed by the whole Party. Their speakers get away with it by announcing beforehand that they only express their own views, in spite of the fact that they speak on their Party platform. When attending Labour Party lectures our local comrades never fail to ask: ” Is the Labour Party a Socialist Party?” and we never get the same answer. We then point out the lack of unity in the speakers’ reply, shattering the workers’ belief in the Labour Party’s claim to be out for unity.

This pose of unity by the Labour Party has got to be exposed, and they must be shown up as “dividers” of the working class, not ”uniters.” Unity can only come about when the workers agree on a common aim; before they can do that they must understand their common interest. That party which teaches Socialism is, therefore, the uniter of the workers. The Labour Party does not teach Socialism, but hinders those who do by teaching a multitude of reforms. The answer to the question, then, as to who divides the workers is—the Labour Party.
Lew Jones

Attention! (1939)

Party News from the October 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

All who are interested are asked to note that our outdoor propaganda has not ceased. Our mid-week city meetings are still being run with even added success. The same is true of Hyde Park. Our audiences, literature sales and collections are larger than ever. Our speakers are treated with admiration and respect. Audiences are not so mad as they were twenty-five years ago. A generation to whom the last war is still a bitter memory are not so ready as they were in 1914 to suppress Socialist propaganda. . So come - along to our meetings and help to keep them going.

*  *  *  *  *

The "Socialist Standard
In the future we are likely to be facing difficulties regarding the Socialist Standard. Among our readers there are a few thousand who would rather miss their dinners for a month than miss their monthly Socialist Standard. To those we address these serious words. You can be our saviours in the troublous times ahead. You want your Socialist Standard and we want you to have it. But among many difficulties we see ahead is one concerning the distribution of our journal. The usual means through which you obtain it are likely to break down. Newsagents may cease to sell it and the way to assure yourself of regular delivery is to become a monthly subscriber. The cost is a mere 2s. 6d. a year (or 4s. in a sealed envelope). Guarantee yourself of the delivery of your Socialist Standard and our future activity. Send us your P.O. (crossed) NOW. Branches and members should go out and canvass every member, ex-member, sympathiser and reader on the same errand. And remember, amid the sea of journalistic confusion which the future will bring, what the Socialist Party has to say will be more eagerly sought after than ever. Many working-class journals in America are sold mainly on the subscription method. The present circumstances are favourable for building Socialist Standard sales soundly on this basis. Get to it!

Changing Russia (1939)

From the November 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

The repercussions of the Soviet-German Pact on Communist influence have been far-reaching. Mr. H. N. Brailsford, an old supporter of the Soviet Government, urged his friends to restrain the “bitterness in their hearts” (Reynolds's, October 8th, 1937). We suspect that Mr. Brailsford’s restraint is governed by the hope that Russia will yet side with the Allied Powers.

Mr. Louis Fischer, in an article in Reynolds's (October 1st, 1939) feels no urge for such restraint. He is an American journalist, has spent many years in Russia and, until now, has been regarded as one of the staunchest and ablest supporters of the Russian Government outside of Russia. After enumerating facts which are now familiar as history, Louis Fischer says:--
   I see two chief reasons for Russia’s new foreign expansion : (1) Domestic difficulties, and (2) the revival of Russian nationalism.
   Several years ago. Stalin started out to build Socialism in one country. But Socialism is a travesty without pants and without freedom. The supply of consumers’ goods (except food) and of housing in Russia is most inadequate, and little progress has been made during the last three years.
   The nation was ready to sacrifice a great deal, and it did, for the sake of the better life that had been promised. But this is the twenty-second year of the revolution, and people get tired investing in a future which never arrives. They grow especially depressed when they see stagnation instead of improvement.
   The objective truth of the Soviet goods shortage is the long queues outside town and village shops, and speculation.
   Neither quantitatively nor qualitatively are the needs of the Soviet population being met.
The New Soviet Constitution of 1936 Fischer interprets as an attempt to meet the “yearning of the population met with disappointment—the yearning for freedom.”

Hopes were dashed, however, and “the purge continued to every nook of the vast Soviet Union, and hundreds of thousands suffered. . . .  A deadly fear was injected into those whom the authorities did not molest.”

And of the Army: —
   In 1936, Moscow created the rank of Army Marshal and raised five men to that rank : Voroshilov, Tukhachevsky, Yegorov, Bluecher and Budenny. Children treasured a widely published photograph of these five national heroes. Before long, the children had to cut off the face of Tukhachevsky. Executed as a traitor. In a short time Yegorov’s features had to be eliminated. And then Bluecher’s.
And journalists: —
  Hundreds of journalists, writers, professors, politicians and outstanding Communists who had enjoyed general confidence, turned out, according to the official version, to be anti-Soviet. Then how could the ordinary mortal know that the man whose speech he heard to-day, whose article he read to-day. whose orders he was obeying to-day, might not be annihilated to-morrow as a foe of the State?
   Since everybody was a potential spy or traitor, everybody hesitated to talk to or associate with everybody else.
Well might Fischer add that “the arrests and shootings demoralised the population”! He speaks of watching these events from "near and afar with mounting disappointment and concern.  . . .  But while the Soviet Government helped the Spanish Republic, I, who had hoped that victory in Spain might save Europe from war and Russia from reaction, imposed silence upon myself.” He goes on to add that “ with one exception, every important Russian who returned from Spain has been executed or arrested.”

Fischer's observations on the growth of Russian nationalism are worth quoting, though they are long: —
   As long as the Soviet Government behaved like a sincere advocate of world peace and helped the victims of Fascist aggression, I was willing to moderate my criticisms of its deed. But now the Russians have made a deal with Hitler. Now I am afraid Russia has set out on the road of Pan-Slav expansion. 
  In his speech on May 31st, 1939, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Molotov launched a just attack on the Anglo-French policy vis-à-vis Czechoslovakia, and said that at Munich "the large Slav nation of Czechoslovakia ” had been destroyed. This is the first time the word “Slav" has been used in such a connection by a Soviet statesman. 
   When all else fails to stir the imagination or insure the loyalty of a citizenry, patriotism is a shrewd expedient. About 1936, the Bolsheviks began putting tremendous emphasis on patriotism and on love of fatherland. This was new in Soviet propaganda. Theretofore, the accent had been on internationalism. It changed abruptly to nationalism. 
     I have never thought that these vaccinations ever “took.” On the contrary, it was Spain which excited the Soviet masses more than anything else in half a dozen years. 
    Lenin had strongly imbued the Soviets with the spirit of international solidarity. He did not have to teach the inhabitants of the country to hate the black, Tsarist past of Russia. But now a new cult of Russianism arose.  
  Pre-revolutionary Russian history was reinterpreted to make it palatable to the Sovietised generation. Peter the Great, reviled for his cruelty by all who read, was furbished up for modern heroism. A whole galaxy of Tsarist notables reappeared out of the dustbin into which a proper assessment of their anti-labour and anti-peasant activities had thrown them. Pokrovsky, a veteran Soviet historian of Russia’s past, was discarded.
 Figures like Alexander Nevsky were brought forward out of the mist of the Middle Ages and popularised in the films, in this case, paradoxically, to breed contempt for Germany.
   Art, literature and politics received a deepening Russian tinge, while minor nationalities receded somewhat out of focus. In the same period the Comintern was eclipsed, and agitation for the world revolution moved behind a thick cloud. Acquisitive Nationalism became the guiding star of Soviet foreign and domestic policies. 
   I believe this is the broad background against which the Bolsheviks’ rapprochement with the Nazis and their subsequent military moves can best be viewed.
Well might the Communists put up Mr. Pat Sloan at a public meeting in order to “Answer your doubts about Russia.” (How long has it been admitted that Communists might have doubts?)

It would seem that the chant, “ Trotskyism,” no longer convinces the faithful!
Harry Waite

Successful Rally at Conway Hall (1939)

Party News from the December 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

Conway Hall (large hall) was packed to capacity on Friday, November 10th, to hear the Socialist Party of Great Britain’s statement on the present war situation. The audience showed its sympathy and agreement with the aims of Socialism by the warm welcome it gave to the Chairman, Comrade S. Goldstein, and the Speaker, Comrade A. Turner.

Owing to unforeseen circumstances other advertised speakers did not speak, but the meeting proceeded to a successful conclusion.

The collection amounted to over £15 and a quantity of French money donated by French sympathisers. Literature to the value of over £5 was sold.

The support given at this meeting makes it evident that a large number of the working-class public are eager to hear reasoned statements from the Socialist point of view and a number of further meetings will be held at the same hall. These meetings are advertised elsewhere in this issue.
Propaganda Committee.

What We Say About The Angry Brigade Trial (1973)

From the January 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

The quarter-million-pound trial ended last month. Four were found guilty of conspiracy and sent to jail, and the Left yelled as always that justice was not done. The sentences were severe ones — what else did they expect? The ruling class believes itself to have been threatened by the Angry Brigade, and has reacted accordingly.

Let the Socialist attitude to this episode be clearly stated. We have not a shred of sympathy for those who believe that bombs and guns are tools to change society. The activities of the Angry Brigade have done nothing but harm to the working class and our movement: by deluding the romantic-minded, by fostering the belief that revolution means conspiracy and violence, by giving governments justification for repressive measures and the diminution of the political and personal freedoms that exist.

Nor are we on the side of “law and order” in this matter. The judiciary, the police and the rest of the apparatus which brought the "Stoke Newington Eight” to trial and convicted four of them are part of the State’s coercive machine which exists to sustain the rule of capitalism. This is what justice is — the will of the established order being seen to be done. Unlike direct-actionists, we are conscious of the State’s rôle. They, apparently, never learn: while the Eight were being disposed-of by it, their supporters continued to argue that the State had no political significance and the power to change society lay elsewhere.

Logo associated with the Angry Brigade.
The defence in the trial was that the accused were not guilty, and that the explosives had been planted by the police. Only the unsophisticated would refuse to recognize such a possibility; the fact remains that the defendants and their supporters voiced approval of the Angry Brigade while denying the charges. The Stoke Newington Eight Defence Group has published a series of pamphlets and papers, using hands grasping a gun as emblem and reiterating the claim that the bombs and shooting were the work of a wide spontaneous movement. These publications, concerned to vaunt violent direct action as much as to contend that the Eight were “framed”, commend sabotage and arson as well as explosions and bullets. They reproduce Angry Brigade communiques and threatening messages sent to newspapers. The Orwell-word “doublethink” could never find better applications. One Communiqué claiming to have bombed, burned and machine-gunned ends: “Solidarity, Revolution, Love.” The Defence Group’s second pamphlet was called If You Want Peace Prepare For War. Badges are advertized — no-one has been seen wearing one — with the slogan “Armed Love”.

Heard It Before
Is talk like this familiar? It is. Except for the word “revolution” (and that has been debased into the Holy Writ of repression in Russia) these are the words of every nationalist and power-politician. The frantic war preparations of the nineteen-thirties were for peace, the people were told; the hydrogen bombs are for peace; the horrible dying in Vietnam is all for peace and liberty. “Armed love” is the chant of the priests blessing soldier-boys. An Angry Brigade pronouncement says “No revolution was ever won without violence”. The word “won” betrays the whole thing. Their idea of revolution is simply a seizing of power and imposition of another kind of rule. There is no difference between these would-be insurrectionists claiming popular support ("The AB is the man or woman sitting next to you”) and the coup-seekers whose success usually means dictatorship.

It is all the more important to understand this when a campaign of violence justifies itself with “libertarianism” and anti-authoritarian language. Political changes gained by violence have to be sustained by violence or the threat of it. Likewise, conspiracy at the beginning means conspiracy continued to the end. The last Communiqué, published in International Times, says: “We are not in a position to say whether any one person is or isn’t a member of the Brigade. All we say: the Brigade is everywhere.” What this means is that “the Brigade” will decide what they are in a position to let their followers know, and when, and how much. For a modern historical comparison, the Statutes and Conditions of Affiliation of the Third International, to which all the post-1917 Communist Parties belonged, included conspiratorial organization and armed insurrection as “revolutionary methods”. See where they led.

Haste Less Speed
The doctrine of the Angry Brigade is the one found written on a New York lavatory wall in 1969: “Support peace or I’ll kill you.” The comic sound comes only from making the impossible paradox between ends and means plain. If the avowed objective of a society where people can live decently and harmoniously is real, it can only be attained through the conscious, responsible collective action of the people themselves — that is, through majority understanding. “Too slow”, sneer the direct-actionists. Not long ago, a Socialist Party speaker was told by a group of left-wing militants that the people of Vietnam, for example, could not wait so long. Yet the Vietnamese have been waiting, over thirty years, while the demonstrators demonstrated and brawled to no effect; the rest of the world’s working class too. It is the direct-actionists who are sterile and who obstruct progress.

The Socialist case is simple. The innumerable “struggles” in which the Angry Brigade and their supporters regard themselves as principal agents are only aspects of the fundamental division, ignored by them, in capitalism: the irreconcilable conflict between owners and non-owners of the means of living. The oppressions and deprivations and the monumental problems of society all arise from that. The Socialist alternative is a society based on the common ownership of the means of production and distribution — so that no section could impose upon or be set against another, and the economic conflicts in which world problems are rooted would disappear at once.

How can such a society be realized? First and foremost, by the majority of people wanting it, which implies understanding it. The desire for it is then put into effect by sending delegates to Parliament, which despite stupid assertions to the contrary by direct-actionists remains the seat of power in capitalism; and the delegates’ sole mandate is to enact the establishment of common ownership in the place of class ownership. A society characterized by responsibility and understanding can only be brought into being by them, whereas a régime brought into being by violence and minority action must remain dependent on violence and in the hands of the minority. 

Of the trial and its outcome, then, we say the lesson stands out for all to see. Attempts at violent direct action against the forces of capitalism mean political and personal squalor and inevitable defeat. The movement to change society must be a political one aiming to take possession of the machinery of government, not confront it blindly; its strength must come from comprehension of the class struggle, and not be dissipated in “struggles” which are grievances against what is irremediable as long as the basic division remains; it must be democratic, not conspiratorial and leader-ridden. Let every person who is “angry” with the capitalist world see that the statement formulated by the founders of the Socialist Party of Great Britain sixty-eight years ago is the only effective course of action against that world. As for the Angry Brigade, there can be no sympathy for them. They have shown themselves as vicious and power-obsessed as those they cursed and threatened. To hell with them!
Robert Barltrop

The Economics of War (1973)

From the February 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

Interesting light on the economic causes of the Second World War is revealed in an article by C. A. MacDonald in the August 1972 issue of Past and Present entitled “Economic Appeasement and the German ‘Moderates’ 1937-1939”.

The Hitler regime pursued an economic policy of autarky. This was essentially a response to the domination of the world market, sources of raw material and gold (the international trading currency) by Britain, France and America. It involved keeping imports to a minimum and encouraging exports with subsidies and, to overcome lack of gold, a foreign trade policy based on barter arrangements and bi-lateral trade agreements with credits that had to be spent on buying German goods.

None of these measures were to the liking of the capitalist class of Britain: they suffered from the dumping export subsidies represented; the barter and bi-lateral trade agreements threatened London’s rôle as the world’s financial centre; and these agreements, together with the German policy of trying to rely on internal substitutes, threatened London’s position also as the centre of dealings in raw materials.

Basing himself on recently released official government papers, MacDonald examines Chamberlain’s policy towards this threat. Chamberlain apparently believed that the German policy of autarky was sooner or later bound to fail and that, if this happened, Hitler was likely to resort to war in a bid to solve Germany’s economic problems. He also believed that this danger was realised by certain elements in the Hitler régime. His policy therefore was based on winning over these “moderates” so that they could persuade Hitler to abandon autarky and re-integrate Germany into the world liberal/capitalist system. To achieve this the British government was prepared to make various economic and financial concessions to Germany. MacDonald points out that this policy of “economic appeasement” was dictated not only by political but just as much by economic considerations. For in the autumn of 1937, after some recovery from the Depression, there was another downturn in production and trade and a rise in unemployment. Britain needed the extra market for its exports Germany’s abandoning of autarky would bring. And also, be it noted, in 1937 and 1938 both sides were militarily unprepared for an all-out war, Britain’s air position being particularly weak.

Hitler and his government, however, continued their policy of autarky and began to construct, by military as well as commercial means, an autarkic bloc in central and eastern Europe (Mitteleuropa), spreading into the Balkans and dominated by Germany. In the end, the possible removal of this whole area from the competitive world market was too much of a threat to British and French capitalist interests. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Britain and France declared war in a bid to protect and regain access to their markets and sources of raw materials by military means. So began the Second World War.

MacDonald himself doesn’t go this far. He explains the failure of Chamberlain’s policy by reference to Hitlerism as “an essentially irrational system”. But from the point of view of German capitalism was it really irrational to refuse to be re-integrated into the liberal/capitalist world market with its trading and financial system dominated by Britain and France? For some German capitalists maybe it was, but it is by no means certain that this was so for German capitalism as a whole. The creation of a “Mitteleuropa” autarkic bloc, even by military means, was just as much a “rational” choice from its point of view. Wars are not caused by irrational politicians, but by real conflicts of broad economic interest which cannot be resolved any other way. Such was the case in Europe in 1937-1939.

Hitler’s well-known “we must trade or die” speech, by the way, was delivered to the Reichstag on 30 January 1938. Chamberlain took it to be a positive response to his policy of economic appeasement. To him, evidently, this was a reasonable statement because he knew it to be true of Britain too! And it’s still true today of all capitalist states, including state-capitalist Russia and China.
Adam Buick

Letter: The Labour Party and Ourselves (1973)

Letter to the Editors from the March 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Sirs,

I read your literature with great interest, but found a number of points difficult to accept.

For one, the object of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is stated to be: “The establishment of a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community”. I expect you are fully aware that Clause IV No. 4 of the constitution of the Labour Party states: “To secure for the workers by hand or brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible, upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service”.

The aims of the SP and LP are therefore identical. As the SP stands for a peaceful introduction of Socialism I can only assume that to mean through popular parliamentary control. Not only the aims but the methods are the same.

No doubt you denounce the LP as traitors to the socialism they are supposed to represent. My own view is that the divided nature of the British leftwing makes it impossible for a meaningful socialist alternative to arise. At the moment the Labour Party offers the only real alternative to Tory rule. Groups such as your own, together with the Maoists and other minority leftwing groups, merely remove or diminish the power of the LP resulting in ever-stronger Tory rule. The right wing in this country is strong, rich and above all united which is why they rule this country now.

Heath and Wilson suffer similar ailments. Wilson is frightened of appearing too extreme and inviting the wrath of the Tory-controlled mass media. Heath is forced to bring in prices and incomes policies, devalue the pound, give massive government aid to nationalised industries. Things he vowed never to do. The hacks in the press of course played down Heath’s manoeuvres, and the left is too divided to move in for the kill.

The British left has now the combined might of European capitalism to fight and any divisiveness will only lead to the British working man, together with his European comrades, being lost in a sea of negative taxes, supplementary grants, inflated family allowances, instead of being allowed to earn a living wage.

Although people like Robens, late of NCB, considerably shake the credibility of our elected socialist leaders I feel it better to remain loyal to the Labour Party.
A. Fraser, 

The object of The Socialist Party of Great Britain and the object of the Labour Party (which is only a paper commitment anyway) are by no means "identical". Mr. Fraser has missed the significance of the word “exchange” in Clause Four. We stand for a society in which exchange, i.e. the buying and selling of goods and services and all that goes with it, will have no place. Instead, every member of society will have free access to goods and services according to need. (And, we might add, far from people getting a ‘‘living wage” the whole wages system and labour market would disappear).

‘‘The means . . .  of exchange” the Labour Party constitution speaks of have always been interpreted to mean financial institutions such as the banks and insurance companies. Clause Four, in other words, refers not to a moneyless Socialist society but to a State-run exchange economy or State capitalism. The Maoists and the other groups Mr. Fraser criticises us for not uniting with also stand for State capitalism. Why should we unite with them any more than the Tories and Liberals which stand for private capitalism? We are opposed to capitalism in all its forms and only stand for Socialism.

Nor is Labour the only real alternative to the Tories. Just like the Tories the last Labour government too was forced to do things they vowed they never would. This was because capitalism controls governments, not governments capitalism. The only real alternative is not a change of government but a change of society.
Editorial Committee

The Semantics of State Capitalism (1973)

From the April 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Xinhua Zidian (New Chinese Dictionary), published in Peking in 1972, defines the word ziben as "means of production controlled by capitalists and money used to employ workers. By means of ziben the capitalist exploits the worker and obtains surplus value." It also defines the word zijin as “material and money which a socialist country uses to develop the national economy."

Now, the interesting thing is that both these words, ziben and zijin, would normally be rendered in English as “capital": indeed, they have been defined in this way in earlier dictionaries published under the Chinese Communist government. Could it be that in attempting to make a distinction between them, the government is in fact admitting that the same process takes place both under capitalism and in their so-called “socialist country”? In other words, the control exercised over the means of production by a minority is used to “obtain surplus value”; the phrase "develop the national economy" could equally be applied to either of these two systems (only by their respective apologists, of course), though in fact it is not two systems that are being described but just one—capitalism.
Paul Bennett