Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Labour Party Conference (1956)

From the November 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

WITH all the usual brass-bands and ballyhoo, the Labour Party has emerged triumphantly from the Blackpool Conference with what they fondly describe as a policy “ towards equality."

As always, the usual hallmarks of futility and chicanery were apparent. The pious but embarrassing resolutions of some of the constituency parties were turned down on the solemn recommendation of the Executive; the “safe” composite resolutions blessed by the Executive were ushered through (both with the aid of the Trade Union block vote), and once again the Labour Party, under the expert guidance of Mr. Gaitskell, sallies forth to meet all comers.

When all the shouting has died down, however, what is it that remains? Nothing but a pitiful collection of woolly and sometimes well-meaning resolutions, that signify nothing as far as actual practice is concerned, and a document called “ Towards Equality," which purports, in Mr. Harold Wilson’s words, “to set the ideals of the Socialist pioneers against the framework of the 1956 society.”

One would be at a loss to understand why a spirit of optimism pervaded the conference by merely looking at the resolutions passed and the policy statements adopted. What is really behind the optimism is, of course, that the Tories have struck a bad patch, and this in itself is sufficient for the Labour Party to entertain hopes of winning the next election.

So far as actual policy is concerned, a brief comparison of the attitudes of the Conference with the Labour Party’s actual record will amply demonstrate the emptiness of their claims.

Perhaps the most blatant example of the Labour Party’s hypocrisy over policy—and here it must regrettably be said that this hypocrisy is not confined to the leadership, but extends to the rank and file, too—was the attitude of the Conference to rearmament and conscription. There was the inevitable resolution that conscription be abolished as soon as the next Labour Government takes office, but this was turned down at the earnest request of the Executive, who stated that they should not be committed to the immediate abolition of conscription, but that they would dispose of this thorn in the side of the electorate in easy stages. And this from the party that extended conscription from 18 months to 2 years and instituted the biggest peace-time rearmament programme in this country’s history!

Mr. Frank Allaun, M.P., who supported the resolution to abolish conscription, stressed the obvious when he said that “National Service is becoming a national curse, and if delegates doubt this they should ask the conscripts and their parents, teachers and employers. The knowledge that at 18 they will be taken from their homes and jobs is unsettling the whole of the 15-year-old school leavers, and when they are called up they find that two years of their lives are wasted. It is utterly immoral to send boys of 18, who are not permitted to vote, to kill or be killed, not to defend freedom in this country, but to deny freedom to people in other lands.’’ All very true, but what has this to do with the Labour Party—a party that is committed to protect British capitalist interests when in power.

Another subject on which glib and pious resolutions were passed was colonial policy, particularly with regard to Cyprus and Kenya. One resolution stated that Cyprus should be given self-determination, and condemned the Tory Government’s policy, and another called for a commission of enquiry to investigate the brutal punishments imposed on non-Europeans in Kenya.

Here again, it must be pointed out that the Labour Party’s policy has in the past completely conflicted with their avowed ideals. As far as colonial policy goes, during the years 1945-51 they carried out a policy that hardly differed at all from the policies of Liberal and Tory Governments before and since. One has only to think of Malaya, Palestine and Seretse Khama to appreciate the hollowness of the Labour Party’s fine-sounding phrases, and it is fairly obvious that here too they have, when in office, followed the lines that one would expect from a party administering capitalism.

The example of Palestine is one that immediately springs to mind when considering the way in which the Labour Party, because of the pressure of world capitalist politics, has been forced to do something quite contrary to their prior declared intentions. At the 1945 Conference, Hugh Dalton, on behalf of the Executive, stated: “It is morally wrong and politically indefensible to impose obstacles to the entry into Palestine now of Jews who desire to go there . . .  we should facilitate this going by the provision of economic assistance in various forms for the development of the Land of Promise and Hope in a world which, for the Jews, has been blackened to an extent which none of us who are not Jews can begin to understand or appreciate." Not long after this, Britons, Israelis and Arabs were slaughtering each other.

Another dead and decayed horse that was further flogged at the Conference was the old story about the Labour Party getting together with the leaders of Russia and their allies and coming to some amicable settlement over disarmament It is well known that the memory of the electorate is short, but surely the Labour Party cannot imagine that it is that short. It is only a few weeks since the fiasco of Khrushchev and Bulganin’s dinner with the Parliamentary Labour Party, and one recollects the bitter aftermath of similar pronouncements in 1945, such as Dalton’s “Given that Anglo-Soviet relations are still clouded from time to time by suspicion and misunderstanding, I most emphatically hold that a British Labour Government is far more likely to remove these suspicions than a British Tory Government,” which was followed by the Cold War and the somewhat hotter wars in Malaya, Korea, and elsewhere.

These examples can be multiplied over every sphere of the Labour Party’s policy, whether it be pensions, housing, nationalisation, rent restriction, or anything else. The real tragedy is that in spite of the contradictions that riddle the Labour Party’s policy and history, and in spite of workers’ disillusionment during six years of Labour rule, the majority of the electorate will once again register their votes for capitalism—either the Labour or Tory variety.

What is basic to the whole question is this: The Labour Party is a party that intends to administer capitalism when in power, and to administer it in the only way possible—that is, in the interests of the ruling class. For all their fine phrases about equality and opportunity, they have nothing more to recommend them to workers than the Tory or Liberal parties. Mr. Gaitskell himself let the cat out of the bag when be said: "It is not true that we want exact equality. Provided there is a decent minimum wage, we don't object to a system of rewards related to the nature of the work." (News Chronicle, 4th Oct., 1956). This in itself adequately demonstrates the point that the Labour Party is no champion of the working class, and, in fact, is a more efficient oppressor than the Tories. Remember the wage freeze, or the rise in the cost of living between 1945 to 1951?

The Labour Party has certainly a lot to answer for. They have frittered away the energies of the working class by so-called reforms that have left the workers in the same position as when they started; they have turned working-class militancy into apathy; they have upheld the slaughter of one nation’s workers by another; they have led the trade unions into a position of tacit support for capitalism, by basing their wage claims on rises in the cost of living and production, instead of the basic fact of worker's exploitation. One could go on enumerating the policies by which the Labour Party has caused incalculable harm to the working class of this and other countries, but what is perhaps most unforgivable of all. they have deluded people into imagining that what they were doing was somehow bringing the equalitarian society of socialism nearer.

Our message to working people is this: Instead of looking to leaders and political racketeers to solve their problems, they should start examining the problems for themselves, and see what it is that keeps them in economic subjection. Once they do this, they are well on the way to seeing that only the abolition of classes and private property can solve their problems, and at the moment of this realisation, the golden days of Henry Ford. Bernard Docker, Anthony Eden (and Mr. Gaitskell) will be over.
Albert Ivimey

Communism and Nationalism in the Middle East (1956)

Book Review from the December 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Communism and Nationalism in the Middle East by Walter Z. Laqueur (Routlede & Kegan Paul)

This interesting book by W. Z. Laqueur (published by Routledge & Kegan Paul) is worth reading, both from the point of view of an understanding of Middle-Eastern politics and the study of Soviet and Communist party politics. This study, said by the author to be the first of its kind on the Middle East, deals with the Communist and Fascist parties (and similar organisations) and their connection with the rise of Arab nationalism in the Middle East. Most of the book is devoted to the history of these movements. The bibliographical notes cover 47 pages.

The book deals, as is expected, more with the Communist and fellow-traveller-type parties, than with the Fascist parties. The obvious link between these totalitarian organisations, the similarity in structure, object and ideas is well drawn. The co-operation throughout the Middle East between the Communist and Fascist parties, and the obvious harmony that exists between them is also well shown.

The intrigues, spying, treachery, double-dealing and sudden reversals of policy, which are common not only to Communist parties in the Middle East, but all over the world, are well covered. The author quite rightly links these political ups and downs with the Soviet Union and its foreign policy. He states: “We face similar conflicting trends in the role of the Communist parties. Their task in the age of ‘revolution from above’ is definitely not to engage in a ‘ leftist deviation i.e., to try their luck in a revolution. Strategically speaking, their assignment is that of a fifth column, which is not to strike before the other four are on the march . . . "(Page 279).

The jettisoning of local Communist parties in favour of the existing regimes by the Soviet Union when politically expedient is an old story. (The Communist party of India being one of the most recent). But the case of the Turkish Communist Party is particularly blatant. “The leaders of the Turkish Communist Party were killed on January 28th, 1921, but more than two months passed before the news was published. On March 16th a friendship pact between the Soviet Union and Turkey was signed in Moscow. The Soviet leaders had already decided by that time (though the murder of the Turkish Communists was, of course, a heavy blow) that it was more important for them to establish friendly relations with Kemal’s regime than to put all their money on such a doubtful horse as Turkish Communism.” (Page 211).

Some interesting figures are given on land ownership in Egypt and Irak. In Egypt: “80 per cent. of all Egyptian farmers own no land, of those who have land, more than 80 per cent, have less than two acres, which is considered the absolute minimum.” (Page 38). In Irak: “88 per cent. of the peasants own no more than 6.5 per cent, of the land, while the rest of the land is in the hands of the state and about one thousand shaikhs . . . (Page 173). All of which more than bears out the proposition that 90 per cent. of the world’s population own virtually nothing, whilst a small minority own and control all that is in and on the earth, and live in parasitical manner—in luxury—off the products of the majority.

Laqueur, like so many others writing on this sort of subject, makes the mistake of taking the Communists at face value. Implicit in his last chapter, headed “Conclusions” and Appendix 1. is the idea that Communism and Socialism are different things, with which, of course, we would violently disagree, but that the state capitalism of Russia is Communism. This, of course, accounts for some of the peculiar things he has to say about Marxism: “In no Asian country was there an industrial proletariat strong enough to head a successful revolutionary movement. The only theoretical alternative, according to orthodox Marxism, was therefore to give up the struggle for a social revolution and to wait until such a revolutionary leadership would emerge.” (Page 295-296). “Marxism, which was originally the theory of proletarian revolution in the most highly developed industrial countries, has thus been made in our time (in its post-Leninist stage) the practice of revolution in the backward countries.” (Page 297).

As far as the Socialist Party of Great Britain is concerned, the theory of class-conscious proletarian revolution of a world-wide scale in the highly developed areas of capitalism and the introduction of Socialism or Communism, whichever you prefer (the terms mean the same thing to us), is still a part of Marxism. Marxism to us is not just the above, but is the Materialist Conception of History, the Critique of Capitalism, the Labour theory of Value, Class-struggle, and, of course, quite logically from these flows the Socialist revolution. The idea of Socialism being established in one country, or backward countries, apart from being in complete opposition to this proposition, has been adequately dealt with in our literature, particularly in the pamphlets on Russia. It seems a pity that a reasonably good book should be spoilt by such inane conclusions, but then we can’t put a Socialist head on pro-capitalist shoulders.
Jon Keys

To You . . Our Thanks! (1939)

Party News from the January 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the past twelve months members and sympathisers of the Party have responded magnificently to numerous appeals for donations to the Parliamentary and General Funds. The income over this period will no doubt, prove to be a record.

The total donations to the Parliamentary Fund now amount to over £500, of which more than £200 has been donated this year. Donations to the General Fund have, during the past year, increased very substantially.

Nevertheless the fact remains that the Party requires an ever increasing income in order to meet the cost of its constantly expanding activities. For example, the expense of the pre-election propaganda in the Parliamentary constituency of East Ham North is a steady drain on the Parliamentary Fund, and this must be made good for the election campaign proper.

Therefore every member and sympathiser is urged to make a bigger effort than ever before in the task of bringing in the money. To those of you who write offering suggestions and criticisms, I will, as previously, do my best to act upon your advice, providing of course that you don’t suggest that I Stop asking for money.

I avail myself of this opportunity to express the Party’s thanks and appreciation of your efforts during 1938, and it is to be hoped that the income in 1939 will be even larger.
                                                                                                    NOW is the time to get busy!
                                                                                                                               H. G. HOLT,
(Party Funds Organiser).

Here and There: When Mussolini Would Not Fight (1939)

The Here and There column from the February 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Mussolini Would Not Fight.

During the past ten years or so The Socialist Standard has more than once had to debunk the idea, popular with Communists and the daily Press, that Mussolini established the Italian dictatorship in defiance of the State and its armed forces, and with the aid of a few thousand Blackshirt hoodlums. Frank Owen, editor of the Daily Express, in an article, “The March on Rome” (Evening Standard, January 13th, 1939), supports our view and reproduces a statement by Mussolini which has a bearing on the question. Frank Owen refers to the events of 1919, when Italy was demanding the Austro-Hungarian port of Fiume from the Allies, who were then dividing up the spoils of victory. D’Annunzio, the Italian poet and Fascist colleague of Mussolini, led a Fascist march on the port to demand of its Italian military commander, who held it for the Allied Powers, its surrender to Italy. Owen tells us that Mussolini sat tight and, when accused of deserting D'Annunzio, snapped : —
“Revolution will be accomplished with the Army, not against it: with arms, not without them: with trained forces, not with undisciplined mobs called together in the streets."
Which opinion he remembered and acted upon in connection with the miscalled “March on Rome" in 1922.

*    *    *

“What’s Up in Palestine?”

The November issue of Fact is a booklet of ninety pages, crammed with the sort of information which the Socialist looks for when attempting to get behind the appearance of world events. It is called “What's up in Palestine?” and is written by Michael Greenberg. The author analyses the historical, social and industrial background of the conflict between the Arab and Jewish nationalisms and brings clarity to it.

The interest of the British Government in the Palestine Mandate needs very little explaining. Palestine is on the British Empire sea route to India and is therefore of strategical importance, particularly since the political independence of Egypt. An oil pipe-line, which fuels the British Navy, also runs through Palestine. Whatever settlement is the outcome of the present disturbance, it is not likely that British dominance will suffer.

The origin of the present conflict goes back to the setting up of a National Home for the Jews under the protection of the British Government.

After early difficulties, out of which many observers prophesied the failure of. the experiment, Palestine became the scene of a thriving Jewish capitalist industrialism. Between 1919/1938, £80,000,000 of Jewish capital poured in with 300,000 skilled immigrants. The result was intense capitalist agriculture where formerly peasant farming prevailed. The effect was something like the Industrial Revolution through which the Western capitalist countries had passed. Peasant farming began to break up. When it remained it had to enter into cut-throat competition with the efficient and up-to-date Jewish capitalism, which meant a lower standard of living for the peasantry. Former peasant proprietors became landless labourers. At one time there were 200,000 of these dispossessed peasants employed as labourers on public works and by large Jewish firms.

Not unnaturally, the anti-capitalist sentiment of the Arabs takes an anti-Jewish form, and is canalised into support, for Arab nationalism. It may take the Arab worker some years to realise that his real enemy is capitalism in general, and not only the Jewish capitalist in particular. At the moment, another factor complicates the struggle. Thousands of Arab workers, accustomed to a very low standard, enter the labour market in competition with the Jewish workers, and threaten to depress the latter's relatively higher standard of living.

Fact, at sixpence a copy, is usually a sound investment. The November issue is worth that amount many times.

*    *    *

Morals and Football Pools.

It used to be argued that to close the public houses would provoke “revolution." Somewhat exaggerated, perhaps, but nevertheless expressive of the fact that pubs did (before so many other diversions came to engage the worker's interest) provide a means of offsetting the drabness of the worker's working and social life, and of keeping his mind away from political problems. One of the later diversions are the football pools, concerning which the Daily Telegraph recently featured much correspondence from readers, both for and against them. The letter from the managing director of Goodsway Tates, Ltd., claimed for the pools what, in the past, has been claimed by the pubs, politicians and churches. He says (Daily Telegraph, December 10th, 1938): —
  “They have certainly brought interest into many drab lives, and from a political point of view have done much good in keeping the minds of the populace occupied during depressing times and combating Communism than any other factor.”
*    *    *

The Swastika over the Andes.

The current issue of the American journal, The Reader's Digest, contains an article called “The Coming Struggle for Latin America,” which is a condensation of the book of the same name by Carleton Beals. It deals with the penetration of German trade into the countries which make up South America. The extent of the penetration may be judged by the fact that there are one hundred thousand Germans in the Argentine alone. Most of them are there in connection with the interests of German trade. The industries they pursue are hardware, agriculture and electrical machinery, printing, chemical, motor cars and dyes. In Mexico, Chile and Brazil, Germans own the textile factories. In Chile, German munition factories have been established. Throughout the whole continent German capitalists are getting control of copper mines, nickel mines, oil and iron-ore producing land.

In 1933/1936, German trade with Central South America increased by 500 per cent. The imports of munitions from America into Nicaragua were displaced in favour of munitions from Germany and Italy. And recently, Mexico entered into an agreement with Germany to exchange oil for industrial machinery on barter basis. Evidence of a similar penetration by Japanese trading interests is also given.

German, Italian and Japanese influence in South America goes still further afield than trade. Immigrants, workers and trading agents are trained to propagate the doctrines of Nazism and Fascism, to understand the traditions and customs of South Americans, to perpetuate the idea that English and American capitalism is decadent. In this they are assisted by the fact that most of the American States are under dictatorships. That American capitalism is perturbed by these developments is evidenced by President Roosevelt's calling of the Lima Conference for the professed object of exploring the possibility of the mutual defence of the American States from attack, and his violent attacks on Nazism and Fascism. 

The Manchester Guardian, at the time of this conference, stated that the town of Lima was bedecked with thousands of Swastika and Fascist flags, but with only two American flags, one of which flew over the American embassy.

The expansion and development of German, Italian and Japanese capitalism has resulted in a weakening of the world influence of British and American capitalism, and is a threat to their interest s in the world's markets.

It is that clash of interests which is the material basis for the apparent clash between the so-called ideologies of Fascism and Democracy.
Harry Waite

The Real Russia (1939)

Book Review from the March 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

Appalling ignorance as to actual conditions in Russia still obtains. “Communists” lying at home, and ruthless censorship in Russia, are the two chief factors responsible for this deplorable state of affairs. Added to these main factors is the fear on the part of Labour and “Left" generally of offending a section which might prove useful for assistance in vote-catching on “Popular Front" slogans.

“Yvon" has followed up his “What has become of the Russian Revolution?” with “L'U.R.S.S. telle qu’elle est" (“The Real Russia”; Workers' Bookshop; 28 francs). No translation is available yet, but some salient facts given by this worker, who started out eleven years ago as a high enthusiast, and ended in complete disillusionment, warrant immediate presentation; it is proposed to quote mainly from Russian official sources, as given by the author in his book.

It would be a pity, however, to omit reference to AndrĂ© Gide’s brilliant preface, and here we will endeavour to put over some of his points; it may be necessary to remind readers that Gide himself was once an enthusiastic admirer of Stalin & Co.

Gide opens significantly: “No solid construction can be based upon a LIE." His general reaction to the mass of facts adduced to Yvon (and other independent observers) is striking—it may not be literally true that “The worker in Russia to-day is in an unhappier position than ever before; he is less free than in any other country in the wide world," but, according to Yvon, the future general verdict cannot fail to fall far short of that of the distinguished French economist: “Time will show what plaited cunning hides."

The slight sketch of Yvon’s experience in Russia is highly interesting—his contacts were wide ranging from labour in a mine to a responsible position in a big industrial concern. It was while foregathering with the Big Pots (Kamenef, for instance), in one of the sumptuous residences which a grateful country gives its “giants and heroes" (enough to make Pollitt & Co.’s mouth water!), that, to quote Gide: “Yvon learnt much —in quite a different sense from his instruction from living among the workers—his first faith began to waver."

Fortunately for the subject of Gide’s short sketch, he had been wise enough to refuse military service, retaining his French nationality, but trouble was added to his growing doubts in the form of a Russian wife and, later, of a child. The two latter were Soviet subjects. Hard enough to escape as a French subject—“We know, from other similar experiences, the almost insurmountable difficulties of escaping from the foul web spun by G.P.U. spiderdom for its unwary erstwhile enthusiastic recruits"—but how to get wife and child beyond frontiers which, essayed without passport, involve death? How, in any case, to circumvent an officialdom where “several of Yvon’s staff, accused of sabotage, disappeared, and the place thereof knew them no more, but certain women took the veil—oh! ever so discreetly—since direct official sanction for sign of mourning was lacking.”

Space forbids recounting the grim struggle for “evasion" (beats Dumas into fits, makes Hugo look colourless), but the hearing of appeal for release made by the girl-wife should be read at once by all who can manage French without too many tears. The atmosphere, the whole conduct of the tribunal, should open the eyes of any who retain illusions as to the nature of this unparalleled ruthless despotism which the Communist Party of this country is subsidised to bolster up.

Gide summarises it in three acts. With fullest apologies for crudity and mauling of. a work of art, here is a synopsis: —
Act 1.—Paternal solicitude on part of “grand inquisiteur": “Where in the wide world can your husband find a better nest than here? In any case, he will long to come back. . . . You do not really wish to accompany him?”
Act 2.—Change of key; solemn warning: “Once your husband has quitted the soil of your fatherland, his light instincts will assert themselves ; his feet on the pavĂ© of the Rue de la Paix, you will be forgotten—” (Only older readers who have sat in the gallery of the Adelphi, or “Surrey,” long years ago will get the full flavour of this act.) “—Bitterly will you regret the land of your birth, your brother, father, sister, friends.”
Act 3.—Loud pedal — after splendid little woman, tear-choked but firm, sticks to her point. Crescendo. The Soviet Pharaoh will drive you out! Strict time-limit. . . . No chance to “Spoil the Egyptians”—Soviet money not even exchangeable for foreign travel. . . . Still, they did get out, by the last available train, deliberate obstacles having been placed in the way.
Says Gide: “I know nothing more sickening than this sad recital."

Yvon’s own comment, at commencement of book (very freely done into English), seems to hit the mark:—
  “Kind distance lends enchantment to the view, But close-ups call for judgments new, Expression strong, perhaps, but surely lawful is final verdict: ‘ *Bloody Awful!' "
   “ Bougrement douloureux."
Red School Tie
Liberal, Labour, “Left" generally (even the I.L.P., whose relatively correct attitude on the recent crisis might deceive the unwary as to their still fundamentally Reformist outlook), class Russia as a “peace-loving" nation. Ponder the following:—

Isvestia (10.9.35) quotes Radek: “I have never yet found a single kiddy, who, when asked whether he would like to join up in the Red Army, did not reply: 'Do we not know the high honour of wearing the school uniform, whose aim and object is to prepare me as a soldier of the Red Army?' " Craftily cunning in “palace” intrigue, the Soviet bureaucrat limps painfully behind Downing Street’s subtle bids for cannon-fodder. Read that sweet youth’s reply again. Does Soviet Communism not only kill its Radeks, but also all sense of humour?

Suffer Little Children
A not uncommon experience on the S.P.G.B. soap-box is to have a “Russia To-Day” photograph waved wildly, with violent demand to show the audience a happy band of children engaged upon some highly cultural task, such as fruit-picking or harvesting (ever had some, sweet reader? Don’t murmur “gardening”; this is a serious topic).

Yvon (p. 243), quoting literally again from the Soviet official sources, “From the age of 12 years, children guilty of theft, wounding, assassination, or attempts thereto, are subject to all penalties provided by the common law.” (Death is one of the penalties.) After 28 years of “Socialism,” a reminder of conditions prevalent in England centuries ago. Yvon caustically heads his paragraph “ Le Paradis des enfants.”

Russia's a Prison
The difficulty of shaking the dust off one’s feet for natives of Russia has been referred to; significant is the attitude of Soviet authorities with regard to sailors. We used to be regaled with tales of bluff, hearty “ A.B.s ” slapping their “comrade” captain on the back, joining in spontaneous bursts of the ”Internationale,” and feeling generally that “everybody’s somebody.” . . . On page 241, light is shed upon one aspect of the Soviet’s strenuous endeavour to stop “desertion.” Every obstacle, including the customary “ Communist ” device of sheer lying, is placed in the way of sailors landing when in a foreign port. Sailors are given to understand that they run serious risk from foreign regulations if they land. And further, “To ask leave from ship is to write one’s self down already as a suspect ” (significant Jacobin word). Well might the Soviet Hamlet of to-day exclaim: “Russia’s a Prison."

“Intourist” Trippers Note
Elaborate precautions (see p. 246) are taken to prevent "Intourist” sheep from straying from the fold. “Certain regions” can be visited only by “authorisation speciale" of the formidable G.P.U. It is safe to assert that very special “authorisation” would be required to visit the concentration camp which a responsible writer has recently asserted contains more "traitors” than all the similar camps in Germany.

Telegrams of “journalists" (a wide term) “are always censored by a Special Bureau of the Foreign Office.”

Bread and Wages
It is notoriously difficult to estimate standards of living; no one would deny that Stalin & Co., with limousines, bed and board of “3 star” hotel level, are better off than before 1907. Statistics are too often a Mills' bomb in the hand of the unskilful user, but just one humble fact, from Soviet official figures, quoted by Yvon on p. 215:

The monthly salary of an ”average” worker before the war was 30 roubles; in 1937 it was 220 roubles, 7 times increase. Sounds good! But, the price of a kilo loaf before the war was 5 kopecks; in 1937, the same loaf cost 85 kopecks!! Not so good. 17 times as much for an article which stands in all economic books as a good general index of other levels of price. And, note well, the “loaf” of the “average” worker is “seigle,” in short, black rye bread (the “average” worker can afford nothing better).

A final word on wages. The range is extreme. 110 roubles (per month) for the “worker”; 1,000 for high officials; 20 to 30 thousand in a few cases. Did not the Saint Lenin, whose mortal remains (some of them) dominate the Red Square, proclaim in 1917: “The standard of living of the highest State official should not exceed the average wage of a good worker” ?

Alas, poor Yorick!

Don't Die for Capitalism- Live for Socialism! (1939)

From the April 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard
"He who tells the people revolutionary legends, he who amuses them with sensational stories, is as criminal as the geographer who would draw up false charts for navigators.”
Lissagaray, who wrote the “History of the Commune,” is responsible for the above quotation. It carries a message as applicable to-day as when it was first written, over sixty years ago.

The proletariat are at present beset on all sides by those who would have them fight for what are designated as their liberties. The workers are led to believe that their forefathers fought for and won something the present generation must guard as a sacred treasure. The ruling class give it the name “Democracy,” and millions may shortly be worked up into a state of frenzy by the capitalist class and their aides, until they are prepared to fight and die for their "privileges” and their “freedom.”

What are the facts?

The history of the working class is one of sorrow and starvation, of slavery and of shame. There is nothing in it that would justify us in risking our lives to preserve; the theme song of Labour is one pregnant with sadness; “ the robber appropriates the results of our travail and what he has stolen calls upon us to defend.”

Marx could clearly see that the social revolution ”cannot draw its poetry from the past. It cannot start upon its work before it has stricken off all superstition concerning the past. Former revolutions required historic reminiscences in order to intoxicate themselves with their own issues . . . this revolution must let the dead bury their dead in order to reach its issue. With the former the phrase surpasses the substance, with this one the substance surpasses the phrase.”

The modern worker is a slave without the economic security of the chattel slave. He is free—from property in the means of life. He himself is the property, not of an individual, but of the whole capitalist class. His body is a machine for producing energy for the profitable use of the exploiting section of the community.
As Shelley puts it: —
“ 'Tis to work and have such pay
   As keeps life from day to day
   In your frame as in a cell
   For the tyrant’s use to dwell.”
This is your real position, fellow yoke-mate, and was the position of your forbears 100 years ago, when the poet published his celebrated poem the “Masque of Anarchy.”
Slave of the wheel of labour; chained to the chariot of capital.
What then have you to fight for?
What have you to defend?
The Communists tell you to save Spain, and prattle to you about the honour of Britain. Major Attlee and Chamberlain stage a shadow-boxing contest about the recognition of Franco. What honour is there in the depressed areas or the glorious privilege of fighting your fellow wage-slave for the loan of a job?

Spain is safe for capitalism, whether under Franco or the Madrid Government, and those wearied Spanish workers who have survived are where you are—on the treadmill of the wages system. It is woe for the vanquished and woe for the victors—if they happen to be of our class—the prize at stake was not for them.

The Socialist considers it is foolish to support war for democracy and die for capitalism. He thinks it is best to fight against capitalism and live for Socialism.

The marionettes now strutting on the political stage—Chamberlain or Hitler, Mussolini, Daladier, Roosevelt, Stalin, Attlee, Eden or Cripps—are all moved by King Capital: he pulls the strings, they all dance at his command and step when and where he pleases.

The megaphones of Moscow blare, the trumpets of Nazism resound, the Press publishes its putrid lies, the radio speaker delivers his patriotic appeals, the bands play their military airs—all in order that the exploiter may remain enthroned—all in order, brother in toil, that a. parasitic class may continue to live by devouring the lives of you and yours.

If you realise the truth, of your position, you will refuse to be hoodwinked by any call to patriotism made to induce you to protect capitalist interests.

You will line up with those who have seen the light. You will voice the demand that the people in common shall commonly own and democratically control and operate all those things upon which they in common depend.

It is life we want, not death. When the means of life are “ours,” fellow worker—the life that is life shall be yours.

The Miserable Condition of Domestic Workers (1939)

Letter to the Editors from the May 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have received the following letter from a domestic worker. It needs no comment.

“Highgate, N.6.
"To The Socialist Standard.

"I am a domestic worker, a reader of your paper, and a Socialist, as far as one can live to an ideal.

“As such a worker I consider middle class employers to be part of the make up of the master class.

“After twenty-one years, working under this rotten system, I find people who employ one, two or three maids as much in fault for the tragic hell of the workers as Church, mill and factory owners.

“Domestic service is one of the vilest systems in existence, with its filthy snobbery and low-down meanness.

“The Labour and Communist parties shield the middle class, being part and parcel of it.

“The Socialist Standard writes of the exploited lives of the factory, mill, and shop worker. Yet one reads nothing of the tragic suffering and mental torture of the domestic worker. Although a body of workers not needed in a Socialist state, yet truly so in a capitalist one, where laziness and snobbery, especially in the female sex, thrive.

“Why should a seemingly decent paper forget the existence of a rotten system, namely, Domestic Service ?
                                                                                                               “Yours fraternally,
                                                                                                                                       “E. J.”

Forward We Must Go (1939)

From the June 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is a tendency to attribute the spectacular events transpiring all over the globe to some special political activity on the part of individuals or groups; the economic aspect is relegated to the background or ignored altogether.

Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Roosevelt, Stalin or Chamberlain say or do something, and in the criticism or approval of their actions, the factor (the undertow of material need) which compels the ship of state of a nation to move in a certain direction or change its course is often not considered; not being visible, it is not generally observed.

A full and clear understanding of present-day events cannot be obtained by a perusal of the columns of the daily Press or the frothy literature of the Left; the best guide is Marx, particularly the third volume of Capital.

On page 300 he points out that: —
   “If capital is sent abroad it is not done because there is absolutely no employment to be had for it at home. It is done because it can be employed at a higher rate of profit in a foreign country. But such capital is absolute surplus-capital for the employed labouring population and for the home country in general. It exists as such together with the relative over-population, and this is an illustration of the way in which both of them ; exist side by side and are conditioned on one another."
When the late War ended, certain groups of capitalists in the United States, Great Britain, and even France, eagerly advanced the means of exploitation to the bankrupt ruling class of Germany, and the aftermath, when studied in the light of Marx’s statement, helps to guide us to an understanding of the general situation. Foreign capitalists who still consider they have “interests"  in Germany hope to realise on them some day; the cry of “Germany for the Germans” is not a pleasing sound to their ears, especially when it is accompanied by acts of expropriation that bid fair to eliminate all chances of obtaining a return on investments.

Hitler was and is backed by German capitalists who strongly object to the results of the exploitation of the German people going to any but German exploiters; it is from this that the policy of “National Socialism” arises, and if the wage slaves of the fatherland fall for it, we should condemn them no more harshly than we do those wage-slaves of Britain who are being seduced by the catch-phrase of “Democracy ”; the working class of both countries support their masters because they are ignorant of the fundamentals of their economic condition.

To return again to Marx, page 310, of the same volume:—
   “The growing accumulation of capital implies its growing concentration. Thus the power of capital, the personification of the conditions of social production, in the capitalist, grows over the heads of the real producers. Capital shows itself more and more as a social power, whose agent the capitalist is, and which stands no longer in any possible relation to the things which the labour of any single individual can create. Capital becomes a strange, independent, social power, which stands opposed to society as a thing, and as the power of capitalists by means of this thing. The contradiction between capital as a general social power and as a power of private capitalists over the social conditions of production develops into an ever more irreconcilable clash, which implies the dissolution of these relations and the elaboration of the conditions of production into universal common social conditions. This elaboration is performed by the development of the productive powers under capitalist production, and by the course which this development pursues ” (italics mine).
The thought is often expressed that the coming of Fascism and Nazism is going to impede or prevent altogether the establishment of the social-order that Socialists are striving to bring into being. The above quotation, if studied closely, should dispel any gloomy view of the future.

Capitalism is an inverted pyramid, the base of which is continually getting narrower: concentration becomes more painful and the ruling class more ruthless in their struggles with one another.

The Jews are expropriated in Germany, the reason being that the capitalist class of another group saw an opportunity; the end is not yet.

Capitalism cannot go back. We are aided by invincible economic forces that are grinding into powder all opposition to the common ownership of the means of life.

War is in the air.

Why do the ruling class fear to take the plunge ?

"Force is the midwife of an old social order pregnant with a new one.”

What may follow the next war is something our masters do not like to contemplate. Let the voice of old Dietzgen reassure us: —
    “Forward is our watchword, whether we like it or not.” . . .
   “The political events are but the surface, but a ripple of what is raging in the depths of history, at the bottom of social life. He who has eyes to see, sees how every rising tide of freedom has in the last decades been thrown back by an ebb tide twice as strong. In all leading countries of Europe every political step forward is followed by a forcible reaction. The tri-coloured freedom alternates with Caesarism, Republics with Empires, lively enthusiasm with flabby apathy, each new era of liberty is followed by a Bismarck.”
    " . . .  France, in the person of M. Olliver, shows a strange attitude. Standing fast on one leg, she moves the other forward and backward, as if working the spinning-wheel of time. The wheel is diligently kept in motion, but no yarn comes out of it. Neither in Paris nor in London, neither in Madrid nor in Naples, neither in Berlin nor in Vienna.”
The above words were written before the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and the likeness to the present situation can in some respects be traced.
   "O, ye short-sighted and narrow-minded, who cannot give up the fad of the moderate organic progress. Don’t you perceive that all your great liberal passions sink to the level of mere trifling, because the great question of social salvation is on the order of the day?
   "Don’t you perceive that struggle and destruction must precede peace and construction, and that chaotic accumulation of material is the necessary condition of systematic organisation, just as the calm precedes the tempest, and the latter the general purification of the air? . . . History stands still, because she gathers force for a great catastrophe.”
Charles Lestor

Letter: Is Socialism Only a Dream? (1939)

Letter to the Editors from the July 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

To The Editorial Committee. 

Dear Friends,

I claim to understand your principles and policy, but I am not convinced that Socialism can be brought into being, although it is a very desirable dream. If you have the time, patience and opportunity, you may observe in nearly every factory and garage that a small percentage of the workers are more efficient at their jobs than the majority, and are able to complete their job of REPAIRING or assembling parts of a machine much quicker than the other workers. This does not mean that they use up more energy, but that they pick up the correct tools, and, because of their superior intelligence, they are able to detect where the faults or damages are and the best and quickest methods of making good the damage. The same applies to the manufacture of new goods, such as clothes, ladies’ and gentlemen’s fur coats, etc., boot repairs, sign writing, etc. Let us try and deal with one industry at a time. (1) The fur trade. Now in this trade you will observe, if you have the opportunity of watching men and women as they work, that some of the workers, who have been in the trade ten, fifteen or twenty years, do not do their work as NEATLY or QUICKLY as other workers who have worked in the trade only four to seven years. Some workers in this trade, such as fur cutters, have better sight; therefore, when they are MATCHING the different shades of coloured fur pelts to make up a coat or wrap they are able to match much more quickly and efficiently than those workers with indifferent sight and less interest in their work. A nimble-fingered workman can cut out the damaged parts of the pelts much more neatly and replace the damaged parts more neatly and quickly than the inefficient worker with indifferent sight. This is not a question of age, for some of the older workers are quicker and neater at their work than the younger workers. The most efficient fur machinists are those who are able to sew together the cut pelts and hold and guide the pelts so through the machine in such a way that they are able to make very thin and neat seams; this depends upon the nimbleness of their fingers and very good sight, but you must remember that there are excellent, good, indifferent and bad machinists. . . .  (2) A good cabinet maker makes his doors and drawers fit perfectly, and does his work as quick, or quicker, than a bad cabinet maker, who does not make his doors and drawers fit properly. These very big differences between workmen, (3) between bankers and small moneylenders, (4) clever business men and foolish business men, are differences that are inherited at birth from grandparents, and can only be bridged in dreams of idealists, and not in the world of realities. A business man who has more nerve and daring than his competitor, plus knowledge of all the risks of success and failure, is sure to be more successful than one with less knowledge and courage, etc. I will now close this brief letter, but I will be very glad to receive a personal reply from you, as well as an answer in the Socialist Standard. If you are able to prove to my satisfaction that I am wrong, I will be pleased to become an active member of the Socialist Party and subscribe £50 to your funds.
                                                                                                  I am,
                                                                                                       Yours faithfully,
James Hardy.
Clapton, E.5

Our correspondent draws attention to the fact that many persons are working at jobs for which they have no natural aptitude—square pegs in round holes. What he states may be correct, but what has that to do with Socialism? He has read our pamphlets but has evidently only a hazy grasp of economics. He is one of many.

The capitalist class owns what is essential to all; the working class, owning nothing, sell their lives in the form of human energy, mental and physical, to the owning section. They receive in return wages—food, clothing and shelter—barely sufficient to generate in their bodies the quantity and quality of labour-power they are called upon to deliver. All over and above what is required to keep the working class in fair working condition, after the wear of the machinery of production has been made good, goes to the owning class in the shape of rent, interest and profit. All the capitalist class does is to speculate on a good thing. When a worker has sold his labour power to the owning class it is no longer his, the use of a thing belongs to the buyer.
The capitalist class has the use of the furrier, the carpenter, the tailor, etc., and they make more profit out of some individuals than others.

It is true that some workers are more skilful than others, but in all trades and in all jobs there is a general average that the worker is expected to keep. The capitalist will see that the labour power they purchase is exploited to the best advantage. Those who are lucky enough to fall into a job they can do more easily than the average endure less agony during the period their labour power is being extracted. It does not follow that, because a worker is efficient, he is of higher intelligence. Any circus proprietor will tell you that the most intelligent animals are the most difficult to train.

Many wage slaves realise they are exploited; they loathe the whole slave exploiting mechanism; they hate the job and do as little work as possible, and get away with as much as they can.

The fur trade is referred to. It has its own nomenclature—it can change the species of animals. A rabbit may become a seal and so also may a rat. A skunk has been known to be converted into a sable, and the wage slave takes the tricks of the trade for granted. This should not increase his respect for the morals of his capitalist exploiters.

Bankers, small money-lenders and clever business men live on the proceeds of exploitation. Some are very ingenious. We read from time to time of the exploits of clever cat-burglars. These display finesse in their operations. Are they entitled to the plunder they obtain because of their superior ingenuity?

What is there in what our correspondent states that should retard a desire on the part of the working class for the common ownership of the means of life? The skilled and the unskilled will benefit from Socialism, for most of them now live on the edge of grinding poverty. They will eventually perceive that they can, as a class, move into a position of economic security.

The general condition will not improve until the change Socialism calls for is effected. The working class must transform capitalist property in the means of life into common property.

The thinking section of our class already realise this. When Socialism comes the worker will be able to individually enjoy what he helps to socially create. He will have more personal property than he could dream of possessing as a wage slave.

He will be free to choose what he would be and to be what he would choose.

All that tempts to goodness, greatness and nobleness of life will be at the disposal of all. We do not see anything in your letter that stands in the way of the workers, whatever the nature of their job, lining up for SOCIALISM.
Charles Lestor