Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Waste of Competition. (1907)

From the October 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard
[From "The Industrial Revolution," by Charles Beard, preface to second edition.]
  While admitting that our present maladjustments are the outcome of the “social form of production and the individual form of appropriation and exchange,” I contend that this system wastes more wealth than it contributes to landlords, capitalists and moneylenders. The statistics are not at present forthcoming to prove this statement, but a few figures will illustrate my point.
    Mr. Edson Bradey, vice-president of the Distillery Company of America, recently estimated that between producer and consumer 40,000,000 dollars were annually lost mostly in competitive attempts to secure trade. Upon the combination of the competitors of the distilling business 300 travelling salesmen were discharged, and a saving of 1,000,000 dollars effected in this one department of enterprise. The American Wire and Steel Company, formed of competing concerns, dismissed 200 salesmen who bad been engaged in “ heckling” customers. It is stated that 3,000 salesmen lost their positions through the formation of the American Tobacco Co., and that the Continental Tobacco Co. discharged 330 travellers in one day. The (I'JOO) Report of the American Travellers’ Protective Association stated that probably 350,000 travelling men had lost their positions through the workings of monopolies and trusts, and estimated that the latter saved 6,000,000 dollars daily by limiting advertising and concentrating industries.
  The recent American Combination of Laundry Machine-makers discharged 30 per cent. of the employees as unnecessary to the production of all the machines demanded in the market, and effected a saving of 780,000 dollars annually in working expenses. Mr. Gates of the Wire and Steel Co. stated that his concern saved 500,000 dollars yearly in “cross freights" through combination and organisation of shipping. A prominent railway manager in the United States estimates that 200,000,000 dollars would be saved annually if all railways were worked from one centre. Professor Ely says :
  “It is useless to attempt any precise estimate, but it may not be an extravagant estimate if we claim that the loss due to competition in the railway business in the United States from the beginning of our railway history to the present time has been sufficient to furnish all the people of the United States with comfortable dwellings, provided all the houses now in the United States should be destroyed." To read this statement with the recent “Report on Tenement conditions in Chicago" is enough to rouse the most indifferent. The annual waste on railways, advertising and telegraphs in the United States is estimated at 698,000,000 dollare while the waste on separate railway management in England is set at £30,000,000 yearly.
   It is calculated that there are in London two and a half times as many shops as are necessary for convenient and efficient distribution.
   Business men struggling with one another waste an enormous amount of wealth, and capitalists and workmen fighting each other waste a great deal in addition. For example, in 1897-98 25,636,000 working days were lost through labour disputes arising out of the inevitable antagonism existing in the modern industrial system.

Labour Members on Child Slavery. (1907)

From the November 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

When is the case of the sweated children and “half timers” in the textile industries to be taken up by the Labour Group in Parliament? asks Reynolds' Newspaper. For years, it says, the Radical Democrats have been trying to secure better conditions for these little slaves of industry, and to some extent have succeeded. But surely, after the resolution passed at the recent Trade Union Congress, there is a special duty upon the Labour party to see that something further is done in this direction in the next Session of Parliament?

Reynolds is too optimistic if it thinks that the present Labour Party will do anything in this direction. Mr. David Shackleton and Mr. Gill, members respectively for Clitheroe and Bolton, have already expressed themselves against any action being taken. As they explained at the Belfast Conference of the Labour Party, if it were insisted that they should initiate or support legislation with this object, they would lose their seats and the societies they represented would withdraw from the Labour Party and this would involve the withdrawal of their payment of £900 a year to the Labour Party funds. But, we are told by some of our enthusiastic I.L.P. friends, the “Socialist” members of the Party will take the lead in the House of Commons, and the Shackletons and Gills will have to follow, and they call attention to clause 5 of the I.L.P. programme, ”The raising of the age of child labour, with a view to its ultimate extinction.” But the I.L.P. members of Parliament are not bound by the Party's programme, as witness the manner in which they threw it over at Kirkdale. And now Mr. James Parker, M.P.  for Halifax, and member of the National Administrative Council of the I.L.P., expresses his views. Lecturing at Burton-on-Trent on October 7th, on “Socialism and the Children,” he declared his belief in the children of the poor people having a free breakfast. "Indeed,” he said, “I believe that every child should have one meal a day at school.” He also advocated that they should sit together and be medically inspected. In what way these views touched Socialism he omitted to state, probably because he knew that they had nothing to do with Socialism at all. Neither did he outline the position of the children under Socialism. At the conclusion of his lecture he was asked whether a Bill was to he introduced during the next Parliamentary Session to raise the age at which a child could go to work. Mr. Parker replied that he did not know. He and other members of the I.L.P. favoured such a step, but as many of them represented such manufacturing centres as Halifax and Leeds, they would have to vote for their constituents and against such a course. Thus Mr. Parker, having thrown over “political independence ” and made a compact with the Liberal Party to secure election, now shows himself prepared to throw over anything else that may endanger his seat. We wish the I.L.P joy of these “political job hunters.”
Jack Kent

Socialism and the Unemployed (1907)

Editorial from the December 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

THE recent Manifesto of the S.D.P. (or is it S.D.F. ?) should more properly be dealt with in our “Literary Curiosities” column ; for a more remarkable document probably never emanated from any political organisation. As a pronouncement of a “Socialist" Party on so important a question as that of the unemployed it is even more remarkable.

The banquet and the pageant in honour of the Kaiser’s visit is “a studied insult to the unemployed of this country," although why so more than the Lord Mayor’s Show or any other feast we are not informed. Yet only three lines lower down this “studied insult" is referred to as a “cool manifestation of indifference to the wants of the workers," while yet another change takes place a little further on where the "cool indifference" becomes “a piece of wanton insolence.”

But the final stroke is here: “when we read that this arrogant autocrat is to be presented with a Gold Casket we wonder how much more our patience will be called upon to endure." So the presentation to the Kaiser is the last straw. The unemployed can stand many things just as the employed working class stands many things, but the presentation to the Kaiser is really too much.

The whole pronouncement has but two positive propositions to make; one is to the unemployed to “once more’’ assemble on Tower Hill, and the second is “to let the world know that you are asking ‘How long, O Lord, how long?”’

According to Justice of November 16th, J. E. Williams, whose signature is appended to the Manifesto as the organiser of the unemployed, although his authorship is doubtful, has been “demanding work for the starving unemployed" for the last twenty years, so that, if we may presume to answer for the Lord, we may safely say that, since twenty years has seen a worsening of the problem despite their efforts, we shall be a very long time yet at the Bame rate of progress.

The sequel duly followed the demonstration. After the usual speeches and the resolution “calling upon the Government to introduce . . .  such legislation as will provide work for all who need it (which the Socialist knows perfectly well a capitalist government would not do if it could, and could not if it would), the usual procession was formed which marched to the accompaniment of the “Red Flag” punctuated with hoots and boos for the Kaiser, until it fell foul of the police, was broken up, and some of its participators arrested.

This farce, for to the Socialist it is undoubtedly as ridiculous a farce as was ever perpetrated in the name of Socialism, is to Justice so successful as to be a cause for congratulation to its organiser; although the postscript to the article in Justice seems to indicate that the congratulation was penned before the demonstration had taken place!

To us the antics of a professing Socialist body on so essential a manifestation of the insanity of tbs system they are supposed to be able to point the way out of, is ridiculous in the extreme. Unemployment is an inevitable feature of capitalism, and is impossible of removal without at the same time abolishing the capitalist system that produces it. That is a fact known to any Socialist with the most elementary knowledge of the economics of capitalism, and is certainly well known to the S.D.F. unemployed organisers. Yet instead of educating the workers, employed as well as unemployed, as to the facts of the case, emphasising that only by the conscious action of the workers upon the political field will their emancipation be accomplished, and concentrating, as Socialists presumably should, on Socialism, and not like the I.L.P. on Old Age Pensions this year and something else next, they consciously mislead the unemployed to imagine that the capitalist government will introduce legislation if only the unemployed call upon them loudly enough. If they don’t think that, there is no justification for their resolution.

Yet the fact remains that the prime cause of unemployment is the robbery of the workers by which the capitalist class appropriate the whole of the wealth produced by the workers, returning to them just as much, on the average, as will keep them physically fit to continue working. The difference between the quantities produced and consumed by the working class (a difference continually increasing with every increase in the productivity of labour) represents a surplus which all the waste and all the luxury of its owners cannot absorb, with the result that the markets are glutted with an excess of commodities. Thus the “over-production,” the crisis, and the slackening of production involving an increase of unemployment. Since capitalism can never pay such wages to the workers as to enable them to buy back the whole of the wealth they have produced, the existence of an unemployed section is inevitably bound up with the continuation of the system itself. And, paradoxical as it may appear, the only direction in which palliation of that unemployment lies, is along the line of the waste of that surplus, or the channel of charities, &c. that tends to decrease the disproportion between the wealth produced and the wealth enjoyed by the workers that lies at the bottom of the problem of the unemployed.

All this is known to the Socialist, and he, therefore, wastes no time in attempting to palliate that which, in the nature of the case, does not allow of palliation, but by continually pointing out the only direction in which working-class progress can be made, that is by the propaganda of Socialism and the building up of a movement for Socialism as the only solution of the extreme poverty of unemployment, as well as the poverty of employment, works not alone in the sound direction straight towards emancipation, but at the same time inspires the capitalist class with such fear of the wrath to come as to open their purse strings and hasten the administration of their sops for what good they may be worth. The very fact that after the S.D.F. concentration last year and the year before on the question of unemployment an Unemployed Bill, in which they claimed to have seen their influence, was produced and has proved a failure from all points of view, especially the unemployed one, should be sufficient to provoke any Socialists who may still belong to that organisation to consider the advisability of trying the more logical method, the action more in keeping with their professions, that as Socialism is the only solution of unemployment, they will cease to advocate anything else than Socialism.
Dick Kent

Cooking the Books: Another One Bites the Dust (2017)

The Cooking the Books column from the September 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
Venezuela. Another country to add to the long list of failed attempts to make capitalism work in the interest of the excluded majority of wage and salary workers.
It began well enough with the election of the populist army officer, Hugo Chavez, as president in 1999. His government diverted oil revenues (Venezuela has more proven oil reserves than Saudi Arabia) from luxuries for the rich to provide better housing, health care and education and subsidised food for the poor.
He proclaimed himself a socialist and that his government was implementing '21st century socialism'. North American and West European Trotskyists beat the drum for him. Some moved to Venezuela to help build 'socialism' there. For them, this was it. But it didn't last.
With the world-wide slump that followed on from the crash of 2008, the demand for oil fell and so too did its price. The Venezuelan government resorted to printing money to maintain its social reforms and then to price controls to try to prevent the inevitable rise in prices this led to. A black market developed. The currency depreciated and import controls were introduced. Venezuela ended up with a siege economy.
Chavez died in 2013 and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, was left to pick up the pieces and face the growing discontent of the better-paid workers.
For apologists for ordinary capitalism, Venezuela represents another failure of socialism. According to the obnoxious Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, writing in the Sun (3 August), 'Venezuela isn't remote from socialism. It's a textbook example. Chavez and Maduro set out to replace the market with a system of state production and distribution.'
Actually, they wanted to regulate the market using state intervention to make it work to benefit people especially the poor, not to replace it (not that socialism is a system of state production and distribution, though it will replace the market). Hannan had earlier inadvertently let slip the correct characterisation of the economic system in Venezuela when he quoted Noam Chomsky:
'I never described Chavez's state capitalist government as “socialist” or even hinted at such an absurdity. It was quite remote from socialism.'
Incidentally, this must be the first time that Sun readers have been introduced to the concept of state capitalism. Chomsky, however, was being a bit disingenuous as he is on record as expressing support for what the Venezuelan government was doing. Hannan quotes him as having previously talked of a 'better world' being created there. Taking both of Chomsky’s statements together, they imply that he thinks that a policy of state capitalism can create a better world.
Well, it can't. The most it can do – and did do to an extent in Venezuela – is to bring about a temporary improvement in the living conditions of some workers. The point is that this can't last, because capitalism cannot be made to work to meet people's needs. Pursued over a long period – and the Chavists have been in power for 18 years now – such a policy will fail, creating the sort of economic and political conditions that now exist in Venezuela.
Venezuela represents a failure not of socialism but of government-financed reformism. Yet another.

South Africa: Make Crime Pay (1953)

From the January 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

The above is the title of an article by the Johannesburg correspondent of the Economist, which in its issue of September 6th, presents us with an interesting sidelight on labour relations in South African agriculture. It appears that in the Kroonstad district of the Orange Free State, 
  “the new goldfields nearby are drawing labour away from the farms; and in any case the Africans are showing an increasing aversion to farm work. Under the masters and servants act, a farmer can still pursue a runaway worker, and have him first fined, and then forced back to work. But the Africans, it seems, now resent this."
Obviously the good farmers of Kroonstad had got to find a solution to this distressing dilemma. They might raise wages, and thus make farm work more attractive. (They might, but not if they could avoid it.) There must (they reasoned) be some way out of the difficulty. And there was.

During the last year or two, the article continues, the South African Government
     “has pursued a deliberate policy of building ‘outpost’ prisons in rural areas, and allowing farmers to hire convict labour from them.’ There are now 12 such outpost Jails in South Africa, but until recently there were none in the Free State. “The farmers of Kroonstad district therefore applied to the government for a prison in their area. As there was apparently some difficulty in finding the money for it, the farmers hit on an ingenious expedient.”
Any private enterprise enthusiasts who may be reading this should follow the next bit carefully.
  “A leading Kroonstad farmer, Mr. George Verster, organised 22 other farmers into a private company, on a normal shareholding basis. The farmers subscribed £12,000 in £1 shares and elected Mr. Verster their chairman. Mr. Verster then approached the government with the proposition that the company build and equip a prison, if the government would stock it with convicts.”
   “The government was enthusiastic about the proposal, and it was arranged that when the new prison was built the government would supply 350 African convicts whom the Kroonstad farmers company could hire by paying the state 1s. 9d. per head per day” (the convicts, of course, get nothing).
It’s amazing. Crime has now donned the mantle of virtue, ascended to the Elysian fields of commercial respectability, to be sanctified in the name of profit. But hold hard—of course only the “best type” of convicts are employed, this is those who are serving sentences “of from six to fifteen years for slaying or wounding fellow Zulus in tribal fights. Thus they are not ordinary criminals, and by working for Mr. Verster and his friends they will be removed from contamination by hardened, habitual criminals.” Presumably by this is meant those revolting specimens of abysmal depravity the perpetrators of theft.

The only snag that the farmers of Kroonstad had to overcome was the fact that the cost of building and equipping the desired penal residence, was just over double the amount subscribed. What did they do about it? Use convict labour to build it! In this way you can build a £25,000 jail for £12,000. This we may presume is what in bourgeois circles is known as thrift. The name of the new prison is Geneva “perhaps in grateful recognition of the fact that the South African Government does not subscribe to the I.L.O. Convention against the hiring out of Convict labour for private profit.”

We note that one of the many merits of this scheme is that it is “ thoroughly democratic.”
   “By this is meant that under the rules of the company, the farmers will be treated in exactly the same way as far as getting convicts is concerned, whatever the differences in the size of their contributions to the scheme." 
When opening a new—civic building—if we may be permitted the phrase, it is customary to enliven the proceedings with a little ceremony. So the new jail was formally opened by Mr. Swart the Minister of Justice, accompanied by the Director of Prisons who, strange as it may seem, is Mr. George Verster’s uncle, Mr. Victor Verster.

Mr. Swart made a long speech (there were doubtless other long speeches) in which he:
  “Stoutly defended the jail farm system . . . praised Mr. Verster and his fellow farmers for their excellent idea (which he frankly confessed would save the state a lot of money), remarked laughingly that the convicts were lucky fellows who would get plenty of fine fresh air, and finally promised that, as Minister of Justice, he would see to it that 'many more’ farm jails were built in the shortest possible space of time."
The jollifications were concluded by the unveiling of a commemorative tablet and the consumption of numerous cups of coffee and plates of cake. We are not a little puzzled by the fact that the principal participants in the scheme were not invited to this “tea party.” But perhaps they would have been embarrassed. As it happened, the press in the person of the Johannesburg Star, took a rather poor view of this business, regarding it as “morally reprehensible” and as an “investment in Crime,” since it is now in the interests of farmers to build prisons and the state to keep them filled. But it appears that both the farmers and the Minister of Justice are impervious to criticism, and are firmly convinced that they are helping the convicts by what is called “rehabilitating them” and “helping the country” (time-honoured phrase) by providing cheap labour. “What other country, they may well demand, can point to such achievements? When was there ever such a magnificent example of philanthropy and five-per cent?”
Ian Jones

Is There a Class War? (1953)

From the February 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many Labour Party leaders and Tory counterparts would agree with “The Economist” that, “today, the class war description of trade union activity is out of date; its spirit is kept alive by the Communists because it is part of the Soviet war on social democracy, by others only because their thought ossified years ago.” (September 6th, 1952.)

The Economist” could mean that society itself had changed and the class war description no longer applied or else it could mean that the analysis of capitalism as a society based on class conflict had been proved wrong; that today, the working class, through their trade unions, must work hand in hand with their employers to increase production if they want to further their interests.

Whichever meaning is taken the result remains the same. Either view will find many adherents among the apologists for the present system in the avowedly capitalist and allegedly labour parties.

Class war is usually associated with the name of Karl Marx, and the Communist parties pay lip-service to some of his theories; it is true that they preach class war, at times, but they also preach class collaboration, whichever suits the needs of Soviet policy.

Long before Marx, historians and economists recognised the existence of classes and the conflict between them. These facts proved useful in the struggles of the rising capitalist class against the relics of the feudal aristocracy. But in the Munzer uprising in Germany, the Levellers in the English Revolution and Babeuf in the French Revolution, Marx saw the beginnings of class struggle between the working class and capitalist class and put forward the view that the outcome of this conflict would be the establishment of a classless society. To the classical economists the struggle between the working class and the capitalist class was an obstacle to the development of capitalist production and they claimed that a harmonious relationship between capital and labour would develop the productive forces and provide plenty for all. But the wishful thinking of the economists couldn't alter the facts. As Frederick Engels, Marx’s friend and collaborator, pointed out, the struggles of the working class movement in England and France in the early 19th century showed that harmony between the two classes was impossible.

Marx completed the analysis of capitalist society started by earlier economists. He showed that the tendency of capitalist development was for the means and instruments of production to become concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller section of society and that the bulk of the population having no other access to the means of living must sell their ability to work to this small group in order to live. They received in the form of wages barely sufficient to keep them and what they produced more than this was pocketed by the capitalist class; this surplus being the purpose behind the productive process. Goods were not produced because people needed them, but because they could be sold at a profit. If the workers demanded higher wages it meant less profits for the capitalist class, if the capitalist class reaped bigger profits it meant greater exploitation of the working class. This gave rise to an antagonism of interest between the capitalist class and working class that would remain as long as capitalism lasts.

Today, the vast majority of the people still have to sell their labour power for a wage often hardly enough to live on. The small section of society, the capitalist class, still own the means and instruments of production—nationalisation doesn’t alter the capitalist class ownership, it only changes the name above the door. At present there is a general demand for wage increases, by the working class through their trade unions; institutions which have arisen for the sole purpose of fighting to improve wages and conditions and are the only means whereby the workers can express their demands. There is also the demand for greater production and wage restraint made by press and parliament, and all the other powerful means of expression at the disposal of the capitalist class.

Yet many claim that there is no fundamental class conflict in society. They are like the ostrich which buries its head in the ground. When the one party is pushing through measures the opposition party criticizes it for carrying on class-warfare and yet they maintain a class war doesn’t exist Why then the resistance? It takes at least two forces to give rise to a conflict And incidentally, most of these measures have nothing whatever to do with the clash of interest between the capitalist class and the working class but where is their logic? They would say that opposition was imbued with the idea of the class struggle. Are the engineering and shipbuilding unions along with the many others demanding higher wages because they are imbued with the theory of class struggle? It is obvious that they are struggling to maintain their standard of living in the face of rising prices.

The more capitalism has changed the more it remains the same; the existence of classes and the conflict between them are essential to it.

There was some justification for the classical economists holding the view that if only capital and labour worked in harmony plenty could be produced for everyone. Capitalism was in the early stages of development; the class ownership of the means and instruments of production hadn't really shown itself to be a fetter on the further development of the productive forces.

But today, Capitalism has forged those gigantic productive forces which if the working class willed it, could lay the foundation for a society that would provide plenty for all.

The experience of the working class movement throughout the world since Engels’ day has endorsed his argument that any concord between capital and labour is impossible. The scientific analysis of capitalist society has proved that no agreement can be possible. The highest expression of this working class experience is the struggle for the abolition of Capitalism, and the establishment of Socialism—a classless society.
J. T.

Germany Calling! (1953)

From the March 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Nation shall speak peace unto Nation.” This historic phrase was at one time the slogan of the B.B.C. and occurred on all their official papers. Perhaps it still does, but we doubt if they now believe it, even if they ever did. To-day owing to Germany not being successful in winning the last war they are not allowed to broadcast to us in English and give us their views direct, presumedly in case they infect us with some of their warlike ideas. The B.B.C. can. however, broadcast to them, and no opportunity is lost in endeavouring to capture their sympathy and influence their opinions.

Apart from the external propaganda which is pumped into Germany by every country which surrounds her, including the two big giants U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. and the two somewhat shrunken giants of yesterday, Britain and France, most of the aerial word warfare that goes on over Germany is the ceaseless East-versus-West stuff.

When the war ended, the allied controlled Western zones were not only the larger geographically, but also contained about two thirds or more of the total population. Before the advancing Russians the Germans retreated by the million, but in the West after the allies had crossed the Rhine they knew it was all up and surrendered, thereby remaining where they were, where they lived and belonged. This had many repercussions, for it meant that business in the Western zones could be got going very much quicker. Rough estimates of the division of population were thought to be 50 million Western Germany and 25 millions Eastern zone, although U.N.O. gives 48 million Western Germany and 17 millions Eastern zone; with a further 3,300,000 in Berlin.

Since the stumps of war were pulled up, there has been a steady migration from the East to the West, and as far as we know without any corresponding movements in the other direction. It has been estimated that many millions have transferred from East to West. Hundreds of thousands of German prisoners who were in captivity in the West, or allied countries, did not return to the Eastern zone if they were from there. The hatred of the Russians, made decidedly worse by all the Nazi propaganda, caused a scramble towards the West.

It would appear that the bulk of the industry is in the West, the Ruhr, Lower Rhine heavy industry, Essen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, and the Hamburg area, etc., not to mention the yet undecided Saar province. Western Germany has potentialities which can be developed and which has already come into competition with Britain and U.S. on the export market. So far they have been acquitting themselves very well and some former competition with England in the export of coal, machinery and motor cars has already made itself felt. But they want to export arms which so far they are not allowed to make.

While Germany has been rapidly building up in the West, there has developed an unemployment problem partly owing to the vast numbers that have swarmed in from the East On the other hand the East claims to have no unemployment at all.

All this economic background has given rise to an immense amount of radio propaganda which one can hear any night from both Eastern and Western sections of Berlin who scream at one another news bulletins and talks on political and economic affairs until three or four o’clock in the morning. If this means hearing both sides of the question, then the Berliners are especially favoured, but what are they saying?

Firstly the Western zones request the return of the 100,000 German prisoners alleged to be still held by the Russians. When Vishinsky at the recent U.N.O. conference refused to accept the Indian proposals to end the Korean deadlock on repatriation of prisoners of war, the West lost no time in informing them that their argument that prisoners must be sent back to the country they belong or it is desertion on part of the soldiers applied also to the 100,000 Germans still in Russian camps. The Eastern zone never mentions the affair nor attempts to reply, nor indeed does the Western zone reply to what it doesn’t want to for that matter.

The Eastern propaganda is all for “PEACE,” with capital letters, against the Anglo-American Imperialism which Chancellor Adenauer is supposed to support. The words peace, freedom, nationalism, occur in every sentence, just as they did with the speeches of Hitler and his gang. The additional word “Patriotism” also adulterates almost every sentence. The Western zones can do their bit of it, but there is far less of the real chauvinistic stuff in which Russia has now definitely surpassed the Nazis at their best. One frequently hears a speaker from the Eastern zone screaming in a high pitched voice, reminiscent of Hitler, calling for German unity, national pride and patriotism; thumping the table and with all the melodramatic way employed by Adolf, and denouncing the Anglo-American Imperialism with such vehemence which seems strange alongside his peace appeals, and freedom propaganda.

Adenauer is always being exposed as anti-German, anti-patriotic, anti-nationalistic by the champions of the East, never that he is anti-working class. The Russians, with almost a sense of humour, have called Eastern Germany the “German Democratic Republic,” but as they ruthlessly suppress any independent opposition the elections there are the same farce as in Russia. They have permitted the Germans to have their own “National Hymn” which calls on Germany as the “Fatherland to unite so that they can slay enemies of the people and then the sun will shine over Germany as never before.” No mention is made of whom these enemies are supposed to be. The tune of this national hymn resembles those of the Salvation Army in their “Come to Jesus” stuff.

In Western Germany, recently, permission has been given by the allies (after many requests), to use the old favourite “Deutschland über Alles” tune again. The words have been slightly altered. It now becomes “Unity, justice, and freedom, for the Fatherland, let us strive with heart and hand.” They don't promise or recommend peace, unity, or the slaying of enemies, as the old Deutschland über Alles did, and as the Eastern Hymn now does. These anthems are sung with great vigour at the close of each radio performance, and in the case of the Eastern zone, all three verses are often sung before the programme has finished and again at the end, so much do they love it.

Russia always refers to the last war as the great Patriotic War, and not World War II. They have grafted this idea on to the Germans, or those who are left in their sections. There is always room in a vacuum for such ideas.

Recently a new political party has started in Western Germany (one starts about every month, and many have a Hitler flavour about them, and gets itself quickly suppressed). The new party is against the re-arming of Germany and against having anything to do with past or future wars or treaties with any nation. Britain and America in the West and Russia in the East will see to it that this idea does not interfere with their plans for re-arming Germany, so that they can form the front lines for their respective powers. Germany is now somewhat in the same position as Palestine of old. sandwiched between the hammer and the anvil of Babylon and Egypt.
Horace Jarvis

"I've always been respectable" (1953)

From the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

The peace of mind of ordinary English people has been disturbed! A widow has been sued for possession of her flat at Bow County Court, on the ground that she was an annoyance to other tenants in the house. The annoyance was visits by a man she intended to marry.

“The thought of a couple living in the house adulterously. perhaps, and certainly immorally—worried them,” said the prosecuting lawyer. When asked “What is your attitude to this man living with this woman?” a tenant of the basement replied, “I take a very poor view of it. I’ve been married 28 years and I’ve always been respectable.”

Counsel for the Defence: “The fact that two people who are sleeping together have no marriage lines, doesn’t make their conduct an annoyance to people in an adjoining flat.”

Judge: “The average women in the East End doesn’t like to have an unmarried woman living as though she were married next door to her. They come here in their scores and tell me so.”

Counsel for Prosecution: “The poorer classes are very often much more fastidious in these matters than the top layer.”

Judge: “We won’t say the top layer. We’ll say the wealthier classes . . . anything that disturbs the peace of mind of other inhabitants of a house is an annoyance. This sort of conduct is something that I am pleased to say in these days still disturbs the peace of mind of ordinary sensible English people."

Making an order for possession, suspended so long as visits ceased, the Judge told the widow, “If you choose to sleep with Mr. —, I can’t prevent it, but you must choose somewhere else!" Or, as a certain Mr. Henry Ford used to say, “The customers can have any colour they like, as long as it’s black."

In such cases is much material for study. The “poorer classes’’ are more fastidious about “marriage lines’’ than the wealthy ones. They are very worried if somebody lives next door as though they are married, when they are not. They are unlike the proprietors of some expensive West End hotels, which provide accommodation mainly for persons not married to each other.

These hoteliers would get “very worried” if their guests were married couples, since then they would be on the way out.

In addition to all their other advantages and privileges (No Taxation or Death Duties, no financial worries, no servant problem, no wrangles about places in the Coronation procession; or what to do with the old ancestral hall, or Kenya or the Soudan) the poorer classes have, as their most cherished possession, their respectability. Come rain or shine, fair weather or foul, nobody can deprive them of this most precious jewel.

Rich men may marry a new film-star every year; even in the basement, we’re respectable.

Neither does this extend to “marriage lines” only, as every inhabitant of those quarters occupied by the “poorer classes" knows; behind those threadbare “respectable" curtains lurks the prying eye, the sharp inquisitive nose eager for the slightest sign of a minor slip or lapse. Let Mrs. Brown forget to whiten her doorstep when the snow is on the ground; how the bush telegraph crackles over the garden wall!

Crammed together in numbers which ants would find uncomfortable, in parts of dilapidated houses at the rate of more than 2½ to one small room; not merely next to each other, but literally on top of each other, dependent upon a husband whose job is so deadly dull and monotonous that a Coronation Tea party is a thrilling adventure, their greatest experience a visit to a cheap local cinema, small wonder that their main pre-occupation is to be “cleaner” “brighter," “nicer" or when all else fails, more “respectable" than the woman next door. “Them mats haven’t been touched these last two days!"

“Marriage lines" is the popular slang term for the Registrar’s Certificate, issued under the Matrimonial Act to persons legally entitled to it. This Act ensures chiefly that monogamy (one wife or husband only) is observed, the breach of this, bigamy, being severely punished as a criminal offence. “Sleeping together" without these “lines," annoys scores of poorer women in the East End, though whether many or few do this, we cannot say.

Though not guilty of infringement of the Matrimonial Act, the lady in question, a widow, had no “marriage lines” for her visitor, which annoyed the other tenants. They, unlike heathens and foreigners, are “respectable.”

These rules of the matrimonial game, or “gamble,” as it is sometimes called, are the result of the growth of private property. Monogamy is essential to ensure that a fortune goes to a man’s own children, it is the maintenance of private property. Since it is a social law of Capitalism, the poor, like the rich, must not flout it openly. Had the lady been rich she would not have appeared in Court, since she would not have rented a flat in Bow.

Neither could she have been sued for possession of her own property. She could invite as many visitors to as many of her houses as she chose. Had her “visitor” been wealthy, he could have invited her anywhere he pleased (yachts are popular) without risking Court proceedings, seagulls not having heard of “marriage lines." As is well known, some very wealthy people still practice what in earlier days, or other places, was commonplace, the maintenance of an “unofficial" harem as an advertisement of opulence.

As long as working class women are condemned to grim, mean little lives of grinding poverty, “respectability” will be a straw to clutch at in face of premature age and hopeless exhaustion. The lady suffered from a lack of what becomes yearly more expensive and unobtainable; personal privacy. This is a form of poverty. The occupants of a typical house of working-class “flats” have about as much seclusion as a professional footballer on Saturday afternoons.

As our “modern conveniences” increase, so our lives become more inconvenient. As if the Atom Bomb, gastritis, influenza, the Floods and the Mau Mau are not enough “disturbance,” that woman upstairs “ has got 'im 'ere again. There’s too many in the house already without her bringing more in.”

In his vastly entertaining account of his stay in the Marquesas Islands entitled “Typee." subsequently authenticated, the American writer Melville, comments wittily on the happy lot of the Polynesian in the 1840s 
    “There seemed to be no cares, griefs, troubles or vexations in all Typee. The hours tripped along as gaily as the laughing couples down a country dance.” He says there were “no bills or mortgages, no lawyers, no beggars, no prisons, no 'proud nabobs’—in a word—no money.” (Page 136, Penguin Edition.)
   “No cross old women, no cruel step-dames, no withered spinsters, no love-sick maidens, no sour old bachelors, no inattentive husbands, no melancholy young men, no squalling brats. All was mirth, fun, and high good humour.” (Page 136.)
To which should be appended “no marriage lines” because there was no private property.

Should the reader be contemplating speedy departure to this haven let us disillusion him. From the introduction we quote, “The modern visitor would find little trace of the life described in 'Typee,' for the population which at one time was 100,000, has dwindled to less than 2,000; contact with whites has brought syphilis, leprosy and tuberculosis," and, may we add. Respectability?

During the East Coast Floods (1953)

From the May 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Socialists outline the society that could be established with the present productive equipment, non-socialists argue that it wouldn’t work. They say it would be against human nature, that men are by nature lazy and greedy and wont work unless they are forced on with the whip or incited by some economic advantage.

The Observer in an editorial refuted those arguments.

The Observer wrote:—
  "When the floods broke, people showed exactly the virtues and the spirit needed in a modern industrial society. Machines and materials had to be moved quickly to the coast, and so had a labour force of many thousands. There had to be a service of engineers and technicians, and a system of administrative control. Everything was done in a hurry; there was a good deal of excited confusion and some ill-directed endeavour. But the total organisation worked well, mainly because so many people worked willingly and in relative harmony.
   "The motive force was enthusiasm, sweeping away the inhibitions and protective restrictions which persist in many of our industries. Engineers on the flooded coast were sometimes embarrassed by lorry-drivers who, foregoing all their rest-periods along the road, arrived with thousands of sandbags in the middle of the night. One of the gangs working with fortitude and persistence, under conditions of unrelieved hardship, did so almost within sight of a building site where not long ago thousands of men struck work partly because they were denied a tea-break. And on the professional and administrative sides, many people hitherto rutted deep in the easy routine of their lives gave themselves up to days and nights of revolutionary discomfort.
   "Moreover, once the tragic side of the disaster had receded, people scarcely bothered to disguise the fact that they were enjoying themselves. They seemed to welcome the chance to work without sparing themselves, in cooperation with others, and for the good of an obviously stricken community." (April 5th, 1953.)
The Observer compared the zeal shown by the workers during the East Coast floods with that shown in ordinary everyday work and implied that if the workers worked with the same zeal in their everyday jobs as they did during the floods British capitalism could be extricated from its difficulties.

But, of course, the Observer realised that there are 
    " . . . differences between an emergency of this kind and the routine of ordinary working life. Nobody on the East Coast was afraid of working too hard or of working himself out of a job; the effort required was intense, but everyone knew it was not going to last long. Nobody was worried by the thought that he was working to make profits for someone else."
In their ordinary everyday life the workers sell their labour power to the capitalist class who own the means and instruments of production. The wages they receive in return are very often not enough to live on. What the workers produce over their wages enables the capitalist class to live in luxury and idleness and increase their investments, and is the primary purpose of capitalist production. To increase their profits the capitalist class use every device; they instal labour-saving machinery, appeal to social feelings and national prejudices to get as much work as possible from the workers at as low a wage as possible. To improve their standard of living, even maintain it, the workers must struggle continually. Between the working class and the capitalist class there is a fundamental conflict of interest

To sell their goods the different sections of the capitalist class come into conflict over markets. They also come into conflict over sources of raw materials and strategic points controlling trade routes.

The non-Socialists who argue that men must be “forced” to work should take note of the following words from the Observer although they are coloured by an appeal to patriotic sentiments:—
   "The experience of the floods has shown that the country has not lost its energy, its co-operative impulses or its adventurous spirit. The problem is to harness these forces to the everyday jobs."
These forces can be harnessed to everyday jobs by abolishing the private ownership of the means of production—the source of the conflict of interest in modern industrial society—and establishing the common property of the means of living. Then there would be a community of interest: the many would not work in the interest of the few; everyone would be working for the benefit of all—as during the floods—for the benefit of humanity.
J. T.

The Floods — Another Solution (1953)

From the May 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is claimed by Anarchists and Anarcho-Syndicalists that they are revolutionaries not reformists; that they are opposed to the various politicians' schemes for patching up the present social system. A recent editorial of The Syndicalist (February, 1953), however, shows that this is not so.

Under the title “A Floodworkers’ Scheme,” The Syndicalist deals with the condition of the sea walls and dykes around the British Coast. “It is a disgrace,” says the writer, "that the people of Canvey Island should have been relying for their safety on dykes built by Dutchmen two hundred years ago, and that elsewhere clay walls built in the time of Henry VIII were relied upon to keep back the relentless sea." After castigating the authorities for not having tackled the task of strengthening the sea defences before, and merely waiting for disaster and then bringing in the Army, The Syndicalist puts forward its own “revolutionary” solution. “What is needed is a national scheme for flood and tempest.” And, continues our Anarchist writer :—
   "The country can afford to keep a few old men as watchmen for such a job . . .  and the possibility of lookout posts, with sirens, on a job modelled on that of the lighthouse-keeper is something that will at the very least help out a few pensioners while remaining a surety for warning if not for safety.
   "A flood labour scheme could continue throughout the year, but particularly employing unskilled labour in slacker periods of the year. That there is vast pool of foreign labour which would be only too anxious to come over and participate in such a scheme is undisputable. But a national scheme is required, and proper rates should be paid, for it is impossible to conceive that Army and volunteer help such as at present exists in the flood areas can continue indefinitely."
Need we comment on this Anarcho-Syndicalist "solution?”
Peter E. Newell