Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Forum: The Bogey of the Palliative. (1913)

Letter to the Editors from the August 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have received the following request for information from a reader. As our reply is likely to prove of general interest we afford it the publicity of these columns.
Gentlemen, — I should feel much obliged if you would answer the following questions for me:
  1. If a Bill was brought forward in Parliament to establish a 30s. minimum wage all round, would the Socialist delegate support it by word or deed ?
  2. Supposing the above object were accomplished, would not that be palliating the condition of the workers to some extent, therefore constituting in itself a palliating measure, and consequently conflicting with your idea of hostility to palliatives? Should a Socialist delegate support a capitalist legislative measure to this effect? Also, would it not render the minds of the workers more passive for a time, thus putting back the clock of emancipation ?
  3. Again supposing the above were an established fact, the cost of production would be increased to the extent of the increase in wages. Would not that determine a higher price on the market for commodities which are essential to human life, to which increase the working class must submit or starve, as they would be faced with an economic barrier of an all-round increase of cost of food, clothing and boots?

Result: condition no better for the working class; a more rapid growth of combines and the pushing out of the smaller distributors to extinction as such.
W. H.

The three questions are based on a misunderstanding of the Socialist position. This is shown clearly in question 2, which may therefore be dealt with first.

The ruling idea of the Socialist Party is the attainment of Socialism. “Hostility to all palliatives” is not, and never has been, the "idea” of the S.P. (taking the word '‘palliative” to mean simply any ameliorative proposition that leaves capitalist control intact).

The Socialist Party, however, shows that the road to Socialism does not lie through “palliatives,” and that even where each measures may effect a slight improvement in the lot of any workers, they are by their nature simply patches on a rotten fabric, and consequently in no way instalments of the new society. In short, nearly all so-called palliatives do not palliate; and even where they may do so, the economic development of capitalism progressively produces ill effects that ever outstrip every palliative effort, and make the need for Socialism more imperative.

Further, even were the work of the S P. simply an attempt to cause the enactment of reform measures that would appreciably benefit the whole working class, it would first be necessary for the Party to conquer the power of the State. Thus even for reform worth the name, a revolution would be necessary, whereas Socialism could be had at the same price. Moreover, the workers could be more easily united as a whole for Socialism than for a programme of sectional, mutually conflicting, pettifogging reforms.

These are some of the reasons, together with the important fact that the economic trend makes Socialism the only practical proposition, that make it impossible for The Socialist Party to put forward a reform programme.

The task of the working-class party is the conquest of the governmental machinery and forces, for Socialist ends. Consequently support is only useful to the party on that understanding. To pander to the reform mania would attract non Socialists and weaken the party, while the absence of positive or useful result would spread disgust and apathy.

A reform programme is, in fact, fraudulent, particularly from the Socialist standpoint. Therefore, while willing to secure any amelioration or help possible for the workers in their fight against capital the Socialist Party realises that Socialism transcends all else, and stands distinct from all other parties on a programme of Socialism and nothing but Socialism. No palliation could be effective enough, in view of the necessary conditions of the development of capitalism, to put back the hour of emancipation to any appreciable extent. It could only demonstrate once more the helplessness of anything short of Socialism. What does put back the hour of emancipation is the false hope in reform assiduously fostered by astute capitalists and ignorant or corrupt Labour politicians.

It is scarcely necessary to state (in view of the utter barrenness of the parties who would barter the workers’ future for a present crumb) that such a revolutionary policy will be far more fruitful in possible ameliorations than the policy of the Labour Party or the B.S.P. Moreover, any slight benefits gained by the revolutionary party’s activity would intensify the revolutionary policy for Socialism, even were it not a fact that economic conditions worsen the workers’ lot far more rapidly than benefits could be obtained. The workers’ party, however, having raised no false hope in such benefits, would have all to gain and nothing to lose.

Since it is, as has already been shown, incorrect that the S.P.G.B. “idea is hostility to all palliatives,” it is clear that the attitude of a representative of the workers’ party on any measure will depend on the measure itself and the conditions at the time. It is necessary to know the clauses of the Bill first of all, and then the party, in possession of the vital facts, must express, democratically, its will in the matter. These conditions cannot be fulfilled in the discussion of such an imaginary absurdity as "a 30s. minimum wage all round.”

As a live party, using present-day facts as a basis for its Socialism, the Socialist Party must face all the facts, and decide in view of the actual facts. It cannot sterilise itself in an ignorant formula, or blind itself to future development.

Unfortunately, such a measure as is suggested by the phrase “a minimum wage of 30s. all round” is quite utopian and useless for the purpose of example. For political and economic reasons of the strongest kind "30s. minimum all round ” is impossible. Only where, by successive modifications, exemptions, exceptions, permissions, and restrictions, the actual measure obliterates the “30s.,” the minimum,” and the “all round,” does it approach the realms of probability. So long as capitalists rule and capitalism lasts, so long will competition in the labour market and in the world market be with us, and unemployment dog our steps. These facts alone completely nullify any such utopian measure even if, by a miracle, a capitalist Parliament were to enact it. Why, then, make a bother about reform when only Socialism can help?

Regarding question 3, this is based on an economic fallacy. Wages do not determine prices. It is, moreover, a historical fact that an increase in wages is scarcely ever obtained until after the rise in prices. But even if the economic assumption in the question were not wrong the argument would still fail.

If a rise in wages did mean a proportionate ; rise in prices, the workers would still gain. They produce all commodities, but buy back less than one third of them in value. The capitalist class buy the rest, and pay two thirds or more of the increase thereby. Consequently the workers would gain over two-thirds of the nominal increase in wages.

Prices, however, are determined in the ultimate by the amount of useful necessary labour involved, and not at all by the amount of wages paid. On this matter compare “Value, Price, and Profit." by a famous but little studied Socialist economist. It touches the spot.

For the rest, the questions raise important and interesting points, some of which have been dealt with at length in an attempt to make things clear. Other points have, perforce, been left for private study. The fact that the attitude suggested by the questions is based on a misunderstanding has made it difficult to be brief. Yet the knowledge of economics, and of Socialism in its wider aspects, that is required to rectify the point of view from which the questions arise could not possible be given in a single letter. It is consequently urged that a study of the literature of the party be made and the result will be an increase in the membership of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
Executive Committee. S.P.G.B.

By the Way. (1913)

The By The Way column from the September 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the columns of “Justice” of August 16th, 1913, under the heading “The Critical Chronicle,” the B.S.P. confusionists are at it again. Dealing with the Chesterfield bye-election the following suggestion occurs:
   “It is questionable, however, if the votes the stalwarts in Chesterfield can exercise would not have been more effective, in these special circumstances, if cast for the Tory candidate.”
*     *     *

From the “Evening News” (August 7th) report of the 16th Annual General Meeting of George Newnes, Ltd., held at the Savoy Hotel, I take the following significant statement, made by the secretary in his report:
    “There is no doubt that the advertiser realises that, whilst our publications are read by all sections of the community, we comprise amongst our readers practically the whole of the people who have money to spend on things other than the , necessaries of life.
    “For the purposes of our business it is interesting to note that of the 400,000 adults who died in the United Kingdom last year, 355,000 left nothing, and that the other 45,000 left £276,000,000. I think I may safely say that practically every member of the class from which the 45,000 were drawn is a reader of one or more of our publications.”

*     *     *

In the Declaration of Principles of the S.P. it is stated that “as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers . . .” In this connection it is interesting to note the remarks that fell from the lips of Mr. Josiah Wedgwood, M.P., at Southampton, at a demonstration “to protest against the killing of strikers on the Rand." He said :
    “We now know what the British Army is for  . . . to protect the interests of landowners and employers. both at home and in the colonies."
Mv word. Josh, what a discovery !

*     *     *

"In Leicester, a town of shoemakers. 156 children were notified as being insufficiently shod, according to Dr. Allan Warner's report to the Education Committee " (“Daily Citizen,” July 28, 1913)

*     *     *

We have heard so much rot from that enemy of the working class, Mr. Lloyd George, that it is astounding that anyone can now be found to take him seriously. In 1909 he was going to take us to “fields of waving corn," but in 1913 he tells us at Sutton-in-Ashfield that, in the words of the old song, “we’ve got a long way to go."

“I have never," he said in conclusion, "pretended that this Act is going to remove all the social and economic evils which oppress the people, to remove the mischief at the root of our social condition. There is much more to he done before undeserved poverty and privation is is chased out of this proud country."
The Scout.

The Labour Party in Parliament. (1913)

From the October 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Chesterfield Bye Election has re-opened the question of the Labour Party's position as a political party. After the local T.U. official being adopted as the Liberal and Labour candidate, the prince of political independence, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, solemnly anathematises such an unholy alliance. As the Labour Party constitution definitely states that candidates must run as "Labour".candidates only, there was nothing else the leader of the party could do but disown him who broke the rules.

In spite, however, of the repudiation of the candidate by the chairman of the organisation, its members, who are also members of the candidate’s Trade Union, supported the aspirant. This offence was aggravated by the defiant speeches as well as actions against the Labour Party Executive for casting out Mr. Kenyon because he had received the official Liberal label.

Although the circumstances are tempting enough in all conscience, I am going to refrain from commenting on the Chesterfield bye election, and treat of the position of the party as a whole, a position upon which this election throws a flood of light and provides an excellent illustration.

The Labour Party in Parliament boasts 42 members. The candidates have to be run as "Labour" candidates only, and no connection with any other political party is allowed. The Labour Party is nominally as independent of the Liberal party as of the Tory party—or the Socialist Party. Yet in practice the Labour members are, for the purposes of the Government, the equivalent of Liberal members. The Liberal and Tory parties in the House exactly equilibrate with 272 members each, but the Liberals hold office with the Irish Nationalist and Labour votes.

When the Labour Party were first returned as a separate party in 1906, they sat on the cross benches, belonging to neither side, but now they sit on the Liberal side. Is this only due to the exigencies of the seating accommodation ?

The late Mr. Haslam, who sat for Chesterfield, was a fully-accredited Labour member. The seat was won in what the followers of the Labour Party euphemistically describe as "a straight fight with the Tory.” The value of the independence of such a position is admirably depicted by the subsequent happenings at Chesterfield and the walk-over of the Liberal candidate in spite of the official repudiation by the Labour Executive. The value of the independence of the Labour Party is also shown in the fact that not one of the 42 seats they occupy has been won in opposition to the Liberal party. Every one of their seats is held for the Liberal party, by the goodwill of the Liberal party, and it is not too much to say that the official Liberal party could claim almost any one of them in the same way as at Chesterfield. Liberal votes are behind every Labour member in the House, and his "independence" of Liberalism can be valued accordingly.

The same holds true particularly in those two-seated constituencies now held by one Liberal and one Labour member as at Leicester, Blackburn. Derby, Halifax, Newcastle, Stockport, Sunderland, Norwich, Merthyr, Dundee, and Bolton. In each of these cases one Liberal and one Labour candidate were opposed to two Unionist candidates, and the two seats are held practically with the same votes. At Preston the two unionists were successful, and the Liberal and Labour candidates, locked in each other’s embrace, sank into temporary political oblivion.

A list of the seats held by Labour men without opposition from the Liberals would exhaust the remainder of the party. In addition to those successful in fighting the Tories for the Liberals, the following, who were unsuccessful, adds to and completes the tale of Labour dependence on Liberalism. Kirkdale, Liverpool, Mr. McKerrell lost to the Unionists by 2,992 against 4,205; at St. Helen’s Mr. Glover was knocked out by 6,016 against 5,752; at Central Sheffield Mr. Bailey lost to the Tory by 3,455 against 3271; at Wigan Mr. Twist was defeated and lost his seat by 4,673 against 4,110; and at Newton, S.W. Lancashire, Mr. Seddon also lost his seat by 6,706 against. 6,562.

There have been cases, however, where the Labour Party have contested seats against both parties. These cases are rare, and tend to become rarer. Occasionally the local Labour organisation take the bit between their teeth and rush into a contest either against, or with the unwilling approval of, the Centre. The nervousness of the seat-holders is increased when such a rift in the lute results in losing the seat to the Tories. Such results occurred at Crewe, Chatham, Camlachie, and Midlothian, where the “split progressive vote let the Tory in.” In thirteen other constituencies the Labour Party put up a candidate against both Liberal and Tory parties, and the Liberal was returned at the top of the poll, in every case with the Labour man a bad third.

In addition to the Labour Party as the political expression of the trade unions, there is also the pseudo-Socialist parties. Of these the I.L.P. has sunk its identity in the Labour Party, whose absorption by the Liberals involves the Independent Labour Party. The Fabian Society does not run candidates on its own, its members being occasionally found among the Liberals. The British Socialist Party had a little flutter at the last General Election, but never, notwith standing the sweet reasonableness of the attitude they adopted, getting within reach of success. At Burnley, where the candidature of Hyndman has been pressed for many years, where the candidate was the best known among them, and when the programme was watered and coloured to popularise the candidature, the vote was barely more than half the successful Liberal’s. Irving at Rochdale, although he trimmed and revised himself almost out of a separate existence, did not come within a third of the number of votes necessary.

Some excuse can be made for candidatures of the hopelessly unsuccessful class when they are propagandist, but the desire to win necessitating such excessive trimming as is undoubtedly indulged in by the B.S.P., prevents excusing them on the ground of propaganda.

The Labour Party in Parliament, which the above facts show to be necessarily but an adjunct to the Liberal party, is officered and bossed by the men who are the self imposed leaders of ‘‘Socialist” thought in this country. Ramsay MacDonald, Keir Hardie, and Philip Snowden are the “brains” of the I.L.P. Ramsay Macdonald is the first of the scientific Socialists, for he himself has said so. He is popularly supposed to be the first example of a Socialist statesman this country has produced. Yet it seems to those of us who can dispassionately view the activities of our masters in the political as well as in other fields, that J. R. MacDonald has manifested no degree of mentality to make us wonder, nothing of faith or power to make us worship. There are many men in the ranks of our avowed opponents who could give him a start and a beating at any test of mentality, and his statesmanship is becoming nauseating even to quite loyal members of his party. So far as he is responsible for the present position of the Labour Party he has little enough to flatter himself with, except that the “new and leavening factor that was introduced into Parliament" in 1906 with such a flourish of trumpets has negotiated itself into the Liberal majority and is lost. Not a fragment remains as a memento of its work, if any, and now its power to do any thing for itself and the people it is supposed to represent has vanished with the last shred of its independence, the sooner it is decently buried the better for everyone concerned —except the members.

The sooner the working class of this country learn the lesson the dismal history of this phase of the working-class movement presents the quicker shall we have started on the road to our emancipation. That lesson, surely, is that the position of our representatives in Parliament must be one of absolute independence from any pro-capitalist party, and that such independence most be based upon their hostility to capitalist parties.

The working class, having learnt that capitalist exploitation is the source of their social evils and their enslavement, will seek to emancipate themselves and solve their social problems by the abolition of capitalism through the establishment of Socialism. Parliamentary action must always be guided by that object, and no compromise with the enemy is possible or desirable. The essential factor is the education of the workers in the principles of Socialism, for on the “rank and file” rests the responsibility of a “leader’s" shortcomings.

The failure of the Labour Party to “make good" is useful in showing how it can not be done, but is a useless waste of time to those of us who knew it could not be done that way.

If there are any who even think themselves Socialists left in the I.L.P., it is to be hoped that they will justify themselves by studying the position of the only Socialist party in Great Britain and so befit themselves to become soldiers in its ranks, there to work for Socialism and Socialism alone.
Dick Kent

King Capital, The Butcher. (1913)

Editorial from the November 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Lancaster Pit of the Universal Colliery at Senghenydd was again the scene of a fearful explosion, in which 435 of our fellow workers have perished—sacrificed to the greed of that butcher, King Capital. Although on the occasion of the last disaster (1901) in this mine, the coroner’s jury found that the mine was not sufficiently watered, and Professor Galloway, the Government Inspector of Mines, reported that the necessary precautions in watering the roadways had not been attended to, yet the mine owners allow conditions to prevail that send to their doom 435 miners.

Every time coal dust has caused a mine explosion the warning has been given, but it has passed unheeded. When the toilers were entombed at West Stanley in 1909, the Government investigators reported that “unless the grave danger which exists at many collieries owing to the pressure of coal dust is attacked with much greater earnestness than it has been in the past, disasters of a similar nature will occur from time to time." At Whitehaven in 1910 the inspector proclaimed that "the precautions against the accumulation of coal dust were of a haphazard and unsystematic character," and he also stated that “the ventilation of the working face was inadequate for the needs of the mine having in view the gassy nature of the coal." Following upon this the same inspector made this sinister statement to a Press Agency representative:
“ Practically every risk which exists could be eliminated if cost were no object."
These burning words could be backed up by plenty of other quotations from leading agents of capitalism, but let these suffice. The plain fact emerges from every disaster that the toilers’ lives are sacrificed to dividends and interest. Mines Acts are passed, as that of 1911, with special provisions excluding mines which do not "pay’’ well from adopting precautions. As for the others, the owners please themselves. The Mines Inspectors are so few, and their powers so meagre, that the regulations are broken with impunity. Last August a fire occurred at the Carron Co’s, pit at Cadder, and 22 miners who went down to earn their pittance on Sunday perished. And notwithstanding that the Mines Act of two years previous enjoins every mine to have complete rescue apparatus, the rescue men had to travel forty miles to obtain life saving apparatus.

“Speed and Grab" is the password of the profit mongers. Exhaust the coal seams throw up clouds of dangerous dust, but do not bother about safety for mere workers.

Lord Merthyr, managing director of the Senghenydd mine, is a Tory; his cousin, D. A. Thomas, is a Liberal. They shed crocodilian tears when the miners are murdered below, hut when these men want a little more grub they threaten them with a “lock out." When they stay away because the mine looks dangerous they are fined for being absent without leave. When they strike they are given over to starvation and bullets. When they ask for a dollar a day for five days a week, then Press and profit-mongering mine-owners denounce them as selfish strikers. Pah ! the hypocrisy of their slobbering over the children they have orphaned and the wives they have widowed offends the nostrils!

What shall we say, too, of the cant of the snuffling priest. He is always on hand to preach submission to the victims. The Bishop of Llandaff told the women of Senghenydd the usual tale of the “hand of God." The Archbishop of York said at a meeting of the Church of England Men’s Society held at Cardiff :
  “We are surrounded by the spirit of bravery and hope with which our brothers here are facing the trial and anxiety which God it asking them to pass through. . . .  I am sure you all feel there would have been something lacking in our spirit as Christian men assembled as a great brotherhood pledged to Christian sympathy if we had not placed the burdens of those our brothers and sisters before the Throne of Christ, commit ting them to the care of the Heavenly Father.”
Thus the Church does its work as murderers’ agent. "Place the burdens before the throne of Christ" ! How much better than placing them on the employers responsible!

Why are not the shareholders brought to trial as was the engine-driver of Aiegill Junction? He was charged with the manslaughter of Sir Arthur Percy Douglas—the mine owners merely killed workingmen. Bourgeois juries acquitted Caudle at the inquest on the working-class victims of the railway accident, but when it came to one born in the purple Driver Caudle gets two months.

The ridiculous lightness of such a sentence, however, for the crime of manslaughter, shows how clearly it was recognised that little of the fault lay with Caudle. A defective engine and small coal had been supplied and were the primary cause of the disaster. Yet the profit-grabbing directors and shareholders of the Midland Railway Co. are allowed to go scot free. These wealthy exploiters of half-starved railway servants are the real culprits, but, of course, they plead ignorance of the working of the line when blame is to be apportioned, notwithstanding that they claim tremendous directing ability when it comes to sharing out the plunder.

The "Ballot" Strike (1913)

From the December 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

To Show what a smart and up-to-date journal the “Daily Herald” is, the issue of 25th November contains an article by Mr. Russell Smart advocating that, instead of running candidates for Parliament “without even a feeble hope of success,’’ the workers go to the ballot and deliberately spoil the voting papers.

Smart Russell has discovered that it is not good enough to merely abstain from voting or using the ballot, but that the ballot can be actually made a useful agency by Socialists for registering their strength in the constituencies.

Has Smart been careless enough to attend a meeting of the S.P.G.B., and to learn that for years we have taught that the ballot can be used for ascertaining the strength of the movement. 

Perhaps! and perhaps not; for we learn further that the ballot paper can be spoiled "either by writing ‘Socialism’ across it, or better still, filling in the space opposite the candidates’ names with the word 'Knave.’”

If Russell thinks that “knavery" is a better retort to "capitalism” than the demand for Socialism, then perhaps he has succeeded in describing the attitude of the "D.H.," Fabian Society, the I.L.P., the S.D.P., and the Syndicalists more accurately than he intended. 

Smart, isn't he?
South West.

"Penny Tenement" (1960)

From the January 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is the same old story! Despite the promises of one party after another, the housing problem is still with us. Frederick Engels was writing about it more than eighty years ago. In fact it is a problem about as old as Capitalism itself.

From the front page of The Guardian (23/11/59) we learn of a tenement in Edinburgh, which collapsed recently, injuring a two-year-old baby girl and her mother. Apparently the building had been known as the “penny tenement ” because its original owner attempted to sell it for one penny on being ordered to carry out repairs considered necessary for public safety. The place had been condemned twenty years ago as unfit for habitation.

The local Labour Party kicked up a fuss about the matter, of course, conveniently forgetting the dismal failure of the Labour Government to deal with such places during their six years of power. Yet, if we remember correctly, they were more extravagant than any other party in their 1945 election promises.

In another Scottish city, Labour-controlled Glasgow, the city architect had to admit a few months ago that . . .  there is housing which . . .  includes some of the worst buildings in Western Europe” (The Guardian, 9/2/59). Apparently, in the past six years or so, they have built 30.000 houses and flats in Glasgow and in that period, their “waiting list” has grown from 100,000 lo 126.000 persons.

Do not let us underestimate this problem of Capitalism. In England last year, there were over a million houses totally unfit for habitation, whilst others were falling into decay at the rate of 100.000 per year. But great though the problem is, Capitalism won’t solve it— only the removal of Capitalism will do that. Unlike the “Penny Tenement,” however, this crazy set-up will not just collapse. It will have to be demolished.
Eddie Critchfield

Macmillan on Safari (1960)

From the February 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Strangely for him, Mr. Macmillan left for his African tour with hardly a bang or a whimper. No funny hat at the airport. No enduring fatuity for the newspapermen. He must have been in serious mood, meant business. He seems to begin every year with a bit of travel, but it would be ungracious to suspect him only of wanting to escape the English winter.

Certainly, Mr. Macmillan had a case for going to have a look at Africa, for the continent keeps breaking into the news. (The March Socialist Standard will be extensively devoted to it) For the public there may be the empty phrases, such as his statement to the Nigerian Parliament on January 13th that “Britain’s primary purpose is the preservation of peace and justice and rising prosperity throughout the world.” But beneath these words is the concern of the British capitalist class for the continent where they were once so powerful and which is now slipping from their control. Over the past few years the pace of African events has increased tremendously. This year, the French Cameroons, Senegal, Soudan, Mauretania and Nigeria, among others, will become independent of the powers which have ruled them for so long. Their own ruling class will control the country. The past colonial powers must establish new relations with them, seeking to maintain the advantages of the old empire. Africa, lying between Western Europe and the Far East, is strategically important. It has great mineral resources and is a valuable future market for Europe’s industries. Little wonder, then, that Whitehall is so anxious to come to terms with the new African nationalisms.

Africa Year
Are the Labour Party put out by all this? Would they prefer the Tories to show their traditional hard face on colonial affairs? They did their best to make Africa an issue in the last general election and have named 1960 as Africa Year. This means that they will launch a heavy propaganda drive, starting with a month-long boycott of South African imports during March. But isn't this rather odd? The Nationalist Party came to power in South Africa in 1948, when there was a Labour government over here. They had three years to impose economic sanctions against South African goods, yet took no such action. Again, why boycott only South African imports? What about those from Spain? And Portugal? And Russia? Indeed, far from wanting to exclude Russian imports, many prominent members of the Labour Party advocate an increase in trade between Russia and Great Britain. Curiouser still. Labour is trying to prove that its South African boycott will hurt hardly anybody. On January 13th The Guardian reported that Mr. Morgan Phillips stated at a press conference that “Even if the Labour Party’s boycott of South African goods in March is 100 per cent effective it is likely to affect little more than £2 million worth of trade.” Why organise the boycott at all, if it is so limited?

Labour will say that it is a matter of principle but the Tories may fairly object that the Labour Party are playing up Africa as an Opposition’s vote catcher. Certainly, the Labour government’s was not a good record on colonial affairs. They banished Seretse Khama from Bechuanaland. They put Nkrumah in jail, whence he was taken to become Ghana’s Prime Minister. Now that they are in opposition, this may be forgotten, if the exigencies of British capitalism force the Tories to suppress a colonial nationalist movement, that is fair game for a bit of vote catching. Yet at a guess, it is doubtful that Labour will win much support over Africa. The car and the telly will still determine how Jack votes.

However hard Jack may try to ignore it, Africa will continue to obtrude itself upon his attention. Since the opening of India and the Far East revived European interest, the continent has been dominated by the colonial powers. Inevitably, the colonies have grown their own capitalist class, who have wanted to run their affairs free from outside interference. Thus the colonising country has been faced with two policies. They could try to suppress the nationalist movement, as they have in Cyprus and Algeria. This entails the keeping of armies in the colonies and the expenditure of vast amounts of money—a problem familiar to the French government. The other course is to grant self government, as has happened in Ghana and Nigeria, whilst trying to maintain the old trading connections. This latter is not always possible. British traders have suffered many inconveniences in Ceylon since the island became independent and India and Pakistan have imposed severe restrictions on imports from this country.

Nevertheless, a colonial power will often prefer to agree to self government. But this preference can be overruled by strategic considerations, as in the case of Cyprus, or by economic needs as in Algeria, where the French are anxious to exploit the mineral wealth under the Sahara. Capitalism thrives on cheap and plentiful raw materials, on populous markets and commercial routes. Sometimes it needs wars and suppression to keep these things, and governments are there to see that this happens. Labour and Tory have been the same, their eye on the same ball. That is the message which will be between the lines of the report, nonchalant and civilised, which Mr. Macmillan will give us when he returns from his African journey.

A Patriotic Swindler: Horatio Bottomley (1960)

From the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

March 23rd, 1960, marks the centenary of the birth of Horatio Bottomley, one of Britain’s most colourful and well-loved figures of the period 1890-1920. Yet this popular figure, who became almost synonymous with John Bull, was one of the greatest rogues alive, getting through in a day at the races more than many of his constituents in South Hackney earned in several years. And the money was always somebody else's; he was not even a Capitalist, he was a common swindler puffed up by his great flair for sensational journalism and by posing as John Bull, the Sporting Britisher's man.

The early part of Bottomley's career, the years 1890-1914. could well be called the Golden Age of British Capitalism. It was an age of great upper-class luxury; it was a flamboyant, opulent age. It was also an age of great optimism. Imperialism was at its height, the Sun never set on the Empire, all problems could be solved by the normal workings of Capitalism, Society was an unshakable rock. Men basked in the false sunshine of Prosperity—even those who were poor. Workers shared in the general optimism; if there was great poverty, there was also the great illusory promise of things to come. There were clouds drifting across the sun. the largest being the tremendous growth of Germany as an industrial, military and naval power, but these clouds scarcely disturbed the illusion of opulent serenity of Sporting Edward's reign.

Bottomley had many of the upper-class attributes of the time. He loved racing, champagne, pretty girls, money and power. And he displayed his likes in the arrogant, showy way so typical of the age. His long period of success can only be understood by seeing the man in his context. He was an important figure in finance, a great journalist, a clever lay lawyer, a tremendously effective orator, a man to whom the electors of South Hackney delighted to give their votes, and he was a leader of "Public Opinion." He was a patron of the poor, the friend of the rich and influential, a champion of the moral virtues and defender of the family, an incessant campaigner (through the pages of John Bull) against prudes, indecency, brutality and corruption. He was a “sport"; and he was the biggest liar and hypocrite in England. He was a man incapable of real generosity; a man who, to quote an old inhabitant of Hackney,  "would give a 5s. tip and pinch the bread-and-cheese out of your pocket.'' He appears a cardboard figure today, his actions all deliberate poses for the benefit of an admiring public. Yet he inspired real devotion in his assistants; perhaps in that age nothing succeeded so well as success, particularly success at large-scale swindle.

Bottomley lived during the great days of company flotation. The law was comparatively lax, and Bottomley infinitely audacious. He early acquired a taste for bankruptcy; a taste that harmed nothing except his political ambitions, for he lived as richly as when he was solvent. He floated many companies, and their funds stuck to his eternally sticky fingers in enormous quantity. He was prosecuted quite early in his career, and conducted his own defence in an able and witty manner. So well-liked was he that many of his victims still had faith in him and his enterprises, and even shared the jokes he made in Court at their expense. The Company schemes were difficult to unravel, the organisation chaotic, the book-keeping almost non-existent. His assistants could be relied on to be helpful in the most obstructive possible way when the Official Receiver and his agents were endeavouring to inspect the books. He was a ferret squeezing through every loophole in the Company laws.

Via Wiki: Front page of the Daily Mirror, 10 September 1915. 
Perhaps his greatest achievement was his building-up of John Bull into a best-seller among journals. This was one Bottomley venture which was quite safe from the law, for business and financial management was firmly in the hands of Odham's. Bottomley drew a large salary as managing Editor, a salary which was considerably augmented by the firms who paid not to appear in its pages, and by the lotteries, competitions and share-subscription schemes advertised in the journal! These schemes placed enormous sums in Bottomley's pocket. Through John Bull he not only raised money, he became an expert manipulator of Public opinion. His appeals to patriotism, his nauseating anti-Germanism during the first world war, his attempts to found a new political party, all pointed to the incipient demagogue. As he grew older, his love of power grew and his astuteness declined. After the war he hastily secured his discharge from bankruptcy (characteristically. with money not all of which was his own) in order that he could take part in the 1919 election. He finally came to grief over his share-subscription schemes, being prosecuted under the Larceny Act of 1915, an Act which was passed to prevent the depredations of Bottomley and others of his kind.

Bottomley was a liar, a thief, and a hypocrite. Yet for thirty years he remained an important, imposing figure in English life. His popularity with the many members of the upper class is easily explained. His depredations scarcely affected them, he was clever and a good conversationalist, he shared their tastes, and he was, as a “man of the people," a useful figure, particularly during the war. Their sympathy had lessened by the end of his career. His growing interest in politics was becoming an embarrassment: as a demagogue he might threaten their own privileged positions.

To many workers he was a “sport": they lived vicariously through his extravagances, and he posed as their champion. A reading public—unsophisticated, untrained in politics, crushed by poverty and eager for sensationalism—was provided for him and his kind by the Education Acts of the late 19th century.

After his imprisonment, he found he was unable to make a success of a new journal on the lines of the old John Bull. His popularity had vanished, his journalism had become out of date, his utterances old-hat and naive-sounding. He died in poverty, denied even the comfort of an old-age pension.

His greatest crime went unpunished, and was indeed applauded and highly-paid; he was one of Capitalism’s greatest Recruiting Sergeants.
F. R. Ivimey

News In Review: Martyrs Wanted (1960)

The News in Review column from the April 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Martyrs Wanted

The railways have been carrying a deficit for many years, although it is possible that at some time in the future they will again become a direct profit-making concern. In the meantime, the railways are vital to the smooth running of industry generally.

The railway deficit was a useful propaganda weapon which the Railway Commission wielded in an effort to stave off the railway men’s claim for higher wages last month, along with the well worn slogans like “the welfare of the rest of society,” and “the good of the country.” It is unrealistic for the Railway Commission to expect that one section of the community should martyr itself to ”the national interest,” that is to say, to the interest of the capitalist class as a whole, when workers generally are involved in a constant struggle to secure a living wage. The railwaymen should not be misled by these meaningless catch-phrases, or be swayed in their determination to increase their pitifully low wages. They would be enjoying a much higher standard of living if they had gone about achieving this in a more militant way, with unity and greater purpose.

Clause Four

The Labour Party’s present wrangle over the possible revision of its constitution is merely a further commentary on this party’s reformist character. Mr. Gaitskell has hit back at his critics who object to his plan to alter the clause which pledges the party to 100 per cent. nationalisation. The rank and file are now told that a revised constitution is essential to enable the party to win the next election—which is an interesting comment on the way the Labour Party leaders’ minds work. Gaitskell’s opponents have called his plans “a betrayal of Socialism.” But since nationalisation has got nothing to do with Socialism this criticism is very wide of the mark.

In an article entitled “ The Future of the Left” (Encounter, March, 1960). C. A. R. Crosland, M.P. explains that the Labour Party now accepts a “mixed economy” and is no longer committed to “complete public ownership of all the means of production, distribution, and exchange.” He goes on further to say “Mr. Gaitskell’s (Blackpool) speech came as a great surprise to many of the rank and file who have not grasped what the leadership have been saying for the past ten years." But what have the Labour Party leadership been saying for the last ten years? They have been very busy in offering suggestions and assisting the present Government to run capitalism or, as they would now have us believe, a “mixed economy.”

The battle over clause four has nothing to do with Socialism. Whether clause four is revised or not, capitalism, under Tory and Labour Governments, will continue to produce its nightmares of insecurity and threatened mass annihilation.

Mining Disaster

The beginning of 1960 has seen two major coalmine disasters, first in South Africa, and then in East Germany. In the South African case, the disaster was in the Clydesdale Colliery at Coalbrook, where 435 miners were entombed. It may be thought that disasters in South African mines of the magnitude of this one are isolated, but although not involving so many men at a time, there are many accidents each year, the 1959 figures showing non-white deaths in the mines as 733 (Johannesburg Star, 29/1/60). However embarrassing it may be for the South African Government with its policy of apartheid, five of the 435 men buried together in the mine were white. Separate religious services were held at the pithead at the time of the disaster, one for the five white men and one for the 430 Africans. Under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, which covers African and white mine-workers, there is a grant of £40 for burial expenses for whites but only £15 for Africans. The compensation payable to widows and dependants of the dead men will also be reckoned with due regard to the colour of their skins. Widows of Europeans will be entitled to £13 4s. per month if childless, with an extra £6 12s. per month for each child, but a maximum of £33 per month, regardless of the number of children. African widows will be entitled to a lump sum, handled by a trust fund in Pretoria, which only produces between £3 and £4 a month (Johannesburg Star, 4/2/60). Apartheid still operates even after death.

Four Minutes

Some years ago the phrase "I’ve only got four minutes” was made popular as the opening gambit of a music-hall comedian. Little did he know that in a few short years his phrase would take on a new and terrible significance.

Four minutes, we are told, is all the time that we will have between the warning of an approaching enemy rocket and its arrival on target. For this purpose the Government is spending something in the region of fifty million pounds, so that we can be informed in advance of our impending demise.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with this venture, it seems a pretty hopeless prospect to know that the possibility for destroying us all has now been reduced to a four-minute job. Man's destructive capacity is now such a fine art, with push-button rockets and hydrogen bombs that can devastate a whole country, that the mind boggles at this latest madness.

Thus it is not surprising that people feel totally inadequate to cope with this kind of insanity, and tend to rationalise these happenings by thinking that atom bombs would never be used anyway. In this situation, to be an optimist where such tremendous grounds for pessimism exist, becomes necessary for one’s own sanity. Socialists themselves are not free from this, but at least they are trying to do something about it. What about you?

Jackboot Revival

During the current period of boom and peace old enemies have been forgotten, but recently there has been a slight stir on the western front. Germany has revived, and with this revival have come insidious outbursts of anti-semitism, and more recently, negotiations between Adenauer and Franco with the aim of setting up military bases in Spain. Hands have gone up in horror, as one might expect, and although these negotiations have come as a surprise to ordinary people, it is clear that the British Government have known about this for quite a time.

“Why the secrecy?”, one may ask. Indeed, it is a puzzle which would to many people be too involved to fit together. However, the explanation is not too difficult to find. Britain and France are in a sticky position. The world situation is now one of “West” versus “East,” with Western Germany belonging to the West and East Germany belonging to the East. In these circumstances, Allied countries are prepared to forgive and forget old enemies, and recruit them against old friends. However, no-one has quite forgotten the last war and that Spain was the training-ground for the German soldiers used in World War II.

Herr Strauss, the German Minister of Defence, in charge of the army, discussing uniforms for the new West German Army, was reported to have said: “Jackboots will march for Democracy/' What a paradox! One can envisage the logical conclusion of this view and see racial extermination and the establishment of concentration camps carried out in the name of democracy as well. It is also well to note that Herr Strauss was one of the small minority in the West German Parliament that voted against reparations for Jews who suffered under the Nazi regime.

Where will it end? Our friends are our enemies and our enemies have become friends. It seems reasonable to suppose that these crazy paradoxical antics of the politicians will continue until the British working class abandons completely the pernicious nationalisms that are foisted on them by their leaders, and comes to recognise their identity of interests with the working people of all countries.

Spare a Penny

A cyclone in Mauritius kills thirty-nine, wrecks forty thousand buildings, makes a hundred thousand homeless, and destroys much of the sugar crop on which the economy of the island rests. An earthquake devastates the town of Agadir in Morocco, killing over twelve thousand people. Now appeals are launched on behalf of the disaster areas. This rattling of cans under the noses of the public is the way misfortunes are dealt with under capitalism. In a Socialist society the care of the injured, and the support of the dependants of the dead, would not be left to charity. They, like every other member of the human society, would participate freely in the goods produced by society.

The Tragedy of South Africa (1960)

From the May 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Of the total population of South Africa (estimated in 1958 at a little over 14¼  millions) the Africans numbered about 9¼  millions, the Europeans 3 millions, the Coloureds almost 1½ millions, and the Asiatics (mainly Indians) something like half-a-million. Such ingredients are more than enough to make a rare “devils brew” of race prejudice and discrimination.

The Whites are, of course, only a minority of the population and the whole coercive power of the State, whether expressed in discriminatory laws or in actual armed repression, is directed to preserve the supremacy of this minority. The White man in South Africa is not only afraid of the economic competition of 'the African: he is even more afraid that one day, perhaps, he will be thrown out of the country altogether.

In South Africa, segregation is the rule. Apart from the segregation which exists in the towns in the form of “Black Belts,” to which the Africans are severely confined under penalty of the law, millions of Africans are kept on the rural Reserves where they derive a miserable living from the land, or are exploited as agricultural labourers by the White farmers. What most of the Whites would really like, in their heart of hearts, would be to, see the Africans kept out of the way altogether on Reserves. But there is one overriding factor which prevents this—the need, of South African industry for more and more African labour-power.

This labour power is in constant demand, particularly in the gold and diamond mines which are the foundation of the country’s industrial economy. In spite of all the White man's dreams of complete segregation, large numbers of African workers are constantly on the move between the towns and the Reserves and the White farms. Even before the War this demand for cheap labour-power was becoming so acute that considerable numbers of African workers were recruited from neighbouring territories, including Portuguese East Africa. In such ways does economic necessity triumph over racial discrimination and make nonsense of the White man’s talk about segregation.

Almost all these African workers are unskilled for the White workers monopolise the skilled jobs and jealously safeguard their privileges. As in the United States, so bad did economic conditions become in South Africa before the War that the Whites even began to infringe upon many of the so-called African occupations, but during the War things changed. Industry developed rapidly and the demand for skilled workers became acute, to such an extent that the White Trade Unions and the employers agreed that certain of the semi-skilled trades should be handed over to the Africans.

Africans are, nevertheless, precluded from membership of the White Unions and have been compelled to form their own. These Unions are not registered and are technically illegal organisations. Every difficulty is put in their way, their bargaining power is small, and it is not surprising that as a result the average wages of White workers far exceed those earned by Africans. On the Reserves the position is even worse, for although the Africans own their own land and are nominally independent, the White employers rely on their abject poverty, reinforced by specially-aimed taxes, to force them off the Reserves and into industry. With this poverty, whether on the Reserves or in the towns, are to be found all the usual accompaniments— bad housing (bad is an understatement) and all that goes with it, overcrowding, lack of sanitation, disease and malnutrition, and a heavy mortality rate. Over all hang the humiliations, degredations, and cruelties of the Pass Laws.

So far as the Coloured people are concerned their economic conditions are little better than those of the Africans, and in the country their position is perhaps worse. They face particularly strong economic competition from the Africans and have also to compete against the lower-paid White worker. In general, their conditions economically have tended to become worse instead of better, and even the few privileges they once enjoyed in other ways—such as their voting rights in the Cape Province —have recently been taken away. In the other Provinces, of course, they never had any such rights to be taken from them.

The Asiatic part of the population are mainly the descendants of Indians originally brought into South Africa to work on the sugar plantations of Natal. Many have since found their way into other occupations, particularly as traders and independent farmers.

Unlike the Natives, they have shown a marked aptitude for business, have actively competed with the Europeans, and as a result have managed to acquire a considerable amount of land and property. Naturally, this has not pleased the European capitalists, and, to put a stop to this development, the Natal Housing Authority can now step in and purchase property in European areas rather than allow it to fall into the hands of non-Europeans (which means Indians).

We are not interested in such misfortunes, whether they be of European or Indian capitalists, but this does provide an excellent example of the manner in which race arguments are used purely and simply to bolster up economic interests. The Europeans in South Africa justify their treatment of the African on the grounds that he is backward, uncivilised, and intellectually incapable of reaching the same status of the White man. When it comes to dealing with the Indian, however, who can play the Europeans at their own game and make a success of it this argument is conveniently forgotten. They drop all pretence at theoretical justification, they cease to talk about White superiority, and proceed to have recourse to the law, exposing at the same time the fallacy and expediency of their racial arguments.

Race Prejudice
As far as the White population is concerned, most of their discrimination, however, is directed against the African. The White worker fears for his job and his privileged position, the White capitalist fears for his profits, and both together fear for their place in the country itself. In so far as the Indian encroaches upon their interests, either as capitalist or as wage-worker, to that extent they are also hostile towards him.

Towards the Coloured population the attitude is rather different. Although they do to a considerable extent discriminate against the Coloured group, the attitude of the Whites, at least until recently, is not nearly so hostile towards them as it is towards the two other groups, the Africans and Asiatics. In some industries, Coloured workers are allowed to join the White Trade Unions, and the general economic level of these particular workers is correspondingly higher than most of the others of their group. Segregation is not so marked against them as it is with Africans and Indians. Although, as is natural with all groups against which there is hostility, they tend to keep together, many of them do live in “White areas" without arousing violent antagonism.

The attitude of the Coloured people towards other groups is varied. Some of them arc apathetic about the whole question; others consider themselves superior to the Africans and Indians. There are some who wish to be independent of the Whites as well, from whom they once expected assistance and to whom they used to look for leadership and support. Recent events have no doubt tended to harden this attitude in them.

As for the Indians, discrimination against them has always been severe, and their encroachments upon the preserves of the Whiles are jealously watched. The Indians, in turn, have their own prejudices. Although more readily prepared to do business with the Africans than the Whites are, the Indians differ little in their prejudice towards them.

And what of the Africans themselves, the great oppressed majority? A few years ago, one would still have thought them an inert mass, too crushed by their grinding poverty and their struggle to keep alive to do anything other than accept everything as inevitable. But despite all the obstacles put in their way, they have not been slow to learn. Their tribal life has been broken up, they have been forced by one means or another into industry, they have become an essential part of South African capitalism, and they are ready for change.

What form will this change take? Will the African obtain for himself the elementary rights which other workers have had to struggle for in the past? Or will he be seized by that virulent nationalism which has already seized other parts of the continent and be carried on to other extreme paths? What of the Whites? Are they prepared to continue driving along a road the end of which can only be bloody violence and destruction? Nobody knows.

But two things we do know. One, that no group can permanently hold down another more numerous than itself. And the other, that the interests of all the workers of South Africa—African, White, Asiatic, and Coloured—are one. Until they realise that there will be no end to race-prejudice in South Africa.
Stan Hampson