Thursday, October 5, 2017

Russia 1917: As We Saw It (2017)

From the October 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
It was not until August 1918 that the Socialist Standard offered a considered opinion, and only on the basis of the incomplete information then available, on the Bolshevik seizure of power in a 3,500 word article entitled 'The Revolution in Russia. Where it Fails'. Even if it represented a worker's takeover like the 1871 Paris Commune it was not and could not have been a socialist revolution.
What justification is there, then, for terming the upheaval in Russia a Socialist Revolution? None whatever beyond the fact that the leaders in the November movement claim to be Marxian Socialists. M. Litvinoff practically admits this when he says (p.37):
“In seizing the reigns of power the Bolsheviks were obviously playing a game with high stake. Petrograd had shown itself entirely on their side. To what extent would the masses of the proletariat and the peasant army in the rest of the country support them?”
This is a clear confession that the Bolsheviks themselves did not know the views of the mass when they took control. (. . .)
From the various accounts and of the capitalist Press (and, as stated above, M. Litvinoff does not supply us with any other information) it seem the Bolsheviks form the driving force, and perhaps even the majority, of the new Government, sometimes called the Soviet Government and sometimes the “Council of Peoples’ Commissaries”. The Soviet Government certainly appears to have been accepted, or at least acquiesced in, by the bulk of the Russian workers. The grounds for this acceptance are fairly clear. First the Soviet Government promised peace; secondly they promised a settlement of the land question; thirdly they announced a solution of the industrial workers grievances. (. . . ) That this mixed Government should have been tacitly accepted by the Russian workers is no cause for surprise. Quite the contrary. They (the Soviet Government) appear to have done all that was possible in the circumstances to carry their peace proposals. (. . . )
As is admitted by the various sections of the capitalist Press, the Soviet representatives at the Brest-Litovsk Conference stood firm on their original proposals to the last moment. That they had to accept hard terms in the end is no way any discredit to them, but it was a result of conditions quite beyond their control. If they had done no more than this, if they had been compelled to give up office on their return, the fact that they had negotiated a stoppage of the slaughter and maiming of millions of the working class would have been a monument to their honour, and constituted an undeniable claim to the highest approbation of the workers the world over. (. . .)
With the mass of the Russian people still lacking the knowledge necessary for the establishment of socialism, with both groups of belligerents sending armed forces into the country, with the possible combination of those groups for the purpose of restoring capitalist rule, even if not a monarchy, in Russia, matters look gloomy for the people there. If the capitalist class in the belligerent countries succeed in this plan, the Soviet Government and its supporters may expect as little mercy as—nay, less than—the Khirgiz Tartars received. It may be another Paris Commune on an immensely larger scale.
Every worker who understands his class position will hope that some way will be found out of the threatened evil. Should that hope be unrealised, should further victims be fated to fall to the greed and hatred of the capitalist class, it will remain on record that when members of the working class took control of affairs in Russia, they conducted themselves with vastly greater humanity, managed social and economic matters with greater ability and success and with largely reduced pain and suffering, than any section of the cunning, cowardly, ignorant capitalist class were able to do, with all the numerous advantages they possessed.
(Socialist Standard, August 1918. Full article)

Question Time. (1913)

From the April 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

A most amusing poster was exhibited at the Tooting branch of the B.S.P recently, and from the Socialist point of view a most comprehensive one, too.

A meeting was advertised for March 9th at which Mr. E Crump was to give a lecture. and the a subject was to be : “Where Are We?’’

Had the speaker shown the same sincerity in keeping his engagement as he did in choosing his subject the position would even then have been humorous, but his failure to turn up placed a touch of reality on the whole affair.

After an existence of twenty seven years, smelling as sweetly under a variety of names, the B.S.P. find it necessary to ask themselves where they are! When we remember that the same party, on the occasion of the Borough Council election in 1912, opposed the Progressives in Battersea and supported them in Tooting, the above incident can only be taken as a true reflex of their "organisation.”

It is interesting to note, also, that what is called a “Transition Programme” (whatever that may be) finds a place on the preliminary agenda for the B.S.P.’s Whitsuntide Conference. The following extracts reveal the terrifying and r-r revolutionary nature of the discussion that is to take place :—
   “The Abolition of the Monarchy.” “Free Administration of Justice and Legal Advice.” “Compensation for Persons Innocently Accused and Imprisoned.” “Abolition of Indirect Taxation,” etc, etc.
Now at last we can feel that capitalism is tottering to its grave Surely nothing but the fear of the advent of Socialism would move the B.S.P. to endeavour to perpetuate the present rotten system with such desperation as the above suggests.

Yet H. M. Hyndman, the G.O.M. of confusion, has said that we are faced with a system which makes reform impossible.

When intelligent workers note these facts, and also bear in mind the controversy raging round the subject of strengthening the very forces which exist to keep us in our slavery, they will agree that the time is over-ripe for questions, including the plaintive one of the lost—"Where are we? "
C. Baggett

A Deadly Parallel. (1913)

Editorial from the May 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard
  "To-day you have greater poverty in the aggregate in the land than you have ever had.”
                             Lloyd George at Cardiff, December 1911.
  "Since 1905 the income of the Income Tax paying class has increased by £188,000,000."—Mr. Chiozza Money in the “Daily Chronicle,” 18.4.13.
It is May Day again—a day symbolic of, and sacred to, all that the children of toil have lost. It is May Day—the day when the ghost of the departed joy of life stalks abroad for all working- class eyes to see, lest working-class minds, sepulchred in their grey stone prisons, forget. It is May Day, the day when, in old-time fancy. Nature balances her books and commences another busy round—therefore it is a peculiarly fitting day for our annual stock taking.

The two quotations at the head of this column might have been left to tell their own tale but for the circumstance that they serve a very useful purpose in our survey. They put the total at the foot of the balance sheet in figures that cannot be challenged. They cry aloud that all the ceaseless toil of those who do the work of the world results in nothing but dead loss to them, while the idlers become more opulent than ever!

“It is not that we are not making progress,” mumbles Lord Haldane to bis fellow parasites at the Eighty Club. It looks like it, indeed. Lloyd George confirms the statement when he assures the money-grabbers of the Kingdom in his Budget speech that despite the all-round increase in the cost of maintaining their thieves’ kitchen, no new taxes will be required to be levied — the growth of their plunder far outstrips the stupendous cost of their armaments, and the pimpling increase in their expenditure upon "social reform.”

Yes, our masters are making fine progress — there can be no doubt about that. But how is it with the working class ? What progress are we making ? Sixteen months ago the man who, from his official position, should know as much about it as anyone in the Kingdom, told us that we had “greater poverty in the aggregate” than we have ever had before. That “greater poverty’’ is the gift of our boasted civilisation, not to the idle and lazy, not to those who don't work for their livelihood, but to the industrious, to those who toil in very weariness and pain. It is the fruit of all our wonderful invention, the offering of our conquest of the elements. We harnessed the wind to our wheels and made water turn our grindstones for us. We conquered steam for our purpose, and have entrammelled electricity. But every fresh conquest has made us work harder; every new outburst of the torrent of wealth has made us poorer; every addition to the good things which our hard hands produce has sent us hungrier to bed.

Those who think that against all this must be set what they are pleased to refer to as the “inestimable blessings of civilisation” may have those inflated blessings reduced to their true value in very short time.

Mr. Seebohm Rowntree made a calculation of the cost of the primary necessaries for a family of five persons. The dietary was too stringent to allow for beer, tobacco or butcher’s meat, and the limit of luxury was touched in tea—once a week. Here is the table :—

Expenditure on Food
Rents and Rates
Clothing, including boots
Lighting, washing material, furniture, crockery, etc.



Low as this estimate is, Mr. Rowntree found just upon a third of the total population of York, a typical provincial city, existing either below, upon, or very little above it. Mr. C. Booth found a like condition of things existing in London, while other investigators have shown that such poverty is general all over the country.

Now you who are looking for the “amenities of civilisation” have before you the condition of things as they affect nearly one third of the people of the richest country in the world, or rather, as they did affect them ten years ago, before prices had risen to their present height, and before “poverty in the aggregate” had the altitude at which Lloyd George finds it to-day.

But where are you to find the “blessings of civilisation” ? Are they in the first line: “Food 12s. 9d.” ? A farmer could not keep five pigs on the money. Are they in the second or third lines? A savage would scorn the stinking prison dens in which so many of our children are born and die, and would decline the responsibility of clothing five bodies on 2s. 3d. a week.

All the amenities for which these workers have exchanged the fresh air, the pure food, the leisure and natural freedom of their forefathers must be sought in the line: “Lighting, washing materials, furniture, crockery, etc. 10d.” Medicines and medical attendance, insurance, newspapers and books, postage stamps, bus, tram and railway fares, the cinema, the theatre, the bicycle, the country excursion, and the thousand and one other “blessings of civilisation” have to be paid for, in the case of nearly one-third of the people of wealthy, merry England, with what is left, after paying for soap, soda and candles, pots, pans and dishes, bedding, carpets and the piano, out of 10d. a week! Seven days of the amenities of modern civilisation for the surplus of 2d. per head!

Oh, if the workers would only understand that all this “progress,” which under the social system at present obtaining, runs to their masters, and leaves those who do the work every day in more abject poverty, could so easily be made to give every unit of society a full and a happy existence, free from the cankering anxiety of insecurity, free from the withering blight of never ending toil!

Ah, well! since the only way is through Socialism, it follows that it is also through the Socialist propaganda, and so long as this goes forward we can say with Lord Haldane—we are making progress.

Patriotism or Plunder? (1913)

From the June 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Significance of "Empire Day."
At the time of writing these lines preparations are being made to observe in a fitting manner, what has now come to he regarded as a fixed institution, viz, Empire Day. Each successive year sees an endeavour made to stimulate and extend the sentiment of “patriotism.” School children are paraded round the village, waving flags and singing patriotic airs under the direction of an enthusiastic teacher. Afterwards they are marshalled in front of the school, where they are treated to a speech on their “Responsibility, Duty, and Self sacrifice.” After giving vent to their feelings in three cheers for “The Empire” and singing “God Save the King,” they are marched into the school to the strains of "Soldiers of the Queen,” and their receptive minds are stuffed with stories of the valour of Nelson, Drake, and other butchers.

The churches are also to the front on this occasion. On the Sunday following May 24th special sermons are preached emphasising the importance of allowing themselves to be chloroformed for the national good. Advantage is taken by scaremongers and jingo politicians to point out the necessity for compulsory military service, and the need for supporting rifle clubs, and such institutions as the Boy Scouts, the Territorials, the National Service League, etc. The “Big Navy” party take pains not to let the occasion pass without trotting out once more the old cry of “adequate defence” so clear to the heart of Hyndman & Co.

It is safe to say that not one person in a thousand of those who are compelled to participate in these displays realises the significance underlying this noisy “appeal to patriotism.” They are requested to believe that it is for the “honour and integrity of our glorious empire.” OUR Empire! Let us see how much of the Empire is ours.

In the first place every schoolboy knows that before one country can assume control over another it must have recourse to force or threats, the people of the country which is to be brought under control must be subjugated and a footing established.

Various reasons are put forward from time to time to show the necessity for such steps being taken, but the ultimate analysis shows that in every case the fundamental and determining factor is economic advantage, or, to put it another way, plunder.

As almost every nation is engaged in the race for economic advantages, it resolves itself into a sort of running fight, in which the weaker succumbs to the strongest. England herself has annexed nearly a third of the earth and is still unsatisfied. Her “greatness” lies, not in that she stands for “Justice, good government, and liberty,” as Lord Rosebery would say, but in the fact that, up to now, she has been the biggest plunderer.

Her “interests,” and the machinery necessary for maintaining the same, are not operated for the benefit of her people, as is claimed, but only for the benefit of a small section of her people —the capitalists. Hence the need for armies, navies, and other murderous institutions, to guarantee the security of that class, and incidentally to capture more plunder whenever the opportunity presents itself.

It cannot be said that we have done badly, for in whichever direction we turn we are sure to let on a piece of “our” Empire.

It is an old saying that trade follows the flag, but what follows trade? Ask the people of the different nations that comprise “our Empire.” You will find the same conditions obtaining there as here—that is, poverty, misery, degradation. and all the other evils which follow in the wake of capitalism. Who among us has not felt his blood surge when reading of “our” conquests in various parts of the world ? Take, for instance, the occupation of India—that vast land of untold wealth (and poverty) which the native is debarred from developing only in the interests of the “Great White Raj," otherwise the capitalist class. Are we to suppose that India was acquired solely for the purpose of doing good to the “poor benighted heathen” ? At least this is the impression they gave us at school. Was it in their interests the Government paid four million pounds to the Khedive of Egypt for his shares in the Suez Canal in order to obtain complete control of the highway to India ? Not much !

Ever since the occupancy of India advantage has been taken of the diversity of the races to set race against race, creed against creed, caste against caste in order to preserve the security of the invaders. It was this circumstance which was in great part responsible for the historic Mutiny, the suppression of which involved such fiendishly horrible cruelty as to hardly bear relation.

What applies to India applies also to every other land where the British have asserted themselves.

Since New Zealand was “purchased” from the chiefs the Maoris have become practically extinct through the introduction of war, liquor, and other vices which follow close upon the heels of “civilisation.”

The same country is at the present time in a state of serbonian anxiety, the colonists being faced with the same problems of capitalism as confound the people here.

It is the same with Australia, where wild endeavour is being made to exclude the coloured races and to establish a “White Australia”— which policy has the support of the imperialistic “Labour” Party at present in power. This proposition stands some chance of success, since it has been discovered that white labour is more productive than coloured, hence the profits resulting from the exploitation of the former are greater.

The acquisition of Hong Kong was due to the resistance of the Chinese to the introduction of opium by the British, who forced them at the cannon’s mouth to accept it. Only recently a cargo worth some six millions was dumped at Shanghai. The Chinese refused it, so the British gunboat “Flora” was sent to overawe them into submission.

British interests in China, as elsewhere, are wholly commercial, though very often tbe Christianising of the natives is put forward as an excuse for meddling.

The conversion of China into a republic has somewhat upset Britain’s calculations, for now it may mean that the United States and Germany will stand a better chance of a look in—to English capitalists’ detriment. Their commercial interests are threatened, and the opening of the Panama Canal will not add to their peace of mind.

The alacrity with which the Churches responded to the Chinese politicians’ appeal for prayers on behalf of the new republic only recently, gave the game away entirely. Their predatory instincts are once more aroused, and their strong point is to get a foothold in China ahead of the other European nations, especially as that country may yet become a formidable competitor in the Eastern markets.

I point out these things to show that it is solely the material interests of the ruling class that produce wars and other international troubles—that all the piffle about the “glory of our world Empire,” and our “mission of justice and mercy” is only so much bunkum, intended to deceive the mass of the people who comprise “our” Empire—that it is in reality only part of the unscrupulous tactics adopted by those thievish swindlers of every nationality who are running the “British” Empire.

Who does not remember the envious eyes cast upon the Transvaal when it was announced that gold had been discovered by the Dutch farmers ? Almost immediately the “British” gentlemen who run the Empire for “us” tried to persuade the Boers to part with their find. Failing in this they had recourse to other persuasive methods, which cost a little matter of 250 million pounds and the lives of many thousands of members of the working class. When, after having conquered (!) the republic it was declared that the country would be opened up to the British worker it was found to be a delusion, for, instead, the “whites” found themselves displaced by the Kaffir, the Chinese, and the Indian. And now we find the “British" patriots who own South Africa, and in whose interest war was made, going around with bulging waistcoats and equally bulging pocket-books, preaching loyalty to the Empire.

This, then, is the significance underlying the institution known as “Empire Day.” It can be summed up in one word — plunder.

Knowing that the workers are not yet wise enough to see through their game, the capitalists are prepared to go to any length to prevent their enlightenment.

Thus it is we have members of the master class financing such things as rifle corps, Boy Scouts, and other potential warriors. The Boy Scouts in particular demand special mention as being looked upon as a great national asset, whose “usefulness,” both at home and abroad, will some day be apparent.

King Edward VII shortly before his death sent a message to a big review of scouts in which be said : “Tell the boys that the King takes great interest in them; and tell them also that if he calls upon them later in life to take up the defence of their country, the patriotic responsibility and discipline they are now acquiring as boys, will enable them to do their duty as men, should any danger threaten the Empire.”

Plain, isn’t it ?

We find that by fostering a feeling of animosity against the people of other nations, our rulers succeed in keeping the workers divided, and increased security in their tenure of existence is secured. It is significant to note how in this they receive the blessing of the'Church. To the student of history this is not surprising, for the Church throughout history has stood for militarism and slavery.

Patriotism, then, means simply the acquisition of power for the maintenance and conquest of market a in the interests of the ruling class. Capital being international, and not troubled by any sort of sentiment, it follows that it will make its way wherever its operations are likely to be successful. Consequently its owners are patriotic or anti-patriotic according as their interests are affected.

Only a few weeks ago an order for the construction of four British steamers, amounting to half a million sterling was placed in France. The reason given for sending the order abroad was that the cost would be leas than if the vessels were built in this country. Material interests first—patriotism nowhere!

An examination of the economic status of that small portion of the British Empire known as the British Isles, reveals the dismal fact that thirteen millions of its population are on the very verge of destitution. It also reveals the fact that the thirty-eight millions who represent the people who are asked to display their patriotic feelings on the 24th of May, who build the palaces, the motor-cars, and the yachts their Empire-loving masters gad about in; who provide them with bread, clothes, and boots—who, in fact, produce everything— possess nothing!

Where does the patriotism come in ? What have they to be patriotic about?

We also find the income of the rich has increased by millions, whilst a million married women are compelled out of sheer necessity to work in the factories and shops.

No wonder that paupers have increased by 70,000 since 1900, and lunatics by 20,000, despite the “benefits” of the Old Age Pensions Act and the like!

Was it a feeling of patriotism that prompted 290,000 workers with their families to depart from these shores last year ? They tell us there is no room for them in this country, yet some millions of acres are set apart for deer shooting alone! Why is this ?

It is simply because a handful of privileged pirates are allowed to own all the wealth which we produce. This is the “Secret of England’s Greatness ”! It is for this we are asked to cultivate a feeling of “patriotic responsibility,” and later on to “ take up the defence of ’’!

What do you think about it ? Do you think it is for us this “great and glorious” Empire is being run ? Do you think it is on our account that the squabbles in Parliament take place? Do you honestly believe that any party represented in Parliament to-day can legislate in our favour whilst all the time they are sucking our very life’s blood and exploiting us for all they are worth? Do not be led astray.

If an end is to be put to this rotten system it must be by the efforts of the workers themselves. This effort can only be exerted by a revolutionary organisation, conscious of its class mission. This organisation is already in existence in the Socialist Party of Great Britain. It is the only Socialist party in this country, and only by enrolling yourselves in this party can the abolition of the present system of robbery and corruption be made certain.

It was the end of this that the terrified Lord Rosebery foresaw when he wailed: "Socialism means the end of Empire" a few years ago. And Lord Rosebery was right for once!
Tom Sala

Leicester and the Labour Party. (1913)

Editorial from the July 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the past week we have heard much talk in our masters' papers of the bye-election which, at the time of writing, will take place shortly at Leicester. Columns of matter have been specially written and printed in the “Daily Chronicle” and the “Daily News," pointing out that there is “no official Labour candidate," and advising the working men in the constituency to vote for the Liberal candidate. As recently as Sunday, June 22, “Reynolds's" drew their readers’ attention to the fact that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald holds his seat by an arrangement with the Liberal Party : “The second Liberal nominee, Sir Israel Hart, retired, and so gave a clear run to the present leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party." Such is the independence of the Labour Party!

The following from the “Daily News and Leader’’ (26.6.13) is exquisitely rich : “The action of the Leicester Labour Party is regarded as such a grave violation of national party discipline, and such a graceless disregard of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald’s position as will inevitably lead to a considerable disruption of the Labour Party forces, and must compel Mr. MacDonald to sever his connection with Leicester . . . Other constituencies are open to him."

Of course, seeing that Mr. MacDonald is a good Liberal, the Liberal Party would undoubtedly be prepared to run him, either as a Lib Lab, or as a Liberal candidate.

The discontent at Leicester is a welcome sign. The workers are at last beginning to see the fraud and hypocrisy of the “official" Labour Party. Possibly they desire in know how Mr. MacDonald is voicing the claims of Labour while he is shooting tigers in India. Perhaps they have been reading of the support he gave to the Sir John Brunner Education (amendment) Bill. And further, to come to more recent events, may be they wonder what that other member of the Labour Party. Mr. Parker (who sat on the Marconi Committee and proved by his actions that there is no difference between the so-called Labour Party and the Liberals) is doing in the interest of the workers.

Seven years have rolled by since the great “Labour" triumph, and notwithstanding the fact that the labour movement has bad about forty of its members in the House of Commons, what have they done? They have shouted about Insurance and Minimum Wages, but after all, have they done anything to bring greater security to the wage-slave ? No !

Fellow workers, the only remedy for your precarious and poverty-stricken condition is to be found in intelligent recognition of your class position. You must recognise that you are mere cogs in the industrial machine, that you are permitted to work only so long as there is profit to be derived from your labour. You must understand what you want and how to get it; then there will be no room for Labour "leaders." You would not need to be led. and you could not be misled. You must organise then inside the Socialist Party, and work consciously for that revolution which will replace poverty and misery for those who do the world's work with plenty for all.