Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Your Money or Your Life (1987)

From the December 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

The NHS was set up shortly after the Second World War, after years of reformist pressure and pledges by the wartime coalition government of a better standard of care for workers as a reward for their wartime sacrifices. It was meant to be a health service that would be free at the point of use. Since then, it has been run down. Charges for some services have been introduced, and the NHS budget reduced.

Waiting lists for treatment are getting longer all the time. The simple explanation for this — insufficient funding by government — needs to be qualified. Recently, there has been an increase in overall NHS spending but this was not enough to meet the ever-increasing demand for health care. Hospitals have also been closed before new ones are ready to replace them. This has resulted in an increase in the number of people waiting for treatment and fewer hospital beds for them (fig.1). Hospitals in the cities have suffered particularly in this, because there has been a transfer of funds from urban to rural areas.

One way out for the government might be to lower the demand for health care, by taking steps to prevent disease. This is very expensive. The NHS has never been designed to prevent disease on a large scale — it is mainly a disease-curing service. It cannot give every person a check-up every six months. It cannot afford to repair dwellings that are poorly heated and ventilated, or dangerous to live in. It cannot afford to clean up the environment. It cannot ensure that everyone is provided with a balanced diet and a stress-free lifestyle. All these, and more, are necessary to prevent disease and therefore lower the demand on the health service.

Another way is to increase the supply of health care, by building hospitals and employing more health workers. In recent years this has been implemented to some extent but the queues are still getting longer Why? It is essential to cure disease when it happens; a failure to prevent disease adequately means that the health service will be swamped. Many people treated in hospitals only get ill again because the cause of their illness — poverty, stress and pollution — was not dealt with.

The government's plan to promote private health care will not solve the problem. It may lower the demand on the NHS by transferring some of the health care for some illnesses to the private sector but, because the private medical services use some NHS facilities, those who cannot afford private treatment will be moved further back in the queue. Tories argue that the NHS can be run down in order to give people a tax cut so that they will be able to afford private medical insurance. Ignoring the fallacies about workers paying taxes which this argument rests on, even if it were correct the result would be chaotic. A person who really needs to be insured, because s/he gets sick rather easily, would find it very difficult to insure him/herself at a price that s/he can afford. There is also a limit to how much treatment one can be insured for at a given price. Most people would not be able to insure themselves so that they would get the same range of services from the private sector that they would get from the NHS.
Increasing efficiency through a tough management for the NHS will not solve the problem either. The NHS is already very efficient. It had to be because it was swamped from the moment it was set up. The savings made will not amount to very much. The most likely result of this policy will be to prepare the NHS for privatisation.

The NHS functions the way it does because it exists to provide employers with as healthy a workforce as possible to recruit from. At a time when the number of people waiting for work is greater than the number of jobs for them, preventing disease on a large scale is not cost-effective, because if a worker gets ill a person without a job can replace the sick worker. However, it is not in the interest of employers to have disease run uncontrolled; exerting control is what the NHS does, so that the number of workers available for work does not fall too low. This role may not have been envisaged by some of the reformers who wanted the NHS set up. But the system we live under forces everything to conform to the needs of profit. The reformers promised a health service that would satisfy the health needs of everyone. Instead, we got a health service designed to serve the need of the employer class for a healthy workforce.

However, for employers a healthy employee is one that is able to work as hard as s/he is told to. It does not matter to them if managers die of heart disease, caused by the stress of meeting deadlines. A fresh manager can take her/his desk. It does not matter if factory workers die of cancer, caused by pollutants that are unprofitable to remove. There are plenty of people without jobs to replace them. It does not matter if unemployed workers feel hopeless and kill themselves. They are not needed.

The health services, public or private, are owned and controlled by the employer class and so it is their interests that are served. When the wealth of the world is owned and democratically controlled by everyone, the wealth of the world will be used to serve everyone's interests. The health service will be able to offer the best care, because medical supplies will be produced for use. and not for exchange at a profit. When food is produced to feed people, then infant mortality will fall, because mothers will have enough to eat. When life is no longer a stressful obstacle-course but a daily satisfaction of needs to create and consume, the number of people dying of heart disease and suicide will fall. When we look after our environment properly. because unprofitability will no longer have any meaning, cancers caused by pollution will fall.

We had an election not long ago. Promises were made. The Conservatives promised us the freedom to pay for our own treatment. Labour promised to spend a bit more on the NHS (they did not dare to insult us by printing the percentage figure in their manifesto). The Alliance promised to increase the NHS budget by £1 billion per annum higher than that planned by the Conservatives. (The Conservatives promised to spend £21 billion, and so the increase amounts to about 5 per cent).

If we want a problem to be solved, we must not leave it to leaders to put things right. The wage and salary earners of the world are the most powerful class. Without them, not a single hospital can be built, staffed, maintained or supplied. The time is long overdue for this class to democratically take control of the world's resources, and to use them for everyone's benefit.
George Marcelo

Party News Briefs (1950)

From the January 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

St. Pancras Branch continues to thrive. With an encouraging increase in membership it is making the Party’s name known in the St. Pancras area. It has an average branch meeting attendance of 75 per cent. of its membership. Successful literature sales are reported from a canvass at some flats in the Euston and Camden Town districts. Arrangements are being made for a series of indoor meetings to commence early this year. The branch is also organising a series of social evenings to be held on the first Saturday evening of each month commencing in January.

Death of a Socialist Pioneer. Comrade W. J. C. of Sydney, Australia, has sent us the following notice on the death of an old comrade in Brisbane General Hospital, one of a small body of Socialist pioneers who have carried on the struggle in Australia, Comrade Bill Casey.

Casey was a Manchester man and went to Australia some years before World War I. Almost immediately on his arrival there he became actively involved in a number of industrial disputes, including the most historical ones recorded in Australian history. Labour Government, job-conscious union officials and big businessmen all attacked him. When, during the First World War, the Labour Prime Minister of Australia tried to enforce conscription, Casey threw himself into the fight and became one of the most enthusiastically active members of the Anti-Conscription Army. That anti-conscription campaign left an indelible mark on the history of Australia.

Casey was not a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (the I.W.W., popularly known as The Wobblies) but at that time he subscribed to many of their ideas. Much of the I.W.W. propaganda of those days took the form of parodying popular songs. Bill Casey was a master of satire and made his opponents squirm under the ridicule of his rhymes whilst his comrades eagerly awaited every lampoon. The I.W.W. songs composed by Casey were sung all round the world.

In 1919 Casey was involved in the seamen’s strike. It was about this time when, having returned to sea, he met up with Jack Temple who had been an active member of the Socialist Party of Canada and had connected with the S.P.G.B. Temple weaned Casey from the I.W.W. viewpoint and very soon Casey was expounding the Socialist case. In particular he became a caustic critic of the “neo-Communists” after the Bolshevik rise to power in Russia. He was delegated to represent the seamen at an International Trade Union Conference in Moscow. This was one of the early “Missions to Moscow” and was beset with difficulties all the way. Forged passports, stowing away, “hopping” across frontiers, guides and go-betweens often in the pay of both sides. The difficulty of getting into Russia in those days was so great that the ultimate arrival in Moscow, after much suffering, danger and perseverance was hailed as a masterpiece of undercover work. Once arrived at the Gates of the Kremlin most of the delegates became insufferable Bolshevik “Yes-men”. But Casey and his co-delegate, Barney Kelly, another adherent of S.P.G.B. principles, soberly tried to obtain a truthful estimate of the position. A few days sojourn in Moscow drew the following observations from Casey: 

Production was in a straight-jacket, lethargy and indifference permeated the whole economy, the people were ENTIRELY LACKING IN A SENSE OF TIME. Industrial discipline was non est. Without the normal industrial development of production and some measure of buying and selling (war Communism was the order of the day) drift and indifference would gradually strangle the economy of the Soviet.

These observations were greeted with disgust and dismay by other delegates. However, before they left Moscow, Lenin introduced his “New Economic Policy” which, in essence, provided for the very things that Casey opined were needed to stabilise the Russian economy. The “Yes-men’s” hostility to Casey’s prognostications changed to cheers for Lenin's belated pronouncements.

Back in Australia, he submitted his report to Tom Walsh (then a leading Communist and foundation member of the Australian Communist Party and General President of the Australian Seamen’s Union). Walsh rejected the report and refused to publish it on the grounds that it criticised the Bolsheviks and the Russian system. After spending some time in Melbourne, Casey proceeded to Sydney where he again crossed swords with Walsh who, carrying out the policy of the C.P. was endeavouring to get the seamen to affiliate with the A.L.P. (Australian Labour Party) from which body the seamen had seceded because of the anti-working-class role of Labour governments and politicians during the seamen’s strike of 1917 and 1919.

Bill Casey and Jacob Johnson. 1925.
With Jacob Johnson (Assistant Secretary, Sydney Branch of the Seamen’s Union) and a handful of supporters, Casey pursued the fight against affiliation with the Labour Party. This fight continued up to 1925 when an unexpected walk-out of British seamen, who left their ships tied up on the Australian coast, overshadowed the affiliation dispute. Incidental to the British seamen’s strike, both Walsh and Johnson were arrested, brought before a tribunal set up under special legislation, and sentenced to deportation from Australia. We knew, at that time, that Walsh wanted to be deported and was to be given a job in England with Havelock Wilson. Casey worked unceasingly to prevent the deportation. Those who were associated with Casey believe that his activities on behalf of Johnson was the most brilliant of his career. An appeal was made to the High Court of Australia. The most eminent legal men in the country were briefed both by the Crown and the appellants. Casey worked day and night to defeat the machinations of what was openly recognised as “A ship-owners’ government”. He marshalled facts, ferreted information, countered the sabotage of Government henchmen, suggested successful points of law, and finally his subtle optimism triumphed. Dr. Evatt, one of Johnson’s counsel (now Attorney General and ex-president of U.N.O.) unstintingly praised Casey’s remarkable accomplishments. Many barristers have openly acknowledged him to be “the cleverest lay-man they ever met”. The High Court held the Tribunal's decision to deport to be ultra vires; Walsh and Johnson were released from the Naval prison on Garden Island where they had been held while awaiting deportation.

Following the release and the settlement of the British seamen’s strike, the fight around affiliation with the Labour Party again assumed an important place in the Seamen’s Union. Finally Walsh’s move was defeated and he was deposed from his position as G.P. Later, a high officer of the N.S.F.U. visited Australia and reported that Havelock Wilson had sent over £3,000 to help Walsh in the fight against Johnson and Casey. In justice to this official, let it be said that on hearing the facts of the case, he urged that no more money be sent from the English Seamen’s Union for this purpose.

During these periods, Casey consistently carried on Socialist propaganda. He debated almost every "leader” in the Communist Party. He represented the S.P. of A. in debates with the Henry George League, the Labour Party, the Communist Party, Currency Experts, and a host of others. He trounced Individualist A. D. Kay who, after losing his seat in Parliament and on the Meat Board, went to England to be given, later, a job by Churchill during the last war. Casey conducted Speakers’ Classes, Economics Classes, open air and indoor meetings for the S.P.A. Prior to the formation of the S.P.A. he, together with Moses Baritz, struck terror into the hearts of the professional “revolutionaries” of the C.P. These two Manchester men invariably sought each other whether in London, Sydney or Melbourne.

The anecdotes about them would fill a book; Moses, bombastic, merciless, ruthlessly capable in expounding the Socialist position. Casey, puckish, simple, unsurpassed as a teacher of young fellows, flashing with satire and armed with a power of mental penetration that pierced the armour of the most hide-bound opponent of Socialism.

For many years he held official positions in the Seamen’s Union. He was Secretary of the Brisbane Branch when he died. For years he found it difficult to get jobs on ships. Victimised, he battled around on scanty food, a few beers and a bit of tobacco. Long spells of unemployment meant more time for Socialist activities. He never went short while his friends had a few bob. His knowledge of philosophy, economics, political and industrial history was amazing and his uncanny ability to interpret industrial awards, surmount legal difficulties with regard to the Merchant Shipping Act, the Australian Navigation Act and the various Compensation Acts, redounded to the benefit of his ship-mates. He was known as the Seaman Philosopher. So much, and yet so little, of that side of his life.

Personally, Casey was the finest friend ever a man could wish for. His loyalty to friends and principles was universally acknowledged. A little, broad shouldered fellow, quietly spoken, with impish grin, happy and humming some simple old-country folk song, it was a pleasure to be in his company. Ever ready to quaff a pot. A lover of children, he was always the butt of their frolicking at some friend’s family gathering. He was popular in the truest sense of the word. His friendship never wavered.

Now Casey is gone and comrades, all over the world, will regret his passing. He died of cancer. The working-class has lost a champion; the Socialist Party has lost a great pioneer in Australia. A fellow member of the S.P.A. gave the final address at his cremation a sad task but a privileged one. Casey’s life was devoted to the establishing of a new social order. For while the sands were running out, in a recent letter to the writer, after describing his sufferings, he concluded thus; —
   “I wish nothing better to anybody than good health, except a better system in which to enjoy it."
W.J.C. concludes his obituary to a great friend and comrade:—“The memory of Bill Casey will sustain us in our future struggles.”

Kingston Branch wishes to draw attention to the fact that its meetings will be held fortnightly from Thursday, January 5th, instead of weekly as previously. The meeting place and time of meeting are unchanged. 

From Sweden we receive an encouraging letter from which we quote: —
   “As far as I can understand from your declaration of Principles and from the articles published in your very interesting magazine, the Socialist Party of Great Britain (and its companion Parties in Canada, etc.) represents a much more sincere Socialism than any other Party in your country or in Scandinavia. Although I never was a member of it, my sympathies have been almost entirely with the Swedish Social Democratic Party. However, having come to maturity I have understood that our Social Democrats (like the British Labour Party) have failed of their original purpose. Sweden needs a Party like yours, a Moscow independent. Socialist Party. I know it would be welcomed by many people, all those workers, agricultural, industrial or intellectual, who are displeased with the Social Democrats, but who do not want to work for Kominform purposes. I shall do all I can to circulate the Socialist Standard in Sweden . . .”

Party Badges. Party Badges in stud or brooch form are available for Party members. 1s. 6d. post free.
W. Waters

Here Today and Gone Tomorrow (1950)

From the February 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the 14th December,1949, Traicho Kostov, the former Vice-Premier of Bulgaria, was sentenced to death for treason by the Bulgarian Supreme Court. Two days later he was executed—so quickly do the wheels of Bulgarian law turn they did not allow even an appeal. Ten other "Communists” were tried with him, of whom five received life sentences, three got 15 years, one 12, and the other 8 years' imprisonment. All his companions, following the tradition of the Russian trials, pleaded guilty. Kostov, though pleading guilty to "anti-Soviet activities," was unexpectedly awkward and insisted that he was not guilty of the major charges levied against him, of spying for Britain and plotting on behalf of Yugoslavia.

The trial followed the usual lines. All of Kostov's companions were abject in their confessions of guilt, admitting unreservedly that the charges made against them were true. At the same time, some of them tried to make things better for themselves by making things worse for Kostov, accusing him of all manner of things, in particular of blackmailing them into doing what they had done.

The prosecution, of course, did even better. Chervenkov, the secretary of the Central Committee and the present "big-boss" of Bulgaria, coined a new word specially for the occasion—"Kostovism." "Kostovism," he said, "is Titoism on Bulgarian soil, and like Titoism is grows on treason and espionage." Further, said Chervenkov, Kostov had managed to assume the leadership of the Bulgarian Communist Party, thanks to his "devilish duplicity, fantastic hypocrisy, and subtle diabolical methods." (Times, 2nd December, 1949.)

Whether the charges are true or false, we hold no brief for Kostov. What has happened to him he would no doubt have had happen to others if the circumstances had demanded it. But what strikes us as worthy of record is this further fantastic example of the way in which "Communist heroes" are turned into "imperialist blackguards" almost overnight. Turning back the pages of history only a little way, this is what the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party said about Kostov just over two years ago:
    “Great are your achievements, Comrade Traicho Kostov, as the builder of the party, as teacher and instructor of the party members. Under your leadership and your heroic example thousands of party members were educated into absolute loyalty to the party. In the underground, in prisons, tens of thousands of party members studied, and are at present studying at liberty, your lectures and your books; they are learning from the example of your life and career, from your utmost loyalty to the party and the people.
    “Today, as Deputy Prime Minister in the Government headed by the wise leader of the party and the people, Comrade George Dimitrov, you are his right hand; you the direct executor of the economic reconstruction in the country, of the economic plan, of the great construction work in our republic.
   “Your deep Marxist-Leninist theoretical knowledge, your great culture, your famous industry and steadfastness, your modesty, your iron will, your unquestionable loyalty towards the party and the working class are those Bolshevik characteristics which beautify your whole lighting life, forever united with the struggle of the party.
    “A loyal colleague of George Dimitrov, and his first assistant, you are to-day one of the most loved and respected leaders of our party, a great statesman and builder of new Bulgaria.
   “Comrade Traicho Kostov! The Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist party is wishing you good health and strength so that you may go on working just as loyally, unceasingly, and whole-heartedly for the party and the people, for the triumph of the economic plan, and the great historical achievements of the working class.” (Manchester Guardian 15/12/49.)
This effusion, incidentally, is signed by Chervenkov, later Kostov’s bitterest accuser.

As with many other Communist twists and turns, this one has its amusing side. Kostov the "traitor" was, it appears, the author of the Bulgarian Communist Constitution passed in 1947 with great acclamation, and presumably still in force. At the fifth party congress held only a year ago it was he who put forward the party's future political programme, which again was most enthusiastically received. Further, according to the Times correspondent (2nd December, 1949), "All party pamphlets on policy, strategy, and tactics have now to be re-edited as they were almost all written by Kostov."

Finally, to add insult to injury, a Bulgarian newspaper, says the Times correspondent, has recently protested that the official film of the fifth party congress is still going the rounds of the country. In one shot stands Kostov. On one side is Dimitrov; on the other is Suslov, the Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party!

Communists the world over must be kept pretty busy one way and the other. Half their time they spend working out the implications of the new Party-line, the other half scrubbing out the evidence and the effects of the old one.
Stan Hampson

The General Election (1950)

Editorial from the March 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

After five years of Labour Government the workers have shown what effect that experience has had on them by reducing almost to vanishing point the very large majority that the Labour Party had in the old Parliament. The Government may, for a period, continue a precarious existence, but it will do so representing a body of electors substantially smaller than the combined votes of Tories and Liberals.

The Labour Government is now in effect a minority government. In the past the professional politicians of the Liberal and Tory parties were used to the pendulum swing that put first one and then the other into office; but for the Labour Party the event is of vastly greater significance. For them it is the ominous writing on the wall, the visible proof of the sterility of their foundation policy. They believed that they could inspire more and more enthusiasm among the workers by the success with which they would—while retaining capitalism— tackle one by one the evils of the system. They believed that once they had become a majority government they would never look back. In their innocence they thought that Labour Governments live for ever. This election has proved the correctness of the S.P.G.B. case, that a Labour Government is powerless to make capitalism acceptable, let alone inspiring, to the workers. Labour reformism has done its utmost and has failed.

The second shock for the theorists of that Party has been the discovery that their other main plank, Nationalisation, has ceased to be a vote-catcher. It was the Tories who picked up workers' votes by promising not to nationalise any more industries.

If the Labour reformists lost ground, the election has proved catastrophic for the Communist Party. In 1945 they ran 21 candidates (two of whom were elected), and polled a total of 102,710 votes. This time with 100 candidates in the field they lost the two seats and polled fewer votes, about 92,000 in all. Their average vote fell from nearly 5,000 to just over 900. If they had fought on the straight issue of Communism they could hardly have done much worse, but in fact they contested every seat on their own brand of reforms of capitalism, largely designed as an effort to outbid the reforms listed in the Labour Party programme.

The 1950 election also witnessed the elimination of the I.L.P. from Parliament, yet at one time that Party could boast that upwards of 200 of its members were in the House as Labour M.P.s. The I.L.P.'s chief contribution to politics was the belief that a Socialist objective could be combined with a reformist activity and the election of M.P.s who, backed by a non-Socialist electorate, would pave the way for Socialism. All their work of over half a century has served merely to put into office a Labour Government to which the almost dead I.L.P. is now in opposition.

There are many other aspects of the Election to which we shall return in later issues. All we need add now is to place on record that the working class have once more given their votes for the continuance of capitalism. They have yet to learn where their class interests really lie, and the coming years will show once again that capitalism offers no way out, not even any worth while alleviation, no matter what the complexion of the government by which it is administered.

The Socialist Message To The Working Class. (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

In presenting our case to the working class of Great Britain, which we have been doing for over forty years, we do not waste our time and space on issues such as humanizing the workhouses, that is to say, whether such workhouses shall be bigger or better. Neither do we bother as to whether there shall be central heating in the waiting rooms in the Labour Exchanges or not. Neither do we waste our time as to whether there shall be a return to the Gold Standard, or whether the Pound Sterling shall be devalued, or whether Military Conscription shall endure for 18 months or 12 months.

But what we tell the working class is something like this. We explain at length the REAL causes of their poverty, squalor and war. We take great pains to explain why they must continue to live for the best part of their lives in rat-hole tenement houses. We tell them the REAL causes, that in the near future that the already overcrowded waiting rooms of the Labour Exchanges will be still more overcrowded. We also tell them that from the overcrowded waiting rooms of the Labour Exchanges will only be a short step to the already overcrowded cemeteries of the battlefields of Europe and elsewhere.

We don’t just leave it at that. We always tell them that the remedy for those horrors lies entirely in their own hands. In short, they will have to do some hard thinking. They will have to acquire that revolutionary knowledge and understanding to organise politically and consciously to obtain control of that piece of machinery known as the Powers of the State. They will have to use it for their own advantage, namely, to dispossess the ruling class of their ownership of the whole earth and the fullness thereof. That includes the factories, railways, steamships, airways, etc. They, the working class of the world, will have the task of emancipating the whole of society themselves. No leaders can do it for them, and certainly no Messiah or Saviour. No other political party can tell that. Indeed they dare not tell them that.

When the working class arrives at that stage of revolutionary knowledge and understanding, cries will be heard from many lands. “What are we waiting for? ” They won’t wait very long. Startling things will happen. They will take possession of all the flour mills and bakeries of the world. What will be done with that lovely bread and beautiful cakes that will be produced without money or price? Even children will reply, “You will eat them, of course.”

The working class will not be content with this alone? They will take possession of all the textile machines and all the millions of yards of beautiful cloth and produce beautiful clothing. What will be done with those beautiful clothes? Again even children will reply, “You will wear them, of course.” This will be done without money or price.

Still the working class won’t be content. They will take possession of the whole earth and the fullness thereof. They will take possession of all the stone, clay, concrete and the steel. They will then produce beautiful strong houses. Again without money or price. What will be done with those beautiful strong houses? Again children will reply, “You will go and live in them.” They will do so without let or hindrance. There will be nobody to stop them now. In a very short time it will be obvious to everybody there won’t be required such things as rent books, estate agents, no mortgage or building society.

Then as private property has been abolished, and the causes of war removed, there won’t be required such institutions as armed forces, etc. There won’t be necessary such things as Secret Police, such as F.B.l or M.I.5, Gestapo or Ogpu. There won’t be needed such people as a Prime Minister or any other Cabinet Minister. There won’t be any Labour Exchange or a Stock Exchange or banks of any description, and many other institutions of a slave order of society.

Finally, when the working class almost throughout the world proceed to act on those lines, they will then cease to be a working class. At the same time there will cease to be what is known as a ruling, privileged class. It will then be the end of what is known to-day as Capitalist Society. A new social order will be born, and it will operate throughout the whole world. It will be known as Socialism.
Nat Posner

A Letter From An Austrian Comrade (1950)

From the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

General Secretary,                   2nd April, 1950.
The S.P.G.B.

Dear Comrade,

In the name of our still tiny group of Austrian comrades I send fraternal greetings to all comrades assembled in London for the Annual Conference of the Party.

Knowing as I do the insatiable ambition and desire for expansion, I fear that the conquests and acquisitions made this last twelvemonth will be deemed unsatisfactory by some impatient delegates. No doubt, these stormy petrels will be pacified and steadied by reminding them that, if progress is slow, it is steady and solid. Which is more than the pseudo-parties can say. Have these conglomerations of befogged and bewildered elements that come and go, a future at all? No, whatever our adversaries may say, and however slow progress may so far have been, the future is with us. One is apt to forget that Capitalism, though it has lasted far too long for us already, has after all only had a short run, compared with preceding stages in the evolution of human society. Even so, it shows already unmistakable signs of decreptitude and is almost at the end of its tether as far as successful coping with its problems and dilemmas is concerned. Just observe the pitiful helplessness of the whole crowd of capitalism’s henchmen and hirelings, of its spokesmen in press and wireless, on platform and pulpit, in face of such problems as the spectre of another war! Note Capitalism’s prominent men, its scientists, its military experts a.s.o. warning and imploring “the ordinary men and women throughout the world to supply the irresistible impetus to end the menace of war” which they, the “intellectuals” know not how to end. Note, along with the gigantic armament race, the frantic appeals of the modern medicine-men for the observance of national days of prayer to the Almighty who, though He has let us down in the past, is implored to stop dealing further blows to His creation in future.

One wishes that the “ordinary men and women throughout the world” would indeed take their masters and pastors by their word and really “supply the irresistible impetus” to intelligent action. Such impetus can of course only spring from a mental revolution, from understanding the CAUSE of all the trouble. Only such knowledge can make the ordinary men and women of one country unite, not, as hitherto, with their class-enemies, but with the workers of all countries, to end the menace of war by sweeping away its cause, the sordid system of competitive Capitalism.

The task of spreading this knowledge is left to the socialist. With our scant means, and all the wide channels of propaganda closed against us, it is indeed a heavy task. There is only one ally for opening the workers’ eyes and driving home the lesson that nothing but a fundamental change as proposed by socialists, can help. That ally is the constant deterioration of conditions and the glaring failure and futility of all efforts and measures to cope with it. With all the long and painful experience before them, the workers should certainly no longer be as ready as they have been in the past, to swallow the rubbish that Capitalism is the only possible system and that common ownership and democratic control of the means of life by society as a whole is supposed to be a Utopia.

Our task over here is rendered even more difficult by the special conditions of which you are well aware and which I was able to explain when I had the great pleasure of meeting many comrades personally last summer. We do the best we can in the circumstances, sowing the good seed and hoping that by your next annual Conference there will be better news from this part of the world also. If not, then it will be, as comrade Waters said last year, our misfortune but not our fault.

With all good wishes for the wellbeing of our comrades and for the success of your Conference, let me finish my message with the words written by comrade Webb many years ago in the Standard, on “The Meaning of Life”:—
   “There is the task, a hard task admittedly, but worth the doing. Life to the socialist means unremitting toil in the cause of Socialism, perseverance in spite of all discouragement, the marching onward in the face of all doubts and difficulties. Even if we of this generation do not see and taste the fruits of our sowing, yet even then we shall have our reward—in the knowledge that we have fought on the side of energy against apathy, of youth against the decrepit, of life itself against death.”
Yours fraternally,
Rudolf Frank.

Letter to an Unpolitical Man (1950)

From the June 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fellow Worker,

Do not mistake me. You are a menace to yourself and to society. Our opponents we can deal with, be they Labour, Liberal, Tory, Communist or hot gospeller, for we can meet them on common ground and bowl them out. With you there is no such common ground. You’ve always had a roof over your head, a job and a wage and have thus been able to continue your miserable existence undisturbed. Wars have come and gone. You are still alive. Booms have grown into slumps. You have been lucky. No issue affecting your immediate self has shaken you from your lethargy. As a result you skulk behind your limited horizon and vegetate.

Were you not so dangerous, one might even feel sorry for you. How stunted your imagination must be. Do you really consider that as a member of the working class, that section of the population which runs the present system of society from top to bottom, you are living in the best of possible worlds ?

Take a look around you and what do you see? Ribbons of dull brick houses plastered haphazardly across the face of the earth as though some giant has run amok with a tube of toothpaste. Each one of them is a deathtrap, small and unhealthy to the body, frustrating to man’s natural communal instinct.

Now look inside and view the bodged up furniture with that familiar “utility” mark. Tap the highly polished wood (but not too hard or you’ll crack it) and find it is a veneer over boxwood. Pull out the drawers and see how roughly the joints are bashed home. Not up to a standard but down to a price. Probably its proud owners are buying it on the never-never.

On the rickety table is their food. In spite of various laws about pollution its standard is low. Sausages, part of your staple diet, contain 40 per cent, meat. Read the trade journals and see the advertisements for patent pie-filler. Learn that the raspberry jam you eat is made from swedes and potatoes, coloured and decorated with specially imported pips. Horrible, isn’t it?

And before we leave the house let’s take a look at the people in it. Perhaps this is a 'broken’ home. There’s enough of them around. Families are split up or even worse are living jaded lives, barely tolerant of each other’s presence. Why do you think they are like this? Could it be some supernatural cause or is it more likely that endless years of skimping and saving have turned fresh young love into bitterness? You say the pairs may not be well matched. Any wonder in a world where the worker’s social circle is doubly limited by his subsistence level wages and his limited hours of leisure.

From the homes let us pass to the places of work. Every day since you left school you’ve experienced the rush hour packed in a stinking underground train with less comfort than a sardine. The glaring poster mocks, “Avoid Rush Hour Travel.” Don’t you wish you could?

There is no joy in the factory or office, repeating the same old automatic process, totting up the endless columns of figures, day in, day out for more than forty years, wars and slumps permitting. There’s no sense of achievement when you’ve done because you must immediately start again. To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow . . .  No wonder it pleases you to potter about the garden or create small things of wood in the toolshed. There you are expressing yourself.

One day it will all come to an end, and as you take your leave of life, maybe you will pause for a moment to sum up. What will be your conclusion? You were born, worked for fifty years, spent a couple more on the scrap heap and are now about ready to leave the world exactly as you came into it.

Again I pose the question, “Do you really believe that this miserable, humdrum existence is all that the useful section of society merits?" Your masters would have you believe that these things are completely divorced from politics. Meanwhile the major political parties vie with each other for the right to gather the crumbs that they sweep from their table. But we of the Socialist Party of Great Britain take a different stand.

We believe, indeed we can demonstrate, that this ugliness which is perpetually around us, to say nothing of the recurring periods of slump and war, have a very tangible cause in the basis of this system which you, by your apathy, allow to continue.

No doubt you would like to see it changed but it is no use sitting back and waiting for us to do it for you. We can’t! Only you can do that! Read through our Declaration of Principles on the back page and get hold of our pamphlets. They will show you how.

In striving to make the world a better place for men and women to live in you will find a satisfaction you have never known. Here’s hoping !

Party News Briefs (1950)

Party News from the July 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Kelvingrove Branch is now 15 strong having recently recruited three new members. The discussion group, started in November of last year, is still running with a satisfactory attendance. Outdoor propaganda meetings were started about the middle of April, but up to now they have not been a great success owing to lack of experienced speakers among the branch members. But the meetings are a useful training ground and young speakers are gaining the necessary experience with each meeting held. Next year should find the branch with an established propaganda station, qualified speakers and good audiences. One meeting held this year, on the first Sunday in June at Drury Street was a fair success, a young member of the branch holding an audience of 200 workers for nearly two hours.

Kelvingrove members have recently finished the first month of a door-to-door literature sales drive and they have sold a considerable number of Party pamphlets. During May the Glasgow members completely sold out their stock of the current issue of the Socialist Standard and during June and July they anticipated increased sales of our paper. Comrades Turner and Millen visited Glasgow during May, Turner speaking at the May Day rally and Millen addressing the branch's first indoor propaganda venture on the subject, “Your Vote—Did it Matter?" The Kelvingrove members are pleased with the response.

Our Summer School this year was not as great a success as was anticipated. It was held on Saturday and Sunday, June 10th and 11th at Tree Tops Holiday Camp, Farley Green, Surrey, the same venue as last year. At the school last year, the attendance exceeded the accommodation booked. On the basis of that experience, an increase of 50 per cent. was made in our booking for this year, but the attendance fell short by about that amount. So this year's school has involved us in a financial loss.

The members who attended had an enjoyable time. A dance was arranged for the Saturday evening and a variety of recreations and amusements for Sunday. During Sunday afternoon. Comrade Wilmott delivered an excellent address on Imperialism which many members attended and acclaimed with enthusiasm. The school terminated in the early evening of the second day.

Contact With Austria. A party of members who recently visited Austria bring back greetings from the small Socialist group in Vienna and news of their activities. In an occupied city, where the military representatives of four great powers sit watching one another, and the Viennese, with caution; where incoming and outgoing mail is censored by the Russian authorities, where political freedom is strictly limited, our comrades have an unenviable task. A few of them have mastered the English language and make translations from our literature. Whole pamphlets are translated into German and small quantities produced by duplicating typewritten sheets. There is no excitement, no stimulants to their enthusiasm; they can hold no meetings, print no literature. Their work must be solely by personal contact and carried out with caution. One or two wish to visit England and hope to do so this year, but currency restrictions, restrictions on their freedom of movement, an unfavourable rate of exchange, passport control and a host of other obstacles must first be overcome, the greatest obstacle, of course, being the usual working-class one, very shallow pockets. Meeting and talking to these comrades was a great pleasure and we wish them success with the tiny bit of help that we can give them, in their stupendous task.

From New Zealand we have the following news letter: In the political field things are reminiscent of 1935 when the Labour Party first gained power. At that time when various groups of workers became impatient at the slowness of the Labour Government in fulfilling its election promises; Labour Ministers would point out that, “the last Government left us such a mess to clean up, etc.," appealed to the workers to “go easy on their wage demands and don't embarrass the Government." Now the Nationalist Government in 1950 put forward as an excuse for delays, “legacies left by the Labour Government," there are, “obstacles which had to be overcome in restoring freedom to the individual," “We are trying to stop inflationary pressure that has been generated over fifteen years." What a game! When general elections are over the old saying, “After the Lord Mayor’s show comes the dust cart,” is very appropriate. The Labour Party supporters are making dire prophecies of prices sky-rocketing as a result of the lifting of subsidies from various commodities. They claim that had the Labour Government been returned it would not have happened. However they have no explanation for the rising commodity prices (butter for instance) and wage freezing in Britain in spite of the Labour Government. There are the makings of stirring times in the Trade Union Movement here. The struggle that has been going on within the Federation of Labour has resulted in a split. A new body has been formed calling itself the “New Zealand Trade Union Congress.” According to a statement published in the Evening Post, Wellington, 21-4-50. “The new organisation would work toward the principles of unity, freedom from political domination, and the right to handle their own business and affairs.” A committee has been set up to work out a constitution. The split followed the walk out of more than 40 delegates from the Federation of Labour conference, the bone of contention being the expulsion of the Waterside Workers Union. It was the culmination of a long struggle between the so called “Moderates” and the “Militants.” Compulsory unionism brought into existance many strange and weird Unions whose representatives were very staunch Labour lickspittles, commanding sufficient votes to curb the aspiration of the more militant unions, thereby sparing embarrassment to the Labour Government that was in power. Officials of the “Militant” Unions have from time to time complained of what they have termed these “hot house” unions and the use their votes have been put to by the leaders of the “Moderates.” However, if that was the state of affairs in the F.O.L. the so called Militants should have left the Federation long ago. The whole business is a substantiation of what Socialists have pointed out for such a long time. "While the workers fail to study and understand their position in society they will be victims of job and place hunting Labour leaders in addition to all the other effects of this rotten Capitalist system.”

S.W. London Branch, after losing many active members to newly formed branches and through the exigencies of war is now experiencing a renaissance. There has been an influx of new members; attendances at branch meetings have doubled and the members are mostly young and enthusiastic. This has had heartening results in the form of increased activity. A systematic literature drive is now in full swing. Sales have exceeded expectations and are still increasing. May sales of the S.S. being 17 dozen. The Branch has also doubled its outdoor propaganda this season. Clapham Common station is being run from 3 p.m. till dusk on Sundays instead of Sunday evenings only, as previously, and a new and lively, if somewhat hostile, audience is being addressed on Saturday evenings outside Chelsea Town Hall. Propaganda in the Clapham Junction area has improved as a result of a change in the meeting place. S.W. London Members are also hoping to obtain more congenial branch rooms in the near future where lectures and discussions can be a regular feature of branch activity, but they must have the support of all members and sympathisers in the district if this is to be successful. This season S.W. London intends to put itself "on the map” and if you live in that area you can help.

Tottenham Branch have been actively engaged in a door-to-door canvassing campaign since the beginning of the year. This has resulted in good sales of the Standard—the monthly order being increased from 6 dozen in January to 20 dozen in May. Over 50 regular readers have been obtained during this period and we hope that new members will be made in the near future.

Regular outdoor meetings are being held at West Green Corner on Sundays commencing at 8 p.m. and interest in these is growing. Although audiences were small when the meetings commenced in April, they are now attracting more attention, and the average audience is between 60 and 80.

Tottenham Branch meets at Earlsmead School. Broad Lane, on Thursday, at 7.30 p.m. to deal with Branch business, followed by discussions.
W. Waters

The Sterility and Futility of Ex-Communist "Intellectuals" (1950)

Editorial from the August 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Manchester Guardian for the 10th July contains an article giving a report of the “Congress for Cultural Freedom" that was held in Berlin from June 26th to 30th. The article is by H. R. Trevor-Roper who attended as one of the British delegates and who appears to have summed up the nature of the congress and the delegates with a considerable amount of clear-sightedness.
   “This congress turned out to be a political demonstration. As such it was well organised and no doubt successful. My only objection is that it was not advertised as such, and I do not think it would have obtained all its sponsors or all its delegates if it had been correctly advertised.”
As the article makes clear the congress was certainly not one for cultural freedom; it was in fact dominated by renegade communists who made vicious attacks upon their late friends and upon the ideas they had formerly backed as the essence of all that was advanced in culture, and deserving of world wide support, with them, of course in the vanguard of the movement—the admired leaders! Unfortunately for themselves they were, as always, only ignorant tools. When they discovered this they turned their impotent fury upon the hands that led them up the garden.

Mr. Trevor-Roper describes some of the incidents that make plain the narrow personal outlook of these would-be leaders of the world, and how little this outlook has to do with cultural freedom. Some quotations from this article are enlightening.
   “The printed prospectus offered highly intellectual terms of reference, and Professor Ayer (one of the English delegates), in his opening speech, kept to them. To a disapproving audience he quoted Mill and examined the philosophic justification of tolerance. The Greek chairman then explained that this was irrelevant, since our enemies were too intolerant to be tolerated; and a German, declaring that ‘in our times John Stuart Mill cannot help us,’ appealed for a rival dogmatism as a more useful weapon of war. Professor Herman J. Muller, of Indiana, then spent forty five minutes denouncing Lysenko as an ignoramus.”
Mr. Trevor-Roper remarks that after this it was impossible to return to an intellectual level. The next day they discussed “The defence of peace and freedom," Mr. James Burnham opening on the subject. This is what Mr. Trevor-Roper has to say of Mr. Burnham’s contribution:
   “Mr. Burnham’s prophecies have always been oracular and infallible in form, but their content has needed frequent revision. At the moment he is prophesying the inevitable defeat of Communism. In his speech he advocated a somewhat expensive method of securing the inevitable, for he preached total war; denounced pacifism, then (by an imperceptible transition) peace; and urged his audience to judge the morality of atom bombs according to the nationality of their manufacturers.”
Then Mr. Arthur Koestler added his contribution: 
   “Mr. Koestler made, altogether, three speeches, and his theme was constant if unconstructive. It was that Right and Left are meaningless terms; that the choice before us is Communism or Anti-Communism; and he who is not with us is against us. On this occasion he developed his theme into a long attack on England as parochial and isolationist for refusing to see the problem in these clear terms.”
Mr. Koestler has always been a master at seeing problems in clear terms, only the terms get mixed up— one day on one side and the next day on the other side.

The ex-communist Franz Borkenau also made a contribution about which the writer of the article makes the following comments :
   “Pouring out his German sentences with hysterical speed and gestures, he screamed that he was a convert from Communism and proud of it; that past guilt must be atoned for; that the ex-communists alone understood Communism and the means of resisting it; that Communism could only mean perpetual war and civil war; and that it must be destroyed at once by uncompromising frontal attack, and yet, terrible though it was, this fanatical speech was less frightening than the hysterical German applause which greeted it. It was different from any other applause at that congress. It was an echo of Hitler’s Nuremburg.”
The writer of the article adds that with that speech and the applause the whole structure of the congress was revealed as an alliance between two parties—the ex-communists among the delegates and the German Nationalists in the audience. “Cultural freedom,” he says, “ was nowhere.”

The concluding paragraph of the article is .an example of the clear-headedness of the writer, at least on this particular question. He sums up as follows:
   “The congress was in no sense an intellectual congress. . . .  It was simply Wroclaw in reverse—the Wroclaw of the ex-communists. Signor Silone once suggested that the coming struggle would be between the Communists and the ex-Communists. After the sterile congresses of Wroclaw and Berlin I am confirmed in my view that a more satisfactory solution will be offered by those who have never swallowed and therefore never needed to re-vomit, that obscurantist doctrinal rubbish whose residue can never be fully discharged from the system.”
These ex-Communists (Burnham, Koestler, Borkenau, Hook, Lasky and the rest) are incapable of understanding now the mainspring of their own fatuous conduct. Blinded by a false conception of their own importance, always wrong, and violently wrong, they still hope to occupy the centre of the political stage and bolster up their empty egoism with the plaudits of equally blind followers. Yet so great is their political ignorance that they are fated always to back the wrong horse. Their actions demonstrated that it is they, more than any, who fail to understand the basis of the Russian dictatorship and its imperialist policy, and that it is also they who are the more easily rendered impotent. They fall for every wrong social theory, for every futile movement, and are used and cast aside by political climbers of every brand; their contradictory professions, fleeting loyalties and futile actions brand them as what they are—servile tools of ambitious political groups always ready, like mangy curs, to snap at the heels of those who have fed them. Blindly imagining that they arc superior to the working class they are in fact but the scum that floats on the surface of that class.

Sidelights on Korea (1950)

From the September 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

All governments are in favour of peace; we know that because they have all told us so! We also know, in spite of this passionate assertion, that they have all been engaged in “little wars” since the end of the second World War. This also includes the bearer of the olive branch, the Indian Government, which forgot to clean its own doorstep before making its frightened appeal to others to clean theirs. This is the comic side of the tragedy. None of them want war but they all prepare for it and wage “little wars.” What they really want is the fruit of war without having to spend treasure fighting for it. But they all want the fruit so determinedly that rather than lose it, they are prepared to turn the world into a cemetery again. Human life and human misery weigh nothing in the balance against markets, trade routes and raw materials—the means to realise the surplus labour extracted from the working class, out of which the capitalist class of the world wax rich and live in riotous luxury.

The war in Korea has some similarities with the “little wars” that preceded the 1939 catastrophe. Here again new methods of warfare are being tried out by the most powerful groups just as they were in Spain and China. We read of the coming into action of new and more powerful weapons on both sides; weapons not devised by either North or South Koreans. These weapons include new quick-firing rifles that fire a number of bullets instantaneously; powerful tanks with better fire-resisting armour; more formidable tank attack weapons; more powerful plane fired rockets; and so forth. At the same time we read about the greater concentration upon the development of guided missiles of various kinds this side of the iron curtain; the silence from the other side is more foreboding than actual information would be. In short, whilst we have been taught to recoil with horror from the tooth and claw of animal life in the jungle, that is a paradise compared with the human jungle prepared by enlightened human ingenuity from which we have lately emerged and into which we seem doomed to be driven again, unless the workers of the world awake to what lies behind it all—the hungry hunt for riches by a relatively small section of the world's population.

Another similarity with pre 1939 times is the impotence of the world assembly that was alleged to be the means of banishing war. Then it was the League of Nations which pursued its way, impotent to do anything about the numerous wars that occurred between 1918 and 1939, and finally disappeared on the outbreak of war in 1939. But our “practical” capitalists, who accuse socialists of being idealists, were not discouraged. They learnt nothing from the collapse of the League of Nations. No sooner was the last war ended than they organised a new, more costly and equally useless emblem of their fatuous idealism—the United Nations Organisation. Since then the world has been involved in bitterness, conflict, and wars in which the United Nations has not had the slightest influence beyond providing halls for the shouting and the intrigue and occasional banquets and travel tours for the disputants. Like the old unlamented League of Nations the United Nations has been no more than the plaything of the more powerful governments, providing a facade behind which each jockeyed for the plunder on behalf of their particular section of the world capitalist class.

When we point out that Socialism will require the understanding and co-operation of people all over the earth we are met with the challenge “What about the backward nations?” To those who are disturbed by what appears to them to be an insurmountable obstacle the war in Korea should provide a salutary lesson. When the war first broke out it was generally believed that a few thousand trained American soldiers would have little trouble in sweeping the native North Korean army out of existence. With a shock it was soon realised that this expectation was based on an illusion. Not only were the North Koreans armed with the latest and most powerful means of destruction but these people, until recently, looked upon as backward peasants, were able to handle the complicated rifles, guns and tanks as well as carry out military manoeuvres with an expertness equal to the personnel of the so-called advanced countries. They have provided evidence that, given the opportunity, mental and physical capacities are so similar all over the earth that the apparent backwardness is not real and can be overcome in a very short time. At the rate of progress we have been witnessing in recent years the “backward people! ” bogey will soon vanish.

There is another lesson that the Korean war is providing. How often are we met with statement from our opponents “You can’t change human nature!” Without going into the misconception behind the question let us remember the propaganda of years which painted the Germans and Japanese with unalterable racial characteristics which doomed them to act as wild beasts of almost unbelievable brutality. Short as may be the memory of workers they can hardly have forgotten the stories of the natural criminal proclivities of these two groups of people. Well, if we are to accept the human nature argument, they must have changed in a remarkably short space of time. Germany is being appealed to and urged to form an army to fight alongside the Western countries as allies. The Japanese have also acquired good conduct medals and efforts are being made to bring them in on similar terms. The awkward part of it is that the Germans, who were alleged to be a fundamentally war-like race, have shewn no enthusiasm for the project; they want to go about their business in peace.

The war in Korea has given an impetus to the armament drives because behind it is the struggle between rival powers which is driving towards another world war. But Korea is not the only spot where these rivalries are culminating in “small wars.” Malaya is another part of the East where fighting is involved. If the main interest of the Powers in Korea is strategic other things also interest them in Malaya.

On the 16th August the Foreign Editor of the Evening News, Mr. Harold Walton, wrote an article headed “Malaya at War is our Best Dollar-Eamer.” Malaya is the biggest producer of tin and rubber in the world. The following two extracts from the article are significant:
   "And so the tale goes on, the grim battle against the Communist terrorists in the eternal half-light of the Malayan jungle, and the sky-rocketing of the prices of those two vital raw materials for which Malaya is most famous—tin and rubber. . . . One thing is certain: that so rich a treasure-house as Malaya will always be a target of Soviet Russian expansionist aims, and that the terrorist war she has set on foot there (with the single object of driving the British out) will be intensified as the months go by.
 . . . .
   The British troops and the planters and tin managers, the Malay police and the innocent and loyal villagers (many of whom have paid with their lives) should have the support and gratitude of the whole Western world."
There is a specimen of the sordid aims that lie behind the high-flown appeals to workers to risk their lives in warfare. Both the older and the newer brigands hunger for the treasures of Malaya.

As we have so often pointed out all modern wars are capitalist, rooted in the conditions of capitalism. Peace campaigns are pointless so long as the world is based upon capitalist conditions. Big wars and little wars will continue to devastate the world until the mass of its population realise that Capitalism must disappear and Socialism take its place; only then will there be peace upon earth.

A Housewife Reflects (1950)

From the October 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

At 9.15 p.m. on Saturday, 2nd Sept., Mr. Attlee broadcast a reply to criticisms of the Government by the Leader of the opposition a week previously. His speech, delivered quietly and with none of the dramatic rhetoric which characterises his vis-a-vis, caused quite a flutter. A certain acid wit ridiculed his opponent and was much more devastating than the usual passionate utterances of the “Ex Prime.” One could imagine the “True Blues” gnashing their teeth, their temperatures hitting a new high as each caustic jibe floated over the air. The supporters of the Labour Government chortling with glee and swelling with pride in their “Leader.”

To the writer it was a sad thought that many thousands of workers would be interestedly discussing this piffling party bickering on matters of no concern to them. It called to mind the story of the two men who had their pockets picked whilst watching a fight, each backing his own fancy. It is tragic that the mass of the workers allow their attention to be distracted from the only thing that really matters, i.e. their slave position in Society and how to end it. They go haring off down all the possible by-roads, placing faith where none is justified, hoping for better conditions when the very nature of the present Society foredooms any improvement to a miserable failure. They ignore the only possible solution—Socialism, and do not realise that united they would stand but divided they fall for all the red herrings dragged across their path. But the day must come when the workers will realise that whatever party is in power they can do no more than administer Capitalism, with its attendant and inherent evils. So let us not concern ourselves with these political acrobatics and verbal fireworks, only one fight is worthy of our attention, the fight for the establishment of Socialism. In passing Mr. Attlee says in his speech that Mr. Churchill cannot admit that the Government can do anything except under his leadership. Surely Mr. Churchill will hand a medal to the Prime Minister for his handling of Dock Strikes.
F. M. Robins

Tragic Comedians (1950)

From the November 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reading the Labour Party’s Margate delegate conference, prompts the question—"Are such conferences really necessary?” For all the effect it had in shaping governmental policy the delegates might as well have stayed at home; or spent their time making sandpies on Margate’s beach.

The burning of mid-night oil in local Labour Party branches had produced much paper in the way of resolutions. A lot of it was waste paper. Right from the start of the conference there was "a wholesale slaughter of the innocents.” Numbers of resolutions were merged together into a composite form. Out of 300 resolutions and 80 amendments only 30 proposals were left on the agenda after the axe of the conference arrangement committee had been wielded ruthlessly. Many of these resolutions were, it is true, but vague and somewhat innocuous expressions of discontent with the Labour Government. Their partial and emasculated reappearance in the condensed form of composite resolutions made them even more vague and innocuous. Little wonder that the platform could accept them not only without embarrassment but even with composure.

The conference itself was writ large in startling inconsistencies and rich in unconscious comedy. Mr. Sam Watson, in his chairman's address, strove to substitute in place of the dull, utility existence of the vast majority a techni-coloured picture of life under a Labour Government. He said: "Poverty has been abolished. Hunger is unknown. The sick arc tended, the old folk cherished. Our children are growing up in a land of opportunity.” This record is one that has been played ad nauseam by the gramophones of all political parties. In fact it was a badly scratched one long before the Labour Party came to power.

Speaking on conscription and the Labour Party's rearmament programme, he declared, "We have no animosity towards the Russian people. All we ask is to be left in peace to finish our task.” These words are, how ever, the very ones that Stalin is never weary of repeating on behalf of Russian Capitalism. Mr, Watson could not promise peace. He offered instead security through the time-honoured, or dishonoured, methods of building up ever greater means of death and destruction.

He also said, "The common people have more to defend here than any other part of the globe.” He might with greater accuracy have said that the "common people” here have more parts of the globe to defend for their masters than the common people in any other part of the globe. Significantly he added: "The last five years of the Labour Party, the trade unions and co-operatives have given us even more to defend.” The role of recruiting sergeants is no new role for Labour politicians. Nor for that matter drummer boys for British imperialism.

Mr. Silverman, M.P., then threw a hefty spanner into Mr. Watson’s techni-coloured works by declaring: “It was an overstatement to say that poverty had been abolished. There were hundreds of thousands of workers whose wages made an utter mockery of the Government’s claims to be applying fair shares.” He added the warning that "the workers could not be expected to go on practising restraint out of sheer loyalty to the Government.” He also said "that if the hopes of those who suffered most was being continually frustrated they would look for leadership elsewhere.”

There was irony in the fact that this Party of planning through the Civil Service should hear a delegate, himself a civil servant, declare that "Civil Service clerical workers have had a wage increase of less than one-third since 1938.” He then made a nasty splotch on Mr. Watson’s pretty picture by saying, “Many people to-day are not even able to buy their rations.”

How remotely the Labour Party’s "Socialism” has to do with the elimination of the profit system can be gathered from a statement by another delegate, a Mr. Denning (A.E.U.), who asserted "that the average profit on each worker in the engineering industry was £3 per week.”

Mr. Griffiths, for the executive, spoke of his “appreciation of the depth of feeling and concern over the question of profits.” He offered the lame defence "that 90 per cent. of the industrial companies had between March and November last year disclosed a dividend no higher than the previous year." He also said that "far too much of the nation’s wealth is owned by far too few people.” Mr. Griffiths, however, urged that "wage restraint should be continued as far as possible.” Vague mutinous mutterings from the rank and file led to the platform agreeing they would take the most energetic action to stem the upward trend in prices and to bring about a reduction and to control and reduce profits. What chance of success the Labour Government has of controlling price levels was made evident by Mr. C. A. R. Crosland, M.P., who said, "As a result of rearmament, prices were rising all over the world in a way impossible to control. It was known that the cost of living was likely to rise in the next few weeks.” Thus the inflationary tendencies, in spite of the efforts of the Labour Government have increased. The rearmament programme will further accentuate it. As a result of rising prices workers, in spite of Labour and T.U. leaders’ pleas of wage restraint, will demand higher wages. This may well lead to an increase of incidents such as that of the gas workers. The employers, of course, will seek to maintain their profits. As a result of this scramble the Labour Government may be forced to take measures in an attempt to control prices, wages and profits. That is it may have to reimpose many of the controls and restrictions associated with war-time. All of which shows that although the Labour Party is running Capitalism, in actual fact it is Capitalism which is running the Labour Party.

The discussion on Nationalisation revealed disappointment and even a certain disillusionment over its results. Mr. E. Roberts said: "Men employed by the British Railways are becoming disgusted with Nationalisation. Unless we can get better representation hundreds of thousands of those at present voting Labour will not do so at the next election.” Because the delegates did not realise that Nationalisation is not in the interest of the working class they dealt with effects not causes; such as the large salaries of those at the top, bureaucratic maladministration and the necessity of workers’ representatives on the various boards.

Mr. Morrison once again proved himself an arch opportunist. In the discussion on that vague platitudinous document, "Labour and the New Society,” he was even more platitudinous and vague. On any concrete issues on which the Labour Party will fight the next election he said little or nothing. He contended that the time for making decisions is when the election manifesto is drawn up. On the question of further Nationalisation he side-stepped the issue with the formula that sugar, cement, and insurance were still eligible for consideration.

Mr. Bevan made some wild oratorical cavalry charges and scattered imaginary foes. On the question of Nationalisation he said, "Of course everything is not all right.” He asserted that "a miasma of private enterprise was surrounding the public sector everywhere.” "World Capitalism had broken down,” he assured the delegates, although he admitted that "this is not a Socialist country.” He also forgot to add that a part of this broken-down, world Capitalism was supplying Britain with Marshall Aid. He even told them that he was opposed to the Schuman Plan because British steelworkers would be at the mercy of Ruhr magnates. Apparently a broken-down Capitalism can still support Ruhr steel magnates. Mr. Attlee also indulged in a number of vague idealistic utterances after the manner of a punch-drunk parson. On one thing the executive was emphatic. That is that the workers must work harder and harder.

One thing the conference clearly revealed was that the Labour Party has lost its initial advantage over the Tories. In the past. Nationalisation could be presented as something different from private enterprise. It could even be pointed to as a social goal. The Labour Party, having now given the workers the substance of Nationalisation, many workers are beginning to realise they have been chasing a shadow. It is going to become harder and harder for Labour politicians to convince workers that the Labour way of doing things is in essentials different from that of the Tories or Liberals. Just as it is going to become harder for the Labour Party to pose as being different from the traditional parties. A spell of power has been sufficient to exhaust the claims of the Labour Party that it can run Capitalism in a different way. In the arid soil of Capitalist administration the delicate plant of Fabian ideals has withered and died. They themselves have become the gradual and inevitable victims of their own "inevitability of gradualness.”

Perhaps Fabian ingenuity and resourcefulness will be applied to making the Labour Party a more highly efficient vote-catching machine. Having lost the advantage of political novelty it will be compelled to enter into the fiercest rivalry with the Tories, by all sorts of expedients, red herrings and vote capturing slogans. More and more will it have to play up to the hopes and prejudices of sections of the working class in order to keep political power.

We shall have the spectacle of Labour and Tories competing like two second-hand clothes shops on the same side of the street. The political salesmen of both concerns will try to persuade the electors that their shoddy misfits are an adequate covering for the body politic.

One day a politically conscious working class will close them both down and declare their stock to be bankrupt and worthless.
Ted Wilmott