Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Division of the Spoils (1947)

From the May 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The aim of commodity production is the realisation of surplus value and the first step towards this end is the purchase of the necessary means of production, either by the individual capitalist or by what is increasingly the case, a state body. Thus beginning with money, the Capitalists buy factories, plant and raw materials plus the energies’ of working men and women and the net return on this outlay is an increased sum of money, sufficient not only to repeat the process, but enough for further expansion of production.

From the unpaid labour of the workers there is— notwithstanding the personal “expenses’’ of the owning class in luxury living—a sum of money to be reinvested in the productive process, either as an addition to the existing capital or as capital seeking fresh fields of exploitation, leading to an inevitable accumulation of capital seeking surplus-value, or profit. Herein lies the dilemma of Capitalism and the slave-like history of its working-class victims. Let us look at this.

All money set aside as industrial capital can for our purpose be divided into two parts, that spent on the inert means of production we can call “constant” capital, while that for buying labour-power, which preserves and furnishes additional value is “variable” capital. Now if the function of labour-power is to labour, then the call for labour by the employing-class will depend on the market demand for commodities, while the market will, in turn, be gained by those owners that have succeeded in reducing the labour in their commodities to the lower level.

Labour-time is therefore the Capitalist’s devil which claims as its victims those that are hindmost, driving them to centralise or amalgamate their capital and concentrate it in labour-saving machinery, and the plant lay-out of mass production—to invest in constant capital rather than variable capital.

This results in large capital devouring its smaller rivals, while the social outcome is such that the means of production call for a progressively smaller number of workers to operate it, making it impossible for Capitalism to find work for the total employable population, hence an industrial reserve army is in constant being, ever threatening the wage level of those in jobs.

Spurred on by the needs of the market and the greed for surplus-value, capital accumulation in the past was built up by driving labour-power below its value by excessive hours, piecework and low wages, but wiser methods hold sway to-day in production-drives advocated by the workers’ own “leaders” coupled with subtle plea that the workers have a "share” in nationalised industries and state planning —an idea writ large in Russia where the old methods of accumulation are joined with the new. Lastly, though the needs of the accumulation of capital may increase the total wage-bill in connection with the total number employed—the wage-bill—decreases in proportion to the national income. So much for the workers’ "share” in Capitalism’s productivity.

Yet not all capital invested in the Capitalist economy is productive of value or surplus-value. To begin with, the industrialists—whose workers directly produce value and thereby surplus-value—must part with some of the surplus to others whose capital forms an integral part in Capitalist production. The merchants. bankers and others, though not in productive industry, nevertheless share in the surplus according to the size of their capital and receive, over a period, an average rate of increment, enforced by competition : for capital flows out of those spheres where the rate is low to where it is higher. At this point it might be asked: “How do those capitals whose workers produce no surplus-value, exploit their workers?”

The finance-capitalists whose service to capital is to centralise all the available loanable money for the use of the whole Capitalist class, reap the difference between the depositors’ rate and the interest charge for borrowers. The work entailed being done by their employees, who merely receive the cost of subsistence or salary consistent with this type of work. The outlay in wages and equipment compared with the charge for the bank services give these Capitalists their share in surplus-value. Again, the merchants who market the products, effect this much more economically than could the many independent industrialists, thus saving them labour-time and capital. The wage costs' for their workers’ abilities and commercial knowledge, set against that part of surplus-value which the industrialists leave them to realise in the selling price, give the merchants their profits.

The landowners, hereditary possessors of the earth’s surface, lend no like "service” to Capitalist production, hence the historic enmity of the Capitalists against this monopoly. National Capitalism, fresh in the saddle of political power has adopted policies, varying from state control to even the "liquidation” of landowners as in Russia and earlier in France. An eventual compromise is always concluded with this "charge on industry,” even though land as land has no value and will only yield rent out of the surplus values of farmers and industrialists. Landowners in this way take their share of the spoils through the undertakings on their land whether these activities be mining, building or agriculture. They accumulate wealth, brought about, by others activities. Their land offered as a commodity is bought and sold for a sum that is equal to an investment whose interest would equal the rent.

To sum up, surplus value is the totality of unpaid labour wrung from the workers' in the productive process. while its distribution to the Capitalists as rent, interest, and profit takes place in the circulatory process.
Frank Dawe

Inequality in Soviet Russia (1947)

From the June 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

In its issue of March 27th, 1947, the Daily Worker published a review of “The Russian Outlook,” by Lieutenant-General Sir Giffard Martel. The reviewer was annoyed because the general quoted the S.P.G.B.:—
   “The General goes to the grotesque length of quoting the Socialist Party of Great Britain to 'prove’ the Soviet 'drift’ from the teaching of Marx ”
The offending paragraph in “The Russian Outlook” was the following:—
   “The Socialist Party of Great Britain recently stated that 'in Russia, as in other countries where investment in State loans exists, the property income so derived is based on the exploitation of the working class and is, of course, quite incompatible with Socialism.’ Another critical statement in the same Socialist pamphlet referred to the 'great and growing inequality of income received by the various grades and social strata in the Russian system'.." (P. 171).
(The quotations are from “Nationalisation or Socialism? ” S.P.G.B., 1945, pages 50 and 60).
Now let the Daily Worker try to square the present policy and propaganda of the Soviet Government with the Marxist aim of the abolition of the wages system; with the Marxist explanation of exploitation as the only source of interest on investment; and with Lenin’s categorical statement that the departure from equality was “a step backward by our Socialist Soviet State which has from the very beginning proclaimed and carried on a policy of reducing high salaries to the standard of wages of the average worker.” (“The Soviets at Work,” Lenin, 1918). Lenin went on to say that “to pay unequal salaries is really a step backward; we will not cheat the people by pretending otherwise.”

Now the Daily Worker brazenly cheats the people by calling inequality “Socialist inequality” and pretends that it is not a step backward but forward—an inequality which will ensure that the Soviet Union “will finally advance to Communism” (Daily Worker. 8/5/47). The Worker now discovers that equality, advocated by Lenin, is “barren uniformity,” something to be avoided.
Edgar Hardcastle

"The State Sweatshop" (1947)

Editorial from the July 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Conservative Party issued during May a statement of policy called “The Industrial Charter,” and a keen discussion at once arose as to whether all or only some of it was lifted from the Labour Party's programme. The Daily Herald called it “an unappetising rehash of Labour’s progressive policies” (May 12th, 1947). The Times, in an approving comment on the same day, said that a striking feature of the Charter “is the area of common ground with the Government.” The Express disliked it because it is “simply another version of the old planned economy of the Socialists,” and the Chronicle liked it for the same reason—“Many of the Conservative proposals are common ground with the Liberals or even Labour.” 

Much of the interest centred round Nationalisation. As Socialists (but not Labourites) expected, the Conservatives are not going to undo the main work of the Labour Government of extending nationalisation or State capitalism. They do not intend, if returned to office, to denationalise the coal industry, the railways or the Bank of England. All they propose is to “examine and modify the methods” by which the coal industry is now being managed, and restore “a wide measure of freedom” to sections of the road transport industry. (Daily Telegraph, May 12th, 1947.) On the Bank of England the Report says
  “We would not repeal the whole of the Bank of England Act, but we should re-examine the powers of the Bank to give directions to the commercial banks.”
On the other hand, the Report does oppose the nationalisation of iron and steel, a question about which Labour Party opinion is also to some extent divided.

In short, as nationalisation does not touch the foundations of capitalism, and as the capitalists themselves accept the need in their own interests to control big monopolies, the Tory Party is letting it be known that they will continue the Labour Government’s main schemes of nationalisation. The vague talk about re-examining the methods is partly a serious intention to modify the machinery of control but is put in chiefly as a sop to the more stupid die-hards, who cannot see that changes in the direction of increased State control are necessary to capitalism itself.

These questions are capitalist questions, and it is fitting to conclude by referring to the interest of the working-class. While Tories and Labourites squabble about which of them has been responsible for introducing the largest amount of nationalisation, a bit of working-class realism comes on the scene, from Post Office workers who have had enough experience to know what it means to its wage-slaves. The Daily Worker (May 13th, 1947) reproduced extracts from a telegram sent to the Post Office Workers’ Conference by the East Central District Office No. 1 Branch. It appealed to Conference to “reform the State sweatshop and ease our present plight.” With an eye on the Government’s work harder posters the telegram said, ‘‘We work and want.”

Why Can't We All Get Together (1947)

From the August 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ever since workers' political organisations were first formed the idea of uniting them has occupied the minds of many members. Frequent attempts have been made among political bodies in this country, but always the S.P.G.B. has stood aside on the ground that effective unity can only be on the basis of agreement on fundamental principles, that is to say agreement about the aim and about the methods. Where there is such agreement, as between the S.P.G.B. and the parties with the same aims and methods, in U.S.A., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, close and harmonious co-operation presents no difficulty. It is obvious, easy and useful.

The following item about the Easter Conference of the I.L.P. was published in the Manchester Evening News (2/4/47):—
  “When the I.L.P. meets at Ayr at Easter it will debate a proposal for close links with Common Wealth, the Socialist party of Great Britain, and the Anarchist Federation.
  “A resolution from Ipswich urges that the I.L.P. should conduct a joint campaign with these bodies on specific issues stressing workers’ ownership and control of industries and freedom of colonial peoples.”
It appears from published reports of the Conference proceedings that the decision actually made was to form some sort of joint committee between the I.L.P. and Common Wealth. Another decision was that I.L.P. members are barred from being members of the Labour Party though this is to be reconsidered.

The organisations that plead for unity, the I.L.P. and the Communists, for example, either hold that agreement is unnecessary or pretend that it exists where it does not. Sometimes the proposal is that there should be associated action on a particular issue between parties that claim to be fundamentally antagonistic.

The reasons for the distinctive attitude of the S.P.G.B. can be found in our declaration of principles. The three clauses of special relevance are the object, the clause affirming that there is an antagonism of interests between the working class and the Capitalist class, and the clause that lays down the need for the working class to organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government.

Our object is Socialism, defined as a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interests of the whole community. Our definition is not a mere insistence on a formula. We work for Socialism and oppose Capitalism—including nationalisation or State Capitalism—because only Socialism will solve the problem facing the working class. The Labour Party miscalls State Capitalism "Socialism,” as also do the Communists. The I.L.P. used to do so although at the moment it places more emphasis on the equally false proposition that State Capitalism is a useful stepping stone on the way to Socialism. When therefore the unity seeker asks why cannot the S.P.G.B. get together with others who want "Socialism” he is letting the misuse of a word deceive him. We do not want State Capitalism and therefore have no interest in associating with those who do. The fact that they call it “Socialism” only makes their activities more dangerous to the workers.

Another proposition is that while recognising differences of aim why cannot Socialists consent to be fellow-travellers with others who are “on the same road but are not going so far.” This has often been put to us by Labour Party supporters, I.L.P.ers, and, in the old days, by Liberals. One objection is that it is an essential part of Socialist propaganda to convince the workers that the advocates of “something less than Socialism” are and must be advocates of Capitalism. It is our job to demonstrate that their activities are against the interests of the workers; that they are enemies of Socialism and of the working class. How could we associate with them and at the same time expect the workers to believe us when we say that support of such organisations is useless and dangerous? Years ago when a Liberal put this proposal in debate with the S.P.G.B., our speaker, the late A. Anderson, pointed out in reply that the only gainers would be the Liberals. What they called travelling together would mean in effect only that we would be carrying the Liberals’ luggage for them.

The resolution quoted at the beginning of this article seeks a joint campaign with Common Wealth, the I.L P. and the Anarchists on specific issues stressing workers' ownership and control of industries and freedom of colonial people. The objection of the S.P.C.B. to any such joint campaign should be obvious. We do not want “workers’ ownership," which means syndicalism, but ownership by the whole community. We are utterly opposed to the support of State Capitalism given by Common Wealth. We regard the propaganda and activities of the Anarchists as useless and dangerous to the working class. Finally we have to point out to colonial workers that "freedom/' i.e., national independence, is not the solution of their problem. We want all countries to be free from Capitalism and are not in favour of encouraging the illusions fostered for interested reasons by the propertied class in colonial countries.

Point is given to our case against the Anarchists by their views and actions in the country where they are strongest, Spain. In 1936 they abandoned their claim to be opposed to political parties by joining in the movement to elect a Popular Front Government The following recent report shows a new twist:
"Madrid, March 26th.
   “The Spanish anarchist movement announced to-night that after a meeting of delegates from all parts of Spain it had decided to collaborate fully with the Monarchists for the overthrow of the Franco regime and for holding a plebiscite to decide whether Spain should be a republic or a monarchy.” — Reuter. — Manchester Guardian, March 29th, 1947).
It would seem that association with Anarchists for specific objects may lead the participants into curious company.

On the international field the S.P.G.B. has always taken the same consistent view. Having in 1904 sent two delegates to the International Socialist Congress at Amsterdam, and found that the organisation was largely made up of bodies interested in reforms but not in Socialism, the S.P.G.B. laid down as a first requirement: "That only Socialist organisations recognising the class war in theory and practice should be represented at the International Socialist Congress.” 

As this was naturally unacceptable to the reforms bodies in the International the S.P.G.B. did not see any use in seeking admission. The attempt to associate at home with bodies having conflicting aims and methods would only cause confusion and wasted effort. Equally the passing of pious resolutions at international conferences merely hides the nationalist outlook of the affiliated parties as two world wars have demonstrated. Effective unity for Socialism can only be on the basis of real agreement about the aim and the methods. Our Declaration of Principles provides such a basis and it is for the critics to show what other basis there can be for the Socialist movement.
Edgar Hardcastle

Reflections on Elections (2017)

From the October 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Whenever there is an election, like last year or currently in Germany, the person in the street — the so-called ordinary voter — suddenly becomes very popular. Any number of political parties are anxious to please them and make them all manner of tempting promises, if they in their turn will agree to vote for their party's candidate. Election time, in other words, is the time when there is an enormous hunt for Votes.

The bait which is used in this hunt is largely made up by promises. All other parties offer this bait, and the generosity of their promises is usually in inverse proportion to the likelihood of their getting power. The Labour and Conservative Parties cannot be too extravagant; the Liberals can be a little more wild; the Greens and the far Left can promise almost anything. And so on.

Most of the promises in an election are about things like modernisation, housing, education, pensions, wages and prices, war and peace. To read the literature of these other parties, it seems that all that has to be done to solve overnight all the problems connected with these issues is to vote for their candidate. They will all, it seems, bring British industry up to date, build affordable housing, give everyone a fair chance of the best education, keep prices stable while wages increase, protect the environment, banish war from the earth.

These promises sound very fine and in one election after another millions of working people vote for them. And presumably, when they do so, they think that they are contributing to the solution of our problems.

But stop and think about it.

Firstly, it is obvious that election promises are not a new thing. Political parties have been making them for as long as anyone can remember – and always about the same sorts of problems.

Now what has been the result of all this?

The housing problem remains with us despite repeated promises to deal with it. The sort of education we get is governed by the financial standing of our parents. There are still millions of old age pensioners living on the tightrope of destitution — and it only needs something like a severe winter for many of them to loosen their precarious hold on life.

Prices are rising. Wages are still stagnating. Whatever the respective level of prices and wages, we always find that our wage packet only just covers our food, clothing, entertainment and whatever else goes to keep us ticking over.

War is just as much a universal problem as ever. There are always minor wars going on somewhere, punctuated by more serious clashes such as North Korea and Syria. Over it all hangs the threat of a war fought out with nuclear weapons.

It is not accidental that the politicians make so many promises and that they have so little effect upon the ailments they are supposed to cure. The world is full of chronic problems, but this is not because political parties have notthought up reforms which are supposed to deal with them nor because their leaders are not clever or knowledgeable enough.

The fact is that the problems persist whichever party is in power — and this suggests that their roots go deep into the very nature of modern society.

We live today in a social system which is called capitalism. The basis of this system is the ownership by a section of the population of the means of producing and distributing wealth — of factories, transport, communications and so on. It follows from this that all the wealth which we produce today is turned out with the intention of realising a profit for the owning class. It is from this basis that the problems of modern society spring.

The class which does not own the means of wealth production – the working class – are condemned to a life of rationed dependence upon their wage or salary. This expresses itself in inferior housing, clothes, education, and the like.

The basis of capitalism throws up the continual battle over wages and working conditions with attendant employment disputes. It gives rise, with its international economic rivalries, to the wars which have disfigured recent history.

Every other party stands for capitalism, whatever they may call themselves. And whatever their protestations, they stand for a world of poverty, hunger, unrest and war. They stand for a world in which no human being is secure.

The way-out is a world in which everything which goes to make and distribute wealth is owned by the people of the world. Because socialism is the direct opposite of capitalism, it follows that when it is established the basic problems of capitalism will disappear. There will be no more war, no more poverty. People will live a full, abundant life; we shall be free.

But socialism cannot be brought about by promises. It needs a knowledgeable working class who understand and desire it. They alone can establish the new world system we need.

When we contest elections our candidates from the Socialist Party do not make any promises; they do not try to convince voters that they will do anything for them. What they offer is the case for a new social system. We are seeking to spread knowledge and understanding of socialism and to give as many people as possible the opportunity of voting for a world of abundance, peace and freedom.

Prophetic Lines Addressed to the Worker From the Labour Government (1947)

From the September 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sweet Content
Art thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers?
     O sweet content!
Art thou rich, yet is thy mind perplex’d?
    O punishment!
Dost thou laugh to see how fools are vex’d
To add to golden numbers golden numbers?
    O sweet content! O sweet, O sweet content!
Work apace, apace, apace, apace;
Honest labour bears a lovely face;
Then hey nonny nonny—hey nonny nonny!
Canst thou drink the waters of the crisped spring?
    O sweet content!
Swim’st thou in wealth yet sink’st in thine own tears?
    O punishment!
Then he that patiently want’s burden bears,
No burden bears, but is a king, a king!
   O sweet content! O sweet, O sweet content!
Work apace, apace, apace, apace;
Honest labour bears a lovely face;
Then hey nonny nonny—hey nonny nonny!
(By Thomas Dekker who died in 1632).

The Donkey Didn't Complain (1947)

A Short Story from the October 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

This story does not begin with “Once upon a time” because it happened just yesterday and to-day and is even more likely to happen tomorrow.

A man owned a donkey. The donkey pulled the cart and in return the man fed it three times a day. One day, owing to an oversight, the donkey only got two feeds. The next day, when the master reminded himself, he was perturbed lest the donkey should refuse to pull the cart. But the donkey obliged as usual and did its work in exemplary fashion.

The man said to himself: “I have been feeding this donkey three meals when he can do his work just as well on two. The cunning animal! Getting a feed every day under false pretences."

So he gave the donkey two feeds per day. The donkey did not show any ill-will. He pulled the cart as usual and for a time the master was satisfied, counting the money he was saving. But not for long. It occurred to him that the animal may well be swindling him even then.

“If the donkey can do his work on two feeds he might be able to do it on one. In any case, there's no harm in trying it out to see what happens.”

No sooner said than done. The day following, the donkey got his feed in the morning but went without at the end of the day. The master looked at the animal carefully, trying to size it up. Would he grumble? There was not even a “He-Haw."

But during the next day’s work the master became a little anxious. “Would the donkey pull the cart as usual? And at the same pace?"

He need not have worried at all. Without a murmur the animal allowed itself to be harnessed. Soon it was trotting off in obedience to the pull of the reins. True, it seemed to the master that now and again it slowed down a little, but a touch with the whip or an encouraging word or sign and it soon picked up speed. A carrot held in front of its nose was especially effective.

Now the master was really happy. Cutting the donkey’s food down to one meal per day reduced his costs to such a low level that other donkey-owners could not compete with him. Some of them went out of business but a few decided to try the same trick and also reduced their animal’s rations.

Then our master took counsel with himself.

“I have already cut the donkey’s food by two meals. It only means taking one more feed away from him and he will be costing me nothing. That would finish all my competitors.”

True, he was worried how the donkey would react to this final cut. But the thought of how the donkey had diddled him out of extra food for years made him resolute. Taking the bread out of the mouths of honest masters!

On the fateful day he harnessed the donkey with great care. Each minute or so he looked at the donkey. Would he protest? Would he kick? Would his eyes flash or his teeth be bared in a snarl?

Not a whimper.

“Gee-up,” the master shouted firmly. To the man’s joy, the donkey started off at its usual gallop.

For four days the donkey pulled the cart as usual. On the fifth day it dropped dead.
Sid Rubin

To A New Reader (1947)

From the November 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

So you've just been to one of our meetings, and made contact with The Socialist Party of Great Britain. I know our policy seems rather a "handful” at first, but once you get a firm grip, then the difficulties will vanish. The philosophy of the S.P.G.B. throws an entirely different light on our life and world problems—it puts them in their true perspective.

Workers’ lives follow much the same course. Those seemingly endless years at school, with all their thoughts of achieving success and fame. Thrown into the world around 14 or 15 years of age it all begins. The low wages, menial tasks of the errand or office boy at everyone’s beck and call. Perhaps a rise after six months, but somehow things don’t go too well. The past begins to lose its hold; school friends go their way, and family ties weaken. Politics, well you’re mildly interested. Perhaps you can’t stand the Tories, your sympathies lie with the Labour Movement. Maybe you think there are so many “Left” parties. You think a drive for unity would be good. War !— how it turns lives inside out. Years in uniform, the discipline, travel abroad (this upsets some of your ideas), death and destruction close at hand—Victory. Here’s the world you live in.

Your life is before you—you hope. What are you going to make of it? Is it to be the usual tale of unemployment, want, frustration, another world war? It will be, unless a majority of people decide to do something about it. At least you’ve taken the first step: the awakening of interest, which will later develop into activity.

It’s true, there seems so much to grasp at first, so we’ll make this first article something of a general introduction, and get down to some more detailed discussion later.

Although our policy is new to you, the S.P.G.B. has been in existence for over 40 years. When we were formed, our object and declaration of principles were laid down. They have served as solid foundations, on which a real Socialist movement has been erected. Our case, at first, probably appeared startling to you because of its tremendous difference from that of all other parties. That difference is not superficial, but fundamental in character.

Just throw your mind back to the General Election. All candidates, other than the S.P.G.B. representative, fell over themselves in wanting to do things for you. They promised work for all, higher wages, a raised standard of living, cheaper goods, etc., etc. All very acceptable. Labour, Tory and Liberal—they stood to carry out various policies whilst accepting the present social set-up—capitalism. We in the S.P.G.B. put a very different case. After studying the problems confronting us, we claim that capitalism has outlived its usefulness. We want a complete change in the basis of society—the common ownership and democratic control of the instruments of production and distribution.

However, we mustn’t go too quickly. Let’s get back to capitalism. Have you noticed that certain aspects of this system stand out a mile? It is based on class ownership—the mills, factories, workshops, mines, etc., belong to a small group of people—the capitalist class. As you know, they are able to live a life of luxury and ease, they want for nothing, and how at times you envy them. Have you ever thought why articles are produced? It is not because they meet the needs of people, but because they are to be sold so that their owners can derive a profit from selling them. As a worker it is hardly necessary to describe your lot under this system. Work, work and more work, when the bosses are willing to let you. For your food, clothes and shelter, you rely on your weekly wage packet, and we know it only just about goes round. Your life is one constant struggle to make ends meet, and yet you, with other workers, produce the wealth of the world BUT IT BELONGS TO THE CAPITALISTS.

Other Parties tell you that by a series of social reforms, the jagged edges, of your life can be smoothed over, and yet after more than 50 years of “running repairs,” a general overhaul is necessary.

It is this overhaul that we consider is important. You have probably heard our speakers say that a social revolution is needed. Yes, it is a drastic measure, but such action is called for when dealing with serious complaints.

This drastic measure — the establishment of Socialism, can be achieved when the majority of people see the need. This will alter the very foundations of society. Property will be owned by all mankind with democratic administration. The motive power in industry will then be the fulfilling of the people’s requirements. Goods won’t he sold, because there will be no buyers or sellers. No wages, no money. Major problems of today will vanish, because the basis of the new system will be such that harmony will exist between one human being and another.

You think it sounds very nice—in fact the ideal solution, but there seem a lot of snags. Well, that’s a reasonable reaction, but your objections can be met. However, think it over, and we’ll deal with a particular aspect of our policy in more detail some other time.
Cyril May

Party News Briefs (1947)

Party News from the December 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Metropolitan Theatre, Edgware Road, London, has one of the party's most ambitious propaganda meetings on Sunday evening, December 7th (see notice). Everyone is asked to give this meeting wide publicity. Members and sympathisers can do a lot towards ensuring a packed house if they see to it that workers who are likely to be interested are told about the meeting and asked to come along. Scientific socialism is now well on the political landscape and we can bring it more to the foreground on December 7th if all of us do our best.

The Outdoor Propaganda Campaign this summer has been extensive and produced good results as shown by reports coming in from branches. Nearly all branches have had a meeting each week, and some two or three. The Propaganda Committee’s report at the end of the year on this aspect of the party’s work will be a stimulating document.

The Party membership increases steadily, as it has done year after year. There is nothing spectacular in this growth, but our gains are solid. Our membership figures do not show the violent fluctuations which are a feature of political organisations who chase the reformist “will o’ the wisp.” We build on the very firm foundation of the understanding of class-conscious workers.

The Party Funds Committee ask branches, members and sympathisers to divert contributions they wish to make to special Head Office funds to the new ‘‘Pamphlet Publication Fund” for the time being. We want to reach our £500 target quickly to pay for the two new pamphlets at the printers, and when this is done we can concentrate again on the Parliamentary and other special funds..

The two new pamphlets, the “Racial Problem” and the ”Communist Manifesto” (with a special party preface) will cost 1s. 0d. each when ready. They are both substantial pamphlets in every sense of the word and are excellent value for the money.

Post-war Fascism in this country had Raven Thompson (Director of Policy for the British Union of Fascists before the war) as its champion in the debate at Kensington Town Hall on November 10th. This debate was organised by our Ealing branch. Thompson represented the Union for British Freedom, one of the groups aping the Nazis here. This organisation offered to supply stewards to keep the meeting in order, including some to prevent “undesirables” getting into the hall. We naturally refused their offer and told them that our meetings were open to all members of the working-class who wished to attend, and that we did not anticipate any disturbances at a meeting run in our customary democratic manner. Our views were justified. The hall was jammed to capacity with 650 people and about 200 had to be turned away. A large number of those present were passionately opposed to Thompson but they listened patiently while he plodded along with a monotonous and boring recital of the mish-mash of reformist rubbish and dictatorial junk which comprises the stock-in-trade of the present day little Hitlers. Our representative, Turner, had no difficulty in ripping Thompson’s tattered political ideas into even smaller pieces with socialist analysis, and presented our alternative to Fascism and the rest of the political policies which in effect preserve the present social system. Another lesson of the debate is that a sure way of preventing the spread of Fascist doctrines is to get these would-be strong men and dictators on to a public platform and expose them for the exploded political wind-bags which they really are. Those organisations who claim a monopoly of so-called “anti- fascism" were shown by Turner in the debate to be based on the same reformist twaddle as the Fascists themselves, and they can only oppose with disruption and disorder—tactics which the Fascists welcome and by which they thrive. The audience were orderly throughout and gave about £24 to our funds.

Hackney Branch challenged Hamm, of the neo-Fascist organisation which has achieved notoriety at Ridley Road, to debate. He accepted subject to two conditions—his opponent to be a “Gentile,” and his organisation to provide stewards. As we do not know what, in the modem usage of the word, a ‘‘Gentile” is (nor does he), we declined. Hackney were also suspicious of the probable methods of his stewards. If he wants to debate with us any member we care to put up will be good enough for us and too good for him., Hackney branch’s Friday evening lectures at the Bethnal Green Central Library, Cambridge Heath Road, are well repaying the effort put into them. They continue throughout December, with the exception of December 26th. After Christmas and until the end of March these Friday lectures will be devoted to economics. The branch propose to base them all on various aspects of the first volume of ”Capital.” A debate has just been arranged with the Trotskyists at Bethnal Green Central Library on Monday, December 15th, at 7.45 p.m. Our representative will be H. Young.

Manchester Branch have now completed an excellent outdoor propaganda season and their first series of Sunday evening lectures at the Rusholme Public Hall was well supported. This first series consisted of four lectures on fundamentals of Marxism. Another series on vital questions of the day is now in progress on Sunday evenings at the same hall.

Lewisham Branch have an attractive series of open discussion meetings on Monday evenings, up to December 29th. These are being held at the Co-op. Hall, Davenport Road, Rushey Green, Catford, at 8.45 p.m. The subjects cover a very wide field, and plenty of time is given to members of the audience to put their own points of view.

Ealing Branch are keeping their outdoor propaganda outpost at Earl’s Court Station going through the winter. Lively meetings arc guaranteed here, some of the opposition coining from relics of Victorianism whose views on socialism make a queer mixture of ”free love,” ‘‘Red riot,” plus some nationalisation. In spite of this be-whiskered opposition literature sales and collections are good, and useful contacts with interested workers are being made. The Branch are following up their Ealing Town Hall meeting on November 26th with a meeting at the L.C.S. Rooms. Parkfield, South Ealing Road, on Saturday, December 6th. It will deal with the “Housing Question” and is timed to begin at 7.30 p.m.

Bloomsbury Branch’s most successful series of Sunday evening lectures is running at the Trade Union Club, Great Newport Street, W.C. The hall is jammed every Sunday. The arrangements for December are as follows. On December 15th E. Wilmott will speak on "The Development of Modem Capitalism”; on December 21st G. Deane on “Has the Labour Party a Way Out?” and on December 28th S. Cash on “Socialism.” There will he no meeting on December 7th in view of the mass rally at the Metropolitan Theatre.
C. C. Groves, General Secretary.

Obituary: Walter Atkinson (1987)

Obituary from the January 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

When I was told of the death of Walter Atkinson I asked myself the question — should I rush up to Manchester? Or should I stay behind and sell literature, write letters and do the other mundane jobs that have to be done for socialism? I knew what Walter would have said, so I stayed behind.

Walter Atkinson died at the age of 81 after a lifetime devoted, often at great personal cost, in fighting the social system which creates today's ills. For many years he was well known in Manchester as a member of the National Secular Society. However it is as a socialist that I remember him. He joined the Socialist Party, influenced by Moses Baritz. Arthur Mertons and other active SPGBers, in the late 1940s. He soon became a prominent figure on the Party platform — indoors and outdoors — at Platt Fields, the bombed site in Deansgate, in fact anywhere where the workers would listen to the socialist case. Members will remember him speaking at a Conference rally. His voice was heard in the pubs and on Kinder Scout when Manchester Branch took a weekend off to walk the Pennine Way.

Walter was no mean poet either. His poem, written at the time of the Hiroshima bombing, appeared in the winter edition of the World Socialist Journal 1985-6. which gave him immense pleasure.

Walter will be remembered and missed by his family, friends and comrades.
Margaret Hopwood

While ere I live, I still will hurl my shaft
Of what I may possess of intellectual light.
Against the power and ignorance that bars the way
To freedom of the common needs of life,
And holds back the dawning of that brighter day
When man shall cease at last from social strife.
Despair not. . . But let us carry on.
And by our efforts help the cause along.
Remains the movement after we have gone.
Its object sure, its principles still strong.
(Extract from For Socialism August 2 1948).

Year of shelter (1987)

From the February 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Lord Scarman came on the air and told a harrowing story, of a baby being born to a teenage girl through incest with her father and the girl and father killing the baby as soon as it was born to try to avoid the shame and agony. He was speaking on BBC radio's World at One programme in early January and mentioned this as a case he'd had to judge in court. He was being interviewed about the launch that day of the United Nations International Year of Shelter for the Homeless of which he is UK president. He attributed the case he'd described to the housing conditions of the father and daughter. They lived in the same room, he said, constantly a few feet from one another and those conditions made incest a lot more likely.

Earlier in the day he'd launched the Year of Shelter by stating that Britain was in danger of becoming a "slum society". "Do people", he asked, "understand the misery, the squalor, the threat to health and even to life itself which homelessness inflicts upon millions of our fellow men?" Housing problems were, he said, "a critical element of the social conditions which provide the breeding ground for crime, mental breakdown, child abuse and neglect", destroying "man's chance of developing and maintaining stable human relationships".

The purpose of the UN campaign year is to increase public awareness and raise funds with a view to persuading governments to tackle homelessness and poor housing, in both the economically advanced countries and the Third World. "All that is needed", said Lord Scarman. "is the political and social will to make the necessary resources available". The extent of the problem is daunting however. Nearly one quarter of the world's population, over one billion people, live in what can be called unfit housing and up to 100 million have no home at all — they are literally without shelter. The problem is worst in Third World countries but in a typically developed country like Britain one million homes are officially classified as unfit for human habitation, 1¼  million people are on council waiting lists and 160,000 people upwards live in bed and breakfast hotels, described by the campaign's director. Leighton Andrews, as "squalid overcrowded substitutes for homes".

The UN is giving only a small amount of money to the campaign. But what it hopes to do is to encourage governments throughout the world to set up and fund projects to help deal with homelessness in their own countries. Will governments do this to any significant extent? The trouble is that houses, like everything else in today's world, are objects to be bought and sold on the market and in the final analysis they will go to those who have the money to pay for them. And there is only a limited degree to which governments can and will intervene to provide goods, whether food, housing or anything else, to people who can't afford them. This is both because governments' funds are limited by what they collect in taxes from their owning class and also because the job of governments isn't to provide decent lives for the people they rule over but to make sure that the accumulation of capital and the making of profit takes place as smoothly and efficiently as possible in the country they govern. This may at times mean intervening to help provide shelter for workers but at other times it may mean doing nothing at all and it never means solving the problem for the sake of human welfare.

This is why in Britain, after over a century of government reforms in housing, the problem is still as acute as Lord Scarman has depicted it. That is why, 40 years after a triumphant Labour minister declared "When the next election occurs there will be no housing problem in Great Britain for the British working class" (Aneurin Bevan. 14 July 1946), we are still haunted by the knowledge of bed and breakfast families, by the sight of the homeless roaming the streets by day and sleeping in care centres at night and by the threat, if we lose our job. of becoming one of the many thousands each year who can't meet their mortgage payments or pay the rent. That is why the present British government has only found £111,000 to put into the homeless campaign, a sum described by its director as 'disappointing'. and why the wild promises at present being made by the Labour Party that if returned at the next election it will house everyone are so much humbug.

In other words, despite Lord Scarman's plea, the "necessary resources" cannot be made available by "political and social will". Governments do not and cannot have that will and ordinary well-meaning people, no matter how hard they may work in campaigning and persuading, ultimately have no power to make the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of the community as a whole. They will only have that power when we all decide to take action to dispense with the present way of running society and organise our affairs on the basis of genuine democratic control and production for need.

If Lord Scarman is the humane understanding man he is said to be he should, despite being a High Court judge, give this idea some thought. For if. as he himself says "Shelter is a human need ranking in priority with food and water and a home as an essential condition of civilised life", he will only see truly civilised life in a social system quite different from the one he is at present a respected pillar of.
Howard Moss

China — Hu departs (1987)

From the March 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

The student demonstrations which began in various parts of China in December have culminated in the resignation (which means dismissal) of Hu Yaobang, General Secretary of the "Communist" Party. It is clear, though, that top political bosses are not sacked because of a few thousand demonstrators, and that there has been a power struggle behind the scenes in Beijing.

The students demonstrated under the banner of "freedom and democracy". For some this meant a proper system of elections to local political bodies, for others a multi-party political system, while for yet others it was just a slogan with no specific content. Wall posters went up at university campuses, attacking Party leaders. The government warned that sticking up such posters was illegal and banned all demonstrations that did not have official permission. On New Year's Day, several thousand students flouted this ban and demonstrated in the main square in the centre of Beijing; two dozen students were arrested. Later the same day, students returned to the square and obtained the release of those arrested earlier.

Despite this climb-down, the government tried to discredit the student movement by pointing out that only one per cent of the country's students had been involved and claiming that these had been misled by agitators who were not even students. A factory-worker from Shanghai was arrested for founding a new political party. Academics who had supposedly encouraged the protests were attacked in the press, especially Fang Lizhi, deputy head of a college in Hefei. Despite the evidence of some more general support — Beijing bus passengers cheered the marching student demonstrators — it clearly was very much a minority movement. confined to a few big cities and with vague and sometimes contradictory aims.

It is hardly likely, then, that Party leaders really had anything concrete to fear from the student movement. It was on a much smaller scale than previous activities along such lines, like the Democracy Wall events of 1978-9. One Shanghai poster harked back to the late seventies and showed that the memory of past dissent and struggle lingers on: "If you want to know what freedom is, just go and ask Wei Jingsheng." (Wei was jailed in 1979 for writing a long wall-poster attacking the Communist Party). What seems to have happened is that the demonstrations were seized on by some members of the top leadership as a pretext for attacking their opponents.

Since 1978, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese economy has undergone major changes. Main reforms have included setting up a large number of joint ventures with other capitalist countries, greater powers for factory managers to fix their own prices and products, and opening the way for individuals to make large private fortunes. Generally, there has been a rejection of the old Maoist emphasis on centralisation, national self-sufficiency and narrow political dogma. The fundamental nature of Chinese capitalism has not altered at all — society remains divided into haves and have-nots — but some members of the ruling class have long objected to the new policies, on the grounds that they opened doors to such dangerous notions as freedom of speech, democracy and decentralisation.

It was these "conservative'' leaders who used the student demonstrations to attack the economic reforms as being responsible for the unacceptable demands for democracy to be extended. The government's giving way to the students on New Year's Day was seen as an unmistakeable sign of weakness. Although Deng had apparently at first encouraged — or at least supported — Fang Lizhi's remarks, he was able to deflect the attacks onto Hu Yaobang. Though very much Deng's man, Hu has never really presented himself as an outspoken advocate of reform. He turned out, however, to be primarily a Deng loyalist with no independent power-base of his own. So he was forced to resign, making abject confession of, and apology for, his own past mistakes.

All the things the conservatives dislike about the last decade's policies have been lumped together under the label "bourgeois liberalisation". It is only people like Fang (now sacked from his job and expelled from the Party) who have been accused of supporting this deviation. Hu has simply been charged with being soft on repressing it. It is also being revealed now that he has for years been in disagreement with Deng — part of a time-honoured ritual when Chinese leaders are kicked out.

The Chinese press is now full of attacks on bourgeois liberalisation and how and why to combat it. It is defined as "an idea negating the socialist system in favour of capitalism'. Its advocates do not just want economic reform, they want to "take the capitalist road". Rather than political reform, they want to copy capitalist practices. A particular manifestation of bourgeois liberalism is the theory of "complete Westernisation", taking over the features of Western capitalism lock, stock and barrel; this is what Fang is accused of. This is all to be combatted by strengthening the Party's control.

In the writings of the newly-ascendant clique, the policy of opening the country to the outside world is endorsed, but with limits. Certainly China is undergoing economic difficulties, with rising inflation and a decrease in overseas investment. The reforms have not delivered all that was promised and have produced problems of their own. Trying to administer capitalism — whether state or private or a mixture of the two — without encountering ups and downs is just impossible. But it should not be forgotten that the real victims of the vicissitudes of Chinese capitalism are not Hu and Fang but the working people.
Paul Bennett