Monday, October 16, 2017

History For Beginners (1951)

From the March 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

Once upon a time, about seven hundred years ago, this England was ruled by three Public Enemies, The Crown, The Nobility and The Church. As is quite usual amongst first rate racketeers, these three were continually muscling in on each others rackets and territories, and what they did to each other, and the common herd beneath them, was a plenty.

The Crown, that is, King John, claiming lubrication from heaven itself, demanded the lion’s share. The Nobility, claiming patent rights 'to blue blood corpuscles, and being well rigged out to do a spot of blood letting, complained that it was not getting its due portion. The Church, which acted as a sort of receiver and consoler to the other two, also complained that the others were getting more than their share, and that to twist the Church was to twist heaven itself.

On top of that, each one wanted to be Public Enemy No. 1, with the consequence that England in those days was like Chicago in the 1930’s, only more so, with no end of gangster wars and people taken for a ride.

Well, this went on for years, until in 1215, the blue-blooded gangster and the Church one, ganged up on King gangster and got his nose in the gravel. In that position they made him sign an agreement stipulating that from thence on, all were to have an equal share in the racket. That’s how Magna Carta came about.

Previous to that, King gangster had had most of the say and most of the loot, in fact, he high-hatted the whole roost. But Magna Carta said goodbye to all that. Now you understand how Englishmen won the right to be rooked by three buccaneers with almost equal privileges, instead of being gummed down by one and his henchmen. Think what that must have meant —and pity the poor foreigner. 
W. Waters

He Believed (1951)

From the April 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

A fundamental human desire is to be correct, and in the quest for this correctness a man may be forced perhaps several times to reconsider and revise his opinions. To do otherwise, to hang on to outworn ideas out of misplaced loyalty or pride is sheer dishonesty and frequently a forerunner of dogmatism. At the same time it is wise for an individual perceiving a flaw in his ideas to elucidate the facts of both his old position and the new and examine them carefully lest he finds himself jumping straight out of the frying pan into the fire; or as in the case of Douglas Hyde, out of the Kremlin and into the Vatican.

Douglas Hyde was a well-known British communist, for many years news editor of the Daily Worker, and as such an unprotesting subscriber to its policy. When Russia threw in her lot with Germany in 1939, he faithfully swallowed his ideas of a “war for freedom.” Russia was invaded. He spewed them up again and cried for a “strike in the west” but of course, for no strikes at home. He supported the Labour Party in the ’45 landslide and later opposed it. Then one day he perceived certain contradictions so glaring that even he couldn’t stomach them. Slowly he transferred his affections and capacity for, believing in the unreal to the Roman Catholic church.

And “I Believed,” recently published by Heinemann. Ltd., is his story. 

The national press received it warmly, but it is doubtful whether their joy was over Mr. Hyde’s redemption. More likely was it welcomed as more grist for the mill; fuel for the immediate task of preparing their readers for a future war with their erstwhile allies. In a world imbued with a complex of "leadership,” a leader changing camps is something great and his words must be taken as gospel.

It is interesting to note that several newspapers made great play of the Communist Party’s morality or lack of same. We used to read similar tales of the Nazis, all calculated to raise the indignation of the masses at the “unBritish” behaviour of the enemy. Yet in the same issues these papers reported several sordid court cases including one unsavoury “breach of promise ” without a word of editorial comment. Presumably those people involved were not members of the Communist Party.

However let us get back to the book itself. So far as Mr. Hyde as an individual is concerned, self styled communist or catholic he is our opponent, but his story, and one must admit his apparent sincerity, may serve as a useful guide to why so many workers can subscribe to the fantastic aims and claims of the Communist Party yet still from time to time change their allegiance to organisations which seem diametrically opposed to it.

Right from the word “go” the Communist Party has been primarily the overseas instrument of Russian policy and propaganda, and its ultimate aim to “Sovietise ” the country in which it operates. In a jargon of Marxian phrases and Lenin’s writings it has justified every move of Russia and its own subsequent recantation. At the same time it has sought to build up its membership and the main method used is not one of explaining socialism (which in view of Russia they hardly dare do) or even of finding reasons for the series of crises that have permanently been with us since the first world war and their inception, but by exploiting working class indignation at these recurrent crises and concentrating upon sectional issues in what they refer to as the “day to day” struggle. As Hyde puts it “A strong resentment against social injustice was another of the things which drove me into the Party.” 

Under these circumstances they are not fussy whom they take. A signature upon the dotted line is all that is needed. When Hyde joined he was still a practising Methodist. When one considers that the International Class War Prisoners Aid (later International Labour Defence), the National Unemployed Workers Movement, the “No More War” movement and various organisations crying for Indian independence were but few of the organisations and committees inspired by members of the Communist Party, the hotch-potch of ideas and misconstructions that centred itself at King Street is not surprising. More recently when the Union Movement returned after its seven year enforced vacation we witnessed a Communist Party revival in the Jewish section of the East End, and also this ubiquitous body as the stalwart champion of better pay for nurses.

But a party membership based upon such shifting premises can never boast of a large stable membership. As the spotlight of world events changes its position one section of the membership drifts out another flows in. It is a transit camp and we must concern ourselves with the permanent staff, that hard core which remains stable when all the rest have gone.

Excluding those who are possibly careerists, we cannot doubt their almost fanatical sincerity. Showing a complete disregard for themselves many have been victimised and persecuted by their employers and more than once imprisoned. Yet still they have carried on and it is difficult to analyse their outlook.

Above all things is Russia, a light in a world of darkness as is Mecca to the Mohammedan. There is the home of “socialism” they say, to be protected not only from military assaults but also those of logical argument. Within the party they are compelled to toe the “party line” in whichever direction it may go and it is in this way that it may be compared with the church of Rome, unswervingly obedient to the bulls of Pope Stalin and encyclicals of Cardinal Palme Dutt.

Mr. Hyde chooses to call this fanatical devotion “Marxism” and throughout his book he throws the word about with the liberality of a drunken Scot on New Year’s Eve. In his eyes every step, thought or action made by the Communist Party is either “cold, ungodly Marxism” or “dialectics.” He claims to have read Marx. Perhaps he got hold of a different edition because as we see it Marxism is not a gospel but the findings, namely the materialist conception of history, the labour theory of value and the theory of the class struggle, of a nineteenth century political-economist who was sometimes wrong. One thing is certain. He did not advocate the state capitalism of Russia.

This is not the first time a man has changed his religion. When the confusion of twenty years had taken its toll Douglas Hyde found himself in a wilderness. A chance reading of catholic writers exposed for him a certain affinity of ideas especially about architecture and music. As the “communist” religion withdrew the catholic religion seeped in. At no time was there a vacuum which may have succumbed to reason.

In the closing chapter he writes, “ If I knew from my own experience that communism is wrong I as a writer must say so. That did not mean that I should suddenly start writing as though all my old comrades and colleagues whom I had been proud to call my friends were now a bunch of crooks and morons. At all costs I must hold fast to what I felt to be the facts, those which I knew from my own experience to be true, the belief that the most evil thing in communism is that it claims some of the best and moulds their minds and twists their consciences so that they can be used for the worst”(Our italics.)

Such a highly emotional paragraph, charged as it is with sentiment, could be applied to almost any religion, ancient or modern. Indeed, it is the penalty for belief without reason.

Obituary: Death of Harry Martin (1951)

Obituary from the May 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Through the medium of a correspondent we have learnt with regret of the death of Harry Martin, who was a familiar speaker to those in London who attended meetings at Tower Hill and similar spots.

He was one of the small group that took part in the foundation of our party forty-seven years ago and fought out the problems the solution of which helped to clear our vision and reinforce the soundness of our general attitude.

In the early years of the Party he came into conflict with the majority on the question of the attitude to be adopted by a delegate if elected to Parliament. He held the view that such a member should be so unswerving in his hostility that he must vote against every measure, from whatever source, that came before parliament—except of course the measure to introduce Socialism. He held that whatever the nature of such a measure voting for it or even abstaining from voting would constitute pandering to reformism. Thus, according to his view, a Party Delegate would be committed, without examination, to voting against any measures designed to improve educational facilities, safety facilities in mines and factories, the removal of disabilities on trade unionism. and even a proposal, however fatuous it might be. to abandon the prosecution of a war.

As the Party would not accept his view he resigned his membership and never rejoined although, in his propaganda, he supported the Party’s outlook, sold our literature and urged listeners to join with us. Those who knew him well believed that his reason for not rejoining was simply that he preferred to remain a free-lance speaker.

He propagated socialist ideas sedulously, during a long life-time, on the outdoor platform in all weathers and was a familiar figure to those interested in change. Though his knowledge was not wide he had a firm grasp of the essentials, of the socialist position and was indefatigable in pounding away with rough humour and a fierce scorn of all that was put forward to patch up and support the system that exploited the workers. He was the means of helping many workers to an understanding of Socialism and there are many, including some who opposed his ideas, that will be genuinely sorry to hear of his passing.

He died in St. James’ Hospital, Balham, on the 2nd February at the age of 87 and was buried in Garret Lane Cemetery. Up to the last he remained what he had always been—a fierce and resolute opponent of Capitalism and a staunch advocate of Socialism.

The Emancipation of Women (1951)

From the June 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

The radio often provides us with talks, arguments and debates which are alleged to be serious contributions on profound subjects. Actually they are often demonstrations of verbose futility which would be absurdly humorous if the social ignorance they reveal were not so tragic.

"Woman’s Hour,” for instance, recently featured an argument between four male speakers on the question of "woman’s emancipation.’’

Befuddled on the very definition of feminine emancipation, the speakers were nevertheless agreed that up to about forty years ago women were the virtual slaves of their men-folk. Forced to do their household chores uncomplainingly, tied unceasingly to the home, and browbeaten into subservient obedience by their male lords and masters, the women of the pre-emancipation era, according to the speakers, were indeed oppressed.

Agreement was also unanimous on the contention that women are now free of that oppression. They are now at liberty to complain of their household tasks, and they are no longer bound to obey their husbands. Moreover, careers outside of the home are no longer closed to women, and they can now, if they wish, go out to work in factory, office or warehouse, etc. This is the freedom now allegedly achieved by women.

We will credit the B.B.C. speakers with a sense of proportion and assume that when they speak of "men” and “women” they refer to the vast majority of men and women—i.e., the members of the working class. To us it is hard to imagine the average working-class husbands of forty or fifty years ago asserting any great authority over their spouses when the husbands themselves had expended most of their energy in an exhausting working day of twelve or thirteen hours.

The mass of women, like the mass of men, were certainly and completely enslaved, but by something more real, grim and ruthless than the dominance of the opposite sex.

Capitalism, the present social order, brings into being a working class, the members of which must sell their mental and physical energies to the class owning the land, factories and other means of wealth production. Their dependence upon the price (or wages) they receive for these energies (or labour power) places them in a position of continuous bondage to the capitalist class. This was the social system that made slaves of both men and women of the early twentieth century, and remains to enslave both the male and female workers of to-day.

The fact that many women to-day go out to work, though described by some as a sign of feminine freedom, is actually the reverse. The economic compulsion of women into the various spheres of capitalist production—the fact that they, in order to procure more of life’s necessities or, at most, a few extra comforts must augment their husband’s wages by selling their own labour-power to the capitalist class, is proof that working-class women, like their menfolk, are still enslaved.

Only when the establishment of Socialism rids the world of classes and the wages system will the economic and social emancipation of all become a reality.
F. W. Hawkins

The Festival of Britain (1951)

Exhibition Review from the July 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1947 the British Government decided to inaugurate a series of celebrations and displays to commemorate the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851. The various entertainments and exhibitions spread over Great Britain all through the centre months of this year are the result. The centrepiece of this festival is the exhibition now staged on the south bank of the River Thames at Waterloo, London. The guide book to The South Bank Exhibition, issued by H.M. Stationery Office, claims that this exhibition is “neither a museum of British culture nor a trade show of British wares." It would be more true to say that it is not an ordinary museum and not apparently a trade show. Actually this exhibition is a super museum, systematically arranged in a pleasant setting. Its main attraction is that it presents, in a very interesting form, the story of man's evolution, both biological and social. Notices informing visitors that they can obtain information about the goods exhibited, belie the statement that it is not a trade show.

In the centre of the exhibition ground is a building aptly named “The Dome of Discovery." Here is laid out a massive collection of instruments, tools, charts, pictures, models, products, reconstructions, etc., depicting man's discoveries, not only in the remote corners of the earth, but under the sea, in the stratosphere, in the bowels of the earth and in the many fields of scientific investigation. Embryology, physics, chemistry, biology, polar exploration, cartography, plastics, water engineering, pest control, genetics—all have their place.

Many of the displays should be of extreme interest to workers who visit the exhibition. For instance, the section of the “Dome of Discovery" labelled “The Living World." Here are diagrams and models illustrating the work of early British naturalists such as John Ray, Robert Brown and Gilbert White who made classifications of plants and animals, mostly based on incorrect notions, but which were of immense help to their successors. The work of Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace is illustrated and Darwin's evolutionary theories simply and interestingly portrayed. Johann Mendel although not a Briton, is mentioned, together with his work on plant hybridisation from which have developed most of the ideas of the modern geneticists, examples of whose researches are also shown.

In other buildings under names like, “Power and Production,” “Transport,” “Minerals of the Island” and “Sea and Ships” are exhibitions of modern tools, instruments and machinery. In these, the visitor who can for a moment cease to wonder at all the marvels of man’s ingenuity, may give thought to the social consequences of this mass of modern invention. No longer does the miner need his pick nor the farmer his pitchfork. There are mechanically operated machines for almost every job. Not only a machine for each separate job, but machines that do a whole series of jobs converting raw materials to finished products. One is struck by the fact that the workers in attendance on these machines do little, if anything at all, in the productive process that is afoot. Their time and effort is devoted to caring for the machine, removing dust and waste, and tidying up around and about. There are machines for testing the accuracy of other machines and the qualities of the goods produced by them. There are machines to switch-on, drive and switch-off and the whole process of production tends to become automatic. One can realise that with the further development of the study of electronics and its application to industry, there will be less and less for the worker to do.

The architecture of some of the exhibition buildings conforms to the modern factory style. No longer the grim and solid brick built factory made to house many workers working in rows at their respective taste, now a light utilitarian structure designed as a shell to protect the delicate and costly machine from the elements.

If only all the wonders displayed at this exhibition could be put into operation for the service of mankind and not for the purpose of profit making for the owners of industry, what delightful changes could be made in the world. Not only could all people have more of the wealth that they produce but the hours spent in its production could be so much shortened. Not only could the tasks be so much easier but the conditions under which they are performed could be made enjoyable. There need be no “dirty work," much less industrial disease, and so much more time for leisure to enjoy the arts, amusements and entertainments that are displayed throughout the length and breadth of Britain during this festival period.

The thoughtful worker will wonder why, when there is such machinery to use, that men in huge areas of the world still use primitive tools and transport; why, when wealth can be produced so plentifully, that so many people are in need of the absolute necessities of life; why, when there is so much labour-saving machinery, that multitudes of people are overworked.

A lot of these machines are not the result of recent inventions but are refinements and improvements of inventions of generations post. It cannot be that the principles applied in these machines are of such recent discovery that there has been no time to produce sufficient numbers of them to solve many of the social problems that exist today. In 1939 H.M. Stationery Office published a book by H. T. Pledge, B.A., entitled “Science Since 1500." This book, with minor corrections was reprinted in 1947, and it shows that many of the inventions that are thought to be of recent origin are really derived from the researches of men over a hundred years ago.

There are a number of reasons why new inventions do not get taken up and utilised immediately they are made. One reason, probably the most effective, is that a new invention will cut across the interests of existing capitalist companies. We can remember the opposition that the turnpike and stagecoach companies put up against the early railways. The whale-oil companies fought against the use of gas for lighting, and later the gas companies fought against the use of electric light. The telegraph companies put up bitter opposition to the telephone and to radio telegraphy and the telegraph, telephone and radio telegraph companies fought against the radio telephone. All these instances are of opposition that may have delayed the application of new inventions but failed to prevent it. There must be many, many cases where the opposition was successful and we have never heard of the invention at all.

One of the American New Deal publications, “Technological Trends," states on page 53,
   "Changes within the electric industry have been retarded by the buying and suppressing of patents by the large corporations which dominate the field . . . A superior electric lamp, which it is estimated will save electric light users $10,000,000 a year, has been invented but has not been put on the market.” 
and on page 353,
   “The author knows of one metallurgist who made his own safety-razor blade, sharpened it, and nitrided it. It has been used daily, without re-sharpening, for 2 years. Naturally the razor-blade manufacturers are not interested"
Sir Alexander Oibb in his presidential address to the Engineering Section of the British Association in 1937, said,
      " . . .  the greater the success of research the more immediate and drastic the effect on existing plant and equipment. That is where the rub sometimes lies . . . and many valuable inventions have been bought up by vested interests and suppressed. . . . " (Report of the British Association 1937, pp. 158-159.)
Two other factors that retard development are, first, the difficulty of finding a profitable market for goods that are in plentiful supply. We quote again from “ Technological Trends ” page 58.
   “Fear of overproduction with consequent shattering of price levels, and a dramatic displacement of cotton pickers, is deterring the introduction of the automatic cotton picker invented by the Rust brothers . . . ."
This automatic cotton picker can pick as much cotton in hours as a first rate hand picker can pick in weeks. The labourers required for cotton picking could be reduced by 75 per cent, if this machine was brought into use. Furthermore, the first patent for a mechanical cotton picker dates from 1850. Secondly, by depressing wages to a low level it is often cheaper to use a number of workers to do a task than to install an expensive machine that will displace them.

All this adds up to the fact that the existing system of production is now a fetter on social progress. No matter how fine a display the festival designers can create,
   “. . .  so that this country and the world could pause to review British contributions to world civilisation in the arts of peace.” (South Bank Exhibition Guide, page 6)
there are still greater contributions that could be displayed were it not for the retarding effect of capitalism.

One thing we failed to find in the South Bank Exhibition was any display or even reference to the work of those Britons who have spent much of their time in research into the causes of social change. Such a display would have shown that the changes in the tools of production, so well depicted, were the cause of the changes in the social structure that is splendidly illustrated. It would also have shown that this mass of wonder-inspiring machinery and all these mechanical marvels must, in their turn, cause yet other social changes.

If the full force of the benefits of all these things displayed, is to accrue to mankind, then the capitalist mode of production must be abolished. “The Land" depicted at the exhibition with its wealth of resources together with all these labour and time saving machines must be commonly owned so that the wealth produced may be available to all. The production of goods for a market in order to make a profit must end. It is clogging the wheels of social progress, it is causing suffering and misery, poverty and unhappiness, ill-health and insecurity, all of which can end when the workers take the means of production from the existing owners and use them for the common good.

The exhibition at South Bank is not the Festival, but it is the core. There are other exhibitions, there are pageants, Eisteddfods, festivals of art and music, pleasure gardens, gatherings of the clans and other attractions throughout Great Britain. Towns and villages are having their own little “do’s" to celebrate the occasion. But all these pleasures and entertainments are subject to the system of production. The means that man employs to get the necessities of life will be reflected in his arts, his entertainments and his amusements. So the exhibitions are not only the core of the festival, they are the key to the understanding of it.
W. Waters

The New "Socialist International" (1951)

From the August 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

At Frankfurt on June 30 a new so-called “Socialist International” was born. It represents the Labour or Social Democratic parties of the world, similar in outlook to the British Labour Party. The fact that some of them bear the name “Socialist” and have given this name to their International has of course no significance as an indication of their aims, they are all of them social reform bodies built up on the belief that the problems of society can be solved through Labour Government administering reformed, planned and nationalised capitalism. The organisation claims 34 affiliated parties with 10 million members but it is far from being world-embracing. It is strongest in Western Europe and the British Dominions, and weakest in North and South America and the Far East. This makes it roughly parallel in scope with the “International Confederation of Free Trade Unions” except that the latter also has the support of the large American Unions. It declares its hostility to the Communist parties, which in their turn are strong in the countries (chiefly Russia and her satellites) where the Communist- led “World Federation of Trade Unions” has sole or chief support from the trade unions.

This new political International claims continuity of tradition and outlook with the “First International” founded in 1864 and its successor the “Second International" 1889, both of which foundered after some years of chequered existence, the latter in the First World War. It lays emphasis on democratic methods and denounces the “dictatorship” and “class-war” policies of the Communist parties which originated with the formation in 1921 of the “Third (Communist) International.” (This body was Officially disbanded during the second World War but continues its existence in the Russian controlled “Cominform”).

In spite of the claim to have inherited the traditions of the 19th century International the sponsors of the new “Socialist International” cannot disguise from themselves that their principles show marked deviation from the traditional programmes of the Labour parties.

The first change is one that in recent years has been much in evidence in the British Labour Party, the dropping of the old demand for all-round nationalisation and its replacement by the vaguer demand for “planning” of industry whether under private capitalist ownership or State ownership. The Declaration affirms that “Socialist planning does not pre-suppose public ownership of all the means of production.”

The second is that the new body abandons the traditional lip-service paid by the Continental Social- Democratic parties to Marxism and recognition of the class-struggle, doing so under cover of an attack on the Communists:—"Whereas Socialists aim to achieve freedom and justice by removing the exploitation which divides man under capitalism, Communists seek to sharpen those class divisions.”

Outside commentators have been quick to notice bow the new body has departed from tradition and one of them, the Times, examines what has caused the departure. In a leader (2/7/51) the Times says:
   “It makes a break with past theory. Socialist parties have now held power in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and Norway, and this statement is a rationalization of the way in which they have found themselves behaving. Class warfare is renounced.”
The Times also notices that the new declaration is noteworthy for laying down principles which the capitalist parties can come near to accepting:—" . . . Socialism as it is here stated differs in degree rather than in kind from the policies of other democratic parties in the countries of Western Europe and elsewhere which have reached a comparable stage of development The need for some planning, some public ownership, some social security is now widely accepted.”

The line taken by the new organisation itself to explain the change can be seen in the summary of their declaration published by the Daily Herald (3/7/51):—
   “Socialism first developed as a movement of the wage-eamers. But more and more citizens, professional and clerical workers, farmers and fishermen, craftsmen and retailers, artists and scientists, have come to understand that it holds the key to their future. It appeals to all men.”
    “Socialism has become a major force in world affairs and has passed from propaganda to practice. In some countries the foundations of a Socialist society have already been laid.”
We are then asked to believe that the original policies of the Labour parties have been made obsolete because the stage of propaganda has given way to practice and because in some countries the foundations of Socialist Society have already been laid. What is meant here of course is the Nationalisation measures and the so-called “Welfare State" reforms introduced by the various Labour governments. What makes utter nonsense of this claim is firstly that capitalism is still in existence all over the world, nowhere has it been abolished and replaced by Socialism. To this Labour parties would reply that when they speak of Socialism what they mean is that State-controlled capitalism has everywhere to some extent curbed or replaced private capitalism. But even this piece of verbal confusion does not get them out of their difficulty! For if State controlled capitalism is the aim then the Labour parties ought now to admit, as many of them have done in the past, that that aim has been achieved in the Communist governed countries; why then does the new International declare war on the Communist parties?

If we really want to understand what the past thirty years have done to the nineteenth century reformist parties we have to look at the changed position of those parties in the capitalist world. Half a century ago they were all of them “Opposition" parties able to show a certain amount of doctrinal unity in their hostility to the Tory, Liberal and other anti-working class governments. But their principles and policies were basically unsound and their success in becoming governments has brought this into the open.

As governments without any mandate from a Socialist Working class to establish Socialism they have all of them “Labour” and “Communist” alike, had no alternative but to carry on capitalism though both have adopted the face-saving subterfuge of labelling it “Socialism.”

In place of showing some degree of working class unity against at least the effects of capitalism all of those parties are now tied hand and foot to administering the capitalist system. As a result of this the old vague support for internationalism has been destroyed and though the Labour parties and the Communist parties both masquerade in allegedly “international ” organisations, the individual parties and the organisations themselves have become in greater or less degree open supporters of the capitalism of their particular country or group of allies, busily preparing for capitalism's third World War.

The lesson to be learned from this is the one emphasised by the S.P.O.B. for 47 years, that the conquest of governmental power is useless and pernicious unless there is behind it and controlling it a socialist working class, consciously organised for the one worthwhile aim, that of establishing Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Socialism and Shortages (1951)

From the September 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

From all sides we hear about shortages. Workers are short of money—there is a food shortage, steel and wool shortage, insufficient housing accommodation, and a thousand and one things are in short supply.

This is not a new phenomenon, there has always been a shortage of the necessities of life for the majority of people. The important thing to remember is at the present time these shortages are unnecessary. In the past it was not possible to produce all the requirements of mankind, but with the development of Capitalism there has grown up productive resources capable of producing all men’s needs.

The apologists of the capitalist class claim that it is not possible at the present time to produce all the requirements of mankind. We are constantly being urged to produce more and more and are told that one day, they do not say when, we will all be better off.

It is the claim of socialists that it is the capitalist system itself that prevents production from being sufficient. Commodities are produced for sale in order to make a profit. If there is too much of any particular commodity for it to be sold at a profit then production is ceased or diminished. The abolition of production for profit and the introduction of production solely for use whereby goods when produced would be available for all who needed them, would by itself solve the problem of disposing of these goods. If a surplus arose it would mean that mankind’s requirements were for the time being filled and production would then slow down. 

It is not, however, the problem of over-production that we hear about to-day, but under-production.

How can production be so increased that a world of plenty is created? Once again we state that the barrier is the capitalist system. It is obvious to socialists and non-socialists that the war machine created by all the countries of the world is one of the major reasons for shortages to-day. Millions of men are in the armed forces of the world, millions more are producing armaments. Only Socialism, which would make the thought of war ridiculous, can stop this terrific waste of manpower and materials.

How much of the work which we do to-day is essential in order to produce the things we need? How much of it which although necessary under Capitalism would be unnecessary under Socialism? The vast army of civil servants needed by the State, the huge number of clerks engaged in keeping records of the financial transactions of Capitalism, ticket collectors, advertising staff, insurance agents, commercial travellers—there are a hundred and one different occupations which although necessary under Capitalism would not be required if goods were produced for use instead of for profit.

Modern methods of production, plus the gigantic increase of manpower available for production, could turn out goods in such quantity so as to provide plenty for all. Unfortunately at the present time only the socialists see the possibility of ending shortages.
D. W. Lock

Why We Are Not Contesting This Election (1951)

From the October 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the request of a number of branches, a poll of the Party was taken on the question as to whether we should put forward candidates at this General Election. The result was a majority vote against participation. The majority voted against participation for a variety of reasons. The question of electoral activity will be discussed at a forthcoming special party meeting.
Executive Committee

This Dishonest Election (1951)

Editorial from the October 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

This General Election will be remembered as one of the most dishonest of modern times. Elections are fought round two main issues, the past performance of the government that has given up office and the promises each party makes for future action if elected. Sometimes, though rarely, a newly elected government genuinely believes that its programme will bring great benefits to the workers who have elected it. That was true of the Labour Party in 1945, but it is not true to-day. The Labour Party and the Tory Party are fighting for power and in order to get votes both are making reckless promises of better times to come, though the leaders on both sides know full well that whichever government is elected the future holds in store nothing but a continuation, if not a worsening, of present hardships. The real reason why the election is being fought now is that British Capitalism needs a strong government to deal with the problems and discontents of the coming months and years. A government dependent on a parliamentary majority of a mere handful of M.P.s is in too weak a state to handle the crises that face British Capitalism at home and abroad. That this is the situation has been admitted by two capitalist journals that are sufficiently outside the election scramble to be able to afford candour. Both of them admit that the election promises of “better times” are fraudulent, and both take the line that it does not matter whether the new government is Labour or Tory provided that one or the other is elected with a substantial majority so that it can firmly carry through the anticipated unpopular measures. One of these is the Economist, and the other the Manchester Guardian.
The Economist (22 September, 1951) writes:—
   “Whether the Conservative or the Labour Party can provide the better political leadership for these times is by comparison a minor issue. It may be that in very quiet times the country could be well governed with as small a Parliamentary majority as Mr. Attlee has commanded for the past nineteen months. As things have in fact been, no party could have governed well. The difficulties facing the British people are now growing harsher. The firm and effective government required to meet them can come only from a party firmly established in power and able to look beyond immediate popularity when the need is for measures that will show their good results in two years' time rather than next month    “The economic situation . . . now makes it more unrealistic even than it was in 1950 for either side to promise better things soon."
The Manchester Guardian in an editorial (21 September, 1951) covers much the same ground, but with some additional remarks on the election promises:—
    “When the election results came out in 1950 everybody prophesied that a government with so narrow a majority must be impotent. Things have not been quite so bad as that; the Government has not been wholly ineffective. Now, however, it is entering a much more difficult period when some bold decisions and some unpopular economic measures are called for, decisions and measures which a weak Government could not carry through except with Opposition support, and that under the circumstances would not be forthcoming. . . .  But whether the next Government is a Labour or a Conservative one it is earnestly to be hoped that it will be one with a coherent working majority. That, even more than the complexion of the Government, is what is important."
On the election programmes the Guardian has this to say:—
  “The Labour Party has exhausted its inspiration and has not even the semblance of a body of Socialist doctrine to guide it. Its programme in 1950 was a collection of odds and ends, its pre-election statement of a few weeks ago a collection of vague platitudes. Even the Bevanites have nothing much—besides class bias—to throw into the pool. The Conservatives are not much better placed."
  “This barrenness of the political field is not surprising or really regrettable. . . . The next government will be concerned not with ideology but with grappling with economic difficulties. . . . The counter-measures against inflation and the organising of the country for defence call for decisions and teenniques which are not to be found in party programmes designed to attract and please the voter. But all the same it is to be feared that the stale programmes, such as they are, will be trotted out and the election will be fought on promises that are irredeemable and on diagnoses of our needs that are irrelevant. That, however, is the nature of elections."
The two journals from which we have quoted are undoubtedly correct in their estimate of the present position of British Capitalism, but when they talk of the needs of the situation they are completely wrong. What the working class of Britain and of the whole world need is the abolition of Capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. They need it but do not yet understand their need. We are therefore faced with the tragedy that millions of workers in Britain will, during the coming weeks, listen to and accept the wilful lies of their political leaders. The best indication of growing understanding that we can hope for at this juncture is that large numbers of voters, seeing through the election lies, may, in disgust, abstain from voting.

For those workers who in the past have voted for the Labour Party in the mistaken belief that it was in some way moving towards a new form of society, this election is tragic indeed, for the leaders of the Labour Party have now ceased to have faith in anything except the cynical belief that they do the day-to-day job of running Capitalism no worse than the Conservatives. In the past the Labour leaders believed in State Capitalism or nationalisation, but now this has proved to be so unpopular with the workers that the leaders are soliciting votes by letting it be known that there are to be no new nationalisation schemes in the near future. Among bread-and-butter questions they laid great emphasis on being able to raise wages and reduce the cost of living, but the steady rise of prices and the lagging behind of wages during the past few years has reduced them to the petty manoeuvre of juggling with the facts to deceive the electors. At one time the Labour Party would have been the first to insist on comparing the movement of the cost of living with the movement of wage rates for a normal week’s work, but in recent Labour Party publications “wage-rates” have been quietly dropped and in their place use is made of earnings figures which include additional payments for overtime, night work, and piece-work, etc. One of several publications in which this trick has been worked is “Fifty Facts on Prices” (Labour Party), which says: “Compared with the rise of about 85 per cent, in the cost of living since 1938, the earnings of workers in industry went up by 133 per cent, between October, 1938, and April, 1950.” (“Fifty Facts,” page 17.)

The Government’s own official indices of the cost of living and of wage-rates show that since June, 1947. the cost of living has increased by 27 per cent., while wage-rates have gone up by only 20 per cent., leaving the workers much worse off.

This election, which follows six years of Labour government, should mark the end of the myth that Labourism has something to offer to the working class that is different from having Capitalism administered by a Tory Government.

Socialists can agree with those capitalist spokesmen who say that there is little to choose between Labour Government and Tory Government, but unlike them we have a message of hope and action to give to the working class. In their own interests the working class should choose neither Labour nor Tory. Labourism has failed as Toryism failed. The urgent need of the working class is to establish Socialism.

End of Another Labour Government (1951)

Editorial from the November 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

So after six years of Labour Party rule the electors refuse to stand any more of it. Having put the Labour Party into office in 1945 “to give Labour a chance” they now turn it out again. With all the evidence the working class have had of Tory rule a large proportion of them have still been prepared to have the Tories back in office rather than prolong the ministerial careers of the Attlees and Morrisons.

This is not like the defeat of the Labour Party after the two earlier Labour Governments. They were minority governments and they excused themselves on the plausible ground that they could not carry out their programme. This time the Labour Government has done all that it promised to do in the shape of social reforms and Nationalisation but the dreary end is precisely the same as before. This Labour Government, like MacDonald's in 1931 could not escape the crises and war preparations thrust on it by capitalism, and in spite of all its efforts to make life less burdensome it could not make capitalism palatable to the electors. So end all attempts to operate capitalism “in a different way." It was predoomed to failure as we said when it took office.

Of course the members of that party will now hold an inquest to discover why the electors acted as they did. Innumerable so-called explanations will be trotted out, none of them the simple truth stated above for if any supporter of the Labour Party once admitted to himself the truth he would have to conclude that Labourism itself is futile, not the men or the particular measures, but the whole conception of trying to humanise the capitalist system of society.

There is an aspect of vastly greater importance for the working class than the internal bickerings of the Labour Party. This is the question of what it is that has failed. It is Labourism that has failed, not Socialism. The Labour Party never at any time in its history aimed at or tried to introduce Socialism. Labourism aimed to carry on Great Britain as a capitalist unit in a capitalist world; seeking only to modify its social evils at home and its predatory nature in the international sphere. Of course it had to fail. Socialism is an international conception which will involve the end of capitalist production and distribution for profit, the end of the wage-system and price system and of the international conflict over markets and raw materials. Socialism is not concerned with turning private capitalism into State capitalism. Socialism requires the conversion of the means of production and distribution from private ownership to common ownership and democratic control by the whole of society, with resulting abolition of property incomes and the carrying on of production solely for use.

Socialism has not failed because it has never been tried here or in any other country.

The Bevan Myth
Now that the election is over the split between Bevan and Attlee will emerge again. While the election was on all the Labour Party leaders pooh-poohed the idea that there was such a thing. There will be acrimonious debate as whether Bevan or Attlee did most to win or lose votes. But heat of argument should not give rise to the illusion that Bevan's policy differs except in degree and detail from the one the Labour Government, with his support, pursued for the past six years.

In Bevan's eyes it was not the policy itself that was at fault but only the manner of its application and the character of the men at the top. The Labour Government decided on a certain rate of re-armament; Bevan wanted it to be slowed down, but, as he said at Cumnock, Ayrshire, on the 18th June, 1951, "He did not believe in having no armies." (Manchester Guardian, 19/6/51). In the same speech he developed his theme about the kind of leaders the Labour Party ought to have. “There was a strong tendency for the Government to take its leaders from the “top drawer of society." The movement should be careful to select its leaders in the main from those who had spent their lives in the Labour and trade union movement . . . " Would it be uncharitable to read into this a slightly jaundiced preference by Bevan for himself as Party leader in place of Attlee?

He says that he wants men “with guts" to thrust the Labour Party on to Socialism and he was speaking the truth when he said at the Labour Party Conference, 1950, “Great Britain is not a socialist country ’’—but it was the truth by accident, for all he meant was that State capitalism or nationalisation covers only 20 per cent of British industry. And it is only a matter of 2½ years ago that he was telling a Labour Party audience at Newport that the Labour Government in which he was a minister is good for “business men." He said that the less bigoted Tories would hesitate to vote against the Labour candidates “because even private enterprise works better under the beneficient guidance of a Socialist government. That proves that Socialism is a good thing and it is beginning to dawn on some business men.” (Daily Herald, 28/3/49). So Mr. Bevan who tries desperately hard to give the impression that he is out for Socialism is not above soliciting the votes of Tories by assuring them that socialism, as he interprets it, is good for capitalists and capitalist industry.

You, Too, Can Be Class Conscious (1951)

From the December 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are three things that you must know before you can become class-conscious. First, you must know what constitutes a class; secondly, you must know to which class you belong, and thirdly, you must know what are your class interests. Having acquired that amount of knowledge you can claim to be a fully fledged class-conscious member of society.

There are a deuce of a lot of confused notions about social classes. People talk about lower classes, upper classes and middle classes. They even talk about upper middle and lower middle classes and of the working classes. These social divisions are income groups, not classes. A person’s class is not determined by the amount of money that he can get hold of, but by the manner in which he gets it.

There is no limit to the number of groups that can be included in these income classifications. Every income variation of a few coppers could qualify for a new group, which, of course, accounts for such foolish phrases as. “ the working classes,” as though there are a number of them.

We must not confuse this classification or we shall arrive at a false conclusion. Human beings walk on two legs, but that does not make them human beings. Capitalists are wealthy and workers are poor, but wealth, or lack of it, does not make capitalist and worker. It is the source of their wealth or the cause of their poverty that places men in one or other of these social classes.

The majority of people on this earth, when they arrive at their early teens, are sent out to find a job in order to augment the family income. They set out with nothing much more than their travelling fare and they go to a prospective employer and offer themselves for work. The employer may want a typist or a turner. In either case he is interested to buy some energy. If he needs a typist he will provide the office and the typewriter; be will dictate and expect the typist to translate his words on to paper via the typewriter. If be needs a turner he will provide the lathe, the workplace and the material to be worked on. The worker will bring only his energy and that he will apply to operating the machine.

For all typists and turners, as well as for millions of others, that is the only way they can get the wherewithal to live. They have nothing else but their ability to work and they sell that in order to get the necessities of life. They constitute a class—the working class.

Against this there are others who have no need to work. Their parents can ensure them an education of qualify and absorb them into the family business or maintain them out of the family income. They are born into their class, as are nearly all its members; only a very few nowadays manage to creep into the privileged class over the backs of their fellows. These are the people who own the offices with the typewriters and the workplaces with the lathes. These are the people who will employ the typists and the turners and all the others. The workers will produce an income for these privileged ones and absolve them from the necessity to work. They can take themselves off to Monte Carlo, Monaco or Monte Video, and rest assured that their incomes will be safe. Because they own land, or factories, or machines, or ships or something else, they constitute another class—the capitalist class.

There are a few people who do not appear to fall within either of these two classes. They are the people who own the means of getting a living without having to seek employment, but their means of livelihood are such that it is a mighty meagre living that they get. There is the fellow who owns a hammer, a last, a few pieces of leather and a small shop and who ekes out a livelihood repairing other people’s footwear. There is the fellow with a taxi-cab who plies for hire and the chap who raises a few cucumbers under some glass that he owns, and struggles along on the proceeds of the sales. These and some others, mostly small shopkeepers, do not fit directly into the classification of either working-class or capitalist class. In the main they are distributing agents for capitalist wholesale firms which do not want the bother of running their own retail business. As a social class their interests are so bound up with those of the working class that there is no purpose in considering them separately. Look along the High Street in any fair sized town and note the changes in recent years. Little John Smith, the grocer, has gone and J. Sainsbury or the Home and Colonial Stores have taken his place. Freeman, Hardy and Willis or Bata have ousted the small shoe vendor. Montogue Burton has built a palatial shop where Snippet, the small tailor, used to cut and stitch. W. H. Smith has taken over from the little “paper man.” No shopping centre is complete these days without its Woolworths, its Scotch Wool and Hosiery Stores, its J. Lyons or A.B.C. caterers, Dunn’s the Hatters, Dorothy Perkins, Timothy White and Taylors or Boots the Chemist, United Dairies, Granada or Odeon Cinema, Halfords, Mac Fisheries and all the other big names in retail business. The big capitalist firm is in the High Street and the little “middle class” man is in the side streets or the less busy part of the town, that is, if he has managed to hang on in the face of the overwhelming competition. These so-called “middle class” people are being squeezed out and are becoming managers for the big capitalist stores.

With these “in-between” people drawn irresistibly to the working class, there is a line-up of society into two classes, the workers and the capitalists. So, to the second point. To which class do you belong? That is something that you can decide for yourself. The fact that you are reading the Socialist Standard makes it a hundred-to-one bet that, like us, you are a member of the very-hard-working-class. So, all that remains is for you to grasp what are your class interests.

You have probably experienced the blind urge of class antagonism without recognising it. You have probably felt a sympathy for “poor" people being suppressed by “rich” ones. You have probably observed what you consider to be a lot of injustice in this society and you have more than likely, at times, got all het up about it. That is an admirable emotion, but it does nothing to indicate where lie your interests. If you find that you fit into the capitalist classification and you enjoy the privileges and luxuries that go with membership of that class, then your interest is apparently to keep things going in the same old way so that your privilege and luxury can continue.

But if the more probable is the case and you are one of our fellow workers, what then? You will find that your interests run in two channels. In the first you will find that, as a member of the working class, you will have to wage a continual struggle to maintain your living standards, to say nothing of the struggle to try to improve them. You will be living on wages and your employer will resist your efforts to increase them. He will always want more for his money and you will be carrying on a ceaseless struggle against him. You do not have to be class-conscious for that. All workers, even those who delude themselves that they are little capitalists, have no alternative but to struggle to get what they can out of the present social set-up. But if you are class-conscious you will wage that struggle with your eyes peeled and you will not expect from it more than it is possible to achieve—which is mighty little.

Of course, you will not be satisfied with mighty little, so you will seek a way to achieve a life free from struggle and free from all the ills that beset members of the working class. You will realise that, no matter what you gain by your struggle to improve your wages and conditions, the members of the opposing class still live in comfort and leisure and the political machinery is frequently used to nullify some small gain that you may have made. Then you turn your attention to politics.

It is to be expected that, if you have discovered that there are very narrow limits set on what you can achieve by struggling within the present social system, you will turn your activities towards putting an end to that system. If it does not serve your interests, why retain it? It is in the interests of the capitalist class to retain it, but you should strive to abolish it.

On the political field you will find many parties which aim to make all sorts of alterations to the present social system, but which will show their venom when anyone suggests abolishing it. Yet that is where your interests lie, not in struggling to crawl out of your class into the capitalist class, which is well nigh impossible, but in striving to end a class system of society altogether. Even if you manage to get yourself into that money-grabbing clique termed “middle class” you still need to end the system that makes you sweat for hours each day in order to get a living. And there is always some more “ successful ” fellow who is ready to give you a back kick and send you back to the ranks of the working class again.

There you are. Make up your mind to which class you belong. If you are of die working class, then get off your knees, stand up and be a man and fight to achieve a society that can offer you a life worth living. You have been a tame and docile wage worker long enough, voting for political quacks who have led you up every garden path they can find. Take a look round, find a political party composed of people like yourself who are also class-conscious and who know what they are after. Roll up your sleeves. Until you do you are holding up those who do want to get on with it So, get weaving and let us hear from you.
W. Waters

Obituary: Hilda McClatchie (1974)

Obituary from the January 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

Comrade Hilda McClatchie, who was just eighty years old, died on 9th November and was cremated at Golders Green on 15th November 1973. Hilda, the partner of Gilbert McClatchie (“Gilmac”) joined the Party in May 1912. She was the sister of Adolph Kohn, who up to the time of his death during World War II was a constant contributor to the Socialist Standard and a well-known lecturer and debater for the Party.

It was in the Socialist Party that Hilda and Gilbert met to form a life-long association. During the early part of the First World War Gilbert McClatchie was the General Secretary of the Party, but with the introduction of conscription in 1916 he, like many of the male members of the Party, had to go "underground” and live and work as best they could without identity papers (or at least genuine ones!) As opponents of the war they were liable to arrest and imprisonment, and indeed many members ended up in prison after appearing before farcical tribunals who swept aside any objection to the war unless it was based on religious-conscientious grounds. "Gilmac” escaped to Ireland—where he was born—whilst Hilda’s brother Adolph, as did several others, went to the USA. Hilda then became General Secretary and was one of the band of intrepid women members who played a large part in keeping the Party organisation in existence during that war.

Scotland Yard twice raided our premises in King’s Cross, once when an Executive meeting was due to take place. Hilda was tipped off in time and managed to keep the arriving members from getting too near to Head Office (some E.C. members used to surface from "underground” in order to attend these meetings). Twice she was interrogated at Scotland Yard on the whereabouts of some male members and attempts were made to obtain from her a list of Party members—without success.

On another occasion she was for some time cross-examined regarding an article written by Adolph Kohn in the USA and found on a seaman attempting to smuggle it into the country for delivery to the Party. She was very well-informed, and an active member until 1948 when she was stricken with an illness from which she never completely recovered.

To Comrade Gilbert McClatchie and daughter Jenny we offer our comradely sympathy.
Arthur and Phyllis George

Obituary: Howard Weaver (1974)

Obituary from the February 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have to record with regret the loss of another comrade of many years’ standing. Howard Weaver died suddenly last month.

Joining the Party shortly after the war, he was one of the group which formed the old Kingston Branch. In those days he often spoke as chairman at the Saturday-night outdoor meetings at Castle Street, Kingston, and at Richmond; his rich, cultured voice was striking in itself, and it conveyed a considerable knowledge of foreign affairs in particular.

In later years he became a member of the Executive Committee, and remained on it until obliged to retire for health reasons three years ago. One other service which he continually rendered was in dealing with communications from Party contacts in Europe; as a translator he gave invaluable help to successive secretaries in our foreign-communications department.

Comrade Weaver was living abroad temporarily when he died, and the news came as a shock to many who had known him. Our sympathy and condolences go to Comrade Rose Weaver and to their daughter Barbara.