Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Friends of the Russian Government (1933)

Editorial from the August 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some recent activities of the Russian Government which received little notice in the Press are of sufficient importance to be placed on record. They should be studied by those who believe that the friction between the Russian Government and some other governments is different in kind from the trade quarrels which are always taking place between national groups of capitalists and the governments they control. Socialists have long pointed out how the need to find markets abroad and to borrow money from foreign capitalists to pay for imports of raw materials and machinery, etc., overrides other considerations in the relationships between capitalist states, so that religion, patriotism and humanity all have to take second place when trade and profits are at stake. It does not surprise us, but it may come as a shock to Communists, that the requirements of expanding capitalist industry in Russia should have induced the Russian Government to adopt the same callous attitude as the rest of the powers.

We refer to agreements just made or renewed between Russia, on the one hand, and the three open dictatorships on the other—Italy, Poland and Germany. The following description of these agreements is taken from an official Russian publication, the Moscow Narodny Bank “Monthly Review ” (May, 1933).
First, Italy: —
   The Soviet-Italian Agreement signed on May 6th by Signor Mussolini . . . and M. Levenson, the Commercial Representative of the U.S.S.R. in Italy, though not the first to be concluded between the two countries, is of special importance at the present time.
    This Agreement has been welcomed in both countries as demonstrating the continued economic collaboration between the U.S.S.R. and Italy. . . .
    The Soviet-Italian Agreement is a new proof of the desire of the U.S.S.R. to maintain normal relations with the rest of the world and that some countries appreciate the need of such relations and are determined to utilise them for the good of both, countries.
Then Germany: —
   On May 5th the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R., M. Litvinov, and the German Ambassador in Moscow, M. von Dirksen, exchanged Notes on the ratification of the Agreement concluded in Moscow on June 24th, 1931, which has now become operative. At the same time an exchange of Protocols took place for the continuation of the Berlin Treaty concerning neutrality and non-aggression of April 24th, 1926, and of the Convention concerning the Procedure of Conciliation of January 25th, 1929.
   The Protocol states that the two Governments, by prolonging the Treaty, intend to continue the existing friendly relations between the Soviet Union and Germany, and to further collaboration which is in the interests of both countries and contributes towards assuring the peace of the world.—(Italics ours.)
The Treaty of 1926:—
    Lays down the principle that the contracting parties are not only to observe neutrality if one of them is attacked by a third Power, but they undertake not to participate in any economic or financial boycott against the other party.
This last provision, incidentally, prevents Russia from-supporting the boycott of German goods, which the trade unions in various countries are organising as a protest against the Hitler Government's brutal treatment of Communists and others.

Mr. Fenner Brockway, who supported the move by the I.L.P. to form a United Front with the Communists, writes (New Leader, June 16th) that the Communist International, because of this agreement with Hitler, "has opposed an international working class economic boycott of Germany."

Lastly, there is Poland, where Pilsudski is dictator, often referred to by Communists as the "butcher” : —
    On May 2nd a delegation of six representatives of the Commissariat for Foreign Trade of the U.S.S.R. arrived in Warsaw at the special invitation of the Polish Government and was accorded a very warm reception. . . .
     A satisfactory improvement has taken place in the past few months in the economic and political relations between the Soviet Union and Poland.
     The Non-Aggression Pact recently signed between the two countries is a very important symptom of this change, which is also reflected in the transactions between the two Governments. The recent visit of the Soviet Minister in Warsaw to Marshal Pilsudski, who very rarely receives foreign diplomats, is another indication of the welcome change that has taken place. The Governments seem determined to utilise the existing friendly relations to the best advantage of both countries.—(Italics ours.)’
So we have here a pretty picture of the Russian Government making agreements and seeking to cultivate “normal" and “friendly” relationships with Italy, Poland and Germany, while the Governments of Mussolini, Pilsudski and Hitler, carry on their normal brutal repression of all opposition, including Socialists and Communists. Are the Communists in the prisons and concentration camps of these countries expected to rejoice when they read that Russian envoys received “a very warm welcome," and that Pilsudski has graciously condescended to receive the Soviet Ambassador, and that Russia undertakes “not to participate in any economic or financial boycott ” of Hitler’s Germany?

This is in striking contrast with the generous declaration made by the Bolsheviks when first they seized power that they regarded Socialists all over the world as being under their special protection.

It is also an ironical commentary on the depths to which Socialism has been dragged by the well-meaning people who advocate the seizure of power before a majority is prepared to accept and work for Socialism, that the four principal dictatorships have as their figureheads men who have claimed to be Socialists and have learned how to be successful demagogues in the ranks of so-called Socialist parties—Hitler in Germany, who brazenly proclaims that his advent to power means the early triumph of Socialism; Pilsudski, who led the so-called Socialist Party of Poland into the bog of Polish nationalism; Mussolini, who did the same in Italy; and lastly, Stalin, who rose to eminence on the backs of the men who led the seizure of power in Russia in 1917, and who now cultivates friendly relations with his three fellow dictators.

The I.L.P. and Ourselves (1933)

From the September 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have been asked to comment on a statement about the S.P.G.B. which appeared in the Paddington Socialist Pioneer (August 5th, 1932), published by the Paddington branch of the I.L.P.

The statement in the Pioneer is reproduced below: —
WAS Marx Wrong? 
  Workers who are confused by the three Revolutionary Workers’ Parties now in existence, all claiming their support, would do well to examine that educative monthly Socialist Standard. In the July issue there is an article on the “ Socialist attitude to reforms ” and (as the Socialist Party of Great Britain says that any Party which advocates the defence of the workers’ standard of living, and the demanding of something within the capitalist system as reforms and, therefore, wrong) is of some importance.
   We are told that Marx and Engels were prepared on occasions to compromise in order to secure agreement by which they thought would help the Socialist movement. Also that they never ceased to clarify views and change them whenever experience showed the need for change. The I.L.P. is in agreement with this and we suggest to the Comrades in the Socialist Party of Great Britain that the time has come for them to use a little more judgment and join hands with those who are getting on with the job of bringing about a Socialist Britain in our time and not in a thousand years hence. The need is too great and we cannot afford to waste time splitting hairs.
The writer of the above paragraph has misunderstood the attitude of the S.P.G.B. towards reforms and also the reference to Marx. The S.P.G.B. does not condemn the workers' attempts to defend their standard of living. On the contrary, we unreservedly support the intelligent use of Trade Union organisation and strike action to defend or improve standards of living (without, however, supporting the Communist perversion of this policy, which consists of advocating strikes on all occasions, irrespective of whether the time and circumstances are well chosen).

What we wholly condemn is “reformism," that is, the Labour Party-Communist-I.L.P. policy of building up a political party on a programme of reforms, and gaining seats in Parliament on such a programme. We say that the only party which can be of service to the Socialist movement is a party built up on the principles of Socialism and nothing else, a party composed only of Socialists.

It is correct that we said (see Socialist Standard, July, 1932) that Marx and Engels “were prepared on occasion to compromise in order to secure agreement which they thought would help on the Socialist movement." But we did not say that because Marx and Engels did this, that, therefore, it must be a sound policy. On the contrary, we pointed out in that article that subsequent events proved Marx and Engels to be completely wrong when they thought that a programme of immediate demands could be used as a means of building up a party for Socialism. Events have shown that every party which used that method has come to grief.

We pointed out also that Marx and Engels never ceased to clarify and change their views whenever experience showed the need for change. We fail to see, however, how this can be held to support a proposal that the S.P.G.B. should join hands with the I.L.P. and Communist Party. The writer of the paragraph in the I.L.P. paper forgets that the S.P.G.B. was itself the outcome of years of close study of the works and experience of Marx and Engels and other Socialist pioneers, and of years of personal experience of working class organisations. Profiting from that knowledge and experience, the founders of the S.P.G.B. drafted a Declaration of Principles, which has proved itself unassailable because it was, and is, in accord with the fundamental needs of the working class under capitalism.

The I.L.P. did not profit by that knowledge and experience, but chose the road of reformism. For nearly forty years the I.L.P. has led the workers up every conceivable blind alley, and has taught them every conceivable economic and political fallacy. Perhaps the Paddington I.L.P. will claim that this time they really have turned over a new leaf. We can see no evidence whatever that the new I.L.P. is different from the old one, except that it is chastened by the loss of the 200 seats in Parliament which its members held up to 1931. It has abandoned one error temporarily, the alliance with the Labour Party, only to take up a more or less new one which is even more dangerous, the doctrine of direct action by so-called “Workers' Councils."

If this departure gains support among the workers it will mean a useless bloody sacrifice, and one more crime against the working class to be added to the long list for which the I.L.P. is responsible.
Edgar Hardcastle

Review (1933)

Pamphlet Review from the October 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

"A Countryman Talks About Socialism," a pamphlet of 20 pages by H. B. Pointing and published by the Socialist League, 23, Abingdon Street, S.W.l. Price 2d.

This pamphlet is written in. the form of conversations between a ploughman and three villagers who are Socialists. Through their mouths is traced, for the benefit of the enquiring ploughman, the origin of private property in land and its changing form and developments through its various stages up to the breakdown of the feudal agricultural system and the growth of peasant holdings and capitalist farming. It is explained in a simple and clear way how a propertyless class of wage-earners, whose only means of living is the ability to sell their labour-power for wages, came into existence. There is, however, a vagueness about certain points. For example, on page 10 one character is made to say to the other: “ You've got some of the gild’s functions left in your trade union." What these functions are is left unsaid, and it is possible that readers would interpret such a statement as meaning that there is a common basis for, or connecting link between, the mediaeval craft gild and the modern trade union. It is impossible to accept that view in the light of modern researches.

The gilds, which were associations of masters and apprentices, died before the rise of the capitalist industrial conditions which gave birth to trade unions.

On the same page the same character says: “ The employer, as time went on, invented the idea of the factory." This credits the early capitalists with much more foresight than they possessed. Factory production was not an invention of the capitalists, but a growth which was forced upon them by the changing processes of production. In fact, in certain industries such as weaving, even after factories were fairly widely established in other trades, factory production lagged behind because the weaving process had not evolved beyond the domestic stage of production.

On page 14 capitalism is likened to an aged donkey which, being overladen with goods, might collapse under the strain. Anyhow, it is said, the donkey must die. Here, again, there is no explanation, and the reader could easily interpret from it what the author does not intend. The analogy is weak and rather dangerous.

Except for the points enumerated, the general historical analysis and. the conclusions are sound. Mr. Pointing should remember, however, that to represent the case for Socialism, as stated in his pamphlet as being identical with the policy of the Labour Party, is undoing what good effect such a pamphlet might otherwise have. It is significant that the publishers, the Socialist League, say that: "It must not be taken that all the views expressed by individual authors are necessarily those of the Socialist League."

The Socialist League is affiliated to the Labour Party and has taken the place which was, until recently, occupied by the I.L.P. This pamphlet gets nearer to a correct conception of Socialism than is usual with pamphlets published by the I.L.P., which, despite its eagerness to prove itself to be a real red (shirts and all) revolutionary party, never got beyond the conception that Socialism means State controlled butchers' shops undercutting private traders, as exemplified in their pamphlet; “Socialism at Work in Queensland."
Harry Waite

Who Dictates to the Dictators? (1933)

From the November 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

The rise to power of Hitler’s party in Germany has again focussed attention on Fascism or dictatorship.

There are many who look upon dictatorship as a new departure in government, forgetting the dictatorships of ancient times and also those of pre-war capitalism. The government of Napoleon III in France during certain of its phases, and the suppression of the Social Democrats and Catholics by Bismarck are cases in point. In Liberal circles and in many of the alleged working class parties doubts have again arisen as to the practicability of political democracy. Many of the Liberals are quaking with fear at what appears to them to be its inevitable discarding, and the advent of dictatorship or Fascism. They see the ever-widening circle of countries that have gone over. Russia, Italy, Jugo-Slavia, Poland, Hungary, and now Germany and Austria. In England Sir Oswald Mosley, a former Labourite, would be a Mussolini, although so far his voting strength is apparently not great. But' there are many who recall that a short while ago Hitler’s followers were few in number, -

In the United States, the press reports a growing Fascist Movement, led by a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, which at a meeting recently held in Philadelphia, attended by some thousands, decked out in all the trappings of the European advocates of Dictatorship, not even omitting the raised arm salute, stated their intention of seizing power.

From far-off Chile and Argentina, we have reports of a growing Fascist Movement and sentiment.

The response of the alleged working class parties takes on many forms.

In the United States, the reformist Rev. Norman Thomas, standard bearer and one of the chief spokesmen of the reformist Socialist Party of America, is warning his followers, by speech and written word, of the imminent possibility of a triumphant Fascism in the United States. He points to the American Legion and the remnants of the Ku Klux Klan as the possible nucleus for a Fascist Movement.

From the Communist International comes forth a Ukase to all of its faithful throughout the world to cement a “United Front” with the parties affiliated to the Second International, in order to wage a war against Fascism, though never neglecting to brand those with whom they are to unite as “ Social Fascists.”

What basis is there for the fears of the Liberals and the Labour Parties that Dictatorship is to replace Political Democracy the whole world over?

Is Fascism or Dictatorship a possibility in highly developed Capitalist nations like England and the United States?

It is first of all necessary to examine the way in which the term dictatorship is used in its application to the political systems of Germany, Italy, Russia and other countries, for its use in more than one sense is a cause of confusion. Sometimes the term dictatorship is used in the sense of a minority which governs against the wishes of, or at any rate without formally consulting, the majority of the population. At other times it is used to mean the suppression of minorities by a government which owes its election to the votes of the majority. When we examine Russia, Italy and Germany, we find that in each case the dictatorship owed its position originally to the support of the majority of the voters. The Bolshevists were unable to overthrow Kerensky until they had been voted into control of the principal Soviets. Mussolini was placed in power by those whom the Italian electorate had voted into control of the machinery of government. Hitler and his party obtained 51 per cent, of the votes cast in the last election. In each of these three countries the dictatorships in their general policy, including the violent suppression of the opposition minorities, can count upon the support or the indifference of the majority. If, therefore, the term dictatorship were used only in the sense of usurpation of power by the representatives of a minority, it could not be applied to Italy, Russia and Germany.

The other use of the word still remains applicable to these countries, for in them—unlike political democracies—the minorities have no legal standing to organise or carry on agitation for a change of government or change of social system, and individuals and minorities are subjected to persecution which varies from something mild up to savage terrorism.

So-called “ Dictatorships ” are the outgrowth of definite material conditions. With the disappearance of these conditions “ Dictatorships ” will cease.

In Spain, during the last years of King Alfonso's reign, a “Dictatorship" was set up, headed by Primo De Rivera. It was the last attempt and the dying gesture of a semi-feudal class who, with the assistance of the Church, sought to stave off various groups who were discontented, among which was the peasantry clamouring for the partitioning of the large estates. The Capitalists were aligning with the peasants for the seizure of political power. The remnants of semi-feudalism were an obstacle to the development of Spanish Capitalism. Spain had remained neutral during the World War. Flooded with orders from the belligerent nations, she was carried well on the road to industrial development. The alliance of workers, the capitalists and peasants finally drove the dictatorship of the Dons and clericals from power. This is one form of dictatorship, used in the endeavour to prolong the power of a dying economic group.
One of the most important causes of the “dictatorships" in Italy, Jugo-Slavia and Poland was the breaking up of the big estates, and the general industrial impetus and growth resulting from the war. In order that the new ruling class might be firmly entrenched, and also in order to sweep away the semi-feudal debris, governments were set up which would brook no interference from minorities, whether representing the former ruling class, the working class, or hostile national minorities brought within the frontiers as a result of conquest in the war.

The peasantry constituting the majority were not as yet experienced in the running of the governmental machinery. The capitalists being in the minority, envisioned the peasantry running amok and seizing political power for themselves. But the peasants, elated with their new possessions and changed economic and social status, are for the time being content to permit the capitalists to retain political sway, the fear of counter revolution on the part of the former landowners being a contributing factor. In outlook the peasants are not far removed from the capitalists. It is not difficult for them to acquiesce in the rule of the capitalists, and thus another form of “dictatorship” arises. A temporary condition resulting from the changed social status of the peasantry, coupled with the expansion of the industrial capitalists, and a politically immature peasantry, indifferent as to who governs, so long as they are permitted to enjoy their newly-acquired possessions.

Numerous factors enter into the support of Hitler by a majority of the German population. Patriotism, the Reparations question, unemployment, fear of the Communists, extravagant promises of reforms for the workers and “Socialism in our time," and promises of help for the peasants; all these things were cleverly utilised by the Nazis to gain a majority. One factor was the support given to Hitler by big landowners who feared the land reforms which the Catholic Centre Party under Bruening was promising to its peasant supporters, who wanted the big estates broken up. Many of Hitler's forces received their training on the estates of big landowners, who also provided some financial assistance. Realising their danger these landowners hoped that they might make use of Hitler to fob off the peasants, even although vast numbers of the latter are among Hitler's keenest supporters. Now that Hitler is in the saddle he has stated that he is opposed to his own earlier promises to break up the big estates, but it still remains to be seen whether the pressure from his own supporters will be sufficiently strong to compel him to move some way in that direction.

In one of its aspects the German situation resembles the Spanish dictatorship in that a former agrarian ruling class supports it in the hope that it will protect their interests.

We can also find a resemblance to the situation in 1848. The German capitalists, in revolt against the feudal aristocratic ruling class, were on the verge of success, but turned and retraced their steps when they saw their allies, the workers, were not content merely to fight for capitalism, but were disposed to give the revolt something of a working class character. So the capitalists allowed the old ruling class to retain its position. The German capitalists in and since 1918 have shown the same characteristics. The awe with which they regarded the Junkers, particularly their representative Marshal von Hindenburg, would not permit them or their allies, the Social Democrats, to carry the 1918 upheaval beyond a certain stage. Once again, as in 1848, they sought comfort by compromising with their "social betters," the German Junkers.

As for the future of “ dictatorships,” one need not be a prophet to realise that they are but a temporary condition. The increase in the number of workers in the agrarian nations in which “dictatorships” exist, will necessitate the introduction of parliamentary and democratic forms of governments. This applies also to nations like Germany, where a large minority of the population are still dependent upon peasant farming for their existence.

Where capitalist production is highly developed, with the workers in the majority, the need for a fully-developed system of representative government becomes not just a sop to the workers, but a necessity for capitalism in the long run. To damp down the lid means unrest and riots and interferes too much with the orderly running of capitalism.

The fears of the Norman Thomas’s are not well grounded. Highly-developed industrial nations like the United States, England, etc., do not provide fertile ground for the establishment of “dictatorship.” Though we recognise the possibility of the establishment of a ”form of government minus its democratic features,” where the rights of minorities may be curtailed, this could only be done if the majority approve.

The danger lies in the noxious Social Reform and ”Great Man” theories expounded by alleged working class parties, preparing the way for the workers* acceptance of a repressive form of government. Let us not forget that practically since the formation of the Social Democratic Party in Germany the workers have been led to believe that the way out was through the medium of Social Reforms. With this outlook it was a simple matter for Hitler to win over the masses, with his large and extravagant list of social reforms, offering more in the way of “something now” than the Social Democrats, who were, moreover, discredited by having helped to administer capitalism for 14 years.

To meet the possibility of a “dictatorship,” there remains for us the great task of combating the Thomases and the alleged workers’ organisations they represent.

The so-called Socialist Party of America having carried on thirty-five years of propaganda for social reform, has helped to pave the way for an acceptance on the part of the workers of any form of government, repressive or otherwise, that promises still more reforms.

Socialists can only continue to point out that reforms of capitalism, whether enacted by Labour parties or by so-called dictators, cannot solve the problem, for the emancipation of the workers can only be achieved by the workers themselves.

We seek the abolition of capitalism whether its political system is monarchist or republican, fascist or democratic.
Workers Socialist Party (U.S.A.)

Death of Comrade F. Cudlip (1933)

Obituary from the December 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regret to announce the death of our comrade Fred Cudlip, from blood poisoning, on November 8th, at the early age of 35. He was a member of the West Ham Branch of the S.P.G.B. for 15 years, and was ever ready to take part in the varied work towards making the organisation efficient. He was cremated at Ilford Cemetery in the presence of his wife (a comrade) and many party members and sympathisers, on Monday, November 13th.

He was a thorough and untiring worker, prepared to turn his hand to anything that would help on the work of the party. We will sadly miss his jolly face and unfailing good humour.

Spain Thirty Years Ago (1967)

From the January 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Spain once had a great empire but was left behind when the industrialisation of Europe began. The question thus arises: Why was Spain retarded? The answer given by Kautsky and others—which seems plausible enough—was that it was precisely because Spain once had a great empire. For with the constant flow of gold and silver into Spain from Mexico and Peru there was little incentive to develop industry and commerce. When, with the independence of the Latin American colonies in the first part of the 19th century, this source of wealth dried up Spain was left without much standing in a rapidly industrialising world. This retarded position showed itself in dynastic struggles and in the struggle of the bourgeoisie, in the form of Republicanism, to sweep away the relics of the past. But the Spanish bourgeoisie never had the zest or unity to make the necessary thorough structural changes.

At the turn of this century there was a wave of economic development in Spain and Spain was not involved in the first World War—which helped. However Spain was still left with the relics of an empire in North Africa. National servicemen were sent to Spanish Morocco to quell the Arab uprisings. There was not much of economic value in Spanish Morocco but the military establishment wished to have an empire to strut about in. Largely as a result of the unrest about conscription for this war the Monarchy fell in 1931. But because a Republic was set up is no reason to think that there was a widespread belief in political democracy. Not only were there the open opponents of democracy in Spain but there was also a strong anarchist movement which we can say was of disastrous significance for democracy. For the anarchists helped to spread among the working class the idea that democracy was a mere “facade” and they encouraged abstention from politics.

The Republic, set up to pave the way for modern capitalism, made mistakes from its own point of view. First and foremost it antagonised Catholic opinion. They should have known that you don’t get rid of religion by banning or ignoring it. By alienating almost the entire Church the Republic unnecessarily weakened itself for, as Gerald Brenan points out in his The Spanish Labyrinth, there was, for specific reasons in Spanish history, considerable scope for Catholics to have looked favourably upon the land-reform and agricultural development that were essential to capitalist development in the peninsular. The Republic also weakened itself by neglecting education, a necessary factor for further economic and social development. It seemed more concerned to close Catholic schools than to open new lay ones.

The deep divisions on the Republican side when war came are well known through the writings of people like George Orwell. But the other side was an odd alliance too. The Carlists, backward-looking believers in theocracy associated with a branch of the Bourbons, were unlikely associates of the Army, the orthodox Monarchists or the Falangists (or Fascists). This is one of the splits in the régime coming to the surface today.

The old forces, backed by Germany and Italy, won. They defeated in war those who wished to clear the way for capitalism. Ironically, however, this task fell to them. Since the war, economic development primed by American aid helped immensely by tourism, has gone on apace. This has led to considerable growth in the working class (including the so-called middle class) at the expense of the peasantry. The working class is making its presence felt through strikes though at one time illegal. As a result some types of strike have now been made legal by the proposed new Constitution.

The Spanish industrial élite has also been pressing for reforms. It has felt the need for a greater degree of discussion of policy and procedures. These capitalists, working to a large extent through the organisation known as Opus Dei, have been a “liberalising” element in the Franco regime.

The changes that have taken place are very limited but are still real. Granted under pressure mainly from the working class, they are hopeful as they provide increasing scope for dissent and discussion.
Eddie Grant

Class Society in Poland (1967)

From the February 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Gt. Britain holds to be false the claim that in Russia and East Europe have been established classless societies in which there is no exploitation of man by man. What exists there is a form of capitalism best called “state capitalism” in which a privileged minority exploit the wage-labour of the propertyless majority.

Despite years of propaganda, censorship and suppression the rulers have not been able to get everybody there to believe their claim. Milovan Djilas, as former Vice President of Yugoslavia himself once a member of the privileged class, is one of the best known demolishers of the myth. Expelled from the Communist Party in 1954 and jailed, he later wrote The New Class in which he argued that “a new class, previously unknown to history, had been formed”.

Now comes the news that there are a handful of people in Poland who also reject the claim that they live in a classless society. In 1966 they were expelled from the Communist Party and later tried and jailed. Their crime apparently was to circulate a document expressing their views. A summary of their views, written by two of them, appeared in the Polish émigré  journal Kultura at the end of August. Basing themselves on this, Solidarity (Vol. 4, No. 4) has been able to give a general account of their views.

They deny that Socialism exists in Poland, saying rather that what exists there is capitalism. State ownership there is “just another form of ownership” and the worker is no better off than in the avowedly capitalist countries. The real owners of the nationalized industries are, they argue, a group they call the “Central Political Bureaucracy . . . The worker is exploited because he is denied ownership rights. He’s got to sell his labour power in order to live". What he produces belongs to those who buy his labour power and exploit him, namely, the Central Political Bureaucracy. This bureaucracy is a new ruling class as it uses, for its own benefit, the workers' labour and product against them.

Although it is true that these people’s other political views are probably confused (after all the fact that Djilas declared himself a gradualist does not detract from his significance), what is important — and heartening — is to see that the Polish rulers have not been able to deceive everybody. It is also a sign of the awakening of the working class, so long subdued and intimidated. As time goes by the rulers in Russia and Bast Europe will find themselves increasingly under pressure, industrial and political, from the working class. We can expect to see the emergence of working class organisations which are independent of the bureaucracy. Of course these won't be socialist but, in the conditions of this part of the world, they would be a great step forward.
Adam Buick

Mattei: Italy's State Tycoon (1967)

From the March 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Expansion of trade since World War II has brought with it the so called "economic miracles." Italy's turn came in the late 1950’s and early 60’s, when the products of its industries were sold successfully on the World market for the first time. That this had not happened before was not due to any lack of ability of its working class but rather that its capitalist class did not have a cheap and plentiful supply of fuel at its disposal. This shortcoming was overcome by the discovery and bringing into production of a large natural gas field in the Po valley.

Mattei, late president of the Italian state hydrocarbon fuel corporation ENI (developers of the Po Valley deposits), has been credited by many as being the man behind the miracle.

Born in 1906, Mattei started working for a living in a furniture factory at the age of 14, progressing to the ownership of a small chemical factory in the late 1930’s. Towards the end of the war he was Christian Democratic representative on the military resistance committee for Northern Italy. This activity put him in line for a job in the administration that was to take over from the fascists.

He got what was considered the relatively unimportant post of vice-president of AGIP (state petroleum company) with instructions to wind up its prospecting projects in the Po valley. Among AGIP’s records was a pre-war survey reporting favourable conditions in that area. Company geologists persuaded Mattei to disobey orders. Prospecting continued and by 1949 large gas deposits were found.

The next task was to get the gas to the consumer. The technical problems involved in this were insignificant in comparison with the property disputes. At the time there were no provisions in Italian law for laying gas pipelines. The AGIP was faced with years of negotiations with thousands of property owners and municipal authorities.

This situation was dealt with by ignoring normal procedures and using more direct methods. Work was started at night and armed men were employed to stand guard over trenches and equipment, leaving property owners a partly completed job on their land. It is estimated that from two to three years was saved in this way.

The chaotic conditions in Italy at the time helped Mattei in taking this short cut So did his many influential friends in parliament, and the fact that the work was carried out by a state concern claiming to be acting in the interest of the nation. In this way the Northern industrialists got their fuel: it is certain that a private or foreign firm would not have got away with it.

In 1953 the government set up ENI (incorporating AGIP as a subsidiary) with Mattei as its boss. ENI was granted monopoly rights over the Po gas deposits and tried to exert pressure to extend this to the whole of Italy. These tactics brought it into conflict with the international oil companies, who felt their interests threatened by this newcomer.

ENI frequently clashed with the ‘Seven Sisters’ (as Mattei called his rivals) not only over trade in Italy, but also internationally. Its exclusion from the group to run Abadan, and the terms it offered for concessions in the Middle-East, are examples of this. ENI’s main problem was that it failed to find its own oil supply and efforts to bypass the ‘Seven Sisters’ caused diplomatic ructions.

The purchase of oil from Russia had Italy in trouble with its NATO partners. Negotiations with FLN leaders during Algeria’s struggle for independence threw French and Italian diplomats into conflict and earned Mattei a threat of assassination from the OAS.

Mattei gained the reputation of being a shrewd, hard working businessman devoting his energies to building up ENI. In doing this he showed that a state corporation can be as ruthless and efficient in the pursuit of trade as any private concern. ENI went in for takeovers and diversification which included petro-chemicals, engineering, motels and even textiles. II Giorno one of the leading Italian daily papers, belongs to ENI and when needed was used to further its interests.

Although Mattei was a Christian Democrat backed by the Roman Catholic church, he did not hesitate to drum up support from the so called Socialist and Communist parties. Disputes with foreign competitors were publicised in terms of anti-monopoly and anti-imperialist struggles. It is typical of the political confusion of these parties that they fell for this and took sides in their masters’ quarrels.

Mattei was a rebel of sorts, but his revolt was only directed against the established oil companies; its success could end only in making ENI one of them. His contribution was in helping to change Italy from an industrial backwater into a feared and respected competitor on the world market His terms of reference were those of the profit making system of capitalism.

Mattei died in 1962, in an air crash and it was expected that ENI would break up without him. To date it continues to prosper and is still involved in the commercial brawls of capitalism. At present ENI is in dispute with Russia over building a pipeline from Siberia to Italy, and with the new ruling class in Algeria over the price of their natural gas.

Mattei has been but one of thousands of “great" men thrown up by capitalism, with its rapid industrial advances, social upheaval and war. Unlike the capitalist heroes of the past—Rockefeller, Carnegie, Nuffield—Mattei was not the owner of the industrial empire he bossed. There are other men like him, in Russia and even in Britain, running state industry in the interests of a privileged few.
Joe Carter