Thursday, November 16, 2017

On Trade Journalism (1912)

From the October 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

By a Trade Paper I mean one published in the interests of a particular trade. Trade journals nowadays are as the sands on the seashore in number. Every trade, and often different branches of one trade, possesses its weekly advocate. The leather, boot and shoe, china, hardware, drapery, grocery, building— no trade is there but what has the asset of a trade paper.

These sheets have quite a respectable circulation, and form an important part of many large publishing businesses.

Trade papers typify humbug in its quintessence ; they give us the limit in parochialism, the extreme in self centered selfishness. The critic of capitalism, the scoffer at humanity, the lover of “unconscious” humour, all can be satisfied by a perusal of the trade journals. They will delight anyone who desires to see in the concrete an example of the divorce between a capitalist’s business and his Sabbath texts, between his weekday transactions and his Sunday jawing of the Litany.

Who does not enjoy the reference by a trade paper to a rival as “our esteemed contemporary” ? Who does not relish the wriggling by the owners of them betwixt the interests of their subscribers and those of the manufacturing capitalists who contribute the advertising revenue of the paper? Who is so dense as not to kick when the journal of the boot and shoe trade preaches on the immorality of drapers who brazenly sell boots, who leave their “legitimate” sphere and encroach on the boot dealers’ “sphere of influence?'’

A trade paper depends for its profits upon its advertising revenue; its value as an advertising medium depends, again, on its circulation among retail dealers. And the holding of the balance ’twixt the manufacturer and the retailer, the conciliation of their apparent rival interests, creates many a satirical smile on the face of the student of the machinery of capitalism. At a time of advancing prices, when the paper baa to defend the capitalists who form its advertising asset against suspicion of greed, and at the same time lull the tempers of the retailers who form its subscription list—then see how the wise editor finds arguments to support his position, as arguments can be found to support any position!

Penny-a-liner! The word properly names thousands of journalists enroled as the white-washers of capitalists. Business journals, like their “political” companions, find work for thousands of penmen who have no more belief in the creations of their pens than they have in — well, the sincerity of their political bosses. Were not the mercenaries of the camp more human, and did not they possess more socially useful qualities than do the mercenaries of the pen? We are no militants, but the decadence which Wordsworth foresaw when “swords gave way to ledgers" is here and now depicted in our modern mercenary business Press and organisation.

Abstract Morality! What havoc does a financial or a trade paper make with such theological thimblerigging! Such papers have at the least these things to do: To defend the story of the patient, intelligent capitalist, and the erratic, foolish workman; to reconcile the interests of producing advertisers and distributing subscribers ; to be independent on the fiscal question ; to know the exact spot where one trade commences to encroach on another ; to condemn vigorously all new-fangled ideas such as mail order businesses and cash on delivery systems, all of which are, forsooth, forms of “illegitimate” competition.

And although thousands of journalists and advertising hacks depend for their bread upon such journals, clerical jokers have the effrontery to gabble about a morality independent of productive systems, time or place, and of the possibility of capitalism being moralised; worse, even secularists, positivists and labourists believe such stuff, believe that humans can be made altruists and social when their very physical existence depends upon the facility with which they can put their tongues in their cheeks.

And with the death of capitalism what? Anti-Socialist mercenaries predict the decadence of mental life; the journalist will be the servile menial of “State bosses,” the hypocritical mouthpieces of a gang in temporary power !

Bat there can be no justification of such trifling argument, for when a journalist or author is in a position to say: “Looking forward to life’s end I can safely say I shall never want bread ”; when humans are all assured that decent material existence upon which to build up the higher things of life, surely ordinary human nature will score any suggestion of the systematic hypocrisy which personates to-day the name of journalism. When distribution is the result of a common-sense organisation in a free community, there will be no need for the inane puffs which disfigure the pages of trade journals and newspapers; when such words as retailer and wholesaler have become relics of the past, the parasitic journalism which is based upon their relationships and antagonisms will also surely die. Contemporary journalism is based upon modern business methods, upon that type of production and distribution which we call capitalism, so when capitalism bites the dust its sordid "literary” manifestation will also vanish. Talented artists ought not to waste their energies in selling pills, nor able writers and organisers in puffing obvious catch-pennies. When men and women can live leisurely and fully, with freedom to express their convictions, it is not much to believe of human nature that they will receive with surprise and resentment any suggestions of mental hypocrisy.
John A. Dawson

Come To Jesus "Socialism.": The Brotherly Love Way. (1912)

From the November 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

Heads or Tails
The avowed opponent of the Socialist movement takes up one of two positions of attack, each antagonistic to the other. If either one is correct, then the exponent of the other view must be as ignorant of capitalist conditions as that ignoramus, the Socialist himself.

One brand of “anti” informs us, with horror, that Socialism means slavery and vile servitude; that the abolition of capitalism will involve the establishment of prostitution and horrors the like of which capitalism never knew. The other variety tells us that “Socialism is a grand ideal —far too good to be true.” They explain that for Socialism to “work” we have all got to be as heavenly as angels, and they point m despair to the touch of “the old Adam” which they discern in all human kind

Each type has its cause, and, like most other evils, its cure also. The first is the result of the cast-iron “State capitalism” preached by the Fabian tribe under the name of Socialism, while the second is due to the prevalence of the disease misnamed “Christain Socialism.”

To abolish these evils all that is required is a knowledge of the cause of the trouble and determination in the removal of that cause. Abolish the “State Socialist ” and his spurious ideas and exterminate “Christian Socialism” and its evil appurtenances, and those who gain the ear of the worker by attacking such rubbish will cease to be.

The “Socialism means slavery” merchant is easily disposed of, for no matter how vivid his imagination may be, he cannot discover one evil which is not found to be rampant in some form under capitalism.

Neither can he show how such evils will be increased by the advent of Socialism, which means to substitute organised social production and social enjoyment for the present chaotic “social” production and private ownership of the wealth produced. That slavery will be more intense under a system of state capitalism is for the advocate of nationalisation to deny, and has no concern for the Socialist.

The “State Socialist” and his opponent are both in the same boat since they are defending systems which have as their basis the extraction of profit by the method of wages and the consequent enslavement of the wage receiving class Both systems depend upon the robbery of the producers, which is to-day the cause of poverty and all its attendant ills.

The White Eye
The pious individual who, showing the the whites of his eyes, declares that “the doctrine of Jesus is the purest and most perfect Socialism ever known," is well represented by a writer in the “Hibbert Journal” (October 1912). He starts out by saying .—
“A great many respectable and prosperous people imagine that Socialism is nothing but a violent expropriation of the Haves for the benefit of the Havenots. It is possible that a number of the so called Socialists are themselves influenced by that view, but I doubt very much whether it commends itself to thoughtful Socialists, and I am satisfied that no such program ought to be, or ever will be, carried out.” 
It is the usual attempt on the part of religion to emasculate any militant movement it tries to enter. “Be a Socialist if you will.” it says, “advocate your new system and dream of it, but do no more than dream. Do not act. Remember we are all brothers and do nothing violent.”

The writer tells us that
“the violent expropriation of the rich, whether by predatory legislation or at the immediate hand of the mob (the usual way the working class is described by the blessed brotherhood), can only result after further disorder, in the reinstatement of the Haves in their unhealthy predominance, leaving the Havenots worse off than before.”
The Ought of the Oughty
No, we must not be violent. We must leave violence to our enemies. We must he kind and gentle to the murderers of our wives and children. If the representatives of the "Haves,” by raising the Plimsol Mark, send to their death our seamen brothers, we must “turn unto them the other cheek also,” and ask the ghouls to slaughter a few more of of the the “Havenots,” in order that the “Haves” may have more. The poor girl in Belfast manufacturing Irish linen goods at 1d. per hour should bless the good, kind master who lives a luxurious life on the proceeds of her toil, for we must know that “ the attitude of the thoughtful Socialist toward the wealthy is and ought to be, one of friendliness.”

Our Christ-like friend admits the existence of an antagonism of interest and recognises robbery, for he speaks of capitalism as “the system where the whole nation is exploited for increasing the possessions of the fabulously rich,” and he confesses to having a difficult job on hand to reconcile that antagonism.

Naturally so. But it can be done if you (the mob) will be quiet and docile, and, what is far more important, you will refrain from “predatory legislation.” Bend your necks in patience and humility, yea, even until your noses be well on the grindstone.

The “thoughtful Socialist” is going to do it for you if you will only wait. He is going to do it thiswise: He is going to "educate not only the Havenots, but the Haves. He must open their eyes to the injustice of which they are the victims thus equally with the Havenots ; he must awaken their consciences, so that a millionaire will come to feel ashamed of himself as a man who has been warned off the turf.”

A Splendid Joke
A difficult matter, my brother? No, quite simple! We shall go to Rockefeller, Carnegie, Harry Thaw, and the  Marquis of Townshend and point out to them that they are the “victims of injustice,” and then, “when it becomes as disreputable to be a millionaire as to be known to have robbed a bank, the main attraction of wealth will have disappeared.”

Can any thoughtful person doubt it, much less a “thoughtful Socialist? When it becomes disreputable to be a millionaire!

Of course, no one “will lay violent hands on the millionaire (the thoughtful cove does not want to get pinched), but his position in society will become like that of a bookie or a publican, or even worse.”

Is this possible? Worse than a bookie, or, horror of horrors, worse even than a publican! Could the idle rich survive such treatment? Of course not. But worse is to follow. “He (the millionaire) will be shunned and avoided and no nice person ” (not even the dustman and the chimney sweep) "will care to be seen in his company.”

Later on we are told that “the idea may be regarded as semi-religious.” Yes, it may be. It may also be considered by some to be idiotic, but then those people will not be “thoughtful,” and can be described as the "so called Socialists” — an easy way out of the difficulty.

So much for the method of obtaining this "higher system.” But what of the “system” when we get it?

This “Socialism” of the future “scorns compulsion ’ of any sort, and should the millionaire, remain untouched by the above described antics, as doubtless he would, and “prefer to keep his wealth, no true Socialist would say him nay.” Those depraved individuals who preferred to be millionaires under “Socialism” could, of course, do so, and as a punishment they would he compelled to herd with the bookies, the bankers, and the publicans.

Wealth denotes poverty. For one to be wealthy many must be poor. Poverty stricken and exploited wage slaves must exist with idle millionaires. Robbery and exploitation must go hand in hand with affluence.

Peace Be Still
If, then, we wait with patience, all these things will be added unto us in this "higher system,” the coming of which will only be delayed by "encouraging violent assaults upon the property of the Haves and by organised attempts upon the health and comfort of the country, such as the recent coal mining, railway and shipping strikes. ”

Such is the nonsense dealt out in the half-crown journals of our masters. How much it says for their intelligence as a class that such muck can find sale among them. I will leave the reader to judge.
T. W. Lobb

Conscription. (1912)

From the December 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

The question as to whether or not conscription will, in the near future, become a necessity, appears to be once again very much “in the air." Lord Roberts, in the course of a recent speech, during which he implied the failure, and foreshadowed the disintegration, of the Territorial force, advocated more strenuously than ever his pet notion of uuiversal military service. In this advocacy he is, of course, acting quite logically —more logically, indeed, than those “lovers of peace” (chiefly to be found among the Liberals and Labourists) who, while upholding and using all their efforts to maintain the present capitalist social system, at the same time deprecate what is, in reality, quite in accordance, morally and politically, with the development of capitalism.

Professor Edward Jenks, in his "Short History of Politics,” points out that the principle which binds together modern social groups is military allegiance. He continues
“In the States which practice conscription, or universal military service, this is very obvious. The most heinous political offence which a Frenchman or German can commit, is attempting to evade military service; or, possibly worse, taking part in military service against his own country. But even in Great Britain, where conscription is not practised, the tie is really the same. It is unquestionable that the Queen,” (this was written in 1900) “through her Ministers, has the right, in case of necessity, to call upon every one of her male subjects to render personal military service; and any British subject, captured fighting against his country, would be liable to suffer death as a traitor.”
To put the matter clearly, the social group known as capitalist society is bound together by the tie of military allegiance. Capitalist society exists, and is allowed to exist, by the will of the majority of the units of which it is composed. Therefore such units should be prepared to do their share in the maintenance of the tie which binds the system together, seeing that they are in favour of the capitalist system of society.

But to those who happen to loathe capitalism, and all its insane and unhealthy institutions, and whose aim is to hasten its downfall in order to raise in its stead what they consider a rational, sane, and healthy system to the Socialist, in fact — the whole question takes another aspect.

The Socialist will ask himself : “What is conscription to me and my class? Will it benefit me or the class to which I belong ? ”

To a man such as Lord Roberts, who has managed to make a fortune and win a title through professional soldiering, military service will, of course, seem all that is desirable. But what the devil is the poor drudge of capitalism, the wage slave, to get out of it? A fortune and a title? Hardly! At what should be the best portion of his life — his early manhood — he would be taken, numbered like a convict or a beast of burden at a cattle show, herded with his fellow beasts in compounds, trained and drilled and bullied and brow-beaten, taught to walk upright and to handle a rifle, taught to shoot sufficiently straight to kill and maim certain of his fellows (whom he has never seen before and with whom he has no quarrel), coming out of the Army at the end of his term with all the virtues of an efficient, non-thinking, non-questioning wage-slave, with all the initiative and all the self-confidence knocked out of him. Truly a delightful prospect!

Lord Roberts and his co-agitators talk glibly of patriotism, of the duty of defending the Empire, of the glory to be obtained in resisting the encroachments of Germany. Let these people who talk so much about patriotism and duty and glory show, however, how the British working man would be any worse off under the rule of William of Germany than he is under George of England (even admitting the almost unthinkable possibility of a German occupation of Great Britain).

As the average member of the working class has no property to defend, no country to call his own, no prospect of ever being in a better position under capitalism than he is in now, why should he fight to maintain the rights of those who have property, who have a stake in the country, who are in a position of opulence?

It is significant to notice how, not only at the present day, but in all history and through all literature, it is always the man who has something to maintain, something to defend, who talks about duty and patriotism, about the honour of the country and the glories of the Empire. Having nothing, what necessity is there for us to fight in order to defend that nothing?

Still, as aforesaid, if the people of Great Britain are so much in love with capitalism, so desirous of upholding the institutions of modern society, it is their obvious duty to defend their little corner of capitalism with all their strength.

We, as Socialists, for our part, are not particularly concerned with conscription one way or the other, except in its aspect as being a phase of capitalist development. With the downfall of capitalism will fall all the institutions of capitalism — militarism included. Instead of wanting to be trained and drilled so that at the word of command we may slaughter and maim certain of our fellows, against whom we have no cause for animosity and who are all in the same social condition of life as we are, we are training and drilling ourselves to be ready for the time when the workers of the world will unite in establishing a sane, healthy, and joyous system of society the system we know as Socialism. Our object is not to destroy life, but to raise it to a plane where it shall have free play for all its activities. Which is the better ideal, ours or the militarists’ ?

When the question is considered, one feels almost sorry for such men as Lord Roberts, whose only aim in life seems to be the organisation of a universal army of professional murderers. What a glorious ideal of what noble human beings! And what a heaven sent system that breeds such men and such ideals!
F. J. Webb

Mr. Guy Aldred and the S.P.G.B. (1928)

From the August 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the July issue of the “Commune,” the editor, Mr. Guy Aldred, writes on the subject of his opposition to the S.P.G.B. In doing so, he makes the statement that the S.P.G.B. refuses to debate with him. This is false, and Mr. Aldred knows it to be so.

He knows quite well that our platform at all our ordinary propaganda meetings is open to him, as to any other opponent of Socialism, to state his case and oppose ours. We cannot admit Mr. Aldred’s claim to greater consideration than this. We cannot, for instance, allow him or any other opponent to dictate to us that we shall go to the expense of engaging a hall expressly to provide publicity for him. If we considered Mr. Guy Aldred’s activities of sufficient importance to warrant this we should do it. We are always willing to debate with our opponents, but we, not they, will decide whether any particular opponent is of sufficient importance to justify special attention of the kind Mr. Aldred demands.

In the same issue Mr. Aldred denounces the holding of set debates such as the recent debate with Mr. Maxton, on the ground that the audience are debarred from participating. This is true, but the reason is obvious. If two opposing political parties are going to cover fully the differences between them, time does not permit of a full debate, and in addition questions and discussion from an audience of several thousand people. At our ordinary propaganda meetings this difficulty does not exist and questions and discussion and opposition are unrestricted. And as Mr. Aldred abhors set debates of this kind, why does he complain because of our refusal to arrange such a set debate with him? Mr. Aldred has also discovered an acid test by which to prove that our principles are unsound. He finds that we referred to Mr. Maxton as “Mr.," instead of calling him “Comrade” or “Maxton” or “Jimmy" or just plain James. This he says is “obsequious.” We do not know whether Mr. Aldred will be indignant or flattered that we are equally “obsequious" to him. It is, moreover, distressing to see that Mr. Aldred is equally “obsequious.” The same issue of the “Commune” contains a reference to "The Earl of Birkenhead.” Why not plain  "Birkenhead” or F. E. Smith?

Do you not think, Mr. Aldred, that it is really rather childish to attack the principles of a Party on such trivialities, as these?

In 1906 Mr. Aldred (although we used that fatal "Mr.” even then) wrote telling us that he accepted "the revolutionary principles ” of the S.P.G.B. and was leaving the S.D.F. and proposed to join us if we would accept him. A few days later he changed his mind and decided to remain in the S.D.F. in order to “use the S.D.F. platform for placing before members” his “revolutionary ideas.” The letters were published in full in the ”Socialist Standard” for November, 1906.

We only mention this because, after a lapse of 22 years, one of Mr. Aldred’s supporters, claiming to speak on his behalf, now denies the authenticity of the letters. As Mr. Aldred has never informed us that he questions their authenticity, this supporter of his is obviously lying when he claims Aldred’s endorsement of his action.

Various other criticisms of the S.P.G.B. by Mr. Aldred will be dealt with in a subsequent issue.
Editorial Committee

Blogger's Note:
A report of the SPGB's debate with James Maxton can be read at the following link.

The Progress of Capitalism in Russia. (1928)

From the September 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party carries on in this country propaganda for Socialism and against Capitalism. At the same time it does not disapprove of the efforts to build up Capitalism in Russia. To those who are unacquainted with the Socialist case, this may appear to be inconsistent, but it is, in fact, both consistent and sound. The Socialist does not oppose Capitalism at all times and in all places. He does not hold that the capitalist system of producing and distributing wealth is “wrong" or that the Capitalists, individually, or in the mass, are “selfish” and “wicked,” and are, therefore, to be condemned. We do not base our opposition to Capitalism or to slavery on the ground that it is “unjust” for one class to be employers and another class employees, or one class slave-owners and another class slaves. If we committed ourselves to to the view that all class divisions are “wrong,” that would be equivalent to saying that for thousands of years the human race has been straying from the correct path of development, and that the whole of human history since the breakdown of the earliest forms of tribal communism and equality has been a ghastly and avoidable mistake.

Our view is quite different from this. The driving force in the development of human society has been the development of the means of production and distribution of wealth. Knowledge has accumulated, and man's power over nature, his ability to produce tools and machinery has grown, and as this process has gone on, so it has been possible for human beings to enter into different relationships with each other for the fullest utilisation of their growing power over natural forces. Thus, to take a simple illustration, from the time when a man could first produce a larger quantity of food and clothing than was necessary to keep him, it became possible for a military, or priestly, or a slave-owning class, to come into being, and for social relationships to take on a very different form. That development was not a "mistake” or a “crime,” or an “act of tyranny.” It was a differentiation of function, similar to any other division of labour. It was in keeping with the mode of production and the needs of society of that epoch.

In due course, as knowledge continued to grow, other changes became possible, and with more or less effort society has rid itself of slave-owners, military castes, feudal barons and other classes when the function they performed ceased to be necessary. In highly-developed Capitalist countries like Great Britain, the Capitalist class have ceased to play a part for which society has need. We propose to get rid of Capitalism because the means of production have developed to a point where Socialism—social ownership—is possible. We propose to dispense with the Capitalist class because we can now do without them. The production and distribution of wealth, including so- called “brain-work,” and managerial work, are, in the main, already carried on by wage and salary earners, not by Capitalists. The Capitalist class have become more and more mere receivers of rent, interest and profit.

The position of Russia is quite different. Russian industry has not reached a high stage of development; the Russian workers are only a tiny minority of the population; the great majority being backward peasant cultivators, whose interest it is to defend and promote private ownership of the land. Russia’s industry has need of precisely those qualities and services supplied in this country by past generations of Capitalists. Russia has not passed through Capitalism, and must do so.

Many of the Russian Bolsheviks have seen all along that their task was to hasten as much as possible the development of Capitalism in Russia, but, unfortunately, their muddle-headed supporters in this country have spent the last ten years or so defending a non-existent Russian “Socialism.” In fact, Russian industry is entirely Capitalistic. There is—as in Capitalist industry generally—a propertyless class of wage-earners on the one hand, and on the other a class of Capitalist investors in addition to the foreign Capitalists brought in to work “concessions.” The progress that is being made in the development of Capitalism is indicated by the internal loan of 500 million roubles (£52,000,000) just issued by the Russian Government for the purpose of financing industry and agriculture. It represents about half of the total amount being devoted this year by the Government to economic development. In 1927, the amount raised by loan for this purpose was only 200 million roubles. Half the loan for 1928 bears 6 per cent, interest, plus lottery prizes, and half of it no interest, but with a premium on repayment (Manchester Guardian, July 27).

Thus we see the rapid rise in Russia of an investing class, not because the Bolsheviks prefer Capitalism to Socialism, but because they have no choice. Russia’s immediate industrial development and her more distant progress towards Socialism lie along the path of Capitalism.

At the same time, the Russian Government are planning to spend £100,000,000 in the next three years on the creation of 100 huge State farms with the twofold object of growing grain for export and also of demonstrating the superiority of Capitalist agriculture to peasant proprietorship. It is anticipated that “good and secure wages” will attract the poorer peasants to seek employment in these State Capitalist concerns. (Sunday Worker, August 12.)

This development of Capitalism is gratifying, but only harm has come, and can come, from the pretence of English Communists that Russian Capitalism is something else. The inevitable accompaniment of Russian Capitalism is the sharpening of the conflict between the contending classes, wageworkers, Capitalists, and peasant proprietors. The achievement of the Communists in Great Britain is to give the opponents of Socialism an excuse to use these class conflicts in Russia as evidence of the failure of Socialism; whereas, in truth, they are merely an unavoidable feature of Capitalism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Blogger's Note:
Please also check out the letter from the November 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard in reply to this article. I'll be honest: I can see where the letter writer is coming from. 'Hardy's' article is a strangely cold and calculating piece.