Saturday, November 18, 2017

Irish Republicanism (1970)

Book Review from the December 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Republic of Ireland, by D. R. O'C. Lysaght. (Mercier Press. 21s.)

This book claims to start where James Connolly’s Labour in Irish History left off. Whatever else can be said of Connolly’s book, at least it was easy to read and understand. The same cannot be said of Lysaght's which is written in a peculiar style and is often repetitive.

Lysaght traces the origin of the Irish State and its subsequent political evolution: how Ireland’s wealthy classes originally supported those who were in favour of the 1921 Treaty with Britain against the Republican opposition: how in the 1930's they transferred their allegiance to the Republicans in De Valera’s Fianna Fail which remains to this day Ireland’s normal governing party: how the old Republican policy of protectionism has now given way to an Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area and a desire to join the Common Market.

Lysaght claims to be a Socialist, but is rather some kind of a trotskyist. His immediate aim is "the Workers’ Republic of Ireland". He does not pretend, as some of its advocates do, that this is the same as Socialism, but is forced to admit that
  In the fullest sense, it won’t be ’Socialism', but, then, that will only appear as the last stage of social development but one and on an international scale.
(The last stage presumably is ‘Communism’, suggesting that Lysaght accepts the false socialism/communism distinction).

The full Republican programme — an All-Ireland Republic politically and economically independent, particularly of Britain — has yet to be realised and is in fact impossible. There has always been a disagreement in Irish opposition circles as to what should be their immediate aim. In 1919 the Irish Labour Party adopted the slogan "First the Republic, then the Workers’ Republic" and this is still essentially the policy of Sinn Fein, the IRA and various Communist and Maoist groups “partly because", Lysaght suggests, “their numbers are certainly too small to achieve Socialism under present circumstances". He, however, is no more logical since he can only argue that the immediate struggle should be for the Workers’ Republic rather than for Socialism on the same sort of grounds as those he criticises argue for the Republic rather than the Workers’ Republic.

The World Socialist Party of Ireland, set up in 1950, argues that workers in Ireland should be striving neither for an All-Ireland Republic nor for a Workers’ Republic, but for Socialism. We too realise that this can only exist on a world scale and so can only be achieved by the workers of the world co-operating to establish it. We are thus opposed to all other groups who deny that world Socialism should be the immediate objective of workers in Ireland and other countries.

Lysaght admits that the Irish Labour Party stands for state capitalism, but argues that socialists should work within it because "it is the largest explicitly proletarian-based party in the country". This is a familiar argument which has been utterly discredited in relation to the British Labour Party, but there is one very significant difference in the way this case for joining Labour is presented in Ireland. Lysaght cannot argue that the Labour Party is the mass workers’ party, but has to introduce the word “explicitly". This is because, as he himself points out, the majority of Irish workers support the governing party Fianna Fail and about as many support the main opposition Fine Gael as support Labour. The Labour Party should be opposed precisely because it stands for state capitalism, not to mention its record as part of the 1947 and 1953 “inter-party" governments.
Adam Buick

The Workers and the Dogs. (1928)

From the January 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Greyhound racing! A baby sport, which has not yet seen its first birthday, yet the turnstiles have recorded 4,500,000 spectators. Why? It is because of its comparative cheapness and ease of access, that it attracts the working class.

At first sight, one would imagine that, beyond making a contribution to the Exchequer in the form of Entertainment and Betting Taxes, the sport had little to do with politics or class interest. But, according to the Morning Post (26/10/27), greyhound racing and its effects on the working class formed the subject of a discussion the previous evening at a dinner of the Thirty Club at Claridge’s Hotel.

A viewpoint was put by a Mr. Philip Emmanuel, who deprecated greyhound racing because, he said, it tempted the poor man to lose more than he could afford, to the detriment of his family. How eager for the welfare of the working class are these people who dine at first-class hotels. Or did the gentleman really mean that money spent on racing, instead of food and clothing, would lessen the efficiency of the wage-slave to produce profits for the master class?

Brigadier-General A. C. Critchley contributed the following to the discussion:— 
  “If you can give the working man something wholesome to talk and think about, it stops a lot of Communistic nonsense, which occurs simply because there is nothing else to do. Greyhound racing, properly handled, is one of the greatest counter irritants to Socialistic revolution we have yet seen.”
This soothing effect of sport and other pastimes has often been pointed out by us, but it is so uncommon for a Capitalist representative to admit this fact frankly. Of course, General Critchley only did so from self-interest; he is a director of the Greyhound Racing Association. The statement explains the apparent generosity of Capitalists who donate sums of money and trophies to sports clubs, and resist with all their might an attempt by their employees to secure a slight increase in wages.
H. M.

What Does Life Mean To You? (1928)

From the February 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

To the present writer, about the most remarkable feature in modern life is the lack of interest displayed by the working class in their economic condition. They seem to accept their status of beasts of burden as a matter of course, a state of affairs to be put up with without grousing. A job of work seems to be the highest aspiration they have. Round that revolve their hopes and fears. A job of work brings them all the joy of life they ever know—food, clothing, shelter, a turn at the “pictures,” a new gramophone record, fags, and a bob for “seed” for the “bird.” For these things they start like horses on Monday morning, and finish like cows, complacently chewing the cud of future milking, on Saturday afternoon.

That cow-like satisfaction is, indeed, considered to be the hall-mark of the “respectable” working man who has “something to be thankful for,” i.e., a job. Inasmuch as it is the sign of a contented mind, it is the highest of the virtues now that it is not fashionable to treat discontented minds to bullets and bayonets except as a last resource. And as the vast majority of the workers have jobs, contented minds are a vast majority also.

The miseries of the workless workers are patent. The worker out of work is conscious of his unhappy position. The writer has no desire to spend ink on that side of the case. But all the workless worker wants, as a rule, is work. Given that, and relieved of the immediate fear of losing it, he becomes as complacent as his fellows who know not what unemployment is.

Yet what is that “life” which they embrace with such equanimity? No farmer works his horses as long hours as he works his men. The workers live to work. They are instruments for the production of profit. The bread they eat, the clothes they wear, the houses they live in, are not so much necessaries of life as necessaries for the production of that labour-power, that energy, which is to be expended in the creation of profit. And, saddest thought of all, those who live only to labour and to exude profit, are so used to this aspect of life that they have become dead to the real meaning of the word.

To the savage mind, the wage worker is a “slave of a slave.” What would the peasant proprietor of mediaeval times have thought of the idea of bartering his whole life for the meagre means of maintaining it? And, before him, the serf, by no means a free man—how would he have received the bestial proposal? In no epoch have men succeeded in fastening on their fellows fetters so galling; never have they succeeded in so completely robbing vast populations of their lives, as under the wages system. In days of chattel slavery, though the slave’s position as such was noon-day clear, no means existed of bringing him under such intense exploitation as in the case of the wage slave. As the farmer to-day does not work his horses so long as his men, because they are property and subject to deterioration, so the slave-owner could not proceed to extremities with his human cattle, for the reason that they also were property, subject to deterioration. Cases of brutality do not alter the general truth of this. No means of discipline capable of wide application existed under chattel slavery so effective as the fear of getting the sack is now to a wage earner.

So, in spite of all the superficial trappings of ”civilisation,” the “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” those who do the weaving and the spinning which the lilies of the field do not do, are in some respects in worse case than the bondmen of any previous age. The mediaeval worker, whether serf or peasant, truly worked in order to live. The products of his labour had a different meaning to him from that of the wealth produced by the modern worker. They were, for the most part, the means of his sustenance, created to enable him to live his day and enjoy it. A few weeks in the year—some 14 or 15—and he had wrested from nature his material requirements for the year.

To-day, existence for the workers has become, indeed, as the poet says: “ Life’s fitful fever.” Because he is free (though afraid) to refuse to work for any particular master, the whole tragic truth of his slave condition is hidden from him. He sees himself as a free unit in a free system, less fortunate than some, but never so badly off but that he can find some poor devil in sorer straits. He gets a few hours off every week, but cannot see that they are merely respites from toil necessary for recuperation in the interests of his employer. He gets so little leisure that his “pleasures” must be speeded up, like his work, in order that he may enjoy a bit of “life.” But all his days are tainted with the fear of unemployment, and his very holidays, if he is lucky enough to get any, are poisoned by the thought that it is “ back to work next week.”

Oh, my fellow-workers, can you not see the tragedy of it all? You are being robbed of life. If it was merely your purse, you would kick hard enough. Why will you not challenge this insolent verdict of your masters that you are merely beasts of burden, existing only to produce profits for them, sacrificing your whole lives in order to make the world luxurious and glorious for them! The Carthaginian slave, chained to his master’s portal, has engaged the pity of centuries; but the time will come when men, seeing with clearer vision, will revolt with even greater abhorrence from the spectacle of the modern worker chained to his machine. And how many thousands of to-day’s hopeless toilers there are who would gladly accept the chains of the ancient bondman, with his security of food and shelter, and surcease of worry !

It is hardly to be expected that men and women who have not realised their grievances will take even the first step towards abolishing them. It is for this reason the fervent hope of the writer that these lines may turn the thoughts of those whom circumstances have not driven to desperation, to what life really is for them, and what it might be under a social system whose every activity was actuated by the motive of the greatest good and happiness of the members of the community. Those who have become desperate are not always the best material to work out the remedy for their ills. Those whose plight is not so bad may be in worse straits to-morrow. Let them, therefore, study the Socialist proposition, for that alone offers them the full and joyous life that should be theirs.
A. E. Jacomb

Moscow Orders More Communist Somersaults (1928)

From the March 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

“The United Front” preached by the Communist Party was to help the Labour Party achieve power and the Communists to get inside the party in power. In pushing this policy the Communists supported every Labour leader and betrayer of the working class—industrial and political. But as the plums of office and place were eagerly sought after by the lights of the Labour Party and I.L.P., the competition of the Communists for the same trade union jobs and political positions were not welcomed.

The Communist Party, however, used every excuse for their policy of assisting the enemies of the working class in the hope of being allowed to become the leaders of these fraudulent parties themselves.

In the February Communist Review we are given the thesis of the British Communist Party, from which we quote the following :—
   “The proposition that the Party should run candidates against Labour candidates cannot facilitate the task of the Party in winning ver the mass of the workers, but, on the contrary, will actually impede it.  . . .  To come out and oppose Labour candidates that have the backing of the local Labour movement adds nothing to the independent role of the Party, but will only have for its result the creation of an unnecessary barrier between the Party and the mass of the workers standing behind the Labour Party, whom it is our duty to win for Communism. It is not a tactic calculated to strengthen the Communist Party against the reformists, hut, on the contrary, a tactic calculated to strengthen the reformist leaders against the Communist Party.
   “If our Party opposed Labour candidates on a wide scale, without winning the support of the local Labour movement, it would be regarded not as a blow to the reformist leadership, but at the Labour Party as such, and thus its working class supporters. The consequence of this policy would be to drive away support from our Party in the Trade Unions, as well as in the Labour Party, and would, therefore, have the opposite result from what is intended.”
In the course of the article we are told that: “Even in the case of MacDonald, Thomas, Henderson & Co., the party cannot (1) advise the workers to vote Liberal or Tory, (2) advise mere abstention, (3) put up a candidate who would let in the Liberal or Tory.”

Those who have read the long programmes of reform advocated by the Communist Party which we have quoted in these columns will be prepared for all kinds of gymnastics of this party of reform, armed action, Soviets, 4 pounds per week, and other mixtures. But hardly had Communists finished explaining how brilliant was the defence of their tactics in the February Communist Review, before orders were received from Moscow to run candidates against the Labour Party.

But, as is to be expected, they are not to run as Communists. To get more votes for a so-called Labour programme the C.P. are to use the disaffiliated local Labour Parties for their purpose and run as rival Labour candidates. In other districts they can give active support to Labourites who pledge themselves to accept the Communist Party into the Labour Party. They are to put up candidates against the members of the General Council of T.U. Congress, even though in 1926 they demanded all power and all support to this same General Council.

The Workers' Weekly, the alleged organ of the C.P. (24th February), states, in the despatch from Moscow, that as “considerable sections of the masses still follow the reformist leaders, it is absolutely necessary to propose the united front both nationally and locally”—and so we read later that voting for Labour Party candidates in districts where there are C.P.-ers running is only to be decided on after they have tried to run their own or Left Wing candidates.

They are to oppose official Labour candidates—but not always. They are to expose them—but to lend them support with votes because of the united front. The C.P, is to have their own slogans—but to vote for other slogans where their own are absent!

When Communists tell us we can’t educate the workers into Socialism we wonder what the workers will understand after being educated into these contradictory, jesuitical and bewildering tactics in support of a fraudulent Labour Party or a fake Labour programme.

The fact that they still intend to barter support for Labour candidates on condition of being allowed inside the Labour Party proves that their “new” tactics are simply a scheme to compel the Labour leaders to admit them under penalty of losing votes to rival Labour candidates and possibly losing the seat.

This supplies added evidence of the fraud of the Communist Party in claiming to be revolutionary.

The Socialist Party, however, stands for the simple object of Socialism, and its candidates will seek support for Socialism alone.
Adolph Kohn

How the I.L.P. "Make" History. (1928)

Book Review from the April 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

"A History of English Socialism." by George Benson (New Leader, 1928)

Most of our readers, no doubt, have heard of the I.L.P. summer school. One of the schoolboys, apparently, has written an essay entitled "A History of English Socialism."  The "New Leader," Ltd-, have had the temerity to charge a shilling for it.

It contains very little that is new, and that little is false. Several items which are also false lack even the dubious merit of novelty.

Consisting of about 130 pages, two-thirds of the booklet is occupied with an account of Utopianism and Chartism. Throughout this portion the author maintains a tolerable degree of accuracy, mainly because he has simply cribbed from previous writers on the subject, such as Beer.

In Chapter VIII. he devotes ten pages to "Karl Marx and the International." He commences by patting Marx on the back as the Darwin of Sociology, and quotes the well-known passage from the Preface to the "Critique of Political Economy" wherein is stated Marx’s view of history. It is important to notice that this includes his definition of the social revolution, i.e., the conflict between the forces of production of society and the forms of property, which control, and, at certain stages, hamper the development of those forces. The author soon shows us how little he has grasped the meaning of this passage when he commences to refer to Marx’s "inconsistencies."

As an example, he refers to the Communist Manifesto. "In part II. we find that the proletariat are to use political power to wrest by degrees all capital from the bourgeoisie, while part IV. concludes by stating that the aim of the Communists can only be attained by the forcible overthrow of existing social conditions; two entirely incompatible methods of transition ” (p. 99). Our schoolboy author is thus evidently ignorant of the fact that the political machinery includes the armed forces of the nation, and would be of precious little value to the party of revolution if it didn’t. Seemingly, also, he has never heard that Oliver Cromwell, for instance, was at once a Parliamentarian and a military commander (I mention this specifically English historical character as the author, like most of his ilk, is fond of  pretending that "revolution ” is an alien product).

In dealing with the S.D.F., the author once more allows his I.L.P. prejudices to obliterate any regard for accuracy which he may possess. Writing of Morris, he says: "Marx’s theories made no appeal to him" (p.105). Possibly this is why Morris collaborated with Belfort Bax in "Socialism; its growth and outcome,” in which the Marxist viewpoint is definitely expounded. He refers to the secession of several Scottish and London branches, and the subsequent formation of the S.L.P. and the S.P.G.B. He gets mixed in his dates, sneers at these bodies as "doctrinaire and impossible,” but makes no attempt to deal with the position or history of either body.

The Fabian Society, with its policy of permeation and its frank rejection of Marxism, is next dealt with. "Its influence on public opinion has been profound,” we are told. We have yet to notice any advantages accruing to the workers, however. "The gravamen of the Fabian criticism of capitalism was not that the worker was robbed of his surplus value ”— (oh ! dear, no!)— "but that the community was robbed of socially created differential wealth ” (p. 110). Just what is meant by this the author wisely leaves to the imagination of his readers.

"The Independent Labour Party was largely influenced by the Fabian social philosophy,” we are next informed, which helps to account for its confusing propaganda, no doubt. "The I.L.P. has never accepted the economic system of Marx . . . and as the literature and periodicals of the party have been mainly written by such non-Marxian Socialists as McDonald, Snowden, Glasier and Hardie, Marx’s system is practically unknown in the English Socialist Movement” (p. 121). The reason soon becomes obvious. As the author shows, the I.L.P. were concerned with numbers rather than with education. Hence they bent all their energies to wean the Trade Unions from their allegiance to the official Liberals, and constructed "a party built up of trade unions where members with passive consent are affiliated in blocks of hundreds of thousands at a time ” (p. 119).

The author omits to mention the intrigues of McDonald, Snowden, Hardie, and others with the Liberals, and the joint candidatures of the two parties in "double-barrelled” constituencies such as Leicester, Blackburn and Merthyr Tydfil. These facts show that the I.L.P. has developed by exploiting Trade Union support, both financially and politically, without any advance of working-class interests.

The author refers to the "very definite pacifist attitude” of the I.L.P. during the war, but makes no attempt to explain the activities of its members on recruiting platforms or the building of cruisers, etc., during the Labour Party’s term of office. Although "the I.L.P. is the socialist leaven within the Labour Movement,” the decision of the Labour Party to form local branches raised the question as to whether the I.L.P. has any further justification for its existence, and one of its most prominent leaders, Philip Snowden, has recently concluded that it has not. It has served as a useful ladder for political climbers, who, having reached the goal of their ambitions, are quite prepared to kick it down. So much for the value of non-Marxian "Socialism.”

The tit-bit of the whole book, however, is reserved for the brief appendix purporting to deal with the Communist Party.

We are told that this body was formed "by the fusion of the bulk of the branches of the B.S.P. with one or two small and insignificant groups bearing such grandiloquent names as the Socialist Labour Party and the Socialist Party of Great Britain.” The S.L.P. (since defunct) expelled the bunch of intriguers who tried to drag it into the C.P. The S.P.G.B., still very much alive and kicking, has consistently and successfully opposed the C.P. since its inception. This cannot be said for the I.L.P. So much for the "historian’s ” respect for facts.
Eric Boden

A Talk To Wives and Mothers. (1928)

From the May 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Don’t you sometimes think that it might be pleasant if your day’s work finished at the same time as your husband’s—or the average working man’s—even though his working day is too long?

Don’t you wish you could have 1½ days “off” a week, free from the constant worry of meals and work, an opportunity to enjoy life along with your menfolk?

You cannot heave a sigh of relief when the hooter goes, even though you have worked all day. The hooter only calls you to more work when the family return to meals. Don’t you wish you could leave your thoughts of work behind you at the same time as most men do?

How often are you able to fulfil the hopes of your youth and spend happy evenings with your husband? You are too tired and too busy to share his leisure time with him.

Why be content to scrape along week after week and year after year without relief from the same monotonous work when there are so many who live in luxury and yet have never worked? Surely the reward of work should be pleasure, and not misery and more work.

Has it never occurred to you that, instead of pottering about in your home all day and a good part of the night, it should be possible for the work to be done collectively (as in hotels and institutions), and the children could have large, airy nurseries and large gardens instead of the stuffy living rooms they now have.

Wouldn’t you like your children to have the same opportunities as the rich person’s child?

The first few years of a child’s life are most important, as not only do they naturally require a lot of care, but until they are about five years of age they are not able to go out for air by themselves, and air, as well as good food, they must have to prepare them for the future. The working-class mother cannot afford to employ a nursemaid to take the child out all day, and is not allowed to keep other children at home to do so. It is only at great sacrifice that she takes a child out for about two or three hours a day, and what a rush of work awaits her return. How can children be kept in first-class condition when they are stunted for want of air, and when the mother is too busy to give them the attention they require and cannot afford good food?

Don’t leave it to the men to improve your lot. You should understand the conditions under which you work better than they. You should know what scheming you have to do to make the week’s money buy what is required of it, just as other sections of workers know their own particular conditions best, the miner, factory worker, etc.

Organise yourselves. Ask yourselves why marriage and children should mean the abandonment of all your leisure and the weary, never-ending work.

Talk the matter over as to whether you cannot alter the existing state of affairs.

Wives and mothers, all women, in fact, you must not think that it is out of your reach to alter the state of affairs under which you live. You have a vote, and therefore a say in the matter as to how you should carry on. You must help to improve conditions along with the menfolk, if not for your own sake, at least for your children’s. You would not like them to struggle along just as you have done. It is not enough and no excuse to say that things will not alter in your lifetime, so why bother to think about it. That has been said too long, and if those who said it in the past had given the matter more serious attention and thought of their children, we would have been nearer getting our desires now. Your husband may be in work now, but you never know for how long. Your children may also have their turn at unemployment, and, as time goes on, the unemployment throng will tend to be greater even than now.

Is it fair to bring children into such an unpromising future without endeavouring to do your share in improving their opportunities ?

We all want to get the best the world can offer. Let me give you an illustration as to how you may obtain your desire in actual fact, and the illustration can be enlarged according to requirements. Suppose a number of women met and came to the conclusion that they could work better together on a large scale at specified work, and instead of each, as at present, being “head cook and bottle washer,” nursemaid, housemaid, kitchen maid, dressmaker and cook rolled into one, they decided to amalgamate and work collectively, with all its possibilities. How much more airy their surroundings could be, and how much less work there need be. It would take much less time in proportion to cook for 100 people collectively than for the same number in a number of houses as at present, to say nothing of present washing day troubles. Among the women carrying out this arrangement, no doubt some would be better at one type of work than another, so that, while some do the cooking, others do the sewing and others give their attention to the children, and perhaps have a change of work in turn. By this method the day’s work could be shortened for all, and if the men must do different work from the women, they could have more comfortable surroundings to return to and a companionable wife, instead of returning home to a small, crowded house or rooms and a harassed drudge, tired of the million and one jobs she has to perform.

If all people worked to produce what all require, and each had a guarantee that they would by that means be sure of getting the necessaries of life, there is no telling how soon the work could be done and what pleasures life could hold out.

Don’t think that it sounds all right, but your next-door neighbour could not be trusted to do things so well as yourself, because no doubt that neighbour is thinking the same of you.

As a general rule, every mother does her best for her offspring, however much they may differ from each other in temperament. It is only the cares of life and the narrowness of it that cause us to mistrust our neighbour. At bottom, we are all bent on getting as much pleasure out of life as we can, and if we can work better collectively, the struggle need not be so hard. Most of us prefer to enjoy ourselves collectively, do we not? You cannot improve matters on your own. Do not isolate yourselves so much, but get together and talk about things with a view to improving your lot.

Your grandmother carried on much as you are doing now. Must your children do likewise ?

Whether your family live by brains and your neighbours by muscle, or vice versa, both work hard, and should be alike as regards having the necessaries of life. If your family consists of various types of workers, surely you do not give one less to eat than another. You give them the best you have.

Why not apply the results of work in the same manner, collectively—each have the best obtainable, each do the best they can?

This is the end which the Socialist Party of Great Britain have in view and are organised to obtain. Not a pittance, but at least a sufficiency for all.

I said you have a vote and should therefore have a say as to how you should live. Why not?

Perhaps in our next issue I will tell you what the vote has to do with your present struggle, and how voting a particular way could relieve you of a harassed life.
Hilda McClatchie

Socialist Party Policy: No "Patching Up" (1939)

From the Monday, July 31st issue of the Manchester Guardian

The Manchester branch of the Socialist Party of Great Britain concluded yesterday a two months' special campaign in Manchester and district with meetings in the afternoon and evening in Stevenson Square and Platt Fields, which were addressed by Mr. Clifford Groves, prospective candidate for the party for East Ham North and the first Parliamentary candidate the party has put forward, and Mr. Tony Turner (London). Mr. A. Mertons (Manchester) was the chairman.

Addressing a large crowd in Stevenson Square in the afternoon, Mr. Groves said the Socialist Party of Great Britain had been accused of being merely armchair philosophers because they did not support a policy, as did the Labour party, of working for immediate partial reforms to ameliorate existing conditions. They maintained, as they had done since they first entered the political field as a party in 1904, that the only hope for the working class, the only hope for the abolition of poverty, hunger, and unemployment and the other evils of working-class life, lay in the abolition of the capitalist system of society—that no patching up, no messing about with futile "reform," could materially improve the conditions of the working class. The problems of that class sprang not from any particular form of government but from the economic basis of the system under which we lived.

He contended that if there was war we would not be fighting for democracy, though the people might be deluded into thinking we were. The most belligerent party in this country to-day was the Labour party, and next came that small snapping whippet known as the Communist party. Such was the attitude at this time of those so-called parties of the working class.

The Influence of Machinery upon the Working Class. (1912)

From the January 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

J. S. Mill, to the surprise of the Radicals. said that it was “questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being. They have enabled a greater population to live the same life of drudgery and imprisonment, and an increased number of manufacturers and others to make fortunes.” We of the Socialist Party have always held that labour saving devices have not lessened the sum total of work that is done by the workers, or increased the remuneration they receive for that work.

This position we defend against “cheery” social reformers who contend that machinery has had a beneficial effect upon working class conditions; that it has brought us nearer to a heaven upon earth.

They assert that machinery has (1) shortened the working day, (2) abolished heavy and wearying work, (3) educated the worker by giving him intricate machinery to mind, (4) lowered the price of commodities, (5) whilst negatively it is contended that it has not made employment more irregular, nor caused any considerable amount of suffering by disturbing working conditions when applied to new industries. All misery attendant on machine production is due to Free Trade, or Protection, or Land Monopoly, or some other Will-o’ the Wisp.

Machinery, says the Liberal, has deepened the working man’s chest and increased his stature by shortening the hours of work. When he says “shortened hours” we promptly ask “compared with when?” And as promptly comes the answer : “In comparison with the hours worked in the ‘hungry forties,’” or “when my grandfather was a lad.”

To compare present hours of work with the length of the working day in that transitional period when capitalism was in its birth throes (with the aim of extolling the difference) is an inane procedure.

Thorold Rogers has shown the comparative leisure of the worker under the system of “small production”—with that we need not deal. If we take our case at its worst and compare hours of work to-day with the hours toiled in the early years of capitalism, we find justification for our case. We find that side by side with the shorter working day has come a quicker pace, a more rapid rate of production, a faster consumption of working-class brain, nerve, and muscle. Whether it be in the sphere of production—at lathe or loom, or in distribution on train, tram, or taxi, the working pace is fierce.

Even if we examine types of work where steam-power cannot be applied—office routine and the like—we find mechanical appliances such as calculating machines, typewriters, dictating appliances, etc., adding to the intensity of the workers’ grind.

The spheres of production and distribution are worked at such a pace that even porters and packers and carmen and shopworkers and the like are affected by the pace which permeates from the departments where machinery reigns as God. The change from the leisurely life of the 17th. century to the horrid bustle of to-day is a change so scenic, so grim, so fraught with great possibilities and fearsome forebodings, that one’s brain whirls at the revolution — and one smiles at fussy politicians and dozy economists. Machine production under private ownership has rendered futile the behest to “love thy neighbour” and ushered in the modern cry: "Get on or get out!"

Economists tell us that machinery is abolishing heavy and “very laborious” work. But whilst machinery has a tendency to make work less “ muscular,” we must not forget that (as J. A. Hobson puts it): “As regards those workers who pass from ordinary manual work to the tending of machinery, there is a good deal of evidence to show that, in the typical machine industries, their new work taxes their physical vigour quite as severely as the old work.” And: “A lighter form of labour spread over an increased period of time, or an increased number of minor muscular exertions substituted for a smaller number of heavier exertions within the same period of time, may, of course, amount to an increased tax upon the vital energy.” (“Evolution of Capitalism,” pp. .'337 et seq.)

We must not overlook, either, the striking number of horrible accidents arising from the tending of machines. Even if those gullible optimists who find in machinery a “ palliative,” an economiser of working class energy—if these people had a defensible case at all it is destroyed by this one factor, the mutilation, mortal and otherwise, traceable to machinery.

If we examine the tables of death rates in various occupations we find evidence of the risk run by the workers. Taking figures for 1900-1-2 (and an index number of 1,000), we find that in the list of occupations “ men of God ” stand well at 524, and farmers at 590. Tramway workers are represented in the holocaust by the number 1,013; copper, tin, etc. workers by 1,043; tool, saw, and file workers 1,315; cotton workers 1,114; brush makers 1216: whilst publicans (terrible example of the pious) are overtopped in the figures by general labourers at 2,235.

General labourers! The phrase calls up reflections of physical and mental misery deeper than of Grecian helot or “the rude forefathers of the hamlet.” 2,235! Pythagoras saw things strange and mystical in numbers; in the death rates and the accident rates of the class of labourers and miners Christian capitalists see things tangible— say a safe twenty per cent.; Socialists see the machine and the man, and curse the capitalism which serenely massacres the real pillars of society.

The machine (so we are told) “educates” the worker by giving him a complex machine to make and tend. If we grant the intricacy and skill involved in machine manufacture (an exercise of skill on the workers' part as great, as the much puffed “labour of superintendence”), it is more than counterbalanced by the tedious times of the machine-tenders, by the “sameness” of the proletarian's work. His home. Ins necessities, and his “luxuries,” all bear evidence of the mechanical, low-priced, and mean. Production in iron, brass, copper, wood, cotton, etc., is simply a story of the exercise of similar actions, the making of prosy repetition articles. To quote J. A. Hobson : “The constant employment on one sixty-fourth part of a shoe offers no encouragement to mental activity, but dulls by its monotony the brains of the employee to such an extent that the power to think and reason is almost lost.”

The workers, as Dickens said, are “those people who all go in and out at the same hours to do the same work; people to whom every day is the same as yesterday and to morrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next." The “rude forefathers of the hamlet" were oblivious of the motor car. the Linotype, and the music hall; hut in every village the craftsman in metals, wood, stone, or leather had by his daily work qualities of initiative and forethought cultivated, contrasting with the heavy band laid by machines on their bored minders.

The individual who has heard of the “miseries of grandfather’s days,” challenges us with the assertion that machinery has lowered the price of the necessaries of life. A quotation from Marx’s “Poverty of Philosophy” is apt here: “ The price of food [in civilisation] has almost continually risen, while the price of manufactured articles and luxuries has almost continually fallen. Take the agricultural industry itself: the most indispensable objects, such as wheat, meat etc. increase in price, while cotton, sugar, coffee, etc., fall continually in a surprising fashion. Even among food stuffs, properly so-called, luxuries, such as artichokes, asparagus, etc., are relatively cheaper to-day than the objects of prime necessity. In our epoch the superfluity is more easily produced than the necessaries of life. Finally, at different historical epochs, the reciprocal relations of price are not only different but opposed. All through the Middle Ages agricultural products were relatively cheaper than manufactured products : in modern times the relations are reversed.”

So Liberal-Nonconformists expect the worker to be ridiculously thankful at the cheapness of questionable boots, frail sovereign suits, and dollar watches, while the rent of his “ home,” the price of his beer, his food stuffs, his fuel, etc., was never so prohibitive as in the “palmy” present. On every point the machine defender is worsted. 'The worker is, indeed, badly housed, badly clothed, and badly fed.

The defenders of capitalism deny our assertion that machinery has made unemployment more acute. 'They admit that a new machine might cause a temporary displacement of labour, but contend that the decrease in price resulting from the use of machinery causes a new demand which absorbs the displaced labour. Things “adjust” themselves and all is for the best. But whilst the “adjusting” process is fructifying, the worker is being pushed further into the mire. The adjusting period may be only temporary, but human lives are likewise temporary. A knotting machine dispenses with five or six “twisters”; the later try to adjust themselves. Twisting is one of the numerous processes in cotton manufacture, and obviously the number of twisters is determined by the whole industry.

The production of cotton goods must increase six times if all the twisters are to find employment at their own occupation. Machinery thus makes the workers’ jobs more hazardous and temporary. It throws out six twisters and finds employment for one mechanic making the new machine. The mechanic in turn is displaced by a lad working a new machine which “economises labour” in the engineering shops. Commonplace statistics have shown the existence of unemployed in every “skilled’’ trade.

In conclusion. Socialists do not see a “devil” in machinery. They appreciate its value to a society wherein are neither peers nor paupers, moochers nor millionaires. Socialists object to the capitalism which uses machinery as a means of more rapid and efficient exploitation of the workers; object to the degradation resulting from the existence of a factor which, under Socialism, will add leisure and pleasure to life.
John A. Dawson

Jottings (1912)

The Jottings Column from the February 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is interesting now and then to take stock of the various panaceas that are being foisted on the country as the one and only method of solving the social "problem.” Leaving out the various quacks belonging to the capitalist class — who advocate, after all, what is not even social reform—we find a pretty fair bunch whose claim it is that they represent the worker's point of view. We have the Labour Party, bourgeois in tendency, anti-Socialist to the core, whose whole existence seems to depend upon the goodwill of the Liberals, and who are ready to snatch at anything that will give them a fresh lease of life. We have the I.L.P., who, just now, are kidding the workers into demanding the nationalisation of the railways, etc., quite oblivious of the fact that nationalisation of anything under the present system can only tend to accentuate the workers' position. We have the B.S.P. with its "Britain for the British "; its queer mixture of nationalisation, municipalisation and "revolutionar" palliatives— of which the following is a delightful example.

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"Socialism is only a method of extending State management, as in the Post Office, and municipal management . . . until State and municipal management become universal through the Kingdom. . . . The Government and the municipalities have proved that they can manage vast and intricate businesses, and can manage them more cheaply, more efficiently, and more to the satisfaction of the public, than the same class of business has ever been managed by private firms." (R. Blatchford in the "Clarion," 19.1.12.)
In order that the reader may discern for himself the advantages that have accrued from the Government and municipalities, all that is necessary is to acquire the child like faith of the average Clarionette, and the use of a powerful microscope!

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And. lastly, we have that anarchistic importation known as "Direct Action," the benefits of which, according to Mr. Tom Mann, "have been most substantial." "By adequately reduced hours we shall solve the unemployed problem : shall for ever cure the low wage problem: and by the same means entirely solve the economic problem.” ("Transport Worker ” for Jan.)

Socialism, and all it implies — knowledge of the workers' position in society, based upon a scientific analysis of capitalism in all its ramifications — is useless according to Mr. Tom Mann. Therefore all we need do is to wait until this prophet on the bounce gives the word, when the workers will simply walk over and — — what?

Wait and see !

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And now, to add to the existing confusion, we are to have still one more "Socialist" party? According to the London correspondent of the "Daily Dispatch" (16.1.12) preparations are being made to launch a new Socialist party, in which "the Christian idea will replace the aims and devices of the hooligans." This has been necessitated, we are told, by the fact that "Socialism  . . . in its present crude form, embodies a grave menace to the country," its association with Syndicalism and Atheism having given grave concern to several avowed supporters of the movement.

As a Socialist it is news to me that Socialism has any connection with Syndicalism and Atheism. Socialism means Socialism and nothing else. It would also be news to me to hear that Socialism could have any connection with any "Christian ideal" in view of the fact that Christianity stands for the negation if all freedom of thought, fosters superstition and teaches the divinity of capitalism. Moreover, it does not occur to this modest scribe that the "devices of the hooligans" are a product f this country. Elsewhere in the same issue we are informed that 4¼  millions voted the "hooligan" ticket, despite its "crude form." Surely the joke is on the "Dispatch"!

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The following is from a recent issue of the "Manchester Guardian ”:
   The unskilled labourers at a small ironworks had been engaged for several months at a wage of 16s. 9d., when it occurred to some of the mote enterprising spirits among them that this was not enough. A deputation was sent to the manager to say so. The manager listened, and then said : "So you think you ought to have another shilling a week, do you ? Well, I want to ask you men a question. How many of you, when you get your wages on a Friday night, go straight across the road to the public house ? " The leader of the deputation admitted, not without a little defiance in his tone, that he generally went there himself.
   “And how much do you spend ? ”
   "Well, I 'as sixpenn'orth o' whisky and three- pennorth o’ beer, reg'lar."
   ”Oh ! so your wages are not so low that you can't spend 9d. in drink the first hour after you get them? Why don’t you raise your own wage by dropping the drink ? ”
   “Well." said the labourer. " if tha wants to know, its like this ‘ere. If I didn't get that there sixpenn'orth o' whisky and threepenn'orth o' beer I shouldn't 'ave the bloomin' cheek to go 'ome to my old woman and ask ‘er to keep the family together on the money I gets from you.”
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“Why should not the present crude relations between capital and labour give way to a science of ethics founded on honesty to each other, a brotherhood founded on affection?" (Sir W H. Lever, Port Sunlight, 1.1.12.)
How touching! Honesty between capital and labour! Affection for the robber by the robbed ! Honesty in a system that could not exist were it not for its robbery basis !

Lever himself admits this by suggesting that it “give way" to a system founded on a basis of honesty. When the present relations between capital and labour give way, labour will take possession of those things that are held by Sir W. H. Lever and his class, namely, the means of life. And when that time comes (for come it surely will), neither Lever nor the other capitalist exploiters will be consulted. "A bond of affection”! Bah ! it stinks of hypocrisy. The workers have only to look around them to-day to see where the affection comes in. The only “affection" they are able to discern is akin to that existing between the bullock and the poleaxe.
Tom Sala