Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Notes On The Election (1945)

From the September 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Times change—politicians frequently fail to catch-up. Many candidates—Churchill the chief one—obviously banked on the old-time stuff of years ago which is hopelessly out of date with the modern electorate. The motor car tour of the country was exactly the same as when he contested the Abbey Division of Westminster twenty years ago—and according to Fenner Brockway, burst into tears, when he failed.

“ J.F.,” wrote in the Socialist Standard for April, 1924.
   “Mr. Churchill conducted his campaign as a “Show" or piece of buffoonery. Fighting men (boxers), jockeys, comedians, etc., were his principal speakers. Processions of highly decorated motor cars toured the streets, and the candidate joined in the procession at times. This gutter method cf conducting a campaign shows the shallow mind of the individual responsible for such a method. . . . 
One other fact emerged from this by-election. Practically all the capitalist press united in talking of 'Mr. Churchill’s brilliance,' his 'great gifts.' his remarkable abilities,' etc., but when one reads the carefully prepared speeches he gave, they turned out to contain nothing but stale and worn out platitudes. Any members of the working class, who wore led away by this praise of the press, will now be able to realise that Churchill is only a shallow-pa ed chameleon."
There were feeble attempts to put idiotic poems on posters—by the old time parties—thus, if a candidate had a name like Wright (Liberal), the electors were urged to do the "Wright ” thing (ugh!). A candidate called Noble (Conservative) inspired “Do your Noble deed on Tuesday” (?!) “Make Tuesday a Field day” (Labour), and so on; Rotherhithe was urged to send “Big-Ben” to Big Ben, as though a lot of candidate is desirable, which obviously disqualifies Miss Wilkinson, for example. In one London constituency the Conservative announced, in asking for votes that he was “Churchill’s man”; promptly came the answer of the Southwark Labour Party, “Vote for Naylor—Everybody’s Man.”

Another Labour candidate informed his astonished electors that he had been married 26 years; yet another in the course of a political biography, wrote “and then I met Margaret” (?!!) while the Communist Party informed Glasgow electors that Mr. Peter Kerrigan had been, when young, captain of a local football team. The Labour candidate for Nottingham West offered the view that “no economic machinery, no defensive devices, no diplomatic arrangements can ensure peace unless People undergo a change of heart,” which makes us wonder why he wants them to change their member—if it's the heart of the electors that’s wrong.

There is evidence to show that the modern tendency is for electors to vote Party tickets—NOT personal biographies. The day of the stunt-merchant and demagogue i6 ending.

It’s last representative-—Churchill is finished—at future elections—backed by an increasing Socialist challenge—candidates will face an unanswerable barrage of inquisitive questions from intelligent electors.

Already one Tory candidate has been forced to undertake one week's (one whole week) work down the coal mine as a result of a miner electors challenge. Another actually lived on the dole in Gorbals, Glasgow, for a week, saying afterwards "It could he done for one week—he would not express any further opinion.” This sort of thing is likely to deter quite a number of jobseekers at future elections.

Finally all the reformist Parties published statements saying. "Vote Thus”! With the spread of Socialist knowledge among the electors this ridiculous inversion will be replaced right side up—on its feet. The electors will instruct the candidate “Vote Thus "—for Socialism.

The Labour Party and Strikes (1945)

From the October 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Churchill suggested in one of his election speeches that a victory for the Labour Party would lead to the suppression of Trade Union rights. He stated, “the freedom of the wage-earner to choose or change his employment or to use collective bargaining by all means, including the right to strike, runs absolutely counter to the Socialist doctrine and theory of the state.”—(Daily Herald, June 22nd, 1945). He revealed no other “rights” to safeguard—only this somewhat dubious “right” of a wage-slave to sell or not to sell his energies. Mr. Attlee repudiated the suggestion that the Labour Party would deprive workers of these “rights” and claimed a “clean record.” Mr. A. Deakin, a member of the T.U. Congress Council, stated, “Trade Unions under a Socialist Government would occupy the same position os hitherto”—(Daily Herald, July 2, '45).

It is absurd for the Conservatives to pose as defenders of working-class interests, but has the Labour Party a “clean record”? Some years ago, Mr.. G. Lansbury, then leader of the Labour Party, wrote a few articles in the Clarion, some very critical of his past reformist activities. Among the damaging admissions he made was this: 
   “In the archives of all Government departments will be found the most elaborate machinery for dealing with what is described as a ‘national crisis. By this they always mean great strikes.
The Labour Government not merely had the machinery on paper to deal with the Passenger Transport dispute, but had chosen a good anarchist as head of the strike-breakers with a number of Socialists as assistants.” — (Clarion. May 5th, 1934). (It will be noted that Deakin, Churchill and Lansbury all have the ‘dishonest practice, of using the term “Socialist” when they mean “Labour”). 
Lansbury was referring to the threatened strike of 1924 of trainwaymen and underground railwaymen when the Daily Herald reported, “Had the underground railways been stopped, a Royal Proclamation was ready to have been issued on Saturday last, declaring a 'state of emergency.’ ” Apr. 1, 1924). Lansbury referred also to the 1927 Trades Dispute Act, but did not condemn it: “A general strike in this country is now illegal. The Trade Disputes Act has made that quite plain and simple. As for disputes against local authorities, I find myself almost without reservation opposed to them.” These views were not condemned by his followers and it was not until the 1935 Conference that he was removed from leadership. Then he was deposed not because of any opposition to working-class interests, but because he opposed the Labour Party's policy on the grounds that it would lead to war. His anti-strike views were swallowed but his opposition to capitalist war roused the fury of the Labour leaders!

Have the Labour Party changed since those days? Daring the war they have supported all the restrictive measures of the Government. As members of the Coalition Cabinets their leaders joined with Churchill in 1943 when he refused to remove certain clauses of the Trades Dispute Act. The removal of these clauses would have allowed Civil Service Unions to affiliate to the Trade Union Congress. Now (August. 1945), they are the Government and through the War Office they are disrupting the “go-slow” strike at Surrey Docks by sending soldiers to work there. Lately they have pointed proudly to the “Socialist” administration of Australia. Did they miss this item of news? “300 coal miners between the ages of 18-25 who have been, on strike in New South Wales were to-day served with call-up notices for the Army.”—(Daily Herald, February 29th. 1941). Probably they regarded these men. as Mr. W. Lawther regarded the Wearmouth miners as men, “guilty of an act of treason and cowardice”—(Daily Herald, July 22nd, 1941). Seemingly such men should be firmly dealt with by a Labour Government.

It must not be assumed that the Labour Party would willingly jeopardise the legal position gained by the Trade Union movement during the last 100 years. It must be remembered, however, that they have been elected on a reformist and not a Socialist policy. They have to work within the very narrow limits imposed by capitalist conditions. They have to administer capitalism and ensure its smooth running. If strikes interfere with that administration the Labour Ministers follow the example of Tory and Liberal ministers by using the coercive forces. The alternative would be to allow strikers to gain their ends, an alternative that invites the ridicule and opposition of their “more reasonable” supporters, not to mention the loss of the hard cash of their wealthy business supporters. The Economist has warned them in a reference to the railway dispute; “ Nothing would be more fatal to the prospects of stable government than for individual sections of workers to exercise pressure to secure their own claims.”—(August 4th, 1945).

They warned them of the fate of the Popular Front Government in Franco which, '‘was wrecked even before it had started by the widespread series of stay-in strikes. An outbreak of strikes and 'go-slow' movements in this country would have the same effect.” The position is, as it always has been in capitalism; woe to the reformist party that cannot keep the workers in check.

We can see that Attlee's claim that the Labour Party has a "clean record ” is not correct. The main fact that emerges is this; that when Labour Parties in this and other countries have become the Government of the country the coercive forces have been used against workers by those who falsely claim to be Socialists. Thus have they dragged the name of Socialism in the mud. They have given opportunities to the Churchills and Hitlers to deride Socialism. The complete and utter failure by Labour Parties, here, in Germany and in France, to deal with working class problems has led in the past to the growth of anti-socialist and antidemocratic ideas. They will fail again. They are not Socialists. They have neither intention nor mandate to remove the relations of employer and employee, wage-slave and capitalist. They will not remove the dependence of workers upon those who own the means of producing wealth. They will not make those means the common property of the whole of society.

Our political opponents stressed that they stood for various "rights” and "freedoms” for workers—significantly we alone advocated free access to the means of life— Socialism. Socialism, a classless society means the end of conflict, economic or military, between human beings. We will lose the "right to strike” together with the "right to starve” the "right to fight ” and other unpleasant "rights.” We wish to abolish a society where the most important rights are those that reflect the fact that society resembles a jungle. Workers must understand that suppression and coercion are ever present dangers while capitalism lasts whether the government is Labour, Tory or Communist. The end of these conditions will come not by the sterile policy of altering governments, but by the revolutionary act of changing the basis of society from private to common ownership or the means of producing wealth.
Lew Jones

Austerity and Exports (1945)

From the November 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the tragedies resulting from the advent of a Labour Government is the large number of workers who quickly become disillusioned by the capitalistic arguments vouchsafed by the new rulers and their spokesmen. Take, for example, the September Record, organ of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, wherein the workers are treated to a full article on why they should support "Full Speed Ahead in the Great Drive for Exports, written by the Acting Secretary, Arthur Deakin. No Liberal or Tory would disagree with the main points of Deakin’s article, which reiterates the historic capitalist case for bringing "backward” countries under the capitalist regime. But where the capitalists of old covered this operation under the ideology of spreading civilisation and Christianity abroad, Deakin would seek markets for Britain’s industrial products under the guise of the recommendations of the "United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture,” which aims at "raising the standard of living and health throughout the world; more efficient methods coproduction will have to be introduced in the economically backward areas of the world.”

The Labour Government, he adds, cannot effect this policy without it is "backed by the utmost output of the workers in the export trades,” and offers a word of warning that "In our great drive for the production of goods for export we must for some time be prepared to live under the same conditions of austerity us applied during the war.” 

All this is contemporary capitalist policy, discreetly stripped of any reference to the paraphernalia of tariffs, spheres of influence, monetary juggling and power-politics based on the military might possessed by the contestants for the world’s markets, on which are, dumped the surpluses filched from the workers by the seekers of profit—the world capitalist class.

Britain’s place in this capitalist "power” scheme has declined owing to the increased independence through industrialisation of the members of her "British Commonwealth and Empire,” typically Australia and Canada, whose native capitalists now jealously guard their own home market. Further, even with Germany put out of the way as a competitor, Britain the one-time "workshop of the world,” will find difficulty in competing with such huge units as America whose magnitude of production makes each commodity cheaper even with increased wages and shorter hours.

This is not to say that Britain cannot win a share of the export trade in a world denuded by war of consumer and capital goods, though the amount depends on how soon she can stop off, plus the ability of her rulers to withstand her own internal demand for consumer’s wants by priorities, savings drives, and rationing, aided maybe by the purchase of bare necessities abroad via a negotiated foreign loan. Britain in the words of the new Director of the “National Union of Manufacturers,” representing 2,000 firms—must “export or expire.”

Thus the Labour Government is faced with the dilemma of administering capitalism with its mechanism of markets and profits while attempting to placate the workers who want something of the promised “New Order” now.

Therein lies the harm done to the socialist aspirations of the workers by the Labourites who, like Deakin, write of “our” export trade and "our” industries, when in fact the workers stand dispossessed of any of these things and where the only market they appear in is the labour market in which they sell their ability to work to the capitalists, whether these be organised in private firms or in nationalised industries. Having bought the worker’s labour-power the capitalists use it to produce commodities whose value is over and above the wage outlay—a surplus for which the capitalists have paid nothing. It is not, and never will he. therefore the motive behind the export, trade to "raise the standard of living throughout the world,” but to realise this profit either directly by payment from foreign customers, or by the return of equal values that can be sold on the open market. A failure to continue this process through lack of buyers or “overproduction” results in the sellers of labour power crowding the labour market in their unemployed millions, a recurring crisis which forces on a trade war, without guns to its conclusion in actual wax with guns—or atom bombs.

In conclusion, socialism is not a lahour-controlled-capitalism, but a new civilisation in which men stand in dignified relation to each other, not as buyers and sellers in a class society, but where the common effort to produce the means of living entitles all to equal access to society’s products and services. A complete transformation which ends traders and money power and replaces international capitalist conflict by international co-operation.

The Labour Party having no mandate to lay even the foundation of such a change must inevitably fail to solve the social conflict; thus fulfilling Laski’s fear of "other men and other methods,” a warning that has been writ large by "Labour’s” prototype in Germany’s Weimar Republic and by the rise of dictatorshipss. The one and only bulwark against such a calamity is an understanding socialist working-class.
Frank Dawe

Doctors are Wage Slaves (1945)

From the December 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many of Marx’s statements appear more strikingly true to-day than they did in his lifetime; the greater development of the capitalist mode of production has seen to that. In the Communist Manifesto Marx stated:— 
  “The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.”
The effects on the man of science are readily seen by reflections on the atom bomb; on the priest, in the churches' justification of the recent war; and on the physician in his increased employment in the military and industrial forces of the capitalist countries. The use of the physician in war and peace has been found by the capitalist class to be a very profitable proposition. It has at the same time occurred to many workers now to view the doctor in industry in the role of an employer’s man.

The correctness of this is well illustrated in a recent copy of The Lancet (October 6th, 1945) by the very materialistic approach given to new aspects of disease by the medical profession.. Three papers in this issue are devoted to the exposition and treatment of lumbago. This condition has hitherto been regarded as a rheumatic manifestation; now it is being realised that strain may cause a displacement of part of the spine and bring about the characteristic signs of lumbago. In The Lancet editorial this discovery is related to industry and the Services, and the comments of two American doctors employed by an insurance company dealing with workmen’s compensation are given. These medical men point out that strain is now regarded as a causal agent and may occur during working hours; the onus of responsibility may be thrown on the employer.

Medical discoveries have now ceased to be of primary interest to the sufferer and are considered mainly from a monetary aspect with the doctor eager to serve his employer, as anyone unfortunate enough to have beheld the undignified spectacle of conflicting medical witnesses in compensation cases will realise.

The function of the doctor in the Services and in industry is well summed up by the editorial when it states: “The factory physician or the unit medical officer is mainly concerned with palliation and return to duty. . . .'

However earnestly the young doctor may start out after qualifying, he soon comes to grips with the system under which he must practise in order to live. He may be loath to recognise it and may make various vain endeavours to put back the clock such as his resistance to salaried service like the National Health Service, where the State would pay the doctor on the basis of work done.

As capitalism operates through commodity production, service becomes a commodity, whether it be banking or medical attention, and is purchasable. The employer of the industrial medical officer purchases the doctor’s labour-power. The doctor gives the service of medical attention and the employer sees to it that the attention shall serve the employer’s interest.

Thus we see that all who must sell their labour-power in order to live do so at the dictates of capitalism, though men and women in many professions imagine they are exempt. Capitalism is a levelling force, and makes the interest of all workers one. The sooner that workers, be their tools the stethoscope or the carpenter’s saw, the test-tube or the power-driven tools of the factory, realise their common interest and strive together to overthrow their common enemy, the sooner will men of science and medicine not have to prostitute their knowledge. Only under Socialism will their knowledge be used for the benefit of mankind as a whole, unhampered by monetary considerations.
W. P.

Unsafe at Any Price (2017)

From the December 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

 In August many Americans went to some lengths to view the solar eclipse that was visible, as either a total or partial eclipse, across many parts of the United States. Since looking directly at the sun can be dangerous, it was recommended that people viewed the eclipse through special spectacles that blocked out far more light than ordinary sunglasses. However, one couple sued Amazon on the grounds that the glasses they had bought were defective and had resulted in blurred vision and a blindspot. The glasses in question had in fact previously been recalled by Amazon, but probably not all users would have seen the recall notice, and it does raise the question of how it came about that such a recall was needed. The answer, of course, is the profit motive. Glasses intended for eclipse viewing were sold for as little as $15, but there were still big profits to be made, by manufacturers, suppliers and retailers.

 The UK government website (LINK) contains a lot of information about ensuring that products are safe and fit for purpose, and meet the relevant legal and technical requirements. It notes that appropriate production processes ‘can also give your business a competitive edge and save costs.’ Supplying unsafe products is a criminal offence for manufacturers, and they may also be liable under civil law for any harm done. Changing manufacturing procedures, recalling goods and enduring bad publicity are all likely to hit a company’s income and profits, so they do have an incentive to avoid this kind of problem; nevertheless, there are countless examples of unsafe products being marketed.

 At the end of September there was a scandal as supermarkets stopped stocking chicken from one factory, after evidence emerged of poor hygiene standards (such as chicken being picked off the floor and being thrown back onto the production line) and the slaughter date being altered so as to stretch the birds’ ‘commercial life’. Around the same time a woman was awarded massive damages when a vaginal mesh implant made by Johnson & Johnson was found to have been launched without a clinical trial and despite a relatively high failure rate; the company had tried to play down unfavourable evidence. It is a different kind of example, but it has even been suggested that ‘bags for life’ may pose a food poisoning risk if they used to carry raw foods such as meat and fish.

 The US website unsafeproducts.com contains many examples of dangerous goods and product recalls. To take just one case, over 100 million vehicles have been recalled because of a problem with a specific brand of airbag, which could shoot metal shrapnel into the driver or front-seat passenger. At least ten deaths and over a hundred injuries had resulted from this defect.

 Counterfeit products are also a frequent source of hazards. The consumer does not get what they think they are paying for, and what they have bought may be dangerous to boot. Counterfeit painkillers, for instance, can produce unpredictable side-effects; counterfeit electronic goods may have dodgy circuitry; counterfeit cosmetic and hygiene products many contain unsafe ingredients such as anti-freeze. Producers of counterfeits are of course not worried about any damage to their reputation, being just concerned to avoid any legal entanglements and make a quick buck.

 Prosecutions of companies and individuals in charge of them do take place, but often the punishments are tiny. For instance, last year Amazon were fined the (for them) paltry sum of £65,000 for delivering dangerous goods (lithium ion batteries and flammable aerosols) for carriage by air without appropriate packaging and labelling. Also last year, fifteen cosmetics shops in London were fined a total of £168,000 for selling cosmetics containing dangerous substances such as hydroquinone, mercury or corticosteroids. A spokesperson for London Trading Standards said that they had a duty to enforce product safety rule, but ‘ever shrinking officer numbers and reduced budgets makes it an ever more challenging job’.

 Capitalists and the companies they own do not want to produce unsafe goods: they want to make profits. Along the way they may cut corners or fail to carry out proper testing or choose a cheaper or less appropriate ingredient or raw material, all of which have the potential to lead to dangerous goods being sold to consumers. As William Morris pointed out in relation to supplying poor-quality foodstuffs: ‘Adulteration laws are only needed in a society of thieves – and in such a society they are a dead letter.’ In addition to deaths and injuries in the workplace, what is produced can be dangerous too.

 It would be silly to claim that in a socialist society there could never be any cases of unsafe goods being produced. Mistakes may take place in the design or manufacturing process, or the behaviour of certain materials or ingredients may not be properly understood. Production of some potentially dangerous chemicals may still take place if they are deemed necessary, but only with all the appropriate safeguards in place. The aim of production will be to meet human need, not to make a profit, so any unsafe goods produced will be recalled once the problem is discovered, and we can be sure that there will be far fewer such cases than now.
Paul Bennett

Romford Division Branch Report. (1909)

Party News from the January 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

Not having taken any space with a report of oar branch's work daring 1908, it is well to briefly review the years efforts in the Romford Division. We now, unfortunately, have only two speakers—Kennett and Dawkins—but, and it is a tremendous but, these irresistable and irrepressible comrades have thrown themselves whole-heartedly into the task of dispelling working-class ignorance whenever and wherever an opportunity arose, or one could be snatched from rolling time—to the dismay of the gimbal-eyed shufflers who infest the district, especially East Ham and Manor Park. Although we ware greatly handicapped in the early part of the year by the rainy weather and the loss of our best pitch owing to an extension of “our trams," yet the year has been a successful one. We have had large audiences who now quite understand the fundamental distinction between Socialism and reform, and in consequence the local reformers have dropped (when on the stump) the municipal milk-shop fooling like a hot cinder. We have opened up a new pitch at East Ham, have also had several debates at Manor Park. Our comrades have, in sledge-hammer style, exposed the fraudulent nature of the LLP. and S.D.P., and challenged the locals to bring along any of their tin gods to defend in debate their respective organisations, but they resort to Fabian methods when they are sure of being flattened out—they live to fight another day. The distress hereabout is acute, yet this has not prevented our audiences from extensively purchasing our literature and equipping us with the “sinews of war"—a gratifying and significant recognition of the fact that the fight is theirs. We have not enrolled many new comrades, bat we are effecting the mental revolution—it can be felt. Now is the seed time ; the harvest is not yet.

Tottenham Branch Report. (1909)

Party News from the February 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

In my last note I promised a future communication on the doings—if life lasted to it—of the Tottenham Labour League and Right to Work Committee. This must, however, be deferred yet again, as we understand that the affairs of the League, or some of its officials, are engaging the attention of the police. . My reference to the Anti-Socialist campaign has seemingly borne fruit, and the branch is now busy fixing up details for a debate with Mr. Farraday, representing the Anti-Socialist Union. Particulars will be advertised later and a good meeting is certain. This does not, however, exhaust the list of our local activities, for beyond running our regular open-air meetings, we watch the enemy, and on Friday, January 22nd, helped to expose a most unscrupulous attempt to exploit Socialist sentiment. The event was extensively advertised as a “Great Socialist Demonstration,” and was organised by The City of London, Finsbury, and North London Branches of the I.L.P., with Mr. Fred Jowett, M.P., Bradford, as the star turn. The “demonstration” was held in a local school-room. Mr. Harvey, president of the aforesaid Labour League, presided, accompanied on the platform by one or two I.L.Pers and local Liberals. The audience, which numbered about 200, included many members and sympathisers of the S.P.G.B., and had been drawn by the advertisements to hear what Mr. Jowett, M.P., had to say about Socialism. Realising this, and anticipating that the Socialism was to come from the audience and not from the platform, Mr. Harvey apologised in a confused, halting manner for the advertisements, admitting that “they would give cause of complaint to many;” but resuming his more usual blustering tone, he warned the meeting that there was only going to bp one chairman, and that was himself. This spread an air of mystery over the meeting, but this was quickly dispelled when Mr. Jowett arose and opened his address in these words: “I am not here to preach Socialism: I have come to preach democracy. My subject is: The Parliamentary Machine.” He then spoke for over an hour, and not a single word he uttered would have been objected to by any Liberal or Conservative M.P., although he made many erroneous statements. A few minutes were allowed for questions, during which it was easily seen that we had the sympathy of the meeting, but the chairman speedily closured questions, and adopting the policy Mr. Jowett had complained of as being adopted in the “House,” he put up a Mr. Montague to “talk out time.” This gentleman has the unfortunate faculty of driving an audience away, so he very quickly resumed his seat. The Chairman then began to grow angry, and as a vent to his wrath, indulged in a few tilts at us, which, if they did no other good, provided us with amusement which we greatly appreciated. Making a plea for “practical politics," he showed very clearly, even to those with the least discernment, that it was merely the “lust of office,” the desire to be numbered among King Capital’s administrators, that inspired the I.L.P. He then explained the presence of Liberals on the platform by the impudent assertion that a man could be a good Socialist and still call himself a Liberal, and, carrying his effrontery to the region of the ridiculous, he warned his hearers against men who, calling themselves Socialists, were simply Liberals in disguise. Thereupon there were loud and persistent cries from the assembly for Mr. Jowett to reply to the unhappy if wayward shaft, but that gentleman, who had already been complimented by a member of the audience for his “Liberal” speech, maintained a very discreet silence. The fiasco then “petered out,” the audience once again having had it brought home to them that Socialism was not to be learnt from the I.L.P., but only from the S.P.G.B.—which is as we have always said.
Alex Anderson

The Margin of Unemployment. (1909)

From the March 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

In reviewing W. H. Beveridge's book on "Unemployment: A Problem of Industry,” Mr. Chiozza Money makes the following statement :
  “Mr. Beveridge recognises that, as things are, every trade (save and except, and he does not appear to point this out, such organised trades as the Post Office, the tramway business of London, the London and North Western Railway system, or the Prussian State railways) is necessarily surrounded by a variable margin of partly unemployed and wholly unemployed labourers who are essential to the working of the competitive system.”
One cannot help feeling staggered at the statement that in such trades as the Post Office, and in the tramway business of Loudon there is no margin of partly unemployed and wholly unemployed. Has not one of the many grievances of tramway men been the question of those who are only able to get odd days, or even odd hours, work ? And with the reduction in the staffs of railway companies that has gone on lately, the idea of the permanency of railway employment has received such shocks that even an M.P. should have noticed it. Again, in the Post Office, the thousands who are taken on at stated seasons and then discharged make the fact of the existence of a reserve of labour in that industry so plain that only a man wilfully blind to the failure of State capitalism to alleviate unemployment could have the temerity to deny it.

Debate with the Anti-Socialist Union. (1909)

Party News from the April 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

On Friday evening, March 12th—after some three months negotiations—the debate between representatives of the Socialist Party and the Anti-Socialist Union of Great Britain, took place at Tottenham. Mr. W. B. Farraday, who was to have championed the Anti-Socialists, was unable to attend, and Mr. Urwin took bis place. Mr. Tomkins, of the “Tottenham Constitutional Union,” occupied the chair, and on the platform were several speakers of the Anti-Socialist Union. Though only some five days were really available for advertising the meeting an audience of well over 700 packed the Hall. The subject of debate being “Socialism v. Capitalism,” Comrade Anderson in opening defined those terms as denoting different phases in the historic and social development of Society, and said the purpose of the debate was to show which was now preferable. Then followed a well-reasoned, critical examination of modern conditions, clearly showing that capitalism had generated a “social problem” it could not solve; that, built, as it was, on the basis of the monopoly by one class of the means of life, the enslavement, poverty and degradation of the other was inevitable. Anticipating a request (which, however, did not come) for authorities as to the poverty and so on existing, the speaker gave several, quoting, to the amusement of the audience and the amazement of Mr. Urwin, Mr. Claude Lowther, President of the Anti-Socialist Union, who had said, after examining into modern conditions, that he ”found the workhouse the final goal of honest old age.” He showed how universal was the curse of capitalism ; that while fiscal and political forms differed and religious beliefs were many and varied, wherever, as under capitalism, the workers had to sell their labour-power, they were poor, and the masters—who robbed them—rich. Further, the anti-social form of society, reared upon the basis he had exposed, had brought us to the position of the “ house divided against itself,” where the class struggle raged and women were pitted against men in the labour-power market, and children against women. Thus was “family life” prostituted, the “home” broken up, and the nobility of “human nature” denied expression. Socialism, on the other hand, meant a social system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of life, by and in the interest of the whole community, wherein production would be for use instead of for profit, and, the essentials of life being assured to all, none could exploit his neighbour. Upon that basis alone could a society of free men and women exist, and a higher development, a fuller expression, a greater enjoyment of life be possible.

Mr. Urwin apologised for Mr. Farraday's absence, and said that, having had only one day’s notice of the meeting he had come somewhat unprepared. He then declined to answer a question Mr. Anderson had raised, declaring “ I am here to defend capitalism as it stands.” Yet he finished by saying "reform certainly is needed, but the way to effect it is not to pull the house down because a slate is off.” He asserted that as in early tribal times people lived on fish and in mud huts, under Socialism we would do the same, as we would only produce for use, and each would get only what the State considered necessary. In Germany the peasants had worked from early dawn ’til late at night for the bare necessaries of life, and that was Socialism (laughter). It was said that labour produced all wealth, but it was labour aided by ability and capital that produced wealth, and capitalists took great risks. The means of production were in the hands of a few, and Socialism proposed to get rid of them, but Mr. Anderson had not said how. Was it to be by confiscation, by issuing bonds and then repudiating them, or by compensation? Socialism according to Marx was a policy of negation, and strife against all authority, and Socialists were creating a false impression among the workers that they were being unfairly treated. To-day they were free, they got wages and could spend them any way they pleased— under Socialism they would have to take whatever the State decided was for them. Claiming that England had grown great under capitalism, he finished with the plea for reform mentioned above.

Comrade Anderson now had a fifteen minutes reply. He at once seized upon Mr. Urwin’s obvious contradiction involved in “defending capitalism as it stands” by appealing for its "reformation.” Regarding early times and mud huts, he remarked that then no favoured few lived in palaces, but that all had mud huts, and under Socialism all would enjoy the plenty or otherwise that would then exist. He had not taken upon himself to guarantee all that would obtain under Socialism, but affirmed that Socialism guaranteed joint ownership in, and control of, the means of life. It was true he had not said how it was to come about, but that was not the question in debate, still he assured his friend that Socialists did not believe in compensation so-called, nor need it be confiscation really, but the simple process of restitution— the people taking to themselves that which had been stolen from them. Dealing with wealth production, he again accused his opponent of misquoting, and repeated that labour-power— physical and mental—applied to the natural resources of society, produced all wealth, including the portion that afterwards became capital. The ability came from the workers— all the capitalists took they plundered from the toilers. That Socialism was a policy of negation he denied being a Marxian statement—it was an anti Socialist, an Anarchist one. With a reference to England’s greatness he took up the plea for reform, arguing that as the house was beyond repair, it stood condemned as unfit, and therefore must give way to a better.

Mr. Urwin, replying, wanted to know who condemned the house. The only Socialist Party of Great Britain did not number 10,000, and was it going to bring about this great change? There was no need for Socialism as matters were improving in all directions. Regarding unemployment, any man who had ability and was willing to work could get work, only many were too lazy and preferred to walk the streets carrying unemployed banners (Interruptions during which Mr. Urwin resumed his seat). Proceeding, however, he still maintained his assertion and argued that it would be a mistake to throw over the present system for one that meant a return to serfdom and communism. His quotation from Marx was from a German publication not yet translated. (Laughter.) Twenty minutes were now devoted to the speakers questioning each other, and here Mr. Urwin seemed absolutely lost. He definitely declined to answer two questions, and the others he had better have left unanswered, while Comrade Anderson's replies were so prompt and effective that they not only delighted the audience, but seemed to mystify bis opponent. That good work was done for Socialism may be gathered from the following words with which one of the leading North London weekly Conservative papers conluded its report:
“Mr. Anderson, representing the Socialists, laid his case before the audience in a most able manner, whilst Mr. Urwin did not seem at home with the subject. Possibly, Mr. Farraday, who was to have been the representative of the Anti-Socialist Union, would have presented the Union’s case better and to greater advantage, and it was distinctly unfortunate for the Union that that gentleman was unable to attend. Mr. Urwin was at one time compelled to sit down owing to persistent interruptions from a small section of the audience. At the same time he created the impression that if the Anti-Socialist Union are to do any real good in their crusade against Socialism stronger speakers and debaters will have to be sent to present the case against Socialism."
A hearty vote of thanks to the Chairman closed the meeting.
J. T. B.

Tottenham U.D.C. Election (1909)

Party News from the May 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

Tottenham Branch put forward three candidates in the U.D.C. election, and good propaganda work was done. The local capitalist Press assisted by pointing out that our men had no connection with other “Socialists," and leaflets were issued by the enemy stating that our nominees would represent, not the ratepayers, but the S.P.G.B. After doing all we could to prevent non-Socialists voting for us the result was:

HIGH CROSS WARD (Two Vacancies).
Fremain (Tory)                                               409
*Dobson (Labour and Progressive)                240
*Cottle    (Labour and Progressive)                220
Kent (S.P.G.B.)                                                  60
Stearn (S.P.G.B.)                                                54

ST. ANN'S WARD (One Vacancy).
* Taylor (Tory)                                                  472
Anderson (S.P.G.B.)                                          157

*Retiring Councillors

Party Pars. (1909)

Party News from the June 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

Strengthened and enthused by our recent successful Conference, the Party is more fit and ready than ever to carry on the work of Socialist propaganda, and with the advent of summer that work becomes more pleasant and more profitable.

*     *     *     *

The Lecture list is growing, the fighting line is being extended, and the enemy engaged wherever “Reaction” still can rally a single defender. In the matter of debates the Anti-Socialist Union is giving our Party special attention. Their representative, Mr. Hutson, being met at Battersea by our Comrade Allen, Mr. Turpin at Paddington by Comrade Watts, and Mr. Taylor at Islington by Comrade Anderson. In each case, of course, our speakers successfully disposed of their opponents, and good work was done in explaining the principles of the Socialist Party and in exposiug the weakness of the Anti-Socialist case.

*     *     *     *

At Tooting a debate had been arranged between Comrade Anderson and a Councillor Freeman, but owing to serious considerations of employment, Comrade Anderson was prevented from attending and Comrade H. Joy took his place. This was, perhaps, rather fortunate, as it enabled one of our younger speakers to prove his mettle. From our point of view the debate was a complete success, and more shall be heard of Joy.

*     *     *     *

In Finsbury Park an impromptu skirmish took place between our Comrade Fitzgerald and a Mr. Collins of the Anti-Socialist Union. The latter, of course, suffered severely but wants more, and he shall have it. Our Islington comrades are fixing up details for a debate. They are also arranging a meeting with the Rev. J. A. Waldron. At Battersea and at Romford delates are pending with representatives of Anarchist and pseudo-Socialist parties.

*     *     *     *

In the Provinces our Burnley comrades arc carrying the war into the enemy’s camp, Blackburn, Colne, and Darwen being visited and a large amount of literature disposed of.

*     *     *     *

A branch of the Party has been formed at Fast Ham, and one is being formed at Walthamstow. Readers and sympathisers please note.

My Friend Jones. (1909)

A Short Story from the July 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

Like the printer in Ibsen’s “Enemy of Society," I am a man of discreet moderation and of moderate discretion. I disclaim and abhor violence. I am one who is prepared to compromise with the enemy to obtain part of what I desire. When agitating for a specific loaf l am ready to accept either half the loaf or the promise of a quarter at some early future. Society is not composed of blacks and whites, or clear-cut classes of workers and shirkers, like my friend Jones imagines. I once thought that as he grew out of youth he would cast aside his perverse, impossible spirit. Society is an organism, a growth, a whole of which we humans are interdependent cells; and my politics and economics are not rigid, cut and dried doctrines, but flexible and fluid habits of mind. Let me give you a few examples of his ridiculous rigidity.

Our town boasts a successful debating society. Many of my Labour comrades entered this society with the avowed aim of cunningly permeating the debaters with a moderate, calm Socialism. Whatever the subject matter of the debate was we astutely endeavoured to show its relation to Socialism. Especially when the orthodox subject of State Socialism was dealt with by the enemy in the orthodox manner did we try our level best to show the society that the essayist was attacking a noxious and antiquated chimera. We were slowly compelling by superior logic, even our opponents to see that the old, rigid, unemotional, cataclysmic, class-struggle Socialism was un-English—Continental, in fact—and is now entirely discredited. I personally played a prominent part in showing how we attain Socialism step by step, now by the abolition of barmaids, now by Sunday closing of drinking dens, now by finite but ever increasing taxes on the value of land. The old view of the coming of Socialism, the expropriation of the expropriators, the stubborn opposition of the plutocracy, the determined democracy, the blood-red dawn of the Socialist Monday morning—all this I ruthlessly exposed by explaining how all successful modern exponents of Socialism believed in such a peaceful, pellucid transition to Socialism that no one would be able to say that here at a definite stage capitalism capitulated, and here the Socialist Commonwealth was born.

Then up rose my friend Jones and to the very evident glee of the enemy attacked my moderate, permeating Socialism after the manner of his kind, brazenly, vigourously, and with the self- confidence peculiar to him. He poked fun at my “organic social movements” and substituted his hair-raising class war; he declared that the fantastic analogies of all the “philosophers" from Spencer to Macdonald were no adequate equivalent for the clear-drawn illustrations of the Marxian class struggle. He had no faith in the crux of our creed, that the social instincts of the plutocracy will prove more powerful than their class interests. He attacked bluntly every institution of any note whether political, charitable, or charitable-theological, from the Fabian Society to the Emigration Army. The Liberal leaders who would meet us half way were humbugs, the Labour leaders had been humbugged. Palliatives postponed Socialism. Socialism spelt revolution, the deliberate, conscious overthrow of capitalism; the working class organised politically, with their representatives in Parliament, economically, in enlightened Socialist Trade Unions. In short, the work of months was undone. The society no longer accepts our assertion that revolutionary Socialism is cremated. We have, through the impulsive Jones, the onerous task of defending not simply a minimum wage, a minimum of education, a minimum of leisure and the conduct of the Labour Party, but even now Socialism itself. I am afraid that we shall be compelled to cancel Jones’ speaking engagements with our local Labour Representation Committee.

But the climax of my friend’s political career came when he was our candidate at a municipal election. His election address was unpractical and doctrinaire; it lacked constructional spirit; it was brusque in dealing with some of the chief planks on our programme, viz., that we should have better railway facilities in one of our wards, and that the recreation ground was in want of repairs. And when but three days from the poll he rashly alienated the Nonconformist and Salvation Army votes. “General” Booth had just previously passed through the town on a tour, and Jones took advantage of the occasion to make a badly timed attack on what he termed “Salvation Syrup.’’ But the Nonconformist incident was typical of the impossibilist spirit. My friend’s election committee had invited a very popular and influential dissenting minister to address a meeting for the people’s cause. At the great risk of offending his congregation the minister accepted. He was a new convert to Socialism. I just forget the particular organisation of which he was a member—a “League of Progressive Thought’’ or something of that kind. But certainly it was a Socialistic organisation. Jones.was glum and saturnine when informed about his new comrade, but nothing he said prepared us for his unwise and precipitate action at the meeting.

It was certainly a great meeting. The council school was full and cheers greeted the plucky young minister when he arose to give hie address—or sermon, as Jones said. I thought his speech splendid. He declared himself in favour of an eight hours day for railway workers, endowment of motherhood, and a Minister of Labour. He also spoke well in an appeal for the cultivation of the best sort of Socialism, the improvement of individual character, the care of the Soul: for was not the regeneration of the individual the aim alike of the Church and of Socialism ? He showed how Martin Luther and John Wesley each had dim but unmistakable premonitions of the Socialist idea; and with his fine tenor voice moved his audience to tears by an earnest condemnation of contemporary society as a mingling of blank and blatant Atheism and the most unrighteous materialism.

Then Jones spoke. He almost sneered at the minister's vivid denunciation of the slum. Flat and plain he said that had he been aware of the minister's ideas he would never have occupied a platform by his side, and that if the reverend gentleman wanted regeneration and abolition of blatant Atheism he would discover suitable allies amongst the Primitive Methodists.

The election was not won. Jones is not yet councillor or member of Parliament. His latest freak is to join a small and noisy gang of impossibilists. These men are such a body of troublesome revolutionaries, that the cultured and elegant editor of the Socialist Review tells us that they are driving our sensitive Labour leaders into the arms of the Liberal party. They heckle our lecturers, demand debating engagements, and frighten the life out of our young speakers. They forget that the English working man is not built after the fashion of bis French and German compeers: he is definitely conservative, with a defendable love for venerable traditions and ancient institutions. So we must humour him and organise a Labour party without a programme, for as our comrade Wardle, who is a member of Parliament — a body which is the Will of All, the general active Will of the nation — as our comrade has shown, a pregramme was the means of wrecking the historic Liberal party, and will be the destruction of the Labour Party if it is so forgetful of its constructive spirit as to adopt one.
John A. Dawson