Saturday, December 9, 2017

Trade Unions in the Post War Picture (1945)

From the April 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the early stages of the present conflict, the leaders of the British Trade Union movement temporarily relinquished, at the request of the Government, many rights and privileges which had been won by struggles both on the political and industrial field during a period of sixty years.

It is very doubtful, if, with the information now available, the leaders consulted the rank and file of their members before agreeing to relinquish these rights and privileges, and appears to be a case of the dispensation of largesse without consultation. In addition to the rights and privileges forfeited—which the ruling class and the leadership of the Trade Union members “assure” the working class will be restored immediately the present conflict is brought to a successful conclusion—many additional embargoes and restrictions have been placed on the Trade Union movement by numerous legislative acts. These too have been, almost without exception, accepted on behalf of the membership by the leaders—again without consultation—and the assurance that all restrictive legislation will be withdrawn at the cessation of hostilities given by the capitalist class through its political mouthpiece, the National government.

Whilst the position has perhaps been accepted in a laissez faire manner by most trade unionists who have at best a very limited knowledge of capitalist society and its mechanics a minority of class conscious trade unionists are extremely sceptical concerning any assurance given by the capitalist class through its political machine. A sound knowledge of the industrial and political history of capitalism—in this or any other country—fully justifies this sceptimism. In spite of the fact that the old adage "History repeats itself" is generally considered to be moth eaten and obsolete, it remains nevertheless true.

It appears conclusive that the restoration of rights and privileges and the removal of restrictive legislation, either wholly or partially, will only be accomplished-by an intensive struggle on the industrial field. Whilst a struggle of this nature may be necessary, and even if the working class are able to secure the restoration of industrial rights and the withdrawal of repressive legislation—and the writer is by no means sure that will be accomplished either wholly or in part—the class position of trade unionists as members of the propertyless class will remain generally unaffected. Whilst the working class operate the machinery of production and do in fact produce wealth in superabundance, they do not own the machinery of wealth production. The ownership is vested in the hands of a small minority who play no part, or at best a very insignificant part in wealth production. All that is possessed by the working class as a whole is its labour power. In return for producing wealth, it receives a small proportion back in the form of wages, in order that it might purchase the common means of life. The working class is obliged to sell its labour power in an open market, a market wherein the possessing class follow the inexorable maxim of buying labour power as cheaply us possible. During periods of so-called booms or prosperity within capitalist society, when there is what is termed a shortage of labour power, the working class or at least sections of it may be able to secure a higher return for labour power. Daring periods of so-called depression, when unemployment looms large on the industrial horizon, the working class as a who!e is forced to sell its labour power at a much lower figure. "When ten men compete for one job, wages will of necessity fall " said Marx.

Trade Unionists will sooner or later realize that capitalism—i.e., the private ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution—is the cause of their poverty and its attendant evils, and that any and all reforms within capitalist society will do nothing more than to bring about some slight amelioration of the poverty problem. Trade Unionists will ultimately accept the Socialist case of the S.P.G.B., that the only solution is the ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by the working class, to be administered in the interests of the community as a whole. With this understanding clearly established in the mind of the working class, we shall be standing on the threshold of a new and happier era in human history.
Lewis Lee

May-Day — The Workers Must Choose (1945)

From the May 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

After nearly six years of war, both the capitalists and the workers may check their balance sheet. It is a fearful reckoning, A large part of Europe, including Britain, is a mass of ruins and the fighting there is not yet done. The casualties for all the countries together already exceed in number those of the last World War; Russia alone is said to count fifteen million victims. And in the Far East the war area has yet to resound to the fury of further major battles.

In towns comfortably distanced from the battlefields, the leaders of the Not-So-United Nations, feeling victory close at hand, meet again and again to continue their haggling over world-dominion. Europe, and perhaps the whole world is to be carved up like a chicken to satisfy the appetites of the Big Three. This is called: “Zoning the World into Spheres of Influence and is claimed to be a step towards everlasting peace. The War, which like its predecessor of 1914-1918, began as a “holy crusade” for the independence of small nations, will end by swallowing many of them.

The military conflicts which have periodically decimated capitalist society are bloody replicas of the struggle continuously being waged in the world of “business.” “The bigger capitalist lays his smaller fellow low and he, in turn, is swallowed by a yet more powerful rival.” But combines and cartels do not end commercial rivalry—they intensify the struggle. Nor will the emergence of the three victorious world-empires solve the problem of war. The differences between the U.S.A., Britain and Russia, already evident whilst still  "comrades in arms" are guarantee of that.

The policy of the U.S.S.R. in relation to its smaller neighbouring countries has given the Soviet’s “left-wing” admirers many a sleepless night. After preaching for years about “the one and only Socialist country in the world,” these worthies find it difficult to explain why their idol is behaving in the very mundane, i.e., capitalist fashion of victorious ruling classes, by seizing large tracks of alien lands on the old capitalist plea, of course, of national security.”

During the last war the slogan of the Bolsheviks was: "No Annexations, No Reparations”! The contrast with the war aims of Russia to-day helps to show how remote the rulers at the Kremlin are from working class aspirations.

Only those utterly unsophisticated about world-affairs can still cherish the old illusions born out of the Russian Revolution. The official alliance with a growing religious hierarchy tells its own story. Even more obvious is the careful fostering of a fanatical nationalism.

The ruling class of Britain cannot view the trend and outcome of the European war with satisfaction. Forced to deal with German domination over Europe a second time within a generation, they have eliminated this rival only to watch the rise of a more formidable one. in this way does capitalism pile up one problem on another until the weight of them will crush the morale out of rulers everywhere. Their impotence to put the world aright will be plain to all and the myth of their greatness vanish.

However, in their present state of mind, the workers are at the beck of ruling class needs and propaganda. Nationalism in one country begets its echo in others. When the debacle of Social Democracy and of the Communists in Germany first opened the door to Hitler, many hoped this would be the prelude to a working-class renaissance the world over. This was mistaken. The mass organisations on which the workers pinned their hopes have either collapsed or else, as in France, Britain and the U.S.A., become adjuncts of the capitalist state used to keep the workers in order. The end of the last war found the workers in a mood of rebellion. The defeat of the Russian armies opened the road to power for the Bolsheviks and their success quickly infected the war-weary soldiers and workers of other countries. The present conflict, which began with the high hopes of some who saw in this “war against Fascism” unequalled opportunities for the workers to take control, is ending with the workers less assertive as an organised force than before. Mr. Churchill feels able to congratulate himself and his ruling class cronies that the war has become “less ideological in character.”

But the ruling class cocks may be crowing too soon. The worker’s revulsion against the last war was directly attributable to the physical suffering of four years fighting in the trenches. As the memories of this inhuman travail faded so did the newly born militancy. The Labour and Communist parties, the main beneficiaries of this upsurge, sapped the workers of their revolutionary energies and enthusiasm and finally the sorry residue was unable to withstand the shocks of the world crisis. Since then, a new generation has been growing up, working class men and women who have had no hand in building up the old Labour parties and who have never been the slaves of the Moscow tradition. Their political allegiance is unknown. The politicians in this country busily preparing for an election which, for the major parties, can be nothing more than a sham fight except for the privileges and cash rewards of office, are frankly uneasy.

It is generally admitted that the new generation is far less susceptible to promises than their fathers were. They are said to be cynical about all the established political parties and the experienced political soothsayers cut no ice with them. So far, so good.

But cynicism is negative. It would be too much to expect the fruits of this scepticism to ripen immediately, for Socialist propaganda has during the War been severely restricted and opportunity for reflection rare. But during the coming years, the workers young and old, will sort out their ideas gathered during the fighting and the bombing; they will have time, possibly in the dole-queues, to recollect their experience of sweating in the factories. There can be no illusions for them about their future under capitalism. The slumps will come as regularly as they have done hitherto until the next war sends the capitalists hurrying to their coffers again to pay out wages for guns and bombs. The development of long range automatic weapons during this War is a foretaste of what will happen during the next.

The fundamental driving forces behind the movement for Socialism are the rigours, the hardships of a working-class existence under a social system that turns out wealth unlimited and permits only a minority to enjoy it. This contradiction makes fools or knaves out of all supporters of capitalism who pose as champions of working class desires. Only Socialism can explain the riddle. Very soon the economic problems of a capitalist world at “peace" will make their reappearance. They will affect the workers of all lands, “victorious" and “defeated" alike. Instead of fighting each other, the working class will be forced to fight their own employers for their daily bread. This time there can be no excuse for apathy or ignorance. The bereaved and the suffering will add their cries to the voice of Socialism and it will be heard, and understood, all over the world.
Sid Rubin

So You Want To Be A Capitalist? (1945)

From the June 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Let us warn you against ambition. It is an illusion, a tantalising will-o'-the-wisp, causing untold frustration and disillusionment. Many workers fall under its attractive spell only to discover eventually the futility of ever hoping to achieve their desires.

Please do not misunderstand us. We are referring to ambition in a limited sense—the ambition of the average worker “to get on." The callow youth who is prepared to work hard and conscientiously in an attempt to rise above it all, and obtain a life of luxury and ease. Have you fallen prey to the foul, insincere propaganda of our masters when they endeavour through various channels to instil these naive notions into the minds of the, as yet, gullible masses? The object of their tactics is transparently clear. If the worker accepts the proposition that the capitalist is where he is as the result of hard work, etc,, the worker at once, by implication, condones the existence of the system that exploits and impoverishes him. Added to this he is deluded into believing that he too will, one day join that select parasitic group—the so-called “captains of industry."

Let us indulge in some very straight talking directed to the capitalist class. As far as we of the Socialist Party are concerned we would ask you to quit trying to fool us at any rate. One of your spokesmen. The Marquis of Londonderry, in an article entitled “Why Work?" writes as follows:—
   “We cannot live without work, and as it is the laudable desire of most people to attain a far higher standard of living, it can come only through harder and more intelligent work by all classes.” and, yet again, “Success is the result of hard work, and those who have succeeded must have thought it anything but an affliction-—or they, would have failed." —(“Sunday Express," August 6th, 1944). (Our italics).
Yes, it is true that you are in your economic position as the result of hard work—the hard work performed by us, the working class. Yes, you are there as the result of applied brains and intelligence—our brains and our intelligence. To use an Americanism we are wise to you. The way you permeate even the minds of school-children with your romantic versions of success and ambition. It is a very efficient means of obtaining a high degree of toil out of our carcasses—you dangle a red herring which forever eludes our grasp. Under capitalism the broad mass of the population will unceasingly experience poverty-stricken conditions, notwithstanding the quantity and quality of the energies that the workers may put forward. If hard work is the road to financial success then we all deserve to be millionaires, and if idleness and indolence are the causes of failure then may we respectfully ask how is it, then that you are all so damnably successful?

But now let us address our remarks specifically to our fellow workers. We assure you that ambition and hard work will prove very poor aids. If you find yourself a member of the working class you can be absolutely positive that, short of an Irish Sweep Stake win (and anyway even these have now been discontinued), you are doomed, under capitalism, to remain in perpetual poverty. Try as you will, strain as you may, the barriers dividing the two classes are well-nigh insurmountable, and should you be so foolhardy as to pit your puny efforts against them in an endeavour to climb up, then you will eventually find yourself lying breathless and shaken on the ground, and the effort may have sapped your health and strength.

The socialist realises that the future of the workers lies in the complete elimination of capitalism. We too have an ambition but it is harnessed to the world of scientific reality. The desire to help in the conversion of the minds of our fellow workers to the socialist case so that a politically conscious revolutionary majority can establish a sane order of society—socialism. And then, for the first time in history, all men and women will be completely free to exercise their personality and attain within their life-span a fulfilment of ambition—an ambition which automatically will coincide and harmonise with the interests of the whole of society.
Samuel Leight

This Phoney Election (1945)

Editorial from the July 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Voters who try to interpret the issues in the election by studying the more flamboyant utterances of the Party leaders may well wonder what it is all about. For five years the Labour leaders, endorsed by the overwhelming vote of their Party Conference, at the outset, have worked in the Government with the Tories in furtherance, as they claim, of the war for democracy. Then suddenly they part company and instantly Mr. Attlee finds that Churchill's proposed referendum on the continuance of the National Government is “alien to all our traditions," though it comes from the man who was claimed by the Labour Party to be the embodiment of the British tradition, and that it is a device “which has only too often been the instrument of Nazism and Fascism."

Then in his first election broadcast Mr. Churchill retorts that “ Socialism)” by which he means the (State Capitalism of the. Labour Party, threatens us with a “Gestapo in Britain." “Socialist policy" declared Mr. Churchill, “is abhorrent to the British ideas of freedom. It is inseparably interwoven with totalitarianism and the abject worship of the State."—( Daily Express, June 5, 1945).

From which the innocent looker on may deduce that the “war against totalitarianism" has been conducted by Tories who are in favour of it and by Labourites who are in favour of it, and that whichever wins the election totalitarianism—ended in Germany—will be firmly established here.

Another equally phoney issue of the election is the alleged gulf of principle between the Labour Party, which seeks some form of State Capitalist ownership or control of certain industries, and the Conservatives and Liberals who are supposed to be opposed to it. Yet the nationalisation of the postal, telegraph and telephone services and the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board . . .  and similar monopolies by Act of Parliament were the work of Liberal and Tory Governments; and it was Mr. Churchill who in 1918 declared in a speech at Dundee that the policy of the Government of which he was a member was the nationalisation of railways.—(Times, December 5, 1918.)

Mr. Churchill declares that the election is a fight between individualism and Socialism and between his own Party and the “Socialist Party." By individualism he means capitalism, which has, however, long since got past the stage of a competitive struggle between independent small capitalists and gone over increasingly to giant monopolies.

The Labour Party, equally anxious to misrepresent the situation, accepts Mr. Churchill’s "terminological inexactitude" that they are a socialist party and declares in its Election Declaration (“Let us Face the Future"), “The Labour Party is a Socialist Party and proud of it"—and then proceeds to give us a blue-print of the State Capitalism that they propose to retain and develop.

Lord Croft, Parliamentary Under Secretary for War, even more wildly inaccurate thau his leader, Mr. Churchill, discovered that the in fact always anti-Marxist Labour Party, “wish to impose upon the British people the crude ideas of the German Marx."—(Evening Standard, 24th May, 1945) and reached a peak of falsification in the further remark that Marxism is “not so very different" from Nazism. He quoted a declaration by a prominent Hitlerite that Nazism was “Socialism" but forgot to add Hitler’s own repeated claim that it was based on the total rejection of Marxism. Lord Croft might more accurately have said that in respect of rigid controls Nazism has not been far different from the controls imposed in this country during the war by the Tories, Liberals and Labourites in the National Government.

The Liberal Manchester Guardian accurately appraises the smallness of the differences between the three largest parties. Criticising Mr. Churchill, the Guardian says:— 
   “Because it (the Labour Party) proposes a relatively modest programme of public ownership he leaps to extravagance about totalitarianism and the Gestapo. He would be more convincing if he got to grips with things: if, for instance, he showed why Major Lloyd George's 'Central authority' for coal is likely to secure greater efficiency than Labour’s ‘National authority,' why Mr. Hudson’s plans for regulated food imports are better than Mr. Bevin's, why the Government's national insurance scheme is better than the Beveridge plan, why Mr. Lyttleton’s ideas on the curbing of monopoly are sounder than Mr. Dalton's. But that, as Mr. Churchill knows, would give the game away. Good rotund eloquence meaning nothing in particular is far safer.”—Manchester Guardian," June 5th, 1945.)
The I.L.P. which in recent years has boasted that it had for ever shed its old illusion, was back again where it started, pleading to be allowed into the Labour Party—a plea that was rejected.

The Communists, having temporarily pigeonholed their year-long claim that the Labour Party is “the third capitalist party" is backing that Party in most constituencies though at Rhondda East, Pollitt, the Communist candidate, is running against a Labour Party nominee who is backed by the S. Wales Miners Federation the President of which, Arthur Horner, is himself a leading Communist.

No doubt the real reason for the election is simply that since an election had to come sometime the Conservative Party wanted to get in quickly before the workers had had time to taste the bitter fruits of victorious peace. As caretakers of capitalism they need re-election to handle the difficult capitalist problems during the adjustment from military war to trade war and they count on gaining a majority.

Reading between the lines it seems likely that a Conservative victory will be received with relief at Labour Party headquarters since if the Labour Party happened to win no one would be more embarrassed than themselves.

We confidently make one electoral prophecy. Whatever the result capitalism will be safe because the majority of the working class are not yet Socialists. Whether capitalism has a little less state control with the Tories or a little more with the Labour Party is not an issue that ought to concern the working class. When they know their own class interests they will make the issue Socialism versus Capitalism as the Socialist Party is doing in North Paddington. Our campaign in North Paddington is the beginning of the real electoral fight for the emancipation of tho working class.

A World That Changes But Remains The Same (1945)

Editorial from the August 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since the war cloud has lifted from Europe another cloud has descended which is slowly smothering the bright promises with which the fighters' and the sufferers were fed. The golden and futile promises of war time are giving place to the ugly realities of capitalist peace.

How often was it declaimed on platform and in print that Germany as a nation must be utterly shattered so that wars would come no more. The figment that wars were the product of people with a foul and brutal urge to dominate was spread and fostered to conceal the fact that wars are a product of economic conditions, and in the modern world, the product solely of capitalist conditions. How often was it urged that the United Nations, with high and unblemished ideals, were solidly united on basic principles that would exclude future wars and would bless their peoples with peace, comfort and security!

How soon the lie has been given to this hypocritical moonshine. French interests in the Levant struggling to keep their hands on oil; Russia pursuing its imperialist policy in Manchuria, the Dardanelles, Tangier; America striving for control of air lines; Britain, the older bandits, conniving for its share in the swag wrung from the surplus labour of the workers. Here is an example of the spirit that animates the class that rules us!
   “The Canadian Pacific Railway Company have made a flying start in the post-war shipping race, aimed at giving Britain the lead, by ordering four crack 10,000 ton ships from a Glasgow yard.”—(Evening News, July 7th, 1945).
This is just one sprint in the race that leads to more wars. Another was the report of an interview with Lord Nuffield in the Daily Express (May 25ih, 1945). The report is headed “Nuffield is out to beat foreigners” and it referred to the £ 1,000,000 car company he is starting in Australia.
     “I have started the Australian company because I know that if we do not go in there in a big way others— and I mean foreign competitors—will get in first.”
    “By the time the Empire countries are ready to make cars entirely on their own it may well be that air transport will have developed to such an extent that we shall no longer talk of exporting goods from Britain to Australia.”
   “If people want cars at anything like the 1939 price, will they make the Government cancel the purchase tax? Will they give us cheaper steel? (That means more and cheaper coal). And will they he content with wage rates below an inflationary level.”
The sting is in the last line. The attack on wages is beginning and the workers are about to reap the harvest of the better world for which they fought—hard work and lower wages.

The Daily Express, June 2nd, 1945, reports discussions between Russia and Turkey which should give those who put faith in the protestations of peace and justice something to ponder over. After pointing out that Salim Sarpor, Turkey’s Ambassador, is on his way to Moscow with Turkey’s answer to the proposals Russia made that Turkey give up control of the Dardanelles, revise Turkey’s North East Frontier Provinces, and democratise the Turkish constitution, the Daily Express reporter goes on;
   “Turkey says ‘Yes’ in principle to all three. But she wants them postponed, not through insincerity, but to give an air of negotiation to concessions she knows she must make (italics ours).
That last bit is a specimen of what “small nations,” whose rights have been held up as a corner stone of the future, may expect from their poweiful competitors.

One of the idolised leaders of the Allies, General Smuts, on leaving the San Francisco Conference issued this warning:
   “We buried our arms last time. One of the most potent causes of World War No. 2, was this illusion that there would be no more war. . . . Europe, a fragmented and broken-up continent filled with people glaring at each other with hate, is the greatest problem now facing mankind.
    “The most awful calamity in history has overtaken Europe. Don't ask me who is the enemy I don't know. It may be ourselves.
    “We do not know what is going to breed out of this war. Forces that have been kept under by civilization are now unchained.”—(Daily Mail, June 30th, 1945).
Such is the bright prospect before us!

Finally secret diplomacy, which is the very essence of this exploiting system under which we live, extends to the Berlin Conference of the “Big Three” which is to decide the future of Germany—and other very important carve-ups.
   “It was officially, confirmed to London last night that reporters will not be admitted to the Big Three meeting at Potsdam. Communiques will be issued.”— (Daily Express, July 7th, 1945).
What a joke on all the perishing freedoms we redd about in the Atlantic Charter and elsewhere!

It is still the old world in which the capitalist lives like a leech upon our industry and our only hope of a future free from poverty, insecurity and war is the determination of the workers to abolish the conditions that produce this state of affairs—the private ownership of the means of living. It is not the leeches we object to but the way they have of getting their living.