Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Party Paragraphs (1914)

Party News from the November 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Branch of the Party has now been formed in Birmingham. For particulars readers in the district are referred to the Branch Directory on the back page.

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Party Members and sympathisers are reminded of their duty to assist us in our propaganda work by every means in their power. This duty is more urgent now than ever. The Englishman's proverbial “love of fair play,” and his devotion to the “rights of minorities, have already been manifested at several of our meeting places. Two of our comrades have been arrested and victimised, and a few meetings have had to he cancelled.

Nevertheless, our work is telling, and as the vast majority of our hearers welcome our message, they should firmly make up their minds not to allow a few mistaken individuals to spoil the good work. We are strong enough to hold our own if those who are with us will translate their good will and convictions into active support. Not only in France and Belgium is there fighting to be done, positions to be held, manhood to he proved, and victory to be finally achieved.

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Our literature on the War is in great demand and every effort should be made to place it in the hands of the workers It will act as an antidote to the “poison of the Press" served up by the master class in their lust for blood.

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From the Socialist Party of Canada, the Socialist Party of North America, and the Socialist Party of Italy come manifestoes opposing this capitalist war.

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Economic classes have been opened at Tooting and Battersea, and a public discussion is held every Friday at 8 30 p m. at the Socialist Hall. 41, Albert Road. Peckham.. S. E.

Lyddite For The Fray (1914)

From the December 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

How the Masters Lovingly Treat the Police in Times of Strike.

"One of the elective auditors of the City of Leeds, who has been dealing with the expenditure of £30,000 on police and volunteer workers during the great municipal strike of last winter, has made public some details of the accounts. The maintenance of some 600 special police alone cost £22,000 including payments of £10,000 to various watch committees. Forty casks of beer, each containing 36 gallons, went into the New Wortley Gas Works alone and other orders given by the Gas Department were for 25,700 bottles of mineral waters. The total number of pints of beer ordered for the police was 4,954. A vast quantity of tobacco was consumed, the orders being for 141 lbs of tobacco, 134½lbs of twist and Rotunda mixture; 151 lbs twist, Union Jack and Redbreast, 166 lbs of tobacco, 190 lbs Bond of Union. The cigarettes consumed ran into hundreds of thousands and over 1,100 cigars were supplied. A large number of luncheons were charged at 2s. each, and all sandwiches were paid for at 4d. each. Among the food orders are 13,475 lbs of roast beef at 1s. per lb. The games and recreations provided for the men behind barricades and police guards included footballs, darts, draughts and draught boards,, cards, dominoes, and a gramophone. One account for towels, blankets, mattresses and other items is £444 14s. 6d., while 493 overalls and bed jackets cost £130. New suits of clothes were claimed by 141 men at a cost of £200.”

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Voluntary (!) Enlistment.

“It would be an admirable thing if all unmarried men between 18 and 30 without the manhood to offer themselves, were forcibly pressed into the Army and put into battalions where the kicks should be far more than the ha’pence." - “Daily Express,” Aug. 20th, 1914.

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The Men are Called to Fight for their Country.

“How precarious is the life of the London docker may be illustrated by the figures of the weekly earnings of a casual docker, which I take from that invaluable study, ‘West Ham,’ by E. Howarth and Mona Wilson. 9s. 11d , 18s. 8d., 5s. 10d, 33s. 9d., 30s 4d., nil, nil, nil, 5s. 9d., 28s., nil (the net weekly average being 12s. 0¼ d ) On an average day at the London docks, you will find a SURPLUS of at least 10,000 labourers. The scenes which are taking place every day of the week are only the symbol of the miseries that afflict these wretched victims of the industrial machine, of the degradation of character and of the waste of human life.”— “Daily News,” May 23rd, 1914

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The Three Different Faces of Ben Tillet. Labour “Leader” and Friend of the Poor.

1st Face.—Writing in “Justice,” June 15th, 1912, while the Transport Workers were on strike:
    “The governing classes . . . have the habit of thinking of the worker as a slave and are prepared to kill him with bludgeon and soldiery if he dares to struggle with his chains . . . 300,000 children are wanting food and protection; 100,000 women are wanting support; 100,000 men are fighting for dear life and principle. Our fight is against the capitalists, who not only want to destroy our liberties, making slaves of us, but they would destroy our home and home life as they have done and are doing to the vicious beat of their malignant hate.”

2nd Face — Writing in “Daily Herald,” Sept. 5th, 1914:
  “Every able-bodied man must either fight or be ready to defend his country . . . The objection taken by very many intelligent workers is that . . . there are at least 5 to 10 millions of working-class folk in slum and starvation who could not be worse off by a German invasion or the Government of the most brutal savages  . . . These contentions are true, but nevertheless there is need now to protect the United Kingdom against invasion."

3rd Face — Writing in "John Bull," October 10th, 1914:
   “We must fight because the British worker has more of constitutional and democratic freedom together with social opportunity to guard than the enemies enjoy.”

Comment would spoil the beauty of these three extracts.

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The Cause of the Workers' Diseases.

“Professor Metchnikoff, the prophet of the microbe or germ theory on whom the mantle of Pasteur has fallen, recently lectured at the Royal Society of Medicine on ’Warfare on Tubercle,’ in which he said that no remedy for tubercle had been discovered. Doctors know however, that the TRUE cause of tubercle is living in slums, unhygienic surroundings, sweated wages and the accompanying starvation.”—Dr. Boyd Known, M.R.C.S., LR.C.F., in “Daily Herald,” January 28th, 1913.

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The Cowardly Rich.
 “Paris is bearing up. Most of the shops and very many of the houses are closed and shattered. The rich man has packed up his traps and with his menservants and maidservants, his oxen and his asses, the wife of his bosom and the children that are his, has slipped away, either southward, whither the Government has sped, or to the more peaceful watering places in the South Coast of England.”—“Daily News,” Sept. 9th, 1914.

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Breaking of Treaties.
“Russia has broken treaties in the past, so has England . . . There is not an important treaty of modem Europe but has been partially denounced, revoked or altered in times of peace. The treaty of Utrecht 1713, of Vienna 1814, of Paris 1850, of Prague 1866, of Berlin 1878, have in part or in whole been denounced. The Black Sea clause of the Treaty of Paris and the Batoum clause of the Treaty of Berlin were openly and frankly denounced and repudiated by Russia in her own sole interest. Let us all admit that Europe accepted the Russian denunciation.”—Arnold White in the “Sunday Chronicle,” Oct. 14th, 1914.

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“In the course of his letter of resignation, General Beyers made a bitter attack upon the British Government. It is said, he wrote, that war is being waged against the barbarity of the German. I have forgiven but not forgotten all the barbarities in this our own country during the South African war. With very few exceptions, all farms, not to mention many towns, were so many Louvains of which we now hear so much.—“Daily News,” Sept. 22nd, 1914.

  “Here is an idea for Lord Kitchener. Why not arrange to have all German prisoners whom we capture during the war sent over to England via the North Sea, in barges propelled from behind by tugs over the mine strewn area.”— “John Bull,” Sept. 5th, 1914.

  “The British left wing have again covered themselves with glory . . . The forests of Chantilly should rank with the plains of Waterloo. The sterling work done in the shadow of these ancient trees will go down to history. Despite sentimental French advices they FIRED a part of the wood and slew the Germans concealed therein like rats as they scuttled forth.”— “Pall Mall Gazette,” Sept. 10th, 1914.

   “The Zouaves and Chasseurs d’Afrique arrived in hundreds of taxi-cabs . . . You will hear with less revolt of the horror I passed earlier in the day, some 240 Prussians dead in one farm together, black and unburied. They were killed by shell fumes possibly, but had been bayoneted for double security.” “Weekly Despatch,” Sept. 20th, 1914.

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Liberality of the Liberals.
“Let us bear in mind what this war will do for tens of thousands of young women is to rob them of their husbands, to create a loss which in many cases can never be filled, to alter utterly the meaning and the value of life for many of the bereaved. This is something we cannot pay for and no possible pension that we can devise can touch this main point. . . . Is 7s. 6d. what a great and rich nation should offer to . . . its women who will bear the real burden of the war? It seems to me that to ask this question is to answer it. I have not yet found a single person who attempts to justify the 7s. 6d.”— “Daily News,” Nov. 11th, 1914. (Article by C. Money.)

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The Alliance of Labour and Liberalism.
 “On what outstanding feature of domestic policy during that time (i.e., the last 8 years) has the feeling of the Labour Party been with the Opposition and against the Government? Was it so in the Trades Disputes Bill, Old Age Pensions, the Coal Strike, the Insurance Act, the Labour Exchanges, the Budget of 1909 or the Parliament Act? Is it so in the case of the Home Rule Bill, Plural Voting or Welsh Disestablishment? The fact of course is, that on every fundamental question of home politics, the Government has had no more constant supporters than the Labour Party.—“Daily News,” Jan 28th, 1914.

   “They must recognise that the Labour Party was not a Socialist party. Many of its members had been driven into its ranks and still continued to maintain the closest possible connection with the Liberal organisations in their constituencies . . . The policy of the Labour Party has been deliberately to keep the Liberal Party in office.”—“Labour Leader,” April 16th, 1914 (reporting speech of Philip Snowden).

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THE Casualties of Peace and the Casualties of War. 
"Peace hath her casualties no lees saddening than war. There were for example, no fewer than 476,920 cases of disablement, and 3,748 men killed in seven of the principal industries of Great Britain during the year 1913.

  “These figures are contained in the official statistics issued on Saturday of the working of the Workmen’s Compensation and Employers' Liability Acts for last year. They may be compared with the British casualties during three months of the present war of approximately 60,000.

   “The industries to which these figures apply were those connected with mines, quarries, railways, factories, harbours, docks, constructional works and shipping, and the army of workers in them number 7,509,353.”—“Daily Citizen,” Nov. 16th, 1914.

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The War and the Financiers. 
 “This morning the public has before it the biggest and best loan ever offered for subscription. The British people are invited to find the money to the amount of £350,000,000. The finding of the money requires no sacrifice whatever . . . The return offered to the subscriber is exceedingly handsome . . . the yield being as high as 4 per cent. . . . offered on the best security in the world. . . . The war has brought the investor good. . . . From both the patriotic and the financial point of view it is a magnificent in vestment. — “ Daily Mail," Nov. 18th, 1914.
Frank Vickers

The Nature of the Crisis (1976)

From the November 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

Can working people understand Socialist economics? A well-known contention against the case for Socialism is that learning about surplus-value is too tough for majority understanding to happen. Compared with the capitalist economics presented to the working class, it is child’s play. Newspapers and television today belabour the public with the balance of trade, the money supply, the minimum lending rate, gold reserves, the state of the pound, and the Financial Times Index.

The working class get the drift, which is that their ordinary- going-without is being intensified on account of capitalism having troubles. It is unlikely that many understand the economic mysteries beyond that point, not because of incapacity but because the economists and politicians who intone these phrases don’t themselves understand them. Most incomprehensible of all is the crisis itself. If “the country’’ is on the floor, unemployment high and bankruptcies increasing, why are many businesses doing fine? On 27th August the managing director of an engineering company wrote to The Times: “I find it difficult to comprehend the latest unemployment figures . . . my company finds it difficult to recruit personnel with skills varying widely from draughtsmen, typists, welders and salesmen."

In the same week the Conservative mp Sir Geoffrey Rippon, in a speech to business men at Liverpool, complained that they were not grumbling about the economic situation:
Time was when the chairmen of banks and financial institutions and great companies spoke up in their annual reports about the state of the economy. Now they are mute. Is it out of fear or greed?
(Times, 1st September)
A look at the financial pages shows that very many enterprises are thriving, regardless of the Share Index. “Another company whose attractions belie its share price is Martin-Black, the wire rope specialists whose profits raced ahead from less than £400,000 in 1971 to £2.4 million last year”. (Observer City Notes, 29th August.) In the first week of October, when Edward Heath made flesh creep with his pronouncement “Britain has come to the end of the present road”, several companies announced high profits. Morgan Crucible’s pre-tax profits were 50 per cent, up at £3.8m. in the first six months of this year. Jefferson Smurfit Group’s profits rose 140 per cent, to £4.3m. Cray Electronics and Strong & Fisher (Holdings) had record profits for the year. The John Mowlem construction group doubled its profits, and Mowlem’s chairman said: "in spite of the serious economic outlook facing the country, the United Kingdom order book is in a satisfactory position”. (Times, 8th October.)

Disproportion of Production
Yet without doubt there is a serious depression. Its causes are rooted in the social system under which we live. The capitalist ownership of the means of living means that all production takes place for sale and profit, and from this basic fact arise the staggering problems of the world. To feed the hungry may sound logical, but it is not the logic of commodity production. Instead, we have a chaos in which manufacturers and distributors must estimate their markets and hope that demand will not just continue steadily but expand. When it expands generally there is a boom, and every manufacturer naturally pushes on to the utmost. Ultimately the boom ends, because demand falls off or alters. This breaking-point is the crisis.

Whether a depression follows will depend on the number of industries affected. A slump in one industry affects others, of course; but at times it is possible for profitable companies to “carry” others. However, the entire process is an anarchic one, and a crisis is anything but the universal fall-down commonly depicted. To some extent the phrase “the market” is misleading. There is not one market for all commodities, but many different ones, even within the same industry. “The car market” comprises markets for cheap and expensive cars, small and large ones; rather than all companies competing in the same market, one market may prosper when the demand in others diminishes. These vagaries of production and markets are not consequences of a crisis, but part of the cause of it. Earlier this year a Labour Minister said the British car industry had been producing an unnecessary variety of models. This can be re-stated as that during the boom period the industry had flooded markets which were now refusing to absorb it all — but, as the Labour government is well aware, no political suggestion will alter the economics of the situation.

A crisis is “serious” when a large enough section of industry is affected to produce stagnation and heavy unemployment. There are always other sections which are relatively unaffected or even benefit by it (in the nineteen-thirties’ depression chain stores such as Woolworth’s and Marks and Spencer, selling very cheap goods, were highly profitable for obvious reasons). The record unemployed figure of nearly 3 millions at the beginning of 1933 represented 23 per cent. of all insured workers. Turned round, this means that three-quarters were still in work. However, the existence of an industrial reserve army of that size provided a powerful whip over the employed and a means of enforcing low wages.

No Remedy — Except One
A similar comparison can be made today showing the naiveté of Rippon’s suggestion that capitalists should complain about the state of things. Why should they? Many of them have full order-books and rosy balance sheets, and at the same time are handsomely obliged by the Government’s having secured the trade unions’ compliance in holding wages down. Insofar as firms go to the wall following a crisis, in general they are smaller ones — a process which also took place in the nineteen-thirties. If larger companies’ profits fall they pay out a larger proportion of profits in dividends, so that the shareholders’ incomes do not fall by an equivalent amount. The British Association’s Britain in Recovery, 1938, using Colin Clark’s estimates, said: “On the whole we may, perhaps, conclude that consumption by the rich was comparatively well maintained during the depression and expanded during the recovery”.

The spectacle of the anarchy of capitalism gives rise continually to the idea that it can be subjected to economic planning. Fundamentally crises are due to the imbalances of capitalist production: the seductive thought is that these imbalances can be diagnosed and rectified. Attempts at it have patently failed, and it is worth pointing out why none can succeed. First, all capitalists and politicians would have to agree on what the faults were. Such agreement is not only unlikely in ordinary terms; it is impossible for the reason stated, that one capitalist’s catastrophe is another’s good news. But even if it were possible, what then? The owning class would still have no choice but to pursue their interests — that is, to go on producing for the available markets even though knowing this is what leads to crises.

Economic phrases cover the condition of humanity. The anarchy of production means, characteristically, a bakery closing for want of business while people are in need of bread. The balance of trade, the state of sterling etc. are pseudo-concerns; the working class is asked to understand them so that it will be complaisant in being trodden on a bit more. What all workers can and must understand is that their interests are diametrically opposed to those of capitalism. In due course there will be a recovery from the present depression, gathering momentum towards the next crisis. Is this how you want to go on? Would not a society producing for use instead of markets be immeasurably better?
Robert Barltrop