Friday, January 5, 2018

The Reason for the Russian Trial (1937)

From the June 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Moscow correspondent of the Economist (February 27th, 1937) provides the answer to the question why did the Russian Government need the recent trials? It had to explain the breakdown of the grandiose five-year plans. This breakdown made it necessary to find scapegoats, since no dictatorship ever dare let the population know that the dictator and his advisers may themselves have pushed their plans to a point where they became top-heavy and unworkable. Only, now that scapegoats have been found, is the population being told how badly some of the plans have worked : —
    Now that veteran Bolsheviks have confessed to deliberate sabotage. in several major industries, the Government permits its people to learn of distressing conditions hitherto kept from them. Sabotage explains everything; revelation of gross inefficiency need not cast discredit upon central planning, which, without some such explanation, might come into disrepute.
   Official newspapers now reveal that conditions are most unsatisfactory on the railways, and in the non-ferous metal and chemical industries. Plants were designed hastily without an adequate knowledge of raw material resources. Capital was invested in the “least advantageous fields and those which presented the greatest difficulties for exploitation." For example, where lead and zinc ores were found together, only one or the other was utilised. Plans for new factories were altered locally, which resulted, according to one official newspaper, “ in complete irresponsibility and confusion."
    In the chemical industry “plants frequently were designed with too large or too small capacities, in unsuitable places, for the production of an unnecessary assortment of goods, etc. Often plants were built at places where there was little ore." Funds were withheld from plants under construction, which often resulted in the suspension of building operations. Designs were altered after much of the construction work had been completed, which necessitated the demolition of finished buildings and their reconstruction. At the Krasno-Uralsk Combinat the metallurgical section was built with no provision for the use of bye-products.
    All this, and much more, is now recorded in the official newspapers, and charged to Trotskyism. Whatever the cause may be, it is obvious that there has been terrific waste of capital funds and effort, and that thorough reorganisation of whole industries will be necessary. The official view is that reorganisation will be easy now that the wreckers in high places have been removed.
Now what becomes of the everlasting boasting by the British Communists of the marvellous success of the five-year plans? Whatever explanation they choose to offer for the breakdown, it now becomes obvious that their former boastings of success were not based on fact, but on the propaganda of the Russian Government, which excluded the truth about industrial inefficiency.
P. S.

Death Of An Australian Comrade (1937)

Obituary from the July 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is with deep regret that we have to record the death on March 26th of Comrade Richard Edwards, a member of the Sydney Branch of the Socialist Party of Australia, at the early age of 36 years.

Our comrade died from cancer of the stomach. He underwent an operation at the Sydney Hospital some eight months before his death, but was found to be incurable. Our comrade was unaware of this and recovered so well that he was able to return, for a while, to his work and to his activities in the Party.

Comrade Edwards was, in early life, an active member of the Seamen’s Union, but later worked ashore. He joined the Sydney Branch of the Party shortly after its formation and, until compelled to retire by illness, held office as Branch Treasurer, a position which he filled to perfection.

In losing Comrade Edwards the Branch has lost a member who could be relied upon in all he undertook to do, and one who was widely known and highly esteemed in the district in which he lived.

To his mother, his wife and daughter, and to his other relatives, we extend our deep sympathy.
The Sydney Branch of the S.P. of Australia.

Roads To Socialism (1937)

From the July 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Herbert Morrison, M.P., leader of the London Labour Party, and Mr. F. Montague, M.P., who was Under-Secretary for Air under the last Labour Government, have had a lifetime of association with the Labour Party and they both stand for more or less definite schools of thought in that party. They recently let fall observations about Socialists and Socialism which deserve to be recorded for the light they throw on the never-ending discussion about roads to Socialism. (A second reason why Mr. Morrison’s words should be repeated is that some two million readers, of the Labour Daily Herald will be unaware that he used them. They were duly reported in the other newspapers, but the passage that interests us did not see the light in the Daily Herald's report of the speech, having, perhaps, fallen a victim to the sharp editorial pencil which comes between the Labour reader and the news it is not considered fit that he should see).

Mr. Morrison was addressing a victory dinner, after the Labour Party’s return to office at the London County Council election, and said:—
  Perhaps nine-tenths of London’s great army of Labour voters could not tell you what Socialism means. . . . We have to convert this vague Labour electorate of goodwill into a conscious Socialist electorate.— (News Chronicle, March 22nd, 1937.)
This is an obvious truth and one with which Socialists would only disagree on the ground that it is over-optimistic. Undoubtedly the Labour voters are not Socialists and do not understand Socialism. Similarly, Socialists would agree with Mr. Montague’s assertion in a letter to the Daily Herald (June 17th, 1937) that “ of course the major demands of the Social Democratic Federation and Independent Labour Party have not been conceded. Why expect it, when the workers have never yet voted Socialists into power?”

This was in reply to a letter in which a reader had pointed out that though 50 years have passed since the S.D.F. and I.L.P. drew up lists of their demands and "palliative measures for immediate adoption,” the great majority are still unachieved.

This is all a very old story to the S.P.G.B. Nothing much will ever be achieved, and the building up of Socialism will not begin until the workers have taken control of the governmental machinery for the purpose of ending capitalism, and that cannot be done until there are Socialists to do it. “Vague Labour electorates” who do not understand Socialism are as good as useless for the end in view. So we are back where we were when the S.P.G.B. started, faced with the gigantic task of making Socialists.

The S.P.G.B. at that time put one view—the view it still holds. The I.L.P. and S.D.F. (including Mr. Morrison and Mr. Montague) put another. They said that the way to make Socialists was to work up enthusiasm for “immediate demands," the eight-hour day, old-age pensions, and so on, and having built up an organisation out of this non-Socialist material and gained control of councils and put M.P.s in Parliament the work of making Socialists would be easier. The workers would be converted to Socialism by seeing how the Labour Party was doing practical everyday work. The leaders would go on preaching Socialism and would get a readier hearing for it because of their successful administration of the central and local government.

But it has worked out just as the S.P.G.B. said it would. Most of the “ immediate demands " are still unachieved. Those that have been achieved have in many cases been introduced by Conservative or Liberal governments, who duly claim the credit. There have been two Labour governments, but, far from being an asset to propaganda, even the Labour M.P.s themselves are mostly apologetic about them and wish them forgotten. The men who promised to use the Labour Party to preach Socialism are too busy explaining and apologising for the wreck of the Labour governments to do so. And even if Mr. Morrison did make a practice of preaching Socialism how would the past work of his party help him? Will the ""busmen, for example, listen more readily to Mr. Morrison because, as part of his day-to-day work of administering capitalism, he fathered the London Passenger Transport Board? Is he or Mr. Montague in a better position than 30 years ago to put over Socialist propaganda? Does Mr. Morrison’s subtle argument that the capitalist London Passenger Transport Board is not Socialism but “socialisation" make it easier to explain to the workers what Socialism really is?

Besides, while Mr. Montague may clearly recognise and preach that social reform and State capitalism are not Socialism, what about the leaders of the Labour Party? Mr. Attlee recently addressed the railway stockholders and explained . how “Socialism" would provide them with more security for their holdings than they have at present. Mr. Tom Johnston, M.P., in a speech to a Labour Party Conference at Leeds, on June 19th (see Manchester Guardian, June 21st, 1937), said it was only necessary to win “another two million converts from the Tory Party. If we get that we are home, and involuntary poverty is finished." Thus, he flatly contradicts Mr. Morrison and Mr. Montague, who both know that we shall not be home until we have got Socialists in place of vague Labour voters.

If Mr. Montague and Mr. Morrison were asked about this they would, no doubt, give the crushing answer that anyway the S.P.G.B. does not seem to have made much headway in converting the workers to Socialism. This is very true, but there is a reason. Every time we try to explain to the workers what Socialism is and how it differs from capitalism we find that the great majority of workers outside the Labour Party already think they know what Socialism is and what is a Socialist Party. Socialism, they think, is some State capitalist concern like the Post Office or the London Passenger Transport Board, and “Socialist Party" to them means Labour Party. The nine-tenths of the Labour voters who don't understand Socialism think they do, and they muddle and confuse the mind of the workers to such an extent that Socialist propaganda has a desperate job to penetrate. In theory the Montagues and Morrisons who understand Socialism are supposed to keep the issues clear. In practice they cannot even explain Socialism to their own Johnstons and Attlees, let alone explain it to the mass of the workers inside and outside the Labour Party.

Socialist propaganda by a Socialist organisation is still the only road to Socialism. 
Edgar Hardcastle

Parliamentary Activity (1937)

Party News from the August 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a few months after launching our Parliamentary Fund we have almost reached the sum required by law for the election deposit. A great deal of the success in this is due to regular contributions from Party members and supporters. From some sources we receive guaranteed sums each month. Nevertheless, that part of the Parliamentary Fund which is from monthly guarantees is capable of expansion and improvement. Therefore, we urge Party members who can become guarantors to do so. If you have mislaid the guarantee form, let us know, and we will send you another. The advantage of a regular guaranteed sum each month is self-evident, it helps us to plan for the future. We do not expect all members or non-members to become guarantors, but we do expect all Socialists in or out of the Party to contribute in some way to the Parliamentary Fund.

In the past we have invariably used restraint when asking for money. No amount of money could stimulate some forms of activity. But in this instance money is indispensable, and we ask for it without hesitation or apology. Once having obtained the deposit, for obvious reasons we would hesitate to spend it. Yet there are many things we need urgently and immediately. We need to hire or purchase a propaganda van and to have wide distributions of literature. Above all, and very important under modern conditions, we must have a loud-speaker and amplifying apparatus (perhaps some friend could make us a present of this?) for outdoor meetings. Ordinary methods of propaganda must be supplemented in order to reach the immense numbers which constitute modern electorates. The cost will be heavy, but it is, nevertheless, unavoidable. We aim, therefore, to raise at least £400 before the end of the year. The question is urgent; though the present Government may last for at least two years, a general election could catch us by surprise at any time. We shall, therefore, not feel easy until we have this sum at least. It can be done. You, comrade reader— member or sympathiser—can make it possible; those odd pence, that small piece of silver, in addition to the welcome occasional £l or £5 (alas—so very occasional!) can make it possible. Do not be afraid that we shall exceed our needs. Quite apart from our present plans the Parliamentary Fund is permanent, and we look forward to the future, when we shall be able to have several Socialist candidates.

We are now. looking forward to a rapid increase in the fund. Many hesitated until it was apparent that we should quite easily get the deposit money, and that our entry into Parliamentary politics looked certain. And, friends and comrades, let it be clearly understood that, barring outlandish accidents, our candidate, or candidates, will enter the fray at the next general election.

As a reminder, the two non-members who promised at our Annual Reunion that they would donate generously when we raised the deposit can now do so with confidence. And we hope the donation will not be less than £l each. As a suggestion, will one hundred readers donate in units of £l ? There are numbers of our friends who cannot attend our meetings but who are willing to donate a few pence occasionally. To give them the opportunity, our members will shortly be carrying tickets at threepence each. Buy one. Every little helps.

And now, to all concerned. Send the donation you can afford, without us having to ask for it (but this we shall do). Having to write to you makes unnecessary work. To the many who have contributed, and continue to do so despite the many calls on their pockets for varied Party activities, we tender our grateful thanks.
Parliamentary Committee.

A Political Council has been formed to take over the entire job of organising and carrying out propaganda in East Ham North. It consists of propagandists, literature sellers and supporters of meetings. If you can do any of these your help is needed and expected. Get in touch with the Council and let them know what help you are going to give.

A meeting of the Council, to discuss plans for future activity, will be held at 42, Great Dover Street, on August 3rd (Tuesday), at 8 p.m.
Parliamentary Committee.