Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Jottings (1915)

The Jottings Column from the September 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard
  "I have confined myself intentionally to only one aspect of the cotton question ; but undoubtedly we have been supplying our enemies with the means of destroying our troops ever since the beginning of the war." Sir R. W. Ramsay, "Daily Mail," July 1915.
And what will they, the masters say when their children ask "What did you do, daddy, in the great war?"

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Upon the declaration of cotton as contraband the same paper sums up in the following terms.
   "How many valuable lives have been lost by this gross ineptitude it is impossible to say. Next to the blundering of the negotiations with the Balkan States and the Shell Tragedy it is easily the worst feature of the Government's connection with the war, bad as that is.” - “Daily Mail" editorial, Aug. 21st, 1915.

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War the Leveller.
  "Mr. Ben Tillett, addressing a labour meeting at Bristol yesterday, said that the hell at the front had made brothers of dukes sons and labourers' sons.
   "I wish people at home could be as united in their efforts to crush the foe,' he added.”
"Daily Express," July 26th, 1915.
Well there now! we always asserted the certain conviction regarding the worker and this resurrection-era of affluence, but we scarcely thought it would be achieved through the crushing of some other section of the working class. Sickening, ain't it ?

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Just as water finds its own level, so too do the labour misleaders find their true groove - that of dutiful devotion to the master class in time of national conflict. We were waiting for news of that peerless "Daily Herald" sun-god, Tom Mann, and here it is ("Daily Express" 21.8.15) "Since the war began Mr. Tom Mann has visited all the ports to help in the manning of transports.” D-------- if we didn't think so.
B. B. B.

The War Against The Workers. (1915)

Editorial from the October 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Lobby correspondent of the London "Daily News'’ on Sept. 13th made the following significant statement:
                           French Strike of 1910. 
There are grounds for saying that some of the Ministers who are in favour of the compulsory organisation of the manhood of the country have been influenced by the history of the national railway strike in France in 1910. They believe that in case of a serious strike in this country imperilling the national safety, the power of calling up the men as soldiers would break the strike. This was what happened in France in 1910: By Oct 11 the national railway strike was general, the food supply of Paris was gravely threatened, and the whole of the country disorganised. On Oct. 13 the ringleaders were arrested under the Railway Traffic Law of 1845, and at the instance of M. Briand, the Prime Minister, 130,000 of the railway servants were put under mobilisation orders for a period of three week's training.
 The action of the French Government in calling out the railwaymen in their capacity of reservists had a double effect. It appealed to the sense of patriotism and of military discipline which animates the majority of Frenchmen, and it gave those men who returned as reservists to their work on the railway, an assurance of protection against the violence of strike pickets, and a sense of solidarity with their comrades of the active Army in full uniform who were guarding the railway stations, signals, and points. By these means the strike was broken, and on October 18 the railwaymen were ordered back to work by their own Strike Committee.
The matter of tho French strike was dealt within the “Socialist Standard" at the time and the moral of the necessity for the rapture of political power by the workers was driven home, but in the present connection it is to be noted ; that the mobilisation order of 1910 was utilised to break a strike in time of peace. Clearly, then, the utility of compulsion to the ruling class is not confined to the period of war. It is as well, therefore, not to overlook the permanent consequences of  conscription when analysing the motives behind the compulsory service "conspiracy.” It is, indeed, almost unthinkable that our rulers would let such a splendid opportunity as the present war slip by for making us more completely n nation of serfs.

Munition workers are already subjected to forced labour. Their work in accelerated to the point of exhaustion. .They are fined for losing a few hours. They are punished if they seek better terms and forbidden to change their employer without a certificate of permission. And they ore abused by "labour lenders," by cabinet ministers and by journalists as slackers and worse, although they are the only portion of the nation who are actually doing the war work. The employers are not punished. The members of the idle class are not controlled or penalised. Not at all. The compulsion, the hardships, the punishments and the abuse are concentrated upon the working class who have nevertheless no share in the ordering of their industry.

The facts are so plain and the class nature of the governmental activities is so obvious that it is quite unnecessary to say more here under this particular head. Every workman who exercises his intelligence upon the statements of Ministers, of so-called labour leaders and of journalists, and ponders the findings of the munitions courts, can see a far more damning case against the ruling class in this matter than could be baldly stated. And after all is there not something of similar import in the whole history of the war?

We have long known the hollowness of much of the so-called Socialist movement in Germany, in France, and in this country ; yet such as it was all the governments have been mortally afraid of it. A prominent German statesman once said that there was a certain cure for the Socialist movement, and that was war! Prominent men in other countries have said similar things. It is part of the creed of re-action. Undoubtedly the German democratic movement in particular was most imposing, and appeared truly formidable to its ruling class. The French movement also was growing and threatening. In Russia it could only be kept under by the most violent measures of repression. In this country it was sought to emasculate the proletarian menace by absorbing its pretended leaders into the governmental party. In France this policy hud been very thoroughly carried out as the Millerands, the Briands and the Vivianis still testify. And does not this obvious capitalist fear of the working class suggest a possible reason for war, supplementary to the ordinary one of direct commercial interest ?

In France, England and Germany the workers were swept off their feel in a wave of patriotism and became an easy prey to the intrigues of the capitalist class. Russia, seemingly, continued its brutal repression simply in order to obviate any violent break with the traditions of its government. In all the belligerent countries the workers are expected, nay, compelled, to sacrifice on the altar of their master's country all the poor concessions which industrial necessity had enabled them to win. In this sea-girt isle tho hardly won rights of labour are being rapidly annulled. Tho soaring cost of living, the destruction of trade union conditions of labour, the speeding up of work, the forced labour and the menace of compulsory military service, all tend irresistibly to crush working class conditions of existence out of recognition, Even some patriotic workers are beginning to ask whether “victory" may not be too dearly bought if it is to be purchased only with the sacrifice of all the poor liberties for which their fathers fought, and at the cost of everything which to them had appeared to make working-class life barely tolerable now.

After the war the old conditions will be restored, they tell us; but who believes it? The so-called national necessities which are the pretext for the present measures will be obviously still more imperative after the war. Our masters are insistently urging the workers (with whom saving is too often a crime against the mind and body of themselves and their dependents) to put money by for the awful times that will inevitably follow the war. In view of these hard times to come what chance will there be for the restoration of pre-war conditions of labour? In any case is it not a foregone conclusion that capitalist greed and armed power will effectually bar the way ?

Although we may dimly perceive the golden gleams amidst the dark and thundrous clouds of the future, it would be folly to deny that the immediate prospect is gloomy indeed. Hemmed in by penalties and virtually gagged and bound, the free expression of opinion is rendered impossible for the present. But the seething discontent is not stilled, nor is it rendered innocuous by being denied an outlet. As they sow the wind they shall reap the whirlwind.

Many a man this day is troubled by a burning thought set alight in him by the flaming hoardings of murderous association. He sees the workers of the world being crushed to death or to worse than death between the exploitation and oppression of the ruling caste and the savage massacre of warfare. But what shall I say, he reflects, what must I say to my children years hence when they ask me, "What did you do, daddy, in the great war?" Shall I have to confess in sadness that during this great attack upon the toilers, that in this tragic episode in the class war I have failed to play a man's part?

Conscripts or Volunteers? (1915)

Editorial from the November 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

Freedom, we are told, is the birthright of an Englishman; but of what Englishman other than the English capitalist? Capitalism, as we know, was inaugurated in the sacred name of freedom. Free competition, free speech, freedom of the Press and freedom of contract wore once holy objects of its worship. And where those have been deposed it has only been to promote a higher freedom—the freedom of the ruling class to do what it likes with those it rules.

The capitalist class has been accused of falling away from the cult of the goddess of Liberty, but a moment's thought will show this to be more apparent than real. For whose benefit were the graven images of Freedom ever raised up by the burgher class to be worshipped? Never for the advantage of the workers. These have always been excluded as far as possible. The supreme god of which the fair-faced goddess is merely the symbol, and which alone is worshipped with a whole-souled devotion by the capitalist class, is their own recognised material interests, their own narrow class liberty. This, their real deity, is only occasionally identical with the goddess of freedom as recognised by common humanity today. Yet, when it is clearly to their profit to do so, the ruling class never hesitate to do homage. They are, indeed, ever full of a lip service to ideas of liberty which they identify with their interests. What, in fact, is more characteristic of them, or more to their advantage, than the dissemination among the toilers of the idea that capitalism is the embodiment of freedom? Do not they even assert that the worker benefits by the glorious right of freedom of contract? The worker, they say, is under no compulsion to labour for a master. If the terms offered by employers are not good, he need not accept. These are not the days of chattel slavery. Should he honestly prefer to be starved to death with bis family rather than accept bad terms, he is quite free to do so—or rather, we should say, he was free until recently. But even if Orders in Council and Munition Courts now deny this freedom to the worker, it is only being done in the cause of freedom itself. Are we not officially informed that the great war that is the pretext for these restrictions is a War for Freedom? And since the rulers of both Britain and Germany proclaim this from the heights of their wireless stations, it is doubly vouched for by the world-renowned reliability of both German and British official news.

But where British capitalism scores heavily over that of the continent of Europe is in the vital matter of the freedom of military service. Whereas other countries fill the ranks of their fighting forces by the crudest methods of compulsion, Great Britain raises a huge army upon the glorious principles of freedom. Under the voluntary system, an official poster informs us, Britons fight for freedom with the strength of free men. The freedom of contract overcomes all obstacles. Men whose very least desire was to abandon the arts of peace, find themselves, by the judicious operation of liberty, drawn willy- nilly into the maelstrom of military service. Official committees issue appeals, in the name of freedom, to employers urging them to “release for service" men of military age. The free men thus “released,’’ on applying for another job, find themselves confronted with the notice, “Men of military age need not apply." The result is a great triumph for the voluntary system. Thus is the birthright of an Englishman saved the contamination of compulsion.

But this is not the only factor called in aid of the freedom to enlist. The freedom of speech and the freedom of the Press are carefully manipulated in order to influence eligible men for the good of the ruling class. Awkward facts are made to disappear. Encouraging facts are spread in the sun or manufactured to order. The generosity of the pensions or lack of them provided by a grateful country for its disabled warriors, is not commented on. The prospect of many war-broken “saviours of their country" hiring to sell matches or bananas for a livelihood after the war, is a subject that is taboo. We are even told by Arnold Bennett, in the London "Daily News," that the Government have instructed newspapers not to publish cases of hardship among discharged soldiers. And it is, of course, obvious that the open discussion of such matters would be a serious interference with the freedom of enlistment.

And what a tribute it is to national courage to find well-to-do men over military age, and even weak women innocent of the hardships of either work or war, among the bitterest denouncers of the Germans and the firmest in their demands for the ruthless prosecution of the war to the very last fit man! Even old men and idle women nurtured in the lap of luxury do not flinch from informing young men what they would do in their place; indeed, their courageous endeavours to force other people to sacrifice themselves are beyond all praise.

The part played by strident women has been of immense service to the cause of militarism. A great and influential meeting of women at Queen's Hall (boomed by the "Daily Mail”) lifted up its voice as one woman in its demand for immediate conscription for men. The Suffragettes also are doing their bit. None were, before the war, more bitter against man-made government. They showed conclusively that women really ruled the world both in ancient days, and from the cradle upwards in our own times; the only drawback was that tyrannical man would not let her. They burnt churches, slapped burly policemen, harried nervous statesmen. spoilt letters and championed the right of women to blackleg male labour; and in short conducted a bitter sex warfare against mere man. To day, however, their tactics have altered. The sex warfare has taken a new form. The government they once hated is now supported through thick and thin. The country they once endeavoured to destroy is now the object in the preservation of which they deem the utmost male sacrifice to be needful. Despite their change in tactics, however, it does not appear that their attitude toward man has changed. The active males, egged on by challenge to their courage which they have not the pluck to withstand, are being decimated. The dearth of men is opening innumerable avenues of employment to women who, in nearly every case, accept worse conditions and depreciate the proletarian standard of living; all endeavours to maintain this standard being characterised by Suffragettes as attacks on the rights of women. None, indeed, are more unselfishly active than these Suffragettes in urging their competitors, the males, to go away and get shot and leave the women to manage the country.

Private firms, public corporations and authorities all over the country are particularly keen, for economical purposes and to aid voluntary enlistment, in replacing males by cheaper female labour. Even the London County Council is still endeavouring to “release" its few remaining tramwaymen by the employment of women. Its education department is also withholding scholarships and appointments from pupil teachers and others of 18 years and over, until after the war in order to “enable” them to enlist. The railways also are not behind in this despite the semi military nature of their work. In the "Daily Chronicle" of Nov. 2nd the following paragraph appeared:
  The Midland Company has also decided that "all clerks of military age must be spared." Steps are being taken to ascertain the number of men who come within the category, with a view to their positions being filled by females and men above the requisite age.
The sudden stoppage of much Government work co-incident with the commencement of Lord Derby's scheme is by no means a negligible factor in the great recruiting boom. The Post Office is bringing increased pressure to bear on enlistable employees, who are, indeed, marked men: and a growing and almost irresistible pressure is being felt by eligible members of the employed class up and down the country. Certainly the difference in the attitude toward the army, of a man in a normal job, and the same man faced with the alternative of enlisting or starving, is directly conducive to the success of voluntary service.

So great is the pressure brought to bear upon the working class in order to make them join the army of their own free will, that some working men are saying that conscription would involve fewer hardships and be more equitable. However this may be, it is certain that the voluntary system is admirably calculated to promote the traditional freedom of members of the capitalist class. The present pressure to enlist falls almost exclusively upon the workers. Only an employed person can be discharged and faced with the alternative of either starving or voluntarily enlisting. The scions of the ruling class completely escape. The workers are compelled to join in overwhelming numbers.

Is it then strange that the master class hesitates to abandon voluntary recruiting in favour of conscription? Voluntaryism guarantees complete liberty to the employing class to enlist or not, as they please; it only acts as compulsion upon the workers. Conscription itself could only with difficulty get more men from the working class, though it might get them more quickly; but the numerous exemptions that it would be necessary to make in each a scheme in order to secure the traditional freedom of the propertied class, might create greater difficulties, or open the eyes and arouse the hostility of the workers. It is, therefore, hardly likely that conscription will be readily resorted to by the powers that be, in view of the manifest advantages to them of the present system. The chief danger to the voluntary system would seem to be the failure of employers, in a desire to avoid sacrificing immediate profits, to discharge all fit men. As has already been seen however, such conduct has been condemned as unpatriotic, and every effort is being made to compel the working class to ensure the success of the voluntary system. As a prominent statesman has said: no sacrifice can be too great when freedom is at stake. And the workers will doubtless be called upon to make ever greater sacrifices in order to preserve the sacred birthright of freedom which is the prerogative of all members of the propertied class. A birthright of freedom, indeed, which exists only by virtue of our birthright of wage-slavery, and which is deliberately built upon, and buttressed by, the hardships and lack of freedom of those who labour.

Note On Nationalisation (1948)

From the September 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

Under the various methods employed by the Government when fixing the compensation to be paid to the shareholders when their industries are nationalised some groups of shareholders do better than others. It looks as if the shareholders of McNamara & Co., the transport contractors who have for a hundred years carried mails for the Post Office, do not do so badly. It is reported in the Evening News (13th August, 1948) that the purchase price paid by the British Transport Commission will work out at about 33s. for the 12s. stock units. Nevertheless the shareholders were expecting more and the same paper reports that when this purchase price was announced the market price of the shares dropped from their recent high level of 33s. 9d. But, says the Evening News, the shares were selling at only 23s. 6d. last October when the negotiations began. 

Another interesting note was published in the Sunday Express (15th August, 1948) on the possibility of the Government nationalising the tobacco industry. Some stockbroker has been calculating how much the shareholders of the Imperial Tobacco Co. might expect to get if nationalisation takes place. If the compensation were to be worked out on the same basis as that applied to road haulage nationalisation the compensation would be 119s. 7d. per share. If the basis is that applied to the coal maines it would be 114s., and if the Government paid the market price of the shares before the General Election it would be 160s. As the shares are now standing at 101s. 3d., the Sunday Express sees that nationalisation on either of the three bases would be a good thing for the shareholders and “it’s bad luck for shareholders that there is no talk of nationalisation yet.” !
Edgar Hardcastle

No Compromise. (1926)

Editorial from the April 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

If the Socialist Party’s policy can be summed up in a phrase, that phrase is "no compromise”; we are not phrase-worshippers, however, and therefore wish our phrases to be clearly and definitely understood.

The Socialist Party opposes all other political parties without exception, "whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist.” The necessity for a party which is out for Socialism arises from the fact that the existing social order, which we call capitalism, holds no prospect of improvement for the majority of the population—the working- class. Parties which openly exist to preserve that social order, with or without modification, are therefore so many barriers to be surmounted before our goal can be achieved.

The simple, easily intelligible, fact is, nevertheless, frequently made the subject of misrepresentation on the part of some of our opponents. "Half a loaf is better than no bread" we are told, and the outsider is sometimes misled into thinking that the Socialist Party has a conscientious objection to accepting half-loaves, and he is seldom slow in voicing his contempt for such (quite imaginary) “pig-headedness" on our part. We have often observed, however, that people who lightly accept this view of the matter are not to be trusted to distinguish between half-loaves and packets of sawdust —between measures that might conceivably benefit the workers for a short period to some slight extent, and measures which merely tighten up the machinery of capitalist administration at the expense of the workers.

We have exposed in these columns times without number the fraudulent character of the reforms advocated by "progressives” of all shades, from the old-age pensioners and insurance schemes of Liberals to the nationalisation projects of the "left wing,” but we still find trustful souls who believe in the possibility of getting "something now.” These good people are simply in a fog. They do not realise that "now" the workers are politically powerless and will remain so until they organise as a class for the establishment of Socialism. To expect "something now" is to expect charity from the master-class. It is to fly in the face of history, which shows that such concessions as conditions have allowed the workers to wring from the masters in the past lose their value with the progress of industry. The victories of Trade Unions in their early days, resulting in shorter hours and higher wages, have been neutralised by the improvement in machinery and productive methods, speeding-up, intenser exploitation and more unemployment.

Not only is this the case, but even the ability of Trade Unions to obtain such concessions grows manifestly less with the increased concentration and international organisation of capital. Yet in spite of this we find individuals, in the name of “Communism,” encouraging the workers to “demand,” from the capitalist state, £4 per week and a 44-hour slavery!

If economic laws could be legislated out of existence, if capitalism could be made to serve the interests of the workers, then there would, indeed, be no case for Socialism. It would long ago have perished, a sterile Utopia. The work of Marx, ignored by the “Communists” who pay him lip-homage, was to emphasise the inability of governments to work miracles. Relying firmly upon political action, he stressed the need for understanding the conditions and essential limitations of that action. It is characteristic of the inverted logic of the “ Communist ” and “minority movers” that in one breath they avow their contempt for Parliamentary procedure, and in the next call upon the workers to send in petitions—to the House of Commons!

The Socialist Party is out to obtain all that can be obtained for the workers under capitalism. We know sufficient of capitalism, however, to realise that the only way to obtain the smallest advantage is to oppose the enemy, both on the economic and political fields. We do not propose, to give our support in exchange for a mere promise—and the more the enemy concedes the harder we shall hammer at his fortress, i.e., working- class ignorance, apathy and disunity. The political supremacy of the workers will only be achieved by organisation for an object which will unite, inspire, and enlighten them. That object is Socialism—our object.

Other parties may tell you fellow-workers that if is their object also—“ultimately"; but you will, if careful, notice that they do not make it a plank in their election addresses. They cannot find room for it. They have too many requests to make of the master-class to propose to abolish them.

Fellow-workers, we apologise to no one for our existence as a party. We have watched for years the baffled efforts and disappointed hopes of sections of our class, acting in ignorance of important factors in their problems. It is our mission to make those factors clear, and we invite you to study our literature, come to our meetings, ask us your questions, confident that when you. understand our case you will join us.