Thursday, January 11, 2018

50 Years Ago: Wages Under Labour Government (1980)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the things Labour Governments are supposed to do is to keep up wages. Since the present government came in there have been big reductions in the wool, cotton and jute industries and there are now pending movements to reduce wages in building, agriculture, mining, boot and shoe production and railways. These applications for reductions cover about three million workers. Mr. Snowden, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, controls the Civil Service. Their cost of living bonus is governed by an agreement, made as a temporary measure in 1920. The agreement never gave them the full increase corresponding to the rise in prices, and it is admitted that their cost of living has not fallen by as large a percentage as is indicated by the Ministry of Labour index. The staff’s claim for a revised agreement was side-tracked by being referred to the Civil Service Royal Commission, and they therefore contend that until the Commission reports, no further reductions should have taken place. Mr. Snowden replied by giving them a five point reduction. When they protested, he replied by lamenting the ‘ingratitude” of the Civil Servants. Why workers in Government employment should be grateful when a Labour Government, contrary to the whole theory of the Labour Party, reduces their pay, it is difficult to understand.

From an editorial in the Socialist Standard, December 1930.

50 Years Ago: The Profit-Sharing Snare (1980)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

Great Britain is losing her hold over the world market. That means producing firms are finding it harder to compete successfully against producers abroad. Every scheme is being tried to regain lost trade and to increase the quantity of goods sold . . .  The most effective way to capture markets is to sell cheaper than your rivals.

* * * * *

Copartnership or shareholding by employees is the stale device which is being revived. One of the great examples of this scheme is the South Metropolitan Gas Works, who smashed their employees’ strike on the profit-sharing issue, and afterwards raised hours from 8 to 12 per day. That firm boasts that since "allowing employees to own shares, efficiency has increased, the price of gas has fallen, and — better still — profits have risen considerably. In this firm the profit-sharing scheme was made compulsory, so that all workers would take "a greater interest in their work”. It worked out in practice that fewer men were required to do the same amount of work.

From an article by Adolf Kohn, Socialist Standard, October 1930

50 Years Ago: Labour Government and Socialism (1980)

The 50 Years Ago column from the November 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

It has been an argument of long standing among Labour Party supporters that the activities of their party, even if not directly concerned with socialism, arc justified because they are leading towards it. They have ridiculed our policy of working directly for socialism as "impossiblism”. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald repeated this justification for the Labour Party at its conference at Llandudno, in October. He said:
The Government’s pledges were those of socialists convinced that the capitalist system cannot be made to work. If his opponents objected that the government had not reached the socialist goal, he answered ‘No, we haven’t, but we are going to get there’.
Mr. MacDonald's statement is hardly compatible with Mr. J. H. Thomas’s admission at the Conference of the National Union of Railwaymen on 5 July 1929, that the Government proposed to tackle the unemployment problem "While accepting the present order of society”. Nor does it fit in with the significant fact that the Liberals put the Labour Government into office, keep them there, and are carrying on friendly, secret discussions with them. Are we to believe that Mr. Lloyd George and his party would support a Government which is going towards socialism?

* * * * *

To retain capitalism is a practicable policy, although an unsatisfactory one from a working class standpoint. To abolish capitalism and establish socialism will be practicable as soon as the working class have been won over to socialism. The Labour Party has sought to justify a third policy, which is that of trying to abolish the evils of capitalism while keeping the system itself. Events arc proving that the task is an impossible one.

From an editorial “The Labour Government and Socialism”, Socialist Standard November 1930.

What does the German Social Democratic Party stand for to-day? (1948)

From the January 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

Before the war we frequently referred to the German Social Democratic Party, pointing out that it stood for nothing more than the reform of Capitalism. During its long years of “exile” under the Nazi regime, it has not changed. Reconstituted, it is again pursuing its former policies, advocating n form of State Capitalism.

Recently a German, living in the British Zone, sent us a pamphlet, with a request that we give our criticisms of it. The pamphlet is “Dichtung und Wahrheit ├╝ber die Sozialisierung ” (“Assertions and Truth about Socialisation”) and was written in 1947 by Arthur Mertins, a member of the German Social Democratic Party.

Throughout the booklet, Mertins repeatedly uses the phrase “we socialists assert,” and there can be no doubt that for him and his party this socialisation they offer is equivalent to Socialism. But, in actual fact, what is advocated is the nationalisation of such things as the mines, transport, power, the heavy industries and the Banks (p.8).

As a piece of socialist literature, likely to give the German worker a clear conception of Socialism, the pamphlet is useless. Nowhere does the author explain what constitutes Capitalism or Socialism. But the pamphlet may do much harm in that it will spread false and dangerous notions among the German workers.

In the introduction (p.3) we see the old reformist tactic being followed—the attempt to win support from the non-socialist. Here Mertins appeals to the patriotic and nationalist sentiments of the German workers. He writes : “Whoever still opposes Socialisation, is an enemy of Germany.” How like the use of the Union Jack, made by Sir Richard Acland in his bye-election campaign in Gravesend !

To build a sound Socialist movement, it is useless to rely on the support of people who do not understand Socialism. Hitler’s rise to power ought to have shown that to the Labour Parties of the world. Patriotism and nationalism are in conflict with the ideas of a Socialist party. Socialism is an international system of society; it cannot exist in a single country, but can be established only by the majority of the world’s workers acting in unison. The Socialist movement, therefore, will grow in proportion ns the workers shed their patriotic illusions and adopt an international attitude. Appeals to patriotism and nationalist sentiments delay the dawning of Socialist understanding among the workers.

The system advocated by Mertins will have all the characteristics of Capitalism and will, in consequence, be but a form of Capitalism. When industries are nationalised, he says (p.4), compensation will be paid to the present owners. But how are they to be compensated? Presumably they will he given State Bonds in exchange for their company shares—State Bonds upon which interest will be paid. Not in this way can privilege be abolished, nor Socialism established. Indeed, this is precisely the way to perpetuate privilege and reinforce Capitalism. The State will run and control industry; the present owners will he assured of their “interest,” the State seeing to the profitable functioning of industry.

After reading the above, readers will not be surprised to learn that the system Mertins advocates has its prices, wages, etc., these to be fixed by the State (p.5).

This brings us to the crux of Socialism. The wages system is Capitalism. As Marx pointed out, wage- labour and capital can only exist together: the one is the complement of the other. If you wish to abolish profit-making—and capital is wealth used to make a profit by the exploitation of wage-labour—it can be done only by the abolition of capital and wage-labour. By this we are not suggesting that Socialism will destroy factories, mines, machines, etc., any more than we are suggesting that Socialism will destroy the workers. What we are saying is that Socialism will strip the means of production of their capitalist function (i.e. the making of profit) and will put an end to the necessity of workers selling their labour-power for m wage. In other words, Socialism will abolish the capitalist class and the working class when it abolishes capitalist production. Under Socialism production will he carried on by all capable members of society solely to satisfy the needs of society.

And to do that there will be no need for banks, money, prices and wages. Capitalism needs those things because it is, par excellence, the system of commodity production. In other words, Capitalism is, above all others, the system which produces for exchange. But exchange presupposes private owners and because of exchange money arose. Socialism brings common ownership of the means of life, production solely for use. Hence there will be no exchange of goods and so no prices. Wages, too—the price of the workers’ commodity labour-power—will disappear. In place of all this, society will produce what is needed, will own what is produced and each member of society will have free access to the means of life.

The pamphlet contains many anti-socialist suggestions (e.g., Mertins would leave untouched peasant private property—is this another vote-catcher?). But enough has been discussed to show that the German Social Democratic Party has learnt nothing during its years of tribulations, judging from this pamphlet, it is as reformist and anti-working-class as it was before the rise of Hitler. It is in fact a worthy companion of the British Labour Party which Mertins hails (p.13) as “our Socialist (!) sister party.” 
Clifford Allen

The Wallace Case (1948)

From the February 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Presidential election in the United States is due this year. The difference between tiie Democratic and Republican policies is so small that the intrusion of Henry Wallace, as third candidate, seems to many as the only alternative for the workers of the United States.

Mr. Henry Wallace, one-time vice-president to the late President Roosevelt, claims to speak for the “freedom loving people “and against “the reactionaries in the Democratic and Republican Parties." His present pro-Russian leaning has ensured him the support of Moscow’s overseas agents, the Communist Party. The London Daily Worker greeted him in no uncertain terms when he announced that he would stand for President.
  “The basic significance of the Wallace decision is that the flag of a real democratic American policy has at last been raised in the United States in the form of a challenge to the Presidency.’’ (Daily Worker, 1/1/48.)
This friendship of the Communist Party however, may lose for Wallace the support of the rival radical faction—the Americans for Democratic Action (led by Eleanor Roosevelt). As the Observer (4/1/48) put it: “Mr. Wallace has forfeited the support of all true progressives and intelligent conservatives in the United States.’’ Already the Political Action Committee of the trade union federation, the C.I.O., has refused to endorse his candidature. As the C.I.O. in an election only supports what it considers the “friends of labour ” it is apparent that Henry Wallace, even in their eyes, does not compare too favourably with their rival candidates. This does not come as a surprise to the Socialist movement. Socialists have seen before these radical rockets careering through the sky, who, despite their electioneering speeches, prove in power to behave like the rest of the capitalist politicians. Mr. Wallace —out of power—speaks of the sinister activities of reactionaries who support the Marshall Plan, though he conveniently does not mention his own editorial commenting very favourably on the nomination of General Marshall for Secretary of State. 

As an old New Dealer he stands for private capitalism with a certain amount of State intervention which he calls “economic democracy.” But occasionally Henry lets the cat slip out of the bag. In an interview he was asked by Mr. Dwight Macdonald (editor of Politics): “What do you mean by ‘economic democracy’? ” Mr. Wallace answered: “I’ve written a lot about that. But one thing I mean is a mixed economy—as much corporative, small business, cooperative and government ownership as will produce the goods. I wouldn't allow strikes in government-owned industries; we’ve got to find some better way.” (Politics, March-April, 1947.) These are indeed fine words for a man who, in the opinion of the Daily Worker “represents the democratic aspirations of millions,” but the Communist Party always have had their private definition of “ democracy.”

So we can see that Mr. Wallace certainly does not stand for Socialism and the interests of the working class. When, during the thirties, he was Secretary for Agriculture he showed himself to be the friend of the large farmers. Incidentally, both Mr. Wallace’s father and grandfather were large-scale farmers. When the economic crisis broke out in the United States in 1929 agriculture was hit even worse than industry. Even during the “prosperous” twenties agriculture was worse off than industry. The farmer had to sell his commodities at low prices and buy manufactured commodities at high prices. Therefore when Mr. Wallace became Secretary for Agriculture his aim was to raise agricultural prices. In the words of Mr. George Peek, the first administrator of the Agriculture Adjustment Administration, “the sole aim and object of this Act is to raise prices.” The Act which Mr. Peek was referring to was the Farm Relief Act (12/5/33). This Act was in two parts. The first part set up the A.A.A. This gave substantial payment to farmers on condition that they destroyed and restricted their production of all the basic farm crops and products in accordance with the proposals of the Department of Agriculture. The second part of the Act was the Farm Credit Administration which allowed farmers loans at low interest to pay off their existing mortgages. As can be seen this Act by Mr. Wallace and the New Dealers had no benefits for the working class or the thirteen million people in tenant farm families or the three million in sharecropping families. The Act only helped the owners of land. In fact it brought about a greater concentration of ownership and reduced many of the tenant farmers to mere wage-labourers.

Therefore it is apparent that whatever may be the result of the presidential election in the United States the working class will be in the same predicament— wage labourers. The workers of the United States and the rest of the world will not arrive in Easy Street by giving their allegiance to politicians of the calibre of Mr. Henry Wallace. What the workers must do in every country of the world is to form Socialist Parties whose only object is the common ownership and democratic control of the means of producing and distributing wealth. The only party in the United States worthy of working class support is the Workers’ Socialist Party (companion party of the S.P.G.B.).

Those supporters of Wallace who call themselves Communists should recall the words of Marx in the Address of the Central Council to the Communist League:
   “But they themselves will have to do the most for their final victory by becoming enlightened as to their class interests, by taking up their own independent party position as soon as possible and by not allowing themselves for a single moment to be led astray from the independent organisations of the party of the proletariat by the hypocritical phrases of the democratic petty bourgeois.” (Karl Marx, “ Selected Works,” Vol. 2. Published by Lawrence & Wishart. P.168.)
G. Clark

Notes by the Way: You Have Heard This One Before (1948)

The Notes by the Way column from the March 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

You Have Heard This One Before

Mr. Hector McNeil, Minister of State in the Labour Government, spoke at Brussels about the new European grouping:
   “If we are to have a Western Union then this will not only entail immediate sacrifices for both of us but it will also mean important political decisions by both of us.
    “It almost looks as if Europe has taken a new decision.
    “She not only once more maintains that no dictatorship will be accepted but she announces that she is taking immediate steps now to combine to produce the conditions preventing the emergency and the advance of any dictator or any authoritarian system.
  "That is the thought, I believe, behind the Marshall Plan, the Paris Conference, and certainly activating the recent speech by Mr. Bevin.
   “The price in cash, in effort, and in sacrifice of all kinds will be worth while if we are able to ensure that no kind of authoritarian rule will arise in Europe, from whatever quarter it originates.”
(Daily Mail, 6/2/48.)
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The Policy of the “Daily Herald

In evidence to the Royal Commission on the Press Mr. Francis Williams, former editor of the Daily Herald, disclosed how conflict arose between Odhams and the T.U.C. about policy. The following is from the Times (13/2/48):
   “Minutes of evidence taken on October 15, when Mr. Williams avid Mr. Hannen Swaffer appeared before the commission, were issued yesterday as a White Paper (Cmd. 7318, Stationery Office, Is. 3d.).
  ‘‘Mr. Williams, whose editorship of the Daily Herald lasted from 1936 until just after the beginning of the war, spoke of difficulties which arose in borderline cases, where it was not easy to differentiate between commercial policy (for which Odhams Press, the majority shareholders, were responsible) and the political policy (which was decided by the trade unions, who were minority shareholders). Conflicts occurred, particularly before the war and at its beginning, when the general editorial policy was to emphasize the seriousness of international developments and the dangers in Germany, and to criticise much of the Chamberlain Government’s policy.
  “Often the commercial proprietors felt that such a policy, if vigorously conducted, might drive away some public and advertising support. On a number of occasions leading articles, were, without consultation with the editor, sub-edited by deletion of a fair number of passages by the then chairman of the commercial board of directors. It was the culmination of a clash of that kind which led to his (Mr. Williams’s) resignation.”
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The Russian Concentration Camps

The following arc extracts from a Manchester Guardian leader under the heading “Forced Labour” based on “Forced Labour in Soviet Russia” by David J. Dallin and Boris I. Nicolaevsky (published by Hollis & Carter):
   “The existence of ‘corrective labour camps’ in Russia is, of course, well known and even officially admitted. As long ago as 1931 Molotov told the Sixth Congress of Soviets of ‘these mass projects employing those deprived of liberty.’ A good deal of information about them may still be gleaned from the Soviet Press. But the vast scale of the system, which may ‘employ’ over ten million people, and the terrible conditions in those camps can be judged only from the stories of those men and women who have experienced them . . . All of them, naturally, are 'prejudiced’; some of them are clearly untrustworthy. Yet the total impression is so convincing that an impartial reader is forced to conclude that if only half is true it still remains a damning account of an inhuman system.”
  “The prisoners are paid—but so little that it hardly counts. They are fed—but only enough to keep them working and not always enough for that. If they die, as they do in hundreds and thousands, it is not because the State wishes them to die, but because the conditions in the swamps and forests of Siberia are so fearful that only the strongest can survive.”
(Manchester Guardian, 20/1 /48).
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A Great Game
“Major Frank (Bring ’em back alive) Buckley is what the reference books call 'a football manager out of the top drawer.’ And the Major certainly knows a Soccer player when he sees one. When he puts over a deal it is more reminiscent of Big Business in Lombard Street than the simple relaxation of kicking a piece of leather around.
 “Major Buckley was the manager who sold £100,000 worth of players when he was at Wolverhampton.
  ‘‘Now at Hull he announces that nine young players are for sale on the transfer list.
  “It is a curious sort of auction in humanity, for the football business, which has a turnover of millions, is not noticeably sentimental or generous to the lads who do most of the hard work and provide all the skill.
  “Will these players easily get another job? Are they affected by the Direction of Labour Order? And, if it is policy to train a surplus of players., who looks after the welfare of boys who don’t quite make the grade, or get abruptly put on the transfer list?
  "It’s a great game—while it lasts.”
(Cassandra, Daily Mirror, 2/1/48.)
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The I.L.P.

The I.L.P., which once had over 200 of its members in Parliament as Labour M.P.s, has now faded out as a Parliamentary party. The loss of the deposit by the I.L.P. candidate at Camlachie set the seal on it and one proposal to be considered at the Annual Conference is that the Party give up fighting elections and devote itself to propaganda.

It was reported (Manchester Guardian, 26/1/48) that at the Conference of the Scottish division a proposal was on the agenda to alter the name to “The Socialist Party (with which is incorporated the I.L.P.)”. But it would take more than a change of name to turn the I.L.P. into a Socialist Party.

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Too Many Shoes
“NEW YORK, Saturday. — American manufacturers predict that production will exceed sales of shoes by 40,000,000 pairs in 1948.”
(News Chronicle, 21/12/47).

Editorial: The Railway Strike in Queensland (1948)

Editorial from the April 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the S.P.G.B. pamphletIs Labour Government the Way to Socialism?” there is a brief description of the conflict between the Queensland Labour Government and the railwaymen in 1927 which helped to defeat the Labour Government at the elections two years later. A similar conflict broke out in February of this year, and for weeks Queensland’s State railways were at a standstill. From reports in the London newspapers it appears that in the first place railway workshop workers struck for increased pay, refusing to wait the long time before their claim would have been heard by the Arbitration Court. The rest of the railwaymen came out in support and refused to go back when ordered to do so by the Arbitration Court. Thereupon the Labour Government took drastic action. They “proclaimed a state of emergency, under which the police have power to arrest all strike pickets . . . . To-day the Government announced that all workers must return on Monday or they would be dismissed from the service.” (Times, February 28th, 1918.) Then they hurried a Bill through the legislature "giving the police drastic powers to deal with unauthorized strikes.” (Times, March 10th, 1948.)

Dockers, both in Queensland and New South Wales came out in sympathy with the railwaymen and in protest against the measures taken by the Government. Here is a report of an incident during the strike : — 
    "The police drew batons to-day in their first major clash with Queensland railway strikers. About 400 of the strikers, carrying placards and yelling, broke through the police cordon in a march through Brisbane streets. Pickets fought the police as they seized placards and several men were hit by the batons.” (Evening News, March 15th, 1948.)
According to the Daily Mail (March 16th, 1948) "the Federal Labour Government has now become involved, as the powerful Seamen’s Union and the Waterside Workers’ Federation have declared for the Queensland strikers. They are both ‘Federal’ unions, and Communists hold key positions in them.”

Naturally the Queensland Labour Government has seized upon the convenient excuse that the Communists are responsible for the strike, but workers who still believe that the Labour leaders can do better than the avowed supporters of capitalism at running their system should not be misled by that red herring, but should wake up to the fact that strikes against capitalist exploitation are inevitable no matter which party runs the system. And railwaymen who have just been holding celebrations for the nationalisation of the British railways should observe from the example of Queensland (where the railways have been nationalised for many years) that nationalisation does not remove the need to struggle to maintain the standard of living.