Wednesday, January 24, 2018

50 Years Ago: What is Patriotism? (1965)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

This noble impulse of social solidarity is the common inheritance of all mankind. But being a powerful social force it has lent itself to exploitation. Therefore with the development of class rule this great impulse is made subordinate to the class interests of the rulers. It becomes debased and perverted to definite anti-social ends. As soon as the people become a slave class “the land of their fathers” is theirs no more. Patriotism to them becomes a fraudulent thing. The “country” is that of their masters alone. Nevertheless, the instinct of loyalty to the community is too deep-seated to be eradicated so easily, and it becomes a deadly weapon in the hands of the rulers against the people themselves.

Capitalism, therefore, stands as the barrier the destruction of which will not only set free the productive forces of society for the good of all, but will also liberate human solidarity and brotherhood from the narrow confines of nationality and patriotism. Only victorious labour can make true the simple but pregnant statement: “mankind are my brethren, the world is my country.” Patriotism and nationalism as we know them will then be remembered only as artificial restrictions of men's sympathy and mutual help; as obstacles to the expansion of the human mind; as impediments to the needful and helpful development of human unity and co-operation; as bonds that bound men to slavery; as incentives that set brothers at each others' throats.

Despite its shameless perversion by a robber class the great impulse to human solidarity is by no means dead. Economic factors give it an ever firmer basis, and in the Socialist movement it develops apace. Even the hellish system of individualism, with its doctrine of every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, has been unable to kill it. And in the great class struggle of the workers against the drones, of the socially useful against the socially pernicious, in this last great struggle for the liberation of humanity from wage slavery, the great principle of human solidarity, based upon the necessities of today and impelled by the deep-seated instincts of the race, will come to full fruition and win its supreme historical battle.
From the Socialist Standard, December 1915.

Letter: G. D. H. Cole and Hungary (1958)

Letter to the Editors from the January 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Glasgow, N.W.

In the New Statesman on 20th April, 1957, in an article headed “Hungary is the Test,” G. D. H. Cole gave an interpretation of the Communist Manifesto. After dealing with the Communist Manifesto, he states: “ If this vision of contemporary and of coming society were true, it followed that, from the standpoint of the exploited class, correct, and therefore right, behaviour was simply that which would help to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie. Whatever would further the cause of world proletarian revolution was historically correct conduct, and therewith morally right. . . .  It was therefore justifiable and necessary for the proletariat to use any method and to take any action that would help it towards victory over its class-enemies ; and all squeamishness about such matters was entirely out of place. . . .  The Soviet Union forces, in overrunning Hungary and suppressing the so-called Hungarian 'counter-revolution’ were acting in strict accordance with this principle. . . . Any country that rejects the dictatorship of the proletariat in favour of parliamentary government thereby ranges itself in the camp of the enemies of the revolution. . . .  The logic of this position can be assailed only by those who reject the foundations on which the entire structure of Communist ideology rests.”

Does the S.P.G.B. agree that the interpretation of the Communist Manifesto given by G. D. H. Cole is correct ? If not, wherein is the interpretation mistaken ?
Yours, etc.,
D. Anderson

We do not agree with G. D. H. Cole’s interpretation of the Communist Manifesto, and the latter certainly does not subscribe to the view that “any country that rejects the dictatorship of the proletariat in favour of parliamentary government thereby ranges itself in the camp of the enemies of the revolution.” By “Parliamentary Government” we take it Mr. Cole means parliamentary action. Let us see what the Manifesto has to say on this point. The paging is from our edition of the Manifesto.
   “The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of its means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier and one customs tariff.”—(Page 64.)
  “The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself. 
   “But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself: it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons—the modern working class—the proletarians.”—(Page 66.)
   "This organisation of the proletarians into a class, and consequently, into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. It compels legislative recognition of particular interests of the workers, by taking advantage of the divisions among the bourgeoisie itself. Thus the ten-hours' Bill in England was carried. . . .
   “The bourgeoisie itself, therefore, supplies the proletariat with its own elements of political and general education; in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie.”—(Page 69.)
   “Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.”—(Page 78).
   “We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.”—(Page 79.) 
The Russian Revolution, from its inception, has never been concerned with “winning the battle of democracy.” Although it has borrowed Marxian phraseology, suitably amended, it has, in fact, been a capitalist revolution and has followed capitalist imperialist methods, of which its attitude in Hungary is an example. Like the French Revolution, it has inscribed on its banners, “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity,” and, like the French Revolution, these words have meant freedom for one group to oppress and exploit another; and like the French Revolution the people at the top engage in internecine struggles to annihilate one another.

G. D. H. Cole misses the fundamental facts and is misled by the phraseology.
Editorial Committee

Where Are You Going (1958)

From the February 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

By this time, you the reader, will once again have embarked on another year’s effort, which like all previous efforts, is a two-fold one—to maintain some kind of a living, the best you can get under the circumstances, whilst continuing to be the wealth producing agent for the minority who control your destiny; not a very dignified position to be in you will agree but one that you have accepted far too long.

You had your Christmas respite and indulged in the traditional manner. Throughout the holiday you strove to foster the spirit of good will; the “live and let live” idea. Now, it is once again all over and you must face up to the stern reality of life under Capitalism without the cap and bells. In fact you are expected, those of you who have one, to get back on “the job.”

It is at this juncture that we in the Socialist Party without wishing to be impertinent, ask the question “Where are you going this year?” Naturally we arc not referring to the spate of advertisements already filling the press, extolling the joys of wintering in the Bahamas, and other exotic places. We mean “What are your plans for improving your lot in 1958 ?” You will agree that 1957 took more out of you than you received in return. This situation is what industrialists would call “bad business.” and bad business indeed it was for the working class. This was true also for your fellow workers in the U.S.A., Russia and everywhere else. Everywhere, the sum total of dividends accruing to the world's workers in 1957 after payment of “overhead expenses” (food, clothes, shelter and an occasional “ break ”) was merely an increase in strain and stress; an increase in genuine, all-round fear. 1958 it now appears is already given over to an increase in the scientific armament race with all the above-mentioned evils attached and perhaps more.

The writer, has, for some time past, been in the habit of reading (in the same way as many renew the acquaintance with Dickens’ Christmas Carol) at the commencement of the New Year, some of the curious reasons and antidotes for the phenomena of poverty. He finds that the reasons are extremely varied and in most cases amusing. Economists and philanthropists together with our old friends the politicians and clergy offer all kinds of excuses including “sun-spots” which affect the weather and crops, mysterious psychological brain disturbances which affect the business acumen of industrial magnates and so on not forgetting the theory of the inherent wickedness of Man’s heart.

So you see, we are told to be patient, virtuous and hard working in the hope that, Micawber like, somehow, things will turn out all right.

In the light of all this, you may of course decide to run for the nearest hatchet, believing that humanity will not free itself “till the last Capitalist is hanged by the entrails of the last priest.” We don't think, however, that you are so foolishly energetic. Rather, you are more likely to put away your bells and lanterns, place the frost fairy back into her cardboard box and live in hope that you will be in a position to reverse the process next Christmas.

Readers of the Socialist Standard will know that it is not our custom to mouth empty platitudes and perhaps the phrase “Happy New Year” has fallen into nothing more than a platitude these days but what we do urge is that you take upon yourselves the business of seeing this year—1958 as the year in which you commenced to do something about putting things right You can best do this by supporting the Socialist movement which in your case is the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Better still send us a real New Year’s card—an application for membership.
W. Brain

The Ten Commandments (1958)

Film Review from the March 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Amidst much ballyhoo and publicity, with a prologue about “tyrants and freedom.” spoken by the famous Cecil B. de Mille. and a small orchestra to get one “in the mood” by playing excerpts from “Kismet” and other “Eastern” music, a film—“The Ten Commandments” is currently showing at the Plaza, W.1.

Like all other things, this film was made chiefly to create a profit and stimulate interest in the Christian religion, and when you ask the prices of admission you’ll realise that Mr. de Mille must be doing very nicely. The writer would like to warn anybody who may want one of the colourful programmes, that if you tender a shilling, expecting sixpence change, you will be requested (quite politely) to give the usherette another two shillings and sixpence! Of course, you could always take along a copy of the Bible.

One doesn’t have to be a Socialist to realise that if people will believe all that this film portrays, they’ll believe anything! But it did leave the writer of these words asking himself a few questions. How often are we, as Socialists, accused of having “our heads in the sky”? How often, when we put forward the Socialist case, do we hear words like “Fantastic!" — “Impossible" — “Nonsense”? The writer wonders how many critics of Socialism will applaud the obvious trickery of the cameras in “The Ten Commandments”? They may believe that wooden staffs can turn into deadly serpents, but the idea of production for use instead of profit—“Oh no, we must have competition! ”

The Israelites crossing the Red Sea (which, I was surprised to see, has a very dry bed!) is more easily believed than the idea of a world without social, colour or religious barriers!

The striking into rock, by fire, of the Ten Holy Commandments is “divine”—“heavenly,” much more to be believed than the object of the S.P.G.B. printed above the Declaration of Principles, which are probably too “down to earth.”

By all means, see this film which is an experience, although a bit of an expensive one! You’ll hear God speaking in a croaky American accent, yet declaring his Ten Commandments in Hebrew. One is left to wonder how those Israelites could have been so fickle in their loves of various Gods, especially after having apparently seen such marvels of miracles.

Of course, everything about Mr. De Mille’s production is a bit of a wonder, but the biggest wonder so far as I was concerned was how on earth people still believe implicitly that all of this was true. Rameses (beautifully acted by Yul Brynner) came pretty close to the most sensible part of the whole film when, during the plague which was supposed to have been sent down by the “merciful Father ” upon His people, he said. “ Bah, this is not the work of any God, this is the natural order of things! ’’
R. J. Otter

Another Economic Blizzard? (1958)

From the April 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

So the bread lines and soup kitchens have appeared again—in the United States and in Canada.

It looks as if the slump that would never come again is now on its way. At least that is the impression one gets from statements by leading financiers, here and in America, and from articles that have appeared in London papers recently.

The Times for March the 4th, under the heading, “World Unemployment Survey,” gives figures of unemployment in different countries. In the United States in January the figure was 4,494,000. This does not include unemployment among the 30 million who are not covered by unemployment insurance. Since January there has been a considerable increase in unemployment The Times gives the unemployment figure for Canada in January as 520,000. Here also the figure has increased since January.

The News Chronicle for February 28th contains an article on Detroit by Bruce Rothwell. From this article it is evident that the huge empty factories around Detroit, and the empty shops the present writer saw in Dearborn, when he was there last September, were the expression of something more than the shift of industry out of Detroit and the change-over to automation.

The News Chronicle writer has this to say
   “Signs of the slump are everywhere and this is frightening America.
   “For beyond this city millions more jobs depend on the car industry. One business in six is wholly concerned with it.
    “Steel, rubber, glass, leather; they all slump when the assembly lines slow; and soon it spreads to us all.
      “So Detroit, the centre of it, is harder hit to-day than in the ’thirties."
The writer states that there are 250,000 unemployed in Detroit now, and he tells of the soup kitchen run by the Capuchin monks which can only touch a tiny fragment of the thousands of hungry.

He goes on to tell of the workers who are "called in for only a few hours and then sent home with too much pay to qualify for unemployment benefit”; of the cars, bought on the hire system, and almost the only means of transport, that are seized because of failure to pay the instalments: “this is the heyday of the debt collector. In haulage trucks they cruise the streets checking their lists with parked cars. Two hundred a day are seized.” Of the City Welfare Office, where people queue all day in the hope of relief: “They queue all day, and the queue is lengthening for the list of men who have been out 26 weeks is lengthening, too—at the rate of 7,000 a month.”

This is a grim picture of the passing away of the boom times and the fraud of the Welfare State.

The seriousness of the position is emphasised by an announcement in The Observer, March 9th, that Eisenhower is proposing action to mitigate the effects of the slump:—
   “In an unprecedented move, President Eisenhower announced to-day a forthcoming Bill which guarantees that while the recession lasts jobless United States workers will not go without unemployment benefit—a fate that has been staring many of them in the face."
The Observer article points out, however, that only 60 per cent, of the jobless workers will be entitled to benefit under Eisenhower’s proposed measure, just as under the existing law.

The article also makes this general statement:— 
   "As many areas have been depressed for months, there are substantial numbers of United States workers who have exhausted their 26 weeks’ allowance, and many more are about to reach that stage. Without the President’s new measure, these workers would have had literally to stop buying anything at all, and to stop paying the time payments with which every American working-class family is saddled.” 
Another paper, The People, March 9th, had an article headed “They queue for free soup in Canada now” with a picture of a line of unemployed and destitute outside a soup kitchen at Marian Centre, Edmonton, where 400 free meals a day are being distributed. The writer of this article says:—
   “The emergency is not Edmonton's alone. In the last eight weeks an economic blizzard has swept over all Canada.
    “Only eight weeks ago I reported that, according to official figures, 300,000 people were on the dole, including many emigrants from Britain.
     "I forecast then that the figure would increase. It has— to an extent far beyond my worst fears."
From the extracts we have given it will be seen that the indications are that there are tough times ahead; for capitalism is an international disease. A collapse of industry in one part of the world soon makes its effects felt in every other part. So the Cohen Committee need not have bothered to assert the need of arranging for a certain percentage of unemployment—the system will more than take care of that in the fullness of time.

The Capitalist (1958)

From the May 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reproduction of a leaflet issued by the Socialist Party of Canada

The capitalist is another of those misunderstood people. He is often portrayed in something less than glowing terms. Not that his clothing is shoddy. Usually it is shown to be carefully tailored and made of costly materials. But he is offered to us as a smirking pear-shaped specimen, lips folded over a fat cigar, whose weight is mainly encompassed by his belt. Sometimes he appears as a banker, a big, bad banker, who has corralled all the money and won't let the rest of us have any except at impossible rates of interest. Sometimes he turns up as a munitions maker who plots to keep the world at war so that he may sell his guns and tanks and other wares and keep the profits flowing in. Then again, he may be a landlord whose girth is gained from high rents on slum dwellings inhabited by poor people.

He may be found in any of these categories, or he may be found in any of a number of other categories equally distasteful. Indignant people are the ones who portray him in these terms, people who believe that more of the good things of life could come to those in need if more money or cheaper money were made available, or that wars could be reduced in number or intensity if profits were removed from the sale of arms, or that better or cheaper housing would be possible if curbs were placed on his bad habits; indignant people, rebellious people, people who see wrongs in society that must be righted and who see in the capitalist the source of so many of these wrongs.

Then there are other people who portray the capitalist differently. They see in him a public benefactor, a philanthropist, a captain of industry, a financial genius, an all round fine fellow. Press reporters and politicians often tell of his benefactions and sterling qualities. Preachers and elderly ladies dote on his philanthropies. Educators discourse on his industrial and financial greatness. In the eyes of these good people he brings grace, goodness and distinction to a society which with all its faults already scintillates with fine features.

The way people look upon society has much to do with the way they look upon the capitalist. Those who see evils about them tend to place these evils at his door. Those who observe instead blessings in modern life tend to credit him with these blessings. He is truly the object of much attention.

And most of it is undeserved. It is unquestionably true that he picks up a dollar here and there through colourful banking operations, the sale of guns, the renting of rat traps and other indiscreet activities. And it is equally true that his industries provide jobs for people, that he contributes generously to churches and charities, that he gives his support to all kinds of groups engaged in social uplifting and public improvement, activities widely conceded to be of worth. But he is really not much different from the rest of us. There may not be patches on his breeches or holes in his socks, or calluses where ours are. He may have better clothing, a finer home, a more attractive bank balance. But he could walk along the road with any of us, and who could determine which one owned the alarm clock?

The thing that makes him a capitalist is not the thing that makes him good or bad in people’s eyes. Most people don’t even give a thought to the thing that makes him a capitalist. They content themselves with some particular feature of his activities and judge him accordingly. He is a wicked banker, a blood-stained munitions maker, a thieving landlord. Or else he is the embodiment of many virtues.
The most important thing to note about the capitalist is that he is a member of an economic category. He belongs to a class in society—the capitalist class. As such he shares with his fellow capitalists in the ownership of the mills, mines, factories, in fact, all the means that exist in society for producing and distributing the food, clothing, shelter and other things needed for the preservation and enjoyment of human life. He and his kind own all these things; the rest of society own nothing of importance. It is this fact of ownership that determines in the long run what he thinks and does and how he lives and how the rest of us live.

Consider the position of the capitalist and his factory. Into the factory go raw materials and workers and out of it come products that are sold in the market places to bring him a profit. The profit does not originate in the market places. People who manipulate wealth in market places do not in that way create profit; they simply shuffle it around in such a way that some capitalists benefit at the expense of others. The profit is created by the workers in the factory. It exists in that portion of the wealth which the workers produce in excess of their own wages. Not all of it is profit, but there is no profit to be found elsewhere. To increase the amount of his profit the capitalist must improve the methods of production, or he must induce the workers to work longer hours or at greater speed or to accept lower wages. And unless he is prepared to sweat in the factory beside the workers, a thought that is usually repellant to him, there is not much else he can personally do about the profit, except spend it. This he does with all the assurance of one who is entitled to it. 

The capitalist is a parasite. He lives without working. He lives on the results of other men’s toil and he is able to do this because he owns the means of production and distribution, a condition that is neither necessary nor desirable, but is allowed to continue because people have not yet seen in it the source of most of the harm in modern society. For even those who rise indignantly to condemn the capitalists, in most cases condemn only the wicked ones.

To replace wicked capitalists with worthy ones will not end the exploitation of labour. The workers will continue to live in need, in insecurity, in fear of the future, no matter what may be the quality of those who occupy the high places. What is wrong in society is not the wickedness of the capitalists, but the wickedness of the capitalist system; and until this system is replaced by one in which there are no capitalists, society can have no hope for a better life.

It is not proposed here to imprison or exterminate the capitalist; it is proposed simply to put him in overalls and make him a useful member of the community.

Comrade Ivy Groves (1958)

Obituary from the June 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is a sad duty to have to report the sudden death at the age of 50 years, of Ivy Groves, who had a heart attack on Sunday. May 4th. The not so very young members will well remember her as a loyal Comrade who, although not a writer or a speaker for the Party, was always ready with a smile and much energy, to help in any way. Until the last few years, when owing to domestic circumstances when it was not possible to be around so much, she regularly attended branch meetings and Head Office. It was 25 years ago when Comrade Ivy Groves joined the Chiswick Branch which via Wembley Branch became Ealing Branch Latterly, when living in South London she transferred to Camberwell Branch. Many Comrades well know that her help and thoughtfulness greatly assisted Clifford Groves in his work for the Party as a propagandist, E. C. Member and General Secretary for many years.

World Worth While (1958)

From the July 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Reproduction of a leaflet issue by the Socialist Party of Canada.) 

The average person will endure hardships, even dangers, in a cause that he believes to be worthy. But he does not resign himself to a lifetime of such conditions. He wants to experience the more pleasant things of life. He wants to live in a spacious well- furnished home; strongly constructed and free from the clutches of banks and mortgage companies. He wants his family to be properly fed and clothed and provided with the tilings they need. He wants freedom and opportunity to expand his mental and physical capabilities in the directions of his choice. He wants peace, security and the happiness that the potentialities of the modern world can make possible.

How modest these desires are, yet how far from the grasp of the average person! Those who guide the affairs of the world are overwhelming in their assurances that no aim is closer to their hearts, that no goal receives more careful thought. But—ah, that fatal but!—there are so many obstacles that stand in the way, so many things that have to be done first There are depressions to be offset or overcome, trade agreements to be signed, international problems to be solved. There are billions of dollars worth of satellites to be sent spinning into space, billions of dollars worth of atom bombs and guided missiles to be perfected and stockpiled, freedoms to be preserved, mighty creations of man to be destroyed, rebuilt and destroyed again. There are so many things that have to be done—first

No crisis or emergency is so great as to prevent the flow of luxuries into the possession of the idle class, the capitalist class. Only the wealth producers have to wait for the ending of the current depression, war, or other disaster before there is enough for them. Always there are obstacles, never-ending obstacles. Neva can the statesmen say. "You have produced abundance. It shall be yours.” The best that even the greatest of them can say is that none shall starve, and even this is said with reservations. Modern man lives under the capitalist order of society, and capitalism cannot be made to operate in such a way as to benefit alL

The workers today live steadily in the shadow of want and terror. They don’t have to. There is no law of the universe condemning them to live in this way perpetually. The evils of the modern world arise from the class ownership of the productive agencies. They can be ended, at any time the workers choose, by changing these agencies from the possession of a class to the possession of society. Not the government ownership of "public utilities” or “ basic industries,” which is of no practical value to society, but the common ownership of all the means for producing and distributing the needs of life.

A change of this kind does not convert stockholders into bondholders. It puts an end to stockholders and bondholders and transforms the beneficiaries of both these forms of parasitism into wealth producers. It ends the production of goods to be sold on the world’s markets at a profit and institutes the production of goods to be made freely available to all. It means the ending of profit in all its forms, the ending of the local, national and international antagonisms engendered by the quest for profit and so the ending of war, the struggles for military supremacy, the building of hydrogen bombs, guided missiles and all the other terrible things man has devised to destroy man. It means the passing of the foul propagandist activities of the huge publicity agencies, the educators and moralists, whose function it is to guide the workers in ways designed to preserve their enslavement. It means the liberation of human thought and the sources of knowledge. It means the ending of crime, since crime is rooted in a class divided society that will come to an end in a sane world.

Common ownership means the release from their present occupations of the judges, the jailers, the clerks of the court, the lawyers, the politicians, the bankers, the profit counters, the butlers, the valets and boot-polishers, and their transformation, along with the armed forces, the producers of munitions and all others engaged in socially unnecessary activities, into producers of things that will add to the comfort and pleasure of all.

It means the ending of the struggle between Capital and Labour over the division of the wealth produced by Labour, and it means the ending of Capital and Labour as class entities and the merging of these classes into a family of humans intent on making life worth living.

It means the ending of the system of society in which the mass of people are deprived of the fruits of their labour and the establishment of a system in which poverty will give place to plenty, privilege to equality, slavery to freedom. It means a world worth while. It means Socialism.