Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Waste of War (1918)

From the February 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard

A point often overlooked by the man-in-the-street is the connection of war with waste. A list of figures covering the cost of the war day by day conveys little to the layman's mind. Parliamentarians give you these statistics freely, that you may be beguiled into sacrificing your mite on the altar of War. Not that the combined savings of all the working class would maintain the war for a single day, but it tends to instil into their minds the illusion that they are doing something for "their country.”

War is absolute waste of men, material, and brain power. The question is not concerned with any supposed “rights.” The fact is—just allow this point to sink into your mind—war is absolute waste.

Since August 1914 practically all advances in science have been in connection with war. Eminent men have devoted their faculties to the solving of the problem of defeating the submarine menace. Others have given their time and energies to the production of new chemical compounds for the greater slaughter of the “enemy.” Inventors concentrate upon means of destruction. A huge man-of-war, involving the labour of thousands of men and women for many months, is sunk in a few minutes. A gun of large calibre, again the product of months of toil, reaches the slaughter-ground, and a shell from the “enemy” reduces it to scrap-iron. And so with all the material produced for war.

And then the men. Men covering every branch of science have been sacrificed. Torn from their laboratories and studies, they have been thrown into the Army like so much meat a sausage machine. And in addition the finest men of half the world, the very flower of every advanced race under the sun, are flung like so much garbage into the pit, from which few indeed will come out as sound in mind and body as they were when their masters claimed them to be wasted in the war for commercial supremacy.

Only by one method can you eliminate this tragic waste. That method is by realising your position as wage-slaves and emancipating yourselves therefrom. The science of Socialism will teach you how to do this. Read our literature. Ask us questions on any point you do not agree with or do not understand. We are ever willing, nay, eager, to assist our fellow workers--men and women—along the road to liberty.
Harry Grattan

Strikes Better than Arbitration (1968)

Party News from the December 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard
A member of the Socialist Party of New Zealand, our comrade Ron Everson, sends us the following report on recent industrial unrest in that country:
On 17 June for the first time in twenty-seven years the Arbitration Court refused a general wage order application. The unions had sought increases of up to 7.6 per cent to compensate for cost-of-living increases following devaluation and the imposition of restrictive economic measures by the government.

The decision amazed even some employers who were prepared to give their workers a five per cent increase and some had already adjusted their prices in anticipation. The decision of course roused the ire of the workers. Widespread interest was taken in trade union activities; erstwhile apathetic union members attended work stop meetings and demonstrations. On the day of the State opening of parliament on 26 June trade unionists staged a demonstration. They were supported by students with placards pledging support for the workers and demanding bigger bursaries, by the Campaign Against Rising Prices, the Maori organisation for Human Rights and the CND. The demonstrators forced an unprecedented change in the State opening of parliament by Governor General Sir Arthur Porritt. Never before had a Governor General entered parliament for the State opening other than by the main entrance. On this occasion poor Sir Arthur had to sneak in by a side door.

Demands were made for the abolition of the Arbitration Court. Delegates to the Federation of Labour conference were in favour of ignoring the Court. It seems this, the strikes and industrial unrest that followed frightened the employers into agreeing to go back to the Court for a rehearing. As a result the Court made a wage order of a five per cent increase restricted to the first $40 earned by men, the first $30 by women and the first $25 by junior workers. Whether the nil order was the outcome of the inexperience of the new Judge of the Court, Blair, or the employers’ contempt for the workers’ will to fight is anyone’s guess.

However, the outcome was an illustration of the passage in the Socialist Party of Great Britain’s pamphlet Questions of the Day:
   “In practice arbitration bodies exist for the purpose of preventing industrial disputes from taking the form of stoppages of work, and their awards on wage claims are bound to be influenced by the attitude of the workers. If workers were to abandon all idea of strikes the employers and the arbitration bodies alike would reduce still further the amounts they were prepared to offer. The strike remains the workers' indispensable weapon".
Need we say that on the day of the march on parliament among the forest of banners there was not one advocating the “abolition of the wages system”. When workers in sufficient numbers reach that degree of understanding an effort to fob them off with a few miserable cents of a wage increase will only raise a laugh. It is a sad fact that now a few cents flung in their direction can take the fight out of workers.

While they lack knowledge of the nature of wages, and the wages system, they will be forced to engage in these never-ending struggles which merely maintain their subject position as wage-slaves.

Meanwhile the July issue of the New Zealand Building Worker,' official journal of the Carpenters and Related Trades’ Industrial Union of Workers, reprints our leaflet on devaluation (also an issue in New Zealand as the government there followed Britain), an article from this journal on the IWW and one from The Western Socialist on the materialist conception of history.
Ron Everson

Brewers & Preachers (1968)

From the December 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The pro-and anti-Sunday drinking referendum that has recently taken place in Wales has been fought, on the one hand, under the guise of democracy and the freedom of the individual and. on the other, as a struggle to maintain a tradition in the face of a decline in standards and morals. One was an attempt by the brewers and those who, consciously or otherwise, supported them to change existing social habits, and the other an attempt by religious organisations (mainly Nonconformist) to maintain a way of life that has been peculiar to Wales for generations.

The sponsors of Sunday opening were without doubt headed by the brewery interests and other allied organisations. One found strange members in their camp — even religious people who claim to be supporters not only because of the 'freedom’ involved but because they could not find any scriptural command in the list of “Thou Shalt Nots" which was anti-drink. The Rev. Cannon R. Williams of Haverford West (the Brewers’ Chaplain) was a case in point. The public hoarding adverts and nation-wide door-to-door distribution of pamphlets must have cost the brewers a fortune — a fortune they hope to recoup in the years ahead.

Another reverend spokesman stated in the Western Mail that “the nation that loses its Sunday loses its soul”. But it is only fair to say that other, non-religious organisation have added their weight against the Sunday extension, for instance. National Life-Line (a movement similar to the Good Samaritans though primarily confined to industry) stated:
  Alcoholism is costing industry £75 millions annually . . . 250,000 men failed to turn up for work because of that ‘Monday morning feeling’.
Well, what is to the advantage of the brewing industy can be to the disadvantage of other industrialists—that’s capitalism.

It is indeed a comment on democracy in Britain that it grants ten minutes broadcasting time to the “Communist” Party, five minutes to the Welsh Nationalists and none whatsoever to the Socialist Party of Great Britain in Wales, but can spend a huge sum of money to build up a national campaign, including television and sound broadcasts, on the benefits of a Sunday pint of beer.
W. Brain

Science and Race (1968)

Book Review from the December 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Science and the Concept of Race, Margaret Mead, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Ethel Tohach, Robert E. Light. Editors. (Columbia University Press, $6.50)

About one third of this book is for the specialist; the remainder an absorbing discussion of one of society’s big problems. Not a one-sided discussion, either; Dwight J. Ingle writes
    . . . both types of racists seek to place individuals in schools, jobs, and housing on the basis of racial identity rather than of abilities, interests, drives, and behavioral standard.
Both types of racists! But even this determined bending over backwards does no more than suggest that there might be the very tiniest mouse of evidence in favour of racism—and that after all the mountains of prejudice which have been probed to find it.

Gloria Marshall makes the crucial point, that racial classification is usually taken as the starting point for an investigation of that very classification. In other words, assume that a Negro is different and then look into his differences. In other words, a case of heads I win and tails you lose.

The pity of it is that such knowledge, such discussion, does not penetrate into the council estates and the suburbs, where racism flourishes in so many forms. This can be fought only with knowledge; Science and the Concept of Race, with its up-to- date review of scientific thinking on the subject, is a sound introduction for anyone wanting to understand and attack this most pernicious of theories. It also has a comprehensive list of references for further study.

Marxism and Communism (1968)

Book Review from the December 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marxism and Communism by Katharine Savage (Bodley Head 25s.)

Katharine Savage specialises in books for young people. Her latest is a skilfil mixture of ignorance and confusion and will probably sell very well.
John Crump

Catholics and Protestants in Ireland (1968)

From the December 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

July 1, 1690, (Old Calendar) was a major turning point in Irish history. The defeat of the catholic King James confirmed William of Orange as the new King of England and Ireland and consequently as head of the Protestant Church. The centuries which followed witnessed the suppression of catholics by the imposition of penal laws. The old aristocrats had their lands confiscated and were replaced by a new Loyalist aristocracy. The new privileged class re-let their lands to the peasants and. as the years passed, raised the rents to enormous heights. The landlords lived then in ostentatious luxury spending most of their time gambling, drinking and entertaining their fellow aristocrats in England, all from the proceeds of rack-rents.

These circumstances imposed a hard and unstable existence on the catholic peasant majority evoking their hatred of the parasitical protestant landlords. After the Catholic Emancipation of 1829 the Irish went through the greatest horror in their history—the so-called Famine of the 1840’s. The population was devastated and today is still little more than half of what it then was. The catholics strongly felt that famine had been imposed and exacerbated by a foreign, protestant government.

Then in 1916 the Easter Rising took place. The executions which followed sparked off the Anglo-Irish war, bringing Ireland to the attention of the world. Again the Irish felt they were victims of a crime against humanity—the introduction into Ireland of the Black and Tans, gangs of trigger-happy layabouts in British uniform. In the end the British government agreed to grant a mild form of nationhood to twenty-six countries, but a parliament subordinate to Westminster to the portion of Ireland where protestants were a majority. The actions of a handful of protestant politicians, who pressurised the British government into splitting Ireland in two, once again brought the religious issue into Irish politics. Giving a portion of Ulster a political divorce from the rest of Ireland was one of the causes of the cold blooded and bitter civil war.

This very brief outline of Irish history is essential to an understanding of how religious belligerence arose. The protestant minority have not been the victims of terror by “the papists" in the Irish Republic despite their fears in 1921. On the other hand, this ridiculous religious belligerence still exists in Northern Ireland where the catholic minority are subjected to various forms of discrimination.

Both religions, catholic and protestant, claim to be Christian. Today we hear their leaders crying out for peace throughout the world; they beg the rich to be charitable to the poor; their tongues are blistered denouncing socialists. Yet they stand firmly rooted in the society which causes and perpetuates war and poverty.

Religion, to the Irish catholic, is man's first and most important duty. They feel that the road to god is the road to happiness. They are thus led to accept present conditions and to look forward to happiness after death. They fail to see that they, like men in other religions, have a common bond—they are members of the working class. Religion to them is like heroin injected into their veins. It mixes with the blood and sinks their minds into a state in which they can no longer think for themselves. It is this which leads them willingly to submit to their energies being used for the benefit of a few parasites. They are unable to see that this oppression helps perpetuate their exploitation, the sale of their labour-power for a minimum of its produce. The consequent degradation, and the insecure existence, always with the fear of what may happen should their ability to work be maimed, encourages a belief in a better existence after death, just as primitive man’s struggle with nature gave rise to beliefs in gods, devils, demons, food-laden paradises and all sorts of unrealistic fantasies.

Only by a close examination of society can the worker learn the reason for his poverty and only after casting aside all forms of addiction—nationalist and religious—can society be examined in a clear manner. Only by learning where his true interest lies can the worker go out, organise consciously and take the proper steps to end his subservience; Religion is of no use here. It is in fact a hindrance, a serious and a malicious hindrance.

All the workers of Ireland should end their addictions. They suffer the same conditions as the workers in England. Russia and everywhere. Their split into different factions of a similar dream will have to go. It is sad to see our fellow workers fighting amongst themselves over opposed beliefs in some form of nothingness, with the catholics shouting about partition and the protestants about 1690 and the Inquisition. They mistakenly believe their degradation to be inflicted upon them because of their different beliefs, one faction agitating the other. The catholic workers are unable to see through the nebulousness of their religion while the protestant workers allow themselves to be used as instruments of hypocritical Unionist parasites who want the link with Britain in order to make more money. The catholics swoon over their history while the Orangemen denounce the tyranny of the papacy at the height of its power.

The solution to the problems of workers in all Ireland will not come by conversion of one faction to the other, but by uniting with each other and with their fellow workers of the world. Then, when the workers are united their energies can be turned to the real conflict—that between capitalists and workers, not between workers with different national and religious tags. However the workers must, in the first instance, reject all the drugs, nationalist and religious, which lead them into willing submission to the capitalist class.
Patrick Garvey

The International Oil Scramble (1968)

From the December 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The modern oil industry has seen many changes since the first successful well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859. At first the main application of oil was as a fuel for lamps. Now it has many more uses. Its distillates provide the fuels and lubricants for various types of internal combustion engines powering the means of transport on land, sea and air. It can be used as a substitute for coal as boiler fuel and as a raw material for the chemical industry. For all the changes the oil industry is still beset by the contradictions resulting from the capitalist mode of production. The leading producers operate on a world wide scale but are hampered by the nationalism of the countries they operate in. The extraction, refining and distribution of oil needs a vast social effort; yet a motley host of parasites make a fine living from it, through private property rights. As in all capitalist industry costs are cut to the bone; yet the waste that characterises the system is not eliminated.

America is still the leading national producer, but its market has expanded so much that it is also the leading importer. The early years were characterised by cut throat competition among the many producers. As the landowner has the mineral rights, an oil field can have as many producers as there owners over it. This is one aspect of waste that goes beyond duplication of effort, in that an excessive number of wells in an oil field reduces the amount recoverable from that source. In spite of the many different producers the American industry was soon dominated by Standard Oil. founded by Rockefeller in 1870, who within a few years controlled approximately 80 per cent of refinery capacity, 90 per cent of the pipelines and had large interests in railway tankcars. Hence the producers had to dance to the tune called by this firm. Standard became the dominating oil interest in the world. In 1911 it was broken into 30 companies under American anti-trust law. One of them, Standard of New Jersey (ESSO), is still the world’s largest oil company.

A number of oil fields outside America were developed before 1918. The most important was in the Baku region of Russia, which was controlled by the Nobel brothers of Sweden (of dynamite and peace prize fame). German interests had important investments in the Rumanian oil fields. They also had a share in the Turkish Petroleum Co. (now Iraq Petroleum Co.), in partnership with British interests and Gulbenkian (Mr. 5 per cent). In 1908 important deposits were found in Persia by the Anglo-Persian Co. (later Anglo-Iranian, now B.P.) and the Abadan refinery set up in 1913. The British Admiralty in 1914 switched their warships from coal to oil fuel, and also obtained a controlling interest in the firm. The main challenge to Standard Oil during this period came from the Royal Dutch Company. Operating from Sumatra, they were well placed to undercut the Americans in the important Chinese market for lamp oil. Shell was another competitor. They distributed Russian oil and cut transport costs by introducing tanker ships. In 1907 these two firms merged and five years later had carried their challenge into Standard's home territory by setting up subsidiaries in America.

The first world-war showed the importance of oil as a strategic material. The defeat of Germany resulted in the confiscation of its oil interests, France taking over its share in Turkey. In Russia the oil fields were taken over by the state. With increasing demand competition intensified in the scramble to gain control of new sources. The main contestants were Britain and America who clashed wherever there was oil to be found. American interests were excluded from the Middle-East till 1928 when they gained a share in IPC. They were later to gain concessions in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the region. The interwar period saw Venezuela. Iran and Iraq became important producers.

The development of such synthetic materials as nylon, plastics and artificial rubber during the second world war gave rise to the petro-chemical industry and important new markets for oil. The growth of air transport, the replacing of steam by diesel traction on the railways and the increasing number of motor can, have also been factors in the continuing growth of the oil market in recent years. The main outlets are still in the industrialised areas while relatively underdeveloped regions have become increasingly important producers. This has led to conflicts over royalties, taxes and concession agreements between oil companies and governments in whose territories they are operating. One showdown came between the Anglo-Iranian Co. and the Iranian government which resulted in nationalisation of the firm’s assets. The British government replied by successfully placing an embargo on oil from Iran. Output was increased elsewhere, including areas operated by Anglo-Iranian, while the Iranian government had assets yielding less income in two years than a single day’s royalty had done before. In 1954 a new agreement was signed in which the eight leading oil companies formed a consortium to run production for a half share of the profits. Those who controlled the marketing end of the industry still called the tune.

The struggle between the various capitalist sectional interests over the division of the spoils continues. It mainly consists of haggling over royalties and concessions. At times of stress such as the Suez war or the more recent Arab-Israel war, pipelines have been blown up, supplies cut, or the Suez canal blocked. As a result some other sources have expanded output to take up the slack. Having found that individual action unsatisfactory, governments of the producing countries have set up the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to take joint action. In fact they are only doing what the international companies have long been accused of. Vast fortunes have been made in recent years by the rulers of the oil producing lands. More than enough for luxurious living so that they still have large funds to invest. Places such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela are pressing ahead with industrialisation projects. Large sums have also been invested in armaments. Iraq and Saudi Arabia are examples; each nation has territorial claims on neighbouring Sheikhdoms.

In recent years Italy, Japan, Spain and France have been trying to get or increase their stakes in the oil producing areas, thus adding to the chaos that already exists. State-capitalist Russia has recently produced more oil than it needs and has captured some important export markets. It is estimated that demand for oil in Russia will expand so much that they too are on the look-out for outside sources of supply. At present about 60 per cent of the proven oil reserves are in the Middle-East, yet efforts to discover other reserves arc being made throughout the world. In a situation where there is a problem of oversupply, this may seem crazy. Yet under capitalism with its conflict of interests, it makes sense to be crazy. In the case of oil. consuming, marketing, and producing interests vie against one another in an orgy of waste.

The oil industry presents a fine example of the confusion that can arise from the conflicts of capitalism. Workers get caught in the mythologies of imperialism. Hence the idea that the international oil companies have simply to be ousted from the Middle East, to hasten the end of capitalism. Its opposite is that they must stay there to defend our standard of living. Russia is a case where foreign interests have been replaced by local ones, yet the differences are only superficial. A minority still dominate society and conflicts over the terms of trade remain. Neighbouring satellite countries pay more for oil from Russia, than the same product will fetch on the open market. As for living standards, the majority have to put up with working class standards, which are well below those of the capitalists—the Gulbenkians. the Rockefellers, the oil sheiks.
Joe Carter

50 Years Ago: Equal Pay for Women (1968)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

A writer in Reynold's Newspaper October 13, 1918 bewails the fact that women’s wages should be lower than men’s. She complains that: —
   Woman has been treated as a sort of lay figure for students of economics. Her value to the employer as a profit- maker, to the community as a potential Mother, to the politician as a dispenser of votes, has had the fullest consideration. But who has claimed the right of woman to that payment for her labour which will allow of a full and independent life?
The writer forgets that in the past the capitalist has only employed women in preference to men because they were cheaper, and if we except those special occupations where women — because of lightness of touch etc. — excel, men would still be employed in preference to women if wages were the same for both sexes. A woman who does equal work with a man must obviously require and obtain the same amount of the necessities of life. It does not follow, however, that the employer must pay her a wage that will provide it. Girls living with their parents for instance, look upon the factory as a makeshift to obtain a living until they get married. The capitalist knows this, and the girls seldom organise to try and force them to pay for their labour-power at its cost of production, hence the parents have to make up the difference. The employment of large numbers of women sets free men who, competing with their fellow-workers' provide employers with the power to reduce men's wages: and married women, unable to live on their husbands’ wages, take their place beside the younger women in the factory, and the capitalist gets the husband and wife for wages that would not sustain them if they lived separately.
From an article 'Woman and her Work' by F. Foan. Socialist Standard, December 1918.

Letters: Reform or Revolution (1968)

Letter to the Editors from the December 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reform or Revolution


In connexion with Socialism it seems pertinent to consider three situations: the current capitalist-situation, the future Socialist-situation and the change-over-situation when capitalism changes to Socialism. Many people claim Socialism infeasible, usually on the grounds that human-nature would not allow Socialism to operate. To this the Socialist Party of Great Britain replies that those elements of human-nature that would harm Socialism are merely a product of capitalism and that under Socialism human-nature would adjust accordingly. Such an adjustment would surely take generations, certainly many years, to come about, and this in itself surely renders the sudden onset of Socialism an impossibility? The Socialist Party demands that Socialists should not vote for reformist parties such as the Labour Party and apparently forgets that by condemning reformism an increasing public sympathy towards the Socialist Party will technically be followed by an increasingly “Right Wing” government. Indeed, as soon as the Socialist Party became a threat to the status-quo, repressive government measures would be taken to destroy it. In fact we could see politics moving backwards. It appears that Socialists must become involved in reformism, or cry for ever to the wind. This makes the unsympathetic attitude taken by the Socialist Party towards the Labour Party all the more difficult to understand.
R. E. Shimmin,
Port St. Mary, Isle of Man.

Mr. Shimmin’s argument might have some validity if it really was the aim and policy of the Labour Party to achieve Socialism by a gradual process of reform. But Labour has always firmly stood for capitalism (even if we concede that a tiny handful of its members may have wanted Socialism). Its constitution commits it to wholesale nationalisation or state capitalism, while in practice it accepts capitalism in Britain more or less as it is, a mixture of private and state enterprise. The only party in this country to stand for Socialism is the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

Class ownership of the means of production causes workers’ problems and any government, be it Labour or “right-wing”, which takes power within capitalism cannot solve these problems and must come into conflict with the workers. It must run capitalism in the only way it can be, as a profit-making system in the interests of the privileged few who live off rent, interest and profit, and to the detriment of the workers. As socialists, we are not particularly concerned whether the capitalist government is Labour, Tory, Liberal or a coalition of them all. They are all anti-working class.

We fail to see Mr. Shimmin’s point about the growth of the Socialist Party “technically” being followed by a reactionary government. We presume that this is the old hoary one about splitting the anti-Tory vote. But it is not the Tories that are the main enemy. It is capitalism and we are equally opposed to all parties that support it, Labour as well as Tory. We would also remind Mr. Shimmin that in many countries, and especially in pre-war Germany, it was the failure of democratic reformism that paved the way for the rise of parties favouring dictatorship.

We are given no reason as to why the growth of the Socialist Party should be at the expense of the Labour Party. No doubt when the socialist movement grows those who support capitalism, fearful of splitting the anti-socialist vole, will rally around one or other of the large capitalist parties. It may be the Tories or it may be Labour or they both may form an anti-socialist electoral alliance. It does not really worry us what they do. That is their problem and that of the class they represent, the capitalists. We assure of one thing, though. Going by the record of the two post-war Labour governments, if there are any repressive measures to be taken against socialists and workers generally Labour will be only too pleased to oblige.

Which brings us to another of Mr. Shimmin’s points. He suggests that when the Socialist Party grows the government will take steps to try to crush it. Maybe, but we doubt it. For as the socialist movement grows so the power of the capitalists is weakened. The balance of class power shifts in favour of the workers. Any government, be it Labour or Tory, which tried to crush the socialist movement would be biting off too much. By the time the socialist movement has grown so as to be a threat to capitalist power then it will be too late to crush it.

Nor has our correspondent really understood our view of human nature. We are not out to change it. We merely assert that human beings behave in different ways under different social conditions and that they can change themselves by changing these conditions. The change from capitalism to Socialism will not be made by us on behalf of the people, but by the immense majority of workers who want Socialism and are fully aware of what is involved in establishing and running such a society. Once workers are socialist-minded Socialism can be established fairly quickly. When the workers have political power it won’t take long to use it to convert the means of production from class to common ownership. This done, then production for use, to meet human needs can begin. Socialism will have been set up.
Editorial Committee

Democracy and Socialism


A member of your party who saw me leaving Hyde Park on a march on Sunday 25 August claimed that because anarchists consider parliamentary democracy to be a farce we have no reason to object to the suppression of the minimal democratic liberties that the Czechs have so far won.

Indeed we consider that parliament is manipulated undemocratically, though in point of fact the Czechs anyway have at no time claimed to have achieved a "free parliament” so this is rather a red herring. If they did they would no doubt have the danger that their “gains” would be rendered nugatory by making such parliament powerless as our own is in fact, if not in Tory constitutional theory. We would then surely warn that the achievement of parliament is the achievement of the shadow of democracy not the reality, and that to allow one’s self to be hamstrung by the rules of parliamentarian politics, when the ruling class never accepts such a limitation, would be to shackle the working class and hand it over bound hand and foot to exploitation.

What the Czechs have tried to achieve, however, is freedom of expression, the right to publish their own views. Here again, if the ruling class has the state to finance its press, and anyway through the ownership of industry is able to afford a preponderant share of the press, we would say that such equality of the press and freedom of expression is a myth, the shadow of the substance only.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain stood aside from what was the most significant demonstration on the issue, a demonstration which had as its basis solely the two principles that the Czechs should have the right to decide their own system of society —whether or not our demonstrators might like their choice—and that the demonstration should be confined to those who make the same demand for the Vietnamese.

I cannot believe that the Socialist Party is still really so foolish as to deny any value to opposition to a dictatorship. You rest such enormous claims on the validity of British parliamentary democracy as a road to Socialism, that one might have expected you to support any struggle to win such basic liberties as freedom of expression—saying of course at the same time that these gains would not solve everything and that more needed to be won to make this valid.

No doubt as the bombs begin to fall in a nuclear war, you will still be saying you cannot associate yourselves with protest embracing anyone but members of your own party. You will of course be right in saying that there is no permanent cure short of Socialism, but you will be wrong, a million times wrong, in refusing to attempt to get a short respite so as the further to work for Socialism by joining with others who do not share every jot and title of your faith.
Laurens Otter, 
Thornton Heath

The attitude of the Socialist Party of Great Britain on democracy is well set out in Chapter Four of our pamphlet Questions of the Day.
  “Under Democracy, the workers are allowed to form their own political and economic organisations, and within limits, freedom of speech, of assembly, and of the press is permitted as well as the possibility of the electorate choosing between contending political parties. “Now, unlike many people intoxicated with a newly-found love for democracy, the Socialist Party of Great Britain has always insisted on the democratic nature of Socialism, and on the value that the widest possible discussion of conflicting political views has for the working class. When we refuse to unite with non-socialist organisations for the purpose of defending democracy, it is most certainly not because we in any way minimise or underestimate the importance of democracy for the working class or the socialist movement It is simply because we are convinced that democracy cannot be defended in such a manner.
  “Democracy, in itself, cannot solve the problems of the working class. Unemployment, poverty, insecurity, and other evil effects of capitalism remain, no matter whether the form of its political administration be democratic or dictatorial. Freedom to cry working class misery from the house-tops will not, in itself, abolish the misery. Democracy is a weapon, potentially invaluable, it. is true; but like every other weapon, it can be used either for self-preservation or for self-destruction.
  “As long as the working class supports capitalism and capitalist policies, it will be tempted ultimately to give its support to that policy best calculated to meet the political and economic needs of capitalism —even though that policy may be one of dictatorship.
  “Democracy for the working class can only be consolidated and expanded to the extent that the workers adopt the socialist standpoint. To renounce Socialism so that democracy may be defended, means ultimately the renunciation of both Socialism and democracy”.
and, in our manifesto on the Second World War, reproduced in our pamphlet The Socialist Party and War:
   “The Socialist Party of Great is fully aware of the sufferings of German workers under Nazi rule, and wholeheartedly supports the efforts of workers everywhere to secure democratic rights against the powers of suppression, but the history of the past decades shows the futility of war as a means of safeguarding democracy”.
Thus, we do, and always have, held that democracy is of value both to the working class and to the Socialist movement, but we do not think that it should, and in the end can, be defended by uniting with non-socialists or by war. So we are not "so foolish as to deny any value to opposition to dictatorship”. We welcome the break-up of dictatorships and the coming of democracy, however limited. But we do not support democracy in the abstract, but as a means to an end: Socialism.

Otter’s case is based on a fallacy. Because we refuse to join in demonstrations with non-socialists, in favour of democracy, he says that therefore we are not in favour of democracy. This conclusion is quite unwarranted as the reason we will not join with non-socialists is because we do not think this is the way to defend democracy. Besides, with the pro-Vietcong elements on his demonstration we are sure there were many there who couldn’t care two hoots about democracy.

In his last paragraph Otter begs the whole question as he assumes that our joining with non-socialists would "get a short respite so as the further to work for Socialism” (we shall ignore the jibe about faith). But this is precisely what we deny. As we said above: experience shows that to renounce Socialism so that democracy may be defended means in the end to renounce both Socialism and democracy.

"British parliamentary democracy" is not the road to Socialism. Socialism can only be established by the democratic political action of a working class convinced of the need for it. In Britain universal suffrage and parliament (and the local councils) can be used to win political power. But there is nothing special about the British constitution. Other states have different arrangements but as long as they allow a majority to get its way they can be used to establish Socialism.

It is quite true that in Czechoslovakia there was no struggle for a “free parliament”. Technically, there was already a national assembly elected by universal suffrage but these really did conform to the anarchist image of being a fraud, a facade and a farce. Real power lay elsewhere: in the top ranks of the Communist Party. Electors had no choice but to vote for (or if they dared against) a list of pro-government candidates. Opposition parties and journals were suppressed. It is nice to see, however, that some anarchists are learning that there is a difference between dictatorship and democracy as far as the workers are concerned.
Editorial Committee