Monday, February 26, 2018

Result of the Election (1935)

From the November 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

In order to avoid needless suspense we announce now what will be the result of the election. There will be “no change”—capitalism will continue after the election as before, whichever of the parties, or groups of parties, comes to power.

Educational Visits (1935)

Party News from the November 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard
1st and 3rd Saturdays each month (3 p.m., sharp). 
Nov. 2nd          British Museum         - Gilmac
                          Real Relics
Nov. 16th  S. Kensington         - Lestor
                          From Stone to Steel
Educational Visits continue to be well attended. Comrade Lestor attracted a big party to hear history about Westminster Abbey not given by vergers and official guides. Two hours passed quickly at South Kensington when some features of Evolution bearing on Socialism were objectively-illustrated. At the Victoria and Albert Museum, Comrade Devereux interested a big party (including many non-members of the S.P.) by her brilliant illumination of odd corners of the M.C.H. from such apparently intractable objects as wooden chairs and the Great Bed of Ware.

The Organiser will be grateful for comments, criticisms, etc., from those attending Visits.

General Election, November, 1935 (1935)

From the November 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

Once more the propertied class, through their instruments, the “National Parties” (Tory, Liberal and National Labour), are calling upon the workers of this country to return to power a Government pledged to maintain the private ownership and control of the means of life and the social system based thereon which is known as capitalism.

Once more the National Government is being challenged by the Labour Party, not upon the vital issue of Socialism and capitalism, but on a number of reforms and proposals which, even if applied in full, would leave unchanged the basis of the capitalist system from which springs poverty, unemployment, insecurity and war. The aim of the Labour Party programme is to improve the conditions of the workers without destroying the private ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution (land, factories, railways, etc.) and without transforming them into the common property of the whole community under democratic control.

The only solution for the problems of the working class is Socialism. This is the urgent question of the day. In this country only the Socialist Party of Great Britain is organised and carried on solely for the direct, unceasing fight for Socialism. Only the S.P.G.B. is deserving of the support of the working class.

Owing to the meagre support so far given by the workers to the party of Socialism and owing to the £150 deposit legally imposed in respect of each candidature (which operates in the interests of the wealthier parties), the S.P.G.B. is unable to put forward candidates at this Parliamentary election.

If the S.P.G.B. were willing to sacrifice its Socialist principles and independence by soliciting support and votes on a programme of reforms, it would at once be able to overcome the obstacle. It would be able, like the so-called “Labour” parties, to gain a large membership and apparent strength. That growth would not, however, help forward the Socialist movement, which can only progress to the extent that it gains the understanding and support of convinced Socialists. The S.P.G.B. therefore does not solicit the votes of non-Socialists, whatever the nature of the reform measures in which they may be interested. The S.P.G.B. receives the support of Socialists alone.

To prevent the enemies and false friends of Socialism from interpreting the failure to run candidates as evidence that Socialist propaganda is not making headway, Socialists can mark their ballot paper with the word “Socialism,” thus demonstrating the growing strength of the Socialist vote in this country.
The Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, October 22nd, 1935.

Mine Accidents and Compensation: A Correction (1935)

From the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

A reader has drawn our attention to the statement in the first paragraph of the article, "The Greater War" (see October Socialist Standard), and asks if it is correct that mine disasters, "substantial enough to be classed as 'Acts of God' . . . absolve the colliery proprietors from liability for compensation." On making inquiries we find that it is not now correct.

The writer of the article, who based his statement on the common assertion of miners, has now consulted officials of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association. From them he learns that prior to the Compensation Act of 1908 it was no uncommon thing for explosions to be classed by Coroners' Juries as “Acts of God," owing to the magnitude of the occurrence. In such circumstances the proprietors declined to indemnify the relatives and dependents of those killed or injured. Since 1908, however, the companies are usually insured, and the only cases of non-payment are where the mine company, not being insured, goes bankrupt, and the men are not quick enough to put in a claim by the legally recognised date.

The writer explains that the wrong impression is very widespread in the mining area where he lives.

This correction does not touch the main point of the article, that the drive for profit is at the bottom of the "accident" rate. The writer sends a cutting from the "Sheffield Independent" (November 6th), containing a report of an inquest at Barnsley on the 19 victims of the North Gawber Colliery disaster. The Coroner (Mr. C. J. Haworth) said: —
   We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that explosions due to shot-firing do take place from time to time. The obvious thing to say is that precautions should be taken, and I am going to ask you to recommend that the whole question of shot-firing should be drastically reconsidered. I am not talking about this pit, but pits generally.
    With intensive mining of to-day there are certain dangers which would probably not have existed some years ago.
    If you are going to have this speeding-up and the advancement of the face very much faster than before, I think it is exceedingly necessary that the whole question of the regulations, especially with regard to ventilation and shot-firing, should receive the most serious consideration of the authorities.
    I ask you to support me in putting forward to the Mines Department that the overhauling of the regulations for shot-firing should be seriously considered.
Editorial Committee

A Mistaken Notion (1935)

From the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

A reader (E. Roberts, Rugby), draws attention to the notice in the November issue asking for “election addresses, particularly those of I.L.P. and Communist Candidates,” and asks if this means that the S.P.G.B. is particularly opposed to those parties, and if so, on what grounds.

The inference drawn by our correspondent is entirely baseless, and the wording of the notice has a very simple and obvious explanation. All of the I.L.P. and Communist Candidates were in constituencies outside London, and therefore our only method of getting their election addresses was through readers of The Socialist Standard. Liberal, Labour and Conservative addresses, on the other hand, were obtainable by the score in London, and we therefore had no special need to ask for provincial ones. The rest of the point raised by this correspondent is dealt with elsewhere in this issue.
Editorial Committee

Henderson the Peacemaker (1935)

From the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the death of Arthur Henderson, the entire daily Press mourned the loss of one, who, they claimed, was a fighter for humanity. His death, they said, was a great loss to suffering mankind. In Henderson was embodied the greatest virtues. He was an arch-apostle of peace, and the champion of the oppressed working class. Even the Daily Worker, mouthpiece of the Communist Party, dropped a a reverent sigh, and gently remarked “that sometimes (our italics) Arthur Henderson had found himself in a contradictory position ”—this, incidentally, after years of the bitterest abuse, in which he was called a “lickspittle of the bourgeousie” and “social Fascist." None of them mentioned his war record except in terms of the highest praise. We, however, consider his stand for “National honour" and his opposition to a “premature peace" to have been a gross betrayal of the working-class interests.

On the outbreak of war, in 1914, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, because of his opposition to the war, was forced to stand aside, and allow Arthur Henderson to assume the chairmanship of the Labour Party. Henderson was made a Privy Councillor in 1915. After this he became President of the Board of Education, 1915-16, Paymaster-General and Labour Adviser to the Government in 1916, and a member of the War Committee of the Cabinet, 1916-17. In 1916 peace moves were being made in very powerful and influential circles, and Lord Lansdowne and Mr. A. J. Balfour circulated memoranda to the Cabinet. Mr. Henderson would have none of this, for, to quote Lloyd George, he threw in the “whole weight of his great influence with organised Labour, against a premature peace.” (War Memoirs, Vol. 2.) Lloyd George says that Henderson’s words are worth quoting. We agree.
   The war has gone on too long for some of the people of this country. It is possible . . . that we may become war-weary, and I want to warn everyone of the danger (our italics) of a premature peace. I am as strong for peace as any man or woman can be, but I must be satisfied that the peace we expect places us, above any doubt, beyond the recurrence of such a catastrophe. . . . We want not a dishonourable peace, but a lasting peace, peace based upon national right and national honour, and I say these two words in spite of the fact that one of my own colleagues has described them as platitudes. (Vol. 2, page 888, War Memoirs, Lloyd George.)
Thus, Uncle Arthur.

But let us see what this “danger of a premature peace” really was. A few months before this “Peace with Honour” effort, a Major Carter had been asked to report on the conditions of the soldiers in Mesopotamia. The following is an extract from the report which was delivered to the Government of which Mr. Henderson was a member. Even Lloyd George cannot quote this report without “apologising for its repulsive horror.”
    “I was standing on the bridge,” reports Major Carter, “ in the evening when the Medjidieh arrived. She had two steel barges without any protection against the rain as far as I can remember. As this ship . . . came up to us I saw that she was absolutely packed, and the barges, too, with men.  . . . When she was about 300 to 400 yards off, it looked as if it were festooned with ropes. The stench when she was close was quite definite, and I found what I mistook for ropes were dried stalactites of human faeces . . . This is what I then saw. A certain number of men were standing and kneeling on the immediate perimeter of the ship. Then we found a mass of men huddled up anyhow—some with blankets, and some without. . . They were covered with dysentery and dejecta from head to foot. With regard to the first man I examined . . .” (Lloyd George omits “ this still more terrible passage ” of Major Carter’s report. Page 820.)
Since the peace which finally came did not place us “beyond the recurrence of such a catastrophe,” it is only fair to assume that the only danger attending a premature peace was the danger that horrors such as these might cease. Or perhaps there was a danger of Henderson losing his job in the War Cabinet on the arrival of a “premature peace.” Mr. Henderson admitted that his words had been described by one of his colleagues as platitudes. They were worse. They were deliberate deceit, used in order to hoodwink those workers who may have been growing tired of being cannon fodder for the ruling-class.

Peace Work or Piece Work ?
Lest it be thought that Mr. Henderson, by his chairmanship of the useless Disarmament Conference was atoning for his past, and was now opposed to war, it is necessary to bring evidence proving quite the contrary.

While Henderson was a member of the Labour Government British war-planes bombed and killed 700 natives of Iraq in defence of the interests of British oil magnates. Again, at the Labour Party Conference of 1925, Mr. Henderson opposed a resolution pressing for disarmament. He said: — 
   If France continued in the frame of mind she was now in, had they to overlook the possibilities of defence? Could they afford to ignore this question of defence. (Report of Conference proceedings, page 232.)
When the Labour Party came to office, with Mr. Henderson one of the leading members of the Cabinet (first as Home Secretary, and then as Secretary for Foreign Affairs) it maintained, and in certain cases, increased the defence forces of the country. It also began the construction of five new cruisers, in spite of the opposition of the Liberals.

In spite of his war record, and in the face of his peace record, Henderson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, valued normally at £5,000. His friends and relatives feared to tell him, during his last illness, of the commencement of hostilities in Abyssinia, lest the shock should prove too great. But what could have shocked him so greatly? He had once before helped in the prosecution of hostilities, and the fact that people were being blown to pieces to satisfy the ruling-class could hardly, therefore, have frightened him very much. For had he not taken part in leading the workers to the shambles of 1914? Had he not, by his stand for “national honour” and against a “premature peace,” signified his willingness to make the world safe for capitalism? What, then, could have shocked him?

The career of Mr. Henderson is yet one more illustration of the dangers of leadership. It is not merely the failure or costly mistakes of an individual leader, but the uselessness of leadership itself to the Socialist movement and the working class.
Kaye and Scrutator

Propaganda Paragraphs (1935)

From the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

Profits Before Children's Lives

The Evening News (November 9th) reports a protest by the Council of the College of Preceptors because the London Transport Board has partially withdrawn the privilege of cheap fares for school-children attending Board of Education approved schools and independent schools.
  The Council points out that, in consequence of the withdrawal of the privileges, there has been a big increase in the number of children going to school on bicycles.
So the children must travel on bicycles, which everyone knows is highly dangerous under modern traffic conditions, because the London Transport Board puts dividends to shareholders before children's lives, and because the working-class parents cannot afford to pay full fares.

Here we see not only the iniquity of capitalism, but also the uselessness of trying to patch it up and refashion it. For the London Transport Board was initiated by a Labour Government, when Mr. Herbert Morrison was Minister of Transport, and completed by the National Government.

There is nothing to do with capitalism except to abolish it. Transport services will then be run for the use of the community, and lives will not be endangered for the sake of private interest.

#    #    #    #

The Crime of Being Poor 
The Problem of Wives Separated from their Husbands

According to The Times (November 9th) every year 20,000 people are sent to jail because of inability to pay fines, or keep up payments for wife or child maintenance, or pay rates. The evil has caused so much outcry that the Government is trying to lessen the number of imprisonments. Justices are empowered and advised in future to impose imprisonment less frequently. Even so, the practice is not to be abolished. As The Times puts it: “For some offenders . . . who have no means to pay imprisonment may be necessary as the only alternative penalty appropriate to the offence." In other words, the rich will continue to escape jail because they have money, and the poor will still be imprisoned for the crime of poverty.

The stupid callousness of capitalism, and the futility of trying to reform it are brought home by the Government's attitude towards working-class husbands and wives in cases of maintenance. In the past husbands without means have been ordered to pay, and because they cannot pay have been sent to jail, where they are, of course, unable to earn anything at all. The wife gets nothing. The Government, after years and years of deep cogitation by highly-paid lawyers, has solved the problem. In future, such men are not to be jailed, and the Courts are to refrain from letting their sympathy with the wife lead them to order big payments from the poverty-stricken husband. So far so good. But surely the real problem is that here you have husbands and wives, living in an age when wealth production is easier than ever before, unable to find enough to keep themselves, let alone each other. But the all-wise law cannot be bothered with such trumpery things as the life and happiness of human beings, so we have The Times interpreting the new attitude of the Government in the following phrases: —
    There is nothing the Court can do to help the woman where the man’s resources have no margin beyond what is necessary for his subsistence. If he can only pay a small sum, which is insufficient for the woman's needs, that is not a reason for ordering the payment of a higher amount.
In a sane world, a Socialist world, these stupid problems will not exist. Women will not be dependent for their livelihood on men, and then we shall not need to have too-clever lawyers mocking the victims of poverty with nonsensical solutions to a problem only Socialism can solve. The relationship of men and women will cease to be poisoned by poverty or by economic dependence.

#    #    #    #

State Maintenance of Children

One of the reforms long advocated in this and other countries is the provision of free meals for the children of poor parents. Thirty or forty years ago the Social Democratic Federation and Newcastle Labour Electoral organisation were among the many advocates of such proposals. The S.D.F. asked for “ free maintenance for the children in all Board schools," and the Newcastle organisation wanted “free compulsory education: Boards to have power to provide free meals for the children." It may be said that to some extent their demands have been met, for under the Education Acts local education authorities have power to provide meals. In 1933, out of 5,000,000 children at elementary schools, about 400,000 were provided with meals, and of this 400,000 about 269,000 received meals free of cost.

An alternative scheme is the system of “family allowances," that is, special payments made to parents in respect of the maintenance of dependent children. Schemes of this kind are in operation in France, Australia and several other countries.

What is the Socialist attitude towards these proposals? While we sympathise with the motive which is in the minds of some of the advocates (but not of all) of raising the workers' standard of life, that must not be allowed to blind us to the emptiness of all such schemes. We must not forget that we live under capitalism, and that the kind of child maintenance which the capitalists and their Governments will consent to introduce is not at all the kind desired by some of the more simple-minded enthusiasts who ask for this reform. Miss Eleanor Rathbone, who is a leading propagandist for family allowances, makes no secret of the fact that her intention is nothing more than to spread the poverty of the working class more evenly. She does not intend that the workers' standard of living shall be raised by the grant of allowances. The money to be paid to the families with children is to be collected from the working class unmarried men and women. In other words, the wages of one section of the workers are to be reduced in order to pay allowances to another section.

Again, it is essential to remember that the working class depend for their living on their wages, and wages are dependent on the cost of living. If the Government relieves working-class families of the cost of feeding their children the effect would be that wages would tend to fall correspondingly. This was the result in Vienna when the Government reduced rents to a very low level. Also, under the last Labour Government in Great Britain, a committee set up by the Government recommended lower wages for wool workers because the workers are now relieved of the cost of providing for themselves during unemployment, sickness and old age. What little benefit the workers had gained through unemployment and health insurance and old age pensions was to be knocked off their wages.

That is capitalism, and while it endures all reform measures will be wrecked against the hard rocks of the capitalist basis of society.

The Socialist remedy is of quite a different character. Under Socialism, not only children, but all persons will have their necessities of life provided freely from the common stock, which it will be the task of the whole working population to produce in co-operation. It will appear, then, the height of absurdity and cruelty that in our day children should actually be punished with undernourishment and inadequate clothing and shelter for the crime of having poor parents.
Edgar Hardcastle

Editorial: Who is the Enemy? (1935)

Editorial from the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

The propagandists of the S.P.G.B. are asked from time to time why their speeches and the publications of the party contain criticisms of other organisations which profess to be Socialist. Why cannot the S.P.G.B. leave the Labour Party, I.L.P. and Communist Party alone, and get on with stating the case for Socialism? Or, if it be conceded that a certain amount of comment is necessary, why must there be so much of it ? Do we think that the workers' real enemies are not the capitalists and their direct agents, but the parties mentioned above?

These are legitimate questions, calling for a serious answer, if our attitude is not to be misunderstood. Let us first deal with the capitalists themselves. We can echo Marx, and admit that we do not present the capitalists, those who live by owning, in a flattering light, but we can wholeheartedly endorse his further statement, that “individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class- interests.” “My standpoint," said Marx, “ can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them.” We are attacking capitalism, and all who defend it are to that extent our political foes, but we do not regard them, therefore, as human beings different from or inferior to ourselves. We understand perfectly how their environment and economic interests mould their outlook, and influence their conduct, and prevent them in the mass from seeing the need for Socialism.

Our Appeal to the Workers
Because of this our appeal must be primarily to the workers. It is our task to throw light on the dark places of capitalism in order to interest and enlighten the workers as a preliminary to getting them to become active and understanding Socialists. In this work we expect to be opposed by the capitalist class and by their political parties and the persons and instruments they control. We expect them to oppose Socialism because to them it is merely an attack on their property, their security, their livelihood, and on all the beliefs and habits they have become accustomed to. We know that they will be the last to perceive and appreciate that Socialism is an orderly scientific adaptation of human relationships to the development of society’s forces of production. We are not surprised, therefore, when the avowedly capitalist parties, Liberal and Tory, stand firmly for capitalism, and grudgingly yield small concessions only in order to lessen discontent which may appear to threaten their hold on the machinery of government. Likewise, we expect the capitalist-controlled Press, the Churches, the military men, the lawyers, and the various hangers-on of capitalism to defend capitalism. We expect this, but we must constantly expose it and explain it. That is part of our work of winning over the working class for Socialism.

Where does the Labour Party Stand?
Where do the Labour Party, the I.L.P., and the Communists stand in relation to this? Do we say that the Tories and the Labour parties are identical, and must, therefore, be treated in the same way ? By no means. They are not identical, but are separated by a very real difference. The people who control and finance the Tory Party and the Liberal Party are consciously defending capitalism and their own class privilege—even if they are fortified by the erroneous belief that in so doing they are defending the best interests of humanity as well. The Labour Party, the I.L.P., and the Communist Party approach the issue from a very different angle. They are essentially parties of discontent, representing the workers’ more or less blind retaliation to the downward pressure of capitalism. Where the Tories offer reforms deliberately with the idea of buying off discontent or directing it into harmless courses, the Labour Party and the other two parties are trying to encroach on capitalism by means of reforms. They hope to use discontent as the road to power, then use that power for a more or less drastic reconstitution of society. Apart from a certain amount of political dishonesty and the desire for personal advantage associated with those parties, we have no objection to the motives behind their activities. We do not charge these men with consciously wanting to uphold capitalism, nor do we suppose for one moment that their activities do, in fact constitute the main defence of capitalism and main obstacle to Socialism.

The chief defence of capitalism is the State, with its armed forces, controlled by the capitalist class, their hold on it being backed up by the concentrated activities of capitalist politicians, parties, Press, and propaganda instruments. So long as they retain the confidence of the mass of workers, capitalism is impregnable.

Why, then, our criticisms of the Labour Party? We criticise because, whatever the motive may be behind the activities of that party, and the I.L.P. and Communists, the activities are harmful. It is harmful to the interests of the working class that they should organise and strive for reforms of capitalism instead of for the abolition of capitalism. It is politically dishonest and harmful to delude the workers with the notion that their problems can be remedied piecemeal while capitalism remains in being. It is harmful when workers are waking up to the nature and consequences of capitalism to turn their energies to the reform of capitalism for, with a little knowledge, honesty and patience, those energies might be turned almost as quickly to the task of abolishing capitalism.

In brief, we do not charge these parties with being capitalism’s principal support, but with being obstacles in the way of working-class enlightenment. Were there no such reformist parties capitalism would still stand as long as the majority of workers remained capitalistically-minded, but the work of making Socialists would be vastly easier. Socialists would not, having exposed capitalism, then have to take on the additional task of exposing reformism masquerading as Socialism.

Another reason for our criticism of the I.L.P. and Communists is that they sometimes advocate riots and minority armed revolt, from which nothing but disaster can come.

The above criticisms are all directed to the main activities of the reformist parties, their efforts to secure concessions from the capitalist class. When we come to look at some of the other activities our criticism is of a different kind. For the Labour Party to try to secure increased old-age pensions or the relaxation of unemployment insurance regulations is not directly harmful to working-class interests. What can be said of it is that it deals only with the effects of capitalism instead of getting at the cause—capitalism itself. But to the extent to which Labour leaders preach community of interests between workers and capitalists, supporting capitalist wars, poison the workers’ minds and create working-class disunity by advocating nationalism, or use the machinery of Government to defeat strikes, then we must point out that they are, in fact, lining up with the capitalist class against the workers. That situation is bound to happen when a Labour Party takes on the work of administering capitalism. The individuals may want to do their best, but a Labour Government cannot save the workers from the consequences of capitalism, and it cannot refuse the responsibility of enforcing the laws which safeguard the property of the capitalist classes.

We may sum up by saying that it is a mistake for workers to express their discontent by organising to secure reforms of capitalism, and the S.P.G.B. must constantly point out that mistake. Further, when the party of reform takes on the administration of capitalism it becomes at once a party committed to the suppression of discontent. The S.P.G.B. must point that out also, and must oppose both forms of activity.

Is it Overdone
Lastly, there is the question whether Socialists are too much occupied with the reformist parties and too little with the avowedly capitalist ones. There may be some truth in this, but if so the reason is a simple one. It happens at present that the S.P.G.B.—possibly owing to its numerical weakness and lack of resources—comes into contact more with members of the reformist parties than with members of the Tory and Liberal parties. In consequence, party propagandists find much of their time and attention unavoidably taken up with answering the point of view of the reformist parties. That does not mean, however, that the position or importance of these parties is misunderstood or exaggerated.

Where Mussolini Learned Brutality (1935)

From the November 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are told that public opinion all over the world is shocked at the brutality of the Italian air force in bombing defenceless native villages. It is necessary to remember that this charge is not one which can be levelled only at Mussolini. Many governments have shown themselves prepared to use methods of equal brutality— among them the British Government in its destructive bombing of hostile tribes on the frontiers of India. Although the justification put forward by the British authorities is that this bombing is required to defend Indian interests, the Indian members of the Legislative Assembly recently passed by 67 votes to 44 a motion of protest against “the bombing of innocent women and children in trans-frontier villages by the Royal Air Force.” (Manchester Guardian, October 17th.)

What such bombing means was disclosed by the late Lord Thomson, Secretary of State for Air in the Labour Government of 1924, speaking at a meeting of the Central Asian Society on November 21st, 1924 about bombing in Transjordan.
   After briefly tracing the route followed in his tour. Lord Thomson brought home to his audience the efficacy of bombing by describing the manner in which the recent Wahabi invasion of the Transjordan was crushed. The British forces consisted solely of aeroplanes sent out at the shortest possible notice, backed by armoured cars. The effect of our air attack was availing. Some 700 of the tribesmen were killed and the rest, seized with panic, fled into the desert, where hundreds more must have perished from thirst. Unless some such punishment as swift and terrible as this had been inflicted, the task of restoring order would have been long drawn-out, and in the end more costly in lives and money, while the results would not have been so lasting.
   Lord Thomson went on to say that it might be true that oil was the key of the Arabian riddle, though he considered that wheat-production, for some years at least, held greater possibilities. The primary necessity, however, was security. The country could best be opened up by making the process a gradual one. By using it as a link in the chain of Imperial communications, this would be achieved.
(Times, November 22nd. 1924.)

Election Lessons for Socialists (1935)

From the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

After half a century of continuous effort to build up more or less independent working-class political organisations, the electors of this country—of whom at least 85 per cent, are wage or salary earners or their dependants —have returned to power the Conservative Party with its allies, the small National Liberal and National Labour groups. The Labour Party, which in the public estimation holds the field as the party of the workers and of Socialism, received about 8,300,000 of the votes cast in contested constituencies, equivalent to 38 per cent., and succeeded in winning 155 seats, about 25 per cent. of the total. While the total Labour vote (in a smaller number of contested constituencies) equalled the high record reached in 1929, and thus retrieved much of the ground lost in 1931, the position of the Labour Party cannot be regarded by them with much ratification. It is evident that the bad showing made by the Labour Cabinet in 1931 is still something of a millstone round the necks of Labour candidates, and few now credit the once popular delusion that a Labour Government in office would go on from strength to strength by virtue of its solid achievement.

Between 1929 and 1935 the total electorate grew from 28,850,870 to 31,305,527, an increase of nearly 2½ millions, and the electorate in the reduced number of contested constituencies grew by upwards of 600,000. It is evident that the Labour Party has not succeeded in capturing many of the new voters, or if it has then this has been offset by the loss of former supporters who still follow MacDonald and Thomas. It is true that the percentage of votes in the contested constituencies which went to Labour candidates rose from 37 per cent, in 1929 (the previous high record) to about 38 per cent., but the proportion of electors who troubled to go to the poll at all, declined substantially. Whereas, in the past three General Elections, about 80 per cent, have voted, this time it fell to 71 per cent., the lowest in any year since 1918. The Manchester Guardian in a survey of the results from the Labour Party’s point of view, sums up as follows:— 
   Taking 1929 as the standard, it would appear that the Labour poll increased mainly in two classes of constituency—the mining areas, which are Labour already (or were only temporarily defected in 1931), and the rural and semi-rural constituencies of the south, which are the strongholds of Toryism and have large Tory majorities. In the urban industrial constituencies, both in those which Labour holds, and in those which it has still to win, 1935 was, on the whole, a much worse year than 1929. Not only has the Labour vote declined in constituencies fought under the same conditions in 1929, but it has received only slight (sometimes no) benefit from the Liberal vote released by the standing down of a Liberal candidate. (M.G., November 18th, 1935.) 
That there should be increasing apathy in elections is itself a condemnation of the Labour Party. Electors have seen Labour Government, and it has increased their indifference to politics!

The opposition Liberal vote changed little as compared with 1931, being about 1,400,000 on each occasion, but it represents a huge decline from the Liberal strength in 1929. Then, before they were split into three or four factions, they polled over 5,000,000. There seems little likelihood of a Liberal recovery, but the way the Liberals give their favours will continue to be of great importance to the rival suitors, the Labour and Conservative Parties.

The Conservative candidates, quite apart from their allies, obtained about 48 per cent, of the votes cast, thus bringing them to the level reached in 1924, and well below the high point of 1931 (54.9 per cent.). It is, however, obvious that a good deal of this vote is due to the support of the National Liberal and National Labour groups.

As some observers long ago realised, the Conservatives cannot normally expect to get even half of the votes unless they can receive the allegiance of other groups—hence their fondness for Coalitions and National Governments.

Why do Workers Vote Tory ?
Why do the workers vote in such large numbers for the National Government? Traditional confidence in the party of wealth and privilege, feelings of patriotism and the uncertain international situation, these sentiments played their part, but alongside and overshadowing them was the workers’ estimate of their own self-interest. They judged that more work, steady wages, and some slight additions to the body of social reform are the things that matter, and will always matter, and they believe that these are best looked after by a stable, Conservative Government. In that respect the continued trade depression, perhaps, helped the National candidates, and if the next election takes place when trade is better and the workers are more confident, they might be more inclined to turn to the Labour Party. Nevertheless, it still seems probable, as was indicated in 1931 by that election, that the Labour Party has as little chance as the Tories of getting a majority of votes on its own programme and without Liberal backing. So long as the contest is about questions of wages, social reforms and foreign policy, all of which are within the framework of capitalism, the workers are bound to be divided. Those whose immediate interests appear to be served by tariffs or armament expenditure will vote one way, and those who think they will make some small gain by free trade or more social reforms will vote the other. The only chance, therefore, of a Labour majority of votes would seem to be some situation which hopelessly discredits the party in power in the way that the Labour Party was discredited in 1931. Then the Labour Party may get substantial Liberal support and some from disgruntled voters who formerly voted Tory.

What is the remedy? It will come through changing the face of the struggle. When Socialists can force forward the issue Socialism versus Capitalism so that it becomes the issue at elections and between elections, the workers will be on the high road to greater unity than has ever been known before.

What lessons and encouragement can Socialists draw from the election? The first is that the electorate were comparatively apathetic. In the three elections from 1924 to 1931 about 80 per cent. of the electors voted. This year it fell to 71%, and many observers commented on the lack of interest during the contest. If it means that voters are less moved by scares, and by the promises of politicians, that is a welcome change, provided that Socialists can use it to interest the workers in the fundamental problem. Otherwise, however, it may only help such people as the Fascists, who thrive on mere apathy and disgust with the older parties.

The Communists and I.L.P. candidates who opposed the Labour candidates did comparatively well, especially in Scotland, and if we consider the difficulties of fighting the party machine and the Trade Union organisation which supports it. As, to some extent, the appeal of the I.L.P. and Communist candidates was to a vague feeling that the Labour Party fails through not being Socialist, this is an encouraging feature, even though the two parties are themselves tarred with much the same kind of brush. The I.L.P. group is increased from three M.P.s to four, and W. Gallacher was returned as Communist.

Judging from the votes of certain candidates who had stood prominently against the idea of military sanctions and war (e.g., Mr. George Lansbury), their attitude was a decided asset with the electors, who are not enamoured of the Labour Party policy of backing the League, if need be, to the point of war.

The three Douglasite, Social Credit candidates did not do well. Perhaps even sympathetic voters are awaiting developments in Alberta before throwing over Labourism or Toryism for Douglasism.

The Co-operative Party put forward 20 nominees, running as Labour and Co-operative candidates, and nine were returned.

Summing up the whole situation, Socialists perceive that the task before them is a huge one, but time and circumstances are on our side. The Labour Party has shown the possibility of winning over millions of workers from a traditional Liberal or Tory loyalty to an entirely new political party, claiming to represent the workers specifically. By hard and persistent effort the Labour Party propagandists have taken the separate problems of the workers, hammered out a piecemeal programme for them, and offered it as a solution. Of course, their solution is a wholly mistaken one, but the achievement of winning so large a measure of support is one which should encourage us. What they have done for their mistaken programme we can do for Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Sailors Don't Matter (1935)

From the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard
   "The bows of the Napier Star had ripped through the bows of the Laurentic into the quarters of the crew, where a score of men were sleeping. How near disaster came to catastrophe was also evident. Had the Napier Star struck twenty yards further astern she would have cut clean into the first-class staterooms."—From the news.
If you are thinking of becoming a journalist, child, always remember that when death comes to an ordinary sailor it is mere disaster. When it comes to first-class passengers it is a catastrophe.
—(Sunday Express, August 25th, 1935.)

The Press and the Election (1935)

From the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Beaverbrook and Rothermere Press played its usual game in this election. The formula is simple. Between elections Rothermere’s Daily Mail attacks the Conservative or National Government bitterly from one quarter while Beaverbrook’s Daily Express attacks it from another—right up to election time. This enables them to influence the policy of the Government and the party, and get measures through suitable to their ideas and the interests they represent. It also leaves them free to repudiate responsibility for unpopular Government policy and to take up every variety of stunt, from Fascism (Lord Rothermere) to nationalising the banks (Lord Beaverbrook). Then, when the election comes round, the joint Beaverbrook-Rothermere Press rallies round the Government candidates, still waving the flag of independence which has facilitated their duping of the readers.

Observant readers will at once notice that this policy of the Press Lords is very much the same as that of the I.L.P., the Communists, and the Socialist League. The I.L.P. and Communists helped build up the reputations of MacDonald, Snowden, and company, and helped them to power, but repudiated all responsibility for their actions. The same will happen again with any future Labour Government.

One curiosity of the campaign was the Sunday Referee. That journal, which boasted of its independence, its open forum, and its non-party policy, was much admired by “left-wingers," because it was "different." When the election came round the Referee announced that it "is the only national newspaper that is free of Party Politics," and that it believes in the League of Nations," "Pensions at 60," "Nationalisation of the Mines," and " Cheaper Money."

Mr. Isidore Ostrer explained in the Referee (November 10th) that by "cheaper money" he means the abolition of usury, and that on this question, which he regards as fundamental, "there is no difference between the parties." Then, with a logic all its own, the Referee plumped for the National Government, which, it will be noticed, is not in favour of pensions at 60, nationalisation of the mines, or the abolition of usury. To cover its open support of capitalism, the Referee threw up a smoke-screen in the form of an attack on the Daily Herald, because it, too, is alleged to be lukewarm about the useless proposal of nationalising the mines.
P. S.

To Sympathisers (1935)

From the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have often seen you round our meetings and we are left wondering why you do not take your courage in both hands and come and join our ranks.

We are, of course, mindful of the fact that on these occasions our attitude is necessarily impersonal, and we wish it were possible to have a personal chin wag with you all. This is not always practicable.

May we here, therefore, address that personal appeal to you, to make yourself known to our speakers and lecturers when next you attend any of our meetings? Our speakers would be only too pleased to have a chat with you about the work in which we are engaged, and a special invitation would be given to you to attend our indoor meetings and lectures. Here you would be welcomed and afforded the opportunity of becoming more closely acquainted with our tasks. This closer contact, we are confident, would lead to your wishing to join our organisation. Remember! at every meeting we hold our speakers are hopeful of making you desirous of joining and winning your support. Naturally, they seek this reward for their efforts. Do not deny them this, therefore, but rather show your appreciation by coming forward and let them know what are your doubts and difficulties.

Remember again! your education in Socialism will really commence when you become a member of our party.

Our speakers welcome every opportunity of convincing you how you can attain to such membership.

It is your duty to face this question with sincerity and determination. The ranks of the Socialist Party are open to all who possess the courage of their convictions to help forward working-class emancipation.

If you cannot attend our meetings, write to our General Secretary, who will be pleased to give you any information you seek, or deal with, any criticism which you may wish to make.
O. C. J.

Marx on Piecework (1935)

From the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Quoted from “Capital," vol. I, chapter 21, Moore and Aveling translation, Glaisher, 1912 edition.)
(All italics are ours.)
. . . it is self-evident that the difference of form in the payment of wages in no way alters their essential nature, although the one form may be more favourable to the development of capitalist production than the other, (p. 562.)
About the book of one John Watts, who praised piece-work, Marx says: “ . . .  it is a very sink of long-ago-rotten, apologetic commonplaces." (Footnote, p. 562.)
   Piece-wages do not, in fact, distinctly express any relation of value. . . . The price of labour-time itself is finally determined by the equation: Value of a day's labour = daily value of labour-power. Piece-wage is, therefore, only a modified form of time-wage, (pp. 563, 564.)
    Piece-wages become . . .  the most fruitful source of reductions of wages and capitalistic cheating, (p. 564.)
    They (i.e., piece-wages) furnish to the capitalist an exact measure for the intensity of labour. . . . Piece-wages therefore lay the foundation . . .  of a hierarchically organised system of exploitation and oppression. . . . The exploitation of the labourer by the capitalist is here effected through the exploitation of the labourer by the labourer, (pp. 564, 566.)
     Given piece-wage, it is naturally the personal interest of the worker to strain his labour-power as intensely as possible; this enables the capitalist to raise more easily the normal degree of intensity of labour. It is, moreover, now the personal interest of the worker to lengthen the working day. . . . The prolongation of the working day, even if the piece-wage remains constant, includes of necessity a fall in the price of the labour, (pp. 565, 566.)
     Piece-work has, therefore, a tendency, while raising individual wages above the average, to lower this average itself, (p. 566.)
      . . . piece-work is the form of wages most in harmony with the capitalist mode of production. (p. 567.)
The above quotations express very pungently Marx’s view of piece-work, the system which for some five years now the Bolsheviks have been introducing and extending in the Soviet Union. They have done so in the name of Socialism in order to increase production. Our capitalists had the same motive, but did not need to use such a specious excuse. The S.P.G.B. affirms that not only the piece-work system, but the wages system as a whole, runs directly counter to Socialist administration, whether in Russia or anywhere else.
D. S.

Election Brevities (1935)

From the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

There were the usual attempts to stampede electors with last-minute scares. One of them — the Conservative warning that Socialism means the end of the Building Societies — has a certain humour. The Labour Party proclaimed that its aim is Socialism, and those of the Labour leaders who know anything about Socialism know that under Socialism there will be no need for banks, building societies, pawnbrokers, and other organisations for borrowing and lending money. But the Labour Party wanted to have it both ways. They wanted to claim that they are Socialists, but that they do not intend to introduce Socialism. So they protested indignantly against this mean accusation!

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The Putney Ward of the Labour Party, which recently broke away and assured us that their aim is Socialism, not reformism, sent a telegram of support to the I.L.P. candidates, who were, of course, standing on a reform programme, as usual.

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A dishonest Conservative manoeuvre was to pretend that the Labour Party fought the election in alliance with the Communists, although the Conservative speakers nowhere appear to have had any evidence that such pact had been entered into. Labour Party headquarters flatly rejected the proposal.

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The Labour Party was unlucky in respect of its various splinter parties. It lost the fairly considerable I.L.P. vote in Scotland because the I.L.P. in many constituencies opposed the Labour candidates, and it lost a considerable number of timid Lib.-Lab. votes because the Communists and Stafford Cripps supported it.

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During the election the miners’ leaders were asking that the mines be nationalised, like the Post Office, and that miners have a minimum wage of £3 a week. The Postal workers who are already nationalised would like to hear from the miners how this helps them in getting £3 a week, for well over half of the adult Post Office workers get less than £3.

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The Co-operative movement excelled itself in the pettiness of its appeal to the electors. Reynolds's Illustrated News (November 3rd) published an appeal which condemned the Government for the reason, among others, that the tax on Co-operative reserves cost each member 3/5 a year. Imagine Marx’s slogan re-written for Co-operators, “Workers of all lands, unite. You have nothing to lose hut your chains. You have 3/5 per annum, or four-fifths of a penny a week, to win!”

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Mr. W. J. Brown, who failed to get returned as an Independent at East Wolverhampton this time, had the backing of Lord Snowden (Daily Express, November 12th). Previously he has been in the Labour Party and I.L.P., hunted with the Communists, was associated with Mosley in the formation of the New Party, but immediately dropped out, and dabbled in currency-mongering and backing a worker-industrial-capitalist alliance against the bankers.

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The Labour Party said they were fighting for Socialism. Lord Snowden said they weren’t (The Times, October 3rd). He told Liberals to vote Labour in the absence of a Liberal candidate, provided the Labour man was one of the large number who backed the Peace and Reconstruction Council. In his own old constituency (Colne Valley) he backed the Liberal against the Labour man. One of the erstwhile “revolutionaries ” who went begging for the Peace and Reconstruction vote was Miss Ellen Wilkinson, one-time Communist. But she failed. They would not give it to her.

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The Labour Party’s headquarters election fund, most of which came in big donations from the Unions, totalled nearly £20,000 about a week before polling day (see Daily Herald, November 9th). The Transport Workers’ Union gave £2,000. 

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Sir Oswald Mosley, for the British Union of Fascists, stated in a letter to The Times (November 7th) that his organisation is preparing for the next General Election, their motto being “ Fascism next time.” The intervening period is to be used for preparing their electoral machinery.

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Mrs. Tennant, who fought as National Conservative candidate against  Mr. Jack Jones at Silvertown, was one of the few who stood frankly for the capitalist system. Her reason is that the workers ”would suffer more than anyone else” if the Labour Party’s present programme were to be applied. It is interesting to see Mrs. Tennant admitting that after generations of capitalism (plus a long stretch of Labour rule on the local councils), local conditions as regards housing and unemployment are very bad. Mrs. Tennant also "admits that capitalism, to be successful, ought to be able to provide everyone with a job, and a decent job.” It is surely late in the day for capitalism to be promising decent jobs for all. It has never provided that, and will not do so, however long it lasts, or by whomsoever it is administered.

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Lord Allen (formerly Mr. Clifford Allen, pacifist member of the I.L.P.) supported Sir Herbert Samuel, the leader of the opposition Liberal Party at Darwen, on the ground that he is a man of integrity and experience.

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The Independent Labour Party was able to boast of one unique achievement in the election. The manifesto of the National Government was signed by one former I.L.P. leader, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. Two others, Lord Snowden and Lord Allen, backed the Liberals. Others, including Mr. Attlee and Mr. Clynes, led the Labour Party. Sir Oswald Mosley leads the Fascists, a number of ex-I.L.P.ers are prominent in the Communist Party, and others in the Scottish Socialist Party, the Socialist League, and the Independent Socialist Party. Lastly, the small remnant round Mr. Maxton still lead the I.L.P. Another former I.L.P.’er, Mr. Walton Newbold, supported Winston Churchill at Epping.
P. S.