Friday, March 2, 2018

Swan Song of the Communists (1944)

From the February 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

Amazing Speech by American Leader
Readers of the London Daily Worker (January 12 and 14) will have learned that the American Communist Party is about to die—at the hands of its own leaders; though whether the leaders do this because Moscow is no longer interested or because Moscow wants it that way has yet to be disclosed. After a quarter of a century of misspent effort and of innumerable twists and turns of policy dictated first by dependence on the early and erroneous theories of the Bolshevists, then by the shifts and changes of the foreign policy of Russia's rulers, the American Communists are returning to a point even further back than that from which they started, the once despised beliefs of the reformist labour movements. Having promised to show the discontented workers how, by following the Communist lead, they could speedily achieve their emancipation, the American Communist leaders after 25 years are now shepherding their flock back into the fold.

After the delegates at a Party Convention had obediently signified their approval of changes proposed by their leaders, the full significance of the new departure was disclosed by the Secretary, Mr. Earl Browder, at a mass meeting in New York called in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the death of Lenin. The Times (January 12) reports that the response to Browder’s speech was “ less than enthusiastic.” The audience, not being drilled and disciplined like the Party delegates, may have reflected that the real purpose of the meeting was not to praise Lenin’s theories, but to bury them. The decision to wind-up operates on May Day. The Communists are going to give up any pretence of being an independent political party. Under some such name as “American Communist Political Association,” they are going to accept and work loyally within the traditional two-party system.

This is all because, in the words of Mr. Browder, Allied victory in the war will mean "not only prolonged world peace without precedent in history, but also the flourishing of economic relationships, co-operation and development of economic well-being and social reforms . . .” (Daily Worker, January 12, 1944).

Here is an extract from the Times' report of Browder’s speech at the mass meeting
   Saying that the American people were ill-prepared for socialism, and that post-war plans with the aim of establishing socialism in the United States would not unite the nation but would further divide it, he announced that, for the sake of promoting unity here, so that the policies agreed on by the United Nations at Cairo, Moscow and Teheran could be put into effect, Marxists would not raise the issue of socialism “in such a form and manner as to endanger or weaken that national unity.”
   Mr. Browder added that the Communists had eliminated such measures as nationalisation of the banks, the railways and the coal and steel industries, would change the name of their organisation to "the American Communist Political Association,” and would support in future the candidates of one of the two major parties. Reactionaries, he said, were trying to spread confusion in the democratic and progressive camp by championing free enterprise, but Marxists would not help them by opposing the slogan of free enterprise with any counter-slogan. He went on:—
   “If anyone wishes to describe the existing system of capitalism in the United States as free enterprise, that is all right with us, and we frankly declare that we are ready to co-operate in making this capitalism work effectively in the post-war period with the least possible burdens on the people. We do not draw political lines of division for the 1944 elections on any form of the issue of free enterprise.”—(Times, January 12, 1944.)
Other points are brought out in the lengthier Daily Worker report (January 14). One is that the Communists are going to support “a great united effort in the 1944 elections to guarantee the continuation of Roosevelt’s policies. . . .”
They will “not be operating as a 'party'—that is, with their own separate candidates in elections except under special circumstances when they may be forced to act through 'independent candidates.’ ” They are, however, “not . . . entering any other party. The Communists are not joining the Democratic party; the Communists are not joining the Republican party; we are not endorsing either of the major parties, and we are not condemning either of the major parties. We are taking a line of issues and not parties, and choosing men as they stand for or against those issues, without regard to party labels.” (Italics ours.)

An important point to notice is that this new line is not a merely war-time measure: "We are now extending the perspective of national unity for many years into the future. It is no longer an ‘emergency situation' but is merging into a 'normal situation ' " (Browder, Daily Worker, January 14).

About the agreement by Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt at Teheran to "work together in war and in the peace that will follow," Browder makes the remark that "Capitalism and' Socialism have begun to find the way to peaceful co-existence and collaboration in the same world." Those whose memories carry them back four years to the period of the Stalin—Hitler pact of 1939 will recall that this is just the line Communist propaganda was then taking about the friendly co-existence of Bolshevist Russia and Nazi Germany! When that period ended in 1941 the American and British Communist parties dropped their peace slogans and the theories on which those slogans rested, and were ordered into line with the foreign policy of Roosevelt and Churchill. The new turn means that they are now falling into line in home affairs as well.

To see the matter in perspective, let us turn back the last Presidential election in 1940, to see what Browder had to say then about Roosevelt and Willkie and the two parties they represent.

At that time the Communists were opposed to the war. They denounced it as an Anglo-American plot "to make the world safe for Wall Street and the City " (Daily, Worker, November 30, 1940) The American Party was praised on the ground that "alone of all the political parties, the C.P. of the U.S.A. has exposed the imperialist character of the war and has warned against both Roosevelt and Willkie " (Daily Worker, October 28, 1940).

In a speech reported in the Daily Worker on October 11, 1940, Mr. Browder declared that Roosevelt and Willkie, though they were rival candidates, had the same foreign policy (based on that of Great Britain), the policy of encouraging Hitler, pushing Germany into war with Russia so that Russia would be destroyed, and at the same time Germany would be so weakened as to remove her as a threat to Britain. "Only the Communist Party," he said, " has proposed and consistently fought for a foreign policy for our country which could replace the disastrous policy now being followed."

So much for foreign policy—now for his earlier views about the home policies of the Republicans and Democrats. In 1940 Mr. Browder, himself a Presidential candidate opposing Roosevelt and Willkie, issued a statement explaining just what part the two parties play in making America safe for capitalism, and denouncing the traditional two-party system which the Communists have now decided to accept.
The 1940 conventions of the Republican and Democratic Parties restored once more the traditional "two-party system" by which Wall Street (finance, capital and the great monopolists, the "sixty families," the " economic royalists"), controlling both major parties, invites the masses to choose the label under which they shall be exploited and oppressed for the ensuing four years. For the masses of the American people there is no way to advance their interests through either Republican or Democratic Party." (Daily Worker, October 28, 1940.)
On November 4, 1940, the Daily Worker, alleging that at the previous election in 1936 "Roosevelt himself was hoping that the New Deal would bring him Communist votes," went on :—
   But to-day neither Roosevelt nor Willkie will get Communist votes; their policy "of crushing civil liberties, planning a huge arms programme, and drawing nearer to participation in the war is too obviously directed against the liberties of the people.
Just at that time the American Communist Party was compelled, through the restrictive Voorhis Act, to resign from the Communist International, but while doing so it "reaffirmed the adherence of the Party to the policy of working-class internationalism” (Daily Worker, November 20,1940). Now, with the Communist International destroyed on Moscow orders the American Communists are going to back the two parties of capitalism, controlled as they are by Wall Street and big business, and thus join in the game of inviting the workers "to choose the label under which they shall be exploited and oppressed for the ensuing four years."

Some of the possible reasons for the decision can readily be guessed. Their failure to make any headway in elections may have been one factor; in 1932 they polled 103,000 in the Presidential election, but in 1940 their candidate polled only 46,000 votes. More important, however, will be the desire to follow a line suitable to the present foreign policy of the Russian Government. It is obvious that the Russian Government during the past year has been concerned to make itself popular in U.S.A. and Britain, and to avoid doing anything that would strengthen the hands of political groups opposed to the Russian alliance—hence the efforts of Russia's supporters to secure wide publicity for the new recognition of religion and the disbandment of the Communist International. The Manchester Guardian (January 12, 1944) considers that the winding up of the American party is another step which "will make for better feeling towards Russia."

Fully to understand the complete change of policy since 1940, it has to be remembered that at that time, when the Communists were opposed to the war and opposed to Willkie and Roosevelt, they (and doubtless their inspirers in Moscow) had a very different opinion about the way world affairs were going from the one forced on them in June 1941 when Germany invaded Russia. Mr. Browder, in October 1940, thought that the foreign policy he ascribed to Britain and America had failed, and that Russia would be able to keep out of the war because "the Soviet Union had grown too strong and too consolidated to offer a tempting field for military adventures for a Hitler, who likes to have his victories assured before he goes into action." (Daily Worker, October 11, 1940).

Events were soon to prove Browder wrong. Russia was not strong enough to stand alone, without American and British help. Mutual dependence of the three Powers called for a revised Communist Party policy. Subsequent changes, including the present attempt of the American Party to operate alongside Democrats and Republicans, have been in harmony with the position of the Russian Government internally and in its foreign relationships. That, and not the incredible belief in a new world of peace, progress and class harmony which Mr. Browder professes to cherish, is likely to be the real reason why his party has been called upon to make itself a laughing stock by repudiating the fundamental creed on which it was founded. Whether it will establish any sort of stability on the new basis, and whether further developments of Russian policy will lead to still further changes, are two questions time will answer.

We may speculate whether the British Party will follow the American example. The Manchester Guardian points out (January 12):—
  The arguments for it are much the same. Before the Communist International died the maxim of the Communist parties of the world was, of course, "When father says Turn, we all turn." Will our British Communists, like the Americans, prepare to lie down gracefully?
Maybe this time, however, the American and British Communists will turn in different directions, if we may judge by the editorial comment on the American changes published by the Daily Worker on January 13, 1944. The editorial argues that it is a mistake to interpret the American political system in terms of our own because in U.S.A "there is no Labour Party or organised political Labour movement." The main task in America to-day and in the immediate post-war period, says the Daily Worker, " is not the transformation of the social system but the rallying of all progressive forces in order to prevent reaction from turning that mighty country from the path of Teheran." The editorial goes on to give fulsome praise to Roosevelt's New Year speech, which, it says, calls America to a "noble fulfilment" of its destiny. The Daily Worker finds that both the Republican and Democratic parties "include reactionary and progressive elements," yet it plumps for supporting Roosevelt, leader of the Democrats. In view of Browder's 1940 statement that there is nothing to choose between the two parties, this distinction between Tweedledum and Tweedledee is not convincing. Nor is the Daily Worker's argument that things are different in this country because we have a Labour Party. In 1929 (see "Class Against Class"), and for several years afterwards, the Communist Party habitually referred to the Labour Party as the "third capitalist party."

It remains to be seen therefore what new line the British Communists may be required to take—and what peculiar justification they will, in that event, discover for taking it.

To enlighten them in their task of seeking to justify their own and the American Communists’ policy of supporting capitalist parties in the name of national unity, we bring to their notice the following passage from "Class Against Class," the General Election Programme of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1929:—
    "Three parties—Tory, Liberal and Labour—appeal to you in the name of the " nation." . . . .  No party can serve two masters. No party can serve the "nation" so long as the nation is divided into two warring classes—one which owns the wealth and one which produces the wealth and does not own it. No party can serve the robbers and the robbed at the same time."
Edgar Hardcastle

Really? (2018)

Book Review from the March 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

'A Party With Socialists In It. A History of the Labour Left'.  By Simon Hannah. (Pluto Press. 2018. 250 pages)

It was Tony Benn who wrote that ‘the Labour Party has never been a socialist party, though there have always been socialists in it’ which Hannah has taken as the title of his book. The first part is true but the second depends on what you mean by ‘socialist’.

When it was founded  in 1900 as the Labour Representation Committee, the Labour Party was to be a group of MPs, separate from the Liberals and Tories, to press for legislation in favour of trade unions and their members and didn't actually become the Labour Party, as a parliamentary group, until it had some MPs elected in the 1906 general election.  It didn’t even claim to be socialist. However, one of its constituent parts, the Independent Labour Party (ILP) that had been founded in 1893, did. In 1918 the Labour Party adopted a new constitution which included the famous Clause IV, which committed it (on paper and in the very long-term) to full-scale nationalisation; it also allowed individuals to join directly rather than via the ILP or the Fabian Society, which marginalised the ILP which eventually, in 1932, broke away and so was no longer 'in' the Labour Party.

Hannah’s history is that of the ILP up to 1932 (which he sees though rose-tinted spectacles), the Red Clydesiders, Sir Stafford Cripps and the Socialist League, Bevan and the Bevanites, Benn and the Bennites, and, now, Corbyn and the Corbynistas.

But were they socialists? They certainly considered themselves to be but understood socialism as the implementation of Clause IV. As this envisaged the nationalisation of ‘the means of exchange’, it implied the continuation of production for the market and the wages system; in effect state capitalism. Basically, they were leftwing reformists.

Hannah himself, an ex-Trotskyist, sees socialism as nationalisation under workers’ control but this is no way forward as, given production for the market, workers would be forced to run their industry on capitalist lines. He describes Benn’s politics as ‘greater democracy, greater worker involvement in industry, and a more accountable political class’ and Corbyn’s as ‘anti-neoliberal without being anti-capitalist.’ Both true.
Adam Buick

Exploitation (1974)

From the January 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

From the time of his first arrival in England Marx was surrounded by what was then the most advanced section of capitalist society in the world, and the one showing the greatest contrast between affluence and abject poverty. There were available to him numerous works on economics and government reports, all of which Marx made use of and acknowledged in his book Capital. The following quotation from Vol. I demonstrates this:
  Once for all may I here state, that by classical political economy, I understand that economy which since the time of William Petty has investigated the real relations of production in bourgeois society, in contradiction to vulgar economy, which deals with appearances only, ruminates without ceasing on the materials long provided by scientific economy, and there seeks plausible explanations of the most obtrusive phenomena for bourgeois daily use, but for the rest, confines itself to systematizing in a pedantic way, and proclaiming for everlasting truths, the trite ideas held by the self complacent bourgeois with regard to their own world, to them the best of all worlds.
To Marx capitalism is a system of commodity production, and commodities are the unit of capitalist wealth. The Marxian analysis of capitalist production commences with the analysis of the commodity. A commodity is a useful article, a use-value, produced not for its usefulness to its producer but for exchange. Masses of commodities are put on the market where they exchange for one another. The equation of commodities with diverse use-values in exchange implies the possession of some common quality, otherwise equation would be impossible. All commodities, whatever their differences of use or appearance, are the products of labour: all of them embody a certain amount of human labour and so can be equated with one another.

There are many different kinds of labour, such as the labour of the tailor and that of the miner; they are but different ways of expending the mental and physical energy needed for the production of social wealth. Commodities not only exchange, but exchange in definite quantity—two tons of coal may exchange for one suit of clothes, and not two suits for one ton of coal. This quantitive exchange relationship of commodities is determined by the relative values of the commodities exchanged. A commodity has value to the extent that it contains social labour. In the illustration just used, a suit of clothes is twice as valuable as a ton of coal because there is contained in the suit twice as much social labour as in the ton of coal.

A valuable commodity such as gold is valuable because a considerable amount of social labour is taken to produce a small quantity. If gold were produced with the same expenditure of social labour as is taken to produce chairs, gold would have no more value than chairs. As labour is measured by time, the length of time taken to produce a commodity determines its value. If a suit of clothes is produced in ten hours and is exchanged for two tons of coal, then it follows that the time taken to produce a ton of coal is five hours.

It must not be imagined that Marx argued that the time taken by an individual to produce a commodity determines its value: that would mean otherwise identical commodities produced in different times having different values.

Capitalists do not buy Labour
The capitalist system of production is a system of profit-making. The capitalist expects to, and usually does, receive a greater amount of money at the end of the productive process than he originally put into it. If, as has been stated, commodities are exchanged at their value, the commodities produced for and sold by the capitalist must have a greater value than those purchased by him (raw material, machines, labour-power, etc.). Moreover, the increase in value must take place during the process of manufacture, in which process the commodities he purchases are turned into the finished product he sells. The increase in value implies the addition of labour. But does not the capitalist buy labour along with the raw material, machinery and other means of production, as a commodity at its value?

The capitalist does not buy labour; the commodity he buys from the worker is labour-power. The distinction between labour and labour-power is not a quibble but a fundamental distinction. The power to work or labour is what the worker sells, not the actual work he performs for his employer. Labour-power is a peculiar commodity because it has the power to produce a greater value than its own. The value of labour-power is determined by the value of the necessities for its own production. For example, a worker who consumes commodities containing four hours of labour can work for eight hours, and by so doing creates twice the value of his own labour-power. Because the capitalists have monopolized the ownership of the means of production, the workers are forced to sell their labour-power to them in order to live. In other words they are able to exploit the peculiarity of labour-power described above, and to take from the worker the surplus value created in production.

The existence of a free working class is a necessary condition for capitalist production. Before the workers could be turned into wage-slaves they had to be “freed” from the land and the instruments of labour: they had to be property-less in the means of production. In England this was accomplished by ejecting peasants from the land, and the seizure of common lands. There was thus created a class with no other means of existence than the sale of labour-power to the capitalist employers.

Once there exists the relationship of wage-earner and capitalist, it tends to perpetuate itself. By spending his wages as he must, the worker is forced continuously to sell his labour-power. The capitalists, because of their monopoly of the means of production, are able continuously to buy it and appropriate the surplus-value it creates. This surplus-value is divided into rent paid for land and buildings, interest paid for loans of money, taxes paid to the State for services performed on behalf of capitalism as a whole, and profit. Part of the profit is consumed by the capitalists, and part is reinvested in production.

The rate of reinvestment of profit is determined not by the whims of individual capitalists but by social forces over which they have no control. Competition and market conditions tend to reduce the prices of commodities. To meet this threat without reducing profits, capitalists endeavour to enlarge their businesses so that the costs of production can be reduced; this means the introduction of more efficient machinery, the speeding-up of the work process, and the effecting of economies made possible by large-scale production. Those capitalists who fail to do this will be in danger of being forced out of business.

The growth in size of businesses makes competition even more severe. Small concerns are always in danger of failure; only the largest and best-equipped are able to survive the struggle. Competition, by killing-off the small and less efficient concerns, concentrates control in the hands of relatively few large capitalist monopolies and also causes a continuous improvement in technique and an increase of productive capacity.

However, the same growth creates many problems. At first it requires an increase in the numbers of workers employed, but with advancing technical improvements the rate of employment falls whereas the rate of increase in the numbers of the working class tends to rise. Though these tendencies are offset by others, they are always at least potential pressures against the perpetual need of the working class to be employed. At all times the market for labour-power is subject to the factors which cause market conditions for all commodities to fluctuate. The capitalists have to look for fresh markets in non-capitalist (i.e. undeveloped) countries; and finally the whole world is brought into the stream of capitalist economic life.

Constant and Variable Capital
Technical improvements change the composition of capitals. A larger share is invested in means of production (machines, raw materials, etc.) called by Marx constant capital, and a smaller share in the purchase of labour-power or variable capital. This changed composition produces very important results. The capitalists reckon their profits on the whole of their capital, and any increase of capital that does not result in a corresponding increase of labour-power employed (since that is the only commodity which can produce surplus- value) results in a fall in the rate of profit.

A capital of £100, of which £80 represents constant and £20 variable capital, produces a surplus of—say— £20 and a rate of profit of 20 per cent. A capital of £200, of which £180 represents the constant capital and £20 is the variable capital, with the same exploitation of the workers, will still only produce surplus-value of £20: which means a lower rate of profit, that is 10 per cent.

As more and more capital is assuming the shape of machines (constant capital) and in proportion less is being invested in the purchase of labour-power (variable capital), it follows that the rate of profit is a falling one. In the highly industrialized countries, despite the intensification of exploitation by speeding-up and other methods, there is a continuing long-term tendency for the rate of profit to fall. To help overcome it, capitalists export capital to less advanced countries where the proportion of labour-power required in relation to the total capital is high and, as a result, the rate of profit is high also.

As the capitalist industrial system spreads over the world, the problems become wider in extent and more severe in their effects. To protect their interests the capitalists are compelled to form trusts, combines and mergers, and endeavour to restrict or eliminate competition and to restrict production to the requirements of the market.

Though the main purpose of these moves is the abolition of competition, it is never accomplished. Trusts and combines are usually national or semi-international in scope, though we are now witnessing the growth and power of multi-national concerns. Though all the producers supplying home markets might be organized in trusts, the capitalist market is the world market, and there the national and semi-international trusts struggle against one another. The effects of such international competition are far more harmful than those of competition between numerous small concerns. Thus, the contradiction between the order and efficiency of production, and the anarchy of the market, becomes and is irreconcilable: the economic crisis becomes a feature of capitalism. The contrast between the relatively increasing poverty of the working class and society’s increasing power for producing wealth becomes greater, as does the contrast between the social character of production and its private or class ownership and control.

In order to resolve this contradiction, the class—that is, the working class which is at present exploited and will continue to be exploited so long as wealth is produced as commodities—this class must take control of political power. This is the power which at the moment makes it perfectly legal for the capitalist class to appropriate the surplus-value produced by the combined efforts of the working class. It must be used now to convert the property relationship in the means of production from the present private or class ownership to one of common ownership: so that wealth—that is, useful things— may be produced because they are useful and necessary. And so society can go forward to its next goal, Socialism.
Robert Ambridge