Thursday, May 10, 2018

Justice. (1923)

From the April 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Ramsay McDonald recently gave it out that the Party of which he is ‘Leader “Fights for Divine Justice.” The question of divinity need not detain us, but one of the things which clearly mark off the Socialists from the Labour Party is, that we do not fight for justice; we fight for Socialism. Lest it be thought that the one is as vague and unsatisfactory as the other, let me add that we also define our aim :
  “The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.”
We deal with facts, they live in a world of abstractions. We see a system of society, in which a small minority, the capitalist class, own the means of producing wealth. We see that this class no longer takes an active part in the production of the wealth which they own, and of which they retain a large part after paying wages to the workers, the real producers. We see that the capitalist class have ceased to be socially useful, and that the organisation of society which they built up, and which was in its time and place necessary and an advance on previous systems, has become a hindrance to further progress. We see that the capitalists maintain their position by their control of the machinery of Government, and we know they will not willingly abdicate their privileged position. Because of this we ask the worker to organise for the conquest of power so that they may wrest from the ruling class their hold on the means, of life, and may rebuild society on the basis of common ownership and democratic control.

We fight for something definite and material; the Labour Party fights for “Justice.” What is Justice?

Imagine an unknown speaker, betrayed by no Party label, addressing a mixed crowd at any street corner, and saying: “I fight for justice.” If he is anything of an orator he is sure to strike an answering note in the minds of his audience, and they will all agree, with more or less enthusiasm, but complete harmony, that they also fight for justice. But let the speaker begin to explain what he means by justice, and he will soon discover that his conception is his own, and that his audience, in complete discord with each other, will agree only on one thing, that the speaker is a liar, a rogue, or a fool.

“Justice” for the big capitalist means State support in breaking strikes and in keeping control of foreign markets and areas of raw material: he fights for "justice,’’ or more usually he pays workers to do it for him. “ Justice” for the Judge means the body of laws which the ruling class want enforced at a particular time in his “Justice” for.the small capitalist means protection against his monopolist rivals, State legislation against trusts, and 1s. off the income tax: he also fights for “justice.” “Justice” for the Russian peasant is the right to possess as much land as he can till and to live free from taxation and State interference. “Justice” for the trade unionist means the right to organise. There are as many conceptions of justice as there are sectional interests (real or imagined). All these sections fight for “ justice,” and also of necessity, they fight each other.

Socialism is born of the class struggle that goes on unceasingly owing to the private property basis of society. Socialism will arise out of the material conditions that exist in the capitalist organisation in which we live. We fight for the possession of the world’s wealth. Our aims are clear and we have no need to hide them under the figments of men’s minds, whether these be God’s or idealistic conceptions of justice and equity. The Labour Party, on the other hand, is the product of the “spirit of progress,” which “never dies,” says Mr. MacDonald (“Daily Herald,” 12th February, 1923). They have come “flaming with spirit,” and have won their way “into the hearts and intelligence of the great mass of the people.” Apart from a slight exaggeration, the "great mass” having been shown at the election to be about a quarter of the electors, this is all nonsense.

The origin of political movements is not to be explained by vague references to the “spirit of progress,” and, of course, parties, even if they are as woolly in their notions as the Labour Party, do in fact fight for concrete ends.

It may be true that many who have taken part in great historical movements have not understood their real meaning; and have been content to give up their lives for a phrase or a creed. Possibly the great majority who have borne the brunt of the fighting in past revolutions have been in this position, but it is nevertheless true that those old battle cries of the revolutionaries have not been mere myths; they have but idealised a more material conflict. "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” sounds fine, and Napoleon’s army fired by an idea and later by loyalty to the man who embodied it was an incomparable army, but as Marx says: “Infantry, cavalry and artillery” was much more to the point than brotherhood in furthering the interests of the rising capitalist class of France. For the bourgeois owners of the new machinery of production, liberty from the exactions of the now useless and effete feudal aristocracy; equality before the code of new capitalist laws, and fratenity in the exploitation of the proletariat: these were the gods of the philosophers, the soldiers and the statesmen of the revolution. The Guillotine taught the Paris workers that Liberty, Equality and Fraternity were not for them. The workers may have been misled, but Napoleon and his advisers were under no illusion. The French capitalists fought through Napoleon for the political and economic dominance of Europe. They and their British rivals saw that the race for industrial supremacy lay between them. Napoleon encouraged the development of machine production in the French wool and cotton industries to outstrip England; he fought for access to the raw material for these industries, and Britain fought to prevent him; he fought for the capture of the European markets, and Britain fought in naval engagements, and by the smuggling trade to retain those markets. Needless to say, both Britain and France fought for “justice,” the British variety being “divine” and the French belonging to the new school of “Reason.”

At that time the landed aristocracy still kept a firm hand on the government of this country, and the commercial and manufacturing classes had to play second fiddle socially and politically to the fox-hunting squirearchy.

But as the textile, iron and coal trades grew in importance with the coming of machinery and the rapidly increasing foreign trade, the position of the traditional rulers was challenged. The manufacturers wanted free trade and no government interference, and by a choice use of catchphrases and the promise of the franchise the new prophets, typified by Cobden and Bright, won the workers to their side.

The class which had arisen with the new factory production were successful, and came into power as the Liberal Party. They fought out their political battle, now all but brought to a close, with the granting of partial women’s suffrage, but by habit the advanced sections of the working class have continued to stand by the side of the Liberal Party, when this has long since ceased to be any more progressive than its former opponents. Now, there is no real line of cleavage between industrial capitalists and landowners, and the interests of both is summed up in the endeavour to maintain things as they are.

But, says Mr. MacDonald, “Parties have died, but the spirit of progress never dies . . . The Labour Movement stands to-day as the inheritance of the Liberal tradition.” In other words, while the Socialist Party fights for Socialism, that is, for the interests of the working class, Mr. MacDonald and his Party fight for “justice,” “Liberal justice.” What do we find the Labour Party standing for, as shown in its programme and in its actions? For free trade—that is, for access to cheap raw materials—because in the past the interests of the dominant section of the British capitalist class were best served by free trade. On the other hand, most Continental and Colonial Labour Parties, who also fight for “Justice,” are protectionist because their capitalist governments have always been protectionist.

They fight for the “League of Nations” because some sections of the international capitalists wish to avoid the expense of war and the danger it threatens to the stability of their governments. We know that class and international conflicts are part of the nature of capitalism, and can be removed only with the destruction of the present system.

They want a capital levy (that is, a levy on capitalists individually, to lessen their collective State indebtedness) in order to stabilise the currency. They want international loans to improve the disturbed foreign exchanges, revision of the Peace Treaty, and some remission of reparations, all in order to revive capitalist trade.

We want to abolish Capitalism.

They want Nationalisation : that is, private ownership by the capitalists collectively through the State, instead of Individually. We want common ownership.

They want industrial peace; they propose to deal “fairly” and “impartially” as between robbers and robbed; to limit the proceeds of the robbery to a “just” rate of profit, and give the robbed a “just” proportion of the wealth they alone have produced. We stand for the destruction of wage slavery and the profit-making system.

In short, they stand for the abstraction “Justice,” which interpreted means the stabilisation, by reform, of the capitalist system, in the interests of the capitalist class. We, on the other hand, propose to deprive the capitalists of their private ownership of the means of life. Their right to own has been quite legally acquired, and our aim is therefore necessarily from their point of view a most unjust proceeding. We are, however, not governed by that consideration, and are prepared to stand for the concrete objective Socialism, because in that alone lies the hope of the working class.
Edgar Hardcastle

"From Crow-Scaring to Westminster". (1923)

Book Review from the January 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

"From Crow-Scaring to Westminster: An Autobiography" by George Edwards. (The Labour Publishing Company, Ltd., G, Tavistock Square. 240 pages. Paper. Price 5s.)

When a man fights for the workers as hard and as long as George Edwards has, he earns the right to have his mistakes charitably judged. Even if he turns and denounces men of his own class because they fail to follow his lead, one can endeavour to understand the bitterness of his many disappointments and show him the sympathy he occasionally withholds from them. This autobiography offers material enough for an appreciation of what an individual can do, and what are his limitations.

Born into a poverty-stricken Norfolk home in 1850, George Edwards started work at the age of six, scaring crows seven days a week for 1s. He had practically no education, but appears to have been gifted with a natural independence of spirit, and coming at an early age into close touch with the virile Primitive Methodism of those days, he soon developed the will to resist and induce others to resist the "tyranny of the countryside.” His life is the record of struggles to organise the agricultural workers. Unrest was widespread in agricultural areas, and the demand for labour in the towns had set up a strong migration from the land. When, therefore, in 1872 Joseph Arch put himself at the head of a movement to organise farm workers, 150,000 men had joined various local bodies within six months. George Edwards became a member of one of these, and having learned from his wife how to read, and having gained confidence in preaching, he soon began to take an active part. As was natural, he studied the then advanced theories of Liberalism which seemed to him to contain the gospel of working class freedom.

After some exciting struggles, the continued drifting into the growing industrial centres of the North and emigration to the Colonies were reflected in a decline of interest in the agricultural unions. A partial revival accompanied the Liberal campaign for extension of the franchise in 1885, and Edwards then associated himself with Arch’s own union, and assisted Liberal candidates in Norfolk.

Then came a period of agricultural depression, which, with internal dissensions, led to the destruction of all but the Norfolk unions. Edwards meanwhile was diligently studying, together with many quaint theological works, the writings of Adam Smith, Thorold Rogers, and Henry George, and was learning that votes without the knowledge to use them effectively, merely made the workers “easy victims for the Tory Party.” He realised, however, the necessity for political action.

In 1889, at the request of some Norfolk labourers, he formed the “Federal Union,” while simultaneously other county unions sprang up in various parts of the country. Within a year they had 3,000 and Arch’s union 5,000 members in the Eastern Counties. Again depression in 1891 and 1892, and the inability to offer effective resistance to wage reductions, caused dissolution of the unions. In the latter year, too, George Edwards fought his first political battle for a seat on the county council, and lost by a few votes. He was opposed by one of the Liberals for whom he had worked so hard, and this taught him that "they were not prepared to assist the working men to take their share in the government of the country” (p. 61).

The organisations were continually in difficulties, but in 1894 the passing of the "District and Parish Councils” Act gave new hope of salvation in working-class representation on local councils, the latter having power to let out allotments and to appoint trustees for Parish Charities.

Some labourers were elected and much time and energy was devoted to enforcing the observance of existing laws. Their enthusiasm led, however, to defeat at the next election, and George Edwards lost hope of advancement in that direction. Continued depression and the formation of a rival union by political opponents had by 1896 caused the collapse of the “Federal Union,” its founder’s parting words being “ . . . my hopes have been blighted and now I despair of you. All hopes that you as a class will make any effort to lift yourselves from your downtrodden state have vanished ” (page 86).

His writings at this time showed a remarkable appreciation of the real facts of the worker’s enslavement; he saw that neither free trade nor protection, democracy nor autocracy, monarchy nor republic, made any material difference. His outspokenness no doubt explains the ferocity of the attacks made on him by political opponents, and it is interesting to note that the line of attack was the same as is being used now: the attack on alleged extravagant administration.

In spite, however, of the lesson he had learned, he remained in the Liberal Party and advocated their principles for the Free Trade Union.

In 1906 the Liberal victory at the polls was followed by a general attack by the farmers, and again a move was made towards organisation. Although 56 years of age and too dispirited to face the task willingly, George Edwards began the work once more in response to persuasion.

Except for increased centralisation the scheme was much like the previous one, but it was realised now that more care would have to be shown if the organisation was to weather storms such as had proved disastrous to its predecessors. Slow but steady progress was made, and by 1909 ‘‘The Eastern Counties Agricultural Labourers’ and Smallholders' Union” had 3,000 members and was represented at the Trades Union Congress. Some reduction in hours had been gained and the Saturday half-holiday was already becoming a possibility. Great enthusiasm resulted from a victorious six months’ strike in Norfolk, through which 1s. per week was obtained.

Much ground appeared to have been lost by a long and disastrous strike in 1910, but actual progress was fairly uniform up to 1913, when successes in Lancashire rapidly opened up new ground. The harm that was done arose mainly out of the personal differences and autocratic methods of some of the leaders.

Then came the war, and, as George Edwards says, “I, like most of the Labour leaders, felt it my duty to do what I could to help the nation in the hours of need, etc., etc.” This man, who had struggled for his whole lifetime to obtain for the workers the right to an existence slightly better than that of the animals, was afraid "that it would be the poor that would be the first to suffer should we be defeated, or should the enemy succeed in starving us. . . .” (pp. 190). As George Edwards knew well enough, the workers never had to look so far abroad as Germany for those who would starve them. The farmers are doing their best to starve them now, in spite of Edwards' pathetic belief that there is a "better spirit” in industry. He supported the war, although for him “war” is a crime of the deepest dye against humanity,” and on numerous occasions we find this curious knack of reconciling most antagonistic facts and principles. Before he would engage in industrial strife he sought biblical authority; he describes his father as a saintly man "who taught me the first principles of righteousness” (pp. 21), and on the same page records the fact that he “night by night, took a few turnips from his master’s field!”

In spite of the brutal fact that the agricultural worker is now back almost where he was in 1914, George Edwards talks about “the wonderful change” and finds more comfort than I can in the fact that the farm labourer is “now qualified to be even a Justice of the Peace.” He writes about the benefit of “collective bargaining,” but he should know well enough that the Conciliation Committees set up since the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board in 1921 have been a farce as far as the workers are concerned.

When George Edwards wrote he had not j long been elected to the House of Commons, and felt a pardonable pride in the success he had attained after a life of strife and perpetual failure of one endeavour after another. What was more natural than that he should view the position of the agricultural workers somewhat too cheerfully? Even that has been taken from him in his failure to hold the seat at the recent general election.

The agricultural unions grew enormously in size during the war under the stimulus of labour shortage and rising prices, and later through the formation of the Agricultural Wages Board. It was unfortunately to a large extent a mushroom growth which withered away as soon as it lost its protective covering with the repeal of the Corn Production Act. To the extent that it was organised from above it was not permanent, and to the extent that its members lacked an intelligent grasp of the elements of trade unionism it failed to meet the shock of falling wages and unemployment. The idolising of leaders brought eventual apathy and disillusionment to all but the staunchest. Agricultural organisation is therefore not in a promising condition. Depression has caused loss of membership, as in other unions, but probably to a greater degree than in most. Well financed attacks on balance sheets have not been without effect, and the formation of a rival “non-party” union has added to the difficulties. There is, however, an explanation and a remedy for these things. It is in the recognition that the members alone can make or mar their organisation, and that in their understanding rests the only ultimate guarantee of success. No merits of leaders can form an adequate substitute. The man who is honest and dependable will reap disappointment as has George Edwards, and the man who lacks some of his singleness of purpose will soon enough fall to the temptation of getting security by entering the service of the enemies of the workers. In the absence of an instructed membership, what is much more dangerous than disloyalty .is the lack of knowledge. Neither the integrity of George Edwards nor mere sympathy and natural “fighting spirit” are proof against the subtle arguments of “community of interests” and the farmers’ “inability to pay.”

Men who clearly recognised the cause of the workers' poverty in the private ownership of the means of production, and who realised that the spreading of Socialist knowledge is the only permanent basis for working-class organisation would not have to go into battle with untrained troops, and would not risk finding themselves at the end of a life of ceaseless toil for their class, the disappointed leaders of a phantom army.
Edgar Hardcastle

Answers to Correspondents (1929)

Letter to the Editors from the January 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

E. M. (Brixton) writes at length, denying that a majority of the workers will ever understand Socialism, as before our propaganda will penetrate the workers’ minds, most of them will be submerged into the Slum proletariat—and beyond redemption altogether.

The views put forward—as to the slowness of accepting Socialism and the workers' large interest in Capitalist ideas—are not new, and they were faced long ago. But the notion that general industrial development and economic pressure does not make the workers receptive to Socialism, is belied by the facts of daily experience.

One fact alone—the widespread interest in social affairs and social change, compared to 25 years ago—is patent to all. It does not follow from Capitalist development that most workers will be pushed into the slum proletariat.

The important facts to bear in mind are the growing insecurity of “jobs,” even salaried ones, the lessons of concentration of wealth going on all around us, and the proved inefficacy of the reform panaceas to affect the workers' lives for the better. The long history of workers' struggles against enormous odds proves that even the lies and chloroform of the masters fail to work in face of the glaring lessons from economic life.
Editorial Committee.

The Communist Party and the General Election. (1929)

From the May 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

As usual, the Communist Party is trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Since its formation it has repeatedly denounced the Labour Party leaders and programmes, and at the same time, in obedience to its Russian paymasters, has alternately supported and opposed Labour Party candidates. In 1921 it ran a candidate at Caerphilly against the Labour Party candidate, and opposed MacDonald at Woolwich. At the 1922 election it first put forward candidates in opposition to Labour Party candidates; then withdrew them at the last moment and told the workers to vote "Labour." That year at Gorton Mr. Harry Pollitt was put forward as Communist candidate against Mr. John Hodge. Mr. Pollitt denounced the Labour candidate and his programme, but in due course he withdrew and “held large and successful meetings in the constituency, urging the workers to vote for Mr. Hodge." (See the “Communist Daily," November 13, 1922).

In their official Election Manifesto this year ("Class against Class”) they admit that their attitude has again changed.
  Prior to the formation of the Labour Government in 1924, the Communist Party, although the leaders of the Labour Party were as treacherous then as now, advised the working class to push the Labour Party into power. . . (page 9).
Now, although they describe the Labour Party as "the third Capitalist Party” (p. 8) and say “no Party can serve two masters” (p. 7) they have already declared their willingness to support that Party, i.e., to serve two masters.

In a statement issued to the Press on April 13th of this year, the Political Bureau of the Communist Party made the following declaration (“Sunday Worker,” April 14th).
  A Labour Government at the present day would be a Government of capitalist rationalisation, only differing from the Tory and Liberal Parties as to the best methods whereby rationalisation could be brought about at the expense of the workers.
 It is, therefore, no longer possible for the Communist Party to advise the workers to give unconditional support to Labour candidates, even in constituencies not being contested by the Communists.
 The Communist Party is advising the workers only to vote for such Labour candidates as are prepared to accept a policy of minimum working class demands, involving the repudiation of Mondism, of imperialism, and of the policy of trade union disruption now being actively operated in the trade union movement.
  Unless these demands are accepted the Communist Party will advise the workers to refrain from voting.
The policy of asking a Labour candidate to endorse “a policy of minimum working class demands, etc.,” as a condition of giving him their vote is a piece of the pettiest election trickery. If the candidate wants their votes and chooses to give a pledge in order to get them, he can do so without the least danger of ever being compelled to carry out the pledge. The pledge itself in its terms is so general as to be largely meaningless.

But to see how dishonest or foolish the Communist Party is we need only consider the result of their applying a similar face-saving expedient in earlier contests.

This same policy was applied at the 1922 General Election. When Mr. Pollitt withdrew from the contest at Gorton, the Openshaw Branch of the Communist Party put a series of questions on unemployment to Mr. John Hodge in order to decide whether or not they could support him. The official organ of the Communist Party (“Communist Daily,” 13th November, 1922) reported that “It is not clear from the Labour candidate’s reply whether he agrees with this point in the Communist Party’s programme or not.” Nevertheless they supported him.

In other words, their attempt to excuse their support of Hodge and their betrayal of the workers by seeking a pledge from him broke down because he did not want their support and refused to give the pledge. They had then, as now, to act not in accordance with some settled principles but as Moscow may from time to time dictate.

And even where they did endorse some Labour M.P.'s who were willing at the time to accept their support, the result has clearly shown how little control they have over the men in question. After the 1923 election Mr. Tom Bell, Editor of the “Communist Review" (January, 1924) stated that the Labour M.P.'s on whom would fall the task of maintaining "the proletarian opposition” to the leaders of the Labour Party, were "Wheatley, Maxton, Johnston, Kirkwood," and others unnamed. Every one of these four stalwarts they have since roundly denounced as "traitors to the working class.”

The Communist Party A Reform Party.
Knowing full well that in spite of their liberal supplies of money they do not stand any chance whatever of getting a candidate returned by Communist votes on a Communist programme, their Election address consists largely of a long list of reforms. Under the title “Our Immediate Programme of Action" the number of reforms listed is no fewer than 94, in addition to a large number of other reforms included in its “Programme of the Revolutionary Workers' Government.”

Among the "revolutionary” demands in the list of 94 are such ancient and (to the workers) useless Liberal panaceas as the "abolition of all indirect taxes” (p. 30). As they know full well, cheapening the cost of living is reflected automatically in a lowered cost of living bonus throughout the Civil Service and the Municipal services, and in many other industries, and is rapidly followed by lowered wages throughout the country generally. The great fall in prices since 1920 has brought no improvement in the condition of the workers.

Other reforms, such as "non-contributory pensions at 60," are the common stock-in-trade of all the Parties advocating the reform of Capitalism.

It is amusing to notice that the Communist Party has now been outbidden by its » reformist rivals in the I.L.P. For while the I.L.P. is proposing that the unemployed be given pay equal to that of an employed man, the Communists are more moderately asking for only 30s. (p. 21).

This also represents a very big decrease on the claim made by the Communist Party at the 1923 General Election. At that time they were demanding "£4 a week for all . . . employed and unemployed." (See "Workers’ Weekly," 30th November. 1923). They are also supporting the demand for children’s allowances (p. 24), a reform which has the backing of prominent members of each of the Parties—Liberal, Tory, Labour, and I.L.P.—and has been applied by numerous Capitalist Governments.

The Policy of Armed Revolt.
Lastly, the Communists are repeating their dangerous nonsense about the armed overthrow of the Capitalist State. They say (p. 5) the Communist Party recognises
that the working-class can only conquer capitalism and become the ruling class by the creation of its own instruments of power (i.e., workers’ councils, composed of delegates from the factories and the mass organisation of the workers), and the impossibility of the working class capturing and utilising the capitalist State apparatus for the exercise of its own class powers for the building of Socialism.
They say further 
. . . It is only possible to conquer this class domination when . . . the majority of the workers are prepared forcibly to throw off the capitalist class control. . .
This policy of unarmed workers attempting the forcible overthrow of the capitalist state with its armies, navies and other organised forces of destruction, would lead only to the slaughter of thousands of helpless communist dupes.

The simple truth, here ignored by the Communists, is that it is not only the capitalist minority, but the working-class majority which keeps Communists out of the House of Commons unless they creep in under false pretences. It is useless, they say, for the workers to try to capture and utilise Parliament. But so anxious are they to get inside this institution, which they say is useless, that, rather than fight and lose elections as Communists, they descend to the electioneering devices of the other vote-catching parties and fight the election on this programme of capitalist reforms.

Control of Parliament by persons returned on such a programme and by the kind of votes which such a programme will receive, is indeed useless for the purpose of achieving Socialism. Socialism, as a system of society, cannot be carried on, nor can power for Socialism be obtained without first securing a Socialist majority. The Communist short and crooked cuts lead not to Socialism, but to disillusion and despair.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Socialist Party and National Defence. (1929)

From the April 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Do We Want a Navy?
In the Morning Post (February 25th), the late Right Hon. Stephen Walsh, M.P., wrote an article under the title “Labour Party and National Defence." In it he explained the attitude of a Labour Government to questions affecting the organisation and use of the Army, Navy and Air Force. As he was Secretary for War in the Labour Government, he spoke with authority and knowledge, and as he was an enthusiastic supporter of the war in 1914, and of conscription, and an avowed believer in the need to maintain the British Empire, it is not surprising that his views received ungrudging approval from the editor of the Morning Post. It is, of course, true that not all of Mr. Walsh’s Labour colleagues were so boldly jingo during the war, nor so unrepentantly imperialistic now. But on the fundamental problem of national defence, Mr. Walsh could speak for his party, and his views would be endorsed by practically all the influential groups in it, from J. H. Thomas to the I.L.P.

Mr. Walsh’s words are that the Army, Navy and Air Force are required in order that “the British citizen . . may pursue his daily avocation in security.’' This is a statement acceptable by Tories, Liberals, and the Labour Party alike. It is not accepted by the Socialist Party.

Who is the “British citizen” and what is his “daily avocation”?

To come straight to the point, a point obscured by Mr. Walsh’s use of undefined terms like “the nation,” “our country,” etc., British citizens and, in fact the citizens of all the capitalistic world, consist of two main classes. On the one side there are the propertied few, who live on property incomes, without the need to work for their living. On the other side are the great majority who are propertyless and are compelled to sell their working power for wages or salaries, to the propertied class. The one class has property to lose, and a privileged position to lose, wealth and security to lose. The other class count themselves fortunate only in being able to find employment, and life even then is arduous and insecure. The Capitalist class, in short, have something worth defending, and for its defence they maintain, and will maintain, whatever armed forces they think necessary. Non-resistance to an attack by other capitalist governments, or defeat in war, means to them the loss of something material. Thus defeat in the Great War, the subsequent imposition of indemnities, the loss of colonies, meant the extraction of wealth from the pockets of the German capitalists— the only class who could pay—and the loss of opportunities for lucrative colonial investment. The burden of defeat has not, in fact, fallen on the German workers. The employers in defeated Germany can afford to depress the standard of living of their employees below efficiency level, no more, and no less, than can employers in victorious Britain.

The capitalist needs efficiency in his wage-slaves for the production of profit, just as the farmer needs well-fed horses and cattle. And the extent to which the German workers can, by organisation and otherwise, secure standards over and above the level required to make them efficient wealth-producers, is not importantly affected by the defeat or victory of their employers in a war with foreign capitalist states. It is conditioned by the forces of the capitalist system itself, and by the political needs of the ruling class. In times when their position is endangered from abroad, rather than in the piping times of peace, the ruling class are most willing to give concessions to their wage-slaves.

The war left the position of the German working-class and the condition of the British working-class just what it was before 1914. Both countries in 1914 were capitalist countries, governed by and for the capitalist class. The same is true in 1919 and 1929, with this difference, that whereas the British capitalists are wealthier than ever, their German colleagues have had to pay the price of military defeat.

Figures issued by German official sources disclose something of the extent of the loss of Germany’s propertied class. (See “Observer,” March 17th.) In 1914, there were 15,549 persons with fortunes of one million marks or over; now there are only 2,235, and owners of more than £500,000 have decreased from 229 to 33.

Mr. Walsh wrote of carrying on our “daily avocation in security.” We can now give more precise meaning to the phrase. The “daily avocation” of the capitalist class is the extraction of profit from the exploitation of the working-class, by whose labour wealth is produced.

German capitalists and British capitalists need armed forces to protect their privileged position, and these armed forces are intended to be used not only in war with foreign states, but also against members of the working-class who rebel against the system, whether individually or collectively. This we see in times of industrial conflict, strikes, lock-outs, etc.

Members of the working-class, on the other hand, do not enjoy the possession of battleships and howitzers, poison-gas, and aeroplanes to enable them to pursue their “daily avocation in security,” because the threat to them comes not from foreign capitalists in particular, but from the capitalist class in general. The ruling class in Germany in 1914 did not construct great armaments at enormous cost in order to disturb the normal pre-war army of British unemployed in their “daily avocation” of looking for a job; nor to rob the workers o( their slums, nor to interfere with the activities of those British workers who were fortunate enough to have employment. The object of the capitalist class in general is to exploit the working class. When capitalist states quarrel, the object of the quarrel and the prize for the victor is a re-division of the wealth of which the working-class are, under capitalism, normally robbed. Armaments exist to give the capitalists security. The position of the workers is as secure or insecure in defeat as in victory. The workers have nothing to defend. National Defence is a purely capitalist question. Not national defence, but the overthrow of capitalism is the object of the Socialist Party.
Edgar Hardcastle

Points For Propagandists. (1929)

From the January 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Workers’ Savings

In the early days of Capitalism it was possible for the man with small capital to set up in business with some chance of climbing to the top, and in consequence saving ranked high among the Capitalist virtues. Out of this developed the silly theory that the possession of wealth in the modern world denotes “abstinence" and “self-denial" on the part of the possessing class. It was effectively answered by the late Sir William Ashley, economic adviser to the Conservative Party. In his “Economic Organisation of England” (p. 157) he says :—
Phrases like these have occasioned no little mirth; it is hard to discover self-denial or parsimony as the world understands these words, in the processes by which modern capital is most largely accumulated.
Capitalist savings result mainly, not from self-denial, but from having incomes so large that it is difficult not to save. Knowing this, and overlooking the fact that the position of the workers is essentially different from their own, it is a common error for wealthy bankers and Cabinet Ministers to assume that the accumulation of funds in savings banks indicates prosperity among the workers. Every wage-earner appreciates only too well that the necessity of putting something by, out of wages already inadequate for decent comfort, is the result not of prosperity, but of the insecurity of his existence. It is therefore interesting to see that Major-General J. E. B. Seely, Chairman of the National Savings Committee, has realised this. In a speech at Leeds on December 12th he said that in November, 1928, more Savings Certificates had been sold than in any November since 1921.
  As unemployment and distress grow, savings have increased. The reason is that the British people, when they are up against something, are determined to lay something up against the dangers looming ahead. Households now living on 30s. a week are saving more than they did when they were earning £7 or £8 a week. ("Daily Mail,” 13 December.)
And what a commentary on Capitalism. Here we have one of the wealthiest ruling classes known to history financing a huge national organisation in order to persuade its wage-slaves, starving on 30s. a week that they ought to save!

Statements of Fact.

There are, perhaps, different standards of accuracy and reliability observed by different Governments and newspapers, but during the War every Government and the Press of every belligerent country was engaged in faking and suppressing news, as well as in downright lying. In consequence, most people are inclined to be sceptical about some, if not all, of the "facts” they read, especially if they are "official." 

So much so, that the "Daily News” on November 28th referred to the numerous letters received by all the newspapers, asking if the bulletins about the King’s illness were genuine or whether something was being kept back. The "Daily News,” as usual a little pompous, informed its readers in heavy black type as follows:—
   “The Daily News"—speaking with high authority—feels it a duty to say, and to emphasise, that the bulletins published about the King’s health are statements of fact 'and that nothing has been kept back.
Subsequently we were told of the anxiety which the King’s condition had given rise to in these early weeks, and it appears that what the "Daily News” felt it a duty not only "to say,” but also ”to emphasise,” was one of those "statements of fact ” like the war-time "victories” which were more costly than defeats and were almost invariably followed by "withdrawals”  "according to plan.”

Patriotism and Profit.

The ‘‘Daily Mail,” so solicitous for everything British and so anxious to preserve British industry and provide work and wages for British workers, remarks that—
increasing numbers of British investors and speculators are seeking investment opportunities abroad, and particularly across the Atlantic. ("Daily Mail,” 27 November, 1928.)
Knowing the Britishness and integrity of the "Daily Mail,” you will expect, as a matter of course, that the Editor will denounce this investment of British money in American industries and will particularly express his abhorrence of speculators. On the contrary he announces that— 
each day we shall publish . . . a concise review . . . of the investment situation in New York, with helpful hints as to American and Canadian securities from the British investor’s point of view.

The National Income.

Sir Josiah Stamp and Professor Bowley ("The National Income”) have shown that the total real national income in 1924 was approximately the same as in 1911, or, in other words, the value of the wealth produced (including incomes from abroad) had increased by the same percentage as prices. As population had in the meantime increased slightly, this meant that the total purchasing power per head of the population was slightly less than in 1911.

The national income is now definitely increasing again. Mr. G. D. Rokeling has recently conducted a further enquiry for the "Economist.” It is published under the title, "A British Index of National Prosperity, 1920-1927,” with a commendatory Introduction by Sir Josiah Stamp. (Published by the "Economist.” 2s. 6d.)

In it Mr. Rokeling estimates (page 31) that the real national income has increased between 1920 and 1927 by about 8 per cent. The increase between 1924 and 1927 is 6.7 per cent. After allowing for the increase in population, this gives an increase per head of the population of 5.3 per cent, between 1924 and 1927. The “Economist” (October 6th, 1928) considers that this estimated increase is probably slightly less than the actual increase.
Edgar Hardcastle