Saturday, July 7, 2018

What do you do with an unemployed devil? (1996)

Graphic by David Drew.
The A Word in Your Ear column from the February 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

The news hot off the press from the Church of England that Hell, as a real place, no longer exists, is hardly the kind of startling revelation that intelligent people have been waiting to hear. Who in their right minds ever believed that an infinite afterlife of burning in flames was a realistic option? According to the clergy, such punishment was the sentence determined by the (all-loving, all-powerful) God for those of us who refused to follow him. In short, unlike more compassionate sadists like Adolf Hitlcr, God took the view that to burn someone alive a mere once was too lenient; better let them roast for eternity. Such hateful scaremongering worked wonders at keeping countless generations of peasants, and millions of wage slaves, in their places as morally submissive victims of manmade laws such as those which defend the law of property.

Although the Church of England has changed its crazy little mind on this burning issue of our time, the Church of Scotland still maintains that Hell is a real place. Which must cause no end of trouble for the Queen, who is head of both; as she travels on her parasite’s railway carriage up the track to the north of England she is God’s representative on Earth of a religion which has abolished physical Hell, whereas as soon as she arrives in Scotland she is theologically committed to a religion which believes that Hell is as fiery and torturing as ever it was. Perhaps the only way she will be able to make up her mind on the matter will be to pay a personal visit there herself—with the rest of her class, preferably.

Who the hell gives a damn about Hell? (Except for Robert Maxwell, one presumes, for whom the issue must be of some direct significance.) As an issue it is not worth the time of intelligent thinkers. The Church of England’s babble about hell now being not a place but a condition of non-being (rather like being an activist for the Labour Party) is the metaphysical ranting of ideologists who are embarrassed at the extent to which they have been able to delude people with cruel fantasies. No, the real issue is not what these useless clerics think, but how it is that people make up their minds what to think.

For example, most people these days find it hard to believe that an invisible power-figure above the clouds controls their life. The experience of living in an increasingly scientifically-understood universe makes it hard to sustain such a belief. If you ask people whether such a supernatural power exists a minority will say that they are sure it does and the rest will be divided between non-believers and doubters. (Agnosticism always seems a rather odd position: it’s like asking someone whether there are fairies at the end of their garden and hearing them say “I doubt whether there are, but I believe there may very well be”. What a confused way to live one’s life!) The main thing we can say about what people believe is that understanding subverts belief; once something is scientifically explicable the days for believing silly stories about it are numbered. This accounts for the slow decline of the Church of England, which is much more interested in hanging on to its property than defending the old tripe of the past. It will account in due course for the death of Islam and the rest of the bogus faiths.

All of which leads to news of an encouraging report. In November of last year Gallup published the result of a nation-wide opinion poll asking the question “Do you think there is a class struggle in this country nor not?”, 81 percent responded that there is; 12 percent said there is not; and 6 percent didn’t know. Which compares with an identical poll conducted in March 1981 in which only 66 percent said there was a class struggle, 25 percent said there wasn’t and 9 percent didn’t know. Proof perhaps that experience has left workers less removed from the socialist analysis than pessimists might believe. And when those four out of five people get themselves organised to end the class struggle by ending class society, may we suggest that the millionaires and billionaires who currently monopolise the Earth and its riches prepare themselves for an age of non-being? (In short, they can go to hell).
Steve Coleman

Obituary: Johnny Edmonds (1996)

Obituary from the February 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Jonathan Edmonds was born during World War I into an Anglo-Irish Catholic family, somewhere in the middle of ten children, dominated by a devout mother. When he joined the SPGB in 1940, relations became estranged; when he became a Conscientious Objector she excommunicated him.

Under direction he worked on farms in East Anglia during the War, fortunately in the company of other socialists.

After the war he returned to the building trade and was general foreman for a firm that converted an old country house into what became the headquarters of the Electrical Trades Union, in Hayes, Kent. He moved to them as Estates Manager for the rest of his working life, starting with the converting of a hotel in Rottingdean, Sussex into a nursing home and a larger one in Esher, Surrey into a college.

When I first met him at Lewisham Branch in January 1948, he was one of two members who said nothing in the branch because they both stammered badly. The other member was the late Mick Miller. But gradually and with great determination. Johnny overcame this impediment and became a branch delegate at Conference and Delegate Meetings, and eventually sat as Chairman at these proceedings. He served on the Executive Committee for a number of years and was General Secretary in 1955. He was also a member of the Premises Committee that found us our Clapham office when the Party was forced to leave Rugby Chambers.

Outside of the Party. Johnny's main interest was music, both jazz and opera. Yesterday he would have played Jussi Björling and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, today would be the turn of Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong, of whom he could give a fair imitation. I still owe him for introducing me to Erroll Garner. He and his first wife Betty were skilled ballroom dancers at which they earned medals and won competitions.

Possibly, due to his previous speech impediment, Johnny tended to speak loudly and forcefully, and some people misunderstood this. Underneath he was a caring and generous person. The sort of person who would have given his all to make Socialism work. After all, he spent his life in trying to achieve it.

Unfortunately his first marriage ended in divorce; a couple of years after which he married Sylvia Lawrence, who died a few years ago. They had no children. It is to the son and daughter of the first marriage. Karl and Frances, that we extend our condolences.
Ray Guy

A Bit To Go On With. (1915)

From the April 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

In our February issue appeared a pronouncement by the Executive Committee of the S.P.G.B. under the beading : “Socialism and the European 'Socialists, '" in the course of which some reference was made to a circular sent out by the Socialist Labour Party of America. As usual, the S.P.G.B. Executive did not mince matters, and the result is that they have felt a jolt on the other side of the herring-pond. In the issue of the “Weekly People” (New York, the organ of the S.L.P. of A.) dated March 6th appears the following:
   “The Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Great Britain in an article on 'Socialism and the European “Socialists,”—published in that party’s official organ for February, 1915, disagrees with the Socialist Labour Party’s declaration that a pure and simple Socialist political organisation cannot be of adequate service to the working class emancipation. The Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Great Britain states its disagreement with our party in this language:
 “'We have before us at the moment a circular issued by the Socialist Labor Party of America in which they state : "The events in Europe are likewise a demonstration of the principle that a pure and simple political party of Socialism, however revolutionary it may be in its utterances, cannot be of real service to the proletariat . . .” This is another example of the opportunity the compromising policy of the pseudo-Socialists has provided for other enemies of class-conscious organisation. The statement is false. It is not for the reason that it is a "pure and simple political party of Socialism” that the "International Movement” has failed the workers in this crisis, but because its politics were impure. Its foundation had the cardinal fault which, among others, attaches to the pet obsession of the S.L.P.: it was not grounded upon the principle of the Class Struggle.’
   “It is amusing to be told in all seriousness that 'the cardinal fault’ of the 'pet obsession’ of the S.L.P. is that it is 'not grounded upon the principle of the Class Struggle.’ We presume that this Executive Committee of the S.P.G.B. refers to the Socialist Labor Party’s insistance upon revolutionary political and revolutionary industrial action when it mentions that' pet obsession.’ And such action, we are told, is not founded upon the principle of the Class Struggle! Well, perhaps this Executive Committee of the S.P.G.B. has its 'own' conception of the principle of the Class Struggle. That would be its own business, if it had. But in such case it should say that the 'pet obsession’ of the S.L.P. is not founded upon its OWN [S.P.G.B.’s] principle of the Class Struggle.' That would be nearer the mark. 
    "To say that the S.L.P. is an enemy of class conscious organisation, as the Executive Committee of the S.P.G.B. does, is another of those weird statements that betray a twisted mind, unless, again, such a mind has its OWN conception of class conscious organisation. In that case both the conception and the mind would be twisted.
    “But to say, as this Executive Committee does, that ‘it is not for the reason that it is a "pure and simple political party of Socialism” that the "International Movement” has failed the workers in this crisis, but because its politics were impure’ is to say that ' pure "pure and simple” Socialist politics would have rescued die workers’— which is pure rot. Pure and simple politics fail and always will fail the workers because they fail to attend to the ONE SOURCE OF POWER which the workers possess, the economic power, that is, that power which the workers daily have in their hands when they are in the workshops—the power over industry. Pure and simple Socialist politics, no matter how pure, neglect to attend [to] that vital power of the working class : to organise which would be a "pet obsession,” and if there is anything that the S.P.G.B. hates, it hates to have a pet obsession. 
  "We are not of the class that call the politics of the continental European Socialists impure. That their politics were not as revolutionary as they might have been is granted; crudities existed ; but that can be explained and allowances made. That, however, is one thing, and impurity is another. Laughable indeed, though, is the principle of ‘class struggle politics’ and no physical power to back them up ; laughable indeed the purpose to take and hold the industries and no industrial organisation to do it! But then, perhaps the S.P.G.B. doesn’t intend to take and hold the industries,—which again would indicate its own peculiar brand of 'Socialism.’”
We have reproduced this windy attempt at humour for the specific purpose of showing how utterly unable the S.L.P. of A. are to erect any serious and adequate defence against the grave charge we brought against them in our February issue. It is more than barely probable that what we bad to say about their bumptious circular in our March issue may lead the S.L.P. of A to further windy efforts, so we need not waste a great deal of time and space upon the effusion already to hand. We desire, however, to point out that, so far, the S.L.P. of A. have offered nothing but a bare denial, together with a little ditch-watery sarcasm, to the charges we voiced against them, namely, that they are enemies of the class-conscious organisation of the workers, and that their "pet obsession” has not the Class Struggle foundation.

Of course, the S.L.P. of A. would retort that a denial was all that was called for by the assertion that they are enemies of the class-conscious organisation of the workers, and proceed upon unsound lines. They may claim that they are waiting for us to support our charges with arguments. In that case well and good—we have given them both opportunity and provocation in our March issue.

Now for the points in the S.L.P.’s first reply. They say that they "presume that this Executive Committee of the S.P.G.B. refers to the Socialist Labor Party’s insistence upon revolutionary political and revolutionary industrial action when it mentions that ‘pet obsession.’” The presumption is wrong. It was not ACTION we were talking about, but ORGANISATION. The S.L.P. may bawl and squall for "revolutionary action,” but the action must necessarily partake of the nature of the organisation for the action. Our first business, therefore, was with the organisation onto which the S.L.P. are trying to switch the workers.

The "pet obsession” we were refering to is “Industrial Unionism," which (as is pointed out in our last issue) is not founded on the Class Struggle because, instead of uniting the workers as a class, it divides them by industries. There are other reasons also, but this is sufficient on this point for the time being.

The second point, that the S.L.P. of A. is an enemy of class-conscious organisation, is easily dealt with. Insomuch that they advocate organisation upon lines of industries they oppose organisation upon lines of class. The reflection of this is found in that realisation of their “pet obsession,” the I.W.W., which is clearly not an organisation of class-conscious workers. If the S.L.P. has any other conception of class conscious organisation than that which begins and ends with the organisation of the class-conscious, let them save themselves with it now.

Our American opponents’ remark anent our declaration that the “International Movement” failed the workers because its politics were impure is as shallow as the rest of their statements. Our assertion will not hear the interpretation which they try to put upon it, viz., that it is equal to saying that pure Socialist politics would have rescued the workers. The “International Movement” did not fail the workers in the sense of not preventing the war, for it was never in its power, whatever policy it adopted, to do so. It failed the workers in neglecting to take up the Socialist position in reference to the war, and it did this because its politics, its policy, and its organisation were not sound. The S.L.P. of A.’s circular itself says that the "European Comrades” became ‘‘enmeshed in bourgeois politics.” This, from the Socialist standpoint, is impurity, and must always mean the betrayal of working class interests.

The “pure rot” is provided by the S.L.P. in the form of the statement that the workers possess power over industry. Anything more absurd could hardly be conceived. Who has power over industry is seen immediately the workers enter into a dispute with the masters. The former, if the quarrel assumes sufficient importance, very soon find themselves out in the street, and if they attempt to force their way into the factories or workshops, the masters quickly show them whether "economic organisation” is (to quote the S L P.’s resolution to the Stuttgart Conference) "the only conceivable force with which to back up tho ballot,” or the strike, or the lock-out, or any other activity.

The idea that the workers have "power over industry” is exquisite foolery. What “conceivable force” gives them any such power? That is a question the Industrial Unionists cannot answer. The most they can do is to come out on strike, which, instead of controlling industry, is mere cessation of industry. Let them attempt to carry on production against the will of the owners of the means of production and they soon find the "power which the workers daily have in their hands while in the workshops” is not much of a protection against the policeman’s baton, or the soldier’s bullet. That "vital power of the working class” which looms so large in the Industrial Unionist mind, as objects do in a fog, is simply the power of the slave over the instruments of his slavery. What a force with which to "back up the ballot ” !

A little sarcasm goes a long way—with those who are not prepared to do much thinking. And if the sarcasm is accompanied with a little hysterical laughter, it goes all the further. The S.L.P. having found this out seems to imagine that it has found a substitute for argument. This need not, however, prevent us pointing out again, without prejudice to our demand for working-class organisation (on class lines) on the economic field, that "laughable indeed” as it may appear to the S.L.P. of A., "class struggle politics” may derive from political organisation the "physical power to back them up.”

Human physical power is resident in the bodies of mankind. For collective economic purposes it requires organising on the economic plane; for collective political purposes it must be politically organised. But for military purposes it must be organised on military lines. Now the master class have organise this "physical force” on all three planes—for their own ends. Their economic organisation exists only to produce their profits; their political organisation exists to maintain their position and their interests; their military organisation exists as the supreme instrument for maintaining their privileged position. If the “captains of industry” believe their interests to be seriously threatened they have to apply to the political powers to set the military instrument in motion. It is clear enough, then, that the military instrument is part of the political machinery, and is controlled by those who control that political machinery. It is the force with which the masters, in the last resort, back up the ballot.

The talk about the power of the workers in the workshops being the "one source of power”—physical power—with which to back up the ballot is more than a little bit wild, but its essential fault is that it loses sight of the fact that it is precisely to prevent the workers getting or exercising power in the field of industry (which they can only do by seizing the instruments of labour) that the armed forces of the nation primarily exist. It is for this reason that the workers cannot look to economic organisation to supply the “physical force to back up the ballot.” The armed forces of the State are not to be opposed, but are to be controlled, through the conquest of the machinery of government, and used for the overthrow of the capitalist system. So far from true is it that the "only conceivable source of power” with which the workers can back up the ballot is that to be found in economic organisation, that it is the economic organisation which will need the backing of the organised military force—controlled by the politically triumphant proletariat—to enable it to perform its penultimate function, the placing of the instruments of labour upon a social foundation.
A. E. Jacomb

History in the Making. (1915)

From the January 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some of our opponents delight in telling us that "You can’t do without capital! ” To them the relationship between capitalist and wage-earner is an "eternal verity”—part of an imaginary, fixed order of things! Others, while admitting that the relationship has a historical origin, claim that it is the inevitable result of intelligence, thrift, and law-abiding 'virtue on the part of the capitalist class, and corresponding stupidity, extravagance, and vice on the part of their slaves. Perhaps they may both be interested in the state of affairs here in East Africa, a region the population of which has only recently been brought within the sphere of capitalist influences.

The writer seeks to show that here, at any rate, the employing class are by no means regarded by the workers as indispensable to their happiness; nor are the means by which the would-be ruling class endeavours to establish and extend its dominion so idyllic as they are imagined to have been in the past.

Previous to the invasion of their territory by a handful, relatively, of Asiatics and Europeans, the millions of dusky natives appear to have reached a stage of development similar to that of the Britons of Caesar’s day. They still support themselves as separate tribes by independent pastoral and agricultural pursuits; and this fact is as gall to the ambitious settlers. The suppression of inter-tribal warfare by the Imperial Government has robbed the male native of one of his chief occupations, with the result that he lives in comparative luxury and ease, while his wives follow their former calling as tillers of the soil. What? Well! yes, to be sure he does have to look after flocks and herds but then that-or-that is—the Christian heart of the settler revolts at the monstrous injustice! Here is he badly in need of labour for his plantation and yonder are—"communities of useless parasites," as a prominent pioneer of Empire in the country calls them.

These chivalrous planters of cotton, sisal, and coffee know full well that if female labour were employed in the spinning, rope-making and other factories in the home-country—well, there would be an awful row! So they puzzle their heads to find some way of compelling the male native to work! And here they fall foul of the Missions and the Government; there are other people interested in these new colonies besides the settlers on the spot, and the interests of these others do not necessarily coincide with theirs.

For the present it suits the manufacturers of "exports” in England to be the "friends” of the natives. The raw savage who sports a greased skin and knobkerries his fellow is of no interest to the Lancashire cotton magnate. Let a missionary come along and teach him the advantages of a nightgown over the aforesaid skin and let him impress upon him the strong objections of God and the Government to such artificial restrictions on population as I have just mentioned; let him further teach him how to grow cotton on his plantation as well as mealies and hey presto! the cotton magnate has, simultaneously, a new market and a source of cheap raw material!

It is hardly a coincidence that Uganda with its vast number of Christianised, white-clad natives, should be one of Lancashire's most hopeful customers; and East Africa is the highway to Uganda! These protectorates have recently been voted three million pounds by the Imperial Government, and a cartoonist in a local rag wittily hit off the situation by depicting the Government of East Africa as a Highland piper with instructions (from Lancashire via the Premier) to play the Uganda cotton reel!

But this raising of the standard of living of the native and his development into a producer for export by no means suits the settler. Hence the missions stink in his nostrils, and he is "agin the Government" which supports them. As often as not he comes from "South" where the blacks are already "down and under,” and he chafes at the independence of the native up here. Secure in possession of their cattle, goats, and plantations, these impudent sons of Ham do not appreciate the blessings of employment under the white men’s auspices. If they do leave with the chief's instructions to earn some money they command a wage which in a short time enables them to buy wives and retire, much to the chagrin of the settler, who wants a "regular" labour supply. These natives seem to do very easily "without capital." The odour of a Kikuya village is not exactly savoury, but its inhabitants are the possessors of u shameless plumpness of face and body which contrasts strongly with the characteristic features of civilised workers. Mr. F. G. Aflalo, who recently travelled through the country, sums up the matter in an article in the "Morning Post" as follows: ‘"The Labour Question, acute just now all the world over, is nowhere perhaps more seriously felt than in British East Africa and Uganda. . . .  It is not, as with us in Europe, any question of Jack thinking himself better than his master, or of strikes for better wages or shorter hours. It is the far more baffling problem of Jack not wanting wages or work at all!"

So serious is the matter considered that a Native Labour Commission was appointed some time ago, and the reply of the Colonial Office to its recommendations formed the basis of a discussion at the Convention of Associations, the "Settlers’ Parliament," held June 29th—July 1st, 1914. Lord Delamere, probably the largest and most influential landholder in the country, and one time member of the Legislative Council, gave evidence before the Commission, and expressed the opinion that if every native was to own sufficient land on which to keep himself, then the question of obtaining a satisfactory labour supply would never be settled. Another witness. Mr. Hilton, advocated an increase in the poll tax on natives, which, he averred, would provide a sufficient supply of labour; presumably by making it necessary for a native to obtain the money required. In its report the Commission suggested that no increase be made of existing native reserves, and that taxation should be considered as a means of increasing the labour supply!

The Colonial Secretary in his reply, “hesitated to accept" these views, but the following extracted comment on par. 112 of the report is significant:
  "The Secretary of State deems it of the utmost importance that the Government Officers should take no action which may suggest to the native that it is desired to effect recruitment by compulsory measures, but definite instructions have already been issued by Hie Excellency to Provincial and District Officers to the effect that they are to lose no opportunity of explaining to the natives the advantages of going out to work, and are to refrain from making any observations which may lead the people under the impression that the Government is not desirous that they should do so. The Governor has himself taken every opportunity of expressing to the Chiefs of the various tribes . . . his desire that they should give their personal support to labour emigration . . .!"
This however is hardly good enough for the stalwarts of the Landholders’ Pastoralists’ and Agricultural Associations!

The Chairman of the Convention, after making the oracular announcement that every industry in the country relies directly or indirectly on labour, went on to say: "The labour is there, but we cannot get it, and we shall not get it until we show clearly that we mean to get it," Coupled with their proposals re labour the Convention also carries on an agitation for a Constitution, and has adopted as a propagandist object, a compulsory military service scheme in view of possible native "trouble.” Thus the settlers show a decided appreciation of the fact that their hope lies in politics and armed force! As one of their number candidly put it: "Apart from fear the natives have no special reason for remaining loyal to us"!

And one does not have to be a Solomon to realise that when the poll-tax is increased and the restriction of the reserves begins, the natives would have every reason for being decidedly disloyal.

It is not for the writer to predict how long it will be before the settlers gain their ends; but neither the productive capacity of the natives nor the market they afford for articles of European manufacture are inexhaustible, and it would seem that the exploitation of the resources of the country on a larger scale will soon be necessary in the interest of capitalists at home. The acceptance of this view by the Imperial Government will spell the doom of the native’s liberty and property and the chance of the settlers to realise the object that has brought them here, i.e., more profit. Probably they will even forgive the missionaries for inculcating in the native mind the notion of “brotherhood” (!) and submission. Need it be added that the natives will hardly be spared any of the horrors of wage-slavery?

What shall we say then? Are the settlers of British East Africa an exceptionally ferocious and callous set of “investors”? By no means! Go into your public libraries and hunt up Thorold Rogers’ “Six Centuries of Work and Wages” or De Gibbins’ ‘‘Industrial History of England,” and study the record of the 15th and 16th centuries in your own land! There you will find that the progenitors of the wage-earning class were as sturdy and independent, if not more so, than the inhabitants of Africa, and that before the capitalist class rose to the position they occupy to-day, they had to use against our forefathers, men of their own colour, almost exactly the same measures as are proposed here!

Without a labour market from which to draw exploitable material, capital cannot accumulate to the extent of providing its owner with a life of idleness and ease such as the respectable owners of the land and the means of converting its products into things of use, enjoy to-day! And turn to any country you will, the actual historic fact is that the labour market is created by the forcible divorce of the workers from their means of life! East Africa, then, is no exception; but it provides a modern and vivid object lesson! Here the Convention admits in the shape of a resolution to His Excellency the Governor, that the Government’s delay in adopting their proposals resulted in “great inconvenience and financial loss’' to them. Let the workers the world over take to heart the lesson, and further realise that, just as the possession of their means of life by the capitalist class is the cause of their subjection, so the ownership and control of such means for and by the workers themselves is the necessary and possible foundation of a free society! Let them further note the method, i.e., the political method, by which the ruling class have achieved and propose to extend their dominion! Not by passive strikes or individual acts of violence can the workers hope to achieve their emancipation. Only by meeting political action by counter political action will victory be won!

In conclusion may I offer a suggestion or two to your correspondent, “Engineer,” re the question he raises in the April issue of the "S.S.” To the extent that the coloured races are dragged into the capitalist maelstrom, they also show a tendency to adopt the standard of life and thought evolved by capitalism in Europe and America to a very large extent. There appears to be no reason why the "nigger’s” consciousness should prove an exception to the general rule that the development of ideas reflects environmental changes! Further, the very rapidity of the change from barbarism and feudalism in Africa and the East should prevent any illusory notions concerning the duration of capitalism or the methods of its establishment, gaining ground there amongst the workers. To the present writer the age long superstitions which encrust the minds of European wage-slaves who cannot remember the origin of capitalism are far greater obstacles to universal working-class emancipation than the present undeveloped condition of the intellect of “coolie labour.” Here in East Africa white wage-earners are only too ready to manifest those notions of race superiority which aid the capitalist class at the expense of working-class unity! Let the Socialist Party convince the "superior” white worker of his class position and they will not find his coloured competitor either unwilling or unable to learn.
Eric Boden

That Queer Thing Human Nature (1915)

From the October 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

"You cannot change human nature," has been the cry that has met us who are Socialists for years when endeavouring to persuade our fellow-workers that conditions could be so altered that one would be able to live a pleasanter life than that of a galley slave.

The paid advocates of our masters, those chameleons who can so readily adopt themselves (change their natures?) to the momentary requirements of their paymasters, have echoed the cry from one side of the world to the other.

The best evidence against a man is generally conceded to be his own statements. It will therefore be agreed that the best evidence against the minions of the masters is provided by their own changeful attitude.

Let us dip into recent history a little. Whenever there is a great, mine disaster the capitalist Press exhibits, with the aid of lurid headlines, the deathless heroism of the miners, and we read tales of the self-sacrificing men who go down to almost certain death in the pits for the chance of saving some of their entombed comrades. It is then impressed upon us what an enormous debt the nation owes to the heroes who risk their lives daily bringing coal up out of the bowels of the earth.

In the meantime these self-same heroes, who hardly earn enough to keep body and soul together, ("The average wage of a coal hewer comes out at about 28s. per week—a figure borne out by statistics of the money paid in compensation claims. That is the very best class of workman."— Stephen Walsh, M.P., "Report of a Conference on a Minimum Wage," p. 16. Published by the National Anti-Sweating League, Oct. 1906) come to the conclusion that the time has arrived when it is impossible to make both ends meet. A strike is proclaimed. Oh, what a hullabaloo ! What groans of bitter anguish from the silk-hatted fatbellies at the thought of losing a few pounds out of the enormous profits they are piling up. The miners, the erstwhile saintlike heroes, are now typified as ruffians of the deepest dye. The Press that so recently eulogised their heroism, their monotonous and honest lives, now informs us that the miners are the scum of the earth. A footballing, whippet-racing, gambling, and drunken crew. Human nature (or the nature of coal-miners anyhow) has evidently undergone a very drastic and revolutionary change.

The strike is over and the men have gone back to work on the promise (capitalist promise!) of better conditions. A recruiting campaign commences. Once more the miners are heroes. Again we are told they are the bone and sinew of the nation (skeletons!). We hear of how fathers, mothers and sweethearts have heroically (and blindly!) sent their dear ones to the shambles across the sea for the sake of their country which they don't possess. Human nature—fickle jade—again hath changed.

In the meantime up rise the prices of coal. The Government says an increased output is necessary to meet the demands created by the war. (The governmental cry of "Pile up the Munitions" is converted or transformed, in the process of that mighty alchemist production, into the capitalist refrain "Pile up the Quids"). The coal owners make huge profits. The miners are over-worked and find that the relative value of their wages steadily declines in a rising provision market. They ask for a war bonus to meet the enhanced prices and are told to go to hell—and work. They strike. Scoundrels once more. Unpatriotic shirkers. "Letting the nation down at a crucial moment" runs the fable (of course, the coal kings are not unpatriotic—not likely—they are heroes now and for ever!)

In view of the foregoing, our friends, the enemy, must admit that human nature does change sometimes. It will be rather dangerous for them if they deny it as, in view of their own varied protestations, some unrefined people may be tempted to the suggestion that the capitalist Press must be a sink of lying hypocrisy.

Let us take a momentary glance at the history of humanity apart from the braying of the prostitute Press.

It is now well established among the students of sociology that back in the distant past barbarous man lived in communities, acting honourably towards each other, revering their womankind, conceding to all the right to enjoy the fruits of the collective industry, and polite and helpful to any strangers that visited them. Such were the North American Indians as described by Lewis H. Morgan, the Eskimos when visited by Dr. Nansen, the Germans of Tacitus, the Incas when discovered by the Spaniards, and all barbarians at a certain stage of development, when found by travellers before suffering the contaminating influence of the white man and the white man's god—private ownership. It may be opportune here to give a picture of savagery taken from Henry Drummond's Nyassa Land. (Hodder & Staughton, 1890), p. 56.
   "Hidden away in these endless forests, like bird's nests in a wood, in terror of one another, and of their common foe, the slaver, are small native villages; and here in his virgin simplicity dwells primeval man, without clothes, without civilization, without learning, with out religion— the genuine child of nature, thoughtless, careless, and contented. This man is apparently quite happy ; he has practically no wants. One stick, pointed, makes him a spear; two sticks rubbed together make him a fire; fifty sticks tied together make him a house. The bark he peels from them makes his clothes; the fruits which hang on them form his food. It is perfectly astonishing when one thinks of it what nature can do for the animal man, to see with what small capital after all a human being can get through the world. I once saw an African buried. According to the custom of his tribe, his entire earthly possessions—and he was an average commoner—were buried with him. Into the grave after the body was lowered the dead man's pipe, then a rough knife, then a mud bowl, and last his bow and arrows—the bowstring cut through the middle, a touching symbol that its work was done. This was all. Four items, as an auctioneer would say, were the whole belongings for half a century of this human being. No man knows what a man is till he has seen what a man can be without, and be withall a man. That is to say, no man knows how great a man is till he has seen how small he has been once.
   "The African is often blamed for being lazy, but it is a misuse of words. He does not need to work; with so bountiful a nature around him it would be gratuitious to work, and his indolence, therefore, is just as much a part of himself as his flat nose, and as little blameworthy as slowness in a tortoise. The fact is, Africa is a nation of the unemployed."
And now ye slaves of the workshops and factory hells, has there been a change in human nature since your ancestors left savagery behind? Compare the above mode of life with the slaughtering that prevails now among the soldiers of "civilized" nations. Compare it with our lives of toil and penury in dirty, ugly towns, deprived of the sight of the mountains, the green fields and the broad, blue ocean. Do not the oppositeness of the conditions suggest a corresponding difference in the natures of those who live under the respective conditions? Can you be light-hearted, generous and care-free in the midst of squalor and wretchedness, continually snatching for each others' jobs? Could one be weighed down with cares, miserable, and sneaking, in the midst of the flowery woods, the sunshine, and bounteousness of nature's goods?

The North American Indian who welcomed the English immigrants was converted into a narrow-minded and implacable foe by the cruelty and treachery to which he was perpetually subjected. As travellers successively explore and bring within reach of civilization the unknown lands, so the inhabitants are brought under the yoke of modern conditions, and the land and people are exploited for the advantage of those who now rule in society. Savage customs and moralities are converted into capitalist laws and morals.

Just, as private property in the means of life has converted the strong, healthy, free, open-hearted and sun-burnt barbarian into the lying and fawning capitalist hack, so will the abolition of private ownership convert the weak, choking, pasty-faced, and filthy child of the slums into the vigorous, healthy, and clear-brained citizen of the coming Socialist commonwealth.

As the means of obtaining a livelihood change, develop, and diversify, so does the human nature of the respective epochs change and diversify to correspond. The development of the factory system converted the merchants into factory owners and heartless sweaters of little children. The growth of capitalism brought the practice of chicanery in politics to a fine art, and converted the open ruffians of the Roman Empire into the refined Lloyd Georges of the modern who are the acme of hypocrisy. The growth of poverty, misery, and exploitation, converts the honest, hard-working son of toil into the apostle of the Revolution and the staunch supporter of the principle of the class struggle.

Hurry up and change your natures. The sooner you join us the sooner the war (the modern class war) will be over. Join now ! We want more men! Come in your myriads and assist us to uproot the edifice of capitalism and, to give human nature a chance to exhibit its finest possibilities.

Freedom and speech (1979)

Book Review from the August 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

Geoffrey Sampson: Liberty and Language. Oxford University Press, £5.75.

Professor Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the world’s foremost linguist, founder of the revolutionary theory of transformational grammar. He is best known, however, not as a linguist but as a political writer, a powerful critic of the American involvement in Vietnam and advocate of a rather vaguely-described decentralised anarcho-syndicalist society. He sometimes links his linguistic and political views, though rather loosely, the general claim being that the speed and ease with which children learn their native tongue is evidence that they must be born with some innate knowledge of the basic characteristics of language. From this it follows that the mind is not a “clean slate” and that therefore people are not totally malleable, able to have their ideas and behaviour moulded by governments and others.

In this extended critique of Chomsky, believes that the facts of language lead us to adopt a very different kind of political philosophy. He argues that the use of language is creative, in that we can all talk about things and ideas which were once non-existent and indeed unimaginable. He concludes from this that people's minds are creative, and that this is evidence for the political position which he terms liberalism, by which he means the free-enterprise type of capitalism advocated by such as Hayek and Friedman.

In a truly liberal society, as Sampson sees it, the main task of government will be to maintain the free market, the production and distribution of goods being controlled exclusively by the impersonal mechanism of free competition. Any individual should produce goods by whatever method they choose and sell them for whatever price they can get. Those individuals whose enterprise or labour command relatively high prices are to be rewarded proportionately, and the prospect of higher rewards will act as an incentive to innovation and entrepreneurship. A liberal society encourages and rewards unforeseen innovation and is thus uniquely able to harness the potential of the human mind, the creative powers of which are attested by the use of language.

Naive people might object that such a society would give rise to gross inequalities. But this would not count as an objection to Sampson, since he positively glories in privilege and inequality. Here we resort to direct quotation, on the grounds that a mere paraphrase might not be believed:
  What justifies the inequalities of wealth which will exist at any given time in a liberal society is that the total of wealth increases most rapidly in such a society, and that this increase in total wealth benefits those on the lower as well as those on the higher rungs of the economic ladder.
The prospect offered is not so much one of “jam tomorrow” as of jam in two or three generations’ time.

But the fact is that such inequality and poverty are quite unnecessary now, and have been for decades. Technical resources are more than sufficient to provide an abundance for all humanity, and what prevents this happening is precisely the profit motive which Sampson sees as so wonderful. There is a clear distinction between an innovation that will be beneficial to mankind and one that will be profitable. Far from promoting wealth production, the profit motive creates artificial shortages by discouraging production and destroying goods already produced.

Moreover laissez-faire capitalism cannot work in the way Sampson imagines it can. For instance, he believes that a fully liberal society automatically means full employment, though presumably he would hardly claim that anything approaching it has existed in the societies which he secs as close to the liberal ideal, the United States and nineteenth-century Britain. And he ignores all the consequences for the working class of the poverty he so willingly accepts: poorer education, housing and health care, boring and degrading work, total lack of any say in how their lives are organised, insecurity, the danger of wars, and so on. The “liberty” he mentions so often is the liberty of the capitalist class to exploit the workers (who won’t even be allowed to organise trade unions to fight back a bit).

It is clear that Sampson's knowledge of the world outside the confines of his own study is fairly limited. His understanding of Marxism is also abysmal; for one thing, he fails to see that Marx’s theory of increasing misery has to be interpreted in relative not absolute terms. For another, his criticism of the precept "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is on the daft grounds that it is meaningless, since what people need and can produce are themselves facts that emerge only from the “competitive process". But the obvious fact that abilities and needs depend on society (not on competition) in no way impairs the desirability and practicability of this principle.

Sampson never deals with the possibility of socialism, since his “alternative” to liberalism is simply a variant of capitalism, termed “authoritarianism”. This is described as a society where “those who govern" determine production and distribution patterns, rather than the free market. Actually, this is not an alternative to liberalism, but merely a necessary aspect of any capitalist society: even in Sampson’s ideal world, the rich and powerful will determine production patterns when they decide what to produce and how much. Such production decisions have to be made in any society.

So Sampson's defence of capitalism is neither original nor at all convincing. His role as bourgeois ideologist is utterly transparent. In The German Ideology, Marx and Engels refer to the ruling class' “active, conceptive ideologists, who make the perfecting of the illusion of the class about itself their chief source of livelihood.” This describes very nicely the function of Sampson’s arguments, which are a contribution to the way the capitalist class sees itself or would like to see itself. We have quoted above his feeble justification of privilege and poverty, and we can add here his claim that profit is “the reward to the enterpriser for the production of useful economic knowledge”. This phrase is a strong candidate for the Socialist Standard Prize for the silliest remark of 1979. The capitalists love to see themselves as the most intelligent, go-ahead and competent members of society, who have reached their privileged position through their own ability to come out on top in free competition— and more importantly, that is how they want the working class to see them. It is to the perfecting of this illusion—for that is what it clearly is—that Sampson’s pen is dedicated.

The fact that we can all make creative use of language does not justify the existence of oppression and exploitation—and neither does anything else, for they are simply unjustifiable.
Paul Bennett

The Labour Party Conference (1932)

From the November 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

The new programme of the Labour Party, put into shape at their Annual Conference at Leicester, 3rd to 7th October, makes no sensational departure from the old programme, “Labour and the Nation” The policy embodied in “Labour and the Nation” contained measures for limiting hours; minimum wages; public control of the Bank of England; nationalisation of the coal, transport and power industries; “public ownership” of agricultural land; stabilisation of prices by control of imports; Free Trade; more steeply progressive taxation, etc.; while the new policy contains measures for steeper income tax; Free Trade; control of imports to fix prices; nationalisation of the land public control of the coal, power, and transport industries, and of the banking system; minimum wages; a shorter working day, and so on. The main plank in the old programme was nationalisation; in the new one, public utilities. Like the old, the new programme professes "to lay the foundations of a new social order,” but actually does nothing but propound schemes for renovating the existing one.

The capitalist aims of the Labour Party are well illustrated by the debate on financial policy. Mr. Hugh Dalton’s preamble to the resolution for State control of the Bank of England attributed responsibility for trade depression to wrong banking policy, the aim of which should be, he claimed, to stabilise wholesale prices and foreign exchange, and “safeguard the workers against such exploitation as has been inflicted on them in recent years by speculators.” The resolution stated: ~
   The Bank of England should be brought under public ownership and control. Its governor should be appointed by the Government, and be subject to the general direction of a Cabinet Minister, who should be responsible to the House of Commons for banking and credit policy. The day-to-day business of the Bank should be carried on by the governor and his staff. Daily Herald, 5/10/32.
In putting forward an amendment to include the joint stock banks, Mr. E. F. Wise pointed out that “there was nothing very Socialistic about making it a national bank. Other countries, even the capitalist United States, had the Central Bank nationally controlled. Liberals three or four years ago proposed making the Bank of England a public institution. In many respects it was already a public institution.” “If their object was Socialist finance,” added Mr. F. Hughes, ”and not just to control and limit the operations of capitalist finance, then the nationalisation of the joint stock banks was as essential as the nationalisation of the Bank of England.” (Daily Herald, 5/10/32.) Both the resolution and the amendment, which were carried, ignore the fact that it is capitalism, not speculation, which inflicts exploitation on the workers; and that finance is but the machinery of capitalism. To speak of “Socialist finance,” therefore is simply silly. Ironically enough, Mr. E. Bevin opposed the amendment to include joint stock banks on the ground that “I, as a Socialist, am not content to be always advocating the taking over of things that will not be necessary in a Socialist State. Give me the Bank of England,” and “I visualise a Socialist finance that will leave the joint stock banks as at present organised.” (Daily Herald, 5/10/32.)

The resolution on national control of transport services was likewise prefaced by references to “Socialism," although it aims to outdo the existing capitalist owners at the work of intensifying exploitation. The Daily Herald of the 6th October, under the heading, “Labour shows how to make transport pay,” describes it as “a plan to put the transport system of the country on a paying basis." Mr. H. Morrison’s resolution proposed to co-ordinate transport services on a national scale by setting up a “National Transport Board appointed by the Minister, of Transport on appropriate grounds of ability ”—a corporation, that is, like the Port of London Authority or the B.B.C. “As to the form of the purchase transaction,” says the Labour Party Policy Report, No. 2 (p. 17), “it would probably be convenient to give the owners stock of appropriate categories and amount in the new national undertaking,” which would “give the holders the right to receive the interest payable, and to repayment of the stock. . .. ” The proposal is based on the same principle as appeared in the London Passenger Transport Bill brought forward by Mr. H. Morrison when Minister of Transport, and supported by Lord Ashfield, Chairman of the London Traffic Combine. The Daily Herald, 6th October, says: —
   Not alone Labour and Trade Union spokesmen, but many influential public men, entirely opposed to the general run of Socialist measures, have openly supported the transfer of transport to public enterprise. Immediately after the Great War, Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Winston Churchill both desired to take this decisive step.
Speaking against the amendment to include transport workers' representatives on the Transport Board, Mr. A. G. Walkden “did not share the tremendous anxiety as to the workers getting a look in.” (Daily Herald, 6/10/32.)

Similar proposals were carried for the unification of the coal industry under a Central Authority; for the “national ownership and control of Electricity Generation and Distribution" through “a National Electricity Board appointed by the Minister of Transport on appropriate grounds of ability”; and for “national ownership of the land” through a National Agricultural Commission responsible to the Minister of Agriculture (Policy Reports 3 and 4, p. 1). The existing shareholders or landowners are to receive appropriate holdings of stock. The swing-over from nationalisation to public utilities (or what Mr. H. Morrison has called the “Capitalist Soviet”) no doubt aims to obviate the charge of bureaucratic inefficiency levelled against nationalised industries, and to make the process of State co-ordination more palatable to those capitalists less enamoured of the fashionable cult of the “Plan,” those whose “opposition to being nationalised,” in the words of the Liberal economist, Professor Clay (The Listener, 20/1/32), “is an instance of the short-sightedness of the capitalists where their own interests are concerned.” “What difference would it have made," he says, “if the railways had been nationalised in 1919? I cannot myself see that it would have made much difference to the railway workers or railway users; it might have made a considerable difference to the owners of railway capital, since the Government stock they would have got in 1919 in exchange for their railway securities would not have depreciated as those have done.”

These capitalist arrangements do not alter any essential feature of the relations between capitalist and worker. They solve no working class problem. Capitalism is not abolished by changing, shares into stock, nor wage-slavery ended by changing masters. The workers still remain without access to the means of wealth, except at the bidding of the capitalist class who individually or collectively own them. “Public ownership” may even retard the development of class-consciousness among the workers. Just as the payment for labour-power in money wages helps to conceal the daily tribute of unpaid toil wrung from the workers by the master class, so employment by the “public corporation" tends to disguise the antagonism between worker and capitalist. Thus is made easier the unresisting exploitation of the workers by the simple device of making them “public servants.”

The new Labour Party agricultural policy lands them in the dilemma of having to advocate tariffs (“control of imports,” the Daily Herald of 7th October calls them) to maintain food prices, while in the same breath they urge Free Trade to keep down the cost of living. Nor are the Labour Party’s proposals to limit indirect taxation, or to wipe out war debts and reparations, of any concern to the workers who, being a propertyless class, do not carry the burden either of war debts or taxes. The question of limiting armaments is again one which concerns the master class, because they have to pay for them and cannot do without them. However, Mr. J. R. Clynes (in moving a resolution on disarmament and peace) may denounce those who pour “scorn on the League of Nations, and thereby endanger the peace of the world” (Daily Herald, 6/10/32), the fact remains that to recommend disarmament in a society whose mainspring is the scramble for profit squeezed from the workers, and in which war and the suppression of working class revolt are constant features, is about as sensible as advising a drowning man to keep dry. The Conference was treated to the same sort of pious humbug by Mr. G. Lansbury, about the “youth of the nation being driven into the pit of despair," how "the world has come to the end of capitalism,” and how he and his colleagues in the House of Commons fought against that "beastly infliction," the Means. Test.

The Conference leaders who attacked the economies and cuts made by the National Government overlooked the part played by Labour leaders, in the formation of that Government, and made no mention of Mr. A. Henderson's willingness to acquiesce in the dole cut when he was a member of the Labour Cabinet. 

It is no surprise that a resolution instructing the leaders of the next Labour Government to “introduce at once great Socialist measures or some general plan to nationalise the key industries," should be opposed by Mr. Henderson on the ground that “the Conference would be tying its bands” (Daily Herald, 6/10/32), and solemnly warning them, “If you pass this, you will regret it" (News Chronicle, 6/10/32).

These misleaders of the workers pay lip service in plenty to the need for “drastic Socialism" for a “complete Socialist policy" for substituting “a new social order for the present system"; but the emptiness of their revolutionary talk is shown by the footling nature of their concrete proposals “Abolition of capitalism," they cry, “and the establishment of a fixed Easter"!

Resolutions to the Conference from various local Branches throughout the country urging closer, control by the Party over M.P.s and Cabinet Ministers, evoked by the disillusionment in MacDonald’s leadership, show that the working class is yet far from realising the futility of leadership, that leaders can exist only while the workers are willing to be led. The problem of control over leaders disappears when the working class learns to do without them: the problem has no existence for a body of class-conscious workers democratically organised for one clearly defined object, the establishment of Socialism.
Frank Evans

Will Independence Help India? (1930)

From the July 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

Anyone who reads the English newspapers and also the journals which put the point of view of the Indian Nationalists, will find himself presented with two pictures of Indian affairs and Indian problems which clash very violently with each other. From the Indian side we are told that the 320 million people who live in that huge area are suffering great wrongs at the hands of tyrannical British authorities, and are united in a desire to overthrow foreign rule and establish their right to govern themselves outside or inside the British Empire as they may freely desire. It is admitted on all sides that millions of the peasants and workers in India are desperately poor, permanently undernourished, and subject to devastating diseases in time of famine. In 1918-1919, during an epidemic of influenza, the loss of life reached the enormous total of 12 millions, equal to about a quarter of the population of this country. And poverty is not the only evil which persists in India after generations of paternal British government and innumerable promises of benefits to be showered on the Indians by their foreign masters.

The Indian Central Committee (a body of influential Indians appointed to sit in conjunction with the Simon Commission) last year submitted its report (published by H.M. Stationery Office, 1929, Cmd. 3451). The Committee have something to say about the neglect of the British Government to fulfil its pledges in regard to education.
   The primary education of the masses has . . . been repeatedly declared, during the last 75 years, to be the special care of the British Government in India. It is, therefore, worth while to examine the progress achieved in this direction during that period and to see how far it has kept pace with the repeated declarations of policy . . . In 1917, that is, 63 years after the despatch of 1854, only 2.59 per cent. of the total population were receiving instruction in recognised primary schools. . . . It is not surprising in the face of these facts that public opinion in India was profoundly disappointed with the rate of progress achieved, and became openly sceptical as to the professed intention of the Government in the matter. (Para. 24.)
The Committee rather cuttingly point out that the expenditure on education is about one-sixteenth of the expenditure on the army —“the true measure of the interest displayed by the Government in mass education."

According to the Indian Economic Enquiry Committee, which reported in 1925, only 8% of the population are literate.

Who Is To Blame?
Those who defend the British occupation of India do not deny that there is great poverty. They admit this and many other evils, but they reply that if British troops and British Government officials were withdrawn, India would cease to have any central government, and would lapse into anarchy. It would be at the mercy of the more warlike native races at home, or invading troops from outside. They point to the multiplicity of races and languages which exist in India; the bitter hatred between the conflicting religions; and the rigid caste system which prevails among the Hindus, and which results in millions of the so-called “Depressed Classes” occupying a position of the utmost degradation, aptly indicated by their name, “untouchables." British officials show that the methods of carrying on agriculture are shockingly primitive, and that any improvement is hindered by the native customs and religious observances. Ideas of sanitation and medicine are largely lacking, and in these and other respects the Indians as a whole grain much from the British occupation. So say the defenders of the present system of government. All of this is set out at length in the Simon Commission Report, 1930.

What, then, are we to believe? Ought we to side with Gandhi, the leader of the Indian Nationalists, in condemning the English Government (as many well-meaning people in this country do), or ought we to take up the attitude which is maintained by successive British Prime Ministers, that it is necessary to remain in India for the good of the Indians? Let us consider the matter a little further, and start by asking ourselves why the British Government is in India at all. When we know why the World Powers are all of them anxious to acquire colonies and spheres of influence abroad, we shall be better able to see the Indian problem in its proper light.

Why are British Troops in India?
The ultimate answer to this question is simply: “foreign trade and foreign investments." Every developed capitalist nation is faced with the same desperate problem of disposing abroad the surplus goods which its workers produce, but are too poor to buy. In every country there are a minority of rich people so wealthy that they cannot spend their vast incomes, and are perpetually seeking new foreign fields of profitable investment of the wealth which they cannot help saving. Every capitalist power needs, therefore, to find foreign markets and places for investment. This it is which leads to imperialism; to the conquest of the territory of “backward races ”; to armaments; and finally to war.

Read what the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain said on the subject in a speech delivered in 1890, before the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce—
  All the great offices of State are occupied with commercial affairs. The Foreign Office and the Colonial Office are chiefly engaged in finding new markets and in defending old ones. The War Office and the Admiralty are mostly occupied in preparations for the defence of those markets and for the protection of our commerce.
This explains the British Colonial Empire. And what is true of Britain is just as true of other great powers—France, for example.

Listen to Marshal Lyauty, the French General who conquered Morocco-
  French soldiers are fighting in Morocco to acquire territory in which rise rivers capable of supplying power for electrification schemes which will prove of great advantage to French trade. When we have acquired the last zone of cultivatable territory; when we have nothing but mountains in front of us, we shall stop.
  Our object is commercial and economic. The military expedition in Morocco is a means, not an end. Our object is the extension of foreign trade. (“Star," 31 October, 1922.)
Now let us turn to India and read what the Liberal “Manchester Guardian” has to say (30th December, 1929).
  There are two chief reasons why a self-regarding England may hesitate to relax her control over India. The first is that her influence in the East depends partly upon her power to summon troops and to draw resources from India in time of need . . . The second is that Great Britain finds in India her best market, and that she has a thousand million of capital invested there.
Lastly, think over the bombastic utterance of Sir William Joynson-Hicks, now Lord Brentford (quoted in the “Daily News" 17th October, 1925).
   We did not conquer India for the benefit of the Indians. I know it is said at Missionary meetings that we conquered India to raise the level of the Indians. That is cant. We conquered India as the outlet for the goods of Great Britain. We conquered India by the sword, and by the sword we should hold it. (Shame.) Call it shame if you like. I am stating facts. I am interested in missionary work in India, and have done much work of that kind, but I am not such a hypocrite as to say that we hold India for the Indians. We hold it as the finest outlet for British goods in general, and for Lancashire cotton goods in particular.
When you add to this the influence of the English families who look to the Indian civil and military services to provide posts for their sons, it is easy enough to understand why a capitalist British Government does not want to lose India.

Indian Capitalists or Indian Workers?
We have seen why British capitalists are interested in Indian affairs—a £1,000 million is an accumulation of property worth fighting for. But now let us see what are the interests on the other side. Who are the interests behind Gandhi?

Sir Basil Blackett, an authority on Indian Finance, in a speech at New Delhi on March 19th, 1929, pointed out that the capital invested in India is rapidly being concentrated more and more into the hands of Indian capitalists. He said that between 60% and 70% of the shares in Indian jute mills are Indian-owned. Indian capitalists are investing in Government loans, developing India’s production of steel and other goods, financing India’s foreign trade, and even investing money in other countries such as Brazil.

The Simon Commission in Volume I. of its Report (page 23) says :—
   It was British capital that began the modern process of industrialism in India, but more and more commercial enterprise is falling into Indian hands. Most of the share capital in the jute mills on the Hooghly is Indian; the vast majority of the cotton factories of Bombay are Indian; and, while it was British enterprise which first established and developed the tea gardens of Assam and elsewhere, these undertakings are now carried on side by side with many that are Indian owned. India is now one of the eight most important industrial areas in the world. . . . Industrialism . . .  is displacing the village craftsman, so that large-scale manufacture is being superimposed on the ancient fabric of an elaborately sub-divided and predominantly rural society.
Here we have the problem in a nutshell. Indian capitalists want to have the profits of the developing Indian capitalism for themselves. They wish to be able to control the Indian system of taxation, and the Indian system of tariffs, and use them to further their own interests. They do not object to the exploitation of the Indian workers, but they do object to British investors getting the lion’s share; and they do object to British traders, exporting British-made goods to India, enjoying preferential treatment.

Fundamentally, the Indian Nationalist movement represents the interests of Indian capitalists. It is naturally supported by the Indian educated castes, who see the promise of fat jobs in the Indian Army or Civil Service, and in the legal profession.

As the “Manchester Guardian’s” special Indian correspondent wrote on 7th February, 1930, Indian independence “would mean the government of India by men drawn almost entirely from the urban Hindu capitalist and professional classes.” These are the men who control the Indian Nationalist movement.

What Should The Socialists Do?
What, then, should be our attitude? We can give a plain and definite answer. On the one side we are in no way whatever responsible for or defenders of the actions of the British 'Government; nor do we associate ourselves in any way with the British Labour Party. We are working for Socialism, and for that alone. We claim that only the establishment of Socialism can solve the Indian problem, and all other problems of national rivalries. Only Socialism will rid the world of this murderous scramble for foreign markets, and thus remove the need for colonies and for armaments to seize and retain them.

To the Indian workers we extend our sympathy in the sufferings which fall to their lot. We ask them, however, to recognise that their poverty is the result not of foreign rule—which is merely one of the evil by-products of capitalism—but of the capitalist system itself. Dominion status or Independence for India will not solve any working class problem. It will merely be a substitution of “India for the Indian capitalists” in place of “India for the British capitalists.” The only sound policy for the Indian workers, the only policy in line with their class interests, is to keep clear of the Nationalist movement, and carry on steadily with the task of organising themselves on the economic field for the defence of their interests against their employers, and organising on the political field for the ultimate achievement of Socialism in co-operation with the rest of the world’s workers. There is nothing in the programme of Gandhi and the Indian Nationalists deserving of working class support. Therefore, just as we urged the British and German workers in 1914 to refuse to be drawn into the quarrel between British and German capitalist Governments, so now we urge the workers of this country and of India not to allow themselves to be led into conflict by the parties of capitalism in their respective countries. Our watchword is not “Britain for the British” and “India for the Indians,’’ but “the world for the workers."
Edgar Hardcastle

The Flimsy Bond of Nationalism (1932)

From the October 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some of the supporters of the movement for Indian independence cherish the illusion that the brutal treatment meted out to them by the British authorities is peculiar to British rule over subject countries, and that such brutality will disappear when Indians govern in India. A wider knowledge would teach them that brutality marks the actions of every ruling class defending its privileges against uprisings from below.

Some of the Irish Nationalists used to talk in similar strain when the Irish movement was being suppressed by the British Government. In their minds the brutalities of the Black and Tans and other British forces were regarded as characteristics of alien rule. In due course, however, the Irish movement split into the Free State Party (the Government) and the Republicans. It was then found that the methods of the Black and Tans were fairly faithfully copied by the Irish in their treatment of each other. When an Indian ruling class gets hold of the reins of government, the Indian workers will find that there is little to choose between the brutality of Indian and English authorities.

A Nationalist publication, the India Bulletin, gives publicity to accounts of the harsh treatment of Indian political prisoners in Indian jails. Quite unintentionally these accounts support our argument and show what the Indian workers may expect at the hands of these wealthy Indians who finance and lead the Nationalist movement.

Like all national movements, the Indian nationalists make use of the cant that the idea of independence is one which binds all Indians in a close fraternity against the foreign tyrant. Yet one of the most persistent notes in the complaints of the political prisoners is that the wicked British authorities actually compel them to associate with their own fellow countrymen, the criminals. One lady writes as follows (Bulletin, June, 1932): —
  The fundamental fault lies with the (jail) system, and with a Government which can fling hundreds upon hundreds of well-bred ladies into the class assigned to the lowest criminals of the land.
It is no doubt unpleasant for “well-bred ladies" to have to mix with their less fortunate Indian sisters. But there is nothing to prevent these Nationalists, with their boasted sympathy for the victims of British rule from demanding better treatment for the non-politicals as well as for themselves. But no; the letters in the Bulletin betray not the slightest hint of fellow feeling for the victims of the social system, many of whom have no prospect before them except the choice between harsh treatment in prison and treatment hardly less harsh outside. Gandhi and the other nationalist leaders are as vigorous as the British ruling class in upholding private ownership of the means of life, so the political prisoners make the claim for special treatment as befits the members of a privileged class. They resent having their precious bodies brought into proximity with the victims of the social system from which their privilege is derived, and of which they are defenders.

The Indian workers will discover this when the Indian capitalists enter into unrestricted or less restricted control. The capitalist ladies and their men-folk who have no sympathy for non-political prisoners will not find it difficult to adopt towards the workers the brutality inseparable from the suppression of one class by another. By that time they will have finished using the Indian workers as tools in the campaign against the British Government, and the mask will be taken off.

What the non-political prisoners think of the well-bred inhumanity of the arrogant ladies we do not know.
P. S.

Is It A New I.L.P.? (1932)

From the August 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the end of July, too late for comment in this issue, the Independent Labour Party held a Conference to decide whether it would disaffiliate from the Labour Party. Those of its leaders who favoured this course claimed, in advance, that a decision in that direction was a foregone conclusion. The National Administrative Council accordingly prepared what is intended to be the new constitution and programme of the party. The opponents of a breakaway made their preparations for carrying on a separate organisation inside the Labour Party.

The situation is deserving of some attention, for it enables us to measure the emptiness of nearly 40 years of I.L.P. propaganda in Great Britain.

The I.L.P. was formed in 1893, with the professed intention of winning the workers away from Liberalism and of promoting independent political action, with Socialism as the ultimate aim. The method was to be that of reforming the capitalist system little by little—the policy which later became known as “gradualism.” Seven years afterwards the I.L.P. took a prominent part in forming the Labour Representation Committee, which, in 1906, became the Labour Party. At the inaugural meeting of the Labour Representation Committee the I.L.P. delegates moved, and the meeting adopted, a resolution which laid down the lines on. which the Labour Party has conducted its activities during the following 30 years—the policy of bartering its professed independence in return for social reforms. The resolution favoured the establishment of “a distinct Labour group in Parliament, who shall have their own whips and agree upon their policy, which must embrace a readiness to co-operate with any party which, for the time being, may be engaged in promoting legislation in the direct interest of labour . . . "

This was the policy on which the Labour Party was founded. It is a policy which has permitted all of the political bargaining, the vote-catching, and the open and secret pacts with the Liberals for which the Labour Party has been and is notorious. It is this policy which some members of the I.L.P. in recent years have condemned. Let it not be forgotten, then, that it was the I.L.P. delegation, including Keir Hardie, which moved the original resolution on..which this unsavoury policy was based. Mr. Maxton, who did not protest at the time, now (New Leader, July 15th, 1932) condemns the Labour Party for having taken office in 1929, on the tacit acceptance of the condition laid down by Mr. Lloyd George that he would support them in Parliament only so long as they kept clear of Socialism. Mr. Maxton cannot, however, deny that the Labour Party in 1929 was doing precisely what, in the beginning, the I.L.P. had proposed that they should do, i.e., they were co-operating with the Liberals in order to push through some reform legislation.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain, right from its commencement, attacked the policy of political bargaining. We held then, as we do now, that a Socialist Party must be independent and must be based on the demand for Socialism, not on a programme of reforms to be obtained by cooperating with capitalist parties. The recognition by a large number of members of the I.L.P., that the gradualist policy has failed is, therefore, in fact, a recognition that the I.L.P. has been wrong all these years and that the S.P.G.B. has been right.

In view of this it is impudent of the I.L.P. to claim, as they do, that their proposed new programme and policy are intended to appeal “to all Socialists who realise the necessity for a break with the past and a new approach to the future” (New Leader, July 1st, 1932). It is not Socialists who have to break with their past. On the contrary, the convulsions from which the I.L.P. now suffers are a tardy sign that Socialists have been right. It is the I.L.P., not the S.P.G.B., that needs to consider fundamental changes in its basis. That such a change has to be discussed is due to the fact that hitherto the I.L.P. has been in no respect a socialist party.

One curious admission made by the Secretary of the I.L.P., Mr. John Paton, deserves to be placed on record. For years it was a standing complaint of the I.L.P., continually hurled against the Socialist Party of Great Britain that our Declaration of Principles is too rigid. Socialist principles, they said, could not be reduced to hard and fast formulas. There must be flexibility and constant adaptation to changing circumstances. . This was the "principle” under cover of which they justified the issue of new vote-catching programmes whenever the old reforms/had become unpopular, or had been filched by the Liberals or Tories. The I.L.P. were entirely wrong on this point, The basis of capitalism does not change from day to day in the manner supposed by them. 

Given a real understanding of the capitalist system, it was not impossible to frame scientific principles as the permanent basis of a Socialist Party. The S.P.G.B. did this in 1904, and the events of the ensuing quarter of a century have proved these principles to be sound and not too rigid. The I.L.P. is at last making some approach to a recognition of this. Mr. Paton writes as follows:—
  A new Constitution is also being submitted to the Conference by the N.A.C. The basis of it was accepted by the Blackpool Conference in a general statement, and the new document incorporates in proper form the decisions then taken. The Constitution, in both thought and expression, marks a definite break with the traditional outlook of the I.L.P. Its basis is definitely Marxist, and it embodies the new thought and spirit with which the I.L.P. is surging as a reaction to the changed conditions in which the Party is operating.
  In drafting this new statement, the N.A.C. has kept clearly in view that such a document should be, in the main, a statement of the permanent principles and objectives of the Party, containing only the unavoidable minimum of topical reference, in the “Programme,” which forms part of it. The Constitution, therefore, is not concerned with argument as such, nor with internal Party organisation and activity, but seeks to express the body of more or less fixed doctrine within the I.L.P.—(New Leader, July 15th, 1932.)
But in spite of the claim that the new constitution is to be a Socialist one, and a clean break with the I.L.P.’s past, there is nothing to indicate that the new I.L.P, is fundamentally different from the old.

The breakaway was not demanded on the ground of a basic disagreement with the Labour Party, but only on the ground that the Standing Orders of the Parliamentary Labour Party are unacceptable. In spite of criticisms of particular items in the Labour Party’s programme, the I.L.P., as a body, has repeatedly shown its approval of the programme as a whole, and urged the workers to support it. Even at the last General Election, in October, 1931, the I.L.P. allowed its members, including members of its National Administrative Council, to fight as Labour candidates, on the Labour programmes And even those members who fought as independent I.L.P. candidates, put forward election programmes packed with the same old reformist absurdities.

A more recent case in point will show how little change and how little increase of understanding there is. At recent elections in Manitoba the I.L.P. ran candidates, five of whom were elected. This is the comment of the British New Leader (July 15th): 
   In Winnipeg, John Queen, the I.L.P. leader, polled 9,337, the largest Socialist vote ever recorded. John MacLean, the I.L.P. Mayor of Winnipeg, was only defeated by 117 votes in the Conservative stronghold of Assiniboia.
It is not suggested that the I.L.P. in Great Britain is responsible for the actions of the I.L.P. in Canada. What is asserted is that the Canadian I.L.P. ran on the usual reformist programme, and that this was known to the British I.L.P. when they congratulated the successful candidates and claimed that the vote given to them was a Socialist vote. In the issue of the New Leader, which published the note of congratulation, is an article by Miss Jennie Lee, describing the Canadian I.L.P. as “ broadly similar to ours in Great Britain,” and recording a joint conference recently held by, the Canadian I.L.P. and the Independent Farmers Party, "both agreeing that at the next Provincial general elections they ought to fight on common platform.” This joint programme consists of a demand for nationalisation of the land, public ownership and control of railways, telegraphs, etc., control of currency and credit, and numerous other similar harmful and blind-alley reforms of capitalism. Miss Jennie Lee calls this joint conference “a promising political development," yet she admits that it is probably true that "one really profitable harvest would knock the bottom out of whatever Socialist sentiment exists among the farmers of the West."

In other words, Miss Jennie Lee and the Editor of the New Leader, in spite of the alleged break with their past, are prepared to endorse the old policy of looking for pacts and alliances with any non-socialist organisation willing to back a vote-catching programme of reforms.

In fact, the I.L.P. candidates in Manitoba did not receive or seek Socialist votes. They ran on a reform programme, and that one of their candidates who got most votes (John Queen) in fact received a large number of votes from Conservatives.

The Winnipeg Tribune (quoted in O.B.U. Bulletin, June 23rd) reported the Deputy Returning Officer as saying that hundreds of voters who gave their first vote to the Conservative (Evans) gave their second vote to Queen, and vice versa. There were scores of ballot papers on which the voter gave his first vote to Queen and all his other votes to Conservative candidates. (The election was run on a system of Proportional Representation, each voter having several votes.) The Tribune expressed the view that personal popularity played a large part in getting Conservative votes for some I.L.P. candidates, but not for others.

It is this success which the British I.L.P. claims to be a victory for Socialism!

Actually there was one candidate who stood for Socialism and nothing else, the candidate of the Socialist Party of Canada. His vote, 859, is an indication of the small degree of socialist knowledge in Winnipeg, and Winnipeg is in that respect just like Great Britain.

Because the number of Socialists is so far very small, a political party cannot adhere to Socialist principles and at the same time secure popularity, seats in Parliament, a large membership, and large funds. There is not the slightest chance that the Maxtons and Brockways of the I.L.P. will drop reformism and adopt a Socialist programme, since to do so would mean sacrificing Parliamentary seats, donations from wealthy non-socialist individuals and organisations, and the limelight in which they have been accustomed to move.

The fact is that the I.L.P. was, is, and will remain an organisation lacking an understanding of Socialism, and utterly incapable of making any real advance towards it. It deserves nothing but the unrelenting hostility of the workers, whatever the name under which it may masquerade.
Edgar Hardcastle