Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Prize-Fighter's Evidence. (1916)

From the July 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard

The statement always made by the Socialist that the capitalist system is responsible for  the horrors of modern society still awaits the bold economist to explode it. The basis of society, the private ownership of the means of life, breeds the most hideous manifestations. The capitalist class, who own and control the means of wealth production and distribution, force the working class in order to live to operate those instruments for the profit of the former class. The wealth filched from the producers is sold upon the open market, and the workers, because they only receive a portion thereof as wages in return for their labour-power, cannot buy back the whole of their product. The result is the inevitable congestion of the market, with the consequent stagnation and crisis.

The capitalist class — national and international—being in possession of the wealth stolen from the workers, compete with each other for the control of the world’s markets. This capitalist class, split into warring factions, are continually embroiled in trouble over the disposal of the wealth on the markets, but they present a solid front to the workers whenever the latter get out of hand in the endeavour to better their conditions of life. We have just witnessed in Ireland an example, where, as a result of an incorrect conception of their position in society, thousands of working men and women flocked into the Sinn Fein movement, only to be butchered by their oppressors in control of the armed forces of the Skate.

It is true that the Irish workers have a fearful struggle to live, like the rest of their class the world over. But an anti-social movement like theirs, with “Ireland for Irishmen” for its slogan, was doomed to failure from the start. We, the working men and women who form the Socialist Party of Great Britain, sympathise with our fellow workers in Ireland in their struggle against the hideously squalid conditions that prevail among them, but must record our hostility to any movement that is not based upon the class struggle.

The blood-thirsty gang known as the international capitalist class know full well the horrible conditions that are rampant among the wealth producers, but while they pretend to condole with them, they do not intend to ease by a fraction the exploitation to which they subject them. Just at the moment when the various European governments are proclaiming that the war is being waged in the interests of their workers, it is well not to forget the awful conditions that are the lot of the toiling masses. Whether in London, Paris, Berlin, or Rome, in spite of the plausible tales of the reptile Press, millions of working men, women, and children are without even the bare necessaries of life. Writing on the Irish revolt one of the retired prize-fighters of the master class, while giving HIS opinion why the workers were led to the shambles, incidentally showed the state of things that prevail in one of OUR possessions.

The glorious British Empire! Such conditions as the above prevail wherever you care to travel in the much-vaunted, world wide dominions. Nor are these conditions confined to the British Empire, but they prevail wherever the private ownership in the means of life obtains.

Until the working class understand the class struggle, and recognise that the capitalist system and its parasitic class are alone responsible for the whole of the horrors we now witness, the common anomalies always prevalent, i.e., abject poverty and misery on one hand and riotous luxury and affluence on the other; international trade wars for markets and sea routes with their attendant bloodshed, will run concurrently with the cruel and ceaseless slaughter of the workers from the prolongation of the worst of all wars—the Class War.

The only hope lies in the deluded, toiling masses of wealth producers mustering under the crimson banner of Socialism, determined to gain control of the machinery of government, including the armed forces, to use it as the agent of emancipation, and to usher in the system of society based upon the common ownership of the means of life; the social system wherein the interests of the human family shall form a harmonious whole. 
C. F. Carter

Right Royal Rubbish! (1996)

TV Review from the January 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. No more processions through the City of London, with gleaming carriages and cantering horses. No more sacred vows in majestic cathedrals for the watching millions to fawn over. No more glittering brides and gallant grooms. Just plenty of back-biting, acrimony and posturing— the Royal family has come down to earth with a thump and the TV cameras have been capturing every sordid and sensational moment.

The jewel in the crown—so to speak—of this ongoing farrago was undoubtedly the Panorama interview given by the Princess of Wales. Rarely in the history of television has such carefully scripted malevolence been purveyed by such an expert at manipulation. This in itself is not surprising as the lady in question had been trained by the masters of deception themselves—the royal family and their courtiers. Doe-eyed and self-important to the last, opinion polls show that Diana succeeded in gaining the sympathy of the majority of those whose lives were so empty that they watched this wretched performance. (TV reviewers are exempt from criticism, naturally, for risking an attack of biliousness in the course of professional duty.)

There is no denying that Diana has had a hard time—as hard times for parasitical prima donnas go—but what really sticks in the craw is the way in which all this is presented as if it is something of great concern to the rest of us in society who have problems enough of our own—as if, indeed, they really are "our" royal family which we could sell at auction or swap at Marks and Spencer if we wanted to. We're all human, but beyond that what have we got in common with them? Nothing worth mentioning is the true answer. Taking sides between these overprivileged squabblers plays into their hands—and remember. they are all at it, if you’ll pardon the expression—Charles had his own dreary feast of fun last year.

Another gin and tonic
When the squabbling dies down for a nano-second the TV corporations can be guaranteed to follow the lead of the tabloids into the never-never land of royal family irrelevance. The Queen Mother’s hip operation was a case in point. ITN did everything but film the operation and sponsor the surgical implements. When the old trout was admitted to her private suite they had cameras parked outside ready and waiting for live transmission of a brick wall, a plaque and a few windows. One sad specimen of humanity had turned up with a placard and flowers to wish her well, and as he was the only fool to make an appearance had an interview all to himself. ITN led with this story for what seemed like days on end, and still not once did it make the comparison between the treatment given to the Queen Mother and that which can be expected for most of the rest of the population i.e. private treatment and immediate access as opposed to state treatment and a nine-month waiting list. But, of course, they’re not biased.

The only relief in all this was that this time the Queen Mother was undergoing something different from having a fish bone removed from her gullet, which was a change indeed. So instead of the trout farmers and ENT specialists being wheeled into the studio to give interviews we were treated to expert analysis from bone specialists and psychologists majoring in post-operative stress disorder. Never let it be said that ITN do not know how to keep the public entertained.

Last but not least (at the time of going to press) was the history of the missing royal jewels given by the Queen to the Duchess of York for her services to foot fetishism. Judging by the look on his face, you would have thought they were Nicholas Owen’s own! What a catastrophe! Is nothing sacred these days? Never mind, another forty-eight hours’ hullabaloo was excavated from this rich scam by the troopers at the ITN news desk. So much so, it might be thought, that an even bigger catastrophe beset them when the jewels were actually found again.

What is the motivation behind ITN in all this? We can only wonder. Meanwhile, the Socialist Standard has a recommendation for them. If they really want to see how our beloved royal family cope with stress, let’s have a "fly-on-the-wall” documentary about them living in a tower block in Kirkby for a year on income support. Then they’d really have something to complain about.
Dave Perrin

50 Years Ago: Rail Go Slow (2018)

The 50 Years Ago column from the August 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

Strikes and go-slows are an established part of British Rail life—a comment on the wages, conditions and prospects of a job on the railways.

Commuters who as a result every so often wait for trains which do not arrive, or who when they are lucky travel to work in carriages packed to suffocation, cannot be expected to welcome militant action by the railwaymen. But if they have time and patience, they should consider one or two facts.

The railwaymen are only struggling to improve conditions of employment which are abysmally low. As the recent go slow showed, the railways need an enormous amount of overtime for their efficient running—and the workers also depend on the overtime to make up their wages.

The commuters are also engaged in this struggle, although many of them may not do so in an organised way and would not dream of coming out on strike. This does not alter the fact that, as both commuters and railwaymen are after the same thing, their interests must be the same.

The chaos caused by the work to rule also showed up who are the productive people in society. No comparable confusion would be caused by the capitalist class ceasing to fulfil their function as parasites and exploiters. Society can do without them but it cannot do without productive work.

This point has been made before, when railwaymen or dockers or factory workers have downed tools. It was shown up recently in New York, when the dustmen went on strike.

Outraged commuters are fond of adopting a moral attitude. So what about the morals of a situation in which the people who are important to society can barely get a living?

(From the Socialist Standard, August 1968)

Confusion concerning classes (1969)

Book Review from the August 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

The State in Capitalist Society, by Ralph Miliband Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 45s.

This is a confusing book in which Miliband sets out to prove what he takes to be the Marxist theory of the state. Although he does define his terms he uses words like 'capitalism' and 'class' in a non-Marxist way. Capitalism, he holds, is based on private enterprise, private profit and private accumulation. This raises suspicions, which are confirmed, that he has an odd view of Socialism too. Russia, he says, is 'collectivist', 'non-capitalist' and, in an unguarded moment, even 'socialist'. The concept of state capitalism is dearly unintelligible to him and is nowhere discussed, not even in relation to nationalisation in the West.

Classes are distinguished by how they stand in relation to the control and use of the means for producing wealth. In modern society there are two main classes: the non-working owning class and the non-owning working class. Miliband, however, has all sorts of gradations including an upper middle class. For him the working class are just those who work in the factories, mills, mines, railways, docks, and shipyards. Although he recognises that white-collar workers suffer much the same conditions as blue-collar workers, he still refuses to include them in the working class.

Thus for Miliband, unlike Marx, class is defined in terms of style of life and ideas, a point which does not help when he tries to explain the Marxist theory of the state:
  In the Marxist scheme, the ‘ruling class' of capitalist society is that class which owns and controls the means of production and which is able, by virtue of the economic power thus conferred upon it, to use the state as its instrument for the domination of society.
Certainly, this has a long history as the alleged Marxist view. For instance, a Communist Party study course of the 1930s said "each country is ruled by a small group of very rich men whose wealth gives them the power to control the government of the country" and claimed that “Marx pointed out that the class which had economic power controlled political power". This view, however, goes further back than this, to the industrial unionists of before the first world war. It is not difficult to see its attractions to those who argued that the 'bourgeois state’ ought to be smashed (the Communists) or by-passed (the syndicalists).

Marx, however, did not say that the state, should be smashed or by-passed, but that it should be captured by the working class. The state, as the public power of coercion, was an instrument of class rule which came into being with the division of society into conflicting classes and which has been controlled by various classes through its history: ancient slave-owners, feudal barons, and modern capitalists. To say that a class controls the state because it has economic power is to fall for a crude economic determinism. The state is controlled by the class that has waged and won a political struggle to capture it. It is true that the class which is economically progressive has generally been able in the end to win state power, but because of its political struggle rather than its economic position. This is why it is possible for an economically redundant class (like the modern capitalists) to retain power long after it has become redundant. The capitalist class rules today not because of its economic position (as a superfluous class, after all!) but because of its political and ideological leadership of the working class. In fact the Marxist view is the reverse of Miliband's: the capitalist class is wealthy today because it has political power. It retains its economic privileges only because it controls the state. And it controls the state only with the support of the workers. Miliband argues that the top posts in the organs of the state—the government, parliament, the law courts, the civil service, and the armed forces—are filled by people who come from the same social background and who are all firmly committed to capitalism, thus forming (in his non-Marxist use of the word) a class. As the same class dominates the state as that which dominates industry, he adds, we can say the capitalist class is the ruling class.

In the Marxist scheme, however, the ruling class is the class that controls the state in the sense of its being used to maintain its economic privileges. It is a political rather than a social concept. To find out which class rules you study how the state is used rather than who fills the top posts.

We do not doubt that top civil servants and judges and generals are themselves mainly from wealthy families or that they are firmly committed to capitalism. But then, on this last point, so are those who fill the bottom posts in the state machine and so are most other workers. If you have a correct theory of class, you realise that by and large both industry and the state are run from top to bottom by members of the working class (including Miliband's middle class), men and women who are dependent on their wage or salary to live. No doubt there are capitalists who do some of these jobs, but the socialist case has always been that, economically and politically, the capitalist class as a class is redundant as society is already run by the workers alone.

To repeat, the capitalists control the state not by filling the top posts with their relations but by winning working class support for the policy of using the state to maintain capitalism. Even if the top posts were all filled by the children of manual workers, with provincial accents, the capitalists would still rule if the state was used in their interests. It is not a question of the social background of the state officials, but of the purpose for which the state is used.

The theory that the capitalists control the state through a sort of nepotism and freemasonry leads to dangerous conclusions such as that parliament is only a facade and that fascism can be unleashed at will. "When things grow really serious", said the Communist Party study course, “the capitalist class arbitrarily does away with the more democratic organisations of the State, and relies increasingly on sheer armed force”. Oddly enough, in discussing this view, Miliband makes the point we have made for years:
   This is a possible scenario. But reflection suggests that whatever dominant classes, economic √©lites and conservative forces in general may wish, such a moment is one of the least likely to make this kind of response viable. For by the time a socialist movement has reached such a commanding position, which means, in the conditions of advanced capitalism, that it has become a vast popular movement, extending well beyond the working classes, it may be too late for the forces of conservatism to take up the authoritarian option with any real chance of success (His emphasis).
Socialism can only be set up when a majority of workers want and understand it and organise democratically to win political power and use it to abolish private property in the means of production. This done, there is no longer any need for a public power of coercion.
Adam Buick

The twin tigers of Bengal (1971)

From the August 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

A calamity such as a cyclone, civil war, mass migration of refugees, cholera epidemics and famine (Bengal has had all these!) brings forth a host of would-be helpers: international soup-kitchens like Oxfam, Flo Nightingales of the Red Cross and do-gooders of various religions all vie with the impotent United Nations bodies.

In East Pakistan the Government blandly denied it needed any aid whatsoever, there had been no cholera at all and food stocks were quite sufficient. [1]  In West Bengal the Government was almost as difficult: it did not specify what was needed till too late; [2] medical supplies and Land Rovers got snarled up in Customs and red tape; foreign doctors were definitely undesirable in the congested — but strategic — border regions; and dispersal of the refugees goes slowly for various reasons:
   The West Bengal Government did not yet know when the dispersal would begin. Mr. Mukherji (Chief Minister) . . . said that most other States had not agreed to share the burden, nor did the Centre desire them to do so . . . a suggestion was made to the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. Manekshaw, that the Army take over the management of the evacuee problem. The General . . . told the Chief Minister . . . that the Army had very little resources to undertake such a huge responsibility.” [3]
From the nightmarish bloodbath of East Bengal, one turns to West Bengal — to India’s repressive use of parliamentary forces. The main Opposition leader describes frequent “combings and killings”:
   The State’s police force is sixty thousand strong, in addition are fifty thousand para-military forces like the CRP, Border Security Force, etc., and more than fifty thousand of the army and these near two-lakh armed thugs have been let loose on the people of West Bengal to commit murder and mayhem. Regular combing operations by the police and the CRP with the help of the army arc being organised in mahalla after mahalla in the towns, in village after village in the rural areas. Indiscriminate arrests, mass torture, selective killings have become the order of the day, more than twenty thousand persons have already been arrested of whom 750 are still in custody, refused bail, and another one lakh have warrants of arrests pending against them. From the date of the imposition of President’s rule on the State, March 19, 1970, to the end of December, 149 CPI(M) workers and supporters had been killed, by the CRP and police and by anti-social elements organised by the Congress and its allies; the number rose to 219 on the eve of polling day and as this is being written, it has already crossed the 250 mark. In addition are many others who have been killed in this same period.” [4]    
Hardly a day goes by without political assassinations, usually of left-wingers, trade unionists, radical peasants or student leaders by hired gangs of goondas.

Bengal has of course plenty of other problems. West Bengal faces a man-made cholera epidemic and there may well be other diseases fostered in the congested refugee areas.

Trade is now almost non-existent — the 6 million fleeing refugees included most of East Bengal’s Hindu traders — and the Pakistani rupee has hardly any value.

In West Bengal there is a chronic economic crisis, aggravated by power shortages and disruption of the railways, due to wagon-breaking and theft. The refugees are intensifying the problems of the rural areas. Refugees who get their food and shelter free are flooding the labour market in a State with an unemployment problem as bad as Britain’s in the Thirties.

Communalism, nationalism and religion make a hot curry. There are 60 million Muslims in India at risk when Pakistan atrocity stories get into circulation. The two halves of Bengal have been shunting Hindu and Muslim minorities to and fro over the border ever since Partition, when Bengal and the Punjab vied for the title of worst atrocity areas in the sub-continent.

Religion’s political role is evidenced by this example from East Bengal:
    “Eid-e-Miladun-Nabbi (the Prophet Mohammad's birthday) was celebrated in Dacca on 8th May . . . with solemnity and enthusiasm. The celebration was marked by the people’s re-dedication to the preservation of their homeland, Pakistan . . . The national flag was hoisted on all prominent buildings, houses and offices. . . . The Pakistan Council, Dacca, also held a symposium on the Prophet Mohammad’s role as nation builder . . . Dr. S. Sabir said that Islam cut at the root of territorial nationalism based on language, politics or geography . . ."
This at a time when East Pakistan reeked with the blood of its people, butchered in the name of “territorial integrity”.

It was the more potent factor of nationalism which in the past inspired those Bengalis who spearheaded the intransigent terrorist wing of the independence movement. The failure of “independence” to solve their problems should make Bengalis and others suspicious of all so-called liberation struggles: workers and peasants never get liberated within the capitalist system.

The history of India shows that “World Government” is no answer to capitalism’s problems. For within India are many states, many languages and ethnic groups. A miniature World Government already operates from Delhi. Yet in India there are liberation movements and revolts (e.g. the Nagas and Mizos); spiralling unemployment and land problems; in Bengal these factors combine to produce a measles rash of murder; and rural and urban poverty vie with one another for worst-ever records. Calcutta — once the richest ruby in Victoria’s crown — is now a byword for an obscene stinking slum, with its garbage-choked streets, demonstrating mobs, pavement-dwellers and armed gangs.

Bengal shows us capitalism with all its faults a bit larger than life. Poverty, homelessness, disease, violence, unemployment, land-hunger, debt, communal pogroms, anarchy and despotism: Bengal’s problems are ours, only more so. They are the stripes on the tiger of capitalist society and as long as wage-labour and commodity production exist, so will all these problems.
Charmian Skelton

 [1] Pakistan High Commission Press Release June 16th: "there had been no cases of cholera in any part of East Pakistan during the last six months”. June 15th: "the food position in East Pakistan continues to be satisfactory”.
 [2] UN help for refugees was not requested till May 7th; the Red Cross was not notified till June 4th (Times, June 7th).
 [3] The Statesman Weekly (Calcutta), June 12th.
 [4] lyoti Basu, Cry Halt To This Reign Of Terror—Communist Party of India (Marxist): (Calcutta), April 1971.

By The Way. (1918)

The By The Way column from the July 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard

The penny sensations are ever on the alert for “stunts” with which to goad on the jaded worker. With ever-increasing rapidity suggestion follows suggestion as to how production may be intensified. When the over-worked slave threatens to cease work appeals are made to him to carry on for the sake of his brothers in the trenches. When it is a case of shrinking shipping then “every rivet counts,” so say our lords and masters. Quite recently the papers were playing off one set of workers against another in the matter of riveting (so easily are some of the hard-headed sons of toil “kidded") and at last Mr. J. Hill, of the Boilermakers' Society, issued a circular on the subject of these competitions, He says:
  Riveting has never been a sport, and in these times our members have never been more deadly earnest, and we shall not allow our members to be turned into gladiators to provide sport for the idle rich—a sport which it already having adverse effects, and is reducing the total output, besides undermining the good results which we have established for the co-operation and unification of our efforts in the national cause.—“Daily News," May 26th, 1918.
Evidently “National Service” only applies to the workers, seeing that these competitions afford opportunities to the ‘‘idle rich” to pass away the time which appears to hang heavily on their hands. What humbug it all is!

#    #    #    #

Mr. Bonar Law recently announced that the Government had decided that the question of separation allowances should be investigated as early as possible. More remarkable still was the intimation that “he recognised that tbs hardship fell especially on women with children, and that there was a real case for further consideration in view of the changed circumstances as regards the cost of living.' So I should think, for no one can say that the Government has erred on the side of generosity in its treatment of the wives and children of “our gallant heroes."

#    #    #    #

The preceding paragraph has more importance attaching to it, in spite of Food Controllers and their committees, and, yes, even a Labour Minister under whose direction they work, when viewed from the point of the purchasing-power of the soldiers’ wives’ slender resources. Only a few days ago I read of “cabbages at 7d. each, rhubarb at 1s. 6d. a bundle, and small round lettuces at 4d. were some of the prices that were being paid for vegetables in London.” Tucked away nicely in the middle of this item of news was the following interesting admission:
    In a week or two people will be getting enormous quantities of vegetables from their gardens and allotments. We’ve got to make every penny we can now, because there'll be precious little to make by and by. That was our experience last year. I’d rather let the stuff rot than not make a big profit. With labour so scarce it doesn’t pay me to handle it on any other lines.—“Daily News," June 10th, 1918.
There is a frank confession for you. And Mr. Clynes says profiteering has almost ceased. Perhaps he has another name for it.
The Scout.

Past Class Struggles: The American Revolution. (1919)

From the July 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the 15th century the minds of the merchants in the rising European commercial States were agitated by the attempts to discover another way to the East Indies, for the customary caravan routes across the Continent of Asia were threatened, and in some cases completely blocked, by the growth of Arabian and Moorish power. Portugal, through Diaz and da Gama, tried round the Southern part of Africa, while Spain sent Columbus across the Western waters.

Columbus eventually reached America, and the land he discovered is thus described by Prescott (Prescott’s Works, edited by John Foster Kirk) in his “Biographical and Critical Miscellanies":
  All around was free,—free as Nature herself: the mighty streams rolling on in their majesty, as they had continued to roll from the creation; the forests which no hand had violated, flourishing in primeval grandeur and beauty: their only tenants the wild animals, or the Indians nearly as wild, scarcely held together by any tie of social polity. Nowhere was the trace of civilized man or his curious contrivances. . . The only eye upon them was the eye of heaven. (Page 127)
The dealings of Columbus, the slave trader, with the natives of this virgin land is a record of fraud, cruelty, and force perpetrated on innocent, generous, and credulous savages. As the immediate pecuniary gains from his discoveries did not satisfy those who financed his expedition, Columbus frequently offered to send to Spain cargoes of the natives to be sold into slavery.

The colonists who followed in the track of Columbus were Court adventurers and companies of merchants, who were granted tracts of land with almost unlimited rights of settlement, being empowered to make their own laws, etc. The settlements were originally on the Eastern coast, but could be extended, if desired in strips right across the continent to the Pacific coast.

From the beginning the attitude of the colonists toward the innocent savages was one of cruelty and rapine, as the following quotation will bear out (in Reference to Rayleigh's settlement on Roanoke Island, N. Carolina, 1585) :
   Treachery and cruelty, however, marked the brief existence of even this first English colony; a leading Indian chief and his principle followers were massacred by pre-concert at an audience at which no sign of hostility was shown by the Indians.—“War of American Independence,” Ludlow, p. 27.
As the new land was opened up the settler commenced to do a roaring trade with the mother country, and the need for workers arose “Voluntary emigration ceased in 1685, and the only additions from England to the white population were by means of transportation and kidnapping, the latter practised chiefly from Bristol.” (Ludlow, p. 31.) “Kidnappers as well as slave buyers, the colonists broke the treaties with the Indians, harried them with commandoes, and sold them as slaves to the West Indies.” (Ludlow, p. 36.)

The history of America up to the period of the Revolution is the record of the rise to enormous wealth of a land-owning, slave-holding, and trading autocracy. The property qualificacation excluded the workers from the vote [and the same was true long after the Revolution), all wealth and power being in the hands of the wealthy class.

During this time there were frequent revolts of the oppressed, all of which were ruthlessly suppressed by the future advocates of eternal liberty.

The enclosure of the common lands in France, Germany, and England gave rise to a multitude of starving outcasts, some of whom turned their eyes toward the New World in the hope of finding an amelioration of their lot. These provided ready material for the kidnapper and emigration agent, who enticed them across the Atlantic and then sold them into a species of slavery (indentured service) even worse than the slavery of the blacks.

The records of the American white slave traffic exhibit an almost unbelievable barbarity. This traffic is fully discussed by James O’Neal in “The Workers in American History,” where the worst evils of Negro slavery are shown to be paralleled if not surpassed by the system of indentured service.

Of course, the followers of the “meek and lowly one” had to have a finger in the pie, and we read that—
   The famous Whitfield, and the two Wesleys, visited America at this period (1743) and urged the expediency of allowing slavery. (Ludlow, p. 38.)
In his “Story of the Negro” Booker T. Washington points out that the white man sold his own people in America years before the first black slaver sailed into Jamestown, Virginia (1619).

These, then, were the conditions from which the wealth of America had arisen.

When the English capitalists realised what a prize was within their grasp they tried to keep their hands upon it, and in doing so, overreached themselves. Navigation laws were passed confining to English vessels, navigated by Englishmen, all importation into and exportation from the colonies, and even forbidding any importation of European commodities except those commodities coming from England.

Subsequently a further Act was passed forbidding all colonial staples to be imported otherwise than to England, so that a duty equivalent to the English customs duty was laid on the importation of such articles from one colony to another. Says Gibbins:
   It is quite obvious, apart from any consideration of national policy, these regulations were dictated by the class interests of British manufacturers and merchants. (“Industry in England," p. 366.)
All these restrictions, however, failed in their object An extensive contraband trade developed and American smugglers waxed wealthy.

It was the time when the great inventions were revolutionising industry in England. The production of wealth in prodigious quantities was commencing, and the world lay waiting to absorb all the English manufacturers could produce. So we can guess with what consternation they viewed the attempt of the Americans to produce and export on their own account, instead of remaining producers of raw material for English manufacturers and a dumping-ground for British manufactures:

The revolution commenced with some skirmishes in Boston and the upsetting of the East India Company's tea in Boston harbour. For some time this vast company was on the verge of ruin owing to the large stocks of tea and other Indian goods on their hands. The English Government magnanimously (!) agreed to accommodate the Company by taking off as much duty in England as would make the Company’s tea cheaper in America than any foreigners could import. This struck a mortal blow at the smugglers. The latter were consequently roused to righteous and indignant action, and stood right sturdily for the “Rights of Man” by throwing the pernicious tea into the Atlantic.

Washington, one of the principle figures in the Revolution, prior thereto was engaged in surveying land, and O'Neal states that on the eve of the war a case was pending against him for illegal surveying. He was also deeply involved in the white slave traffic. His “poverty” may be estimated from the fact that he offered to raise and equip at his own expense a force of 1,000 men to relieve Boston.

Benjamin Franklin also was not above turning a honest penny in the slave traffic.

The delegates who had been chosen for the Philadelphia Congress of 1774 “Had known what it was to breakfast in a villa on the Hudson River with a very large silver coffee pot, a very large silver tea pot, napkins of the finest materials, plates full of choice fruit, and toast and bread and butter in great perfection. But in Philadelphia . . there was magnificence, and, above all, abundance, under many roofs. 'A most sinful feast again,' John Adams wrote, 'everything which could delight the eye or allure the taste. Cards and creams, jellies, sweetmeats of various sorts, twenty sorts of tarts, fools, trifles, floating islands, and whipped sillabubs. These dainties were washed down with floods of Madeira.' ” (Trevelyan, vol I., p. 225.)

Such were the poor down-trodden whose souls the times were trying (according to Thomas Paine), and who proposed vindicating the Rights of Man! Another comic tragedy was in process of production upon the stage of history. In relation to the above it is well to remember that the vast majority of the population at that time (excluding Indians) was composed of poor whites and slaves both black and white.

To prosecute the war the English proceeded to engage German mercenaries and disaffected Americans. By the offer of freedom to indentured servants they attracted many to their ranks' so that the rebels were compelled to offer the same inducement.

The stock jobbery and wrangles of the English capitalists, in the attempt of each to make the war as lucrative as possible to himself, put England out of the running from the start. On the American side similar jobbery prevailed. I will quote Washington’s own words:
   Such a dearth of public spirit, and such want of virtue; such stock-jobbing, and fertility in all the low arts to obtain advantages of one kind or another in this great change of military arrangement, I never saw before, and I pray God's mercy that I may never see again. (Trevelyan, Vol. I., p. 403.)
His letters during the war are full of similar complaints. All along he complains of the enormous desertions, sometimes of whole regiments. and of the difficulty of getting recruits. High bounties had to be offered by the different States before the various armies could be raised, and immediately their term of service was up they departed.

On both sides the aid of the Indians was extensively employed, and they were urged on by bribes to acts of the greatest barbarity. 

The gentle refinement of Washington, the glorious example of American schoolboys of today, may be judged by the following:
   During the summer (August and September, 1779) a terrible revenge was taken on the Iroquois for the Wyoming massacres by General Sullivan, who with 5,000 men devastated their whole country between the Susquehannah and Genesee rivers,—covered, we are told, with “pleasant villages and luxurient cornfields"—burning every village, giving no quarter. At one village, which is termed the “metropolis of the Genesee Valley," no less than 160,000 bushels of corn were destroyed. The Indians were pursued as far as the British fort of Niagara, and Indian agriculture was destroyed throughout the district. The total American loss did not exceed 40 men. The responsibility for these cruel measures lies at Washington's own door. His instructions to General Sullivan (May 31st) were “that the country may not be merely over-run, but destroyed." (Ludlow, p. 164.)
At length England agreed to evacuate America. It is noteworthy to mention (bearing in mind the much-vaunted Rights of Man) that one of the articles in the final capitulation stipulated the restoration of slaves and “prohibited the British from carrying away any Negroes or other property of the inhabitants."

Such was the great American Revolution. At bottom it was a fight between the privileged class of America and England to decide who should enjoy the wealth wrung from the slaves of both colours.

In early times to have imported free workers into America would not have sufficed for the needs of the privileged class, as the workers would have spread far and wide and gained their subsistence without working for a master. Hence workers had to be introduced in two particular forms of servitude (chattel slavery and indentured service) which tied them to their particular masters for a definite period or for life.

Long after the Revolution these forms of servitude continued. When economic development had rendered wage labour possible and more profitable, then the old forms of slavery disappeared.

Same difference (2018)

Book Review from the August 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Challenge Today. Syriza, Sanders, Corbyn. By Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin. 100 pages. Merlin Press

 This pamphlet-length book is an attempt to draw a distinction between ‘Social Democracy’ (which seeks merely to run capitalism better) and ‘Democratic Socialism’ (which seeks to transform capitalism away). The authors see Bernie Sanders’ campaign to get the Democrat presidential nomination, the rise of Syriza in Greece, and the election and re-election of Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party as examples of the latter.

These do represent a change in conventional politics but what the authors forget is that what they call ‘Social Democracy’ also originally set out to transform capitalism away. However, through the experience of being in government under capitalism, they ended up as a mere alternative team for managing capitalism. Instead of them transforming capitalism, capitalism transformed them.

What the authors call ‘Democratic Socialism’ is essentially a return to the original aim of ‘Social Democracy’ anyway. There is no reason to suppose that their fate will be any different. Panitch and Gindin quote, and endorse, Tony Benn as saying that any serious ‘socialist’ strategy has to begin from
‘the usual problems of the reformer: we have to run the economic system to protect our people who are locked into it while we change the system.’

This is accepting that a left-wing government would have to be running capitalism for a while. But both the theory and the experience of how capitalism works show that it cannot be made to work in the interest of the majority class of wage and salary workers; and that any government that tries this may well, at the beginning, be able to introduce a few favourable reforms but in the end will have to ‘run the economic system’ on its terms, by giving priority to profit-making over spending on reforms.

The authors have a different explanation for the failure of Social Democracy – not that no government can change the economic laws of capitalism but that previous left-wing governments neglected to transform the state. Instead of mobilising their supporters in the country by establishing popular committees to oversee and implement reforms decided at government level they left the existing state apparatus as it was. In other words, a political rather than economic explanation, a variation on the familiar theme that left-wing governments fail because they were not determined enough.

This is in fact the main theme and policy recommendation of the book. But it doesn’t stand up. Not even popular mobilisation can overcome or change the economic laws of capitalism. The Chavez government in Venezuela tried this but still failed. In fact it is instructive that Panitch and Gindin chose not to include Chavez alongside Syriza, Sanders and Corbyn.
Adam Buick