Thursday, August 9, 2018

After the Conquest of Power (1955)

From the August 1955 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have been asked to give an interpretation of Clause 6 of our Declaration of Principles on the ground that a part of it has been taken to imply an authoritarian suppression of all opposition, actual or potential, including freedom of expression, by armed force—after the fashion of the Bolsheviks and Fascists.

This clause has already been gone into at length in our Pamphlet “The Socialist Party: Its Principals and Policy.” However, we will give a brief interpretation of it in relation to the point raised.

The State is the governmental power that makes and enforces the laws and regulations of society. Since it developed it has always represented the social class that is dominating. The armed forces of this State were organised for the purpose of defending the interests and the social arrangements that suited the dominating social class.

Every rising social class has had to struggle for control of, or influence in, this State power in order to abolish or modify the existing political arrangements that hindered the further development of the rising class.

In present society this holds true of the working class movement which seeks to overthrow the domination of the Capitalist class; a domination that keeps the working class in a subject position. The fact that most of the workers do not yet recognise the source of their subjection, or only vaguely do so, does not effect the question. Thus, before the workers can throw off this domination they must obtain control of the State power in order to take out of the hands of the dominating class the power that defends this domination.

Parliament is the centre of state power in modern “democracies” and the workers, who comprise the great majority of each nation, vote the representatives to these parliaments. Therefore, when the workers understand the source of their subject position and the action they must take to abolish it, they can do so by sending representatives to Parliament to take control of the State power for this purpose. By doing so they will take out of the hands of the Capitalist class the control of the powers of government, including the armed forces.

Once the workers have obtained control of the governmental power what then? They will proceed to reorganise society on a Socialist basis. Now we come into the region of conjecture. While we hold the view that the overwhelming mass of the people will participate, or fall in line with, the process of re-organisation (in other words that, while the workers will participate in the movement, and probably individual Capitalists, the Capitalists as a whole will realize that the game is up, as they have lost the power of effective resistance) we make allowance for a theoretically possible attempt in some form of violent sabotage during the revolutionary re-organisation. The control of the armed forces during this period will be an effective deterrent to any such violent attempt without these forces having necessarily to be used. Should a violent minority attempt to destroy Socialism they would have to be forcibly dealt with. While at full liberty to advocate a return to Capitalism, no violent minority could be allowed to obstruct the will of the majority. Hence the phrase in the 6th clause “in order that this machinery including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation.” There will be no suppression of speech, opinion, or peaceful organisation.
Executive Committee

How Capital Influences Strikes (1956)

From the August 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Strikes in industry are not always an evil to the employing class. When the markets for goods in a particular industry are over-stocked, a strike can be useful to the Capitalists by saving them the trouble of putting workers off and cost of paying those kept on. Hence the best time for workers to strike is during a boom, and the worst time during a slump. Also it is better to strike suddenly than after protracted negotiations which enable the employers to take steps to minimise the embarrassment to themselves. On the same ground long no-strike agreements are harmful because the employers can stockpile against trouble.

These remarks are inspired by a report from the Washington correspondent of the Observer (8/7/1956). This report refers to the strike in the American steel industry over “the length of the contract to be signed between the union and the temporarily united management of the main American steel producers" The report points out the union appears to have been forced to choose a bad time for the assault. The report adds that: “Management insist on a four-year-and-four-month contract—labour would probably settle for three years." The report then follows with statements which illustrate the folly of any long agreements:
   “This strike was foreseen, as the labour-management contract expired at the end of June. Industries dependent on steel have been stock-piling against this emergency. It is not known how heavy these ‘inventories' are, but it was significant that steel sales were maintained this year, even though the automobile industry and the construction industry suffered a noticeable recession."
   “The strike, curiously, comes to the Administration as yet another gratuitous and unearned blessing. It was generally expected that in the third quarter of this year the American economy would suffer a noticeable recession. Plant construction has been running at a level that few thought could be maintained. Motor-cars were expected to be still less saleable in the months before the unveiling of what are said to be revolutionary new models.
  “If the strike lasts a month, as is expected, it will drain off some embarrassing surpluses. It is also expected with more certainty—to be followed by a production boom. This was the case after the eight-week steel strike in 1952.   “This boom will delay the testing of the economy. It will also approximately and conveniently coincide with the election. It will provide an artificial stimulus to the economy at a time when most economists expected a slump."
This is a striking example of how the dice is loaded against the workers and how Capitalist ownership of the means of production and distribution weights the scales in the conflicts between workers and Capitalists.

Odds and Ends: Stalinists and Trotskyists Unite? (1957)

The Odds and Ends column from the August 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Stalinists and Trotskyists Unite?

When one of Stalin’s agents split open the head of Trotsky with an axe in [Coyoacán], a suburb of Mexico City, on August 20th, 1940, who would have thought that, in 1957, four avowed and unrepentant followers of the late Leon Trotsky would have been invited to visit the Soviet Union, and would be féted by Stalin's former collaborators? But it has happened.

On the 21st April of this year four Trotskyist M.P.s from Ceylon were among a party of Ceylonese Members of Parliament who landed by airplane (a Soviet airplane) at Tashkent airport in the Soviet Republic of Usbekistan.

On April 22nd, which was the anniversary of Lenin’s birthday, one of the Trotskyist M.P.s, Colvin de Silva, gave a lecture on the Life of Lenin, "which was greatly appreciated by the Russian and Usbek comrades.” (Samasamajist, 16th May, 1957.)

No doubt our Ceylon Trotskyists enjoyed their stay with their Soviet “comrades.” But we wonder if they gave any thought to the hundreds of Trotskyists and other oppositionist Communists murdered by the Soviet rulers in the Soviet Union and elsewhere; and whether they mentioned this to their Soviet "comrades.” All this makes us wonder if there are any real differences between the Stalinist "Communists” and the Trotskyist “Communists” after all.

#    #    #    #

Reform or Revolution

Like the "orthodox” Communists, the Trotskyists claim to be "revolutionaries” and Marxists. Untike Labour politicians who advocate political and social reforms, the Trotskyists claim to be opposed to reformism; but all of the resolutions passed by the Samasamaja May Day Rally in Ceylon belie this claim. Among other things, the Trotskyists demanded "a national minimum wage” and "full employment—work or maintenance.” And on pages 2 and 3 of Samasamajist (1st May, 1957) we find the following slogans: "Keep Ceylon Out of War!” "Take Back Our War Bases.”

And these they call revolutionary slogans! They’re about as revolutionary as those of the British Labour Party!

#    #    #    #

A Revolutionary Policy?

What, then, is a revolutionary policy? It is one that recognises that since the capitalist system gives rise to, and perpetuates the problems of war, poverty, and insecurity; and that these and many other problems are inherent in the system itself, the only solution to these problems is the abolition of the system itself and replacement by another—a Socialist one.

Programmes of social reform cannot solve these problems; they only help to perpetuate the system that causes them. Therefore one would expect a "revolutionary” not to advocate, say, a national minimum wage, but the abolition of the wages system altogether. But, then, one cannot expect such a policy from a Communist, Stalinist, Trotskyist, or any other of the fifty-seven varieties.

#    #    #    #

Socialism—What is it?

Like Labour politicians, the Communists of both the "Stalinist” and Trotskyist varieties claim to stand for Socialism—sometime in the future. But what do they mean by Socialism? Do they mean by Socialism—or for that matter, Communism—what Marx and Engels meant by Socialism or Communism? Socialism to Marx and Engels and Socialism to the Socialist Party means a world-wide universal system of society based on the common ownership of the means of wealth production. It will be a classless society, democratic throughout—a free society, where the coercive forces of the state will have disappeared, and where production will be solely in order to satisfy the needs of the people. When a Socialist society "gets on its feet” the watchword will be: "From each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her needs.”

Such a society is beyond the ken of the Kruschevs, Pollitts, Titos, and the Trotskyist M.P.s who visited their "Stalinist” comrades in the Soviet Union earlier this year. Their concept of Socialism is our old "enemy” —Nationalisation!

#    #    #    #

Dictatorship in the Soviet Union

Since arriving back in Ceylon one of the Trotskyist M.P.s, Colvin de Silva, has written a number of articles giving his impression of Soviet society today. He points out that the single party dictatorship is openly upheld by the Soviet rulers as a correct system. And although he does not quote from it, he says that: "The Soviet constitution itself gives to the Communist Party this dictatorial position, and so long as the Stalinists are in power they will not allow any other party to function in the Soviet Union.” (Samasamajist, 23rd May, 1957.)

(The Articles in the Soviet Constitution (1936) making the Communist Party the only legal party are numbers 126 and 141—see Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation, by S. and B. Webb, pp. 428 and 430).

#    #    #    #

"Democracy” in the Soviet Union

However, within the framework of the one-party system the Soviet rulers attempt to give the impression that there is democracy in Soviet Russia.

Colvin de Silva writes that they have relaxed the terror that existed throughout the years of Stalin’s rule. The reason for this, in de Silva’s view, is “that the economically privileged strata of the population are pressing upon the Government to make concessions to them,” and “that the masses are pressing upon the ruling bureaucracy for concessions” also.

The Soviet authorities laid great stress on the claim that the members of the Soviets are elected. But “This is, of course, absurd, when no opposition parties are allowed and when all that a Soviet citizen can do is to vote for or against the candidate put up by the government party.”

The Soviet Government also stress that not only is criticism of the government permitted, but is even encouraged. But, of course, only criticism and self- criticism is allowed—never opposition!

Inequality—greater than in Britain

Social equality has always been stigmatised by Stalin as a “petty bourgeois prejudice,” but very few people realise just how great social inequalities are in the Soviet Union. The following short quotation from Colvin de Silva’s article will give them some idea of the inequalities of income in Soviet society today:—
  "Another aspect of the Trotskyist analysis which I found confirmed is the prevalence of gross inequality in wages and incomes among the Soviet workers and collective farmers. In the first place, probably fully one-fifth of the Soviet workers receive only 350 rubles per month as wages. As against this, there are higher paid workers who earn as much as three thousand to three thousand and five hundred rubles a month, that is ten times as much as the lower paid workers. Secondly, a factory manager receives as much as twelve to fifteen thousand rubles a month and even more. He therefore receives forty times the amount of the lowest paid worker. There are scientists, writers, administrators, who have even larger incomes than the manager, so that the inequality is even greater than one to forty. [The monthly stipend of the Patriarch of the Russian orthodox church is 50,000 rubles a month! P.E.N.] This kind of inequality, which creates a gulf between rich and poor, has nothing to do with Socialism. Indeed, you do not get such wage and salary inequality even in capitalist England today." (Samasamajist, 23/5/57.)
Of course, the Trotskyist writer is quite correct when he says that this has nothing to do with Socialism. But, unfortunately, he does not know what Socialism is himself. In another article (“The Collective Farm System And The Class Struggle,” Samasamajist, 30th May, 1957) he writes:—
  "The basic form of a Socialist agriculture is therefore the State-farm, that is, the farm owned and run by the State; just as the basic Socialist form in industry is the factory—owned and run by the State.”
Does not Colvin de Silva, M.P., know that Socialism will have no need of the state apparatus? That the state will have “died out"; and that the state ownership of the land, farms and the factories is in fact State Capitalism, which is the form of society existing in the Soviet Union today—not Socialism, or a “degenerated workers’ state,” whatever that may be? Colvin and the other Trotskyist M.P.s have learnt quite a lot about Soviet Russia—now they have got quite a lot to learn about Socialism!
Peter E. Newell

Cooking the Books: Are we exploited twice? (2018)

The Cooking the Books column from the August 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

A recent anarchist pamphlet Fight for the City revives the theory of secondary exploitation that was popular in anti-capitalist circles before WWI. This is the theory that workers are economically exploited not just at work through producing a ‘surplus value’ over and above what they are paid for the sale of their mental and physical energies to an employer; they are also said to be exploited outside of work by landlords, moneylenders, shopkeepers and others when they spend their wages. Here’s how the London Anarchist Communists put it in their pamphlet:
  ‘We are already exploited at work. Wages are as low as the bosses can get away with in order to maximise their profits. But we are exploited in other ways. Increasingly, all aspects of our non-working lives involve the spending of our wages on things that make profits for others: landlords, banks, and all the companies providing the goods and services that we buy (. . .); at every stage, whether in the act of producing or consuming, more surplus is creamed off our wages, creating profits and wealth for a few. The fight for the city is therefore a class struggle – a struggle against those who want to squeeze everything they can from us.’
This is economic illiteracy. Marx based his theory of surplus value on the premise that workers are paid the full value of what they sell, i.e., that their wages cover the full cost of creating and recreating their working skills. Surplus value arises from the fact that there is a difference between the value of their labour power (the labour incorporated in it) and the value they add to what they produce (the total new labour they incorporate into it); that, for example, their wages represent 20 hours labour while they add 40 hours labour to what they produce. This difference belongs to their employer and is the source of all non-work incomes.

Suppose that, when it came to spending their wages, workers were not engaged in equal exchange, that they didn’t get goods and services that took 20 hours to produce but, say, only 15 hours’ worth. This would mean that they would not be in a position to recreate the value of their labour power as this requires them to consume goods worth 20 hours. They would not be able to work so intensively or so efficiently for their employer and so not produce as much surplus value.

What workers buy has always helped those they buy from to turn the surplus value produced by their employees into a monetary profit, but that is not the same as creating surplus value for them. This is created by their employees not their consumers.

Individual workers and groups of workers can be, and sometimes are, swindled by landlords and shopkeepers who don’t give them a product of equal value to what they pay, but this is still not extracting surplus value from the workers concerned. If such swindling becomes the norm, then employers would have to increase wages to, in our example, 25 hours to take account of this and ensure that they are getting the full value of what they pay for.

Normally workers do exchange the full value of their wages for goods and services of an equal value. As just explained, that they should do so is in the employers’ interest too and is why there are laws to protect consumers and to limit how much interest moneylenders can charge.

There is no secondary exploitation, only occasional swindling. Of course if they are ripped off workers are going to react but this cannot be described as part of the class struggle between workers and employers as it is essentially a struggle between consumers and sellers that can be settled by ensuring equal exchange.

Jamaica: Politics, race, and unemployment (1969)

From World Socialism '69

With the retirement of Norman Manley as leader of the People's National Party (PNP) Jamaica is now entering a new era in political activity. Both founding leaders, Bustamente and Manley, are now out of the way. The arena is dominated by Hugh Shearer, the present Prime Minister, for the Labour Party and Michael Manley, Manley's son, for the PNP.

The PNP have in the past expressed their support for 'Socialism' in the form of nationalisation of all the major essential services, electricity, and transport. Young Manley however made no reference to Socialism in his acceptance speech. In fact he gave no clear indication as to how the party stood, preferring to build his speech around popular phrases like 'social justice' and 'human rights'. Mindful perhaps of constant comment that the very word 'Socialism' is outdated in today's world, the new leader never mentioned it once—quite in contrast to his father's acceptance address 25 years ago. False Socialism has lost its vote appeal. Real socialists will not be displeased with this.

The motto of Jamaica is 'Out of Many One People'. Our leaders never cease telling the world that we are a model country for racial tolerance. All this has been taking a beating lately, as one of the first things a tourist is told on landing here is: "Don't leave your hotel at night, it is not safe." Early in October of last year a university lecturer from Guyana was barred from re-entering the country after attending a black writers' conference in Canada. He was accused of preaching violence and therefore being a security risk. A protest march organised by students was broken up forcibly by the police. That same night various buildings were burnt and looted. Over ten buses were also destroyed by fire. These violent acts are said to be an expression of Black Power. Chinese and people of fair complexion are the chief target. Not only American and English societies can give rise to Black Power. Here is an independent country with 90 per cent black population, under black leadership, calling for Black Power!

The misrepresentation of what independence meant has now given rise to widespread frustration. Over 20,000 kids leave school every year and enter the labour market and the last estimate put the unemployment figure at 150,000. The hopes expressed that industry would absorb the unemployment have not materialised. Factory after factory has been built employing only a menial amount of labour. The sugar industry, one of the chief users of labour, is now pressuring the government to mechanise. The decline of sugar prices on the world market makes a ton of sugar cost more to produce than it will fetch. Without the preferential agreement with Britain the industry would have folded up already. Some of the smaller factories have ceased operating. The government's dilemma is the putting out of work of thousands of unskilled workers or the slow death of the industry.

The situation in undeveloped countries like Jamaica is tense, changing, and difficult to forecast. One thing is certain: their undevelopment need not be a transition period as often believed, but can be a permanent state. Looking around, the task that faces a socialist seems overwhelming. With communication and waste of capitalism will become obvious to them. Spreading socialist knowledge may not be so difficult after this.
George Dolphy
Kingston, Jamaica.

An Echo of the Commune. (1908)

From the July 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Federation of the Seine. S.F.I.O., (French section of the Workers’ International), had issued its annual call to the Paris comrades to fall in and march in procession before the historic wall of Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where in May, 1871, many communard prisoners were shot and buried. The occasion was to be the more interesting because a memorial tablet upon the wall itself, and a monument upon the grave of Eugène Pottier, the writer of our song, the “Internationale,” were to be unveiled, and appropriate addresses delivered.

Arriving rather late at the cemetery, we found the procession slowly coming out and the avenue along which it was passing closely walled in by a line of Republican Guards infantry assisted by numerous policemen. These guardsmen, by the way (cavalry and infantry), are no easy-going two year conscripts, but are picked professional soldiers, who are maintained for the express purpose of providing a perpetual menace to the Parisian working class.

Trying another avenue by which to find the tail-end of the procession, we, with many others, found our way blocked by squads of policemen, and so decided to visit other parts of the famous cemetery, hoping to get access to the historic wall later when the crowd should have left.

But what was our surprise to find shortly, a party of soldiers, rifle on shoulder, step down from among the tombs and press us down the avenue towards the main entrance. And as we proceeded the folk gathered in the avenue bordered by the resting-places of famous men — artists, poets, statesmen, generals; while from between the tombs on either side came the rifle, cartridge-pouch, uniform, and flesh and blood within it that make up the soldier — hundreds of him. They were clearing the cemetery. Passing out and walking a few streets from the cemetery we saw a troop of Guards cavalry pass. They have no barracks in the quarter, neither do they mount guard at any public building there. Their presence could have but one meaning, namely, to remind the Parisian working class of the murderous powers at the disposal of the master class. And, indeed, what menace was there not in these rifles, swords, and trampling hoofs? What more was needed to call to mind the bloody week of May, '71, when some 35,000 men, women, and children of the working class were massacred by the army, which had been released by the German Government for that purpose?

Indeed must the master class feel its position shaky that it should think necessary such exhibitions of force! Meanwhile, for us, do not history and passing events reveal the despotic and murderous characteristics necessarily provoked in a master class? Yes! beyond all question. And therefore we must order our conduct, our teaching, and our organisation in conformity with the knowledge so acquired.
J. H. Halls

Party Pars (1909)

Party News from the July 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Walthamstow Branch has been formed and its propaganda promises well. The new East Ham Branch is entering into the work with vigour, not only in their district, but in West Ham also, where assistance has been greatly needed.

#    #    #    #

Paddington Comrades seem destined for particular police attention. Hitherto all attempts of the local snobocracy to discredit the Party and stop our meetings there have failed, and now the police are being used against us. There may be developments. Meanwhile our comrades are going strong. An extra meeting place has been opened at Victoria Road, Kilburn, where excellent work is being done every Wednesday, and a debate with a representative of the Anti-Socialist Union will take place there soon.

#    #    #    #

The attention of comrades and friends is drawn to the fact that more money is needed at the Head Office. Three new pamphlets and a fourth edition of the now famous "Manifesto," as well as four new leaflets, are now "on the way." and doubtless the printer will want a little on account. Therefore "IT'S YOUR MONEY WE WANT.

Copies of "Socialism v. Social Reform " can can still be had, and comrades "at large” as well as Branches should secure supplies and scatter wide.

#    #    #    #

Those travelling showmen of the Clarion have been engaging the attention of some of our comrades. A Woolwich one writes "Lord almighty vanner Hick has visited us and, being compelled to admit the truth of our position, advised the working ‘classes’ to join the S.P.G.B.! He will be joining the unemployed presently, unless he changes again." At Tottenham Mr. Muir Watson, who was well received by a few Liberals, looked anything but comfortable when tackled by our men. In answer to questions he claimed that "it does not really matter whether there is a class war or not.” He "would not say nationalisation was Socialism, at least, not in Tottenham ” Asked to allow opposition he replied, "No Socialist is allowed on the van — only anti-Socialists," thus naively explaining his presence thereon.

#    #    #    #

Expose the bounders !

#    #    #    #

Mr. Harrison's questions will be answered in our next issue. The growing demands upon our space make it increasingly difficult to meet all requirements.

Outposts of Empire (1910)

From the July 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

The ruling class of Great Britain have managed to seize more of the earth's surface than any of their competitors. Capitalists of other lands are handicapped, therefore, in finding a market for the increasing quantity of products that result from modern industry. In consequence they have of recent years shown great activity in organising and extending their fighting forces, in view of the wars rendered almost inevitable in the fierce struggle for markets and colonies, present and to come. The capitalist dam of England are using all endeavours to safeguard their interests and to maintain their supremacy, and they view with dismay the admitted fact that the state of recruiting is such that the authorities dare not impose the severe training that obtains in the armies of their Continental rivals. They see that it is no patriotic motive that leads a man to join the "colours,” but merely the want of the necessaries of life. The Army Medical Department in their August 1908 report said :
    “The majority of recruits were growing lads and a large number were out of employment at the time of enlistment. Experienced recruiting agents estimate the proportion of the latter as high as 95% of the total. In many instances the lads were suffering from want of food and »ere generally in poor condition. The old tests which recruits used to be subjected to are far too severe for the would-be soldier of to-day "
To remedy this state of affairs, to get a larger and better supply, our masters are trying to arouse and foster the military spirit in the sons of the workers. Hence, they institute rifle ranges in the schools, start Boys' Brigade and Boy Scout movements. They also use men who have a following among certain circles — men like Robert Blatchford —  to write articles in their Press, praising the British Army and painting the life of “Tommy Atkins" in rosy colours.

The ignorance of the workers is one of the chief obstacles which Socialists at present have to face. On the other hand it is the one thing upon which the capitalists trade, when dealing with the workers. It is with a view to dispelling the ignorance of how the employing class treat those who serve them that the following two extracts from the Liberal Press are given.
   “Brooding over poverty and his inability to find employment, Joseph Henry Broad, twenty-eight, a builder’s labourer, of Gold-street, Stepney, ended his misery by committing suicide. The inquest disclosed a pathetic story. The widow stated that her husband was formerly a soldier in the 2nd Essex Battalion. He served in the South African war, and had two medals and three bars. They had been married eleven months, and during the whole of that time had been particularly unfortunate, her husband having had only six weeks’ work. He was much depressed owing to not being able to obtain employment, and on the day of his death she found him sitting by the fire, crying bitterly. Witness left the room for a few minutes, and on her return she found that he had hanged himself with a leather belt. Medical assistance was summoned, but her husband was found to be dead.
  “Witness added that her husband recently had influenza. The reason he was crying was because they could not meet their expenses. After paying the rent on that morning they had only two farthings left. The deceased was invalided home from South Africa, and had a pension of sixpence per day. The Coroner: How have you managed to live? Witness: We borrowed on the pension. Witness farther stated that she and her husband had been very short of food. On Friday last all they had to eat was a bloater between them, and on Saturday a halfpennyworth of fried potatoes. Of late they had subsisted mainly on bread and butter. Her husband’s relatives were poor people, but used to make a collection weekly in order to help them.”
Reynolds’ Newspaper, 1.5.10. 
   “Three little children were murdered at Islington last night It is alleged that their father cut their throats with a razor during the mother’s absence from home. The cause of the dreadful crime was poverty. The scene of the tragedy was a house in Dennis-street off the York-road, when Henry Higginbottom, his wife, and three of a family occupied one room. Higginbottom, who has been in the army, is a carman, but of late has been out of employment. He is only 25 years of age. . . . Continued unemployment had made him depressed and this preyed upon his mind. . . . Higginbottom is said to have served in the South African War, and to be at the present time in the Army Reserve and in receipt of a pension. The wife is employed at a coffee shop. She was called from her employment to hear the news of the tragedy, and when she saw her children lying dead she fainted.”
Reynolds’ Newspaper, 24.4.10.
After fighting for those who rule, they were left to suffer hunger and to face unemployment; to see those dependent upon them want. These men helped the capitalists to get a “United South Africa ”; to raise the Union Jack over the graves of thousands of men, women and children on the veldt. How different has Lord Kitchener been treated on his return! Feted by the leading lights of the capitalist class everywhere. They did not let him want. The workers, after all, are so many, so they can be left to starve.

The Liberal and Tory party voted £50,000 to Lord Kitchener and £100,000 to Lord Roberts for their misdeeds in South Africa.

Fellow workers, your masters take advantage of your hunger and nakedness to enlist you in their battalions. For what? To defend their property at home and abroad; to keep your fellow slaves in subjection in Britain ; to extend the boundaries of their empire.

You own no property to defend ; you have no freedom to conserve. It behoves you, therefore, whether inside or outside the army, to join the Socialist Party.

The aim of the Socialist Party is to abolish the property conditions that give rise to wars; to institute a system wherein armies and navies become unnecessary and merely figure in the memories of a hated past. Read its literature.
Adolph Kohn

Sugar Trust Saints. (1911)

From the July 1911 issue of the Socialist Standard

The materialist basis of Smythe-Piggott’s “Abode of Love” was demonstrated by the fact that the Spaxtonites were large shareholders in the VV Bread Co. Now the following from the “Daily Chronicle,” June 28, shows the “alliance” between the Latter Day Saints and the Sugar Trust. How happy the trust employees must be to know that their "saintly” employers use the proceeds of their exploitation to provide “Turkish delight” for the elders of the Mormon Church!
  “Testimony given by Joseph Smith, the head of the Mormon Church, before the committee of the House of Representatives investigating the methods of the Sugar Trust to-day, showed how converts were made chiefly through the use by the Latter Day Saints of their enormous profits on their Sugar Trust securities. 
   "He explained that the beetroot industry, with its sugar products, was a leading industry of Utah, and that owing to the fact that refineries in the west were making beetroot sugar cheaper than the cane sugar of the trust, an 'alliance’ was made between the Mormon Church and the American Sugar Refining Company. 
  “The Mormons showed themselves as cunning as the heads of the trust, and instead of the latter buying out the Mormons to their exclusion, Mr. Smith testified that the Latter Day Saints were the heaviest holders of Sugar Trust stock. 
  “The proceeds from these securities, however," said the witness, "are not used for the material advantage of our society, but for the conversion of Gentiles." 
   “We use this money for the development of religious work, and especially for defraying the expenses of our missionaries abroad." Mr. Smith knew nothing of the ‘watering’ of the trust’s stock or anything about the company’s 'high finance,’ but only that the money derived from the ‘alliance’ was highly useful in making converts.”

Anyone for more of the same? (1997)

From the April 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard
The four-yearly spectacle called the general election is upon us once again and once again, for a short time at least, the working class — the vast majority of the population — is considered to be of some political consequence. As in the past, the politicians are desperate for our votes, but this time with one difference: it is now almost universally accepted that there isn't the slightest difference between any of them.
Opinion polls are not famous for their accurate forecasts but this one was a bit different. Advertising agency Bates Dorland recently asked a thousand people whether their vote at the coming election would be influenced by the opinion of some celebrity in sport, business or entertainment. And enough of them said yes, they would change sides, to affect the overall result of a general election. Mega-costly footballer Alan Shearer, for example, could allegedly change the vole of about four million people. The Spice Girls, just by saying they would vote Conservative, could bring about a ten percent swing. Richard Branson could influence the way about a third of the electorate vote.

Well anyway that is how the poll (reported in the Sunday Times, 23 February) worked it out. Before we discuss it as a typical example of ad agency buffoonery we should bear two things in mind. The first is that both Labour and Conservative parties regard the matter of celebrity endorsement seriously enough to have units at their headquarters working on it The second is that the poll may have turned out as it did because of a growing recognition that there is really nothing to choose between the two big parties. If their policies are so similar, if Blair, Brown and Straw will behave roughly the same in office as Major, Clarke and Howard there is no point in choosing one or the other party on the basis of micro-differences in their manifestos. Instead of ploughing through their election addresses and TV party political programmes, why not simply vote the same way as your favourite footballer or pop star or tycoon? “When the two parties are so similar,” said Donald Shell, who lectures in politics at Bristol University, "someone like Branson could have a considerable effect.”

Clement Attlee
This widespread recognition that there is no real difference between the Labour and Tory parties may make this election different; in the past there has been little sympathy for the socialist view, that to choose between those parties was a waste of time. Labour Party members argued with some passion that their policies would bring about important, much needed changes in society. Now that party is consumed with anxiety to reassure the voters that they will change nothing that matters. If that makes them seem just another Tory party—well, the Tories have won an awful lot of elections even if we don’t count the last four and winning elections is what Labour is in business for.

In fact the two parties have always stood for fundamentally the same things — for all that is implied by a social system of class ownership of the means of production and distribution. The differences between them were always superficial, even in those heady days of 1945 when Clem Attlee became prime minister on the basis of the manifesto Let Us Face the Future (even then there were those who asked whether Labour’s willingness to have us face the future was rooted in their reluctance to face their past). Attlee did not use one of those big limousines which are now so essential a part of a minister’s life; he was driven around by his wife in a drab, modest family car and that was the style in which he went to Buckingham Palace to see the King about being prime minister. The King knew what was coming: nationalisation, the National Health Service, Keynesian economics and so on. At the time the Labour Party, celebrating the opportunity to put their ideas into practice, assured us that these measures were needed to build a stable, prosperous and secure life for us. But now most of what they established has been, or is being, dismantled—apparently without any official opposition from the Labour Party.

Nationalised coal
A prime example of this is the coal industry. One of the proudest achievements, heavy with an enormous emotional investment, of the 1945 Labour government was the nationalisation of the mines. The history of the coal industry — the terrible working conditions, the “accidents” which killed hundreds of miners, the greed and complacency of the private owners—was awful enough to generate a lot of support for the plan to take the industry into state control (after appropriately compensating those greedy owners). Vesting day was celebrated in mining communities all over the country.

Of course years of privatising Conservative government has since changed the situation but for a long time the Labour Party clung to a stated intention to re-nationalise the coal industry. In March 1994 their shadow Energy Secretary, Martin O'Neill, told the Commons, “The Labour Party is not simply opposed to the [Privatisation] Bill. It is committed to the re-introduction of public ownership of the coal industry.” A lot of Labour Party members, not to mention a lot of miners, must have thought that was pretty clear, except that six months later that same Martin O'Neill confided to a gathering of the industry’s executives, “While we envisage a national role for coal in our energy strategy, we do not intend to re-nationalise the industry.” He did not add, “Because we think nationalisation is a vote loser”, but if he had that would have made it clear to everybody.

Losing votes—or winning them—has always been vital to the Labour Party but now it is their obsession, open and unashamed. It was not always so obvious. In the past, before the spin doctors ruled, Labour was capable of producing policies which seemed not only irrelevant to the needs of British capitalism but also inexplicably suicidal. For example in their 1953 statement Challenge to Britain Labour proposed to take the British Sugar Corporation into “full public ownership". There was a storm of opposition in the industry led by the giant Tate and Lyle. This company was responsible for creating a cartoon character—Mr Cube, a talking sugar lump who appeared on every pack of sugar, going on about labour’s plan to bring down civilised life as we know it, starting with the sugar industry. Labour’s proposal came to nothing and now a state of peace and mutual admiration exists between the Labour Party and the sugar industry. In November 1994, when Tony Blair made one of his many speeches which assure a gathering of high-flying business people that they had nothing to fear from a Labour government, one of his audience enthused:
   ". . . an excellent speech, very focused. If there is a Labour government I don't think anybody is going to be concerned that there's going to be a great vendetta against business.” 
That comment came from Neil Shaw, chairman of Tate and Lyle.

The Labour Party manifesto in the 1987 election had a clear commitment on Child Benefit: “We will increase Child Benefit by £3 a week for all children, raise the allowance for the first child by £7.36 . . . " In 1992 the figures were different but the promise largely similar: “We will increase Child Benefit to £9.95 a week for all children with the full value going to every family.” This was another of those promises dear to the hearts of Labour supporters but now shadow Chancellor, Gordon Brown, has other ideas. He plans to end the payment of Child Benefit to all families, in particular for 16-17-year-olds in full time education. His argument for this, at last year’s Labour conference, was that at present the benefit would be paid for a millionaire’s child but not for an unemployed youngster but he did not say how it helped the out-of-work child to abolish the payment. At present Labour has no plans to keep to its former promise to increase the level of the benefit.

Of course Brown is busily building for himself a reputation as an Iron Chancellor—and this before he has taken hold of so much as one of those red boxes. He is not impressed by Labour supporters’ emotional attachment to schemes for spending out on things like hospitals, schools, houses. Under his unrelenting scrutiny there will, he warns, be only “ . . . costed, hard-headed radical policies . . . No quick fixes. No easy options . . . No wish-list spending solutions . . . “ This sounds just like any Conservative chancellor—in fact a sight more dour than many of them, just as shadow Home Secretary Jack Straw’s promises to be harsher and more demanding than Michael Howard, and shadow Education Secretary David Blunkett more rigid and repressive than Gillian Shephard. And over them all looms Tony Blair, who regularly dispenses the most appalling guff: ". . . Our education system must be guaranteed to serve all our people, not an elite . . . We must ensure that the new technologies, with their almost limitless potential, are harnessed and dispersed among all our people . . . We must create a society based on a notion of mutual rights and responsibilities . . . “

Anyone who has had enough of this kind of empty rhetoric may be asking why. The first thing to say is that there has not been a transformation in the Labour Party. The apparent change is not out of the party’s character, something which can be reversed when the party rediscovers its soul. The Labour Party was formed and developed with the aim of governing British capitalism. That is what they did in those days, the subject now of so much misguided nostalgia, when they nationalised almost everything except the sugar industry, when they set up the National Health Service and what came to be know as the Welfare State. Their record shows that they ran capitalism as it had to be run—as a class society of poverty and riches, of exploitation and conflict. They did not control capitalism, as they had promised, because it is a system out of control. That essential chaos has been the story of every Labour government since 1924.

Opinion poll
After nearly 20 years in opposition, the Labour Party has decided that their best hope of winning an election is to make the necessary changes so that they are almost identical to the Conservatives. After all if Tory policies and images have been so successful why not just imitate them? Of course this may upset a few traditional supporters but they can always join Arthur Scargill’s doomed battalion. But the cynicism may be too obvious; the fact that it is now clearer than ever that the parties are so alike may alert a lot of voters that in this election they don’t have a real choice. Why, it may even occur to the advertising industry.

Which brings us back to that opinion poll, When they told the Spice Girls about it one of them (a Tory voter) was suitably outraged: “What is the state of the government if we can have any influence. I think that’s terrible.” Was this an appeal to the working class to take the election more seriously, to value more highly their political power to change society in a meaningful way? If it really needs a pop star to do this the situation may be even more depressing than we feared. However, we are certainly not mystified by it. Only those who support the market economy can be truly surprised by the weariness and political disillusionment which infects the population at large after decades of posturing and broken promises by the parties of capitalism.