Tuesday, August 14, 2018

For Future Reference. (1916)

From the August 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard

At a War Savings meeting held at the Mansion House on Monday, June 19th, Lord Buckmaster insisted on the following facts:
  • Four days of war represents the cost of a year of education.
  • Three days of war is more than the whole of the Old Age Pensions for a year.
  • Five weeks of war costs more than the annual peace budget.—“DailyMail," June 20.

Therefore, said in effect my Lord Buck, with paralysing logic, hurry up and save more money to throw down the bloody sink!

The Christian Butcher. (1917)

From the August 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

One notices among a myriad of flag days one set aside for what is termed “a silent tribute to the late Lord Roberts.” In connection with this the following funny extract, dished up in characteristic Christian style, is not without a touch of real spice. The Bishop of Salisbury, speaking at Poole respecting the death of the “hero” of Kandahar said:
  A noble pattern for the last recruit in our new army to try to follow, he lived with the sword in his hand, but with his eyes upon Christ. His crowning glory was the pre-eminence he gave to God.
Now while it may be quite conforming to custom for people like the brave dope doctor and other high and mighty folk to hold other people’s coats what time they themselves survey the non-existent Johnny from a position twenty miles behind the front trenches, we are of the conviction that from the view-point of a soldier the advice is more likely to gain for the onlooker one "where the chopper hit the chicken” and a free passport into heaven. Still, doubtless this also forms part of the “crowning glory.” Who knows.
B. B. B.

The Revolution in Russia: Where it Fails (1918)

From the August 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard

By far the most important event in the social sense, which has occurred during the world war has been the upheaval in Russia, culminating in the revolution of March and November, 1917. For the working class these events are of supreme interest and worthy of close and deep study, not only for the purpose of keeping in touch with events as they occur, but also for learning the lessons these may impart.

Just here, however, the working class of Great Britain are faced with a most formidable obstacle in the way of their gaining even a slight knowledge of the happenings, or reaching a position where a full consideration could be given to the facts of the revolution. This obstacle is the Defence of the Realm Act.

By operations of this Act the master class sift all news coming into the country, by either Press or post, and take care that only matters allowed to be published are those that suit the interests of this class in one form or another. Thus, quite apart from their ownership of the General Press, they are able to prevent groups or individuals in this country obtaining information that might be useful to the working class. In other words, the only information or statements anyone outside of government circles can obtain here is just what it suits the master class to allow them to have.

In spite of this simple and glaring fact the I.L.P. have not hesitated in to denounce the action of November, usually called the “Bolshevik Revolution,” while the S.L.P. has acclaimed it as a great Socialist revolution.

Point is added to these facts by the appearance of two pamphlets written not only by Russians, but by men claiming to be Bolsheviks. Here, if anywhere, one might imagine, will be found useful information, concrete facts, detailed accounts of events, that would be useful in guiding us to a sound judgement.

Unfortunately, nothing whatever is told in either pamphlet, apart from expressions of opinion, except the statements already given in the capitalist Press, which for the reasons above must be taken with the utmost caution.

The first pamphlet entitled: "War or Revolution", is written by Leon Trotsky, and is published by the S.L.P. at Glasgow. No date of its writing is given, but from internal evidence it was seemingly written in 1915—before the fall of the Czar—and appears to have been originally published in America.

While claiming to be a Marxist Trotsky appears surprised at the actions of the so-called Socialist International in voting war credits and supporting the war. To any serious Marxian student this was only to be expected. The Socialist Party stands firm and solid on the line of the class war. Only here is he impregnable. Only on this basis can the workers organise successfully for the overthrow of capitalism. For years past the S.P.G.B. alone in this country, and the Marxist groups in other countries, have pointed out that sections from England, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, etc., that formed the majority of the International, either had abandoned, or had never taken up, a stand upon the class war, and were therefore really not Socialists in the proper sense of the word. Their actions when the war began and since have simply emphasised the truth of our former case. That it took this world-slaughter to enlighten Trotsky as to the real position of these sections shows how little he grasped their actual attitude before. He is equally mistaken in his judgement of events in England, for on p.16 he says:
In England the Russian Revolution [1905] hastened the growth of independent Socialism.
Quite apart from the fact that the 1905 upheaval in Russia was a capitalist and not a Socialist movement, this statement is absolutely incorrect. A movement that is not independent cannot be Socialist, and the Russian episode had no measurable effect upon either the Labour or the Socialist movement in this country. The real break with the old compromising policy that had saturated the movement in England, took place in 1904—a year before the Russian outbreak—when the Marxists formed up in the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

Equally mistaken is Trotsky’s statement on the same page that “six or seven years ago [that is six or seven years before 1915] in England, the Labour Party, after separating from the Liberal Party, entered into the closest association with it again.” As every student of the history of the Labour Party knows, that party has never been out of the “closest association” with the Liberal Party since the day it formed. Just as incorrect is the phrase in the concluding section (p.27) where the author says: “Socialist reformism has actually turned into Socialist imperialism.”

Reformism and Imperialism are capitalist, and can by no stretch of the imagination be called Socialist. Such misuse of the latter word, especially by one claiming to be a Socialist, is a direct assistance to the master class in their endeavours to further confuse the minds of the working class by misrepresentation of various kinds.

The second pamphlet was written by M. Litvinoff in March 1918, but it adds nothing to our knowledge of affairs in Russia, as it simply consists of a selection of the statements that have appeared in the capitalist Press of this country. In some instances these statements are exceedingly useful against agents of the master class like Kerensky, and we have used these admissions ourselves in the Socialist Standard when Kerensky was in power. Some of the other statements are significant in their bearing on the actions of the workers in Russia in a manner unsuspected of Litvinoff.

One feature of extreme and peculiar importance in these movements is treated by both the above writers in exactly the same manner, i.e., with silence. This feature is the economic and social position of the working class in Russia. For a matter of such importance to be neglected by both writers, shows either a lack of knowledge of the Russian situation or a deliberate attempt to conceal such knowledge from their readers. As two such Russians are either unable or unwilling to supply this information the only thing left is to take that available before the war and try to apply it to the solution of the present situation. Clearly this can only be a provisional judgement while awaiting reliable news of the revolutions and of the present position of the workers in Russia.

Even to-day Russia is largely an agricultural country, some authorities stating that 80 per cent. of the population are engaged in that calling. Their system, however, has certain peculiar features that would take a large volume to describe.

In the main the agricultural population is divided up in village groups or communities largely based on what is called the “Mir.” Each peasant is allotted a certain amount of land, depending on the number of his family. The holdings are changed periodically so as to prevent any one individual retaining the best land. If the population increases beyond the limits of the land controlled by the “Mir,” a group forms up and moves out to new lands in a manner so well described by Julius Faucher in his brilliant essay on The Russian Agrarian System. As this group is related to the old “Mir,” communication and intercourse are kept up and a division of a race may have a whole series villages spread out over a certain area, and having a more or less loose connection with each other. The land, however, is not owned by the village group. In the ultimate it is owned by the Czar in his capacity as “Father of the People” though large number of estates have been granted to the Nobles for their military and other services rendered to the Crown.

This ownership, whatever particular form it may take, is admitted by all the “Mir” by the payment of a charge for the land, usually termed a tax. This tax is paid to the Noble where he holds an estate and to the Czar where the latter is personal owner.

Into the developments, complications, abuses and rogueries that have resulted from this system we have not the space to go. One illustration can be found in Carl Joubert’s Russia as it really is and Stepaniak in his Russian Peasantry, has given a masterly description of its workings. It will be sufficient to point out that apart from minor modifications three broad divisions have developed.

In the wild forest regions of the North, the people are still in the upper stage of Barbarism, being a mixture of hunters and pastoral workers, who know practically nothing of the affairs of the outer world. In the middle regions the spread of the use of money and the effects that follow have resulted in more modern methods of working the estates. Owing to the heavy tax imposed large numbers of peasants have been unable to pay this charge after a poor season, with the inevitable result that they fall into the hands of money-lenders—who in numerous cases are actual members of the “Mir” —or they have to give up their holdings and either work for the money-lender or drift into the towns in search of work.

In the South or “Black Belt” region, largely owing to the fertility of the soil, old-fashioned methods still persist and the peasants make desperate struggles to retain their holdings, but were slowly losing their grip before the war.

The abolition of serfdom on private estates in 1861 and on the Czar’s estates in 1871, was loudly announced as a great emancipation of the peasants. Under these decrees the peasants were supposed to be placed in a position were they could purchase their holdings, either individually or as a village group or Mir. The Nobles, of course, still retained the bulk of the estates granted to them, and it was intended that the big landlords would be balanced in the social system by the large number of small owners or peasant proprietors that would be sure to follow the great act of “emancipation”. In the vast majority of cases, of course, the whole thing was a fraud and the landlords and moneylenders being the only ones, as a rule, able to purchase land, we have the paradox that the measure introduced to extend peasant proprietorship has resulted in the concentration of large estates in fewer hands than before. This has increased the number of landless peasants which recent estimates have placed at about one-third of the agricultural population, while even those who favour the system do not claim that more than another third have become owners of the land, either individually or through their village groups.

The local affairs of the Mir are managed by the open general meetings, and these meetings elect the Elder or Mayor, who is the spokesman and delegate before the authorities. As stated above, the moneylender of the village is often a member of the Mir, and owing to his economic hold on the peasants he is often elected as the Elder.

It was, and is, people of this type that Kerensky represents. The Mir, of course, is under general Government control, usually through a “superintendent” or police officer.

In the Western area and the Southern Oil Belt industrial towns of the usual capitalist type, have developed in late years, and contain a number of genuine proletarians or wage slaves.

Is this huge mass of people, numbering about 160,000,000 and spread over eight and a half millions of square miles, ready for Socialism? Are the hunters of the North, the struggling peasant proprietors of the South, the agricultural wage slaves of the Central Provinces, and the industrial wage slaves of the towns convinced of the necessity, and equipped with the knowledge requisite, for the establishment of the social ownership of the means of life?

Unless a mental revolution such as the world has never seen before has taken place, or an economic change has occurred immensely more rapidly than history has recorded, the answer is “No!”

And it is extremely significant that neither Trotsky nor Litvinoff say a single word on this aspect of the situation. In fact, as far as one can judge, the best, but all too brief, account of the present position in certain parts of Russia is given by Mr. Price in his articles in the Manchester Guardian during November and December, 1917.

Leaving aside the subsidiary differences in the economic positions of the different provinces, the one great fact common to the mass of the peasantry is their desire to be rid of the burden of the tax they have to pay for their land, whether to the local lord or to the Government, so that they may gain a livelihood from their holdings. This applies to both the individual and the group holders. Hence the peasants’ movements are not for social ownership, but merely for the abolition of the tax burden and their right to take up new land as the population increases. In other words, they only wish to be free the old system of individual or group cultivation from governmental taxes and control.

The agricultural and industrial wage-workers would be in a similar position economically as the same class of workers in Western Europe, if allowance is made for the lesser capitalist development of Russia.

What justification is there, then, for terming the upheaval in Russia a Socialist Revolution? None whatever beyond the fact that the leaders in the November movement claim to be Marxian Socialists. M. Litvinoff practically admits this when he says (p.37):
  In seizing the reigns of power the Bolsheviks were obviously playing a game with high stakes. Petrograd had shown itself entirely on their side. To what extent would the masses of the proletariat and the peasant army in the rest of the country support them?
This is a clear confession that the Bolsheviks themselves did not know the views of the mass when they took control. At a subsequent congress of the soviets the Bolsheviks had 390 out of a total of 676.

It is worthy of note that none of the capitalist papers gave any description of the method of electing either the Soviets or the delegates to the Congress. And still more curious is it that though M. Litvinoff says these delegates “were elected on a most democratic basis”, he does not give the slightest information about this election. This is more significant as he claims the Constituent Assembly “had not faithfully represented the real mind of the people”

From the various accounts and of the capitalist Press (and, as stated above, M. Litvinoff does not supply us with any other information) it seem the Bolsheviks form the driving force, and perhaps even the majority, of the new Government, sometimes called the Soviet Government and sometimes the “Council of Peoples’ Commissaries”. The Soviet Government certainly appears to have been accepted, or at least acquiesced in, by the bulk of the Russian workers. The grounds for this acceptance are fairly clear. First the Soviet Government promised peace; secondly they promised a settlement of the land question; thirdly they announced a solution of the industrial workers grievances.

Unfortunately various and often contradictory accounts are given of the details of this programme, and Litvinoff’s statements are in vague general terms that give no definite information on the matter. Until some reliable account of the Soviet Government’s programme is available detailed judgement must remain suspended. That this mixed Government should have been tacitly accepted by the Russian workers is no cause for surprise. Quite the contrary. They (the Soviet Government) appear to have done all that was possible in the circumstances to carry their peace proposals.

And we are quite confident that if the mass of the people in any of the belligerent countries, with the possible exception of America, were able to express their views, free from consequences, on Peace or Continuance of War, an overwhelming majority would declare in favour of Peace.

As is admitted by the various sections of the capitalist Press, the Soviet representatives at the Brest-Litovsk Conference stood firm on their original proposals to the last moment. That they had to accept hard terms in the end is no way any discredit to them, but it was a result of conditions quite beyond their control. If they had done no more than this, if they had been compelled to give up office on their return, the fact that they had negotiated a stoppage of the slaughter and maiming of millions of the working class would have been a monument to their honour, and constituted an undeniable claim to the highest approbation of the workers the world over.

Of course the capitalist Press at once denounced the signing of the Peace treaty as “dastardly treachery”, and so on. We can quite easily understand that the agents of the foullest and most hypocritical ruling class the world has ever seen, steeped to their eyes in their own cruel treacheries, should have been astounded at the Soviet Government keeping its pledge to the Russian people, instead of selling them out to the Allied Governments.

Then follow the usual stereotyped “outrages” and “crimes” that the master class agents never fail to provide when an opponent dares to stand in their path. Unfortunately for these capitalist agents, their own correspondents are allowed to move freely over the country, and often “give the game away” by describing improvements both in ordinary administration and economic conditions under the new rule. And Mr. Litvinoff scores neatly here over the capitalist Press by comparing the alleged “outrages” with the actions of the master class against the workers after the fall of the Paris commune. A still more striking illustration is given by the Mr. Price from Russia itself, in his article in the Manchester Guardian for November 28th, 1917, where he describes the cold-blooded slaughter of 500,000 Khirgiz Tartars by the Czar’s Government in 1916. And he caustically remarks:
   While Western Europe has heard about Armenian massacres, the massacre of the Central Asian Moslems by the Tsar’s agents has been studiously hidden.
Indeed, if the Soviet Government were to start on a campaign of deliberate slaughter, it would take them many busy years to even approach the huge number of victims of the last Czar’s reign. But so far all the evidence points to the allegations of Bolshevik butcheries being but a tissue of lies fabricated to suit bourgeois purposes.

And what of the future? It is impossible to offer any close forecast in the face of our lack of knowledge. We do not know what the Soviet Government has promised the peasants. We are ignorant of what measures they are putting into operation to solve the complicated land question. Despite the existence of the Mir organisation it will be easier for the Russian government to arrange for the management of the factories and industries of the towns than to settle the various and widely divergent, detailed demands of the peasants of the different provinces. There is no ground whatever for supposing that they are ready or willing to accept social ownership of the land, along with the other means of production. Are the Bolsheviks prepared to try to establish something other than this? If so does it not at once flatly contradict M. Litvinoff’s claim that they are establishing Socialism?

And grim shadows are spreading from both sides. On one side the Germans are trying to exploit and plunder as much as possible while they have the chance; on the other side the Japanese, assisted by British and American forces are entering on an exactly similar expedition, with the same objects in view. Also it has been reported that the Allied forces landing on the Murman coast are either under the command of or are accompanied by a notorious Czarist officer, General Gourko, who is working hard for the restoration of the Romanoffs.

With the mass of the Russian people still lacking the knowledge necessary for the establishment of socialism, with both groups of belligerents sending armed forces into the country, with the possible combination of those groups for the purpose of restoring capitalist rule, even if not a monarchy, in Russia, matters look gloomy for the people there. If the capitalist class in the belligerent countries succeed in this plan, the Soviet Government and its supporters may expect as little mercy as—nay, less than—the Khirgiz Tartars received. It may be another Paris Commune on an immensely larger scale.

Every worker who understands his class position will hope that some way will be found out of the threatened evil. Should that hope be unrealised, should further victims be fated to fall to the greed and hatred of the capitalist class, it will remain on record that when members of the working class took control of affairs in Russia, they conducted themselves with vastly greater humanity, managed social and economic matters with greater ability and success and with largely reduced pain and suffering, than any section of the cunning, cowardly, ignorant capitalist class were able to do, with all the numerous advantages they possessed.
Jack Fitzgerald

Comparisons. (1919)

Jack Cornwell, VC
(8 January 1900 – 2 June 1916)
From the August 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

“We do not forget Jack Cornwell,” said the Lord Mayor of London addressing same of the men of the Navy. The humbug of it is paralyzing to those who remember how the class for whom he was speaking kept Jack’s mother out of her pension, tied up the money publicly subscribed for her benefit, and left her to starve. 

Similar cant is the Government’s eulogies of the rank and file who did the fighting and the suffering, and the workers who supplied the means by which the war was carried on and won. Thousands of those who bore and reared the men who died in the trenches or at sea, and those men and women, and boys and girls, who were blown to pieces in the munitions factories, are Old Age Pensioners, yet, we are informed by the “Daily Chronicle” (Aug. 5th), notwithstanding that the London Old Age Pensions Committee is “still urging the Government to authorise a special allowance to old age pensioners in order that none of them, owing to poverty, should be left out of the peace rejoicings,” the Chancellor of the Exchequer “has hitherto declined to authorise a special allowance of 5s. to every pensioner, as recommended by the Committee.”

And at the moment when they are refusing a stingy 5s. to the poverty-stricken fathers and mothers, and grandfathers and grandmothers, of their “heroes,” they are showering hundreds of thousands upon their fighting-chiefs, and fighting like the very devil to pass a Bill to raise their own salaries from £2,000 a year to £5,000. They are as dead to shame as they are to humanity.

Stir yourselves, workers, and settle with the gang once for all.

Birthday Honours. (1920)

From the August 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

With, this number we complete the sixteenth volume of our Party Organ, the Socialist Standard. During the sixteen years through which we have run our journal we have had trying times—times which have been as severe tests, both of political solidity and of determination to survive, as we are likely to encounter short of the final struggle of the Revolution, and we have come through with unsmirched banner and untarnished record. There have been many hands at the helm, but as time has removed some and brought others to the labour the changes have left no discernable mark upon our pages. Just as we have found no occasion to alter one word of the. Declaration of Principles which has appeared in each copy we have sent out, so, no matter what changes have taken place in the personnel of our staff, what editors have come and gone, what successive Executives have taken control, in all things that matter our paper has remained unchanged. The reason for this is not far to seek—they have all done their work under a sound Declaration of Principles, published to the world, a guide alike for those within to work by, and for those without to test that work by.

So through these years we have held on our course without deviation, true to every clause, every statement, every affirmation, of the guiding principles under which our journal was launched. Others have tried all manner of shifts and dodges to find a short cut, or even to snatch personal advantage for interested Controllers. We, however, sure of the correctness of our claim that there it no royal road to Socialism, no other path than the hard and steep one of working-class revolutionary education, no other helpful policy than that based on the Class Struggle, have resolutely and consistently left such expedients to those others, content to have them provide our object lessons for us.

For our part we still proclaim that the proletariat must want Socialism before they can establish it, and that they must understand Socialism before they can want it; we still assert that society is divided into two classes—a master class and an enslaved class—with diametrically opposed interests, and that the freedom of the enslaved class can only be the fruits of victory in a class struggle; we still declare that the basis of society as at present constituted, is the private ownership of the means of living, and that reforms—anything in fact short of the abolition of private ownership in the means of living, and the establishment of common ownership in its stead—must be futile and utterly helpless to effect amelioration of the general condition of the workers' position; we still preach that the road to this overthrow of the present social system lies in the capture of the political machinery, and we are as emphatically insistent as ever upon the point that the means to such end are already in the hands of the workers in their possession of the vast bulk of the voting power in all advanced capitalist countries.

Such being our beliefs we have shaped our policy sternly in accordance therewith. We have set our faces against compromises of every shape and form. We have refused to have anything to do with reforms, no matter how alluring they appeared, or how much they ran in the popular fancy. We have conducted all our activities in the light of the class struggle, keeping clear the issue—the overthrow of the dominant capitalist class and the system under which they dominate.

This policy has not been without its reward. The sickening records of the pseudo-Socialist parties become increasingly maloderiferous in the nostrils of thoughtful working men and women, and as our exposures drive, and historical events draw, these renegade parties into the open, and force them more and more to reveal themselves as the anti-Socialists they are, our clean record is appealing to increasing numbers. The demand for our Party Organ, notwithstanding the smaller facilities for disposing of it at our disposal, is greater at the close of the sixteenth volume than it has ever been, a fact which has its reflection in greater enquiry for our application for membership forms and a steady enrolment of new members.

The "If" Man Again. (1921)

Letter to the Editors from the August 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Sirs,

As a regular reader of the Socialist Standard I read with interest the article “Parliamentary or Direct Action,” also “Where Russia Stands” in May issue. I fully recognise the importance of parliamentary action in the struggle to establish Socialism, but should like to ask a few questions. Any talk of armed rising in face of the up to-date bloody methods of warfare employed by capitalist States is mere madness. I agree there.

But what is to be done if the master class refused to allow the use of the ballot box when the workers understood their position? Again, why shouldn’t Socialists get into the Labour Party to convert its rank and file to Socialism as in the trade unions ?

The Labour Party is a working class party, its rank and file being anti-capitalists.

Do you favour Socialists working for the development of Socialism from craft and industrial basis? And concerning your article on Russia, suppose the SP.G.B. had been the S.P. of Russia, what would have been its position in 1917.? I believe the Communists of Russia to have done the only thing possible considering the time, country, and conditions. Our methods will be different, as our conditions will be different.
S. Warr.

Our Reply.
The master class can only refuse to allow the use of the ballot box at the expense of chaos. As pointed out in the article “Parliamentary or Direct Action,” capitalism has become far too complicated a system for the capitalists to manage personally? Hence the continued delegation of powers and functions to various and increasing bodies, as County Councils, Borough Councils, Town Councils, Boards of Trade, of Education, of Agriculture, of Asylums, etc., right down to the little Parish meeting.

These bodies carry on the normal and detail functions of society under the laws made in Parliament, and under the general control of that central body of power. The extension of capitalism and the concentration of wealth into fewer hands compels the ever-increasing delegation of these social functions with the necessary growth in the number of elected persons and the consequent extension of the Franchise. To attempt to hold up all this elaborate machinery would result in appalling chaos, far worse than anything described in the worst tales about Russia. If the capitalists ever dreamed of taking such a course it could only be as a last act of despair when the circumstances and conditions would render such an action too late to be effective.

Trade unions are organisations that the conditions of capitalism bring into existence. They arise out of the imperative necessity which the workers are under of debating the price and conditions under which they sell their labour power. Their essential work is confined to the industrial field. Socialists as workers, are faced with the necessity of joining trade unions for the purpose of carrying on this daily struggle, just as other workers are. Inside the unions they use the opportunities offered to carry on Socialist propaganda.

The Labour Party is a political party supporting capitalism—see, for instance, its actions on the War, and the other evidence in our Manifesto—while its rank and file are obviously not anti-capitalist, or they would have compelled their representatives to oppose instead of supporting capitalism. Hence for a Socialist to join the Labour Party means supporting a defender of capitalism and is in direct contradiction to Socialism.

The Socialist works inside the trade union as he does outside, to develop the workers’ knowledge of the slave position of their class. As their knowledge grows they will have their organisation on this class basis instead of on that of craft or industry.

It is easy to suppose all sorts of absurdities when endeavouring to place ideas developed from one set of conditions into an entirely different set. If the S P.G.B. had been the S.P. of Russia, clearly the S.P.G B would have had all the misunderstanding and ignorance of the European situation that the S.P. of Russia had, and would have acted as the latter did. If, however, our correspondent means if the S.P.G.B. with its knowledge and understanding of European conditions had been in Russia in 1917, then that party, at all events, would not have made the great mistake of the Russians— the mistake of thinking that the working class of Europe were ready to rise in revolt against capitalism and to establish Socialism in its place.

Whether the Communists did the only thing possible is a debatable question, as full knowledge of all the circumstances is not yet available. The position of the S.P.G.B. at the time of the upheaval in Russia was that conditions there made the establishment of Socialism impossible. The evidence and events since then have shown the correctness of our analysis.
Editorial Committee

Workmen's Compensation. (1922)

Book Review from the August 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

Workmen's Compensation. by W. H. Thompson, Solicitor. 2s. 6d. Labour Publishing Co., 6, Tavistock Square, W.C.1.

This is another of the Labour Publishing Company’s useful books. True, it deals with the administration of capitalist laws—made to assist the smooth running of the “wheels of industry’’—but although the author in his preface describes his as “not propagandist,’’ at the same time he does not claim to be impartial. He treats his subject with a definite bias towards the worker—and this plain statement of the Act shows the nature of our capitalist administration in no uncertain manner. Mr. Thompson has outlined a complicated subject in a clear and concise manner, and all workers who are likely to come in contact with the operation of the Act would do well to purchase this book.

Its production is a credit to the publishers—neatly bound, well written, clear type, with a useful index—it deserves a wide circulation. Its price makes it possible for every Trade Union branch to purchase a copy, and a study of it should help workers to avoid many of those apparently trivial mistakes and omissions which allow employers and Insurance Companies to escape observing the provisions of the law.

Inside the capitalist system, while the care of the casualties of industry remains a legal obligation unwillingly borne and readily shirked, instead of a social duty, it is for the workers to get the maximum amount possible. The scope of the book is limited in this sense, but within the limit it is excellent.
R. Bird

Brains and Bullets. (1923)

From the August 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

How the S.D.F. fights for Socialism.
   "Few advanced thinkers have devoted more time to promoting international fraternity than Thorne. . . . He championed the cause of the Entente, and took part in the campaign for voluntary recruiting.”
— Will Thorne’s Election Address, 1922.

How The Law Protects Property. (1924)

From the August 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

The foundation of Capitalist society and civilisation is—as its name indicates—the private ownership of property. The state or the organisation of government in Capitalist society exists nominally to preserve the equilibrium—the balance of antagonistic forces within society—and it does this by maintaining with all the power at its command this private property basis.

In the fulfilling of this, its primary purpose, the State acts in the main according to certain rules—rules of its own making— which collectively are known as “the Law.”

The protection of property and the preservation and enforcement of the social forms and observances dependent upon property is thus the essential function of the Law.

These are elementary facts of sociology, well known to Socialists, but, unfortunately, still unrecognised by the majority of our fellow workers. Their minds are so warped by the press, platform and other agencies of mis-education controlled by the property owning class that for them, as for the parasites who live and flourish on them, the Law is the great and wonderful preserver of social order without which all organisation would vanish and anarchy prevail.

The Law thus regarded comes to have a halo of sanctity thrown around it. It becomes a god-like power, beneficent in its ruling but terrible in its vengeance upon the transgressors. As a god it has its own sacred books and ritual, its prophets, priests and tabernacles.

Through all this glorification and mysticism the Socialist must crash with the axe of his logic and show the world’s workers that the Law is one of the most powerful weapons of those who exploit and oppress them—that it is an agent of slave owners for the perpetuation of slavery.

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   There is still abundant evidence that the law continues to prefer property to persons. For example, if you assault an ordinary person the maximum punishment is one year’s imprisonment, but if you are a poacher and assault a gamekeeper the maximum sentence rises to seven years' penal servitude. One might think that a policeman had interests to safeguard as valuable as those of the gamekeeper, but the law holds that if you assault a policeman in the execution of his duty the maximum punishment must not be more than two years’ imprisonment.
   On the other hand, forgery affecting the transfer of money or money’s worth can be rewarded by a sentence of penal servitude for life, and so can malicious damage to bridges, railways, and ships, and even such damage to plants in a garden can be punished by five years’ penal servitude. If three or more persons go poaching a sentence of fourteen years may await them, but if a man indecently assaults a woman or a girl two years’ imprisonment is the maximum imprisonment, and if you allow a girl of 14 or 15 years of age to reside in a brothel the utmost indignation of the law is expressed by six months’ imprisonment.
(Manchester Guardian, July 26th, 1924).
R. W. Housley

Asked and Answered (1925)

Letters to the Editors from the August 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard
J. G. (Belfast) asks five questions on our policy. We give question and answer below:
1. Q. What is meant by political action? —A. Political action is that action taken to use or control the institutions of government, local and national.

2 Q. Is Parliamentary action a phase of political action?—A. Parliament is the central institution of national government, and action taken to use or control Parliament is therefore political action.

3. Q. Is the ballot the Marxian method of capturing the political state?—A. As the central machine of the political state is Parliament and the ballot gives the workers an opportunity of electing a majority, the use of the ballot by a Socialist working class is the means under present conditions for the capture of the State. This policy is | based on Marx’s teachings and is in harmony with the necessities of the situation.

4. Q. Do we advocate political organisation to the exclusion of industrial organisation?—A. No; our party manifesto points out that economic organisation is necessary under capitalism.

5. Q. Trade unions not being class conscious at present, would our party assist them in their struggles against the masters —A. Yes. When they act for the workers’ welfare Socialists support their actions, but point out the limits of all trade union action. The function of Socialists being to make Socialists and assist to establish Socialism, the Socialist Party therefore points the lesson to all trade unionists that only Socialism can secure to the producer real and permanent improvement in his conditions. The work of a Socialist Party is to teach Socialism and organise those who agree with it.
Editorial Committee