Friday, August 17, 2018

Letter: Alternative to market (1993)

Letter to the Editors from the August 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Editors,

In your review of David Ramsay Steele's book From Marx to Mises (June issue), you mention his citation of a non-market, anti-centralist model of society, that is “anarcho-communism". You seem to accept his view that lack of central planning leads to local autarky and that anarchist communists advocate this. This is certainly not the case. We believe that much can be decided on a local level through a system of neighbourhood and workplace councils, but that there is a need for coordination of areas on a regional basis, right on up to a global level—to determine what is produced and how much, for example, to satisfy the needs of the population of the whole world.

In the same issue you ask if “anarcho-communists feel comfortable being grouped with these people” (that is people like Ayn Rand etc). Well, the answer is, we do not. We in the Anarchist Communist Federation have consistently argued that anarchism is based on class-struggle, and as a movement had its origins in the First International, a working class organisation. We have always dismissed descriptions of Ayn Rand. Tolstoy. Stirner and so on as “anarchist” (descriptions which they never used themselves) as inaccurate and misleading.
Ron Allen
London E1

Glad to see you agree with us that the alternative to the market is not some impossible return to local self-sufficiency but common ownership with real democracy local to global. Not that we did any more than record, without discussing its accuracy, Steele's claim that Kropotkin stood for “local autarky”—Editors.

Big Sister is watching you — official (1994)

From the August 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Stella Rimington, who is the Director-General of what is laughably called The Security Service (in short, the spying game) has spilt the beans regarding the dirty work of these government-funded low-lives who earn their salaries by spying on workers considered to be dangerous to the ruling class.

In her 1994 Dimbleby Lecture Rimington provides a definition of subversion which is most instructive: "activities intended to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means". Now, socialists intend to overthrow so-called parliamentary democracy. Our aim is the democratic establishment of full economic democracy. And we intend to achieve this through democratic political means. This, according to Rimington’s definition, is subversive.

So, what do the spies have in mind for subversives? Rimington’s lecture was chillingly candid:
   "The Service set out to identify all the members of these subversive groups and to investigate their activities . . . With the proper legal authority, we may need to tap their telephones, open their letters or eavesdrop on their conversations to find out their intentions. We may have to observe their movements secretly, or recruit members of those organisation as agents to tell us from the inside what is being planned."
Feeling paranoid? Not as much as they are. According to BOSS agent, Robin Ramsay (in an interview cut from a 1981 Panorama programme, but printed verbatim elsewhere), "British intelligence has a saying that if there is a left-wing movement in Britain bigger than a football team our man is the captain or vice-captain, and if not, he is the referee and can send any man off the field and call our man on any time he likes" (Perspectives, issue 8). Who is to know how many of the leaders of the leftist sects are paid confusionists appointed by the state? We have often said that certain left-wing parties have done so much discredit to the cause of socialism that the ruling class could not have done a better job. Perhaps the ruling class have sometimes been doing the job.

Incidentally, these spies are not totally stupid. At one point Rimington mentions that it was "state capitalism" which many of the leftists were on about. And is it quite right that for most of this century many of those calling themselves "socialists" or "communists" (with the unqualified exception of the Socialist Party) were not actually opposing capitalism, but supporting a different version of capitalism, often identified with overseas dictatorships.

As far as this party is concerned. Big Sister and her spies are welcome to observe us. Indeed, we hope that they will learn something about the nature of society in the process. We are a party without leaders. So, they can infiltrate who they like into our ranks (as long as they convince us that they are socialists) and preferably send their spies out to sell this journal for us because somebody has to do it. Unlike the conspiratorial Leninist would-be vanguards, we have no secrets from the working class, so there is nothing worth bugging in the Socialist Party. In fact, in return for a generous donation, we can post our conference minutes and other fascinating documents directly to MI5, with free leaflets explaining the case for socialism to spies looking for a way out of a lousy job.

Down with justice!
The new Criminal Justice Bill is a piece of vicious legislation enacted by legalised criminals in the interest of injustice. The basis of property ownership is nothing less than the legally enforceable right of a small class of thieves (less than five percent of the population) to monopolise the earth and its resources at the expense of the wealth-producing majority. Any laws passed to solidify this freedom of thievery is deemed by them to be Justice; offenders against the holy law of property power are called Criminals. Hence the Criminal Justice Bill.

The Bill, which will give sweeping new powers to the police against workers in conflict with the rights of property, is another in a long line of attacks upon the ever-limited freedoms of the working- class majority in society. The powers given to uniformed boot-boys (themselves working-class mercenaries, of course) against homeless people who squat in unused properties or occupy available land will result in more misery and poverty for wage-slaves who have refused to knuckle under the conventional property code of the system. In truth, the idea of beating capitalism by squatting in empty houses (usually slums) or retreating into some ill-defined and rather uncomfortable "New Age" has always been a non-starter; but now the state is out to teach these workers just how unfree they are.

The new law contains fresh powers to control and suppress free assembly, including the rights of police to close down public gatherings of workers. Our rulers have never liked the idea of workers meeting together; our collective intelligence has always been a threat to them. In the last century they passed the infamous Gag Acts, laws forbidding more than six workers to meet in one place without the permission of a magistrate, and Sedition Acts which made it a conspiracy to advocate workers’ freedom. In 1819 they showed their democratic credentials when they massacred a peaceful crowd gathered to defend free speech in Manchester: the British Tiananmen Square. The new law being introduced now, which is partly the opportunist creation of a desperate Thatcherite Home Secretary who is anxious to keep his job by appealing to the class-spite of his party supporters, is no more than a continuation of the British state’s long-standing antagonism towards democratic freedoms for workers.

Capitalist democracy is something of a joke. Their justice is a sick joke. And when a class which has stolen the wealth of the world and spat on the liberties of the wealth-producing majority lectures us about threats to democracy and justice we are determined to be more openly subversive to their system than ever.
Steve Coleman

Life on the Dole (1995)

From the August 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a society where an individual's worth is measured not by personal qualities but their occupation, to lose your job is to lose your status in society and your personal identity. Even your best friends and relatives will distance themselves from you, on the assumption that you are a scrounger.

On a regular basis, the employment office will insist that you are "available for and actively seeking work” before you begin receiving the pittance known as dole money. Many unemployed people are compelled or coerced to take unattractive training and courses in order not to lose their dole money.

The present social system is wasteful because it erects barriers against useful work by millions of able people. Because we are living under the system of "no profit, no production", the number of workers out of work will always rise and fall as the industrial cycle goes through its normal phases of crisis, slump and boom.

In the competitive struggle which gives markets to the cheaper producer, each capitalist is trying to accumulate capital and expand their scale of operation, not to meet a known demand but as an end in itself, inevitably, “overproduction" develops in some big markets and crisis occurs, sales decline, investment ceases to be profitable, production is cut and workers are laid off on the scrapheap.

Now the government is urging unemployed workers to take “That Job", irrespective of wages and conditions. According to Portillo (Independent, 15 September 1994), “it is better for people to have low-paid part-time jobs than no job at all". But pricing yourself back into “that job" means accepting work less stimulating and only marginally more rewarding than wasting your time in the jobclub. Working for less wages is not a living but what has to be done to live.

The employment office is always asking why it is very difficult for you to find work. By the types of questions you have been asked, you will have sensed that the blame for your predicament is being put on you. This idea presupposes that employment is available if only the unemployed would look for it. This is an idea propagated by Portillo and his predecessors.

Every unemployed person is desperate to find a suitable job, and will take one if offered it. But forcing a job on someone regardless of the wages and conditions can only have a damaging effect.

We live in a world in which it is now possible to satisfy everybody’s needs, but the present system of production prevents this potential super-abundance being realised. Unemployment is therefore an unavoidable waste created by capitalism. The wealth that could be produced by the unemployed would be very useful and would benefit the whole community. But the present system of society does not, and cannot, work that way.
Michael Ghebre

Capitalism is Obsolete (1996)

From the August 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard
The historically progressive nature of capitalism came to an end a long time ago. Now the system represents nothing more than organised scarcity where there is the potential for abundance
It would be foolish to deny that at one time the capitalist system was a progressive development of society. It is doubtful if even a dedicated admirer of privilege would want to go back to feudalism. Who would want to be ruled by an absolute monarch in the shape of King Charles III, either with or without Queen Diana? If we were so ruled more than a few of us would be plotting a fate for him similar to the one that befell his unfortunate predecessor King Charles I. However, although capitalism once moved us forward, it has long since outlived its usefulness. We come here to bury the capitalist system, not to praise it.

In deciding whether capitalism, like feudalism, should be consigned to history we should apply one simple test. Is the capitalist system organised directly for the needs of all people? If it is not, that would be the best reason for getting rid of it, and replacing it with one that would. This is a choice between capitalism or socialism.

Capitalism is organised for private gain, for profit and the accumulation of capital. It works through class ownership and economic exploitation. It sets up economic antagonisms within communities and divides the world into rival capitalist states. It breeds the ideologies of hate which are expressed in many forms of religion, nationalism and racism. It is enforced through the power structures of the state. It creates vast amounts of waste and destruction. It turns all the useful things of life, including our labour, skills and talents into commodities to be bought and sold on the markets. Capitalism makes a god of money and puts this above the real needs of people, so how could anyone seriously argue that it is organised for the benefit of the community?

Some obvious examples can be given. Surely, the first thing that any decent society would do is make sure that everyone ate enough quality food to sustain good health, yet there are more people starving or seriously undernourished than ever before. In the 1980s UNICEF stated that 40,000 children die every day from malnutrition or malnutrition-related disease, and this has not improved. We were all shocked and sickened by the slaughter of 16 children and their teacher in Dunblane. We should also remember that throughout the world thousands of children are dying needlessly every day.

We are not only talking about undeveloped countries. In the so-called advanced countries there is widespread poverty. In Europe 30 million people live below the poverty line (less than half average national income). In America the number is 32 million. According to a report issued by the Department of Social Security Report: Households below average income 1994, one third of all children, that is 4.1 million, live in poverty.

Appalling neglect of needs
How has capitalism responded to this appalling picture of starvation and poverty? It cut food production because it was said there was “over-supply”. To understand this we have to understand that in the twisted language of the market system “over-supply” does not mean “more than we need”. It means that too much food was produced for the purpose of selling it at a profit. As a result food prices fell and profits were threatened. To increase prices and profits, production was cut.

In America in 1983, 82 million acres were taken out of cereal production. This was equivalent to the combined states of Iowa, Illinois and half of Indiana. Europe did a similar thing under a different name, “set aside”. Under the latest, 1992, reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, European farmers have had to take 15 percent of croplands out of production.

The Independent (18 March 1994) carried a picture of a Major Lloyd and his wife who are being paid £19,000 per year for growing nothing on their 215 acres of high quality arable land in Oxfordshire. Major Lloyd is an ex-life guards officer, a group who are not normally noted for their humanitarian sentiments but even he can’t help saying, “something is wrong when there are so many people starving in the world and we’re being paid not to grow food”.

A further example of how the priorities of profit and capital accumulation come before the needs of people is unemployment. In the 25 countries of the so-called Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 35 million are unemployed. In Germany it is over 4 million. Since 1980 in Britain there has never been less than two million unemployed using the old accounting methods.

In view of all the things that need to be done would a sane society keep millions of its work-force in a state of idleness? What has been the “opportunity cost”? Two million unemployed means 10 million work-days lost every week or 500 million every year. Since 1980, in Britain alone, more than eight billion work-days have been lost because of unemployment. Think of all the useful things that could have been done with these eight billion work-days, the houses and hospitals that could have been built, the production of food, better education, a decent public transport system and a clean-up of the environment. These are all examples of how the capitalist system prevents our use of resources whilst needs are denied.

We are not only talking about material things, we are also talking about dehumanised relationships in which producers are used as objects for private gain. Profit and capital accumulation can only be achieved through the economic exploitation of one class by another. The function of workers is to create values over and above what their wages or salaries will buy. This surplus is the source of the obscene disparities in the ownership of wealth which we see all around us.

The Independent (29 February') reported that in America “Just weeks after AT&T announced plans to shed 40,000 workers, it has emerged that its chief executive, Robert Allen, received a pay package in 1995 valued at just over $16 million, compared with $6.7 million a year earlier.” In this country, Barclays Bank has announced the loss of a further 1,000 jobs, just after posting $2 billion profits for 1995. This comes on top of its 21,000 workers sacked since 1991. Many such examples could be given and what they add up to is the fact that capitalism is ruthless in its treatment of people when  pursuing its aims. By no stretch of the imagination could the capitalist system be said to be organised for the benefit of the whole community, and this is the test as to whether it has outlived its usefulness, now that a world of abundance is possible.

Practical alternative
The practical alternative which would be organised directly for the needs of all people is socialism. The challenge of working with others round the world to set up a new system is not so great as it might appear. Already we have people doing useful work in every field. In farming, mining, industry, manufacture, building and transport, and in the running of services like education, health, communications, radio and television, and the like, we have people of every skill and talent doing the useful things of life. The challenge is to free these resources from the constraints and the anti-social aims of the capitalist system. If workers around the world can run society in the interests of profit-mongers then they can surely run it in their own interests.

This would have to be based on common ownership where all resources and all means of producing and distributing goods would be held in common by all people. Then through democratic control and voluntary co-operation every aspect of society would be organised solely for the benefit of the whole community.

What can be the justification for wanting to retain a system such as capitalism, which is only distinguished by its ability to generate failure and disillusion and all its various ways of thwarting the best hopes that we have for our future? The day is long overdue for getting rid of it.
Pieter Lawrence

Notelets. (1905)

Party News from the August 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The East Ham Branch has been formed. See Directory on page 8.

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F. E. Dawkins, Sec. N.W. Ham Branch I.L.P., and Organising Sec. Ilford Socialist Party, has resigned [from] these bodies to join the S.P.G.B.

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He will join Romford Division Branch. This branch has also enrolled Barnett and N. Turner, whom South London Comrades will remember in connection with the Southwark and Lambeth S.D.F. up to eighteen years ago.
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"In high S.D.F. quarters we hear of 'not unsuccessful philanthropy,' we are told we must preserve the monarchy, Alfonso is patted on the back, and some of us remember old times and rather wonder" says Herbert Burrows in Justice.
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Some of us remember old times and rather feel inclined to weep. But we don't; we join the S.P.G.B. and work.
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The S.D.F. have issued a manifesto on War, Waste and Corruption. No one questions their qualfications to deal with the last named, but why did they not bring it right up to date by including the Camborne business?
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On the back of it they say: “If you are disgusted with present-day politics, join the S.D.F." Their present-day politics compelled many of us to leave.

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Of course, the fact that the S.D.F. invites those who are merely "disgusted with present- day politics” to join accounts for their unsoundness and lack of definite policy.

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Addressing a meeting at Redruth in support of the candidature of Councillor J. Jones, Mr. J. P. Lloyd, S.D.F., was interrupted with "That’s all bluff." "Never mind about bluff." said J.P.L., "You're going to have a lot of it before I've done."
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No doubt. But you can bluff some of the people all the time, you can bluff all the people some of the time, but you cannot bluff all the people all of the time.

The Second Milestone. (1906)

Editorial from the August 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

In June we celebrated our second anniversary as a Party. With the present number we pass our second milestone as the Party's official mouthpiece.

Two years. It is not a long time. We are still quite a juvenile among organisations. We cannot boast on the score of longevity—yet. We have not, as a party, “borne for 25 years the beat and burden of the day," as certain elderly and very respectable members of other bodies claiming to be Socialist are for ever reminding us, and, for that matter, everyone else who ventures to criticise their present work; and we hope when we have as a party “borne the heat and burden of the day" for the allotted span, we shall not be so stupid as to suppose that our age is any necessary guarantee of infallible wisdom, nor be reduced to a pathetic reliance upon our hoary head as a sufficient defence for wrong action, as the venerable gentlemen aforementioned are wont to do.

Yes, we are still youthful—and virile. We have lived two years of strenuous life and falsified, by at least 18 months, the kindly prognostications (and we fear we must also say, hopes) of our good friends the enemy. And if it is any comfort to these same good friends we beg leave to state that our prospects of continued life are as favourable as ever. Indeed, more favourable, seeing that our work has enabled us to eliminate sources of weakness and establish ourselves as a working-class party, obtain international recognition, ensure that our printed vindication of the attitude we adopt shall circulate through the Socialist world Press, and maintain through our paper and from our platforms a steady supply of facts and figures for the information and inspiration of that increasing working-class audience to whom we are able to address ourselves.

Two years—and our confidence in the correctness of the position we occupied at the outset, is unshaken and unchanged. In that time not one single happening, great or small, has done other than confirm our faith in the possibilities of uncompromising working-class action along clear-cut Socialist lines; not one single incident but intensifies our conviction of the utter fatuity of palliative propaganda. We set out to preach Socialism and Socialism only as the hope of the worker, as his only way of escape from the appalling misery which environs his class and which, if it is not already in his daily experience, is removed from him by the smallest of spans, and we have preached it. We set out to show the utter folly of attempting to patch a system entirely rotten, and to urge that the only effect such patching could have was the prolongation of the life of that entirely rotten system—and we have shown it. We set out to prove that the enemies of the workers were not confined to the camp of Capitalism, but were actually in command of the camp of Labour, having been elected to their dominant positions by an ignorant proletariat— and we have shown it. Our purpose was to emphasise the fact that every worker or leader who was not organised in the ranks of The Socialist Party, waging war upon the forces of the capitalist class, was consciously or unconsciously lending aid to the enemies of the workers—and we have done that also. We set out to preach revolution as against reform; a boldly defined and unalterable working-class policy of open war upon the capitalist class as against paltering and compromise, with its inevitable results in working-class confusion; class organisation specifically for ultimate victory as against sectional organisation for an illusionary “immediate advantage." That was our gospel two years ago: it is our gospel to-day.

Answers to Correspondents. (1907)

From the August 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

J. T. Tyson. —Next month.

“Comp.” (Poplar).—Mr. G. Geis is a member of the S.L.P., not of this Party. The rule which you quote that “no official of a Trade Union or any other organisation supporting or affiliated with any other political party shall be eligible for membership of the Party" is an S.L.P. rule. Whether you are right in claiming that Mr. Geis broke this rule by acting as a Delegate to the Q. D. M. of the L.S.C., as reported in the December issue of the "London Typographical Journal" is not a matter for us to decide.

The Pease that Passeth Understanding. (1908)

From the August 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

I have before me as I write a most interesting document. It is from Mr. E. R. Pease, the secretary of the Fabian Society, who writes under date of May 23rd, 1908, thus—
  "It would take too long to describe the difference between the S.P.G.B. and the I.L.P. in full. Briefly the I.L.P. is the most important political body of Socialists in England, and it largely controls the policy of the Labour Party. It is the form of Socialism which is going to win in England. The Fabian and the I.L.P. are different sides of the same movement, and work together cordially. The S.P.G.B. is, so far as 1 know, and I do not profess to speak with much information, a tiny body of half educated young men who think that the State can be reformed by the use of violent language and who are convinced that everybody who does not belong to their little sect is a traitor, a fool or a criminal. I understand that their main occupation is disturbing the meetings of other Socialists.”
So now you know what the genial Pease thinks about us. He doesn’t speak with much information of course, he is only half educated on the matter as it were, but we are only a half educated lot whose main occupation is disturbing the meetings of other Socialists. The justice of this Pease is a sweet thing. Let us treasure it. Let me go even further and attempt to emulate it. “I do not profess to speak with much information,” but 1 understand that Mr. Pease is regularly carried home drunk and knocks his wife about summat shameful. He doesn’t wash his neck and it is rumoured that Bernard Shaw has to keep his hand in his money pocket every time he visits the Fabian office for fear the hand of the secretary might stray into it! Let me add that I am prepared to lay six to four (I do not speak with much information but I understand that is a term well understood in the Fabian Society) that I have nearly as much evidence for my statement as Mr. Pease has for his.

But I’m comforted a little by the information that, although only half educated, we are Socialists. Obviously, we cannot disturb other Socialists if we are not. True, I had no idea before that a Socialist as such could be half educated, and even now I am not convinced. I prefer to think that this is another matter upon which my dear friend Pease speaks without information. Indeed, I am sure of it. It is the only possible explanation of his description of the I.L.P. as a body of Socialists. How can they be Socialists if they are another side of the same movement that embraces the Fabian Society? The thing is inconceivable.

Well, but what is this movement to which the I.L.P. and Fabian Society belong if it is not Socialist? ’Tis the voice of the earnest seeker after truth I hear. And he has put me a poser. 1 hardly know how best to answer. Perhaps, after all, the implied description of Mr. Pease himself is the best answer. It is the movement that is after the control of the Labour Party. And as the I.L.P. is the same sort of thing as the Fabian Society, and as the Fabian Society is the Lord High Exponent of the back-door and subterranean method which it glorifies by the name of the ‘‘policy of permeation,” it follows that the I.L.P. movement is after the control of the Labour Party without knowing anything about it.

If that is the idea, and I can see no other, and if that constitutes the I.L.P. the most important political body of Socialists (I deny them the right to the use of the term “Socialist,” of course), so much the worse for their movement. They will be found out one of these fine days, and then well, the Pease that passeth all understanding to-day will have a little more information upon the only method by which Socialism can be won by the workers.  Even now the I.L.P. leaders who wish to control the Labour Party, body and bones and money-bags, are rather concerned about the Labour Party seeing the game too soon. Consequently I am given to understand, as Mr. Pease would say, that no more I.L.P. candidates are to be run on Labour Party money until the number of Labour Party candidates more closely approximates to the proportion to which the amount of their contribution to the Party funds entitles them. Interesting developments are hourly expected.

As to the biting irony of the perfect Pease’s reference to our size and our youth, I’m afraid it is a case of pot and kettle as far as the first is concerned, and sour grapes in regard to the second. We are not a large body when compared with the Tory or Liberal Parties, but there’s more of us than a superman and an amanuensis. Can you say as much, prosperity Pease? And the virility of youth is preferable to the senility of the lean and slipper’d pantaloon period — what? Besides, the test of our membership is knowledge. The test of your membership is subscription. And even then you can’t get members. Oh ! Pease. Yours must be a rotten organisation!
A. James

T. A. Jackson. (1909)

T. A. Jackson at the 1905 SPGB Conference.
From the August 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

When early in the year the Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Great Britain received from T. A. Jackson a deeply significant letter of resignation, neither resentment nor anxiety arose in the breasts of those who heard the pitiful epistle. Knowing the man’s particularly bad circumstances, generous sympathy and pity came uppermost. Hoping that he might pass into oblivion without prejudice to the working class and Socialism we contemplated no action against him. This was not to be, however: Jackson has taken the pay and has to pipe the tune called—to wit, the mal-education and betrayal of the working class So much to show that in publishing this exposure we are not animated by stupid feelings of spite, resentment or revenge.

We make no excuse for using every weapon to hand: as between feelings of old comradeship or the conventions upon the one hand and the well-being of the working class on the other, the Socialist can but choose the latter.

Information has reached this office that T. A. Jackson is now actively engaged speaking from the Clarion Vans and the platforms of the “Independent Labour” Party. However unfortunate this may prove for the I.L.P., etc., does not much concern us: the duty of exposing a budding “Labour-fakir” and incidentally the removal of a false impression, is our reason for dealing with the matter in these columns.

Speaking for the I.L.P. in North London recently Jackson delivered himself to the following effect with reference to the S.P.G.B. “He had been in the Socialist Party but he had got tired of being out in the political desert. After four years he found he was wasting his time, so he—as he had always done, no matter what the cost—had come outside as he was after the truth and the right and he would hold by that to the end in spite of all obstacles. He had lost many friends, but principle with him came first, etc.” He then endeavoured to ridicule the charges made by us against the I L.P. by referring to their age, but not once did he attempt to deny the truth of them. His whole effort was calculated to give his hearers the impression that he had gone over because he sincerely believes the S.P.G.B. wrong and the I.L.P. right. But from correspondence in our possession we are able to prove that T. A. Jackson believes nothing of the sort. He knows that the S.P.G.B. is the Socialist Party, and alone worthy of the support of the workers. He knows that our attitude toward other parties is correct. He knows that our charges against them are true. But T. A. Jackson left the Socialist Part of Great Britain because that Party does not buy men to stay in it.

In his letter of resignation he makes it abundantly clear that it was the hope of getting money for his services that induced him to join the “enemy," as he terms the I.L.P.

Jackson penned another to one of our comrades that is nothing short of a cynical presumption of our comrade’s disloyalty to the working class. In this letter (Jackson, by requesting destruction of the letter sought to make our member an accomplice in treachery) he emphasises his guilt and makes the whole matter clear as a pikestaff. After referring to his own poverty and the prospects of “jobs and money” by belonging to the I.L.P., S.D.P., etc., he says "So I will join the S.D.F., I.L.P., and “Clarion” mobs and peg away—bleed the swines —till I am expelled.”

More need not be said. Jackson has joined the ranks of those whom he formerly called “labour bleeders.” He has become one of them and has left sufficient evidence to prove it. His letters above referred to deal also with other matters and are too long to print in full—unless Jackson wishes it; while should any interested in the matter doubt our bona-fides arrangements can be made for the inspection of the originals at this office.

Is Socialism International? (1910)

From the August 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is interesting, and also somewhat amusing, to occasionally take note of the more prevalent objections to Socialism, and to compare present day objections with those that did duty, in lieu of argument, but a short time ago. From such a survey one can see that there has been quite an evolution of ideas in anti-Socialist circles. Commencing with the cries of "sharing out’’ and "equal division,” we pass en route many other equally brilliant and smashing points against Socialism. But Socialism, with that cruel perversity which seems inherent within it, refused to be smashed, and has continued to thrive and develop in spite of the procession of fallacious pleas with which it has been assailed. In consequence of this these weapons have fallen more or less into disuse, have been allowed to rust, as it were, in the anti Socialist armoury. In fact, the Socialists seemed to take a delight in knocking to pieces the case of the most painstaking opponent.

Beaten from pillar to post, the gentlemen whose interest lies in obscuring the issue sought refuge for awhile in what they termed the frailty of human nature. Socialism, which before was so bad, now became too pure, too noble, for sinful man. Human nature was an indefinable something possessed by everybody, and all the agencies from the Church upward which have for their object the changing of human nature were in consequence on the wrong track. But the facts of the situation were once more against them: the changes which have taken place in mankind’s nature, corresponding with the changes in Society’s manner of getting a living, prove this view as untenable as it is absurd.

And now a strange thing happened. Driven desperate by their failure to arrest the progress of the Socialist idea, our opponents affirmed what previously they had shunned like a plague—the international character of Socialism. We are now informed, with scornful lip and an air of triumphant originality, that Socialism is international and is therefore impossible of realisation.

I want, first of all, to congratulate the anti-Socialists upon the correctness of their premise. Socialism is international. For years we have affirmed it, argued it against the very people who now put it forward as a proof of its impracticability. We claim above everything else that Socialism is scientific. It is no mere Utopian dream, but is the direct and inevitable outcome of the present conditions of life and labour, as, indeed, every social system is the outcome of the one that proceeded it. In the middle ages the handicraftsman and the small peasant proprietor, with the simple, individual tools and implements of production, used to produce wealth and individually own and enjoy what their energy had called into being. In such circumstances the scientific Socialist conception of society could not arise. But with the development of industry and the introduction of machinery, an industrial revolution took place, with the result that production to-day is no longer individual, but is collective or social.

This state of affairs is not confined to England—for social systems are not, and cannot be, kept within national boundaries—but is widespread over the globe. While, however, the method of producing wealth all over the civilised world, has undergone a change from individual to social production, yet we find the ownership of the wealth when produced still remains individual. This contradiction, this grotesque social absurdity, lies at the root of all the trouble in modern society. It gives rise to the class antagonism which obtains to-day, and which the Socialist alone can trace unerringly to this division of interest between the class who possess and the class who produce.

In every country under the domination of capital the simple facts of the situation are driving the workers to see the cause of the trouble, and are forcing them to an understanding of the remedy. Wherever capitalism is, Socialism accompanies it like a shadow. When Japan leapt into the front rank of capitalism ideas of Socialism began to spread in that country—to the dismay of the ruling class, who in vain attempted to suppress them.

In glancing through history we can see that even in the capitalist uprising against feudalism there were independent outbursts of the forerunners of the modern working class then in process of development. We had, for instance, at the German Reformation and the Peasant's War, the Anabaptists and Thomas M√ľntzer, in the great Cromwellian revolt, the Levellers, in the French Revolution, Babeuf and his followers—all of which shows how the various countries develop along similar lines and how industrial conditions fashion the thoughts of men and drive their energies into the same channels irrespective of difference of nationality.

If this was the case in earlier times how much more will it hold good under our present commercial system. We have an example to day in the struggle which is going on in India, Egypt, Turkey, Persia, etc. for constitutional Government such as industrial conditions have rendered necessary elsewhere. Every day capitalism is becoming more interlaced and interwoven. Ancient trade restrictions, national barriers and frontiers all go down before the steady march of the cosmopolitan profit-mongers. Financial crises, like that experienced in America recently, have far-reaching and disastrous effects upon the markets of the world, just as the disorder of one human organ affects the whole body.

The idea, then, of chopping off bits of society and establishing Socialism in this hole and corner fashion is one which will not bear investigation. Either capitalism will survive and the ill-fated and premature attempt at working class supremacy will be crushed—like the Paris Commune—or the working class will be the victors, the Social Revolution will be accomplished, and capitalism will disappear.

Each country, too, is now engaged in the scramble for foreign markets, so that the tendency is for the mental and physical standard of the world’s workers to arrive at a common level, viz., that which enables them to produce as efficiently and as cheaply as possible, in an endeavour to undersell their competitors in the world market. Just as in each country competition among the masters forces the workers of that country down to a “dull and dead level,” so competition among nations has the same result internationally. This means that with the conditions of life and the education of the world’s workers being almost identical and becoming ever more so, their capacity for understanding Socialism and their progress towards it will be at about the same rate in every country under the highly centralised thralldom of capital. This furnishes a complete answer to those who prophesy that one country will be ready for the change before the others. To-day in all countries the workers are beginning to cast off the ancient and worm-eaten ideas of social reform, and are delving deep into the mechanism of capitalism, and in consequence are grasping the essentials of Socialism, of which, once they have secured a firm grip, they will never let go.

While we can admit that just as, to-day, there are places on the fringe of civilisation which capitalism has not defiled, and where remnants of past societies still linger, so under Socialism these remote places may still pursue their time-honoured customs; yet we know that capitalist society is doomed, that the whole of its rotten social fabric will go down before the inexorable march of progress. The future lies with us, the past belongs to our enemies. They depend for their success upon the ever-diminishing working-class ignorance; we depend for ours upon the increasing working-class knowledge.

Based as our beliefs are, upon knowledge and investigation, we can afford to smile at those who wish to substitute for Socialism—international and revolutionary—that takes its stand upon the class war, a special brand suited to insular tastes and prejudices, and warranted of English manufacture. Alluring as the electoral successes won by this kind of trickery may appear, they offer nothing substantial to the workers—they merely spell wasted energy and time lost to those who are beguiled by them.

We are not out to build up fantastic theories but to correctly interpret the trend of industrial development and to embody the essence of that research in our principles—which govern our actions—to the end that the working class of this country shall be ready to take their part in freeing society once for all of class domination.

Rudolf Frank

The Bethnal Green Bungle. (1911)

Editorial from the August 1911 issue of the Socialist Standard

That stale old wheeze, the “three-card trick,” has been worked off on the electors of South West Bethnal Green. You know the process—as an onlooker, of coarse. Three cards are performing simple evolutions, and a flat comes along and tries to “find the lady.” He turns up a card—a knave; he tries again—another knave. About the time his money has all gone the flat becomes convinced that he has been trying to pick “the lady” from among three knaves.

At Bethnal Green the three cards were Masterman, Hoffgaard, and Scurr. In view of the law of libel, which exists to protect those whose actions will not stand the light of day, we are not going to use hard names, but whichever of those cards you turn up forces you to exclaim: “got him again.” The workers of Bethnal Green tried Masterman—and they got the man who presided over the “secret” commission the Government were compelled to appoint to enquire into the treatment of the workers’ children committed by the magistracy to that diabolical inferno, the Abkur Nautical Reformatory.

How this commission whitewashed the Home Office (which had deliberately shut its eyes to sworn statements concerning the inhuman brutalities of this institution flourishing under Government support, and had only moved under a strong fire of criticism), and issued a Report in which the evidence was garbled—this makes one of the most noisome pieces of history that could befoul any age or country. Even the late member for South West Bethnal Green, whom the Liberals have raised to the Bench in order to find a seat for Masterman, declared in the House of Commons that it was one of the most glaring and disgraceful cases of “whitewashing” he bad ever known.

Of course, the Labour Party served this “ fighting democrat ” a good turn, for when he was attacked over the reformatory affair he retorted that only 17 members of the Labour Party voted against the Government, the rest voting for.

The Tory candidate, Mr. Hoffgaard, anti-alien,Tariff Reformer, and Strong Navy advocate, was as little worthy of support.

Mr. J. Scurr ran as a “Socialist and Labour” candidate. The S.D.P. in their manifesto (“Justice,” 22.7.11) state that “at the desire of the Bethnal Green Branch and a number of dissentient Radicals” they have put Scurr forward.

After criticising Masterman, “Justice" says “No wonder the Radicals of South-West Bethnal Green resent having this person foisted upon them. We are affording them the opportunity of showing their resentment in a practical way, by supporting" Scurr!

And over 5,000 electors seized the opportunity of going to the poll to show their resentment at having Scurr foisted upon them.

Scurr opened his election address with the statement that he came forward “at the request of a considerable body of electors.” He got 134 votes. So events proved that, true to S.D.P. traditions, he sought the electors’ suffrage with bluff and deceit. These 134 votes cost over £1 apiece, and in view of all the facts that there was no attempt to use the opportunity for Socialist propaganda, and that the most the S.D.P. could have hoped for was to let the Tory in—it would be interesting to know who paid the cost.

The methods used to obtain votes for Scurr were utterly contemptible. He said in his address : “I believe in Legislative Independence for Ireland, and should support the Irish Party in any action they may take if a Home Rule Bill is introduced.” That, of course, was a sop for the Irish. But for any professing Socialist to promise to support the Irish in any action they may take is nauseous, for from O'Connell's day to the present the tactics of the Irish Party have been reactionary. He fishes for Nationalist votes by stating that he has been member of the E.C. of the United Irish League. In “Justice’’ (July 22) he says there is no bar to a Catholic becoming a Socialist.

Scurr angles for Radical votes by recording that he has been Lecture Secretary of the Metropolitan Radical Federation and Executive Councillor of the English Land Restoration League.

Various leading lights illuminated Mr. Scurr’s platform. Hyndman and Quelch, the strong navy champions; Victor Grayson, the bombastic assistant on Blatchford’s sinking ship; Hunter Watts, that founder of the S.D.P. who in 1903 supported Masterman because he thought his opponent a scoundrel—what discrimination !— and even Belloc, of the Anti-Socialist Union.

The latter, being a rabid Catholic, was expected to influence the very considerable body of Catholic electors, and being a disappointed man, deprived of his seat by the official Liberals, he was very wroth against their nominee, and did his best to lure the Radicals from his side.

Scurr issued as an election leaflet a reprint of “An Open Letter to a Bethnal Green Radical,” which appeared in Belloc’s newspaper, the “Eye Witness.” A passage says: “ It is in your power to resist and to resist without violating your traditions. You would not, perhaps, choose to vote Tory . . . Well, you have your alternative. There is a third candidate in the field —Mr. Scurr. . . . You may not agree with his opinions on abstract economic Socialism. But you know very well that the Nationalisation of the means of production will not come within the next few years: the obliteration of all popular rights, unless you stir yourself to prevent it, may, and probably will. A vote for Mr. Scurr means a vote for democracy and for the right of electors to choose their own member. A vote for Mr. Masterman means a vote for the Caucus.”

Justice” (July 20) says: “Those Radicals should certainly be influenced by the article reprinted from the ‘Eye Witness’—'An Open Letter to a Bethnal Green Radical.' ”

So did these very revolutionary Socialists (!) of the S.D.P. join hands with a virulent Anti-Socialist Unionist, sit cheek by jowl with the man who said (Catholic Truth Society's Conference, 1909;: “He believed the prime political struggle of the future would be between his Church and the Socialist organisations . . . The Right of Property, the Catholic Church maintained, was exterior to and superior to the mere enjoyment or use of the thing possessed. The owner may be a bad man. and the thing owned may be of very little use to him and of great use to someone else, but to deprive him of it would be an offence, not only against him, but against the Power that created both him and you . . . the fundamental principle of property must not be denied." It is the same old dirty game of treachery, of lending (or should we say hiring ?) themselves to the Tories, of throwing dust in the eyes of the workers, who, as they become more enlightened, find they have no use for the S.D.P. and its filthy methods. 

It is gratifying to find the attempt to drag the name of Socialism in the mire meets with such small success.

#    #    #    #

We shall have ready in a few days a report of the debate between Comrade Fitzgerald and Mr. A. H. Richardson, M.P. Order now. 32 pages, 1d. Post free 1½d.

Have you read "Socialism and Religion,” the latest S.P.G.B. pamphlet? It will interest and enlighten you, whatever may be your outlook on the religious question. It is an important addition to working-class literature.

"White Slave Traffic." (1912)

From the August 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

To side-track the workers from their emancipation, or, it may be, from some other motive, the Liberal and Tory Press are making much capital out of the “White Slave Traffic.” In particular, “The Star” for June 10th last, quotes in its leader a certain Dr. Ettie Sayer, who gives an account of a girl patient who told her she worked in the restaurant of a flourishing West End drapery establishment. She says that she received six shillings per week and (rather unusual) a good dinner and tea, but no gratuities were allowed. She had to provide out of this six shillings, breakfast and supper each day, her Sunday meals, clothes, laundering, lodging and omnibus fares to and from a district where lodgings are cheap.

The Editor of “The Star” comes to the conclusion that the root of the evil which the world calls the “white slave traffic ” is the low payment of labour. That is not a vast way from the truth as the Socialist understands it. We of the Socialist Party have always pointed out that prostitution and procuration are the result of the ownership by a section of society, of the means of production. We have pointed out that the cause is
Insecurity of Livelihood.
What is the position of the girls of the working class to-day? They have to sell their labour-power to a master. The wages they receive are in many cases so meagre that they most do something to enhance their income. Hence w have the spectacle of women selling their bodies.

Not content with the way these girls are ground down in the factory hells, certain people further prey upon them by procuring them (we are told by “The Star”) for sale to the brothels of America and elsewhere.

Now certain men in Parliament are introducing legislation designed to palliate the evil. That is all they hope to do. They know as well as we do that there can be no cure under the capitalist system till the cause of the effects is done away with. According to “The People” of June 16th, the promoters of the Bill do not hope to eradicate the terrible social ulcer which is the subject of their attentions. All they look to do is to aid the unwilling to be commercialised. That is, those girls who are too “shy” to enhance their income by prostitution. All this bears out our contention that it is useless to
Tinker With Effects.
In tbe same issue of “The People” it is said that a lot of immorality is due to the ignorance and ridiculous prudery of the elders. It seems that all our contemporaries are being converted to the Socialist philosophy. It is due to the environment. The people’s education is insufficient. It serves the purposes of the master class to prevent the workers understanding those things which are essential to one who wishes to enjoy a healthy and a manly life. The above-mentioned paper also states that it is impossible by Act of Parliament to make men moral. True, but it is through the domination of a class that immorality exists.

We of the Socialist Party can show how the White Slave Traffic can be abolished. We follow the scientific course of first ascertaining 
The Cause of the Evil, 
and then we build up our remedy from the facts as we find them.

The cause of the White Slave Traffic is also the cause of many other evils which so terribly afflict the working class. It is the private ownership of the means of life.

A doctor, having discovered the cause of his patient’s ailment, applies his efforts to eradicate it. For instance, in the case of that fashionable complaint, appendicitis, the doctor, having come to the conclusion that the root of his patient’s trouble is inflammation of the appendix, removes the unhealthy organ, if other means of dealing with the cause fail.

Society, like the individual, is an organism suffering from disorder in one of its parts. The same way is therefore necessary to deal with the large organism that is diseased. We Socialists have found the cause to be in the private ownership of property. We have found that the time has long gone by when the causes which render this social institution a danger to the social existence could be dealt with. The only means is the knife. But the surgical instrument can only be wielded by the majority of the workers. Owing to the fact that they do not know how to use it their masters hold it. The instrument is the
Political Machine,
the powers of government which control the armed forces of the nation. When the workers know how to use this instrament they will speedily put an end to the capitalist system, which breeds poverty, misery, and prostitution, and will organise a society based upon the common ownership of the means and instruments of production and distribution.

We of the S.P.G.B. are out always putting before the workers their position as a class. It is incumbent upon those who understand their position to muster under our banner, to the end that this system, with its fruit, the White Slave Traffic, may be for all time overthrown.
A, G. H.

No Fares Not Low Fares (1982)

Illustration by George Meddemmen.
From the March 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

Last May the voters of London elected a new set of leaders to run the Greater London Council. No more were they prepared to be governed by witless Horace Cutler and his fellow Tory rogues. The Labour Party swept to power on a wave of disapproval of Thatcher’s efforts and the radical rhetoric of reform was in the air. The press portrayed Ken Livingstone as the Joseph Stalin of County Hall, while Livingstone portrayed himself as the cleanest guy in town performing the dirtiest job in town. “Our Ken” was going to take on the might of the profit system. “Socialism in one city” was the battle-cry; the Metropolitan Police were going to be converted into a “democratic people’s militia”, it was to be the Paris Commune, Round Two. Leftist reformers fantasised with all of the impotence of old men in a porn shop: what they weren’t going to do to capitalism wasn’t worth doing. And the jewel in their crown—the Reforme Royale—was the new cheap fares policy for London Transport. “Fair fares for all” ran the advertising campaign, and the voters seemed to have got what they asked for. Little did they know that what they asked for was yet to come.

Under capitalism everything has to be paid for. After all, you can’t run buses without money, can you? Imagine trying to drive a bus from Brixton to Clapham without sticking pound notes into the engine! So Ken and the boys had to raise the cash. The answer they came up with was to increase rates by precisely the amount they were cutting fares. So, the rates went up and assorted Londoners hissed and booed and the fares went down and assorted Londoners (many of whom had been hissing and booing) cheered and thanked the Labour Party for making it cheaper to travel from A to B.

Not long after the fares went down and the rates went up, the Tory-controlled Bromley Council began to take legal action to outlaw the GLC fares policy. One thing can always be said about the Tories—they will stop at nothing to defend their system. First they went to the Appeal Court where they stated their case to Lord Denning—who was born in the nineteenth century and upholds the social conventions of the eighteenth century. According to the 1969 Transport (London) Act it is illegal for fares to be subsidised by the state and therefore Denning agreed with Bromley Council that the GLC—and the people who elected it—were aiming for something which is against the law. The GLC appealed to the House of Lords, which ruled that it was illegal not to run London Transport “along business lines”. Lord Wilberforce stated that LT had a duty to ensure “that outgoings were met by revenue” and Lord Diplock chastised the GLC for its “thriftless use of monies obtained from ratepayers and . . . deliberate failure to deploy to best advantage the full financial resources available to it . . . ” The result of this decision is that LT fares are due to rise by about 200 per cent.

The failure of the GLC “fair fares” policy is yet another indication of the utter futility of reformism. Back in May of last year the Labour Left were making promises and millions of workers were really believing them. It is not that the Labour Party did not intend to provide cheaper fares. But the Labour Party was elected with a mandate to run the capitalist system. When the SPGB GLC election campaign drew attention to the nature of capitalism our opponents in the Labour Party told us that we were wasting our time. So Labour won the election—they won it with the support of workers who supported production for profit. All that Labour voters wanted was the profit system without its unpleasant consequences—and that is a utopia. The benefits of socialism will not be won by applying the rhetoric of socialism to the administration of capitalism, but by conscious working class political action to transform society from production for profit to production for use.

Under capitalism production is for profit. If there is no profit in sight, production ceases. The same goes for the production of vital services: under capitalism they must be “economical”. It is more “economical” to close down hospital casualty departments and let people die than to keep them open and let people live. Now, “Our Ken” is no great lover of this. He wants to run capitalism without the nasty bits. The trouble is that when you play a rough game like rugby according to the gentlemanly rules of cricket you are likely to get hurt. Livingstone presumed that he could run a capitalist transport service “fairly”. Alas, what is fair for the profit system is what is fair for the ruling class and fairness for them equals a bad deal for us.

Socialists will not get excited about “cheap fares”. Why should we have to pay money to travel on buses and trains when we build them, drive them and produce the petrol for them? The problem is that under capitalism the workers produce all goods and services but we do not own or control them. In a sane society, where wealth is owned and controlled by the whole community, all people will have free access to everything. Under capitalism you can only have what you pay for. The transport technology exists today which could make mobility simple and available for all. Isn’t it time that workers stopped voicing the slaves’ demand for more of the cheap and shoddy and started organising for free access for all?
Steve Coleman