Friday, August 24, 2018

The Acid Test of History (1930)

From the January 1930 issue of The Socialist

The old adage, “The course of true love ne’er runs smooth," may be well applied to the course of the “History of the Communist Movement in America." We are prompted to this conclusion after attending a lecture on the above subject, given by the National Secretary of the Proletarian Party on. Nov. 30, 1929. We heard a lengthy discourse dealing with the formation of the Communist Party of America, and the various intrigues on the part of different groups in their efforts to gain control of that organination. Of small interest to us is the claim made by the Proletarian Party to being the "real communist movement" in America. Seeing that they receive no recognition from the Third International, we cannot see how they substantiate this. Of more importance to us is their claim to being a Marxian organization equipped with an almost complete monopoly of Marxism. It is on this point that we base our criticism.

We have endeavored to obtain a definite program or declaration of principles by them but have failed to find anything of the sort in their official organ, “The Proletarian.” We are therefore compelled to look mainly to the verbal utterances of their speakers. The nearest we can arrive at anything resembling a program is a series of statements made by their National Secretary at the afore' mentioned lecture. He pointed out that the Proletarian Party stands for “Dictatorship of the Proletariat," the setting up by armed insurrection of some sort of “Workers’ Government;" also that they “realize the limitations of Parliamentary action." Being anxious to know, we questioned their speaker as to what these limitations consisted of. In reply, he premised an imaginary condition that a substantial majority of the working class having become conscious of the need for taking over the means of wealth production, and establishing Socialism, express their desires by the vote, and are met with resistance by the capitalist class in the form of military force. Therefore the workers will be compelled to organize a counter military force to enforce their desires. For proof of this their speaker asserted that the Army and Navy are officered by bourgeois and therefore would be used by the capitalist class against the working class.

Had our ultra-Marxists of the Proletarian Party an understanding of the basic principle of Socialism, the Materialistic Conception of History, as they claim to have, they would realize that, the economic conditions of capitalism having evolved to a point at which a substantial majority of the working class have reached an understanding of Socialism, the Army and Navy forces would also be imbued with the same ideology as the civil population, since the immense majority of those forces including the officers are members of the working class. They would be poor material for the capitalists to rely upon to prevent the intelligent working class from asserting its will. However, the working class has not as yet voted for Socialism; until it does we cannot formulate any utopian detailed plans for dealing with an imaginary condition in the future.

We were further told that the Communist Party in Russia is carrying toward completion, and in the same spirit, the movement begun by the Paris Commune in 1871. Both the Communist Party of America and the Proletarian Party in making this claim are either ignorant of the conditions obtaining in Paris during the few short months of the Commune, or they are deliberately distorting the facts concerning conditions existing in Soviet Russia which is a resort to the old time method of all political forces of reaction.

As far back as 1920 we find this quotation in an article, “The Dictatorship of the Proletariat," by N. Bucharin, published in the Workers Dreadnought" (April 12, 1920).
   “Nevertheless we do not for a moment deny that our apparatus is rigidly centralized; that our policy towards the bourgeoisie and towards the parties of the compromising Socialists is repressive in character; that the organization of our own party, as a ruling party which exercises a dictatorship through the Soviets, is of a 'Militarist type.’ “
This is a direct negation of the claim made by the official and unofficial communists of America, that the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat" in Russia represents control by the masses. It is the position maintained by the Blanquists prior to the Paris Commune, and which they were compelled to abandon and act directly contrary to, during the tenure of the Commune. In the introduction to the “The Civil War in France,” (S. L. P. ed.) Engels points out that:
   “The members of the Commune were divided into a majority of Blanquists, who had also predominated in the central committee of the National Guard, and a minority, which consisted for the most part of members of the International Working Men‘s Association, who were adherents of the Proudhonian school of Socialism."
Engels then goes on to show how both the Blanquists and Proudhonists did the very reverse of which their schools advocated, thus:
  "The Blanquists fared no better. Brought up in the school of conspiracy, held together by the rigid discipline essential to it, they started from the conception that a comparatively small number of resolute, well organized men would be able not only to grasp the helm of State at a favorable moment, but also, through the display of great energy, and reckless daring, to hold it as long as required, that is, until they had succeeded in carrying the masses of the people into the revolutionary current and ranging them around the small leading band. To accomplish this, what was necessary, above all else, was the most stringent, dictatorial centralization of all powers in the hands of the new revolutionary government. And what did the Commune do, which in the majority consisted of these very Blanquists? In all its proclamations to the French people in the provinces, it called upon them for a free federation of all French communes with Paris for a national organization, which for the first time was to be the real creation of the nation. The army, the political police, the bureaucracy, all those agencies of oppression in a centralized government, which Napoleon had created in 1798, and which since then every new government had gladly used and kept up as ready weapons against its enemies, were to be abolished everywhere, as they had been abolished in Paris.”
To compare the above condition existing during the Paris Commune, to that existing in Russia, one would have to be a wish thinker like the members of the official Communist Party of America and the unofficial “real" communists of the Proletarian Party. The Red Army has not been abolished, neither has the bureaucracy nor the political police. Witness the rise of the Opposition groups and the wholesale expulsion and exile of many of those prominent early in the Russian Revolution. Is this analogous to the Paris Commune?

Again let us look at Paris during the Commune, to see the attitude of the Communards towards parliamentary action and the value of the vote. According to Engels the Commune "filled all positions of administration, justice, and instruction, through election by universal suffrage, the elected being at all times subject to recall by their constituents" (op. cit.), a system which our “communist" friends would mistake for bourgeois democracy. Engels' concept of the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” is also expressed in the conclusion to the same work, page 20, “ . . . look at the Paris Commune. That was the dictatorship of the proletariat.” The conditions existing in Russia bear little resemblance to those obtaining in Paris during the Commune. Neither, for that matter, do they resemble the conditions in America, England or any other developed capitalist countries. In Russia, where primitive peasant agriculture prevails, the institution of Socialism is at present an impossibility, because there is lacking the highly developed productive forces and the enlightened proletarian majority, both of which axe necessary for that purpose. Where matured capitalism exists and where the workers are therefore the majority of the population, they can achieve their emancipation as soon as they understand what Socialism is and desire it, and they will effect this by the simplest, and in fact, the only means available—the democratic conquest of the political forces of society—at present used for their subjection.
“He who tells the people revolutionary legends, he who amuses them with sensational stories, is as criminal as the geographer who would draw up false charts for navigators.” (Lissagaray, preface to History of the Commune.) 
Socialist Educational Society

50 Years Ago: The Impossibility of Social Harmony under Capitalism (1965)

The 50 Years Ago column from the August 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard
“Nothing can prevent a war throughout Western civilisation between the possessors and the dispossessed—nothing except the dominance in the mass of individuals, or at least in the leaders of both classes, of intelligence and of the ideals of peace and brotherhood . . .  If the governing class will keep in touch with all classes; if those in authority in law, in industry, in education, in religion will seek for the public good: if all classes will seek to keep open the means of understanding and sympathy with all other classes, there will be no more need of revolution as n means of social progress than there is of children’s diseases in individual development”.
(From The Social Problem by C. A. Ellwood.)
Neither in the working class nor in the ruling class can the soulful humanitarian ideals upon which he relies become dominant. Our social circumstances destroy them. Present economic conditions sow hate, not love. Figs cannot grow on thistles. If it were necessary to wait for a complete moral regeneration of the working class; if the mass had first to overflow with love and charity for our oppressors, our case as well as the Professor's would be utterly hopeless. Fortunately, it is not so. Economic development is with us. On it our essential case rests. The propaganda of revolutionary Socialism is a direct effect of present social conditions. Capitalist conditions indelibly stamp the ruling class with the selfish, cruel and hypercritical qualities of the exploiter: and we know what a little part sentiment plays in the struggle.
(From a review of Professor Ellwood's book in the Socialist Standard, August. 1915.)

Old myths refurbished (1966)

Book Review from the August 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Incomes Policy, Legislation and Shop Stewards by T. Cliff and C. Barker (introduction by Reg. Birch). 136 pages. 2s. 6d. Published by London Shop Stewards Defence Committee.

The authors' purpose in this book is to explain why an incomes policy exists, why the workers should oppose it and why the shop stewards are the key to the achievement of "Socialism". But, as will be shown, they are not really aiming at Socialism and their belief in the Shop Steward Movement is built on faulty observation of the conditions of capitalism and on failure to distinguish between "militancy" and Socialist understanding. Above all they do not face up to the fact that the act of revolutionising the social system requires control of the machinery of government by a Socialist working-class. They attack the political and industrial leaders of the workers but not the idea of leadership: what they want is different leaders. They are not consistent in this and in some places they appear to be arguing for self-reliant action by the workers and not "leave it to their leaders", but elsewhere we are told that the shop stewards are the "natural leaders".

The particular target of their attack is full-time trade union officials because these officials do not support the shop stewards and unofficial strikes—"the majority of the union bureaucrats cannot be depended on any more".

There are some trade unions in which the full-time officials vote on the Executive Committee and others in which the full-time officials have no votes, but there is no evidence in this book that makes any practical difference to the policies of the unions.

The authors argue that the shop stewards and factory committees are the militants, held in check by the national executives but they have overlooked the reasons why unions have full-time officials and the conditions in which factory floor militancy vanishes.

In the early days unions had to fight to secure that the union officials could get recognition to negotiate with the employers, who much preferred to deal direct with the workers in their employ. It was to prevent sacking and victimisation of workers on the factory floor that unions demanded the recognition of the union official who could not be directly intimidated.

Cliff and Barker argue from post-war British history that it is the shop stewards and factory committees which are most active; but they have failed to draw the right conclusions from the almost complete destruction of the shop steward movement after the first World War, although they report it:
  By about 1920, with a rise in unemployment and an enormous offensive against the working class from the employers, the shop steward movement that had been born during the war was as good as wiped out.
When unemployment is heavy the shop stewards and factory committees are most vulnerable: faced with the sack they have no choice but to become passive, or, as has happened, become the instruments of the employers. Guillebaud, in his The Works Council (Cambridge University Press 1929) showed how, in Germany, although the works councils were set up by law and flourished when unemployment was low, they collapsed when unemployment became heavy in 1923. Then it was the National unions which alone could offer some protection of the workers and of the works councils themselves.

Extravagant claims are made for the shop steward movement in this book. They are given the credit for the big increase in the number of strikes in the years 1959 to 1965 and they are said to give us "the possibility of the rebirth of a revolutionary working class movement".

It is true that the number of strikes, except in mining, has increased (but why leave out the strikes in the mining industry which have fallen heavily?). But the authors should look further before drawing conclusions. If they took account of the numbers of trade unionists they might have to conclude that, measured by the numbers of strikes, the workers were more "militant" at the end of the 19th Century. But it is in any event a shallow view. Many factors influence the number of strikes—a sharp rise in prices for example and prices have been rising faster since 1960, after which most of the increase in the number of strikes has taken place. Attempts by employers to introduce new working conditions (shifts for example) may also be a factor.

And the authors should also take a look at the results of the strikes. After taking into account the effect of rising, prices, average hourly earnings have been rising by a smaller percentage as the number of strikes has increased.

And they forget that in favourable conditions unions can sometimes gel results by threatening to strike but not needing to do so.

It is when they write about "revolutionary aims" and socialism that Cliff and Barker are most confused and obscure. They claim to want socialism but tell us that the greatest problems facing the workers at the present time are incomes policy and trade union legislation. Why isn't the achievement of Socialism the greatest problem?

They talk of the "rebirth of a revolutionary working class movement", but why "rebirth"? When was the British working-class organised in a revolutionary movement for Socialism?

And why should the shop stewards' movement have any such consequence? They admit the obvious fact that the factory floor struggles are "essentially private fights, particular to workers in one shop or one factory".

They mention that one activity which strengthens the hands of the shop stewards is that they maintain control over the distribution of overtime!

How do these narrow struggles give birth to Socialist understanding?

Even the authors' opposition to the Government's incomes policy betrays that they do not aim at Socialism with its necessary feature of the abolition of the wages system for they talk in terms of opposition to "an Incomes Policy under capitalism". Is there then to be an incomes policy under their "Socialism"?

They attack George Brown's plan because it envisages a relative decline in nationalised industry and ask "What about good old Clause Four?"

Clause Four is the clause in the Labour Party constitution which commits them to mass nationalisation or state capitalism. So what, from the Socialist standpoint, is there "good" about Clause Four.?

Cliff and Barker also note that the government is "by no means the best employer", so why do they want more nationalisation?

The authors are very coy about the Socialist movement they want to see. It is to be the "the mightiest socialist movement yet in the history of Britain". It is to come out of the Shop Stewards' Movement and is to be "a new socialist movement". May we ask what is the name of this new party and what is its object?

Reg Birch, who writes the Preface, likes the rest of the book but not the talk about the increase in the number of shop stewards automatically leading "the development of a Socialist movement"; but he is equally coy about the name and object of the political party of his choice.

After all, the three of them agree in holding up the Shop Steward's Movement as the movement of revolutionary promise. So why can't they tell us about the new society they seek? Is it really Socialism or only Clause Four capitalism that they are after?

And as the authors urge the workers not to take a "deep interest in parliament" what is their political party going to do?

It would be interesting to know what the three of them were doing at the last General Election. Were they urging the workers to vote only for Socialism? Or were they supporting one or other of the parties of capitalism, the Labour Party and Communist Party for example?
Edgar Hardcastle

Past Migrations (1967)

From the August 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

The first thing to remember about emigration in the modern World, is that only workers emigrate. The wealthy “take up residence”, “pay a prolonged visit” or “retire abroad”. When King Edward VIII abdicated and left the country, nobody said that he had emigrated; he had gone into voluntary exile.

This is not a mere play on words. There is a world of difference between the two, the difference in fact between Capitalist and Worker. The wealthy do not need assisted passages, or National Assistance, and if they do not like a place when they get there, they can always move on. They are in no way economic rivals to the workers of the area they visit, so nobody worries about their accents or skin colour. No race-conscious worker would complain if the Aga Khan moved in next door; he would be too busy boasting about his distinguished neighbour for that. It’s the Aga Khan who would do the complaining, and not on account of race, but from an understandable reluctance to share the joys of working class life. The problems of emigration spring from the one thing that both immigrants and native workers share; their poverty.

Migrations are as old as humanity. From the beginning of their existence men have migrated. Sometimes peacefully, sometimes violently, they have moved in search of better and more fertile land, or to escape a stronger enemy, or because of over-population in their homelands. The last of the great migrations came in the centuries following the Discoveries. The whole of America and Australasia, together with large areas of Africa and northern Asia, were peopled by Europeans. Many went freely to seek their fortunes or to escape poverty and oppression at home, but millions were forcibly transported. Indentured servants, negro slaves and convicts all went to provide the cheap labour the new, expanding nations needed.

This was as cruel and bloody a chapter as any in the history of man. By the 19th century European type States had been established in these new lands, while the work of dispossessing the aboriginal inhabitants went steadily on. From then on an immigrant came into an established community as an outsider. There were still however vast unexplored areas into which pioneers could push. By the 20th century these had largely been occupied, except for something like a gold rush that could still send the adventurers on the move.

Emigrants flocked from Europe and Asia to all the new lands, but the one that gripped the imagination, then as now, was the United States. Most of the other new lands were either colonies of the very powers the emigrants were escaping from or, like South America, known dictatorships. America became the symbol of liberty and a myth amongst downtrodden peoples
Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
Th wretched refuse of your teeming shores
Send these the homeless tempest tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
runs the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, with more sentiment than accuracy, and into America in about hundred years went vast numbers of immigrants. It is estimated that by 1921, when the Quota Act was passed, over 35,000,000 people had entered the United States. To us in Europe today, emigration to the United States has an importance that no other emigrations have, because America is the foremost Capitalist power and its ideas spill over into the rest of the world. These include attitudes to race and colour that are grafted on to existing attitudes, like the unpleasant idiots over here who burn crosses of paraffin soaked rags in weak imitation of the Ku Klux Klan.

From the very beginning, the more capital or influence that a settler possessed the better it was for him, and the greater his chance of success. This applied equally to the later immigrants who, if they had money, could push on from the ports of dis-embarkation into the new areas. Many Swedes, Germans and Dutch had some capital and struck out into the Middle West to start farms. Land in the frontier areas was usually available to all, but money to buy tools and equipment made life easier. Many settlers had special skills and abilities, for which there was a growing demand in an expanding economy, and in this they resemble the people who leave Britain today for Canada and Australia and for Africa and New Zealand. But a vast number were poor with only their passage money and some not even that, in Britain private and public assistance boards grew up to pay the passage of poor people. In Ireland the famines of the 1840’s drove a vast number overseas, while the city of Hamburg found it cheaper to ship paupers to the United States than to provide relief for them or to jail them. The abortive revolutions of 1848 also swelled the numbers. The conditions endured on the journey in these cases are too well known to repeat.

A pattern emerged that is a familiar one today. Poor immigrants tend to settle at their points of dis-embarkation, which are usually industrial centres as well. This is found in Britain today; areas near large airports and main-line railway termini often have large immigrant populations. It is no accident that the Southall area has a large coloured population. Nearness to a point of arrival, plus industry and cheap housing, continue to produce this effect. The areas around Euston Station, the main point of arrival from Ireland, have a large Irish population. Once such a pattern becomes established, friends and relations come to join the pioneers. This happened in America, where New York, the main point of arrival, became a great immigrant centre, with vast populations of foreign origin. When an immigrant prospered, as many did, they soon moved on to pleasanter areas, but the less-fortunate stayed to swell the slum population.

In the early part of the 19th century the main stream of immigrants into America came from Western Europe—from Great Britain and Ireland, Holland, Scandinavia and Germany. Of these the main prejudice was directed against the Irish. They were anti-British, Catholic and, coming from a poor agricultural economy, tended to undercut on wages when they first arrived. The notice “No Irish" was a common sight outside factories. By the 1880’s immigrants from Western Europe were falling off and Eastern Europeans, Mediterranean and Oriental people began to flock in. These were poor, illiterate and were referred to as New Immigrants. The older immigrants, who had begun to be absorbed, treated the new arrivals with hostility and contempt. In 1877 during a slump in San Francisco an unemployed meeting ended in a two-day riot against the Chinese. A party was formed called the Working Men’s Party of California commonly known as the Sand Lot Movement. Its main plank was to get rid of cheap Chinese labour. The irony of the situation was that the party was led by Irish immigrants.

Racial prejudice is essentially irrational, and the prejudices that grew up around American immigration bore little relation to common sense. The thirteen colonies that became the nucleus of the United States were British, consequently the laws, customs and language of the new State were British. At a later stage French and Spanish areas became incorporated and much of their culture was absorbed. Nevertheless, these were subordinate to the existing pattern. At the time of the American War of Independence Americans regarded themselves as the only true Britons, and thought that the ones left behind in Britain had deteriorated and become decadent In this they resemble the Rhodesians of today.

The most desirable thing to be in 19th century America was Anglo-Saxon. The use of this name to describe anything as racially mixed up as the average Briton, is itself typical of the arrogant nonsense talked by the racial theorists of the day. The following masterpiece of idiocy was written in 1885 by Josiah Strong, a Congregational minister and secretary of the American Home Missionary Society in Ohio. In his book Our Country he claimed that Anglo-Saxons above all other races were champions of “a pure spiritual Christianity" and were being schooled for the “final completion of the races"
  Is there room for reasonable doubt that this race unless devitalised by alcohol and tobacco, is destined to dispossess many weaker races, assimilate others and mould the remainder, until in a very true and important sense it has Anglo-Saxonised mankind. (Age of Excess—Ray Ginger).
In its cool arrogance, it makes the puny efforts of our home grown racialists very tame indeed.

Scaling down from the “Anglo-Saxon" came other West Europeans, Mediterranean peoples, East Europeans, Mexicans down to Orientals, who had the additional disadvantage of being considered coloured. American official policy strove to make all immigrants into Americans, and discourage the formation of minorities. In this they had a great deal of success but real antagonisms still lay under the surface.

Until workers learn to recognise the real cause of their poverty, Capitalism, they will continue to find scapegoats, and who better for this purpose than a stranger from across the world?
Les Dale

The Wandering Worker (1967)

From the August 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Throughout history man has wandered over the face of the earth: in primitive times, in communities seeking new pastures or hunting grounds. Today people move as individuals looking for work. These movements are studied and discussed by sociologists and politicians who consider “mobility of labour" highly desirable but one aspect of it — the “brain drain” — as disastrous. The problems of modern migration give rise to many proposals of social reform and even to political parties whose case rests on stopping workers from abroad coming in to Britain and on getting out some of those already here. The immigration is blamed for bad housing, crime, spreading disease and undermining the security of local workers. The period since the war has seen millions of workers all over the world moving from the lands of their birth in search of a better life elsewhere. Their destinations have been the industrial centres where boom conditions demanded their services. Many set off from lands where large-scale industry is hardly known so that it is no surprise that problems arise from such dramatic changes of environment..

Britain provides a good example both of the inflow of workers from other lands and the outflow of local workers to distant lands. Western Europe too has attracted workers in large numbers over the past ten years, not only from southern Italy but also from North Africa, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey. British workers, with their long experience of industrial capitalism, find their labour-power in great demand in places like Australia, Canada, South Africa and even in recent years Western Europe.

Posters with such messages as “Opportunity Wears A Thousand Faces In Manitoba”, articles and adverts in the press on the joys of life in Canada and Australia rub home the point. Such is the dissatisfaction of workers in Harold Wilson’s New Britain that in recent years more have left the country than have come in. The housing problem and the prospect of higher wages are among the factors that tempt workers to move elsewhere. There are other factors too. In 1957, after the Suez affair, 160,000 left Britain, nearly doubling the figure of earlier years and the years which followed until 1963, when the number started rising to an estimated total of 170,00 in 1965. The feeling that “the country is going down the drain”, a sort of negative nationalism, is expressed by disillusioned workers who hope that prospects may be better elsewhere. A Canadian official pointed out in a letter to The Times (27.1.65):
   From 1953 to 1964 the changes in the total number of pre-immigration medical examinations carried out in our European offices correspond to changes in unemployment in Canada (Our emphasis).
The other side of this coin is that when there is unemployment in the receiving country, the immigrants tend to be the first out of a job. Estimates say that about half-a-million workers returned to Britain during the slump years of the 1930’s for just this reason. In spite of the rosy pictures drawn by governments touting for immigrants, and [they made] their way home again. An article in The Times of 13 January this year, discussing why immigrants leave Canada, pointed out that of 195,383 British immigrants to Canada in the ten years between 1956 and 1966 more than 56,300 returned to Britain. Some went back to Canada again after rediscovering the joys of working class life in Britain.

One difficulty is that of being in a strange country without friends. Canadian health and welfare services were considered inadequate. The article concluded by remarking that “it is really a question of whether one is sufficiently hard working and adaptable to meet modern changing conditions in a dynamic country”. But, as workers should know, this is a requirement of capitalism the world over. They are also only too familiar with the smear that things have gone wrong because they haven’t worked hard enough.

Australia, with its sunshine and fine beaches, attracts far more British workers than Canada. But the assisted passages for immigrants are not given in order to fill the beaches, but to fill the vacancies in the mines and steelworks, factories, shops and offices. Their energies are also needed to open up new mineral deposits well off the beaten tracks and on the building sites where skilled bricklayers are in short supply. There are snags, of course, as the Daily Telegraph (8.10.66) pointed out:
  Hundreds of British immigrants at Elizabeth, a satellite town 20 miles from Adelaide, are unemployed or in financial difficulties, mostly because of retrenchment in the local motor and building industries . . .
   Mr. Bill Simpson, a local estate agent, says ’hundreds’ of immigrants are selling or trying to sell their houses to return to Britain or to move to other States in Australia. The Rev. Ralph Hood, a Methodist Minister, said recently: ’People are on the bread line and sometimes below it. I know of some children who had not been able to go to school because they haven’t any shoes’.
No doubt some are cursing the day they ever read an advert like “Get Up and Go People Are Cut Out for Australia” and the passage that read “Australia offers you a future as big as you wish to make it. Help Australia grow and you'll share in her prosperity”.

At present the movement of workers from Britain to Australia, Canada and the United States is growing. Many are young and highly skilled. This is the so-called brain drain. Some politicians try to make a moral issue of this, claiming that the country that paid for their training has a right to their services. It’s another story, of course, when doctors trained in India or Pakistan come to Britain to work. This well shows that workers’ energies and skills under capitalism take the form of commodities. It is up to the seller to get the best possible price. That they leave the land of their birth to do this shows that they have no stake in it. The workers have no country.

While some workers have been leaving Britain, many others have moved in. It is estimated that two million immigrants are now resident in Britain, 700,000 from Eire; 350,000 from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa; 400,000 from the rest of Europe; and the remainder from the West Indies, India, Pakistan, Africa and other ex-colonial territories. It is the last group which, by the colour of their skin, have been the most conspicuous. Generally, only the most menial jobs have been open to them and they have suffered most from discrimination in housing. The 1964 election saw the immigration issue used by certain Tory candidates as a weapon against the Labour Party. Quite unnecessarily as it turned out; the new Labour government soon outdid their predecessors in limiting the number of immigrants allowed into Britain.

Immigrants did not import the housing problem. It was here already. Like workers coming from Eire, they found themselves barred from many lodging houses and as a result the landlords who were prepared to take them were able to charge above average rents. Workers coming to Britain have settled in areas with low unemployment, mainly in the London area, the Midlands and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Few have gone to Scotland or Ireland where unemployment is high and where the local workers are themselves moving out.

A further aspect of migration is the movement of workers within a country. The recent tendency in Britain has been called “the drift to the South East”. This highlights the changing industrial structure of Britain with the decline of industries like coal mining, shipbuilding and heavy engineering which were located in the north of England and Scotland; and the advance of light engineering, electronics, motor and aircraft production mainly located in the Midlands and South East England.

This sort of situation was summed up by Townsend Warner, writing at the end of the nineteenth century in Landmarks in English Industrial History:
   Man is of all kinds of baggage the most difficult to be moved. . . .Man is classified as ]labour' and is represented as 'followings' where there is a demand for labour.
However, this applies only to the working man who has to get his living by working for an employer. It applies to capitalist society where the economic considerations of having enough workers at the right place at the right time overrides all other factors. Homesickness, insecurity, housing problems are all by-products of it. Workers seeking a better life elsewhere represent only a small proportion of the movement of population in recent years. Most have moved as the result of wars and the setting up of new states:
  It has been estimated that the migrations of the last 25 years, bound up with the Second World War and the nationalist movements which followed it constitute the greatest population movement of all time, perhaps a hundred million people have been involved (J. Beaujeu Gamier, Geography of Population, Longmans, 1966).
After the independence of India and Pakistan 17 million people moved: “in 1957 there were 8.4 million refugees in Pakistan and 8.85 million in India”. Nor is there any let up to the problem, as the new flood of refugees following the recent Middle East war shows.

Migration of workers brings problems in its wake but is itself caused by capitalism. Wars and nationalisms are part and parcel of the system, as are the erratic movements of the trade cycle which require a mobile labour force. Wherever workers may move their problems will go with them. The employer-employee relationship remains, along with the insecurity that arises from production for sale with a view to profit.

Migration in recent years, with assisted passages and government schemes for helping the immigrant settle in, has changed in detail from the days of convict settlements and the mass movements following the Highland clearances and the Irish famine; but the essential features remain. For the capitalist class opportunity to make a profit wears a thousand faces in Manitoba and elsewhere. This means millions of workers have to move to the places where their energies can be most profitably used. Welfare states or not, discontented workers still wander the world in search of that elusive “good job.” The answer is not in a new job or better employer but in abolishing the status of labour-power as a commodity. The world would then belong to all to enjoy, instead of as today the world and its workers being at the disposal of a privileged few.
Joe Carter