Saturday, September 8, 2018

Party News Briefs (1948)

Party News from the September 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Autumn Delegate Meeting takes place on Sunday morning and afternoon, September 26th, at the Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, W.C.1. It will be followed in the evening by a mass rally at the same hall. The Executive Committee’s report on the first six months of 1948 is now in the hands of branches. Among other things it shows that our propaganda has been more extensive during the six months than for a considerable number of years, even including 1945 when we fought a General Election campaign. The Central Organiser considers that the prospects of the party are now brighter than ever before. The sales of the Socialist Standard have also increased recently after a dull period during the winter. We are still, however, facing difficulties owing to a shortage of competent writers for the Socialist Standard. These difficulties may be solved by the Head Office Tutorial Class, which now has a sufficient nucleus of tutors to go ahead as a general introductory class for new members, and as a means of finding out the aptitude of members for speaking, writing and teaching. In the section of the report devoted to overseas contacts the question is raised of socialists living in countries where no socialist parties exist, and who wish to maintain ties with a socialist party. Financially our position is still a difficult one, although it improved at the beginning of the year but deteriorated afterwards. Delegates will probably give this item serious consideration, particularly in view of the Executive Committee’s decision to contest at least one constituency, North Paddington, at the next General Election. The total membership of the party at the end of June was 1,008, yet another increase. The Delegate Meeting will be interesting and stimulating, and we will give a report of it in the November Socialist Standard.

Hackney Branch commence their weekly Friday evening winter lecture course at the Bethnal Green Public Library, Cambridge Heath Road, on October 1st. at 8 o’clock, when A. Turner will speak on “ Our hostility to other parties.” On October 8th C. Groves speaks on “Nationalisation,” and October 15th S. Cash speaks on “ Socialism in our time.”

Islington Branch appeal to all their members to support their outdoor meetings, with which they are having difficulties owing to tack of branch support. The co-operation of members is urgently required.

Two New Branches have just been formed, one at St. Pancras and the other at Fulham. These two areas are ripe for party development and it is gratifying to have party units established there.

“Collected Socialist Pamphlets," the bound volume of party pamphlets is now ready. This is a limited special Library edition, 307 pages, strongly bound in quarter blue calf, with gold lettering along the back. The price is 8s. 6d. nett. It is available to public and university libraries only, and until the supply is exhausted, all librarians who apply for a copy can be supplied. Several public libraries in Lancashire and Yorkshire have already applied for copies. Party members are urged to put this book on the “Suggestion Slips” at their local libraries. Remember the title— “Collected Socialist Pamphlets.” Publishers—The Socialist Party of Great Britain.

A Fuller Report of the Debate with Christopher Hollis (Conservative) at Ealing Town Hall has now been received. H. Young opened the debate by defining a class as a body of people united by a common economic interest: the existence of one class presupposed the existence of at least one other and consequently a conflict of interests or a class struggle.

He wound up his first session by tracing the development of classes and the class struggle and by defining the class division.of society to-day.

Hollis stated that he agreed with Young’s definition of a class.

Although Marx had had some “horse sense” and although his "economic determinism” was fundamentally correct, his psychology was behind the times —Young was stating a case which may have been all very well in 1848 but was hardly applicable to-day: capitalism was now nearly dead, nevertheless it had succeeded during its lifetime, by the development of the world’s productive resources in improving the condition of the working-class and had not, as Marx had predicted, merely increased their misery.

To-day in England, as a result of a diffusion of ownership, there were more capitalists than working men.

The people with real power to-day were not the capitalists, but the rising managerial class, who were neither capitalists nor workers.

One might well ask then, is there not a class-struggle on this basis? The answer he would give was that at present there was not, but that one may develop in the future.

As for the socialist revolution: there was every indication that it would follow the pattern of revolutions in the past—that despite the equalitarian promises of its advocates, a new ruling class would arise from it. Young, in his second period, repeated his definition of classes.

If Hollis was right, and the majority of people were capitalists, there would still be a minority class.

William Beveridge (and many other prominent statisticians agreed with him) had stated that 9 per cent. of the total population owned 91 per cent. of the total wealth—this indicated a vast gulf between two classes in society and this view was sustained by the proof of the large amounts of money left in the wills published daily in the newspapers.

When Marx spoke of the increasing poverty of the workers he was relating their position to that of their masters, poverty and riches being relative, one presupposing the other.

Managers were not capitalists, and capitalists did not need any special capabilities of knowledge to attain their superior social position.

Young wound up his second period by describing Socialism and the means by which it was to be achieved.

Hollis opened his second period by repeating that Marx was an economic determinist.

Society, he said, contained an infinite variety of classes—some people were capitalists and workers in varying degrees.

He did not deny that there were rich and poor but did deny that riches in any way necessarily gave power: a large number of very powerful people were without riches.

There was a conflict between the managerial class and the capitalists—society would undoubtedly change, but not as Marx and the S.P.G.B. envisaged.

Young stated that it was futile for Hollis to look back to past conditions when considering present-day poverty—this did not explain anything nor did it in any way help to solve the problem.

It was very strange that despite the privileged position which Hollis stated to be the lot of the managers, no capitalist wanted to suffer the social fall to a manager, but many managers wanted to rise to capitalists.

Socialism could not be established by a minority, even a Marxist minority: it must be the work of the working-class themselves. Hollis replied that Young had been speaking in the past—his contentions were out of date, since the face of capitalism Had changed.

Marx had not meant relative poverty, but actual poverty.

The main fault with Marxism and the S.P.G.B. case was that one could not solve the problems of 1948 with solutions which were propounded in 1848. Young wound up the debate by pointing out that Hollis had agreed that there was a class-struggle and had now passed on to a discussion of Socialism.

It may be that the face of capitalism had changed, but the ugly body remained the same.

He finished by stressing the necessity for the working-class first understanding and desiring Socialism before that system of society could be established.

Kingston Branch is preparing for a season of winter activity in Malden, Surrey district. The local Labour Party in this area was challenged to debate, but has replied with the usual “no useful purpose would be served by such a debate at the present time.” The success of the outdoor meetings at Castle Street, Kingston, on Saturday evenings has prompted the branch to hold meetings at the same place on Friday evenings. ‘‘The Fountain” at New Malden is now being considered as a further outdoor station as a preliminary to a series of indoor meetings in that locality later in the year.

The Overseas Secretary reports that the recently formed Dublin Socialist Group is progressing very satisfactorily. Meetings held at the hall at 33, Lower Gardiner Street, on Sunday evenings are a stimulating success. The subjects cover a wide range and each meeting is reported, and future ones announced, in the Dublin Evening Mail. Readers of the Socialist Standard in any part of Eire are invited to contact the group through M. Cullen, 34, Lower Buckingham Street, Dublin. We have received a collection of news cuttings taken from Dublin daily and evening papers which show that the group is making itself known in that city.

The International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam, which lost most of its journals and periodicals during the war, is now re-collecting material and is being supplied with Party literature.

Attempts are being made to link up a number of ex-members and friends in Africa in order that their socialist activities may be co-ordinated.

The World Socialist Party of U.S.A. have sent us the report of the 1948 National Conference held in Boston on May 30th and 31st. Some of the problems' discussed by the delegates are problems that beset our own Party or have had to be thrashed out by us in the past. In particular is the ever present problem of maintaining a sufficient financial income to continue socialist activities. The finances of a Socialist Party, dependant upon the shallow pockets of its working-class members and friends, are always a source of headaches.

Another common problem to both our organisations is to find ways and means to increase the circulation of our literature. The W.S.P. conference discussed a number of projects With this object in view, the result of which we may soon see embodied in their journal, “The Western Socialist

We note with interest that a $1,000 drive is to be instituted in an effort to put their full-time National Organiser back in the field.

Also discussed was the suggestion that some form of organisation be established to embrace socialists who reside in parts of the world where no Socialist Party exists, and who desire to keep in touch with the socialist movement in an organised manner.

Next year's conference venue will be Detroit.

Greetings are sent to all comrades in Great Britain.
C. C. Groves,
General Secretary. 

Ourselves and the Conservatives (1949)

From the September 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

Friends of the Labour Party sometimes complain to us that we spend a lot of time attacking the Labour Government. "Why," they ask, "do you not attack the Labour Party less and the Conservatives more?" When they develop their argument it invariably turns out that they do not really mean what they say. They do not want us to attack the Labour Government less, but not at all, and their only positive suggestion is that we should drop Socialist propaganda and help them denounce and destroy the Tory Party. We would certainly like to destroy the Tory Party, and so, perhaps, would some members of the Labour Party, but that does not in the least mean that we and the Labour Party share a common purpose. Some recent political history should make this clear. The Labour Party, between the wars, succeeded in reducing the Liberal Party to an impotent political fragment, but has this weakened capitalism and brought Socialism nearer?

By no means. What it did was to turn the Labour Party from a political wing of the trade unions into a veritable successor of Liberalism, inheriting from them the function of sharing the administration of capitalism with the Tories, and as the Labour Party gains more experience in the corrupting task of running the capitalist system it is evolving further, this time towards Conservatism, trying to steal from them the reputation of being the guardians of the British Colonial Empire, and the sponsors of conscription and big armaments. The gulf between the Labour and Tory programmes is now no greater than was the old division between Liberal and Tory. And it is one of those hotly denied but widely accepted facts of the political situation that if British capitalism comes up against a really acute financial or international crisis Labour and Tory enemies will hasten into each other's arms to save it in a coalition government.

Socialists certainly want to see the Tory Party die, but for a purpose, the purpose of achieving Socialism. Capitalism is the removable evil from which the working class have to rid themselves, Therefore all who defend capitalism are the enemies of the working class. This includes the Labour Party even though their defence of capitalism arises not from a conscious aim, but is forced on them by the fact that they have taken on the administration of capitalism and can do no other than defend it.

Yet there is a difference—though it tends to grow less—between Labour and Tory. The Tory Party began as the defender of landed property, that was its conscious purpose. In the course of time it has become the conscious defender of capitalist property as a whole. The Tory Party only became interested in the working class, in the first place to the extent that working class discontent threatened to upset the system, and later on to the extent that the workers had votes and were therefore potential supporters of Tory candidates. In its essence as the defender of property against the propertyless the Tory Party has never changed. Every move, every reform measure sponsored by them has been designed with the object of strengthening property interests and helping them to power.

Now, with the advent of a Labour Government, and the prospect of its being returned again at the next election, the Tory Party has had to overhaul its machinery, its propaganda and its vote-catching appeals. Now it is the Labour Party that is hampered by having to do the unpopular things that governments of capitalism have to do. Conversely it is now the Tories who in the irresponsibility of opposition are trying to outbid the Labour leaders. Hence —to take one striking example—Mr. Churchill's claim that the Tories are the real friends of the Trade Unions and the workers. Speaking at Wolverhampton on July 23rd, 1949, he said:-—
   "Nothing was clearer than that Nationalisation spelt the doom of trade unionism. That was already the case in all totalitarian states where they were used to make the workers come along as quietly as they will, before the sterner measures of Socialist or Soviet management have to be enforced. Conservatives regarded the trades union movement, which they had always fostered from its earliest days, as a characteristic feature of British life. They believed in collective bargaining and the right to strike." (Daily Telegraph, 25/7/49.)
This latter claim is a travesty of history and the workers will swallow it at their peril. The Tories, as they showed by their handling of the miners and the general strike in 1926, the Trade Disputes Act, 1927, and the callous treatment of the unemployed throughout the 'thirties, will operate capitalism ruthlessly. It is true, indeed, that Russian or British state capitalism offers absolutely no hope to the working class, but neither does the Tory "paternal" capitalism now being propagated in their "Right Road for Britain" and the Tory "Workers' Charter."
Edgar Hardcastle

How Capital Flourishes Under Labour Government (1950)

Editorial from the September 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Forty-five years ago, just after the formation of the S.P.G.B. and just before the formation of the Labour Party, Chiozza Money, a Liberal economist, wrote a book that played a large part in political argument for many years. It was called “Riches and Poverty.” It showed how the country was divided into two classes, the smaller of which monopolised the ownership of property and enjoyed the luxury provided by large incomes. It was nothing new for Socialists but provided statistical backing for the Socialist case. It was also used by the reformist Labour Party; but with a very different purpose. The first Manifesto of the S.P.G.B. declared:—“Society is today divided into two classes with opposing interests, one class owning the means of life and the other nothing but their power to work.” Then, as now, the S.P.G.B. insisted that nothing less than the conversion of the means of production and distribution into the common property of society could achieve emancipation. The Labour Party however promised by means of social reforms, taxation, death duties (and by the now forgotten “capital levy”) to make gradual but increasing inroads into capitalism until, imperceptibly, socialism would be here.

We have had the reforms, the death duties, the increase of income tax and surtax, and three Labour governments, the latest of which has been in power with a Parliamentary majority for over 5 years. And Socialism has not been introduced nor is it in process of being introduced. We still confront the same ruthless, exploiting, war-producing capitalist system. The task of achieving socialism still remains to be done and the method set out in the first publications of the S.P.G.B. is still the only way.

Labour Party supporters will contest the Socialist charge that capitalism has not been essentially changed; but out of the mouths of their own spokesmen the futility of Labourism can be demonstrated. Here are two Labour Party statements on capitalist ownership, the first was made in 1918 and the second in 1949.

The first was made towards the end of the first world war, in the Labour Party’s Report on general policy called “Labour and the New Social Order.”
  "Meanwhile innumerable new private fortunes are being heaped up by those who have taken advantage of the nation's needs; and the one-tenth of the population which owns nine-tenths of the riches of the United Kingdom, far from being made poorer, will find itself, in the aggregate, as a result of the war, drawing in rent and interest and dividends a larger nominal income than ever before.”
(“Labour and the New Social Order” Labour Party 1918, Page 19.)
Every one of those statements could be made again today; in particular the admission about the concentration of wealth in the hands of the small minority.

Let us now take a step forward over 30 years and read the admission made in the House of Commons on 18 May, 1949, by Mr. Glenvil Hall, M.P., Financial Secretary to the Treasury in the Labour Government:—
  “Of the 550,000 people who die each year only 10 per cent. own more than £2,000, but these 10 per cent. between them own 90 per cent, of the total property.” 
So thirty years of change has produced no result whatever. Ninety per cent. of the wealth was owned by 10 per cent. of the population in 1918 and still is.

Of course the Labour Party is again promising to do something about it. Mr. Gaitskell, M.P., who is now Minister of State for Economic Affairs referred to it in March 1949: “Property is still very unequally divided, and that is a problem which has got to be tackled.” (Daily Herald, 9/3/49). He thought that still higher death duties might do the trick but he did not explain why all the earlier increases had failed to do so. Nearly a year later another writer, Mr. Douglas Jay, M.P., who has now replaced Mr. Glenvil Hall as Financial Secretary to the Treasury, made an admission that might help to enlighten him. Speaking at Battersea Mr. Jay said:—“There is little sign that death duties are doing more than holding their own against private accumulation of Wealth.” (Daily Express 17/1/50).

One mysterious belief of Labour Party propagandists has been that nationalisation helps to lessen inequality of wealth. In the past few years the nationalisation schemes have actually worked in the opposite direction. If the mines and railways had not been nationalised the heavy losses made in the years after the war would have drastically slashed the market prices of mining and railways shares and correspondingly reduced the big fortunes invested in those industries. As it is the shareholders, by being compensated with the many hundreds of millions of pounds worth of Government bonds at fixed rates of interest guaranteed by the Government, have been saved from the major part of the loss they would otherwise have suffered. Nationalisation or state capitalism helps to safeguard the wealth of the capitalist class.

Capitalism, which the Labour Party never understood. has made nonsense of their well-intentioned but misconceived programmes. The only cure for capitalism is its abolition. The only road to emancipation is that proclaimed by the S.P.G.B. nearly half a century ago.

Party News Briefs (1951)

Party News from the September 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Summer School will be held at Treetops Holiday Camp, Farley Green, Albury, Surrey, on Saturday and Sunday, 22nd and 23rd September. Full details are obtainable on application to the Social Committee at Head Office.

Bloomsbury Branch will meet weekly at 7.30 from Thursday, September 6th, at the North Room, Conway Hall. Discussions will be held after Branch business, each weekly discussion being opened by a member of the Branch. Comrade Gilmac will speak on the History of the Party for the first three meetings, September 6th, 13th and 20th. (The subject for the 27th September to be announced.)

Donations from Overseas.
The Overseas Secretary wishes to acknowledge the receipt of the following donations to Party Funds:
H. J ., Bermuda, £10 (£8 to Premises Fund and £2 to Overseas Propaganda expenses).
W. G., Rhodesia, £5 (Premises Fund).
J.O.B., South Africa, £1 (Overseas Propaganda expenses).
From Comrades in New Zealand, £17 (New Premises Fund).
Phyllis Howard

Strikes and Lock-Outs Legalised (1951)

Editorial from the September 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

With the repeal of Order 1305 and the enactment of the new Industrial Disputes Order strikes and lock-outs are legalised again much as they were before 1939; though now, as then, strikers employed in public utility undertakings will in certain circumstances be liable to prosecution under the Act of 1875. One of the Government’s aims in changing the law is clearly to try to discourage “unofficial” strikes, for under the new Order disputes can be reported only by organisations of employers, individual employers or trade unions. Whether it will have that effect remains to be seen, and the “Economist” (11.8.1951) thinks that it may work in the opposite direction: “Breakaway unions or disaffected sections of unions, having little to hope from the official machinery, may be all the readier to resort to strikes.”

The Minister of Labour can also refuse to refer a dispute to the new Industrial Disputes Tribunal (or can stop the hearing) if either party to the dispute is trying to compel the other side to accept its claims and thus causing a stoppage of work.

The Minister candidly admitted that the old arrangement has been abandoned because it had become unworkable: “To take one instance, experience has shown that the enforcement of penal sanctions against persons taking part in strikes and lock-outs gives rise to extreme difficulties” (Daily Telegraph, 3.8.1951.) In other words, the old prohibition of strikes was increasingly being ignored by workers kicking against the Government’s policy of discouraging wage claims in face of rising prices.

Two aspects of the new legal position deserve particular notice. The first concerns the legalisation of strikes. Because strikes were prohibited many workers have come to assume that if only they could legally strike their problems would be solved. They will be in for a shock. The Labour Government for the past six years has been trying to keep wages from rising by the kid-glove method of persuasion through trade union officials and Labour politicians. The method has failed but the policy is still the same. The prospect is that the fight will eventually take on the more markedly brutal form it had before the war. It is not only strikes that are legalised, but also lock-outs, and those who are not deceived by mere appearances will note that Mr. R. A. Butler, for the Conservatives. “welcomed the statement that it contained no provisions for prohibiting lock-outs or strikes . . . ” (Daily Telegraph, 3.8.1951.) As Socialists have always pointed out, in the last resort strikers are up against the might not only of the employers but of the State, and when the interests of Capitalism demand all-out resistance to wage demands the employers, backed by the forces of the State, can in the end starve the strikers into submission.

The other point of interest to socialists is the way in which the new Order proves the emptiness of the Labour Party's claim that they know how to abolish industrial disputes. After six years of experiment with compulsory arbitration and the almost complete legal prohibition of strikes they now have to admit that it would not work. What is more, instead of being able to fulfil their promise that Labour Government would create industrial peace and harmony all they can think of is to go back to the conditions that existed under Tory rule before the war. And even this is only an experiment, introduced as a temporary stop-gap and liable to be withdrawn if either the employers or the trade unions call for withdrawal. Labour Party administration has brought no solution to industrial war. The class struggle still goes on, as it will under Capitalism.

Urgent ! (1952)

Party News from the September 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are again in urgent need of funds. Our financial position has become very serious indeed.

For a long time we have been spending on essential party work more money than has come in from sales of of literature, collections and donations. Hiring halls for meetings, advertising, printing and other regular items cost far more now than they used to. We organised a number of large indoor meetings during the winter and a propaganda campaign during the last general election which involved considerable expenditure; we have organised provincial tours and, on request, have sent speakers to the provinces which have helped to drain away funds. Our normal Head Office expenses have also increased in line with our increasing activity. The result of all this is that our funds have been reduced almost to vanishing point, and at the moment we have not enough money to pay current bills.

When we are in financial straights the only people we can appeal to for assistance are our members and sympathisers, who have never failed us. To them we now appeal once more to dig into their pockets as deeply as they can and to send to us immediately whatever they can manage as the position is really serious.

Money should be sent to E. Lake, S.P.G.B., 52 Clapham High Street, London, S.W.4., who will acknowledge receipt in the usual way.

Obituary: Dick Cotton (1953)

Obituary from the September 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many members of Ealing Branch will already have heard with sorrow of the sudden death of Comrade “Dick” Cotton. He died on 31st July of a brain haemorrhage, at the tragically early age of 32. Although we all knew that his health was poor, requiring him to make frequent visits to hospital and to undergo several operations, it is clear only now, when all is over, how serious his illness really was. The fact that he himself never complained of his afflictions no doubt contributed to this.

Dick Cotton was not a “prominent” member of the Party. He was not a speaker or writer. Outside the Branch his name is probably hardly known. He was one of those comrades, however, without whose enthusiasm, labour, and support—consistently given— the Party would soon cease to exist. By his death the Party has lost a keen and active worker for Socialism, and we in Ealing Branch have lost a staunch comrade and a good friend.

We extend our deepest sympathy to his mother and family in their sad loss.
Stan Hampson

The Birth of the Socialist Party (1954)

From the September 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the early days of the Working Class Movement, when advocates of better conditions were treated as felons, there was some ground for engaging in secret societies and for defending internal deliberations from prying eyes. Towards the end of the Nineteenth Century the fetters upon revolutionary activity had been so considerably loosened in England, and the path to power opened by means of electoral action, that secrecy was no longer necessary and only became an obstacle to progress.

But the tradition of secrecy still persisted in the social democratic parties, and, along with the fetish of leadership, placed in the hands of small groups of leaders power to influence the policy of parties in the directions they wished. The result of this was that policy was decided by a few people in prominent positions. This had a retarding influence upon the growth of the workers understanding and upon the real progress of the working class movement. Those in the forefront of the movement felt that they were the nature-designed leaders of a great cause, and they were impatient to build up a large following, believing that this in itself would bring about the emancipation of the workers; the familiar picture of leaders selling out for pelf and place only existed in outline. Moreover, those who were at that time determining the policy of the movement in different directions were tied to reformist programmes; some of them denied the existence of the class struggle and saw in Socialism nothing more than the establishment of eternal principles of justice and morality.

Inside the Social Democratic Federation, the most advanced of the English radical parties, dissatisfaction with the reformist programmes and the temporary agreements with capitalist parties was growing and had already been responsible for an ill-fated breakaway led by William Morris, Belfort Bax, Frederick Lessner, and Marx's daughter Eleanor, at the end of the eighties. They had formed the Socialist League which had the blessing of Frederick Engels. Unfortunately the “League” went to the other extreme and abandoned parliamentary action, eventually coming under the control of anarchists.

During the early days of the present century a group of young people began to form which aimed at clarifying the position and transforming the Social Democratic Federation into a genuine Socialist organisation, free from the fetters of reformism. They made fierce protests against reformism, leadership, private agreements and political trading at meetings and conferences. Their efforts, however, were paralysed by the power, influences and secret arrangements of the official leaders, who dubbed the militant group “Impossiblists” on the ground that their proposals were unpractical, unsound, and would make the movement impotent.

About the same time the ideas of the America Socialist Labour Party, headed by a very able speaker and writer, Daniel de Leon, were making some headway amongst youthful radicals in England and Scotland in spite of the fact that this organisation was also crippled by a reformist bias and by a leaning towards industrial unionism.

In 1903 and 1904 the “Impossiblist” group made desperate efforts by “boring from within” tactics to head off the reformist policy of the, leaders, but without success. The latter became so incensed at the attacks upon them that they finally arranged at a private meeting to deal with the opposition by persuading conference to give them powers to expel those militants who would not toe the line laid down by the Executive. The militants refused to withdraw from the position they had taken up, in favour of revolutionary political action on the class struggle basis, and the expulsions by the Executive then commenced.

One section of the militants, in Scotland, had actually formed themselves into a section of the Socialist Labor Party in 1903; accepting all that was stultifying in S.L.P policy. This secret action was not revealed by them to the rest of the militants until 1904. The other section held a meeting in London at which it was agreed that any further attempts to bring the Social Democratic Federation in line with a genuine class struggle policy would be fruitless, and the only alternative was to form a new political organisation.

At a meeting in London on June 12th, 1904, this new organisation was formed—The Socialist Party of Great Britain.

The new party was forced into existence without premises, a party journal, literature or funds. The members immediately set about framing a Declaration of Principles and a set of rules to guide them, and also collecting funds to publish a monthly journal.

In September, 1904, the first number of the new journal, the Socialist Standard, appeared and the editoria; column contained the following statement.
  “In the past, two bodies of men have put forward the claim to be Socialist parties, viz., the Independent Labour Party and the Social Democratic Federation. We who have for many years taken a share in the work of the latter organisation, and who have watched the progress of the former from its initiation, have been forced to the conclusion that through neither of them can the Social Revolution in which we aim be achieved, and that from neither of them can the working class secure redress from the ills they suffer."
This first number of the Socialist Standard also contained the Object and Declaration of Principles that had been drawn up and agreed upon by the membership.

The last paragraph of the Principles, in particular, was opposed to the practice of all the social democratic parties of the time, and yet the accuracy of this Principle should be obvious. There cannot be more than one Socialist party in any country because, if it is a genuine Socialist party, any other parties that are formed must increase the confusion in the minds of the workers and therefore retard the march to Socialism.

In spite of this obvious truth many, who claimed to be Socialists, were members of more than one organisation; some were members of the Fabian Society, the Independent Labour Party and the Social Democratic Federation, as well as, later, the Labour Party. It was their mutual adherence to reform policies that enabled members of these parties to do this, without finding anything contradictory in their conduct. When the Socialist Party of Great Britain was formed its members were so conscious of this weakness that they declined to accept anybody to membership who belonged to any other political party and refused to permit its members to speak on any other political platform except in opposition. 

Owing to the bitter experience of the undemocratic methods of the Social Democratic Federation the new party framed rules that gave the whole of the membership complete control of the organisation, and, in order that workers could be under no delusion about the aims and activities of the Party, all meetings, whether Branch Meetings, Executive Meetings, or Conferences, were open to the public; anyone was free to enter these meetings and listen to the discussions.

This was a revolutionary departure from custom and a severe blow to the cult of leadership, as well as eliminating any suspicion that the Party was engaged in any secret or conspiratorial activities. This policy of open meetings the Party has adhered to ever since.

Such were the circumstances that gave birth to the party that this year celebrates its fiftieth anniversary; fifty years of the consistent advocacy of Socialism without turning aside for anything.

Are You Reading "The Western Socialist"? (1955)

From the September 1955 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Standard goes all over the world, from Mexico to Moscow, Iceland to Australasia. Often, people write in and tell us what it means to read a real Socialist paper. For example, this reader, 8,000 miles away: “to say how much I admire the Socialist Standard and its refreshing and enlightening material; how cleansing this is to the mind! . . .  perhaps one day we will have a true demonstrable 'peace on earth, good will toward men,’ because of such positive thinking.”

We shall not be content until everyone reads the Standard. In the meantime, however, we think that no one who appreciates a good Socialist magazine should miss The Western Socialist. Published by our comrades in America and Canada, its viewpoint is the same as the Socialist Standard's, looking at American Capitalism through the sharp eyes of scientific Socialists.

The Western Socialist is bi-monthly and costs sixpence. Its latest issue has an illuminating article called “ Profits v. Polio,” another on “ Belt-Line Culture,” and a debate on “Political versus Direct Action.” There is a page of of cuttings from the American Press, and the latest in a series of articles by one of the Socialist Standard's regular contributors. In addition, the editors are publishing the Socialist Declaration of Principles in different languages—this time in Italian.

Not nearly enough Socialists are reading The Western Socialist. From our head office, about 600 copies go out of each issue. That is an absurdly low figure for so good a magazine. We want to see many times that number being sold. One reason is that a bigger circulation will do our finances good. The other—and next important—reason is that we don’t see how anyone can afford to miss what is in The Western Socialist.

If you aren’t already a reader, buy a copy straight away. If you are, see that everyone you know buys it; six hundred will stand any amount of multiplying.
R. C.

Fresh thinking with stale ideas (1956)

From the September 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Every now and again in the radical movement there crop up attempts “to think out afresh the foundations of a Socialist faith and its implications in the modern world." The alleged “fresh” thinking always turns out to be a rehash of earlier attempts to bypass the obstacle of universal working class understanding; each attempt also overlooks, or is ignorant of, the fact the old ground is covered again in much the same way as it was covered in the past. Always the world of production and distribution is supposed to have thrown up some aspects that merits a change in outlook—but the outlook does not change; it is just the same reformist outlook attempting to iron out some of the wrinkles that mar the smooth running of the Capitalist social system.

These attempts at “fresh" thinking are generally the work of "intellectuals" whose ideas are not rooted in the working class movement, and who feel frustrated and confined in their efforts to make a mark in the world. The fruit of their work has always boiled down to the oiling of the machinery of capitalism to reduce some of the squeaks though the “fresh" thinkers have been too  "intellectual" to notice this.

Since the war there has been a plague of this furbishing up of stale ideas. In earlier times the touchstone of the “new” thinking was Social Democracy; since 1917 it has been Russia. Now the Communists are torn by a plethora of it, and, in this country, have even issued a journal, The Reasoner," as “a Journal of Discussion," to re-examine the views they have been putting forward as established truth for nearly 40 years. What they are doing is going back to the earlier arguments over Dictatorship, which figured under the misleading and nonsensical title of “democratic centralism." Again and again we pointed out in our columns, in the early twenties, the absurdity of attaching the name democracy to the rigid centralised dictatorship of the Bolsheviks. Apparently some Communists and fellow-travellers are at last beginning to have doubts about dictatorship. But the basis of their discussions, like the “new" thinking of the past, will get them nowhere because, like their forbears, they accept commodity production, as a continuing state of affairs, and the swindle that, with all its faults, the Russian State Capitalist system is really Socialist.

In the U.S.A., at the beginning of the thirties, there was also an upsurge of “new" thinking. The Modern Quarterly’’ for the winter 1930-31 contained several pages of this controversy. One of the participants was Lewis Mumford. V. F. Calverton replied to him effectively, but his reply was marred by his sympathy with the general Russian outlook.

We will give some quotations from Mumford, and readers will recognise the similarity between his ideas and those that are going the round to-day. After referring to what was happening in Russia he stated that in America they were faced with an entirely different set of conditions. That although there were many and serious evils in America under which workers suffered:
   “It is not the presence of prosperity, but the absence of terror, hunger and desperation that makes a revolution in the Russian sense of the word remote. More important, however, than the lack of desperate incentive is the fact that our society, unlike that of Russia in 1917, is a highly complicated industrial one, and the operation of our industries requires a high order of intelligent co-operation. . . . A revolution in America must be accomplished as the Grand Central Station was built tearing down the old, building up the new, and keeping the train service on schedule, all at the same time."
The last few lines is the key to his outlook. The little by little and bit by bit attitude of the reformers. He puts his view more clearly later on:
  "Our society, then, will not be changed by a catastrophe; it will be changed by the continuous pressure of economic groups, working towards concrete ends, the control of an industry, the socialization of a municipal utility, the nationalization of a resource, the planning of great public works."
Well we have had all these in this country, and the result? In last month’s Socialist Standard we quoted Sir Anthony Eden's statement that unless inflation could be got rid of we were going downhill to poverty for ourselves and our children. Which shows how valueless, from the working class point of view, is all this planning and building like the Grand Central Station. It has no effect worth talking about on the fundamental basis of capitalism—on the class cleavage between workers and Capitalists. Who does, and must, carry out the planning that Mumford mentions? The Government of course— the Executive Committee of the ruling class. In face of this the following grandiose statements by Mumford reveal his fatuity:
   "In back of these concrete changes must be the sense of general ends and ultimate goals; the growth of a common culture, the development of friendly ways of living; the spread and renewal of the arts and sciences and their infiltration into every aspect of life; for without such ends all our material renovations will be baseless and impermanent To be conscious of these ends and to project them vividly is one of the definite rĂ´les of the intellectual in preparing for the transformation."
Well, how has it gone with the world, and with Mumford, and his like, since he wrote those words? We have suffered a gigantic war, we have seen the fratricidal strife in India, the Korean War and others, and we are living in dread of the destructive power of the Hydrogen Bomb. At the moment, also, the Suez Canal is the centre of a conflict that has an ultimate goal alright but has nothing to do with the development of friendly ways of living. We have also witnessed the many somersaults of the “Intellectuals” in different fields.

Mumford, himself, is not an exception to this charge. The man who urged the development of friendly ways of living turned jingo in 1939, calling Americans to arms to fight Germany. Mumford’s book "Men Must Act,” published in 1939, was a criticism of British policy for giving way to Hitler and urging the "democracies” to fight. In the preface he says:
  “The internal contradictions and conflicts that have piled up in Soviet Russia will remove, in all probability, the one menace that need cause a moment’s concern: the possibility of their effecting a tacit alliance with Fascist governments." (Page 15.)
Of course the "intellectual" leader, Mumford, was entirely wrong. Russia did form an actual alliance with Germany and took part in the dismemberment of Poland. Mumford winds up his preface as follows:
  “Democracy has still a fighting chance of surviving in the present world, on one condition, that it is prepared to fight The main purpose of this book is to rally together those in America who have a firm belief in democracy; but its ultimate appeal is to men of good will throughout the world . . .
  “If we are ready to die rather than submit to Fascism we may still establish a world in which peaceful men may again, not unhopefully, live. . . . Every man and woman must face this choice."
Well Fascism was defeated and now we are hopefully living under the threat of the Hydrogen Bomb, and the world is a maelstrom of trouble. Mumford is just a glaring example of the ineptitude of the “intellectual” except as a tool to help sections of the master class out of trouble.

Before concluding we must make one more quotation from Mumford’s article in the American Quarterly:
  “What then, must be the attitude of the intellectual in America who seeks to further a creative transformation of our society? He must aim to keep alive in himself the essentials that are needed in a whole society which is oriented to the good life."
Was be doing that when he shouted for war? He certainly helped to send the cream of youth to a bad death, even if be aimed to keep himself alive.

But the "new” thinkers are all the same. They are windy purveyors of stale ideas and tools of the ruling class —even if unconsciously.

How did you sleep last night? (1957)

From the September 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many reasons have been offered to explain the persistence of war, from sun spots to satanic dictators. Now Mr. Charles Cook, president of the National Federation of Bedding and Allied Trades, has hit on a spanking new one. At his trade convention at Scarborough on 24th May, he said: “Bad beds cause bad tempers. If Mr. Kruschev would allow us to design a bed for him. it could do more good for international relations than any number of diplomatic jamborees.”

This remark must have provoked some very pained reactions in the Foreign Office (jamborees, indeed!) Let us consider one or two implications of it. First, we are pretty sure that when Mr. Kruschev retires after a night on the vodka he does so to an excellent bed—certainly a much better one than any Russian worker will ever know. But if Kruschev’s bed is bad. how much harder and lumpier must Stalin’s have been—he always seemed to be in a much worse temper than Kruschev. Then what about the period when the Russian and British governments were allies in the last war and we were flooded with pictures of Stalin beaming through his moustaches? Did the great dictator change his bed in 1945? What about the others who change sides even more frequently than Russia did? For example, Marshal Tito must be in a different room, let alone bed, every night of his life.

Not to be facetious, let us grant that Mr. Cook may have been joking, that he may be one of those employers who is so interested in his job that he eats, drinks and sleeps (sorry) for it. Perhaps he was carried away in his enthusiasm. Thus we may excuse him; but we would feel even more kindly towards him if he would point out that the cause of modern war is in the relentless competitive struggle between capitalist groups who are trying to gain the upper hand in the world's markets. The profit which the worker produces is realised on the commodity’s sale. Hence the struggle. That goes for all commodities, from tooth brushes to tankers. Including mattresses.

Resolutions Against H Bombs (1958)

From the September 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

"The meeting abhors the use of ‘ H ’ bomb and calls upon the Government to stop ‘H’ bomb tests, and participate in a Summit Conference."

How often have we seen this type of resolution passed at a variety of trade union and other meetings. They all seem to have the same effect, as a knock on the door of an empty house.

The ritual, too, is exactly the same. The mover reads out a few of the possible horrors of “H” bomb warfare, and scares the pants off everyone. He is then followed by speaker after speaker in the same vein. Then the vote is taken, carried unanimously, and everyone is happy (or are they?).

The writer is sorry to make so light of it all, as he knows that some well-meaning folk really believe that this is the way to get rid of “H” bombs, and then go on to general disarmament. But you know its all been tried before, and as history shows its all failed before too.

First, let the Socialist point out that the problem of the “H” bomb is inseparable from war; which in turn is inseparable from the system of society in which we live.

This system produces poverty, insecurity, disease, and all the vicious things that stem from those, and it gives rise to the wars for which governments are constantly preparing.

The Socialist doesn’t raise these points just to be awkward, or to be academically correct. The writer has three little children, and realises that the stakes are very high: in fact the possible extermination of many of us.

But resolutions of disapproval of war, and of certain methods of warfare, have all been passed before. They have all had no effect.

Pacts have been made, international organisations have been set up, in fact every method of getting real peace, and disarmament has been tried except Socialism.

Time and time again the Socialist has demonstrated that war stems from capitalist struggles for markets, trade routes, sources of raw materials, and places of strategic importance. All this springs from the production for sale, with a profit motive for a small section of society, the capitalists. This in itself works against the interest of the overwhelming majority of society, the working class.

This “working class” is in every “nation” and faced with exactly the same problems as the “working class” of England. So it is at this level that international conferences must take place, and it must be international conferences for Socialism.

The leaders of the major “nations” will be conferring in the interest of the particular units of capitalism they represent. Trying to fiddle the spoils of war, without actually going to war, and trusting each other about as much as the proverbial cat and mouse.

If anybody can really delude themselves into believing that out of conferences of this nature the “Peace of the World” will come, their gullibility can know no bounds.

It goes deeper than this, for these resolutions are “red herrings” and “time wasters.” We have a job to do, in this century, the establishment of Socialism, and while workers are pursuing these dreams, they are falling down on their historically appointed task.
Terry Lord