Sunday, September 9, 2018

Obituary: Death of Comrade E. Wade (1939)

Obituary from the September 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regret to announce the death of Comrade E. Wade, who belonged for 14 years to the Tottenham Branch. He died on Saturday 22nd July at the age of 70, worn out after his hard life. In his earlier years in the Party he was a sailor and preached Socialism at every port of call. At home he was one of those who always attended propaganda meetings, and was a willing helper of the Party in every way within his powers. He will be greatly missed by his Socialist Comrades.

Men of Moscow (1940)

Editorial from the September 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

How the “Daily Worker” reported Molotov's Speech
In the main the Daily Worker gives ample space to reports of important speeches by members of the Russian Government, but on certain subjects the Daily Worker is rather sensitive, and the reports get treated accordingly. One of them is the Bolshevist-Nazi Pact. However they may attempt to excuse the Pact on grounds of power-politics the Communists cannot help feeling that it is inexcusable for those who call them Socialists and friends of the working-class to have friendly dealings with the Nazis.

Below is a report from the Manchester Guardian of Molotov’s references to Russian friendship with Hitler Germany and a “ common understanding ” with Fascist Italy.
  Germany.—The Soviet Pact with Germany was still in force, and all British efforts to weaken it had failed. The pact was not only of economic significance, he said, “but is also an assurance of German security in the East.”
  “We reiterate our opinion that the good neighbourly and friendly relations established between the Soviet and Germany are not based on fortuitous considerations of a transient nature, but on the fundamental interests of both nations.”
   Italy.—“Our relations with Italy have improved of late—an exchange of views has revealed that there is every possibility for our two countries to ensure a common understanding in foreign affairs, and also the grounds for an extension of trade relations.” — (Manchester Guardian, August 2nd.)
Another passage in Molotov’s speech was: —
  Events in Europe, far from reducing the strength of the Soviet-German non-aggression pact, on the contrary emphasised the importance of its existence and further development.—(Manchester Guardian, August 2nd.)
Now compare the above with the Daily Worker's short and uninformative version: —
  In his speech Molotov made it clear that relations with Germany were still good, and based on the interests of the two states. “There is no truth in rumours of friction.” Recently relations with Italy had improved. (Daily Worker, August 2nd.)

An Offence to Destroy Food—But only in War-Time (1940)

Editorial from the September 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reviving a practice adopted during the last war, the Government has issued an order under which it is an offence to waste food. Heavy penalties, up to two years' imprisonment and a £500 fine, may be imposed on persons who wilfully or negligently damage or throw away anything “used by man for food or drink other than water," water being already covered by bye-laws. The order also makes it an offence if anyone having control or custody of food fails to take reasonable precautions for its preservation, or if anyone procures a larger quantity than is reasonably required for his purposes, and part becomes unfit for use.

It is recalled that during the last war a woman was fined £20 for giving meat to a St. Bernard dog, while another who fed 14 dogs on bread and milk was fined £5.

This seems all very reasonable. What could be more natural than that it should be illegal to destroy or waste food when there are human beings in need of it. But observe. The order to this effect introduced in the last war ceased when the war ended. No authorities stepped in to fine and imprison the individuals and companies responsible for destroying wheat and coffee, throwing fish back into the sea, feeding milk to pigs, and so on. Indeed, in some countries the destruction of foodstuffs to keep up prices was organised with the active support of State authorities themselves.

There is, indeed, something very unnatural about the social system that permitted such things.

A Tribute from the I.L.P. (1941)

From the September 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard
“The Socialist Party of Great Britain is right in its insistence that Socialism will come, not as the result of impersonal economic processes, not in consequence of the manipulation of the masses by astute demagogues, but only when the majority of the workers consciously desire Socialism.”—(New Leader, March 29th, 1941.)

Birth Control and Unemployment (1942)

From the September 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

New Generation,” a journal which exists to popularise “the voluntary control of population in all countries,” prints in its July issue criticisms of articles in the June Socialist Standard. The gist of the criticisms is that unemployment is caused by density of population. “New Generation” writes as follows:—
  Let us next remark that unemployment would have been much rifer than it is now if it had not been for birth control. Since 1876 the birth rate has fallen from 36 to 14 per thousand. If unemployment is rife even with a birth rate of 14. what would it have been if the birth rate had remain at 36?
The theory behind this argument is that if the annual increase of population were larger than it is at present, the excess population could not find employment, or alternatively if they did find employment wages would be depressed. The first point of notice is that whereas the population in 1876 was under 36 millions it is now about 48 millions. From which we might deduce, according to the reasoning of the “New Generation,” that the additional 13 million would all be unemployed, or alternatively the wage level would be much lower than it was in 1876. But “New Generation” is not prepared to maintain either of these propositions, as will be seen from their two further statements:—
  There is no reason to believe that unemployment has increased within historical times.
 Birth control has not abolished unemployment, but it has enabled both the employed and the unemployed workers to have a far higher standard of life than they could have had if the birth rate had remained where it stood 65 years ago.
The fallacy of the theory of the birth controllers is in supposing that unemployment is a direct result of the size of population in a given area of land, thus ignoring the form of social organisation, capitalism. If their theory were correct how could the big fluctuations' of unemployment be explained, that take place without a material change of population? In June, 1924, registered unemployed numbered about one million. In June, 1932, the figure was not far short of three millions. In June, 1939, it was 1,350,000. It will take more than birth control to explain such fluctuations.

Unemployment actually grows because the capitalist, for the time, cannot sell his products at a profit, and this in turn accompanies a huge glut of products on the market. If, like the “New Generation,” we ignored capitalism and treated unemployment as if it resulted directly from population we could re-write the paragraph quoted at the beginning of this article, as follows:—
“Since 1876 the birthrate has fallen from 36 to 14 per thousand. There are therefore far fewer young children who do not compete for jobs themselves and are all the time consuming goods and thus making work for the unemployed. If only we could get back to a birthrate of 36 per thousand how much more work there would be to absorb the unemployed.”

It will be seen that this statement is nearly as absurd as the reverse statement made by the “New Generation.” It is not quite as absurd, however, because in fact capitalism flourishes on waste, as can be seen during this war. The amount of wealth produced for destruction in the form of war material is enormous. Millions have been withdrawn from industry yet simultaneously the production of home grown food has been increased so that now two-thirds of the food is home grown. At the same time there is no longer any unemployment to speak of. Capitalism cannot do this under peace conditions when the amount of employment is determined by the ability of the capitalists to make profits, but given Socialism the energies now devoted to war and waste could be added to the existing production of food, clothing, etc., so that all could live in comfort.

Is it only necessary to add that “New Generation” also ignores the failure of their theory to fit the facts of different countries. They quote Professor Kimble that “more land has usually meant better conditions of life,” and illustrate this by asking “Why is the standard of life so much higher in the U.S.A. than in Germany or Japan ?”

Now it happens to be true that density of population is greater in Germany and Japan than in U.S.A., but it happens that population per square mile is greater in England and Wales than it is in either Germany or Japan. Is then the standard of life lower?

Also they quote Russia as a country where the wage level is low, yet on their theory it ought to be almost the highest of all countries because the population per square mile is only 55 in European Russia and only 8 per square mile in Asiatic Russia; compared with 703 per square mile in England and Wales and 43 per square mile in U.S.A.

It looks as if there is something radically wrong with birth control as a cure for unemployment and poverty.
Edgar Hardcastle

Leadership (1943)

From the September 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the main arguments of the opponents of the S.P.G.B. is that which accuses us of being "dreamers" because we claim that the working class are intelligent enough to establish Socialism without the use of leaders.

In actual fact, Socialists not only deny the necessity of leaders in the Socialist movement but declare that Socialism cannot be established until workers have dispensed with the notion of leadership.

The legend of leadership is as old as society. Throughout the ages, men in their struggle for survival have continually turned to the strongest and the wisest among them for inspiration and courage in their battles with nature and with each other. To-day, however, when all men have access to the knowledge needed for the achievement of Socialism, and the necessities of life are produced in abundance, there is no longer any need for "chieftains" and "kings." The minimum knowledge that a wage slave requires before he is fitted to take his place in the revolutionary struggle is easily obtained, and well within the range of proletarian comprehension.

A worker must know he is poor and why, and he must then find the solution to his economic problems. What does this imply? The knowledge of a Marx, an Engels or a Hegel? Certainly not! and it is sheer impudence and indeed megalomania, when politicians claim that by trusting them, the workers will in consequence become free men. The Socialist Standard has continually attacked and exposed these "pseudo-Socialists," who are among the working class's greatest enemies.

We have stated that the workers must emancipate themselves, and establish the new society, not with the aid of “leaders," but in spite of them!

A worker must know he is poor because he sells his labour power to a master for wages; which at all times are at a subsistence level. He must know that in capitalist society wealth is produced for sale at a profit. He must realise that the capitalists are able to live in abundance because of the poverty of the masses, and that the latter are dispossessed of the goods they produce by masters who in the main take no part in production, but who nevertheless own and control all wealth.

When he assimilates that basic knowledge he will then have the mental equipment to immunise himself to the false slogans mouthed by the so-called political and religious leaders. He will treat with contempt the rogues and fools who said he was too ignorant to know the solution to his own social problems.

The conclusions he will draw are Socialist conclusions, and he will realise the necessity of organising for political action within the ranks of the workers' own party, the S.P.G.B. By capturing control of the State machine, workers will abolish private property, and convert the means of producing wealth into the property of society as a whole. This will end for all time poverty, social degradation and war.

Such, then, is the minimum knowledge that the exploited class need to acquire. With it, Socialism will be something easily understood, enthusiastically acclaimed; and the worker will1 laugh disdainfully at the futile and absurd idea of the "necessity of leaders."

A Word From William Morris (1944)

From the September 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Now it seems to me that at such a time, when people are not only discontented, but have really conceived a hope of bettering the condition of labour, while at the same time the means towards their end are doubtful; or, rather, when they take the very beginning of the means as an end in itself, that this time when people are excited about Socialism, and when many who know nothing about it think themselves Socialists, is the time of all others to put forward the simple principles of Socialism regardless of the policy of the passing hour.

My readers will understand that in saying this I am speaking for those who are complete Socialists or let us call them Communists. I say for us to make Socialists is the business at present, and at present I do not think we can have any other useful business. Those who are not really Socialists — who are Trades' Unionists, disturbance-breeders, or what not — will do what they are impelled to do, and we cannot help it. At the worst there will be some good in what they do; but we need not and cannot heartily work with them, when we know that their methods are beside the right way.

Our business, I repeat, is the making of Socialists, i.e., convincing people that Socialism is good for them and is possible. When we have enough people of that way of thinking, they will find out what action is necessary for putting their principles in practice. Until we have that mass of opinion, action for a general change that will benefit the whole people is impossible. Have we that body of opinion of any thing like it? Surely not. If we look outside that glamour, that charmed atmosphere of party warfare in which we necessarily move, we shall see this clearly: that though there are a great many who believe it possible to compel their masters by some means or another to behave better to them, and though they are prepared to compel them (by so-called peaceful means, strikes and the like), all but a very small minority are not prepared to do without masters. They do not believe in their own capacity to undertake the management of affairs, and to be responsible for their life in this world. When they are so prepared, then Socialism will be realised; but nothing can push it on a day in advance of that time.

Therefore, I say, make Socialists. We Socialists can do nothing else that is useful, and preaching and teaching is not out of date for that purpose; but rather for those who, like myself, do not believe in State Socialism, it is the only rational means of attaining to the New Order of Things."

(The above is taken from: William Morris, Artist, Writer Socialist, by May Morris, Vol. 11„ p.518., and originally appeared in The Commonweal, November 15th, 1890.)

Confessions of a Labour Leader (1944)

From the September 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Tom Johnston, Labour M.P., says we are better fed during the war than ever before: —
  Nutritionally, we had never been better fed in our history than we were now, Mr. Tom Johnston, Secretary for Scotland, said at Dundee yesterday.
  Despite shortages, other difficulties and the rationing system, everyone for the first time was able to get three meals a day.
  It was tragic that it took the war to ensure that the most necessitous—children and infants—got priorities, fruit juices, and so on. (News Chronicle, August 19th, 1944.)
Mr. Johnston was a supporter of the Labour Government in 1924 and again in 1929-31, and held office under the latter as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Scotland and Lord Privy Seal. Will he explain why the Labour Governments did not tackle this elementary problem of nutrition?

Questions to Mr. Shinwell (1945)

Editorial from the September 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Emanuel Shinwell is Labour M.P. for Seaham and Minister for Fuel and Power in the present Government. He won the seat from the late J. R. MacDonald in 1935 and was re-elected at the recent general election. MacDonald had failed to keep his pledges to the workers. As leader of the Labour Party and head of two Labour Governments (1924, and 1929-31), he had failed to bring the workers the promised improvements in their condition and had not protected them against the slump of 1931 or even against the employers’ onslaughts on their standard of living. MacDonald went over to the Tories and Shinwell turned him out of Seaham in consequence. Now we have a Labour Government with a big majority and Mr. Shinwell backs it and its claims. We know from Mr. Shinwell what the workers have a right to expect from the Labour Government because a year ago he wrote a book in which he let it all out. (“When the Men Come Home,” by E. Shinwell, M.P., published by Gollancz). We cannot reproduce all the things Mr. Shinwell claimed should and could be done, but we can place on record just a few of the outstanding items.

Mr. Shinwell drew up a list of 10 Questions which he urged the workers to put to Tory Candidates in the General Election which he rightly anticipated would not be long deferred. Some of the questions were of the characteristic woolly kind beloved of Labour M.P.s, so framed that they mean anything or nothing, questions that any Tory would have agreed with knowing that they committed him to nothing in particular. Others, however, were definite and unambiguous and of these we select one or two. What could be more appropriate than that Mr. Shinwell’s own questions should be addressed to Mr. Shinwell? We want to know if Mr. Shinwell and his party are prepared to carry out what he demanded Tories should be prepared to carry out. Here they are:—
   “Are you willing to support the principle that any physically and mentally fit individual who fails to make a useful contribution to the work of the community shall not be fed, clothed and housed at the expense of those who do work?” (p. 41-42).
This plainly commits Mr. Shinwell to the abolition of all property incomes. (He makes provision elsewhere in his book for infirm and aged to be adequately supported).
  “Do you approve the payment of a minimum wage to those in employment, and an equal subsistence standard for those for whom work cannot be found, or who will never be able to work by reason of old age, industrial accidents or war wounds?” (p. 42).
Mr. Shinwell made no attempt to hedge on this principle. He explained (page 9) that by minimum wage he meant “a minimum wage a long way above mere subsistence level.” He rejected the Beveridge proposals as “meagre” and as needing revision, and emphasised that his “first great principle” is that every worker “whether employed or not” shall have the right “to minimum wages or allowances that will raise him above the line of annihilating poverty.” (p. 10).

The third of the questions that we shall place on record relates to housing.
   “Are you prepared to support legislation to clean up at once the hideous, sprawling slums of our great cities, and to provide utilitarian, artistic and scientifically-equipped houses accessible to all the families in this country who may require them? " (p. 42).
After enumerating his 10 questions, Mr. Shinwell went on to tell his readers that the answers given by the Tories would convince them “that there is no hope for you so long as the present political set-up in this country continues.” Now we know where Mr. Shinwell would have us believe he stands, and after Mr. Shinwell’s party have been in power for some years we will put Mr. Shinwell’s questions to Mr. Shinwell and ask for plain unequivocal answers. We wonder if Mr. Shinwell will then, like MacDonald, before him, be engaged in explaining why it was not possible to carry out pledges. Perhaps by then a much larger number of workers will have realised that Labourism (the administration of capitalism by a Labour Government) is dead sea fruit, and one of our Socialist Candidates may be knocking at the door in Seaham. 

Newspaper Monopoly and the Freedom of the Press (1946)

Editorial from the September 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Herbert Morrison faced with a Conservative demand for inquiry into the Government monopoly over wireless broadcasting, parried with an attack on the newspaper monopolies and with the suggestion of an inquiry into newspaper ownership and the influence of advertisers over newspaper policy. There were also vague hints of doing something to stop misrepresentation in the reporting of news.

About the trend towards monopoly in newspaper ownership there is no lack of information. While the circulation of newspapers increases, the number of separate journals decreases, and more and more of the existing local papers come under centralised ownership and control. An official inquiry in U.S.A. discloses the same trend there. "In 1909 there were about 2,600 daily newspapers with a total circulation of 24,200,000. In 1945 there were only 1,750 papers, but their circulation was 48,400,000” (Manchester Guardian, 20/7/46). The same report comments on the fact that very few towns in U.S.A. now have competing papers, and news gathering is virtually monopolised by three press services.

This development is paralleled in both countries by the growth of monopoly in all fields of industry. It is helped by the great and growing cost of launching new journals and by the fact that no national newspaper can possibly pay its way without a huge income from advertisers. The centralisation of newspaper ownership in the hands of a diminishing number of concerns is inevitable and it is idle to talk of governmental action to turn back the clock and protect the little concerns against the big ones. While there is capitalism, that is while the accumulated wealth .of society is in the hands of a small minority, nothing can prevent the owners of small capital from being more or less at the mercy of big business, and still more, nothing can lessen the disadvantage of a small and poor working-class organisation in its efforts to make its views known.

The question of misrepresentation or of the “conspiracy of silence” in the capitalist Press about the case for Socialism is governed by the same basic facts of capitalism. A Labour Government may think it would be useful to the Labour Party if something could be done to secure more and more truthful presentation of that Party’s case in Conservative newspapers, but the Labour Press is no more concerned with giving publicity to the case for Socialism than are the Conservative or Liberal newspapers. Socialist propaganda gets no better show in the Daily Herald, or on the B.B.C. under Labour government, than in the Daily Express or on the B.B.C. under Conservative government. We have, however, always been well aware of the difficulties we are up against and are not discouraged. Capitalism, despite its newspaper chorus of propaganda, cannot forever disguise its evils from the workers who suffer from them.

Mr. Morrison’s statements provoked discussion about the desirability of legislation to interfere with the freedom of the Press. No matter what may be the motive of such suggestions, we, as Socialists, are not in favour of them. Completely unrestricted expression of opinion and discussion of differences is the way to enlightenment. Restriction, even on the plea of preventing misrepresentation, would not help the workers on the road to Socialism. We are no more enamoured of Labour Government restrictions on their opponents than of a similar policy applied by Conservatives. The end of that road is one-party Press dictatorship, as in Russia.

One hopeful feature in recent years has been the evidence, provided by elections, in this country and U.S.A., that the electors sufficiently mistrust newspaper and wireless propaganda to be less influenced by it than they used to be.

Party News Briefs (1947)

Party News from the September 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Autumn Delegate Meeting will be held at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, W.C.l, on Sunday, September 28th, commencing at 10.30 a.m. While this is a conference of branch delegates, non-members can attend and see how the democratic principles of the S.P.G.B. work out in practice.

“International Contacts with Parties and Groups Abroad" is the subject of a meeting of party members convened by the Executive Committee being held at the Trade Union Club, Great Newport Street, London, W.C.1, on Sunday, September 14th, at 2 p.m. There will undoubtedly be a lively and interesting discussion and members should keep this date open. Here again non-members may attend, as at all our meetings, and listen to the discussion. As none of our party meetings are secret we shall never be faced with the Labour Party's problem of preventing "leakages." Unlike the Labour Party we have nothing to hide. Question—why does an alleged working-class organisation like the Labour Party try and keep its real aims hidden from the working-class? To us the answer is obvious.

Palmers Green Branch are organising a discussion group on alternate Thursdays from September 4th at the Edmonton Trades Club (at the junction of Fore Street and Silver Street). The meetings commence at 8 p. m. Anyone requiring further information can write to the Secretary of the group, A. W. Poole, 26, Hinton Road, N.18. The branch had their eyes on Lord Woolton with a view to a debate with him. The branch wrote taking exception to some statements recently made by him and challenged him to debate. The Conservative Central Office replied that Woolton was not prepared to debate with us but that they would supply a substitute. This offer has been accepted by the branch, and further developments are now awaited.

Bloomsbury Branch have now held more than a dozen outdoor meetings this season at Warren Street Tube Station. The average audience has been 100, and ten different branch members have made their debut on the outdoor platform at these meetings. Most of the new speakers said afterwards that speaking on the platform was not so difficult as it first appeared. Arrangements are now in hand for the winter series of Sunday evening lectures at the Trade Union Club, Great Newport Street, W.C.l. The St. Pancras Liberals and the St. Pancras Labour party both rejected a challenge to debate, the first on the grounds that they were a “classless party’’ and the second because their “plate was full at the moment." We accept the second but not the first statement.

Camberwell Branch have given half of their branch funds to help pay back a grant made to them by Head Office. Other branches please note and if possible emulate. A Party Funds Committee is now in operation and various ideas for raising funds are being considered. Announcements will be made shortly. An effort to arrange a debate with the Lambeth Communists was refused by them on the ground that the S.P.G.B. is in their opinion "a tiny sect with infinitesimal influence." The real explanation doubtless is that the Communists do not feel too happy about trying to defend themselves publicly against Socialist criticism.

Ealing Branch have had their most active summer season since their formation. They are co-operating with Paddington and Kingston-on-Thames branches in spreading the area covered by our outdoor propaganda meetings in West London and the Kingston areas. Three new stations have been opened where meetings are being held weekly. These are at Heron Court, Richmond (Sunday evenings), Pennard Road, Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush (Monday evenings) and opposite Earls Court Station (Thursday evenings). The Saturday evening station at Ealing Green is of course still being very successfully operated. Our efforts at the latter have stimulated correspondence in the local paper on "Who are the real socialists?" The branch are holding an evening social on Saturday, September 27th, at the London Co-operative Society's hall (near South Ealing Station), and will welcome members and sympathisers. The last branch social was a very enjoyable affair, and the branch promise an even better one this time.

Leyton Branch are trying to revive an old outdoor station at the Green Man, Leytonstone. Weekly meetings are being held on Wednesday evenings.

Hackney Branch's Debate with the Trotskyists took place before an audience of about 100, who were mainly supporters of either the party or the Trotskyists. Haston spoke for them and Fenwick for us. After Fenwick had played the socialist searchlight on the Trotskyists’ undigested and unwholesome mixture of pseudo-Marxism, alleged "Leninism," and real milk-and-water reformism, and the meeting terminated, the debate continued in the street outside with about half-a-dozen different groups going it hammer and tongs. The branch have made new members recently and other sympathisers are well on the way. We have a number of very solid supporters at the Victoria Park outdoor station who might very well be in the party. The Finsbury Park Road outdoor station on Sunday evenings has been taken over from Islington branch. Islington are getting the decks clear for an intensive propaganda drive during the bye-election to take place soon in West Islington, where the M.P., F. Montague, caused a vacancy by accepting a peerage. Montague was a stalwart of the Social Democratic Party—the party which dubbed us the "impossibilists," and which claimed to have the quick road to socialism. They obviously must have meant the House of Lords. Hackney branch are making arrangements to book the Bethnal Green Central Library for every Friday evening during the winter. The first meeting will be on October 10th when the General Secretary will speak on "The Jewish Question."

Paddington Branch are having a very successful season at the Hyde Park Sunday meetings. They are also running Thursday evening outdoor meetings at the "Prince of Wales," Harrow Road. They are not letting the good work of the two election campaigns go by the board, and are carrying out weekly canvassing in the North Paddington constituency. Two indoor meetings are booked for September, one at Paddington Town Hall on the 4th, and the other at Harvist Road School, Kensal Rise on the 25th. Should the latter prove successful it will be followed up with further meetings with a view to forming a Willesden branch. A poster parade (possibly through the West End) with the new "Work and Want” party posters is being arranged. Fifty of these posters are on weekly display in the branch’s area.
C. C. Groves, 
General Secretary.