Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Myths of race and nation: the case for world socialism - Part 2 (1994)

From the June 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is bitterly ironical how Yugoslavia which was itself carved out of the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the grounds of South Slav nationals self-determination, is now in the throes of bloody dismemberment to achieve the national self-determination of the Croats, Serbs and Bosnian Muslims who all speak the same language. Like in Northern Ireland an essential ingredient for the solution of internecine strife will be the throwing-off of religious beliefs which stand in the way of workers recognising their common class interests and adopting rational ways of thinking and Socialist principles. The building of the necessary consciousness would not call for the relinquishment of valid cultural differences, although once rid of the divisive factor of imposed dogma it is remarkable how similar is the traditional dress, folk-music and dance, cuisine and life-style of all the Balkan lands.

At the time when the victors of the First World War were putting an end to empires which had built up extensive economic infrastructures we Socialists pointed out the danger of the nationalistic illusions so passionately espoused by Czech, Austrian and other workers whose Social Democratic parties were rejecting the vestiges of class solidarity which had survived from the days when Marxian ideas held greater sway. Current Balkan war victims are not only paying the price of their nineteenth century nationalist assumptions which they still largely uphold but also of Lenin’s pernicious reversal of Marx's contention that proletarians have no country to the view that workers are the only true patriots and that nation-states had a rightful place in "socialism".

In south-eastern Europe the map is still being redrawn to conform to notions of religious and linguistic homogeneity which ill accord with social reality. Meanwhile in post-imperial Africa the former colonial borders remain sacrosanct however arbitrarily they had been established by the former imperial powers in their scramble for territory. South Africa, which comprises a multiplicity of ethnic, language and religious groups, is being lauded in its present more democratic phase as the model of possible future pluralistic societies. Zulu and Afrikaaner separatists who threaten the Republic as it exists would be given the same treatment as the Biafrans when they tried to break away from Nigeria or the Southern Sudanese who challenge the state the Khartoum government inherited from the Colonial Office in London.

A working class, united in its determination to establish a Socialist World undefiled by national frontiers, will bequeath to future generations a democratic global village in which cultural variations will be a stimulus to creativity rather than pretexts for those seeking to become a new ruling class.
Edmund Grant

Myths of race and nation: the case for world socialism - Part 1 (1994)

From the June 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

I drive a French car, drink German beer, enjoy eating spaghetti bolognese and used to listen to Radio Luxembourg. Does this qualify me as a fully paid-up member of the Common Market? Or will the fact that my Euro-election ballot paper is marked Yes (oui, ja, si) for World Socialism enough to convince the Brussels bureaucrats that I no more want to be ruled by them than by my British capitalist masters?

Let’s look at what unites rather than divides workers. The French fisherman, the Italian car worker, the German farmhand belong with the vast majority of us in a class which is economically exploited by a small minority of capitalists who use "love of country" and cultural differences to persuade us that we must continue to engage in economic battle with each other simply to preserve the privilege of the few. Little Englanders use this to whip workers up against European workers and pro-Europeans use it to engender competition against the rest of the world. All this nonsense is about their interests, not ours.

"Fog in English Channel - Continent Isolated." This Island is now physically joined to the continent by a tunnel. Those of us who view with dread the claustrophobic effect of travelling abroad under the sea should ponder the daily claustrophobia induced into our everyday lives by a social system which continues to isolate and alienate us all from the possibility of living full human lives as free men and women in a community of equals.
Dave Coggan

Socialists against racism! (1994)

From the June 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

More than three million people in Britain are currently living under the threat of racial attacks because of the colour of their skin. According to the 1991 Census, 3,015,014 out of Britain’s population of 54,888,844 are from the ethnic minorities: 94.5 percent of the population is white, while 5.5 percent is black.

Racism and prejudice are not new to Britain. In recent years racial abuse and attacks have mainly been aimed at non-whites. But over the centuries foreign workers have been invited and initially welcomed to Britain to provide skills and labour power which would enrich the lives of the British capitalists. But when the newcomers settled here they were made to feel unwelcome, especially when boom turns to slump.

This racial intolerance and prejudice is perpetrated by many politicians who have played a key role in stirring up racial hatred. The 1979 General Election was won by the Conservative Party partly as a result of its success in attracting the vote that had gone to the neo-fascist National Front in the course of the 1970s. The leader of the Conservative Party made a carefully timed intervention in which she claimed that "British people" had a legitimate reason to fear that their culture might be swamped by immigrants.

The following argument is familiar to most people in Britain: "Of course, I don't mind them coloureds personally. I even work with some of them. It's just that there's too many of them."

These people should look at the statistics stated above. All of the capitalist political parties are tainted with racist pasts, including the Labour Party which passed the first racist immigration legislation. The only way to stop racism and fascism is to understand its cause — the competition between workers engendered by the capitalist system — and, instead of wasting time fighting the effects, remove the cause once and for all.
Michael Ghebre

The Kurdish Question (1994)

From the November 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

The biggest dilemma facing the Kurdish nationalists is that the "Kurdistan" they propose is spread out across five countries — Turkey, Syria, Iraq. Iran and the former Soviet Union — none of which has been prepared to concede any part of their territory to allow the formation of a Kurdish state.

When the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War on the side of Germany, the allied forces promised the Kurds an independent homeland on condition they remained hostile towards the Ottoman Empire. In 1920, following the collapse of Ottoman rule, the Kurdish nationalists believed they were close to realizing their dream when the Allies began carving up the Middle East at the Treaty of Sèvres. One of the new political entities was to be Kurdistan, a strip of land running from northern Iraq to the southern border of Armenia.

Britain, however, soon realized that giving the Kurds such a homeland would mean losing the oil-rich regions of Mosul and Kirkuk. So a new treaty was drawn up at Lausanne in 1923 which left the Kurds divided up between British-held Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria and the Soviet Union. The Kurdish nationalists, angry at having again been betrayed, began an armed revolt, quickly suppressed by the RAF. Further rebellions in 1931 and 1944 were crushed in a similar way.

It would be 1971 before the West found a use for the Kurds again. Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State, thought it would be a good idea to encourage the Kurds to revolt against Saddam Hussein, at that time embroiled in a border dispute with the then US-friendly Shah of Iran. Again the Kurds were betrayed when Iraq and Iran signed the 1975 Algiers agreement. The US stopped supplying the Kurds and began supplying Iraq and Iran with the arms with which they put down the Kurdish rebellion.

In 1991, as the Gulf War was ending, it was George Bush's turn to encourage a Kurdish rising, promising them full support if they would attempt to weaken the Baghdad regime. Then came the mother of all betrayals. Saddam came down heavy on the Kurds and the US deserted them, realizing that any successful attempt at founding an independent Kurdistan would in turn encourage Kurds in Syria and Turkey to take on their respective governments, thus upsetting important allies of the West in the Middle East.

After the Iraqi chemical weapon attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988, the West made a token protest and then went on to double its credit to Saddam to $350 million. The net result was that Saddam’s offensive against the Iraqi Kurds destroyed 3,000 out of 4,000 villages, leaving upwards of 150,000 dead.

If Iraq takes first place in human rights abuses against Kurds, then Turkey, the most pro-Western of the Kurdistan-straddled countries, takes a close second. It is only the past two years that Ankara has lifted the ban on the Kurdish language, games and music. This was hardly an altruistic gesture towards Turkey’s 12 million Kurds (20 percent of the population). Rather it was an attempt to tidy up a human rights record that has always acted as a barrier to Turkish entry into the Common Market.

Between 1983 and 1988, Turkey enjoyed a hot pursuit agreement with Iraq, enabling it to attack alleged PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party) villages across the Turkish border. Meanwhile, the Turkish authorities, devoid of logic, also endorsed the Kurdish aim of autonomy in Iraq. The "Marxist-Leninist" PKK views Ankara’s reconciliation with the Iraqi Kurds as an attempt to outflank and isolate the Kurdish nationalist movement in Turkey itself.

Here we have a further dilemma for the Kurdish nationalists: there is no single set of ideas that they all hold. The PKK leader Abdulah Ocalan believes in the "original” Kurdish homeland, a state that would be the largest in the Middle East. Ocalan’s "Marxism" is indeed ambiguous. As he states himself: "you would need a thousand witnesses to realise what kind of Marxist I am" (Guardian, 28 March 1992). Massoud Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish leader, declares he is "diametrically opposed" to Ocalan. He condemns the PKK method and mentality in fighting for an independent Kurdish state, believing the PKK to have a “self-righteous regard for themselves as the sole representatives of Kurds everywhere" (Guardian. 2 April 1992).

The PKK began their armed struggle in 1984, and evidence has emerged that they have had the backing of Iraq since 1990. However, since the Gulf War ended, the PKK has increased its activity in northern Iraq, taking advantage of a power vacuum created chiefly by the enforcement of the Allied air-exclusion zone protecting Iraqi Kurds from Saddam.

Recently, Peshmerga forces representing Barzani’s KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) and the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) have also began attacks on PKK strongholds, blaming them for endangering everything they have accomplished since the Gulf War — an "Independent Kurdistan" (unrecognized by the international community) with a parliament and supposed attributes of self- determination.

In March it looked as if the PKK was moving in a new direction when they announced a ceasefire. However, the ceasefire only lasted until May when PKK guerrillas ambushed and shot 30 Turkish soldiers in the town of Bingal. Two weeks later the PKK announced they were reverting to an all-out offensive against Turkey — promising to carry their cause to Turkey as a whole, attacking economic and tourist targets.

In late August this year, Iranian state radio announced that 600 members of the KDP and PUK had been killed in clashes in northern Iraq, giving fuel to the argument that the Kurds are not only a "nation" at war with their neighbours, but that they are also a "nation" at war with themselves.

In mid-August, the PKK leader Abdulah Ocalan was telling the Turkish government that "the situation is suitable for a ceasefire", and urging a federal solution to the Kurdish question (Guardian, 22 August). While the PUK and the KDP were battling it out in northern Iraq, Turkish forces made another attack on a PKK base, killing 250 on August 30, further compounding the situation and incensing PKK rebels.

The PKK and the Kurdish people they claim to represent — many of whom have long been assimilated into the nations Kurdistan straddles — would do well to realize that nationalism is a tumour in the path of socialism, made all the more malignant by the contradictions of capitalism. As an organization claiming to be Marxist the PKK should be aware that workers have no nation and that an armed struggle by a vanguard is no way to bring about Socialism.

The complex rivalries between the capitalist powers have turned the Kurdish people into a reserve army of pawns. As one Guardian writer put it: "The Kurds have all too frequently linked their struggles to the realpolitik of the powerful, serving as useful but dispensable tools in the perennial Middle East game of nations" (9 November 1992). 
John Bissett

Prelude to Terror (1994)

From the October 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Opinion as to when the atrocities started in Northern Ireland is very much governed by which “side” gives the opinion. The state was born in violence and was governed and politically structured both to resist violence and promote violence as an instrument of establishment policy.

Both the ruling Unionists and the opposition Nationalists seemed determined on keeping the population divided along politico-religious lines. The latter refused to co-operate with the state institutions and those who controlled those institutions totally reflected the repeated clarion of succeeding Prime Ministers that Northern Ireland had “a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people”.

In 1922, soon after the inception of the northern state, the Unionist government introduced the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act. It was ludicrously draconian, a complete totalitarian’s do-it-yourself kit which allowed "the Authority” to declare
something not covered by the Act but deemed by Authority to be contrary to the Act to be unlawful, and provided for the power of the Authority to be delegatable to any of its servants. Effectively, then, a reserve constable in the exclusively Protestant “B” Special Constabulary could become an on-the-spot lawmaker and law-enforcer. The Act, which became part of the permanent law of the state in 1928, was frequently used to imprison opponents of the government without charge or trial but, mercifully, most of its other quite terrifying provisions were never used.

Inevitably, Nationalists made political capital out of the Act (a basically similar Act was introduced in the Irish Free State but was only activated during emergencies) especially when the architect of South Africa’s apartheid, responded to criticism by the British government, by saying he would give up the whole of his enabling legislation for a single clause of the Northern Ireland Special Powers Act. The London government was embarrassed. Engrossed in its own problems, however, it did not follow the advice of some of its members who urged a closer scrutiny of Britain’s Northern Ireland creation.

The Unionist justification for the Special Powers Act was the activities of the IRA; on the other hand, the Nationalists justified the IRA on the basis of the Special Powers Act. In 1921 when the state was established there was communal violence and the Unionist government made only minimal efforts to curb the sectarian bloodlust of its supporters. By 1923, the government had largely stamped out all violent opposition.

There were to be further troubles and IRA scares but the IRA was more fictional than threatening — for example, during most of the wartime Forties, when the IRA was supposed to be taking advantage of “England’s difficulty”, there was seldom more than a dozen active IRA volunteers in Belfast. This was, of course, before the intransigence of the landowners, industrialists and prosperous lawyers who made up the Unionist government had prepared history for the birth of the Provisionals.

The government did nothing to win the reluctant hearts and minds of its non-cooperating minority. It not only made permanent the sinister Special Powers Act, it structured the franchise and engineered electoral boundaries not simply to ensure that it remained in power but to see to it that the political influence of its constitutional opponents was zero. Unemployment and low pay were endemic but, there again, the government, from the Prime Minister down, overtly encouraged discrimination against the minority.

Despite the facts of the situation, the benefits of the “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people” were, effectively, more illusionary' than real. As far as the working class was concerned, it is true that those labelled “Protestant” were more likely to find a job (which, of course, they desperately needed) than were Catholics. The latter also suffered discrimination in housing but, ironically, in the areas where Unionism was most violently vociferous and in areas where Catholics mulled their anger against Unionism, there was a marked identically of slums and mean living.

In 1945 the various schemes of social welfare outlined in the wartime all-party Beveridge Report were introduced in Westminster. The Unionist overlords opposed the extension of these provisions to Northern Ireland but, despite this, the ensuing legislation did cover the province.

Welfare capitalism had no direct impact on discrimination which was institutionalised in both in law and custom. It did, however, have dramatic indirect effects: social security payments may not have produced jobs and houses but, given the very real poverty of most Protestant workers, the general living standards of Catholics and Protestant members of the working class — employed and unemployed — were brought into closer proximity.

Allied to the 1944 Education Act, welfare payments and family allowances allowed greater numbers of young Catholics to remain at school rather than emigrating and this, in turn, began to throw up within the Nationalist community a young and articulate element that saw politics as the ending of discriminatory forms rather than the mythical gold at the end of an all-Ireland rainbow. This was clearly demonstrated in 1956 when a re-organised IRA launched a border campaign. After a few brief skirmishes, the “Campaign” lapsed into a war of press statements until, in 1962, the IRA acknowledged defeat and blamed it on the northern Nationalists whom, they said, had sold their heritage for the benefits of the welfare state. It was a watershed that official Unionism and the Orange bigots who bolstered their rule seemed oblivious of.

But, if the dream of a united Ireland was to be jettisoned, then the northern Nationalists insisted that they should be integrated into the system and that the structures that barred them from full participation should be dismantled. Unfortunately, while Unionism could give way on such demands as “One person, One vote”, the demand for jobs and homes were not within the power of northern capitalism to grant.

The minority, initially with significant Protestant working-class support, choose the methods that had been used successfully in the campaign of Martin Luther King in the United States. The demonstration and protest march. Unfortunately, the people leading the campaign wholly failed to recognise the real nature of the problem.

The pseudo-socialist, Gerry Fitt (now Lord Fitt) and aspiring respectable Nationalists like John Hume, argued that the social problems extant in Northern Ireland were caused by Unionism — as if poverty, slums and unemployment, together with the political rigging of these evils for electoral advantage, were not features of capitalism elsewhere, including the Republic of Ireland.

Certainly, Unionism maintained its power-base among working-class Protestants by an uneven distribution of these ills of capitalism along religious lines but, as we warned at the time, to base the demand for Civil Rights on the effects of the Unionist Party’s manipulation of the inadequacies of capitalism, rather than on capitalism itself, could be, and was, construed as a threat to every employed Protestant home occupier.

If capitalism’s poverty had been “fairly” distributed, it was likely that fewer Protestants and more Catholics would have had homes and jobs but, for an organisation allegedly campaigning for “civil rights” to offer the idea of a redistribution of poverty rather than an end to the economic system that created that poverty, clearly demonstrated not only the very limited thinking of the Civil Rights movement but the inherent sectarianism of the movement itself.

Tragically, the Civil Rights campaign, itself non-violent, offered a golden opportunity to fascist-type bigots like Paisley and Craig to provoke sectarian warfare. In the wings along with Paisley and others of his ilk were the dinosaurs of Irish republicanism, breathing the same wretched hatreds and nationalistic racism as their loyalist opponents.

The ensuing slaughter is history and we are tempted to think how different it might have been if the Civil Rights people had based their demands on class instead of creed, exposing the physical and intellectual poverty of the working class in Northern Ireland and not simply the “Catholic” segment of that class.
Richard Montague

What we said at the start . . . (1994)

From the October 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

To workers from Ireland 
Many of you will be concerned about what is happening in places like Belfast and Derry. You will probably support the civil rights struggle in Northern Ireland.

We too are concerned about the conditions our fellow workers in other parts of the world have to live and work under. We know that the role of the police and army is everywhere to protect private property and the existing political set-up.

When Ireland got independence in 1921 the North East part, for economic reasons, was kept under British rule though given a parliament and government of its own. The government there has since armed itself with various undemocratic powers to use against its opponents. It is against these powers, and against bad housing and unemployment, that the Civil Rights people are protesting.

Protest movements are nothing new and are not confined to Northern Ireland. They exist everywhere and show that everywhere workers are discontented with some aspect of their lot. It is by promising to do something about this that politicians obtain your votes — and it is their failures that lead people to protest on the streets.

The politicians fail not because they are dishonest or incompetent but because capitalism cannot be made to work for the good of all.

If you accept this, then you will see that direct action is in the end as futile as voting for parties that stand for capitalism. You will see too the uselessness of a United Ireland as a way of solving the problems of workers in the North. This would merely be a political re-shuffle — a change of masters, we would say — that would leave unchanged the class basis of society which is the real cause of these problems. As anyone who has lived in the Irish Republic can confirm, people there face the same problems of bad housing, unemployment and insecurity (indeed this may be why you are now living in Britain).

The lasting solution to these problems in Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic, Britain and the rest of the world is Socialism.
(From Socialist Standard, December 1970)

Don’t be fooled by words
"All I want to see, is my country free, happiness peace and prosperity." A theme, with variations, that has headed the top ten of the political hit parade with unceasing regularity during the last century.

The chorus master on this occasion is Joe Cahill who has been described as "the militant leader of the Belfast wing of the provisional IRA" after his release from detention in Dublin. At this point we will stop the satire; the part played over the decades by political "leaders" with their message of national independence has proved too tragic and disastrous to joke about.

The working class of Ireland, that is to say of Eire and Northern Ireland, as indeed workers wherever they may reside, should think seriously about such phrases as "Freedom". "My country", "Prosperity" and "Peace". Let's see what they really mean.

FREEDOM: In capitalist society means the right of the vast majority to be property's wage workers producing wealth to be sold on a market with a view to profit.

MY COUNTRY: The countries of the world are owned by a privileged minority. The working class has problems and interests that are produced by capitalism and not by the existence of national barriers.

PROSPERITY: All workers are poor, some are destitute. A prosperous working class is a contradiction in terms. Capitalism is as incapable of producing a working class that is prosperous as it is of producing a government that is popular. 

PEACE: Even if the shooting stopped the class war would remain, that is the struggle which goes on all the time over the ownership of the wealth of society, whether it be in a so called “United” Ireland, the “United" States, the "United" Kingdom, the "United” Arab Republic, Russia, Africa, in fact wherever capitalism is the predominating form of society.
(From Socialist Standard, November 1971)

The Masquerade and the Reality (1994)

From the October 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Having spent a quarter of a century trying to force the British government to sever its political and military connection with Northern Ireland and of trying to coerce the Unionist population into accepting a United Ireland against their will through the threat of violence, the IRA has finally called it a day and called a permanent ceasefire. In some quarters at least, notably amongst desperate Dublin politicians, this is the interpretation put on the statement from the IRA that they had ordered “a complete cessation of military operations”. The hard reality of countless IRA atrocities, however, has taught most people living in Northern Ireland to be somewhat more cynical of the IRA’s words and motives than the Dublin government appears to be. The overwhelming response to the Provo’s “Peace Process” is to question why the people who brought us La Mon House, Abercorn, Teebane, Shankill Road, to name but some of the worst outrages, and who had no compunction in placing entire working class ghettoes under the iron heel of Nationalist conformity, have suddenly let go of the armalite for a two handed grip on the ballot box.

The Unionists, of course, are particularly sceptical and distrustful. Not withstanding the predictable antics of Paisley, whom more and more Protestants are dismissing as a political clown, there is genuine concern amongst the majority that something has been done behind their backs. Reasons for the distrust are not far to seek. It has been common knowledge now amongst the majority of Unionists that the British government considers Northern Ireland as an economic black hole into which £3 billion of its revenues disappears annually. They know that the British would dump them if they could, and they fear that pressure from what they call the “pan-Nationalist front” — a supposed alliance between the SDLP, Sinn Fein, the Catholic Church, Dublin government and powerful American allies — has nudged the British Government in the direction of a United Ireland.

It is this fear that fuels the activities of the Protestant paramilitaries, whose immediate response to the IRA ceasefire was to murder a Catholic worker, carry out further, unsuccessful, gun attacks on others and to try to blow up Sinn Fein’s Press Office on the Falls Road. Despite the self-delusion of the Protestant paramilitaries that they have significant support amongst the Protestant working class for their activities, most Protestant workers, however misguidedly, are looking to the Unionist establishment to protect what they perceive as their “constitutional position”and their “British way of life”. Aggrieved as they might feel over the actions of a mercenary British government which, as Lord Palmerston once pointed out, has no long-term friends or enemies, only interests, few would sanction the indiscriminate murder of innocent Catholic workers as a legitimate response.

The arguments of the Loyalists in relation to their “British way of life” are the arguments of patriots and nationalists everywhere; they are illogical, mythical and misguided. Socialists are not conned by capitalist propaganda; we see this “way of life” for what it is: a mean, restricted existence made marginally more bearable by a “cultural” diet of American sit-coms, Australian soap operas and all the crap you can eat at McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Garbage; an artificial culture which, for the present historical period at least, a triumphant capitalism has enforced everywhere from Moscow in Russia to Moscow Street on the Shankill Road.

It may be common for the Leninist Left to go into raptures at the very mention of the IRA and to sing hallelujahs to the so-called “armed struggle” (a struggle, which, incidentally, they have shown commendable, indeed, remarkable, restraint in furthering by any sacrifice on their part), but socialists refuse to support one group of misguided nationalist workers as opposed to some other group. Socialists no more support the myths of “republicanism” than we do “loyalism”. Lining up on the side of nationalists means two things; it means drawing battle lines between sections of the working class whose sole interest in capitalism should be to unite to abolish it, and it means promoting the capitalist myth of the “national interest” — in short, collaboration with the bosses. Attempts to solve so-called “national questions”, to rearrange capitalist borders, in other words, is a futile concern to occupy nationalists, not socialists.

It is because of the Left’s policy of mouthing the lunacies of Irish Nationalism in practically the same breath as they spout platitudes about their spurious socialism that most Protestant workers in Northern Ireland are openly hostile to even discussing socialism. This attitude is hardly surprising; for decades every shade of “Socialist” or “Marxist” opinion has reviled the Protestant working class, much as Marx and Engels, in The Communist Manifesto, reviled “The ‘dangerous class’, the social scum. . . ,” stigmatising such people as “the bribed tool of reactionary intrigue”. To view the Protestant workers in Northern Ireland as “the bribed tools” of British imperialism, bought off with a small fraction of the "super-profits" accruing to British capitalism through their “occupation” of Ireland, is comforting for people whose historical materialism is so deep that their entire vision of the world resolves itself into supporting “good” nationalists against “bad” nationalists, “good” governments against “bad" governments, and, ultimately, much as the religious superstitionists do, “good” people against “bad" people. The problem with this Leninist claptrap is that it is somewhat at odds with the reality which sees the saints, as well as the sinners, on the receiving end of £3 billion.

State-capitalism supporting “socialists” have done their best to alienate Protestant workers from real socialist ideas, but they haven’t entirely succeeded. Many workers from Protestant ghettoes are starting to recognise that, in a sense, the phoney “socialists” and the Unionist parties have been unwittingly fighting each others’ battles by preventing Protestant workers from coming to a realisation of their class position in capitalism. In the Shankill Road area of Belfast at least there are signs that this realisation is starling to dawn. For example, Eddie Kinner, an ex-UVF lifer who spent thirteen and a half years in jail and who, in conversations with the present writer, openly describes himself, and many of his acquaintances, as socialists, recently had published in The Irish Times an article in which he pointed out that:
  The working class Protestants feel that they have been held responsible for the misrule of the Stormont government under which they were exploited and oppressed just as much as the Catholics. They feel that the Unionists have represented the middle class Protestants and religious fundamentalists but misrepresented the views and position of the working class Protestants. (The Irish Times, September 3 1994)
Working-class Protestants are now starting to articulate their position in a more positive way. Although the activities of the fascists in the IRA have hardened their feelings towards those on the “other side”, many of them, probably the majority, would now admit that the original grievances of the Civil Rights marchers were justified. They accept there was discrimination over jobs and houses and that there were anomalies in the voting system which tended to be directed against Catholics. In no way, however, should Protestant workers feel that some act of contrition on their part is called for. They should recognise that the real discrimination in Northern Ireland, like everywhere else in capitalism, was not practised by those who fought over the crumbs, it was practised by those who took the cake and left the crumbs to be fought over. If Protestant workers were materially any better off, it was because their majority strength compelled the ruling class to fob them off with slightly bigger crumbs.

It was the bosses. Catholic, as well as Protestant, who decided who entered into wage-slavery and who languished on state hand-outs where these existed — or starved, where they didn't. The bosses could pick and choose. From the very outset, the capitalist class of the North East of Ireland had decided that their economic interests were best served by a retention of the union with Britain for the sole reason that this also retained their access to British markets.

Naturally, as most working class Catholics had been duped into believing that their interests were with the Southern capitalists, and said so, they were seen as hostile to the new set-up which served the interests of the northern capitalists. Discrimination was the result. What were Protestant workers to do? Refuse to take the jobs and watch their families suffer even more than they already were on the grounds that a Catholic worker might have been “unfairly” passed over? Are socialists to accept that if there had been a Catholic majority in the state, a Catholic parliament for a Catholic people and an overwhelmingly Catholic ruling class, that the attitude of these to a recalcitrant minority of Protestant workers would have been any different? To argue this way is to show an abysmal ignorance of how capitalism works.

Everywhere capitalism exists it creates conflict. Capitalism pits state against state over positions of military and economic influence, capitalist against capitalist over markets, raw materials and cheap labour power, capitalist against worker over wages and conditions and worker against worker over a continuous scramble for scarce jobs. Conflict is capitalism’s permanent condition; the problem is that there is no shortage of people whose ignorance and bigotry enables the conflict to masquerade as one based on nationalism, religion or race. Protestant workers in Northern Ireland have been among the worst victims of this masquerade. A community worker in the Glencairn area of Belfast recently complained to the media that his area, a sprawling, ugly estate, pock-marked everywhere by vandalised blocks of flats, had no community centre, no shopping area, no post office, no chemist, no health centre and that gangs of bored youths roamed the area using empty flats as drinking and drug-taking dens. For some, the mask is beginning to slip.
Nigel McCullough

The Tiny 
 Enclosure (1994)

Book Review from the October 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Pit Sense Versus the State - 
a history of militant miners
 in the Doncaster area by David John Douglass.
 (Phoenix Press. £4.50.)

Next time you find yourself on the receiving end of some empty-headed carping about “vanguards" and "leadership” from the Tiny Trots enclosure, you could do worse than to point them in the direction of Pit Sense Versus the State; also essential reading for anyone into first hand accounts from the sharp end of the class struggle.

Focusing primarily on the Miners' Strike of 1984-85 the book begins with a summary of industrial action taken by the miners from 1926 to the late 1960s. and an account of the political and economic background to the State’s assault on the coal industry in the mid- 1980s.

The author, himself a miner (now unemployed and blacklisted), was formerly delegate of the NUM’s Hatfield Main Branch. During the 1984- 85 Strike he served on picket lines and strike committees, in support groups and food kitchens and is thus able to give us an insider’s view of the day-to-day conduct of the strike, capturing the spirit and mood of those engaged in it — something which academic “histories” never do. Nevertheless this is more than a series of personal reminiscences and anecdotes. Douglass draws heavily from the picket log and the minutes of the various strike committee meetings, allowing the strike to speak for itself, again something that opinionated academics and political "scientists" never do.

The strength of the book lies in showing the ability of working people to organise themselves in defence of their own material interests and kills off the myth that strikes are the result of machinations by evil demagogues or infiltration by subversive lefty rabble-rousers. On the contrary, Douglass shows us that the initiative for the strike came from the grassroots and that the failures and setbacks were often the result of interference from above or from outside.

Take the bloody encounter at Orgreave, for example. The miners themselves had organised picketing strategy along "guerrilla" lines, regularly changing targets and maintaining the element of surprise thereby avoiding clashes, making fools out of the police and gaining support along the way. The decision to concentrate on Orgreave changed all this. Intended by the NUM leadership as a rallying point for militant trade unionists and showpiece victory along the lines of Saltley Gate in 1972, the picketing of Orgreave merely resulted in the police being "highly delighted to have the troublesome miners all in one place at one time. They knew where we would be, they set out their troops like Sitting Bull prepared for Custer, then they brayed us all to hell". But needless to say: "the SWP, Workers Power, et al, made Orgreave the test of a true socialist If you didn't think Orgreave was right you were an agent, a spy, a traitor . . . The paper sellers never fought there themselves, of course, they only talked about it".

This is a further strength of the book, the insight it gives into the capers pulled by "the left". These included everything from drawing up hare-brained picketing "strategies" leading to confusion and mass arrests, to what appears to be bald-faced fraud: "The Socialist Workers Party had set up a fighting fund but none of this money was coming back to the NUM. . . .  It was suggested that a public statement concerning the Socialist Workers Party and what it was trying to do should be distributed. A circular should go out to all Branches telling them that money is not coming into the NUM. (Strike Co-ordinating Committee, 22 May 1984)."

As well as their opportunism, "the left" are characterised by their inability to grasp the nature of industrial action and the role of a trade union. To them every strike is potentially "revolutionary”, what stops them from being so is the lack of "leadership" from the unions. Douglass makes clear in the final chapter, "The Left and the Miners", that the left have it wrong. The unions are defensive organisations to resist exploitation by capital. True, they may on occasion be conservative and bureaucratic, they are also constrained by anti-union laws, but they are necessary nonetheless, if only for routine negotiations, welfare benefits, compensation claims, etc. In the last analysis, however, the union is the workers united in the workplace, not the bureaucracy, and it is these workers who know best how to manage their own affairs. Thus we see strike committees, flying picket squads etc., set up in extension of the formal union structure and from which for legal reasons the formal structure must necessarily distance itself. The left don't understand this, but, as Douglass says, why should they?

So what does Douglass say should be the role of revolutionaries in the defensive actions of the class struggle? Simply that: " . . . we should intervene in the struggles the workers themselves engaged in, we should assist them in the way they wish to be assisted. We should put our determination, skill, constructive and destructive abilities at their disposal, and ask, how can we assist you? How are we better placed to do some of the things you want doing but can’t do yourselves? We must fundamentally recognise that the working class was engaged in struggle before any of us organisationally or individually came along. They are engaged in struggle now, with us or without us, they are not waiting for us . . . We will be of relevance as long as we intervene, without preconditions, without delusions of vanguardism, into the actual struggles of the working class, not standing outside the class mocking the crude attempts at combat organisation the workers have built, but alongside them, as part of them."

This said, the limitation of the book is its failure to point to a way out of all these defensive struggles and to a new way of organising society so that classes, and hence the struggle between them over the social product, would no longer exist. This will be achieved not by workers organised in trade unions to fight for crumbs and better conditions of exploitation, but by the same workers organised in a revolutionary party whose aim is the democratic capture and then the dissolution of political power so as to allow the means of production to be taken peacefully into common ownership. Such a party exists — you are reading its journal. 
Ian Simpson

Obituary: Solomon Goldstein (1994)

Obituary from the October 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have to report the death of Solomon Goldstein. Goldstein (as he was known in the Party) joined at the age of 16 in 1931 after listening to Party outdoor speakers near Brick Lane, in East London, where he lived all his life. Soon he himself was speaking both outdoors and as an indoor lecturer where his specialist subject was Marxian economics, contributing in no small way to the Party’s reputation in this field.

Coming from a Yiddish-speaking family he was easily able to learn German and became as fluent in it as he was in English. Indeed, he used to claim that you couldn’t understand Marxian economics properly unless you had read Capital the originaL

When he was ailed up to take part in the second world slaughter he applied for registration as a Conscientious Objector but was turned down and decided to go on the run. His health suffered and after the war he was never the same, having to spend long periods in hospitaL Although he had ceased to be a member some years ago he still bought the Socialist Standard and corresponded with the Internationales Fries Wort the German-language socialist journal published by our comrades in Austria.

On the Trot (1994)

Book Review from the November 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Gerry Healy: A
 Revolutionary Life, by Corrina Lotz and
 Paul Feldman (Lupus Books. 366 pp. £15.00.)

The title of this book is a misnomer. Gerry Healy was not a revolutionary, Marxist or socialist. Indeed, Ken Livingstone MP. in his sycophantic Foreword, gives the game away when he says that Healy "wanted to find ways of working with the Left in the Labour Party".

Gerry Healy was born in Ireland where, in 1920. he saw his father murdered by the Black and Tans. He came to Britain in 1928. and joined the Merchant Navy. Some time later, he joined the Communist Party and became a courier for the Communist International. But in 1936, he was expelled from the Party, and dubbed a Trotskyist for questioning why the Soviet Union was selling oil to Mussolini's Italy as well as Republican Spain. In fact, Healy knew nothing of Trotskyism or Trotsky at that time, although in 1937, after listening to Jock Haston speaking in Hyde Park, he joined the Militant Group, Britain’s only Trotskyist organisation at the time. But within a few months about a third of its members split from the Group, and formed the Workers International League.

By 1938, Gerry Healy and his little group adopted the now well-known Trotskyist tactic of "entryism", and joined both the Labour Party and the Independent Labour Party.

By 1938, there were already four different Trotskyist groups in Britain, all claiming to represent the views of the Old Man himself. Healy joined the WIL some time later; and. in 1941, he volunteered for National Service. He was rejected and, for the rest of the war, worked in a number of engineering factories. During this period. Healy and the various Trotskyist groups supported the increasing number of strikes, and were called "fifth column saboteurs" by the Communists.

In March 1944, the WIL and another Trotskyist group, the misnamed Revolutionary Socialist League, came together to form the equally misnamed Revolutionary Communist Party. But, again, it was all to end in tears for Gerry Healy. The problem was, as before, "entryism" into the Labour Party. Jock Haston and a majority of the RCP opposed entry, whilst Healy and a minority were in favour. Some of them, including Healy, did join the Labour Party, the others remained outside. By 1949, the Revolutionary Communist Party had disintegrated. Healy and his group continued their struggle inside the Labour Party until 1959, when they were expelled. They then formed the Socialist Labour League. Each time. Gerry Healy was a large fish in a very small pond.

In July 1973, the Socialist Labour League transformed itself into the Workers Revolutionary Party under Gerry Healy’s leadership. On 1 May 1976, a daily paper, News Line, was published by the WRP. At the 1979 election, the WRP stood 60 candidates; but by the mid-1980s, the Party was in deep trouble; and, following allegations of Healy's alleged sexual improprieties with female members of his staff, the Party’s recently discovered debts of £250,000, and allegations of infiltration and disruption by MI5, Healy was persuaded to retire from the leadership. By 1988, the WRP was finished. Healy, Vanessa Redgrave and a few others formed yet another party, which they called the Marxist Party; but. shortly after, this also split. On 14 December 1990 Gerry Healy died.

What were Gerry Healy’s political views?

He believed that the Bolshevik coup d'état, in Russia in 1917, was a socialist revolution, despite the fact that the conditions for a socialist revolution did not exist either in Russia or elsewhere. After becoming a Trotskyist, and for the rest of his life, he described the Soviet Union as a "degenerated workers state"; and rejected the arguments by socialists that, in fact, the USSR had merely become yet another capitalist state, with all the features of capitalism found elsewhere in the world.

Healy never accepted that the workers must free themselves without the necessity of aspiring leaders such as himself. He believed, just like members of both the Labour Party and Communist Party, that nationalisation had something to do with socialism; and, unlike socialists, he was a nationalist who supported movement such as the Palestine Liberation Organisation and other so-called liberation movements. In all the different groups and parties that he led, he did not accept, or even conceive of. democratic control by the membership. Like many other would-be leaders of the working class, he was, in fact, their political enemy. 
Peter E. Newell

The Cruel Edges of Capitalism (1994)

From the December 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalism, the argument goes, is not such a bad system. Since Marx’s day it has reformed itself to provide a tolerable existence for workers: Workers used to have to make provision for unemployment, sickness and old age out of their wages. Now these are provided for them by the state, largely out of taxes levied on the rich. Every time that profit-seeking by private capitalist firms has threatened to get out of hand and damage the environment or the workforce’s health the state has intervened. Over the years more and more restrictions — the prohibition of child labour, the provision of free education, and numerous Acts laying down standards for housing, sanitation and town planning — have been placed on the freedom of action of capitalist firms The bureaucracy to enforce this has again been paid for out of taxes that have reduced the wealth of the rich. All this has meant that workers are reasonably satisfied and don’t want to get rid of capitalism. In short, the argument goes, reformism has worked in the past, so why not continue with it?

This was the theme of a lecture given in the House of Commons in November last year by J. K. Galbraith, the American writer and economist, to the Institute of Public Policy. These developments, he said, have “taken the cruel edge off capitalism” and made it “an acceptable economic system”. Those he called the “social left”, he concluded, should draw the lessons from this:
  “We are no longer in search of an alternative economic system. Nor is it clear that one exists. We are concerned with making more effective and more tolerant and equitable the economic system we have. Our claim is not to violent change, certainly not to revolution. It is to a socially better performance by the existing system ” (Guardian, 25 November 1993).
Following Tony Blair’s election as leader of the labour Party in July, David Marquand echoed this view. The only realistic choice today, he said, is not between capitalism and socialism but between two kinds of capitalism which he called “free market capitalism” and “social market capitalism”. (The World Tonight, BBC Radio 4, 27 July). As a Labour defector to the now-defunct SDP, he favours the latter form of capitalism by which he means the profit system mitigated by a few social reforms and limited state intervention.

So, should we lower our sights and try to make the best of capitalism? Has capitalism become an acceptable economic system that we should try to merely humanise, not abolish?

Only a die-hard reformist could choose the present moment to argue this case. On the world scale, capitalism is still going through one of its regularly-occurring slumps (which, incidentally, reformists once claimed to be able to eliminate). The resulting increased competition on the world market is forcing all states and their governments to cut back on their social spending and to de-regulate the restraints on profit-making by capitalist firms. In other words, the measures which the reformists see as having taken the “cruel edge” off capitalism are being undermined — and undermined by the normal workings of the capitalism they see as the only possible economic system.

Capitalism has rolled back their reforms and all they can recommend is that we start again. That we begin to push the stone back up the slope, even though we know that in the by no means certain event of success it will roll back down in the next slump. In Ancient Greek mythology that was the torture imposed on an unfortunate king called Sisyphus. Galbraith, Marquand, Blair and the others may be masochists. But we Socialists, we are not. We don’t regard endlessly rolling a stone up a hill only to see it roll down again time after time as a useful or satisfying activity.

When these people say we must accept that there is no alternative to capitalism what they are saying is that we must accept that the only way in which the production and distribution of wealth can be organised today is on the basis of production being in the hands of separate firms all competing to sell their products on the market at a profit.

Their whole strategy is based on accepting that profit must be the motive for production and that profits should be made, and then taxing away some of these profits for socially-desirable purposes. But this limits their field of action considerably. It means they must refrain from doing anything that might undermine profit-making.

They must allow the profit-seeking private firms that will continue to dominate economic activity the leeway they need to pursue maximising their profits. They must discourage, and actively oppose when it occurs, workers going on strike for higher wages or better working conditions as these cost firms money and eat into their profits. But, more serious since taxes are central to their strategy, there are definite limits as to how far they can go in taxing profits. They must not kill off the geese that lay the golden eggs by increasing the tax burden unduly — and they must defer to the judgement of the geese, the capitalist firms themselves, as to what level of taxation is due and what undue.

Under these circumstances you need a microscope to tell the difference between “social market capitalism” and ordinary capitalism, which is largely only window-dressing anyway.

It is clear that, given the profit system, only a limited amount of money is ever going to be available for social measures especially those aimed at achieving a fairer, less unequal society rather than linked to increasing the productive efficiency and so profit-producing potential of the workforce.

It is also clear that when, as at present, profits are under pressure from competition from abroad then the amount of money available for state benefits is going to be squeezed. So that, far from the government being able to increase social spending, it has to reduce it. This of course is what has been happening in all countries since the early 1970s when the post-war boom came to a final end and is the practical disproof of the reformist theory that the cruel edges of capitalism can be permanently removed. 
Adam Buick

Flowers (1994)

From the December 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard
Don’t lay flowers for rebels who failed
as if sunburst days are spent,
or let your greying hair steal
breath from your impossible dreams,
too many wreaths have been
hung at doors
of the drab remains who’ve
ploughed barren soil,
crop after crop of young corn
shrivels and dies
trampled underfoot,
bloodstained, murdered.
You are too young to place faith
in those tumbling, tarnished statues,
reach out and disembowel the ghosts
who cast long shadows from the past,
lower the caskets of disarmed prophets
into their dark resting places,
turn out, tune — in and turn up the volume
on this low fidelity system. 
Don’t lay flowers for rebels who failed
as if sunburst days are spent.

Letter: What a Consolation! (1994)

Letter to the Editors from the December 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Editors,

The two articles in your October issue dealing with the problems in Northern Ireland said next to nothing about the thoroughgoing reactionary nature of the Protestant working class's political consciousness. Why was that?

Surely the writers of these articles were not ignorant of the fact that the Catholic working class people in Northern Ireland have been treated something like a non-people by the Herrnevolk attitude of the Unionist parties there and also most of the Protestant working class.

So what do you expect the Catholic population to do there in Northern Ireland when they are treated like coolies? Sitting down reading Socialist Standards certainly would be no consolation to them at all. And I am sure the Protestant working class in Northern Ireland in the main would not be impressed by what your writers have to say about Northern Ireland.

So what's the point in trying to make out that your type of Socialism has the solution to the problems in Northern Ireland?

Certainly the capitalist economic system causes problems and crises, but capitalism is not completely the same in all countries. The class consciousness Marx advocated for the bringing about of Socialism is a non-starter at the present time.

The Catholics in Northern Ireland just want to move forward to have an equal say in political matters rather than be treated with contempt by Unionist Herrenvolk or, worse still, as being enemies.

You say Ian Paisley is a clown. If so, he is a clown with plenty M-O-N-E-Y. Also, a clown that stirs up plenty of trouble for the Catholic population of Ulster. How many reincarnations do you think he would need to become a class conscious Socialist?
R. Smith, 

R. Smith is not correct to say that the two articles on Northern Ireland in our October issue "said next to nothing about the thoroughgoing reactionary nature of the Protestant working class". In fact the two articles in question said all that needed to be said about reactionary attitudes in general in Northern Ireland.

We pointed out that Catholic workers who give their allegiance to Irish nationalism are every bit as "reactionary" as Protestant workers who give their allegiance to British nationalism. R. Smith doesn’t like this viewpoint as it obviously contradicts the fantasy that all Protestants are materially well-off and reactionary bigots in their views while all Catholics are poor, down-trodden and progressive in their views.

As socialists, we don’t go in for moralising in this way about the "goodness" or "badness” of whole sections of the working class. We base our views on an analysis of the material conditions. In the case of Northern Ireland, such an analysis tells us that both sets of nationalists are conning themselves and other workers and are betraying their class interests.

Sitting down and reading the Socialist Standard may not be "a consolation" — it isn't meant to be; it's meant to be an education and an antidote. 

Letter: Is the S.P.G.B. Afraid to Criticise
Trade Unionism? (1939)

Letter to the Editors from the September 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard
In the April issue of the Socialist Standard, under the above heading, we replied to a letter from Mr. B. Marshall, who described himself as being "on tramp.” We publish a further letter below.
"No address".

Dear Sir,

You state in your reply that increased wages are a direct cut into profits. May be it is true, but the important point is, that a Socialist should not be concerned with winning higher wages, or even defending the present standard of living. Why not allow conditions to become worse, thereby making the workers more dissatisfied with capitalism? Trade unionism tends to divide the workers into sections; for example, some count their wages in pounds, while others count theirs in shillings. What the S.P. should, study is working-class psychology, then you will discover that the majority of workers think with their stomach rather than with their head. I maintain that constant raids on the wage packet would make the workers more receptive to Socialist propaganda.
Yours truly,
B. Marshall.

If your theory were correct it would logically follow that the depressed areas would be centres of revolutionary activity, whereas the opposite is the case.

The lowest-paid section are generally the most reactionary: the apathy and indifference of the poverty-stricken to the facts underlying their miserable condition is one of the most appalling factors of the situation.

The insecurity of the worker’s employment, as a result of the means of production being owned by the capitalist class, is the secret of the latter's power and is the source of the mental and moral degradation of the working class.

The wage-slave, with any manhood left in him, feels instinctively the secret power of the chains which keep him in bondage, and he tries to break or weaken them by means of union with his fellows.
When he forces increased wages, shorter hours, or better working conditions from his exploiters he feels he has achieved something.

His struggles cannot suspend the working of economic laws or prevent the downward tendency, but it can counteract the results of the economic process on the psychology of the working class.

In addition, the fight itself develops eventually the desire for ultimate freedom and educates the working man to an understanding of the causes and conditions of the struggle.

And, at the same time, the struggle must be growing more intense.

For the fight only affecting the results of the downward tendency, and being powerless to remove its cause, whatever gains are made cannot be kept unless the fight for them is kept up, and the fight must be intensified as the tendency increases.

Thus is brought about the "growing revolt” of the working class. Boudin deals with this in his “Theoretical System of Karl Marx.”
“At the same time,” says Boudin, "the working class is steadily advancing in economic power and independence, in the sense that it takes possession of more and more responsible positions in the economic life of the nation, diverts to itself, by means of the corporation and otherwise, all the growth of the concentration and centralisation of capital; and particularly with the development of the corporate form of economic activity, the capitalist class abdicates its functions, the proper functions of a ruling class, those of economic management, into the hands of the working class.
 The working class thus not only becomes revolutionary in its ideas, desires and aspirations, but it has the organised power to carry the revolution into effect, and is fully equipped to take hold of all social and economic activities and functions after the revolution and carry them out successfully.”
Charles Lestor

What is the true Position? (1939)

From the September 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

The workers of all capitalist countries are faced with the SAME problems.

A worker, be he British, French, German, Italian or any other, is without the means of existence unless he can sell the only thing he possesses (i.e., his power to labour) to die capitalist class. All workers are alike in this respect. They possess no means and, to live, they must work to produce a profit for a capitalist.

The worker gets a wage which is, on an average, just sufficient to enable him to live and reproduce his kind (i.e., future wage-earners). This again applies equally to workers of all lands and colours. Often he is overworked, ill-clothed, badly housed. He finds it hard to make ends meet, so that at death, after a life of toil, he is just as he was at birth, i.e., without property.

The capitalist, however, is far from being in that position. To whatever race or nation he belongs he owns the machines and instruments which produce the means of life. Furthermore, he insists that whenever the wheels of production turn he gets a handsome profit. “No profit. No production!” that is the watchword of the capitalist. If his workers are of the same race and religion as himself, the rule still holds: if profits are not forthcoming from production he will close the doors of the factory and his' workers are left workless in the street.

The enemy, then, of the worker of any country, is not the worker of another. His enemy is the system of society—capitalism—which keeps him in poverty, overworks him and throws him on the scrap-heap when profits are not being produced.

Sooner or later, the workers will realise this. Capitalism itself will make them realise it, because capitalism can give them no solution to their problems. Then, the workers will be class-conscious, they will realise that all workers of all lands must join together against the common enemy, capitalism. They will scorn the attempts of the capitalists to stir up hatred between workers of different nations. Instead of slaughtering each other in the interests of the capitalist classes, they will unite to establish, in their own interests, a system of society which will bring security to every worker—Socialism.
Clifford Allen

The Only Way (1939)

From the September 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

"On horror’s head horrors accumulate"; Man’s inhumanity to man, after nineteen centuries of lip-service to a God-given command for “Peace on Earth, and Good will towards Men,” deepens in intensity and widens in scope.

Hitler’s bloody axe, Stalin "purges,” unnameable horrors in Spain, supply raucous harsh accompaniment to “the still sad music of humanity,” which arises from the frustrate ghosts of the past-hope unemployed, the sacrificed mother, and the starved child—butchered to make a capitalist holiday.

It is only too easy in these days for the working class to fall for ill-considered appeals for “action,” to succumb to the promises (not a few made in all sincerity) of “leaders” of "vanguard” organisations; it is quite understandable that uninformed impatience may mistake the calm argument of the Socialist Party of Great Britain for lack of “sympathy,” even for sheer philosophical callousness.

The Labour Party dismisses the S.P.G.B. as "armchair philosophers”—where does the present policy of the Labour Party on the question of war inevitably tend? Its proposed course of “action” leads to war; it has two strings to its bow, “Collective Security” and “Bluff Calling.” 

“Collective Security,” as far as the vague phrase can be interpreted, means alliance with "democratic” and “peace-loving” nations. Only as far back as the ’nineties of last century (older men will recollect) the English Press was severely upbraiding France with anything but "peaceful” intentions towards England when the “Fashoda” incident revealed the fact that France was anxious to have a part in the general carve-up of Africa, which was going on at such a merry rate in the days of Victoria the Good (peace, Mr. Greville, you and your nasty memoirs!); “democratic” is a joke. There is some appreciable content to the word as far as England and elsewhere is concerned, but Russia!!

As to the policy of "calling Hitler’s bluff,” “presenting a firm front," etc., etc., are the leaders of the Labour Party certain that one Dictator will not be prepared under stress of circumstances, to risk everything on one big throw? What a cool-headed Napoleon did is not unlikely with the screaming Berlin neurotic.

And . . .  let it not be forgotten that War means immediate deprivation of modicum of “democratic” rights, virtual Dictatorship, with a liberal supply of Labour toe-rags, who will ably assist the capitalist class in their dirty work, as did the Barnes’ and the Hodges in 1914.

The I.L.P. attitude in the present series of ever-recurring crises is relatively sound. At least, it is not whooping for the fray, it opposes National Service, exposes the futility and cunning of "A.R.P.,” but a glance at any New Leader will reveal the chasm that separates the I.L.P. from the S.P.G.B.—the unbridgeable chasm that yawns between Socialism and Reformism; the cartoon of March 17th (high art in the cartoon line; arresting; austere of line and content), but . . . the title! “The murder of Spain.” Apparently the I.L.P. stands for Nationalism.

Worse remains behind. The issue of March 3rd calls on the working class for “Direct action” to “save Spain,” and makes the astounding statement that, in 1920, action on the part of dockers stopped intervention in Russia—which is not in accordance with the facts. In any case, behind "Direct Action” lurks the danger of blood-baths for workers who are so ill-advised as to mistake big phrases and “slogans” for practical politics.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain, in 1939, as in 1914, stands by the policy implicit in its Declaration of Principles. Clause 6 states that “The working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of Government.” It repudiates uncompromisingly the suggestion that our class can be shepherded by an Attlee, a Bevin, a Stalin’s “Fifth Column” into Socialism.

It may appear drab, unattractive to the throaty politicians who think the walls of the capitalist Jericho can fall to the sound of leaders' trumpets and “mass” shouting, but the Party challenges any alternative as a firm basis for final Socialist triumph than the “conscious” political action of the working class. . . . socialist knowledge is the keystone of the future Socialist edifice.
Augustus Snellgrove