Sunday, October 7, 2018

Rent Rows (1965)

From the November 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

Just before I joined the Socialist Party, I was friendly with Albert, a member of the Communist Party, a man with a wife and two young children, who has been in the army during the last war and like many others, had come back to an appalling housing problem. Albert and his family lived in two small rooms, and in between his battles with the local housing committee, he would lead all sorts of militant actions—such as “squatting”—and would urge my support in the “day-to-day struggle”. He was evicted from many a vacant property (and sometimes from meetings of the town council too) before he was eventually granted a house on a new estate.

Not a very tolerant man, he was furious when he heard of my decision to join the SPGB “They never do nuthin’," he shouted contemptuously, and refused to speak to me ever again. Albert has long since moved out of the district and I wonder just what his political views are today—also whether his present home is a council house.

Certainly in those earlier days this would have been the limit of his horizon —what he would have called “doin’ sumthin’” —and we can agree that a council house is preferable to a disused army nissen hut. But it makes a pretty poor comparison with what society is really capable of producing. And there is another unpleasant aspect which these day-to-day strugglers seem to overlook, and that is the role of the local authorities as landlords. They can be just as harsh as private owners, particularly if you fall behind with the rent, and they are not so restricted legally when it comes to the question of rent increases.

I am reminded of this by a recent report that Belfast City Council have decided to increase their house rents by up to 5/9d. a week. When it was debated there were noisy protests from tenants in the public gallery, but the decision went through. Albert would have acclaimed the protest as something concrete; he would have missed the point that this was one result of his previous struggles —council house building has been beloved of the left for donkey’s years— and perhaps the most important point of all would have completely eluded him. It is only workers who have to struggle for, live in, and protest about the rent of, council houses.
Eddie Critchfield

50 Years Ago: The Growth of Ideas (1965)

The  50 Years Ago column from the November 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

All ideas are but the more or less transformed reflections of real things. Our brain receives, through the medium of the sensory organs, impressions or sensations from the world exterior to it. Our thoughts are all of necessity based upon these impressions, which however, become combined in the most intricate manner. Nevertheless, our ideas can never go beyond the limits set by the experience thus gained.

From this basis the origin of entirely new ideas can only be explained by the fact that man is continually creating an artificial environment, which means that fresh material from which impressions may be received are brought into being, and which also may assist in the perception of a hitherto unknown side and fresh attributes of the material in the Universe, which up till then he had been conscious of only in an imperfect manner or not at all. In either case it is the result of man’s powers of production, which adds to and supplements the world of nature, which is at the root of the new ideas.

Take for example the invention of the telescope. Not only does the newly constructed instrument of itself form the basis of new ideas, but the manner of its use also. The laws of light which may incidentally be discovered by its aid become further objects or rather, subjects of contemplation, as also the details of the Universe unfolded by its use, which previously, although obviously forming a part of man’s environment, had yet been unperceived by him because of the insufficiency for this purpose of his organs of sight. 
From Socialist Standard, November 1915.

News in Review: Heil Banda! (1965)

The News in Review column from the December 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

Heil Banda!
The tireless supporters of African nationalist movements will doubtless have been glad to hear that Dr. Hastings Banda, who was once one of their heroes, and who was once said to be a gentle, humane man, and who is now Prime Minister of Malawi, is running true to form.

Next July, Malawi will become a Republic and Dr. Bandas’ party—the Malawi Congress Party—is getting ready for the event.

First, they nominated (who else?) Dr. Banda as their candidate for the Presidency. Then they accepted some proposals which make it clear that Dr. Banda does not intend his Presidential rule to be restricted by the sort of checks which are on the leaders of a much maligned, imperialist country like the United States.

The Constitution the Malawi Congress Party accepted, and which will probably become law, lays it down that the country will become a one-party state with a President who is both the Head of State and the Head of the Government.

There are, of course, no prizes for guessing which party will be the only one allowed to exist and who will be the all-powerful President—or dictator, as he will be known in places where speech is still comparatively free.

This is typical of many of the new African states which are now under one-party dictatorships, run by the men who came to power on a promise to bring freedom to a people governed by a foreign nation.

On what grounds are the new dictatorships excused? Dr. Banda told his party’s convention: “It does not matter whether there is a dictator or not as long as the people choose the dictator”— which is exactly the argument used by, among others, Adolf Hitler.

This is hot a far-fetched parallel. A couple of weeks after the convention, Dr. Banda revealed what sort of dictatorship he hopes the Malawi people will choose. Commenting on the trial of the “rebel” Medson Silombela, he said: “I know he is going to be found guilty. What sort of judge can acquit him? After that you can come and watch him swing.”

Life under British capitalism is tough enough, but at least political leaders do not make it their business to go around pronouncing verdict and sentence before a trial is ended.

The rising capitalisms of Africa are no better than those of the older, more established countries.

The experience of Malawi—and of Ghana and Kenya—should be remembered, the next time there is an appeal to support a nationalist movement which aims to replace one type of suppression with another.

Failure of the incomes and prices policy
Mr. Brown,” wrote William Rees-Mogg in the Sunday Times last April, “Plough the Sands.” He was referring to the government’s incomes policy, to the incomes policies which have gone before, and to the near certainty of Brown’s policy failing.

Well, the policy has been running for about a year. We have had the Declaration of Intent, we have Mr. Jones and his Prices and Incomes Board, we have the Early Warning System and the TUC’s capitulation to it.

And we have Mr. Brown. Talking.

What else have we had?

Prices, we know, have gone up. What about wages?

The Motor Agents’ Association have agreed with the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Transport and General Workers’ Union that from January 1st the basic rates of about 300,000 workers in the motor retail and repair trades will go up by between 14 and 16 per cent.

Figures arc pliable things but on any argument this rise is considerably more than the government’s hoped-for limit of between 3 and 3½ per cent. a year.

This is only one detail in the picture. In April the Scottish plumbers got a rise of 11 per cent.; in August Trustee Savings Bank Staff got 8.1 per cent. 

Between last December and September this year, the Index of Hourly Wage Rates, taking a base figure of 100 for the year 1956, rose from 152.2 to 160.2—an increase of 8 per cent. 

These developments have provoked Mr. Callaghan, the Chancellor of the Exchequer to confess that he is ". . . disappointed with the way in which the incomes policy has gone so far.”

There is really no reason for Mr. Callaghan feeling like this. Any incomes policy will always run up against a basic feature of the capitalist social system which the government are trying to run.

Capitalism imposes upon the mass of people the condition that they have to sell their working abilities in order to live. In its barest essentials—that is, in times of slump—this is a matter of living. At other times it is more a matter of defending and improving living standards.

Here is the root cause of the disputes over wages and working conditions. It is inevitable that the working class will struggle to get the most they can from their employers, and that their employers will protect their own interests.

Since the war, conditions in this country have generally favoured the working class in their struggle. A persistent shortage of labour has given strength to many wage claims.

Thus, although the trade unions may formally accept an obligation to restrain wages, the very conditions of their existence force them to do the opposite, for their members would hardly agree to hold wages down when they could push them up.

The assistant secretary of the TGWU showed how the trade unions justify themselves in this situation when he commented on the rises awarded to the motor men: “In fact, this was consolidating local wage rates into a national agreement and was merely formalising what already existed.”

This is what Mr. George Woodcock once called “a bit of good old TUC”, but in essence it is a fairly common sort of statement.

Whatever policy the government may try to impose, and the unions accept, the battle to consolidate and to improve wages will go on. It is simply part of capitalism.

Other incomes policies have failed in the past and Brown’s policy, brought in to such deafening fanfares, is failing now. However many times they are ploughed, the dead sands will remain.

Crisis in Rhodesia
The crisis in Rhodesia showed—if indeed it was necessary to do so—that whatever else we may be short of there is still plenty of nonsense being talked.

We heard, for example, talk about our “kith and kin" in Rhodesia, which suggests that there is a sacred, family tie between British workers and the Rhodesian ruling class. Perhaps this propaganda was effective: it was reported that the British government hesitated about sending troops to Rhodesia because they feared something like a repetition of the Curragh Mutiny in 1914.

We heard lots about the “rights" of majorities and the “legalities" of Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence, as if such things are immutable and are not ignored and defied when it suits a governments’ purposes to do so. Human “rights" have had such a rough time of it during the past few years that it is surprising that any government still dares to speak in their name.

And, of course, we had the familiar racist nonsense, about the supposed inferiority of the African, and his inherent inability to behave in the same way as the established proletariat of the older capitalist countries.

There were signs that the decision to make a UDI was not reached without considerable argument in Salisbury. Mr. Smith prevaricated for a long time, after originally giving the impression that the break was due in the immediate future.

Perhaps this was a result of the arm-twisting by the British government. But whatever the short term effect of the sanctions, there is every reason to think that in the long run Rhodesia will weather the storm. It will find other outlets for its produce, and reach other arrangements on its international finances to replace those which have been ended. Indeed, there may even be some sort of tie-up between Rhodesia and some of the Negro African states. Malawi for one made it clear that it did not favour the imposition of sanctions, which might mean that the two countries will get together over a trade deal.

Mr. Wilson was at some pains to establish the fact that Labour's policy was a continuation of the Tories’. This did not prevent Mr. Heath getting what advantage he could from the situation, by making the familiar charge that, although there was no difference in principle between the two parties, Labour were bungling the job.

This basic agreement indicates that the British ruling class as a whole, whatever Lord Salisbury may think, realises what will be the result of a UDI. The present Rhodesian government can probably stay in power only by imposing a system similar to what exists in South Africa.

This will have its repercussions in terms of sabotage and other forms of violence, and in continual unrest. It will hold back Rhodesia's development into a modern capitalist nation. This may suit the interests of the Rhodesian farmers but the country’s industrialists, and the capitalists abroad who have money invested there, must take a different attitude.

They are more likely to be in favour of accepting the inevitable and salvaging what they can, as they have done in the other newly independent states of Africa.

If a Negro-dominated Rhodesia is inevitable—however far into the future it maybe—what is likely to follow? There will probably by changes in the white landholdings. Some of them may be split up and distributed to Africans; so called Land Reform often accompanies the success of nationalist revolts.

There will also be changes in Rhodesia’s social structure. The tribal chiefs will decline in power, to be replaced by a new ruling class, mostly with coloured skins. The African people will be developed into a fully-fledged proletariat.

And, if recent history is any guide, Rhodesia may well become another Negro dictatorship, with the new government’s opponents persecuted, exiled, even murdered.

Who can say that this is preferable to the white settlers’ dictatorship under Mr. Smith? For the people of Rhodesia the outlook is unpromising.

Profit in Russia: A Postscript (1965)

From the December 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

Those who have been following the discussion of this question in our columns may be interested in two further pieces of information. The first is another article by Liberman, in the Sunday Times of October l0th. As to the origin of profits Liberman repeats the same incorrect arguments he gave to the Daily Worker correspondent. But there are two passages worth comment.

Arguing against the suggestion that Russia is “returning” to profit-making, he points out:
  “Our enterprises have been driving for cash profits since 1921, that is, for more than 40 years.”
Quite! Since it developed there, capitalism has never ceased to exist in Russia. For most of this period, however, cash profits played a minor role in regulating production. Liberman complains:
  “The significance of profit in the Soviet Union was reduced because the law of value was ignored to a certain extent. This law was incorrectly interpreted by certain Soviet economists as a sort of unpleasant hang-over of capitalism which supposedly had to be got rid of as quickly as possible.”
Naturally the law of value will disappear in socialist society, where production will be for use. Marxian terminology, which by a peculiar historical accident had been inherited by the rulers of Russia, has proved a nuisance to them on this point. At first their theoreticians argued that the law of value would continue to exist in the transition from capitalism to socialism but would wither away before the advent of socialism. These are the economists Liberman criticises. This was changed in the early 1940’s when it was baldly announced that in future the law of value would continue to operate in a socialist society! Liberman is merely a product of this change: perhaps he genuinely doesn’t know that the Marxian concepts he uses apply exclusively to capitalist society.

The second item is from The Times of October 18th under the headline LOANS TO REPLACE GRANTS IN RUSSIA, Garbuzov, the Finance Minister, suggested, says the report:
   “financing a substantial share of the nation’s investment, possibly as much as half, by long-term bank loans instead of outright interest-free grants out of the Government budget as in the past.”
This change by encouraging the State enterprises to make enough profit to be able to pay the interest charges would bring the financing of the nationalised industries in Russia nearer to the British system.
Adam Buick

Conservatives in Conclave (1946)

From the November 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

The seaside town of Blackpool, noted for its amusements and fun fairs, seemed a most appropriate choice for the Tories to spend three days there indulging in ye ancient English political pastime of setting up “Aunt Sallies” and knocking ’em down. To say that they excelled themselves on this occasion is to talk in superlatives. We need hardly remind our readers that now, as always, the Aunt Sally was— Socialism.

Reading their speeches on this subject, it seems hardly possible—to paraphrase Mr. Churchill—that so many could talk for so long on a theme and yet know so little, for it is no exaggeration to say that even to-day the average Tory knows slightly less about Socialism than a red-herring knows about white port.

The conventional theme that Socialism was a kind of vast “Somerset House” presided over by a tyranny of officials, and for whom men’s lives existed merely as the data for an impersonal and inhuman system of labelling, ticketing, docketing, classifying and pigeon-holing, was plugged for all it was worth. They blandly ignored the fact that we became a community of form-fillers and subject to a thousand and one petty restrictions that hamper and perplex our lives largely under their political aegis. They forget, or do not care to remember, that even before the war they sought to regiment and conscript the working class. That it was they who were largely responsible for inaugurating the “era” of the identity card and with it the right to be interrogated and apprehended by the authorities. When faced with this glaring inconsistency between utterance and action, they will plead that much of the repressive legislation and coercive bureaucracy fathered by them is largely due to the temporary and abnormal conditions of war. This is, of course, both dishonest and specious, as it implies that in some way war is a mere aberration from the norm of Capitalism. War, of course, is not a mere temporary and abnormal phase of Capitalism any more than the passing fits of an epileptic are a deviation from an otherwise healthy state. War and its associated symptoms of repression and coercion are, then, permanent and normal features arising out of, and inseparable from, the morbid cause that produces them. Thus, with the further development of Capitalist society, the greater must the threat of more violent convulsion become, and consequently the greater must grow its accompanying social restraint.

The morbidity of Capitalism arises from the fact that it is a system based on the exploitation of the many, the propertyless working class, by the capitalist class, the owners of the means for producing wealth. Only part of the wealth produced by the workers goes to them in the form of wages; the rest is appropriated by the capitalists in the form of surplus value. It is this unpaid labour of the workers—surplus value— produced on a greater and greater scale as the result of their ever-increasing exploitation, that makes possible the continuous expansion of capital. This is the law of capitalist accumulation. Thus small capitals become large ones and in the competition between them weaker units are forced out of existence or absorbed by the stronger ones and wealth tends to concentrate into fewer and fewer hands. But competition is not eliminated by the monopolistic tendencies of capitalism; it is merely transferred to a higher and intenser level by the gigantic capital formations of the various “nationals” fighting for domination in a world market. That is why the State, as the regulating authority of the capitalist class must become a more and more active partner in the economic life of the national capitalist economy, and by its exercise of political control seek to unify its various elements into as strong an economic entity as possible in order to compete with other capitalist nations on equal terms. The political form which Capitalism takes is, then, not a result of the political programmes of its parties, but a consequence of its economic development. It is, then, the rigorous pattern of political uniformity which modern capitalism imposes upon those who seek to administer it that explains why the famous continuity of policy, whether domestic or foreign, between the Tory Party and the Labourites follows as a matter of course. The main task of alternative governments is, then, to supplement, and extend what the last government began.

In the light of the foregoing, Mr. Amery’s warning of a possible head-on collision between “Totalitarian Russia and the out-of-date economic laissez-faire of the U.S.A.,” and his advocacy at Blackpool of “the building up of stable groups of nations each with its own policy and defensive organisation” (italics ours), falls into proper perspective. That is why again the usual Churchillian rodomontade nevertheless contained the carefully qualified proposition that the Tories supported as a general rule free enterprise as against nationalisation. This “general rule” will thus permit ample accommodation for particular industries and services to come under State control or whatever form of supervision is favoured by them. The same can be said of Mr. Eden, who, after avowing the Labour Party were socialist, went into the confession box and recanted by declaring both parties believed in Capitalism, only the Labour Party wanted it in a State form while his party wanted it in the widest measure of individual Capitalism. No total rejection of State Capitalism, only the widest possible measure of individual Capitalism. But as Einstein has taught us, width is not an absolute quantity, and Mr. Eden's “wideness” will be relative to the requirements of Capitalism in space and time. If and when the circumstances arise, a future Tory government will be as active an agent in the life of Capitalism as any Labour administration.

Ironically enough, although the Tories, in looking into the mirror of the future, pretend to look through a glass, darkly, they see in the very development of their own society the distorted reflection of something else—Socialism. Thus the outcome of Capitalism in its maturest form, with all its crass social consequences, becomes the bureaucratic nightmare of Socialist society, and it is with this bad dream that they seek to haunt the political sleep of the working class. They are, of course, helped in this by the Labour Party, who hold that the final form of Capitalist evolution is its opposite — Socialism. The Labour Party has owed its rise to the fact that it posed as a real alternative to the older Capitalist forces, Tory and Liberal. Having no real solution to Capitalism, i.e., its replacement by a system of common ownership of the means of living, and yet compelled to criticise Capitalism's shortcomings, it had to idealise its future as a new social system and see in the very developmental forces of present society nothing less than the realisation of “Labour’s ideal.” In this way were they able to turn an economic necessity into a political virtue. This utterly erroneous conception of Socialism is, nevertheless, indispensable to both parties because it provides them with an ideological basis for political rivalry.

Nevertheless, the ideological basis seemed unable to support the weight of a detailed Tory policy which might be capable of being offered as an Election alternative, for in spite of the demand from the body of the conference for a plain statement of policy, the big boys on the platform were unable to oblige. In fact, Sir Herbert Williams, replying, said "you don’t state a policy, it grows out of circumstances.” The real thing, he added, is to go for your opponent bald-headed and gradually build up your policy from that. Later Captain Crookshank promised that this talk about policy would reach the leader’s ears before night fell, which meant, presumably, Mr. Churchill was bringing something along.

So that those who run may read, we merely comment by saying that Mr. Churchill’s Conservative objectives — support of Church, King, Parliamentary institutions, law and order, efficient fighting services, a sound financial policy, and social betterment of the people—were as modern a statement of Tory principles as any put forward by Peel or Palmerston. Mr. Churchill, who doesn’t really like to be out of office— or out of anything, come to that—was a little cross with the Labour Party for refusing to stay on with him. As he said, there was general agreement, more or less, on foreign policy, and also on a vast amount of social legislation, and both were united against Communism (he meant Russia, of course). It seemed, no doubt, a waste of time to him for them both to be scrapping.

Mr. Churchill also expressed himself in favour of a property-owning community, an ideal much in favour, of course, with those "democratic” owners of the "democratic” means of living, the Capitalist class. But as the "democratic” Conservative Daily Telegraph awkwardly admitted, "Socialism did not originate out of the void, but out of the discontent of the masses in a world in which the relatively propertyless wage earner found little satisfaction.” And as it appears from Mr. Eden that the Tories were opposed to "soaking the rich” or any redistribution of wealth, Mr. Churchill had to find some means by which the propertyless wage earner could be elevated into the ranks of his property-owning community. It is, perhaps, symptomatic of his passion for the past that he should discover it in the proposal first put forward in the 19th century by a Liberal economist, John Stuart Mill—co-partnership or profit sharing. But, as we have seen, profits arise as the result of working class exploitation by the property-owning Capitalists. Mr. Churchill thus wants to spread the notion that the workers have an interest in their own exploitation. Apart from this such schemes are essentially reactionary and dangerous to working-class interests because such ‘‘profits,” being merely an extension of a form of wages, nevertheless foster the illusion that the workers have a stake in that shadowy and illusory conception called the prosperity of the firm. Moreover, in a highly competitive capitalist world, where the cutting of costs, including wages, is of prime importance, such schemes are not suitable for the capitalists as a whole as a means of achieving this as efficiently as the rapid alternation of market conditions require. Finally, while Capitalism remains, the capitalist class will never yield their economic privilege of appropriating the unpaid labour of the workers either through profit-sharing or any other schemes.

While it has been said that the conference revealed differences in the Tory ranks, nevertheless they stood four square and united for the maintenance of the Status Quo. Undoubtedly, for those who choose their parents with such discernment as do the Tories, such a sentiment as “What was a good enough social system for my father is also good enough for me ” is understandable.

Perhaps in some Elysian field or “Happy Hunting Ground” where successful politicians go when they depart from this world, the “Shades” of Disraeli— founder of the modern Conservative Party—might have strained a ghostly ear to catch the words that fell from the lips of the Conservative speakers, and with a fleeting smile ruminated on the fact that nothing has really changed in essentials since he wrote of the rich and poor living in the same society, constituting, as he said, “Two separate nations.”
Ted Wilmott

A Labour M.P. Protests (1946)

From the December 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

Referring to Sir Stafford Cripps’ recent tour of South Wales, Mr. Daggar, Labour M.P. for Abertillery, said: 
  “If the Government could spare him for two months to visit India it could spare him for more than an eight-hour run-round in Wales.
  “If a Tory had done that round, it would have been described as a fraud or a farce. I am dissatisfied with the progress made in providing employment for my people.
  “To ask those at work to work harder while others are idle is sheer political humbug and cant” (Daily Express, 29/10/46).
Mr. Daggar has a point here, but we wonder if the possibility of unemployment under a Labour Government was mentioned to constituents when he was asking them for their votes.

It seems he has yet to learn that, no matter what label is placed on the Capitalist box, the contents are always the same.

Only “Socialism” can cure unemployment.
Phil Mellor

No Equality Under Capitalism (1946)

From the December 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a speech to the Society of Individualists, at Birmingham, Mr. J. Gibson Jarvie, Chairman of the United Dominions Trust, and Deputy Chairman of the Austin Motor Co., delivered himself of the following mixture of admission and conundrum.
  “Socialism, which is totalitarianism and the antithesis of democracy, is already out of date. Italy, Japan and Germany lie beaten in the dust, and the whole world bears the scars which preceded their defeat.
  “Russia still stands. But, ironically enough, in Russia there is no equality; there is capitalism. Russia is breeding a new aristocracy and, given time, will emerge as a wholly capitalist State ”
(Daily Graphic, 15/11/46).
Our thanks to Mr. Jarvie for the admission that capitalism and equality are not found together. In effect he says there is no equality in Russia, because Russia is capitalist. We leave him to explain how Russia can be capitalist now, and yet “emerge as a wholly capitalist State” some time in the future.

Surely capitalism is capitalism, whatever the form. Whether it exists as one-man concerns, companies, rings, cartels or State monopolies—called nationalisation—it is still capitalism with the same parasitic nature: Private or class ownership of the means of life and enslavement of the working class.
F. Foan

Capitalism victorious in China. (1926)

From the December 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

In our issue of August, 1925, we set out our view of the situation in China and explained why Socialists cannot share the extravagant hopes raised in certain quarters by the progress of the Kuomintang Party. As in the pioneer capitalist countries, so also in those which have been subject to foreign imperialists, the capitalists are always anxious to obtain the help of the workers in the fight against their own enemies, whether those enemies be feudal proprietors or foreign capitalists. No doubt there was a gain in the grant to Ireland of “self-government." That gain is a gain in clarity. It is no longer possible for the Irish defenders of capitalism to pretend that the poverty and unemployment suffered by the Irish workers are due to “foreign” government. So also in China. It is better that the Chinese workers should be able to realise that they suffer from exploitation just as much whether at the hands of Chinese exploiters or European and Japanese exploiters. The rise of a strong independent capitalist Chinese Republic will enormously hasten the economic and political development of the Eastern workers. But we must at the same time point out that nothing is gained and much is lost by misinterpreting the outcome of these national struggles.

If the Chinese workers are encouraged to see in national independence a solution of their economic problems they will—like the Irish, the Poles and many others—suffer a grievous disappointment. It is the duty of the Socialist to work to destroy the present illusion and thus avoid the future disillusion. Let the Chinese workers organise not as Chinamen alongside their home capitalists, but as workers. They should reject the fallacious argument of foreign political parties which urge them to do otherwise. In England this fallacy is based on an old saying that “The enemies of my enemies are my friends.” In truth the capitalist enemies of the British capitalists are not, and cannot, be the friends of the workers, British or non-British. If the Chinese capitalists happen to be at loggerheads with the British capitalists, that is no reason why British or Chinese workers should imagine they have a friend in the Chinese employing class.

In the Sunday Worker (November 14th) the position in China with all its pitfalls to the workers is shown in a nutshell :
  The native merchant class saw the trade of the country growing under the domination of the foreign financial groups while their own share of the booty grew smaller. The foreign imperialists had to be fought.
  Unable to fight the battle alone the native capitalists sought salvation in the Kuomintang. They planned to use the revolt of the Workers and Peasants to drive out the foreign imperialists and to establish a new imperialism of their own.
  The right wing of the party has therefore grown to an alarming extent, and unless the Left Wing can retain control the Workers of China and Europe will find that when European imperialism has been smashed a Chinese imperialism will have risen in its stead. This is the real “Yellow Peril.”
And not only does the approaching victory of the Kuomintang lead the Chinese capitalists to prepare for the inevitable future clash with their own exploited classes, but it seems likely also that they will follow the path already trodden by their fellow capitalist-nationalists in Ireland and India. In the long run they will find that as capitalists they have lasting and important interests in common with some or other of their late capitalist enemies. The Sunday Worker correspondent reports that the British Foreign Office is now in favour of supporting the Kuominatung capitalists, who in turn will no doubt be glad of this outside help in time of trouble at home with the Chinese workers. The real task of the Chinese workers is that of the workers everywhere—to fight against capitalism whatever the national flag under which it hides. The duty of Socialists is to keep this issue always to the fore, not to rouse deadly national hatreds which obscure the class divisions in society and retard the growth of Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Ford v. Marx (1926)

From the December 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Two or three months ago, one of our contributors had occasion to criticise the illusions of the Editor of the “Observer” concerning the respective intellectual merits of the notorious exploiter of motor-car producers and the author of “Capital” and other works of economic criticism. Now it appears that the Editor of the New Leader shares some, at least, of his Conservative colleague’s fantasies.

In a recent article under the above heading, Mr. Brailsford emulates Mr. Garvin in seeking to delude his readers with the belief that Marx’s analysis has (once more) been exploded, and his predictions falsified, because, forsooth, American capitalists have discovered how to make huge profits while paying high wages. We are told that the fundamental principle of capitalism according to Marx has been discarded. The new Capitalism has got rid of poverty, and Mr. Brailsford’s sole remaining objection to it is that it is autocratic! He even refers to “the source of exploitation being closed,” but fails to reveal his meaning. Apparently, his mental outlook is so foggy that he imagines that the increased consumption of the workers keeps pace with their increased production. Yet it is obvious that if this were the case of the increased profits of the bosses would not exist.

Now the object of capitalist production is profit. Marx dealt fairly exhaustively with this fact, and no one yet has demonstrated the alleged error in his reasoning. He also showed that wages, like the prices of other commodities, were an extremely variable factor. Nowhere did he suggest that they could never rise; while he indicated, with exceptional clarity, the part played by machinery in intensifying the exploitation of higher-paid labour-power and reducing the proportion of the workers’ share in the fruits of their labour.

In Ford’s book (quoted by Mr. Brailsford) the secret of the higher profits obtained with higher wages is shown to lie in the application of machinery, while elsewhere in his article, the “New Leader’s” editor refers to the fact that one-third of the American workers are below the poverty line! Marx, therefore, would appear to have been exploded only in the imagination of Mr. Brailsford, and those who think like him.

In our pamphlet on “Socialism,” the point is dealt with at some length, in Chapter III., but one example will serve here to illustrate it. Between 1899-1923, the number of cars per worker produced in the automobile industry had increased from 1.66 to 16.11. The output had multiplied by ten! Surely Mr. Brailsford does not imagine that the wages of the producers have been multiplied in anything like that proportion, either in actual money or in purchasing power! Yet, unless he does believe this, how can we explain his failure to see that the exploitation of the workers has been increased, and the gulf between them and their masters widened? Only by his utter ignorance of Marxian economics ! 
Eric Boden

Yankee Prosperity (1926)

From the December 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

The New York correspondent of the Daily News quotes from a report issued by the National Catholic Welfare Conference of America to show the falsity of many of the extravagant tales of high wages said to be paid to workers in the U.S.A. We give below an extract from the Report (Daily News, November 17th) :
  The chorus of voices proclaiming that because of high wages we can now look forward to the indefinite continuation of prosperity misses several plain facts.
   High wages are not nearly so common as is assumed. Great numbers of men are making as low as three and four dollars a day. Great numbers of women are making as low as 12, 13. and 14 dollars a week. Great numbers of both men and women are out of work and are making no money at all.
   The level of wages is higher now than at any time in the past, but even now close upon half of the men working for wages are not making a family living wage, and close upon half of the women working for wages are not making enough to support themselves in reasonable comfort.
  Great numbers of men and women working for a weekly or monthly salary are below the line of reasonable existence, and still greater numbers have not shared proportionately in the increased productiveness of American industry and agriculture.
   Farmers are a third of the consuming public, and their buying power has actually decreased in the last seven years. Along with low-paid wage and salaried workers in cities they stand as a handicap to city prosperity, and a sure cause of inevitable industrial depression in this country.
  Much of the phenomenal selling of goods at home is based on instalment buying by wage and salaried workers, who are mortgaging an essentially insecure future to buy goods now.
Those who saw in America an example of the way in which a more efficient capitalism abolishes working class poverty will need to continue their search for a “prosperous" working class.
Edgar Hardcastle

Rationed freedom (2006)

Pamphlet Review from the January 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Economics of Freedom: An anarcho-syndicalist alternative to capitalism. Solidarity Federation. 2003. £2.50.

This 40-page pamphlet presents an alternative, variously described as an “anarchist economy” and “libertarian communism”, to capitalism.

We wouldn’t disagree with the general description of the alternative offered:
  “. . . a society without money. People work as a social duty; wages are unnecessary – ‘from each according to their ability’; and cash is no longer needed to acquire goods – ‘to each according to need.’”
  “ . . . a system without the market and where everyone has equal rights to have their needs met . . .”
  “ . . . a society where all have equal control over decision-making and equal access to goods and services.”
 “All work is voluntary, and goods and services equally accessible. Money, wages and prices do not exist.”
But what is surprising is the alternative to having to use money to acquire consumer goods described in the section “planning basics”, which speaks of “voluntary ‘rations’, decided democratically”:
  “Some sophistication is needed to run this ‘rationing’ system. There is no point in allocating everyone four eggs a week. Some people do not eat eggs; others would prefer six but no cheese, and so on. In the case of food, it might be a ration of calories and nutritional intake, taking into account factors like age, height, special dietary and other needs. People would be entitled to any common foodstuff that met these needs, rather than being allocated quantities of specific foodstuffs.”
We really are talking here about a system of rationing (without the inverted commas) in which people would be allocated (equal for people in equal circumstances) certain amounts of things. The proposed alternative to money turns out to be a computerised card to be presented to draw your entitlement from the common store:
  “Allocation of goods can be computerised to record every product or service a person takes or uses with the information also being stored on cards to be presented when someone wants a product or service. The purpose is to prevent very excessive consumption. For example, it allows staff in common stores to query why someone might be requesting a new suite six months after getting the previous one.”
This is surprising as the pamphlet is supposed to be describing an “anarchist economy” whereas the scheme proposed, involving as it would keeping computerised records of everything individuals consumed, can only with great difficulty be described as “libertarian”. Not even capitalism does that! And, what about the shoplifters?

Socialist society will certainly, for planning how much to produce, need a rough figure for what people are likely to consume over a given period, but this only needs to be measured globally for any district – as, for instance, by a computerised system of stock control or by sample polling – not at the level of each and every individual.

But why could not people have free access to consumer goods and services according to what they themselves decide their needs are? There are only two circumstances that would make this unworkable: (a) if it wasn’t technically possible to produce enough to satisfy the needs of everyone, and (b) if it was thought that even a significant minority would consistently take more than they could use.

All the evidence suggests that, once the artificial scarcity imposed by the need to make a profit has been removed, and once all the resources currently wasted on selling activities (and on armaments and armed forces) have been redirected to useful production, then enough could be produced to supply everyone’s needs. And experience of where even today people have free access to something – e.g. buses, telephones, drinking water, in some places – they only use these things when they need to. In any event, what would be the point of taking more than you needed when you could be certain that the stores would be stocked with what you wanted? That would just clutter up where you lived.

Certainly, particularly in the very early days of socialism and perhaps later after some unexpected natural disaster, there could be shortages of some things that might necessitate recourse to some system of rationing for those things. But this would only be exceptional and temporary, the normal situation being free access to goods and services according to self-determined needs.

What this pamphlet proposes is an intrinsic system of long-term rationing, even if the rations are to be decided democratically. That would be a possible alternative to money and, if it worked, fairer than money, but it’s not necessarily what socialists advocate could – or should – happen in “a society without money”.
Adam Buick

The Paddington Revival. (1927)

Party News from the February 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is no more depressing district in the western suburbs of London than that mostly lying between Harrow Road and the High Road, Kilburn. Its streets have lost their character and the houses have seen better times. They were put up for the snobbish bourgeoisie family, but nowadays these dilapidated residences shelter at least four proletarian families, with lodgers and lice complete. The poverty is heavy and demoralising, and in the dingiest part of this smutty region, that part which flanks the muddy banks of the filthy canal, ugliness and squalor reign supreme. The drab dens display the endless fierce struggle for existence, and in the gutters the health and innocence of children are wasted and killed. It is a veritable plague spot, “a land not fit for negroes to live in.”

Prior to 1914 there was a ring of propaganda stations stoutly maintained in this area, and with the sound branches of Paddington, Kilburn and Kensington in active service, the Socialist Party and its principles were well supported. The “war to end war” brought about the suspension of these activities, and when this military holocaust was ended for the time being, an attempt was made to broadcast the Socialist Party’s message at the street corner. The temper of the heroes was not inclined towards Socialist education and organisation. The aftermath of the war had left them at a loose end in the political arena and the crafty Communists made play with it. They went in for heroics and for unemployed stunts. In North Paddington the working class had been so soddened with capitalist dope that they actually threw away 6,000 votes on a worthless Liberal candidate, and this was done AFTER he had been publicly denounced as an impostor exposed and repudiated by both the local Tory and Liberal associations as an adventurer. He was destined to occupy a cell at Wormwood Scrubs instead of a seat at Westminster.

With this display of lightheadedness to remember, efforts were again made to restart Socialist propaganda, and at last the branch has been reopened. A perfect resuscitation has to be recorded. Will old members get busy and take their place again in the ranks? We have a clear aim and a policy which is on the right lines. If you still agree with us in this propaganda, then have no hesitation in joining and help us to build up a political party for the emancipation of labour. The party welcomes into its ranks everyone who sincerely believes in the establishment of the Socialist commonwealth as the only means of evolving order from the present social chaos. We exist to convert the great mass of workers to the Socialist point of view. We are the English section of the International workers of the world, and our great mission is to trail the way to economic freedom, our business is to end wage slavery.

Come in and help us.
Ben Carthurs.

Can Trade Unionism Saves The Workers? (1927)

From the March 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

One welcome result of the mining lockout of 1926 is a revived interest in proposals to reorganise the Miners’ Union and draw up new programmes. Chiefly, the discussion centres round the substitution of one national union for the existing loose federation of county associations. It is not the purpose of this article to examine the details of any of the proposed schemes; the miners themselves can best do that. It is, however, not inopportune to state some general considerations which are too little present in the minds of many trade unionists. First, it need hardly be stated that any change making for an increase in the strength and efficiency of working-class organisations should, and does, receive the support of the Socialist. The elimination of the present multiplicity of miners' unions can hardly fail to strengthen the miners in their struggles with the employers, and is therefore a wise step. Against that, however, it must not be assumed that the setting up of one organisation in place of several will in itself solve the problems of the miners. One great union which is internally divided into warring groups is no more effective than 10 small bodies similarly divided. Clear heads and a united purpose are worth more than all the machinery that was ever devised. Apathy would undermine a single union one million members strong and paralyse it as a striking force just as surely as it would the separate bodies in a federation, and apathy is a danger particularly to be feared in the formation of big centralised organisations whether political, trade union, or any other. As the point of control recedes from the locality to the more distant centre, so the member is apt to lose personal touch and interest, especially if the machinery makes him feel that decisions are made above his head by an executive over which he has no effective hold. The danger is great, because there is a common and plausible doctrine among the more active elements that national organisation is of little value unless it is accompanied by centralised and more or less arbitrary power in the hands of a small executive group. The theory—based on analogy with the machinery of the fighting forces—is that industrial struggles demand quick decisions, and that these are incompatible with complete democracy. Can a union afford to lose precious time consulting its members before calling a strike, or afford to have negotiations hampered by the necessity of submitting offers to rank and file vote? Answering these questions in the negative, many advocates of national organisation find themselves committed willy nilly to something savouring of dictatorship. This we are sure would be a fatal mistake.

In fact, especially in such an industry as mining, the need for quick decision is greatly exaggerated. True, the miners have almost invariably found themselves striking months after the employers had taken every precaution by accumulating enormous stocks of coal, but this has been the fault, not of democratic machinery, but of indecision and proneness to accept the specious time-gaining arguments of the owners or of the Government, or of the leaders of the Labour Party.

Ballots of members need not take long, and any slight delay is amply repaid if by such means the members can be kept actively interested in the course of any threatened dispute. Another essential means to this end is that negotiations with employers be completely reported to the members stage by stage and endorsed by them, so that they know to the full that they are responsible for decisions taken by the delegates they instruct and have the duty of keeping themselves fully informed.

This, we are told, is cumbersome, but it is infinitely less disastrous than to have halfhearted strikers and men who do not know when to strike or when to leave off—the latter perhaps the most tragic of all.

And this brings us to the wider question of the power of trade unions. Upon what considerations should trade unions act and what should be their aims? Is it good to fight merely “because our case is just ”? Is the sympathy of the “general public" worth anything? Should trade unions support the Labour Party? And can they solve all of the economic problems of the working class? We, as Socialists, would answer all of these questions with a decided No!

The most powerful—in fact almost the sole—weapon of the trade union is the ability to withhold their labour, but in the nature of things, this can have only limited effect. The worker is up against semi-starvation almost immediately he strikes. The employer faces no such threat. The worker can be starved into surrender. The employer cannot. This would seem to be an obvious statement, but rarely are trade-union policies based upon it. They are unconsciously based upon the false notion that employees and employed meet upon equal terms, and that an undefined something called “justice” will prevail. In truth they meet as property owners with security versus a propertyless class always living from hand to mouth. In addition, and this is decisive, the property owners have behind them all political machinery of the State. The working class sell their labour-power to the employing class. What the trade unions can do is to secure somewhat more advantageous terms in the sale of that labour-power than could be obtained by individual bargaining, and they can also act as a protection for individuals against victimisation. Sometimes employers rather than lose profits and break contracts will yield to the threat of a strike. Sometimes, as is shown by the thriving American custom of paying Labour leaders to call their members out on strike in slack times, no pressure whatever can be brought to bear on employers by the threat of a strike. And always the effect of the pressure is circumscribed. The margin of wage increase which it will pay the employer to give is conditioned by his estimate of the cost of starving his workers into submission, less the increased profit he will gain through lower wages. In almost every industry and at all times another limit is imposed by the possibility of substituting machinery for labour. To pay a higher wage to a small number of workers giving the same or greater output by the use of better machinery is almost always a means at the employers’ disposal for countering a movement in favour of higher wages.

These, then, are the limits within which trade unions function. The state of the market should be of chief importance when considering the advisability of a strike. “Justice” is irrelevant and meaningless, and “public sympathy” is a broken reed.

Trade unions are useful and necessary within capitalism, but can they abolish the wages system which of necessity involves the exploitation and poverty of the workers. Obviously, no! To do so requires the acquisition for society of the means of wealth production, and this in turn can only be done when the majority of the workers become socialist and decide to obtain control of the machinery of government for the express purpose of depriving the present propertied class of all their property privileges. A minority of workers cannot by either political or economic action stand up against the forces of the State. A majority can obtain control of those forces through control of Parliament. Economic organisation can aid, but it cannot substitute political organisation.

Here it may be asked why we oppose the Labour Party and urge trade unionists to do the same. The miners in particular should appreciate the first part of the answer. When the Labour Party went into office in 1924 the miners were instantly appealed to through the official “Labour Magazine" not to embarrass the Government by making demands for higher wages. The justification for trade unions is that they help the workers under capitalism. Anyone or any organisation, trade union or political, which urges the workers not to take advantage of any opportunity which offers itself is deserving only of working-class hostility. That is the position of the Labour Party.

Secondly, as has been pointed out, the workers can solve their problems only by gaining control of Parliament for THE EXPRESS PURPOSE OF INTRODUCING SOCIALISM. A party which seeks to gain political control for any other purpose must therefore be anti-socialist and anti-working class. The Labour Party seeks to gain control for a variety of reforms, including such capitalist schemes as nationalisation. Some reforms may in themselves be good, most are indifferent and some, like nationalisation, are for the working class wholly bad. But whether good, bad, or indifferent, they are not Socialism, and do not, and cannot, aid in hastening Socialism. Socialism presupposes a socialist working class. The propagation of reforms does not make socialists. First, it makes reformers and then drives them through disillusion to despair. The Labour Party has not socialist aims. Its guiding belief is in its ability to administer capitalism better than the capitalists themselves. This may be true, but it is not Socialism. Trade unions, both from the point of view of progress to Socialism, and in the day-to-day struggle will gain, not lose, by severing their connection with the Labour Party. In fact, while their members are politically divided, as at present, the trade unions would gain in cohesion and effectiveness by concentration on trade-union objects, leaving politics alone until the organised working class is ready to use Parliament for socialist instead of reformist purposes.
Edgar Hardcastle