Saturday, October 27, 2018

Letter: Dictatorship and Parliament (1936)

Letter to the Editors from the December 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard


Boston, Mass., U.S.A.
Socialist Standard.

Comrades,

Being interested in the official position of your organisation, I would appreciate your answers to the following questions: —
  1. Does the S.P. of G.B. recognise the necessity of instituting a dictatorship of the proletariat ?
  2. If it does, under what conditions can such a dictatorship be realised, and what would be its chief characteristics?
  3. Is it possible for the working class to capture and retain political power without crushing and destroying the democratic, parliamentary form of the state which exists in modern capitalist countries to-day?

Comradely yours,
Harry Mandell.

Reply.
The phrase, “Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” is now generally used to cover the political form adopted by the Russian Bolsheviks and urged by the Communists of different countries. We take this, therefore, to be the form implied in the question, whatever may have been the earlier meaning of the phrase, and we will answer it from this point of view. We are opposed to this form of Dictatorship as it is an evidence of lack of understanding of Socialism on the part of the majority of the population—the workers. While the workers lack understanding they will defeat all the efforts of a minority in control of power to introduce a system based upon the common ownership of the means of production and distribution. This fact has been dearly demonstrated in Russia and the earlier, and probably more sincere of the Bolsheviks, had very rapidly to face it, and to curtail their proposals for ushering in a new system on a communal basis. Russia’s recent advance towards a democratic parliamentary form of Government is a further evidence of the failure of "Dictatorship” to deliver the goods it promised. It was because the Bolsheviks were weak and had to depend to a large extent upon trickery that they were compelled to destroy democratic forms. Had they allowed free expression the rule of the Russian Communist Party would have been threatened right at the commencement.

When the majority of the workers in a particular country understand Socialism and, therefore, what it implies, they will proceed to introduce it once they have captured political power. To do so it will be essential to allow to all the means to express their views freely and, owing to the understanding of the majority, there will be nothing to fear from this free expression of opinion. As the majority will have control of power, any minority that is foolish enough to try to thwart the wishes of the majority will lack the means to make effective any destructive intentions.

Once Socialism is in process of being introduced the coercive sides of the present parliamentary form will become obsolete. There will be no need to “crush” as they will just disappear.
Editorial Committee

Letter From Europe: General Strike in Luxemburg (1982)

The Letter From Europe column from the May 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

On 5 April 80,000 workers in Luxemburg staged a one-day warning strike against government proposals aimed at preventing wages rising in 1982 as fast as the cost of living.

A few months ago such a general strike seemed inconceivable. Even the Trotskyists who put forward demands they con­sider unrealisable only in order to appear militant, were taken unawares. On a mass trade union demonstration held on 27 March they were distributing a leaflet headed “For a 24-hour General Strike”; little did they imagine that four days later most of the trade unions would accept this demand! Luxemburg’s last strike (apart from those by EEC civil servants) took place in the private sector in 1973 and in the public sector in 1949.

Luxemburg, with a population of about 370,000 (of whom 30 per cent are non-citizens), is in close economic union with Belgium, both countries having the same currency and trading as a single unit. Its major industry—steel—is owned by Arbed, a private company with international connections. The other main source of employment is government ser­vice, including the railways, Post Office and, in recent years, banking and a Good­year tyre factory. The rest of the work­force is employed in small and medium-sized enterprises. There are also some 5,000 EEC civil servants.

The one-day general strike was called to protest against the government’s pro­posal to end the automatic link between wages and the official “cost of living” which had been introduced in 1975. Under this arrangement each time the cost of living rose by 2.5 per cent, wages automatically rose by the same percentage. There is nothing particularly generous or extravagant about such an arrangement; as a matter of fact it is only a way of ensuring, in a period of rising prices, that the laws of the capitalist market are respected; that, in other words, sellers, in this case of labour power, continue to obtain a price more or less equal to the value of what they are selling. If wages do not rise as fast as the cost of living then in real terms-in terms of what wages will buy—they fall and workers are paid less than the value of their labour power.

Since trade unions exist to try to defend workers’ wages and conditions, it is only natural that the Luxemburg trade unions should have tried to resist the government’s openly proclaimed intention to reduce real wages. The government proposed to achieve this by abolishing the automatic indexisation of wages and limiting wage increases in 1982 in most cases to 5 per cent, while at the same time announcing that it expected prices to rise by at least twice this amount. 

This proposal was not motivated by malice, but was imposed on that government by the way that capitalism operates. Capitalism is a system that can never work in the interest of the wage and salary earning majority. Certainly, in its periods of expansion, workers can expect rising wages (even if this is offset by having to work more and more intensively) but such periods of expansion are only one side of the coin. Capitalism does not, and cannot, expand in a smooth and continuous way; its growth pattern is one of fits and starts, of alternating periods of expansion and contraction (booms and slumps). The other side of a period of expansion and rising wages is the period of contraction and falling wages which inevitably follows it.

The last period of expansion came to an end in 1975 when capitalism entered into its current world recession. Wages—real wages, that is, what they can buy—tend to fall in a slump because the increased unemployment turns labour market conditions more in favour of employers. Supply of labour power comes to exceed demand so, as always happens in such circumstances, its price (wages and salaries) tends to fall. Workers can, by trade union organisation and action, slow down this tendency but they can’t reverse or even halt it. Thus in Britain over the past few years trade unions have been forced to settle for single-figure “increases” even though prices have been rising in double-figures. In Germany too unions have had to settle for rises smaller than that expected in the cost of living.

Until now workers in Luxemburg, like those in Belgium, had been protected against such decreases in real wages by this automatic linking of wage increases to price increases. Indexisation should in theory work in both directions: if the cost of living falls then so should wages and by the same percentage. Before the present period of chronic currency in­flation began in all countries after the last world war, indexisation, then known as “the sliding scale”, was popular among employers because it meant that in a slump if prices fell then so automatically did wages. The sliding scale was unpopular with workers and their unions because, although they had no illusions about being able to maintain money wages at their old level in a period of falling prices, they felt with some justification that a less rigid system held out the hope of negotiating a fall in money wages less than that in the cost of living.

The new element nowadays is that, because of government inflation of the currency through the excessive issue of inconvertible paper money, prices no longer fall in periods of slump. On the contrary, they continue to rise. Hence the phenomenon of “stagflation” which so baffles capitalist economists. But, with indexisation, such currency inflation means that money wages go on rising in line with prices even in a slump or, more precisely, that real wages do not fall.

This is all very well while it lasts—but it can’t last because maintaining wages artificially high by such a mechanism goes against the logic of capitalism which requires that real wages fall in a slump as one of the ways of creating the con­ditions for the next period of expansion. In the end any government of capitalism has to take the only action open to it in the circumstances, namely, the abolition of the mechanism—the automatic indexisation of wages—which prevents real wages falling. The Belgian government had al­ready done this. Now it has been fol­lowed by the Luxemburg government.

As we have already said workers, through their trade unions, should resist such a blatant, frontal attack on their living standards. However they should have no illusions about being able to pre­vent real wages from falling in a slump. Under capitalism, even in times of expan­sion and boom, the cards are stacked in favour of the employers who are in the dominant bargaining position because they own the means of wealth production. In times of slump and contraction the employers’ hand is strengthened even further by the existence of an increased pool of unemployed. In these circumstances the most that unions can achieve is to slow down the fall in real wages, limiter les dégâts, to limit the damage, as the French say.

One thing however is clear: if workers sit back and do nothing they may well lose more than if they stand up and strike. In fact on such occasions—as in Britain in 1926—a general strike is often the only means of testing the situation, of finding out what the true bargaining strength of both sides is. In the case of Luxemburg it was undoubtedly because of the previous strike-free record of the workforce that the government felt so confident about going as far as it did, openly proposing measures to make living standards fall in 1982 by at least 5 per cent. EEC civil servants who were under similar pressure last year managed to come out relatively well in comparison in negotiating a fall of about the same amount but over five years.

Even if the strike of 5 April was not successful in terms of getting the govern­ment to make concessions—the govern­ment’s austerity measures were passed by Parliament the very day of the strike—this reaction by the workers will at least have shown governments that in the future they can no longer take the working class in Luxemburg for granted.

But all this is purely defensive, purely concerned with trying to slow down things getting worse. But things will get worse as this is what happens under capitalism in a slump. Later on, as the capital­ist economic cycle continues and the slump gives way to a new period of boom and expansion, there will be some improvements, some increases in real wages. But these improvements will be precarious and temporary and will be wiped out when the next slump comes round.

We put to workers in Luxemburg the same question we put to workers in Britain and elsewhere: is this merry-go-round, this running fast just to stay still, all you want out of life? Because this is all that capitalism has to offer you.
Adam Buick 
(Luxemburg)

The Passing Show: Public Opinion (1961)

The Passing Show Column from the August 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Public Opinion
Our rulers must despise us. Only sixteen years have passed since the end of the war, and yet the governments of the world keep publishing more and more material revealing how far the real Allied war aims were from the “truth, justice, democracy," and so on, which were the professed objectives. They would scarcely do this if they believed that the working class could learn from past mistakes. They seem to have no fear that the workers, having been shown how much they were fooled in the second world war, will refuse to be fooled in the third.

The latest revelation of what went on behind the scenes in the war comes in some American diplomatic papers recently released by the State Department. Marshal Stalin rejected a suggestion that the peoples of the three Baltic states should be allowed to vote on whether they wanted to join the Soviet Union, saying that when the Baltic countries had belonged to Russia before the First World War "no one had raised the question of public opinion, and he did not quite see why it was being raised now"(The Observer, 18/6/61). In other words, the Communist leader defended himself on the ground that he was only doing what the Czarist tyranny had done before him. President Roosevelt rejoined sympathetically that "the truth of the matter was that the public neither knew nor understood."

Having settled—without asking them —the fate of the people of the Baltic countries, the three leaders proceeded to settle the future of the Poles. Stalin wanted a slice of Poland, so proposed to compensate the Poles with a slice of Germany. Roosevelt agreed, remarking he "would like to see the eastern border moved even farther to the west and the western border moved even to the River Oder," although he added that "he could not publicly take part in any such arrangement at the present time" because "there were in the United States from six to seven million Americans of Polish extraction, and, as a practical man, he did not wish to lose their vote." Mr. Churchill concurred; he said that "as far as he was concerned, he would like to see Poland moved westward."

It seems a far cry from this secret carving-up of Europe to the public support for "democracy” and "the rights of small nations."


I did not suggest
So far from telling the workers the truth about what was going on, they weren’t even honest with each other. In 1943 Roosevelt sent a message to Stalin through Joseph Davis, the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow (The Times, 19/6/61):
  I want to get away from the difficulties of large staff conferences or the red tape of diplomatic conversations. Therefore, the simplest and most practical method I can think of would be an informal and completely simple visit for a few days between you and me. . . . this summer. A problem is where to meet. Africa is almost out of the question in summer and Khartum is British territory. Iceland I do not like because for both you and me it involves rather difficult flights and in addition, quite frankly, would make it difficult not to invite Prime Minister Churchill at the same time. Therefore I suggest that we could meet either on your side or my side of Behring Strait.
Churchill got wind of this and sent a message to Roosevelt protesting strongly against being left out in the cold. So Roosevelt replied to Churchill:
  I did not suggest to Uncle Joe that we meet alone, but he told Davis that he assumed (a) that we would meet alone, and (b) that he agreed that we should not bring staffs to what would be a preliminary meeting.
So much for the standard of truthfulness of one of the "leaders of the free world.”


Larger moral issues
Despite the steadily declining influence of the Churches, they continue to give what support they can to the ruling class. The Rev. Dr. Maldwyn L. Edwards, in his presidential address to the Methodist Conference, spent much of his time denouncing the wickedness of the workers (The Times, 4/7/61):
   Dr. Edwards said the need was to realize man's spiritual identity and to halt the discounting of God. The view that man had only himself to rely on had spread into such present day issues as industrial disputes and sex and family life. This wrong philosophy of human nature showed itself in industry, in lack of discipline or interest in work; absenteeism, excessive attention to short hours and long pay packets, and the quick readiness to strike for private interests regardless of the larger moral issues involved or the public suffering caused.
Dr. Edwards counters the fact that most workers spend their lifetimes in monotonous, boring tasks, or in single, meaningless operations not by condemning the society which organises production in such a way, but by blaming the men for “lack of interest” in their work. And how can employers be sure of their profits if there is absenteeism or lack of discipline, or if the men are prepared to strike to defend their standards of living?

Dr. Edwards went on: "It is not only necessary for management to play fair with workers and workers with management, but both must play fair with the community from whom they get their living and whom they are meant to serve.” This is quite erroneous. Capitalist production continues so long as a profit can reasonably be expected: that is its sole objective, not serving the community. And, of course, this fine impartial-sounding phrasemaking about both sides playing fair with each other is, in the context of our society, not impartial at all. It is exactly on a par with the church in a society based on slavery calling on the slave-owners and the slaves to play fair with each other. What is wanted in such a context is not fair play, but an end of slavery: and what is wanted in our society is not "fair play" by the capitalists towards the workers, but the end of wage-slavery.


Happy and useful life
In parliament recently Mr. Ramsden, for the Government, announced that the Vickers machine gun was going to be retained by the regular army until 1965, and by the Territorial army even longer. This produced what Punch (7/6/61) called a "sentimental scene." Colonel Bromley-Davenport roared his approval, and Mr. Ramsden "with a.tear in his eye" paid tribute to "this extremely good gun." The Labour Party was not to be outdone. "Mr. Mayhew from the front opposition bench wished it many years of happy and useful life."

From Conservative M.P.s, belonging to an avowedly capitalist party, this is only what one could expect. But those people who still confuse Labourism with Socialism would do well to ponder Mr. Mayhew’s benevolent wishes for a machine-gun.
Alwyn Edgar

Those bonus shares (1961)

From the August 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

From time to time, announcements appear in the Press saying that a company is to make a free issue of shares, a bonus or scrip issue. This means that existing shareholders will receive an additional number of shares without having to make any payment for them (it differs from a “rights” issue when shareholders receive the right to buy shares at a price below the market price).

Scrip issues are made when a company has accumulated large reserves and decides to “capitalise” them. The result in the balance sheet is that the reserves are reduced and the capital correspondingly increased. If the company decided to issue one £1 share for each existing £1 share, each shareholder would have his holding doubled. If he held 100 £1 before the issue he would hold 200 £1 shares afterwards. It does not mean that the shareholder receives a cash payment.

On the face of it this would seem to be very pleasing for the shareholder: he appears to be twice as well off as he was before. And some observers imagine that it is so. For example, in 1959 when the Westminster Bank capitalised £3½ million from reserves and issued 3,500,000 new £1 shares the Daily Worker (16/7/59) reported it under the heading “£3½ Million Gift to Bank's shareholders,” and the Daily Herald (24/5/55) had the following comment on British Petroleum's issue of four new shares for each share held
  Did you happen to buy a few hundred shares in the British Petroleum Company last year? No? Bad luck. It would have been well worth it—worth it four times over, in fact. In November the company handed out £80 million from its reserves in the form of a 400 per cent share bonus—that is four new shares of £1 for every share held. Easy to make a tax-free fortune here—if you have the money to start.
It sounds too good to be true. It also presents a problem for the Marxist, who knows that profit, rent and interest come out of the unpaid labour of the workers and cannot suppose that between one day and the next, by means of a piece of manipulation in a balance-sheet, surplus value has become five times as great.

There is, of course, a catch in it, because the stock-exchange price of each share immediately falls in approximately the same proportion as the number of shares increases. Recently the Limmer and Trinidad Lake Asphalt Co., Ltd., made an issue of shares (and also an adjustment of the nominal value of each share), with the result that the shareholder who on 22nd June, 1961, held one hundred 10s shares with a stock-exchange price of 60s. each, found himself a few days later with three hundred 5s. shares with a stock-exchange price of 20s. each. The total price at which he could have sold the one hundred shares was £300, exactly the same as the price at which he could afterwards sell the three hundred shares.

The British Petroleum shareholder, referred to above, saw his shares fall from a stock-exchange price of £18 2s. 6d. each on 16th December, 1954, to £3 14s, 4½d. on 21st December. So the Daily Worker’s statement on 4th November, 1954, that the “oil kings get £80 million,” implying that the shareholders had suddenly become richer by that amount, was pure phantasy.

The real explanation is that, apart from the fluctuations of stock-exchange prices due to other causes, including general waves of buying and selling and varying estimates of the future profits of the company in question, stock-exchange prices are determined by the amount of profit the company has been earning and the amount they have been retaining for paying out as dividends. If profits are high and go on rising a share of nominal value £1 may be selling at say £3, and no capitalising of reserves will make any appreciable difference to the stock-exchange valuation of the total of the company’s shares.

The late Sir Oscar Hobson was quite correct when he wrote in the News Chronicle (1/2/51):
  Shareholders who vote to capitalise reserves of their companies and convert them into new shares for distribution among them in proportion to their existing holdings give themselves nothing which they do not already possess. . . . The issuing of bonus shares does not and cannot add to the value of a company's assets or to its earning power. It does not add to the market value of a company’s shares.
A recent issue of the Daily Worker (17/6/61) repeats its old delusion, though so qualified that it really gives away the main case: having roundly declared that it is “nonsense” to say that doubling the number of shares would be accompanied by halving the stock-exchange price of each share, it lamely concludes:
  The total shares owned by the firm's shareholders after a bonus issue are almost always worth more—and often considerably more—than they were before it.
This qualified statement is indeed partly true. The B.P. shareholder who at first had one share quoted at £18 2s. 6d. later had five shares quoted at a total for the five of £18 11s. 10½d., a gain of 9s 4½d. The reason why there is sometimes a small total gain is that a bonus issue is usually read as a sign that the directors are optimistic about future prospects.

It may then be asked why do directors go to the trouble and expense of making such an issue? One reason is that directors do not want to make their dividends look very large because, or so they believe, this encourages workers to press harder for higher wages. The directors think that paying out dividends of £100,000 in the form of 20 per cent. on 500,000 £1 shares does not look so tempting as paying out £100,000 in the form of 10 per cent. on 1,000,000 £1 shares. An additional reason for bonus share issues is that some companies see advantage in raising their issued capital up to the £1,000,000 required by law to qualify their shares to be held by those responsible for the investment of Trust Funds.
Edgar Hardcastle

Lengthening Our Ears. (1917)

Book Review from the October 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

Whenever the master class lecture we ignorant workers upon the subject of education we are treated to a goodly smattering of nonsense. There is, seemingly, no exception to the rule in the case of Viscount Harberton, whose book, "How to Lengthen Our Ears’’ has just. been described by the “Daily News" (20.8.1917) as “entertaining.” The Viscount, is said to have concluded that “modern education is ridiculous.” La Rochefoucauld, however, reminds us that: “Mediocrities usually condemn everything that passes their understanding." Perhaps a perusal of two specimens of the Viscount’s deductive drivel will serve to show what noble products are being sent forward by “our" public schools and universities. It may also show how and why our masters sustain such crushing reverses in public delate whenever they venture upon the public platform to attempt the overthrow of scientific Socialism, expounded by members of the working class: Try this:
  “Educated England," says the author in a severe passage, “is not represented by Herbert Spencer, but by Viscount Milner, Dr. Macnamara, and George R. Sims."
That the dear Viscount is unable to extract any material good from Spencer’s “Principles of Sociology,” or his “System of Synthetic Philosophy,” is quite understood, for here we find a disposition to shed light through the lying, romancing medium of antiquated capitalist teachings. But to bracket Spencer with Milner. Macnamara. and the “Tacho” man is surely running to the limits of present-day stupidity.

A further extract, in fairness to this new philosopher, will serve, not only to enlighten us, but additionally to point out from whom we should take pattern :
  Of the late Mr. William Whiteley the author says “a nation could more easily dispense with Gibbon, Goldsmith, Wordsworth, and Swinburne than such productions as Whiteley's.',
Poets have not done much to encourage a correction of long-endured economic and political superstitions, but the present scribe does think they have contributed more essentially to the fruits of this life than a hundred thousand "universal providers.”

If one were not actually aware of what university and public school teaching consists one might think the Viscount bereft of common sense, but knowing that some three-quarters of a million pounds are annually expended almost exclusively to the upkeep of what is described by Lankester as “two huge boarding houses,” one is not astonished. These classical colleges are only open for twenty-one weeks in the year, yet the majority of so-called public appointments are reserved for graduates of the universities and “public” schools.

Our noble viscount is purely a product of present-day capitalist thought. For such folk the teachings of the Roman poet Lucretius, or those of Epicurus, have no charm or significance. They are beyond his own limited reasoning. He is not concerned with cultivating the brain, but merely, as the title of his book shows, with lengthening the ears. Small wonder, then, that our viscount hands out the laurel wreath to Whiteley of Westbourne Grove, secure in the knowledge that at. least the trust merchant “made good" even though it did accrue from other people's brains.

No! I do not think our Spencers, our Huxleys, and our Darwins, need turn in their graves by reason of this puny attempt at ridicule. Education in this country — and it has had some terrific buffeting since war commenced— has not reached that stage, more especially from a capitalist standpoint, wherein the semi-taught are calculated to hold the lamp of knowledge in criticism over the geniuses of science, art, and literature. Huge tombstones may be erected to the idle capitalist bosses, but as one great wit has said : “If some men could rise front the grave and read the complimentary lines on their tombstones a goodly number would think they had gone into the wrong holes. 
B. B. B.

Realities: Present and Future (1917)

From the October 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

We Socialists are often replied to by those to whom we expound oar political and economic principles and beliefs: "Yes, no doubt Socialism would be a very fine thing if it coold only be brought about, but it cannot—it is only a beautiful dream."

We accept such statements as a challenge from all those who hold those ideas. I hope in this short article to confront doubters with facts and shatter once for all their dreamy mis-conceptions of Socialism by dealing with realities. I believe they do not understand Socialism because they do not primarily understand the present system: capitalism.

The vast majority of the people in every capitalist country in the world belong to a class who have to work for their living. But a proportionately very small class are free from such necessity. Why? Simply because they can obtain all they need without work—from the labour of the workers.

These fortunate individuals who are not under the necessity of working for their living amass wealth in ever-increasing accumulation. In contradistinction the position of the wealth producers generally does not improve, in fact, it tends to become worse. December 31st of any year finds them, in spite of wise expenditure, frugality, temperance, and all the enforced wisdom of economic stress, no better off than on January 1st of the same year. And all their laborious lives are spent in wealth production, yet, as abundant statistics prove, they live and die in poverty—often as paupers. Their “earthly pilgrimage" is like nothing so much as the toiling existence of a beast of burden compelled to go round and round in the same allotted circle, grinding corn. In the fact that they receive just sufficient to enable them to perform their task, the workers are exactly like these animals They, too, are looked upon by the owning and ruling 'capitalist class simply as wealth producers, to be exploited in every sphere of labour, and, when it is necessary, to be forced to defend their masters' interests against those of rival exploiters, even at the cost of their lives. In fact, in a very real sense, not only the means of existence, but even the very lives of vast multitudes, are owned and controlled by this small but extremely powerful and dominant group of non-producers whom we call the capitalist class. They possess the land and all the means and instruments of wealth production, distribution, and exchange. Not only that—they sit in the “seats of the mighty," completely control the making of the laws—which, of course, are always enacted to conserve their own class interests—and thus economically and politically are, in every sense of the word, the Master Class.

The masses have to live, and having nothing to operate in their own interests, owning no means of production, possessing only their power to labour, they are compelled to sell that labour-power to those who possess the means through which alone it can be productively used. So they must work under the terms and conditions dictated by their masters.

They who with their labour produce the whole of the world's wealth, have given back to them on an average about a third of the amount they produce. Their portion is called wages. The remaining two thirds are appropriated by the idle capitalist class in the form of rent, profit, and interest. These latter are the means by which parasitic non producers of all kinds are enabled to live in luxurious idleness. Financiers, dividend holders, capitalists, and all who live on the labour of others, exist on the wealth they themselves have no share in producing.

The consequence is this system of wage slavery produces a host of social evils of the most appalling type, such as unemployment, sweating, prostitution, poverty, starvation, disease, and untimely death.

Consider! All the marvellous mechanism, tools, and means of production that exist to-day—means that enable wealth of all kinds to he produced in prolific abundance—have been made by and are operated by the workers. Yet we continue to see the damning indictment of the present system daily—starvation in the midst of plenty; overwork for those who starve, ennui through unbroken idleness for those who possess the world; unemployment side by side with sweating; abundant opportunities for all-round development for the favoured class, and deprivation of access to all that life should give them for the workers, whose lives are compulsorily wasted by the all-compelling exigencies of a vicious system. All the channels of knowledge, the wisdom of the ages, the finest triumphs of man in the domain of art, literature, music, and science should by right be available to them, for it is they who produce the material foundation from which all these spring.

Alas, the workers are wage slaves! The wealth stolen from them has been the means of their enslavement. The capital which is used against them to produce wealth and also yet more capital they alone produced. Now they are slaves of the machine. They are poor because they are continually robbed; they are continually robbed because this social system, founded upon their robbery, continues to exist. They are only sellers of their labour-power, enriching others at their own expense, forever sacrificing their own desires, interests, aye, existence, that the exploiters may exploit them, and the plutocrat continue to plunder them! What irony! And yet non-Socialists say it will always be so!

But will it? Let us examine the facts. We have considered the realities of the present system. Hear now the claim we as Socialists make.

We claim that we are the only people who show the workers that they hold the key of their emancipation in their own hands, that they alone can set themselves free.

The present system of production tends, as fact after fact goes to prove, to produce its own undoing. The rich as a class grow richer, the poor ever poorer. The more labour-saving machinery is in operation the more wealth is produced by a given number of workers. Consequently an ever greater number of workers are thrown out of employment through “over production." The pressure of these unemployed tends ever to depress wages and the conditions of labour. Less successful people of the small capitalist ranks are gradually forced into the proletariat, and so capital is concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, making ever more uneven tho ratio between the exploited and the exploiters. As Capital wields greater power the conflict of class interests grows ever stronger, and Labour consolidates its forces and the struggle becomes more class conscious and bitter.

Now it will be seen that this system automatically produces it own opponents—the proletariat or propertyless working class—and also the incentive for the latter to wrest from the capitalists the power to exploit and oppress.

Now here is the crux of the whole question: how are the master class to be stripped of their terrible and oppressive power? Other things bring equal, the men who succeed best in accomplishing their purpose are those who know exactly what they want to do and how best to do it. First of all, then, the victims of the present social system must find the answer to the question, how are they to emancipate themselves from their servile position?

Clearly, since that position arises from the private ownership of the means of production, the first thing that emerges is that such private ownership must go. The only alternative to the private ownership of the means of production by the few possible to-day, with the present stage of development of those means, is social ownership—ownership by the whole community. With the means and instruments for the production and distribution of wealth owned and controlled by the whole community there can be no other object in operating them but to produce wealth FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE COMMUNITY. The means of living belonging to the whole of the people, none is outside their ownership, nor, on the other hand, can any person have ownership in these things as an individual, but only as a cell in the social body.

As a consequence of this the whole social fabric must reshape itself. The only means of productively applying it belonging to the community, labour-power must come under communal control. No man can purchase it because, in the first place, he has no means of exploiting it, in the second place, no worker would desire to sell his labour-power to another since be has the opportunity of exercising it through the communal means, and thirdly, since the whole of the wealth produced under such a system belongs to the community, there is no exchange within the community, and therefore money— the means of exchange—loses its function and its value, and becomes useless for the purchase of labour-power or anything else. The sale of labour-power for wages, then, must disappear with the abolition of private property in the instruments of labour. The whole wages system, in fact, must collapse with the change in the property condition, and a new set of relations must arise between social units, in which the relations of master and man can find no place. The class division, by which the people of every country are divided into exploiters and exploited, employers and employed, masters and slaves, rich and poor, according as they are propertied or propertyless, must vanish with the rest, giving place to a unified community of workers, socially equal because equal possessors in the economic basis of society—the means and instruments of producing the social wealth.

How can the workers accomplish this splendid end ? We claim that the fundamental means to achieve this is to capture the political machine. Capture and control that, and we capture and control the governing machinery of the State. The armed forces of the oppressing class will then no longer be a menace to the workers, but an instrument for their emancipation. The whole of the people will be ruled by the will of the people. Democracy will have become a reality at last.

Wealth will be prolificly produced for the use and enjoyment of ALL by the marvelous modern means of production, and with the minimum of effort. Thus abundance of opportunity for all-round culture and development will be accessible to all. Art will have an undreamt of renaissance. Science will no longer be slave to death-dealing purposes, but put to living, helpful useB for the human race.

Socialism is inevitable. Capitalist, exploitation forces the workers on the road toward it, and is itself a mighty means of education. But nevertheless, the need is imperative upon all who desire Socialism, to do all that they can to educate their fellow workers, and to awaken in them a like desire.
G.

Our Coming Harvest (1917)

Editorial from the October 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

In these uncertain times there is one thing that is as certain as the demand of the landlord—the war cannot last for ever. Some time before it comes to the turn of the heroic editor of our unsavoury contemporary, the “Weekly People,” to seal his faith with his blood, of the occupants of other “heroic chairs” in and about Fleet Street to take their turn in the uncomfortable and unsafe task of “licking Germany,” and of certain politicians to dip their hands in their pockets, not for the last shilling of sacrifice, but for the first, we shall have that condition of affairs which we are wont to call peace. Our masters and butchers are already getting ready for it. That is the meaning of all their talk about “reconstruction,” all their humbug about franchise and housing reforms, all their vague verbiage about improving the condition of the workers—after the war.

They fear that the day of peace will be also a day of reckoning, and they are getting their red-herrings ready in order to get the workers, smarting under a sense of unparalleled outrage, running on false scents, and sniffing round any casual and profitless garbage instead of tracking down their quarry. They realise, do these reeking, red-handed agents of our ghoulish masters, that millions of young men who have been torn from their homes and forced to spend the best years of their lives in the misery of the trenches, will want to know, when they come back to their wage slavery, their threatening face-grinders, their bullying foremen, their dreary toil, their winter unemployment, their scowling landlords, their filthy slums, their sad, drab lives, will want to know of the war’s potbellies why their lives have been clouded over by awful memories they can never forget, why they have been compelled to butcher men they had never met, why their comrades have been slaughtered by hundreds of thousands, why their healths have been ruined by their terrible privations. And knowing this our wily masters are preparing schemes to throw dust in their eyes, and to make them think it is not the same old country wherein they were everywhere trespassers that they have fought and bled and suffered for, and the battle over a farthing an hour they have returned to from their battles for Potbelly’s millions.

And the day of peace must be a day of reckoning. We must see to that. The opportunity will be unique. The stupendous crime of the international capitalists will come fully home to their victims when they find that all their sacrifices have left them simply where they were, facing the old familiar evils, whose only change is their aggravated form. Capitalist politics and politicians, then, from the Liberal and Tory super-lords to the “labour leaders” prosperously reeking in their treachery, will be ripe for utter discredit. Our day will be come—our harvest will be ready for the garnering The place, therefore, of all those who are with us in mind, more now than ever before, is in our ranks. Let us have every ounce of our strength organised for the coming struggle.

Begbie Answered (1917)

From the October 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

In an article entitled “Democracy in Flood” (“Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper,” Sept. 2) Harold Begbie unloads his mind. After admitting the unhuman conditions of existence of a large section of the working class of the North (it might be information to him to be told that these conditions are not confined to one section or to the North, but to the whole working class, North, South, East and West), he says, with astonishment expressed in every word, that the pitmen of a certain Northern town are eager for lectures on a subject of real intellectual interest. In this town there are gatherings of 3,000 men every Sunday in a large hall, and Mr. Begbie says : “I am assured that these quarrymen, pitmen, turners, fitters, shipwrights, are debating the whole question of human existence. Industrialism is now recruited from the ranks of a partially educated democracy which is determined to become more educated, which sees that education is not only a means of improving their social position, but a means of spiritual evolution.”

The latter part of which prepares us for the introduction of the Holy Spirit and his partners, God and the Eternal Will. Mr. Begbie continues:
   They want not only food for their bodies, but better sustenance for their minds ; they would be loyal to the immortal spirit within them, those longings for growth, knowledge, and spiritual power, the denial of which brutalises the human race. They are conscious of sinning against the Holy Spirit in resting satisfied with their life as it is.
These working men are too hard-headed says this canting humbug, to dream of revolution. “Constitutional evolution” is the thing. Unfortunately he does not tell us what he means by “constitutional evolution.” But seemingly it is a high sounding name for some lure for drawing the workers from what should be their real object: the only one that the master class and their touts fear—revolution.

Let me quote further:
  War has revealed to them [the workers] the power of the State; this of itself is the greatest revolution [he means “constitutional evolution,” surely] in the history of the world, this realising by democracy of the almost boundless powers of the State action, i.e., co-operation.
Here we have either the confused mind of the sentimental Harold or a deliberate attempt to cause confusion by writing of the State as if it represented the people. From Frederick Engel’s “Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” we glean the following :
  The State is simply a product of society at a certain stage of evolution. It is the confession that this society has become hopelessly divided against itself, has entangled itself in irreconcilable contradictions which it is powerless to banish.
  The State is the result of the desire to keep down class conflicts. But having arisen amid these conflicts, it is as a rule the State of the most powerful economic class that by force of its economic supremacy becomes also the ruling, political class and thus acquires new means of subduing and exploiting the oppressed masses. The antique State was, therefore, the State of the slave owners for the purpose of holding the slaves in check. The feudal State was the organ of the nobility for the oppression of the serfs and dependent farmers. The modern representative State is the tool of the capitalist exploiters of wage labour.
In the above Engels answers men of the Begbie type, and I hope that the working class will gather understanding from history, ancient and modern, and not be led astray by sentimental talk about the "rich and the poor” being “of one mind and one spirit.” Beware of men who talk about reconciliation between the working class and the master class. That is impossible. The only firm ground upon which the working class can successfully stand is the full recognition of the class war and the determination to fight on to the end—the Social Revolution ; the inauguration of Socialism.
E. J.

The New "Socialism." (1917)

From the November 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard
More Wobbles From America. 
The Manifesto of the Nationalist “Socialists” on Militarism is one of the most demoralising documents that so-called Socialists have ever penned. For the information of readers who do not read American papers it is printed verbatim. It is taken from the official “Socialist Party Bulletin.”
Adolph Kohn


“DEMOCRATIC DEFENSE.”
"A PRACTICAL PROGRAM FOR SOCIALISM."

"First: We declare it our conviction that there is a difference, even from the point of view of revolutionary Socialism, between democratic and autocratic governments. To refuse to recognize the difference is to be idealist in the bad sense of the word—to take formulas and abstract ideas in place of realities. We believe that liberal institutions have their value, as making it possible to agitate for Socialism and to progress toward Socialism without destructive internal conflict. Socialists have proven this attitude in Europe by combining with bourgeois parties in order to obtain democratic reforms. As a political party, relying upon the vote, we necessarily believe in, support, and defend constitutional government ; leaving it to anarchists and anti-parliamentarian syndicalists to proclaim the unreality of any distinction among capitalist governmental systems.

“Second: We declare it impossible for democratic nations to disarm, or even to weaken their defenses, in the presence of autocratic nations. If we could have the full revolutionary Socialist program in America tomorrow, we might be called upon to defend it against nations which were organised for aggression under military and aristocratic rulers; precisely as revolutionary France was called upon to defend her ideals against the rest of Europe. It is futile to talk or appealing to the workers in countries where the workers are unorganized and without power, and would not even be permitted to know of our appeal.

“Third: We declare that the proper aim of Socialist world-politics at tire present time is an alliance of the politically advanced nations for the defense of the democratic principle thruout the world. If, at the conclusion of the present war, any of the autocratic nations should become democratic, they would of course be welcomed into such an alliance. Thus only can progress toward world peace be secured, and gradual disarmament made practicable.

“Fourth: As a means to the working out of this program, we declare for the democratization of diplomacy. We would have the world-policies of America precisely declared. We would provide that diplomatic communications should be published, and a more immediate control of foreign relations insisted upon by the people.

“Fifth: Pending the securing of a world peace by an alliance of democratic nations, it is necessary that the United States should maintain an army and navy. We Socialists are not sentimental or religious non-residents. We are willing to fight for democracy, and we prove it by the instant sympathy we give to people who are fighting for democracy whether in St. Petersburg or Colorado. To refuse under any circumstances to vote for military supplies, as has been required by a recent party decree, is to be sentimental rather than scientific, Tolstoian rather than Marxian.

“Sixth: If we must have an army and navy, the question becomes, what kind of an army and navy shall we have? We declare that the proper program for the American Socialist movement is the common ownership and democratic control of the instruments and means of defense. We believe that there is no danger to democracy in a citizen army and navy, controlled by the people. The danger lies in an incompetent army and navy controlled by a few politicians and a munitions lobby, a hired army of wage-slaves, officered by a class, and serving as a support to the aristocratic tradition.

“Seventh: The true Socialist formula is: No private profit from military supplies. In times of emergency, of course, munitions must be bought wherever they can be found. But under ordinary conditions Socialists should favor the nationalization of munitions manufacture. One of the principal menaces of militarism lies in the lobby.

“Eighth: We declare for the democratization of the military service. We would democratize West Point and Annapolis by providing that admission to government military and naval schools should be thru the ranks, as a reward for physical, mental and moral efficiency demonstrated in the service. We would have social equality the ideal in both army and navy: there is no reason why that spirit of comradeship which is found in the trenches should not be practicable in the training-camp.

“Ninth: We. declare for the modernization of the military service. Military training is not of necessity futile—it is only stupidity and traditionalism which make it so. The ability to march in a series of perfectly straight lines, which is an important end of the present West Point system, has nothing whatever to do with efficiency in modern warfare. The first essential is that the man should be a part of an organized body, feeling and acting as an organism: that he should be physically fit, able to march long distances and to stand the rigors of the outdoor life; and that he should understand the use, not merely of weapons, but of all kinds of machinery. Training to these ends can be obtained in the forestry service, in railroad work, in the harvest fields, in the police and fire departments, in emergency work in floods, storms land accidents; it can be obtained in football, polo and other organized games, in gymnastic work, manual training and camp-life. Our military training should be made the physical culture part of our public school education. It should be begun in childhood, thru the work of the Boy and Girl Scouts; it should be continued thru youth, when hunting, boating and outdoor activities are the greatest joys in life. Such training could be made so interesting that it would he regarded by everyone as a privilege rather than a duty.

“Tenth: We declare that service in such a modern, democratic defense force should be part of the discipline and duty of every citizen, both male and female. To use only volunteers in national defense is to kill off the men of courage and character, and to breed from weakness and incompetence; and this is national suicide. A vital military system should be an organic part of the national life, and as Socialism and democracy bring us towards the World Federation, and put war farther into the background of human possibilities, our military organization would naturally be turned to the ends of peace. The Socialist movement would know how to employ such a disciplined army—in the reconstruction work of industry, the tearing down of the slums and the building of the co-operative Commonwealth.

“(Walling signs with the reservation of paragraph ten, which he would favor only in case a large land army were needed. Mrs. London states: 'Jack London would have signed it, I know.’) ”

#    #    #    #


We may possibly offer some criticism of above on our own account next month.—Editors “Socialist Standard.”)

Blogger's Note:
The above manifesto was replied to in the December 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard by Jack Fitzgerald, Socialism's Traducers.