Sunday, November 4, 2018

Letter: Caught Napping (1918)

Letter to the Editors from the February 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard

To  The  Editor.

I notice in the current issue of our Party Organ a “Letter to Irish Workers,” by Mr. Thos. Brown. Although there is nothing to lead one to suppose that that letter was written by a member of the Party, and bears evidence (to the initiated), in the absence of the usual comradely salutations, that it was not, I think that some more definite disclaimer should have accompanied the letter, provided, of course, I am right in my surmise as to its authorship.

While it is difficult to place the finger on any definitely unsound phrases, it is nevertheless a fact that the “atmosphere” of Mr. Brown’s letter suggests the nationalist rather than the Socialist. The references to “suffering, bleeding Ireland,” “loving service to living Irishmen,” “profound sympathy with all the struggles of his countrymen,” “No true Irishman who has any real regard for his country,” and so on, do not ring true to the Socialist hammer, while such phrases as ‘”Ireland a nation’ . . .  is not a first-class Socialist issue” gives a Socialist the creeps.

A Socialist does not have profound sympathy with the struggles of his countrymen but with, his fellow workers; he does not demand “loving service to living Irishmen,” or Englishmen, or Frenchmen, but intelligent service in the cause of his class.

I have no desire to make a long criticism on Mr. Brown’s letter, but there are two other points that need attention before I close. The first is his reference to the “Clarion” as a “prominent Socialist organ.” No Socialist could think of that paper as anything but the most insidious of anti-Socialist journals, which its war record alone is sufficient to prove it to be. Then the constant use of the term “international Socialist—as if one can be a Socialist without being an internationalist.
Fraternally yours,

We humbly accept the gentle chiding administered by Comrade MacC. All that he says is quite true, and as a matter of fact instructions were issued to the effect that Mr. Brown’s letter was to be inserted under such a safeguard as our comrade suggests, but—” somebody blundered,” and Comrade MacC. gets the chance to immortalise himself.—Ed. Com.

Obituary: Joe Carter (2018)

Obituary from the November 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are saddened to report the death in September of Joe Carter at the age of 85. He joined the old Camberwell branch of the Party in 1963, later transferring to Haringey branch. In the 1960s and 70s he was active as an outdoor speaker (in particular at Tower Hill and Lincoln’s Inn), indoor lecturer, writer (as ‘JEF’) and as a party candidate in local elections in north London. Born in Switzerland and having lived and worked in Belgium, he was fluent in both Italian and French. He worked, thanks to his knowledge of languages, as a night telephonist in the overseas section of the Post Office. Our condolences go to Janet, a Party member, and his family.

More Labour Lies (1969)

From the November 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

Labour, says the full-page ad., has got Life and Soul and there follows the usual list of misleading figures which are supposed to impress us. The Labour Party used to have the reputation of being a party with ideals which was out to help ordinary people. Now some bright-boy is trying to revive this but after years of wage restraint, anti-union laws, immigration colour bar and the like he will have his work cut out.

The ad. makes two claims about Labour on housing both of which, as we shall show, are very misleading.

Under the heading “Peace of mind in your home” they say:
  The 1968 Rent Act . . . brings ‘fair rent’ machinery. Nearly 80% of tenants' applications have resulted in rent reduction.
The unwary reader might draw the conclusion that this new machinery must be good if rent went down in four cases out of five. He has missed the phrase "tenants' applications". For landlords, as well as tenants, can apply for a so-called fair rent to be fixed and when all applications are taken into account it is a different story: the rents have been put up in three cases out of five. Even a Housing Policy Study Group set up by Labour’s National Executive has expressed its concern:
  Applications for registration of a fair rent in England and Wales between the start of regulations and 20th June, 1969, numbered 140,000,  123,000 of which had been determined by May 1969. The Ministry of Housing has analysed 80,000 of these rent registrations representing those cases where the new rent could properly be compared with the old (i.e., excluding cases where the terms of the tenancy were changed or where there were improvements or alterations which could affect the rent). Of these, 32% had resulted in rent reduction, and 59% in a rent increase. Clearly some rents would be increased under the ‘fair rent’ machinery but the proportion of rents being increased does seem unduly high (Report, p.12, our emphasis).
No doubt Labour’s publicity tricksters are banking on more people reading their full-page ad than their shilling pamphlet.

Under another heading — “A decent home is the cornerstone of a happy life” — the ad. declares:
  "The 1969 Housing Act increased financial aid to landlords in bringing old houses up to standard”.
It makes no mention that if landlords do this they can also apply to bring their old rents up to standard. The 1969 Housing Act in fact resumes the work of the 1957 Housing Act (the one Labour vociferously denounced at the time as the “wicked Tory Rent Act”), in that it allows tenancies now subject to Rent Control to be decontrolled. Instead, their rents will be set under the new “fair” rent machinery, a changeover which is bound to result, as Labour admits elsewhere, in the rent going up in the great majority of cases.

We draw attention to this not because we support or oppose rent control but to expose Labour’s false claim to stand for low rents. Labour’s policy of making investment in housing-letting a little more profitable is designed to overcome one of the problems caused by the rent control they once clamoured for, a striking demonstration of the futility of reformism. They are now doing what the Tories tried to do in 1957, but this time a little more cautiously. Which is not surprising since both parties are only out to administer capitalism. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always held that within capitalism there is no solution to the housing problem and, that therefore attempts by governments to deal with it while retaining class property and the profit motive are futile.

The ad. is at least more cautious than George Thomas, the Secretary of State for Wales, who when the Bill was first published made this claim which we record for future reference:
  Within 10 years of this Act no one in Wales should be living in an unfit house
(The Times, 31 January 1969).
Thomas obviously forgot the lesson Aneurin Bevan learned when he rashly promised in 1946 that “when the next election occurs there will be no housing problem in Great Britain for the British working class” (quoted in Hansard, Vol. 453, Col. 1202).
Adam Buick

50 Years Ago: The Fallacy of Nationalisation (1969)

The 50 Years Ago column from the November 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the 9th October the Prime Minister met a deputation representing the Trades Union Congress and the Miners Federation, who presented a demand for Nationalisation of the coal mines on the lines laid down by the Sankey Report.

According to the report of the interview given in the Daily News (11 October 1919) Mr. Smillie, representing the miners put forward two main reasons why the mines should be nationalised.

The first was that ‘the mines are largely unsafe because they are working for private profit’. In what way Nationalisation would make them safer was left to guess. There is no evidence that the railways have become safer for the railway workers since they have been under government control, nor has it ever been put forward that the Admiralty Dockyards are safer than private ones.

Mr. Smillie's second point is given as follows:—
  "I want the mines Nationalised in order that by the fullest possible development in intelligent lines, with the assistance of the engineering power we know we possess, we might hereby develop the mines and increase the output and so reduce the price”.
Coming at this moment, after a certain bitter experience by the miners, the last suggestion in this statement is simply staggering. Coal is under Government control now, and a few months ago, without any economic reason, the price was raised by 6/- a ton.

Neither is it certain that Nationalisation would result in ‘the fullest possible development of the industry’. While this is possible it is far from probable, as experience of the Government departments during the war — and since — has shown only too well.

But these points are not the important ones . . . Nationalised industries are expected to show as good a result as—or better than—the private business, as, for instance in the case of the Admiralty Dockyards.

The fundamental fallacy underlying the TUC and Miners’ demands for Nationalisation of the coal mines—and it applies with equal force, to the Nationalisation of any other industry—is their failure to recognise the slave character and position of the workers . . . The workers will remain wage slaves while capitalism lasts, even though every industry were Nationalised.
(From an unsigned Editorial "Coal and Cant” in the Socialist Standard, November 1919.)

Letter: Capitalism a class society? (1969)

Letter to the Editors from the November 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard


While agreeing entirely with your aims of socialism, I would quarrel with the idea, enshrined in your declaration of principles, that society is still clearly divided in such a way that everyone is a member of either the “master class” or the “working class”, or as you put it those who produce but do not possess and those who possess but do not produce. There are now a vast number of people who, for example, work and own shares. It seems to me that the idea of a divided society is no longer valid: all the other objections to capitalism are in themselves more than enough, but the concept that everyone can be put on one side of the fence or the other is not acceptable. In particular, this would suggest that anyone who, for example, receives interest on a bank account, or who is partly paid in shares of the firm he works for, cannot support the SPGB' as “all political parties are but the expression of class interests.”

Yours sincerely,
Neil Mitchison, 

A class is a group of people who all have the same economic interest. The make up of classes, the dividing lines between them, their functions in society, the number of them in existence, have all varied with different social systems.

One thing which capitalism has done has been to tidy up classes. There are now only two of them and, with relatively few exceptions, the whole population of the capitalist world is in one or other of them. The exceptions may be peasants living and working under social relationships more akin to feudalism, or shopkeepers and tradesmen existing in a sort of class twilight These people — and they are a small minority — may be unclassifiable but this does not affect the overall, significant class division of capitalism.

The vast majority of people can be placed in one class; they are forced to sell their working abilities in order to live. They do this to the owners of the means of production and it is only by selling their working power that they are allowed access to the means of production. It is reasonable, and accurate, to call these people the working class and to call the other class, who own the means of production and who therefore buy labour power, the capitalist class.

Now what about the person who sells his labour power to an employer but who also owns some shares, or receives interest on savings? . This does not alter the fact that he depends for his living on selling his ability to work; his relationship to the means of production make him a member of the working class.

The division of society into classes, with opposing interests which cause so much unrest, is only one of capitalism's malaises but it is not to be ignored or minimized. The revolution for Socialism will overthrow the capitalist class and take away their monopoly of the means of production. It is, therefore, against their interests but it is in the interests of the other, subject class — the working class. That is why it is only the Socialist Party which stands for the interests of the working class and why all who oppose Socialism, or who stand for something less than Socialism, express the interests of the capitalist class.
Editorial Committee.