Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Reflections in War Time (1940)

From the November 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Somewhere around six thousand years ago, according to report, mankind started upon its civilised career. The years between then and now have largely been a record of wars. Civilisation and war—these words are twin brothers. Avarice and fear has kept the warlike spirit alive. Every war has its “demands” and every victory its “reparations.” In the main the "great” names of history are the names of war-lords: Pharaoh, Lysander, Alexander, Caesar, Charles the Great, Frederick the Great, and so on up to our own times. Every child knows the names of Napoleon, Wellington, Nelson and Kitchener, but how many can give the name of the inventor of the sewing machine or the harvester?

One problem certainly has never had a place in the causes of war or the terms of peace, and that problem is the abolition of poverty. And yet it is the one problem that vitally concerns the mass of the world’s population. No sooner has war broken out than nations, that for years have professed themselves too impoverished to pay their workers a decent wage, find themselves in a position to pour out the energies of multitudes of people on munition work. Wealth suddenly appears that is so great that hundreds of thousands of people can be kept out of production as soldiers or producing things that have no other object than destruction.

In spite of the claims that we are all in this war on an equal footing the happenings of every day tell a different story. The result of the chasm between rich and poor is still plainly visible. When the poor man’s home is destroyed he has no banking account to fall back upon to help him over his difficulties. When the necessaries of life become dear or scarce the rich can still eat well while the poor have difficulty in providing for the barest needs. While one reads of cocktails drunk in comfortable deep shelters by well-to-do people, one sees the crowds of poverty-stricken with their bundles besieging the shelters and tubes, and the appalling conditions under which multitudes of people spend the greater part of their time in the underground stations have to be seen to be believed.

The papers urge the workers to keep at it during raids and risk their lives to keep the war machine going, yet the privileged sections of society are much better able to keep out of harm’s way. While everyone who can is supposed to be giving all their money and time to their war effort, one still reads advertisements for servants for houses where two or three wealthy people have a body of menials to minister to their needs. While the needs of life are hard to come by for some the wine flows freely for others.

Long ago we were assured by the upholders of capitalism that one of the dire calamities that would befall society under Socialism was the impending break-up of family life. In these days that doleful wail has become laughable when we witness not only the break-up of families by evacuation—some even seeing their children going thousands of mile away from them—but even the complete disappearance of the poor homes they got together with such infinite trouble and sacrifice. And this is true not only of the average working man, but also of that section of the working class, the professional group, so prone to look down on all efforts to improve the conditions of the workers.

Doubtless there are some adherents to Socialism who, seeing the appalling state of the world to-day and suffering the nightmare of the beleaguered city, are inclined to despair of the future and feel that the prospect for Socialism is wearing thin. It is understandable that such ideas should take root as it is so difficult to tear one’s mind away from the maelstrom in which we are living and take a dispassionate view of events.

Yet in this miserable hour the future is by no means as dark as it may appear. The movement for Socialism is of necessity only a trickle for a long lime, and this partly deludes people into the belief that little progress is made when in reality great progress has and is being made. The mass of people move as a mass. That is to say their political knowledge grows slowly but steadily at an even pace and it is in a mass and not by ones and twos that the great body of the workers will come to the conviction that in Socialism lies their social salvation. In fact the progress is more real than apparent.

One personal statement lest anyone is deluded into believing that the above is mere idle optimism. The view set forth is the considered opinion of the present writer who has had over thirty years intimate association with the Socialist movement, and is only too well acquainted with the heartbreaking feeling of hope deferred. So be of good cheer, my brothers; in this blackest hour the hope of the future is neither faded nor fading. It still urges us to carry on with a stronger conviction of fulfilment than ever.

Sir Richard Acland in a Muddle (1940)

From the November 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sir Richard Acland, M.P., is a Liberal who advocates what he believes to be radical and practical reforms of the capitalist system. All the same he has not got very far in his understanding of capitalism. In a letter to the News Chronicle (November 1st, 1940) he argues that this country’s property institutions must be changed drastically in order to win the propaganda war against Dr. Goebbels.
  What I submit we have got to do is to answer the Nazi taunt of “Pluto-democracy.” While more than 50 per cent. of our property is owned by less than 1 per cent, of the population and while the effective control over our economic policy is in the hands of an even smaller number of people, there is far too much truth behind this taunt for comfort, and whatever we may say, the Nazis will have a powerful weapon with which to turn small men and workers everywhere against us.
Two observations may be made on this. One is that Socialists have always had an unanswerable case against capitalism, and it has nothing to do with what Goebbels may have to say about it. The second is that Sir Richard Acland seems to have fallen for that piece of Nazi propaganda which represents Germany as a State which is run on principles other than those of “pluto- democracy.” There is not an atom of truth in it. Behind the screen of State control those ungentle grafters, the Nazi leaders and their capitalist big-business backers are running Germany for their own ends on the usual exploiting lines.

It may be said, however, that at least Sir R. Acland does want to see inequalities of ownership in Great Britain done away with, but when we read further in his letter we realise that he is only continuing the Lloyd George propaganda of 30 years ago, and the result will be the same. He asks that after the war the men who manage our giant resources “must be in some way or other chosen by all of us to work in the interests of all of us, and must not be chosen in any way by the owners of invested capital to work in the interests of the owners of invested capital.” 

Sir R. Acland probably does not see the fatal flaw in his pious proposal. He proposes that there shall still be “owners of invested capital,” i.e., people who live on property-incomes, but asks that the property from which they get their property-incomes shall not be worked in their interests! Just as a defender of slavery might have urged that slavery should not be abolished, but should be run in the interests of all! Let it be noted, therefore, that the interest of the workers is to get rid of the private ownership and control of the means of production and distribution. Short of that, and the introduction of Socialism, the more “pluto-democracy” changes the more it will be the same.
Edgar Hardcastle

Religion, War and Nazism (1940)

From the November 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

The claim has sometimes been made that religion in the modern world is a unifying force rising above national barriers. The war has shown again how little truth there is in this. Catholics and Protestants and Mohammedans are to be found supporting both sides, and it is difficult to discover any important respect in which the members of any of the religions are marked off in outlook or actions from the rest of the population. Inside the Church of England and the Non-Conformist Churches there is the utmost diversity of opinion, following political or other non-religious divisions, from an anti-war or pacifist attitude to extremes of belligerency demanding wholesale slaughter of the German civilian population. Only small bodies such as the Quakers show more consistency.

The subordination of religious theories to the needs of the State at war is most noticeable in the Catholic Church, not, however, because it is essentially different, but because the Catholic Church claims to be an international organisation. Some of the defenders of the Pope and the Catholic Church have claimed that the Pope's attitude is one of outright opposition to Nazism and Fascism, and that it is only because the Pope is bound by Treaty not to intervene in international affairs affecting Italy without the consent of the Italian Government, that reserve is maintained by the Vatican since Italy entered the war. That, of course, leaves the Vatican to defend the action of entering into such a Treaty, not to mention the difficulty of explaining why, if the Pope is opposed to Fascism and the war policy of the Italian Government, the Pope can receive 200 Italian army officers and say to them “we bless all you who serve the beloved fatherland with fealty and love.”—(News Chronicle, October 31st, 1940. Telegraphed report from Vatican City.) 

What we do see is the State everywhere trying, with considerable success, to use religion and religious organisations for political and war purposes. If the Churches are everywhere ready to subordinate their beliefs to the needs of the State, this is only matched by the readiness of the politicians and political parties to sacrifice their own professed principles in order to make religion their handmaiden. Now that the Nazis have conquered territories containing some 50 million Catholics, in addition to the 21 million in Germany itself, it is reported (Sunday Express, October 20th, 1940), that Hitler, the erstwhile denouncer of religion in general, “is making frantic efforts to win the Vatican’s sympathies and induce the Holy See to change its attitude towards totalitarian policy.”
  The first sign of the Nazi change of policy was when, on Hitler’s orders. Catholic priests accompanying his armies were decorated.    This step has been followed by the despatch to Spain of an important delegation headed by Bishop Derning, of Osnabruck, and Bishop Preyssing, of Berlin. They have offered the Spanish Churches three wagon-loads of crosses, religious paintings and Church furniture collected in Germany. Valuable pieces offered by Hitler himself are included.
   At almost the same time a new Catholic weekly paper has been launched with the title “The New Will.” It is edited by Bishop Razkowsky, of the army, whose father was one of Hindenburg’s sergeants. This weekly makes a great effort to emphasise that “Hitlerism is not as it was before.”
—(Sunday Express, October 20th, 1940.)
A little earlier the Times reported the following:—
   Most reliable sources in the Vatican city confirm a report which was first current about a fortnight ago that Pope Pius XII is about to issue a world-wide Encyclical warning all Roman Catholic believers against the continuously increasing peril of Communistic influences, which the Holy See is convinced are fast spreading throughout the world.
   These Vatican sources assert emphatically that the Church is about to initiate a decisive campaign against what the Holy See considers the catastrophic expansion of Bolshevist ideology in consequence of the efforts of various Governments to induce Russia to enter the present world-conflict. Great Britain, it is pointed out, has been openly trying to persuade Russia to become her ally, and the United States, the Holy See fears, is also prepared to come to terms with Russia in order to settle favourably the Far East struggle against Japan.
    On the other hand, the German-Russian pact has brought not only Germany but now also Italy and even Japan into the sphere of the pernicious Soviet influence. The Pope has grave fears that even the staunchest Roman Catholic country, Spain, may also fall a prey to the same course of developments. It is recalled how in the past year the geographical dominion of Soviet influence has widened to include half Poland, part of Finland, the Baltic States, Bessarabia, and north Bukovina.
—(The Times, October 8th, 1940.)
It is obvious that if at a later stage the German capitalists find themselves in open conflict with the Russian Government, the "anti-Communist” line of the Vatican would be a very useful background for an attempt to form a new grouping of Powers against Russia.

Catholicism again plays its part in the imperialism of the Spanish capitalists so that Professor Allison Peers gives it the name "Catholic imperialism” (Manchester Guardian, August 8th, 1940). Some more discreet exponents of this imperialism might say that they were concerned only with defending “a spiritual and religious conception of civilisation,” but Professor Peers sceptically asks the question whether that is all General Franco meant when he declared “We have a will to empire.” The collapse of France opens the way to Spanish expansion in Africa, and the Spanish Press talks about "Tangier, Gibraltar, Casablanca, Algiers, Fez, Oran."

Luther The First Nazi?
However, it is not by any means a question of British Protestants lining up against foreign Catholics and holding them responsible for the world’s troubles. On the contrary, several writers have sought to blame German protestantism and particularly Martin Luther for the Nazi creed. In a review of "French War Aims” (Denis Saurat, Methuen, Is.), the Manchester Guardian says: —
   One of the most interesting of his discussions is on religion. He finds a chasm between the conception of Christianity held by Germany and that which subsists in the Western democracies. German Christianity from Luther to Karl Barth is based on the idea of predestination and of the election of special persons and nations as the chosen instruments of God. In the Western democracies Christianity implies the freedom of the individual soul.
—(Manchester Guardian, July 9th, 1940.) 
The Very Rev. W. R. Inge is more explicit in his denunciation of Lutheranism. Writing on "German Frightfulness” in the Evening Standard (August 1st, 1940), he blames it all on the way the Lutherans reconciled the Christian’s adherence to the Sermon on the Mount with their acceptance of the State, "which includes among its institutions war, criminal justice, the acquisition of wealth, and, perhaps, slavery.”

The first compromise solution, he says, was that the Church said to its members you must do one or the other, either accept the State and all it implies or else retire to a monastery.
  The Christian conscience was never quite happy about this compromise, which was thought to be sanctioned by Christ’s words to the rich young man, “If thou wilt be perfect, sell all thou hast and follow me." At the Reformation the prevailing view was that this double standard could not be accepted. " We are all bound to obey the commands of Christ.
   This left the old conflict between religious and secular ethics quite unsolved. Martin Luther made a new compromise, which has had disastrous consequences, not only for Germany, where his teaching was most popular, but for Europe generally. He taught that Christianity is a matter for the individual only, not for the State. The State is not only not bound by the teaching of Christ: it need not obey any moral principles at all.
   This had been already accepted by Machiavelli, who found, truly enough, that petty States of divided Italy were absolutely unscrupulous. He coolly said that this was, in fact, the principle, or want of principle, on which Italian politics were conducted.
  Ever since the time of Luther, this horrible doctrine has been openly taught in Germany by theologians, philosophers and historians.
    I will quote two examples, one from Luther himself, the other from a modern Lutheran. “ The hand which bears the sword is no longer man’s hand but God’s. It is not man, but God, who hangs, breaks on the wheel, beheads, strangles, and makes wars.” So Luther found it consistent with his Christianity
to hound on the German princes to butcher the unlucky peasants who were in revolt against intolerable conditions.
  My other quotation is from Naumann, who had a reputation as a theologian in modern Germany. “Both are necessary to life, the mailed fist and the hand of Jesus. Only upon this foundation is the higher morality of the Gospel to be realised. This sounds hard and cruel, but it seems to me to be soundly Lutheran.” I am afraid it is.
It will be understood that those who tried and still try to solve the above problem by juggling with morality and some supposed divine necessity of obedience to authority are in a hopeless tangle. They will never solve their problem.

Dean Inge goes on to quote a saying of Frederick the Great, which sums it all up in a manner more true than Inge himself appreciates. What Frederick said was this: —
   I take what I want, I can always find pedants to prove my rights.
There we can leave the matter. The ruling class everywhere take what they can and have little difficulty in getting professorial and parsonical pedants to prove their rights.
Edgar Hardcastle

Far From Wealth (2018)

Book Review from the May 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘Hinterland: America’s New Landscape of Class and Conflict’. By Phil A. Neel. (Reaktion Books. £14.95)

The hinterland is the area of the US outside the wealthy cities, ‘the growing desert beyond the palace walls’. It can be divided into the ‘near’ parts, the mainly suburban areas outside the central parts of cities, and the ‘far’ parts, primarily the rural areas but also including urban wastelands where much housing has been demolished. Even the far hinterland, however, has a great deal of industrial space, from factory farms to logistics complexes and mines, and is dominated by the informal economy of the black market and production of illegal drugs.

Neel records here some of his travels around this hinterland, beginning in northern Nevada, where the far right have begun a resurgence. They are less tied to the militia than used to be the case, and often reject white nationalist ideas. Some adopt so-called Third Positionist politics, claiming to be neither left nor right, while Patriot groups emphasise self-reliance rather than use of declining government services. Small capitalists, who often work in their mines or mills themselves, are the backbone of the Patriot movement. The election of Trump is likely to have a dampening effect, especially on the extremes of the far right.

On the California–Oregon border, wildland firefighters do extremely dangerous work. They usually earn less than $1,000 a week, and work for only a few months of the year. Neel refers to one firefighter in Idaho who was working to pay for chemo for his six-year-old daughter, who had leukaemia. As many as forty percent of firefighters are prisoners paid a pittance.

The near hinterland, Neel suggests, will be ‘the central theater in the coming class war’, as so many who have become surplus to the economy live there. Unfortunately, there is very little here on how the classes in this war are to be characterised, what it will involve or what the outcome might be. The book as a whole contains some useful material but rather little by way of concrete suggestions or conclusions.  
Paul Bennett

Anti-all nationalisms (2018)

Pamphlet Review from the November 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why Socialist Oppose Zionism and Anti-Semitism’. Socialist Party. (40 pages, £2. £3.50 p + p UK Inland)

It is common for people and organisations on the left of capitalist politics to express opposition to Jewish nationalism (i.e. Zionism) and support for Arab nationalism (i.e. Palestinian ‘self-determination’). The justification given for this is that the Zionists stole the Palestinians’ homeland, called it Israel and now oppress and intimidate them in their efforts to return to it or to achieve some kind of political status in the region. Others, conversely, support Zionism and the Jewish state and oppose the aspirations of the Palestinians on the grounds that Israel is a bulwark against forces that are opposed to Western values.

The position taken by the Socialist Party in its new pamphlet, ‘Why Socialists Oppose Zionism and Anti-Semitism’, is different from both of these. It is a position of opposition to all nationalism, whatever form it takes, which is summed up clearly in the pamphlet’s introduction:
  ‘Nations are not natural divisions of humanity: they are political constructs, “imagined nations” …..The notion that there are collectivities called nations with rights is a product of the capitalist era of human history. States – coercive institutions ruling over a given territory – existed before capitalism, but, once control over them had passed to the capitalist class and its representatives, the new rulers sought to legitimise their rule as that of representatives of “the nation”. Nearly everywhere those who ruled were not homogeneous in terms of languages or religion. They had to be moulded into a “nation” by having it drummed into them that they had a common history, interest and identity. As most states are of relatively recent origin, such “nation-building” is still going on today in many parts of the world.’
But even those sympathetic to this position may think that it applies less readily to Israel given the ‘extra’ ingredient in the mix – that of the centuries-long persecutions of Jews by those professing other religions, most notably Christianity, and hence the need for Jewish people to have a home of their own, a place to live in peace and without fear of anti-semitic persecution. This pamphlet chronicles the history, recent and otherwise, of this aspiration for a Jewish ‘homeland’ by reproducing a series of articles published on the subject in the Socialist Standard over the last hundred years. In recent times it is a history of the large capitalist powers pursuing their economic and strategic interests in the region and jumping from the Jewish to the Arab side and back again according to prevailing circumstances. The so-called Balfour Declaration of 1917 by the British government guaranteed the Jews a national home in Palestine but, when, after World War 2, this turned into the demand for an independent state, the British, initially at least, resisted this with force. But partition of Palestinian territory was finally accepted by the Western capitalist powers (and initially by Russia too), resulting in an ongoing conflict between Arabs and Jews that has lasted to this day. The words of the 1937 article reprinted in this pamphlet (‘Divide and Rule in Palestine’) have proved prescient: ‘This will give Arab and Jew (like the North and South of Ireland) something to quarrel over for years to come, to the hindrance of propaganda for working-class solidarity against the international capitalist class.’

As for a new era for Jews where they could live in peace and free from anti-semitism, this has clearly not happened as witnessed by the various wars which have taken place between Israel and neighbouring Arab states since the Jewish state was created and the perpetual tension caused by attacks on its territory and also by Israel becoming an object of hatred in the Arab world. Many Jews fled from anti-semitism in Europe but in so doing only succeeded in generating another anti-semitism in the Middle East.

The setting up of the new Jewish state in Palestine commanded a great deal of misplaced devotion, especially among the world’s Jewish population, with opposition to Israel or support for the displaced Arabs being seen as a form of anti-semitism itself. However the principled and consistent opposition of the Socialist Party to the nationalism inherent in the setting up and running of any new capitalist state, whether Jewish or otherwise, marks us off from everyone else on the political spectrum and makes it clear that our opposition to Zionism has absolutely nothing to do with anti-semitism. Evidence that we are entirely ‘even-handed’ in judging both Israeli nationalism (Zionism) and Arab nationalism is provided by the October 1993 article reproduced in this pamphlet (‘Peace in Palestine’):
  ‘Our opposition to Zionism does not mean that we support the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. Unlike some, we don’t single out Jewish nationalism for special condemnation. We condemn all nationalisms equally. The “Palestinian nation” is just as much a myth as the “Jewish nation”, or any other nation. Nationalism is the ideology which seeks to justify the capitalist division of the world into separate “nation-states”, each competing to gain a place in the sun for its ruling class and each with killing machines at its disposal. We utterly reject this view of the way humanity should organise itself.’
Since nationalist movements the world over always turn out to be movements in favour of local capitalists wanting their own state in order to be able to pursue and defend their economic interests, it follows that any talk of ‘self-determination’ for a group of people inevitably results not in some kind of ‘liberation’ but in a change of masters. Given this context can it truly be said that Jewish wage and salary workers in Israel are in a fundamentally different position from Jewish wage and salary workers in other countries? The closing words of the introduction to the pamphlet make the socialist position absolutely clear: ‘Socialist opposition to Zionism is not anti-semitic; it is opposition not just to Zionism but is based on opposition to all nationalism and all nationalist movements.’ It flows from this that we resolutely oppose the conventional left-right politics of capitalism in which people support and encourage others to support one form of nationalism against another form of nationalism.
Howard Moss

Shoddy Scholarship (1969)

Book Review from the July 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy by Lewis S. Feuer (Fontana, 9s. 6d.)

Surely the market for Marx-Engels anthologies must be all but played out for a while? Feuer’s collection includes all the obvious choices such as the whole of the Communist Manifesto, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific and the Critique of the Gotha Programme plus part of the preface to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. In addition there are excerpts from many other works, including some of the early writings like the German Ideology and Toward the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Some of the letters and essays included are not readily available elsewhere — such as the On Authority article.

The volume is marred by Feuer’s introduction which is facile when it is not down right ill-informed (“. . .  led Marx to abandon the theory he had held that ever society must go through the same sequence of stages"; “In Marx’s thought . . . the working class will found a socialist, then a communist society”, etc. etc.) This is rather shoddy scholarship, even for a sociology professor.
John Crump

How about some real progress? (1969)

From the August 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

Man on the Moon
Perhaps it would be better if, after all, we left the moon alone. It is lovely to look at and does nobody any harm, and in any case there are plenty of problems to be tackled here on earth, before we start spreading out into space. Yet even the most fervent Luddite, the most obstinate flat-earther, much feel a chill of excitement at the thought of men out in black space, circling the moon, observing it, stepping out onto its surface.

There is near-unanimity of opinion that space flights, moon landings, and the rest are a 'good thing' and anyone who has doubts on the matter is immediately classified as a neurotic, reactionary crank. It is true that space vehicles can make a valuable contribution to weather forecasting, communications, and geology, if only because of their unique position for observation. Another result of that unique position is. of course, that space vehicles have distinct, and frightening, military uses — for both observation and combat. It is no coincidence that the world’s two space powers are also the world’s two greatest nuclear powers and that the other positions in the league table of space achievements roughly correspond to the positions in the nuclear power league table.

It might seem churlish to point this out, in face of the glamour of the moon shots. But is it so bad, to try to keep calm amid the hysteria and to wonder whether all technological advance is useful, why some of it happens, whether society has its priorities in order, and whether we should all fall flat on our faces in worship of the great god Progress which is supposed to feed and succur us, which we are supposed to rely on and to be unable to deny?

Sometimes, as communities all over the world have discovered to their cost, 'Progress’ means the destruction of what was once a comparatively peaceful environment. It means an airport setting down thundering jets into once tranquil countryside, a motorway or a pylon line slashing through downland, a nuclear power station on remote, rugged coastline. In other places, green and quiet streets are turned into car parks and road ‘improvements’ bring heavy traffic pulsing constantly past bedroom windows. These are examples of that ‘Progress' which, apparently, should not and cannot be stopped. Or should it?

Basis of morals
There can be no apology if the first thing we say in answer to that question is that ‘Progress’ can no more be considered in separation from its social background than can any other facet of society. And the social background for all of them is the same. The superficial aspects of society — its laws, morals, organisation, concepts, and so on — spring from its basis and conform in their nature to that basis. Capitalist society, which we live under today, is based on the private ownership of the means of production. It is bound, therefore, to have a legal and moral code based on the rights of private property. In the same way, concepts such as ‘Progress’ are influenced, indeed fashioned, by the needs and priorities springing from private property.

What this means is that, as capitalism is a society of commodity production — of wealth produced for sale and profit — ‘Progress’ will be encouraged only if it helps towards profitable production and sale. The organs of capitalist opinion are fond of presenting examples of 'Progress’ to us — like drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea — as adventures undertaken solely for the benefit of humanity. The truth is that in cases like this the capitalist class are hoping for cheap and profitable production and that is why they enthusiastically devote considerable resources to the project.

But it is a different story, when the prospects of making a profit are less rosy. A recent issue of The Guardian (July 3, 1969) stated that the Water Resources Board has turned down a project for the large-scale production of fresh water from sea water because it would cost about twice as much as the systems used at present. The Board docs not know when desalination is likely to become ‘economic' and therefore ‘acceptable'. The point is that, at a time when water is in seriously short supply, progress in its production is being held up, not by technical or productive obstacles. but by the same old bogey of capitalism — the economics of cost and profit.

In another way. this applies to the entire boom in ‘Progress' which has recently taken capitalism by storm — automation, computers, container traffic, and all the other things which are supposed to be part of a great effort to improve our living standards. In fact the boom has been promoted by the simple fact that for a long time, with certain temporary exceptions, the advanced nations of capitalism have had to face a shortage of labour and they have applied the classical remedy of trying to reduce their labour requirements. Again, profitability and not 'Progress’ has been the decisive incentive.

One of the more unfortunate aspects of this is that, in its obsessive haste for profits, capitalism will often launch out on a bit of 'Progress’ purely because at the time it seems the quickest and cheapest method of dealing with a problem. In the long run the results can be disastrous and even, if we are to worry about the interests of the capitalist class, dearer and less profitable.

A recent example of this was the poisoning of the Rhine with a pesticide effluent. This was a much-forecast backlash of the ‘Progress’ in agricultural methods which uproots hedgerows to create a near-prairie in which heavy machinery can operate more profitably and which saturates the land in a variety of pesticides and fertilisers which wreak havoc on the natural balance of the earth and which can turn fertile lands into a dustbowl. There are plenty of informed warnings about the consequences of these policies; but farming, just like any other productive operation of capitalism, is carried on for profit, which means that all other considerations, including speculations on the safety of the future, take a back seat.

In the same way, medical science often joins in the great rush for 'Progress’ by producing medicines which have the sole usefulness of propping up sick workers more quickly than they have ever been propped up before and delivering them back for work on the production line with unheard-of speed. It is not unknown for some of these medicines — for example some antibiotics — to be exposed, after vast amounts of them have been pumped into willing and grateful workers, as of limited usefulness and, in some cases, as actually dangerous. But at the time it seemed the cheapest and quickest method of ensuring uninterrupted production . . . 

Shoddy goods
Are we, then, against Progress? The simple, hoary answer to that is that Progress cannot be stopped; indeed it is clearly desirable that man should progress in the sense that he should always be seeking to control and improve his environment. The question is, how is this to be done?

The first useful step to take would be to realise that the present social system, for all its mouthings about ‘Progress’, is in fact a fetter upon it. Capitalism holds back advances in our productive powers because it demands production for a market. This usually means production at standards well below our capabilities; it means shoddy goods aimed at capturing the market and being produced as cheaply as possible. It can also mean restricting and holding back production or a new development for fear of overstocking a market and causing a price collapse. Capitalism’s incentives are wrong; it judges everything in terms of profit. It is, therefore, bound to misuse 'Progress’, even when it allows it. Anyone who is interested in 'Progress’, then, should also be interested in the fact that it is crippled by capitalism.

Social progress must come first, to create the conditions in which our abilities can be given their head to enrich human lives. In the new society Progress will be reality instead of a word calculated to make any sensitive man release the safety catch of his pistol.