Friday, November 23, 2018

Obituary: Cecil Overin (1981)

Obituary from the May 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are sad to record the passing of Paddington Branch's oldest member — Cecil 'Will' Overin. He was over 90. Joining the Party in 1923, he was one of those who founded the prevent Branch in 1926. His entire Party life revolved around Paddington Branch: he was one of its stalwarts, selling literature. supporting meetings, leafletting. He was not known by many at the centre, and regrettably as the years took their toll, by fewer and fewer of his comrades in the Branch. Meticulous in appearance, somewhat reserved but when one got to know him he was of good humour and fund of knowledge about the early days. Cecil Overin came from Yorkshire, and as a young man 70 years ago had been active with the old Socialist Labour Party.

His life bridged many generations of socialist activity. Not spectacular, unheralded, his was the sort of consistent and dependable work which is the very stuff of the Party. Without it we would not be.
L. S.

Labour Government: the Worst of Illusions! (1974)

From the April 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

Here we are on the roundabout again. The music’s started and the leader astride his cock-horse bellowing “Coats off!”; all the Miss Lefts holding their Mr. Rights’ hands in ministerial toy cars; the flashing lights and the promise of the Time of Our Lives.

The Labour fair comes every few years, and it’s always the same. It starts with offering the biggest prizes and the highest rides, it ends up broke creeping away in the dark. Then, of course, they will quarrel among themselves: the Bearded Lady wishing she’d never met the coconut-shy man, and the whole lot swearing they’ll have a new leader. But they have to make up in the end — it’s their living, after all. They hatch a new programme and get different music, and eventually the old pitch is won back. And because there are always people who have forgotten the last time or weren’t there, the show swings — for a day or two.

If you think it’s all fun and part of life, et cetera, it isn’t. We pay for this lousy charade. The entrance fee is the toil of our lives; the prize-packets are empty.


In The Observer on 3rd March, under the heading “Myths of the Election”, a Professor King proposed and praised the syllogism “I am working class, Labour is for the working class, therefore I am Labour”. The logic is fine; the premise is false. Certainly the Labour Party was built on the blind hope of working men and women that something better than the capitalist system offers could be obtained from the capitalist system. But for those who are not blind, it has done untold harm to the working class. First, by simply administering capitalism (whenever it gets the chance) determinedly to show it can do the same as the Tories. Second and more important, by its debasement of the word Socialism to a hucksters’ slogan — turning the true answer to working-class problems into a synonym for worthless reform and compromise.

The Labour Party is anti-working-class, but let the position be clearly understood. Intentions good or bad do not come into it: indeed, they are determined by capitalism. Some Labour politicians know what they are doing, others do not. Some begin with ideals, others with the desire for a parliamentary career. The forming factor, however, is that Labour sets out to be a governing party — that is, to take on running the capitalist system. Given that, all the failures and “regrettable necessities” follow. Because there is no way capitalism will run except its own way, and whoever tries to direct it is directed by it instead.

Nevertheless, it is impossible not to be appalled by the sheer charlatanism of the Labour Party, the mixture of cunning and stupidity which all its life has characterized it. The world is full of disillusioned former Labourites, slapped down — any time in sixty years — from their belief that some line existed that their party would draw. The prototypes still belong to the first ascent to office in the nineteen-twenties. The "radicals” and “wild men” of 1924 dressing-up to bow and scrape to royalty; the first Labour Housing Minister anxiously disclaiming “real socialism” to profess “real capitalism”. As illustrative as any was Valentine McEntee. Standing on his Saturday-night soap-box he’d twirl his moustache and proclaim that when Labour ruled there would be no House of Lords; and there he lies in the local cemetery — a Lord himself, deceased.

Have times changed? Not at all. It was the Labour Party which won power overwhelmingly in 1945 with the claim “We are socialists, and proud of it” — for one of its leaders, Herbert Morrison, to announce a year later: “The Labour Party does not intend to abolish the profit motive” (speech reported in The Observer, 28.10.46). It was Labour leaders Wilson and Crossman who preened themselves on having kept working-class living standards down:
The fact is that since 1945 the British trade unionist could have enjoyed a far higher wage packet . . . Instead of doing so, however, they exercised extreme wage restraint. This they justified by pointing out to the worker the benefits he enjoyed under the Welfare State — food prices kept artificially low by food subsidies; rents kept artificially low by housing subsidies; rent restriction; and, in addition, the Health Service.
(R. Crossman, Daily Mirror 15.11.55).
I believe that the unions have shown great restraint since the war. In a sellers’ market they could have made and exacted much bigger claims for their members than they have done.
(H. Wilson, House of Commons 25.7.57)
The pride in this cheap-skate achievement was well founded. Under a Labour “wage restraint” policy 1947-51 the cost of living rose 29 per cent., wages by only 22 per cent.

Labour has attracted the pacifist element. It is difficult to see why, except in terms of total misapprehension of the Labour Party’s position. Its record on war and war preparation is indistinguishable from that of the Tories. It has supported capitalism’s wars just as jingoistically, and its government elected in 1950 launched the biggest rearmament drive in history. Labour leaders explained that the working class must suffer in the interests of war preparation:
This new defence programme is going to mean sacrifices from all of us. It will mean postponing for a time a rise in our standard of living.
(E. Shinwell, Minister of Defence, in a broadcast, Feb. 1951)
Let those who profess to be united with us in their resistance to aggression recognize that this resistance involves high costs and great sacrifices for the people of this country.
(H. Wilson, speech, 10.12.50)
The last Labour government promised and gave practical help to the Americans in the Vietnam war. Servicemen were trained and British airfields in the East used as U.S. bases; napalm was manufactured, and British companies sent large consignments of military equipment.

Gaitskell made Labour’s stance clear in a speech to the Vienna Conference in June 1957:
Before 1914 the Socialist International was a pacifist, revolutionary organization. That is neither relevant nor practical today.
(Reynolds’ News 7.6.57)

What of the recent Election and the new Labour government? It is worth recalling what the last one did, on the same issues of industrial relations, prices and incomes, and the Common Market. In the attacks on the Torys’ Industrial Relations Act, it appears to have been forgotten that the Labour government’s actions in 1965-66 also stampeded the Left. George Brown’s plan for an Incomes Bill was described by Clive Jenkins as “fundamentally authoritarian and anti-trade union” (Tribune, 17.9.65). Thirty Labour M.P.s abstained from voting on the Prices and Incomes Act of 1966, and the trade-union leader Frank Cousins resigned from the Government.

In the Election Wilson made prices his central issue, promising “a real, a radical, a relevant attack on rising prices”. So it was instructive to see Shirley Williams, immediately on her appointment as Secretary for Prices and Consumer Protection, saying there was little she could do:
Her aim was not so much to reduce prices which was impossible but to moderate the rate of inflation which was expected to rise from 12 to 15 per cent later this year.
(Guardian 7th March; our emphasis)
Did Wilson and his colleagues know it was impossible to reduce prices, when they were asking to be elected? Of course they did. Yet they went mouthing their hypocritical nonsense, trading on the hopes of hard-pushed working people — and on the good name of Socialism.

As for the Common Market, to be in or out makes no difference to working-class fortunes. No doubt most Labour leaders know that too, and look only for whatever political capital is afforded either way. For the sake of this, did rank-and-file Labour members really swallow Enoch Powell’s support, which was not repudiated and apparently worked to help catch votes? In 1964 Wilson described the Powellite M.P. for Smethwick as a “parliamentarv leper” for his racialism. Should he not have said the same to Powell in 1974?

For the record, Wilson supported Britain’s joining the Market in 1960 (“the Six have created a virile, expanding, dynamic community”); opposed it in 1962 (“we are not entitled to sell our friends and kinsmen down the river”); made it conditional in 1965 and 1966 (“we shall go in if the conditions are right”); became an enthusiast in 1967 (“really effective technological cooperation . . .  is possible only if we are in One Market”); and has now obtained election again by spreading an impression that Labour will get Britain out (and that it matters).

There is a literary phrase: “the willing suspension of disbelief”. That seems to be the condition for supporting Labour. Granted, they could do no better if the utmost probity were their rule — the capitalist system is intractable. But, on the evidence, there must be a willing suspension of disgust too. This is the party no Socialist would join or vote for.
Robert Barltrop

50 Years Ago: "Communists" & the Labour Party (1974)

The 50 Years Ago column from April 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

The alleged “Communist” believes in his ability to capture the Labour Party and “lead” it. So he alternately condemns that Party’s present “leaders” and supports them at election times.

He endeavours to justify this attitude by referring to a phrase in the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, to wit — “The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties”. In this he shows his lack of logic and historical knowledge.

In the first place the present-day “Communists” do form a separate party and the alleged “Labour” Party has opposed their admission into its ranks. Secondly the phrase quoted above is, in its practical application, “antiquated because”, in Engels' own words, “the political situation has been entirely changed and the progress of history has swept from off the earth” the working class parties referred to. (See Engels’ Preface 1888).

What was the political situation at the time Marx and Engels penned their historic document ? Briefly, the open political arena was confined to the representatives of the various sections of the master-class. The workers were not enfranchised and were reduced to a fight for political elbow room. Under such conditions it was practically impossible for the Communists to form an independent political party.

They stood for the conquest of political power by the workers as the means of achieving the social revolution, but the technical means of this conquest, i.e. the franchise, had yet to be acquired. Hence the Communists supported, in England, the Chartists and similar bodies on the Continent. This in itself is a significant fact which the workers would do well to bear in mind when latter-day “Communists” pretend to ridicule the franchise as a political weapon, what time they are not urging the workers to use it to put in office the traitors of the Labour Party.

Since that day the modern socialist tactics have been both a possibility and a necessity. Nothing now prevents a revolutionary party openly proclaiming its objective and calling upon the workers to organise for its establishment. While, on the other hand, every political party seeks the support of the workers only one party can represent their interests. That party is the Socialist Party.
[From an article “Socialist Tactics” by Eric Boden, in the Socialist Standard, April 1924.]

The Fragmenting Left (1974)

From the June 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism and nothing less is our aim. Our opponents, “left” though they may be, stand in the way of its achievement. They help to keep the workers confused by presenting as revolutionary and Socialist, their way-out schemes that are no more than reforms to patch up capitalism. We do not doubt their sincerity but are convinced that they, the left, do not understand the problems they are trying to solve. Under capitalism the propertyless wealth-producers and their families suffer poverty . . . whilst the non-producing owners of the means of production enjoy the affluence derived from surplus value created by the workers.

Capitalism involves private property, production for sale with a view to profit, wages, rent, interest and profit. Experience has amply endorsed the proposition that this form of society cannot be made to work in the interest of the wage-earners. The answer to working-class poverty is Socialism. This will involve the means of production being held in common, with democratic control thereof in the interest of society as a whole and production solely for use. There will be no more employers nor employees, no more buying and selling, and no more working for wages.

The Socialist Party came into existence for the sole purpose of winning a majority for Socialism. The case was reviewed in the editorial of this journal for June 1905 and summed up as follows:
  The formation of a new party was rendered imperative by the falling away of the SDF from the paths of political right-doing . . . Looking around them [some members of the SDF] in the political world they saw that organisations of the half-way house character were obtaining a larger measure of support, . . . they set themselves to the task of winning their own organisation to a similar position and to the adoption of a similar line of action.
   In this they were highly successful . . . The founders [of the Socialist Party] were fully alive to the fact that such spade work had to be performed . . .  It is easier to gain adherents to belief in a small palliative reform than to gain them to a new philosophy based upon an understanding of the material foundations of modem industrial slavery. But in the former case the adherents are not adherents for Socialism, in the latter case they are.
The Social Democratic Federation continued its service to political confusion after the formation of the SPGB. It eventually became the British Socialist Party and helped to found the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920. During the first world war, Hyndman, the founder and father-figure, was expelled.

An earlier split from the SDF occurred in 1903, when the Socialist Labour Party was formed in Scotland. It was modelled on the SLP of America, a party that came to emphasize the economic side of the class struggle to the detriment of the political. The SLP were very active in the day-to-day struggle in their early years and many of the “Red Clydesiders” came from their ranks. In the SLP scheme of things, all workers engaged in a particular industry would belong to the union covering it, regardless of their trade or profession.

These unions would organize the workers for the task of seizing and holding the means of production by “locking the capitalist out”. The union would then act as the basic unit of organization in the new society. The SLP look upon existing unions as reactionary by virtue of their acceptance of capitalism, their undemocratic organization and leaders who function as “labour lieutenants” of the capitalist class. What they do not understand is that these factors indicate a lack of Socialist consciousness among workers. Nor do they recognise that capitalists play no part in production and are in fact already locked out.

For their emancipation, the working class must capture political power. The perfecting of trade union organization is a Utopian dream; unions are part of the workers’ defensive organization within capitalist society and they naturally have many of the ugly features of that society. The lesson that the SLP and many others have still to learn is that shop floor organization can only palliate, not remove, workers’ problems. Practically nothing has been seen of the SLP in Britain lately. There were a number of resignations, mainly in America during the late 1960's and groups formed to rescue “Industrial Unionism” from a moribund SLP.

The 1914 War shattered the Second International to which the “halfway house” parties had belonged. Nearly all proved to be patriotic, and their internationalism consisted in urging workers to slaughter each other on battlefields. The Bolsheviks had stood out against the war and bitterly criticized those who turned patriot. Yet they took power in Russia and were convinced that capitalism was about to fall. However, the working class stayed loyal to the system that exploits them. They had never given any sign of doing otherwise.

The ranks of the would-be leaders of the working class were split between the followers of the Moscow-dominated Third International and national Labour leaders. Whenever parties of either group got power the consequences for Socialism were grim. The development of state capitalism in Russia and the efforts of Labour to run capitalism were mistaken for Socialism and added further confusion to be overcome.

By the early ’thirties two minority Labour governments had come and gone. Part of the leadership went into the National Government that was set up to cope with the economic crisis and record unemployment. Another result was that the Independent Labour Party split from them and set out into the political wilderness, and have never returned. They had helped to set up the Labour Party and many of that party’s leaders and MPs were from the ILP. The disaffiliated ILP was no more Socialist than the Labour party it had left. With capitalism in crisis certain prominent ILPers were confidently expecting its collapse. The Chairman of the ILP, a certain Mr. Fenner Brockway, predicted “a bloodless revolution possibly within the next four years” (Manchester Guardian 25 April 1932). There was no collapse and no revolution, but many years later Lord Brockway joined the Labour contingent in the same House of Lords that they had once been so keen to abolish.

Meanwhile the men of Moscow had been making heavy weather. The theory of “Socialism in one country” replaced their earlier plea for world revolution. This swapping of illusions did not go down well in some quarters and a “left opposition” under Trotsky developed. Splits followed in other parties of the Third International. Both sides were addicted to a belief in the need for leadership and were agreed on many essentials. Their differences centred on the quality and personalities of the opposing leaders, Stalin and Trotsky. Trotsky lost out and was banished. He eventually concluded that the Third International had ceased to be an instrument of revolution and declared the need for a fourth international. In his The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International (1938) he states:
  The objective prerequisites for the proletarian revolution have not only “ripened”, they have begun to get somewhat rotten . . . The Historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of revolutionary leadership . . . It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demands and the socialist programme of the revolution. This bridge should include a system of Transitional Demands. 
And commenting on the social-democrats’ maximum and minimum programmes: “no bridge existed. And indeed Social Democracy has no need for such a bridge, since the word Socialism is only used for holiday speechifying” (Merit Edition pages 5 and 7).

Pity the poor worker seeking leadership. For over the years “the crisis of the revolutionary leadership” has multiplied and there are now several Fourth Internationals competing with each other to supply that service. At present the Workers’ Revolutionary Party (formerly Socialist Labour League), International Marxist Group and Revolutionary Workers’ Party (Trotskyist) all claim to be the British section of the Fourth International. There are numerous other groups offering variations on a theme by Trotsky.

He was wrong, of course. The objective prerequisites for proletarian revolution have not ripened. For it is not leadership that the working class needs but Socialist understanding. With it, they will establish Socialism. Nor will this knowledge come by means of transitional demands, for they are nothing but reforms. They do not form a bridge but a diversion. For in order to get support for these demands, their merits must be propagated and shown to be superior not only to other reforms but also to the demand that capitalism be abolished.

Organizations so engaged give all attention to the immediate and not the final demand and, as Trotsky put it, only mention Socialism in their holiday speechifying. They do not even do that nowadays if the urgent call to action published in the Mayday 1973 issue of Workers Press (daily organ of WRP) is anything to go by. To replace the Tories they wanted "a Labour government which is pledged by the mass action of the working class to implement socialist policies.” Even though the Labour party has never been Socialist, they could easily promise any of the policies advocated by Workers Press. In particular, the “Socialist United States of Europe” is so much eye wash; the alternative to the Common Market (and all other markets) is production for use.

The Russo-Chinese split arising from the conflict of material interests between these two capitalist countries was cloaked by a propaganda barrage that would have us believe that it was over the interpretation of Lenin’s views on the conduct of revolution.

More importantly, they exposed the non-Socialist nature of society in those countries by their mutual recriminations. The Chinese claim that capitalism is being restored in Russia, whilst the formerly "Maoist”

Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain claim that the same is happening in China. Both claims are nonsense. Capitalism has been developing all the time the so-called Communist parties have governed there. Just as the workers cannot be led to Socialism, nor can they be led away.

The Maoist split from the CPGB did not result in a united party. A great many mutually hostile groups proclaiming Maoism as the answer to the workers’ woes have come into being. The shock of the Sino-Soviet split and the need to rethink has produced such gems as this: “Despite the continued use of Marxist terminology the line of the Soviet leadership should be seen as being no different from that churned out for years by the social democrats — socialism and peace in words — bourgeois dictatorship and imperialism in actions”. (Documents of Communist Federation of Britain [Marxist Leninist], p.6). Once it is seen that the “Marxism” of the Soviets is no different from that of the Social Democrats, it is then but a short step to seeing that the same applies to the “Marxism” of Mao Tse Tung.

These breakaway groups (Trotskyites and Maoists) have directed much of their fire at the CPGB.(They believe that this would-be appendage of the Labour Party has deviated from the path of revolution. Neither the breakaways nor the CPGB were ever on it!) The pamphlet Ultra Left in Britain was the CPGB’S answer. The groups were treated as though they were separate entities; yet their point of departure was the “Communist International”. The CPGB is part of the “old block” from which all these chips have come. Whilst it is true enough that capitalism generates the discontent that is expressed in political protest, the nature of its fragmentation owes much to the illusions peddled by the Bolsheviks and their followers.

The Socialist Party after seventy years of consistent effort to win the working class to Socialism is still opposed by those who find “it is easier to gain adherents to belief in a small palliative reform”. All those years of experience have shown that “the adherents are not adherents for Socialism”. Over the years the evidence confirming the correctness of the Socialist Party’s case has accumulated. Much of it concerns the rise and fall of parties of the Left. Capitalism has done much of the work for us. Only the Socialist Party can impart the knowledge to overcome political confusion.
Joe Carter



Language, Class and Nation (1981)

From the October 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the most remarkable things about human beings is their possession and use of language. Within a few shorts years, every person acquires a knowledge of their native language, including a vocabulary of thousands of words, enabling them to express original ideas and communicate to others on all sorts of topics. Language is also one of the most specifically human attributes, for no other animal possesses a communication system anywhere near as flexible and useful as human language. Animals such as bees and sticklebacks can convey a united range of information to each other but cannot, for example, refer to events in the past or future. The languages of the world, with their rich structures and histories, are a fascinating subject of study. But in the class divided society of capitalism, language is a basis for hostility, prejudice and discrimination.

Our impressions of other people are partly formed by the way they speak. Too often people are regarded as ignorant or unintelligent because they pronounce  the r in a word like cart, say they was, or use a double negative (as in I ain’t done nothing): they are condemned for speaking a “sub-standard” dialect. But from a linguistic point of view, there are no such things as sub-dialects, only non-standard ones which is very different. In the course of a language’s development, one particular form of it, usually that spoken in. a particularly powerful or important area, becomes the standard dialect. This means that it is taught in schools, used in literature, and then spread by radio and television. Becoming powerful and “successful” in such a society usually entails becoming proficient in the standard dialect, so that speakers of other dialects are looked down on as backward and uncultured. But prejudices of this kind are social, not linguistic, judgements. Every dialect of a language, standard or otherwise, is linguistically as good as any other; I ain’t done nothing conveys the same meaning as the standard I haven’t done anything. Speaking a non-standard dialect does not make a person stupid, untrustworthy, or whatever.

Prejudice against non-standard speakers is taken even further when it is said that they have no proper language at all. In particular, some psychologists have argued that black children in the United States have no grammar and speak merely by stringing a few words together. This type of misconception arises from a failure to realise that the children in question simply have a different grammar from standard English. For instance, when a black kid says they mine, is not simply putting two words together (in the way that young children may do).  Instead, this is his equivalent of standard they’re mine, both being reduced forms of they are mine (in standard speech, are is “contracted”, in non-standard it is deleted). The claim that black children have practically no language has been put forward as explaining why they do so badly in American schools, justifying a “compensatory education” designed to make the child fit into the school system. Obviously, this avoids the less comforting conclusion that the children do badly because of the appalling conditions they live in!

A slightly more sophisticated version of this verbal deprivation theory is associated with the name of Basil Bernstein. Bernstein draws a distinction between elaborated and restricted codes, the elaborated code being less tied to the specific “here and now” context than the restricted code. It is claimed that “middle-class” children have access to both codes, while manual working-class children have access to the restricted code only. Allegedly (and Bernstein is none too particular about citing actual data) a “middle-class” child will tend to describe the scene in a picture by saying Three boys are playing football and one boy kicks the ball, while a working-class child tends to describe the same picture by saying They’re playing football and he kicks it. From anecdotes like this, he leaps to the conclusion that, as the elaborated code is expected to be used in school, working class children’s lack of access to the elaborated code is the reason for their comparatively poor scholastic performance. Quite apart from the incorrect view of class, this is unacceptable. All children are able, outside the artificial experimental situations referred to by Bernstein, to use a range of styles, from formal to informal. All speakers of a language, whatever their social status, speak a language which is as flexible and creative as that of any other speaker.

It should also be stated that there is no such thing as a primitive language. No language which exists today, or for which past records are available, consists of just a few words and no true rules of grammar. Nor are there a people, however primitive their way of life, which does not possess a language which is perfectly adequate for all the uses to which its speakers put it. Even where a language lacks a particular concept because its speakers do not need it, they are not cognitively unable to handle it. For instance, some Australian aboriginal languages have no words for numbers higher than two (just words for a few and many), but when their speakers learn English they have no difficulty in mastering the English numerical system and counting as high as you like. There are no such things as backward races speaking primitive languages.

But different people do speak different languages. In a rational society, there would be no reason for this to cause problems, but in capitalism it is the cause of much misery. Nearly every country in the world has more than one language spoken within it (even excluding recent immigrants). Great Britain, for example, has English, Welsh and Gaelic, while Spain has Spanish, Catalan and Basque. Where one language is spoken by an overwhelming majority of the population, that is likely to be the country’s official language. Members of a linguistic minority may be discriminated against in various ways: no books or newspapers may be published in their language, it may not be the medium of teaching in schools, and so on. Speakers of a minority language will often need to learn the official language in order to “get on”. Resentment against such treatment may lead to the demand for political autonomy, as a means of converting a linguistic minority into a linguistic majority, for instance the aim of an independent Basque state. Let it be said that discrimination on the grounds of language is as odious as discrimination on grounds of race. Nevertheless, the call for independence as a means of ending linguistic oppression is not one that workers should support.

To start with, people do not live in blocks consisting of speakers of only one language (there is no part of Wales where no English is spoken), so that independence would create new linguistic minorities. The demand that speakers of each language should have their own nation also overlooks the consideration that the distinction between a language and a dialect is by no means clear-cut. The standard definition is that, unlike different languages, dialects of the same language are mutually intelligible, but this raises a number of problems. Intelligibility is a matter of degree, may go in one direction only, and is not transitive (which means. that dialects A and B may be mutually intelligible, and also B and C, but not A and C). Between Paris and Rome there is a chain of dialects, each intelligible with its neighbour, even though the end-points, standard French and Italian, are not mutually intelligible; on purely linguistic grounds, it is not possible to draw a sharp distinction between dialects of Italian and of French, or between those of Dutch and German. In practice, language and dialect are defined in cultural and political terms, and any attempt to define a nation or state in terms of language is circular. As one American linguist aptly put it, “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy”.

But above all, independence does not solve the economic problems of the speakers of a minority language. A separate Basque state would not free Basque workers from unemployment, insecurity and exploitation. These are caused by the economic set-up of society, not by the wrong placement of political frontiers. Capitalism is a world-wide society, and no part of it can escape from world trends and crises. Separatism, whether motivated on linguistic or other grounds, offers precisely nothing to the working class.

Socialism, too, will be a world society, but one without states or frontiers. The concept of linguistic minority will then have no meaning. A language with comparatively small numbers. of speakers will not be discriminated against, and there will be no problem about arranging education in that language, if its speakers so wish. Publishing material in that language will not be restricted by considerations of profit, but by the needs of its speakers. It is possible that an invented auxiliary language, such as Esperanto or Ido, will be used to facilitate communication between speakers of different languages. We look forward to a world in which learning another language will not be the drudge it so often is today, but an enjoyable adventure. All children could be brought up bilingual, and then travel to other parts of the globe to learn a language in its native environment. Becoming multilingual in this way would be the best way of becoming a true citizen of the world socialist community. Socialist society will mean the liberation of all mankind, without distinction of race, sex or language. We ain’t seen nothing yet.
Paul Bennett

The Socialist in Action – the Two “Possiblisms” by P. M. Andre (1908)

From the November 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is only one Socialism, but there are at the same time two ways of conceiving its realisation: the scientific way – that of the international Socialism – and the “possiblist”. Quite a large number of French Socialists have for a long time been suffering from the latter. Scientific Socialism does not believe that the Social Revolution can be brought about by stages. It is waiting for the social change to take place through the seizure of political power by the working class, and it is with a view to that seizing by force that it is organising the proletariat into a class party. The efforts it makes are all those of recruiting, educating, and organising. To get the greatest number of workers, both hand and brain, to understand that, in the words of  Sieyès, “they are everything in the nation, and can be everything whenever they want to”, to show them that the inevitable necessity for socialising the means of production, to draw them towards Socialism by a propaganda they can understand, and suited to their respective spheres; to use, in order that this propaganda should be as effective as possible, every means at our disposal under capitalist rule, legal means being thereby understood; to repudiate any proceeding capable of doing harm to the recruiting and educating of the masses – such are the essential methods of international Socialism.

This method has for reformers the serious inconvenience of condemning Socialists to what certain busy people call “inaction”. To recruit, educate and organise is, it seems, to do nothing. We must, perforce, wait until the recruiting, educating and organising of the proletariat is far enough advanced for the revolutionary seizure of the “State” to be brought to a triumphant issue.

And those who, in imitation of [the] Roy [king] of France, are “afraid to wait”, are full of praise for a swifter method, that of “possibilism”. By virtue of this last they begin the revolution all at once. This beginning takes place in different ways: by peaceful penetration or by direct action. They pretend to “act according to one’s temperament” but in fact, try to realise, from this very moment, in the midst of capitalist rule, all the immediate possibilities of slices of socialism. On the one hand they are associated with bourgeois reformers, in order to make popular and vote for reforms which, if added together, end to end, all along the centuries, will accomplish the transformation of property “without a blow being struck”. On the other hand, not having enough patience to recruit, educate and organise their workmen comrades, they reckon solely on the “active minority” in order to reduce in succession the rights of the masters, and for the expropriation of capitalism, workshop by workshop and factory by factory.

Radical “possiblists” and Anarchist “possiblists” have each in turn made trial of their own method. Every one of their experiments has proved an admirable lesson in facts for the French proletariat. The attempt made in 1893 by the railway union showed that merely proclaiming “general strike” and voting for it at congress was not sufficient for this pretended possibility of freedom to be actually realised by the will of a bold minority. Bomb-rule à la Ravachol and Emile Henry ended in a complete fiasco. Millerand’s entry into the ministry proved that “peaceful penetration” in the Government laboratory changed the victor into a servant of the bourgeoisie. The recent manoeuvre of revolutionary syndicalism only succeeded in decoying into a military trap those whose eyes were blinded by direct action. Finally, even the supreme manifestation, by which the General Federation of Labour [CGT] wished to protest against the massacre of its troops, could not reach its full extent, because the active minority by itself alone would not be able to arrange for a general cessation of work, if only for the space of 24 hours. On the contrary, the 21st section of the Livre, because it is an educated and organised union, because it has not exhausted its adherents by ceaseless strikes, was able, inspite of the uncertainty of the movement, to save the honour of union organisation.

Thus, one after another, all the workings of “possibilism”: reformist and Governmental preparation, Anarchist preparation, far from being the beginnings of the Social Revolution, have provided capitalist Governments with an occasion for easy victories.

Victories of a day, doubtless, for if the hard lessons of experience discourage for a moment those amongst our people who “do not know how to wait”, the greatest number of militant workers derive from those lessons greater confidence in the old method of international Socialism. Don’t let us look for impossibilism under the pretext of possibilism. To fight by hundreds against thousands, with stones or wretched revolvers against sharpened swords and repeating rifles is useless heroism. Firing on proletarians in uniform, while exhorting them not to fire upon proletarians in work-a-day dress, is to put back the hour when the army will be on the side of the insurrection. To excite by vain threats public opinion against workmen’s organisations is to fetter the work of education which should go on before and at length make possible the Social Revolution. Let us get ready for the victory of the proletariat by preparing the forces indispensable for that victory: recruiting, educating and organising.
P. M. Andre

(Translated  for the Socialist Standard from Le Socialisme by Fritz)

Party Pars (1908)

Party News from the December 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

Two new branches have been formed during November. At Nottingham and at Stoke Newington. Socialists in either place are invited to communicate with the respective secretaries, for whose addresses see Branch Directory on the last page.

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The Burnley Branch are still on the war path. They journeyed one Sunday to Accrington, where the S.D P. were demonstrating. The latter wanted questions — when they got them from the S P.G.B. they wanted to apply the closure. The audience preferred to hear questions answered, but were nevertheless disappointed. Is there any answer to the S.P.G.B?

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During the period since the issue of the November number, the Delegate Meeting has been held, and for the first time since the formation of the Party, extended into a second day.

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A correspondent writes from Durham enquiring for Socialists in the district. He has searched the I.L.P. and other organisations and not found one yet. We are not surprised the I.L.P. is among the least likely places to find them.

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After the disappointment of the Watford Branch in E. E. Hunter, S.D.P., slipping off the hook just when they had nearly landed him in a debate, they have succeeded in fixing up Councillor Gorle, S.D.P., to debate with our representative. He chose the subject of debate, which is peculiar: “That the S.P.G.B.  is not the only Socialist party in this country, and that it is delaying the Social Revolution ’’ By the time this appears in print the debate will be a matter of history, but it gives one pause how a Socialist party can delay that, the achievement of which constitutes itself. Perhaps it is another sample of the notorious S.D.P. "mixed thinking."

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Battersea have had a side slip. Carmichael, as blatant at ever, challenged our representative from the S.D.P. platform to debate the proposition “that the S.P.G.B. is not worthy the support of the working-class.’’ This was accepted from Carmichael as representing the S.D.P., but when negotiations were getting interesting he discovered that the matter was not one of public interest, and should be discussed only “before members of Socialist organisations.” And this objection being over ridden, agreed to debate if the S.D.P. were not mentioned! A remarkable instance of the length that can be reached by ingenious casuistry.

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Someone at Tottenham—a local aspirant to municipal honours—accepted a challenge to debate, and took care to impose conditions which could not possibly be tolerated, viz, that he should choose who should or should not be our representative. This proved another disappointment.

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Awhile ago the S.D.P. were holding a meeting at Stoke Newington, and in the course of the discussion the speaker informed a member of our Party not to interrupt their meeting but to go to some other corner and hold a meeting of our own, or to go to Tottenham and expose the S.D.P.! We did both. Taking advantage of his admission that the S.D.P. could be exposed, and, going to Amhurst Road, Stoke Newington at the first opportunity, held a meeting. The result is announced in the first of these Party Pars.
Dick Kent

Keir Hardie in Canada (1908)

From the December 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Western Clarion (of British Columbia) and many of its readers seem to be under no delusions either as to the sort of job Keir Hardie was attempting to manage during his recent visit in that part of the Empire which we call “ours,” or of the possibilities of the job, assuming it could be accomplished. We reproduce the three extracts which follow with thanks.
  “Keir Hardie, we are told, is to attend the Trades Congress at Halifax, for the special purpose of bringing together the forces of Socialism and Trades Unionism as they have been brought together in the Old Country.
   "We are very much afraid that neither the Socialists nor the Trades Unions will bite. The proposition is just a little too raw. Stripped of all wordy ornament it just amounts to this: That the Socialists shall put their hands in the Trade Union’s pocket and their principles in their own.”—LEADING ARTICLE.
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  “So Keir Hardie is coming to Canada on a special mission of inducing the Socialist Party and the Independent labourites to get together for united political action. Well, he has undertaken a contract that all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t accomplish. He is attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable. That he should think of such a thing shows how little he knows of the uncompromising revolutionary spirit of the Socialists of British Columbia and Ontario. He is harking up the wrong tree, and displays the fatal spirit, of compromise which is the weak spot in the Anglo-Saxon character, and has done more than anything else to retard the growth of genuine Socialism in England and in fact among English-speaking people generally.
   “There is and can be no common ground between the Socialist whose end and aim is the abolition of wage slavery and the ownership by the workers of the machinery of production and distribution, and the man who simply wants to effect a few ameliorations of the lot of the wage slave. The Socialist recognises that at this stage of the game the all essential thing to be done is to educate the workers to want and insist upon Socialism as the only permanent and effective remedy and uses elections simply as a means of propaganda, He wants first and foremost to make Socialists. The Independent Labour man merely wants to make votes. The Socialist knows that votes are no good unless there are clear-cut convictions behind them. The Independent Labour man expects to carry everything with a hurrah! and when his candidate comes in among the “also rans” is apt to get cold feet. The Socialist knows that all that can be done at present is to lay foundations, and wants to lay them good and strong on the bed-rock of scientific truth. The other fellow wants to win the election any old way and get something right here and now. The Socialist knows that a desperate, long-seated disease can't be cured suddenly by any quack remedy, and will only yield to a long course of treatment. The Independent Labour man ignores the root of the disease and wants to doctor the symptoms. Phillips Thomson."
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  “Keir Hardie. M.P., with his wife and daughter, has been visiting Toronto this week and the capitalist Press has been full of his doings. I’ll content myself with reporting a meeting I had with him a year ago. After the usual preliminaries I enquired’ ‘Comrade Hardie, I’d like to know your position on the class struggle."
  ‘ “There is no class struggle,’ he replied, following this up with a denunciation of the 'foolish’ tactics followed by the Socialist Party of Canada.
  “Having had some experience in publishing Labour and Socialist papers, I know it’s difficult at that game to get enough to buy a decent meal ticket, let alone tour the world with a family. Knowing, too, that a man won't grow rich on the salary paid a British M P. or out of the contributions to M.P.s by the union men, it puzzles me to figure out how Ramsay MacDonald, Keir Hardie, Victor Grayson and such men manage to finance these globe-trotting expeditions. If any comrade can enlighten me I'll promise to send the suggestion on to the Dominion executive so that if the game is straight the path of the next organiser sent out to our Canada for our Party will be made a little more easy than this summer's trip by the 'Old Man.' G. W. Wrigley."