Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Reflections on the Dock Strike (1954)

From the December 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

With Capitalism the class war is never calm for very long. We started this year with an article on the Railway Workers strike and here we are at the end of it reflecting on yet another outbreak of industrial strife.

Now that things have quietened down a bit and Dockland is back at work, let us soberly take a look at a few of the facts which present themselves.

We are always being told by politicians and Press that the Capitalist class are the “Captains of Industry,” or “The backbone of the Nation,” without whom none of us could survive for long.

A strike such as the October dock strike shows in no uncertain way who the useful people of society really are. When Lord Do-nothing and Lady Do-less, our employers, are yachting on the Mediterranean or roughing it in Monte Carlo their absence goes unnoticed but when the dock- workers walk out on strike, chaos reigns.

Of course “now” is never the time to strike according to the Capitalist Press and they can always find plenty of excuses why pay claims are unfair or a strike to improve conditions is “crazy.” However, they always remain silent on the embarrassing question that if the working class who produce ALL the wealth are not entitled to it, how is the Capitalist Class which produces NOTHING, entitled to any?

One fact is obvious, the strike is the only real weapon the workers have on the industrial field, and while they remain a class of wage slaves the right to withhold the sale of their labour power when the conditions for its sale are repressive must remain.

Compulsory overtime is a repressive condition.

The persuasive powers of the Capitalist Press will always try to divide the rest of the workers against the strikers; this is an old game, but there are signs of workers getting wise to it. The strength of the workers when on strike lies in their solidarity and, looking to the time when they really wake up and organise politically with us for Socialism, a solid, world-wide, Socialist working class would hold every trump in the pack.

According to The Observer for 31st October, 1954, “Some £6 to £7 million worth of imports and £5 to £6 million of exports were held up daily.”

This paper also tells us that industries ranging from toy making to motor cars and from dairy produce to rubber manufactures, in places as far flung as Australia, New Zealand and Malaya, have been hit. Although some workers are said to have had “overtime cuts,” in general the pain comes from the loss of profits and the dread that the employers may “never regain the business loss.”’

It is interesting to note that the troops were not used during this strike, due to the peculiar way the strike developed and it looked as though the dockers were going to return a week before they actually did. All the necessary preparations were made, orders had been sent out to various military headquarters but to avoid jeopardizing the chances of a settlement, the orders were not proceeded with.

No Government hesitates for long to use the armed forces. Tory, Liberal and Labour Governments have done so in the past. Any party running Capitalism has in the name of Capital to keep the system going. In this connection we might cast our minds back to the methods used to smash the strike in East Berlin; we then witnessed the spectacle of the Daily Worker upholding the brutality while the rest of the British Capitalist Press (for their own reasons) showed “sympathy” for the strikers. We find them all out in the end.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has no hidden “motives,” our tongue is not in our cheek; any improvements or gains the workers can obtain under Capitalism they, as the sole producers, are more than entitled to.

However, in conclusion, let us make it clear where we stand. We maintain that the strikes and lockouts, the wars and hardships of Capitalism arise, directly out of the fact that the means of living are owned by the few, the many are therefore a propertyless-class who must work for wages in order to live. The antagonism between employers and workers will know no end while the wealth of the one is derived from the exploitation of the other.

THE VERY EXISTENCE OF WAGES AT ALL shows the economic enslavement of the working class to be a fact.

All the dairy produce of New Zealand, the car factories of Australia, the rubber plantations of Malaya, together with the rest of the land, mills, mines, factories and means of transport constitute what belongs to the Capitalist class and through our work keeps them wealthy and us poor. Only when these things are held in common by all mankind, when the wages system is abolished and things produced solely for use instead of profit, will the need to strike be gone for ever.
Harry Baldwin

The A.B.C. of Anarchism (1955)

From the December 1955 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is Anarchism?
Anarchists say that [it] is the negation of governmental authority and State interference in the life of the individual and of the community as a whole. Anarchists claim that anarchism is a condition of society where all live “in freedom"—a "free" society. As we shall see later this “free" society envisaged by anarchists can mean almost anything.

To the anarchist the cause of most of the evils that beset us today is the existence of government and a coercive state apparatus. The anarchist does not seem to see the State as part of a private property society; as something that has come into existence with the emergence of private property relationships; as an (undesirable and coercive) effect of present-day society. .

The State and Government are THE CAUSE of all our troubles, they say.

Many, but not all anarchists hold that forms of parental, educational and religious authority cause or contribute to the problems of general—and particularly sexual—neurosis. Most, but not all anarchists oppose all forms of external authority—although there are a number of Catholic anarchists in America, and possibly elsewhere, who accept the authority of Rome.

Many kinds of Anarchists
Although most anarchists envisage and desire a future state of society which they call Anarchism (from the Greek word Anarkia, “a condition of being without government") there are many schools of anarchist thought —almost as many as there are anarchists

Some anarchists are Pacifists, whilst others are advocates or defenders of various kinds of violence. Thus, Alexander Berkman in his A.B.C. of Anarchism (first published in America as What Is Communist Anarchism?):—
  "Yes, Anarchists have thrown bombs and have resorted to violence . . . under certain conditions a man may have to resort to violence." (p. 11).
In all fairness tojthe anarchists, bomb-throwing is now no longer popular among anarchists—particularly the British ones.

Many anarchists combine anarchism with syndicalism—the theory of the General Strike and industrial action as a revolutionary method. They are known as anarcho-syndicalists. Whilst followers of Peter Kropotkin—the “Anarchist Prince” (there are no anarchist princes in this country, only Knights!)—and later Alexander Berkman, both Russians, are usually known as “Communist- anarchists" as they also advocate the common or collective ownership of the land and the means and factors of production. Their method of achieving their object is usually through the general strike. It is syndicalist in method, and Communist in objective.

The anarcho-syndicalists advocate the workers’ control of the factories and workshops in which they work, i.e. the coalmines would be controlled and run, and owned, by the coalminers, the railways by the railway men. etc.

As stated above, there are very many kinds and varieties of anarchists and anarchism. Not all anarchists are Communists or Syndicalists. Some are Individualists, other Mutualists. Even today Max Stirner has his advocates, and Proudhon is not yet forgotten.

Whilst Communist-anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists advocate the general strike, or the overthrow or smashing-up of the State, the Individualists and Mutualists do not believe in revolution. They think that our present society will gradually develop into anarchy—almost like the Fabians! The Individualists also uphold the right of the individual to own private property. They advocate “free" competition—truly an utopian bourgeois concept!

Practice what they Preach?
Although all anarchists claim to be opposed to government, the use of the ballot, and the so-called Western and Eastern ways of life, this does not prevent them, when they think fit, supporting these governments, institutions, or “ ways of life."

For example, the well-known Belgian anarchist. G. Emestan. writing in Freedom (1/3/52). said:—
  “The rearmament of Western Europe it necessary. and victory of the West in case of war it desirable: let us be frankly and sincerely with Truman."
Or more important, the support that the anarchists gave to the Russian Revolution and the Bolsheviks.

From the beginning the Socialist Party said that the Russian Revolution was a “bourgeois” revolution; that it would not and could not emancipate the workers and peasants of Russia from poverty and exploitation; but that it would result in a new class society—a society of new rulers and oppressors. But not the anarchists.

Most of the anarchists all over the world supported both the February and October “revolutions” of 1917.

Nowadays, like the followers of the late Leon Trotsky, they say that the revolution was “betrayed”; it failed. Alexander Berkman, in his A.B.C. of Anarchism, supported both the 1917 revolutions but admitted that “ the masses lacked both consciousness and definite purpose”! But. the following admission of Emma Goldman, another well- known Russian anarchist, should damn the anarchists for all time. In “Trotsky Protests Too Much” (published in Glasgow by the “Anarchist-Communist Federation ”) she wrote:—
   ‘‘During the four years’ civil war in Russia the Anarchists almost to a man stood by the Bolsheviki, though they grew more daily conscious of the impending collapse of the Revolution. They felt in duty bound to keep silent and to avoid everything that would bring aid and comfort to the enemies of the Revolution.” (p. 15).
When it suits them anarchists will support any movement or form of government, democratic or totalitarian.

But it was not only during the first few years of the Communist Government in Soviet Russia that some of the anarchists supported its leaders. Writing in 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, Felix Morrow in his book, “Revolution and Counter-revolution in Spain,” shows us how low anarchists can sink:—
  “Currying favour with Stalin, the Anarchist leaders had been guilty of such statements as that of Montseny: 'Lenin was not the true builder of Russia, but rather Stalin, with his practical realism.’ The Anarchist press had preserved a dead silence about the Moscow trials and purges, publishing only the official news reports. The C.N.T. (Anarchist 'trade unions’) leaders even ceased to defend their Anarchist comrades in Russia when the Anarchist, Erich Muehson, was murdered by Hitler, and his wife sought refuge in the Soviet Union, only to be imprisoned shortly after her arrival, the C.N.T leadership stifled the protest movement in the C.N.T. ranks. Even when the Red generals were shot, the C.N.T. organs published only the official bulletins." (pp. 127-8).
At this time prominent anarchist leaders in Spain were helping the Republican Government in its war with Franco and the German and Italian Interventionists. Anarchist leaders, like Montseny, were either—or had recently been—members of the Central Madrid or Catalan Governments. And the Government had, for some time past, been receiving war supplies from the Soviet Government.

Anarchists in Spain
Ever since the days of Bakounine and the break-up of the first Working Men’s International, the anarchists have been most numerous in Spain—probably the most backward nation in Europe; which, perhaps, explains why the anarchists are so strong there.

The majority of anarchists in Spain were also members of the C.N.T. (ConfederaciĆ³n Nacional de Trabajo— the National Confederation of Labour). Its leaders were also often prominent members of the F.A.I. (FederaciĆ³n Anarquista Iberia—the Anarchist Federation of Iberia).

According to Felix Morrow the C.N.T. leadership was sympathetic to the Russian Revolution, and in fact sent a delegate to the Comintern Congress in 1921. Although supposedly opposed to politics and political parties, Spanish anarchism had, in the F.A.I., a highly centralised Party apparatus, through which it could maintain control of the C.N.T.

In the February, 1936, election in Spain the anarchists, who had in the past, abstained (anarchists are supposed to be opposed to any form of voting) voted for the Popular Front. The “left” parties increased their vote by about a million over the 1933 election. D. A. Santillan admits that this can, to a great extent, be put down to the anarchist vote. Santillan was a leading member of the F.A.I., organiser of the anti-Fascist militias in Catalonia, and later an anarchist minister in the Catalan Government. In his book, “Porque Perdimos la Guerra,” he says:—
  “We gave power to the Left parties, convinced that in the circumstances they represented a lesser evil.”
We seem to have heard this “lesser evil” argument before somewhere!

Afterwards anarchists entered both the Madrid and Catalan Governments. On November 4th, 1936, four members of the C.N.T. entered the Caballero Government.

Supposed opponents of war, government, the ballot box and “ democracy,” the anarchists in Spain—and elsewhere—have supported all these things.

They are neither consistent nor logical. They are both opportunist and utopian.

In Britain, unlike Spain and elsewhere, they are of little consequence, but their views are similar. Their groups afford a welcome to frustrated “intellectuals” who are tired of government interference and State authority; (the continual docketing, the red-tape, and conscription, that is part of our lives under present-day Capitalism.

Unlike the Socialist the anarchists do not have a definite set of principles—in fact they are governed by expediency—or a practical objective—socialism.
Peter E. Newell