Saturday, December 22, 2018

Digested Morsels. (1916)

From the December 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard

Having read so often during recent times of the great wave of working-class prosperity which has swept over this land of free and enlightened (?) people, accompanied by the acquisition by them of pianos and various other items of a grossly “extravagant nature,” I am somewhat at a loss to understand how the following tit-bit succeeded in finding a place in our masters’ journal.
  The Glasgow School Board yesterday decided to send to the War Secretary, the Scottish Secretary, the Education Department, and to Members of Parliament, a statement showing that there had been a large increase in the number of scholars requiring attention owing to the lack of adequate clothing, due entirely to the condition of the dependents of soldiers and sailors, whose allowances had not been increased to meet the increased cost of living. The Board asked that allowances should be increased, and that this should be a charge upon the Imperial Exchequer, and not upon the School Board rates.—"Daily News,” 10.11.16.
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While day by day we read and know of cases of hardship to dependents arising from the inadequacy of separation allowances, the shipping and cotton lords and other people of that ilk are amassing fabulous sums. At the same time we hear much talk about the “equality of sacrifice,” which, being interpreted, means greater sacrifice of the workers—sacrifice of hard-won Trade Union rights, sacrifice of health in an endeavour to increase production, and sacrifice of even life itself in a cause which, at its termination, will leave the remainder of the working class in a position of intensified poverty and still subject to the callous indifference of an international ruling class. Here follows an announcement which I recently observed, and serves to show the “sacrifice” made by the wealthy class:
  Gentleman’s only daughter, aged 19, desires to live with London family or lady of high social position having large circle of young friends, make up parties for theatres, dances, golf, riding, etc.; up to £100 per annum paid ; highest references given and required.”—”Daily Sketch,” 28.9.1916.
The above was quoted in an article in the paper mentioned under the heading of “The Insolence of Wealth,” and with such a theme the writer was able to expatiate at great length on the disparity of the affluent and the rewards of a grateful country to its wounded heroes.

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From the early days of the war onwards we have from time to time case after case of supposed Virgins and Crucifixes left intact after nearly everything else had been blown to smithereens. Pictures in pictorial papers have appeared to show the alleged remarkable occurrences and suitable wording has been dished up to suggest the miraculous intervention on behalf of the religious emblems. But in due course arrives further information as to how these effects are manipulated in order to deceive the credulous and unsuspecting. Let me quote:
  There seems to be a good deal of misapprehension going about in connection with some of the stories of images of the Virgin and Crucifixes left intact in French towns when all else was wrecked by shell fire. I have seen a letter from a gentleman of undoubted authority, who says that some even of the pictures of these things are pure romances. He cites in especial a representation of the Virgin of Montauban standing erect on a pile of ruins with a large shell in front of her. The statue was knocked down, but only slightly damaged ; my informant apparently saw it raised to its present position by British soldiers. The shell in the picture is probably British. One would have thought that there was romance enough in a world war without invoking imagination’s artful aid to heighten it.—”Daily News,” 27.10.1916.
S. T.

Children or Ore? (1917)

From the December 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

The question of Alsace-Lorraine has received considerable attention from the political and journalistic hirelings of the capitalist class. A vast amount of sloppy sentiment has been thrust upon us with the object of covering up the real facts at issue, a good example of which comes from Mr. Lloyd George.

“However long the war may be,” says that worthy, “however great the strain upon our resources, this country intends to stand by her gallant ally, France, until she redeems her oppressed children from the degradation of a foreign yoke.”

What noble words! How can this high character resist the temptation to take part in such a righteous cause! It may be that Mr. Churchill has given him advice on the subject. 

Knowing the history of the capitalist class, Socialists reject with scorn their professed sympathy for the workers of any nation. Material interest dominates their every action, as the following demonstrate?.

“If Germany could secure a peace based on her present military position” says a writer in the “Daily Chronicle,” 24.10.17, “the whole of this wealth of iron ore, estimated at some 5,000,000,000 tons, would pass under her control.” And further on we read : “Liberate those provinces from her clutch with their 21,000,000 tons of iron ore a year, their 3,800,000 tons of iron smeltings, their 2,300,000 tons of steel smeltings, and useful coalfields of the Somme Valley, and a long step has been taken towards peace.”

The thoughts of that iron ore will no doubt urge “our gallant ally” to “redeem her oppressed children.”

Terrible as is the idea of that 21,000,000 tons of ore, not to mention the iron and steel smeltings, passing into the hands of the German capitalists, there is something even worse in view.

“Suppose,” continues the article coolly, “Germany were to win and were to annex the greater half of the ferruginous basin that lies on French soil. Territorially it would be a very small acquisition. Economically its value would be inestimable. It would mean that after the war Germany would be able to raise some 46,000,000 tons of iron ore a year, while the French output would be reduced to a bare 4,600,000.

What a nightmare to the French capitalists! We can almost hear them moaning with Asquith that “no sacrifice can be too great when 46,000,000 tons of iron ore are at stake.”

Numerous other figures are given by the writer of the article. We are told, for instance, that with an Allied victory “France would be in a position to extract about 43,000,000 tons of ore a year and Germany would have to remain satisfied with a maximum yield of 8,000,000 tons.”

And to the importance of an Allied victory is established, as also is the fact that iron ore, and not oppressed people, is responsible for the particular interest centred in Alsace-Lorraine, "in the fate of which,” we are told, “is involved nothing less than the industrial supremacy of Europe."

A glance at the final paragraph, here quoted, will explain the British capitalists’ new-found love for the “children” of Alsace Lorraine.
  "It is clearly an almost vital interest, both for France and Great Britain, that the formation of a huge Franco-German cartel, based on the reciprocal exchange of coal for ore, should be prevented, that we should ourselves supply France with the coke that will enable her to do her own smelting, and that we should take from her in return the iron ore that we now import from Sweden and from Spain.”
The evidence given shows the capitalists in their true character as a cold-blooded, profit-seeking tribe, ready to slaughter millions of workers to gain an advantage over a commercial rival. Hypocrites that they are, the shedding of crocodile tears with one eye while using the other to calculate the tons of iron ore the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine would provide is to them a simple matter.

The value of their sympathy for oppressed people can be measured by the fact that the toilers of all countries are oppressed. Murdered with work and starvation that wealth may be piled up in ever-greater abundance for the benefit of those that exploit them, the life of the workers is one round of oppression no matter who their rulers may be.

Their conditions are general; they do not change in essentials as we cross frontiers or land at different ports. The workers are slaves and capitalists live by their robbery the world over. An attempt on the workers’ part to secure a larger portion of the wealth which they alone produce is met, when necessary, with the armed forces of the State, used by the capitalists to uphold their position as exploiters of labour and to defend their interests against the capitalists of other countries.

The State to which we belong does not trouble us; our object is to get control of the fighting forces for the purpose of overthrowing the present system of society and establishing Socialism, the system wherein wealth shall be produced to give comfort and happiness to the whole community.

Then and then only shall we be freed from capitalism and its horrors of peace and war. To us, therefore, Socialism is the only thing that matters.
E. L. Wake

Fools and Their Folly. (1919)

Editorial the December 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

There seems to be a determination in certain directions to push the demand for nationalisation to the arbitrament of a national strike. We have dealt with this question of nationalisation on many occasions in these columns, and our views thereon are pretty well known to all old readers ; we do propose to return to them now. Our antagonism to nationalisation in all its forms is as bitter and uncompromising to-day as ever it was. It is not passive and negative— it is active and positive. With such questions as Home Rule for Ireland, while we are hostile critics, we can concede that the sooner the Irish workers get Home Rule the sooner will they discover that the remedy for their miseries must be sought in some other direction. But with nationalisation we cannot associate even that good point, as the political backwardness of all circles of civil servants clearly shows.

The attempt to carry nationalisation of mines by a colossal strike is either the folly of fools or roguery of rogues. Fools are usually led by rogues. These latter, having tasted the sweets of office, are seizing every opportunity of building up their prestige and power, in which game the workers are their pawns.

A Plaster for a Wooden Leg. (1920)

From the December 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Threefold State. The True Aspect of the Social Question. By Dr. Rudolf Steiner. London: G. Allen & Unwin, Ltd. 5s. net.

The Adaptability of Capitalism.
Capitalism is a wonderful system of society. Its powers of production are colossal: its products more amazing than any dream of the Arabian Nights. Huge structures, mighty engines, gigantic ships, tremendous means of transport, mark its march across the earth. But along with the giant powers and products exist problems of such seeming complexity, and so far-reaching in their effects, that all the spokesmen, defenders, apologists, and believers in the system are bewildered at the appalling appearance of these problems, and vainly seek a solution within the limits of the system.

Their failure to find such a solution raises the hopes of those who, with fiery enthusiasm taking the place of knowledge, look to the overthrow of capitalism as a result of the insolubility of these problems, in the immediate future.

Capitalism, however, has shown remarkable powers of recovery from shocks, and it is easy to overestimate the speed at which it may succumb to its own contradictions.

The world war lasting over four years was a terrific strain upon its powers ; yet it not only supported millions of men as combatants, but supplied stupendous quantities of materials of a solely destructive character in addition to maintaining both the combatants and the producers.

The Strain of "Peace."
If ever, it stood the shock of a mighty war tolerably well, it is sustaining the shock of partial peace badly. The inherent contradictions of the system come to the front with greater force because the war pushed forward mechanical and scientific developments in industry as a hothouse develops the growth of a plant. As a result of this development the problems inevitably bound up with capitalism loom larger, show sharper, and press harder than before.

Pannicky "Intellectuals."
Apologists and defenders of capitalism are growing uneasy, and even alarmed, at the menacing aspects of these problems. The bolder of them seek for some reorganisation of the system that, while it leaves the capitalists secure, will palliate the evils existing. In this country perhaps the chief example of this idea is Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb's Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth.

It is claimed that on the Continent the chief work on this subject is Dr. Rudolph Steiner's Threefold State. The collapse of Austria as a result of the war, and the appalling condition of Eastern Europe generally, have shown the evils and dangers of the present situation more clearly there than they appear here. Under such conditions the primary need for food places all else in a secondary position. Hence the professional sections find themselves pushed into the background and in danger of being submerged in the chaos.

Sounding the Alarm.
This book, with its threefold State as a solution for the evils of capitalism, is a vivid expression of the professional's attempt to restore order out of confusion.

The author first draws attention to the attitude of the working class. He warns the master class that the workers have become "class-conscious," are students of Marx, and are developing a scientific mode of thought.

He claims
that the most powerful driving force in the world of labour is the system of thought," and says that it is to some extent the first of its kind in the world to take its stand solely on a scientific basis. (P. 34.)
According to him the great evil of the present system is not that it robs the workers of the material wealth they have produced, though the fact of the robbery is admitted, but —
It is because machinery and capitalism could give the working man nothing to fill and satisfy his soul as a human being that the working class movement was driven to seek for its fount of inspiration in the direction of modern science. (P. 12.)
What the Workers Want
It is true that the worker is not really conscious of this "soul aspiration" and if asked would deny it, claiming that what is required is freedom from exploitation ; but our author denies that such freedom alone would solve the problem, and on page 34 asks :
Suppose we find anywhere signs that there is a life of the soul having its source in the spirit of the times, bearing mankind up and down with it as it goes, and rooted in a spiritual reality, then from this soul life may come the force which shall give the right impulse to the social movement also.
and on page 87 he says that —
in the domain of mind and spirit there reigns a reality that transcends material external circumstances and bears within itself its own matter and substance.
Meaningless jargon of this sort prepares the reader for the author's remedies. According to him human societies should function in three independent but connected channels. He admits that to-day the economic factor pervades — nay overrides — all other activities in society but this he holds is one of the great causes of the growing chaos. Mankind has three sides to its character, and the State should be reformed in harmony with these characteristics.

Here is the New Utopia.
First should come the Economic State, concerned with the production, circulation and consumption of commodities.

Secondly should come the "Equity State" that deals with the common rights, the relation of man and man in social affairs.

Thirdly there is the "Spiritual State." This "must comprise all that concerns the life of the mind and spirit" or "everything that must play a part in the body social by reason of those natural attributes of the individual being, whether those aptitudes be qualities of mind or body." (P. 57.) Here we reach a world of shadow and vagueness, in fact, the only thing standing out clear and definite in this threefold State is that private property in the means of life will still

The Equity State must not prevent the formation and control of private property in capital, so long as the connection between the capital-basis and individual ability remains such that the private control implies a service to the whole body social. (P. 131)

Nothing New Under the Sun.
It is to be under control that is on lines curiously similar to those laid down in the British Government's new Agricultural Bill, where, having guaranteed the farmers a price for their goods, it is enacted that if a farmer does not carry on production efficiently the Government will take control of the land.

Dr. Steiner's scheme covers all branches of production, but there the Government does not take control itself, but merely hands the business on to another capitalist or group. The capitalist concerned, however, will have the right to pick out an individual or group to whom the property shall be transferred.

Under this section the worker is not to treated as a commodity, but must have "the conditions of a decent human existence." These conditions being a question of man to man, will be arranged by the "equity State." To prevent the latter becoming contaminated by economic interests it must be rigidly excluded from any management of economic processes and must get rid of those now managed by the State, such as the Post Office, etc.

Forgotten Trifles. 
Who, then, shall decide the conditions of production ? The Spiritual State. This State will lay down the methods and details of the economic system, though the management will be in the hands of the Economic State.

The Spiritual State will lay down rules for guidance in Education— but not State Education. The author's ideal is to see State Education completely abolished, and all education left to private persons. Children are to have the "right to education," and the father of a family will have an income in excess of that of a single man to provide for his children's education.

The critical reader may here ask "How are these States to be formed?" the answer to which will be that of Masefield's vagabond—"Dunno." Whether they are to be elected or selected, nominated or appointed, hereditary or periodical, the author does not say. It is all left in beautiful, vague, one might almost say "spiritual" condition.

Steiner's Ignorance. 
How deeply the author has gone in his examination of present conditions is shown by his statements about the "useful functions" of the capitalists, and his childish belief that the "entrepreneur"—or "initiator" as his translator calls-it—still exists in modern capitalism. He has no idea that the same factor in economic development killed both these personalities at the same time. The joint stock company wound up the "useful functions" of the capitalist and converted the initiator into a salaried servant.

A Funk Hole Book.
The book is an interesting example of the attempts of the "non-productive labourers"—as Loria calls the "intellectuals"—to produce a plan that will show the capitalists a solution to their present difficulties, while still leaving them a ruling class, and which will lead the workers on another wild-goose chase by promising them a decent existence.

How imbecile these attempts are is shown by one simple factor in the system of capitalism.

Under private ownership of the means of life goods are produced to sell. In order to sell there must be buyers—that is, people able to purchase. Mere desire for, or even pressing need for,. The goods is not sufficient. One must be able to produce the cash. The market will thus be determined by the number of buyers multiplied by their purchasing power. Every student of economic development knows that the methods of production have improved and increased by leaps and bounds until the products have gone far beyond both the increase of buyers and their purchasing power. To meet this situation one of two courses must be followed.

Dubious Alternatives.
Either the workers must have their hours of work reduced until, even with increased means of production, only the amount of commodities required by the market is produced, or a sufficient number of workers must be thrown out of work to allow the remainder to stay at production to turn out the goods required.

The capitalists, of course, have not the slightest intention of adopting the first method. The second is in full swing now, though modified by a few doles.

The idiotic paradox of millions of producers being in want because they have produced so lavishly that their products are piled all around them will not be abolished by patching up administration. The evil is rooted in the private ownership of the means of life, and cannot be cured until that ownership is abolished.

Fabian quackeries and Austrian paper lids on volcanoes are equally ineffective. The only remedy is for the workers to capture political power and use it to abolish capitalism root and branch.
Jack Fitzgerald

Plechanoff, Engels and Kautsky (1921)

Quotes from the December 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

  “The Bourgeoise destroyed the feudal conditions of property; the proletariat will put an end to the bourgeois conditions of property. Between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, a struggle, an implacable war, a war to the knife, is as inevitable as was in its way, the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the privileged estates. But every class war is a political war. In order to do away with feudal society the bourgeoisie had to seize upon political power. In order to do away with capitalist society the proletariat must do the same. Its political task is therefore traced out for it beforehand by the force of events themselves, and not by any abstract consideration.” 
G. Plechanoff.

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   “The entire development of human society from the position of savagery began from the day when the labour of a family resulted in the production of more than was necessary for its support, from the day when a part of the labour was no longer expended on mere means of living but was transformed into means of production. A surplus of labour product over and above the cost of the maintenance of labour, and the creation and increase of a social production and reserve fund out of this surplus was, and is, the foundation of all social, political and intellectual development. In history, up to the present time, this fund has been the property of a certain superior class which has, with its possession, also the political mastery and spiritual supremacy. The approaching social revolution will make this social production and reserve fund—that is, the entire mass of raw material, instruments of production, and means of life— for the first time really social property, in that it will put an end to its monopolisation by the superior class and make it the common possession of the entire society.”

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   “But however necessary were the capitalist system and the conditions which produced it, they are no longer so. The functions of the capitalist class devolve ever more upon paid employees. The large majority of the capitalists have now nothing to do but consume what others produce. The capitalist to-day is as superfluous a human being as the feudal lord had become a hundred years ago.”
K. Kautsky.

Christmas Shops. (1922)

From the December 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

In England Christmas is our one surviving festival. Others have fallen into neglect as we have left behind the manner of social life in which they flourished. Christmas lives, despite the passing of its religious significance, because humanly it is as dear to men of the twentieth century as to those who, five hundred years ago, brought ia the boar's head with ceremony and rejoicing. While people love to play as well as work, to practise hospitality, to remember and be remembered of friends, so long will Christmas or something like it be set in our calendar.

When November was scarcely half spent, the shops began to make their special display. Now as I write the wares of the world are heaped behind the shining windows. Like so many Aladdin's caves, they will yield their store to him who has the golden key: to all others the frail glass pane is a barrier impassable.

And who are they that can command the best and largest share? Those who took no part in producing it. Is there not something strange, comrades, in this? Alaskan furs, Chinese silks, ivories of Japan, Sheffield cutlery, Spanish, Arabian and Tasmanian fruits, do not create and convey themselves, even at Christmas time. That which shaped, transported and arranged them was your work, and that of your fellows in all corners of the earth.

These goods and the pesters that advertise them, the factories where they were made and the machines within the factories, the engines and ships that carried them here —you made them all. Yet your part in the season’s celebrations is to watch more fortunate folks enjoy them, and feel your own needs more bitterly in the face of inaccessible plenty. You who have distant friends and families—why cannot you visit them? You fathers and mothers of children, do not even their small delights mean the sacrifice of something necessary to yourselves? There are young men and girls among you who dreamed of homes of your own; and this winter finds you further off than ever from your desire. Was there ever a situation so topsy-turvy? Would you credit, if you did not know by grim experience, that having done so much, you should stand outside the windows, and those who made nothing in their lives should go in and buy? Wouldn’t it sound like a crazy tale? In a sane order of life, would not the very contrary be the reality—the idle without and the workers within? Add to this that the idle are maided and valeted, driven about, entertained and guarded by you, and surely you and they appear as characters in a tragic farce! If a crowning absurdity were lacking, it is supplied by the presence of multitudes who are not even allowed to work. The strength and skill that could provide anew, even after the spoilers had helped themselves, must remain locked in their shoulders and fingers, wasted and wanting.

What is the explanation of it all? You know before I tell you. It is that this wealth of good things is not here for the purpose of satisfying human needs. It is here because its production and sale pays someone. The very toys, naive and roguish things as they are, were born to serve this all-important end of profit. That is the way you allow the business of production to be arranged. What does it matter to the corn broker and the wool dealer that you need food and clothes? The question is, Have you the means to buy? And if your wife would look lovely in a silken dress, how does that concern the silk importer or the modiste? Your whole livelihood is what you can get by selling your strength and skill. And since the corn, wool, or silk merchant (or whichever other of their class employs you) purchases them for just as much as will keep you alive and moderately fit, you never will enjoy more than a mean living—so long as you serve a master.

Are you satisfied? Perhaps you would have matters no otherwise I said you allow the present arrangement. Do you know, comrades, that is absolutely true? That you can change matters whenever you determine? Look boldly and searchingly at the men who exploit you. It is they who depend on you, not you on them. Without your lifelong service they would cut sorrier figures than you, waiting your turn at the Labour Exchange. What has bewitched you, that you allow yourselves to be shorn? I think I know the lie that keeps you hopeless. It is as old as the relation between oppressor and oppressed, and it runs: “Thus things have always been.” And your lifetime is too short and too full of care for you to learn that it is a lie. Have done with it now. Lift your heads and take a look back—and forward. There was a time when this class that now sits on your shoulders was fighting to throw off its own Old Man of the Sea, and was denounced by the Old Man—the nobility— just as it denounces your spasmodic struggles. It was resisted, as it means to resist you, but it won, and its victory was not accidental. It won because it commanded and could develop something which the feudal land-owners could not: the labour power of a proletariat—people like you and me, who have no property and must find employment in order to live. This new productive force, our labour, was an infant then; to-day a giant, too big for our masters to manage. We can produce far more than they can sell. Now we arise and resolve that capitalists with their “private enterprise” must give way in their turn to us. We do not fight at hazard either. Our victory also is sure, because we control a new force. We can develop what the lords of capital cannot: our own labour power, the labour power of co-operatively associated men and women. Isn’t this a destiny worth fulfilling? Determine that next Christmas shall not find you spreading the feast for others and stealing humbly into the shadows to famish and grieve. Thirty years ago William Morris demanded:
  Why, then, and for what are we waiting? There are three words to speak ; we will it; and what is the foeman, but the dream-strong wakened and weak ?
Now our masters no longer even dream that they are secure. You have shaken their rest by the noise of your discontent, never yet articulate nor united enough to be very dangerous, but loud enough to prevent their ever sleeping again. They listen for the word you will presently say: “We have no more use for masters. We declare the land on which we labour and the instruments we use, to be ours; and every man who would share the common wealth must also share the necessary work, were he fifty times an Inchcape or a Coats!”

Then, when Christmas morning brightens on a world possessed by the workers, the day will be a festival indeed.