The Notes By The Way column from the April 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard
“The Daily Express” Star Performer
There are many good reasons why workers should disregard the politics preached by the Daily Express. Now its readers are deprived, too, of what was one of its most entertaining non-political features, the column of guidance from the stars contributed by the “astrologer,” Mr. Naylor. Every day (including Sunday, in the Sunday Express) he advised readers what the stars foretold for those born on that day and for the whole 1¾-million not born on that day. When he missed a day consternation reigned throughout the land—or, so the Editor says. All day long the office was besieged on foot or by ’phone. Hundreds of readers refused to leave their homes in the morning to meet the day’s battle without first knowing whether this was a day for an ardent love affair, for buying houses or selling pepper, for avoiding sea-trips, or for bearding the boss for a rise. But even into the astral regions the class-struggle had intruded, so the day’s readings often gave separate advice for employers and employed.. This advice, on Saturday, February 29th, covered both that day and the next. On Saturday we were told that those born on February 29th, if in the ranks of owners of businesses, “May achieve a successful year financially by hard work. Those in employment, on the other hand, must take extra care not to offend those higher up, who can make difficulties for them.” Mr. Naylor has yet to learn that the capitalists do not thrive on their own hard work, but on that of others, and that all workers, not only those born on February 29th, have to take extra care not to offend their employer, because he can always “make difficulties for them.” The advice for all readers was sound enough, “Employees, look out for trouble, and give no cause for complaint,” though the last sentence “avoid extravagance” was hardly necessary.
The bright spot in the advice for Sunday was “Employees must try to be more assertive;” As nine-tenths of the workers do not work on Sunday it is a good day to be assertive, provided, of course, that they carried out Saturday’s instructions of minding their p’s and q’s. It is a pity we cannot know whether the Express staff working on Sunday asserted themselves to Lord Beaverbrook and, if so, with what result.
By coincidence, an article on Japan in the Sunday Express next day told us to be amazed at the queerness of that nation because, among other things, they consult astrologers!
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Poverty is not being Abolished
Ceaseless propaganda goes on—as it has for a century or more—designed to convince the poor that their poverty and the wealth of the rich are alike diminishing. The Times Literary Supplement, reviewing a book “Farewell to Poverty,” asserts (March 7th) that there has been a “great redistribution of wealth and income . . . . in this country since the war,” and that capitalism “during the century before the war . . . . was successfully spreading abundance.” The Economic League publishes leaflets assuring the workers that “small and working-class investors have savings of something like £3,000,000,000 in value.”
All of this propaganda is the product of ignorance or deceit.
It may be true that the funds in Savings Banks, Building Societies, etc., etc., total nearly £3,000 millions, but how much is that per head of the millions who own it? And how many of them are workers? The Economic League and the Times are silent on this. Mr. Hargreaves Parkinson, of the Economist, in his book, “The Small Investor,” provides an answer. The people who own this sum constitute “at least 75 per cent. of the total population,” and the property they own does not amount to “more than 10 to 14 per cent.” of the total national wealth. (“Small Investor,” Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1930, p. 109-10.) So we are asked to be impressed by the “equality" of ownership demonstrated by the fact that less than one-quarter of the population own nearly nine-tenths of the national wealth!
Moreover, neither the League nor the Times has ever shown that the owners are wholly or mainly workers. As Mr. Parkinson points out (p. 10), an official inquiry showed that “in any savings bank, four-fifths or more of the total deposits are in one-fifth of the accounts." He goes on to say that in his opinion the relatively wealthy depositors “comprise certain Provident and Charitable Societies, and Clubs, which deposit their accumulated funds with the savings banks; foremen and others in the 'non-commissioned' ranks of industry; the wives of middle-class professional or business men. . . ."
Now Professor G. W. Daniels and Mr. H. Campion, in a paper read to the Manchester Statistical Society on March 11th (see Manchester Guardian, March 12th), have examined the present ownership of capital, and compared it with ownership in pre-war days. This is their conclusion:—
. . . it cannot be said there has been any marked change in the distribution of capital in individual hands in England and Wales during the last 25 years.
The slight extent of the change, and the present enormous inequality, is shown by their conclusion
In 1924-30 1 per cent. of the persons aged 25 and over in England and Wales owned 60 per cent. of the total capital; in 1911-13 1 per cent. of the persons owned 70 per cent. of the total capital.
In 1924-30 80 per cent of the total capital and in 1911-13 85 per cent. to 90 per cent. was owned by 5 per cent. of the persons aged 25 and over.
They find also that “there is no evidence that the inequality will grow less marked in the future."
The Manchester Guardian, while deploring this inequality, sees in the small change a disproof of the views held by “the cruder Marxists." It may be worth while considering this point on another occasion. Here it is sufficient to say that even if there had been a slight over-statement of views as to concentration of capital it shows the bankruptcy of Liberalism, that it can find no other answer to the appalling facts.
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In 1914 Lenin and his associates coined a name for so-called Socialists who deserted internationalism. They were called “social-patriots." Through ignorance or for pay (e.g., Benito Mussolini) they preached war and nationalism. Many of them were the scum of the working-class movement.
In 1936 Lenin’s followers-from-afar are being manoeuvred by Moscow into the same position. The Daily Worker of March 9th reports that the French Communist organ L'Humanité has issued an appeal “for a united France for the struggle against Fascism and against war.” The appeal ends with the slogan: —
“Long live the Unity of France."
"Long live the International.”
“Long live the unity of all peace-loving people.”
This is precisely the way the "Social-patriots” phrased their desertion in 1914.
The Daily Worker of March 10th shows another aspect of the same “Communist-patriotic" trend. The cartoon presents a group of fearsome-looking Nazis, armed with machine-guns, to represent Germany, surrounded by a group of handsome unarmed workers representing Britain, France and Russia. The pretence that England and France (i.e., the respective Governments) are peaceful and proletarian is precisely the line those Governments themselves will take if and when it comes to a clash. The cartoon might have been taken from the Daily Mail any time between 1914 and 1918.
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Salvation by House-Ownership
One of the gifts of the "practical" men to suffering humanity is the building society movement, preaching salvation of the working man by means of house ownership. Not only the Church and the orthodox political party leaders, but also many of the Trade Union and Labour leaders have backed the movement. Now that more workers than ever before have tasted the joys of crippling mortgage payments, of road charges, repairs, jerry-building, and the impossibility of getting anything like the purchase price in the event of compulsory removal to get work elsewhere, companies building flats to let are busy exposing the snags of house-ownership. Posters on the hoardings irritate the unfortunate owner of a few bricks and a mortgage by reminding him too late that he has fallen for another illusory social reform.
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A New Kind of “Socialism"
An addition to the numerous misuses of the word Socialism was contained in a Sunday Express article on Japan (March 1st).
The aim of a movement was described as “a sort of Fascist dictatorship, combined with 'Imperial Socialism' of a Marxian tinge.”
If the Japs try to swallow that awful mixture they will be very sick.
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Blot On or Blot Out
The Daily Herald (February 22nd) had a leader on the pepper speculation, which is called a "blot on the City.” It promised that under Labour Government the blot will be erased, and the City's financial morality purified. Nothing could show more plainly the gulf between Labourism and Socialism. Under Socialism, there being no use for financial mechanism, the “City" will not be cleansed, but blotted out. Bankers, stockbrokers and others, now preparing to carve out careers teaching “Socialists” how to run finance, please note.
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Capitalism does not Feed the Workers
Defenders of capitalism who are so lyrical about the technical achievements of modern industry, might try to explain why, after all these years, even the most elementary needs of the working class remain unsatisfied. Sir John Orr, a leading expert on nutrition, in his “Food, Health and Income” (Macmillan, 2s. 6d.), states that there are 4,500,000 people in this country whose income per head is 10s. a week or less, and whose estimated average expenditure in food is only 4s. a week. Not only must many of these 4,500,000 be definitely undernourished, but millions more have a diet inadequate for perfect health. A completely adequate diet is only obtained by half the population. To raise the whole population to the standard attained by the wealthy 4,500,000 who spend 14s. per head on food each week “would involve increases in consumption . . . . of milk, eggs, butter, fruit, vegetables and meat varying from 12 per cent. to 25 per cent.”
One of the effects of the inadequate diet of the poor is that boys at Council Schools at age 13 are on an average 2½ inches shorter than boys at Christ's Hospital. At seventeen years of age the difference is nearly 4 inches, and at eighteen the sons of the rich at public schools are nearly 5 inches taller.
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Will Mussolini hold on to Power?
The following sober estimate of the condition of affairs in Italy is translated from a journal, La Voce, circulated illegally in Milan. The translation was published in the American International Review (March).
There is always the possibility that we in Italy do not see as clearly as observers abroad. On the other hand, we are in a better position to learn what is the current reaction of the population of the country. A successful war must have the backing of the population. A revolution can only be made by the population of the country. Now while the people of Italy are grumbling here and there, it is untrue that the demands of the war have made them turn against it. As yet, they do not oppose Mussolini’s war. They will begin to show opposition with defeat in Africa and privations at home. But though our sympathies are with the Ethiopians, we still doubt that Mussolini will be defeated on the Amhara tableland. In order to be defeated in Africa, Mussolini must be opposed in Europe—by the same powers that rule the roost in Geneva. Now these powers have something more important in mind. Even England, which seems to have much to lose through the Fascist defeat of the Negus Negusti. They are playing a bigger game, and may all of a sudden decide to forgive small misdemeanours. The Hoare-Laval plan was a meaningful feeler. It suggested that London and Mussolini may reach an understanding any time the European (sic) scene dictates it. The sanctions remain to date so much preaching. Does Mussolini’s war machine really find it hard to buy coal and oil? No, they who are lyrically vituperous against naughty fascism over the Press table in Geneva continue to supply the Italian Fascist forces with large stores of oil. Let-us not be fooled by politicians’ “big and small manoeuvres.” Our job remains sober, patient education. We, unlike our Parisian and New York friends, cannot afford to listen to fairy tales.
“When the million and a half soldiers are demobilised at the end of the war”—then Mussolini and his gang will have to pay the fiddler. Thus spake “Soda” who writes encouragement from Rome. There is something to such a promise. Demobilisation always presents a difficult situation to the capitalist State. But we have had a post-war situation before.
“And Italian Fascists may go left with a losing war,” suggests another letter-writer. They may, because Fascism is, after all, a radical populist movement, and basically a reformist movement.
Our job remains not merely of opposition to Fascism, but predominantly the deeper task of agitation for a fundamental social change.