Saturday, January 5, 2019

Where Charity Begins & Why it Should End (1996)

From the January 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard
Socialists refuse to support charities on the grounds that such organisations are merely trying to deal with the symptoms of capitalism rather than capitalism itself.
Socialists seldom win popularity contests in the current ideological climate. Take for example our opinions on the subject of charity: I believe that charity ought to be abolished. Am I unfeeling, uncaring, when confronted with the evidence of great misery and poverty in the world? Hardly, but I think I understand, as do other socialists, that misplaced caring within a capitalist system is as useful to the poor and dispossessed as no caring at all.

The word charity comes from the Latin caritas meaning love or affection, so we could assume that charity in its abstract sense was bound up with the loftiest feelings, but it was soon complicated by its link with morality and organised religion. Where Christianity was the theory, charity became the practice.

Socialists believe that poverty is unacceptable and unnecessary, whereas Christians tend to see poverty as acceptable, perhaps even a necessary tool in the moral teachings of the bible. Jesus could always lay a hand to someone wretched and needy in order to illustrate a point— rather like Princess Diana. Forget any fantasies of Christ as the first great communist—Christianity has sought to alleviate some suffering but never abolish poverty. Ultimately for it, the poor have one recourse . . . God will reward this world’s suffering in the next. Socialists dismiss this as ludicrous.

Guilty rich
Even removed from the clutches of Christianity, most of us would define charity as ‘the giving of help to those in need’, but socialists recognise that charity is used as a mask: a pretty face for many less lofty motivations. Most obviously charity is used to assuage rich guilt from the bourgeois straight-on up to the monarch: “Well, yes, they do cost us an awful lot of money, but look at all the good work they do for charity.” Are the ladies who lunch really so concerned about Ethiopian famine, or are they just looking to fill their filofaxes with good deeds? Is charity just a brilliant excuse for the idle rich to stay idle because they are too busy with “good work” to actually work?

It’s not just the rich who use charity as an excuse for other behaviours. Gone are the days of skulking into dark betting shops or poring over the football pools. Now when we want to gamble, we can buy an establishment-approved lottery ticket and say we are “making a charitable donation” to such “worthy causes” as plush velvet seats in a London opera house.

Surveys reveal that charitable donations are hardly proportional to income. Poorer people give a higher proportion of their income to charities than their better-off counterparts, a fact that offends my Robin Hood sensibilities. When it comes to using charities to pay for essential services, the poor pay the most, thus, like the lottery, charity is merely a regressive tax in sheep’s clothing.

So even if charity redistributes wealth in the wrong direction, doesn’t it still help those in acute need? No. Charities are at best, ineffective, at worst, downright harmful in addressing society’s needs.

First, they are ineffective, because they put the responsibility for dealing with some of our biggest problems in the hands of well-meaning but ill-equipped do-gooders. Thus, the government is very happy to relinquish this chore of providing essential services to charities eager to pick up the slack, charities who are accountable only to their trustees. The current government has made an art of such surrendering, and John Major even speaks of the widening role of charities with pride.

Because, as we are told, charities are doing us such a favour (and saving millions for the government—a dividend we never see) they are allowed to run their “businesses” as they see fit, with their own priorities, and in isolation from other organisations. Crucial tasks are left to well-meaning amateurs rather than well-rewarded professionals, a practice that undermines workers. Don’t get me wrong— I know that volunteerism is the basis of a truly socialist society, but that’s volunteerism across the board, not replacing a decently paid, well-trained builder by someone who likes to dabble with a hammer on the weekends when the squash court is booked.

Tin rattling
In the past charities used to top up services mostly provided by the government. Now charities are involved in every aspect of our lives and there is seemingly nothing we will not trust them to do. Ambulances used to be well-stocked, but now they are delivered bare to communities until a charity fills them with the most basic resuscitation equipment. Is it any wonder you are more likely to die of a heart attack in the poorer neighbourhoods?

The other day someone came to my door rattling a tin for life-saving gear for the neo-natal intensive care unit of the local NHS hospital. A worthy cause, I agreed, and one that should be publicly provided. Ah, yes, but you see the government won’t pay, the tin-rattler retorted. Why should they when they can count on you to collect the funds for them, I answered. Something is severely sick in a society that regards its children so lightly. Think of this the next time you are asked to get vouchers at Tesco’s for your local school’s computers, and just wait … next year you may collect vouchers from McDonald’s to buy your neighbourhood a police constable. It’s already happening in some places. Every pound you give to charity is a step in the wrong direction.

A car sticker slogan echoes in my head: “It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need and the airforce has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” The popularity of this slogan in America, further illustrates my point. Does the military ever have to resort to the effort- and resource- wasting tactic of a cake sale to fund its operations? Did anyone ever come to your door during the Gulf War rattling a tin for a new tank? What a preposterous notion! When the military wants a new toy, they draw a cheque from public funds, and we have little recourse to challenge them. The money is always there, so why isn’t the money there to fund schools and hospitals properly? Is there a sudden shortage of money, material, or human resources? Socialists know better.

Anyone with a whiff of understanding of socialist ideas, and anyone who has ever been a have-not under a capitalist regime, knows that “caring capitalism” is a contradiction in terms. Capitalism in order to maintain itself has to put profit and economic growth ahead of people’s needs. If in a time of “economic boom” profit and people’s needs coincide, then we are told to believe that this will always be the case, that capitalism brings the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Socialists see this feeble brainwashing technique a mile away. It insults our intelligence, as do the advertisements that tell us that world hunger will only stop when we all phone the 0800 number with our credit cards ready.

Glossy campaigns
Millions of pounds and thousands of working hours are spent every year devising glossy campaigns to part us from our charitable contributions. There is no way to ensure under capitalism that Cancer Research will fare better than Holidays for Hunting Hounds if the latter can pull more heartstrings with Saatchi & Saatchi on its side. When they run out of sympathy pleas, the agencies try hard-sell and harassment: “How many more babies will die before you pick up the phone?”

Charities are a poor way of dealing with society’s problems. Even the most efficiently run charity is grossly inefficient because of the nature of the beast. Charities respond to constant needs with inconsistent sources of income subject to the tides of a boom/bust economy and the public’s response to this year’s advertising campaign. Corners are cut as charities try desperately to balance their books. Charities look for quick-fix schemes that will impress contributors; long-term planning is an approach they can ill-afford. This is why, in the long run, charities are likely to damage more than help a worthy cause.

Charity is a means of economic oppression because it maintains an ideology that is directly in opposition to socialism. Charity reinforces so many misconceptions about society: that social change relies on us being nice and feeling generous with what little disposable income we have; and that the disadvantaged should wag their tails with gratitude every time the wealthy toss them a bone labelled “charity”.

Every charitable donation strengthens the notion that our basic needs –food, shelter, adequate medical care, basic education –are actually privileges. We have no right to expect our needs to be met, and we are meant to grovel like the degraded beggars we are when by accident we get what we need. We are conditioned to rightfully expect little of our ‘democratically elected’ governments. Capitalism and Charity have worked hand in hand to turn us into a world of few benefactors and millions of beggars. For those of you happy with the world as it is, by all means carry on dropping your change into the nearest charity box. But for those of you who seek solutions to our problems beyond the quick fix, rage against the charity machine.

Or better put in the words of Jack London, in The Iron Heel, his visionary novel of socialism:
  “I had become convinced as Ernest was when he sneered at charity as a poulticing of an ulcer. Remove the ulcer was his remedy; give to the worker his product; pension as soldiers those who grow honourably old in their toil, and there will be no need for charity. Convinced of this, I toiled with him at the revolution, and did not exhaust my energy in alleviating the social ills that continuously arose from the injustice of the system.”
Megan Miranda

The Kurdish Question (1997)

From the January 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard
 There is always a load of myth and romanticism surrounding so-called nationalist struggles and one of the most tortured and least understood is the case of the Kurdish people scattered amongst various states. The popular ‘solution’ is for the Kurds to have their own state, but, in time-honoured fashion, the Kurdish working class would soon find out that this was no solution at all.
The breakdown and imperialist carve-up of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s left Britain and France with a series of subordinate Arab kingdoms, several of which were enormously rich in potential oil resources. But the carving-up process was somewhat disrupted when a senior officer of the defeated Ottoman army refused to abide by the Sultan’s surrender to the victorious Allies, Mustafa Kemal (renamed Ataturk), regrouped like-minded officers and organised a popular resistance movement. This turn of events drew upon strong pressures for reform and modernisation that were already manifest in Turkey before the outbreak of the First World War and it skilfully harnessed the Turkish nationalism which the former theocratic state suppressed almost as ruthlessly as the many other nationalisms festering within the regime known as the “sick man of Europe”.

During the Great War Turkey was an ally of Germany. Berlin found the Pan-Turanian ideas of Enver Pasha fitted in well with their war objectives and gave positive encouragement to his dream of bringing the vast area of Russian Turkestan into the unified control of a new Turkish entity in close association with the Kaiser’s Empire. In marked contrast the rebel officer, Mustafa Kemal, took a less visionary and far more realistic stance. He opted for a Republic confined to the heart of the old Ottoman Empire consisting essentially of Anatolia (Asia Minor), the majority of whose inhabitants were Turkish-speaking Muslims. There were important exceptions nevertheless. Port communities all round the coast but especially on the Aegean had been largely populated by Greeks from classical times onwards. In central Anatolia there were considerable numbers of people who were Greek Orthodox by religion but Turkish-speaking. And there were, of course, the survivors of the Empire’s Armenian population which either had identified with “Holy Russia” during the war or was perceived to have done so. They were targeted as a scapegoat for popular wartime discontent and were subjected to a scale of massacre only surpassed by Hitler’s genocidal elimination of the Jews and Stalin’s mass liquidation of political opponents and recalcitrant ethnic populations.

Imperialist carve-up
The victorious Allies had decided to reward Italy and Greece with Ottoman territory. Italy was awarded the Dodecanese Islands (Rhodes) with their mixed Greek and Turkish population and the Aegean coast and Constantinople (Istanbul) which was the historic seat of the Orthodox Church, to Greece. Athens soon landed troops to enforce the new arrangement but they were rapidly repulsed by Ataturk’s forces. The outcome was a level of “ethnic cleansing” fully up to mid- and late-twentieth century standards. In the process most of Anatolia’s Greeks were expelled and re-settled in Greece. These League of Nations supervised population transfers included the transfer of Greek-speaking Muslims from Crete.

But of all the exceptions to the general truth of there being a Turkish majority in the area Ataturk designated as the territory of Turkey, the most important by far was the Kurdish in eastern Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Even in the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire there had been moves reflecting Kurdish aspirations towards autonomy and when the Kemalist struggle was still not assured of victory, noises were made in the direction of the Kurds suggesting that their assistance in consolidating the new republic would be rewarded with a degree of recognition of their cultural and democratic concerns.

Once the new Turkish state was firmly established any “understandings” arrived at with the Kurds rapidly evaporated and the new Turkish nationalism, confined to Asia Minor only, paradoxically meant that not only was Ataturk’s right-hand man, Ismet Inonu, a Kurd, so too was the ideologist of modern Turkish nationalism, Ziya Gokalp. This hocus-pocus of a theory classified the Kurds as a sort of “lost tribe” of Turks who had forgotten their mother tongue at some point (the Kurdish language is related to Persian and belongs to a quite different language group from Turkish) and who were to be described as “Mountain Turks”. The utterance of their language in public was made illegal.

Meanwhile, Kurds further down the Mesopotamian river basin of the Tigris and Euphrates had the good fortune (bad luck?) to be where the oil was (the Arab-speakers being where the dates were) Britain’s imperial scheme was to incorporate the Kurds into the Iraqi state they were creating. This served the dual purpose of including the oil-field and providing a mixed Arab/Kurdish population where the old divide-and-rule formula could be of imperial service. In the division of Arab-populated territory France got the Lebanon and Syria, the north-east of which included districts mainly inhabited by Kurds. Persia’s western border areas are also populated by several million Kurds and, a small but significant number of Kurdish speakers is to be found in what in the early days of the Soviet Empire was called Trans-Caucasia.

Turkish nationalism
Quantifying the Kurds in any of their home areas has been vitiated by their well-founded fears when it comes to identifying themselves as such to the census enumerators. It is also true that the great growth in Middle Eastern population generally means that the official numbers of Kurds tend to be both out-of-date and massaged by each regime. The usual pattern of migration from rural to urban areas has occurred to a large extent over the last fifty [years]. Ankara’s fourteen-year war to subdue the east. Here Turkey’s NATO weaponry and western-funded, modernised road network has been deployed against the PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party) guerrillas led by Abdulla Ocalan. Roughly speaking there are at least 15 million Kurds in Turkey, 6 million in Iran, 4 million in Iraq and perhaps 2 million in Syria. Germany’s “guest-workers” include something like a million Turkish Kurds and there are significant numbers of both economic migrants and formal refugees in all the Common Market countries.

During the twenties and thirties, Ataturk’s Republican Party was looked upon very favourably not only by colonial “liberation” movements within the European empires for their successful example of resisting imperialist designs but also by western feminist and reform groups for Turkey’s secularisation of the state, abolition of the caliphate, purdah and religious forms of dress and the establishment of a westernised educational and legal system, equal in its treatment of men and women.

Ataturk’s dictatorship claimed, like so many others, that it was paving the way for parliamentary democracy. Rather less usual was that less than ten years after his death from cirrhosis of the liver (a non-Islamic disorder) a significant level of electoral pluralism was introduced. No sooner was this in effect than the electorate plumped, to the extent that such an option was provided, for the rejection of a substantially state-capitalist economy and an essentially secular social system. This being the trend it was not long before the army which saw itself as the guardian of Kemalist reforms, stepped in to restore the unquestionable, statist, secularist and nationalist set-up whether the electorate wanted it or not.

Just as Lenin’s dictatorship radically altered many aspects of Tsarist Russian society but quickly re-established Moscow’s rule over most of the pre-revolutionary Russian Empire so the Turkish Republic, whilst unable or unwilling to restore any of the former empire, was soon to subject its Kurdish “citizens” to an intense programme of assimilation. This could well have been much more effective were it not that eastern Turkey where they mostly lived, like Italy’s South is the poorest and least economically developed part of the country .So whilst there is no chance of the kids there being made literate in their mother-tongue, a very large proportion are provided with nil or solely primary tuition in the state language. It is often the case that eighteen-year-old army conscripts are screamed at by sergeant-majors in what is effectively a foreign language which they have to learn PDQ.

Language Rights
When I first encountered Kurds in London in the sixties they were mostly here on Iraqi government scholarships to acquire British professional qualifications but in those days the idea of a fully independent pan-Kurdish state was considered a wholly unrealistic objective. This view was normal in Turkey where the prevailing aspiration was the achievement of language rights within a democratised federal version of existing states which retained their existing external borders.

Subsequent events in Iraq were to result in a chronically authoritarian system conceding its Kurdish region in the north of the country a considerable degree of autonomy. This was wrested from Baghdad at the cost of a protracted civil war. The war leader, Mustafa Barzani, father of the present head of the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party), owed his defeat largely to the weight of Russian-supplied arms. And the conduit within the Baghdad government through whom these munitions were routed was the long-standing Kurdish Moscow-liner, Jalal Talabani of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan), now in receipt of Teheran’s help in his current rivalry with Masoud Barzani over control of the northern Iraq “safe haven”.

As stated, Persia too has a Kurdish population, of some 6 million. However, unlike the case of Turkey and Iraq there have not been large outward movements of Kurds from either pre- or post-Khomeini Iran. As a consequence there is less contact or interaction with them than with any of the other locations. Nevertheless it was a Persian Kurd who, although his Marxism was reflected through a Leninist distorting mirror has provided us with the most penetrating historical analysis of Kurdish society. Kurdistan and the Kurds by Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou was published in London in English in 1989 (by Collets). The author was assassinated by the Iranian secret police, in Vienna in 1989.

In recent months the war in eastern Turkey has proved so destructive that the demand for federal status within the Turkish republic has been revived in Kurdish circles. For a socialist who has no desire for yet more flags and frontiers and who anticipates that the setting-up of a Kurdish state will no more solve the problems of members of the Kurdish working class than has been the case with scores of other “successful” national struggles, the most promising line of action would seem to be for Kurds in each Middle-Eastern republic to join with other workers to maximise their trade-union and democratic rights so that these can be used as a spring-board for the early attainment of a classless and borderless society. Such a socialist or communist society (they mean the same) will not only enable us to have free access to our material requirements but we shall democratically control the pace and nature of work that we freely choose to undertake. It would also be a way of life in which the language in which we express ourselves and the clothes we wear will be freely determined by each one of us.
Edmund Grant

Cooking the Books: Who is Exploited? (2019)

The Cooking the Books column from the January 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

If you work in an office how can you be economically exploited if you don’t produce anything that your employer appropriates? That was a question touched on in the Morning Star (12 November) in an article on ‘What is “surplus value?”’ prepared by the Marx Memorial Library. Their answer was that all workers create surplus value. Among the work and workers that the article said produce value and surplus value were those in sales, accountancy and marketing. Marx would have disagreed.

He held that value (and so surplus value) was created only in the process of producing commodities as use-values for sale. He defined production as the fashioning of new use-values out of materials that originally came from nature. This included not just the work of handling the materials but also that of planning their production, so it did include office workers such as designers, draughtspeople and architects. It also included transport as transporting a commodity from where it was produced to where it was to be consumed did make it more useful.

In Marx’s view, if work did not add to the use-value of a commodity then it could not add to its value. The work of selling a commodity, essential as it is under capitalism, does not add to the commodity’s use-value. So those performing such work do not produce surplus value. The capital invested in such activities does return a profit, but its source is a share of the surplus value created in the value-producing sector of the economy. It is not created by its employees.

This does not mean that such workers are not exploited. They do perform surplus labour for which they are not paid over and above the labour equivalent of their wages. It is just that this surplus labour does not create surplus value; what it does is reduce the costs to the employer of running their business.

As one exponent of Marxian economics put it:
  ‘The merchant has invested a certain amount of money-capital in a store, equipment, and wage laborers (clerks, salesmen, etc.). These wage workers are unproductive like the merchant himself although they work for him a longer time than he pays for. But their surplus-labour is as unproductive as the capital of the merchant. They merely realize the surplus-value for the merchant, which was produced in the sphere of production, and make profits for him so much quicker, the more their unproductive surplus-labor is extended and their necessary labor shortened (Ernest Unterman, Marxian Economics, 1903, Ch. XVI).
The same applies to workers in banking, insurance, and other money handling activities.

There is a second category of work and workers that Marx didn’t consider produced surplus value. In a comment in Volume 1 of Capital on the 1861 Census Marx pointed out that there were as many people employed as domestic servants (1,208,648) as in textile factories and mines together (1,208, 442) (ch. 16, section 6). Although he described them as ’modern domestic slaves’ he did not consider that they created surplus value; they were an expense paid out of income. This applies also to those called, appropriately enough, civil servants. They are the servants of the capitalist class as a whole employed by their state and paid for out of their income (via taxes). They too perform more work than they are paid for, which economises on the cost of government, national and local.

The fact that commercial and financial workers and civil servants don’t produce surplus value does not make them any less, or lesser, members of the working class. They, too, are victims of the wages system and have an interest in working for its abolition.

The human family (2019)

From the January 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

The human family can produce abundance for itself without harming nature — as soon as the world’s workers take possession of the human family’s home, this planet, in the interests of our species. When the population is in conscious control of its affairs, it will not jeopardise its future or commit mass suicide by destroying its source of sustenance,

It will develop and make use of sources of energy such as tidal, geothermal, solar, satellite solar, and wind power, and nuclear fusion. Experts in these fields insist that the knowledge, technology, energy, and materials are available to produce abundance for today’s population and more, with a sustainable environment.

It will use the brains of the 50 percent of scientists in industrial countries that now is tied up in military, mass killing research. It will free the productive talents of the 50 percent of every labour force that is now tied down to occupations only required by the existing insane society, such as money counters, police, armed forces, lawyers, judges, etc.

It will allow the present tiny minority who are the ruling class in today’s crazy system to join in to support themselves. It will free the repressed energies, intellectual, physical, and creative, of a population that is now restricted to the requirements of obedient profit producers.

We cannot rely on leaders, who represent the world’s minority owners, who cannot even cooperate to save themselves. They can only see themselves as dominant beings, investors, top dogs in a class-divided world.

Their businesses and governments cannot police each other in controlling environmental destruction.  Capitalism can no more prevent climate change than it can prevent wars or poverty, because capitalism is the system that’s causing them in the first place.

How we act depends on how we think. We must think for ourselves, not let ‘great’ women or men do our thinking for us.

Points for Propagandists: Whose Savings? (1930)

From the May 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

Whose Savings?

At frequent intervals we are reminded by capitalist apologists of the sums of money owned by workers and deposited in Savings Banks and similar institutions. The amounts themselves, although large in the aggregate, represent only a small fraction of the amounts owned by the capitalist minority of the population, and those who accept the figures have never attempted to show that the savings in question really do belong to members of the working class. Now comes Mr. T. S. Ashton, Reader in Currency and Finance at Manchester University, and shows that, in the main, they do not. The information was given by him in a paper which he read on Wednesday, January 15th, to the Manchester Statistical Society, reported in the Manchester Guardian on the following day (January 16th, 1930). Mr. Ashton agreed that the majority of the Post Office Savings Bank and Trustee Savings Bank accounts are held by workers, but he then showed that the total deposits, on. the other hand, are largely concentrated in a few accounts held by non-workers. In 1919 four Trustee Savings Banks analysed their accounts with the following results : At Kirkcaldy, 60 per cent. of the depositors had deposits averaging less than £10 per head, and all their deposits together amounted to less than one twentieth part of the total deposits; 82 per cent. of the depositors held together only a little over a quarter of the total deposits.

At Paisley, 10,000 depositors owned together only 3 per cent. of the deposits (£32,000), while 700 large depositors held £764,000, including holding of stock.

Mr. Ashton stated that the position with regard to Post Office Savings Banks is similar to that of the Trustee Savings Banks, and there has been no essential change since 1919. The Manchester Guardian accepts Mr. Ashton’s conclusions.

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Labour Government Waiting For "Prosperity." 

We have asked when the Labour Government intend to provide the benefits which it promised to give to the workers in the shape of social reforms. Mr. Snowden, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has answered the question.

He gave a wireless broadcast on April 15th and his address was reported in the Daily Telegraph on the following day. He said :—
  I have held all my life that the happiness of the people can be vastly improved by great schemes of social reform and national reconstruction. I believe that the distribution of the national wealth calls for reform. I believe also that these vital improvements are only possible out of revived and prosperous industry from which our national revenue is derived. (Italics ours.)
But the only respect in which industry, as a whole, is unprosperous is in respect of the poverty of the workers—both employed and unemployed.

The employing class collectively have never been other than prosperous, and the workers have never been other than poor.

All, then, that Mr. Snowden offers is a promise to help the workers at some time unspecified when they are prosperous and will not need help.

We would add that capitalism, whether left to its own devices or aided by the Labour Government, will never bring about that result.

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Marx versus Maxton.

Mr. Maxton, Chairman of the I.L.P., is pleased on occasion to describe himself as a Marxist in spite of his transparent ignorance of Marxian theories.

The disservice he does to Socialist propaganda is well illustrated by a statement made by him in debate with the Hon. Oliver Stanley, M.P. In this debate, reported in the Daily Herald on 27th February, 1930, Mr. Maxton made the assertion that “the manual workers produced the real wealth, and it was produced in no other way.”

Although his attention was drawn to this in a letter which the Herald published a few days later, Mr. Maxton did not question the accuracy of the report.

His statement was seized upon by the daily press and use was made of it to ridicule Marx. The Daily Express in particular published a letter from a correspondent denouncing Mr. Maxton’s statement as an “absurd Marxian doctrine” (the Daily Express, 5th March). A letter to the Daily Express pointing out that Marx quite clearly rejects the view attributed to him was not published, but a day or two later the Daily Express inserted another letter repeating the untruth.

Marx deals with the question in Capital, Vol.I., Chapter IV., section 3 (“Purchase and Sale of Labour Power "). He wrote:—
  I use the term labour power or capacity for labour to denote the aggregate of those bodily and mental capabilities existing in a human being, which he exercises whenever he produces a use-value of any kind. (Capital: Allen & Unwin Edition, page 154.)
It is a pity that Mr. Maxton cannot give his errors some other label.

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Is Parliament Too Slow?

It is often urged that Parliament as a machine is too unwieldy and slow. This criticism is usually based upon the disappointing results of legislation when judged from the standpoint of some or other group of electors. The critics forget that the failure of those who control the parliamentary machine to do something for the workers is not evidence of defective machinery, but of lack of intention. Even if the machine is at present defective, those who control it can always alter it if the electors want it altered.

General Seeley has, however, recently disclosed how speedy Parliament can be when those who control it really want it to be speedy.

General Seeley was Secretary of State for War in 1912, and in view of the anticipated war with Germany, Sir John French and Sir Henry Wilson wanted an increase in the Secret Service Fund and the passing of a more stringent Official Secrets' Act. They wanted the Bill passed through all its stages in one sitting. The Speaker of the House of Commons (Mr. Lowther) and the Clerk of the House said it was "contrary to every Parliamentary precedent and to every principle of sound government.'' Nevertheless, it was done and the Bill was introduced, put through its second reading and its Committee stage, and given the Royal assent, all within 24 hours (having previously passed the Lords). Two or three M.P.'s, who tried to speak on the Bill were pulled down by their coat tails.

General Seeley's disclosures are made in his book of reminiscences, "Adventure" (Published by Heinemann’s, 21/-).

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Bombs Are Cheap. 
The Labour Party and the Air Force.

A debate took place in the House of Lords on April 9th on the use, of the Air Force for "police" work in the outlying parts of the Empire.

"Police" work is a polite way of describing the forcible suppression of native races who resent British rule.

In the debate military and naval authorities raised objections to the use of the Royal Air Force for this purpose. The Earl of Cavan and Viscount Plumer raised the amusing objection that bombing from the air "hurts guilty and innocent alike" and "leaves bitterness behind" (Daily Telegraph, 10th April). It has remained for these military men to discover that high explosive shells fired many miles away are cute enough to select the "guilty" victims and leave the "innocent" untouched.

The Labour Party's Minister for Air, Lord Thomson, defended his policy.
  As an airman he ridiculed the naval and military arguments on the inhumanity of air warfare. He could not see the inhumanity of a bomb as compared with a shell. The question for him was efficiency and cheapness, and if the bomb satisfied that test he was for the bomb. (Daily Telegraph, April 10.)
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The Benefits of Capitalist Civilisation.

Mr. H. J. Greenwall, special correspondent of the Daily Express in Morocco, has been writing up the benefits which the French occupation has brought to the poor, untutored Moors. The work of the French is based, he says, upon "what Great Britain had accomplished in other climes (Daily Express, 10th April, 1930).

The French have abolished slavery. "Before the French conquest of Morocco the slave trade flourished, and in some parts of this country there were what might be literally termed slave studs, where slaves were bred by the pashas of the cities for sale. Since the French established a protectorate here there have been no public slave markets. Slaves may be freed on their own request."

Now that the bad old days of slavery have been abolished by the chivalrous French capitalist, the Moors have entered into a new and better world, not only the men, but also the children.
  Labour, of course, is very cheap, and the exploitation of child labour in some industries takes one’s breath away. I visited a carpet factory here. . . . the first thing that struck me was the number of tiny children, from eight to twelve years of age, working in the factory, sitting in front of the looms. They are paid per knot, and their baby fingers make knots in the twinkling of an eye.
The fathers were so unappreciative of capitalist civilisation that they resisted the French troops. It is to be hoped that the children will some day appreciate the value of being kept out of mischief from the age of eight, and saved from slavery in order to sit at a loom in a factory.

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Wealth and Directive Ability.

The Daily Express correspondent in New York tells an interesting story about the relationship between the wealth and the alleged superior grains of the capitalist class. (See Daily Express, 18th March, 1930.)

Mrs. Ida A. Flagler is the widow of the late Mr. Henry M. Flagler. He left his money to her, but she had the misfortune to become insane and was sent to a mental home in 1898. She then had property worth £200,000. This property has in the meantime grown in value to the enormous sum of £3,219,000 and her income alone is £l25,000 a year.

As the Daily Express correspondent cannot in this case attribute the increase to its owner's "directive ability" he calls it a "natural growth." When we find nature-given material transforming itself by “natural growth” into food, clothing, houses, ships, motor-cars, etc., without the expenditure of mental and physical energies by the workers who at present carry on industry, we shall be prepared to share the Daily Express correspondent's belief in the miraculous power of money to multiply itself. Until then, we shall continue to believe, in accordance with the facts of everyday experience, that the wealth of the rich is produced by the brains and brawn of the working class.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Workers' Share. (1930)

Book Review from the May 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Workers Share: A Study in Wages and Poverty, by A. W. Humphrey. Published by George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 92 pages, 2/6; cloth bound, 3/6.)

This little work is a compact handbook of information on the wealth and poverty which exist side by side in capitalist society.

Part I, "Evidence of Statistics of Wages and Wealth," gives facts and figures relating to wealth distribution over the past three-quarters of a century, together with the authority for the various statements.

Part II, “Evidence of Social Investigation," gives the summing-up of the poverty problem by many well-known social students: Booth, Shewell, Bell, Bowley, Rowntree, etc.

Part III, "Present-day Wages and the Poverty Line,” includes an estimate based on Ministry of Labour figures of the cost in 1928 of purchasing the bare necessities of the "Rowntree" Poverty Line. The cost in March, 1928, of purchasing the articles which in July, 1914, cost 35s. 3d. (the Poverty Line) was 59s. 7d.

For contrast, the author gives particulars of the average earnings of workers in different industries. The average earnings cf all male workers in industries covered by the 1924 Ministry of Labour Inquiry was 56s. 3d.

The price 2s. 6d. seems somewhat high for a work of 92 pages, but the book is a mine of information, most of it not easily accessible otherwise, and not elsewhere brought together in one handy volume. It will prove of great value to propagandists.
Edgar Hardcastle

Received For Review (1930)

From the May 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

  • Brusski: A Story of Peasant Life in Soviet Russia, by F. Panferov. Published by Martin Lawrence, Ltd., 300 pages, 7/6.
  • Imperialism and World Economy, by N. Bukharin. Published by Martin Lawrence, Ltd., 170 pages, 6/-.
  • The Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, with an introduction and explanatory notes by D. Ryazanoff. Published by Martin Lawrence, Ltd., 6/-.
  • The Workers' Share, by A. W. Humphrey. Published by George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 92 pages, 2/6; cloth, 3/6.

Karl Marx on Christianity. (1930)

From the May 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

In answer to a “Christian Socialist” who contributed to the German Brussels Journal, Marx wrote the following :—
  “The social principles of Christianity have had eighteen centuries in which to develop, and have no need to undergo further development at the hands of Prussian consistorial councillors. The social principles of Christianity justified the slavery of classical days; they glorified mediaeval serfdom; and they are able when needs must to defend the oppression of the proletariat, though with a somewhat crestfallen air. The social principles of Christianity proclaim the need for the existence of a ruling class and a subjugated class, being content to express the pious hope that the former will deal philanthropically with the latter. The social principles of Christianity assume that there will be compensation in heaven for all the infamies committed on earth, and thereby justify the persistence of these infamies here below. The social principles of Christianity explain that the atrocities perpetrated by the oppressors on the oppressed are either just punishments for original and other sins, or else trials which the Lord in His wisdom ordains for the Redeemed. The social principles of Christianity preach cowardice, self-contempt, abasement, submission, humility, in a word, all the qualities of the canaille; and the proletariat which will not allow itself to be treated as canaille, needs courage, self- confidence, pride, a sense of personal dignity and independence, even more than it needs daily bread. The social principles of Christianity are lick-spittle, whereas the proletariat is revolutionary. So much for the social principles of Christianity" !

(Literary Remains, Vol. II., pp. 442-442.)

“The Opium of the People.”
   “The fact is that religion is the self-consciousness and the self-feeling of the man who has either not yet found himself or, having done so, has lost himself again. . . .  Thus the struggle against Religion is a direct struggle against the world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious poverty is in one, the expression of real poverty, and, in another, a protest against real poverty. Religion is the sigh of a heavy laden creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is a prerequisite for the attainment of real happiness by the people. . . . Thus the criticism of heaven is transformed into a criticism of earth, the criticism of theology into a criticism of politics.” (Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, Vol. I., page 607-608. Marx, Zur Kritik der Hegelischen Rechtsphilosophie.)

Socialism vs. Nationalism. (1930)

Book Review from the May 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

The History of Nationalism in the East" by Dr. Hans Kohn. (Routledge, 1929).
"East is East, and West is West And never the twain shall meet.”
So sang the jingo bard, Kipling; but, like most poets, he was prone to inaccurate statements. Dr. Kohn’s book shows that the view quoted is as absurd historically as it is geographically. Just as surely as any line of latitude forms a circle, so it is also true that “eastern” and “western” races have acted and reacted upon one another.

In the past the Arabs and the Jews have, in different ways, influenced European development profoundly under suitable economic conditions. Since the eighteenth century dawned this development has in turn spread with rapidly accumulating force over the entire globe—“the Orient ” included.

Dr. Kohn’s theme is the effect of this development upon the literary, ethical, religious, and above all, political aspects of oriental existence. Not that he puts the matter quite like that. Here and there he gives unmistakable evidence of an acquaintance with the materialistic view of history, but he is far from logically applying it. On the contrary, there are times when it is a little difficult to tell whether one is reading a transcription of the mystical views of the people, whom the author describes or the author’s own views on the subject. This is most noticeable in the two final chapters on “India’s Awakening" and “ Indian Nationalism.”

Dr. Kohn is nothing if not comprehensive. Russia, Northern Africa, Turkey, Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan, India and China are all more or less thoroughly reviewed. One wishes the author had probed as deeply as he has travelled widely, at least in the literary sense. His clearest sentences are contained in his introduction on page 10. Having briefly sketched the downfall of feudalism and the rise of capitalism in Western Europe with the accompanying religious and political changes he goes on to say :—
  “A similar process is repeating itself in the East. Ancient economic systems are falling into decay, modern industrialism, wholesale trade and finance capital are beginning to penetrate everywhere. The old ruling caste of landed nobility, warriors and priests is being slowly ousted by a rising class of merchants, lawyers and men of letters. Professional men — especially lawyers and students—are protagonists of the new nationalist movement, their champions and leaders.”
Unfortunately, the author does not maintain the argument on this level. He advances the theory that there are three "fellowships of common destiny,” viz., the Anglo-Saxon (including the U.S.A.), the European (excluding Russia), and the Oriental. Says the Doctor (page 3):—
  "The Anglo-Saxon fellowship feels and wills its unity more consciously and fervently than the others. This sentiment of unity led England to come to an agreement with the United States in 1923 regarding the payment of her war debts, thus voluntarily burdening her citizens with an unprecedented weight of taxation.” 
Dr. Kohn apparently fails to observe that war-exhausted debtors—like the proverbial beggars—can hardly be choosers.

This superficial idealism spoils the book in several places. For example, in dealing with Russia, the author remarks: “England was the birthplace of middle-class revolution. Russia has been the first to achieve social revolution ” (page 125). What does he mean? Was not the middle-class revolution a social one? Is the Russian revolution anything but a middle-class one, in spite of the activity of the workers therein? Indeed, Dr. Kohn seems far too ready to accept Bolshevik claims at their face-value, and is prepared to make excuses of this character.
  ‘‘Though Russian policy in Asia after 1917 was often determined by national egotism and conducted from the point of view of Russia’s well-being and expansion, yet this was done in the name of an international ideal which augmented its force and, at the same time, gave it a sanction comparable only with England’s middle-class European ideal of gradual training in the blessings of freedom and self-government ” (pp. 130-1).
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” and we do not like Russian capitalist nationalism and imperialism any the better because it is labelled "Communism.” Dr. Kohn is on firmer ground when he points out that ‘‘there were similarities between Russia’s social structure and that of the Easts . . .  Like Russia, the East was predominantly agricultural. As in Russia, the most urgent task was to solve the problem of the peasants and the land (page 143).

There you have the matter in a nutshell. Neither Russia nor the Orient provide the conditions necessary for the establishment of Socialism (i.e., social ownership of the means of production), and Communists who argue that ideas can be transplanted regardless of that fact are trying to stand the historical process upon its head. Unfortunately, once more Dr. Kohn fails to look at the matter in the light of his own observations, and appears to look at the peasant millions of Russia and the East for considerable assistance in the elucidation of Europe’s problems; "Europe’s,” that is, in the same sense that they have originated there and do not change their essential character when they spread eastward.

We look in vain for evidence in support of this view. It is true that (as in Europe in the sixteenth century) religion in the East is losing authority and its place is being taken by nationalist politics; but Dr. Kohn provides ample evidence in the course of his book that this movement touches but the fringe of the population. Everywhere it is the "intellectual minority,” an insignificant fraction, that is struggling for power; the passive fatalistic peasant mass may here and there be stirred into activity in support of this minority. Temporarily, the peasants may score victories and some increase their holdings; whereupon they become as reactionary as any feudalist.

In the long run, however, capitalism expropriates the peasants as ruthlessly as it does the handicraftsmen before them. The tax-collector and the money-lender denude him more or less rapidly of his property and thus convert him into raw material for the labour market.

For this expropriated class of producers neither nationalism nor Dr. Kohn’s “fellowship of common destiny ” (much less his "world-consciousness”) has anything intelligible to offer. They are but pawns in the game of life so long as that game is played by rival sections of the master class. Their historic mission is the "expropriation of the expropriators,” and on this point Dr. Kohn is most disappointingly foggy.
Eric Boden

A Debate. (1930)

Party News from the May 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

A debate took place on Friday, March 28th, at the A.E.U. Institute, Sheffield, between J. T. Murphy, representing the Communist Party of Great Britain, and our representative, E. Boden, of the Sheffield Branch.

Our Case.
The subject of the debate was: "Which Party should the workers support—the S.P.G.B., or the C.P.G.B.?”

Comrade Boden, who opened the debate, outlined the subject position of the working class in capitalist society, and showed that this subject condition could only be abolished by converting the means of living from being the private property of the capitalist class into the common property of society. This conversion could be carried out only after the capture of the political machinery by the workers, organised in the Socialist Party. Comrade Boden laid stress on the fact that the state control of capital (as in Russia) and the administration of capitalism by so-called "Labour” representatives (as in Great Britain) are not Socialism.

The Case Of The Communist Party.
In his reply, Mr. Murphy described this as the "most hopeless message he had ever listened to.”

He said that our representative had outlined some very simple facts concerning the class division in society which he did not dispute, but had not told the workers what they were to do to-morrow morning. The Soviet Union was the one exception to the general statement that the capitalists owned the means of living. The S.P.G.B. maintained a counter revolutionary attitude towards the Soviet Union. (Mr. Murphy did not venture to offer any evidence for this statement but merely contented himself with making it.) Definitions of capital were of minor importance. The burning question was how to establish Socialism!

The S.P.G.B. had a wonderful philosophy. They regarded the workers as a lot of fools who were no further advanced than they were ten years ago.

The Communist Party held that Marxists must be in the struggle consciously; but the S.P.G.B. stood society on its head. They told the workers not to strike or organise in the factories, but to be quiet. The Communist Party regarded strikes and unemployed marches as part of the political struggle leading up to the smashing of the State machine. Parliament was a capitalist machine, which could not be used by the workers; but the S.P.G.B., like the I.L.P., held that the workers could get Socialism by simply voting for it.

Second Speech For The S.P.G.B. 
In his second speech, Comrade Boden pointed out that Mr. Murphy had made a series of false statements. The S.P.G.B. did not tell the workers not to strike, and to be quiet. What they did say was that strikes failed either to remove the cause of poverty or to change the general direction of capitalist development. Hence the necessity for political action. Mr. Murphy’s statements regarding Russia were not in accordance with the facts. Lenin’s “Preparing for Revolt” was quoted as evidence that the Bolshevists had no intention of dispossessing the capitalists as a class, and further quotations from the Soviet Union Year Book, 1929, were read to show that capitalist property in the form of State loans was rapidly developing in Russia. Comrade Boden pointed out that the workers there were exploited by means of the wages system as in other countries.

Communist Reply.
Mr. Murphy, in his reply stated that the attempt by revolutionary workers in Italy to capture Parliament was met by Fascism. The workers would have to crush the capitalists on the streets. The Russian Revolution had shown the way in which the workers should come to power. The S.P.G.B. said there had been no Revolution in Russia, but the workers owned the means of living there. True, they did not receive the full fruits of their labour individually, but they did so collectively through their control of the State. They talked of their “wages,” but that was only a convenient expression for the benefit of people with only average intelligence. Really, another word should be used to describe the arrangement. The workers ruled in Russia, but the S.P.G.B. talked the language of counter-revolution. Mr. Murphy said that the S.P.G.B.’s case had vanished and in its place stood a diatribe against Russia. The S.P.G.B. took its stand alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury. Our speaker had accused the Communists of supporting the Labour Party, but Mr. Murphy asserted that this was only because its leaders were at the head of the Trade Union movement in the General Council during the General Strike. True, they were only there to betray it, but what were the Communists to do—become strike-breakers ?

Final Speech For The S.P.G.B.
In his concluding speech, Comrade Boden said that Mr. Murphy seemed unable to distinguish between taking part in a strike against the employers, and supporting the Labour Party (a party admitted by the Communists to be a capitalist party) during an election.

To a Socialist the difference between a strike and a demand for reforms of the capitalist system is obvious.

Mr. Murphy’s statement that in Russia the workers are the rulers is not in accordance with the facts. The assistant secretary of the Russian Communist Party, V. Molotov, in his book, “The Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” states that less than half of the Party members are workers, and they constitute a small minority of the working class of Russia. Further, the reactionary elements who were supposed to have been suppressed 10 years ago are active inside the Russian Communist Party, as is shown by the repeated "purgings.” This fact alone disposed of the claims made on behalf of the dictatorship in Russia.

Finally, the three principal pillars of the State which the Bolsheviks were alleged to have smashed (i.e., the political police, the bureaucracy and the standing army) remain intact according to Molotov. They would do so while capitalism lasted in Russia.

Mr. Murphy Winds Up The Debate.
In winding up the debate, Mr. Murphy asserted that the army in Russia is “ours.” It was only natural that reactionary elements should force their way into the ruling party in any country. It had happened in Ireland, but in Russia these elements were being discovered and expelled.