Sunday, January 20, 2019

Leninism v Democratic Socialism (1984)

From the April 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the end of the nineteenth century the peasantry accounted for eighty-five per cent of the total Russian population of one hundred and fifty million. The “revolutionary" activities of the most recent past had been confined to a group of intellectuals who believed in “going to the people", that is to say mingling with the peasantry at large so as to spread their ideas. These Narodniks. as they were known, held that the revolutionary potential to overthrow the tyranny of Tsardom lay with the mass of peasants. This was understandable since at the time Russia, in terms of industrial development, was backward in comparison with the more highly developed Western economies, with their correspondingly large urban working class.

The Narodniks, as typified by the "People’s Will” group, believed in terrorism and teaching of anarchy as the means to revolution. They were responsible for the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. and the subsequent treatment of their members when caught did little to deter others from following the futile policy of violent minority action. In fact, six years later, Lenin’s brother Alexander was executed for complicity in a plot to assassinate Alexander III. under the auspices of the same organisation.

The "People’s Will" had been formed after a split in the Narodnik organisation "Land and Freedom”, which was set up in 1876 under the influence of the prominent anarchist Bakunin, who advocated such measures as the razing of capital cities and, when drinking, toasted "the destruction of public order and the unleashing of evil passions".

Concurrent with the establishment, at the turn of the century, of large-scale Russian industry, there arose a movement known as the League of Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class, whose number came to include one Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov. This Ulyanov, who became better known as Lenin, was a keen follower of Plekhanov, who had previously split from the "People’s Will" on the issue of individual terrorism. Plekhanov had founded the “Liberation of Labour" group, dedicated to rejection of the old Narodnik ideas in favour of using the incipient industrial working class as the agent of revolution. Through his association with Plekhanov, Lenin began to formulate an idea for a new party organisation using new tactics based on this growing proletariat. Arrested in 1895 for distributing agitational pamphlets, the subsequent period of exile gave him time to consolidate these ideas.

Professional revolutionaries 
Lenin made no secret of his desire to build an organisation of revolutionary leaders who would devote their abilities to imposing their will on the ignorant mass of porkers. The arrogance of this policy is clearly shown in the 1902 pamphlet ‘What is to he Done?': “As I have stated repeatedly, by ‘wise men’ in connection with organisation, I mean professional revolutionaries". [1]

On the question of “vanguardist” professionals. Marx and Engels had unequivocally stated some twenty years previously:
  When the International was formed we expressly formulated the battle cry: the emancipation of the working class must be achieved by the working class itself. We cannot therefore co-operate with people who openly state that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves and must be freed from above by philanthropic persons from the upper and lower middle classes. [2]
This compares interestingly with Lenin’s blatant leadership policy:
  The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness . . . The theory of Socialism, however, grew out of the philosophical, historical and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their social status, the founders of modern Scientific Socialism, Marx and Engels, belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. [3]
Nobody who claims to take a scientific view of history could deny that What is to be Done? was a reflection of the conditions of the day — conspiracy and violent minority action being a logical product of a non-democratic feudal system of society. But in fact Lenin did not abandon the policy of elitism even when the justification for it had disappeared. Fifteen years later he announced that if it were necessary for everybody to have developed intellectually to the level of desiring socialism, then we would have to wait five hundred years. [4] There is a wealth of evidence scattered throughout Lenin’s political career to show his contempt for the ability of the workers to understand socialism, and his conviction that they would have to be led to it by an elite of professionals. In 1917 a former colleague of Lenin’s described him as “a candidate for a European throne vacant for thirty years, the throne of Bakunin". [5]

Lenin had never really departed from the policy advocated by Peter Tkachev, who some twenty-seven years earlier stated:
  A real revolution can only be brought about in one way: through the seizure of power by revolutionists . . .
  The revolutionary minority, having freed the people from the yoke of fear and terror, provides an opportunity for the people to manifest their revolutionary destructive power. [6]
Views on the coming revolution
After the Second Party Congress of 1903 the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party split into two on the issue of whether the party should be constituted as a democratic mass party or as a small, centralised, disciplined elite. Tactical differences also developed between the “Bolsheviks” and “Mensheviks” (from the Russian words for majority and minority respectively). Both groups saw the necessity for Russia to undergo a preliminary capitalist revolution before socialism could even be considered—a view quite in accordance with the Marxian Materialist Conception of History. No one expressed this formulation more forcefully than Lenin, who wrote quite unambiguously that "Marxism has irrevocably broken with the Narodnik and anarchist gibberish that Russia for instance can bypass capitalist development, [7] and that . . . the democratic revolution will not immediately overstep the bounds of bourgeois social economic relationships.” [8]

The Mensheviks maintained that the proletariat, the working class, had no hope of gaining political power for their own ends without the prior establishment of this “bourgeois-democratic” regime. Only under these circumstances, with workers meanwhile negotiating some interim reforms, could conditions develop under which the working class would be able to lake power for themselves in order to establish socialism.

The Mensheviks therefore postponed any direct revolutionary action to some remote unforeseeable future, and openly advocated support for the up-and-coming Russian capitalist class in its struggle for supremacy over the reigning autocracy. The Mensheviks were therefore the faction most closely to be associated with the “revisionist” tendency in the German Social Democratic Workers’ Party, as propounded by Eduard Bernstein. These members rejected conspiratorial organisation in favour of what was considered by the Bolsheviks to be a too-deterministic approach.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks took the attitude that, due to the weakness of the developing capitalist class in Russia at that time, their coming superiority as a class could only be effected if helped by an alliance between the proletariat and the numerically superior peasantry. Under this dictatorship of workers and peasants, the richer section of the peasantry could then be dispensed with, leaving the working class and the “semi-proletarian” element of the peasantry in control:
  The proletariat must carry through to completion the democratic revolution, by uniting itself to the mass of the peasantry, in order to crush by force the opposition of the autocracy and to paralyse the instability of the bourgeoisie. The proletariat must complete the Socialist revolution by uniting to itself the mass of semi-proletarian elements in the population, in order to break by force the opposition of the bourgeoisie and to paralyse the instability of the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie. [9]
Dictatorship of the proletariat
It is significant that this peasant/worker alliance was not originally intended to constitute the "dictatorship of the proletariat” — a phrase used by Marx when he was optimistic about the establishment of socialism in the near future. He envisaged a situation where the workers would have taken democratic control but the forces of wealth production had not yet been sufficiently developed to allow free access. Hence the need for a democratic society with the proletariat in political control but not yet fully at the level where it would be possible to have access based on the principle “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs”. [10]

This idea of “dictatorship” was later used by Lenin to justify a “two-stage” theory of socialist development, made necessary by his (at first) unique interpretation of the events at the end of 1917. The Bolshevik idea was that there would follow, in the wake of their seizure of power, a series of revolutions in Western Europe, thereby consolidating the world revolution.

The third opinion on the debate over the nature of the coming revolution was provided by Leon Trotsky, who argued that the proletariat, having carried out the initial revolution, could scarcely be expected to relinquish state power afterwards. He held that the revolution would become "permanent” through the institution by the workers of nationalisation measures, while waiting for the rest of the European workers to take the lead from Russia's good example. Originally, Lenin maintained that the peasants and European workers would have to support the revolution from the outset. Trotsky arguing on the other hand that their support would constitute the final phase of the revolution.

So, Lenin's revolutionary horizon was at first no broader than a “dictatorship" of workers and peasants. This attitude was to change dramatically after the first, February, revolution of 1917. After his return in April. Lenin published his famous April Theses, one of which was that the worldwide socialist revolution had, in fact, begun. Most of Lenin's own comrades were staggered by this interpretation, even to the extent that he was interrupted with cries of, “delerium, the delerium of a madman”, [11] and it was widely believed that he would come to his senses when he had time properly to assess the true situation.

What is to be done?
Leninist and Trotskyist organisations to this day attempt to discredit the use of the. admittedly limited, democratic institutions as a vehicle for social revolution. "Parliamentary Cretinism”, to use Marx's term, is indeed doomed to failure — meaning the use of the capitalist institution to pass legislative reforms which are supposed to lead, ultimately, to a "fairer” society. However, the system of more-or-less democracy which goes with the Parliamentary institution can serve as a useful measure of the prerequisite for a successful revolution — working class consciousness.

Marx and Engels recognised the growing value of using suffrage as an expression of popular will. Marx wrote in 1880:
  . . . collective appropriation must be striven for by all means that are available to the proletariat. including universal suffrage, which will thus be transformed from the instrument of fraud that it has been till now, into an instrument of emancipation. [12]
The out of date vanguardist methods of violent insurrection were finally laid to rest by Friedrich Engels at the end of the nineteenth century, when he wrote in his introduction to Marx's Class Struggles in France 1848-1850,
  The time is past for revolutions carried through by small minorities at the head of unconscious masses . . . the masses themselves must participate, must understand what is at stake and why they must act. That much the history of the last fifty years has taught us. But so that the masses may understand what is to be done, long and persistent work is required . . . even in France the Socialists realise more and more that no durable success is possible unless they win over in advance the great mass of the people. . . . The slow work of propaganda and parliamentary activity are here also recognised as the next task of the party. [13]
Soviets and the state
The soviet, or council, was the institution that flourished in Russia at the beginning of the abortive 1905 revolution, in the absence of any legally-sanctioned representative body of political opinion. Obviously, the form of democratic representation used by the working class depends ultimately on the prevailing political and economic conditions at that time. However, present-day advocates of the soviet as a means to "workers' control” are adamant that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready made state machinery, and wield for its own purposes"; [14] this is the article of faith still propounded in the Trotskyist paper Socialist Worker.
  It was however the view of Marx and Engels, authors of the above passage, that it was necessary for their workers to take control of the state machinery before it could be used against the capitalist class. This , seeming paradox was resolved some years later when Engels clarified the specific point in a letter to Bernstein:

  As to your former enquiry regarding the passage in the preface of the Manifesto. . . . It is simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must first refashion the old bureaucratic, administratively centralised state power before it can use it for its own purposes. . . . [15]
The state is after all the executive body of the ruling class, even if run from top to bottom by members of the working class. The army and the police force, by virtue of their particularly unpleasant manifestations of repression and brutality, have come to be regarded by some as a force unto themselves, impermeable to socialist ideas. The fact remains, however, that the police and army are made up of workers who are forced to sell their ability to work in whichever way they can. The members of these repressive state institutions are no less susceptible to socialist ideas than is any other body of people.

A democratically-expressed majority is the only way to ensure that there will be a sufficiently large number of people aware of how society will need to be run and prepared to assert it. As Rosa Luxemburg said, with regard to the Bolshevik closure of an unfavourable Constituent Assembly:
   . . . the remedy which Trotsky and Lenin have found, the elimination of democracy as such, is worse than the disease it is supposed to cure; for it stops up the very living source from which alone can come the correction of all the innate shortcomings of social institutions. That source is the active, untrammeled, energetic political life of the broadest masses of the people. [16]
P. G. Robinson

[1] What is to he Done?, p121 (Progress, Moscow 1978).
[2] Selected Correspondence — Marx and Engels, p307 (Progress 1975).
[3] Lenin, op.cit, p31.
[4] Ten Days that Shook the World, John Reed, p263 (Penguin).
[5] Quoted in The Bolshevik Revolution, Vol. I. E.H. Carr, p90 (Pelican 1983).
[6] Quoted in D. Shub’s biography, Lenin, p26 (Pelican 1966).
[7] "Two Tactics in Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution". Lenin, p76 Selected Works (Progress Moscow 1977).
[8] ibid, p82.
[9] ibid, p147.
[10] Critique of the Gotha Programme, p247 (Pelican Marx Library 1974).
[11] Carr, op.cit, p90.
[12] "Introduction to the Programme of French Workers’ Party". p247 (Pelican Marx Library 1974).
[13] Introduction to Marx’s "Class Struggles in Trance, 1848-1850". p18 (Progress 1972).
[14] Communist Manifesto, Preface to 1872 edition. p2 (Peking 1970).
[15] Selected Correspondence — Marx and Engels, p345. (Progress Moscow 1975).
[16] The Russian Revolution, Rosa Luxemburg. p38 (Slienger, London 1977).

This Month's Quotation: Oscar Wilde (1938)

The Front Page quote from the April 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard
"A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it. 
                                                                                Oscar Wilde

Will There Be Another War? (1938)

From the April 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

At no time since the end of the Great War has the talk of war, the fear of war, the imminent probability of war, so weighed upon the minds of men and women as during the last few years. For a decade following the Great War the comforting reflection prevailed that it could not happen again, pacifist sentiment grew, and books and plays portraying the horrors of war became popular. Then events happened in rapid succession. Japan conquered Manchuria, Italy Abyssinia, and now Germany has marched into Austria and has wiped it out as an independent State—the latter event throwing the whole world into consternation, because of the implied threat to French and British capitalist interests. What is the explanation of the German invasion of Austria and why should British capitalists appear to be so shocked by it?

Quite obviously, the political union under one government of people speaking the same language and having the same traditions is in itself not a sufficient explanation. In fact, English statesmen, Tory and Labour, have approved the idea, and when a few years ago the attempt to form a customs union by Germany and Austria was frustrated by France the same Labour and Tory Pecksniffs wagged their heads sadly at the bitterness of the French. The explanation for the British capitalists’ concern is that the event threatens to bring the danger of war perilously near its own doorstep.

What is the position?

After the Great War, as part of the business of breaking up German alliances, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up and Austria was created an “independent” State and maintained in that position by the allied enemies of German capitalism. Germany’s conquest of Austria means more than the surface appearance of just the union of German-speaking people. It means that German capitalism has recovered from the dismembered condition in which its victors left it after the Great War. It means that Germany has developed the economic, military and political power to throw off a dominance exercised over it by similar forces stronger than its own. Any capitalist who faces the realities of the capitalist world, who can see through the mealy-mouthed pieties which the event has provoked, knows that Germany could not have achieved the same result by any other means than those used. Germany has been undergoing industrial expansion, which until recent years had been restricted by the political situation inside Germany and by competitive forces outside it. In response to their needs, Nazism developed to solve the domestic problem for the German industrialists and the problem of their clash of interests with capitalist competitors outside Germany.

As Mr. Winston Churchill points out, the Nazi mastery of Vienna dominates all the roads, railways and rivers upon which the States of the Little Entente depend for their military cohesion, and all the countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe depend for their economic life. Vienna, the ancient capital of a once mighty empire, is the ganglion nerve-centre of the trade and communications of all countries of the Danube basin, and others besides.

Thus Germany has achieved a position of strategic military importance, besides gaining the power of economic dominance in Central Europe formerly possessed by France and her allies.

What, then, are the chances of war?

Unquestionably, the expansion of German capitalism will demand opportunities for raw materials and trade which will conflict with those powers who already have a grip on the world’s sources of supply and markets. Must—need—this conflict break into war? The plain and simple fact is that the factors likely to lead to war to-day are more alive than at any time since 1914. Enormous military machinery has been created at staggering costs, in order to defend existing possessions and advantages—or to gain them. This process has gone on because respective capitalists do not intend to concede what they have and because they cannot obtain what they have not without force. It would represent a bad investment if the purpose for which armaments were built up were forsaken. But what of the possibility that the fear of "war being the end of civilisation” will act as a brake? This pious sentiment is very little short of a wish-fulfilment. It is doubtful whether any capitalist really believes war would be continued to the point where “civilisation” was destroyed beyond power of recuperation. It is more likely that capitalists, if the armed conflict occurred, would hope for and aim at a short war of a violent and decisive nature—resulting, perhaps, by reason of its shortness and violence, in no greater
loss in cost and destruction of property than would a larger war fought with less effective military weapons. In short, the position is that in the present condition of the capitalist world a war fought out for that rich, ripe plum—the British Empire—is ever an imminent possibility.

But if war comes the workers will not be told that it is a quarrel over markets and trade, and fought out in the interests of the capitalists. They will be told anything but that—the humbug, the liar, the Press, the pulpit, the Labour leader, the Tory, the sincere and the insincere would join together to persuade the workers that it is war to preserve peace—democracy—the independence of Austria.

The independence of Austria! It is a lie and a myth. For twenty years the meaning of the word has been foreign to Austrian capitalist and worker. For twenty years Austrian capitalists have been in the pockets of the French and British capitalists. The rulers of Austria, whom Hitler suppressed, were Fascists, the tools, until Hitler stepped in, of Mussolini, the exterminators of Austrian democracy and of Austrian working-class industrial and political organisations, the bloody murderers of Austrian working men and women when the Christian-Fascists took power in 1934.

The independence of Austria is not at stake. British capitalist interests are; and when the miscalled Communist newspaper, the Daily Worker, headlines an article which demands that the British Government take action in defence of Austrian independence with the slogan, “Britain’s Honour at Stake,” they are playing the capitalist game of deluding the workers.

The Austrian question represents a quarrel between the capitalists of Europe over the wealth they own and want to own. The working-class bone is not at stake. Socialists will play no part in obscuring the issue in this quarrel or any future quarrel between the capitalists of Europe. 
Harry Waite

Here and There (1938)

From the April 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

More “Unity”
Lo! It has come to pass! The Communist Party, which has during the past few years been straining itself to demonstrate that it can, and will do, anything but expound Communism, has succeeded so well that it is now to the “right" of the Labour Party. Mr. William Gallacher, Communist M.P., during the debate on Anglo-Germanic relations in the House of Commons, said: —
  I am very happy to say that I agree entirely with the concluding remarks of the right hon. gentleman, the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—his remarks about collective security. . . . (Daily Worker, March 16th, 1938.)
The Daily Worker went further in unctuous approval. It said: “Contrast Churchill’s speech with the thin gruel of Attlee or the indigestible suet pudding of Mr. Alexander.” Time was when no Communist could mention Churchill’s name without loathing and contempt. But now Churchill and Gallacher are brothers under the banner of "Collective Security,” behind whose screen the workers of this country may soon be persuaded and cajoled into giving their lives in defence of their masters' property. Much has happened since Lenin sent his clarion call to the workers of the western world to help the Russian Revolution by overthrowing the capitalists in their respective countries, and since Churchill spent £100,000,000 of the British capitalists' money in an attempt to overthrow the Bolshevists. Times have changed, and so have the Communists. “Collective Security” for the British capitalists and their allies has taken the place of “World Revolution.” But the modern Communist is imperturbable. The simple phrase that “conditions have changed” is sufficient to account in his mind for any change in the “Party line.” As one Communist, unable to explain glaring changes in C.P. policy, in an argument with one of our speakers in Hyde Park, said: "Ah, Mr. Speaker, you don't understand, it is dialectical materialism.” A Christian would have said: “It is the will of God!” Phrases—and both indicating a paralysis of mind.


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Capitalism and Progress
What is progress? According to an article in the News Chronicle (March 4th) it means: —
  The relief of difficulties in everyone's life, the best possible use of all objects and their widest distribution.
   It means the fight against waste of energy and material. . . .
The article, “Pigeon-holed Inventions,” goes on to show that capitalism, rather than promote "the best possible use of all objects and their widest distribution,” works in the opposite direction. We are told, for example, that in Germany, soon after the War, the project was proposed of supplying Berlin with cheap gas by means of pipelines running under the earth direct from the coal districts of the Ruhr. The project was abandoned because the owners of the German railways would not permit the laying of the pipes under the soil over which their wide network of railways ran. They feared loss of revenue through losing the transport of coal to Berlin.

Another example. Who would deny the immeasurable advantages of a smokeless atmosphere? Nobody, of course. And, quite naturally, you will smile and say to yourself that only a Socialist could be guilty of the fantastic inference that anyone would prevent that if it were possible. Well, here’s the answer.

Professor Haber, “one of the most outstanding German war-time chemists,” constructed a completely reliable working smoke consumer, which could be employed in any chimney at a low running cost.

The secret consisted in making the smoke pass through an electric filter. He offered his invention to the German Admiralty, for one of his aims in constructing this consumer had been to render the German fleet almost invisible.

The invention was investigated and found to be excellent, but was not accepted. The German Admiralty were convinced that it would not be possible to keep the device secret, and the probable victory of the unlimited submarine warfare, just then started, would have been imperilled if enemy ships could no longer be traced by their smoke on the horizon.

And that was the last that was heard of that invention!

Another example. This time concerning that common little article of everyday use, the match. The writer records that an Austrian chemist discovered the everlasting match! What followed, it can be imagined, was in strict accord with the progressive principles of capitalist morality. That match was bought by the Swedish Match Trust for one million Swedish Kroner, and has reposed since in its secret safes to this day. The Trust could, however, preen itself with the disinterested reflection that several small European states who subsisted on the Trust’s loans were saved from economic ruin!

Other examples: The abandoning of the Channel tunnel, which was actually started, and a collective scheme to provide the whole of Europe with abundant electricity, both of which were killed because of military considerations and the petty jealousies and rivalries between competing capitalist interests.


As Marx said: “Capitalism becomes a fetter. . . .”

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Wages and Brains
One of capitalism’s complacent lying boasts is that “brains” will send the man possessing them “to the top.” Possession of brains, it is assumed, is characterised by outward symbols, signifying the possessor to have had certain conventional opportunities to acquire “education”— accent, a degree, specialised knowledge, and all those things which most workers, by reason of environment, can never acquire. It is curious, therefore, that a group of these superior people, so carefully groomed in the capitalist process which denotes “education” and the possession of "brains,” should follow the example of the “lesser breed” and strike against their employers ”until better conditions are obtained.”

Yet it is so. A leaflet in our possession tells us that the tutors of the British Institute of Technology, and two Tutorial Institutes, men who hold university degrees and professional qualifications, are on strike to increase their average wage of £3 5s. 0d. a week. (Their students are prepared for posts up to £16 a week. Seems something wrong with the “brain” theory here.)

Recognition that organisation is necessary to obtain improved conditions is a hopeful sign that the “superior’’ ones may yet recognise the necessity for Socialism.

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People in Glass Houses
Herr Hitler recently replied to several prominent English M.P.s, who had protested about his treatment of the opposition in Germany, by telling them that they should concern themselves with “the sentences passed by the British courts-martial in Jerusalem." Should your comfortable English complacency lead you to believe that that is just German spleen the following should prove disabusing: “. . . In the House of Commons I drew attention to the death sentence passed on Sheikh Farham Sadi, seventy-five years of age, by a military court in Palestine, for carrying firearms" — Major-General Sir Alfred Knox, in a letter to The Times (March 12th, 1938). Complacency will again infer, of course, that that's different; no British Government would treat its own subjects like that. Comforting thought, but history just does not support it. There can be found very few examples of political repression and vile economic conditions in the modern world for which parallel examples could not be found in English (even recent) history.

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Another Crisis on the Way
With the passing of the worst period of the recent industrial crisis and the beginning of another brief span of expansion of production, our tabloid Press, labour leaders and City editors, all began to chorus the chant that there would (or could) be permanent prosperity. When figures for unemployment began to rise their optimism became tempered with a little caution. “Just a temporary recession," they all cried. This is, of course, very appropriate propaganda with which to fool the gullible. But there are people, who, like ourselves, are not fooled. Ministry of Labour officials, whose job it is to manage the unemployment insurance fund, have found themselves with a nett surplus of £60 millions, but instead of increasing benefits to the unemployed it, “for very sound reasons, bases its estimates on the anticipated duration of a trade cycle, and in these good years is laying by a reserve for the lean years that may follow" (The Times, March 4th, 1938). That the “lean years" are approaching has been brought home to the officials by the fact that the insurance fund produced in 1937 only a £20,000,000 surplus as against £40,000,000 for the year 1936.

When the next depression shows itself in unmistakable fashion, we shall, no doubt, see the spectacle of the present optimistic chorus chanting the refrain of a “permanent crisis," the “collapse of capitalism," and so forth.

Socialists, understanding capitalism, see in the rise and fall of production, in booms and slumps, just the normal working of capitalism—its pendulum, so to speak. And capitalism without its pendulum movement would not be capitalism. The poverty and insecurity of the workers can only be abolished when the condition on which the pendulum rests is abolished. That condition is the private ownership of the means and instruments of production.

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From the Evening Standard (March 1st, 1938): —
  “Lord McGowan, as chairman, presided at this afternoon's meeting.
  “I understand that his salary, now in the neighbourhood of £55,000, is being continued, although he has relinquished his duties as managing director of the company."
    £55,000 for not doing his job! 
Harry Waite

Socialism and Equality (1938)

Letter to the Editors from the April 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Glasgow, W.2.
March 10th, 1938.

Dear Sirs,

If space permits, I would like to make a brief reply to your arguments in the March issue of The Socialist Standard.

Let me say, then, that I entirely disagree with your contention that the failure of equality in colonies, such as Lane's, does not prove the impracticable character of the system. If the seed is healthy, it should multiply and flourish; if unhealthy, we should expect it to wither and decay. Colonies such as Lane's, if they were founded upon scientific principles should have proved successful, grown and multiplied, and set an example to the world. We know that under capitalism groups of pioneers have ventured into barren wildernesses and made them into flourishing towns. The seed here was healthy; the seed of equality is definitely not. It withers and decays wherever it is planted.

The S.P.G.B. has frequently asserted that the Russian experiment in equality was bound to fail because the people neither understood nor consciously desired a Socialist system. But no such argument (even if valid in regard to Russia) can be applied to Lane's experiment in Paraguay. For the people here were all picked Socialists, men who understood Socialism and were convinced that the equalitarian principle was sound. They failed because the system was contrary to human nature, at variance with the strongest human emotions. And if the S.P.G.B. ever obtained a majority for the system in this country it would fail for the same reason.

There is one other point with which I wish to deal —the question of whether men will work and study without material reward, and merely for the joy of exercising their natural faculties. Upon this point considerable confusion exists, but the question, clearly seen, presents no difficulty. As I have said before, there is a kind of labour which is an end in itself and a kind of labour which is a means to an end. The philosopher pursues truth because he loves truth; the miner does not dig coal because he loves coal. Marx did not ask how much he was going to make before he wrote a book. With him, as with many noble pioneers, the labour was its own reward. But this does not prove that in the ordinary humdrum affairs of life men will labour to the utmost merely for the joy of exercising their natural faculties. We are dealing here with two entirely different motives, and these motives are not interchangeable. If everyone could choose the kind of activity that made him happy the question would be easier to deal with, and your argument easier to prove. But most of us do, and will under any conceivable system continue to do, daily tasks which are not to our liking and for which we will demand compensation in the form of material reward!
Yours fraternally,
H. W. Henderson.

Our correspondent argues that the Lane experiment would have succeeded if the “equality" idea is sound, and would have been followed by other such colonies; and that, as it failed, that proves the "equality" idea to be unsound. Our reply is that the failure of such colonies proves that the idea of isolated social experiments is unsound, but leaves the Socialist case untouched. Socialism needs a high development of society's powers of industrial production on an international basis, plus a majority of Socialists. Even if we accept that the Lane experiment had the Socialists, it lacked the developed powers of production and was an isolated colony, not an international working class movement. The idea “to each according to his needs" requires as its basis a high level of industrial productivity, i.e., the capacity to produce wealth in abundance. It is not sufficient merely that a group
of men should have convinced themselves that they believe in it.

On the question of the incentive for work and study, our correspondent makes a distinction between the philosopher seeking truth and the miner hewing coal. He says: "The philosopher pursues truth because he loves truth; the miner does not dig coal because he loves coal." But need there be any such distinction? The problems of mining and engineering, even the detailed problems with which the individual worker has to deal, are intrinsically just as interesting as the problems facing the philosopher. Capitalism denies to vast numbers of workers the possibility of interesting themselves in these problems, but Socialism would not do so. On the other hand, under Socialism, all kinds of workers will be helped and given greater incentive by the knowledge that their work is for the good of the whole human society of which they are part, and in the welfare of which they share.

Our correspondent would say that Socialism must give special rewards to men with special capacities. We say that Socialism’s task will be to improve the capacity of all, partly by knowledge and training, partly by inspiring them with the realisation that the good of the community is the good of the individual. The men with special capacity will not be found less socially minded than their fellows.
Ed. Comm.

Trotsky-Stalin Feud: An American View (1938)

From the April 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Professor John Dewey, the well-known American philosopher and educationalist, who presided over the Committee that inquired into the Trotsky affair, gave an interview to an American newspaper on the lessons of Bolshevism as he sees them. As the line he takes is going to be increasingly the line of attack on Socialism, his arguments are worth examination. But before coming to this it is worth while placing on record what he and the Committee concluded are the facts of Trotsky’ supposed complicity in the Russian assassination plots. This is what he said to his interviewer, as reported in the Washington Post (December 19th, 1937):
  “During the nine months of its steady works, our committee held hearings in Mexico, New York City, and Paris. It collected many scores of affidavits and depositions, and examined hundreds of letters and documents, as well as making a complete analysis of the testimony given in the Moscow trials. As a result of its prolonged, thorough, and impartial investigation – for none of its ten members is a Trotskyite or affiliated in any way with his theories and activities – it found Trotsky and his son innocent of the charges brought against them.
  It found that the prosecutor made no effort to ascertain the truth and that his procedure contradicted at every point the rules laid down for legal procedure in Russian law in a book edited by the prosecutor himself. It found that the three alleged interviews with Trotsky, said to have occurred in Copenhagen, Paris, and Oslo, never took place, this finding being supported by a mass of notarised depositions by persons in personal contact with Trotsky at the time the interviews were alleged to have been held, many of them by his political adversaries.
  . . . On the basis of all the evidence, we found that Trotsky never recommended, plotted, or attempted the restoration of capitalism in the U.S.S.R. It was clearly established that the prosecutor at the trials fantastically falsified Trotsky’s role before, during, and after the October revolution. In short, the report proves the Moscow trials to be a frame-up. Later a volume of some two hundred pages will be published, giving in full the evidence on which our findings rest.”
Now for Professor Dewey’s conclusions.

The Breakdown of Marxism?
His first point is that the feud itself, regarded in its personal aspect, is of no importance to anyone but those immediately concerned. As the interviewer, Agnes E. Meyer phrased it, the dispute “has no more meaning to John Dewey than the fight between Schmeling and Joe Louis.” But the ideas for which the men and their supporters stand matter very much to the world at large, for, in Dewey’s eyes, we are witnessing the final breakdown of Marxism:
   “The great lesson to be derived from these amazing revelations is the complete breakdown of revolutionary Marxism. Nor do I think that a confirmed Communist is going to get anywhere by concluding that, because he can no longer believe in Stalin, he must pin his faith on Trotsky. The great lesson for all American radicals and for all sympathisers with the U.S.S.R. is that they must go back and reconsider the whole question of means of bringing about social changes and of truly democratic methods of approach to social progress.”
He believes that Trotsky, as well as Stalin, stands for a method which has proved, and must prove, disastrous; “the dictatorship of the proletariat has led, and, I am convinced, always must lead, to a dictatorship over the proletariat and over the party. I see no reason to believe that something similar would not happen in every country in which an attempt is made to establish a Communist government.”

He claims that the dictatorship of a minority is compelled to use terrorism in order to crush opposition, and is compelled to make concessions to the non-Socialist outlook of the population in order to secure their support. In the long run such a dictatorship becomes so entrenched that it can only be overthrown by force. Far from being a passing phase and a step towards Socialism it becomes a terrifying barrier to further progress.

We need spend no further time on Dewey’s case, for it will be recognised at once as substantially the case put forward by the S.P.G.B. from 1918 onwards; in other words, it is the case put forward by Marxists against the Bolshevists. Dewey’s fallacy is that he accepts the minority dictatorship idea as being the doctrine of Marxists. Consequently his unanswerable case against the Bolshevists hits them but leaves Marxism in complete possession of the field.

Honesty in Working Class Politics
The argument Dewey goes on to develop – and here again he is only saying what the S.P.G.B. has always said – is that a minority cannot impose a social advance on an apathetic or hostile majority, for the reason that the minority dictatorship, in order to retain power, has to destroy freedom of speech, writing, and of the Press, which are the necessary conditions of orderly progress. The dictatorship has to preach the doctrine that the end justifies the means – as if ends and means could ever be divorced – and has to proclaim, as did Trotsky and Stalin, that Socialism can be achieved by brutal terrorism. They have to justify every form of opportunism, lying to the workers, compromise with the enemies of Socialism, bribery, treachery, framed-up charges, the methods of the Tsarist secret police – all in the name of Socialism. They have to preach that truth is just a bourgeois weapon against the workers, whereas, as Dewey well says: “Truth, instead of being a bourgeois virtue, is the mainspring of all human progress.” He adds:
  “A people that is kept in systematic ignorance of what is going on in the world and even in their own country and which is fed on lies, has lost the fundamental leverage of progress. To me, as an educator, this is the great tragedy of the Russian situation.“
Edgar Hardcastle

Letter: Further Criticism of the
 Object of the S.P.G.B. (1938)

Letter to the Editors from the April 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the February issue, reference was made to a letter printed in the Aberdeen Evening Express over the signature "C. Clarke.” We have received the following letter from the writer:—

February 27th, 1938.

Dear Sir,

In your February issue of the Standard, you have an article, purporting to be an answer, to a criticism of your “Object,” contained in a letter above my name, and published in the Aberdeen Evening Express.

What you had to say did not in any way alter my opinion, and in further proof of my contention that your party "Object” requires pruning to bring it into line with the Marxian dicta, I am giving a few extracts from the words of our illustrious mentor, Marx, which deal specifically with the points at issue. In Volume 1, chapter 3, of Capital, Marx states that: “The earth itself is an instrument of labour, but used as such in agriculture, implies a whole series of instruments, and a comparatively high development of labour. In a wider sense, we may include among the instruments of labour, in addition to those things that are used for transferring labour to its subject, and which, one way or another, serve as conductors of activities, all such objects as are necessary for carrying on the labour process.” 

These extracts, besides dealing with what Marx understood as being “instruments,” etc., have also a bearing upon the term “distribution,” but, as they may not be sufficient in dealing with same, I am giving two other extracts, which may serve this purpose: —
  1. On Page 127, Volume II, of Capital, Marx states that: “For having consumption as its object, production cannot be regarded as completed, until the product is placed within the reach of the consumer.”
  2. On Page 71/72, “Peoples Marx," by Deville, it states that: “Besides the things that serve as instruments of our aids to the action of man, ‘the means of labour,’ include in a wider sense, all the material conditions which, without entering directly into the operations performed, are yet indispensable to their performance, such as railways, canals, roads, etc., or at least their absence would render the labour imperfect.”

Your implication that I am a “seeker after brevity” and clarity, is far from being true; what I am concerned with, at all times, is “clarity,” whether brief or otherwise.

Regarding my comment on the term “community", your remarks on same bear out my contention that it is rather restricted in its meaning, and, because of this, and the wider significance of the term “Society” (civilised body of mankind), my preference is for the latter. In closing, let me ask of you to give publicity to the extracts I have given, and also to publish my letter, as it appeared in the columns of the Aberdeen Express.
Yours, etc.
Chas. Clarke.

Mr. Clarke, not being satisfied with the case made by us in the February The Socialist Standard, seeks to prove his points by “giving a few extracts from the works of our illustrious mentor, Marx.” What our correspondent fails to see is that, while these extracts are interesting from the point of view of the student of Marx, they have little bearing on the question before us. (The first quotation does not appear in the chapter named.) The aim of the S.P.G.B. in presenting a statement of its "Object of Principles” to the workers is to do so in language which conforms to current usage, and is understandable by the men and women to whom it is addressed. That is the test, not whether Marx, writing in German three-quarters of a century ago in a highly technical work written for students, did or did not use the term “instrument” in connection with the earth. Similarly with the term “distribution.”

The possible objections to the word “Community” in certain localities was dealt with in the February The Socialist Standard. We notice, in passing, that Marx used the word "Community” in this sense, according to a letter written by Engels to Bebel, March 18th-28th, 1875. (See “The Correspondence of Marx and Engels,” Martin Lawrence, Ltd., 1934. Page 337.)

Mr. Clarke gives no reason why further space in our columns should now be given to a letter written, not to us, but to the Aberdeen Evening Express.
Ed. Comm.

We regret the sudden death of Comrade George Bellingham. An appreciative notice will appear next month.

The German Drive Through Central Europe (1938)

From the April 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

The collapse of Germany at the end of the World War was completed by an economic blow delivered, with crushing vigour, by the Allied Powers at Versailles in 1919. Valuable sources of raw material, such as the Ruhr basin, Silesia and Alsace-Lorraine, were stripped away. Her erstwhile allies, Austria and Hungary, were reduced to unimportant geographical areas, and their territory made over to the new states of Czechoslovakia and Jugoslavia. The whole trend, therefore, of German policy has been to obtain a reversal of this crippling verdict. Hitler has merely given it fresh impetus and new direction.

One of the first tasks for the German ruling class under the Dictatorship was to find allies in a Europe of rapidly changing orientations. With this in view, a ten-year pact of non-aggression was concluded with Poland in 1934. The way then became clear for the “Drang nach Osten,” the much proclaimed “Drive to the East." This is nothing more than an attempt to control important sources of raw materials, embodying ideologically the vision of a great Germanic Empire. So one of the first tasks was to wean Austria from French and Italian influence. The culmination of this process was on February 12th last, when Dr. Schuschnigg met Herr Hitler at Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s mountain home near the Austrian frontier. An ultimatum was presented to the Austrian Chancellor, while German troops were massed on the frontier.

On the morning of February 16th it was announced that pro-Germans had been appointed to key positions in the Austrian Government and police. At the same time, Austrian Nazis undergoing sentence were released from jail. Germany's complete control of Austria was merely a matter of days.
As a bar to further progress stands the opposition of Czechoslovakia. Here the problem is different. With a population of 15 million and an area of 55,000 square miles it was formed at the end of the Great War out of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The districts of Bohemia and Moravia in the north-west were originally Austrian; while Slovakia and Ruthenia were Hungarian. There is also a small but important part of Upper Silesia ceded by Germany. Bohemia projects like a bastion into Germany. Mountain ranges form a strong natural barrier, broken by the valleys of the Eger, Elbe and Oder, which provide the only practical entrances into Czechoslovakia from Germany. On the south the “Moravian gateway" admits access from Austria.

If Germany, with the aid of Austria, were by a pincer-like military movement enabled to nip off this region, the remainder of Czechoslovakia, which is agricultural, but otherwise poor and resourceless, would be easily reduced. The Bohemian basin around Pilsen, Brno and Silesia is rich in coal and iron—commodities very necessary to German capitalists, whose present sources of supply are insufficient for their needs. Moreover, Bohemia and Moravia have great and profitable textile, boot, glass, steel and armament industries. In order to resist such an invasion from Germany the Czechoslovakian Government has created a large army and air force, well organised and equipped. In addition, the frontiers are strongly fortified and defended at assailable points. In return for a loan to build armaments, Rumania was asked to guarantee that the Czernowitz railway, from Russian Ukraine to Czechoslovakia, would be completed in order to ensure a ready transit of troops and goods in time of war.

German attempts to awaken pro-Nazi sympathies among the dissident minority have proved less fruitful than in Austria. The Sudeten Germans are a racial group chiefly clustered along the German frontier. The Government has repeatedly refused them minority rights, such as the Slovaks enjoy; and in spite of frequent appeals to the League of Nations they have received little satisfaction. The movement in 1933 was unified under Konrad Henlein into the Sudeten Deutsche Party, and possibly received financial support from Germany. But there are considerable differences of opinion within the minority and only a few demand complete alliance with the Third Reich. Moreover, attempts have been made by the Government in the scheme of frontier defence to stiffen the nationalist morale of these minorities.

Against this must be put the fact that Czechoslovakian frontiers are land-locked. Her outlets to the sea are the rivers Elbe and Oder, both through Germany. There are railway exits to Italian ports of Trieste and Fiume on the Adriatic, and to Danzig on the Baltic. There is only one other route to the sea, via the traffic-laden Danube through the plains of Hungary, Jugoslavia and Rumania. Moreover, the encirclement of Czechoslovakia by unfriendly powers is nearly complete. Hungary, on the south, hopes that the outcome of a successful war would be the return of the large estates handed over to Czechoslovakia in 1919. German diplomacy has the task of converting this “ unfriendliness ” into, at least, passive hostility. The circle is incomplete by the absence of Rumania. At this juncture, it is hardly likely that Germany will risk the hazards of war, which would certainly invite the opposition of France, Great Britain and the U.S.S.R. It is worth noticing in this connection that the fall of M. Goga’s Government in Rumania on February 10th, which undoubtedly had pro-German sympathies, was occasioned by pressure from Moscow, Prague and Paris.

It may be that fresh alignments of the capitalist powers of the world may alter this outlook, even in the near future. Nothing, however, is so likely as that eventually, when they are unable to prosecute the struggle for markets and cheap sources of essential supplies by diplomatic means, they will turn to war. To the working class of the countries concerned the conflict will be presented as one to preserve democracy and individual rights (Czechoslovakia claims to be the most democratic of the Central European countries); or to maintain the Germanic ideal against Bolshevism, World Jewry and “bastardised negroidisation." This is the delicate language of “Mein Kampf."

No Socialist could take exception to the struggle of the workers to preserve a democratic platform. On the other hand, we cannot support any movement which encourages workers to sacrifice themselves in defence of capitalist wealth. If working class history has any meaning for those who wage the struggle to-day, it is that the association of workers with capitalist movements has led only to their division and confusion. The clearest presentation of the class struggle leads to another conclusion; that every movement of the workers must be waged on the basis of unity with their fellows and of fundamental opposition to the capitalist class. If in Czechoslovakia, and other countries, where minority movements obscure the final issue, thousands of workers were fighting for Socialism, then the minority movements would collapse overnight. There is one thing the Czechoslovakian capitalists fear more than racial dissidence or German invasion; that is the growing understanding and rising power of the working class.
K. Devereux.
C. J. Kilner.