Sunday, January 27, 2019

50 Years Ago: Our Boys in Aden (2017)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

What are British troops doing in Aden, apart from putting the boot in and expressing a willingness to accept a massive punch-up?

The newspapers tell us they are keeping the peace, which avoids the question of why the peace is threatened.

Aden was annexed (a diplomat’s word for stolen) by Britain in 1839, and used as a base to guard the trade route to India. (It is still the only fortified point between Egypt and Bombay).

When the British left India in 1948 it could have been the end of their interest in Aden, had it not been for the rich oil fields which had been discovered in the Middle East.

Aden now stands guard on the Persian Gulf, where two-thirds of the oil resources of Western capitalism lie. Britain gets more than half its oil from the countries around the Persian Gulf and British oil companies own about one third of the Gulf’s production.

It is to protect these interests that Our Boys in Aden are being killed—and are themselves doing a bit of killing. Sir William Luce, who was Governor of Aden 1959-60, made it clear in an article in the Daily Telegraph on April 12 last:
  ‘We did not undertake the “policing” of the Gulf for some vague, altruistic purpose; we went there, and have remained there, because it has suited us to do so.’
By ‘we’ and ‘us’ Sir William is really talking about the East India Company in the old days and the oil companies today. These are the interests which need working class bodies to protect them, interests which are threatened today by claims from Persia, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and by the opposing Aden nationalists.

British capitalism’s only hope is to stay in Aden until some sort of order has been imposed in this conflict. A withdrawal now could well plunge the place into a Congo-like war, with serious results for the oilmen of the Persian Gulf.

So it looks as if Our Boys in Aden will have to carry on keeping the peace for a while, even if they have to kill half the population to do it.

(From “Review”, Socialist Standard, May 1967)

Material World: All Migrants are Workers (2017)

The Material World Column from the May 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Anti-migrant feeling is running high in many countries. The anti-foreigner nationalists are having a feeding frenzy of xenophobia. The right-wing media publish headlines provoking panic. It is all too easy to blame immigrants for causing problems such as unemployment, bad housing or crime. An accusing finger can always be pointed at ‘them’ for making things worse for ‘us’. It is often alleged that ‘newcomers’ live off the backs of ‘locals’. If migration has led to the rise of the far-right ― it is only through the racist tactic of blaming economic woes on the new arrivals. Many ‘natives’ cannot contain their indignation that their ‘indigenous’ culture is being undermined. But what happens when those migrants are your ‘own folk’ from another part of the nation? Californians in the ’30s would have been amenable to a wall along the state’s eastern border, not its southern one.

During the 1930s the mid-west of the United States suffered a series of droughts that drove hundreds of thousands off their land. Many from Arkansas and Oklahoma headed westwards to California. They were the Dust Bowl refugees and 86,000 arrived in California from the drought states between June 1935 and September 1936 alone.

When they reached the Californian state line, they did not receive a warm reception. The Los Angeles police chief, James ‘Two-Gun’ Davis, deployed police at entry points into California with orders to turn back any with ‘no visible means of support’ (or, as Woody Guthrie, sang it, ‘if you ain’t got the Do Re Mi’. They were called ‘The Bum Brigade’ and were given specific orders to search all incoming cars, wagons, and trains.

When migrants reached California they found that most of the farmland was owned by large corporations run by managers so many gave up farming. 40 percent of the Dust Bowl refugees who became migrant workers ended up picking grapes and cotton in the San Joaquin Valley where they replaced the Mexicans who were deported. Even though tons of surplus food were produced, the Okies who worked on those farms suffered the very real threat of starvation. Author John Steinbeck witnessed the burning of extra produce by a California company – a result of the New Deal concept of limiting production of goods so that the demand, and thereby the price, would increase. Companies wanted to keep prices high, and so they destroyed excess food, crops, and livestock.

Other migrants settled near larger cities in shantytowns called Okievilles, on open lots local landowners divided into tiny subplots and sold cheaply in monthly instalments. They built their houses from scavenged scraps, and they lived without plumbing and electricity. Polluted water and a lack of trash and waste facilities led to outbreaks of typhoid, malaria, smallpox and tuberculosis.

The California Citizens Association formed in 1938 and its secretary, Thomas W McManus made clear its attitude towards the newcomers:
  ‘No greater invasion by the destitute has ever been recorded in the history of mankind… Californian jobs go to Californians and not to the horde of empty bellies from the Southwest’.
It succeeded in extending the waiting period for California relief from one to three years, vigorously supported by the agricultural corporations who were resorting to their usual knavish tricks in order to guarantee a cheap, surplus supply of labour. The purpose of the California Citizens’ Association was to offer wages below the minimum decency standard of relief, and to enforce this wage rate by giving workers no alternative – the usual ‘work or starve’. At this point, the California Citizens’ Association dropped its disguise and became the Associated Farmers, Inc. The powerful Associated Farmers (the growers) feared the ‘Okies’ might unionise and demand better wages. They feared that white migrants would not prove to be as docile as the Mexican workers.

A Californian called Fred Edwards drove his destitute brother-in-law from Texas into California in 1939, and was found guilty of violating a California statute criminalizing transportation of indigents into California. In 1941, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down the California statute as unconstitutional and no longer did individual states possess the authority to interfere in the free movement of peoples. Once war approached and the West Coast industries boomed, many migrants abandoned the fields and orchards for the shipyards and armament factories. In fact, during the 1940s the number of people coming to California from the Prairies actually increased.

Donald Trump’s incitement of the anti-immigration sentiment is not new. Immigrants to America have always been feared and hated.

What people were saying about the Irish or the Chinese or the Okies in the past, they now say about Hispanics. There is always another group to look upon as a threat, and demagogues like Trump use that to gather support and garner power.

De-globalisation (2017)

From the May 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Is globalisation going into reverse?
A few years back we suggested (Material World, October 2008) that globalisation has lost impetus and may even have passed its zenith. Now, in the aftermath of Brexit and the inauguration of a protectionist American president, even the capitalist press talks about ‘de-globalisation’.  Some pundits (e.g.: Simon Nixon in The Wall Street Journal, 5 October 2016; Pierpaolo Barbieri in Foreign Affairs, 13 November 2016) still refer merely to a threat or possibility of de-globalisation, but others acknowledge that ‘de-globalisation is already in full swing’(Amotz Asa-El in MarketWatch, 31 August 2016).

De-globalisation, like globalisation, is a multi-dimensional process. In the economic sphere it means abandoning the goal of unified world markets in goods, services, labour and capital and tightening controls over transnational migration and international trade and investment. In the political sphere it means reasserting national sovereignty and weakening or even abolishing supranational institutions. These two aspects are closely connected. In particular, international agreements to unify markets at the global level (WTO) and in specific world regions (NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, etc.) have established shadowy committees of legal experts with the power to thwart attempts by national and subnational governments to regulate economic activity in the interests, say, of public health. Within a few days of assuming office Trump had withdrawn the United States from the TPP and announced that henceforth the US will rely on bilateral rather than multilateral trade agreements.

Is it inevitable?
For a long time many analysts viewed globalisation as an ‘objective’ reality that had to be accepted as inevitable and irreversible. Some still do. In a recent article Pankaj Ghemawat presents an informative critique of this view (‘Even in a digital world, globalisation is not inevitable’, The Harvard Business Review, 1 February). He argues that advocates of the ‘inevitability’ thesis exaggerate the impact of technological developments in transportation infrastructure (high-speed transnational rail links, the containerization of freight) and in IT and telecommunications (enabling speculators to conduct near-instantaneous financial transactions). He acknowledges that these developments facilitate globalisation, but is ‘unconvinced that [they] are sufficient, given everything else that is going on in the world, to drive globalisation forward’.

Governments have retained the capacity to exert a measure of control over globalising technologies. This is exemplified by the case of Singapore, which managed at least partly to thwart the speculators and insulate itself from the Asian financial crisis of 2008 by imposing controls over exchange rates and capital flows. It was able to defy the ‘Washington consensus’ in this way thanks to reforms instituted after the previous financial crisis in 1998.

The ‘inevitability’ thesis has also functioned as a mystification, helping to deter people with misgivings about globalisation from actively opposing it. In the final analysis, globalisation and de-globalisation depend on policies adopted individually or jointly by governments. 

It might be if not impossible then at least extremely difficult to reverse globalisation if the process had reached a more advanced stage, with firmly established institutions of supranational governance. Embryonic institutions of this sort do exist in the bureaucracies of intergovernmental agencies like the UN, the WTO, the IMF and — at a regional level — the European Commission. However, these bureaucracies have always been susceptible to pressure from the governments that set them up and maintain them. Another constraint on globalisation has been the determination of some states — actual and potential members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation like Russia, China and Iran — to preserve full national sovereignty. We have never come anywhere close to a completely globalised world.

Many corporations operate in several countries, but that does not make them free-floating entities without a long-term attachment to any specific state. On the contrary, each corporation has a ‘home state’ where its headquarters is based. That is why General Motors is identified as an American corporation, Mitsubishi as Japanese, Volkswagen as German, Gazprom as Russian and so on. (A few corporations have two home states — for example, the Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell.)

It is often said that a corporation has no loyalty to the ‘national interest’ of its home state. No doubt that is true, and there is nothing new about it. But it is not the crucial point. The corporation does not exist to serve the state; rather, the state exists to serve the corporation. The state is loyal to ‘its’ corporations: it is always prepared to intervene on behalf of their interests abroad when asked to do so. That is a continuing material basis for strategic competition and even military conflicts between states.

The main impetus behind de-globalisation appears to be political rather than economic. In particular, politicians like Trump exploit the discontent of many workers with certain effects of the free (or freer) movement of capital and labour, such as the loss of jobs when factories are relocated to countries where labour is cheaper, wage competition with migrants and disorienting changes in the cultural environment as a result of rapid large-scale migration. Local capitalist interests are also threatened by globalisation, but this factor seems to have less impact.   

Commentators worry that de-globalisation will heighten the risk of war, both conventional and nuclear. They point out that the last era of de-globalisation encompassed the two world wars and the unstable period between them. But there have also been quite a few wars during the recent seventy-year era of globalisation, with escalation to the nuclear level a real danger at various times.

Moreover, the division of the world into pro- and anti-globalisation states has itself become a major source of tension. In the context of the US presidential election and the confrontation between NATO and Russia, it was the arch-priestess of globalisation — Hillary Clinton — who beat the battle drums, while Trump, the de-globaliser, warned of the danger of nuclear war and called for improved relations.

De-globalisation may weaken the global awareness that we as a species have achieved, uneven and fragile as it may be — that is, awareness of humanity as a whole and of the Earth as its single home planet. This is a serious concern for anyone who aspires to world socialism, ecological rehabilitation and human survival.

But capitalist globalisation also does little to foster real global awareness. It has proven itself quite compatible with narrow nationalism and religious bigotry: globalism for the elites, nationalism and bigotry to divert and divide the masses. For example, the big Indian capitalists have highly globalised business operations but they all gladly backed Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party for prime minister (even those of them who are not Hindu but Parsee).

The popular backlash against globalisation does have one positive aspect. It expresses a protest against the undemocratic character of supranational institutions — for example, the ‘democratic deficit’ in the European Union and the secrecy and unaccountability of the committees that oversee international economic relations. The socialism to which we aspire is democratic as well as global. Perhaps the backlash will create an opening for a new democratic globalism. 

‘Imperialism’: Where Lenin Went Wrong (2017)

From the May 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
A hundred years ago last month Lenin’s pamphlet ‘Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism’ was published. We take another look at its defects.
In his introduction Lenin wrote that the pamphlet was based on the views of the English non-Marxist writer J. A. Hobson in his book Imperialism (1902) and those of the Austrian Social Democrat Rudolf Hilferding in his Finance Capital (1910). Hilferding, basing himself mainly on German experience, described how banks, through what would now be called their investment banking side, had come to merge with industrial capital, raising capital for them and not only charging for this but retaining a share for themselves. Hobson, who was an underconsumptionist, argued that what had led to imperialism, as investment and territorial expansion abroad, was a surplus of capital that could not find a profitable outlet in the home country.

Lenin combined these views to come up with a definition of imperialism as ‘the monopoly stage of capitalism’ where ‘finance capital’ as the ‘bank capital of a very few big monopolist banks’ had ‘merged with the capital of the monopolist combines of industrialists’. Accepting Hobson’s surplus capital theory, Lenin said that ‘monopoly capitalism’ led to the formation of ‘international monopolist capitalist combines which share the world amongst themselves’ and to the ‘territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers’.

This was a passable description of some aspects of capitalism at the time, especially in Germany, and Lenin’s was correct in seeing the First World War as a war over the division of the world amongst the biggest capitalist powers. On the other hand, his acceptance of Hobson’s theory of surplus capital as an explanation for the ‘export of capital’. ie overseas investment, was dubious. A more straightforward explanation for the capital being invested abroad would be that it was more profitable to invest it there rather than at home.

Lenin was also mistaken to see the German-style merger of bank and industrial capital as ‘the highest stage of capitalism’. It was a common view amongst the Social Democratic parties at the time that capitalist competition would lead to monopoly and that what socialists had to do was to take these into common ownership and re-orient production to satisfying people’s needs rather than for profit. Karl Kautsky had speculated that the process of monopolisation could lead to a single world trust and a non-aggression arrangement between the imperialist powers, which he called ‘ultra-imperialism’. Lenin had a point when he said that this was impossible as the powers would never agree on a permanent carve-up of the world but would seek to change this as their respective strengths changed. But he failed to see that this applied to ‘monopolies’ in his ‘imperialist’ countries. The capitalist class there was not a monolithic bloc but different sections had different interests and none wanted to be held to ransom by some monopoly. Hence ‘trust-busting’ legislation in the US and nationalisation and the threat of nationalisation in Britain.

True to his polemical style, Lenin attributed a motive to Kautsky, accusing him of advocating a peaceful, united world capitalism even though Kautsky had only envisaged ‘ultra-imperialism’ as a theoretical possibility. Lenin posited a link between the ‘opportunism’ of which he accused Kautsky and ‘imperialism’, arguing that the reformism of the Social Democratic and Labour parties of Europe was due to the ‘imperialist’ powers using a part of their ‘high monopoly profits’ to bribe ‘certain sections of the workers’ into supporting both reformism and the state in which they lived. After the Bolshevik coup d'état this was developed into a full-blown theory that the top layer of workers in the countries with colonies had been bribed to support capitalism out of the super-profits of colonial exploitation and that the independence of colonial territories would undermine this, with the result that, deprived of their share of the super-profits, the workers there would abandon reformism and become revolutionary.

This was mistaken on a number of counts. First, it goes against the Marxian theory of wages that wages are the price of what workers sell and that higher wages reflect higher training and skills, not any share of surplus value as Lenin implied. Second, it led to supporting the creation of new capitalist states to the benefit of a local capitalist class. Third, it assumes that workers would become less reformist if their standard of living fell.

Lenin himself mentioned an objection, which he attributed to the anti-war Menshevik Martov, that the situation for socialists would be pretty hopeless ‘if it were precisely the best paid workers who were inclined towards opportunism’, e.g. skilled engineering workers. Lenin’s reply was, typically, to accuse Martov too of defending opportunism and reformism.

If the Bolsheviks had not retained power in Russia this work would have remained an obscure, dated pamphlet. However, due to Lenin’s position and later quasi-deification, it became inflated into a serious work of research and theory. The result was that its mistaken ideas – especially about some workers sharing in colonial exploitation and that socialists should support the ‘anti-imperialism’ of rising capitalist classes – became more widely accepted than they otherwise would have.
Adam Buick

TA(TA) for Nothing! (2017)

From the May 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

On 15 February, the Community, Unite and GMB unions announced the results of a ballot of members employed by Tata Steel on the union recommendation to support an end to the final salary (or defined benefit) pension scheme. Three-quarters of those voting agreed with the recommendation. In effect, they were intimidated by the employers’ threats of job losses.

Understandably, when they were interviewed on the box, officials and lay members of all three unions talked about how hard that decision had been, as many must surely have realised they were being forced to surrender a benefit to which they have contributed over several decades, more or less ensuring a reduction in their whole-lifetime wages.

We sympathise with the dilemma our fellow unionists faced. Plant closures would have devastating effects on workers in the areas where Tata operates, as those of us who live in former textiles, shipbuilding and mining areas can testify.

We wonder if they got any comfort from this gem on the Tata website:
  ‘The notion of social stewardship, integral to the way business is conducted at Tata Steel, together with a continual improvement philosophy has been driving the Company’s excellence orientation for over a hundred years!’
Anyone idiot enough to fall for such nonsense? Like any other capitalist grouping, Tata is there to extract as much profit as possible, and it will bear down on conditions of employment whenever they are able to get away it. The Tata defeat is indicative of the erosion of workers’ conditions. We are now to be forced to work longer (later retirement age), many are stuck with zero-hours contracts or forced to work for nowt (so called interns) or in the cool-sounding ‘gig economy’ (no paid leave, no guarantee of earnings, no sick pay, no union representation, reduced safety – it’s what building workers used to call ‘the lump’, and doesn’t sound quite so cool, does it?)

Coincidentally, within a week of the union decision, the government announced a consultation with industry and ‘consumers’ because many company pension schemes have shortfalls in their funds because ‘Increased life expectancy, changes to working patterns and the economy mean that defined benefit schemes are operating in very different circumstances from when they first became popular’.

So, in part, you’re to blame, for living longer. No mention, by the way, of the fact that when pension funds were in surplus in the 1980s, employers were quick to take a ‘contributions holiday’, despite pressure from unions. In other words, the owners did what they always do – they kept hold of as much as they could for themselves.

It now seems highly likely that changes will be made to make it easier for companies to reduce benefits to pensioners.

And one more thing: measure it how you wish, over the last 100, 50 or even 20 years, there have been enormous increases in productivity in any field we could mention, be it transport, textiles, engineering, food production, whatever… And yet …. despite the huge potential for wealth and comfort, we workers are faced with having our working lives forcibly extended, we can achieve no lasting economic security and, with increasingly inadequate social care, can’t even be sure of a dignified old age. 

We have always argued that, our class, working on a shop-floor, building site, in an office or in a field, must organise and maintain democratic trade unions. As wage slaves, we have to defend ourselves as best we can via unionisation, and this includes the issue of pensions. But any advances we can force out of the employers are always threatened whenever capitalism hits one of its inevitable crises of production, or whenever a cheaper source of labour power can be found. The only way for us to guarantee our future is to call time on this system – put the tiny minority out of business and bring an end to out-dated capitalism and its anti-worker practices.

French Presidential Elections: Capitalism Wins (2017)

From the May 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
There were eleven candidates standing in the first round of the French Presidential Elections on 23 April, a mishmash of left and right-wing populists and establishment parties, ranging from  the Trotskyist Lutte Ouvrière (Workers' Struggle), the nationalist and anti-US Union Populaire Républicaine (Popular Republic Union), the Gaullist Debout La France (Stand Up France) which is anti-EU, the New Anti-Capitalist Party headed by a Ford factory worker, and Jacques Cheminade, a follower of the American conspiracy theorist, Lyndon LaRouche. As no candidate secured more than 50 percent of the votes  (in fact no candidate obtained more than 25 percent) the contest is  going to a second round on 7 May.
What marked this election out from the others is that  the main front runners were outsiders – Marine Le Pen of the Front National, Emmanuel Macron with his new movement En Marche (On the Go) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the so-called hard Left  candidate.  What is also unprecedented is that, due to the deep unpopularity of his government, François Hollande, decided not to stand again.  Working class people are angry that  their living standards are stagnating and what they see as an indifferent and out of touch political elite.  Unemployment is running at 10 percent (about 25 percent among 18 to 25 year-olds) of the workforce  amidst a slow recovery from the 2008/2009 recession. Moreover, many are dissatisfied with the government's response to the recent terrorist incidents and there are concerns about immigration. This is not unique to France. We have seen how working class discontent has played a part in the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency and in the vote for  Brexit in the UK.
Because of the Hollande's failure to resolve the social and economic problems of  French capitalism, 'Socialist' Party members opted for Benoît Hamon, the more radical left winger, to be their party's candidate. His platform included a basic universal income, a tax on robots to pay for the retraining of workers that they replace, a tax on banks' 'super profits', raising the minimum wage. However, he only got a humiliating 6 percent of the vote.
Marine Le Pen worked tirelessly to rebrand the  Front National  as being more of  a patriotic party than a fascistic one, with having the same appeal as UKIP has in the United Kingdom, and even went as far as kicking her father out of the organisation. However, this has not precluded her from putting forward xenophobic proposals, such as giving priority to French nationals over non-nationals over jobs, houses and welfare and placing new restrictions on immigration. She is attempting to court the working class vote by promising to reduce the retirement age from 62 to 60 and reduce income tax for the lowest earners. She is anti-EU and  pledges to renegotiate the terms of EU membership and hold a referendum on whether to leave the EU.  A win for her could jeopardise the future of the EU and thus create instability within world markets.
François Fillon of the Les Républicains party was the favourite until he became embroiled in a financial scandal involving alleged payments to his wife for fake jobs. He was standing on a platform of austerity, pledging to reduce public spending and cut a half million public sector jobs. He wanted to increase the working week for some public sector employees, scrap the wealth tax, reduce corporation tax , raise the retirement age to 65, put a cap on unemployment benefits.
Now the favourite, Emmanuel Macron, who finished  top in the first round, is a former investment banker and economy minister in François Hollande's government. He claims that to be revolutionising French politics, but what he is proposing is pretty standard capitalist fare  – lower corporation tax, extending the working week for younger workers, reduce public spending by cutting 120,000 public sector jobs by 2022.  He is pro-EU and says he is in favour of a more open France which accommodates cultural and ethnic diversity.
Chavez-admirer Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was backed by the 'Communist' Party, did surprisingly well with nearly a fifth of the votes, catching up in the polls and challenging the other front runners. His programme included reducing the working week to 32 hours, increasing the minimum wage and social security, raising taxes on the highest earners, re-negotiate the EU treaties. Like Le Pen, he pledged to reduce the retirement age to 60. That some of his policies were similar to those of the Front National is no accident. Both he and Le Pen were trying to woo the so-called 'left behinds',  workers who have seen the demand for their skills eroded and their livelihoods disappear with the economic and technological changes of world capitalism.
We predict with confidence that, whatever the outcome in the second round, Macron is the favourite, but Hillary Clinton was  the favourite to win last year's US presidential and the pundits expected the remain side to win last year's EU referendum.  However, we can predict with confidence who the losers will be and that will be the working class. For all their differences and grand promises, none of the candidates, including the two who went through to the second round,  challenged the capitalist system, that is the private and state ownership of the means of production and production for profit,  they seek only to modify it.  Once  Whoever is elected, their priority would have to be to ensure that French capitalism is competitive and profitable, and if, under certain conditions, this requires that social provisions are cut and workers are laid off, then so be it. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. 
Oliver Bond

Party News. (1913)

Party News from the January 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

New S.P.G.B. Publication.
We have to announce that we have published a report of the debate which took place at Tooting on May 21st between our comrade, J. Fitzgerald and Mr. Samuel Samuels, prospective Conservative candidate for Wandsworth, on the subject of “Socialism v. Tariff Reform.” The pamphlet consists of 48 pages, and the price is—for democracy sake. 1d.

Light, More Light!
An Economic Class is held at the Head Office on Friday nights st 8 o’clock. Will those who have nothing to learn come and teach ?

A Central Speakers’ Class has been established in order to equip more comrades for the platform. The classes are held at the Head Office, 193, Gray’s Inn Road, every Saturday evening at 7.30. It is urged upon ail comrades to attend.

Books Received.
American Socialism of the Present Day,” by J. W. Hughan, PhD. London: John Lane. 7s. 6d. 
Aug. Bebels “My Life." T. Fisher Unwin. 7s. 6d.
Experiments in Industrial Organisation," by Edward Cadbury. London: Longman & Co. 5s. net. (To be reviewed next issue.)

From The Front. (1913)

From the January 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

The “White Slave Bill” has passed. Liberals and Tories, Peers and Commons, parsons and priests, have united to the end of getting it passed, and they have accomplished their task.

The Bill is passed into law, with the approval of the sweaters of female labour, for whom it plays the friendly part of fixing the blame for the degradation of women on less guilty shoulders—but the “white slave” is as much in evidence as ever.

After clamouring for the Bill, “the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill,” that organ of the Tory party, "The People,” has thought fit to tell the truth about the “traffic.” In its issue of December 15, 1912, it printed a special article on “White Slavery and its causes.”

Under the heading “The Root of the Evil” we were told:
 “The truth cannot be shirked that many recruits have joined the army of 'white slaves’ through the monotony of ill-paid lives of virtue compared with the larger gains easily earned in the service of vice. . . . All the time the market is over-supplied with female labour wages will remain low, and consequently the attractions of a life of easy virtue will be correspondingly greater.”
This is almost exactly the language of the Chicago Commission on Vice which last year enquired into the question.

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The People,” an organ of the anti Socialists, has to make the farther confession that 
  “the economic or wage question to every large extent is the root of the social evil. . . . The sad fact cannot be ignored that the 'sweating’ of women is an evil that flourishes very actively, and many firms of high repute grind down their employees to a shameful degree. Hence the market price of virtue is very cheap at the present time.”
Thus is the fraud of capitalism made plain. The hypocrisy of the “Pass the Bill” campaign is confessed, for the measure contains not a single provision designed to stop the "sweating of women." The “white slaves” will remain and increase in number until the wage system is ended. But that would be the end of the "flogging" fanatics, as well as of the "procurers"—the makers as well as the patrons of the modern Magdalene's trade.

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It will be recalled that last year the Home Secretary, Mr. Winston Churchill, at the demand of the factory owners, passed a Home Office Order (No. 360, April, 1911) permitting boys sixteen years of age to work in factories all night making artificial silk fibre. Prior to his action the lowest age for night work was fixed by the Factory Act of 1901 at eighteen years for this trade. Such was the industrial progress of “Dear Winston,” and his kindly consideration for the employers. If the workers’ children suffer, well, there is always the sanitoria of friend David George, or the free funerals furnished by “honest John’s ” Poor Law!

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Much criticism was aroused by this action, as aforetime the Home Secretary appointed a committee to enquire into (who said whitewash?) the question of nightwork for boys. Their report has just been issued (Cd. 6,503). They tell us that
  “they realise that it is essential in necessarily continuous processes in certain industries at the present time, in order to avoid unreasonable loss through waste of fuel or valuable materia], and that in considering the question of prohibition of night employment of boys, regard must be had for what measure of further prohibition is practicable without imposing any serious disabilities on the industries of the country.“
They ask that permission should be given where “stoppage causes such waste of fuel or material as would entail financial loss likely to materially damage the business.” What the continuity of the processes has got to do with the reduction of the age limit they do not say. Processes can be continued by the ever-increasing number of men seeking work —but that wouldn’t do. Boys young boys —are so much cheaper.

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"Serious disabilities” and “unreasonable loss”—of life may be imposed upon the children of the workers, but the sanctity of capital must not be touched. The children must “sleep” by day and slave by night to make the masters’ millions grow. Who dare speak of "breaking up the home and family life” after this?

Dealing with the glass manufacturing trade, where boys have been given permission to work all night at the age of fourteen for regular spells of 14 hours, the committee says:—
   “We recognise, however, that owing to the large proportion of boy labour in the trade, and to the fact that foreign competition still presses heavily on our manufacturers, though in a less degree than formerly, it is not desirable to do anything that would cause too suddien a disturbance of trade conditions"

This despite the fact that they admit that it is the most deadly of all, and that dozens of leading witnesses gave evidence as to its disastrous effects. The number of boys in the trade far exceeds that of men. The committee, speaking of the machine, says:—
  “Though it seems likely that, by the introduction of labour-saving machinery, the necessity for employment of boys is likely to be greatly reduced, any such change is likely to be very gradual. Unfortunately the increased use of machinery often tends to displace the skilled workman rather than the boys."
One witness is quoted as typical of the objections to night work:—
  “Dr. Ridley Bailey, certifying surgeon for Bilston, was of the opinion |that during the period of active growth, when the tissue changes are going on, work at night, which is very heavy in his district, must tend to interfere with the physical development and the physical faculties. He found the boys had some times to sleep during the day in beds that had been occupied during the previous night, and stated that owing to the street noises and the sounds inseparable from the carrying on of household routine during the day, it was impossible for sleep to be so sound and refreshing as it would be in the night. He considered it a very serious matter that boys should be placed in such a position.”
This servile report of the Departmental Committee is signed by William Waldorf Astor, M.P., and among others there is, needless to say, the representative of the Labour Party, Mr. Arthur Henderson, M.P.!

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At Aberdeen (29.11.12) the Welsh Revivalist and Latter Day Saint, Mr. Lloyd George, lectured on Miracles. He told his audience that a blacksmith would get two hundred pounds and a consumption cure thrown in for a few shillings under the last “Act of the Apostles.”

At Birmingham, however. Sir James Barr, President of the British Medical Association, said (6.12.12):—
  “He knew no greater legislative farce than the method of dealing with tuberculosis under the Insurance Act. You must get tuberculosis before they begin to stamp it out, and then a totally inadequate sum is allowed for the stamping out process.”
If Sir James thinks any Liberal or Tory politician will really wipe out the main cause of tuberculosis, viz., poverty, he must have enough faith “to move mountains” —and as much real knowledge of the capitalist world as “a grain of mustard seed.”

#    #    #    #

The Postmaster General has opened automatic telephone exchanges in various parts, the last being at Hereford. Many others are being built. The feature of them is that no operators are required, each subscriber being his own connector. The extension of the system is to save a great deal of money, and the girls will be dispensed with. They may “seek fresh fields and pastures new" — be shipped to Buenos Ayres or “Walk down the Strand” and ponder over the “wonders of science” with the “white slave trader.”

#    #    #    #

An American paper also informs us that dairymaids are damned by an automatic milking machine that is proving very successful over in Yankee land. The increasing use of the Dictaphone in offices here is pronouncing the death-sentence of the shorthand writer, and things all round look blacker than ever for the fair sex of the slave class. First it was “Good-bye, brother, come in, sister! "Now it is “Good-bye, sister, enter, Science, and save my wages bill! ”

#    #    #    #

Canadian capitalists are doing well. They have offered the British Government seven millions to build three Dreadnoughts to guard “our shores.” The prosperity of the owners of the “Golden West ” was the theme of the Premier of Alberta at the Royal Colonial Institute in London on December 4th. He said that 
  “A huge tract of land that was at one time only inhabited by Indians and buffaloes was on the point of becoming an important part of the country. To-day there were 14,000 miles of railway line completed and working at a cost of 80 millions, most of which bad come from the City of London.”
He also said that Canada is “a splendid place for the emigrant who is prepared to take off his coat,” but he quite forgot to remind the emigrant that he must keep his coat off until he is worked out and then make way for the newer and cheaper emigrant.

The Canadian toilers have taken off their coats so much in the past that when a railway has to be built most of the money has to come from the City of London, where they don’t take their coats off. The workers of the West are so industrious that the Premier pointed out that “there is an unlimited scope for safe investment.” The chap who takes his coat off has no money to invest, but he can invest his time in Socialism with happy results for the future.

#    #    #    #
  "Spite of all the efforts of the Salvation Army, the Church Army, and countless other organisations, the morass of squalor shows no visible dint. The tide of crime and pauperism ebbs and flows sullenly in dependence upon the trade cycle, with little change in the general level. The drunkard still abounds, though drinking has decreased. The shelters of the Salvation Army and other organisations are always full, yet the casual wards are more crowded than ever. The average number of vagrants relieved in 1906 constitutes a record. The number of persons actually houseless in London and passing the night in the open is probably greater than before, and is certainly very considerable.”
The terrible indictment I have quoted is from “The Social Work of the Salvation Army,” and is written by W. H. Beveridge, Director of the Labour Exchange Department, Board of Trade.
Adolph Kohn

S.P.G.B. Lecture List for January (1913)

Party News from the January 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

Click on the picture to enlarge.

The Pseudo-Socialist Vote in U.S. (1913)

From the January 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

A million votes for Socialism! In exulting tones the worthy supporters of the body calling itself the Socialist Party of America tell us that this was, approximately, the vote cast for their candidate for the Presidency of the United States – Eugene V. Debs.

A million votes for Socialism! Would that it were true! Would not we too rejoice? But we have, in duty bound, to look into the matter before we join in the shouts of victory and – we decide to reserve our surplus steam.

This vote, perforce, compelled some attention at the hands of the capitalist Press. They found this vote a serious menace to “American institutions”, that is, of course, capitalist institutions, writ Uncle Sam. And probably the capitalist Press is not far wrong, for one may well admit that the vote for Eugene Debs for the Presidency is a presage of the fall of capitalism, without agreeing to the assumption that the U.S. working class have gone a million strong for the Socialist Republic.

A slight acquaintance with the S.P. of A. teaches one that its membership is made up of all sorts and conditions of men and women with, for the most part, very little more to recommend them for membership of a Socialist party than good intentions and enthusiasm. Only a small part have anything approaching a real grip of the proletarian position.

As was the case in the old S.D.F. in Great Britain, there is much talk of Marxism. But so little are the implications of Socialist economics understood and the conditions of the class struggle appreciated, that we find the party, in its respective State platforms, asking for the support of the working class for a long list of reforms, such as the Minimum Wage, the Eight Hours Day, Old Age Pensions, Sick Insurance, etc., much as we have been used to finding in S.D.F. programmes.

In fact, such emphasis and prominence were given these in the New York State platform that it was thought necessary to remind the public in large type on the last page, that the ultimate object was not overlooked.

Demagogue Roosevelt, the biggest bluffer Uncle Sam can boast of, created a distinct rustle by annexing a large slice of this reform program – and this on the recommendation of a prominent S.P. member, it appears.

This the membership seemed to think rather flattering, though, of course, it was, on the contrary, a tribute to the anti-Socialist character of their own party. For, surely, if those demands were Socialistic, capitalist Roosevelt would not even have looked at them.

However, one point is worth noticing, that is that the prophecy that Roosevelt would carry off a large part of the “Socialist” vote or prevent it increasing has proved entirely mistaken. Apparently his “revolutionary” candidatures did not keep a vote from Debs.

With regard to this reform question one hears from the S.P. members the same old confusing nonsense about a capitalism too rotten to be patched, and yet calling for a whole rag-shop full of patches in the shape of the S.P. “immediate demands”.

Reading the voting returns for the various parts of the country, one notices the great disparity of votes given for different candidates on the same local Party ticket – showing that many votes are cast for persons rather than for principles. Thus in Illinois an S.P. candidate came near being elected to an important legal office, while the remainder of the S.P. candidates ran hopelessly in the rear. In this case the party Press announces the intention to contest the election, thereby admitting the party’s readiness to accept office from voters who do not even indorse the party’s program, such as it is. Such a policy is an exhibition of weakness, and can only lead to failure, disappointment, and apathy. Inevitably the association of the name of Socialism with such a policy and its results must confuse the proletariat and hinder the cause.

In Milwaukee, where in a previous election V. Berger was elected to Congress in a three-cornered fight on the usual pledges of innumerable reforms, the party was defeated. The old parties combined to prevent the re-election of Berger. Likewise the city of Schenectady turned out of power the S.P. administration through an old party combination.

Now had the S.P. of A. at the previous election gone before the electorate with a simple statement of the Socialist objective, it is certain that these candidates would not have won office, and there would not have been built up the false hopes involving subsequent disappointment. Such would have been the better way, for the foundations of success would have been laid. For, surely, when a real Socialist majority has been developed and had its way at the ballot-box, the capitalist party combination will have done its worst and shown its impotence to affect the issue.

The experience of Schenectady and Milwaukee illustrates well the misleading character of the big vote for Debs. The possibility looms ahead of this vote growing on its present loose and unreliable lines to the point where the S.P. will find itself vested with the reins of Government and yet be so placed as to be quite unable to effect those revolutionary economic changes that alone can justify its assumption of the name Socialist. One shrinks from the contemplation of the likely outcome of such a situation, and can only hope that some of the pluck and enthusiasm of the American worker will soon get translated into that clear understanding of the problem of working-class supremacy that must precede any possibility of Socialist victory.
J. H. (New York)

Are the Japanese ‘Barbarians’? (1937)

From the November 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nobody – not even the Japanese Government – denies the inhumanity of ruthless air war on defenceless civilians such as the Japanese are waging in China and Franco’s airmen in Spain. The almost universal protests against the former (but not such widespread protests in the case of Spain) are, therefore, natural. Nevertheless, they conceal a good deal of muddled thinking. In the first place, the ghastly consequences of air attack do not justify indicting the Japanese people as a nation of barbarians. The double standard of conduct which can abhor private murder but glorify the mass slaughter of “the enemy” is not a peculiarity of the Japanese. It is a characteristic of all the capitalist powers and is deliberately fostered by governments, newspapers and churches in every land. Moreover, it is a feature of all military training and action, but especially of aerial warfare, that the individual who fires the shell or directs the blockade or drops the bomb does not see and is discouraged from contemplating the results of what he does. All soldiers, sailors and airmen of all countries are potential baby-killers, slaughterers of civilians, perpetrators of Guernica or Lusitania massacres – but they are trained not to regard their highly-skilled and often dangerous activities in that light.

When, therefore, Bishop Boutflower asks (Times, October 11th, 1937), before joining in the protests against Japan, for assurances that aerial warfare can be anything else than the slaughter of civilians and that “our own nation would forgo the use of counter-attack by air on enemy territory where any like risk (to civilians) was entailed,” he puts questions the British Government will have difficulty in answering. In short, for what purpose are the British bombing fleets being built if not to turn some European Shanghai into a shambles? And when the Labour Party demands the boycott of the Japanese because they bomb civilians, how do they square this with their endorsement of British rearmament? Instead of boycotting the British ruling class, they are prepared to enter into an unholy pact with them in the event of war.

The Labour Party themselves have times without number denounced Mr. Baldwin’s Government for refusing to agree to the outlawry of air bombing, and the Japanese militarists are able to quote a similar refusal in 1923 in their defence now. Writing to The Times (October 6th, 1937) a number of Japanese notabilities say:
  We would add a word on air bombing. Japan always disliked and reprobated this new method of attack, precisely on account of its inevitable danger to civilians. She pressed earnestly for its entire abolition on the occasion of the official commission of jurists assembled at The Hague in 1923, when her proposals failed to be adopted before French and British opposition.
We need not accept their statement as to the motive of the Japanese Government in proposing the abolition of air bombing, but we are faced with the fact that the British ruling class are in no position to protest. Have we not the late Lord Thomson’s description of the appalling destruction of life when the British Air Force bombed natives in Transjordan during the first Labour Government’s term of office?

War cannot be humanised. Its brutalities will cease only when capitalism, which is the cause of wars, has been brought to an end. That demands action by the international working class, the first step towards which is that the workers in each country should accept the existence of the class struggle as the basis of their organisation and line up in opposition to their own ruling class and its government. The excuse for deserting internationalism being used at present by the British Labour Party is that the working-class movement has ceased to exist in the dictatorship countries. While this is largely true as to facts, it overlooks the point that loyalty to internationalism by the workers in the democratic countries is needed to inspire the oppressed workers in Germany, Italy and elsewhere to renewed efforts. Actually, despite the dangers and difficulties, the workers under dictatorship are doing their part, as the continuing, arrests and trials in Italy and Germany prove. One case of many is reported from the small industrial town of Empoli, 25 miles from Florence, where the police recently arrested 130 persons for illegal organisation. One of their activities was collecting money to help the Spanish workers (Manchester Guardian, October 14th, 1937).

The same issue of the Manchester Guardian reports from Japan that the combined youth organisations, with eight million members, have divided into two equal groups, one of which has so far steadfastly refused to endorse the war on China.

Only by fierce pressure has the Government induced the Social Mass Party to vote for the emergency war budget. The party’s defence for so doing is that “they voted virtually with bayonets at their backs.”

When the ruling class talk war it is more than ever necessary for the workers in this country to remember that the workers in other countries have as little direct responsibility for their callous ruling class and bloody-minded military castes as we have for ours.
Edgar Hardcastle

Notes by the Way: The Low-down on Dictators (1937)

The Notes by the Way Column from the November 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Low-down on Dictators
The famous pamphlet, “Killing No Murder," published in 1657, might have been written to-day for its acute analysis of the ways of dictators. It was a direct incitement to the assassination of Oliver Cromwell and is believed to have been written by Colonel Sexby, a leveller who had gone over to the Royalists. Here, in an abbreviated form, are his fourteen points on Tyrants, derived, as he admits, from Plato, Aristotle, Tacitus and “his Highness’s (Cromwell's) own evangelist, Machiavelli." (It is not for nothing that Mussolini, too, is an admirer of Machiavelli).

  1. "Almost all tyrants have been first captains and generals for the people, under pretences of vindicating or defending their liberties."
  2. "Tyrants accomplish their ends much more by fraud than force. Neither virtue nor force (says Machiavelli) are so necessary to that purpose as . . .  a lucky craft . . . Their way is . . . with cunning plausible pretences to impose upon men's understandings, and in the end they master those that had so little wit as to rely upon their faith and integrity. It is but unnecessary to say, that had not his Highness had a faculty to be fluent in his tears, and eloquent in his execrations; had he not had spongy eyes, and a supple conscience; and besides, to do with a people of great faith but little wit, his courage, and the rest of his moral virtues, with the help of his janissaries, had never been able so far to advance him out of the reach of justice that we should have need to call for any other hand to remove him but that of the hangman."
  3. “They abase all excellent persons, and rid out of the way all that have noble minds . . .  they purge both Parliament and Army, till they have few or none there that has either honour or conscience, either wit, interest, or courage, to oppose their designs. . . ."
  4. “They dare suffer no assemblies, not so much as horse-races."
  5. “In all places they have their spies and dilaters . . . to appear discontented, and not to side with them, that under that disguise they may get trust and make discoveries. They likewise have their emissaries to send with forged letters. . . . "
  6. “They stir not without a guard, nor his Highness without his Lifeguard."
  7. “They impoverish the people, that they may want the power, if they have the will, to attempt anything against them. His Highnesses’s way is by taxes, excise, decimations, etc."
  8. "They make war to divert and busy the people, and besides, to have a pretence to raise moneys, and to make new levies, if they either distrust their old forces, or think them not sufficient. The war with Spain serveth his Highness to this purpose, and upon no other justice was it begun at first, or still continued."
  9. “They will seem to honour and provide for good men—that is, if the ministers will be orthodox and flatter, if they will wrest and torture the Scriptures to prove his Government lawful, and furnish him with title, his Highness will likewise be then content to understand Scripture in their favour, and furnish them with tithes."
  10. “Things that are odious and distasteful they make others executioners of; and when the people are discontented, they appease them with sacrificing those ministers they employ. I leave it to his Highness’s major-generals to ruminate a little upon this point."
  11. “In all things they pretend to be wonderful careful of the public, to give general accounts of the money they receive, which they pretend to be levied for the maintenance of the State and the prosecuting of the war. . . ."
  12. “All things set aside for religious uses they set to sale, that while those things last they may exact the less of the people. . . ."
  13. “They pretend inspirations from God, and responses from oracles, to authorise what they do.  . . ."
  14. “Lastly, above all things they pretend a love to God and religion. . . ."
It is unnecessary to point to the abundance of parallels in contemporary Europe under Hitler, Mussolini, Schuschnigg, Stalin and the rest. Except with regard to religion, which is not so useful a handmaiden as it was, the nature of dictators and dictated seem to have changed but little.

Even the Drains are Muzzled in Italy
Mussolini, like Hitler, boasts that he has the population behind him. Mr. Harold Brust, in his book, “Plain Clothes" (Stanley Paul, 18s.), tells of the elaborate precautions the Fascist leader has to take to postpone the day of reckoning. The following is from a review of the book in the Daily Telegraph, October 12th: —
  Italian police, he says, apart from attending to such duties as examining the food supplies to the Duce, carefully inspect all his correspondence, and particularly parcels which might explode by the mere cutting of the string.
  Before Signor Mussolini enters any vehicle it is rigidly inspected, for on one occasion a bomb was found affixed to his motor car. More than 300 plain clothes “shadows" look after him, in addition to many Fascist and military guards.
  During his short journey from his home to his office the route is closely guarded as his car flashes past at high speed. Sometimes he rides his motor cycle, goggled and crash-helmeted, and he always drives furiously.
 When he is scheduled to make a public appearance the police inspect all lamp-posts, and householders are compelled by law to bar access to the roofs of their dwellings. All along the kerbs the drain slits are covered with a fine mesh to prevent the concealment of a bomb.
  When Signor Mussolini is making a public speech he always uses a balcony or a specially erected tower. Once a would-be attacker was discovered at a window with a rifle that was fitted with a telescopic sight.

Poverty and Squalor under Fascism
Colonel T. F. Tweed, Mr. Lloyd George’s experienced political adviser, recently toured Italy to find out conditions there. This is what he says: —
  “But for Mussolini's imperialistic astigmatism Italy might have avoided economic collapse," Colonel Tweed told a reporter, “but the cost of that war, not yet fully met, and the heavy sacrifices demanded in maintaining the illusion that an impoverished agricultural people have become a first-class military power are proving too great a strain on the Italian internal resources now that foreign loans are no longer forthcoming.
  “The middle class are learning to dispense with even modest luxury, but the artisan and the agricultural population, much the lowest-paid in Europe, are compelled to forego simple necessities like butter and meat, because of scarcity and price. In every province and commune one heard the same comment, 'Too mucha da macaroni,’ which is as near to criticism as most dared permit themselves.
  “Mussolini has achieved a remarkable psychological rehabilitation for Italy and at the same time reduced masses of its people to a subsistence level only comparable in squalor and monotony with the standards of Asia."—(Manchester Guardian, October 4th, 1937.)
If in Fascist Italy there is no butter or meat for the workers and peasants, in Nazi Germany the Minister of Agriculture is appealing to the people to eat less bread and make up with potatoes.
(Manchester Guardian, October 4th, 1937.)

The dictators—and their democratic capitalist rivals—show a remarkable similarity in their threefold policy of luxury for the capitalist, guns for the army, and poverty for the worker.

“I’m Chosen by God"—Mr. Aberhart
The Social Credit Premier of Alberta, Mr. Aberhart, after two years’ failure to keep his promise of an extra £5 a month for all, is hankering after dictatorship. His latest revelation is that he has God behind him, the implication being apparently that he should not be fettered by newspaper criticism, which he proposes to suppress by legislation:—
  I believe God wants me to occupy my present position. I shall not be moved by any other consideration.—(Daily Express, October 11th, 1937.)
It was observed centuries ago that would-be dictators have a habit of claiming divine guidance and assistance. But why can’t Mr. Aberhart, with God’s help, produce that promised £S a month?

No Unemployment in Germany?
Dr. C. R. Fay, Reader in Economic History, Cambridge University, has just toured Germany and was amazed at “the real joy of everyone in their life . . . no trace of unemployment, the spirit of confidence and unity on every face." His letter relating this was published on October 7th by the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post.

Surely, as the Doctor saw the complete absence of unemployment with his own eyes, it must be so?

Only, unfortunately for Dr. Fay, Hitler, two days earlier (October 5th), had officially opened the German Winter Aid, which is a vast compulsory-voluntary collection of money, food and clothes for the relief of the unemployed. The opening speech was fully reported in the Manchester Guardian on October 6th, 1937.

Hitler mentioned in his speech the German Freedom Party, an organisation of anti-Nazis which has lately been conducting propaganda in Germany. Hitler, therefore, unlike the simple Fay, does not believe there is unity on every face in Germany. Fay, doubtless, did not look at the right faces, in prisons and concentration camps.

A Catholic Priest Wants Press Censorship
Father F. Woodlock, addressing the congregation at Farm Street Church, W., on October 10th, said that he would welcome a temporary censorship of the Press, because statements criticising the dictators might annoy them and provoke war (News Chronicle, October 11th, 1937). But Father Woodlock expressly confined his remarks to the anti-Fascist Press and to Hitler and Mussolini; he does not ask that his Catholic friends be prevented from annoying Stalin. (This is an unintended compliment to the latter, who, while he suffers from that occupational disease of all dictators, known as “conspiracy mania" apparently does not also experience periodic outbreaks of “international jitters” like Hitler and Mussolini.)

Father Woodlock does not like anti-Fascist newspapers making cruel, contemptuous and insulting remarks about sensitive dictators, but he is hardly in a position himself to throw stones at others. His method of Press controversy against his opponents is about as irresponsible as it could be. On September 18th, 1936, The Times published a letter from him in which he related that he heard, “on excellent authority," that an Anglican clergyman (name not given) visited a Communist Sunday School (date and place not given). “He found that, not only were the children being taught blank atheism, but, at the end, they filed before a picture of Christ and spat upon it. . . . Can any of your readers supply reliable information as to the number of these ‘Sunday Schools' at work in England to-day and the number of children attending them?"

Note the disingenuousness of all this. Father Woodlock did not himself witness this alleged incident. He did not even get it from the alleged Anglican clergyman, but only third-hand from an unnamed “excellent authority."

Perhaps the incident happened; although Father Woodlock’s informant may well have been misinformed. Such things do occur, even to “excellent authorities.” But even if it did happen, even the most uncompromising opponents of the Communist Party (i.e., the S.P.G.B.) could not believe them capable of making a deliberate policy of something so infantile and harmful to themselves. But observe the consequences of publication of the letter. Nobody could write to The Times denying it because nobody knows where or when it is supposed to have happened. So, in default of repudiation, thousands; of Times readers will now believe that it happened, is typical of Communist Sunday Schools, and is not denied by the Communists.

The real offenders are The Times for sinking so low as to give currency to such stuff. The Times editor would, of course, reply that The Times impartially publishes letters from all sides; but the claim is, none the less, patently untrue.

The Times, like other newspapers, is guided by the political outlook of the letter and the social position of the writer. Father Woodlock is an influential person, with a great organisation behind him. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that The Times received from a nobody a letter stating that, at a certain Catholic institution, in the year 19—, at —— , it was customary for the authorities to wink their eye at the fact, known to them, that supplies they received at a very low price were stolen. “And can any reader supply reliable information as to the number of such institutions at work in England to-day?”

Would The Times publish it? They would rightly say that it was an underhand and cowardly attempt to blacken an organisation in such a way that it could not defend itself.

Father Woodlock, on reflection, should recognise that his zeal against the Communists led him to overstep the mark.

The Unco-operative Co-ops.
The Co-operative Wholesale Society, which is nearly as far removed from Robert Owen’s conceptions as Hitler’s “National Socialism” is from Socialism, declines to go to arbitration over a claim by the employees for a ten per cent. increase of pay, so the latter threaten a strike.

Simultaneously a proposal was made that the directors be given increased salaries, but this was rejected by delegates from the retail societies at a meeting at Manchester on September 25th, 1937. The proposed directors' scale of pay was £875 on commencement, rising by five annual increases of £50 to £1,125 (Sunday Express, September 26th, 1937). Delegates from Barkworth and Eccles Cooperative Society contended that £1,000 should be enough for any director.

Labour Governments and Wages
Nothing brings out so clearly the uselessness of trying to administer capitalism for the benefit of the workers than the attitude of the Labour Govenments towards strikes and demands for higher wages. In 1924, just before the first Labour Government took office, their official organ, the Labour Magazine (January, 1924), made this appeal to the miners: —
  We are sure that the miners will not embarrass the first Labour Government by pressing untimely demands. . . .
Notice the tell-tale phrasing. Those who undertake to keep going the system based on the exploitation of the workers by the capitalists are necessarily “embarrassed” by the demands of the former, and regard them as “untimely."

Similarly, in France, we had Blum's Popular Front Government, after the first gains the workers made through their stay-in strikes, appealing to them to give up the strikes and agree to a “pause" in their demands for a higher standard of living. After the appeals came the threats of the use of force to eject strikers.

Now, in India, we see the same attitude on the part of the Congress Party towards Indian workers’ demands. Pandit Nehru, the Congress leader, who calls himself a Socialist, has just warned his followers against the belief that Congress Government automatically means higher wages. These are his words:—
  The Bombay Labour organisation has lost much of its vigour by its overindulgence in strikes. Workers get their wages out of the profits of the industries, and if the industries suffer the millowners will have no alternative but to close the mills. The management of mills has a right to dismiss inefficient workmen.—(From a report of a speech telegraphed from Calcutta on October 11th. Daily Telegraph, October 12th, 1937.)
It will be noticed that the minds and words of Labour leaders in East and West are as like as two peas. Perhaps Pandit Nehru is not uninfluenced by the fact that his Congress Party obtains much of its funds from the mill-owners.

Labour leaders who try to administer capitalism are “embarrassed" by the workers' demands. This is nothing to the embarrassment the workers will cause them when they see through the Labour leaders' policy of continuing capitalism.

Shadow-Boxing about the Former German Colonies
When the German ruling class feel strong enough they will doubtless try to grab their former colonies and anything else they think they can get. At present, however, they are in the preparatory stage of arming and of working up German public opinion. So Hitler and his British rivals are full of arguments about "rights" and “wrongs," and other irrelevant considerations.

British apologists led off with the remark that colonies are worthless, anyway, just a white man’s burden. Hitler countered smartly by calling this “drivel,” and said: —
  They say colonies are of no value, but in spite of this they will not in any circumstances give these worthless things back to their rightful owners.— (Speech at Berlin on October 3rd. Times, October 4th, 1937.)
As the mention of "rightful owners" reminded many people that, presumably, the rightful owners ought to be the native population living there, the British apologists fell back on the latter's right to be consulted. Imperialists, like Mr. Amery, trotted this out, and some of them actually claimed that, although it is true that the natives are not allowed to decide that question, or any other, for themselves, they are making advances towards self-government under British rule.

Then General Hertzog, Prime Minister of South Africa, made a speech at Pretoria on September 28th (The Times, September 29th, 1937), telling the natives in plain language what their rights in the land of their birth really are: —
  Natives must obey the white man’s law. Referring to criticism of the Government in dealing with the natives, the Prime Minister reminded the people that natives were living in a land of the white man, where the white man’s law ruled. If the native did not obey the white man’s rule he would be forced to obey, even if this had to be carried out by the imposition of more rigorous punishment or by stricter supervision of the native’s freedom of movement. He warned natives not to expect equal authority with the white man.
The muddled Labourites and Communists, who are already speaking of war against Germany in defence of native population’s democratic liberties, may wake up one day to find Hitler and Mussolini posing as defenders of the natives against South African white tyranny, and if the German workers are as silly as some of their British fellows, they may fall for it.

On the other hand, some influential South African politicians have declared that if Germany tries to recapture German South-West Africa they won't raise a finger to prevent it. The explanation of their attitude is that they fear, more than anything else, the growth of a native movement demanding Africa “for the rightful owners,” and look with favour on the return of the German dictatorship to Africa to help keep the natives in subjection. They prefer Germany to France because the absence of a colour bar in French African territory puts ideas into the African mind.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Cost of Living Farce (1937)

Editorial from the November 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Government is conducting an inquiry among 30,000 families to discover how they spend their wages. The resulting figures will be used as the basis of a new cost of living index to show from month to month whether and by how much the cost of living has increased or decreased. The old index, which dates back to 1904, is considered out of date, but the new one will be just as farcical as the other. The inquiry is not designed to discover how much good food a human being needs to maintain health and how much money that food costs, but simply to discover how the worker spends his wages. Whether the wages are too low to maintain health is not regarded by the Government as being its business.

Three things show the Government’s attitude in its true colours. The first is the fact that though Government employees for years had a cost of living bonus system, the bonus was never more than part of the full increase in the cost of living. The Government flatly refused to grant the full amount. The second is that at all times thousands of Government employees have been receiving wages which were shown by authoritative estimates to be too low to provide the necessities of life.

The third thing is that the Government, which is spending an extra £1,500 million pounds on armaments, has just refused a request by the Trade Union Congress that the pay of the unemployed should be increased in keeping with the rise in prices (Daily Telegraph, October 18th, 1937).

How inadequate is the level of wages, whether in Government employment or outside, has just been demonstrated again by the issue of a revised edition of Mr. Seebohm Rowntree’sHuman Needs of Labour” (Longmans, 1937, 2s. 6d.).

In it he estimates that at 1936 prices the minimum amount needed to keep a family of man, wife and three dependent children living in a town is 53s. a week. It is assumed for this purpose that the wage is paid for 52 weeks a year (i.e., that the worker has paid holidays) and that he receives 53s. all the time, not only at the time when he actually has three children; because he has got to get his home together, and no allowance is made for this in calculating the 53s. Moreover, the 53s. does not apply to London or to any place where rents and traveling expenses are unusually high. Mr. Rowntree allows only 9s. 6d. for rent and rates and 1s. for travelling to and from work, both of which are absurdly low for London. Mr. Rowntree admits that in London rents may range up to 20s. or 25s. (p. 89) and that his 53s. must be increased accordingly. It would in such cases be in the region of 70s., apart from the inadequacy of the allowance for food, referred to below. The dietary, costing 20s. 6d. a week for the family of five, is based on a minimum estimate of what adults and children need to maintain health drawn up by a committee appointed by the British Medical Association. But whereas that committee specified 14 pints of fresh milk a week, Rowntree substitutes 12 tins of skimmed milk, condensed (p. 84). If fresh milk were allowed for, the weekly cost would be 1s. 9d. greater, i.e., 3s. 9d. a week throughout the year instead of 2s.

Mr. Rowntree admits, too, that if he adopted the diet drawn up by the Health Committee of the League of Nations, a diet designed to secure perfect health—and not merely to prevent malnutrition—it would cost another 6s. a week (p. 160).

For expenditure for the family of five after paying for rent and rates (9s. 6d.), food (20s. 6d.), clothing (8s.), fuel and light (4s. 4d.) and household sundries (1s. 8d.) Mr. Rowntree allows only 9s. to cover everything else, including travel to and from work, entertainment, holidays, books, beer, tobacco, etc., etc. He has the grace to admit (p. 101) that he is “almost ashamed to put forward so low an estimate.” As he says elsewhere (p. 12), out of this 9s., the amount expected to cover "holidays, beer and tobacco, amusements . . . travelling, other than fares to and from work, or contingencies of any kind,” is 3s. 4d. a week, or ” little more than the cost of a cocktail.” Mr. Rowntree’s standard of 53s. (with an additional 15s. or more in London owing to high rents and the cost of travel to and from work, and more still for families with over three children) is, therefore, plainly far below a reasonable or even a minimum  standard for health. Yet everybody knows, and Mr. Rowntree admits (p. 125), that our wonderful capitalism fails to provide even that standard for millions of workers. When Mr. Rowntree defends the deliberate choice of a standard so low that he is almost ashamed of it because “I want to make my figure . . . one which is unassailable " (p. 101) he is only saying in a roundabout way that capitalism never will give the workers a standard that is fit for human beings.