Saturday, February 2, 2019

Our First Prospective Candidate For Parliament (1929)

Party News from the February 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

At a meeting of the Battersea Branch, Comrade Barker, of the Tooting Branch, was adopted as prospective candidate of the Socialist Party of Great Britain for Battersea.

It now remains for those who desire to see our candidate go to the polls to give practical effect to their wishes by swelling the Parliamentary Fund to the required dimensions.

As we pointed out originally, our candidate will go to the polls if we are provided with sufficient funds to carry the business through.

"The Modern Case For Socialism." (1929)

Book Review from the February 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

"The Modern Case For Socialism." By A. W. Humphrey. Price 12/6. George Allen and Unwin, Ltd.

This book is a welter of confused and contradictory ideas, relieved here and there by some useful information and argument. 

It contains 268 pages divided into nine chapters. The author does not claim to cover the whole case for Socialism. He is wise. But he would have been wiser had he found out what the whole case for Socialism was before he started the book. The title of the book is certainly misleading. It is in no sense the "modern case for Socialism”—in fact, it is not the case for Socialism at all, as more than half of it is taken up with the case for Nationalisation and the so-called "Guild Socialism.” 

The contradictions, omissions and errors, from the point of view of Socialism, are too many to cover in a review, so I can do no more than call attention to a few.

Before doing so, however, I must give him credit for having written some excellent sections on the concentration of capital, the position of inventors, and the nature and ramifications of the trusts, and also some useful information on the wages and conditions of labour, and profit-making at home and abroad.

At the front of the book there is a list of authorities quoted, but it is significant that in this list no mention is made of the most important book ever written connected with the subject, and that book is "Capital,” by Karl Marx. In fact, a glance over this list of authorities drives one to the conclusion that the author has obtained most of his information at secondhand and from pamphlets.

The first chapter on "The Source of Wealth” is fairly clear and fairly simple, but even here the author stumbles. On page 23 we read: "All wealth is the product of labour,” and on page 26 : "The moral law is rooted in the economic truth that labour is the source of all wealth.” The latter may be a very pretty sentence, but it is both untrue and empty. Human energy and natural resources are the source of wealth. The "moral law” is merely an empty phrase. '

On page 24 we read:—
  Labour being, as we have seen, the only creative agency in that process, it follows that Labour is the source of all value.
Farther down on the same page we come across the following:—
  Meanwhile two of the commonest objections to this labour theory of value must be disposed of. One is that land has value but is not the product of labour. Land, however, has value under only two conditions: either it is cultivated, and therefore the value arises from the labour of the cultivator, or it acquires value by reason of the fact that labour carried on in its vicinity creates a demand for it.
There is, surely, a manifest contradiction between these two quotations. If "labour is the source of all value,” how can land upon which no labour has been spent have any value? It cannot, and has not. The author confuses value and price in the second quotation. Land upon which no labour has been spent may have a price, but it has no value.

A few pages later on the author confuses profit with surplus value, as if the two were identical. Under the heading "How Profit Arises,” on page 28, we find:—
   Thus supposing the working day to be of eight hours, the worker may produce the value which he receives back in wages, in say, three hours, and the results of his work during the remaining five hours are annexed by the capitalist. The value created in this five hours is the surplus value, or profit, which the worker is compelled to leave in the possession of the capitalist.
The remaining five hours mentioned is surplus value, but all of this is not profit. Out of this five hours the Capitalist pays rent, interest and allots an amount for future production as well as taking his profit. The profit a given Capitalist concern makes (leaving aside for the moment any hidden or artificial reserves) is the amount they have over during a particular period of trading, after making allowances for necessary sinking fund, duties payable, ground or other rents, royalties, honorariums and other tributes to other Capitalists, besides advertising, etc., expenses, all of which come out of the surplus value produced by the workers in the particular concern.

Now, according to the quotation given above from page 28, the difference between what the worker gets and the value he produces is surplus value. On page 46 the author gets himself into a tangle again, with the following astonishing statement:— 
   The trade unions and the Labour Party are the means by which the workers defend their portion of the surplus value produced by their labour and strive to increase it.
We would assume that there is a printer's error here, but taken in conjunction with other matter in the book, we are forced to the conclusion that it is only an expression of the author’s lack of grasp of economics, of which there is plenty of evidence throughout.

However, perhaps the few points mentioned from the opening sections are a sufficient illustration of the character of the author’s analysis, and we will only take one or two points that occur later on in the book.

From page 142 we take the following:— 
  The banks do create credit; by creating credit they increase the supply of money, and thus influence prices and the volume of production . . . .
  Money exchanges for goods. If the volume of money increases without a corresponding increase in the quantity of goods, then money, considered in relation to goods, will have declined in value. Because money has declined in value a given quantity of money will not exchange for the same amount of goods as formerly. To purchase that amount of goods more money will be needed, which is another way of saying that prices will rise. This is what in fact does occur. An increase in money without a corresponding increase in goods brings about a rise in prices. An increase in the quantity of money is called an inflation of the currency. Thus, we reach the position that inflation causes a rise in prices.
He then reverses the process to show a reversed result.

It is all very neat and pretty. However, neat arguments are not necessarily sound arguments.

In the first place, a mere increase in the quantity of money is not an inflation of the currency. An inflation of the currency can only occur under certain special conditions, which include weakness in the backing behind the currency. Now if there is one thing that practically everybody accepts to-day it is that crises, and in recent times the crises in the cotton, steel, shipbuilding and other industries, are brought about by the expansion of production beyond the effective demand, bringing in its train a fall in prices. Increased credit facilities have been blamed, in the main, for enabling manufacturers to flood the market. In consequence there is an all-round whine that prices are ruling too low, and Capitalists are looking to "rationalisation” as a royal road out of this difficulty.

The main trouble, however, is that Mr. Humphrey is confusing credit facilities with currency. Money has many functions, and one of these functions is to act as' currency. Before he started upon this neat little argument he should have shown how the volume of money that acts as currency is increased.

His confusion on this point leads him to the statement that:—
  The increased development of the use of credit in carrying on industrial operations has made the banks the controllers of the volume of money, and, therefore, in some degree of prices, which in turn affects the balance of trade. (p. 150.)
And also:—
   The banks keep their balances at the Bank of England, and in the last resort their lending powers rest on the Bank of England's gold, but this gold basis has for years been declining in importance, and to-day is of little significance, (p. 145.)
On the same day that this review was being written the writer read the annua) report of the Chairman (Mr. F. G. Goodenough) of Barclays Bank. From this report the following extracts are taken bearing upon the above remarks:—
  Another important factor affecting industry and trade has been the stabilisation of currencies in terms of gold by certain countries, and especially France, during the year. It may now be said that for all practical purposes the stabilisation of world currencies on a gold basis has been virtually completed, and this should prove a factor in the stabilisation of price levels as between one country and another. 
#    #    #    # 
It is provided by the Currency and Bank Notes Act, 1928, that the Bank of England and the Treasury acting in agreement, may reduce the fiduciary limit as and when they may think fit, while provision is also made for an expansion in the fiduciary limit should the circumstances warrant. The power to reduce the fiduciary circulation would probably be utilised if, after a period, it was found that the currency available was permanently in excess of the country’s needs, as, for example, might prove to be the case in the event of an appreciable and permanent fall in price levels.
(The Sunday Times, 20/1/29.)
("The fiduciary limit’’ means the quantity of bank notes that may be issued without a gold backing )
In other words, the gold basis is very much in existence, and trade only absorbs the amount of currency required to facilitate business transactions, the rest lies in the Bank. This disposes of Mr. Humphrey’s illusion that currency is a fixed quantity which is split (gawd knows how!) in certain proportions over the goods being sold at a given moment. As a matter of fact, he is only bringing to life again the hoary old quantity theory of money which has been destroyed time after time.

The aim of his argument is shown in the climax. He is out for the nationalisation of the Banks. In fact, the last hundred pages of his book is mainly occupied with a glorification of nationalisation. As the subject has been often dealt with adequately in these columns during the last few months we will not pursue Mr. Humphrey on the subject, where he frequently mixes public ownership with Socialism and has a good deal to say about that mysterious entity, “the public ”!

In the opinion of the author, Socialist theory will be put into practice by the Guilds. And this is how they will do it:—
  The Guilds in being, there would fall to them the duty and privilege of running their respective industries. The Guild would decide the methods; it would be the owner of what was produced; it would divide the proceeds' of the sale of its products among its members, according to principles and rates of pay which the members themselves would lay down. Out of its income the Guild would make provision for the maintenance of its members in sickness, unemployment, and old age. (pp. 256-257.)
  The factory, mine, shipyard, or other centres of production would be the natural and fundamental unit of industrial democracy. This involves not only that the factory must be free, as far as possible, to manage its own affairs, but also that the democratic unit of the factory must be made the basis of the larger democracy of the Guild. The duties of the larger organisations of the Guild would consist chiefly of co-ordination of the production of the various units, making general regulations, supplying raw material, selling such products as were not disposed of locally, and representing the Guild in its relations with other Guilds and the community as a whole, (p. 258.) 
#    #    #    # 
As to the all-important question of prices, the instrument of taxation would be a means of checking any tendency on the part of a Guild to overcharge, supposing that in any instance or at any time the decisions jointly made with the State were not loyally observed. For taxation would be levied not on individuals but on Guilds, and as justice in taxation implies that those with most shall pay most, a Guild getting unduly wealthy by keeping up prices would And that its excessive surplus was skimmed off by the State for communal purposes.
  The main point to be grasped at this point, however, is that, though the community would have the right to intervene in matters affecting the general welfare, the internal affairs of the Guild would be a matter for the Guild alone, (p. 261.) 
#    #    #    # 
At this point it may be as well to make clear that it is not imagined that under the Guild system we should find the whole population to the last man in Guild membership. There is, for example, the case of artists and fine types of craftsmen. No one suggests that any such workers should be forced into a Guild against their will. They would, in all likelihood, be able to make an ample living working independently, for with the higher standard of living and of education which would be the rule in Socialist society, there would be a much greater demand for all beautiful things than there is to-day. (p. 262.)
Now, gentle and unsophisticated reader, you should have an adequate idea of Mr. Humphrey’s conception of Socialism, and therefore the value of his book as a contribution to the “Modern Case.” As you see above, there will be privileged classes, taxation, buying and selling, high and low prices, and other bric-a-brac of Capitalism ! as we know it to-day.

Imagination. (1929)

From the February 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The year 1929 is the most tremendously important year the world has ever seen. Perhaps that is an over-statement. It could be the most profoundly momentous year the human race has experienced. This year that portion of humanity which inhabits the British Isles will be asked to decide whether it wishes the reign of King Capital to continue or that it should come to an end. The preliminary call has gone forth, and those who say it should end and a saner system established have banded themselves together in an organisation called the Socialist Party. We cannot, honestly speaking, say that the response has been overwhelming. Had it been of sufficient magnitude, the year 1929 could have been the most epoch-making year in the history of mankind. It has been said that the discovery of fire was the greatest event in human affairs. The invention of printing has also been described as a tremendous human achievement. A similar claim has more recently been made on behalf of wireless telephony. Now, without indulging in the fascinating discussion of these highly interesting topics, we can agree that they had one feature in common, a feature which marks them off from the great discovery of Socialism. Each of them was demonstrable by their discoverers to a less favoured or less imaginative audience. For, one must confess, the quality of imagination is comparatively rare. Even nowadays, when we are surrounded by the fruits of human imagination and inventiveness, the response to an imaginative appeal, unless purely emotional, is usually disappointing. Even in a comparatively small event, like the Daylight Saving, one has to admit that vast numbers of one’s fellows had to be kicked into acquiescence. Those who have read Elia’s “Dissertation on Roast Pig” will remember that the discoverer of that delicacy was viewed with great disfavour—until people had tasted the new dish. One can imagine the original discoverer of the uses of fire having a most unpleasant time, denounced as a trafficker with unclean spirits, as a dealer with mysteries, as a wizard, and what not, until his more stolid contemporaries were convinced by personaI trial that there was “something in it.” Coming nearer our own time, one remembers the scorn which greeted the first bicycles, the first motors, the first aeroplanes, the first wireless. It was not until repetition and perseverance had made these things familiar that mankind in general accepted them. But here, as in everything so far, demonstration was possible for the conversion of the unimaginative many.

The profound difficulty with Socialism is that it cannot be demonstrated. It is a complete system of human society to which a new principle is to be applied. Many enthusiasts with an insufficient knowledge of their subject have endeavoured to found little communities, run as they thought on Socialist lines. All have failed, for Socialism can only be applied to a highly organised community, and on a large inclusive scale. It is not a principle applied to simple forms, such as Monarchism or Republicanism. It is a complete change in the basis of society. It is therefore impossible to show samples, as it were, of a complete and fundamental change. Socialism and Capitalism are mutually exclusive, although, curiously enough, each deals with the same things. Railways would still run, factories still work, power stations still function, the soil still be tilled, under Socialism as under Capitalism. The great difference would be ownership, and therefore control. Instead of being operated by the whole people, for the private benefit of private owners, they would still be operated by the whole people, but for the public benefit of the communal people. Private owners only employ just so many as they can profitably make use of. Private owners only allow their plant to produce wealth when a profit is to be made. In short, private owners of the means of wealth-making only allow their machine to run for private ends. But with social ownership the outlook is entirely changed. There would be no idlers of any sort, rich or poor, for it would be to the interest of everyone that there should be abundance of everything. There would be no slack times and semi-starvation because too much wealth had been produced, as at present. If, under Socialism, too much wealth were produced, it would be, first, the signal for a real holiday, and, second, for an enquiry into why the Statistical Department had not properly adjusted supply to public needs. There would be no rubbishy boots, shoddy clothing, jerry-built houses and adulterated food. The market for trash would go the way of all markets. It would follow poverty and ignorance into the limbo of forgotten Capitalism.

But if the workers are waiting to be shown a working model of the proposed new system they are waiting for the impossible. A picture of society under Socialism can only be constructed by the imagination aided by an analysis of our present condition and a knowledge of human history. Clever men have performed both of these latter tasks, and references to them and their works are frequently given in our columns. Imagination they cannot give you, but they can stimulate it. A useful primer is our little pamphlet called “Socialism,” forty-eight pages packed with information for twopence. If after reading that you decide that Socialism is desirable and practicable, do not fold your arms and wait for something to happen, but do the only logical thing—join our organisation and help get it. Then when, as in a few months' time, the question is again staged, “is Capitalism to go on or go under?" be prepared to answer : “Under !" And being organised, you will be able to put Socialism in its place. What have you to lose? Nothing but your chains. To win? The whole world ! You have a world to win. A world to win.
W. T. Hopley

SPGB Lectures (1929)

Party News from the February 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Click the picture to enlarge.

The Good Time Coming ! (1929)

Editorial from the February 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

This year; next year; sometime; never !

It is the duty of Bank Chairmen and Prime Ministers to make forecasts every year of the coming trade revival. They do this because it fills the mind of the unemployed with hope. This year Mr. Baldwin says: -
  We may reasonably look forward, without being called unduly optimistic, to a general expansion of trade in the country. (Daily Express, 21 December.)
Some people, remembering last year, and the year before, and the year before that, and so on, do not believe Mr. Baldwin. But those who believe and those who disbelieve, nearly all accept the assumption that if trade improved, then our problems would be solved. The Socialist does not accept this view. We point out that the workers are poor always, good trade or bad, and that the Capitalist class, whatever the state of trade, go on having a large and growing share of the wealth produced.

During the five years ended March 31st, 1927, less than 100,000 super-tax payers (90,000 in 1922/23 and 98,000 in 1926/27) had incomes totally over £500 millions a year. The total increased year by year from £516 millions to £568 millions.

The Tory says that unemployment would decline and wages rise if only we made more articles at home and imported less from abroad. The Liberals and most of the Labourites say that unemployment would go if we could only sell more English goods abroad. It is interesting to notice that during 1928, as compared with 1927, both of these things have happened. More goods have been sold abroad and less goods imported. Comparing the first eleven months of 1928 with the same period of 1927, we find that imports fell by £18,475,254 (1.7 per cent.) and exports increased by £11,281,897 (1.5 per cent.). (See “Economist," December 15th.) Now let us look at the unemployment figures. The number of registered unemployed on November 28th, 1927, was 1,172,000, and on November 28th, 1928, 1,439,000. Observe, not a decrease, but an increase of 267,000! (“Ministry of Labour Gazette," December, 1928.)

So much for Liberal, Labour and Conservative economic theories.

The facts are that an increase of exports and a decrease of imports may mean, but do not necessarily mean, that more wealth is being produced at home; and a decrease in foreign trade may coincide with an increase in production. Further, an increase in trade and an increase in production can both take place while, owing to the use of more machinery and improved methods, fewer workers are being employed. This is one of the effects of Capitalism, and the remedy is Socialism.

Received For Review (1929)

From the February 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marx's Capital.
Capital," by Karl Marx. Allen 8c Unwin. 927 pages. 12s. 6d. Translated by Eden & Cedar Paul.

We regret that a review of this new translation of Marx's great work cannot appear in this issue, as our comrade engaged on this review is seriously ill. The review will, however, appear shortly.

A New Edition. 
The Proletarian Revolution." N. Lenin. (3s. cloth, Is. 6d. paper.) Modern Books, Ltd.

The above book was reviewed in these columns on its. first appearance. We then pointed out the weakness of Lenin’s arguments against Kautsky.

Since that time no attempt has been made to justify Lenin's attitude. All we have is the repetition of Lenin's phrases.

A Source Book of Social Psychology," by Kimball
Young. A. Knopf, 37, Bedford Square. 21s.

The Economic League On Capital. (1929)

From the February 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

In our January issue I dealt sympathetically with "Some Socialist Fallacies Exploded”—a leaflet issued by that gifted but much misunderstood body, the Economic League, and it was shown how successfully they had blown sky-high the first "fallacy” they had dealt with. Here follows the second "Socialist” fallacy on their list for combustion :—

Fallacy No. 2.The interests of Capital and Labour are essentially antagonistic. Therefore, class warfare is necessary and inevitable.

Not bad for a translation by such busy people! If you would prefer the original, however, it reads as follows:—
  That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (i.e., land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
  That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce, and those who produce but do not possess.
Now you will hardly credit it, but these wild Socialists actually believe that this eccentric notion has historical justification to support it! Indeed, Engels, for example, in the preface to the "Communist Manifesto," has the impudence to assert:—
  That in every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organisation necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently the whole history of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding land in common ownership) has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes: that the history of these class struggles forms a series of evolution in which, nowadays, a stage has been reached where the exploited and oppressed class— proletariat—cannot attain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class—the bourgeoise—without, at the same time, and once and for all, emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class-distinctions and class struggles.
Class struggles, indeed ! But the leaflet has different stuff from this to offer:—
   This is another of the principles in the Socialist Manifesto. It is based on apparent ignorance of the facts that operative labour itself is actually a form of capital, and that the so-called class war or conflict between Labour and Capital is really nothing but a suicidal sort of contest between two members of the same family. In evidence of the fact that labour is a form of capital, we have only to ask ourselves. What was man’s original capital before he had any tools or plant to work with? The answer undoubtedly is that it was his innate capacity to invent and create, or, in other words, his labour, mental and physical; and so we arrive at the fundamental economic truth that operative labour is capital in its truest and most original sense, and that the interests of the two are, therefore, naturally and necessarily identical.
Could clarity be more pellucid? After sorting this out I arrive at the following conclusions: (1) Labour is a form of Capital, therefore presumably Capital has other forms; (2) "Man’s original Capital" was labour, and therefore this and the other forms of Capital not here specified must have been derived from Labour; and (3) because Labour is a form of Capital, and Capital is a form of Labour, therefore the interests of Capital, of which Labour is a form, are "naturally and necessarily identical” with the interests of Labour, which is a form of Capital. Do you get that? ("Yes,” he lied glibly.)

One need not be an inmate of Banstead to believe that Capital and Labour are one as the law stands at present, but I admit a slight difficulty in comprehending how they can both be the same and yet, oh so different ! However, perhaps the next passage may enlighten us :—
   Mr. Dane tells us that “a workman’s character, skill and experience,” which constitute his labour, are "as truly capital” as the tools and plant and machinery with which he works; and that fact teaches us another fundamental truth, that it is Labour which employs Capital, and not the other way about, as so many seem to think. The worker in a factory employs not only his own capital, but that of the owner of the factory as well, without, be it noted, any of the latter’s financial risk. He is entirely dependent on both, and it is suicidal folly on his part to quarrel with his bread and butter, or, in other words, to wage war on what, after all, is his sole and only means of existence. It is perfectly true that one form of capital may refuse to employ the other, if, on the one hand, the financial risk is considered too great, or if, on the other hand, the remuneration is considered insufficient; but these differences of opinion are surely matters for amicable negotiation rather than for conflict. In any case, the fact remains that both forms of capital are absolutely dependent on each other.
For the first time, 1 now realise that "a workman’s character, skill and experience constitute his labour,” though obviously he has sometimes to take these attributes to bed with him ! (In this case perhaps the "labour” is done by proxy or correspondence.) One should always be careful, however, not to be vulgar, like Karl Marx, and include such qualities with physical and mental energy in what he calls labour-power. This is simply not done in the best economic circles. But I must agree that this unperformed labour of the worker is "as truly Capital as the tools and plant and machinery with which he works." We must take the word of such recondite "economists” as the Economic League that machinery, plant and tools are Capital. Even before their installation in the factory, even when the factory is "closed down,” and most decidedly when they are thrown out of the factory on to a dust heap—they are still “Capital.” I can almost understand this, but I confess to a wee difficulty in being able to comprehend (1) just when the machine, etc., becomes Capital, and (2) exactly what thickness of cobwebs or rust on a disused or unworked machine is necessary to accumulate before the machine ceases to be Capital—is it twelve inches or only six? You see, these Socialists have no respect at all for economic truths, and they guffaw rudely when people say that machinery, plant and tools are in themselves Capital. That Karl Marx of theirs can be very trying on this subject:—
  Capital consists of raw materials, instruments of labour, and all kinds of means of life which are used to produce new raw materials, new instruments, and new means of life. All these component parts of capital are created by labour, products of labour, stored-up labour. Stored-up labour which serves as a means of new production is capital.
   So say the economists.
   What is a negro-slave? A man of the black race. The one definition is worthy of the other.
   A negro is a negro. He only becomes a slave under certain conditions. A cotton-spinning machine is a machine for spinning cotton. Only under certain conditions does it become capital. Torn from those conditions it is no more capital than gold itself is money, or sugar the price of sugar. (Wage-Labour and Capital.)
In other words, they say that these things (machinery, etc.) are only Capital during the time wage-labour is employed to operate them. But most diabolically of all, they claim that under Socialism even more and better machinery, plant and tools will be in use than at present, but they will be socially owned and will produce wealth for use only.

I was glad to find from this last-quoted passage that the Economic League make it clear that when they state that the interests of Capital and Labour are identical they mean the interests of the owners of Capital and the owners of wage-labour (i. e., workers), for this helps me to grasp their meaning when they state that "it is Labour which employs Capital, and not the other way about, as so many seem to think.” If our capitalist wage-worker readers will bear this in mind, they should have little difficulty in recognising the aftcoming episode as an everyday experience of this simple fact:—
  Scene: Dejected looking Capitalist diffidently approaching the sanctum of his prospective employer—an obese, complacent, prosperous looking Wage-worker. Holding a cloth cap in his hand and looking down furtively at a big toe protruding from an aged boot, he musters up enough courage to tap upon the massive oak portal.
Voice of Wage-Worker from within: Come in!

Capitalist: Got a job, guv’nor? I bin sent by the Capiterlist Buroo. ’Ere’s me perticlers, sir!

Wage-Worker: H'm ! What can you do, my man?

Capitalist: I can own factories, plant and machinery, get you to work for me, pay you good money but not much of it, and keep all you produce for myself.

Wage-Worker : Good. Can you do anything else?

Capitalist: Well, you can’t expect me to do anything else, guv’nor, now, can you? I ain’t got much time to spend in this country, you know. I shall have to do the job from Cannes or Madeira, and perhaps sometimes from "Monty.”

Wage-Worker: Right, you’re engaged. I’ll ring for my manager to start you at once, but see that I’m allowed to make plenty of profit for you or you and I will fall out. You get me?

Our sapient leafleteer then reminds us that Capital is Labour’s bread and butter (no, not “marge” !) and it is silly for the worker to quarrel with his portion thereof. Well, as Capital and Labour are one, this dictum appears to apply equally to the Capitalist. This horrid spectacle of two slices of bread and butter engaging in a fratricidal struggle may be highly diverting to untutored minds, but I regard it as reprehensible in the extreme. Further, we are told the Capitalist is not only the “sole” but the “only” means of existence for the worker. (When he has finished the sole, apparently he cornea on to the "only” !) Even the most perverse Socialists do not deny this fact. Indeed, Marx himself says something similar:—
  To say that the interests of capital and the interests of labour are identical means merely this: capital and wage labour are two sides of one and the same relation.
  The one conditions the other, just as the usurer and the borrower mutually condition each other.
  So long as the wage-worker remains a wageworker, his lot is dependent upon capital. That is what the alleged identity of interests between worker and capitalist amounts to.
  If capital grows, the mass of wage-labour grows, the number of wage-workers increases. In a word, the dominion of capital extends over a greater number of individuals. (Wage-Labour and Capital.)
Of course, the qualification is quite unnecessary !

Next we are told that the one form of Capital may refuse to employ the other. As, for example, when all the workers in an industry have simultaneously conferred upon them the freedom to enjoy the jollities of the kerbstone, whilst “the other form of Capital” is enduring the anguish of "financial risk” and sunstroke at Madeira. Of course, the worker does not incur "financial risk.” When he asks for more wages—the suggestion is absurd ! The million-and-a-half unemployed workers ought to feel more sympathy than they appear to express for the sorry plight of their capitalist brothers, brought on by "financial risk.” The terrible ravages of the malady of "financial risk” may be only partially gauged by the perusal of the under-stated facts :—
   About one-half of the entire income of the United Kingdom is enjoyed by about 12 per cent, of its population.
   More than one-third of the entire income of the United Kingdom is enjoyed by about 3 per cent, of its population. (From Chiozza-Money’s “The Nation’s Wealth,” pp. 110-111.)
   Let us take one of the main features of existing society—its division into two classes; a propertied class and a propertyless class. This is obviously the result of the ownership of the wealth of society by some of the people, to the exclusion of the others, for this alone produces a class of possessors and a class of non-possessors.
  With regard to the ownership of property, Mr. Zorn has shown (Daily News, November 29th, 1919) that 10 per cent. of the population owns 99 per cent. of the wealth, while the remaining 1 per cent, is divided among nine-tenths of the people. And Professor Clay tells us that—
it is probably safe to say that over two-thirds of the national capital is held by less than 2 per cent, of the people.—Times, 24th March, ! 1925.
  So the two-class nature of the present social scheme is directly traceable to that form of private property which excludes one class from ownership. (From Socialism, p. 28.)
I trust the recital of these facts will enlighten the reader as to the identity of interests between the wage-slaves and their masters, and that he will point out the selfishness of the workers in allowing their capitalist brothers to suffer in silence these agonies of "financial risk.”

I regret my space ration forbids me to do justice to the admirable way in which the Economic League view Capital and Labour in all its aspects and in all historical epochs. The primitive tools of the communistic tribesman, the implements of the handicraftsman, the merchant’s capital, the mediaeval usurer’s money capital, the giant machines, factories, etc., of to-day, the great financial corporations, labour under all conditions (of the communistic savage, the chattel slave, the feudal serf, the handicraftsman and the wage-worker)—all these are Capital in the eyes of the Economic League. Their argument seems, therefore, to be: As mines, mills, workshops, etc., are Capital, and as Socialists mean to abolish Capital, therefore there cannot be mines, mills, workshops, etc., under Socialism. Which, 1 think, is quite good, don’t you, reader?

There are still three more explosions of "fallacies” in the leaflet, so, all being well, there should be a real "Brock’s benefit” for our next issue.

Parliament and the Army: The Curragh “Mutiny” (1929)

From the February 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Arising out of the article “What is the Use of Parliament,” in our January issue, a correspondent writes pointing out that the refusal in 1914 of British Army officers to obey the Asquith Government if ordered to attack the Ulster “rebels” shows that the army can successfully defy Government and Parliament.

Before dealing with the incident in question, it may be as well to restate the claim made by the Socialist Party with regard to control of Parliament. Our view is that control of Parliament, secured by the return of a majority of Socialists in an election fought simply on the issue of Socialism versus Capitalism, implying as of course it does that the big majority of the working class understand and want Socialism, would give effective control of the political machinery, including the armed forces.

Let us see, then, in what way the Curragh “mutiny” bears on our contention. In the first place, our correspondent has his facts all wrong. There was no “mutiny,” no evidence of an intention to mutiny, no defiance of the Government and no defiance of Parliament or the majority of the electors.

Asquith’s Government was not elected on the issue of Home Rule for Ireland and the coercion of Ulster, but predominately on the issue of the House of Lords’ veto. Further, its majority at the December (1910) election was greatly reduced from its majority at the January (1910) election, and it was confidently believed by the Conservatives that the next election would give a majority to them. Asquith’s Government had therefore no direct evidence that the majority of the electorate were behind them on the Ulster question. On the other hand, it was the view of the influential Army officers also that elections at no distant date would put the Liberals out of office. (See “Biography of Sir Henry Wilson” by Sir Charles Callwell, Sunday Times, May 22nd, 1927.)

Even, therefore, if the Curragh officers had decided to disobey orders, they would have done so with good reason to believe that their attitude would be endorsed by the electorate and the new Government. That situation, quite the reverse of the situation which would exist after the return of a Socialist majority at an election fought on the issue of Socialism, invalidates the comparison between the "mutiny” in 1914 and a hypothetical mutiny by anti-Socialist Army officers against the orders of a Government backed by a Socialist Parliamentary majority and a Socialist electorate.

Secondly, and doubtless wholly or partly because of their doubt as to the views of the electorate, Asquith’s Government never showed that it seriously intended to force the issue. On the contrary, its indecisive attitude indicates fairly clearly that it had no such intention.

But whether that was its intention or not, the fact is that it did not order the Army leaders to take action against the Ulster forces. What it did was to offer them the choice between taking such action or resigning their commissions. Given such a choice, and knowing that there was good reason to expect a not far distant return of a Conservative Government, prudence, if nothing else, would naturally suggest to the officers concerned the advisability of taking the course of resigning since it offered them more promising future prospects.

Thus, General Sir Hubert Gough, in an interview (Manchester Guardian, February 4th, 1919), said :—
   I never refused to obey orders. On the contrary, I obeyed them. I was ordered to make a decision—namely, to leave the Army or ‘‘to undertake active operations against Ulster.” These were the very words of the terms offered. As I was given a choice, I accepted it, and chose the first alternative; and, as a matter of fact, I have a letter in existence, written the night before the offer was made toy Sir A. Paget to my brother, saying: ‘‘Something is up” (we had been suddenly ordered to a conference). ‘‘What is it? If I receive orders to march north, of course I will go.”
Mr. Tim Healy, in his memoirs, "Letters and Leaders of My Time,” supports this view. He says :—
  The Curragh mutiny thus occurred through the attempt to "feel the pulse” of the officers privately instead of giving them orders to march—which they would have obeyed. (Quoted in Manchester Guardian, 12th December, 1928.)
We see, then, that the incidents at the Curragh do not in any way conflict with our insistence on the need for the working class to secure the control of Parliament.
Edgar Hardcastle

SPGB Propaganda Meetings (1929)

Party News from the February 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Pathfinders: The Ladybird Book of Revolution (2017)

The Pathfinders Column from the February 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Older readers will recall with fondness their salad days learning to read in the company of nice and respectable middle-class kids Peter and Jane, and Pat the dog. Ladybird has lately achieved renewed prominence with their amusing self-spoofing series for adults covering hangovers, red tape, mid-life crises, throwing a sickie, the people next door and surviving a zombie apocalypse. Having successfully re-established themselves as nostalgia comedy they’ve now done a very odd thing. They’ve let Prince Charles co-write a Ladybird book on climate change.

It’s a bit hard to see the thinking here. Ladybird books won’t mean anything to today’s children, and the retro look surely can’t be aimed at them, so Ladybird seem to be suggesting that some adults are too stupid to understand the case for climate action unless it’s written by a doddering royal in large type and words of one syllable, and with circa-1960 hand-drawn pictures. Condescending or what, your royal haughtiness?

Of course you can certainly argue that none of us really understand the science, because we’re not climatologists. But at the political level the argument is much simpler. Barring a few loony deniers, the entire scientific community is united and unequivocal. There is a problem. The question is what to do about it. There now, that wasn’t difficult, was it?

There is something of an elephant lumbering around the environmental debate which some will be painfully aware of while others may be studiously ignoring it – the lack of participation by what is called the ‘traditional working class’ (TWC) and the consequent domination of the subject by the cultural middle class (CMC).

These terms require a short digression. Socialists identify two economic classes in society which are perpetually at war with each other, the ruling or parasitical class which owns and controls everything but does no real work, and the working class or 99 percent, who control nothing and are economic slaves. One could picture these two classes as opposing trenches on a battlefield. For us there can be no middle class. If there was, it would be standing in No Man’s Land getting shot at by both sides.

However most people use the word ‘class’ in a vaguer cultural sense, with all sorts of prejudices and preconceptions attached. It is this world of cultural categories that is at issue here.

Go to any Green party or environmentalist meeting and count the number of people there with university degrees and CMC manners, voices, clothes and social connections. Very often there will be nobody at the meeting who does not fit that description, be they TWC, immigrants or other ethnic minorities.

There are three possible explanations for this lack of participation. The first is the one put forward by HRH, in collaboration with Ladybird. The message isn’t simple enough.

The second explanation is the one put forward by many sympathetic Greens themselves, as well as politicians and media pundits, and ably expressed by a British climatologist recently: ‘For too long the climate change discussion has been about things that will happen in 100 years time. For economically insecure people, statements about what might happen in 100 years time they just don’t care about, because they know these kind of predictions have been proved wrong in the past and will be in the future’ LINK).

One could go further and suggest that people facing a desperate struggle to survive today won’t care about anything that’s a hundred years away whether the predictions are correct or not. But while there’s obviously some truth in this, it is not the case that concern over the environment is always associated with personal financial well-being, i.e. that having an environmental conscience is somehow a luxury item that the poor can’t afford. Many TWC people are not especially poor, have foreign holidays every year and spend a fortune at Christmas, while some people with university backgrounds have no job or money yet still shop ethically, eat tofu and recycle religiously. It’s not simply about the money.

The third explanation is that the TWC are not only not interested in environmental concerns, but actually put off them because of their CMC image. If you live on a council estate, don’t have a degree and speak with a local accent, you might very well decide that environmentalism is not for you. You’re pretty sure you wouldn’t like or relate to anyone, and they wouldn’t like you. Your face, voice, clothes, hair and make-up just wouldn’t fit. You talk yourself out of being involved.

And are you entirely wrong to do so? Perhaps the uncomfortable truth is that some CMC environmentalists are quite happy in their cosy little clique and would be secretly horrified if it was suddenly invaded by working-class types wearing hoodies and bling and reeking of skunk, or hard-boiled council estate veterans with tattoos on their knuckles. Environmentalism is Frasier and Friends and Have I Got News For You?, not Eastenders and Shameless.

The problem is the nature of environmentalist politics, which tends to ignore class politics as essentially irrelevant to the debate. We all live on the same planet, runs the thinking, so we should be able to rise above our petty class divisions in order to save it. But that of course is a lot easier to say when you’re not the one getting the worst of those divisions and you’re not even aware what the worst involves. This is how environmentalism slips into the genteel world of Ladybird, and away from the real and bruising world of class war.

Would it make much difference if environmentalists incorporated class into their world view, given that power resides not with them but with state elites? Well, it would give socialist revolutionaries and environmentalists something in common, and it would make the debate more inclusive, something which needs to happen if anything is ever going to change. You can’t wish away class war by ignoring it, but you can wish away a lot of potential support.
Paddy Shannon