Saturday, March 2, 2019

Popularity Contests (2019)

Book Review from the March 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

National Populism: the Revolt Against Liberal Democracy’. By Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin (Penguin £9.99)

‘National populism,’ the authors tell us, ‘is an ideology which prioritizes the culture and interests of the nation, and which promises to give voice to a people who feel that they have been neglected, even held in contempt, by distant and often corrupt elites.’ The word ‘national’ is added to distinguish it from left-wing populism, as seen in Podemos in Spain and Bernie Sanders in the US. (For a socialist take on populism, see the March 2018 Socialist Standard.)

The book is, however, not mainly concerned with the views of populist politicians, and certainly not with how they fare when in government. Rather, it emphasises the characteristics and opinions of those who support them. The authors have little difficulty in showing that national populism is not backed solely by the poor and the unemployed, or by angry old white men. Many people under forty support populists, but one significant point is that people without university degrees are more likely to vote for populist candidates (Trump, for instance).

The reasons why increasing numbers side with national populist candidates are said to include distrust of politicians and other elites (who are rich and had expensive educations) and the weakening of links to mainstream parties, which also lies behind the growth of the Greens and parties like the SNP. The increase in inequality over recent decades is also seen as a major factor, with a feeling of relative deprivation giving rise to political action.

But what marks national populism out from the less successful left-wing populism is its attitude to immigration and what Eatwell and Goodwin call ‘hyper ethnic change’. This is where national populists really tap into many people’s concerns that their way of life is undermined by large-scale immigration, especially of Muslims. And here the book becomes rather unpleasant: racism is defined in narrow terms (so discrimination is not in itself racist), and is contrasted with xenophobia, ‘a distrust and rejection of that which is perceived to be foreign and threatening’. Blatant racism is said to be less successful than appeals to culture and values, yet national populists accept ‘the critical importance of ethnic ancestry’ and want to ‘stem the dwindling size of their group [and] advance its interests’. This is just a euphemism for white people wanting to discriminate against non-whites, or general discrimination against those from abroad.

The authors accept that national populism has a dark side, on which they say very little, but also maintain that it raises ‘uncomfortable but legitimate issues’. However, they do not clarify who counts as a national populist, and, for instance, say little about Latin American populists. Many writers would regard Recep Erdoğan in Turkey as a populist politician, but here he is seen as part of a Muslim plot, arguing that Turkish families in Europe should have lots of children. His repressive rule can therefore be overlooked, as is that of the uncontroversially populist Viktor Orbán in Hungary, where a law was recently passed increasing the amount of overtime that employers can demand from workers.

Above all the book provides no evidence whatever that populist leaders can in any way deliver on their promises. They have allegedly ‘set out an alternative to the status quo’, by which is meant higher pay and more infrastructure projects. This is no alternative at all, for populism, national or otherwise, accepts the existence of capitalism and its elite – the capitalist class – and combines this with intolerant and authoritarian policies.
Paul Bennett

After The Poll. (1924)

From the January 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

The election is over and the result has left each of the aspirants to governmental power faced with a situation probably unique in our political history. Of the three parties—Conservative, Liberal and Labour—not one has a majority over the rest.

The writhings and squirmings of the different groups, in the endeavour to find a way out of the difficulty, enlivens the
dullness of our lives.

Immediately after the election the official papers of the different parties united in the view that of course Mr. Baldwin would resign, as his main proposals for dealing with the unemployment, trade stagnation, and the Ruhr, had been turned down by a majority of those voting.

The Observer, a supporter of Baldwin, lays the defeat of the government at the door of a “Trust-controlled Press.” In its issue of 9th December, Garvin complains that the Unionists were deprived of their chief resort at previous elections, the popular newspapers. This is a peculiar admission, particularly for a paper that has the Astor millions behind it. This is equivalent to admitting that the interests behind the Trust-controlled Press swept the Unionists into power, and have now swept them out of power!

The same issue of the paper, uses up considerable space to prove that there is no point in Mr. Baldwin retaining office until kicked out, that the obvious policy is for him to hand in his resignation immediately and go into opposition.

Mr. Baldwin, however, has declined to oblige either friends or foes, and proposes retaining his position. This has destroyed the beautiful Unionist and Liberal schemes of “sympathetic opposition.”

The Observer promised the Labour Party or Liberals, whichever took office, a sympathetic assistance in the carrying out of certain general proposals for dealing with unemployment, Russia and the Ruhr. It finally recommended that the Liberals should take over the government because, as they, with the assistance of the Trust Press, had made the mess, they should be left to clear it up.

The Liberals, however, are not anxious for office; there are too many reasons at present, from the capitalist standpoint, in favour of letting the Labour Party take over office.

Writing of the Labour Party the Daily News, Dec. 10th, 1923 says:—
  One of its chief claims to national confidence is the way in which, under its present leadership, it has rallied elements which might have drifted into disruption and dangerous discontent to the support of constitutional charges to be attained by constitutional means. To pretend otherwise is merely to obstruct this laudable and valuable service.
  For either Liberals or Labour men, on the other hand, to contemplate a fresh dissolution now, with the tariff issue eliminated, would be a piece of unspeakable folly, fatally destructive of the reputation of those guilty of it for sanity and common sense. The only possible course open to them is such a degree of co-operation between them as shall keep this Parliament with its progressive majority in being for the enactment of the wide range of social and political reforms on which they are agreed. 
So spoke the Liberal journal, but the Unionists spoke in an even more amiable way to the Labour Party.

The Observer (9th Dec., 1923) had the following :—
  There is not the smallest fear of a capital levy, or of any other proposal of Marxian Socialism. In these circumstances, the majority of Unionists would prefer to see the Labour party in office during the six months of transition between now and another general election. The extraordinary thing is the growth of personal sympathy between Unionists and Labour. Unionists recognise that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald from his own point of view has made a fair and decent fight, if he were sent for by the King and took office, Unionists would be prepared to give him every facility for dealing with the Budget and routine business. He might propose a new electoral law. In the Unionist Party there is no fear of it. It is bound to come. Unionists stand to gain by the transferable vote more than any other party.
The Observer gave the Labour Party a further suggestion. It may be remembered that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald declared a short time ago that the Labour Party’s aim was to develop the resources of this country. The Observer has met this view by pointing out:—
  What this country requires above all is cheaper power and cheaper transport. (9th December, 1923.)
This cheaper power is to be provided by the use of coal for generating electricity, and the application of electricity as far as possible to means of transport.

The Observer further points out:—
  Nothing like a wrecking policy on the part of Labour is possible, if the leader of the Labour Party were consulted by the Sovereign, it would be an historic but not an alarming event. (9th December, 1923.)
How has the Labour Party met the offer of this olive branch?

In the first place there have been assurances of no coalition or agreements with Liberals or Tories. Those who remember the times when the Labour voted against their own amendments to save Liberal governments from defeat will not give serious attention to the “no coalition” attitude.

However, fierce protestations are often but the prelude to an inclination to negotiate. But a suggestion of the way the Labour Party would meet the situation was given in the New Leader on the 7th December (before the secret of the poll was revealed) which harmonises with the Liberal and Unionist view given above:—
   The reform of our grotesque electoral system is necessary for the restoration of honest politics.  . . . The problems of the moment are too grave for tactics of wrecking or negation. We should certainly not refuse in the lobbies a discriminating support to a minority government, so long as it was realising ideas common to both our programmes. (Italics ours.)
The nearness of Labour to Liberals is suggested by the following quotation from the same issue of the New Leader :—
  In some constituencies, where Liberals are strongly attached to Free Trade, it is probable that some of them have voted for Labour in the absence of a Liberal candidate.
and, we may add, the same is probable in the absence of a Unionist candidate.

After the Labour Party’s victory at the polls they found themselves in a dilemma. The New Leader (7th Dec.) stated :—
  If Labour had a chance, it is not in the Ruhr that it would begin to save the Ruhr. It would recognise Russia. It would stop the fortification of Singapore. It might offer to demilitarise the Dardanelles and the Baltic. It might give Cyprus to Greece. It would quit the oil wells of Mosul. It would make India a Dominion and lift the yoke from Egypt.
There is a more or less definite statement of things it might do and things it would do. Now that Labour looks like having a “chance,” what is the position? The boot is now on the other leg, and they frankly admit that they don’t know what to do. Various views of the situation are put forward by different writers in the New Leader (14th Dec.). The following lengthy extracts from the editorial article by the New Leader's £1,000 a year editor may be useful for present and future reference :—
  We are facing one of those situations which admit of no ideal solution. Any proposal which any section puts forward can be riddled with destructive criticism. Government by coalition is an evil which the party rightly and unanimously rejects. Government by minority is no less an evil. An immediate election might be fatal to the party which precipitated it. It is in the last degree unlikely that at this stage any Liberal-Tory combination will be formed. It is theoretically open to us to allow the Baldwin Cabinet to retain office on terms; but this solution would expose us to grave misunderstanding. To allow the Liberals to take office would be interpreted as a confession of our own incapacity.

#    #    #    #

   For any wide and comprehensive programme it will not suffice that Liberals should refrain from Votes of No Confidence. We must be able to reckon on a measure of goodwill. It is easy to say that we contemplate no arrangements. Face to face with Liberals, side by side with them, our Party would have to realise that they too have their point of view, their interests that must be considered. We shall be every hour at their mercy.
  To talk of ignoring the Liberals and refusing any understanding with them seems to me difficult, if we are contemplating as much as six or eight months of office. If we are going to walk down this long road we should have to carry them with us, halting, limping and breathless perhaps, but not jostling or tripping. With any weighty programme on our backs we should soon find ourselves consciously drafting our Bills with the fear of Mr. Asquith before our eyes Would he object to this or jib at that  Then out it must go.

#    #    #    #

  But the moment one faces public works, to say nothing of any increase in the dole, then money must be found. An adequate housing scheme cannot be cheap. Apart from unemployment and housing, we have denounced the cruel economies of past Governments on education, child welfare and every social service. We have given pledges as to the removal of the thrift restriction on old-age pensions and the abolition of duties on sugar and tea.
Oh! Those awful pledges! How some of the Labour members must curse themselves for their election pledges. Without these pledges and their campaign against “broken pledges” the situation would be much easier.
  We have not forgotten our own campaign for the Levy. Are we going to undertake to compose a Budget without it ? The alternative would be a tremendous addition to the unpopular income tax, which the Liberal Party would not assist us to vote.
Evidently one of the pledges must go; but which? That is the question. According to the Labour programme the Levy was to provide the means to carry out certain reforms which were alleged to be of advantage to the workers. In fact, it was a corner stone of their programme. Now that they have secured their “chance,” the Levy is beginning to retreat into the distance along with most of their other “pledges.”
  The struggle with France, however, would be no easier for us than for our predecessors—indeed, the inclination of M. Poincaré would be to treat us as an ephemeral administration, a passing episode in the life of Europe. America would regard us as "radicals,” the sort of people whom the Ku-Klux-Klan would deal with, if we lived beneath the statue of Liberty. Nor could events march swiftly. We should aim at a conference at least as wide as that which General Smuts proposed; but would it be wise to call it before the French general election decides in May whether M. Poincaré is still the Dictator of Europe ? One hope I see, and only one, for a conference. It is that we should first create, before it meets, an atmosphere of expectation throughout the world. 
#    #    #    # 
   The recognition of Russia and the symbol of Singapore would help. Dare we next make Egypt truly “independent” by withdrawing the British garrison from Cairo? What if we were to give Greek Cyprus to the Greek motherland, or offer to discuss the demilitarisation of the Black Sea? When we had relaxed our hold on the oil-wells of Mosul, we might with less inward hesitation invite M. Poincaré to quit the coalfield of the Ruhr. By such calculated acts we should rally the peoples behind us, and might without hypocrisy organise at a conference moral pressure against French militarism. But we should fail, as Mr. Wilson failed, and for the same reason, if our Parliament, like his Senate, were hostile. Everything once more turns on our relations with the Liberals; would they, sitting in the shadow, help us to face the Tory assaults on such a policy ? We cannot accept their alliance. It follows that we must limit our own ambitions.
On paper, for months before the election, the above matters were easily settled by airy statements—and “moral” flourishes. But now the situation has changed ! “Evolution”—blessed word !

Brailsford winds up his “ifs” and “mights” as follows — with a mournful remark on the pre-election programmes and speeches :—
  By April the problem of the Budget would overtake us, and we should compromise our own case if we undertook to solve it without a capital levy. The danger before us leaps out from some of the extensive programmes which have already appeared in Labour speeches and in print. If we set our hopes on a big agenda, if we talk even of six or eight months of office, then inevitably we shall drift into the fatal attitude of buying it on the only possible terms — by arrangement with Liberals, which would obscure our Socialist policy, compromise our independence, and make us in the end mere caretakers cf a capitalist and Imperial system. (Italics ours.)
In the same issue of the New Leader as that from which we have just quoted, Clifford Allen, Sidney Webb, Pethick Lawrence, and Ramsay MacDonald contribute articles on the situation.

Clifford Allen says :—
  We must only take office with a definite and publicly declared design, namely, that we will form a purely temporary and emergency Government for a few months to deal with two or three selected urgent questions, such as unemployment and the European chaos. The War Debt could be submitted to a Commission.
This is certainly a handy way out of the Capital Levy difficulty. But the Capital Levy was to provide the means for dealing with unemployment. How then are they to raise the necessary funds? And what about “reduced taxation”?

Sidney Webb informs us that:—
  I am quite sure that we need fear no bias or dislike at the Palace that would cause the Labour Party to be treated with any unfairness.
With this view we could hardly disagree in view of the fact that Labour members have so frequently had their knees under the same mahogany as Royalty !

Webb joins the chorus of mourners and points out :—
  the plain impossibility of passing into law in this Parliament any large and contentious measures.
Pethick Lawrence states that he addressed “a meeting of business men, most of whom were Liberals or Conservatives, to a discussion limited to the Capital Levy” and heard privately afterwards :—
  that many of them entirely changed their view as to what the Levy was, and not a few actually voted Labour for the first time on this issue alone.
Under the heading "Sacrificing Luxuries” he is careful to point out:—
  In this it is essential to make it clear that we are not animated by hostility to any section or class of the community. We are merely calling for a sacrifice on the part of the wealthy to meet a national emergency.
Finally Ramsay MacDonald sums up the difficulties as follows :—
  At times it is as necessary to preserve the forms of government as to produce legislative changes, even when the latter are very pressing. Can the Labour Party devise a policy which would enable it to do some useful and urgent work, like helping to settle Europe and increase the provision for dealing with unemployment, without compromise in any shape or form?
Having put the question, one would expect MacDonald, as the leading figure in the Labour Party, to give us an answer. But this is all he has to say :—
  That is the difficult problem which we have to face now, and I venture to ask our supporters in the country to help us with their trust.
A very satisfying answer, is it not? Note, too, the slimy appeal for "trust,” proving once more how leaders depend upon a sheep-like following.

The plain fact of the situation is that the Labour Party is in a fix. It is composed of individuals with a hotch potch of ideas and has been voted into its present position by individuals similarly placed. Its fundamental weaknesses have placed. it in the dilemma. It has been voted to Parliament on a vote catching programme and not on fundamental questions. If it does not justify these vote catching pledges it will lose a good deal of the support so far given. Had the Labour group been voted in on a Socialist programme by class-conscious workers, the voters would have understood the position themselves; they would have defined the path to be followed ; there would have been no dilemma.

The Reward of Genius. (1924)

From the January 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard
  "New York, Saturday. — Johannes Sophus Gelert, the famous sculptor, attempted to commit suicide at the Danish Home for the Aged. He slashed his throat with a razor, but will probably recover."
  "He is without friends and practically penniless, and owing to creeping paralysis was unable to continue working.  — Reuter."

Rates, and Rates of Wages. (1924)

From the January 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

The National Council of the Independent Labour Party have issued a manifesto entitled “How to deal with the rates; what a Socialist Government would do.”—New Leader, October 19th, 1923. In a final paragraph they say :—
  Socialism approaches the subject of rates from a new point of view. To-day most people denounce rates as an imposition. To-morrow they must look upon them as a first-class instrument; as a method of providing cheap communal services, and therefore, a means of increasing real wages; as a protection against slums, diseases and dirt; as a guarantee of decent education for their children; as a contribution towards a healthy and fully developed community.
This view is neither new nor socialistic. The Progressive Party have claimed it as their policy, in and out of office, for many years, while never once making the dishonest claim that it was socialistic. The constitution of the I.L.P. is not socialistic and no fundamental principles have ever been laid down by that party that could be described as the necessary basis of the socialist movement.

The National Council speaks for the I.L.P. It thinks for the I.L.P., reproaches the workers for their apathy and indifference, yet up till the present moment has never once set out a simple straightforward statement outlining the workers' position in modern society, the cause of the evils from which they suffer, the line of action they must follow to remove them and the principles upon which society must he established for that purpose.

The I.L.P. in the course of its propaganda completely ignores the facts of vital importance to the workers if they are to consider fully any public question from their own point of view as workers : The class ownership of the means of wealth-production, the consequent slavery of those who do not participate in this ownership; the antagonism of interests between these two classes and the consequent struggle between them, which can only end in favour of the workers when the latter take over the means of wealth-production and control them democratically for the purpose of satisfying all their needs.

These are the vital and indispensable facts for the workers to bear in mind when considering any question of political or industrial interest. Any party that claims to represent the workers should base its antagonism to capitalist governments on these principles. It is not sufficient that it should be opposed to both Tory and Liberal. It is possible to oppose both these parties on purely capitalist grounds and for purely capitalist reasons without being socialist.

If the workers are to come to a right conclusion on the rates question, they must first understand clearly their class position and how they are enslaved by the capitalist class. Wage-slavery is different in form from all preceding systems. It is more effective in binding the worker to his task while at the same time conceding him the freedom to leave it. How this can be is easily seen without much knowledge of economics. Every worker is free to leave an employer but his physical needs compel him to find another. To use an economic phrase, he is compelled to sell his labour-power in order to obtain the necessaries of life. His wage is the price of his labour-power.

In their general propaganda the I.L.P. denounce the capitalists for treating the workers as mere commodities. As human beings they say that the workers have rights above material commodities. The facts are, however, that the workers themselves are not commodities, nor are they treated as such by their masters. Every worker is the undisputed owner of his labour-power. He can sell it to any capitalist who is willing to buy. He sells it for stipulated periods and can discontinue the sale by giving notice according to the terms agreed upon. These are the extent of the workers’ rights, his actual position.

Moreover, it is all that they claim. Nor does the I.L.P. claim any higher rights. The right to work. The right to a living wage, with or without work, is their latest ‘cry; concede them so much : How is it possible for the workers to pay rates while their share of the wealth they produce is a living wage? How may they consider themselves ratepayers when their wages are subject to modifications with changes in the cost of living?

Let the National Council carry out its programme, municipalising supplies and services in order that the prices of necessaries may be reduced, and what happens? Cost of living falls and wages, the price of labour-power, follows; with greater certainty, too, because the cheapening of supplies and services is effected by labour-saving methods; in other words, by increasing the number of unemployed. If wages always fall for the bulk of the workers, when the cost of living falls, the workers would not benefit if rates were entirely abolished. Nor would the fact that their wages fell prove that they previously paid rates. On the contrary, it would go to show that the capitalist paid them, by the mere fact that he reduced wages to that extent. The result for the workers being a living wage based upon the same standard as before the reduction in rates took place.

Commodities are always subject to changes and fluctuations in price. The price of a commodity changes under three sets of conditions: when it is produced with a smaller or greater expenditure of labour-power; when supply and demand are unequal, and when the material of which money is made can be produced with a smaller or greater expenditure of labour-power. Labour-power is a commodity and subject to fluctuations in price under all three sets of conditions.

During the few years immediately preceding the war, wages were affected by the last named condition. Through improved methods of gold-production the sovereign bought less of the necessaries of life, and as a consequence the workers were compelled to struggle for higher wages. During the war prices rose still higher, with the result that capitalists were compelled to raise wages in order to avoid widespread discontent through serious depression of the workers' standard of living. How the cost of living more than doubled during that period is common knowledge, but the workers were in a favourable position to enforce a rise, though never as a whole to the new level of prices, because there was little or no unemployment. The demand for labour-power was exceptional.

Since the war new sliding scales have been introduced into a number of industries. Cost of living figures have been systematically used by employers in a continuous effort to “get back to pre-war standards." The fact ignored by most people is that the standard of living for the workers to-day is approximately the same as it was in 1914. The money name of the amount of necessaries they obtain in a week has risen, but if anything, their standard of living has slightly fallen.
The policy of employers to-day is to keep before the workers and their leaders on the industrial field these cost of living figures. They form the plea and the reason for every reduction of wages enforced. A living wage is the demand of trade unionists; their leaders dispute the figures but never debate the principle. Why then does the National Council confuse the workers' minds with questions that do not concern them?

By their schemes of municipal ownership and production they propose to reduce the cost of living while making the workers more efficient. A reduction in the cost of living means a reduction in wages that need not mean a reduction in the standard of living. An increase in general efficiency, however, would intensify competition and increase unemployment. In operation their policy would be as harmful to the workers as its propaganda is confusing.

F. Foan

Where The Labour Party Fails. (1924)

From the January 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many are the points on which the Socialist disagrees with the policy of the Labour Party. We have frequent occasion to condemn the actions of its members, and the utterances of its leaders, on the ground that they are opposed to the interests of the workers; but there is one ground of disagreement which is more important than all the others and which, in fact, underlies most of them. Before discussing it let us exclude the minor ones for the purpose of clarifying the issue. Let us assume that the leaders of the Labour Party are men of honesty and integrity, that they possess as much wisdom as it is given to any man to possess, that they sincerely desire to do for the workers all that is humanly possible, and that they are gifted with uncommon singleness of purpose.

Let us also be clear on certain general assumptions, acceptable to them as well as to us. They are that only by the consent of a majority of the workers can any considerable change be made; and that any such change can at least be attempted within the framework of the existing constitution of this country. The workers by capturing Parliament will be able to rebuild society, secured, by their control of the armed forces, against interference from any quarter.

Even on these assumptions it would still
 be impossible for us to support the Labour Party, and the reason is that we believe the capitalist system to be the enemy while the Labour Party does not.

One section believes that low wages are the evil, and that the remedy lies in raising them. Another believes that inflation will bring prosperity by stimulating trade, and a third looks to deflation and low prices as their Mecca. Some members want to increase the technical efficiency of production, decrease the costs of producing British goods, and thus capture a larger share of the world’s trade; others want to eliminate the middleman to achieve the same object. Just now many hopes are placed on a capital levy to reduce the national debt, and with it, taxation. Some Labour propagandists urge that the state take over the land and the staple industries and run them like the Post Office. Relief schemes for the unemployed; conciliation to obviate strikes; honest government and open diplomacy; bigger old-age pensions and more compensation for injured workmen: state assistance in the building of workers’ houses, statutory minimum rates of wages; bounties on the production of corn; heavy death duties and excess profits taxes, and even the limitation of inheritance; these are some of the many suggestions made.

Now it is obvious that these proposals are put forward to meet certain definite evils, and that if they could be isolated and treated by themselves many of them would he of decided benefit to the workers. Other things remaining unchanged it would be good for the workers to have their wages raised; greater efficiency regarded on its merits alone would be most desirable; and nobody would pretend that stoppages of production are in themselves praiseworthy objects of human endeavour. But unfortunately none of these things can be treated on its own merits. We live in a system of society called capitalism, and every proposal, made by whatever party, must be regarded in the light of its effect on the working-class as they exist under capitalism. So regarded, some of these reforms are plainly bad for the workers and good only for the capitalists; such is greater efficiency. Some are of no effect at all. Some are of limited use, but bring inevitable aggravations of other evils; such is a legal minimum wage which leads to the putting off of those who are not able-bodied and induces the employers to instal machinery to replace hand labour. And all of them are harmful to the degree that they are used to keep your minds off the real problems which face you.

Our attitude is simple and straightforward. We see many great and growing evils from which we, as workers, suffer, and after due examination we see that it is the capitalist organisation of society which is the cause of these evils. We see that poverty, unemployment, war and many other harmful features of the modern world can be abolished only by the establishment of Socialism, which is a new and different social system. In this we differ from the Labour Party.

We see that CAPITALISM is the cause of unemployment; not the wickedness of the capitalists, nor the selfishness and incompetence of their governments; not war nor low wages; not their foreign policy nor their inactivity at home. We see that the workers are wretchedly housed and badly fed and shoddily clothed and vilely miseducated, because they are poor. We see that they are poor because they are robbed, and they are robbed because the capitalist system is based on robbery. The Labour Party says “let us administer the system, and we will show you that we are fit to govern," but if we are correct, when we say that it is the system itself which is at fault it will not matter who administers it. It will still be a system of exploitation of one class by another. If it ceases to be this, it will cease to be at all, because that is its nature. A system which is based on the robbery of the workers obviously cannot be made to work out to their benefit.

In the December issue some information was given showing how utterly the Australian Labour governments had failed in their attempts to make capitalism a success from a workers’ point of view. Those workers are still exploited and they are still poor: they still suffer from unemployment, and they still cannot get houses. Their position is, in fact, worse than when Labour governments took office, and this is not due to their having been governed by a Labour government but to the continued existence of the capitalist system.

What then do we mean by this term capitalism? I will take the definitions of two anti-socialists, both of them recognised authorities on Economic History.

Sir William Ashley writes :—
  By capital the business world has always meant . . . wealth which its owner can employ for the purpose of gain; and by investment we mean . . .  the fact that there really exist openings for the use of wealth in directions which will bring an income or “revenue" over and above the return of the sum employed. (The Economic Organisation of England, page 79.)
Archdeacon W. Cunningham, D.D., F.B.A., defines it as :—
  The fund of wealth which is employed with a view to obtaining an income. (The Progress of Capitalism in England, page 20.)
A capitalist then is one who owns capital, and through his ownership receives an income; and the capitalist system is one in which this form of ownership predominates.

Capitalism, therefore, is a system in which the means of producing wealth are privately owned. There have been other systems of private ownership, such as Feudalism and Slavery, but in them the wealth has not taken the form of capital. Before them again there were societies in which there was no private ownership of the means of producing wealth and no exploitation of one class by another. Socialism will mean not only the end of capitalism, but also the end of all private ownership of the means of production and exploitation. Of course, when we talk about common ownership we are only referring to the means of production, like the land and the factories, not houses and clothes and food and things like these.

Capitalist enterprise was a feature of the ancient civilisations round the Mediterranean, but in Western Europe its rise has been quite a recent development.
  There are, of course, forms of social organisation which are appropriate to conditions in which capital does not exist at all; the formation of capital implies the existence . of money economy. In countries and in circumstances where natural economy prevails, capital is unknown. . . . (Cunningham, page 21.)
Other factors needed for the development of capitalism were the existence of free landless labourers; and the prevalence of buying and selling instead of the production of goods to be consumed by the producer. These clearly had to be preceded by the common use of money.

Cunningham notes the coming in of money in the 14th and 15th centuries and the corresponding break up of “natural economy,” which is the name given to societies in which there are no money transactions.
  The change from natural economy which existed at the time of the Conquest, to the capitalist system which had come into complete possession at the beginning of the 19th century, is spread over a period of eight centuries (page 21.)
Now nobody would deny that capitalism brought with it great economic, political and social advantages, but we say that it also brought the seeds of unavoidable evils and conflicts, and that the evils are now so great that only a new and higher system can be of any use. Such a system is Socialism.

Now, remembering our definition, let us examine the system which covers the whole civilised world. We find that some countries are monarchies and some republics; some have free trade and others protection; some have Liberal or Conservative governments and others have Labour or Communist governments; some have much and some only little foreign trade; some have big national debts and heavy taxation and others little of either; yet in one thing they are all alike. In all of them the capitalist economic system prevails. In all of them there is a class of poor people who have no property, and who live by working, and another class of rich property-owners, who live by owning property. The workers get wages or salaries, which they have earned by their labour. It is they who have grown the food, made the clothes and built the houses and factories, and carried goods from one place to another, and it is they who have organised this work and supervised and directed it. On the other hand, the property-owners have received rent, interest and profit without having to labour for it at all. From what source then do their incomes arise? Is it not plain that these people who own the means of production are living on the labour of those who use them to produce wealth?

The issue is somewhat confused, especially in young capitalist countries, by the fact that some employers do work themselves. To the extent then that they do useful work, part of their incomes is earned, but most of them do not work at all, and in any event are not compelled to do so. In our modern huge joint-stock companies the shareholders never come near the factories and workshops. They may live on the other side of the world, or die, and still the shares would continue to bring in dividends.

We say that it is this private ownership which is at the root of our problems, and we propose that society should take over the means of production and use them, the only sensible suggestion to satisfy the needs of the members of society, instead of allowing a class to make a profit out of their use.

At present we have the workers compelled to ask permission of the owners before they can get to work, and the condition on which permission is granted is that the workers should keep the owners in idle luxury.

And this private ownership has other evil effects besides being a means of robbing the workers.

Over the whole capitalist world we have the workers producing goods of greater value than they receive back as wages, the difference being a surplus for landlords, bankers, and manufacturing capitalists. So that after the workers have spent their wages there is still a great mass of goods in the warehouses which the owners must sell before they can realise their profits, and it is much more than they can possibly consume themselves. It is in this way that unemployment is caused. The people who own the goods want to sell but cannot find buyers, while the workers who want the goods have no money to buy. Production has to be curtailed, and goods are wasted or slowly consumed by the unemployed who live on doles and other forms of relief. Alternatively, capitalist countries are forced to go to war to try to snatch markets from their rivals, and destroy their powers of production. But whether they win or lose, the problem is only aggravated.

This is the capitalist system, and we propose to abolish it. We want to destroy entirely the right of any individual or class to live by privately owning something which society wants to use. We say this results in robbery, and we are out to end it.

But this is not the Labour Party’s object; therefore, we are compelled to oppose that party. We do not want to see them running capitalism even if they could do it better than the older parties. Australian Labour governments, in the words of Premier Theodore, went into office to “administer capitalism.” We do not want anyone to administer capitalism; we want to destroy it.

Moreover, we do not believe that any government can make conditions under capitalism good for the workers. Mr. E. J. Holloway, ex-president of the Australian Labour Party, and General Secretary of the Victorian Trades Council, writing on the lessons of the Labour governments, confesses that while they have been able to make
  conditions a little better they have reached their limit, and no real or permanent improvement in modern society can be effected unless we begin to bridge over that great gulf which exists between the rich and the poor. . . . This cannot be done unless the Government . . . begin to transfer from private ownership those agencies of wealth production and distribution which produce and distribute socially necessary commodities. ( Labour Magazine, December, 1923.)
Now no government can attack the property of the capitalists without a mandate, and no Labour government in Australia had such a mandate. Until the workers understand and want socialism, they will never put into power a government able to undertake that great task, and the only alternative to socialism is the continuance of capitalism. But the harm done by the Labour Party is to spread the false idea that there is another solution not involving the abolition of capitalism. This is called “nationalisation," but it is, in fact, merely capitalism in another and worse form. The Labour government compensates the present owners by giving them interest-bearing bonds (5 per cent, bonds are promised to British landowners by the Labour Party) or else they are paid out with money raised by loan. In either event we still have a class living by owning, robbing the wealth producers. We still have the capitalist system, and it is probable that many land-owners would actually be better off with a sure 5 per cent, than they are now !

The Labour government would have to pay this interest and make the industries a financial success in competition with home or foreign rivals, and would be forced whether it wished or not, to keep down the worker’s standard' of living to the general level. Australian Labour governments have to find the agreed rate of interest on loans, and to do this they have had to beat down the wages paid to the workers. Once committed to the task of  “administering capitalism," the choice is between ruin or an increased exploitation of the workers, either by longer hours, harder work, or lower pay. How else can an industry pay dividend to the bond-holders and compete with other capitalist producers. The workers are poor in Queensland because of the tribute levied on industry by the capitalists for whom the Labour government must act as a slave driver.

The Labour Party here also seeks to attain office without a mandate to overthrow capitalism; therefore, we cannot support it. At the recent election the Labour Party’s programme contained no reference, explicit or implied, to socialism. When they come into power they will, therefore, be impotent to remedy the worker’s poverty or abolish unemployment. The leaders do not promise to abolish profit-making.
  It is no part of Labour's policy to establish revolutionary socialism or to confiscate private property.—J. R. Clynes (Glasgow Evening News, 4th October, 1923.)
The Labour Party demands:—
  nothing more than the nationalisation of the land, mines and essential public services, and this does not carry the Labour Party further than many Radicals, who would vigorously disclaim being socialistic, are prepared to go:— Philip Snowden. (Manchester Guardian Supplement, 26th October, 1922.)
Mr. Snowden, in the House of Commons, on March, 20th, 1923, when speaking on the motion condemning the capitalist system, expressly stated that the Labour Party always repudiated confiscation. How can the capitalists be denied the right to live by owning property unless that property is “confiscated""?

J. H. Thomas, in “When Labour Rules" (page 24), states that
  Capital will be entitled to some return. He also says that all that we claim is a first charge on industry to the point of a reasonable share in the decencies and comforts—net luxuries, note —of life. . . . 
Why the workers, who produce necessities and luxuries alike, should hand over the luxuries to a parasite class Mr. Thomas does not explain.

Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, in “Socialism, Critical and Constructive" (1921, page 196), is quite definitely opposed to the idea of abolishing the right to live by owning.
  The right of inheritance is unassailable except in communities based upon pure communism, and for my purpose they need not be considered; but, from a social point of view, the powers of inheritance might with advantage be strictly limited. (198.)
  To limit profits by taxation is no easy matter, but the problem will have to be faced. What, for instance, is to be the basis upon which the legitimate profit is to be calculated? Is it to be the dividend on watered capital, or on capital in economic use? Is it not to be a dividend on capital at all, but a profit on the turnover and trade ? (209.)
We say that profit-making is robbery. What then is a legitimate rate of profit? And if the members of the Labour Party believe that profit-making is legitimate, should they not cease to denounce the capitalist system, and ought they not to avoid confusion by recognising that their object is not socialism?

Sidney Webb, in his "Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain” (1920), deals with the question, too.
  Each owner should receive in compensation the fair market value of that of which he is compulsorily dispossessed.  . . . The community will, of course, be saddled with the interest and sinking fund, or the annuity; and will thus, on the face of it, be no wealthier than before; just as the expropriated person will be no poorer, and the aggregate tribute on production levied by ownership no less than before. The object of “socialisation” is “socialisation” —that is to say, the transformation of profit-making enterprise into public service; not the enrichment of the community by confiscation, (page 334.)
It would require all the subtlety of the professorial mind to convince me that the act of socialisation really does mean leaving things as they are.

It is true that Webb goes on to talk about the ultimate and gradual extinction of living on interest by the power of taxation, but he fails to explain why the capitalists, who will resist confiscation, will submit quietly to the same progress if only it is called by another name. He gives no reason whatever why the workers should— once having attained power—set up a new vested interest, a “rentier” class.

To sum up, therefore, we see that capitalism is the enemy, and that socialism is the only remedy. Socialism necessarily means the denial of the right to live by owning. All who can work must work in order to earn the right to enjoy the products of labour. Socialism can be introduced only by a socialist electorate, and the present owners, as a class, cannot be expected to yield their rights until they must. The Labour Party does not condemn the system of living by owning, at best it only proposes to limit the rate of profit. It is not committed to socialism, is not composed of socialists, does not seek election on a socialist programme, and, therefore, whatever the will of those elected, they will be impotent to advance the cause of socialism. Its attempts to patch up an obsolescent system of society will fail, and end in its own undoing. It cannot give the workers that comfort and security which alone can end their discontent, without attacking the foundations of capitalist society. Those who set their leaders the impossible task of solving the insoluble contradictions of capitalism will themselves be responsible for the inevitable disillusionment and betrayal. The issue lies in the hands of the workers. We appeal to your intelligence, confident that soon or late, the brutal pressure of economic forces will compel consideration and acceptance of our case—the case for socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle