Sunday, March 10, 2019

The "Right" To Live. (1922)

From the July 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

Upon the publication of a work explaining the natural development of the world, the author Pierre Laplace, the celebrated French mathematician, was asked by Napoleon the 1st why there was no word of God in his system. Laplace replied, “Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis.” And if we were asked why we had not mentioned God in our declaration of principles we should answer in a similar manner.

There was a time when the idea of a God who created, controlled and guided the universe passed practically unchallenged. The heaven and earth, the sun, moon, stars and everything including man and the most minute organism was supposed to have been conceived, fashioned and completed within the short period of six days. Whether overtime was worked we cannot say, but judging by the output no modern foreman would be likely to complain that it was not a fair week’s work for one person. Primitive man being ignorant of the operation of natural laws, and living in a community of a small and scattered kind, the victim of dangers seen and unseen, created his gods through fear and ignorance. How the gods of the savage have become modified under the pressure of a continuous social development, and have resulted in the idea of one all powerful God is foreign to our purpose here. Suffice it to say that the idea of a supernatural power has considerably influenced human thought throughout the ages.

But step by step the advance of science and industry has expelled this power from its celestial throne, and now-a-days it is almost a commonplace to assert that the universe is governed by ascertainable natural laws. The Socialist sees everywhere in nature a complex chain of cause and effect, a variety of natural happenings which occur in accordance with immutable laws, leaving no room for the existence or the operation of an external power. Thus, in making a study of social relationships, we know that the movements of man grappling with the forces of nature to sustain himself, no less than the forces which mould a planet, are governed by laws. The supernatural is ruled out here as elsewhere.

The life history of the human race from the simple untutored savage to the highly skilled civilized man, shows that man has depended entirely upon his own energy and nature given material to maintain his existence. It does not require a great amount of knowledge to see that if the mental and physical qualities of man fail him, no matter how much he may look to heaven for support, he ceases to exist.

Thus, if man is thrown back upon himself to obtain the wherewithal to live, the “God-given right to live” about which we hear so much from the priestly cult, cuts a sorry figure, and in various ages men have solicited the support of their gods or God in times of trial and trouble, implying that the final word as to the preservation of life rested with some power external. The Christian chants “Give us this day our daily bread,” and although his eyes be heavenward, his thoughts cannot be separated from a knowledge of the fact that he will have to get it for himself.

Apart from a consideration of other sides of the God-given right to live idea, one has only to examine present day society to see how the “right to live ” is respected. A few people monopolize the means of life, which enables them to live in luxury and affluence, while those who produce the wealth live in life long poverty, many of them dying of starvation amidst plenty. The “right to live” is here shown to be a sham and a mockery.

The right to die might be more appropriate.

Throughout all organic existence we observe the various forms of life struggling to adapt themselves to the conditions of existence for the purpose of preserving life.

The tiger tracks down its prey and devours it. The swallow devours the gnat. The ichneumon fly lays its eggs under the skin of the caterpillar where they are hatched by the warmth of the caterpillar’s blood, producing a brood of lavre which devours the caterpillar alive.

In human society, although there is a code of morals to obscure the parasitism prevalent, nevertheless, it is there just the same. The policeman with his baton; the soldier with his gun; the airman with the aerial bomb all bear witness to its existence. The “right to live” of the ruling class is no other than their power to live upon the backs of the subject class. In view of what has so far been said it may be argued that if the right to live really means that there is no right but might, then the Capitalist class are justified in holding the means of life in spite of the poverty and misery arising from their ownership. This is quite all right so long as those who starve will allow them to do so.

The Capitalists when they found the restrictions of feudalism a hindrance to their social advancement needed no other right than that of expediency, to aid them in their struggle for power, and the feudal lords did not forego their power without a struggle to retain it.

The Socialist does not direct his appeal for the establishment of Socialism to the Capitalists. He knows it would be worse than useless. No ruling class ever gave up its power of domination without being forced to do so. Make no mistake about it, when the master class are confronted with a serious attack upon the private property institution no abstract “right to live” will prevent them using all the might at their command to maintain their power. To those who think that the Capitalists may respect the rights of the workers to live as they want to, the slaughter of the communards in Paris in 1871 provides a conclusive answer. The appeal of the Socialist is directed to the working class because this class has everything to gain by the acceptance of Socialist principles. At this stage the question arises as to the means to be employed against the might of the ruling class. While we are on this point we wish to refer to a recent interpretation of an article that appeared in the Socialist Standard some years ago. The writer of the article in question made clear what the present writer has intended to make clear, namely, that there being no God-given right to live, the workers must look to themselves if they desire a more comfortable existence. The interpretation just referred to is on a passage in an article entitled “Might is Right,” which states : “We deserve nothing more than what we can get with our teeth and our claws.” In a recent controversy this was quoted as though we favoured the stupid tactics of the broken bottle and big stick variety. The passage will not bear this interpretation except to knaves or fools. Granted that we deserve nothing more than what we can get. The question then is: Since we assert that the workers must look to themselves to get out of Capitalist conditions, by what means can they do so? The solution of the problem lies in the conditions of the problem itself.

While it is true that the master class use their power to consolidate their domination of the working class, it is also true that this power has been handed to them by the latter. In other words at every election the workers have voted the Capitalists into power. It is as though the lamb delivered itself over to the lion. The workers must understand that they can use this political weapon in the interest of themselves. This weapon, together with the knowledge of their class subjection, is their “teeth and their claws.” They must study Socialism wherein they will learn the cause of their subjection, how they are subjected, and the means by which they can combine their forces as a class and use their might to ensure the right to live a comfortable and healthy life.
Robert Reynolds

The Good Shepherds. (1922))

From the July 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

The report of the I.L.P. Conference, extending over three copies of the “Labour Leader,” contains ample evidence to justify the attitude adopted towards that party by the Socialist Party of Great Britain. As they have done hitherto, when it suited their purpose, the leaders and delegates of the I.L.P. loudly proclaimed themselves Socialists and pioneers of the working-class movement, while the result of their deliberations published as a “new constitution,” brands them as confusionists.

The Chairman, Mr. R. C. Wallhead, in his opening remarks said that the Party believed and declared :—
  “That for the permanent advantage and improvement of working-class conditions, it is essential for the workers to obtain power in politics. That, it believed, was the first great step towards the establishment of an organised society in which the exploitation of men. should end through the possession of the means of wealth production by the people themselves. It has persistently pursued that task until to-day it sees, largely as a result of the pioneer work it has done, the establishment of a political working-class organisation which occupies a position of second place in the country, and is accepted by the opposition leaders as the challenger for the premier place in British politics.”
The working-class organisation referred to above is the Labour Party; but how many parliamentary representatives of that Party have fought their elections on the question “of the establishment of an organised society in which the exploitation of men should end through the possession of the means of wealth production by the people themselves?” The truth is that all of them have obtained their seats in the House of Commons by keeping that position in the background, while discussing what they term questions of immediate interest, and advocating all sorts of reforms calculated to patch up capitalism and postpone the establishment of the system they profess to be out for.

Such a party may become dominant in British politics, but will always be powerless to establish Socialism because the votes of the workers are not given to them for that purpose.

It is true that the workers control in politics, in the sense that they have a majority of the total votes; but once they have voted that power, either to Coalitionists, Liberals or Labour Leaders, their control is gone, and the party they vote into office wields the full power of the State. The workers can only use the power that their number gives them when they consciously organize for a specific object and send their own representatives to the national and local assemblies for the accomplishment of that object.

In his address Mr. Wallhead told the assembled delegates that the main thought he wanted to leave with them was that he believed that in the midst of present doubts and perplexities, all the signs and indications tended to prove that the people were looking for a strong lead. If he is justified in this belief, then there are few signs of the workers controlling in politics. If the workers look for a lead, they merely look for leaders on whom to confer power. Their outlook is the same as it has been since the first Reform Bill; or since 1918, when they allowed the present Coalitionist politicians to lead them, with promises far more alluring than those the Labour Leaders dangle before them to-day.

The whole question of slavery or freedom centres around this point: will the workers continue to allow themselves to be led, or will they direct the affairs of life in their common interest, through representatives selected and appointed by themselves?

They can only do the latter w'hen they are in agreement as to the object of their political activities. The only object, correctly understood, on which all workers could agree is the Socialist object. The establishment of a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of all the means of wealth production. This is not the object of the I.L.P., nor is it the object of the Labour Party. The objects of the latter party are too numerous to mention; they consist chiefly of any reforms or palliatives that are likely to be popular with the workers at election times. The I.L.P. declares its objects to be:—
  “The communal ownership of land and capital, and the performance, as social functions, of the processes of production, distribution and exchange.”
Such an object merely means nationalization and bureaucratic government—in practice, what we see in the Post Office—and is what the I.L.P. has always stood for, as anyone can see by a study of their leading publications. Capital is “wealth used for the production of profit,” in other words, wealth used for exploitation. It is absurd, therefore, to talk of the communal ownership of capital. Whether wealth is held and used in this way by individuals, companies, or governments, the workers are still wage- slaves because they must still sell their labour-power in order to live. The modern processes of exchange, too, is a capitalist institution and implies ownership in the means of life, either by individuals, sections, or bureaucracies ; it is, therefore, in flat contradiction to communal ownership.

If this is the object Mr. Wallhead has in view, no wonder he told the conference that:—
  “The days of agitation and propaganda are to a certain extent ending, and the task of administration begins. In this work of administration the task of co-ordinating Socialist theory to immediate practical problems will necessarily arise."
He (Wallhead) and the I.L.P. hold out as a promise to the workers, Bureaucratic Government. They see numbers of workers, sick of unemployment and hopeless of the fulfllment of Coalition pledges, nibbling at the bait; but Wallhead is forced to admit, even if they occupy “the premier place in British politics," that all they can do is to co-ordinate Socialist theory to immediate practical problems. Elected by workers who do not understand Socialism, leaders who do understand it could do no more. The task for every Socialist is, therefore, to help in the work of making more Socialists.
F. Foan

Letter: Who Should Wear the Cap and Bells? (1922)

Letter to the Editors from the July 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

To the Editors of the Socialist Standard.

Dear Sirs, 

From what I can gather, “J. F.” wishes to convey the impression that for once he has succeeded in discarding the somewhat grumpy and miserable aspect of countenance which, it seems to me, must of necessity be associated with a scribe of his ponderous, rather than pondersome, disposition. As to whether the impression, if created, is a true record of the facts, I, for one, do not believe for a moment. It seems to suffice from “J. F.’s ” point of view that, when he finds himself in difficulties, all that it is necessary for him to do is to tell his readers that he indulged in a fit of hilarity, which he describes as creating “some job to avoid choking.” I have a suspicion that by those means (as well as others) it is calculated that another impression shall be conveyed, and that is—that without accomplishing the task, it shall be made to appear easy and accomplished. “The task” that I am referring to is one that has for its object the meeting of, or dealing with, the points raised in my letter, which I claim have not been even referred to. All such abusive language which questions my “method of discussing Marx” as “genuine” has nothing whatever to do with my letter, and only tends to confuse the issue. “J. F.” with the rippling laughter (or it is ripping?) of the brook such as poets describe, goes on laughing and laughing and “choking,” and by way of demonstrating this laughter as a fact of great importance, he describes me as being capable of “absurd assumptions,” “idiotic interpretations,” “blindness,” with an additional designation of myself as “a short-sighted and intellectually-limited fanatic.” All this, it seems, is of a very cheerful character, so cheerful that one is left to conclude that “J. F.” cannot under any circumstances be very terrible, even when he is miserable. He would certainly make a great jester if he would but indulge in the cult just a little more. In any case, he has amply qualified for the cap and bells with which, before proceeding further, I must hasten to award him with all due solemnity. To begin with, “J. F.” deals with my question as to whether Lenin “expected a country in a backward condition economically to establish Socialism” as follows : “The answer is Yes! Lenin proclaimed the upheaval in 1917 as a 'Socialist Revolution,’ even as late as his ‘Left Wing Communism’ written in 1920.”

How simple! This appears to me to be the simplification of simplicity itself. It seems that “J. F ” has still a good deal to learn. Why! Even a newly-converted worker to Socialism could tell him that there can be no such thing as a "Socialist Revolution,” except in so far as that it is led by Socialists, and in this sense the Russian Revolution of November was certainly a Socialist Revolution, and Lenin was certainly correct when in that sense he described it as such. How could a Socialist Revolution be otherwise? If we define the word “revolution” as meaning a complete change, and as a “complete change” such as, say, our present social system from primitive Communism cannot, by any stretch of the imagination be described as a “revolution,” but which can rather be described as a complete change brought about through the evolutionary processes of the tools and implements of wealth production, in what other way can we describe a complete change in society as constituting a revolution? It appears to me that “J. F.” expects to wake up one fine morning at, say, 6 o’clock (preferably Monday, as we are all in the habit of starting fresh on that day) and witness the most agreeable spectacle of the present system of society being transformed by 9 o’clock into the Socialist Co-operative Commonwealth, all ready for him to start work in the new order of things. I have heard a lot of chatter and fine distinctions made concerning “ political,” “social,” and other revolutions, and “J. F.” is apparently one of those who indulges in them; but in so far as the existence of classes is a feature of our social system, the only thing that can be described as a “social” revolution is when a subject class attains to the position of a ruling class, and only in so far as that revolution is led by Socialists, or undertaken by the masses converted to Socialism, can that revolution be described as a “Socialist Revolution.” Lenin was, therefore, right when he described the November Revolution as such. That does not mean that he expected “a country in a backward condition economically to establish Socialism.”

“J. F. ” in that respect utterly ignores mv statement which says that “again and again did Lenin assert the necessity for the economic development of Russia as being requisite for the establishment of Socialism.” Then "J. F.,” with a grand flourish of his pen, and, it seems, of trumpets, with all the hilarity and glee that he can muster, proceeds with this revelation : "It is true that later Lenin had to modify his own words, as he has had to do on many other points. But that hits Lenin and Dight—not us.”

What words of Lenin did he (Lenin) have to modify? That it (the Russian) was a "Socialist Revolution?” He never "modified” that. That he, with others, established Socialism in Russia, or that he "expected a country in backward condition economically to establish Socialism? (Italics mine.) He never said that Socialism was established, and he could never "modify” expectations he never had. It must have been a most inspiring brain wave which "J. F.” must have become possessed of when he referred to what he calls the modification of Lenin’s "own words” as hitting “Lenin and Dight—not us.” This—coupling of my name with Lenin—is deserving of scorn, and, for my part, I can do no more than say that had the coupling been contrived by some other individual intellectually greater than "J.F.” and providing that that individual was not indulging in the congenial pastime of "leg-pulling,” I might have felt highly honoured. As it is, I feel bound to suspect that the methods employed in this respect are calculated to disparage the intellectual qualifications of a man—in the person of Lenin—as compared with whom the greatest "intellectual giant” of the S.P.G.B. can be likened to a jackass. Of course, the "modification” of Lenin’s “own words,” which, according to "J. F.,” mean that the Russian Revolution was not a "Socialist Revolution,” does not hit "J. F.” or the members of the S.P.G.B. Judging by previous issues of the Socialist Standard that is quite true. On the contrary, you do not even regard this fact with any lack of concern or indifference, but rather does it seem to be regarded with gloating joy such as the myrmidons of the capitalist Press might envy. It is quite true that "any elementary school child can answer the question about America.” (My italics.) It is likewise quite true that any school child can tell us that the weather is either fine or nasty in accordance with circumstances. But what has all this to do with the question at issue? No one asked any "question” as to what it was that prevented America from passing through feudalism, except in so far as that an answer was expected in relation to the point at issue. The thing I was concerned with was the fact that America adopted capitalism without necessarily going through feudalism. That fact is admitted. And then it wasn’t a "question” of America except in so far as that that country served as a means for illustrating my point—a point made quite clear and utterly ignored—and that was that a country need not go through all the phases of a former system before another system is adopted, as well as that it need not even go through the system itself—that is, of course, the system which generally precedes the system adopted. So far it will be seen by any except those who are afflicted with "blindness” that "J. F.” has been indulging in a lot of shuffling and confusion, and where he at all comes to the real question at issue, he uses four words, not connected, out of a passage originally quoted by yourselves, comprising no fewer than eighty-two words. It is true that later he uses two sentences torn from their context, and in that way distorting their meaning. Concerning, first of all, the "four words” above referred to, “J. F.” says that Marx—
  "was dealing with the 'normal development’ of societies and how they cannot evade the 'successive phases’ of this ‘normal development,' ” 
and that he (Marx) was not dealing, as was my contention, with the "successive phases” and “normal development” of a "revolutionary period.” This is clearly a case of “J. F.” supposing, to use his own words, that "Marx meant something quite contrary to what he wrote,” as I shall show. What is it to which Marx referred when he said that we could not "clear by bold leaps or remove by legal enactments the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development” except a revolutionary period? That it was a revolutionary period to which he referred is clearly proved by the following words from the same passage, to which I drew attention in my letter, and which "J. F.” finds it very convenient to ignore : "And even when a society has got upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement.” (My italics.) Then follow the words, some of which “J.F.” only uses, which tells us what under the circumstances cannot be done; and then Marx says: "But IT CAN shorten and lessen the BIRTH PANGS.” Is it necessary to labour the point further? Anyone with little more intelligence than an idiot can understand that there can be no such thing as social “birth pangs” except within a revolutionary period. Your whole point in your original quotation was to prove that "a country in a backward condition economically” (your words) could not establish Socialism without first going through the “successive phases of its normal development” (Marx), and that Marx “expressly denied such a thing possible" (Your words, my italics.) But if we take the thirty-seven words that "J. F.” sees fit to use only, from a quotation from the preface to the second Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto containing about 300 words, there we shall see that not only is it not true that Marx “expressly denied,” etc., but that he, with Engels, asserted the very reverse. Anyone who has read my letter carefully, and closely followed “J. F.’s” “reply,” will see that it would be necessary in order that the issue may be cleared to make my original points and quotations, and, as under the circumstances, this task would grow if the matter is pursued further, I think it would be better to terminate this discussion (if such from “J. F.’s” side it can be called), unless some other person takes up the case. It may not even then be necessary to pursue the matter. That depends, of course, upon whether, if after an attempt has been made to meet my case, I consider my position nevertheless established. I had no idea when I wrote in criticism of an editorial that a “reply” was forthcoming from “ J. F.,” otherwise I doubt if I would have written. I say this as a result of past experience, which is one of abuse, confusion, and shuffle.—Yours faithfully,
Hy. Dight.

Mr. Dight—to use a phrase popular in the workshop—is unlucky. Along with many other people, whose knowledge of Marx’s writings and sociology is small, he was carried away by the upheaval in Russia.

To these people that event was the coming of the promised heaven and Lenin was the "Jesus Christ” of the new Revelation. As sheep-like in their following of Lenin as the Christians were of Jesus they accepted and repeated, without the slightest examination, any statement coming from the new Messiah. Sometimes this had awkward consequences for the disciples.

Thus in a former communication Mr. Dight tried to use against us a falsification of Marx by Lenin. Our exposure of this piece of fraud was intensely disagreeable for Mr. Dight, as shown by his shuffle of a reply. But it taught him one lesson— namely—that if he wished to quote Marx in controversy with us it was necessary to read Marx himself and not to rely upon Lenin for his quotations. Still even to read Marx does not necessarily guarantee an understanding of what he wrote.

An instance of this was given in Mr. Dight's letter in the May issue of the Socialist Standard, where it was easily shown that the quotations given were in direct opposition to the views they were used to support. All Mr. Dight can do, when these facts were pointed out, is to indulge in a long tirade of personalities about “J. F.,” to whom he offers the cap and bells. “J. F.,” however, has no wish to deprive Mr. Dight of his eminently suitable equipment.

To what a maze of confusion and contradiction hero-worship leads is shown in Mr. Dight’s attempt to defend Lenin’s false claims of the upheaval in Russia being a “Socialist Revolution.” At one part he says:—
   “There can be no such thing as a 'Socialist Revolution,’ except in so far as that it is led by Socialists.” (Italics ours.)
This phrase displays an appalling ignorance of the first elements of Socialism and an entire lack of knowledge of social evolution, which is further emphasized by his remarks a little further on when he states :—
  “A ‘complete change,’ such as, say, our present social system from Primitive Communism cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as a ‘revolution.' ”
No! it can better be described as the product of a particularly uninstructed mind, for even the school books provided by the capitalist class for workers’ children admit the existence of two other systems—chattel slavery and feudalism—between primitive Communism and Capitalism !

Before a Socialist revolution can take place a majority of the working class must understand and accept the essentials of Socialism and organise to establish it. This understanding not only renders “leaders ” unnecessary, it forbids their existence. The working class will keep control in its own hands and administrators will have to carry out the workers’ instructions. To talk of a “Socialist Revolution” as being “led by Socialists” is at once to proclaim one’s entire ignorance of even the elements of Socialism. It is therefore not so surprising to find Mr. Dight is unable to see the glaring contradictions of his attempted defence of Lenin when he states :—
   “Lenin was, therefore, right when he described the November Revolution as such” [i.e., as a Socialist Revolution] and then says:—“Again and again did Lenin assert the necessity for the economic development of Russia as being requisite for the establishment of Socialism.”
When is a Socialist Revolution not a Socialist Revolution? When it occurs in Russia !

If it was a “Socialist Revolution” how was it that it failed to establish Socialism? And if it failed to establish Socialism how could it be a “Socialist” Revolution? Such is the result of following “leaders.”

Mr. Dight agrees that any school child could answer his question on America— though he was unable to answer it—but now states that he did not put the question “except in relation to the point at issue” —which was exactly why we dealt with it. So to clarify the issue he puts the question again, because we “utterly ignored” it before—by answering it. He repeats his previous point as follows :—
   “A country need not go through all the phases of a former system before another system is adopted.”
As “evidence” for this entirely inaccurate assertion he pointed to America. We showed how ridiculous this illustration was and Mr. Dight admitted our point, and then repeats his stupid assertion. He has not yet learnt the difference between a country in the geographical sense and the people who inhabit such a territory. A society is formed of the people in a particular country or countries. As pointed out in our previous reply the people of America did not adopt Capitalism. They were exterminated by the people of another country who had adopted Capitalism after passing through Feudalism, and who merely extended their own system into the new area. To put the point more fully—there is no race or nation of people who have passed from either Barbarism or Chattel-slavery into Capitalism without developing through Feudalism. There is no race or nation of people that have passed from Feudalism to fully developed Capitalism without going through the essential phases of Capitalist development.

On the matter of the quotations from the preface to “Capital,” Mr. Dight adopts the well-worn subterfuge of using emphasis for argument. First he put certain phrases in italics. Then, after it was shown that the phrases contradicted his assertions, he tries to make a show of a case by repeating the phrases in capital letters. Unfortunately for Mr. Dight the truth of a statement does not depend upon the type used to print it, but we are inclined to agree with his remark that:—
  "Anyone with little more intelligence than an idiot can understand that there can be no such thing as social ‘birth pangs,' except within a revolutionary period.”
for even he appears to understand the phrase. Where his understanding fails is in not seeing that the “successive phases of its normal development” of any society precedes the “birth pangs” of a new order and is not, as he imagines, contemporary with it.

We also agree that the words Mr. Dight italicised in his quotation from the preface to the 2nd Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto completely knocked out the interpretation he tried to place upon them, and flatly contradicts his present statement that Marx and Engels “asserted the very reverse.” Perhaps he was wise not to restate this quotation, seeing that those he has requoted have merely exposed further his mental confusion and lack of knowledge. Nor would we deny that his past experience has been one of abuse, confusion and shuffle in face of the strong corroboration of these points to be found in his letters.
Jack Fitzgerald

Help to Save. (1922)

Party News from the July 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have frequently drawn the attention of members of the working class, through our literature and from the platform, that, with the introduction of new machinery, the capitalist class are able to extract more wealth from the workers. The latest device of this character which the capitalist has obtained a monopoly of, is called a "Flapper." It is an attractive looking machine, and has become very popular amongst members of the working class. So whenever the capitalists want to "Raise the wind" for the purpose of maintaining some of those institutions which are necessary under capitalism, such as Hospitals, Orphan Homes, Churches or Famine Funds, they have only to set a few "Flappers" in motion and the trick is done.

At the present time the Socialist Party of Great Britain is in URGENT NEED of FUNDS for the purpose of carrying on our propaganda, including the publication of the "Socialist Standard" (which is being sold at a loss) and some new pamphlets which we are anxious to publish as soon as we can obtain the needful. Having no "Flappers" at our disposal, we have to fall back upon the goodwill and intelligence of our readers and also those sympathisers who wish us to carry on the work for SOCIALISM. We therefore appeal to all those persons who desire to see the knowledge of Socialism spread far and wide, to assist us by sending a DONATION (however small or large) to 17, Mount Pleasant, W.C.1.

Greek Myth (2015)

Book Review from the August 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Global Minotaur. America, Europe and the Future of the Global Economy’, by Yanis Varoufakis. Zed Books. 2015.

It will only be because the author later become Greek Finance Minister for a while that this book, that originally came out in 2011, has been republished (with a new introduction and an added chapter, plus a preface by Paul Mason). It’s an account and attempted explanation for the course of the world economy since the end of WW2 and up to the crash of 2008.

Varoufakis agrees with Marx’s basic analysis of how the capitalist economy works: that it is driven by capitalist corporations in pursuit of profit and that consumer demand and the demand for bank loans are dependent on this. Even though he places ‘financialization’ at the heart of modern capitalism, he doesn’t fall for the illusion that banks get their profits by creating money out of nothing but knows they do it by borrowing at one rate of interest and lending it at a higher rate, even the notorious CDOs and CDSs (don’t ask) that flourished in the run-up to the crash.

He also accepts Marx’s view that capitalist crises are cyclical and self-correcting in that slump conditions eventually create those for a recovery (e.g. by purging unprofitable firms) but, he adds, from time to time a big one with a capital C comes along from which, despite what Marx held, capitalism won’t spontaneously recover. 1929 was one. So, he says, was 2008.

His explanation for the crash of 2008 was the fatal wounding of what he calls ‘the Global Minotaur.’ The Minotaur was a monstrous half-man, half bull in Greek mythology which demanded that young men and women from the areas subject to Crete be sent to fight and be killed by it, reflecting as Yaroufakis points out the domination of the Greek-speaking world by Crete at one time.

The US – of course – is the new Crete and the Minotaur its financial system, based on the dollar being the currency in which other states and multinationals hold their reserves. This allows the US to run both a trade and a budget deficit. According to Varoufakis, this way of balancing world capital and trade flows broke down in 2008 and the world economy won’t recover until another one to replace it emerges. He favours what Keynes had proposed at the conference at Bretton Woods in 1945 to work out a new international payments system: ‘to create an International Currency Union (ICU), a single currency (which he even named the bancor) for the whole capitalist world.’

So, although he is a critic of some aspects of capitalism, he still thinks that it is in principle capable of reform to work in a different way from how it currently does. Since Keynes’s type of reform was not on the agenda, he must have felt in his discussions (when Greek Finance Minister) with his counterparts in the EU and Eurozone, that all they were discussing was tinkering with a broken system. It will be interesting to see what he writes about these in his memoirs which, judging by this book, should be readable and even amusing.
Adam Buick

Fellow African, Why Do You Believe This Hogwash? (2015)

The Halo Halo! column from the August 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

Although whoever wrote the Bible wrote it all by rote, they did not write it right. At best it is a history of the Jews, their neighbours and their beliefs, tragically misunderstood, misinterpreted by psychologically defeated, timid, brainwashed and gullible Africans.

The story of Eden, Adam and ensuing events depicts an area and a primitive tribe, like all primitive (ancient) peoples, and primitive geography, who were not aware of the existence of other people and remote regions, and in other cases completely detached from them. Note that the Bible map is confined to the far north Africa (Egypt, Ethiopia and Libya), Middle East and a few neighbouring areas. That is why (I stand to be corrected) I have yet to come across in the Bible the fate of London, Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Maputo, Harare, Gaborone, Cape Town, unlike the fate of Jerusalem.

Sadly, religion in Africa is mistaken for morals and yet it is the epitome of arrogance and selfishness, e.g. read the silly talk ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ No, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead’ (Matthew 8:21-22). To admire such in this era calls for the suspension of logic. Why would anyone now and 10,000 km away despise my relatives and friends and emulate/adore an arrogant, primitive egoist who is said to have died more than 2,000 years ago? But to the majority African the ‘second coming’ is real, and hell is real. Despite endless strife in Jerusalem, my ill-learned black apostles sing daily that they will soon join mighty Jesus in Jerusalem (I could send you tons of discs of ‘circus’ like events, mainly being prayers and spiritual healing sessions).

The so-called ‘second coming’ is based on false primitive dreams and hallucinations. The prophecies are mere prognostications based on previous events. Since the events leading to the condemnation of Galileo by Christians the majority of Westerners have come to realise that all phenomena considered mysterious and transcendental, are mathematically, scientifically proved (or disproved) and predictable. Unlike ‘waffling’ prophets (generalising/prognosticating on previous events) scientists can accurately forecast some natural events to the exact minute and place. I recall, e.g. in June 2001 and on 9 December 2002 (here in Zimbabwe a total eclipse of the sun at the exact place and time). Nothing mystical as per the religionists.

And what then happened to the very communicative ‘God of Israel’, always forewarning on events to come? It is strange that after ‘sacrificing his only son’ to end sin and strife, there is worse sin and strife; Jerusalem is most certainly not a quiet habitation (Isaiah 9) (Gaborone is, but never known by the Lord). Is he the same kind Lord now sitting quietly in eternal peace in Jerusalem (on Mount Zion) dispensing without forewarning storms, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, landslides, causing great suffering/deaths, which he could prevent (if he wanted as suggested by religion), just to prove his might? As much as he sacrificed his only son to save the world – which was never saved – and to make Israel the greatest nation, which was almost wiped out by Hitler instead. So much for propagating and adhering to primitive dogma based on archaic dreamers submissive to illusions and hallucinations.

Brethren, and some religious zealots elsewhere, do not realise that the unending strife in the Middle East (current changes of leaders aside) now spreading to north Africa, is sustained by adherence to such primitive bigotry, dogma and propagating mythical tribal superiority. . Brothers and sisters, all religion is rubbish. A prayer is a wish! For sure, we cannot live without wishes. However fervent our wishes and prayers, they can never erect an imaginary thing into something tangible. Heaven and Hell never exist.

The socio-political systems adopted by all so-called independent African leaders and governments are based on capitalism as learned in many cases from former colonial masters. Counties have been ‘won back’ soon after hoisting their ‘own flag’ and for decades the masses will celebrate this flapping piece of cloth, realising too late that they have entrenched the same old oppressive robbery. Only the complexion, the individual politicians or the religious diversions will have changed.
Godwin Hatitye

50 Years Ago: Nuclear Waste (2015)

The 50 Years Ago column from the August 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

It was 20 years ago this month that the world witnessed the terrifying spectacle of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Twenty years of gradually mounting evidence to help piece together like a jigsaw, a background of cynical and calculated brutality that is almost without parallel. Twenty years in which the soundness of the Socialist Party’s stand on the whole question of war in all its forms has been again and again vindicated.

This will no doubt be a month of commemoration and protest. From statesmen and politicians of every variety we may expect the usual tired platitudes, lies and hypocrisy as they spuriously talk about peace and prepare for another war. CND will be well to the fore, attempting to deal with nuclear weapons in isolation from their root cause – Capitalism. But society cannot put the scientific and technical clock back. From this time forward man’s ability to manufacture nuclear weapons is here to stay. The only truly reliable way to “Ban the Bomb” is to establish a society where human relationships could not possibly cause war or call nuclear weapons into use. Only World Socialism really guarantees that Hiroshima or Nagasaki could not happen again.

We have felt it important to return to the question again this month because apart from the threat to humanity’s existence in a world armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, it illustrates well a point we have made many times― the shocking wastefulness with which Capitalism not only squanders society’s material resources, but squanders humanity itself. (…)

Even whilst CND have been campaigning, more nations have entered the nuclear field. The bombs are bigger, and there are more of them. CND have protested against one aspect of capitalism’s wastefulness. They will miss the important point until they realise that the need is to remove Capitalism itself. Gigantic waste which is horrifying in its effects is synonymous with Capitalism in every direction, from nuclear terror, to world hunger. The campaign against these problems outside the context of the demand for Socialism cannot carry the prospect of success.

(from editorial, Socialist Standard, August 1965)

Car wars (2015)

Film Review from the August 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

Bikes vs Cars’, (2015, Directed by Fredrik Gertten)

Public spaces ought to be for public use, right? And one of those public uses might be safe affordable transport for all, right? Wrong, according to the automotive lobby. For it, roads should be planned around cars (not bikes, buses or pedestrians) because people drive cars through free choice; increased car dependency represents progress or is at least ‘natural’; and cars provide jobs. Never mind, say its opponents, that cars pollute through both noise and air, are inefficient, expensive and driven by dangerous road hogs.

The widely rumoured claims that US public transport has been historically actively sabotaged by the car industry aren’t proven, just blithely repeated in the film. The film  belies its title, too, as it shows that different modes of transport historically co-existed happily and that more car lanes aren’t always the answer to the problem of more car traffic.

Counterposing Bikes vs Cars is, however certainly the case made by the likes of crack-addled Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who views his removal of bike lanes as part of the war between bikes and cars.

This is a well-produced documentary film which raises questions about all the myths around urban planning and car dependency. So the lesson is not so much ‘socialism can only arrive by bicycle’ as was once stated, but how capitalism tends to prioritise the more lucrative forms of transportation in so-called public spaces.

Socialist Standard January 1990

A new feature for the blog. 

When I have completed the scanning in of a particular issue of the Socialist Standard, and all the articles, reviews and notices from that issue are now on the blog, I will post a notice that that particular Standard is in the can — no "dustbin of history" jokes please — and I will provide a link for the issue and its table of contents in the correct running order.

Third up is the January 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard. Articles featured include a political sketch of the career of former Labour leader, Michael Foot, (the left Labour leader a Kinnock could love); cracks appearing in the Tory government, which would eventually lead to Thatcher's downfall that same year; and the cover article is a restatement of socialist opposition to the crumbling state capitalist dictatorships in Eastern Europe.

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Socialist Standard August 1931

A new feature for the blog. 

When I have completed the scanning in of a particular issue of the Socialist Standard, and all the articles, reviews and notices from that issue are now on the blog, I will post a notice that that particular Standard is in the can — no "dustbin of history" jokes please — and I will provide a link for the issue and its table of contents in the correct running order.

Second up is the August 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard. Of especial interest in this issue is the detailed report of a debate between the SPGB's Alex Shaw and the Communist Party's Peter Kerrigan in Clydebank. Though Kerrigan may not be a well known name nowadays, for many decades he was a leading member of the Communist Party in Scotland and, at the time of the debate, was the CPGB's Scottish Organiser. That such a 'leading' member of the CPGB was prepared to debate a SPGB representative suggests that the SPGB were making enough of a nuisance of themselves in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, that the CPGB had to take them seriously.

In the same issue there are details of Alex Shaw being physically attacked after another meeting in Clydebank. It appears the SPGB were stepping on various political and religious toes at this time.

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Socialist Standard January 1924

A new feature for the blog. 

When I have completed the scanning in of a particular issue of the Socialist Standard, and all the articles, reviews and notices from that issue are now on the blog, I will post a notice that that particular Standard is in the can — no "dustbin of history" jokes please — and I will provide a link for the issue and its table of contents in the correct running order.

First up is the January 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard. An interesting issue in itself, because it was published in the aftermath of the 1923 General Election and just before the incoming first Labour minority government. Those two facts are reflected in the contents of the issue.

Click on the picture to enlarge.