Friday, March 15, 2019

The General Strike Fiasco: Its Causes and Effects (1926)

Editorial from the June 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

The long anticipated month of May has come and nearly gone, and with it have evaporated both the fantastic hopes of the hot-heads of the Communist Party and the baseless fears of the nervous old women of both sexes who run the Primrose League and kindred organisations. Mr. A. J. Cook has repeatedly promised us “the end of capitalism” if the mineworkers attempted to force the miners’ wages still further down; but in spite of the fact that the attempt is being made, with many prospects of success, the “revolution” obstinately refuses to materialise. In its place we have witnessed what looks suspiciously like the dying kick of Trades Unionism in its present form.

Four years ago (in our issue for April, 1922, to be precise) we definitely advocated combined action by the workers to resist the wholesale onslaught by the masters upon wages and working conditions. We did not promise a sweeping victory nor encouraged illusions regarding the ever-downward tendency of the standard of life of the workers under capitalism, but we did lay stress upon the necessity for making the best, instead of the worst, of a bad job, by means of an organised test of strength along class lines.

Experience had repeatedly shown that the old sectional mode of industrial warfare was obsolete; that, while the development of industry had united the masters into giant combinations, with interests ramifying in every direction, supported at every point by the forces of the State, representing the entire capitalist class, the division among the workers, according to their occupations, led automatically to their steady defeat in detail. The only hope, even for the limited purpose of restricting the extent of the defeat, lay, therefore, in class combination.

The Socialist Standard has only a small circulation, and our words passed unheeded by the mass of the workers, doped both by the organs of capital and the counsels of their own leaders. They were too absorbed in the petty details of their sectional struggles to perceive the general conditions governing those struggles. They could not see the wood for the trees; or they saw it only in the blurred form visible through the spectacles provided for them by the Labour Party. Those of their number who looked to “nationalisation”, piecemeal or wholesale, to solve their problems and end the class conflict, considered themselves “advanced”; and their duly sceptical fellows were regarded as reactionary and hopeless. Thus, economic and political ignorance kept the workers divided and the defeats went on.

Yet even worms will turn, and rats forced into corners will fight; and it would, indeed, have been nothing less than supernatural if at length the steadily increasing pressure of their backs against the wall had not forced the hard truth into the workers enslaved minds. There is a limit even to the stupidity of sheep; and not all the smooth-tongued eloquence of their shepherds could prevent the flock from realising that they may as well hang together as hang separately.

The first official indication of this changing outlook occurred last July when the threat of a further attack upon the slave-rations of the miners led the TUC to intervene. The modesty of the workers’ aspirations was proved by the ease with which their representatives were satisfied. The granting of a subsidy to the mineowners (in order to gain time and enable the Government and the master class as a whole to prepare for the wider struggle) was hailed by the entire Labour Press as a “great victory”. Subsequent events have shown the absurd hollowness of that claim.

When the miners were working through the winter increasing the stocks to enable their bosses to lock them out, their leaders wasted precious time and money in futile negotiations with those employers. While the Government proceeded coolly and leisurely with its scheme for maintaining essential services and breaking the resistance of the workers, the General Council of the TUC took no step to similarly organise the efforts of the working class. Practically every section of any size (miners, engineers, railwaymen, transport workers), all had grounds for demanding increases in wages; yet instead of co-ordinating these demands in a common plan and thus giving a solid basis for united action, sectional negotiations were proceeded with, in honour of that capitalist shibboleth, the “sanctity of contract”. The enemy was allowed, not merely choice of ground and weapons, but the opportunity to get in the first blow.

Much ink has been spent on discussing the responsibility for the breakdown of negotiations, yet it was plain for months that war was inevitable. Mr Baldwin had made it plain that “all wages must come down”, and that position, in practice, is still adhered to by the class which he represents. So far as the rank and file of trade unionists were concerned, the renewed attack on the miners was merely the commencement of a series of further attacks all round; and this fact, not some belated “sense of justice”, explains their ready response to the signal for the general stoppage. Lacking any clear insight into their class position in society, however, they were guided by feeling rather than by reason, and blindly left the conduct of the struggle to the executives of the unions and the General Council.

The weakness of the leaders in the face of the common foe, their abject “begging and pleading for peace” (in the words of J. H. Thomas), merely expressed the disorganised condition of the movement as a whole. No such weakness characterised either the Government or the mineowners.

The lock-out notices were posted at the time appointed and the terms for their withdrawal were laid down. Having allowed themselves to be bluffed and held off by months of diplomatic confab, the General Council were forced, relentlessly, to act or abdicate. Yet to the last their irresolution was apparent.

Mr A. Pugh in a statement to give “the real truth” in the British Worker of May 11th, said:
  From the moment the mineowners issued lock-out notices to their workpeople, the question at issue, so far as the General Council was concerned, was the withdrawal of those notices as a condition preliminary to the conduct of negotiations. From that we have never receded.
Yet according to the same statement, they continued negotiations right up to the evening of Sunday, the 2nd of May, two days after the lock-out notices were actually operating! They waited for the Government to give them the final ignominious kick, and this was duly administered on the pretext that the printers of the Daily Mail had more determination than their “leaders”.

Once the stoppage commenced, however, these same leaders assumed all the airs of omniscient military generals. Pompous exhortations to the rank and file to “hold fast” and “remain calm and dignified” were issued in their official Strike Bulletin what time they were already succumbing to the siren-like blandishments of that “friend” of the workers, Sir Herbert Samuel.

Not once had the leaders any cause to complain of lack of support. On all hands they admitted that the workers were solid behind them. In the issue already quoted they announced,
  The number of strikers has not diminished, it is increasing. There are more workers out to-day than there have been at any moment since the strike began.
  the engineering shops and shipyards are to stop tonight . . . The men have awaited the instructions impatiently, and all over the country they received their marching orders with enthusiasm and a sense of relief.
As an expression of working-class solidarity the response of the rank and file was unquestionably unprecedented; but the long months, nay, years of delay found effect in the official confusion between “essential” and non-essential occupations, the handling of goods by some unions which were banned by others and the issuing of permits one day which had to be withdrawn the next. Just prior to the strike the railwaymen were working overtime providing the companies with the coal to run their blackleg trains. Afterwards they refused to handle any traffic at all while the transport workers tried to pick and choose. The lack of practical unity with which to give expression to the sentiment and secure the end in view justifies, up to the hilt, our long-standing criticism of Trade Unions upon their present base.

The confusion on the industrial field was reflected in the political sphere. In spite of the obvious fact that they were involved in a class struggle and that the machinery of government was being brought to bear at every point, the Council fatuously endeavoured to represent the issue as purely industrial. They endeavoured to confine the efforts of a class to the point at stake in one industry. They thus denied the very basis of their own existence, i. e., class interests; but if they were blind to the logic of the conflict, the Government were not. They brazenly declared the whole affair to be an attack upon the Constitution and Parliamentary methods. In order to obscure the class character of their own acts, they invoked the mildewed pillars of the “nation”. According to their spokesmen, the Council with whom they had been negotiating had suddenly become “an alternative government”. With unerring judgement they saw in the manifestation of working-class solidarity the latent possibility of revolution.

The only objective of a social revolution, however, is Socialism. The very facts, that the Government were in power, that millions of workers had supported them less than two years ago at the polls and that those who did not were, in the main, far from understanding Socialism, rendered any immediate question of revolution ridiculous. It was the ultimate outcome of the ceaseless struggle to which their apprehensions gave expression.

The role played by the Labour Party corresponded with that of the General Council. While disclaiming any desire to see the Government defeated by the strikers, they nevertheless proclaimed from their platforms that the Government were responsible for the “trouble”. “Had the Labour Party been in office”, men were told, “such a situation could not have arisen.” They relied upon the short memories of their followers who omitted to remind them of the loco’ and transport strikes during “Labour’s” term of office, and the application of the Emergency Powers Act by these false “friends”. In their eyes the Government’s chief crime lay not in its support of the mineowners, but in its breaking off of negotiations with the General Council. The lock-out and the strike were secondary matters compared with their being shut out from the counsels of their beloved friends, the bosses.

True to their sham romantic outlook, the Communists covered themselves with “glory” by circulating wild rumours as to disaffection among the troops. They performed the worst possible service to the workers by trying to persuade them that the soldiery would not fire if called upon. Fortunately few people took them seriously, and in the main, the only sufferers from their advice were themselves. The importance of possessing political power was brought well to the front in repression of anything in the nature of incitement, and the bulk of the workers showed their keen appreciation of the fact in their orderly behaviour.

A sinister secrecy surrounds the capitulation of the General Council on May 12th. At the time of writing they have yet to give an account of their action to their constituents, the TUC. Their cool contempt for the intelligence of their followers easily gauged by the correspondence between themselves and Sir H. Samuel, which they had the audacity to publish in the British Worker of the 13th.

The emissary of “peace” frankly stated that he “acted entirely on his own initiative, had received no authority from the Government and could give no assurances on their behalf”. Yet on the strength of this diplomat’s unofficial memorandum (rejected on the 12th by the miners’ officials) the General Council “terminated the strike assuming that the subsidy would be renewed and the lock-out notices would be immediately withdrawn.”

We are not prepared to state in what exact proportion the ingredients of treachery and cowardice were mingled in the composition of the General Council. Suffice it that the miners remain locked-out and that, thanks to the capitalist terms of peace, even the rank and file are not deceived as to what actually happened. Union after union has signed a treaty of surrender which leaves the workers worse off than ever. In addition to this the unemployed army on the Exchange books has swollen to the tune of half-a-million, thus giving the employers an unparalleled opportunity for further inroads upon wages and working conditions. The height of enthusiasm reached by the workers during the strike is now matched by the depth of demoralisation of the leaders everywhere apparent.

The outlook before the workers is black, indeed, but not hopeless, if they will but learn the lessons of this greatest of all disasters. “Trust your leaders!” we were adjured in the Press and from the platforms of the Labour Party, and the folly of such sheep-like trust is now glaring. The workers must learn to trust only in themselves. They must themselves realise their position and decide the line of action to be taken. They must elect their officials to take orders, not to give them!

Most important of all, however, they must change the object of their organisation. Even in the now unlikely event of the miners gaining the day over the wages question, how much will the necessary sacrifice avail them? The reorganisation of the industry, to which they have agreed, will, on the admissions of its promoters, spell more unemployment among the miners! Are they prepared in face of recent experience to trust any capitalist promise such as is contained in the suggestions of the Samuel memorandum? At the very best they will but be marking time.

On every hand it is evident that the downward pressure upon the slave-class will continue until they unite to end their slave-status. The sentiment of solidarity must be embodied in practical organisation based, not upon the mere transient necessity for wage adjustments, but upon the permanent need of the workers for the abolition of the wages system.

That can be secured only through the establishment of socialism by the conversion of the means of living into the common property of the whole people.

To that end the workers must organise as a class, not merely industrially, for the capture of supreme power as represented by the political machine. For this purpose neither the Labour Party nor the Communist Party is of any value. The former is hopelessly compromised with the ruling class, while the latter ignores the basis of political power. It is useless for the workers either to “trust” leaders or to “change” them. The entire institution of leadership must be swept by the board.

The one thing necessary is a full recognition by the workers themselves of the hostility of interests between themselves and their masters. Organised on that basis, refusing to be tricked and bluffed by promises or stampeded into violence by threats, they will emergence victorious from the age-long struggle. Win Political Power! That is the first step.

Letter: Socialism and Materialism. (1926)

Letter to the Editors from the June 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Labour M.P.’s Criticism and our Answer. 

To the Editor of The Socialist Standard.

I am aware that members of the S.P.G.B. are not likely to give me a great deal of credit for political sincerity, but I am a regular reader of the “Socialist Standard,” and I appreciate the quality, invariably good, of its contents. Perhaps there is more in common with us than might be thought, for I, too, am disgusted when I am not amazed at the puerilities and futilities which pass for Socialist thought inside as well as outside the House of Commons.

You may he interested in some ideas suggested by your article on materialism. You state that your attitude "frankly rejects any attempt to explain society in terms of 'ideals,’ whether Christian or otherwise,” and that the conditions under which livelihood is obtained "determine, in the long run, the form taken by ideals of every kind.” May I ask what school of opinion worthy of account attempts to explain society in terms of ideals or denies that material conditions, even if not always the bare economic, determine the form taken by ideals?

At the risk of being charged with "metaphysical hairsplitting,”—I would say that words like those underlined make all the difference to the argument. Those of us who interpret economic determinism in the inhibitive sense that "getting a livelihood” predominantly determines the channel of expression, rather than the causative, i.e., that it creates its own reflex of art and religion, fully admit all that is really conveyed in the words I have quoted. The real difference of opinion seems to be in this: on the one side it is asserted that ideas (ideals) are produced by economic conditions, on the other that certain human qualities are more fundamental than any shaping process, economic or otherwise, and cannot be ignored in the attempted explanation of human history. For instance, it may be that current fiction in handling the love-motive reflects capitalism in a characteristically tainted and hypocritical way, but who, with any knowledge of world literature, would say that capitalism "produced” love—any kind of love? Here, to put things at their lowest, is a great physical fact that is at the very basis of life, and to say that it plays a part essentially subordinate to private property, or that ideas do not spring out of all that love has ever meant in the world, appears to me a narrow and barren doctrine.

Another point. You say that “quite irrespective of what their opinions may be, men and women are compelled to look after 'number one’; and failure to do this spells annihilation.” Surely, “number one” is here a most unfortunate expression ! Not only does the article I am, so far, criticising emphasise the historical importance of association to avoid “annihilation," but it declares individualism to be a bankrupt creed and affirms “class,” in action and consciousness, as the basis of Socialism. For the life of me I fail to understand why the substitution of "working-class” (three-fourths and more of mankind) for "humanity” lowers or effaces all ethical content in the idea of common good. It is all very well to say that Socialism is, primarily, a question of economic advantage to the working-class and that only the organisation of the working-class can achieve that advantage. All this is true. But, to me or to anyone else, the working-class is an impersonal abstraction.

I am a member of the working-class (or if I am not the man you argue with is, so don’t boggle over my £400 a year, which, after all and counting incidental expenses, isn’t worth the wage of a reasonably-paid mechanic) and would gain by Socialism. All the same, not agreeing with the l.L.P. that we can get “Socialism in our time” by magic, whether the working-class understand it or not, I do not expect to get out of Socialism in a material sense as much as I have put into it—or, shall we say, as much as I have thought I was putting into it. Not being a fool, I never did. Do you rule out of account everyone who does not find in Socialism an appeal, save in what is strictly an emotional though not necessarily unintelligent sense, to “number one”? I put this point in a personal way because I am the “number one” referred to, of course, and in so doing I am putting the case of hundreds of “number ones” who have a habit of preferring brass-tacks to metaphysics, however materialistic. As a matter of practical common-sense, what becomes of ‘‘class” if you discount idealism?

In conclusion, may I put the view that to say unkind things about philosophy does not alter the fact that we all provide ourselves with a philosophy of life, if it is only materialism. There is no need to sneer at what is, after all, formal criticism of these individual philosophies. Personally, I think that in the last quarter of a century science itself has made an extraordinary difference to the philosophy of its own materialism and that you obstinately cling to an obsolete metaphysic and to conceptions and terms which no longer hold water. But that is another question—perhaps for another time.

Reply to F. Montague.
The article in question which appeared in the April issue of the Socialist Standard, sought to present in a brief and simple form the practical aspect of the theory of historical materialism as formulated by Marx and Engels. Mr. Montague appears to have a grievance because the choice of words therein used left little loophole for his disagreement. He is so overcome by its relentless logic that he despairingly asks, “What school of opinion worthy of account attempts to explain society in terms of ideals, etc.?” He appears to have forgotten that the whole of the idealistic school of thought makes the attempt, not merely with reference to society, but to the universe at large. From Plato to Hegel man’s being is explained by his consciousness rather than his consciousness by his being.

Mr. Montague next draws a distinction between what he calls the inhibitive and the causative senses of interpreting “economic determinism.” This distinction, however, is only valid if he insists upon using the words “cause” and “create” in a metaphysical or absolute sense. Reversing his own question, what school of opinion worthy of account does this? Certainly not that of Marx and Engels, whose followers in this connection we claim to be. When we say that a given set of economic relations give rise to a particular form of art or religion, etc., we do not thereby imply that art or religion are “created” by conditions out of nothing, as it were. The problem as seen by Marx and Engels was how to account for the various forms taken by human society in all its aspects, and the solution for them lay in economic development, i.e., the constant change and growth in the tools of production and the relations of men in connection therewith. They made no attempt to discover some ultimate element in the human make-up to which everything could be referred. On the contrary, like Darwin in the realm of biology, they sought for an efficient, not a final, cause operating in human history.

Mr. Montague asserts that “certain human qualities are more fundamental than any shaping process, economic or otherwise.” This is probably intended to be taken seriously, yet five seconds' reflection should show its absurdity. Has Mr. Montague any knowledge of human beings existing apart from a shaping process? If not then how can their qualities be more fundamental than the environment to which they are related and in which they are inextricably involved ?

Mr. Montague cites “love” as one of the qualities he refers to. It is no part of our case to show that capitalism has “produced" love; but if Mr. Montague denies that this “great physical fact . . . plays a part essentially subordinate to private property" in history, perhaps he will give us his explanation of the origin and development of monogamy and prostitution. The sexual and domestic relationships of modern society obviously take their form from its economic basis.

Our critic next tears a phrase from its context and treats it as though it had been advanced as a statement of an eternal truth; and endeavours to set it in contradiction to the general tenor of the article. It takes a philosopher to be blind to the obvious. The Socialist, living under capitalism, is under the painful necessity of acquiring, by hook or crook, a certain amount of money in order to exist. In this he does not differ from his fellow slaves; but this in no way alters the fact that his only hope of improvement lies in Socialism, which necessitates association, and herein lies the only rational explanation for his activities as a Socialist. His motives, of course, are not exclusively economic; but it is from a study of conditions, and not from introspection upon his motives, that he derives the conception of Socialism. With Mr. Montague’s personal motives we have no concern.

“What becomes of class," we are asked, “if you discount idealism?” What becomes of idealism, Mr. Montague, if you admit the class struggle as the basis of Socialism and call upon the workers to organise upon that basis? Do not material interests form the bond of unity between the members of a class? Are our notions concerning these interests any clearer because we describe them as the demands of “ impersonal abstractions ” (to use our critic’s phrase) such as “justice ” or “humanity? ” Exploiting classes throughout history have used such war-cries to beguile their slaves and to flatter their own self-esteem; but to the workers, seeking emancipation, illusions are worse than useless.

Mr. Montague concludes with some accusations, proof of which he wisely defers—to another time !

Since writing the above a copy of the May issue of the “Social Democrat" has come to hand. It contains an article by the Editor (Mr. Montague) on “Is philosophy any use? ” presenting similar views to those above dealt with, but this time including the “meat” which is obviously lacking in his “criticism.” In his concluding paragraph he says, “ Religion is a matter for the individual. ”

Here we have the matter in a nutshell. Mr. Montague is, of course, merely reiterating the position taken up long ago by the S.D.F., a position based upon “election expediency” (to quote Mr. Belfort Bax, another Social Democrat) which allows its members to angle for Christian votes.

In the same issue appears an article from Sir Henry Slesser, the democratic gentleman who so kindly assumed office, under the late-lamented Labour Government, without having been elected. He contends that the root of the social problem is the avariciousness of the individual. Well may he describe himself as a “mediaeval Socialist”! The summit of his cheek, however, is probably contained in his statement that his views are “more opposed to the assumptions of modern plutocracy and commercialism than those of the most doctrinaire Marxian.” When Sir Henry was seeking election in 1923 the workers were asked to “Vote for Slesser and Free Trade” ! These be your friends, O Montague !
Editorial Committee

Caught In The Act: Back to Work (1989)

The Caught In The Act Column from the October 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

Back to Work
Parliament re-assembles this month to the accompaniment of the annual bout of puzzlement among the voters. Brought up to believe in the importance of Parliament as the intellectual power-house which runs the country and keeps all of us happy, well-fed and secure, they wonder how MPs are able to desert the place for so long. How are the Honourable Members able to go swanning off on holiday, or to jack up their wages with lecture tours and journalism, or to bring their diaries up to date for future use in their memoirs, if their work is so vital? The country seems to have been running alright—no more than the usual crop of "accidents", the customary problems of people not having enough to live on. the accepted difficulties in access to medical care and social services. Things don't seem any better or worse, whether Parliament is sitting or not. Do we really need the place?

Any sort of observation of Parliament— listening to its proceedings on the radio, waiting around in the Lobby, watching it at work from the Public Gallery—does little to damage the case for its abolition. To begin with, quite a few MPs often seem to have drunk too much over lunch and to be, in more senses than one, flushed and excitable. Some are excruciatingly aware of their own talents and. in case anyone is missing out on them, make regular checks to ensure that they are being admiringly observed from the Gallery. The lucky onlooker will see the House at its liveliest— larking about, rocked with forced laughter, bubbling with bogus animosity towards the opposite side.

Close Contact
Face-to-face contact with an MP is not necessarily more re-assuring. One Labour Member, an old-time left-winger who now does not by any standards know where he stands on almost any issue, will lug you down to the Tea Room and there stubbornly evade the matter you have come to see him about while he drones on about his current obsession. Every so often some gnarled fellow Labour MP will come to the table to exult over some alleged triumph in some staggeringly trivial matter. There will be a bit of mutual back-slapping and morale boosting, for these people carry a burden of shame about the betrayal of what they once called their principles but also a crippling doubt about their own effectiveness. Very likely they will assure each other that they will be at some meeting that evening where they will continue to massage their morale by colouring the petty issue into one of enduring importance.

It is not only the older left-wingers who behave in a frustrating and irritating way. There is one younger Member, something of a specialist in radical law, who was not popular with his constituency party because of his womanising. A visit to the Tea Room with him reveals that there is some substance to this, as he ogles his way along the corridor, gropes the hapless girl at the cash desk who is only there to take his money and leers from his seat at every passing female. Whatever else this man respects, clearly it is not womanhood; only occasionally does he rein in his obsession to give some time to the issue which is supposed to be under discussion. Then he scampers off to the chamber to ask some daringly radical question which will have all the lefty reformists swooning with admiration.

On the other side of the House, there is the Tory MP. one of Thatcher's most ardent and tireless sycophants, whose hypocrisy is gargantuan. This man is notorious in his constituency not just for being a humbug but also for his relentless quest for publicity. Provided that there is a news photographer handy, he descends on an old people's home to harrass some infirm pensioner into posing with him or he intrudes into local events where people have gathered with the innocent intention of enjoying themselves. A sort of male Mary Whitehouse, he rarely misses a chance to denounce what he calls permissiveness (his attitude towards gays and lesbians verges on the mediaevally persecutory) but he sees nothing wrong in entertaining in the Commons contestants for the Miss World title. This condoning of an event which is truly pornographic—which is not only designed to be sexually titillating but which deals in an unreal, distorted image of sex—is not inconsistent with this Honourable Member's professed moral stance for he is only looking for yet another photo-opportunity and presumably works on the principle that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Of course there are also capable and conscientious MPs who do their best to help their constituents in their problems. It is fair to ask, however, why so many MPs rank so high in any league table of hypocrisy. stupidity or buffoonery. The answer is that they are unable to cope with their position of power—which brings us to the central point about the function of Parliament and whether, despite the antics of some of the people in it, it is a useful institution.

Whether MPs are good or bad, efficient or bungling, sincere or hypocritical, is beside the point. They operate in, and by their votes they control, the place where the power in capitalist society is to be found. Any failure to understand that can lead workers into disaster. Parliament controls the state machine and that machine—the armed forces, the police, the penal system and so on—exists to defend the whole set-up of class society. This means that it defends the privileges of the people who own the means of life and asserts the fact that the rest are condemned to lives of poverty and exploitation. Workers who get depressed about Parliament, who decide that it is no better than a talking shop and that real power lies somewhere else have often tried to by-pass it. They have always failed, sometimes at great cost to themselves.

A recent example of how the state is used was the coal strike of 1984-5 which was motivated by the strange idea that the coal mines should be kept open so that miners could work in them and earn a wage rather than that the coal should be cut to be sold at a profit. The miners tried to make their point by striking and then, on the sensible argument that there is no point in a strike if a lot of workers are still at work, by preventing any miner who wanted to go to the pits from doing so. We all know what happened, how the police blocked roads to stop pickets moving about, how they broke up the pickets and fought pitched battles with miners who, in their own estimation, were only struggling for the chance to be exploited as employed, working coal producers. As things were—as the economy of capitalism was operating then—the strikers hadn't a hope. After their defeat one pit after another was closed; recently the last one in Kent stopped production. This is not because there is no use for the coal; it is because British Coal say there is no profit to be made from mining it. To assert this priority they are able to call on the state machine. The miners, if nobody else, should have learned from experience of the power of the state and of the way it is controlled, manipulated and applied through Parliament.

That is why, if we are to do anything significant about society's problems the working class must organise with the objective of controlling the state through Parliament. At present it is a place where the trivial, the exasperating and the sickening are everyday currency, where the bungling, the hypocrite and the deranged pick over the inconsequential details of running a social system which at best must exploit and degrade the majority of its people. But it could and it must be used to bring the basic social change which will end not just our material problems but also those of morale—the cynicism, the conceits and the inefficiencies which are typical of a decadent society.

So who goes home?

Speaking from Experience (1989)

From the October 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard
  "Past Labour governments have always worked within the limits set by market forces (as when the cabinet capitulated to the International Monetary Fund in 1976): have always supported nuclear weapons (as when Callaghan authorised the Chevaline without telling parliament): and have regularly confronted trade unionism (as with rigid wage policies)...
  We must add . . . a clear recognition that the Labour Party is not — and probably never was — a socialist party, and its individual members do not decide its policy, nor are its election pledges apparently meant to be taken seriously”.
—Tony Benn, former Labour cabinet Minister and present member of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee, writing in The Independent. 17 May 1989.

Robert Owen's place in history (1989)

Robert Owen (1771-1858)
From the October 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

Manufacturer Robert Owen, a man of deep-rooted convictions, a reformer, an advocate of Utopian Socialism and of the materialist philosophy that people's characters are made for them by heredity and environment earned the respect of many of his contemporaries, including Friedrich Engels. Owen was a critic of religion, marriage and private property and a founder in 1834 of the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of Great Britain and Ireland (numbering between half a million and a million members). In April 1834 he supported the mammoth procession to present a petition to the Home Office against the conviction of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. He also championed the National Equitable Labour Exchange (opened in September 1832) in its attempt to dispense with money and opposed the cruel and ruthless treatment of children under the factory system.

Shop assistant to capitalist
His birth and death (1771-1858) were in Newton, Montgomeryshire, where his father combined the occupations of postmaster, ironmonger and sadler. By the time Owen was seven, he had assimilated all that his school could teach him and in the two years thereafter acted as assistant teacher. At the age of nine, he became a shop assistant in his home town, and at ten entered the service of a Stamford linen draper in Lincolnshire. A few years later, he was employed in a Ludgate Hill shop in London, where he endured a crucifying workload. At 18, and with a small loan from his brother William, he set up in business with a man named Jones, making and selling cotton-spinning mules (then displacing the spinning jenny and the water frame). But Owen was soon required to sell back his share of the business to Jones — a transaction which left Owen, at the age of 19, in possession of three mules. He then rented a building, employed three men, and started a small-scale business on his own account. Soon after, he learned that one Drinkwater, a rich Manchester cotton manufacturer, had advertised for a manager. Owen successfully applied for the position and within a short time was offered, and accepted, a partnership in the business. He resigned in 1795 and became one of the managing directors of another large concern, the Chorlton Twist Company. In 1797 Owen had accumulated enough capital to enable him and some wealthy partners to purchase the New Lanark Cotton Mills from the philanthropist David Dale. He married Dale’s daughter and settled in New Lanark as manager and part owner; in 1800 he was vested with sole management.

New Lanark
Owen now had an opportunity for social experiment. Rejecting the Christian doctrine of original sin, he implemented his theory that people are creatures of pre-natal and post-natal circumstances. The environmental improvements he brought about at New Lanark saw the disappearance of vice, crime and drunkenness, and in their place a model village. He worked tirelessly to set up infant schools and to stop recruitment of children from the Edinburgh and Glasgow workhouses. He also reduced the New Lanark working day to ten-and-a-half hours — unlike his competitors who employed their workers fourteen hours a day. He ensured that medical attendance was denied to no-one in his community, and that a sick fund was created for the purpose. All these welfare and educational measures led to the founding in January 1816 of the Institution for the Formation of Character, a centre of communal life marked by a spirit of harmony and co-operation. Visitors were deeply impressed by the temper of the children and Friedrich Engels, in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, remarked:
  At the age of two the children came to school where they enjoyed themselves so much that they could scarcely be got home again . . .
Fall from grace
Gradually New Lanark's fame spread throughout Europe and it became a centre of pilgrimage, visited by bishops, economists, philanthropists, royalties, statesmen and diverse celebrities. Nicholas 1, Czar of Russia, was a pilgrim in 1816 and even Napoleon, in exile on the Island of Elba, knew of the New Lanark experiment. Owen at this time was at the height of his fame, but as soon as he proclaimed what were considered outrageous views, he fell from grace. As Engels explains:
  . . . As long as he was simply a philanthropist, he was rewarded with nothing but wealth, applause, honour, and glory. He was the most popular man in Europe. Not only men of his own class, but statesmen and princes listened to him approvingly. But when he came out with his communist theories that was quite another thing. Three great obstacles seemed to him especially to block the path to social reform: property, religion, the present form of marriage. He knew what confronted him if he attacked these — outlawry. Excommunication from official society, the loss of his whole social position. But nothing of this prevented him from attacking them without fear of the consequences, and what he had foreseen happened. Banished from official society, with a conspiracy of silence against him in the press, ruined by his unsuccessful Communist experiments in America, in which he sacrificed all his fortune, he turned directly to the working class and continued working in their midst for thirty years . . . 
Instances of Owen's courageous dedication and financial sacrifice are legion. In 1806, when the American embargo on cotton nearly brought business at New Lanark to a halt, he prevailed upon his capitalist partners — whose priorities were profit rather than welfare — to pay the workers their full wages throughout the four-month embargo. Following disagreements with his partners, Owen offered to buy the New Lanark undertaking, but on their refusal of his offer he resigned as managing director. However, in December 1813 New Lanark was auctioned to Owen at £114,100, then a vast capital sum.

Yet for all Owen's benevolence, he could not put his social theories into practice other than by means of capital, wages and their corollary money, which ultimately determined the success or otherwise of his New Lanark and other co-operative communities. Nevertheless he did conceive of purely communistic societies that went far beyond limited reform of capitalism. In these societies the workers would labour in a community of common interests and enjoy free access to the necessaries and comforts of life. No disputes would arise over divisions of property and the desire to accumulate goods would disappear. Such was his vision. But because of the inescapable logic of capitalism, he could not but depart from the simplicity of his aims.

Defeated by economic laws
In other words, Owen was defeated by the economic laws of capitalism. His collapsed experiments at New Harmony in Indiana, at Orbiston near Glasgow, and at Tytherly in Hampshire, are enough to show that these laws cannot be suspended or overridden. Invested capital must yield rent, interest and profit and welfare must play second fiddle. This reality applied to Owen's model villages, which were anyway inextricably tied to the outside market economy. Village land, buildings and machinery represented capital, and where Owen was not the sole proprietor the economic pressures were even greater, for his shareholding partners expected a return on capital. ‘‘Excessive" wage and welfare costs which eroded profits and threatened bankruptcy were not viewed by them with favour.

The incompatibility of Owen's Utopian benevolence and capitalism's laws was manifest at Orbiston, which in the late autumn of 1827 was close to collapse; the land, buildings and standing crops were sold by public auction because of pressure by the mortgagees to recoup the £16,000 security they had advanced on the property. No less disastrous was the agricultural experiment at Tytherly which may be said to have ceased in the summer of 1845 — Owen having spent enormous sums on projects which were never completed and the enlargement of farm buildings, none of which was worked at a profit. Small wonder, then, that these losses and those at New Harmony left Owen a comparatively poor man. Such was the sacrifice he had made in a life-time of sincere endeavours to eliminate poverty and misery from workers' lives.

Owen has an honourable and lasting place in working-class history. Since his death in 1858 socialists have had not only the benefit of the work of Marx and Engels, but also more than one hundred years' political experience.
Vic Berry

Cooking the Books (1989)

From the October 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard
Pat a cake, pat a cake, Baker's man.
Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
Prick it, and pat it, and mark it with
. . . E for Education? or Exploitation?
"Children at infant schools in England and Wales will be expected to study marketing skills and profit-making under radical proposals for design and technology teaching to be implemented by the Government next year," says a report in the Guardian (21 June) by its Education Editor.

Proposals drawn up by a working party as part of the new national curriculum include teaching children to become computer literate from the start of infant classes, and their becoming able to devise their own computer programmes by the age of eleven. The Guardian report continues: “Design and technological activities should cover a broad range of contexts— home, school, recreation, community, business and industry". Given this context.
  considerations such as client and consumer satisfaction, the importance of quality, added value, business structures, serviceability of products, market size, environmental impact, finance and deadlines can all arise naturally. At the same time, work-related activities can foster and demonstrate the value of personal qualities such as the ability to work constructively with others, a spirit of enterprise (taking initiatives and risks, seeing opportunities, identifying needs), self-discipline. persistence in the face of difficulties and a sense of responsibility.
Lady Parkes. who chaired the working party, said. "The aim of our proposals for design and technology is to prepare pupils to meet the needs of the 21st century.”

Since the prevailing ideas in society are those of the ruling class, it certainty makes both political and economic sense to "catch 'em young”. The Jesuit maxim, "give me a child until the age of seven and it is mine for life," seems very applicable here. However, the proposals, designed to ensure that by the age of seven children should be aware that goods and services were designed and made, distributed, bought and sold: that resources were not infinite; and that some technological solutions could damage the environment; and that the “brightest” children should understand the role of advertising and the need to make choices about resources like materials and time, are not designed to turn children into little capitalists, but into supporters of capitalism. To be capitalists they would have to be born into the minority class who own the means of production. The majority of them belong to the working class, the vast majority who have to sell their labour power in order to exist.

Although capitalism is a world-wide social system, by its very nature capitalists are in competition with each other. Whilst the working class may believe, as capitalism has taught them, that the minority ruling class owe their superior position to greater intelligence, business acumen, or some god-given right, in reality capitalism is run for capitalists by the skill and abilities of the majority, the working class. In order that capitalists in particular economic units, or countries, should not surrender their competitive edge to their rivals, it is important that they endeavour to ensure that their workers are trained in the necessary skills which will result in increased productivity of their labour.

Repressing Personality
Pupils would “thus begin to appreciate the challenges of a career in this field", translates as these future workers will not stop to question the alternative to spending their lives being economically exploited by a minority class. A recent survey by Incomes Data Services examined the recruitment methods of six large organizations, including Jaguar Cars and Vauxhall Motors. It detailed the changes in recruitment procedures that are now likely to confront those seeking manual jobs, including personality tests, which were previously associated with managerial recruitment.
  These tests are often designed not just to measure skills and aptitude for the the required tasks but also to assess whether a person is able to work in a team, show initiative, and in some cases adopt the organization's philosophy or 'culture'. At the same time work-related activities can foster personal qualities such as the ability to work constructively with others, self-discipline and a sense of social responsibility.
Translated, this means not rocking the boat, not being industrially militant, and not querying the stupidity of a system that produces for profit, not for need, whose economic exploitation of the majority overrides all other, human considerations.

The capitalist class is determined to hang on to its monopoly of political and economic power. The weapon of no work, no eat, means that those trying to sell their labour power are expected to embrace the "philosophy and culture” of their prospective masters. Being a member of the working class means having to spend your life repressing your personality in order to meet some employer's criteria of a pliable, compliant worker. This process begins in the infant school.

Are your children being educated, or merely trained to meet the demands of a class system whose sole aim is the accumulation of more and more capital. If you and your children want to fulfil your full potential as human beings it's never too late to learn. It's not too late to learn about Socialism, the only alternative to the repressive system of capitalism. Within a classless, moneyless, wageless, stateless, leaderless society people will develop their skills and abilities both for personal satisfaction and to benefit everyone. Education will become an on-going life experience, not just something to enable you to get a job and spend the rest of your life subservient to the capitalist class. Prick it, and pat it, and mark it with F . . . for Freedom.
Dave Coggan

Between the Lines: The Duty to be Free? (1989)

The Between the Lines column from the October 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

A few months ago I watched one of the most saddening documentaries to be shown on TV this year. It was not about starving children or concentration camps or inner-city deprivation. All of those are far more hugely tragic than the theme of this documentary, but this was the most depressing. It was about the coverage by New York TV stations of the sensational public trial of a prosperous lawyer called Joel Steinberg who had systematically degraded and beaten up his partner, Hedda Nussbaum.

When she first met him she was an attractive. talented designer of children's books; as the relationship developed she lost everything—her looks, which were battered out of her; her dignity, which she lost sight of; and her freedom to do or think anything without the permission of the man whom she imagined had superhuman power. The court case came about because Steinberg ended up by beating to death the couple's (illegally) adopted infant daughter. Lisa. He was charged with manslaughter. The question which became a talking-point for the New York TV viewers was. how responsible was Nussbaum for the death of the child? Her defence was that her lover had virtually brainwashed her and that she was physically frightened to disobey him. She claimed that she wanted to stop him beating the child, but knew that if she did she might be killed. She was afraid to leave because she had become totally dependent upon her lover, and he had convinced her that everyone outside of him was conspiring to destroy her. Under his orders, so she testified, she began to smoke cocaine (crack) which she used both to please her partner and to relieve her fear.

The Oprah Winfrey Show (C4, 1 September. 10.30pm) had a studio discussion about the questions posed by the Hedda Nussbaum trial. Battered wives explained how it is that repeated physical violence and personal humiliation knocks out of them the will to defend themselves. They submit to anything, even endangering the safety of their children. Nussbaum's closest friend was on the programme and she argued that there came a point at which Nussbaum could no longer be expected to do anything for herself. The author of a novel about the case also appeared, arguing that everyone, under whatever adverse circumstances, has a responsibility to defend themselves, and. especially, to defend those under their care who are too young to defend themselves. She contended that Nussbaum should have been charged as well as her lover.

For a socialist, the matters of legality are not at issue. It is not for the US state to determine the guilt or innocence of child abusers when they, through their perpetration of poverty and their cultivation of the war machine, are willing to make suffer and to kill millions of children. The question of the state, as usual, is an interference in human affairs. Neither need socialists spend time entering into the finer debates of individual ethics. The fact is that capitalism deprives vast numbers of workers of the chance to make the best decisions about their lives. Are we to force the parents of the 15 million children under the age of five who starved to death last year to repent for their immorality? What else could they do? It was the hopeless cultural rut in which so many people under capitalism find themselves (even economically affluent workers like Steinberg and Nussbaum) which was one of the most depressing things about the documentary and subsequent discussion.

What was more depressing was the wider question raised. Do humans have a duty to free themselves from oppression? In relation to the profit system, is the working class irresponsible for supporting the system? There are two Marxist answers on this: one is to say that capitalism imposes an ideology upon workers which can only be broken out of when the working class is historically ripe for escape from capitalism—until that moment it is foolish to blame the workers for all of the problems from which they suffer. The second answer is to say that humans are always able to muster within themselves a certain amount of intelligent response to their conditions and to fail to reach out for this is irresponsible.

In the month after the BBC's distasteful celebrations of the beginning of the war which killed millions of European workers, we could well think about this whole question. On the one hand, the Nazis were "seduced'' by Hitler and his pernicious ideology; they were victims. Similarly, workers of the Russian Empire were victims of Stalin. But if they were captured ideologically, could they be held responsible for the atrocities committed in their name? Could the worker who voted for Thatcher in 1979 be held responsible for the deaths of the men whose lives were wasted in the Falklands War? And not only those who voted for Thatcher, but those who refused to actively oppose what she stood for by becoming socialists? To say that deluded workers are irresponsible seems to be the same as saying that a baby who burns herself is irresponsible for not knowing better. On the other hand, if there is to be no question of irresponsibility in history. then not only has nobody any right to say that Hedda Nussbaum should have defended her child from her lover's beatings, but also we cannot suggest that workers who think that nuclear bombs make them secure are irresponsible in their support for what might well kill all of us.

One solution to the dilemma presented itself while watching Oprah Winfrey and her guests: some of the women on the programme had been battered and they did get out of the situation they were in. If they did. then resistance becomes a possibility and failure to resist needs to be explained. Similarly with the fight against capitalism and all that it is doing to the workers of the world. If some can escape from the ideology which we were taught since the cradle, then we have a right to expect others to respond historically in the same way.

If we can understand the duty to emancipate ourselves from capitalism, why should we excuse our fellow workers on the grounds that they have been conditioned to accept what we have managed to reject? Is the black South African who has been bought for the armed service of his racist masters to be blamed as an accomplice of racism? Are the teenaged Chinese soldiers who were almost brainwashed into slaughtering other Chinese soldiers irresponsible? Difficult questions—and extremely depressing.
Steve Coleman

30 Years of Scottish Bombast (1953)

From the July-August 1953 issue of The Western Socialist

The political scene in Britain (particularly Scotland) to-day, provides, in some important respects, a striking contrast to that of 30 years ago. To describe and analyse the intervening years would be an inquiry into decay and decline; a study in bilge and bombast; a picture, sad in itself, of promise without performance.

It would indeed be a journey through a period littered dismally with the bones and residue of movements which got their sustenance from the energies and hopes of many thousands of working people.

To-day, in Glasgow, and the industrial belt of which it is the centre, one meets many men and women, now despairing cynics, who were, thirty years ago, enthusiastic, selfless workers in the various movements.

Then, thirty odd years ago, as now, war-time conditions were slowly changing into normal capitalist conditions of “peace”: rationing was giving place to the accustomed sway of the purse, and a greater variety of goods were appearing in shop windows to tease and tantalize working-class housewives. Another obvious feature in common, a natural aftermath of the long war years of unbridled violence and deceit, is an increase in crimes of violence, rape and fraud. And, of course, what is delightfully described as “delinquent youth.” In other words, the behaviour of young men and women, growing up in their most malleable years in a world of organized, colossal murder; whose playgrounds were air-raid shelters and bombed buildings; who accepted as natural the “blackout” with all its inevitable framework.

The drift away from organized religion is ever more marked today and it could perhaps be said that highly organized gambling — particularly the “football pools” — with their billion-to-one chance of winning £75,000, have ousted religion from its former supremacy as a social dope and bulwark of capitalism.

“Tomorrow? Why, tomorrow I may be myself with £75,000” is a faith more potent, and supplanting than of the Sacred Articles and Beatitudes.

A striking commentary on Capitalism is the fact that the gambling industry fast rivals others in order of importance. And that in this retreat of theology, its hired and paid (evidently underpaid) laborers are quisling to the football pools, as scrutiny of the prize winners lists sometimes reveals.

Here in Glasgow, 30 years ago, events had earned the area the totally unjustified title of the “Red Clyde.” The Communist Party had recently been formed out of a host of individuals and movements conspicuous by their sound and fury, and by their lack of Socialist understanding — “Armed insurrection,” “Direct Action,” “Minority movements,” “Collapse of Capitalism,” “Anti-Parliamentarianism,” were some of the slogans shouted by many a man now seated comfortably in Parliament. Some indeed now Peers of the Realm.

The Labor and Independent Parties — then part of the same organization had their stronghold here on Clydeside and in the landslide of 1924 when a record number of I.L.P. and Labor Members of Parliament were elected, scores of thousands of elated workers assembled in the centre of the city to see the conquerors off to London to capture the bastions of Imperial Britain. It seemed to many excited workers that the world was theirs and the late James Maxton M.P., confirmed this impression by declaring “The working class is now the ruling class, so why should they go in rags?” Everywhere in the area. Labor and I.L.P. orators were pushing their themes of Nationalization. Everywhere, there were meetings, demonstrations, United Movements, “New Worlds,” “New Perspectives.” “Revolutionary situations” were perpetually conjured into verbal being.

Joining in the unholy chorus, the Communist Party added its own nostrums of “Direct Action” and “Soviet Power.”

Elements of DeLeonism contributed their proportionate share with their Industrial Unionism and wild talk of “taking and holding the means of Life.”

The Glasgow Branch of the SPGB had just been formed by a literal handful of men. Amidst trouble, difficulties, most of them unemployed, meeting in hovels in which they lived, in the jungle of wind and bombast surrounding them, they presented the case for Socialism. A case which at first, largely met with sneers and ridicule. and on many an occasion, with violent measures being taken against the couple of speakers. Today, what is the general political and industrial position in contrast to that of then?

In the industrial field, the open allegiance of the prominent Trade Union officials to not only Labor Government but the present Tory one exceeds anything of 30 years ago. Indeed, Trade Unions threats to become mere adjuncts of Governments and the employing class instead of what their pioneers intended them to be—organs of working class struggle. Insolent admonitions to work harder and forego wage-claims abound from every quarter of the Trade Union movement. “More production for the export markets” is now an official Trade Union slogan. Here and there, of course, the pinch of the cost of living and the increased tempo of production force workers to take action but, in the main, such episodes meet with, not only the disapproval of the Government, but with the opposition of the official Trade Union movement.

At Conference after Conference, spokesmen ruminate on problems of national self-sufficiency, of capital investment, of the problems of British Capitalism in the markets of the world; on anything and everything except working-class interests.

At the Scottish Trade Union Congress held in Rothesay in April of this year, a Mr. T. O’Brien, M.P. who is chairman of the British T.U.C. delivered himself of the following piece of unvarnished nonsense:
  "There were workers who thought of efficiency as something to do with the boss, but nothing to do with themselves. I say this to all of them — if they persist in such attitudes for long, then all they will have to live on will be their illusions. And illusions are a poor currency in World Markets. We are right in a period when we can’t afford inefficiency in management or low productivity in the workshops. Whether industry is privately or publicly controlled or owned it is everybody's job to help the nation to earn its living. These are not class issues. They are the plain unvarnished economic facts." Daily Express, April 13, 1953.
An even more penetrating and squalid insight into the functions of the Labor Party and its allies — the official Trade Union Movement — during the so-called boom years, was given by the last Labor Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech reported by the National Press on April 10, 1951:
  "During the past few years of labor scarcity and sellers’ market, workers had been in a position of unexampled strength of bargaining power. Had they considered only their own immediate interests they could have pressed their advantage home."
Little wonder the more sober-minded Capitalist press greeted somewhat ruefully the narrow victory of Churchill and his Tories in Oct., 1951. Apprehensive forecasts of subsequent widespread industrial disorder were speedily proven wrong. Trade Union leaders like O’Brien, Deakin, Lowther and others were not slow in assuring the new Government of their support. So that, shortly after, Mr. Churchill could gurgle happily the famous understatement, “four-fifths of both parties were agreed on four-fifths of their programs. ”

In Scottish Labor Party circles this process goes on apace, so that a Mr. G. McAllister writing in a Labor Party paper the Glasgow “Forward” could opine that while Churchill stood for 10 per cent Socialism in the national economy, Mr. Morrison, the second in command of the Labor Party, stood for 15 per cent and that the new bogey man of Wall Street — Mr. Aneurin Bevan — stood for somewhat more!

The same “Forward” had an article recently by a prominent Labor M.P., Mr. Arthur Woodburn on “What do we mean by Socialism” wherein with a nonchalance worthy of the Stalinists, he threw overboard the theories of half-a-century .— “Planning and not Nationalization is the cornerstone of Socialism.” In the usual run of reformist politicians, not a word of apology does he express for a lifetime of sedulously identifying Socialism with Nationalization, the aspirations and energies of humble workers, lending their support to the Labor Party, do not appear in his balance sheet.

The formerly mighty I.L.P. now shrunk almost to nothingness, still maintains a precarious existence. Boasting sometimes of how it differs from the stinking organization which preyed, vulture-like, upon the workers for so many years, it reveals the same old lousy story of reform. With its divisions of Pacifism, Quakerism, Catholicism, Secularism, jostling side by side with a counterfeit Marxism, it presents the same old mixture of confusion and futility. And even more productive of sardonic comment is the ease and facility with which prominent members of the I.L.P. can leave the I.L.P. for the more comfortable and secure Labor Party.

It would, perhaps, be illuminating to digress temporarily in order to examine briefly a prime and significant example of this phenomenon.

In the noisy days of 1923-24 onwards, Gorbals, a constituency in Glasgow of world renown (or notoriety) was represented, on behalf of the I.L.P., by a Mr. G. Buchanan. His seat embraced the most squalid slums in Europe, possibly the world. Rows and rows of the most terrifying, rat-infested slums. Lice-ridden, the habitat of millions of bugs, with a population of the most diverse in Scotland, where Scottish, Irish, Jewish (from all parts of Europe) and Indian workers lived literally on top of one another, it had, and sadly still has, the greatest infantile mortality in Europe. An area where criminals were bred, where gangsters and bullies were ten-a-penny and yet withal thousands of men and women retain their dignity and integrity.

In short, a working-class constituency, par excellence.

Mr. Buchanan, who held the seat for twenty years with one of the biggest majorities in Britain, and on the basis of “decent homes,” “high wages” and all the other vote catching nostrums, decided blandly around 1945 to leave, in between elections, naturally, the I.L.P. for the Labor Party.

Regardless of the blazing fact that his constituents were still in in the company of lice and vermin, still in the same old filthy slums, with their infants still dying in greater numbers than anywhere else, he transferred his allegiance. Although the men and women who had supported him all through the years were still exploited, oppressed and insulted, exacerbated by years of bereavement, sacrifice and hardship in the years of war, and although he had won the seat in 1935 in the teeth of Labor Party opposition which seemed to indicate their preference for the I.L.P. Without even going through the motions of consulting his electors, he joined the Labor Party. Since then he has fared much better than the workers of Gorbals. He is now Chairman of the National Assistance Board, which, after a Means Test, relieves the poor and needy (over 2 million cases in 1952). The remuneration of the Chairman of the Board is £5,000 per year. He, McGovern, Carmichael, F. Brockway and many others left the I.L.P. and joined the Labor Party when the writing appeared on the wall for the I.LP.

For the first 30 months of the Labor Government elected in July 1945, the Communist Party supported the Government. This support, of course, was directly in line with Soviet foreign policy, best seen in all its naked callousness by the statement of the late demi-god Stalin in Crimea 1945: “The alliance between the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain, is based not on casual and transient motives, but on vitally important and long-standing interests.” This also led the Communist Party to oppose every strike during this period. For example, the strike of the Grimethorpe miners in Sept., 1947, was denounced by the Party as a “stab in the back of the working class.” Their General Secretary, Mr. Pollitt, who had in his pamphlet “Questions and Answers,” 1946, so obsequiously re-echoed Mr. Stalin’s Crimean declaration, however, in December 1947, in his report to his members was compelled to abandon as unreal, his own and his semi-divine leaders prognostication by stating:
  “Because of the United States and British policy of refusing to co-operate with the Soviet Union, the differences have deepened to the point where today there are two world camps. It is necessary that important changes be made in C.P. policy.”
Thereupon, the C.P. attacked the Labor Government until its defeat in 1951, The attack, naturally, was mainly in the area of foreign affairs. In recent months the C.P. has reached the depths of nationalistic slime in its anti-American policy. Defenders of native culture against Wall Street; on guard against Yankee music, literature and films; assailants even of the “crew” hair-cut and the “drape” suit; disdainful of the crepe soled shoes, coat shirts and ties of America, they present a sordid spectacle.

Starting from the stellar heights of “Go home Yank” in which they suggested in a front page article of the “Daily Worker” that an inebriated G. I. who had allegedly misappropriated a crucifix from “an old Saxon Church,” should get life imprisonment; rising to dizzy cosmic heights of a knight-like solicitude and concern for the sexual virtue of the innocent, unspoilt British womanhood beset by threats and wiles, by the dollars, nylons and other merchandise of the PX of the licentious American soldiery, they have descended to the noisome depths of “Let Britain Arise" 1952, in which Mr. H. Pollitt proposes as a serious measure: “That no foreign worker shall be employed while a British worker is unemployed or on short-time." In other words: “Workers of the world — divide — you have nothing to gain but your jobs.’’ Or: “Did your mother come from Ireland? or Italy? or Spain? or America?"

Arguing “that if we have to have a Coronation, let’s make it a British one — untainted by the products of Broadway or Hollywood," agitating for a lowering of the cost of production of labor-power, squealing about the need for “East-West Trades,’’ defending every tortuous twist of Kremlin policy from Vishinsky’s “No” to Molotov’s “Yes,’’ bleating about Scottish, Irish and Welsh Home Rule; moaning about the “sell out of Britain to Wall Street,’’ the C.P. of Great Britain is in truth, indeed, an object of contempt in the eyes of workers with even a spark of working-class principles.

The small Trotskyist party, the R.C.P. were compelled to “liquidate” when their counterparts, the C.P. became slightly critical of the Labor Government. Its self-appointed leadership is now in the comfortable bosom of the Labor Party. All its noise and its innumerable and uncomprehensible theses, its fury and bombast, now muted to a safer and more respectable key.

The Scottish Nationalists, with no real roots in the working class, still shout the funny slogan of “Scotland for the Scots.” Some of their misguided followers, infuriated by the choice of the title of Queen Elizabeth II, and quite obviously motivated by an over literal interpretation of Thurber’s “Secret of Walter Mitty,” and encouraged by the indignation of the regal title expressed by Scots, Tory and Labor M.P.s are engaging in the pleasant pastime of sticking home-made bombs in mail-boxes bearing the obnoxious slogan “ER II.” In the West of Scotland there is a very small but vociferous crew of Anarchists. People who take the discordant views of Jesus Christ, Proudhon, Stirner, Bakunine, Tolstoy, Kropotkin and the Syndicalists, yes and even the I. W. W., in one indigestible swallow and confront the workers with the confusing result.

That is the dark side of the picture.

On the other side, we have, first of all, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, plugging away at the serious, un-melodramatic job of spreading the Socialist idea. The two branches in Glasgow, although faced yet with great difficulties, meet with nothing like the hostility encountered by the pioneers of 30 odd years ago. The myth of Socialist Russia is not nearly as widespread. Nationalization as a panacea has lost its vogue. The stupid theories of armed insurrection and the like, are virtually extinct. Perhaps the most hopeful sign of the times is that the younger workers, in discussion, seem to value more serious argument than the shouting of windy slogans. It rather seems, too, that the day of the reformist party is past. And as more and more of the working class recognize the already open identity between Sir Winston Churchill and Major Attlee, they must turn their attention to the Socialists.

Therefore, the Socialists in Scotland, like Socialists the world over, are confident of the working class ultimately accepting the view that the world and all that is in or on it, should belong to all.

It is a hard task, but one well worth the doing.
Tony Mulheron
Glasgow Branch, SPGB