Sunday, March 24, 2019

Debate with Labour Party: "Which Party Should the Working Class Support?” (1952)

From the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

A synopsis of a public debate held at Bexleyheath on Dec. 17, between the Labour Party, represented by Ashley Bramall, and the S.P.G.B., represented by J. Thorburn. The audience numbered 150. In the chair was Mr. Geo. Grieve (I.L.P.).

Thorburn had three sessions of 30 mins., 20 mins, and 10 mins., Bramall having two sessions of 30 mins.

Thorburn (1)
Our claim for working class support lies in our contention that only the abolition of Capitalism can solve the problems of the working class, and that in this country only the S.P.G.B. stands for the object of ending Capitalism and establishing Socialism. Capitalism causes poverty, unemployment and war. To get a living workers are forced to hire themselves to the Capitalist class. Workers are employed in order to produce a profit for their hirers. Only so long as profit is realised are goods produced. Production for profit is in the interests of the capitalists. Raw materials and ready markets are essential to Capitalism. In pursuit of these, Governments are driven to conflict. At best the worker keeps a job, which reduces him to a lifelong struggle to make ends meet, finishing as he started, with nothing. During slumps and consequent unemployment millions eke out an existence in direst poverty and destitution. Such conditions arise from Capitalism, be it democratic or dictatorial, planned or unplanned. It is not possible under Capitalism for workers to be anything else but workers.

According to our analysis it is imperative that Capitalism be removed. If Mr. Bramall and the Labour Party wishes to end poverty and war, does he agree Capitalism is the cause? If so he must agree the ending of Capitalism is vital to the interests of society in general. If Capitalism is not the cause, what is, and where is the S.P.G.B. analysis wrong?

Since 1904 the S.P.G.B. has never deviated from its object. We have always argued that workers in this and other lands must understand and accept Socialism before Capitalism can be abolished. Capitalism is international, so will be Socialism, the nucleus of which exists in the S.P.G.B. and identical parties abroad.

Socialist production will be to satisfy the needs of society. Everyday life will be from each according to ability and to each according to need. Under such conditions money, trade and employment have no place. Socialism does not exist anywhere to-day. The task of the Socialist Party is to make Socialists and speed the day of achieving Socialism.

The Labour Party was not formed to replace Capitalism by Socialism, nor has it ever stood for a socialist object. Herbert Morrison repudiated any suggestion of Labour Government wishing to end the profit system. The Labour Party seeks by reform measures to stimulate Capitalism while trying to curb its harmful effects. Pledged to retain Capitalism, it cannot remove the evils of Capitalism. Of recent reforms, Capitalism’s need for a National Health Service was expressed by parties standing for Capitalism. Nationalisation is not Socialism but an expedient of Capitalism. Openly capitalist powers have nearly all nationalised where necessary. Despite the efforts of Labour Governments, working class problems remain. Housing and health are sacrificed in the preparation for another war. Anyone promising better living soon is dishonest.

Bramall (1)
Socialism is not an end in itself but the means of securing greater happiness for men and women. We are not concerned with some theoretical paradise but with real people who have a right to better lives.

According to the S.P.G.B., workers’ problems are the same now as 150 years ago; are caused by Capitalism. Therefore, since Capitalism can offer no consequents! improvement, Capitalism must go.

It is wrong that present day problems are entirely due to Capitalism. Many are it is true, but it is misleading to suggest that these problems would vanish with Capitalism’s removal. There is fundamentally a struggle of man against nature. Under-use of resources between the wars distorted our thinking and we assume too readily there was enough available to satisfy the reasonable desires of people. It is not just the requirements of this country but of the world over that have to be met. A real problem is general under-use by people outside Capitalism. Another problem is distribution. In large modern societies the division of products according to needs cannot be solved easily. In simple forms of society it was easy, but not today. There are problems of living together; psychological problems. These difficulties existed long before Capitalism and will outlive it.

Secondly, there are faults in the Socialist Party’s analysis of Capitalism. They are wrong in assuming no worth-while improvements for workers can be gained short of Socialism. Capitalism has seen an important transformation. We can trace three stages. The first, when wages were ruthlessly low. According to classical capitalist economists, full employment was assured if wage levels were such that all labour could be used. The second stage—during the slumps —dispelled that. All they could say about mass unemployment was it ought not to be there. Such wage levels were, by T.U. action, not acceptable, hence unemployment. To-day, we see where full employment is again possible by regulating the economy without crushingly low wages. Now that represents an advance gained by Trade Union and political organisation. Again, since 1939 the profits of production have been considerably transferred from those who live by rent, interest and profit, to the working class. In 1938, after tax payments, etc., capitalists had 34 per cent of the national income; in 1950 it was 26 per cent That is not Socialism, but an improvement representing extra wealth and happiness. Another instance concerns Rowntree’s Poverty Line, below which desperately low level one quarter of the working class lived in 1939. To-day the proportion is 2½ per cent. In fifty years the number below the Poverty Line was halved. During the last thirteen or fourteen years it has been reduced by nine-tenths.

The Socialist Party insists these things are not worth doing; as reforms they detract from attaining Socialism. There might be something in that argument if one could be so certain of what the result would be once Socialism is achieved. The Socialist Party’s weakest point is Socialism itself. We hear all about what is not Socialism. They say Labour Government is not Socialism, Nationalisation has no connection with it, neither Russia nor Yugoslavia are Socialist. What is Socialism then? And what chance has their method of getting it? It is intended the workers shall by capture of Parliament abolish capitalism and its property relations, beyond which the Socialist Party offers no blue-print of real life. I say it is not possible to have every i dotted and every t crossed. There will be problems.

The Labour Party is learning all the time from its mistakes, but here we have the S.P.G.B. with only a bland confidence everything will be alright. I say that for such an uncertain future it is not worth turning our backs on the unspectacular results of Labour Party methods for real improvements in working class lives. We share common ground in the aim of Socialism. I believe it can be better gained on the road which brings improvements en route.

Thorburn (2)
As for as the Socialist Party is concerned, Socialism is an end in itself. The Party’s work is done with the advent of Socialism. Capitalism is defined by and erected upon an economic base. The superstructure of Socialist society will be built up on the economic base peculiar to it, namely on common ownership and democratic control of the means of life, production for use, and distribution according to need.

Socialism is not a solver of all problems but of the major problems of our time. What are they? Bramall carefully left out mention of war. In 1945 Labour proclaimed the Left could speak at peace with the Left, yet to-day the threat of war grows even greater. The longer the costly preparation for “Defence ” the more devastating the war will be. Wages, up by 20 per cent. are losing sight of prices which are up by 29 per cent., resulting in increased overtime and a halt in the struggle for lower working hours. Man’s ascendancy over nature is by now well established. On the question of Labour’s improvements, Bramall claims more for Labour Government than Herbert Morrison who admits the vital effect Marshall Aid had in keeping unemployment down in this country. The effect of increased production and trade competition would be shown in unemployment returns before now were it not, also, for Korea and “Defence” preparations.

The three stages of any society are Growth, Decay and Death. Capitalism has passed beyond the growing stage, now moving from one crisis to another. If Socialism is a dream. Capitalism is a nightmare.

The Labour Party is not a Class Party and as an admitted “cross section” of the people, is in line with the Tories. It does not aim at Socialism. For all Bramall's claims of its accomplishments, Glenville Hall was in 1949 forced to admit that 10 per cent. of the people still owned 90 per cent. of the wealth, a situation deplored by the Labour Party back in 1918. The Labour Party works for Capitalism. Despite the “bleak” outlook forecasted for workers, profits had risen. The “socialism” of the Labour Party has benefited only the Capitalist group. Contrary to Attlee's prediction that a Tory victory at the 1951 Election would create a boom on the Stock Exchange, the actual result was written off as a slump.

Bramall (2)
It is true the Labour Party has not attained perfection in its method of trial and error. But the S.P.G.B. cannot show the way. The deficiencies of Capitalism may be removed but that will not escape problems which will exist whether under Capitalism or Socialism. Thorburn is a very long way from an answer to what Socialism will be like. Is Socialism really an end in itself? Surely the question is, does it increase or diminish our happiness? It is not sufficient to say Capitalism is bad, but to show what is better.

The S.P.G.B. has it Russia is Capitalist I agree it isn’t Socialist, but who are the Russian Capitalists inside Communism?

The spirit and philosophy of Labour’s Defence programme gained world respect. War is not inevitable. It is a bogus "scientific” analysis to predict that war and unemployment are bound to rise again.

Other European countries had Marshall Aid without full employment. The reason was lack of Governmental planning. Capitalism can be made to benefit Capitalists less and workers more. Agreed, the property relations remain unaltered, but given time, with a socialist objective Labour can alleviate problems and generally make life better. Nationalisation is a training ground for trying out Socialism. Labour is not in line with the Tories. Improvements from Tories were wrung from an unwilling hand, in contrast with Labour's anxiety to make improvements.

The S.P.G.B. avoids the issue of problems under Socialism. It asks us to take a blindfolded route into
something we know nothing about. Their idea of everyday life under Socialism is primitive in conception, leading to chaos and disaster, by ignoring organisational difficulties. Before Capitalism goes the next method must be known.

There is more value in Labour's policy of admitting errors and mistakes than trying to blindly convince the world's workers.

Thorburn (3)
Organisation under Socialism will be the responsibility of society, not of the S.P.G.B. Socialism as a system of society is distinct from a form of government. Our end as a political body is the establishment of that society.

Capitalism has outlived its usefulness. The next stage in Social Evolution is Socialism. We are on the verge of an atomic war and the destruction of industrial Europe. It would probably not be so if the Labour Party had spent its time propagating Socialism. They follow instead, policies leaving Capital and Wage Labour firmly entrenched.

Russia has all the features of Capitalism. If Bramall wants to know a Russian capitalist, I name one Berdvebekov.

We know of no measure of human happiness. Happiness will look after itself following the establishment of its conditions.

The Labour Party, so far from assisting the emancipation of working people, hindered it, in their pursuit of the will-o-the-wisp of Social Reform. For all their reforms the problems remain. It is not bogus science to say that if the factors causing war and unemployment continue that these things will re-appear. The Labour Party does not spread Socialism but disillusion. Its big majority of 1945 was reduced to a wafer in 1950, and to defeat in 1951. As to its “ training ground” of Nationalisation and its “trial and error,” Labour was forced to soft pedal on Nationalisation to get workers’ votes, and is bereft of new arguments to replace those having failed. What can the Labour Party offer now?

The unfulfilled needs of present society demand the end of Capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. Experiences of the past, present and future will continue to hammer that fact home.

Shinbone Pie! Or Who are the Hungry? (1952)

From the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

According to an Evening Standard correspondent in the Argentine (1-2-52) President Peron has been talking about food and hunger.

Speaking to delegates to the First National Congress of Justice (Buenos Aires) he referred to his statement made to British meat negotiators not too long ago when they were debating price and conditions of selling and buying meat. “You have hunger and we have meat, and we will see who can last the longer”

Congress of Justice, eh! Real capitalist competitive justice and sounding so like the boss class negotiating with workers in strike times.

The “work more, eat less” gospel is being put into practice as the guns or butter effort goes forward.

Now, worker, when did you last have a nice big juicy steak?

Can you afford poultry and expensive tinned food to make up your rations?

Have you a farm to supply you with eggs and extras?

But cheer up, the bombs are bigger and better. It’s all O.K. You and the “enemy” can knock ’em out by the thousands instead of the hundreds. Yes, the work of anatomical dissection will be on a colossal scale, so why worry about the price of meat. At , least the vultures will have plenty!

Peron’s words set the writer’s memory on a backward journey. Time, March. 1941. Place, our old bomb-dissected Head Office at Great Dover Street. Borough, with Party members salvaging what was left of “our effects.”

After a long day, hungry and dry with bomb dust I popped into a snack bar and ordered the best, first a chunk of canary coloured cake and a cup of tea. The cake about as delicious as bomb dust; the tea! war-time tea. So, as the inner man kept shouting “Heave ho,” I asked for a snack, more substantial, and the proprietor suggested an “individual meat pie.” I had a go and after an “all in” with my dentures, I got through the crust and struck the individual meat. It jarred my jawbones and I withdrew from the feast, paid up and popped the question to the proprietor, what did he call the pie? “Individual meat,” he explained. “Yes,” I replied. “the Individual must have been Methuselah,” and my munchers had struck his shinbone, and so with my inner man defiant and unappeased I hopped down the Borough Tube, past the long line of workers already harbouring from the bombing murder, and made for the West End where I was doing a spot of assisting in a luxury business, and there in Piccadilly’s luxury food store windows I saw the very opposite to war-time tea and shinbone pie. Yes. and it was not labelled “For our mangled war ‘ heroes,” it was just for sale—if you had the dough. So now you meat-producing, bomb-making, all wealth-producing workers! Are you really nuts?
Capt. Cook.

Population and Poverty (1952)

Editorial from the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are told by a correspondent (J. Caldwell, Glasgow), that the article "Housing and Festivals" in our December, 1951, issue "overlooks the need for the poorer classes to restrict or curtail their procreative activities. Study Malthus, abolish all religious superstition and get down to birth control. India, China, etc., etc., should be a lesson to all.”

Our correspondent tells us that India and China "should be a lesson to all” but does not tell us what the lesson is. If we are to assume that our correspondent means that where the population increases the workers are poor and that in countries where the population does not increase but declines the workers are not poor the answer is simple: the working class are poor in all countries. The population in Ireland has declined enormously during the past 100 years and is still falling. It fell from 2,971,992 in 1926 to 2,955,107 in 1946. By contrast the population in Great Britain, America, Canada, Australia, and in the world generally increased greatly during the same periods. Are we then to believe that in Ireland the workers are no longer poor, or are less poor than the workers in other countries named? If our correspondent really believes this he should supply evidence.

France is another country in which population has declined (from 41,835,000 in 1931 to 40,503,000 in 1946). Are the French workers no longer poor?

One interesting point about our correspondent's case is that he does not offer the benefits of birth control to the capitalists but only to "the poorer classes." In other words, though he apparently thinks that birth control will make the poor rich he does not think that the lack of it will make the rich poor.

What we need to be told by those who hold our correspondent’s view is how their alleged cure for poverty is supposed to operate. They argue that there are too many workers and that a reduction of their number would enable the smaller number to push up wages.

This argument overlooks the fact that under capitalism the number of workers who can get work is not a fixed number, it depends on whether capitalist production is expanding or contracting. At present there are some 22 million workers in employment and not only is unemployment relatively low but, according to the Ministry of Labour (Labour Gazette, Jan. 1952). the number of registered unemployed 302,956 is actually less than the number of unfilled vacancies 335,686. (The explanation is of course that the vacancies may be in areas where there are no unemployed workers suitable for the kind of work). Our correspondent wants the number of workers to be decreased. Let us suppose therefore that his propaganda succeeded in reducing the number from 22 million to say 21 million. But in 1931 according to the Ministry of Labour (21st Abstract of Labour Statistics, page 14), the total number of persons available for work was 21,000,000. Were the workers then in the happy position of being less poor, or not poor at all? By no means, for at that time capitalism was in one of its depressions and there were 2½ millions out of work!

While capitalism continues the working class, whether more or less numerous than what our correspondent regards as the proper number, will continue to be exploited. Not birth control but Socialism is required to abolish poverty.

Problems of Japanese Competition (1952)

From the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since 1945, when Japan decided to cut her losses in the "hot” war by surrendering to the Allies, she has steadily regained the position of workshop of Asia which she held before the war. A turning point in the post-war history of this country of 85 million people was in 1948 when the American Government decided to stop pouring millions of dollars into the vain attempt to bolster up the dying Chiang Kai-shek regime on the mainland of China. Instead the main Far-Eastern investment of the U.S. capitalist class was switched to Japan which, it was hoped, would help to arrest the growth of the Eastern bloc of nations under Russian influence. Last September the Japanese Peace Treaty was signed in San Francisco, and the scene was set for the emergence of Japan, under close American supervision, as a “sovereign” nation determined to find her place in the capitalist sun.

Straggle for Markets
The tremendous increase m the productive powers of the advanced industrial nations (especially of the U.S.) has helped to contract the world’s markets, which would in any case have been the tendency from the slackening of the demand to repair the ravages of war on world capitalism. We are approaching the point when the problems of cut-throat competition and unemployment through “over-production” will return as they did in the 1930’s.

Ever-increasing Japanese competition, not only in textiles but in metal goods, machinery and pottery, has been aggravated by the American-influenced decision of the Japanese Premier Yoshida to recognise Chiang Kai-shek in Formosa instead of the Mao Tse-tung regime on the mainland of China. If, as is more than likely, this has an adverse effect on Japanese trade with China, Japan will have to look elsewhere to sell her exports, and will no doubt cast covetous eyes on the markets in the British Commonwealth.

The inevitability of such problems as these within the present economic system and just how little their character is affected by the individuals who are mistakenly supposed to be in control of events can be seen from the following comment by a writer in the New York Times, Lindesay Parrott:—
  “The Japanese people, after six years of shelter behind a benevolent occupation, were learning that sovereignty soon would confront them with the 'guns or butter’ problem so familiar to other post-war nations, and they did not like the prospect.
   “In the face of hard world facts, Japan had little option other than to follow the path the Premier pointed out” (New York Times, 27-1-52.)
Sweated Labour
So far we have been concerned with questions of trade from the point of view of that class in whose interest trade is carried on. Let us turn to the position of the workers in Japan, who are pushed around like pawns in this grim game. In an article in the Daily Herald entitled “Made In Japan” Dudley Barker gave some interesting facts about their unenviable conditions:—
  “The labour force in Japan numbers nearly 37 million and the average working week is nearly 50 hours. For that the average worker gets a wage of £11 a month— barely enough to keep his family, even at a low standard of living (more than half of it goes in simple food).
  "In the textile trade the position is worse. Textile workers get between £5 and £7 per month (latest available figures) in a country where inflation is raging.” (Daily Herald, 28-1-52.) 
However, there are factors which tend to make profit-making a little more difficult for Japanese capitalists as a whole than they would no doubt like it to be. According to the terms of the San Francisco treaty Japan is to pay reparations, mostly to South-east Asian countries, and, to quote Lindesay Parrott again, “a South-east Asia, seething with resentment against Japan for what the Philippines and Indonesia consider their just due in war damages, would offer the worst possible field for this trade relation, vital to the Japanese economy.”

In the 1930’s Japan obtained most of her imports from Asia, which also absorbed the greater part of her exports. Lost sources of supply and lost markets there will have to be replaced by more costly sources farther afield and by greater exports to markets outside Asia. In addition to the problems directly connected with foreign trade the Japanese capitalist class will have to saddle itself with its own burdens of “defence,” now that their benevolent American protectors have decided to grant them sovereignty. Already mention has been made (New York Herald Tribune, 25-1-52) of a Japanese military force of 150,000 ground troops, 1,500 planes and 308 warships after the peace treaty goes into force.

Another interesting sidelight was thrown on the question by Mr. Anthony Greenwood in the parliamentary debate on the Peace Treaty:—
  “If, as we all hope, the Korean war finishes in the near future, this will mean another difficulty for Japan, because Japan has been prevented from exporting a large amount of textiles to markets where we want to sell our textiles, by the fact that she has been selling them extremely profitably to United Nations Forces fighting in Korea. Indeed, during the past few years Japan has become, ironically enough, the arsenal of democracy.” (Hansard, 26-11-51, col. 943.)
American journalists can thus point to the problems which face the Japanese capitalists, and they can affect a paternal attitude to their masters' comparatively new-found friends.
   “The principal fear expressed by members of Congress is that Japan, once on its own, will trade with Communist China. For the Japanese the problem is admittedly difficult. Though overwhelmingly anti-Communist, they must trade to live; and many of them fear that in South-east Asia competition with the British Commonwealth will be adverse.”
(New York Herald Tribune, 26-1-52, italics ours.) 
It is interesting to compare this attitude to Japan with that expressed by various propagandists on behalf of British capitalists who see in the growth of Japanese competition a serious threat to their profits. The threat of foreign competition is always accompanied by the demand that to meet it workers shall produce more at cheaper cost—harder work and a less riotously high standard of living are the watchwords the working class is exhorted to take up. It does not need much imagination to deduce from the similarity of the disease that the workers of Japan are being given the same sort of medicine as workers here, possibly with some slightly different ingredients necessitated by conditions in that part of the world.

The Grim Future
What are the future prospects for the workers in Britain and Japan, assuming that they continue to give support to the capitalist system? Let us take first the Japanese workers, whose doubling of their industrial output in the last four years has made very little difference to their miserably low standard of living. The following is from an article “ The Revival of Japan ” by D. Duxbury: —
  “The political and economic trend in Japan itself now suggests that some of the benefits of the Occupation in preventing excessive exploitation of labour may soon be lost. Trade Unionists during last year expressed to me their fears that the American attack on Japanese Communists might in suitable conditions be extended to become a witch-hunt reaching for any union leader or simple worker who had the insolence to stand for his rights or resist any worsening of wages or conditions. Present news from Japan confirms that industrialists are waiting for an opportunity to reverse the labour laws passed under American tutelage.”
(World Review, Jan., 1952.)
The rest of his article indicates that this writer is by no means sympathetic to the interests of the working class against those of their masters.

The Way Out?
We have drawn from the writings of others on the nature of the problems, so let us now try to see what solutions they put forward. They are all agreed that the standards of living in Japan and in the East generally must be encouraged to rise. They also agree that there is a huge potential demand for goods there, if only that demand could be made effective, i.e., if only the workers were given sufficient wages to buy back the things they produce. Here, for instance, are Dudley Barker’s views on this question:—
  “Of course the real solution is not to howl as Japan's manufacturing capacity gathers strength again, or quarrel over unfair competition, or fight for markets.
  “It is neither practical nor moral to try to prevent any nation from manufacturing goods. The sensible thing, by a world mutual aid plan, is so to increase the purchasing power of the huge masses of poverty-stricken people that they can absorb all that Japan, or any other nation, can produce as an addition to the world’s wealth.” (World Review, Jan.. 1952.)
This is typical of the approach of those who want to have capitalism without the problems to which it inevitably gives rise. Of course we shouldn’t fight for markets—but then a little knowledge of the world in which he lives should show Mr. Barker that it is in the nature of markets that they are fought for, “ peacefully ” if possible, and by force of arms if necessary.

A world mutual aid plan seems at first consideration to be a splendid idea, but, like all the seemingly practical schemes of reformers, it disregards the “facts of life” of capitalism. Now employers in certain industries may not mind other wages in other industries being higher, but they are in no circumstances in favour of higher wages being paid to their own workers—indeed it would be foolish to expect them to jeopardise their profits by doing so.

So, when we come to consider international trade rivalries, we see that British capitalists (or at any rate that section of them whose interests are affected by Japanese trade) are in favour of higher wages being paid to Japanese workers. But can anyone be naive enough to think that the Japanese employing class is in favour of paying more wages to its own workers than the minimum they can be forced to take?

Socialists contend that the only sort of mutual aid that will do the working class any good is that which spreads socialist knowledge. One of the paradoxes of capitalism is that workers must not only struggle, consciously or unconsciously with their immediate exploiters but they must also, on peril of losing their jobs, help the latter in their struggle with foreign competitors. The S.P.G.B., unlike its opponents who prefer to take an unreal view of the nature of the present economic system, sees no hope of any fundamental change in the pattern of boom, slump, war and preparation for war, so long as the workers of the world refuse to think for themselves and until they decide to have Socialism.
Stan Parker

Letter: Organisation—Industrial or Political? (1952)

Letter to the Editors from the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard
  In our October issue we published and replied to  a letter from John Robertson, Edinburgh. We have received a further letter. 
Edinburgh 6.

The Editorial Committee.

Dear Sirs,—

In your reply to my letter on industrial organisation you falsely infer that my position is the outcome of six years of “Labour Government.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The position stated by me originated during the decade preceding the first World War, and advocates industrial and political organisation, and the urgent necessity for both.

If the strike were the only weapon which the working class have on the industrial field, then such an event as the Social Revolution would be impossible. The strike pays homage to the right of the capitalist class to own and control the workshops and the right to exploit the labour-power of the workers. Their slogans, “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” and “ Defence, not Defiance,” are but admissions of loyalty to the system that enslaves and degrades the workers.

With regard to the quotation from Marx, i.e., “Only the economic organisation can set on foot a true political party of labour, and thus raise a bulwark against the power of capital,” this is a typically Marxian observation. None but a Marx could have made it. The bona fide Trade Union of Marx’s day is far removed from the reactionary Craft Unions of to-day, which are a deadly menace to working-class emancipation. Far from the political party of Socialism, “winding up and waiting in the hope that class organisation on the industrial field will come into being," my letter expressly stales that “Without the political organisation, the class-conscious economic organisation cannot be forged.” The true political party of labour recognises the necessity for a class-conscious economic organisation as a powerful lever of emancipation. There is no “waiting” to be done.

My letter also states that “economic unity . . .  is the only solid fact from which political unity can be reflected.” It is puerile reasoning to deny the truth of the statement by saying that there is no such economic unity to-day. The same puerile reasoning would deny the truth of Marx's statement that “the proletariat alone is a truly revolutionary class” (Communist Manifesto), by saying that the proletariat today does not adopt a revolutionary posture.

With regard to the quotation from “Value, Price and Profit,” it is quite true that Marx stated that the economic organisation is “a lever for final emancipation,” and the word the should not have been used in connection with the quotation. But the S.P.G.B. do not even admit that the economic organisation can be used as “ a lever for final emancipation.”

Ownership of the means of life, that is, the means of wealth production, is the source of all social power, and the capitalist political State reflects the capitalist ownership in the means of life. Marx observes this fundamental truth when he states, “In the middle ages the contest ended with the ruin of the feudal debtors, who lost their political power together with the economic basis on which it was established." (“Capital,” p. 112, Swan Sonnenchein Edition.) The S.P.G.B. mistake the shadow for the substance when they organise only for political action.

To destroy the State machine, the capitalist class must be dislodged from ownership of the industrial plants of the land. Only the working class, organised into a class-conscious economic organisation to take and hold that which they produce by their labour, can achieve this and establish the socialist system of society, based on the social ownership of all the means of wealth production.

It is not the function of the political party to take and hold the means of wealth production.

Its function is to raise a bulwark against the power of capital.
Yours fraternally,
John Roburtson.

Our correspondent has misread our reply to his earlier letter. We gave an introductory paragraph stating that a revival of the advocacy of industrial action may be expected to follow the end of Labour government. This was followed by a paragraph explaining the attitude of the S.P.G.B., and then by a detailed answer to our correspondent's lettter. There was no statement that his attitude was the outcome of six years of Labour government.

As we called it a “revival” it should have been clear also that we recognised that the attitude itself is older than Labour government.

Our correspondent repeats the statement alleged to have been made by Marx to Haman in 1869 and ignores the reasons we gave for refusing to accept as authentic Hainan's version of words alleged to have been spoken by Marx at an interview. In any event, as we pointed out, there is no possibility now of deciding what Marx actually did say.

When we are told that the bona fide trade unions in those days were “far removed from the reactionary craft unions of to-day,” we need only refer our correspondent to the pamphlet from which he quoted, Marx's "Value, Price and Profit,” for it was in that pamphlet that Marx had to urge the unions of his day to abandon what he. described as their “conservative motto, 'a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.’ ”

Our correspondent repeats his statement that "economic unity . . .  is the only solid fact from which political unity can be reflected,” and he objects that our comment on this was "puerile.” He has failed to see the point of our comment! If his statement is correct and if it is correct as he also claims, that "only the economic organisation can set on foot a true political party of labour,” then it surely follows that there cannot be a true political party of labour in advance of "economic unity.”

As there are in existence political parties of socialists but there is not "economic unity,” i.e., industrial organisation on a class, socialist, basis, then there appears to be something wrong with his contention.

We note that our correspondent admits to having misquoted from "Value, Price and Profit.

When he chides the S.P.G.B. with not even admitting that the economic organisation can be used as a lever for final emancipation, we reply that we have no quarrel with Marx's statement that the trade unions "fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organised forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class, that is to say, the ultimate abolition of the wages system.”

This is, however, very different from our correspondent's version that the economic organisation is the lever for the final emancipation of the working class.

We would add that it is only with the spread of socialist understanding that the workers, whether in trade unions or not, will want to achieve emancipation, and when they do they will have to use political organisation and action to obtain control of the machinery of government.

Our correspondent then goes on to imply that political power is the shadow and the economic forces is the substance. If he really believes this we ask why he states (at the beginning of his letter) that there is urgent necessity for political organisation. There can be no necessity, urgent or otherwise, to pursue shadows.

Our correspondent then tells us that it is only through working-class economic organisation that the capitalist class can be dislodged from ownership. But here, as in his earlier letter, he fails to tell us by what means the economic organisation is going to do this.

We repeat that only by political organisation and action to gain control of the machinery of government can the capitalists be deprived of their ownership. It is not capitalist ownership that keeps the working class a subject class, but the control by the capitalists of the machinery of government, including the armed forces, which alone enables the capitalists to continue owning.
Editorial Committee

"Wozzeck" (1952)

Theatre Review from the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

On January 22nd the first stye performance in England of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck was given at Covent Garden Opera House.

These columns may seem to some an inappropriate place in which to review one of the luxury entertainments of our rulers but it is of interest to those helping to speed the end of decadent capitalist society to note its gruesome effects expressed in one of the most moving of 20th century operas.

Wozzeck is the first world-renowned operatic work to have a working class family as its main characters, and inevitable poverty, degradation and misery as its subject. As a programme note by D. Millar Craig says,
  “Wozzeck and his Marie do impress themselves upon the hearer’s thought as living types of the average man and woman—pathetic in their helpless drifting amid the current of life towards the inexorable tragedy in whose shaping they have no conscious part.”
It is about the wretched, poverty-stricken militiaman Wozzeck, the butt of everyone, not only of the Captain of his regiment, whose servant he is, but of the Doctor, who laughs at him to his face, regards him merely as an interesting subject for scientific experiment, and uses him for demonstration purposes to the students. The events finally drive him mad enough to kill his wife.

To those who only desire tuneful music the opera Wozzeck has little to offer. In such horrifying and pitiful scenes as occur throughout the work only the atonal methods used by Berg could make them musically convincing. The distinguishing features of art today, in comparison to the past, are in this opera; ugliness, violence, despondency with neither hope nor cure for the sordid events it portrays. Though rousing opposition among some people there is no doubt that such features in art are fashionable now. Modern films, novels and painting show this. One book reviewer Marghanita Laski was asked by a reader “Why the books she chose to notice are all sad, bad or mad and not good cheerful ones ” (Observer, 8-4-51).

In many ways this is favourable for the socialist. The ideas prevalent in society today are no longer of the illusory sentimental kind held in the 19th century. No longer do poets, painters and musicians escape from the ravages of capitalism and rhapsodise on the Lake District, the Constable Country or Wenlock Edge. Today the taste is for the brutal realities of life without relief or hope.

A perusal of the reviews of art critics reveals this. The following statement by Raymond Mortimer in the Sunday Times (23-10-49) gives perhaps the reasons, “To-day not only poets, painters, and preachers, but almost everyone who indulges in the luxury of thought is dismayed by the age in which he lives.’’ The ugly realities of life under capitalism are apparent to most people—only the socialist solution eludes them.

There is one thing certain. The spread of socialist knowledge will revive once more optimism and hope in works of art, and the establishment of socialism will no doubt also revive a music lyrical and tuneful as a direct outcome of the more happy and contented lives lived by its members.

Not Guilty (1952)

From the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following note is part of a comment that appeared in the Hampstead News (December 13th, 1951):—
  "Embarrassing Support.—Support for Mrs. Barbara Brooke's rent rebate scheme comes from an unexpected (and probably embarrassing) direction this week. The 'Socialist Leader,’ organ of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (more revolutionary than the revolutionaries) writes approvingly of the scheme under the heading, 'As a Socialist Sees It.' They say: 'At the risk of being shot at, we confess a liking for the Hampstead Council’s plan to fix rents of all new tenants according to the family’s total income.”’
The “Socialist Leader” is the weekly paper of the LLJP., and the S.P.G.B. is not guilty of having supported the rent rebate scheme.

It is of course characteristic of the I.L.P. to proclaim that socialism is the only hope of the working class and at the same time to be ceaselessly tearing off after all sorts of reforms of capitalism in the hope that there are other hopes to be found within the capitalist system. The one interesting aspect of the “Socialist Leader’s” comment is that the writer of it has so far glimpsed the possibility that there is something in the socialist case that he anticipates being "shot at" for supporting capitalism.

His excuse for doing so is the usual reformist case that “any scheme” which seems to give the workers a chance of getting into a council house “is worthy of support.” (This appears in a subsequent passage of the “Socialist Leader’s” comment.)

May we put it to the “Socialist Leader” that the only scheme which will enable the workers to get decent houses and decent everything else is Socialism.
Editorial Committee

The Hell Bomb (1952)

Book Review from the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the past half century the workers of the world have met disablement and violent death in varying forms, fighting their masters’ battles. A brief review of present-day instruments of wholesale slaughter, ever increasing in efficiency, daunts the most optimistic nature. The main features of World War I were trench warfare, bayonet attacks, “Big Berthas,” small-scale air raids, the early tanks, flame throwers, and gas attacks. By 1939 man’s weapons against man had made formidable strides; combatants and non-combatants were in the thick of battle owing to the introduction of V.2 rockets and the saturation bombing of large cities, not to mention scattered raids on rural areas. When the first atom bombs fell upon Japan in 1945 and the tale of death and destruction was unfolded before the world, the majority of people must have felt that the outside limit had been reached in honor and suffering.

“Peace” was declared and U.N.O. was born with the avowed intention of “ fighting to keep it."

During the post-war years various small-scale wars spluttered up in spite of this august body. The "cold war” with Russia developed, down came the Nazi bogey and up went the red menace. In June, 1950, U.N.O. intervened when war broke out in Korea, and at the time of writing, prolonged peace negotiations are hopelessly in dead-lock. The world is dotted with simmering trouble spots, the Suez Canal, Persia, Burma, Malaya, Indo-China, etc., which may herald the outbreak of a global war.

In the American column of the Daily Express (28.8.51) it was reported that “America is making atom bombs on an industrial basis, 250 a year, and the production rate is expected to be soon doubled or trebled.” The new bombs are a great improvement on the original ones, that is to say, in destructive capacity.

But “progress” continues and the world is faced with the possibility of an even greater menace, the hydrogen bomb. William L. Laurence, New York, has written a book on this subject entitled “The Hell Bomb,” published in London by Hollis & Carter, 1951. The first part of the book is devoted to a detailed account of the composition and suitability of various combinations for the “H” bomb. It explains that the fusion of hydrogen into helium in the sun is the source of the energy that made life possible on earth and will continue to do so for billions of years. This is the principle upon which the “H” bomb was planned as long ago as the spring of 1945 before the first atom bomb was tried out. Nothing was done, however, till 1950, although Laurence says that during the years since Hiroshima, they (the American scientists) have “accumulated a vast body of knowledge about the reactions necessary for a successful H-bomb.” The first atom bomb exploded in New Mexico made the H-bomb a definite possibility as it generated a central temperature two and a half times that of the interior of the sun. This provided for the necessary “match” to light the H-bomb, the flame of which needs a temperature of 50,000,000 degrees centigrade, and is thus incorporated and used as the trigger for the super-explosion. A “super-duper” could be built a thousand times the power of the atomic bomb, radius of total destruction by blast would be ten miles, or a total area of 314 square miles. A “super-super-duper” (an expression the scientists use in their “lighter moments”), could be “exploded at a distance from an abandoned innocent-looking tramp ship, radius of destruction by blast 100 miles, and a destructive area of 30,000 square miles.” A bomb of a thousand-fold the energy would produce fatal burns 20 miles from the centre of the explosion.

The book has a nightmare quality, especially when we learn that the casing of the bomb can be “rigged” to form a gigantic radioactive cloud “that would kill everything in the area it blankets. Nor would it be confined to a particular area, since the winds would take it thousands of miles, carrying death to distant places in addition to the danger of a boomerang effect on the attacker.”

The author writes from the ruling American angle and the book is besprinkled with the usual excuses to justify war. The H-bomb is being built to “deter aggression and prevent its use against us or our allies.” it is “not to bring Russia to her knees but to her senses.” Production of the bomb has been hurried forward owing to “Korean aggression instigated by the Kremlin.” To renounce it would “condone the advance of the Red Army.”

When President Truman directed that work be continued on the bomb twelve eminent physicists (working in that connection) issued a statement urging that the United States should make a solemn declaration not to be the first to use even the non-rigged bomb on the ground that “it is no longer a weapon of war but a means of extermination of whole populations.” They added: “There can be only one justification for our development of the H-bomb and that is to prevent its use.”

According to Laurence, the scales are heavily balanced in favour of America as regards the vitally necessary deposits of uranium used in the manufacture of the bomb. She has access to the two richest deposits in the world, whereas Russia is working depleted mines and can only develop the H-bomb at the cost of her atom bombs. The book has one informative and interesting chapter on atomic energy. It also gives particulars (and incidentally demonstrates the futility of) of negotiations and proposals between nations from May, 1945, to January, 1950, regarding international control of atomic weapons. Following this President Truman said that the United States would proceed with the development of the hydrogen bomb. This record clearly shows the cleavage between American dominated U.N. and U.S.S.R., and the closing words of the book are indeed poor comfort: “Peace (with Russia) step by step appears to be the only alternative to possible catastrophe. One limited objective after another must become our major policy.” Nevertheless, in spite of the author’s specious arguments we are left with the prospect of war between America and Russia (together with their respective satellites).

According to the Daily Express (18-9-51) President Truman is asking for another appropriation for the H-bomb project, which brought the amount to be spent on it to over the 1,000 million dollar mark. British scientists are also being offered big money to emigrate to the U.S. (Daily Express. 21-1-52) and work for the big new American H-bomb plants.

So this mis-shapen horror child is to be born of that unhappy union between Science and Capitalism. Unlike the atom bomb which cannot be made below or above a certain size, the H-bomb can be made as small or large as the designer wants it. It could be made equal to a million tons of T.N.T. Laurence
argues that “it is no greater evil to destroy thousands of your enemy in one great flash than to destroy them by goring them with bayonets.” He ignores the point of the vastly accelerated and increased method of destruction. No doubt the H-bomb will eventually be used to “save” life by shortening a war, as the atom bombs on Japan.

When the first world war broke out, Lord Grey, the Foreign Secretary, attributed the origin to the “enormous growth of armaments in Europe, the sense of insecurity and fear caused by them; it was these that made war inevitable.” He added. “We must disarm or perish.” (The Listener. 20-12-51.)

In 1936 the late W. M. Hughes. Prime Minister of Australia, said, “Talk about peace in a world armed to the teeth is utterly futile.” (News Chronicle, 25-7-36.) His words were proved true in 1939 and could be again unless the workers of the world unite to overthrow the present form of society that hatches out monstrosities like the H-bomb. Science wedded to Socialism would be working for the good of mankind and not devilish, ingenious means of mass destruction. The workers could welcome and not fear fresh discoveries.

Help us to teach them that they have no quarrel with their fellow workers abroad, that their real enemy is in their midst, the predatory capitalist class which makes nightmares like the H-bomb possible in its pursuit of gain. An enlightened working class can usher in peace and prosperity for the whole world, for always.
F. M. Robins