Thursday, May 23, 2019

Are We Utopian? Reply To A Correspondent (1950)

Letters to the Editors from the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Editorial Committee.
Socialist Standard.                                                                                                    
Silsoe, Beds.

Dear Friends,

I have been a regular reader of the Socialist Standard for 10 years, and often subscribe to your funds.

Since you welcome correspondence I write to criticise Gilmac’s article “What Socialism Is” in the March S.S.

He says that under Socialism no one will want those things which can only be produced at the cost of injury to the producer. Few care about the producer, or such things could not be sold, and without a market they would not—even to-day—be made. Assuming that under Socialism industry still depends chiefly on coal for power, will most people be willing to dispense with coal because of the frequent danger and discomfort to the miner? I doubt it.

Without State power, and without armed forces there could not be war; but certainly discord. In the past so-called religious wars men fought for their beliefs, whatever the economic motives of the governments commanding them; and I understand that even to-day the religious difference between Northern Ireland and Eire is strong enough to survive the political frontier between them.

Gilmac continues, “there will be no prisons, police, warders, etc.” Not all offences against the present law are offences against private property. For instance, murder has often been done entirely to make way for a second marriage. Will Socialism relieve us of unsocial behaviour by individuals here and there so serious that the community must impose violent restraint?

I infer that the man will always consider society before himself. If so he will have advanced in social consciousness as well as in the knowledge and intelligence which make him a Socialist. If this is inevitable I should like to be convinced of it. One reason why I desire Socialism is because it would be a better life for me. and it is not moral superiority which makes me a sympathiser with the S.P.G.B.

Gilmac pictures the Socialist world as very Utopian, and it seems a pity to sound so unrealistic. Nor is this necessary, for whatever evils may survive under Socialism will be the merest fraction of those it will remove.

I shall be grateful for your reply, and I think it will answer the unexpressed thoughts of other readers of the Socialist Standard.
Yours truly,
G. K. Strachan.

Under Capitalism the aim is to make a profit out of what is produced and to reduce costs accordingly. Under Socialism no effort would be spared that would make work as comfortable and as enjoyable as possible. Taking our correspondent’s assumption that industry would still depend chiefly upon coal for power (an assumption with which we do not agree, as power can be got from many other sources) coal would be mined where it was easiest, with tools that deprived it of labouriousness and danger and with spells and rotation of work that deprived it of its harmfulness. Neither speed of production nor location would concern society in the way it does to-day.

All wars have sprung from economic motives. Speaking accurately there have been no religious wars; they have only been, as our correspondent rightly puts it. “so-called religious wars.” The economic motives have been cloaked by religion just as the last war was cloaked by such things as a fight for democracy. The motives are there even though the participants may not be conscious of them. If our correspondent knew a little more of the history of Ireland he would realise the part economic motives had played. What, on the surface, appears to him to be a conflict between Protestants and Catholics commenced as land grabbing by groups from outside.

Our correspondent sees the effects but not the cause. All offences against the present law, as well as the present marriage system, spring from private-property society. Conditions in a free society, where everyone has social security, will eliminate unsocial behaviour that might have serious consequences. What our correspondent possibly has in mind is people who may suffer mental injury or mental disease which would lead them to commit violent actions. Assuming that such things occurred they would affect such a trifling number of people that society could deal with them without the need for prisons, police, warders, etc.

In thinking about what Socialism will be like our correspondent should realise what will be the outlook of those who establish Socialism and what Socialism itself will involve. Conditions determine the behaviour of people. When the mass of people have decided to abolish the conditions that cramp their minds and bodies they will already have recognised the evil of unsocial behaviour and the value to themselves of social behaviour. When the new society has got upon its feet the conditions that breed unsocial behaviour will have disappeared. Some inkling of this can be gained by the behaviour of people in tribal societies although tribal society is far short of the conditions that will obtain under Socialism.

What the present writer was doing in the article criticised was simply painting a realistic picture of the future based upon an understanding of the present and what was emerging from the present, in spite of “whatever evils may survive under Socialism will be the merest fraction of those it will remove.”

If our correspondent will examine the article again, in the light of what has been set down here, he will see that it simply points to the evils that will be removed, why they will be removed—because they only arise out of private-property society—and what will be left after their removal. He has mistaken a statement of facts and logical inferences for a beautiful dream!

Party News Briefs (1950)

Party News from the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Glasgow Branch at the start of the year found itself in serious difficulties in that it had lost, by transfer to Kelvingrove Branch, a proportion of its active members. The extent to which the branch faced up to the problem is evidenced by the increased general activity and the fact that 17 propaganda meetings were held in the quarter January-March. Included in this total are three addresses to other organisations and two debates, one with the 'Workers Open Forum' on a question of Parliament and the other with the 'Church of God ’ on the question 'Socialism or Religion?'

With this renewed extension of branch activities there is solid reason for taking a bright view of further development. Immediate plans include a literature sales drive and a rally to be held on May Day (May 7th) in the commodious and popular Cosmo Cinema.

A further attempt is being made to encourage the hitherto coy Labour and Tory M.P.s in the West of Scotland to debate with a representative of the S.P.G.B. Some years ago challenges were sent to every M.P. in Glasgow, and one Tory M.P. accepted. The “firebrands ” of yesteryear, the McGovern crew, lacked the grace to even acknowledge receipt of the challenge. This time the Glasgow Branch members hope to be luckier.

Leyton Branch is holding a MAY DAY rally at Coronation Gardens in Leyton High Road on May 1st at 7.30 p.m. The branch is operating a scheme to send the Socialist Standard together with a list of local activities, with details, to ex-members and everyone who may be interested. The interest of some old members has been rekindled and a number of other contacts have become interested. The branch is continuing its fortnightly lectures at the branch meeting place. During May they will be held on the 2nd and 4th Monday evenings.

West Ham Branch has appointed its own Parliamentary Committee. An attempt to build this committee on a ward basis was not encouraging. Now, four enthusiastic members form the committee and are getting everything set in preparation for the next election fight. In particular the committee is considering means of effecting economy of effort and finance in the next campaign. The regular meetings at the Cock Hotel commenced on Sunday, the 16th of April.

Our Summer School this year will be held at Tree Tops Holiday Camp as it was last year. The camp is to be booked for Saturday and Sunday, June 10th and 11th, and accommodation to be arranged for 75 students. The same sports and social facilities that were available last year will again be at the disposal of all visitors as well as the school lectures and discussions. It is proposed that one discussion shall be on the subject of methods of fighting elections. Full details of all arrangements will be announced in the next issue of the Socialist Standard. In the meantime, those who wish to be assured of accommodation at the school should contact the Central Organiser.

Head Office Library is in a state of flux. Old and less useful books are being eliminated and, as far as possible, are being replaced by new ones that are beneficial to borrowers. The Librarians are trying to duplicate or triplicate the books that are used at the Economics classes. The pamphlets department of the library is being enlarged. Members and friends who have spare copies or early Party pamphlets are urged to subscribe them to the library.

The Socialist Party of Ireland members who visited us during our Annual Conference period sold over 200 copies of their recently issued manifesto. Three of them spoke in Hyde Park on Sunday, April 9th, and a comrade from Cornwall spoke at Lincolns Inn Fields on Tuesday, April 11th. All of them acquitted themselves well and are congratulated by London members who listened to them.

Collections at our Conference amounted to £45 13s. 1d. First day collection was £11 10s. 6d., second day £5 18s. 6d., and third day £4 16s. 9d. The collection at the rally on Sunday, April 9th, was £23 7s. 4d. Details of income from catering, raffles and the Saturday evening social and dance are not yet available.

The Literature Committee reports an increase in the number of Socialist Standard subscribers following the inclusion of a subscription form in a recent issue of our paper.

A History of the S.P.G.B. and companion Parties has engaged the attention of the Executive Committee following a recommendation from Conference. An ex-member, now resident in South Africa, made the suggestion that such a history should be compiled and his letter was read to the delegates at the Conference. The Executive Committee considered that such a work would be extremely valuable but that it would require full time work by some comrade who was in a position to collect and collate all the material. As most of the members who are best situated to devote themselves to such work are already engaged to the full in Party work, and as the E.C. was unable to delegate the task to anyone, the matter is held in abeyance.

Ballot Papers for the annual election of our Party officers are to be printed. The Executive Committee has decided to implement the Conference recommendation to send out these ballot papers direct to every member from Head Office instead, as at present, sending them to branch secretaries. Each ballot paper will be accompanied by a pre-paid postage, addressed envelope for its return to the Ballot Committee at Head Office. This practice will operate next year commencing with the election of officers for 1951.

The Amendments to the Declaration of Principles proposed by the World Socialist Party of United States was duplicated and sent out to our members some time ago. Our companion Party in America was requested to send us a reasoned statement for the proposed change. This has been received and is also to be circulated to the membership of the S.P.G.B. The letter received from the W.S.P. of U.S. states that the proposed amendments have been rejected by the members of that party through a referendum, but as the matter is likely to be raised again it is considered advisable to keep all our members informed.

Our Dagenham and Romford branch was dissolved some months ago following the decline of the branch due to its members being dispersed around the country during the war years. Some of these members have now returned to the south Essex area and an attempt is to be made to re-form the branch. All such members and anyone else interested are requested to contact Comrade F. Johnson at “ EREHWON,” The Mount, Noak Hill, Essex, or Comrade W. Waters at Head Office.
W. Waters.

Misery From Surplus: Profit From Disaster (1950)

Editorial from the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since the end of the war a battle of words has been going on between those, like Lord Boyd Orr, who were alarmed about the danger of world starvation through growing population and low production of food and those who said that it was merely a short-term deficiency that would soon right itself. Among the optimists the lead was taken by the Express group of newspapers whose editors scoffed at the “prophets of disaster.” In this wordy warfare the early battles were won by Boyd Orr’s army and he succeeded in impressing his views on many Governments and international agencies but lately the tide has turned and the Express is now celebrating its victory. A Daily Express editorial (12th April, 1950) fires the following salvo at Boyd Orr: —
  “At this moment the United States Administration has 76,000,000 lb. of dried eggs in store and does not know what to do with them. It has 50,000,000 tons of potatoes. It is the embarrassed owner of a wheat surplus sufficient to bake 12 loaves for every man, woman, and child in the world. It has enormous surpluses of butter, prunes, dried milk, cheese, rice, and countless other articles of food. The American Government is at its wits' end to know what to do with those stocks of food—particularly the perishable varieties. Almost without noticing the transformation, the world has swung from the shortages of wartime to sufficiency—to abundance—to glut! How foolish the calamity howlers look in the new age of food plenty!”
The Express goes on to appeal to the Minister of Food to get rid of rationing, bulk purchasing “and every other barrier between the British housewife and the world of plenty.”

It all looks very simple and unanswerable but in fact both of these schools of thought are wrong, they both leave out of account the world of capitalism that we live in. As they see the problem the world sometimes has too much and sometimes too little, or there is too much in one part of the world and too little in another—a food surplus in America and starving millions in China; not to mention the harassed British housewife whose votes the Conservative Express wishes to win at the next election. The real barrier between people's needs and the things they want but can’t afford to buy is a class barrier. Neither in China nor anywhere else do the wealthy go without food or other things they want but in America itself, as another correspondent reports, “American housewives would take up the surplus at cheap prices. But sale to them below the current high price levels in banned. . . Millions of poor Americans are deprived of cheap food.” (People, 26th March, 1950). Thus correspondent reports the recent discovery of 100 children who were starving in Arizona; “The cold weather had thrown their fruit-picking parents into the ranks of America’s 4,684,000 unemployed.”

The crazy situation is one of those necessary results of capitalism. Food stuffs and all other articles are produced for sale in order to make profit, not with human needs in mind. If there is more produced than can be sold at profitable prices to those who have the money to buy, then prices fall and production is curtailed. In the crisis of the nineteen thirties we were told that the unemployment of industrial workers was due to the low world prices of food; the farmers were facing bankruptcy and could not buy industrial products. Then in the years immediately after the second world war we were told that the austerities imposed on British and other industrial workers were due to the excessive world prices of foodstuffs due to scarcity. The high prices encouraged more food production and now we are facing another glut which will again hit food producers. It was to ward this off that the American Government introduced the policy of paying high prices to American farmers and of putting their produce into store, with, as a result, the Gilbertian situation that has now arisen. The Manchester Guardian (14th April, 1950) has the following comment on it.
  “Nature is after all turning out not too unkind to the United States Government. The problem is the surplus of crops such as wheat, which under the price- support programme the Government has been having in effect to buy from the American farmers in order to build up stocks that cannot be sold. To prevent its financial commitments from growing still heavier the Government a few months ago got the farmers to agree to sow 15 per cent less winter wheat than they did the year before. But then the weather proved exceptionally good; it seemed likely that after all the crop from the reduced planting would be almost as high as last year’s. Lately, however, dry weather, dust storms, and insect damage in the south and centre of the Great Plains have come to the rescue. This month’s official crop report estimates that the harvest will after all be 15 per cent smaller than last year’s. The issue is still, of course, in doubt. A wickedly smiling Nature in the next few months may force the estimates up again; on the other hand, the insects and the rest may remain obliging.”
One of America’s problems is too many potatoes. The Government pays the farmer the guaranteed price for his potato crop on the farm, then the farmer pays a trifling price to the Government and buys them back again, but only on condition that he does not sell them in the market but uses them as animal feeding stuff. He can if he likes let them rot. Some potatoes are painted with blue dye so that they cannot illicitly be sold to the public for human consumption.

The truth is that capitalism can produce a surplus in terms of the market, the final result of which will be a cutting down of production, but it never has produced enough of all the things human beings need to satisfy their requirements.

The powers of production reached under capitalism could, if fully used and if devoted to human needs instead of being largely wasted on armaments, etc., satisfy all the requirements of the human race. But to allow them to be so used would wreck the complex and delicate marketing and profit-making organisation of the capitalist system.

The Shape of Things to Come (1950)

From the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

An American invention, “Maddida,” the mechanical foreman, may open the way to robot factories, producing goods without human help, according to its inventor.

Maddida—its name is short for “magnetic drum digital differential analyses”—is a computing device which can take information from other machines, interpret it, and run the machines, says Reuter from New Brunswick.

Mr. Heyd Steele, 31-year-old physicist, who showed the machine at Rutgers University, said Maddida could do the work of a full aircraft crew, and handle 4,500 additions to eight-place decimals per second, working to an accuracy of one part in a million.

Maddida is the size of a pin-table. If the foreman should go wrong, a robot “doctor,” also shown at Rutgers, can diagnose the trouble. The above was a news item in South Wales Evening Post (29.3.50).

This news should be most encouraging for the unemployed, for would-be foremen, and other aspirants for promotion.

However, under a condition of Socialism such inventions will be welcomed.

Then each labour-saving device will mean more leisure for the community, and not, as now, longer dole queues, or other pleasantries of Capitalism.
P. J. Mellor.

To the Electors of East Ham (1950)

Party News from the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the recent election campaign many workers who attended our meetings in the East Ham South constituency passed such remarks as “The case put by the S.P.G.B. is sound, BUT . . .” or “I would support you IF . . . .” Such statements imply a recognition that Socialism, offers the only remedy to present-day social evils together with a vague doubt as to how or when it can be established. The IFs and BUTs show that the full significance of the Socialist alternative, the means by which it will be achieved and its place in the process of social evolution has not been completely grasped. The West Ham Branch wants to clear away all doubts, its wants to prove our case to the hilt. So it offers the facilities of its meetings to all workers in the area to help them clear away the cobwebs from their political thinking. Branch meetings are held at the Salisbury Road Schools (behind the “Earl of Essex” at Manor Park) every Thursday evening at 8 o’clock. A discussion follows every business meeting and special meetings of an educational nature are being arranged. All East and West Ham workers who attend will receive a warm welcome and will have all their questions answered in a comradely atmosphere. Don’t wait until the next election to get the “low down” on the many political sharks who will then be seeking their prey and cadging your vote. Get them in line and learn how you can take your place in the struggle to end wars, the wages system, class society and all the consequences that you abhor.

Annual Conference (1950)

Party News from the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

What a difference our conferences are from those of other organisations. Our conferences are the means by which the membership exercises democratic control over the Party. All delegates come with the instructions of their branches. These they have to obey whether they agree with them or not. Now look, for example, at a Trade Union conference. This is opened with a flourish by the Presidential address. In this address the struggle of the workers on the industrial field is generally secondary. Rather the President deals with Government policy in foreign affairs, or, as in more recent times, gives support to such anti-working class measures as wage-freezing. The conference is then studded with speeches by the “stars” and the ordinary delegates find it difficult to get a word in. Our conferences belong to the Party and the Party runs them. They provide a vivid example of democracy in action.

A very wide range of subjects was covered by our conference this year. Literature, Party funds, propaganda and electoral action were among subjects that received careful consideration. The Party literature was discussed at length, the present literature being critically examined and also receiving support. Finally the conference recommended to the Executive Committee that they should explore the possibilities of. publishing a weekly paper.

On electoral action the conference expressed its wholehearted support of this form of activity. The delegates were obviously undeterred by the small number of votes received at the last election, not expecting larger votes at the present stage of working-class development They recommended to the Executive Committee that, providing the next General Election did not take place until May, we should place at least two candidates in the field.

Another item of interest was the question of Head Office premises. It appears that our present tenancy of our Head Office premises is somewhat insecure. A member of the Premises Committee suggested that we should consider purchasing premises, and, while no action was taken on this, it will undoubtedly engage the attention of the Executive Committee.

During the conference greetings were given by Comrades A. Fahy and M. Cullen of Dublin and J. Kane of Belfast from that most recent member of the Socialist world family. The Socialist Party of Ireland. Greetings messages were also read from South Africa. New Zealand, and Austria, the message from Austria being particularly encouraging, telling as it did of the activities of a group there.

On the Saturday evening members and sympathisers unbent in a dance and re-union. After this, no one could say that Socialists are always severe, stiff-lipped revolutionaries. We do sometimes let our hair down.

On the Sunday evening the conference was concluded by a rally in the Conway Hall. There was a large audience who listened attentively to J. Kane, J. Higgins, C. Groves and H. Young. Kane dealt with the struggle in Ireland, Higgins with some aspects of our Party history. Groves with high lights of the conference and Young talked about Socialism and Science.

We had a very good conference and we come back into the struggle with renewed vigour, determined to put an end to the vile system we live under now, and establish a world in which men can live as men and not as lower forms of animals. 
Clifford Groves.

Puzzle Corner (1950)

From the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

If you do not know who spoke the following words of wisdom you will find the names below. Remember them when these people or others of their kind make you promises in order to enlist your support

(1) “Capitalism is now, we are told, well on the road to permanent recovery; all talk of breakdown, of impending wars and revolutions is now happily out of date; an epoch of peace and plenty is opening out before us. What are we to say to scientists who give way to such 'wishful thinking’? A dozen times now the cycle of boom, crisis, depression, recovery, boom, crisis has gone through its phases, and as each crisis has passed into depression, and then as symptoms of recovery have appeared to lighten the depression, the shallower prophets of capitalism have told us at length, but now for ever, all was well. Do they still believe it? Certainly we cannot.
  “Unfortunately, however, as we have seen, whatever else may happen upon this uncertain planet, the establishment of a planned stable and high-wage-paying Capitalism is impossible.

(2) “It is impossible for the capitalist system to give to the workers the rewards that are promised under a policy of social reform. It is impossible . . .  to carry out a policy of getting as much as we can out of Capitalism, it will lead to a fresh crisis in Capitalism as arose in 1931, and we shall find that the force of economic power still residing in the hands of the capitalists will again be called in to defeat the workers' Government.”

(3) “Unlike the investors of capital, the investors of labour cannot cash in on any accumulation of wealth they have helped to create'.
   “It is doubtful if this injustice will be remedied within a capitalist structure."
W. Waters.

Puzzle Corner Answers.
(1) Mr. John Strachey, M.P., Minister for War in the present Government, in his book “The Nature of Capitalist Crisis,” pages 19 and 354.
(2) Sir Stafford Cripps, Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking at the Labour Party Conference at Southport in 1934 (page 159 of the conference report).
(3) Mr. Arthur Deakin, General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, writing in “Tribune,” May 14th, 1943.

An Inspector Calls (1950)

J. B. Priestley
From the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Recently the B.B.C. broadcast a play by J. B. Priestley entitled “An Inspector Calls.” It concerned an influential capitalist and his family who are visited by a police inspector, who is enquiring into the tragic suicide of a young girl.

It would appear that all the members of the family had at one time or another known this girl, and, it became apparent as the inspector questioned them, that each one had in some way contributed to the circumstances that led to her miserable end.

The capitalist had employed her in his works but had dismissal her for her part in a wage strike. His daughter had been responsible for her dismissal from her next job in a gown shop, and his son had discovered her on the streets where poverty had driven her, and left her pregnant and destitute. Finally the wretched girl turned in desperation to the local charitable institution for fallen women. But alas! even this miserable crumb was refused her, largely due to the vindictive and respectable spouse of the capitalist, who happened to be a prominent and influential member of the committee.

The police inspector then reveals himself as a moralist in disguise and proceeds to denounce this family, who, hidden under a veil of respectability, were capable of so shamefully treating a fellow human being. This attitude, the bogus inspector claims, will bring dire and terrible results to society unless people do not quickly have a change of heart. If only the wicked capitalist had not victimised the wretched girl for striking for more money, if only the young man had contained his sensual desires, if only people would stop persecuting others and learn to live harmoniously, man helping man instead of kicking each other in the posterior on every available opportunity—and so on, the world would be a better place. This is the gist of the moralist's attitude towards human behaviour, assuming all the time that it is man and not society which decides his relationship with his fellows. The Socialist recognises that man’s relations to man are dependent on very material conditions. In other words, our behaviour, our morals, even the way in which we amuse ourselves, can be related to the method which society employs at the present time to produce and distribute the things we need.

Man is not born with an inherent instinct to perform all the most insidious and diabolical cruelties to his fellow creatures. The capitalist does not oppose workers’ demands for higher wages and better conditions because of a desire to see millions of people squirm in poverty, filth and degradation. His economic position dictates his policy and if he ignored the rules he would soon find himself ousted from the markets by more astute members of his class, and possibly flung into the exploited class himself.

It is the capitalist system with all its ridiculous contradictions and anomalies that puts class against class, race against race and nation against nation. It is the capitalist system that twists and perverts people’s sense of values so that they are shocked and disgusted at an unmarried mother but accept and condone the mass murder and butchering of millions of helpless people.

You do not need to delve into the mysterious labyrinth of the human mind to discover the reason for man’s inhumanity to man. The fault lies not in man but in man’s inability at the moment to understand and grapple with the economic machine which dominates his whole outlook and relationship with his fellow beings. Once man has discovered the real cause of his problems, there is no power on earth that can stop him sweeping away capitalism and introducing a new form of society based upon different economic laws.

This will not only abolish man’s persecution of man but also the economic problems of war, insecurity and want. These things are the root of all the mental phenomena and disarrangements which our psychologists and moralists would have us believe can be cured and finally abolished if only we could learn to control ourselves a little better.
G. L.

That's Different (1950)

A Classic Reprint from the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

A man with an ax flew by Socrates, chasing another man :

“Stop him! Stop him!” cried he of the weapon. “He’s a murderer!”

But the old sage wasn’t taking any chances, and jogged along imperturbably.

“You fool!” quoth he of the ax. “Why didn’t you stop him? He’s a murderer, I tell you!”

“A murderer! What’s a murderer?”

“ Fool! One that kills, of course.”

“Ah! a butcher.”

No, idiot! That’s different. One that kills a man.”

“ Oh! Ah, a soldier.”

No! No! That’s different altogether. One that kills a man in times of peace!”

“A hangman!”

No! No! No! That’s different. One that kills a man in his house!”

“ A doctor, then!”

No! No! No! No! No! That’s different”

Running along after him (2,000 years after) comes another man with flaming eyes : “Stop him! Stop him!” he cries, pointing to something he sees, or thinks he sees, ahead of him. “Stop him! He’s a Socialist!”

“A Socialist! What’s a Socialist?”

“Why a believer in state industries, of course.”

“ Oh. I see? The railways, post offices, customs, drains, and all that.”

“No, that’s different! I mean competing against private enterprise.”

Oh! schools, universities, and the like.”

“No! No! That’s different. I mean state trading. The fellows that expect everything done for them by the state! A loafer that wants to share the earnings of the industrious workers!”

Ah! Ah! A nobleman who has inherited land.” 

“No! No! That’s different. I mean—.”
Sydney Bulletin
(The above is reprinted from the Socialist Standard, September, 1909).

While Capitalism Lasts (1950)

From the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the socialist worker asserted that the condition of the working class in capitalist society grows steadily worse, his work-mates just can't make it out. They compare certain aspects of their way of living with those of their fathers or to their earlier days and disagree. The socialist explains that the difference between the conditions and ways of living in the past and those at present make it very difficult to draw any comparison. It is a very controversial question, whether it is preferable to listen to “Wilfred Pickles" and “Ignorance is Bliss” whilst living under the constant threat of the H-bomb or to be without the radio and occasionally hear the distant rumble of cannon; to succumb to some illness because there are no such things as M. and B. tablets or to live to be shrivelled up by an intense heat many times greater than that existing in the centre of the sun. The Socialist viewpoint is that the only way to estimate the progress made by the working class in society is in relation to the wealth they produce, or in relation to the wealth they could produce with the existing productive forces. From this aspect, what they receive in relation to what they produce, the standard of life they have compared with what they could have, the working class are worse off than they ever were. When workmates hear this they say, “Well, I suppose, looking at it that way, you’re right, but things are a bit better.”

They can't have their cake and eat it. Two Labour weeklies, the “Tribune” of March 5th, and the “Forward” of March 11th, quoted Mr. John Kenney, Chief of E.C A. Mission to Britain, in his report to U.S. Congress as a tribute to the Labour Government’s achievements:—
  “The voluntary policy of restraint in seeking wage increases followed by the Trade Union Congress has resulted in wage increases of slightly over 1 per cent, during 1949, even in the face of a higher cost of living caused by devaluation and a 5 per cent. increase in industrial productivity.” (“Forward,” March 11th, 1950.)
An achievement in the interests of the capitalist class, but, for the working class, a smaller share of the wealth, in relation to what they produce.

And just to make doubly sure that there is no doubt to which camp the Labour Government belongs, the further statements from the report are helpful: —
  “About 20 per cent. of her total resources available in the present fiscal year is being devoted to capital formation.
  “By greatly increasing her total production and by diverting an unusually large part of it into investment, Britain, with foreign assistance, has been making good these war-time losses, and is now approaching the pre-war level of capital. This programme of capital formation is a real stride towards economic recovery.” (“Forward,” March 11th, 1950.)
Capital is wealth used to extract profit. Profit arises from the difference between what the workers produce and what they receive, in other words from the exploitation, the robbery, of the working class. So more capital formation means more working-class exploitation.

Do the parties of Capitalism offer any change to this continuing deterioration of the position of the working class in society? In their election manifesto both Tory and Labour pledged themselves to increase production and lower costs. Labour maintains this can be done better by nationalisation and controls. The Tories claim that free enterprise and a minimum of State interference is the better method.

For the working class, increased production means working harder, and lower costs means less wages, at least less wages in relation to what they produce. While Capitalism lasts these conditions will remain. The only alternative is to study socialist propaganda and equip yourselves with the knowledge necessary to abolish Capitalism and establish Socialism.
Jim Thorburn