Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Miners' Masters. (1912)

Editorial from the February 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

The great army of ill-paid workers who face death and disablement in the bowels of the earth have been met with derision when asking for security of a mere pittance. A minimum wage varying with the cost of living and hardly ever exceeding it, is said to be the “end of the industry.”

Though the mine-owners have been piling up huge profits—increased, too, by the strike rumours —they are leaving no stone unturned to “scotch” the disaffected toilers. Idyllic pictures are appearing in the prostituted Press purporting to be the homes of the colliers, but the exaggeration and obvious lying they contain cannot but convince the reader that they are really describing the homes of the managers instead! Mr. D. A. Thomas, the Liberal head of the Cambrian Combine, is roaring and fuming like the Bull of Bashan about the extortion of the miners. His fellow Liberal mine-owners all follow in his train. Sir Charles MacLaren and Sir Alfred Thomas (now Lord Pontypridd), the recent recipient of “honours,” are also Liberal mine-owners. In fact, the Liberal party contains more of them than does the Tory party.

If matters last long enough, we may witness the same methods that have ever been, used to frighten and cow the strikers. The great party of “trust, tempered with prudence,” will answer the cry of the stricken shareholders by despatching police and military.

Some “compromise” in which the workers’ demands are forgotten will no doubt be the one result for some time to come. But the economic pressure, ever present,will force the men again and again into these skirmishes. Until they grasp the Socialist view and wrest political supremacy from their masters very little can be achieved. And the mischievous moonshine about the power of Industrial Unionism or Syndicalism that is being taught amongst the miners will not help matters.

Preach united action by a worker's organisation built on class lines, by all means, but disillusion yourself that even that sound economic action alone can give yon any lasting and efficient victory. In America, where the Western Federation of Miners is strong, where miner’s unions are the backbone of the Federation, you have massacre after massacre by the armed ruffians hired by the Republican Government. Tender children sweat in the most dangerous mines, and wages are but the bare cost of the toilers’ subsistence.

Show the toilers the lines of class cleavage, its cause and the instrument of its perpetuation. Organise them politically for the capture of that instrument for their own purposes, that is, for the overthrow of the present social system and the establishment in its place of the Socialist Commonwealth. That and that alone is the cure for the miners’ misery.

Liberal "Honours." (1912)

Editorial from the February 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

The birthday honours list is a very good example of the fraud of Liberalism. It is only a few years since they knighted Dr. Jameson, the ‘‘hero” of the Jameson raid. Now Lionel Phillips and his colleagues, Neumann and Albu, the great South African multi-millionaires, are to be made baronets. During “the war” the Liberals never tired of denouncing these men as rogues and adventurers, but when their poor dupes had voted them into place and power, they declared these statements to be “terminological inexactitudes.”

The Game of Hell. (1912)

Editorial from the February 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

The fall of the Caillaux Ministry through the disclosures of the Morocco scandal is but another lesson in the sordid nature of our masters’ diplomacy. Here in England the same rotten mess is being made, and even the “Daily News,” Liberal though it is, calls for the resignation of Sir Edward Grey. What childish innocence! Just as if one man, and not the whole Liberal party, is to blame. Just as if every Liberal Minister, from the days of Palmerston’s intrigues with Russia, has not been the same. From the Crimea War to Majuba Hill the same old game was played.

Behind it all lurk the figures of the financial kings of England (or of capitalism), the men who come to the rescue of Governments with their money bags, the men who supply the party funds. Mr. Rothschild loaned Gladstone’s Government, millions at 15 per cent. interest to finance the Suez Canal and other Egyptian ventures ; he thereupon was made Lord Rothschild and Gladstone made war upon a people “rightly struggling to be free,” because they didn’t pay the interest quickly enough.

Russia has been the scene of greater wholesale murder for the past century than perhaps any other European country. That does not prevent our Liberal Government from making secret alliances, and welcoming the bloody Czar of Russia. Now a so-called return Parliamentary visit is being made to Russia, but the swindle is already seen. For instead of a purely Parliamentary deputation, there are representatives of all the great financial interests likely to be concerned in the promoting and building of a trans-Persian railway. Behind all the treaties —"to promote better relations" — there is merely the profit grinding commercialism of the Liberal and Tory capitalist.

As we prophesied in our December issue, Persia is to be the ”happy hunting ground” of English and Russian capitalists, and every obstacle to its annexation is cast aside—hence Mr. Shuster's dismissal. The speedy influx of capital in search of plunder recalls the building of the Cape to Cairo Railway that followed the arrival of Rhodes and his fellow buccaneers in South Africa.

John Bright on Adulteration. (1912)

Letter to the Editors from the February 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

J. B. (Manchester) asks where John Bright made his famous defence of adulteration. We quote the following extract from a speech delivered in his capacity of President of the Board of Trade, on March 5, 1861, in replying to a demand that food inspectors should be appointed.
  “My own impression with regard to this adulteration is, that it arises from the very great and inevitable competition in business. . . .  It is quite impossible that you should have the oversight of the country by inspectors, and that you can organise a body of persons to go into shops to buy sugar, pickles, cayenne, to get them analysed and then to raise complaints against the shopkeepers and bring them before the magistrates. If men in their private business were to be tracked by Government officers every hour of the day, life would not he worth having, and I should recommend them to go to another country, where they would not be subject to such annoyance.''

Asked & Answered. (1912)

Letter to the Editors from the February 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reply to H. Osborne.
Capitalism to-day extends over the major portion of the habitable globe, and includes practically all those territories usually termed “nations.” Hence it is international.

Capitalism is controlled by the capitalist class. The establishment of Socialism is the historic mission of the working class; but Socialism can only be established by abolishing capitalism. From this it follows that the interests of the capitalist class are in direct opposition to those of the working class. These two classes, as classes, have no national boundaries—not only because they exist wherever capitalism reigns, but also because both capitalists and workers wander all over the globe, the one in search of profits, the other in search of a living, through the medium of work.

To establish Socialism the working class have to wrest power from the capitalist class, and therefore the fight for Socialism, and its establishment. must be international.

The I.L.P. is not a Socialist organisation. Its leaders deny the existence of the class struggle outlined above, and, being anxious to retain capitalism under the “State” form by municipalising and nationalising the various industries, they merely extend the error of their fundamental misconceptions when they add the stupid statement that Socialism could be established in one country alone.
Jack Fitzgerald

The German Elections (1912)

Editorial from the February 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

While there is little doubt that underlying all the seething boil of excitement and conflicting emotions which is just now sweeping over Germany, some considerable increment of real Socialist knowledge, opinion and belief exists, those who depend upon mere superficial views are prone to discern in names and numbers much deeper significance than they do in reality possess.

In Germany the fact that every other party, without exception, has from time to time openly supported the Kaiser regime, drives those who, for their own good purposes, are “agin the Government”, to vote for the Social-Democratic candidates.

Thus, whilst the membership of the Social-Democratic Party there is at most 800,000, the voting for their candidates totalled 4½ millions! Their candidates seek votes upon every pretext, from Free Trade to “No indirect taxation”.

Though the Radicals united with the “Blue-Black Bloc” against the “Reds” at the polls in 1907, the Social-Democrats this time advised their supporters to vote Radical during the Second Ballots!

The German Socialist Party includes men like Bernstein, Von Vollmar, and David, who have opposed every principle that Socialism includes – men who openly cry out for standing alliances with the Radicals and other enemies of the Red Flag.

Amid all the piffle and lies appearing in the Liberal Press, the statement that the Social-Democratic Party in Germany occupies a somewhat similar position to that of the Liberal party here is largely true. For the Social Reform rubbish and anti-working class politics preached by the leaders of the Social Democrats there is very similar to the “Advanced Legislation” put forth by Lloyd George, Churchill, Ramsay Macdonald, Philip Snowdon, and the hosts of other Liberal Labour hacks here.

Knowing this only too well, we must discount very heavily the so-called Socialist victories in the recent elections in Germany. A body of supporters got together upon all manner of pretexts can only hang together so long as no important action is taken, and must fall to pieces directly a move is made in the revolutionary direction. In that day of dire disaster, woe betide those who have counted heads in the ballot and put their faith in numbers.

Only those who understand the principles of Socialism can give strength to the revolutionary army. Let ignorance march against us since our foes can turn it against us when they will.

Bernie Sanders and Workers Control (2019)

From the Socialism or Your Money Back blog

The idea of "workers' control" or "industrial democracy" is now being  discussed in American political circles. Even some of the more far-sighted employers now support the idea of "workers' participation” or “worker directors”. Bernie Sanders, the progressive presidential hopeful, is set to introduces plan that encourage employee-owner businesses and would require corporations to reserve a seat at the boardroom table for employees to extend work-place democracy ensure that the work-place have a say in decisions that affect their day-to-day lives. Of course this is not a particularly new proposal. The highly conservative British Civil Service incorporated employee consultation as far back as 1919 when it introduce what is called the Whitley system of management.

It is not the job of socialists to protect the profit advantage of any individual company but to support improvements in the conditions of the workers as a whole and to bring an end to the private profit system altogether. 

Workers control is only meaningful in terms of a socialist economy democratically determined and administered by not just work-places but local communities and larger society otherwise workers’ control means workers are deprived of all effective social control. This entails that ownership of industry cannot remain in the hands of the capitalists. Only common ownership would guarantee workers' management and workers' control in the individual plants. If by “workers’ control” it is meant control of the ownership and distribution of the wealth the workers produce, it obviously cannot be under capitalism. Capitalism is a system based on private ownership; so long as capitalists own, they control.

However, Bernie Sanders is engaged in the re-invention of the wheel, resurrecting ideas from the history of the labour movement and presenting those past ideas as something new. If Sanders wishes to be seen as a genuine socialist he should not be supporting capitalism regardless on how a nice a face has been put on it but rather he should be calling for the abolition of capitalism. Worker-owned enterprises and cooperatives are perfectly compatible with capitalism and operate  like any other business or institution which extracts surplus value and produces for exchange. As nice as Sanders make it sound at the end of the day they remain capitalist enterprises, and as socialists it is vital that we recognize this fact, because if we don't go after the heart of capitalist production then all we end up with is a capitalism-without-capitalists. Operating in a competitive market economy, workers have to exploit themselves as if they were exploited by capitalists. While this may be more palatable, it does change the fact of their subordination to economic processes beyond their control. Profit production and capital accumulation control behaviour and perpetuate the misery and insecurity bound up with it. While there cannot be socialism without workers’ control, neither can there be real workers’ control without socialism. 

To assert that gradual increase of workers’ control in capitalism is an actual possibility merely plays into the hands of the ruling class to disguise their class-rule by false social reforms.