Friday, May 31, 2019

From Our Branches. (1904)

Party News from the October 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard
Reports from Branches for insertion under this heading must be in before the 20th of each month, otherwise they cannot appear.
Battersea.
Sick and weary of the conflicting tactics and vacillating policy of the S.D.F., the members of this branch, some of them veterans in the Socialist movement, were among the first to come and raise the red flag from the mire through which it was being dragged, and are proud of having assisted in the formation of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, which now so worthily bears that flag aloft. To combat the confusing effects of the compromise and opportunism of the S.D.F. as well as the influence of that Tammany Hall-like organisation of the "Statesman of Labour” and his “heelers," we have all through the summer conducted a vigorous campaign, holding three propaganda meetings every Sunday, besides the usual weeknight meetings. As a result we are able to report a gratifying increase in membership. In addition we have an Economic Class, meeting on Thursdays, and a History Class, meeting on Fridays, both commencing at 8 pm., to which all members of the party are heartily invited. The only condition of membership is regular attendance.

We of the Battersea branch fully realise that all our time and energies are required for the work of educating the workers to a clear conception of the causes of their misery, and of organising them so that they will concentrate all their efforts upon the capture of the political machine which is held and used by the master class as an instrument of oppression and exploitation. We have no time, therefore, to waste in appeals to the capitalist class for measures of reform, because we know that nothing short of complete economic freedom, and nothing short of the overthrow of capitalism, will put an end to the system under which the robbery and oppression of the worker goes on.

No, comrades, what we want the oppressor will never give. The workers themselves must achieve their emancipation. “He who would be free must himself strike the blow." It is our part to show the worker how the blow must be struck.

We echo the cry of our comrade Lehane. The watchword is Onward ! to the Socialist Republic. —The Man with the Red Flag.


East London.
This branch is not very large in numbers, but we try to make up by energy what we lack in that respect. The district we are working is, perhaps, the most poverty-stricken in the metropolis, and should by a lot of hard work and well organised, offer good ground to spread the seed of Socialism and build up a strong branch of The Socialist Party.

The far eastern portion, viz., Poplar, Bromley, Stepney, is the hot-bed of the alleged Labour leader, who. so far as possible, does everything to confuse the minds of the working class as to their correct position, and as a consequence the working class are apathetic and indiffercnt regarding their social welfare.

The work of this branch is to give a clear exposition of the conflict of interests between the working class and the master class, which in this district is made most intensely manifest, to arouse that enthusiasm which arises from class consciousness, and to organise the workers into The Socialist Party determined to wage war against Capitalism and all its supporters, with the ultimate object of securing its complete overthrow.—W.Woodhouse.


Edmonton
One of our most successful meetings was held on Sept. 4, addressed by Comrade Lehane. I mention it particularly because at that meeting we introduced The Socialist Standard and sold it in large numbers, because the current issue of Justice had a reference to us in which the comic element strove in vain to outdo the false, but which our comrade, a comparative stranger to the local circumstances, was easily able to thoroughly discredit; and also because as a result of the foregoing, the meeting was made the occasion of those silly S.D.F. attacks we had hoped were things of the past. We realise that for some time to come considerable clearing away of misconceptions will be necessary before the Socialist party shall reap the full reward of its labour.—A. Anderson.


Fulham.
Despite the fact that we have had to open up a station for our open-air work, our propaganda meetings have been well attended; the number of The Socialist Standard we have been able to dispose of being very good, considering the disadvantages under which we have laboured. Judged by the character of the questions we are called upon to answer, especially in regard to alleged labour and semi-Socialist bodies, our work is beginning to tell, and there is every possibility of our numerical strength, small though it is at present, being considerably augmented in the near future. If all good Socialists, attached or unattached, would but appreciate the importance of being associated with an organisation such as ours, based as it is upon sound principles, and pursuing as it does a straight and clearly defined policy, how much more effectively would we be able to accomplish the work we are called upon to do in this district! However, we have made a commencement, and are on the way to overtake, perhaps to beat even, the Islington record.

We are endeavouring to have a series of meetings at Fulham Cross on Thursday evenings at 8.30, and if any speaker happens along that way we shall be pleased to greet him and utilise his services.—E. J. B. Allen, Sec.


Islington.
The Comrades of “Merrie Islington” are certainly justifying their existence as a branch of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and can, without undue egotism, look back upon a month’s hard propaganda and feel highly satisfied with the results thereof.

Our morning meeting of Sunday, September 4th, in Finsbury Park, established, I believe, a record for the party. A large audience listened while Comrade Lehane stated the case for Socialism as the only solution for the many evils and problems that exist around us, and at the close of the address subscribed 15s. 4½d. to our war chest, besides purchasing 8 pamphlets and 69 copies of The Socialist Standard. The rest of our Sunday meetings, although not quite such financial successes, have resulted in good sales of literature. Plenty of questions are always forthcoming, and are always satisfactorily dealt with.

Wednesday evening meetings at Highbury Comer are also making good progress, in fact, the encouraging feature of all our meetings is the increasing number of men who stay throughout, buying our pamphlets and putting questions, while in the result some have reached that stage where they deem it to be their duty to join us and help in the fight.

All things considered, we are going strong. Since our formation we have had the best mass meeting, the best ordinary propaganda meeting, our list of guarantees for the Press Fund is the highest, we have accounted for 247 copies of the paper, and we believe that by the end of the season our number of recruits will be the greatest of all the branches. To put it briefly, the Islington Branch of the S.P.G.B. promises to be the “greatest thing on earth.”
A. E. Dowdeswell, Branch Reporter.


Peckham.
I can with pleasure review the work put in by our members during the last month. We have good branch meetings and members turn up well at our propaganda meetings. On Peckham Rye on Sundays it is sometimes difficult to get a meeting at first; but we always succeed eventually. Take last Sunday as an instance: E. J. B. Allen gave an effective lecture; he was followed by H. Martin and H. Belsey. The audience showing no inclination to disperse Allen continued and finished up. Some good spade work by means of impromptu discussion followed; by this means new members have been made.

I should like to call the attention of all comrades to our Friday evening discussions, which take place at our branch rooms, 33, High Street. We promise all comrades and friends who attend these discussions an enjoyable evening; like Oliver Twist, they will want more.

We have been pushing The Socialist Standard well, and have already sold over 200 copies, and if we do not sell out our stock it will not be our fault.—W. Russell.


Watford.
A month of plodding endeavour, with good meetings every Sunday—good in point of attendance, good in point of literature sales, with good speakers stating the case for inadjectival Socialism so clearly that a wayfaring man though a fool could not make a mistake as to the issues.

As well as may be, we are doing the work the Socialist is called upon to do—the preliminary spade work necessary to the organisation of a class conscious working class party—and doing it in face of the added difficulties that the existence of a perfect shoal of peddling reform parties—born of the ill-informed and misdirected exuberance of a few local reformers—inevitably create.

For a comparatively small town the number of these parties is, to put it mildly, abnormal, and it is no great wonder that, with so much to distract and divert their attention from the consideration of the real problem underlying their condition, the workers should not readily appreciate their class standing and the necessity for organisation upon the basis of the class struggle as the indispensable condition of successful conflict with capitalism.

If our ardent local new-party mongers (a brand new reforming body is turned out about every month) would but stop to think sometimes, they might be able to understand that every one of the insignificant and ludicrous little parties is simply a further factor making for working class confusion—simply one more division of the available working class intelligence that might otherwise be focussed upon first causes of, and real remedies for, working class ills; one more obstacle that will have to be overcome before Labour can enter into its own.

What the workers of Watford and elsewhere want is a straight lead upon a clear issue, and it is precisely because they have never had the one given them, and the other kept plainly before them ; it is precisely because they have been led to follow the fantasy of reform, and have found themselves at the end of their journey in very much the position they formerly occupied, that they to-day are sullen, disconsolate, and recalcitrant.

And so the reformer must go into the category of working class enemies, and must be fought as strenuously as the hard-grained proletarian ignorance and apathy, the more so because he is the apathy producer, the ignorance perpetuator.—Alec Gray.


West Ham.
Going strong! Held meetings every Sunday night, with one exception (speaker disappointed) since last report. Standard and pamphlets selling well, latter a good sign. Assisted with meetings at Poplar and Ilford. At latter place the Romford Division Branch has been formed. We are now endeavouring to arrange a combined attack of the two branches (West Ham and Romford) upon the new town of East Ham, where a Socialist Party is urgently needed, the distress being very great. Unemployed demonstrations and deputations to the Council have already started. The numbers of the unemployed all over the area covered by the West Ham Union are already growing rapidly, so that they promise to be very large indeed as soon as winter sets in. I should not be surprised if the local administrative bodies do not find that they have a little more than they can handle when they attempt to deal with the “Unemployed question” this year.—G. J. Hodson


Wood Green.
Since my last report, in addition to excellent meetings on Jolly Butchers' Hill, we have extended our activities to the West Green Corner of High Road, Tottenham. Our first meeting on this spot was held on Sunday evening, Sept. 4, and was certainly a success both from the standpoint of numbers and of interest, as shown by questions touching our principles. The Socialist Standard sold well. Meetings have been held every Sunday since with equal success, and in the very near future the Tottenham Branch of the party will surely be formed.— John Crump.


Printed by Jacomb Bros., 2a, Wingfield Road, Stratford, E. for the Proprietors, The Socialist Party of Great Britain. Published by C. Lehane, Secretary, Communist Club, Charlotte St., W.



A Look Round. (1904)

From the October 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

Chamberlain has evidently undermined the economic basis of the Shoreditch Branch of the S.D.F. The members have resolved :
  "That being cognisant of the great distress our fellow-workers in London, owing to the inevitable depression in trade, call upon the L.C.C. to have the building of the steamboats for the Thames traffic carried out as far as possible on the Thames, thereby alleviating to some extent the suffering of the workers of this great metropolis.”
#    #    #    #

This contribution towards the solution of the unemployed problem will, doubtless, receive due consideration from the L.C.C. and the Tariff Reform League. For an alleged Socialist organisation to advocate Preferential Treatment or Protection in this manner, and to suggest dealing with the “inevitable” unemployed problem in one locality by creating or intensifying it in another, qualifies it for membership of the Capitalists’ Kidders’ Conglomeration. We shall watch to see whether they join the Chamberlain or General Booth faction.

#    #    #    #

The Clarion and Labour Leader are concerned at the position of W. C. Steadman, an adopted candidate of the L.R.C., whom the Daily News announces as the Liberal candidate for Finsbury, which he certainly is, and who is reported to have urged the workers of Stepney to strike a blow at the Government by returning the Liberal candidate. But when has Steadman been anything but a decoy duck for the Liberal faction of the master class? Twelve months ago Tribune (West Ham) contained a letter which had been sent to W. Thorne’s Election Committee, part of which read as follows :—
  "If members of the S.D.F. accept the aid of W. C. Steadman, who runs as a Liberal Labour candidate, then I consider they are morally bound to support Steadman’s candidature if asked to do so. No class conscious Socialist could do so, as only so recently as last September he was the chief speaker at a Liberal demonstration at Grays, at which he is reported to have urged the audience to return a Liberal member at the next election. Socialists cannot logically support candidates who ally themselves with any section of the Capitalist Party, and, therefore, cannot honestly accept aid from them for Socialist candidates.”
What do the Labour Leader and the Clarion expect? “Can the leopard change his spots, or the Ethiopian his skin ?”

#    #    #    #

According to the Daily Express, it is an unpleasant and appalling fact that lunacy is steadily increasing in England and Wales, and it is startling to find that whereas one person in every 327 was certified as insane in 1894, the figures for 1904 are one in 288. But to the Socialist there is nothing startling in the fact. As the struggle for existence becomes more intense, as we speed up, as the raging, tearing, hurrying and scurrying possess us, and as the position of the worker becomes more precarious, we must expect that the mental equilibrium will be disturbed. The returns show that the numbers of insane known to the Commissioners have for some time past been increasing at a greater rate than the growth of population. While the rate of increase in the population during the last decade was 12.2 per cent., the rate of increase of the insane was 24.4 per cent.

#    #    #    #

Those so fanatical teetotallers who declare that it is only necessary to close public-houses in order to empty our lunatic asylums, should ponder over the fact that the Commissioners certify that alcoholic intemperance is responsible for not more than 22.8 per cent. of insane males and 9.5 per cent. of insane females. We have no desire to minimise the effect of these figures, but it must not be forgotten that in many cases where intemperance is certified as a cause, it is itself an effect of the overcrowding, insanitary, ill-ventilated, and generally unhealthy conditions under which the workers work and exist. Dr. David Walsh, in his paper on “Unwholesome Workshops and Drink,” declared that anything which weakened the health of the individual predisposed him to the use of alcohol, and no sensible person will dispute this. There is only one way by which the health of the people can be secured and maintained, and that is by the reorganisation of Society upon the basis laid down by the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

#    #    #    #

As Mr. Featherstone Asquith is now denying that he was responsible for the shooting of the miners, it will be useful for our propagandists to note the following reference to the matter which he made in his speech at Glasgow on the 17th October, 1893:
  “The year that had gone by had been distinguished by a large number of deplorable industrial disputes. Those disputes had culminated in what had been a most serious and regrettable conflict—he alluded to the dispute between the coalmasters and colliers in the Midland parts of England. In his character as Secretary of State for the Home Department, it had been his duty to take executive action in more than one of those cases for the maintenance of the law and for the prevention of disorder, and he accepted the full responsibility for everything that had been done.”
#    #    #    #

Asquith is a Liberal. So also are Bell, Crooks, Henderson, Shackleton, Steadman, and others receiving the support of the L.R.C. The I.L.P. openly supports the L.R.C., but the S.D.F. does not affiliate to it nationally, although it permits its prominent members to attend the Conferences and be adopted as L.R.C. candidates. W. Thorne has not yet been called upon to resign his membership of the S.D.F. for having decided to run as a “Labour” candidate, although for the same backing-down A. E. Holmes was requested to send in his resignation. Moreover, since Thorne has fallen into line with the L.R.C., conditions, he has been publicly supported by Quelch, Jones, Hayday, and other well-known members of the S.D.F., at a demonstration at which he declared that:
   "he believed the eight hours day was the most important of all questions.”
For of such is the S.D.F.! Quelch and his friends support Thorne; he supports Alden, Crooks, Steadman, and Co.; Alden, Steadman, and Co. support Asquith and Co.; and E. Belfort Bax writes letters, which are published in the Press, from the National Liberal Club! No wonder we are asked by a correspondent whether the S.D.F. still assert that there is no difference between Liberals and Tories, and whether we can explain what they mean by their continual references to “keeping free from entangling alliances ?” We cannot: we give it up.

#    #    #    #

At the annual conference of the Sanitary Inspectors’ Association held last month at Bournemouth, the President in his opening address, said that the Public Health Acts could not be administered in many places owing to the fact that the officers held their appointments from year to year, and were in consequence dependent upon the goodwill of individual members of the authority appointing them. What member of the association of some years’ experience had not been covertly or openly threatened by some member or members of his authority, or by those aspiring to the office, for either attacking his insanitary property, seizing his unsound —or sampling his adulterated—food? Quite so, and so long as the governing institutions are controlled by the capitalist class, the legislation and administration will be in the interest of that class. And mere Labourism will not alter it. Many a “Labour” member makes the best possible supporter and defender of Capitalism and its works.

#    #    #    #

The capitalist press is filled with articles concerning the out-of-works, the homeless, free meals, and other pastimes to which the capitalist class devotes its attention when other things pall. There is no question about things being terribly bad, and that they have not yet touched bottom. In the business world there is a general complaint of slackness of trade and tightness of money—the latter being perennial with the wage-worker. Speaking for the Church Army last month, Mr. Colin F. Campbell told a Daily Telegraph representative that he shared the general opinion that the approaching winter was likely to be one of very great severity for the poorest of the poor. During the summer months their Labour Homes had been without exception full, and he had never known that to be the case during the 12 years he had been there. There were more of the better class of people asking help than there had ever been. Canon Scott Holland, preaching in St. Paul’s Cathedral on September 11th, gave the following word-picture of London to-day :
  “Look at London to-day! Sum up its story! It’s poverty! It’s nakedness! It’s suffering ! There it all welters! Can we not go closer down into it ? Can we not fling into it our reason, our imagination, our conscience—so that we actually see what the unhappy see, and feel what the wronged feel, and burn with their indignation, and pray with their prayers ? This is not done —not done even so much as it was done. There is a slackening of social interest—a deadening of social reform. People do not care as they did. There is no movement. Everything that we hoped for is caught in some dismal backwater. Yet the poor babies still die in their hundreds, simply through the murderous infamy of the conditions into which they are born. And the sweated women still toil from morning to night for a starvation wage, as literally, as intolerably, as ever! And the aged poor are more than ever left behind out of the marching hosts. And the weak invalids are still squeezed down to the level of the criminals and the loafers. We should never let such things be if we really identified ourselves with those who suffer under them—if we took their sorrows as our sorrow—if we were made one with their need.”
Such is the picture, not overdrawn in the slightest detail. Cynics will note that it has been drawn in the chief institution of the Christian Church, that class organisation which has so ably assisted the capitalists in their efforts to keep the people down. And what is said here of London can be said of every large and wealthy city throughout the world. It is Hell! After two thousand years of Christianity, after centuries of middle-class domination, after years of Tory and Liberal Government, London is Hell! And no matter where we turn, one problem forces itself upon us and demands solution. In Monarchic Britain, in Kaiser-inflicted Germany, in Republican France, in Free America, in Despotic Russia, it is Hell for the proletariat. The problem of world-wide poverty in the midst of plenty will never be solved by sermons, prayers, Labour Homes, or Labour Leaders. It will only be solved when the people assume the ownership and control of the means of life, and produce for their own use instead of for idlers. To prepare the proletariat for this complete revolution is the mission of The Socialist Party of Great Britain.—K.

SPGB Lecture List, October, 1904. (1904)

Party News from the October 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard


A New York cable states. (1904)

From the October 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

A New York cable states: 
  “A law which comes into operation to-day (Sept. 1st, 1904), makes it bribery for an employer to pay money to a labour leader to avert a strike. Hitherto blackmail of this kind has been exceedingly common.”

The Socialist Party of Great Britain. General Meeting. (1904)

Party News from the October 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the Communist Club, 107, Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square, London, W., on Sept. 18, 1904, was held the general meeting of The Socialist Party of Great Britain. A good muster of the members were present. The Secretary having called the meeting to order, Comrade Kent was appointed to the chair. The Standing Orders Committee having been appointed, the Secretary read the Report of the Executive Committee as follows:—-
  "Unlike other organisations in this country claiming to be Socialist, and, therefore, democratic, we have not deemed it necessary to hold our meetings in secret and to exercise our discretion as to what translations should be made known to you, and what business concealed from you. It is our opinion that each and every member of our party is entitled to know what is going on inside the organisation. Under the political conditions now prevailing in Great Britain, and other countries governed by Parliaments, conspiracy is discarded as a revolutionary method, and the plea for secrecy is put forward only by organisations ignorant of political development, or whose leaders desire to hoodwink the rank and file. 
  Most of us have had experience of the political confidence trick in the Social-Democratic Federation and other organisations. Therefore your Executive Committee from the very beginning threw their meetings open to any member of the Party desiring to be present during the transaction of the business, and the opportunity was, we are pleased to state, freely availed of. Not a single one of our meetings was held that was not attended by non-members of the Executive Committee, and our discussions were, with permission, frequently participated in by them. 
  This fact would largely obviate the need for a report of our proceedings, but as for various reasons the bulk of our membership could not be present at our meetings, we will proceed to detail our work during the first three months of the existence of the party.’'
The Report then after giving details of the party membership and the attendances of the members of the Executive Committee, resumes :—
  “We have to the best of our ability carried out the instructions you have given us. Mass meetings have been held in various parts of London with the twofold object of heralding the advent of the party and collecting funds for the extension of our propaganda, and in both respects we have had a record success, A lecture list has been organised which will well bear comparison with that of any political organisation holding propaganda meetings in the metropolis. The party has at its disposal over 15 speakers whose vigorous and sustained outdoor work has enabled us to hold over 20 meetings each Sunday and many others on week-days. Altogether about 300 propaganda meetings have been held since the inception of the party. 
  The lack of suitable literature soon made itself manifest, and the want of this most powerful instrument of propaganda has to a large extent negatived the good effect of our speakers’ addresses. When the party was forced into existence, we found ourselves without any literature of our own, and an examination of the literature published by other organisations did not reveal very encouraging results. We did not, however, believe that bad literature was better than none, and decided to ask the branches to be careful of the literature they handled and recommended them for the time being to confine themselves to the list furnished them by this committee. 
  Many otherwise suitable pamphlets—among them several published in America—had to be discarded owing to the presence of objectable advertisements, and even in the selected list some were found to which the same objection was raised. The question of the publication by the party of pamphlets explanatory of our position has engaged our attention, but pressure of business at the Centre |and lack of the necessary funds have prevented us from taking more active steps in this direction. 
  To facilitate the branches in procuring supplies of all suitable literature, we have established a Literature Agency, which has been largely availed of. The development and extension of the agency will be greatly aided when adequate accommodate for this department is provided by the acquisition of party premises. For the building up of a library of Socialist propagandist literature, time and money are required, and when sufficient of the one has gone by and the other come in, we have no doubt the party will fully equip itself in this respect. 
  At the inaugural meeting you instructed us to open a fund for the establishment of a party organ and the first number appeared on the3rd inst. 
  Owing to the whole-hearted manner in which the branches have taken up the prospect of the party organ, a sale of two-thirds of the total issue each month is guaranteed, and the really splendid response made by the members to our call for funds to start and maintain The Socialist Standard has placed our paper on a sound financial basis. 
  Deeming it advisable that the party should be represented at the International Congress, we decided to ask our comrade John Kent to proceed to Amsterdam. Comrade Alexander Pearson was also furnished with credentials. Our delegates were seated and The Socialist Party of Great Britain was duly recognised by the International Congress. 
  The report of the party delegates to the Congress has already appeared in The Socialist Standard and you will be asked to discuss it at this meeting. 
  The question of trades unionism and the attitude of our party thereto has been the subject matter of two meetings of the party. The discussions which have taken place at these meetings have been of an extremely interesting and highly educational character, and an incalculable amount of good is bound to follow from the free and frank expression of opinions on a subject which is at present engaging the attention of the workers, particularly of this country. 
  We venture to assert that never before in the history of the working-class movement in Britain has the question of trades unionism been so searchingly investigated from a scientific standpoint. We have no trade union leaders to conciliate, neither have we the desire to alienate the sympathies of any section of the working-class. The absence of vested interests in the maintaining of the status quo of unclass- consciousness economic organisations has enabled our party to examine the question in the light of science unhampered by any consideration other than the desire to find the truth, and as a result of the discussions which have taken place, we are able to lay before you a resolution, confident that your decision upon it will be the outcome of an earnest and honest desire to further the cause in which we are embarked. 
  We have discussed .at some length the question of the training of speakers. We have also considered the question of the education of the members in general, in order that the party may be better fitted for the struggle for working class emancipation, and with this object in view have organised a Central Economic Class for the purpose of disseminating a knowledge of the scientific basis of Socialism. 
  The Peckham branch has placed at the disposal of the party their printing press, and this is already being utilised for the printing of propaganda leaflets. 
  Dealing with the progress of the party, we have to report the formation of 14 branches, : viz., Battersea, Central, Clerkenwell, East London, Edmonton, Fulham, Islington, Paddington, Peckham, Southwark. Tooting, Watford, West Ham, Wood Green, and the increase of members has been considerable. 
  Our party is now firmly established in the metropolis, and its influence is being spread into the provinces where we have several members and hope soon to have more branches. 
  We claim that we have done all that could be accomplished in the circumstances and within the time. This has meant work for us. Not a single penny has been paid to any of our members for their services, but the consciousness of the inevitable triumph of our cause is sufficient reward for any exertions we may have put forth, and the knowledge that in that triumph will fructify the aspirations and yearnings of the today silently suffering multitude of the disinherited, will, we are confident, stimulate everyone of our members towards greater efforts for the upbuilding of The Socialist Party of Great Britain.”
This report having been accepted by the party, the questions of the Party Organ, Trades Unions, etc., were discussed at some considerable length, and the rules of the party were decided upon.

The following officers were appointed :

Treasurer—Alec J. M. Gray.

Executive Committee—Comrades E. Allen, T. Allen, A. Anderson, Crump, Elrick, Fairbrother, Fitzgerald, Hawkins, Hodson, Kent, Neumann, Woodhouse.

Auditors —Comrades Newlands and Neumann.

The meeting, after singing “The Internationale,” broke up with hearty cheering for the Social Revolution and the triumph of Socialism.
Verax.

Socialism and Labour Politics. (1904)

Party News from the October 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

We reprint the following from the Ilford Guardian:—
  Speaking under the auspices of the Romford Division of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, at the usual Monday evening open-air meeting held at the corner of Roden Street, Ilford Lane, Mr. John Kent said that there were many misconceptions with regard to Socialism, and with one of them, namely, that what were usually called “Labour Politics” were the politics of the Socialist Party, he wished to deal. The politics of Labour, as an expression, referred to the political views of the workmen organised into Trades Unions. They had, therefore, only to consider the various resolutions passed by and the attitude adopted at the Trade Union Congress of the previous week to recognise the very essential differences between them and the sound representatives of Socialism in this country—The Socialist Party of Great Britain. Let them take the views expressed by the Congress President, Mr. R. Bell, M.P., who was endeavouring to square the circle by taking the money of Organised Labour and at the same time doing the work of Organised Capital, by supporting Capitalist candidates and members of Parliament. In his opening address he had urged Labour to take a leaf out of the book of the brewers and the publicans, who, he declared, had held a loaded revolver at the head of the Government, with the threat that if the Government did not do as they wished, they would turn them out. Let Labour, said Mr. Bell, present a loaded revolver at the Government, and state that if those conditions which Labour considered fair and reasonable were not granted, then Labour would turn out the Government. 
  But, said Mr. Kent, let us carry this to its logical conclusion. If a Government, whether of the Tory or Liberal section of the master class, would give Labour these things, then Labour must keep that Government in office. And what were these things? They were mere unimportant (to the capitalist class) sops which Government could give without sacrificing anything of a fundamental character. Thus, the Congress, on the motion of Mr. W. Steadman, declared in favour of a pension of 5s. a week to workmen reaching the age of sixty. What was the use of this? How many workmen could work up to sixty? The Polytechnic Labour Bureau stated in its circulars that the employers rarely asked for men over 35 years of age. 
  But supposing a workman was unfortunate enough to live to be sixty, of what use was 5s. a week to him? The Socialist Party of Great Britain would not waste time upon such petty proposals. If the wealth producer was entitled, as they claimed he was, to anything at all, he had a right to full maintenance whenever he became unfit for work. But he would never secure his rights by appealing to the Capitalist Government. He must organise to take them for himself. The speaker dealt similarly with other resolutions passed at the Trade Union Congress, and declared in conclusion that the true interests of the people lay in allying themselves with the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

Answers To Correspondents. (1904)

Letter to the Editors from the October 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

J. H. Kennett (Ilford).—As we have no men of college education among our contributors, we cannot see why a college education should be necessary in order to understand what we write. Having something to say, we say it as clearly as we can. We assume that our readers possess a certain portion of cerebral tissue, and therefore do not undertake to provide them with powers of understanding.

H. Kestrail.—Thanks for suggestions, one of which you will observe has been adopted in this issue. The other matter is being considered.

S.W.T.L. (Peckham).—We have an article in hand dealing with the subject of your query. Clamour for what you want and you will get it when space and other things permit.

B. M. Jones.—Certainly not.. The object of our journal is to expound the principles of Socialism. If you have any suggestions to offer which might enable us the better to carry out that object, by all means send them along. What you suggest is not Socialism.

J. Samuels (Stratford).—This is the inevitable outcome of supporting fakirs of any kind. We are watching the situation with interest, and shall act in the true interests of Social-Democracy. We refer you to our Branch Directory for the information you require.

Correspondence. (1904)

Letter to the Editors from the October 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

To The Editors.

Dear Comrades,—The Saturday Review discussing the Amsterdam Congress and the relative merits of Bebel and Jaures, observes, amidst many other funny observations, that—
  '‘The Socialism of the Fabians is the Socialism of Jaures, which is different from that of Keir Hardie who will not have anything to do with either Liberal or Tory," And, again, “Jaures ought to have nothing to do with the Congress, he is too clever and level-headed to keep company with the men who carried that resolution.” (Re India.)
It may interest the Saturday Review scribe to learn that Keir Hardie as President of the British Section, voted with Jaures as against Bebel, on the “Dresden Resolution,” and that the Resolution on “India,” moved by S. G. Hobson (I.L.P.) and seconded by Dadabhai Naoroji (the Liberal candidate for North Lambeth) was carried amid the acclamation of Jaures and his party—The Parti Socialiste Francais.

Truly, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”— 

Yours fraternally,
Alex Pearson, 
Gravesend, Sept. 9, 1904. 




The Bogey of the Taxes. (1904)

From the October 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

A great  cry is being raised at the present time by two sections of the capitalist class about the question of taxation in relation to Import Duties. Mr. Chamberlain and his Conservative friends have suddenly discovered that a large amount of poverty, misery, and want of employment exists around us among the working-class. This is due, says this section, to the foreigner “dumping” his goods on our markets, underselling the home producer, and thereby bringing about unemployment by preventing the home trader from disposing of his goods. The latter cannot retaliate upon the “foreigner’s” market owing to the tariff wall erected around it to keep him out. At once the remedy comes to the front: Tax the foreigner’s goods and keep them off our market, then the English manufacturer will be able to employ more “hands” and raise prices, to the benefit of the whole community.

But our Tory saviours shut their eyes to the state of Germany where Protection reigns, and where the nation has been passing through the worst trade depression it has ever known, with the concomitant evils of unemployment, want and misery for the working-class. If Protection be a remedy, how is it that it has failed in this case? Again, in America, which has just passed through a big “boom” of trade, the inevitable depression has set in and men are being discharged in thousands from the railways and other industries to tramp about in a vain search for employment and to consider the beauties of Protection and high prices.

Mr. Chamberlain also claims that if Protection were adopted, wages would rise. As he means wages reckoned in coin, his opponents point triumphantly to Germany and France, where wages, reckoned in the same way, are lower than in England; while he retorts by pointing to America, where the wages are higher. The one thing that this does prove is that wages are determined by some factor independent of fiscal policies or tax jugglings and thereby places both sections of fiscal trumpet blowers out of court.

The Free Traders, largely Liberals, claim that the enormous increase of “our” trade and “our” business has been due to the abolition of the Corn Laws and the general policy of Free Trade. “Our” wealth has increased by leaps and bounds, and “our” prosperity is marvellous – so marvellous, in fact, that if Mr. Chamberlain’s proposal to increase the tax on wheat is carried, the ¼d. or ½d. increase in the retail price of the loaf of bread will cast the twelve or thirteen millions of people already on or below the poverty line into the deepest depths of misery and wretchedness. It would not need a very elaborate calculation to estimate the date when, if “our” prosperity continues, the whole of the workers will be in the position of those before mentioned.

Therefore as they, the Free Traders, are the “real friends” of the working-class, they call upon that class to vote them into possession of the political machinery for the purpose of saving the workers from this dire evil that is about to be inflicted upon them. True, some cantankerous person may point out that this party is chiefly concerned in having cheap food, so that the cost of production of labour-power may, as a consequence, be cheap also; that following the abolition of the Corn Laws these humane manufacturers reduced wages in the textile industries by an average of about 14 per cent; that they opposed the Factory Acts, which had been introduced to protect women and children, with all their power; that when returned to power in 1892 upon the well-known Newcastle program, while they sent soldiers to shoot down the miners of Featherstone and a gunboat to “pacify” the dockers at Hull, they quite forgot to pass measures such as Payment of Members, Triennial Parliaments, One Man One Vote, Payment of Election Expenses, which they had pledged themselves to make law. Another might draw attention to the fact that a large section of this party import raw material and use large quantities of flour, etc., in the manufacture of cotton and other textiles, and that they are quite as much concerned in cheap wheat for this reason as for giving the worker a big loaf.

The serious-minded worker who does his own thinking will probably at first be amazed at the money, the energy and dexterity expended by both sections of the capitalist class, or its agents, in this campaign – all for the benefit of the working-class. He watches them handling figures and statistics in a way that must cause Cinquevalli to turn green with envy, each proving that the poverty and misery is bound to increase if the proposals of the other side are adopted! If, however, he turns from the assertions, contradictions, and general bewilderment that surrounds these howling Cheap Jacks, and examines the facts of the situation calmly, his amazement will disappear.

In any form of civilised society certain common expenses have to be met by the members of that society in one way or another, depending upon the conditions and form of that society. As the wealth of all communities can only be produced by applying human labour to the raw material provided by Nature, it follows that the working-class produces all the wealth in existence, no matter to what purpose it may be turned. But here a significant fact comes to light. While the working class dig the ore, construct the machines, build the mills and factories, lay the railways – in short, bring forth all the instruments and machinery necessary for the production and distribution of wealth, yet they own neither these instruments nor the wealth when it is produced. It does not matter in what direction or with what object any member of the working class wishes to apply his energies in the production of wealth, he will find a barrier to that application in the fact that some individual or individuals belonging to another class own and control the raw material and the machinery necessary to convert it, and who will only permit the worker to operate these instruments upon the condition that the wealth produced is left in the capitalist’s possession to dispose of as he pleases.

Of course, it will be easily be understood that if there were no working class to exploit, the capitalist class would have to work to keep itself, and they are therefore bound to return to the workers sufficient of the wealth they have produced to keep them in a state of working efficiency and to reproduce their kind.

The capitalists may differ among themselves as to the exact point at which this standard may be fixed, but they are unanimous in fighting to retain for themselves all above this limit. The workers, on the other hand, are always struggling to increase their share of the wealth produced, with varying degrees of success, which results in individual or sectional wages varying, but makes the return to the class as a whole a close approximation to the cost of living under the conditions obtaining in that society. It thus becomes evident that the taxes must be paid out of the surplus value extracted from the workers by the capitalists; this explains not only the latter’s interest in the question of taxation, but also why it is of small moment to the worker.

“But”, says the Free Trader, “all taxes fall upon the consumer, and therefore the workman will have to pay increased prices for the articles he purchases if a tax is placed upon them”. The obvious retort is that as the working class are the only producers, but not the only consumers, it is from the former point of view that they should look at the matter. But apart from this, the statement is not true of itself. Prices are determined primarily by the cost of production, and immediately by supply and demand. The variations in the latter cause prices to fluctuate, but the point above and below which they move, and tend to come to rest, is the value of the article – or, technically, all commodities exchange upon the average at their value. If owing to circumstances a commodity were being sold above its value, fresh capital would soon be turned in that direction, and competition and extra supply would cause prices to fall. If being sold below its value, part of the capital would be withdrawn, and the diminished supply, other things remaining constant, would cause prices to rise to the normal level.

Whatever may be the conditions at any given time, the capitalist always sells at the highest price the market will bear at that period. Articles that are easily produced are often taxed without affecting the retail price at all, as shown in the taxes on tea, beer, and spirits, while in the case of tobacco one grade is sold at a price almost equalling the tax imposed! When the 1s. duty was laid on corn the price of bread rose in a few districts; but in the majority of cases it remained stationary, and when the duty was removed the wholesale price of corn rose! House rent offers another good example. Often when the landlord raises the rent he makes the excuse that the rates have gone up, but he never offers to lower them when rates go down, showing thereby that it is only an excuse, and that while competition for houses continue rents will rise. When the Central London Railway was opened the competition for houses in Shepherd’s Bush increased largely, and as a consequence rents rose as much as 3s. in the £. This was the limit offered for the time being, and when shortly after rates were raised by a good sum, the rents remained unaltered. At West Ham, which is the most heavily rated district in England, rents are falling, while rates are rising, owing to the decreased demand for houses. These illustrations show how little the question of rates affects the workers who pay rent.

This is still more true regarding so-called monopolies whose productions are sold at the highest price obtainable consistent with the carrying on of business, and even if they were taxed up to the point of absorbing profits, other things remaining constant, the business might close, but obviously prices could not be raised. An instance from Australia may be cited. The Standard Oil Company have a practical monopoly of the petroleum oil entering that continent, and until a short time ago a duty of 3d. per gallon was levied upon it. The company charged 6d. per gallon to the retailers, who paid the tax and sold the oil at 11d. a gallon. An agitation was set on foot to have this tax taken off “the poor man’s oil”, which after some perseverance was effected.

On the same day that the duty was abolished Rockerfeller raised the price to the retailers to 9d. a gallon, who sold it to the consumers at the same price as before – in other words, Rockerfeller was relieved from paying the tax that until then he had paid upon his product entering the country, and the working class were in exactly the same position as before. In London the abolition of the coal dues levied by the City authorities did not alter the retail price one farthing.

It is thus easily seen that if the whole of the taxes were abolished it would not benefit the working class unless competition among the capitalists drove prices down in proportion, and then others would benefit as well, while the workers would have to resist a reduction in wages.

The question thus becomes reduced to one of a quarrel between the big and the little thieves as to the apportionment of the cost of maintaining the present system, and is expressed chiefly by the small middle-class forming various tax-reform parties with the object of curtailing the powers of the monopolists and big capitalists. Being only really concerned with the problem of how to stop the robbery under which they suffer, the workers should take no stock of the quarrel over the paying of the expenses of the burglary. Whether he is living in a country whose fiscal policy is based on Free Trade or in one in which it is based upon Protection; whether the country is highly taxed or otherwise; whether the district he lives in is highly rated or the reverse, makes little difference; the worker finds that whatever of the above conditions he may be under, a subsistence is all that upon an average he obtains.

Firmly gripping the above sound and logical position, The Socialist Party, the only party truly representing the workers, makes its attack upon the central pivotal position – to capture the political machinery and therewith control of economic powers and social forces – taxation and the armed forces of the nation, for the purpose of ending the robbery by overthrowing the system of Capitalism, emancipating the working class, and laying the foundations of the Socialist Co-operative Commonwealth.
Jack Fitzgerald

Things You Should Know. (1912)

From the February 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some of our opponents are either moat superficial readers or given to deliberately misrepresenting statements that have appeared in the Socialist Standard by selecting a particular paragraph from an article which, taken by itself, has the appearance of being contradictory to our Declaration of Principles, while they conveniently ignore the remainder of the article, which would invariably put a very different complexion on the paragraph in question.

One such dishonestly selected passage is being perambulated before our supporters and others, who am misled simply because they have not the whole article before them.

The paragraph appears in the September 1911 issue of this journal, in an article under heading “Strikers Struck : How the Railway Servants were Betrayed.” It is as follows:
  "What was the position? The Companies had bluffed and failed. They were surprised at the effectiveness of the strike. The Government had bluffed and failed. They had thrown the whole military might of the nation against the strikers, and the only result had been to demonstrate the weakness of their position. The crude incapacity of their leader, whose traditional remedy for every difficult situation is butchery, had got them into a blind alley. They had not another move left.”
Our opponents the Industrialists and Anarchists, are now declaring that this is an admission of the superior power of the workers on the industrial field as compared with the political field. But where had the Government bluffed and failed? In what way had they demonstrated the weakness of their position? Our crafty antagonist does not tell you that, although the article explains it.

But possibly the present reader has the issue in question at hand, in which case, if he will turn to the fifth page, and the third column thereof, he will find the answer to the question about half way down the column.

But for the benefit of those who are unable to peruse the original article, I cull the following from it:
  "Let the workers learn from this the futility of General Strike tactics. The recent case was not a General Strike in any sense of the word. The Government's mistake was in taking measures called for by a General Strike. But in the chaos, and brutality, and bloodshed, and suffering, ay, and failure, of those few hours is a great lesson for the working class. The shade of anarchy, the spectre of starvation, in the adjacent background, did not threaten the masters, but brooded over the workers. On them was to fall all the horrors of the situation. Just because the issue was not worth either the launching or the bloody suppression of a General Strike, the railwaymen’s strike was good for more than it brought them; but where the issue from the workers’ standpoint is worth a General Strike, it is from the capitalists' standpoint worth crushing out in a Niagara of blood.
  “That the master class will always have ample powers at their command for this purpose while they hold the political machinery they will make sure, and that they will use them the thirty thousand victims of the Commune massacres warn us. And again the need for wresting the control of the armed forces from them by political action, by voting Socialists and Socialists only, into Parliament, is demonstrated.”
But to further insure against misunderstanding I commend the whole article to the careful perusal of the reader.

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A rather remarkable speech was delivered by Baron de Forest in the Commons debate on international diplomacy — remarkable for the truth it contained. For truth is quite foreign to the average Liberal when it (as it usually does) rebounds to his detriment. He is reported (by “Reynolds’s Newspaper") to have said :
  “These [wars] were generally entirely international and cosmopolitan, and in no way did their gain affect the citizens of any one country. ‘In every country,’ he continued, ‘the machinery of the State, the naval and military powers of the State, are employed to secure privileges which are beneficial only to the few, and which in the majority of cases are actually harmful to most of the people, and have to be maintained first by money and then by lives in the last resource. Everywhere, if you erect privileges, you necessarily create a cause of strife. The interests of the privileged citizens of one nation clash with the interests of the privileged citizens of another.
  “At once there is an appeal to national prejudice. Each nation is persuaded that its national interests are in danger, and the masses of the two people of the two nations, who have really no interest in the quarrel, are hurled at each other’s throats for the sake of men they have less in common with than they have with one another, and who only try to exploit them in war as in many cases they exploit them in peace. A great many people in the constituencies outside are beginning to realise that this is so. They are beginning to see that these international differences are not between nation and nation, but are between individuals who are only using the nations for their own ends.” 
How’s that, Blatchford ?

Between the working class of all countries there exists an identity of interests which is diametrically opposed to the interests of the capitalist class of each and every country.

But what have our Liberal opponents to say now? They have most emphatically denied that “the machinery of the State, the naval and military powers of the State are employed to secure privileges which are beneficial only to a few” (capitalists). When thieves tall out the truth is sometimes told.

But do we, because we are conscious of the fact that the machinery of the State is employed for the benefit of the capitalist class, do we abjure political action? By no means; for to quote our Declaration of Principles,
  “As the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist clam of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise, consciously and politically, for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.” 
There is some excuse for the bold baron speaking the truth, for we are told that this was his maiden speech. But if he continues in this strain his career in the Liberal party will be of short duration.

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The Anarchist conception of the realisation of the Social Revolution is exemplified in the following :
  “The fatal defect in the reasoning of the S.P.G.B. is their apparent inability to comprehend the conditions of electioneering and Parliamentary tactics, and the environment of bourgeois politics generally. The leaders of the party could only act similarly to the men they criticise had they to take their places, or they would be obliged to leave the Parliamentary arena in disgust and defiance. Of course, that method results in compromise, shuffling on matters of principle, and other unsatisfactory consequences; even in many instances, betrayal of the workers' interests. Without tactics of this kind the State cannot be ‘captured ’— and then the State captures the miracle workers instead.”
So then, these are the tactics we must adopt. Possibly this explains why the Anarchist at times drops his antagonism to political action and runs as a Progressive or Labour candidate.

The suggestion that it is impossible for the Socialist to be elected to Parliament without adopting the present-day “electioneering” tactics, with the inevitable result of compromise, shuffling of principle, and betrayal of working-class interests, implies that it is futile to attempt to educate the workers to a true conception of their class position. The Anarchist, therefore, imagines the Social Revolution will be accomplished by a non class-conscious proletariat following certain leaders.

The education of the workers may be a tedious process, but it is none the less essential for the achievement of our object.
H. A. Young