Friday, September 27, 2019

S.L.P Anchors Dragging – A Review (1918)

Book Review from the February 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard

The State: Its Origin and Function,” by Wm. Paul. Socialist Labour Press, Renfrew st., Glasgow. Cloth, 2s 6d.

Historians in the past have made many attempts to discover and state what may be called the driving force or dynamic factor behind the various changes that have taken place in Society. As Larfargue has so well pointed out in his essay on ”Marx’s Historical Method.” Vico, the Neapolitan historian, was one of the first to seek for this factor in man’s material conditions. Guizot was of the opinion that it was the development of man’s intellect that formed this driving force, though he failed to show on what this development was based. Buckle, in his valuable History of Civilisation in England, laid greatest stress on the climatic and geographical conditions of Society as being the factors of social change, failing to see how much more rapidly societies change than do climatic or geographical conditions.

The key to the riddle was supplied by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, who, independently, arrived at the same conclusion—that it was the economic development that formed the driving force behind social development, culminating in the changes in the forms of Society.

A brief summary of their discovery is given in the preface to Marx’s Critique of Political Economy, while the famous Communist Manifesto, the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, and the pamphlets on the Civil War in France in 1871 are splendid examples of the application of the theory—or use of the tool, as Lafargue would say—by its discoverers.

In America, apparently without any knowledge of Marx’s and Engels’s work, a famous ethnologist, working from a different standpoint, reached substantially the same conclusion. This scientist was Lewis Henry Morgan, whose great work, Ancient Society, solved the riddle of tribal organisation, throwing a flood of light on the early forms of Society, and tracing the path of social development to the birth of so-called civilisation.

The great theory which was formulated by these three investigators, and which is known as the “Materialist Conception of History,” is more, and more being adopted by modern historians and economists, often without real acknowledgment, as in the case of Loria in his Economic Foundations of Society, or even with sneers at Marx, as in the case of J. A. Hobson.

To take this theory and use it for the purpose of explaining and tracing the development of one of the features of Society is, of course, quite legitimate, provided the work is done with sufficient care to prevent confusion arising in the minds of its readers. The book now under review in an attempt to use the Materialist Conception of History for the purpose of explaining and tracing the development of one social institution called by the author “The State.” Some objection could be taken to the use of this title, but we may let this pass in face of the greater objections which exist to other parts of the book.

Whether due to the present world-war or to other reasons there is a good deal of slip-shod and even slovenly work in the 200 pages of this volume. Thus the method of placing the titles of the books referred to in the text at the end of each chapter is an awkward one and could only be excused if long extracts were being given in the form of an appendix. Worse than this, however, is the author’s practice of quoting a statement from a work, often consisting of 700 or 800 pages, and giving the title only as a reference. There is no excuse for this slip-shod method.

This carelessness or worse is further illustrated in the uncritical recommendations given to certain works referred to in this book. Professor Jenks' statement that “Ancient Society will ultimately be recognised as one of the great scientific products of the Nineteenth Century ” is quoted on page 9, and then Mr. Paul says : “of no less importance is the Origin of the Family by F. Engels” (italics mine).

Engels himself would be the first to deny this absurd claim. Morgan’s work is an original volume, the result of immense research covering 40 years’ labours, and is one of the great epoch-making discoveries of the human race. Engels’ little volume was intended as a summary, with some additional observations, for the use of those to whom Morgan’s work was inaccessible. A partial analogy may be found in the case of another epoch-making work of the 19th century. Far and away the best summary of Marx’s great work Capital is the little volume by Marx himself entitled Value, Price, and Profit. Here the essentials of Capital are stated in simple language which, later, assists the worker to grasp the detailed working out of the larger volume. But here the analogy ceases. Capital is written in rigid scientific language, often in mathematical form, that is difficult for the beginner to follow and understand. Hence the usefulness of Value, Price, and Profit in stating simply the main propositions. Ancient Society, on the other hand, is written in simple language and in a clear and unaffected style that enables the beginner to follow the arguments with a minimum of trouble. The Origin of the Family does not—as indeed it could not—present the case in any simpler way.

Another instance is given on page 16 where we are told “for a detailed history of marriage in the past and present the famous book of Bebel on Woman Under Socialism is indispensable.”

Two editions of this work have appeared in the English language. The first, published many years ago by Reeves and Co., under the title “Women in the Past, Present and Future”, drew an apology from the Avelings for the historical and other errors it contained. This appeared in their pamphlet Woman. The other edition in English is the translation by Mr. De Leon, of America, of the 23rd German edition, and is the one referred to by Mr. Paul. Here some of the old errors are removed, but new ones are incorporated both of historical judgment and social development. The translator himself had to make some corrections to the text in long footnotes. Generally Bebel’s Woman is ill-balanced and far from being scientifically based, and it lends a larger amount of support to the “Suffragette” notion that the position of women is due to the “wickedness” of man than it does to the Marxian position of class oppression.

A further instance of this slovenliness on the part of Mr. Paul, and one that would greatly confuse the beginner are the various meanings attributed to the word “State.” On page 1 it is implied that the “State” is a “social institution specially devised to perform some social function.” On page 100 Mr. Paul says “legality means not the interest of Society but rather the interest of the State, i.e., of the dominant class,” while on page 108 we read “the making and administration of Law is an important function of the executive committee of the ruling class—the State.” So the State is first a “social institution,” then it becomes “the dominant class” itself, and afterwards it is “the executive committee” of that class. Such loose and faulty methods, however, become absolutely ridiculous when one reads the bombastic statement made in the introduction : ”Social science, like every branch of science, uses terms which must be clearly defined . . . While, therefore, a clear comprehension of terms is scientifically imperative, it would seem that many dabblers in social science do not realise that grave dangers may arise by confusing the minds of the workers regarding the nature and function of social institutions.” (Page VI.) How completely these latter terms fit their own case is shown by the quotations given.

But the most blatantly idiotic claim in the book appears on page 198, where it is said that Mr. De Leon’s pamphlet, the Preamble of the Industrial Workers of the World, is “a work equally epoch-making as the "Communist Manifesto.” To compare De Leon’s anti-political and painfully laboured attempt at a defence of the nonsense of Industrial Unionism with the world-famous work of Marx and Engels shows the shallow ignorance and blind hero-worship of one who could pen such drivel.

Among the minor points requiring correction may be mentioned the ignoring of the work done during the periods of Theseus and Draco (the last of whom is credited with having been the first to establish written laws) in ancient Athens, that made possible the changes brought about under Solon and Kleisthenes. The work done during these periods was of great importance as being initial steps towards the complete change.

A similar criticism applies to the section on Rome, where the necessary preliminary developments were carried through during the period of the reputed reign of Romulus—when the first hereditary aristocracy was founded—and of Numa Pompilius.

In both these cases it would be absurd to suppose that such large and fundamental changes could have taken place as those attributed to Solon and Kleisthenes in the one case and Servius Tullius in the other, without previous stages having been passed through. Moreover, the over-estimate of the work of these men, by ignoring the essential steps of their predecessors, tends to keep alive in the minds of the workers who are beginners in this subject, the false notion that “great men” make history (thereby encouraging the following of leaders) that the work of Vico, Marx, Morgan, and Spencer has done so much to disprove.

Of a different type is the statement in a footnote on page 112 where, referring to Eugene Sue’s The History of a Proletarian Family Across the Ages, it is said : “For rescuing this monumental work from the despoiling hands of the Church and the hireling intellectuals of Capitalism the S.L.P. deserves great credit.”

As Mr. Paul’s book is issued by the S.L.P. of Scotland the reader unacquainted with the facts would naturally assume the S.L.P. in this footnote referred to that organisation. The truth is that the Sue novels referred to were translated by Mr. De Leon of the American S.L.P.

A further instance of slipshod work appears on page 169 when the author is dealing with the invention of the steam engine. He says :
  “This new and powerful driving force was able to drive the tool or machine— a machine being simply a complex tool working at an extraordinary speed” ! (Italics mine.)
The finest explanation and definition of a machine occurs in Marx’s Capital, chapter 15, in the part dealing with “Machinery and Modern Industry.” Section 1 reads almost like a romance, and is packed with information. Only a couple of passages can be quoted here. On page 366 Marx says :
  “Mathematicians and mechanicians, and in this they are followed by a few English economists, call a tool a simple machine” (as Mr. Paul does on page 2) “and a machine a complex tool. They see no essential difference between them and even give the name machine to the simple mechanical powers of the lever, the inclined plane, the screw, the wedge, etc. As a matter of fact every machine is a combination of those simple powers, no matter how they may be disguised. From the economical standpoint this explanation is worth nothing because the historical element is wanting.”
And on page 368 Marx gives his own definition in that masterly fashion of his that shows the whole matter in the clearest light. After describing the parts played by the motor mechanism and the transmitting gear he says :
  “The machine proper is therefore a mechanism that, after being set in motion, performs with its tools the same operations that were formerly done by the workman with similar tools. Whether the motive power is derived from man, or from some other machine, makes no difference in this respect. From the moment that the tool proper is taken from the worker’s hand, and fitted into a mechanism, a machine takes the place of a mere implement.”
A comparison of the above quotations with Mr. Paul’s confused and inaccurate definition of a machine shows how little either he or the S.L.P., who are responsible for the production of the book, understand even the simpler portions of Marx’s writings, despite their bombastic claim in the introduction quoted above.

As this book is issued by the S.L.P. of Scotland with a special “benediction” in the introduction, it is fair to assume that it represents the views and policy of the Executive Committee of that body. If that is so then we are treated to a complete somersault in the policy that organisation has been advocating, with variations, for about twelve years. In 1905 the Executive Committee of the S.L.P., without in any way consulting the membership of the party, endorsed and adopted as a policy the position of the Industrial Workers of the World, had been formed in Chicago in June, 1905. Since then it has in various, and often contradictory, ways attempted to defend the claims of the I.W.W. that the workers by organising into industrial unions—one for each industry—could “take and hold the means of production.” They claimed that the industrial unions furnished the “might” to carry through the revolution; that it was the economic organisation that supplied “the power” lacking in the political party, and so on.

How an economic organisation could "take and hold the means of production” while the capitalist class had control of the armed forces was a question neither the S L.P. nor the other Industrialists were ever able to answer. They simply wandered from one absurdity to another in the endeavour to dodge this—to them —fatal question. The endless contradictions and quibbles they have been led into by the catch phrases as “The economic is the basis of the political”; “The political is the reflex of the economic”; “The economic organisation will cast its own political shadow,” etc., etc., have been dealt with in the Socialist Standard on numerous occasions.

But now comes this volume which flatly contradicts all these years’ teachings and takes up the position that the working class must seize political power in order to abolish capitalism.

Quite early in the book this position begins to take form, as on page 41 we read :
  “Throughout history the State has slightly changed its form but its role as the weapon of despotism in the hands of the economically and politically dominant class has remained unchanged. It is able to enforce its will upon those who oppose it, because behind its demands it has the organised armed forces of the Society. ” (Italics mine.)
Referring to the Civil War of 1644 it is stated “The revolutionaries by their control of the political machine were able to use the rents of the Royal estates, the levies placed upon the goods secretly bought by the cavaliers, and the taxes gathered up and down the country to defeat the Crown.” (Page 151. Italics mine.)

But it is in the last two chapters that this position—so long sneered at by the S.L.P.— is stated in its most complete form. In the chapter on “Modern Capitalism” we read:
  “The State has behind every mandate it promulgates the armed force of the nation. It is this power which enforces the will of the ruling class.” (P. 190.)
While in the chapter on ”Revolutionary Socialism” occurs the following remarkable statement—remarkable, that is, coming from the S.L.P.:
  “In order to facilitate the work of the industrial organisation, it is absolutely imperative for the workers to disarm the capitalist class by wrenching from it its power over the political State. The State powers include the armed forces of the nation which may be turned against the revolutionary workers. The political weapon of Labour, by destroying the capitalist control of the State makes possible a peaceful social revolution. But in order to tear the State out of the grasp of the ruling class the workers’ political organisation must capture the political machinery of capitalism.” (Page 198.)
This complete reversal of a policy followed for about twelve years is simply staggering. It is a full confession not only that the S.L.P. has been wrong all this time—a fact we have proved over and over again in the pages of the Socialist Standard and in debate—but also that the S.P.G.B. has been right in its attitude and correct in its policy throughout its existence.

When the S.P.G.B. was formed in 1904 it laid down one aim—Socialism. It drew up a Declaration of Principles that has solidly withstood all attacks from every quarter. Paragraph 6 of that declaration states :
  “That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class 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.”
We now have the S.L.P., in the pages of this book, taking up an attitude that corresponds completely with the above clause of our Declaration of Principles. Has it taken this world-war, with its terrific maiming and slaughter, to drive the simple but fundamental fact of their minds that it is control of the political machinery that is the essential factor in the domination of Society? What have the members of the S.L.P. to say to this complete change of policy? Does it represent the considered view of the members? or is it another example of the E.C. of that body laying down its own policy, in exact opposition to one preached for so many years, without any authority or mandate from the membership? Do the members understand and accept this new situation, and if so how can they justify the retention of their membership in the S L.P.?

Nor is this the only change in the policy of the S.L.P., though it is by far the most important. In addition to the claim that the Industrial Union furnished the “might” and “power” to overthrow capitalism, the S.L.P. claimed that these unions were the “embryo” of the Socialist Republic; that they provided the “framework” or “skeleton” of Socialism.

This silly and childish “Utopianism” the absurdity of which we exposed long ago, would hardly require notice here but for the change of attitude that is now adopted. To lay down here and now the details of what the organisation of production will be under Socialism is on a par with Bellamy’s Looking Backward.

In the first place we have no means of knowing at what particular step in the development of capitalist production and methods a sufficient number of the working class will be converted to Socialism to carry through the revolution. The details of the economic organisation must depend upon the particular stage of development at that period. Moreover, the majority of the working class will then be Socialists—otherwise the attempt at revolution will be a fiasco—and they will have the requisite knowledge and ability to construct their economic organisation in conformity with the conditions then prevailing. It is, therefore, easy to see how foolish is the attempt to settle now the details of an organisation that will be called upon to act then. Even when the I.W.W. was first launched we pointed out that capitalism then was outgrowing the “Industrial” sub-division and large combinations of capitalists were controlling whole groups of industries. The increase of this factor that has since taken place—and which looks  as though it will extend still faster under the form of National and Municipal control as a result of the war—adds further strength to this point. In addition it has to be remembered that economic organisations formed now have to fight the battles of wages and conditions of employment now. But to do so with any hope of success they must enrol as many as possible of workers in the particular businesses they are dealing with. This means the enrolment of Socialists (a small number of the workers at present) along with the passive and active anti-Socialists, all in the same union. This fact shows the utter impossibility of forming a Socialist economic organisation until a majority of the workers in a particular occupation have been converted to Socialism. Hence the farcical failure of the various attempts to form “Industrial Unions” before a sufficient number of the workers have accepted these particular teachings.

In the book now under review the question of Industrial Unionism takes so subordinate a place and is so watered down, compared with the former claims of the S.L.P., that if the term “Industrial Unionism” were left out the ordinary reader of the Socialist would fail to recognise this attitude as being the one taken up by the S.L.P. How much has been given up the following quotation will show :
  “We see, therefore, that the function of the future administration of society will be industrial. The constructive element in the social revolution will be the action of the Industrial Union seizing the means of production in order to administer the wants of the community.
  True to the dictum of social science, that the embryo of the future social system must be nourished within the womb of the old system, the revolutionary Socialist movement sets out to build up within capitalism the industrial organisation of the workers which will carry on the administrative work under Socialism on behalf of the community. Thus Industrial Unionism is the constructive weapon in the coming social revolution.” (Pages 197-8.)
This very general and greatly modified position of the S.L.P.’s claims for Industrial Unionism shows how far they have come—implicitly, at any rate—to admit the correctness of our attitude on economic organisation. What the title of the future economic organisation will be is really guess-work now and is only of small importance, though the misleading, anti-Socialist, and Utopian associations covered by the term “Industrial Unionism” will certainly go far to discredit it in the minds of the workers as they become Socialists. Much more educational work requires to be done, however, before such an organisation can be started, for it is only as the workers learn that they are slaves, and clearly grasp that the essential factor in their emancipation is the control of political power, that they will build up the Socialist organisations, political and economic, necessary for the establishment of Socialism.

The nucleus of the political organisation exists now in the Socialist Party of Great Britain. The economic organisation cannot be started until numbers fulfilling the conditions laid down above have been converted to Socialism.
Jack Fitzgerald

Phrase Magic. (1920)

From the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard
 “No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed ; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society. Therefore mankind always takes up only such problems as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.”—Marx.
The above remarks were the outcome of years of patient historical investigation by one of the greatest thinkers of modern times.

One of the conditions necessary for the disappearance of the present social order (capitalism) is the understanding of certain basic principles on the part of the working class. Until the workers as a whole understand the position they occupy in modern society and the only way out of that position (i.e.. by class conscious political action) another social order will not give place to the present one—in spite of fuming and foaming, wild words and empty phrases.

In our Declaration of Principles we lay down the few simple essential principles it is necessary to understand and act upon in order to achieve emancipation from wage slavery.

Briefly summed up these principles are as follows:

All social wealth is produced by the working class and owned by the master class. Between these two classes there is a class struggle which can only be abolished by the emancipation of the workers from wage-slavery ; i.e., by the supplanting of capitalist private ownership by social ownership. This emancipation must be the work of the working class itself, and, as the capitalist class retains its position by the control of the machinery of government, the working class must organise to capture the political machinery in order to use it as the agent of emancipation. Finally, as all political parties represent class interests, the working-class political party must be hostile to all other parties.

These are the broadest principles that can be adopted by the working class to work out its emancipation. If action is taken outside these elementary principles the working class movement is plunged into a morass.

But these principles are too simple, open and definite to please those who like to walk about with theatrical expressions on their lips, and to move on waves of emotion. Nor do they prefer the henchmen of the master clams, who prefer the diffusion of confusion as such methods hinder the spread of Socialism.

Our position does not lend itself to highly coloured phrases or empty diatribes, hence the wild “Revolutionaries” (the dangerous livers of the S.L.P.) and popularity chasers steer clear of our party.

There are some people who have neither the patience to acquire knowledge nor the self control to follow the only course (slow though it may be) open to the class-conscious worker. Those to whom the writer alludes are the emotional, red-flag-waving individuals.

People of this type have cut a figure in past movements and exist in profusion to-day, They live in the limelight, mouthing all sorts of handy phrases—in fact empty phrases echoing from empty heads largely constitute their stock-in-trade and take the place of ideas and knowledge. So effective in stirring up emotion are these phrases that their users seldom attempt to get behind them to ascertain their true meaning.

The phrase wizards, with an inflated estimate of their own puny accomplishments, flourish in all the pseudo working-class parties of the present. They strive to play upon emotion and attract a large following by voicing their particular pet phrases and hazy notions, hurrying a bewildered group of supporters along with them to some misty land of promise—they don’t know exactly where.

In the Chartist movement in England the “Revolutionary” raved and ranted, gained applause—and the movement suddenly collapsed. The inexorable laws of capitalism ground the Chartist movement to powder, and swept the popular “leaders” away.

About twenty years ago the I.W.W. was ushered in with a great flourish of trumpets, and all the would-be “revolutionists” hurried to the front, panting with excitement and gasping their fervid and frenzied phrases. The real facts of the situation, however, and the unsurmountable obstacles to “taking and holding the means of production” through so-called industrial action (or inaction !) soon shattered the movement into warring fragments.

At the present moment we have the same bogey and crowd-gathering business cropping up again. The new catch-cry is “government by the Soviets.” And again all the phrasemongers and “revolutionaries” are to the fore. Again they are trying to force the pace by appeals to emotion. But unfortunately for these soft-hearted, soft-headed, and excited hurricanes neither fine phrases nor good intentions will take the place of knowledge. Appeals to emotion may bring a bloody shambles, but they cannot bring Socialism.

People of this kind imagine they can produce results with a wizard’s wand. Although the mass of the workers are not prepared to accept Socialism at present, these people imagine that the magic word “Soviet” is going to perform miracles. One is reminded of the whimsical jokers who are going to sweep all obstacles aside with the ponderous word "Ergatocracy” !

Even if we assumed, for the sake of argument, that the Soviet system were applicable in the particular case of Russia, owing to Russia’s historical development, would this prove that it was suitable to other countries where social development had been somewhat different? As a matter of fact, however, the “Soviet” wave is a striking example of how phrases are used to smother facts. ” Soviet” means “council,” but if this plain English word were used everybody would understand its significance—and the movement would be stripped of its glamour.

The emancipation of the working class must be accomplished by the working class itself; the working class will not emancipate itself until it desires Socialism ; the working class will not desire Socialism until it has gained an understanding of the necessary principles. In other words, Socialism is impossible until the necessary knowledge is acquired by the workers. Therefore the work for Socialists to do is to diffuse knowledge as much as possible in the shape of an explanation of their principles.

The result of the recent elections throughout Europe is a crushing retort to the “get there quick” merchants. Had the majority of the workers desired Socialism there would have been a sweeping rejection of capitalist candidates, instead of which exactly the opposite has taken place.

Faced with these facts the “revolutionaries” strive to “get there” round the back way some how—to land the workers in a new society strictly on the q. t.!

However, another disillusionment is in store, and “all power to the Soviets” will run its course and collapse as all similar schemes have done before.

Working for Socialism is, by its very nature, steady, plodding, uphill work, strictly in accordance with the principle of the class struggle. Just as inexorably and inevitably as the capitalist system approaches the breaking point, the Socialist position gains ground among the workers, and at the proper historical time (when the workers want it) Socialism will succeed capitalism. As has already been pointed out, we cannot force the pace—we must work and wait.

In England, as a result of a long historical development, we find certain means at hand with which the Social Revolution can be accomplished, but we also find that the workers have not yet reached the stage when they are prepared to utilise these means to their own advantage. No amount of misguided emotion can obscure this fact. The workers possess the weapon, in the political machinery, with which they can usher in Socialism—when they desire it.

In conclusion, the writer emphasises the fact that artfully worded and high-sounding phrases have always been used to mislead the workers and rally them to the support of the masters. In the English, French, and American revolutions the mass of the people fought out the battles to the cries of “Eternal Freedom,” “The Inalienable Rights of Man,” “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity,” and such phrases, but all these “rights” were eventually fused in the right of the privileged few to exploit the toiling masses. The masses gave their lives without question at the call to arms. No further back than the recent war a striking illustration was given, when, with the catch-cry of ”The protection of small nationalities” the “heroes” of Amritsar and Lahore fame set a wave going that swept thousands of workers into the shambles. It is, therefore, essential to shun empty phrases as the plague.

A year ago a miserable attempt was made to bring about unity among those who had, year in year out, swindled and betrayed the working class. The basis of the attempt was phrases borrowed from Russia, the plan miscarried, but it illustrated the rottenness that permeates those groups that throw overboard the principle of the class struggle in order to engage in compromise.

Between the workers and the masters there is no common meeting ground, no half-way house. To be successful we must hold to the ground of the class struggle and fight the battle out to its ultimate conclusion on this solid ground. As George Meredith pithily put it; in “The Tragic Comedians”: “Compromise is virtual death : it is the pact between cowardice and comfort under the title of expediency.”

The Financial Times and Inflation (1976)

From the October 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

For years the Financial Times has been offering a variety of different explanations of inflation. In an editorial “How Costs Get Pushed Up” (6th Sept.) it had another go.

It examined a number of theories, including that presented by the “monetarists” and Sir Keith Joseph, and discussed them. The point it made about the monetarists was that their explanation must be wrong because “wages and prices in this country began to accelerate after the unprecedented fiscal and monetary squeeze of 1968-70”.

Because of the superficial resemblance between monetarist theory and the explanation given by Marx it might be thought that the argument of the Financial Times against the monetarists would also prove Marx to have been wrong; but in fact the argument has no bearing on Marx’s explanation.

In brief Marx held that, in addition to the moderate rise and fall of the general price level in booms and depressions that takes place when there is no inflation (as in the 19th century) an excess issue of an inconvertible paper currency will send up prices. So why did the alleged “unprecedented monetary
squeeze” of 1968-70 not curb inflation?

The answer is that as regards the note issue no such squeeze took place. Using annual average figures of the notes and coin in circulation the increase between 1967 and 1970 was £401 million. This was not less but more than the £359 million expansion in the previous three years and has been followed by expansion of £1016 million in 1970-73 and £1782 million in 1973-76.

What the monetarists and the Financial Times have been looking at is not the currency, which is the key factor, but what the government calls “money supply” which is predominantly the total amount of bank deposits. Bank deposits have nothing to do with Marx’s valid explanation of inflation. There is no reason why they should be supposed to govern the price level, and the enormous increase of bank deposits in the last quarter of the 19th century was accompanied by a fall in prices.

The latest state of the Financial Times’s failure to understand inflation is its conclusion that the only way to curb it is “to reduce taxes on wages”.
Edgar Hardcastle

Crosland: His Kind of "Socialism" (1976)

From the January 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

Anthony Crosland, Labour Cabinet Minister and “guru” of the moderate wing of the Labour Party (vide The Observer) has delivered a lecture, at the invitation of the President of Costa Rica (another “socialist”?) on the above theme. It has now been published by the Fabian Society — who else? — and, as it is an artful ploy to kid Labour voters, it calls for a reply from us.

First, it will be noted that Crosland has his very own special brand of Socialism. Socialists have always held that Socialism is definite and unique, like oxygen or silicon: not so! says Tony. But, if everybody is inventing his own brand of Socialism, it ceases to mean anything and is all things to all men — as befits a Labour Party. One difficulty that arises when you run round inventing your own do-it-yourself Socialism is that you have to indicate what you mean, so that the others will think they know what you are talking about.

This our “guru” kindly did. Socialism (Crosland variety) is (1) a set of aspirations which socialists wish to achieve, (2) the relief of the poor, (3) a wider equality in the distribution of property. (Taken from Social-Democracy in Europe” by A. Crosland, Fabian Society.)

Anybody who has read two issues of the Socialist Standard could tell Crosland that this piffle has nothing to do with Socialism. And a good few who’ve never read it at all — in fact, Disraeli or Gladstone would have agreed with it; in public anyway. It is nothing but good old Liberal (or Tory) baloney.

Just for the record: “relief” of poverty is perpetuation of poverty. Socialism is the abolition of poverty. Socialism is not the re-distribution of wealth (property) but the abolition of property.

Stirring manfully to give his vapourings a semblance of reality, the “guru” has to drag in Karl Marx. Social-Democracy, he declares
  requires, and indeed can be defined as the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange (sic).
He maintains:
  The ownership of the means of production is not now the key factor which imparts to a society its essential character.
Apart from the absurdity of the obsolete notion that nationalization has anything to do with Socialism, this does not even tally with the notorious claims of the Labour Party constitution, which states nationalization (“public ownership”) as one of the party’s numerous objectives.

The artful trick consists in implying that Marx advocated this (nationalization or state ownership). Marx did not. He was crystal clear about it. And in case Crosland is kidding anybody — as the old- time Commies used to try it — that because the very first edition of The Communist Manifesto contained a demand for nationalization, that Marx was a “nationalizer”, the explanation is perfectly clear as Engels indicated in the last edition.

These demands were aimed at a fragmentary, underdeveloped continental transport and industry, and considered (rightly or wrongly) progressive by Marx in 1847. In subsequent polemics with the German social-democrats Marx, and particularly Engels, emphatically denounced the claim that state ownership was Socialism. Engels wrote in Anti-Dühring:
  Recently, however, since Bismarck adopted state ownership, a certain spurious socialism has made its appearance — here and there even degenerating into a kind of flunkeyism — which declares that all taking over by the state, even the Bismarckian kind, is in itself socialistic. If, however, the taking over of the tobacco trade by the state was socialistic, Napoleon and Metternich would rank among the founders of socialism . . . Otherwise, the Royal Maritime Company, the Royal Porcelain Manufacture, and even the regimental tailors in the army, would be socialist institutions.
Our lecturer proceeds to inform us that the dictatorships were easily the most inefficient regimes during the last war — which we have been telling left-wing insurrectionists for years. But this is the lead-in for the suggestion that the “Communist State” has something to do with Marx and Socialism; whereas actually the dictatorship was the invention of one Lenin.

We are treated to a few figures (no Fabian lecture complete without them!) which purport to show that “the trend” is in the right direction. There is less inequality, he claims, because the Diamond Report showed:
  “‘That the top 10% of earners now command only 21.4% of total personal incomes, compared with 34.6% before the war.”
  “That ownership of capital by the top 10% has fallen considerably, and the top 1% very markedly.”
— and that this re-distribution continues. Now these figures by themselves are extremely suspect; and can be juggled to almost any result required, by ignoring inflation and taking special periods (e.g. post-war boom).

But even accepting all his statements — so what? Is this Socialism — that a few rich capitalists have become comparatively less rich? or a few wage- earners less poor? How long before the next figures completely refute this lot?

We now come to the guts of the matter. Crosland says this “statistical evidence” is confirmed “by our own experience”. The beaches in Spain are crowded with “working people, enjoying the pleasures previously reserved for the few”. And (here we go again) "the motor car has brought new freedom to millions of people”.

Right back to the old “the workers are better off” syndrome. Incidentally, thousands of workers today complain that the motor car keeps them poor, not “free’. But what is all this but the hoary old rigmarole of the Theory of Increasing Misery in reverse? Marx wrote that the workers would sink down into ever-increasing poverty — and they haven’t — so there!

First, Marx never wrote anything of the sort. What he did write was:
  Along with the diminishing number of the magnates of capital . . . grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself.
(Capital, Vol. I p. 836, Kerr edn.)
Yes! the modern working class has cars, washing machines, colour telly, hot water, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, because this is 1975, not 1875; and because the capitalists spend millions kidding the workers to buy these things (they go broke if they don’t); and because sheer technical progress enables cheap production in factories in thousands instead of ones in laboratories.
  A house may be large or small; as long as the surrounding houses are equally small it satisfies all social demands for a dwelling. But let a palace arise alongside the little house. It shrinks from a house into a hut. Its owner now has no redress however high it may shoot up, if the palace grows to a greater extent, the small house owner will be cramped and dissatisfied.
(Wage Labour and Capital)
What is Marx saying? Suppose two men on ladders, one on the bottom rung, the other on the tenth. If while the bottom one moves up ten rungs the top moves up as well, their relative position is unchanged. The top-dog is still the same degree higher than the bottom dog.

“The contradictions of capitalism today are not those analysed by Marx 100 years ago”, says Crosland. The contradiction of all the contradictions which Marx analysed was that between wage-labour and capital, now rapidly engulfing the last continents of this earth. Crosland’s panacea for all this, his kind of Socialism, is “more industrial democracy”.

In the immortal words of Joe Bloggs: What a load of rubbish!

"The Dictatorship of the Proletariat" (1976)

From the April 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Communist parties of France and Italy are the biggest in Europe. The Italian party has 1.7 million members, and the French party half a million members. The Italian party holds 29 per cent. of the seats in Parliament and has 33 per cent. of the total vote (Guardian 16th February 1976). The present minority government, the Christian Democrats, depend on the Communists in order to rule, and it seems likely that the Communists will succeed to power. The position in France is said to be that the “Socialists and Communists will combine to form the next government”. Both Italian and French parties, we are told, have renounced the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat and are now relying on democratic methods to obtain and hold political power.

It is not the first time that the Communist parties have turned a complete somersault with embarrassing changes of policy. In the Sunday Times 29th February 1976, Mr. Napolitono, the Italian leader, had this to say about NATO when asked how a Communist party could remain a partner in an anti-communist alliance: “Everything changes. The NATO alliance is not the same as in 1950. In those days we took the view that the NATO alliance was potentially aggressive. But now the danger of an aggressive initiative by NATO against the Warsaw pact has disappeared”. This type of blatant dishonesty characterizes the Communist parties everywhere. A lie becomes the truth when circumstances demand it. What however have not disappeared are the nuclear missiles, the Polaris submarines, and the hordes of armed men ready to disembowel each other over the ownership and control of the earth’s resources at the behest of these unprincipled opportunists and their Moscow parents.

At the moment, the Italian and French capitalist classes are finding increasing difficulty in administering the system. Social problems are mounting, together with the effects of the present world slump. Both countries have unemployment well over the million mark: Italy has 1.3 million unemployed. In these circumstances, the capitalists are prepared to allow the cause of the Communists to advance, having heard them give assurances that they will uphold the national interest at the expense of cutting the ideological ties with the Soviet Union. It is significant that both French and Italian leaders were absent from the Moscow International Congress of World Communist Parties. Perhaps they decided not to risk it.

Communisls & Democracy
Should the Communist parties in both countries take over the running of the governments they will declare themselves for what they really are — the servants of capital. As such they will be forced to come into conflict with the workers and oppose demands where those demands do not harmonize with the interests of the ruling class. This is inevitable, for no political party can serve two masters. They will also show their impotence in solving problems which a class society produces, where events are in control, and where their forked tongues cannot help them.

The new-found democracy they now assume has been produced as evidence of their enlightenment, when in fact it was thrust upon them. Never at a loss to display their talents for turning night into day, they now seem to be claiming credit for discovering democracy. Mr. George Marchais, secretary of the French party, claims to have “defined, clarified and enriched the strategy of the political party line. This line lays down the democratic way we propose to Frenchmen to lead them to socialism . . . we have also taken into account national characteristics and traditions to build socialism with the colours of France”. (Times, 28th February, 1976).

The history of the Communist parties throughout the world is an unrelieved story of dictatorial organizations, having at their head the absolute dictatorship of the Communist party in Russia. The dictatorship of the proletariat and the dictatorship of the Communist party are two fundamentally different conditions. The former, which basically means conscious majority rule, has never existed in Russia. With the present exception of the Chinese party, whose international ideology has had to give way to the building-up of state capitalism and the defence of national interests, all Communist parties have to be regarded as Trojan horses of Soviet capitalism. The fear of the more ignorant politicians is that if the Communists ever get power in the West they will emulate Lenin and never let it go. When the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, Lenin shut down the Constituent Assembly and abolished free elections, set up censorship, and abolished other democratic rights enjoyed by workers. Had free elections been allowed shortly after the hollow victory of the revolution there was a real danger that the Bolsheviks might have been voted out of power, and Lenin was not prepared to risk it.

The conditions in a modern capitalist country are very different from those obtaining in Russia are 1917. The parliamentary system of government based on a democratic franchise means that property questions can be settled by a democratic vote. Generally, the democratic system of election and an uncensored press, free trade unions, and the freedom of political parties to have their say, grows naturally out of the conditions of free trade. As Engels said, the bourgeois democratic republic is the natural state for capitalism.

Marx's Phrase
In May 1875 the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany, led by Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht, and the General Association of German Workers, founded by Lassalle, decided to unite under the name of the Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany. The unity congress was held at Gotha. Prior to the conference, a programme outlining the aims of the new organization was sent to Marx for his criticism. In a letter to Bracke, a founder member of the Social Democratic Party, Marx criticized the Programme. It consisted of a number of vague, and in many cases ethical, propositions which could mean anything. The first proposal, “Labour is the source of all wealth and all cultures”, Marx showed was incorrect, as it ignored the part played by nature.

In criticizing the democratic section II “The Free basis of the State (government machine)” he said : “Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one with the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the State can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat”. (The letter was published by Engels in 1891, 15 years later). This is the historic statement which Lenin seized upon as justifying the dictatorship in Russia and the failure of the Bolsheviks to solve the problems of production without which Socialism is impossible. The transformation between capitalist and communist society became twisted to mean a transition between Socialism and Communism. Socialism being a “lower stage” and Communism a “higher stage”.

The elaborate falsification of Marx’s theory was connived because the Russian revolution was represented to the world as a Socialist revolution, but the Socialism was absent because the conditions for its establishment were absent. The historic revolutionary rôle of Lenin and the Bolsheviks was to build up a capitalist society in Russia, and they knew it, despite the fact that the Bolshevik party contained a number of Marxist thinkers. There was no other course open to them.

"The Transition Period"
Marx’s phrase about the transformation between capitalism and communism could not apply, because capitalism had not developed in Russia. Moreover, Marx was discussing the kind of action the workers ought to take after they had gained political power and Socialism had been established, and the State had become the agent of working-class emancipation instead of an instrument of oppression, and also what changes the form of the State would undergo in communist society. In Marx’s view there could only be a scientific answer to that, and it was what the conference ought to be discussing: not the “freeing of the State” but its transformation within the new conditions of production which communism would bring forth. Earlier in his criticism, dealing with the section on the “fair distribution of the proceeds of labour”, he said: “What we have to deal with here is a Communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society, which is thus in every respect economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmark of the old society from whose womb it emerges”.
(Critique of the Gotha Programme, p.16, Progress Publishers, Moscow.)

Marx cannot be cited as an advocate of dictatorship. A few years earlier, in his book The Civil War in France, dealing with the Paris Commune, he wrote: “The Commune was essentially a government of the working class: the result of the struggles of the producing class against the appropriating class, the political form under which the freedom of labour could be attained being at length revealed”. Engels, in his introduction to the work, said: “Of late, the German philistine has once more been filled with wholesome terror at the workers’ Dictatorship of the Proletariat: well and good gentlemen, do you want to know what this Dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune, that was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat”. (Civil War in France, p.19, Martin Lawrence, 1933.)

Those who know something of the brief history of the Commune will know that instead of the suspension of democracy, it was founded on its most thoroughgoing use. Dictatorship, in the final analysis, must come to mean a form of government by a single individual or of an organization over a great mass. Both these forms are impossible in a Socialist society. The Socialist movement is not a minority movement, it is a movement consciously pushing the interests of the majority. This marks it off from all previous movements which were movements of minorities in the interests of minorities. This mass movement can only be organized on a democratic basis. Everyone will and must know what fundamental issues are involved, and what is expected of them. Participation requires understanding.

It should be borne in mind that Marx’s criticism of the Gotha Programme was not meant for publication, and it was contained in letter form. Furthermore, it was addressed to Wilhelm Bracke and other founders of the Social Democratic Party to be sent to Bebel and Liebknecht, all of whom were men of long experience in the Socialist movement, and who were all familiar with Marx's ideas and writings. Their interpretation of what Marx meant would have been different from that of the ordinary layman. One thing is indisputable, and that is that the Communist party have no claim whatever to represent the work of Marx. They cannot abandon the Dictatorship of the Proletariat because they have never known the meaning of it, let alone accepted it.

Establishment of Socialism
We in the Socialist movement do not accept the idea of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat as a transitional period. We have no need to because class society will be abolished simultaneously with the establishment of common ownership. The State machine will be under the direct control of Society, and its repressive organs will be the first to be abolished. Other social and administrative functions, will be developed in accordance with prevailing social requirements. All forms of social re-organization will be under the democratic control of the community. No political transition will be required because political society ends with the abolition of social classes. The political transition takes place before the eventual victory of the proletariat. Capitalist ideology has given way to Socialist ideology — the revolution is complete.

One of the difficulties facing Marx was that the Gotha Programme was not a Socialist programme, nor were the parties to it Socialist parties. However, these were all Marx had to work on, and he had to do the best he could, in all the circumstances. Experience has shown that a well-intentioned leadership with Socialist ideas is not sufficient to change society. The SPGB has learnt this lesson from history.
Jim D'Arcy

Racism and Nationalism, or Socialism? (1978)

From the January 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Living under capitalism with its attendant social misery, poverty and unemployment, where working-class housing and education are in a permanent state of chaos, scapegoats become an essential part of the set-up. Finding something or someone to blame is the easy answer for those who take a crude and superficial view governed by emotions rather than facts.

It is yet another contradiction of the system that the capitalist class cannot control the excesses and side-effects of their own propaganda. They din patriotic poison into workers’ heads in order to produce national conformity, only to find they cannot just switch those attitudes off when they want to recruit labour from overseas. National-mindedness is completely opposed to the real interests of all workers. It leads them to identify with the interests of the capitalist class and to line up behind the commercial ambitions of that class.

This means workers being willing to die in wars to maintain vested interests and profits. It means taking on the business worries of the owning class and, in times of crisis, regarding Japanese or Germans or any other rivals for world markets with resentment; and to prefer that Britain should be top dog and the others suffer the worst unemployment. Such loyalty, bolstered by fear and insecurity, is dangerously misguided. The ideology of nationalism is divisive and dehumanizing.

Struggle for jobs
How is a slogan such as the National Party’s “British jobs for British people” to be interpreted? Are they saying that immigrants are not British and should therefore have no jobs in Britain? Do they want these workers kept on so-called Social Security, or sent out of the country? It is a slogan for the slave.

What are “British jobs”? Working for American-owned Ford or General Motors, or for a British company overseas? Capital is international. The owning class get in wherever they can, so long as profits roll in, they care not from where. The workers of the world carry the capitalists of the world on their backs. They should concern themselves not with the colour or nationality of those who exploit them, but with ending exploitation.

Leftists like the Communist Party and “Socialist” Workers’ Party indirectly promote the same mentality as the NP and NF. Slogans like “Work not dole” and “The right to work” are taken up by the nationalists, who merely add: “If all these immigrants were not here we would all have work.” In fact repatriation—now called a fascist policy by the left—was advocated by the Communist Party itself. When the employment of Polish immigrants was discussed in the House of Commons in 1947, the Communist MP William Gallacher declared: “Let them get employment in their own country.” (Hansard Vol. 432, col. 1555.)

In the same year a booklet was published by the Communist Party called Looking Ahead. Harry Pollitt put the question:
  I ask you, does it make sense that we allow 500,000 of our best young people to put their names down for emigration abroad, when at the same time we employ Poles who ought to be back in their own country, and bring to work in Britain displaced persons who ought to be sent back to their own countries? We want our own workers to have confidence in their own land, to take a pride in building it up.
(Quoted in Questions of the Day, 1969)
Identical to the pernicious non-sense now being churned out by the National Front. Perhaps the CP would make the distinction that the NF direct their policy against people who are black? Then they might tell us where the same policy is different when directed against people because they are “displaced” or come from Poland.

Ends of the Earth
The whole of politics under capitalism, being built upon lies, twisting and the promotion of petty personalities, is pretty squalid, but the attempt to cash-in on the crudest class-ignorance in the form of racist ideas is the low-tide mark of that squalor. Enoch Powell gambled that this tide might sweep him into power. None of the trends he forecast has come about. Nothing he has predicted has happened. In one of his dark warnings we were threatened with “rivers of blood” as a consequence of black people continuing to come to Britain.

This appeal to the basest of emotions ignored the fact that the major tensions which exist (and not just between black and white people) are produced by capitalism. Powell, like all professional politicians and leaders, is prepared cynically to exploit the ugly effects of the system for his own advantage—having, in office, demonstrated his inability to control that system.

It is one of capitalism’s hypocrisies that socially useless people like professional politicians spend their time telling workers to work harder, while they and the parasite class they represent live well on the proceeds. Compare the contribution to society made by a black (or white) nurse with that made by Enoch Powell.

The British capitalist class in their quest for profits went to the corners of the earth with bible and gun, grabbing a vast empire. When the empire was at its “greatest”, the misery and the numbers of unemployed were also at their greatest. Extreme poverty was rampant, tuberculosis was endemic, and there were constant wars and crises. Today the killer diseases are different, but otherwise capitalism is the same. The British workers owned no empire; even the pawnshops and barrel-organs were not theirs. Today workers, whether black or white, British or “colonial”, still own no country.

In America, fear of the black man was (and remains) a direct outgrowth of the poverty inflicted by capitalism on “poor whites”. Under that pressure, with an admixture of ignorance, their conduct sank to a sickening level. The upsurge of the advocacy of “black power” in recent years can only be understood as the backlash. But separation, whether imposed by whites or sought by blacks, can solve none of the problems engendered by capitalism. Karl Marx, falsely depicted by the capitalist press as the architect of class hate, gave as his favourite maxim “I regard nothing human as alien to me”. The same propaganda machine which vilifies Marx spreads nationalist poison and justifies nuclear stockpiles.

In 1977 there was a sharpening focus on “racial” issues, particularly in the period of the County Council elections. The Labour Party’s loss of support through some workers turning to more extreme nationalist groups led to a demand in the Lambeth Labour Party to ban the National Front. Leftist organizations formed action groups to “fight racism”, and published leaflets containing much factually useful information (largely culled from the Office of Population censuses and surveys).

The way some of the information is used, however, shows that these groups either seek to calm nationalist emotions or share the same emotions themselves. They stress that only 11 per cent. of the population here are immigrants and compare this with higher levels elsewhere; only 1¾ million black people live in Britain, only 4 per cent. of Asians live in council houses. The note of apology is hard to miss. Yet while workers dispute with one another their “right” to move from place to place, the capitalist class own the earth.

A National Front leaflet ignores the official figure of 3½ million immigrants and claims there are 6 million. A photograph of four black faces is supposed to support the lie. In fact there are 1¾ million. Such statistics, on both sides, attempt to prove or disprove an irrelevance.

The Solution
The idea of banning or restricting the NF has gained further impetus with marches being outlawed in Manchester, the hire of civic halls to them forbidden in Islington, and the Labour Conference discussion of how to ban some marches and allow others.

The statement by Merlyn Rees typified the Labour Party fallacy that reform legislation can remedy the effects of capitalism. He favoured amending the Public Order Act (as if this Act has produced public order!). He pointed to the Race Relations Act which makes it an offence to say or do anything to incite race hatred. He seems to believe that racism is produced by the National Front. The reverse is true.

Wrong ideas cannot be banned, and trying to ban them is itself a wrong idea. It seeks to treat the effects, not the cause. Only in unfettered debate and open discussion can erroneous ideas be exposed and answered. The Labour Party fears that process as much as the National Front.

Nothing short of removing capitalism can get rid of its antagonisms. As workers gain an understanding of Socialism they will leave behind bigoted ideas about colour, race and nationality. They will pursue their own interest not as blacks or whites, Britons or "foreigners”, but as workers. In so doing, they will free themselves from the bondage of wage-slavery. When the system of exploitation and poverty is ended, the perverse ideology which supported it will also have disappeared.
Harry Baldwin

From the February 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

An error occurred in typing the manuscript of the article 'Racism and Nationalism, or Socialism?' in our January issue. The point to be conveyed was that there are 3½ million immigrants, of which 1¾ millions are black. The NF photograph tried to convey the lie that there are 6 million immigrants all of whom are black.

Production without profits (1992)

From the August 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

Under capitalism goods are distributed as commodities through markets and this—what can be sold at a profit—determines what is produced. The key determining factor is market capacity, and market capacity cannot be controlled. In previous societies people controlled production to the best of their abilities and what they produced determined what could be distributed.

Under capitalism the position is reversed. What can be distributed, as sales on markets, determines what can be produced and also the way it is produced. This is a unique and highly dangerous feature of capitalism as it is this absence of control that is a basic cause of all the risks we are running with the destruction of the environment.

We’ve got to reclaim control over production. In socialism this will be democratic control and the only way we can get it is by establishing common ownership. We’ve got to begin that control by first consciously agreeing to abolish the profit motive, markets and the wages system. We’ve got to agree to have goods produced directly for people’s needs through voluntary cooperation.

Cooperation to produce goods directly for needs is not something new. This was how people sustained their social life for thousands of years. We need to get back to it, though at a much higher technological level and also with a vastly increased volume of production.

What do we mean by needs? This cannot be treated as a purely abstract issue outside any historical context. A sensible approach is to ask: Does capitalism produce everywhere in the world enough good quality food, clothing, housing, water and sewage systems, cooking facilities, energy for heating and lighting, health and education services, books, radio and TV, entertainment, and means of travel?

If people had secure use of all these things most would say they were well set up. Obviously capitalism falls a long way short of providing them for every person on the planet. What this means for production in socialism is that, to begin with, the supply of goods and services would have to be greatly increased. This in turn means that the means of energy supply, manufacture and transport will also have to be greatly increased.

One example can be given.

At least two-thirds of the world’s population of 5 billion live in sub-standard housing conditions which range from generally inadequate to the primitive, dangerous and disgusting. Think of Mexico City with its millions living in shanty towns and you get a vivid idea of the scale of the problem. So socialism would have to go in for a colossal building programme.

We are not just talking about buildings, bricks and mortar, roof tiles, and glass. The modern idea of decent housing includes all the necessary services like sewage and sanitation. piped clean water, electricity or gas, and also consumer durables like cookers, refrigerators, central heating, air conditioning in the tropics, telephones, etc.

Before you can produce this enormous quantity of materials for building and all the components for the required manufactured goods—as well as the extra tractors, harvesters, irrigation schemes, etc for increasing the supply of food—you first have to produce increased means of production.

Production for needs on a world scale is going to involve a vast increase in every part of the useful structure of world production: agriculture, mining, manufacture, the chemical industry and transportation. The concept of world production is very important here because what socialism must do can only be achieved through the largest possible scale of production using a worldwide division of labour.

Further, the division of the world into rival capitalist states has resulted in a world structure of energy production that would be unsuitable for socialism. America. Britain, France and Russia poured massive finance into the development of nuclear weapons and in doing so created a huge military/industrial nuclear base. In order to try and get something back out of this colossal financial outlay they decided to make some economic use of the technology, the plants and the skilled labour by building nuclear power stations.

In view of the problems involved—the dangers of running them and the build-up of radioactivity in the environment—no society in its right mind would go in for energy based on splitting the atom, but the economic and military strategies of rival capitalist states has resulted in a distorted and highly dangerous structure of world energy production.

Burning fossil fuels to produce energy also causes pollution and creates the threat of global warming. The risks we are taking with this are incalculable. No one can anticipate a possible point where an alteration in the make-up of the atmosphere could set off a chain reaction which could lead to great changes in the environment that would be a disaster for humankind.

So this is something else that socialism would have to deal with. We've got to add care of the environment to the list of needs.

Meeting needs
Socialism will have a number of advantages in dealing with these problems.

Firstly, the really great difference will be that instead of functioning in a dehumanised way as objects of exploitation within the wages system generating profit and capital accumulation for their exploiters, people will be freely cooperating with each other to do what was necessary for the community. The whole method of organisation would be through democratic control. People will decide what must be done and they will be free to get on with it solely for the benefit of everyone.

Secondly, socialism will remove vast amounts of waste. That capitalism is a society of fantastic waste was put very well by Marx:
  The capitalist mode of production, while on the one hand enforcing economy in each individual business, begets by its anarchical system of competition, the most outrageous squandering of labour power and of the social means of production. not to mention the creation of a vast number of employments, at present indispensable. but in themselves superfluous.
(Capital,Volume I. chapter 17. section 4).
The precise amount of labour that would become available for useful production in socialism is very difficult to judge but, at a rough estimate, it is likely that socialism could double the number of people available for this. The waste in terms of mining, manufacture, transport and energy supply that goes into the war machine and to servicing activities like insurance, finance and banking could be diverted into useful production, reducing the amount by which total production would need to be increased.

A third important advantage that socialism would enjoy would be the freedom to select and use production methods strictly on their merits. It would not matter that a desirable method might use more labour than an undesirable one. The selection and use of production methods will be free to take into account a broad range of needs, including the enjoyment of work itself, care of the environment, conservation of materials, social safety and animal welfare.

The fourth advantage that socialism would enjoy is that it will be free to use the planet as a single productive unit. This will follow from the establishment of a common interest amongst all peoples, and it will tend to make for a safer and more rational use of the Earth’s resources.

The problem of energy supply is one field where a lot of experts are saying that there must be world action based on global consensus. For example in 1983 Janet Ramage wrote in Energy: A Guide Book:
  How about a world-wide electric grid? It could use underground and ocean floor superconducting cables, and the power could come from solar farms in the world’s major deserts. Ocean Thermal Conversion Plants in tropical waters, and wave power stations and wind turbine arrays in remote regions. No atmospheric pollution, no radioactive wastes, no use of valuable agricultural land or precious fresh water. Would it work? There are probably no insuperable technical problems. There is just one question. How do we get there from here?
Ramage understands as well as anybody else that a world-wide electric grid is impossible in a world divided between rival capitalist states. That is why she asks: “how do we get there from here?”

This is where socialism comes in as the only system that could provide the common interest amongst all people, and the cooperation, for the construction of such a world system of energy supply.

The longer term
To begin with, socialism will be constrained by the sheer pressure to deal with existing problems as quickly as possible. We've got to increase world food production as an urgent priority to stop people from dying. Equally urgent is the need to house all people to a decent standard of comfort. Initially this will require a huge increase in production and large-scale undertakings in the context of a world-wide division of labour.

But once the homes are built, and once all the services have been connected, then these will be in place and available for use for a very long time. You don't have to keep on producing them. The same goes for increased means of production.

On the basis of a number of reasonable assumptions—that population numbers reach some sort of stable level; that the means of production are not subject to constant innovation: that people make a sensible decision about the limits to consumption—a point will eventually be reached where we can say enough is enough. At this point production will begin to fall sharply.

When this position is reached it will have important consequences for planning, decision-making and organisation. If you are setting up a world energy system—perhaps a single world-wide electric grid as suggested by Janet Ramage—with inputs of current from various places and based on using the planet's resources in the most advantageous way, then that will require world action, with planning, decision-making and organisation through a World Energy Agency. But once it is in place, and all you've got to do is to maintain it in good working order, you no longer need planning and organisation on the same scale. World action diminishes, leaving people involved in their local affairs.

The same thing goes for food production. We need urgent world action to stop people from dying, but once this was done and large-scale projects like irrigation schemes were completed, this would allow local communities more latitude to make their own arrangements about local food production for local needs.

A practical long-term scenario is a society of zero growth with a fixed structure of means of production producing stable levels of goods for stable numbers of people; a conservation society which could work with a minimum loss of natural materials through things like recycling: a society where, because people will live in cooperation with each other, they will also be able to work in cooperation and harmony with the natural systems of the planet, and where the focus of social life will be mainly with the local community.
Pieter Lawrence

Wage Labour and Surplus Value (1946)

From the April 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why do we speak of wage-labour? Because there are and were other kinds of labour for which no wages are paid. There is, for instance, the labour of a man working in his garden and the labour of a woman working in the house. People work for wages in order to get a living. In fact, for most people today it is the only way they can get a living. These are the people who do the work of society: till the land, make the produce of factories, bake the bread, drive the trains, lorries and ships. In times gone by other kinds of labour did this sort of work. In Greek and Roman times it was chattel slaves; people who were bought and sold like cattle or horses. In the Middle Ages it was bond slaves; people who handed over a large portion of their produce to the lords who owned the land.

What are wages? On the surface they appear, to be a payment for the actual work done, the thing produced. In reality, however, they are something else. When a man is paid wages he is paid to work for a certain time. He sells not his work, the thing he does, but his working power for a certain period, A weekly wage is payment for working for a week. When he receives his wages the worker buys food, clothes, housing accommodation and other things that are necessary to keep him alive and able to go on working. The workers' wages are therefore the means to exchange his labouring power for the things he needs. Just as the capitalist sells butter and battleships for money with which to purchase other commodities so the worker sells his labouring power, the energy contained in his brain and muscles, to buy the things he needs All things that are produced for sale are commodities. The worker’s labouring power is likewise a commodity which he exchanges for other commodities. There are certain important differences between the worker’s commodity, labour-power, and other commodities. But we will consider these differences later. First let us establish the commodity character of labour-power.

The wealth of society today consists of commodities, articles produced for the purpose of being sold. Some are displayed in shop windows with price cards attached, others only appear in price lists of different firms, others again are quoted when required. A battleship, for instance, has no price card, nor does it appear in a price list. When a government wants a battleship it asks the different makers of battleships how much they will charge for building one to a certain specification, and the cheapest price is generally accepted. Thus the things you eat and drink, the clothes you wear, the houses you live in, the trams, buses and trains you travel in, are all commodities. They are produced for sale and the object of the seller is to obtain a profit from the sale of them. The money received for the commodity sold is used to buy other commodities. So that what really happens is that one kind of commodity is exchanged for another and money steps in to facilitate the exchange. In other words commodities are exchanged for commodities, and the worker likewise exchanges his commodity, labour-power, for other commodities.

All commodities have one thing in common, they are the product of labour, they have been produced. The different values, or prices, of articles depend upon the different quantities of labour, measured by time, required to produce them. The values of all articles are determined by their cost of production in human labour, that is the quantity of labour time used up in producing them. It is essential to remember that labour-power can only be measured by the time it is in action. The value of a kettle is small because little labour time is used up in producing it. The value of an ocean liner is great because an enormous amount of the labour time of large bodies of men and women is used up in producing it.

The value of the worker’s labour-power, and hence the wage he receives, is determined in the same way as the values of other commodities, by the labour-time used up in producing it. Now this sounds strange as labour-power is not an article you see, like a kettle or a ship. It is the stored-up energy in the human body, and it is only expressed when in action, producing something. Also the capitalist does not pay for it until it has been in operation producing something, and then only for the time it has been in operation. A worker works for a week and the capitalist pays him at the end of the week for the week during which he has been working. The capitalist gets the use of the worker’s labour-power on credit.

Whence comes the worker’s labour-power? From the food he eats, and he must have clothes to wear and somewhere to sleep in order that this labour-power may be conserved and capable of being applied to producing something. He must also be able to bring up children to replace him as a producer when he is worn out. The cost of production of labour-power is determined by the cost of the food, clothing, shelter, and so forth, that is necessary to enable the worker to do the particular kind of work required. The value of labour-power is therefore equal to the value of what the worker needs in order to live and bring up a family. The worker sells his labour-power by the week or month for a sum of money that enables him to buy what he needs in order to live—he is a wage-labourer.

From what has been explained so far it will be seen that the worker is paid (in the form of wages or salary) the full value of his labour-power. It may reasonably be asked, if this is so, what has the worker to complain about? Well there is a great deal to complain about. Although the worker is paid the value of his labour-power yet he is robbed. How can this be? Let us go into the question a little further.

The capitalist employs the worker to produce commodities that are sold at a profit, and yet the value of these commodities is the amount of human labour required to produce them. Where does the profit come from if all commodities exchange at their values, including the worker's labour-power? How does the capitalist make money out of selling commodities? He cannot make it out of tricking his fellow capitalist because that could only mean in the end the ruin of all capitalists except one, and even he would be ruined eventually because there would be nobody left to trick. And yet the capitalists continue to sell their commodities and grow rich. The answer is really a simple one, but it is concealed by the buying and selling system. The answer is that the commodity the worker sells his physical energy, differs from all other commodities in this, that its consumption results in a greater value than itself. Labour-power in action produces more value than the value of the food, clothing and other things upon which its own value is based.

If it costs in money, say, £5 to purchase what will keep the worker for a week then, in the course of that week, he will produce commodities whose value is far greater than £5. The difference between the £5 the worker gets and the greater amount he produces is the source of the capitalist’s profit. Thus by employing workers the capitalist makes a profit, and, generally speaking, the more workers he employs the more profit he makes. Therefore, although the capitalist pays the worker the value of his labour-power, the worker is robbed in the course of the productive process because more value is produced by him than he receives in wages.. While he is producing commodities he is also producing surplus value for the capitalist.