Thursday, October 10, 2019

50 Years Ago: The Problem of Unemployed Women (1971)

The 50 Years Ago column from the September 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

On July 22 the Daily News published the report of an interview with Professor Patrick Geddes, in the course of which he said, "a coming discount of women is imminently threatened, and is indeed in accelerating progress”.

The same newspaper then asked Miss Margaret Bondfield, Secretary to the Federation of Women Workers, for her views on Professor Geddes’ remarks. Miss Bondfield confirmed them and proceeded to show where she believes the remedies lie. "To perpetuate the idea that marriage is the sole aim of woman's life”, she said, "is to court disaster. Many hundreds of thousands of women must make up their minds that there can be no marriage at the end for them. They must therefore be trained to take a real interest in their career”.

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Miss Bondfield suggests “social work” as an outlet, particularising child welfare, maternity work and administration. This is her way of meeting the emotional case. For the economic: “One thing is vital—our young people must be sent back to school to learn discipline. The wickedest crime of the government has been the shutting down of educational facilities and the curtailing of continuation school education at the present time, especially when unempolyment is so bad. These young women are thus thrown upon the world unprepared. If it costs millions they must be sent back to school”.

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Hitherto in the history of capitalism employers have encouraged the presence of women in the labour market; they constituted an abundant supply of cheap labour-power. But with the rising wages of women consequent upon improving organisation, and the falling wages of men resultant from widespread unemployment, the preference is rapidly being transferred to men.

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And what value have Miss Bondfield’s remedies? Suppose the fullest use of her Committee what can it accomplish? It can ensure that women shall compete on equal terms with men for such jobs as are to be filled. But since in its normal workings capitalist production never needs all the labour-power that offers itself, and since what it does need is relatively a diminishing quantity, all that the Committee can do is to change the personnel of the army of unemployed: substitute some hungry men for some hungry women, incidentally providing the master-class with better trained, more serviceable material and even of this excellent thing one can have too much, the employers think: do they need Miss Bondfield to point out the virtue of 'instrument at hand'? Since it would appear that there is no lack of workers sufficiently well trained to do what is required of them, and no near prospect of such a lack, the shutting down of educational facilities is a measure of praiseworthy economy, from the capitalist point of view.

(From an article ‘The Order of St. Catherine" by A. Leslie, Socialist Standard September 1921).

50 Years Ago: “Black Friday” (1971)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

When in 1914, the Miners joined up with the Railwaymen and the Transport Workers in a loose federation called the Triple Alliance, for the purpose of defence against just such an action as that now being taken by the mine owners (Notice of big pay reductions), it was hailed by all as the ‘Direct Activists’ and ‘economic power’ phrasemongers as the greatest step forward the workers had ever taken. Although each of the constituent bodies forming the Alliance have, at different times, been engaged in hard fights with the masters some excuse has always been forthcoming to explain why the Alliance should not use its power to assist such a body. Now it was going to show this power. After several meetings it was decided on the 8th April that, unless negotiations were re-opened between the Miners and the Mine-owners, the Railway and Transport workers would be called out at midnight of the 12th April. Having reached this decision Messrs. Thomas, Cramp, Abraham. Bevin, Gosling, Sexton and R. Williams were formed into a deputation to carry on negotiations between the government and the Miners Executive.

Late on Saturday night, April 9th, the latter agreed to issue a notice calling upon their members not to interfere with volunteers working the pumps and engines, and upon this condition a meeting between the miners and owners was fixed for the Monday morning. On this arrangement the strike was called off.

The meeting was a failure. No agreement was reached and the miners, faced with essentially the same situation as before, left the conference.

Then the Executive of the Triple Alliance called another strike on Friday 15th April at 10 p.m.

This was to be ‘the thing’. No more dallying, no more shuffling or waste of time, but a strong and determined blow against aggression.

The blow came alright, but to the utter amazement and confusion of the rank and file it was a blow by the Executive of the NUR and the Transport Workers against the miners. They had decided to cancel the strike.

Seldom has such treachery been exposed in the industrial field. It was a complete betrayal of the miners by their own associates . . .

The Labour Leader (ILP) and the official organ of the several times united Communist Party joined in putting the bulk of the blame upon J. H. Thomas, but this condemnation proceeds from a desire to make him a scapegoat for the actions of members of the ILP like Sexton and of the Communist Party, like R. Williams, who were not one whit less guilty than Thomas.

(From an unsigned editorial 'The Betrayal of the Miners’ Socialist Standard, May 1921).

50 Years Ago: On Being Constructive (1971)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

"We are men who do constructive work", said the Labour-'Socialist' canvasser. "We don't just talk Socialism".

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The value of constructive work depends on what it is you construct. There was a maniac once who built a fly-trap with oak beams and concrete and caught no flies but had constructed something.

Now the Labour Party may justly claim to have done abundant constructing, at Westminster, on local administrative bodies, wage boards, governmental commissions, and what not. A galaxy of practical measures stands to the credit of its initiative or support; unemployment insurance, infant welfare arrangements, rent restriction, old age pensions, with all their compeers, and pious resolutions urging voluntary resolutions upon our masters, as thick as broken promises about the heels of capitalist statesmen.

In face of these brilliant operations the work of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is modest indeed. It is merely busy constructing the only thing of worth in the cause of Socialist — a body of intelligent working-class opinion.

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If the mere building of something is itself commendable, let us have a wall round Windermere, a pond for lost principles, or a moving stairway from the Labour benches to the Cabinet; but if our aim is toward Socialism, then the path of our advance lies in that very phrase used by our labour canvasser. “Talk Socialism” until working men and women cease to content themselves with any ameliorations of capitalist conditions, and organise for their two-fold task: to destroy the system that binds them to toil, and attain to freedom by building anew.

(From an editorial "The Master Builders”. Socialist Standard, April 1921).

50 Years Ago: Bombers To Extend British Influence (1971)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Colonel Amery, as Under Secretary for the Colonies, has received the congratulations of the House for his economic handling of the situation in Somaliland, he having disposed of the ‘enemy’ at the trifling cost of about £100,000. A ‘gratifying’ feature of his report was the confidence expressed that within a number of years, Somaliland will pay the cost of its administration. The economy has been affected by the use of the aeroplane, a method. General Seeley states, which is far more preferable to the old-fashioned way of advancing small bodies of infantry ‘to extend British influence'. He considers the use of aeroplanes cheaper, more effective, and more humane than any other method. Its effectiveness is not in doubt as the people of Amritsar and of Mesopotamia can testify, but as to its being humane, that is open to question.

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The use of aeroplanes as a method of settling disputes is coming more and more into favour, and the adoption of this ‘humane’ method as a cure for industrial unrest can be looked forward to as a certainty.

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By the way, it is interesting to note that it has been established beyond doubt that the first bombs dropped on any town were dropped by the British on Cologne and Dusseldorf. This represents the initiation of this form of 'extending British influence'. (See Manchester Guardian 1 November 1920).

(From an article in the Socialist Standard, January 1921, by Tom Sala).

50 Years Ago: Socialists and War (1986)

The 50 Years Ago column from the August 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

The workers then should throw their weight against war. What does this mean in practice? As the working class have not yet placed themselves in control of the machinery of government, but continue at each election to place the capitalists in control, the latter are in a position to decide when, where and why the armed forces shall be set in motion, and also the amount and nature of the armed forces. The question the capitalists have to consider when deciding whether or not to wage war over any particular international conflict is the probable consequences to themselves. These include the military probabilities, personal danger (from air-raids, etc ), and also the effect war will have on the workers. If the working class, or any large body of them, are hostile to the war the capitalists have to consider how to overcome that hostility and what will be the result if they should fail to do so. To the extent that the workers in any country are alive to their interests and opposed to war the capitalists will be inclined to make some concession to the enemy government, rather than face war. A majority of workers will, however, never be in favour of peace against capitalist wishes while they (the workers) are prepared to support capitalist government, because they will always be ready to accept capitalist reasons for waging a particular war.

[From Socialists and War, Socialist Standard, August 1936. ]

50 Years Ago: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1985)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is an unwritten law of the newspaper world that the rich and the politically powerful must always be represented in a favourable light. Their vices must be veiled if at all possible, and if they are so glaring that they simply force themselves on the notice of the general public, then they must be given a certain twist. They must be made to appear as the pardonable eccentricities of genius, or lightly turned aside with the sycophantic snigger which our Press and literary gentlemen reserve exclusively for their capitalist masters. Thus it happens that Mr. X-. whose friends know him to be a drunken gambler. appears to the readers of the newspaper as a jovial soul, with heart of gold — all because he is a powerful instrument for deluding working class electorates in the interest of capitalism. This courtesy is also extended to foreign potentates, and only temporarily abandoned for purposes of war. Newspaper readers soon forget, and are not at all shaken in their trustfulness when they see Lord Rothermere, for example, heaping praises on the head of that "great man", the ex-Crown Prince of Germany, only a few years after Lord Rothermere's newspapers had represented him as the world's prize buffoon.
(From an editorial in the Socialist Standard, July 1935.)

50 Years Ago: Futility of Nationalisation (1976)

The 50 Years Ago column from the November 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

All of the Labour Party’s nationalisation proposals involve the payment of compensation in the shape of interest-bearing bonds to the former owners. Now, apart from the futility of trying to introduce Socialism piecemeal, industry by industry, what will be the position when the Labour Party has finished nationalising all the essential services? The capitalist class will still be property-owners — their property being government bonds instead of company shares etc. They will still live by owning, and without rendering service . . . The working class will still be engaged in producing wealth for the benefit of the capitalist class. Socialism will not be in existence, and no important working-class problem will have been solved.

(From an editorial "Socialism and the Labour Party” in the Socialist Standard, November 1926.)

50 Years Ago: Where All The Workers Are Capitalists (1976)

The 50 Years Ago column from the September 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the busiest writers in defence of Capital is Dean Inge of St. Paul’s Cathedral. In an article in the Evening Standard (August 26th) illuminated by his photo, he discourses on “The Class War”. The gloomy dean has become very optimistic about the Kingdom of Capital, in fact, more hopeful than he is about the “Kingdom of God’’. This ‘cultured’ cleric, who spent twenty years of his life studying the mysteries of the ancient world, has spent about twenty minutes studying Socialism, and hence miles of articles denouncing ‘the horrid thing’.

Let us hear the words of the very reverend divine:
  ‘all who are interested in social questions — and who can escape from these painful problems? — — should study the conditions in America, for there we have an alternative to Socialism in working order. Two results have followed. There is, as I was assured last year when I visited America, very little Socialism there now, because every working man is himself a capitalist. That is one result; the other is that no country has ever been half so prosperous as the United States is today’.
The ‘continued progress to equality’ is a fine phrase. While it may be true of the dead — the special field of the Dean — it certainly is not true of America. Not only so, but America is the country par excellence, where the gulf between the worker and the owner gets wider every day.

(From an article “A Land of ‘No Class War’ ” by Adolph Kohn, in the Socialist Standard, September 1926.)

50 Years Ago: A Liberal-Labour Government? (1976)

The 50 Years Ago column from the August 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent Labour Government took office as a gift from the Liberal Party. Their short term of ‘power’, with its attendant rewards, no doubt whetted the appetite of these Labour Leaders.

Philip Snowden, in an article published in Reynolds’ (June 6th) exhibits a hunger that is ravenous, and a contempt for the minds of his followers that is surprising, even in a Labour Leader.

After pointing out ‘That there is a large amount of Liberal opinion and sentiment in the country, which is disorganised’, this ‘Honourable Gentleman’ asserts that ‘If any man can revive the fortunes of the Liberal Party, it is Mr. Lloyd George’.

For what purpose should Lloyd George organize the Liberals he has not already disgusted?

Snowden answers: ‘Mr. Lloyd George knows that neither his magnetism nor his programme can ever revive the Liberal Party to the extent of giving the Party enough members in Parliament to form a government. He will have to depend upon the support of another party to carry out that programme.’

‘Co-operation with the Conservatives for such an object is out of the question. A Labour Government is the only possible alternative to the continuation in office of the Conservative Party. There is nothing in Lloyd George’s programme which is in opposition to the Labour programme on these subjects.’

‘His only hope of achieving his land and coal power scheme lies in helping a Labour Government to get back to office, and in co-operating with them in the House of Commons. There is no sacrifice of independence in co-operating for a common purpose.’

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Anxious that it should be clearly understood there is no difference between the Liberal and Labour Party Snowden again refers to Lloyd George, who he says: — ‘Will carry the vast bulk of the Liberals with him on a programme which as an immediately practical programme for the next reform government is little different from the Labour programme.’

(From an article “Birds of a Feather” by Comrade E. Lake, published in the Socialist Standard, August, 1926.)

50 Years Ago: How Exploitation In Africa Began (1976)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the case of Africa, “philanthropy” and missionary effort formed a very convenient cloak for the hungry figure of capital seeking its constant quarry, profit. It had been, to some slight extent, forestalled by the Arab colonies which had existed for centuries on the East Coast, in perpetual conflict with the Portuguese adventurers. The Arab power was founded upon chattel-slavery, and its periodical incursions among the natives of the interior had for their prime object the recruiting of the slave markets. To supplant the Arabs and establish the European method of exploitation, it was necessary to stamp out the slave trade. Gunboats and railways drove the dhows and caravans of the votaries of Allah from the field of commerce, and the blessings of Jehovah were invoked upon the process. The conflict of material interests was disguised by the contest between Jesus and Mahomet.

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The Arabs chastised them with whips, but the Europeans introduced economic scorpions in the shape of reserves, to which the natives were confined, coupled with taxation upon the hut or the head. In order to find the money with which to pay the taxes, the natives slowly but surely find their way from the reserves to the plantation and township, as these arise, there to labour for the profit of the invaders. The sudden raids of the chattel-hunters gave way to the permanent exploitation of the whole population.

(From an article Capitalism in the Tropics by E. Boden, Socialist Standard, July 1926.)

50 Years Ago: On Industrial and Political Action (1976)

The 50 Years Ago column from the June 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

What we have said should have made clear by now the only real solution to this, and all other economic troubles affecting the workers. If the workers had been as solid in voting for Socialism as they have been in striking on behalf of the miners what a different tale there would be to tell! And yet, as long as the workers support a condition of things which lays it down as a fundamental proposition that there shall employers and employed, capitalists and wage-earners; and at election time puts control of the governmental machinery into the hands of the masters and their supporters, they must expect defeat in their struggle for better conditions. The solution of the difficulties lies in the workers’ own hands. The substitution of common ownership in the means of wealth production in place of the present private property system, and the accomplishment of this end by voting delegates to the central seat of power at election times to carry out instructions formulated by their working- class electorate.

(From an article “The Strike” by Gilbert McClatchie, published in the Socialist Standard, June 1926)

50 Years Ago: Opinions and Interests (1976)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is the object of the Labour Party? Some of its members assert that it is one thing, others emphatically contradict them. Even on the term Socialism, they cannot agree. What principle forms its basis? Again, no one knows. While its more prominent leaders avow and disavow the class struggle, the rank and file spend their time in which clique of leaders to trust. No wonder that the Liberals and Tories entrusted them with office.

The claim is often made by Communists and others that the Labour Party is entitled to respect as, with all its faults, it represents the workers. Actually it only represents some of the workers, possibly fifty per cent. These workers, however, are by no means agreed as to what they want nor how they are to obtain it, and it is therefore logically impossible to regard their opinions as expressing their interests. The interests of the working class are identical with Socialism, and we challenge anyone in or out of the Labour Party to contradict us. The opinions of the workers being mainly hostile or indifferent to Socialism are identical with those of the master class who, in fact, provide those opinions ready-made through the agency of the Press.

While this is the case, we of the Socialist Party have no ambition to represent the ignorance of the workers. We seek first to bring their opinions into line with their interests. All our propaganda is directed to this end.

(From an article “Opinions and Interests” by Eric Boden, published in the Socialist Standard, May 1926.)

50 Years Ago: Socialism and Materialism (1976)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

The politicians of all parties outside the Socialist Party trade upon the economic ignorance of the mass of the workers, but that does not prevent them from stimulating their blind greed. Every proposal which appears in their election addresses is calculated to obtain the support of those who do not realize the futility of such measures from the standpoint of working class interests. Free Trade, Land Taxation, Nationalization, the Capital Levy! What have these measures to do with ethics?, we may ask. They are merely the means by which sections of the master-class seek both to serve their own interests and hoodwink their slaves.

Some high-sounding phrase such as the “public interest” or the “welfare of the community” is used to camouflage their motives and blind the workers, who vainly look for some material gain from these measures.

The Socialist, therefore, has no need to apologise for appealing to the workers to use their intelligence in their own material interests. Our moralizing masters have looked after theirs long enough.

(From an article “Socialism and Materialism” by Eric Boden, published in the Socialist Standard April 1926.)

50 Years Ago: Cruelty To Animals — And To Humans (1976)

The 50 Years Ago column from the February 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

Just before the great Christian festival at Christmas, the Animal Defence Society thought to improve the shining hour by inserting a seasonable advertisement in the newspapers. ‘Christmas is approaching’, they said, ‘and the spirit of Mercy is knocking at the heart of Everyman’. And so the Animal Defence Society suggest that in answer to the knock, why not send them a nice donation . . .

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Now what is wrong with all this? Surely we also are in favour of any movement to lessen the amount of suffering in the world! Surely we are not going to crab any attempt, however feeble, at abolishing avoidable cruelty! Perish the thought. Then where does our grumble come in? Just here. We do believe in first things first. We do insist upon a sense of proportion. We also have our objections. They relate primarily to human beings. Consider recent history. We objected to human beings being torn to pieces by shrapnel and splintered steel. We objected to our boys being taught the proper way to insert a bayonet into the intestines of a fellow human being, and to so twist it as to make the most ghastly wound.

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We were the Human Defence Society. Where were the members of the Animal Defence Society then? Were they weeping over the pole-axed cows and distressed sheep, or were they taking part in the great work of disembowelling their fellow creatures? We fear the latter. It needs little more than the list of Lords, Dukes, Earls and Admirals who figure in the list of contributors to convince us of that.

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Cruelty to animals will go the way of all forms of cruelty, when a real civilised existence becomes a
possibility to everyone. So let us have first things first. If anyone has a thousand pound cheque they would like to devote to the abolition of cruelty to human beings, our address is on the back page.

(From an editorial 'Socialism and the Humanitarians' in the Socialist Standard, February 1926.)

50 Years Ago: Engels on The Materialist Conception of History (1970)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

According to the Materialist Conception of History, the factor which is in the last instance decisive in history is the production and reproduction of actual life. More than this neither Marx nor myself ever claimed. If now someone has distorted the meaning in such a way that the economic factor is the only decisive one, this man has changed the above proposition into an abstract, absurd phrase which says nothing. The economic situation is the base, but the different parts of the structure — the political forms of the class struggle and its results, the constitutions established by the victorious class after the battle is won, forms of law and even the reflections of all these real struggles in the brains of the participants, political theories, juriducal philosophical, religious opinions, and their further development into dogmatic systems — all this exercises also its influence on the development of the historical struggles and in cases determines their form. It is under the mutual influence of all these factors that, rejecting the infinitesimal number of accidental occurrences (that is, things and happenings whose intimate sense is so far removed and of so little probability that we can consider them non-existent and can ignore them), that the economical movement is ultimately carried out. Otherwise the application of the theory to any period of history would be easier than the solution of any simple equation. We ourselves make our history, but, primarily, under pre-suppositions and conditions which are very well determined. But even the political tradition, may, even the tradition that man creates in his head, plays an important part, even if not the decisive one.

(From a letter written by Frederick Engels, reproduced in the Socialist Standard, March 1920).

50 Years Ago: Prophecies on the Outcome 
of the War (1992)

The 50 Years Ago Column from the January 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

The facts are inescapable. What does "an Imperialist war" mean if not that the outcome determines which group of powers will possess the world's most fruitful imperial possessions? The chief concern of the British and American capitalists in the Far East is the defence of Imperial interests. The loss of strategic positions and the loss of political influence and control of key trading centres would destroy or considerably restrict the freedom to trade in the markets of the teeming millions in China, Asia and India. The chief concern of the British. American and Dutch capitalist class is to maintain and defend its existing privileges: the chief concern of the German, Italian and Japanese capitalist class is to wrest these privileges from them for themselves. Upon the outcome rests the power to derive profit and exploit the workers to the advantage of one group or to the disadvantage of the other. That is the simple position. This war is an Imperialist war.

[From Socialist Standard, January 1942.]

50 Years Ago: Not so Cordial Happenings 
in Russia (1990)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the meantime events of another kind were taking place in Russia. While the Russian ambassadors abroad were hobnobbing with choice gangs of Nazi and Fascist thugs in honour of the Russian "revolution". Russia at home was showing the kind of corruption to which Bolshevik State Capitalism naturally lends itself. The first case was reported in the News Chronicle from their Moscow correspondent:
 Moscow,-Friday.—Eight people will face a firing squad and 34 others have received prison sentences up to ten years, as a result of the Moscow slaughterhouse theft trial.
 Two gangs of thieves working undisturbed for two years, sold artificially—created meat surpluses to State-owned stores whose directors took half the proceeds of retail sales.
  Thus, 500.000 roubles worth of meat had been pilfered since 1938.—(News Chronicle, November 2nd, 1940.)
The other case was reported in the Manchester Guardian twelve days later:
  Four Russian industrialists were sentenced to death at Kiev yesterday on charges of "damage to the State", costing 1,240,000 roubles, the Moscow wireless announces. One of the condemned men was the head of the Kiev State vodka factory, Mr. Galperin. It was alleged that he and his confederates stole petrol and spirit from the factory and sold it to private illegal dealers. Fourteen members of the group were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.— (Manchester Guardian, November 14th. 1940.)
[From the Socialist Standard, December 1940.]

50 Years Ago: Ford v. Marx (1976)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

Two or three months ago, one of our contributors had occasion to criticise the illusions of the Editor of the “Observer” concerning the respective intellectual merits of the notorious exploiter of motor-car producers and the author of “Capital” and other works of economic criticism. Now it appears that the editor of the “New Leader” shares some, at least, of his Conservative colleague’s fantasies.

In a recent article under the above heading, Mr. Brailsford emulates Mr. Garvin in seeking to delude his readers with the belief that Marx’s analysis has (once more) been exploded, and his predictions falsified, because, forsooth, American capitalists have discovered how to make huge profits while paying high wages. We are told that the fundamental principle of capitalism according to Marx has been discarded. The new capitalism has got rid of poverty, and Mr. Brailsford’s sole objection to it is that it is autocratic!

Now the object of capitalist production is profit. Marx dealt fairly exhaustively with this fact, and no one has yet demonstrated the alleged error in his reasoning. He also showed that wages, like the prices of other commodities, were an extremely variable factor. Nowhere did he suggest that they could never rise: while he indicated, with exceptional clarity, the part played by machinery in intensifying the exploitation of higher-paid labour-power and reducing the proportion of the workers’ share in the fruits of their labour.

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Elsewhere in his article, the “New Leader's" editor refers to the fact that one-third of the American workers are below the poverty line! Marx, therefore, would appear to have been exploded only in the imagination of Mr. Brailsford, and those who think like him.

(From an article “Ford v. Marx” by Eric Boden, Socialist Standard, December 1926)

50 Years Ago: Mirthless May Day - The Workers and Their Future (1997)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Government has been in power for nearly two years. They have not covered themselves with glory. It is no use pleading that they are trying to heal the wounds of war; these wounds show no signs of healing. A greater lack of food and houses for the workers at home; quarrels and military conflicts abroad. Is this the kind of world the workers expected from the party they helped to build and raise to power?

Added to this is the effrontery of the Labour politicians in aping every propaganda trick used by the capitalists whenever they wanted more work for less pay.

“Work harder and spend less.”

Full employment, but not full stomachs!

Whining about the "poverty” of "debt-ridden Britain” cuts no ice with Socialists. The capitalists of this country are not poor. Despite the hole made in their coffers by the war they are rich enough to allow their providers, the working-class, a higher standard of living and still have plenty left over for themselves. Why should they if Labour leaders are not ashamed to stump the country with the old familiar sob-story on the employers' behalf?
(From the front page article, Socialist Standard, May 1947).

50 Years Ago: Air Raids Banned by International Convention! (1958)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Discussing the further question of the development of aerial navigation and its possible relation to war, the organ of the “ Prince of Peace ” (the Daily News) pursues its dull and melancholy way:—
  “To drop various explosives down upon large objects like cities would not be difficult, but, after all, there are such things as Hague Conventions against the random destruction of private property.”
Verily, the faith of the Daily News in Hague Conventions is of the brand that ought to move mountains. But faith never yet moved a mountain and there is no reason to suppose it will be more efficacious in the future than in the past—not even when the object to be moved is a mountain of stupidity or fraud, such as the Hague Convention undoubtedly is. . . .

But, say the peace-makers, the Hague Convention, we know, cannot stop wars, but it can, by agreement, humanise them. It could, for example, rule out airships, or at any rate, prevent their use in the discharge of explosives from above, and so on. . . . But its ruling would not affect the matter worth tuppence for all that. . . . You can’t humanise war. It you could it would not be war. While we have wars, we have inhumanity, and we must have wars until Socialism.
(From an article in the Socialist Standard, October, 1908.)

50 Years Ago: Indian "Labour" Party (1985)

The 50 Years Ago column from the February 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

With the growing industrialisation of India, trade unions have taken root, and with them the beginnings of political organisations having professedly working-class objects. Unfortunately, instead of learning from the mistakes of workers in European countries, the Indian workers are blindly following in the same path. Labour parties and parties calling themselves socialist are being formed, committed from the outset to all the tragic futilities of the European "Labour" parties. One such party is the "All-India Congress Socialist Party", formed last May. (An earlier attempt was criticised in these columns in July. 1932.) The Indian "Congress", from which the new party takes its name, is the central Indian nationalist organisation, which, under Gandhi's leadership, has fought the battles of the Indian capitalist class behind the camouflage of "independence from British rule". The new party is a constituent part of Congress, accepts its aims and objects, subscribes to its nationalistic (and there fore anti-socialist, anti-working class) doctrines. and fights elections under its banner and on its programme.

True, the new party professes to be socialist, although it has so far not attempted to embody its aims and methods in a Declaration of Principles. True, it admits that Congress, "as it is constituted, will not accept socialism today" (see Congress Socialist, Calcutta. September 29th. 1934). But having said this, the party organ goes on to enunciate the self-same delusion which enabled almost every European "Labour" party to exploit the name socialism while betraying everything that socialism stands for. Thus we are told that the Congress Socialist Party is going to "convert the Congress to the socialist viewpoint” — they might as well try to convert the British ruling class.

(From an article "The Coming Struggle in India". Socialist Standard, February 1935.)

50 Years Ago: Unemployed offer to sell their toes (1985)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

In that popular rag, The People, under date of January 27th, it is stated that there are scores of men and women in Britain who would be willing to sell their toes — for hard cash. The prospective purchaser is a young Frenchwoman who lost her little toe in a motor car accident. She states that she is willing to pay handsomely for a suitable toe, which her surgeon is confident that he will be able to graft on to his patient's foot. According to the same paper, scores of men and women in Britain have signified their willingness to sell their toes in exchange for cash. Such are the facts, and many other similar cases will at once arise in the minds of our readers.

Thus we have, on the one hand, workers who cannot find a master, living in a state of such dire poverty that many have been driven to commit suicide, ready to be transported to foreign soil, to be placed under an anaesthetic, and to have their toe cut off. in order to supply this necessary missing link to a charming young Frenchwoman.

In attendance upon the lady will be the surgeon, the anaesthetist, the nurses, together with the necessary quorum of male and female servants.

Why, it may be asked, should not the roles be reversed? Why, supposing a worker loses a hand or an arm when attending dangerous machinery, should not a member of the capitalist class be operated upon and have the necessary portion of his anatomy removed and grafted on to that of the useful worker?

(From an article "British Workers Ready to Sell their Toes to a French Capitalist", Socialist Standard, April 1935.)

50 Years Ago: The Concentration of Capital (1959)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

“For while on the one hand the concentration of the separate Capitalist concerns into fewer hands is proceeding, on the other hand with the development in the division of labour the mutual dependence of the seemingly independent undertakings is growing. . . . This mutual dependence, however, becomes continually more a one-sided dependence of the small Capitalists upon the larger ones. . . . Many Capitalists having the appearance of independence, yet subservient to others, and many Capitalist concerns that appear to be independent, are in reality merely branches of one huge Capitalist undertaking."
[From the Socialist Standard, January 1909.]

50 Years Ago: It has all happened before (1982)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is usual to hear the present crisis spoken of as being unique. It is explained as being due to reparations and war debt problems, the hoarding of gold by Central Banks, the failure of creditor countries to lend to debtor countries, and again in the same quarters as being caused by over-borrowing by debtor countries. Economic nationalism and the raising of tariff barriers are blamed to a greater or less extent. Finally, every explanation involves a reference to the stultifying effects on business of the fall in prices. The explanations are as numerous as the suggested remedies, of which the most popular are those which aim at raising the price level through manipulation of the currency. In this group of proposals fall the suggestions for the introduction of bimetallism, managed paper currencies, and international monetary conferences. Only a slight knowledge of economic development during the past century is necessary to show that far from being a unique phenomenon, the present crisis is of the same kind as those of the past, and that the so-called "explanations” only repeat the explanations put forward by the men who lived through the crises of the nineteenth century. Further, the remedies now proposed merely represent a refurbishing of old ideas.

From an article "The Capitalist Never Learns-Bewildered by Every Crisis". Socialist Standard, July 1932.

50 Years Ago: No More War? (1984)

The 50 Years Ago column from the September 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

Twenty years ago a war commenced of a nature more devastating than any that had occurred before. So great was the feeling of horror aroused by the carnage and the barbarities committed at the time that there was general assurance that "never again" would such a thing happen—and ever since the governments have been preparing for even worse wars.

At present, in Europe and the East, nations are watching each other on the verge of flying at each other’s throats, moved by economic motives similar to those which set guns belching death and destruction in those old unhappy years.

The hollow farce of the League of Nations still plays its expensive and idle part in the game. One of its principal supporters. Viscount Cecil, speaking at Windermere on August 11th, said that "No one could feel security for peace at present. Every day new disturbances arose, rumours of war got about, and countries ; were preparing for the worst." (The Observer, August 12th, 1934)

The way to prevent war is not by engaging in anti-war campaigns. These are quite useless, because they leave the causes of war untouched. The only preventative is to take away the urge to war: take away the profit motive. While private ownership of the means of existence remains, the making of profit is the object of the private owner. Abolish private ownership and substitute for it common ownership in the means of production and the profit motive disappears, taking with it the seeds of war, both internal and external.

Socialism is the only means to defeat the war-mongers.
(From an editorial, "No More War?”, Socialist Standard, September 1934.)