Saturday, October 26, 2019

Morrison's Child (1936)

From the April 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

We Socialists are out for the common ownership and democratic control of the means of life, by, and in the interest of, the whole people. This is to be brought about by the education of the workers in Socialist principles, to the end that the workers will organise with us to capture the political machinery, and so be in a position to control the armed forces, and thus be able to dictate terms to the capitalist class. When we tell people this we are by many called dreamers, or told that such a proposal is too far-fetched, or too far off.

We are told that a more “reasonable” way, and one getting “better” results, is to lay such an object aside and go in for “something now,” and so gradually "build up” Socialism. This is a favourite method of the Labour Party, the I.L.P. and many ex-Liberals. They say that industry is to be gradually taken over and the owners compensated or given a guaranteed dividend, and their previously competing concerns amalgamated and run as a public utility corporation, responsible to nobody but themselves. This, we are told, is achieving “Socialism in our time.” Let us see how this pans out from the people’s point of view.

Some little time ago the various transport undertakings within 25 miles of London were absorbed into what is now known as London Passenger Transport Board, and a certain Mr. Morrison, Chairman of the L.C.C., played quite a part in “welding up” this concern, so much so that it is often referred to as "Morrison’s Child.” The scheme was initiated by the last Labour Government. Since it has been in actual operation, time and again the workers! conditions have been tightened up. Frequent stoppages have taken place on Green Line, trams, ’buses and trolley-’buses, so it may be taken for granted that the labour conditions are not all they might be. But for the owners, “the Board,” what a difference: No competition, no fare cuts, no “redundant” services now. Let the public wait and travel when and how we like; all fares now come in to us, and our income is more secure than before. That is how two out of the three parties stand.

Now for how the ”customers,” the public, are served.

There is no need to labour this point to Londoners. They all well know the morning and evening scrambles, and queueing up, and the delays in the centre through volume of traffic, and delays in the suburbs through depletion of services. A writer in Reynolds's (February 6th, 1936) gives details as to where the services have been cut down and "re-organised” since the amalgamations. He went to Broadway House for some explanations. He got them. This is what “the Board’s spokesman” told him: —
  “Our first duty, imposed by Parliament, is to our shareholders.”
  “To achieve the necessary financial results, we want to make sure that every train, tram and ’bus is filled as nearly as possible. Our idea is that there should be no empty seats. We want paying loads only.”
So that accounts for the delays and scrambles. Wait till they get a “paying” (profitable) load. As for your “getting there,” well, when we are ready, and don’t forget “our first duty is to our shareholders,” the capitalists, the owners.

That is a bit of Herbert Morrison’s “Socialism in the making,” and ’twere best left alone. The position is much the same with the Electricity Board and the Grid.

It is quite futile to waste time on such reforms and the parties which sponsor them. Organising for straight revolutionary Socialism alone is worth while for the working class, and to this end we ask you to join us.
C. V. R.

Rising crime — who’s afraid of the PNC? (1979)

From the May 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

When most people think of crime it is not the Lord Kagans or Richard Nixons of this world that spring to mind, but the burglars, robbers, rapists and muggers passing through the courts daily. And there is certainly no doubt about the statistical trend in these offences. The year 1977 (the last for which official statistics are available) showed a staggering 16 per cent rise on the previous year. Outside the London area the number of offences reported increased by 1,927,462, although figures for the London area for 1978 have possibly levelled out a little.

David McNee, Metropolitan Chief Commissioner, wants the police to be given “a vast range of new powers with which to combat crime” (The Times 3.8.78.). He also wants to “clean up the force”, although that job was supposed to have been done by his predecessor Sir Robert Mark, hit back against the ruling class law that reinforces Mark put the blame on everybody but himself, singling out bent lawyers (sec Sunday Timex 13.3.78), and bemoaning a general “lack of discipline" in society. An equally stupid explanation by the Chief Constable of Merseyside, Kenneth Oxford, appeared in The Times. According to him “the cause of crime is fundamental— greed, selfishness and violence—and those three headings apply as much to society as a whole as to those with criminal propensities”. (26.4.78). What the fair cop did not explain is, why is there a society of greed, selfishness and violence? What is the fair cop doing to change it? All Oxford wants is to have more police (presumably themselves greedy selfish and violent) running after the people that the greedy, selfish and violent society produces.

Here To Stay
The Law Society’s Gazette (hardly a paper known for radicalism), pointing out that the country’s prison population is now over 42,000, commented that "we have to learn to live with crime. It seems almost as impossible to control it as it is to control our climate” (27.7.77). Sir Leon Radzinowicz, a well known criminologist, has commented ; “No national characteristics, no political regimes, no system of law, police, justice, punishment, treatment or even terror has rendered a country exempt from crime. In fact scarcely any can claim to have checked its accelerating momentum”. (The Growth of Crime)

So there you are, crime is here to stay. But these conveyors of conventional wisdom forget to add that crime is only here to stay while there is capitalism. Furthermore, no attempts by capitalist politicians or their strong arm men can do anything about it. Why? Because capitalism means a society where the majority do not own the means of wealth production ; where workers are in various degrees of deprivation, while a small minority grab most of the wealth that the wage earners produce. A life of luxury, privilege and case for the minority, a life of relative shortages for the majority. No wonder then that many people, from the dodger of the train fares to the large scale swindlers and bank robbers, try to hit back against the ruling class law that reinforces the system of exploitation of the majority.

One disturbing element in all this is that the police are trying to obtain further powers and further cuts in “civil liberties”. This is not just a question of bourgeois democracy being under threat; it is more a question of opportunity for open socialist discussion being gradually restricted.

For example, the right to silence is now being challenged by the police one step nearer to "guilty unless proved innocent’’.) More worrying is the “Police National Computer” (PNC). New Scientist (18.1.79) pointed out that police files are not only extremely comprehensive, but the type of persons listed has been extended. Even the change in driving licences was not quite the innocent administrative process it appears. “Production of a driving licence now automatically gives police all the information necessary (‘search factors’) to check on open computer records”. Furthermore, the range of “offences” which are likely to put you on a police file has increased. Included now are such activities as "wasting police time” (who decides that?) as well as a vast extension of those activities classified as subversive. Even the Anti-Blood Sports League are not forgotten. New Scientist comments:
  The figures given suggest an eventual aim to monitor about 10 per cent of the population, together with almost all vehicles and addresses. Since most police records will concern adult males, between one in three and one in four will likely eventually be on the system. Much of the information stored has little to do with crime per se. Twice as many "occurrences” (non-crimes) as crimes are to be recorded . . . Not unnaturally, what is recorded, and about whom, will reflect official views and prejudices; this includes a wide definition of subversives as well as criminals . . . the surveillance net of pre-emptive policing inevitably covers and affects many more than the impending criminals; mistakes are made; inaccurate and unsubstantiated information is recorded, information provided for one purpose is used for another; and so on.
Clearly, then, law enforcement agencies are not giving in to rising crimes. They seem to accept that they cannot win. but will continue the fight and extend the area of dirty work wherever they think they can get away with it.

Who's worried?
In the meantime, individual capitalists are not unduly concerned. Their property is insured and they generally do not live in mugging districts. But the state, as the representative of the capitalist class is worried. Many workers are worried too.

But crime is a result of an anti-social society and yet another reason why everyone should start to question the sanity of the existing social order. If crime is endemic to capitalism, so too are most other social evils. Instead of blaming people’s greed or selfishness, as the simpletons of the police force would have us do, it is time to question society as a whole. If crime is a result of capitalism, only a social revolution will eradicate it. Not because people will suddenly have become different in some mystical love-thy-neighbour sense, but because the reason for crime—property society itself—will have been abolished.
Ronnie Warrington

Old Fallacies Re-Furbished: Is Socialist Propaganda Futile? (1945)

Pamphlet Review from the February 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Low, the cartoonist, has two blank-faced creatures who constantly appear in his attacks on reaction, whom he calls "S'no use" and “T’aint necessary." If we may elaborate a little, they stand for all the disbelief in the practicability and desirability of trying to change the world for the better. It is obvious how these two frauds have served the purpose of the ruling class ever since there was a ruling class. What is more surprising is that they early made their entry into the ranks of large sections of the political Labour movement in the shape of arguments that it isn't possible for the workers to learn how to achieve their own emancipation; and not necessary anyway because inspired leaders would do it for them. Of course, they did not have it all their own way. Marx never doubted that the emancipation of the workers must be the work of the workers themselves, and before him William Lovett and others in the London Working Men's Association (1836) firmly held that the workers could and must trust in themselves, not in leaders. Nevertheless, the other view has persisted, though with some changes of form.

The early Fabians and the late J. R. MacDonald hardly troubled to hide their contempt for the intelligence and capacity of the working class. Hence the Fabians' lack of concern with making Socialists and the later admiration for all the dictators and contempt for democracy proclaimed by G. B. Shaw.

J. R. MacDonald, in his long forgotten confession of faith, "A Rock Ahead," published in "To-day" (March, 1887) gave the doctrine a slightly different twist. He not only despised but also feared those whom he called the "rude and uncultivated masses." He held that "Labour as such is simply useless for freeing itself"; but he was afraid that the workers might try. The revolution, he wrote, would "be directed from the study" by the "comparatively well-to-do," and the thing to be feared was the "explosive" force of the workers. "We may have to use them or we may not," he wrote, "but should the worst befall, their destructive power will be skilfully directed; it will not cause ruin but will clear a way; it will be the instrument, but not the life; the tool, but not the designer." In MacDonald's eyes Socialism was a matter of "intellectual development," and the "ignorant labourer" cannot understand it, therefore the thing to do was to confine propaganda to the intellectual minority, the few who are "thoughtful and reasonable."

Lenin and the Communists also had this concept, though with the difference that they did not fear the uprising of the non-Socialist masses. They sought to encourage it and proposed to capture the leadership and thus gain power. But still there was the contempt for the workers' understanding. Lenin said: "If Socialism can only be realised when the intellectual development of all the people permits it, then we shall not see Socialism for at least 500 years." ("Ten Days that Shook the World," John Reed, page 303.) It should, however, be noticed that Lenin attributed the workers' backwardness to lack of education under capitalism, not to an innate incapacity. It has remained for later writers to go that far.

Achille Loria, the Italian economist and self-styled Socialist, held that the final stages of revolution always had been and always would be effected through the cooperation of "disgruntled intellectuals," otherwise revolution was foredoomed to failure. (See "Karl Marx." by Loria. Foreword by E. and C. Paul, pages 22 and 28.)

Eden and Cedar Paul, who at one time were active and influential in the Communist movement, dissented from Loria's view, at least at first. They thought that in modern times "independent working-class education" had changed the situation. They wrote “The workers of the day after to-morrow need not put their trust in the frail reed of the support of the intellectuals. Once more we raise the Marxist slogan and cry. 'The emancipation of the workers must be the work of the workers themselves.' " (Page 30.)

Then they seem to have changed their opinion, for the "Plebs" "Outline of Psychology" (1923) quotes them as writing that the theory of democracy "is based upon the belief that reason is the main motive force of human action, and that men in the mass are, if properly educated, always prepared to accept programmes by reason of their justice, rationality and wisdom. It is a captivating theory . . . and the only serious objection to it is that it is not true. . . ." (Page 96.) They went on to explain that the average man is not guided by rational considerations but by "subconscious urges"; this despite their proclaimed belief in the efficacy of "independent working class education."

The writers of the "Plebs" Outline accepted and elaborated the argument. On the ground that the intelligence of human beings ranges through various levels from idiots and imbeciles up to "rare creative geniuses in science, art, and public administration," they affirmed: "There is little hope that the majority of the individuals in any nation, class or group will be capable, when a crisis arises, of intelligently deciding what is the best course of action—even when their instincts and unconscious impulses urge them towards action of some kind." They instanced as proof of this the alleged fact that in all crises "even where there is comparative unanimity as to aim (as in the late war) the dictatorship of a small minority is essential," and held that it is confirmed by "the experience of every proletarian propagandist when trying to influence his mates." (In passing, one may wonder why the individuals who hold such views about others always have no difficulty in excepting themselves from what they would appear to be claiming as a characteristic of all human beings.)

All those mentioned above, from Shaw and MacDonald to the "Plebs," have hastened to accept the necessity for "leaders" to shepherd the workers to their emancipation. "S'no use" for the workers to try to understand Socialism, it is beyond their capacity; but luckily for them "T'aint necessary," for here we are ready to provide what they lack of "mental capacity" and "knowledge bearing upon the question at issue." ("Plebs," page 137.)

Almost alone among the parties the S.P.G.B. has consistently combatted those views. Are we right in doing so? Can the majority of the workers understand our case when it is presented to them? Is our slow progress due to some innate incapacity or—as we have always contended—is it due to capitalist propaganda and to the fact that our means of spreading Socialist knowledge are restricted by our small resources and can only grow gradually? Are those people right who contend that the workers never will understand and that unless Socialism can be achieved without working class understanding, it will never be achieved at all?

The latest contribution to the "leadership " argument is a pamphlet, "Science, Politics and the Masses," by G. R. Tatham (Social Science Association, price 6d.). The first part discusses the recent tendency for scientists to interest themselves in politics; but only in order to lead up to the point that whether they do or not, it is useless for anyone to go on accepting the assumption that the mass of the people are capable of “scientific and political understanding."

Although a number of writers on psychology are quoted to support the view, the pamphlet adds little to the crudely stated opinions of MacDonald nearly 60 years ago, or to the opinions of the "Plebs" writers in 1923. What it does is to introduce us to "Walsby’s discovery of the Demos and to his analysis of its structure and development." (However, no proof is given in the pamphlet of Walsby's theory.) The theory is that the population are grouped in "ideological layers" each representing a definite level of culture and political outlook. The individuals in the lower layers (constituting the great majority) have little or no capacity for understanding a logical case, while the smaller numbers in the top layers have a more logical outlook. Tatham writes: ". . . the more logical the outlook, the fewer the people holding it " (page 12). As we may put it, "The higher you go, the fewer."

We are told that the members of the "Progressive" political bodies are drawn from the top layers and therefore it is a waste of time for them to go on appealing to the illogical masses "with the same arguments and upon the same subject-matter which was instrumental in their own conversion" (page 14).

"Progressive" is not defined in the pamphlet though it appears to include all layers above the Conservatives, nor is it stated that the aim of the writer is Socialism. We are, however, told that the "more progressive political organisations are largely agreed as to the direction that economic reorganisation must take " and reference is made to the “proposed economic change" but again it is not defined. This is important, for we cannot conceive what can be the economic change about which Socialists are in agreement with Liberals, Communists and other self-styled “progressives."

Elsewhere (page 15) Tatham tells us that “there will always be, so long as civilisation endures, conservative, liberal, socialist, communist, etc., levels of social and political understanding," and (pages 13-14) that “those people sometimes termed 'the politically unconscious'—i.e., whose interest in social and political matters is largely emotional —must at all times be in a considerable majority." If therefore the economic change that Tatham looks to is Socialism, we are asked to believe that Socialism will be achieved and will function with a majority of the population still “politically unconscious" and not interested in it. Moreover, whatever the change he envisages, he sees that his argument implies dictatorship, for he asks, “How then are we to have the proposed change and still retain the political democracy we now have?" (Page 16.)

Tatham answers the question but in a very vague way. He tells us that a few (not all) of the individuals in the top layers will make a specialised study of the nature of the political and ideological field (page 15), and that we can then look forward “to the application of scientific method . . . to the social mind, for the scientific control (i.e., self-control) of human nature" (page 16). Now what exactly does this mean? If the masses cannot understand a logical case and only a few of the few in the top layers are able to make the special study referred to, in what way can the promised application of scientific method to the social mind be described as “self control"? Does it not mean what MacDonald meant in 1887, that the cultured few should either do without the "rude and uncultivated masses" or act as the “designer" using them as “the tool"?

Against all of the advocates of clever leaders using stupid masses stands the S.P.G.B. At the formation of the Party it was frankly recognised that knowledge is necessary and that the workers as a whole lacked knowledge—but not the capacity to understand and learn. Therefore the S.P.G.B. accepted that progress must lie slow, there could be no short cuts. In the Socialist Standard for February 1905 appeared the following typical declaration: —
The ignorance of the workers in the past has enabled the capitalists to possess themselves of the political machine. The workers all unwittingly have made the rod that is now applied to their backs. But what working class ignorance has done, working class enlightenment can undo. . . . It is absolutely necessary that the workers shall see every step of the way clearly before they take it. Which may mean a slow advance, but it will certainly mean a sure advance."
When Freud and others are quoted to try to prove that only a tiny minority can ever understand logical case on social and political problems we are not impressed. Are these authorities themselves among the logical minority? If so, they ought, according to Tatham, to have slipped straight into the “progressive" political party appropriate to their layer, and ought not to have remained anti-Socialist, as many of them have. Again, if the irrationality of the majority resides in the nature of human beings as such, why does it not hold good for the select few? Are they not human beings too? And if it does not reside in the nature of human beings as such, why cannot the majority, through education, attain the degree of logical understanding already attained by the minority? In spite of the Plebs-—Tatham view of the poor results of propaganda, we of the S.P.G.B. know of no reason why other workers should not come to understand what we have come to understand. Some may develop more slowly than others, but logical understanding and action are not beyond the capacity of the majority. What we are up against is not an innate incapacity to understand, but the massive and tireless machinery of capitalist propaganda, including the red herrings of the Tatham kind, but our efforts—small at present—are aided by the constant pressure of capitalism on the working class. No capitalist propaganda can for ever prevent the workers from becoming passionately interested in the failure of the capitalist system and the need to find a way out by their own efforts.

If evidence is needed to show that the workers do possess capacity to understand and act—even if at present it is in a limited sphere—their achievement in building up the trade union movement provides that evidence. What has been done on the industrial field and much more will not in the long run be beyond working class capacity on the political field. It is bound to be a slow process, but does anyone know a quicker one? What has happened to all the short cuts promised by the Fabians, MacDonald, Lenin, the “Plebs," etc.?

Tatham and Walsby’s rehash of old theory leaves us unmoved. The slight refinements they introduce leave the theory just as unconvincing and suspect as it always was. The one difference between Lenin and this latest variation (i.e., that the workers will never understand) is not a step forward but a step back. As for the “layers" (very much like the theory propounded in 1923 by the “Plebs" group), one flaw in the argument is that the problem before us is not why does Socialist propaganda make no progress, for it obviously does make progress, though slowly. Yet surely, according to the “layer" theory. Socialist propaganda ought at its inception to have made a fairly rapid appeal to all the individuals in the appropriate layer and should then have ceased to make headway, except to the extent that the field was enlarged by individuals of a new generation in that layer. If it were true that Socialist propaganda cannot spread outside a small circle, one wonders why the capitalist class have devoted such enormous efforts to preventing it from spreading.

Again, how does the theory square with the class interests behind political parties? Is the almost universal opposition which the capitalists show towards Socialism proof that they are all in the lower layers and unable to understand a logical case? Or is not the capitalist who supports the Tory Party (“the stupid party," as its opponents often mistakenly call it) taking a logical step to defend his class and personal economic interests?

This pamphlet does no more than MacDonald and the others to convince us either that there is a majority who will never understand Socialism, or that Socialism can be brought about by an “intelligent minority," behind the backs of the working class.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Outlook for China (1955)

From the July 1955 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is becoming more typical of the stultified mental attitude of “schools higher learning” that they refuse to allow the most innocuous controversial subjects to be discussed and debated. In the growing atmosphere of fear and thought control which is prevalent today, the prohibition of academic debates between Annapolis, West Point and other collegians on the subject of the recognition of China caused even a most conservative President of the United States to state in his weekly press conference that he himself would have allowed such debates. Though the subject of the debate is of prime importance to the ruling classes and is considered quite a knotty problem by them, what are some of the fundamental issues involved in the whole China question, and who has the answers?

What will it be—Recognition of China or War, hot or cold? Will it be “peaceful coexistence ” or the culmination of modern science, mass slaughter by fusion. The problem of relationships of the United States with China as part of the world wide competition of nationalist states, is one aspect of the never ending struggles of capitalist powers. Drastic and swift as the changes in tactics may be, the current policy of U.S. Capitalism is that there will be no major war for a while, and that the economic competition will determine supremacy.

In line with the emphasis on economic development the Foreign Operations Administration is presenting estimates to the Bureau of the Budget. Military programmes will be cut down in Europe and economic programmes in Asia will be expanded. Economic aid to the countries surrounding China will be greater in 1955 than the $1,200,000,000 expended in 1954. Note well that it is the Government which is planning all this. State planners all, on either side!

Rapid Growth
China, it is feared, is developing faster economically than the “free countries” of Asia. Although there are no exact statistics on Chinese capital investment, ex-Premier Shigeru Yoshida of Japan estimated that the rate of capital investment in China was twice that of other Asian countries. The United States which poured billions of dollars into Nationalist China only to have it washed down the drain, still is trying to create, develop and control the market in Asia. With its tremendous economic strength the United States is attempting to contain the embryonic development of state capitalism in China. As a measure of the strength of the rivals, the gross national product, the total value of all production, in 1954 is expected to be between $350,000,000,000 and $360,000,000,000 for the United States, $200,000,000,000 for Western Europe, $160,000,000,000 for Russia and all her allies, and about $73,000,000,000 for the other Asian countries. China’s industrial development is, of course, now just beginning to accelerate.

What is transpiring in China is not Socialism, no more Socialism than there is in the U.S.S.R. Ruthless as were and are the methods of Russian State Capitalism, the child bids fair to outdo the parent. In the purges carried out since 1949 the total number executed is estimated at well over 10,000,000. Communist bureaucrats have replaced the larger land owners and the urban merchants who were mercilessly executed. Peiping, even after the purges, still officially claims a population of 582,000,000 in all of China. About 80 per cent. are peasants cultivating two acres of land or less. Josue de Castro in his “Geography of Hunger” well documents the chronic famines which periodically starved to death millions of Chinese, and the constant hunger which over two thirds of the population suffer. Land reform was eagerly received by millions of peasants even though they only received an acre or two at the expense of the wealthier landlords, who themselves might have had only five to 20 acres at the most. However, when Peiping undertakes to collectivize 100,000,000 peasant families within the next decade force indeed will be the midwife of collectivization, and the costs will be even higher than in Russia where millions died in the collectivization attempt.

Anti-Working Class
Communist apologists seem to glory in the death of millions as some sort of historical necessity. They, like the Nationalists who preceded them in power, take pride in their toughness and ruthlessness. A Socialist may ask whether this is the means by which will be made “the ascent of man from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.” Socialists think not. Socialists think that promoting the understanding of the meaning of Socialism in the majority of working class heads is of more importance in achieving Socialism than the bludgeoning of working class beads to achieve economic progress in backward countries.

The rapid industrialization of China will require large amounts of capital. Some of this capital will come from Russia. Certain countries of the West would also like to find a market in China for their capital goods. Whether under the direction of the entrepreneur, corporation or state, "capital is value that breeds surplus value.” Of all the commodities involved the commodity labour-power is the only one which "creates during its consumption a greater value than it itself possesses.” The Chinese State unhindered by any organized opposition of the workers will attempt to secure this labour-power at a price lower than its value, low as its value is by Western standards. Even then, as elsewhere, the efficiency of the worker must be increased and he requires more of the means of life to replace the energy expended. The value of the labour power of the Chinese worker is determined like that of an American worker. It is determined by the labour-time socially necessary for its production and its reproduction. However, as Marx wrote, “in contrast to other commodities a historical and moral element enters into the determination of the value of labour power.” Therefore, if there will be increases eventually in the standard of living under State Capitalism, they will be increases which are consonant both with the development and needs of capitalism, and also the results of the struggle to sell labour-power as a commodity to the state at its increased value.

The realization that its mode of production is far inferior to that of the West impels the Chinese State to tremendous effort in the economic sphere. It is part of the dialectic of world development that some day will bring Socialism. Socialism is far from being established in China. Though the pessimist may echo the same sentiment about the advanced capitalist countries of the West, they are at least one step nearer. China is merely following the industrialization pattern of countries like Japan and Russia.

While someday the Chinese will produce automobiles instead of rickshaws, will produce all the various consumer 1 and capital goods that the industrialized West produces, and the commissars of the “People’s Democracy” will delude them with the propaganda that they have advanced into Socialism, the status of the Chinese workers will still be that of workers of the world over—wage slaves for a master class. Until this relationship is done away with there will be no Socialism.
(From Western Socialist, Jan.-Feb. 1955).