Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Refuted by Himself (1910)

From the January 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

Translated from Le Socialisme by F. C. Watts

We have an erudite Minister of Agriculture. If you doubt it spend a half-penny on the Journal Official of 16th of March last. You will find therein, spread over thirty-nine columns, a speech delivered by M. Ruau, on the 14th of March 1909, at the Musée Social under the auspices of the French National Federation of Friendly Societies (Fédération Nationale de la Mutualité Française). You will not repent of your extravagance because there is something in the speech that will amuse you. In the first place notice at the foot of each page, the reference to the numerous books the author has made use of. There Marx’s Capital is quoted a dozen times, Kautsky’s Agrarian Question is also referred to; as is Frederick Engels, Vandervelde and David. It is quite a Socialist Library. In the text of the speech you will at each step come across the same names, and also those of Gatti, Jaurès, and others, including even our Limoges Congress, not to speak of the Congresses of the French Parti Ouvrier.

What an honour!

The fact is that the speech is entirely designed to “demonstrate” (against the Socialists) that capitalist concentration does not operate at all in agricultural property, and that “the present state of small property is flourishing”, and that even “with regard to the future growth there is reason to believe in an increase in its vitality”.

I do not know to which of his subordinates M. Ruau (having to deliver a speech) gave the order to make the discourse he read. But I know that he must be a good practical joker. He took it for granted that his chief, happy to find himself at the head of all those quotations from books which he had never read, and perhaps never opened, would not notice anything wrong. And he has amused himself by causing his chief to give in support of his statements, arguments which prove exactly the opposite of his assertions. His joke has succeeded, and doubtless he laughed up his sleeve to know that his minister, with all the “side” and self-sufficiency of a man sure of his facts, had “found” that the number of small proprietors does not diminish, by reading to his astounded hearers the following statistics:
An enquiry in July 1908, made by the Ministry of Finances, gave as 5,505,464 the total number of agricultural proprietors, which is thus split up according to the area exploited:


            Very small property (less than one hectare)                    2,087,851

            Small property (1 to 10 hectares)                                       2,523,713

            Medium property (10 to 40 hectares)                                   745,862

            Great property (40 to 100 hectares)                                      118,497

            Very great property (100 hectares upwards)                          29,541

            The corresponding figures for 1892 are

            Very small property                                                           2,235,405

            Small property                                                                   2,617,557

            Medium property                                                                  711,118

            Great property                                                                       105,391

            Very great property                                                                 32,280

  This comparison appears to show that small property has increased sensibly by 2,845 exploitations, as much to the detriment of ‘very small’ property as to that of the ‘medium’ and ‘great’, and that the ‘very great’ property has slightly increased by 2,739 exploitations, to the detriment of ‘great’ and perhaps a little, very little, at the expense of the ‘medium’. The development of ‘very great’ property noticeable from 1882 to 1892 has stopped in order to give place to that of ‘small’ property: the slight increase in ‘very great’ property will have continued, but this time it clearly appears that the movement does not touch ‘small’ property at all.
  The most reliable statistics tend therefore to prove that there exists no movement toward the absorption of small rural property.”
All this beautiful reasoning had but one misfortune, for without taking the trouble to find a pencil and work it out, it is seen at a glance that the 2,523,713 of 1908 are less (and not more) than the 2,617,558 of 1892. Consequently instead of “increasing” from 1892 to 1908, “small” property has “diminished sensibly by 93,245 exploitations”.

That is what the Minister of Agriculture has been pompously giving forth at the Musée Social.

It is true that a friend, a little better at arithmetic, has apparently warned him that he was giving arms against himself. A week after he sought to retrace his steps by giving (Journal Officiel of 22nd of March) a so-called erratum of his speech, which, so far from confirming, still refutes his thesis.

M. Ruau, in that erratum, recognises that 93,000 exploitations less is a decrease. But, says he, there is only question here of the element “number”; if we consider the superficial area “the facts change entirely”.

Let us see, then. The minister gives us now, as the figures of “very small” property (sterile and uncultivated land not included) super,

            for 1892   1,243,200 hectares

            for 1908   1,228,597 hectares

As figures regarding the superficial area of “small” property

            for 1892    10,383,300 hectares

            for 1908    11,559,342 hectares

And he cries triumphantly:
  “Thus ‘very small’ property has diminished by 14,603 hectares, apparently to the profit of ‘small’ property; ‘small’ property has increased by 1,176,042 hectares.”
But, excuse me! In the first place and in passing, if the “small” property increases to the detriment of “very small”, it will be because, always weak, the plots of land nevertheless are being concentrated. This would already be the contrary of what M. Ruau affirms.

And as for the principal point of his argument it hasn’t a leg to stand on. If there are 93,000 less proprietors in possession of one million hectares more land, it is therefore (just the contrary of his assertions) that the “small” exploitations increase in area, and that consequently there is still concentration.

Each “small” proprietor instead of possessing an average of 3.9 hectares as in 1892, owns 4.5 in 1908.

Fewer proprietors to more land owned, that is what is put forward as proof that agricultural concentration is a Socialist fiction.

And that’s what comes of accepting the role of simpler reader of a lucubration that one doesn’t understand.

Hit Below The Pocket. (1910)

Editorial from the September 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is much fluttering in the pigeon-roosts of “Labour.” The Osborne judgment—and the dozen or so of injunctions forbidding the use of Trade Union funds for political purposes look very much like ending the all too long career of Keir Hardie’s fledgling and at the same time spoiling the political chances of many of our Labour mis-leaders, actual and potential.

The organ of the I.L.P. waxes truculent over this “insidious” attack, in telling of how the wicked Tories are bludgeoning and bullying the innocent trade unionist, and how the Liberals refuse to help the poor victim—and of the militant methods (whatever that may mean) the Party will be compelled to have recourse to. A deadly blow has been aimed at Labour, say they. But have not the “ Labour” crowd boasted of the one and three quarter millions of trade unionists who have united with the Socialists (sic) to march solidly forward to win—“fair representation" and other dainties? Why the rumpus, then ? If the boast be well founded, surely no such paltry incidents as these injunctions could separate these brave companions in arms — could prevent them from providing the election expenses and maintenance of their representatives.

But no; it seems that with the legal restraint on the union machine's power to stop a member's benefit, to expel him, and even to hinder him from working at his trade, there goes by the board at the same time the very basis of the so-called Labour Party. So the Party, then, depended for its existence upon the terrorising of trade unionists! Such seems a fair deduction from the insistence of the Party leaders that the unions have the power to compulsorily levy their members for political purposes. Of course, the leaders tell us that their whole concern is for the natural right of the unions, or rather the voting majority, to use the funds for such purpose. They are all for "liberty"and “Labour's rights." Yes, but they don't fool all of us !

And what remedies do our good men propose ? For them once a “special appeal has been made . . . to all the affiliated societies of the Party and to personal friends of the movement to subscribe a special fighting fund ; while the trade unions are being asked to subscribe 250,000 sixpences for the fund." If we know our trade unionists at all,  judicious coaxing will required to extract those “tanners," and that the wire pullers of the I.L.P and Labour Party fear as much is manifest from their agent’s statement that “during the Autumn a series of meetings will be held in all parts of the country urging the claims of the appeal", and also from the curious fact that the Party executive confines its demands to the modest proportion of 250,000 subs from a boasted membership of seven times 250,000. We fancy those “personal friends’’ will be in request.

The Parliamentary victims of these law court machinations have been recommended to transfer their energies to securing the State payment of Members of Parliament and of Returning Officers’ fees. But while “the Party as such associated itself with the movement in favour of this reform,” we are told that “it will only be palliative and can in no sense restore the position which the Osborne decision has temporarily destroyed.” In other words the status ante Osborne was far preferable and is to be re-established if possible; while some members are dead against State payment altogether. But why this decline of enthusiasm for the old Radical reform ? Is it because these lovers of democracy, Ramsay MacDonald and the rest of them, are anxious to remain under the supposed control of the rank and file through dependence on these for their maintenance ? Or is it not rather because these good people, through the present electoral law and their control of trade union funds, have had practically a monopoly of the political Labour-leader business, and consequently are not at all prepared to share seats and candidatures with various smaller organisations, which would, with payment of members, etc., have a better show in the game.

Altogether the situation is most interesting, and the efforts of the Lib-Lab and quasi-Socialist schemers, who are largely responsible for the present political backwardness of the working class in this country, to disentangle themselves from a most awkward and threatening situation should receive the critical attention of all who have the cause of the working class at heart.

Our New Pamphlet. (1910)

Editorial from the September 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our new pamphlet has had a fine reception at the hands of the working class, being everywhere bought and assiduously read. Its scientific character is particularly appreciated—a fact that bodes well for its usefulness as an instrument for clearing the working-class mind of superstition and the political field of quacks. We are not yet in a position to deal with the criticisms that such a complacency disturbing manifesto must inevitably call forth. That is a treat to follow. Meanwhile the first edition is so near exhaustion that the Executive Committee have already taken the first steps toward the publication of a second and larger edition, thus insuring that the Party’s message of deliverance from bondage, economic and mental, shall be carried to the farthest limits of capitalism.

The Suffragist Debate. (1910)

Editorial from the August 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

The two day’s Parliamentary debate on D. J. Shackleton’s Parliamentary Franchise (Women) Bill was of considerable interest and we find in it much support for the stand we have taken in opposition to the Women's Suffrage Movement. Winston Churchill showed with great force that its effect would simply be to multiply fagot votes for the wealthy—not that he is so immensely concerned for the political representation of the workers as for the electoral success of the Liberal party. The whole trend of the debate too, showed plainly enough how essentially undemocratic is the spirit of the Women's Suffrage Movement and the measures it proposes, as witness the remarks of Messrs. M'Laren and Balfour for and of Mr. Lloyd George against the Bill. The attitude of the latter is curious as compared with his plea for his Pensions Scheme. His excuse for the paucity of this ratepayers' Godsend was that one must necessarily begin with a small instalment, but now we are told that the "Women's Bill" is to be condemned because it is a small instalment! The humbug of the whole process was demonstrated when a large majority for the second reading was converted into a large majority for its relegation to the Parliamentary dusthole.

We have no quarrel with the abstract proposal that women should have an equal part with men in the arrangement of the common activities, i.e., politics; but that is a very different matter to advising working women to join a franchise agitation at this time of day. And more than ever is the stupidity of their participation demonstrated in face of such proposals as those of Shackleton, Pankhurst, Snowden and Balfour.

The N.E. Blaze. (1910)

Editorial from the August 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are many useful lessons to be learnt from the recent strike on the N.E. Ry. First the spontaneity of the whole business. No violent declamation, no working up to a sticking point by "loud-mouthed agitators,” no stupid warning of the enemy by protracted threats marked the brief revolt against intolerable conditions. The Company's officials were so generous, so open-handed, so eager to meet the men—as they must be when a strike of any magnitude comes on them without warning. Railways are the blood vessels of the body economic. A stagnating life-stream is a wonderful promoter of generosity in those dependent upon it. Whatever the causes underlying the upheaval, and despite its brevity, it contrived to earn the highest praise a working-class rising can receive: condemnation by the Labour Party. In this the question of right or wrong was not commented upon. It was sufficient for Barnes & Co. that the men had not foredoomed themselves to failure by consulting their “leaders.“ "Once bit twice shy" saith the voice of antiquity, and the men’s experience of following leaders could hardly be reassuring when they ruminated on the joys that Conciliation Boards had brought them. In view of the fact that this boon was almost entirely the work of “leaders” the following admission by one of them is illuminating:
  We object to the tyrannical attitude of the officials in every department in cutting down expenses to the detriment of the working man. We have unanimously decided to demand the withdrawal of the Woodhouse award and the abolition of the Conciliation Board, which we find has worked very detrimentally to us.

A Bombshell. (1910)

Editorial from the August 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

By the issue of the pamphlet “Socialism and Religion” the Socialist Party of Great Britain provides the event of the day and clearly distinguishes itself from all the hypocritical misleaders of the working class. Prior to the founding of the S.P.G.B. various organisations held the field claiming to know the way of emancipation. But, as in economics and in tactics, not one taught the workers the truth about their position, so as regards religion, all stands except the correct one have been taken. Particularly with the advent of the Labour Party and the wide-spread growth of quasi-Socialist sentimentalism during the past ten years, has regard for the truth in matters of religion declined. Labour leaders have cultivated the friendship of the professional propagandists of superstition. Everywhere we find them prating of how they have attained their “Socialism” through Christianity. Such was, for instance, the burden of Mr. Keir Hardie's lay at the conference of the London Federation of P.SA. Brotherhoods, although there was a time when he could boast the sturdy but unrepentant secularism of his parents. But times have changed. The confidence of the Liberal and Non-conformist miners and petty tradesmen of Merthyr Tydvyl must not be abused nor their votes alienated. And so everywhere we find interested persons busy reinforcing this trembling bulwark of capitalism, repelling the independent thought of generations, the conclusions of science, in effect inviting the awakening workers to reject fearless, conscientious research and the promptings of the rebellious proletarian mind and to cherish rather their childlike faith and reliance upon their leaders. In a word the influence of the I.L.P and Labourite teaching on religion makes for subjection and emasculation. The S.D.P. attitude that "it is no concern of ours ” is no better. All are prepared to sink principle, truth and the mental vigour of the working class for the sake of popularity and the sweets of office.

Into this welter of humbug the S.P.G.B. throws the gage of battle. Religion in all its forms is a survival from primitive times. Its teachings do not correspond with experience and its perpetuation does but serve the interest of the oppressor. That is the contention of the new pamphlet.

Very essence of the intellectual accumulation of ages its message and challenge shall not be stifled by any conspiracy of silence—the members of the S.P.G.B. will see to that. Neither shall the correctness of its historical and ethnological data, its premises and logical conclusions be gainsaid. We are prepared to discuss the matter in the columns of the Socialist Standard, for necessarily the work will provoke much discussion and opposition. Meanwhile the revolutionary workers find in “Socialism and Religion” their true expression on this phase of the social problem, and with its aid will spread the light to those yet sitting in darkness.

On with the War ?

Our Sixth Anniversary. (1910)

Editorial from the July 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the 12th of June last the Socialist Party of Great Britain concluded the sixth year of its existence. And our sixth anniversary finds the Party as firmly based on its principles, as unassailable in the position it took up at its inception, as it was in the days when it was so freely predicted that that position would be found untenable after a few months.

As far as this proves anything at all it proves that those principles were and are fundamentally correct; that they are therefore as sound to-day as they were yesterday, and will be as sound to-morrow, and until the conditions to which they appertain themselves have passed away.

Such a position, of course, is unassailable. The fact that it has never been seriously attacked by the leaders of the so-called Socialist parties is in itself clear proof of conscious treachery of those individuals. They know how unshakeable is our position, and the polity of ignoring us is the only one they dare venture upon.

As to the success of our efforts, we have no cause for pessimism. To say that we are quite satisfied would, of course, be to say that we are not enthusiasts—for enthusiasts are always a little bit impatient. However, we knew before we started that we had a hard row to hoe, that Socialists—men and women who thoroughly understand the working-class position, are not inspired by a few passionate utterances, or an appeal to their emotions, but are made by steady and persistent education. Bearing this in mind we look back upon our past work with the feeling that it has accomplished all we had looked for. We have more than quadrupled our numerical strength in these six years, but this is no gauge of the extent of our work. To get some idea of that one must consider what effect our labours have had upon the working-clam mind at large. This is partly shown by the audiences at our street corner meetings, and debates and other meetings held within doors; it is further shown by the considerable and increasing amount of correspondence from all parts of the Kingdom, which is received at headquarters.

Stick to it, boys —the Cause advances!

Sold Again! (1910)

Editorial from the July 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the General Election was being fought we pointed out again and again that the struggle over the Lords’ Veto was nothing but a sham fight. On Parliament assembling complete proof of the truth of this contention was given by Mr. Asquith (“treacherously,” the Labour Leader said) refusing to deal with the House of Lords as the first item of business (“treachery” in which the Labour Party assisted).

Pressure from the Irish Party and a few of the left wing of the Liberal party forced the reluctant Government to bring forward the Veto, concerning which a series of resolutions was passed by the House of Commons.

All this, of course, was very annoying and very awkward for the managers of the Liberal party, who found themselves in a deuce of a quandary, and had no relish for the task they were forced to handle in some way. How to get out of the difficulty was a question that worried them sorely.

In the midst of their perplexity relief came to them suddenly and from an unexpected quarter. The King died. It is indeed an ill wind that blows no good to anybody. With his accustomed thoughtfulness, his quite remarkable faculty for doing the right thing at the right moment. King Edward had provided a splendid pretext for abandoning the sham hostilities against the Lords. In a few hours the capitalist press had so completely engineered the public feeding, that to have remained true to election pledges would have been accounted sacrilege ranking with the sin against the Holy Ghost.

So, when Caesar, having assuaged his grief in sack doth and ashes, had led his flunkey home again, the bitter enemies buried the axe under the turf of national mourning, reached across the grave of the dead monarch as it were, and shook hands.

Edward the Peacemaker !

So the Veto is dodged and the working class providentially (it is important to observe the finger of God in it all) add again.

Acting upon (as the Press glibly puts it) “instructions received from very high quarters” (himself in all probability) Mr. Asquith proceeds to arrange a conference with the Opposition (!) leaders for the purpose of deciding how they will clip the wings of the intolerant Lords without in any way reducing their power of flight.

A lovely farce! But who shall say it will not play its part ? Of course, as far as we, who have never attached any importance to the question of the Lords’ Veto, quite apart from the matter of the sincerity or otherwise of the pronouncements of the other political parties regarding it as far, we repeat, as we are concerned, there is no cause for complaint; but it is interesting to note how deplorably easy it is to bluff the workers into the belief that such an event as the death of a king is a sufficient reason for throwing overboard the chief plank upon which the election was fought.

And, as far as the capitalist Press can influence the working class, such tactics will prevail. But even now we may almost put a term to the period when the workers allow others to do all their thinking for them. The lying Liberals and canting Conservatives may win this time and the workers be sold again and yet again, but every day has its lesson for the workers. Thus the horror of Whitehaven is a counterblast to the “mourning” mummeries for the official head of British capitalism that all the canting hypocritical letters of “sympathy” from titled persons cannot belittle. So year by year the light grows stronger, and the number who can see things in their true perspective grows greater, and the whirligig of time, with his innumerable lessons of experience, sweeps us on, much more rapidly, perhaps, than even the most far-seeing of the master class imagine, toward the period when the working class will conquer the powers of Government for themselves, and enter into possession of the world as they make it, to be “sold’’ no more.

Murder of 137 Miners and Death of a King. (1910)

Editorial from the June 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

By far the greatest calamity that has befallen the nation this year took place early in May, when 137 workingmen were buried alive in a coal mine in Cumberland. Compared with this the passing away of Albert Edward Wettin, otherwise known as King of England, etc., is as nothing compared with everything.

On the night of May 6th this individual died, after an easy, useless life of nearly 70 years duration, and despite the endeavours of five prominent physicians, and the order is given FOR THE NATION TO GO INTO MOURNING. Then, as if to mock the hollowness and hypocrisy of the pantomime engineered by interested parties, and assisted so successfully by their allies of the Press that people were actually beginning to worship the inanimate form of one that had ever been wasted clay—came the shock of the tragedy in the Wellington Pit.

Throughout the mining districts a warning was published on the morning of May 12th, drawing attention to the existing dangerous atmospheric conditions. During the day these grew worse, particularly in the vicinity of Whitehaven, ’til they were practically similar to the conditions observed at the time of nearly all previous mining disasters. In such circumstances no one should have been allowed down a mine save those necessary to tend what animals might be below. And when it is realised that there was no life-saving apparatus near the mine, that the pit in question was a veritable deathtrap, extending four miles under the sea and having but one way of entrance and exit, it becomes increasingly difficult to charge the mineowners with anything short of murder.

According to Mr. Henry, under-manager of the mine, the fire started in quite a small way, and could probably have been easily extinguished. Valuable time was wasted, and when experts with life-saving appliances arrived from Sheffield and Glasgow, it was found that valuable coal and mining plant was being burnt. The experts could not reach the entombed men, but declare that had they been there earlier the latter could have been saved. And—horror of horrors !- despite the convictions of many and the assertion of one who had escaped, that the men below were alive and had fresh air and water enough for a month, it was decided to no longer try to save the men, but to save the coal.
“Alas ! that coal should be so dear
   And flesh and blood so cheap.’’
The decision to brick up the mine in order to smother the fire (and the men) nearly caused a riot in the town —but the mine, if not the men, must be saved. So the mine was bricked up and the only possible means of escape for the men cut off, while preparations were also made to flood the pit should those who owned it deem it necessary.

We venture to suggest that had Teddy Roosevelt, the late King Edward, or even the latter’s pet dog Caesar, been down in that mine, there would not have been such unseemly haste to make it a tomb. But a few score of workmen—what of them! They don’t count: there are plenty more of them at a few shillings a week. And as for the heartbroken widows and. orphans—they are accustomed to such things, you know. A few pounds will solace them! Thus we speak the capitalist mind; and the capitalist Press cynically passes over the brutal murder of workingmen, the fiendish interment of living human beings in a flaming pit in order to save coal and plant, with a report that a relief fund is being raised and that work is being resumed in the district.

Thus the little town of Whitehaven provides an object lesson in the class struggle. To those who believe in the “brotherhood of Capital and Labour” the Whitehaven tragedy is inexplicable, but to us class-conscious workers it is as dear as noon-day. That capital may have its profits workingmen must be sacrificed. And so it will be until Socialism ends conflicting class interests by the abolition of classes.

In the meantime we go on with our revolutionary propaganda. Our sympathy, sincere, deep and lasting, goes out to our brothers and sisters in Whitehaven in this sad hour of trial. The Stoical bravery and fortitude shown by our women at Whitehaven under real grief and suffering, under the mental torture of knowing that even yet their loved ones may be lying in that blazing pit beneath the sea, staring laggard Death in the face through long weary hours— such fortitude as this, we say, we commend in other places, where what is lacking in grief is made up for, many times over, with hired mourners and a mighty show of hollow, pompous mockery and pretence, which could not be complete without Caesar—on a string. 

And to add to our insults and our injuries, this triumph given to Caesar (if we may speak from Caesar'a point of view), is accompanied by the impertinent order that we, the working class of the country, shall exhibit such outward signs of grief as would move these superior mortals to derision were we to display them on account of our own dead. We fling the insult back with scorn and contempt. Between kings and queens and their capitalist henchmen (or should we say masters) and the working class there is a bottomless abyss. Woe to those of our class who forget it: we never can. Across that chasm we repudiate and absolutely reject the invitation or command to participate in the tomfoolery of national mourning for what is in no sense a national calamity. We are not on the same string with Caesar. Across that chasm we fling, in the name of our murdered brothers in that grave under the sea, with undying hatred and contempt, the gage of unceasing battle to the bitter end. That is how we consign a royal relic to its tomb; that is how [we] keep green the memory of the murdered miners of Whitehaven.