Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Notes By The Way: Acton by-election (1944)

The Notes By The Way column from the January 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

Acton by-election

The recent by-election at Acton, London, provided some piquant details to liven up our somewhat depressing war days.

Eight candidates started. The Government candidate was a golf champion (amateur—of course).

One "Independent” told reporters that he was “fighting for more potatoes and nurses for old-age pensioners." He walked about Acton wearing a tin-hat on which he balanced a box bearing his slogans ("Star," 24/11/43). Another Independent Liberal withdrew "so as not to split the I.L.P. vote," showing that he has no illusions about the Liberal, non-Socialist, I.L.P. The cream of the joke, as usual, was supplied by the Communist Party. According to the Press, the C.P. advised Acton electors NOT to vote at all—for any of the four candidates—on the grounds that the Government nominee supported the release of Sir Oswald Mosley. It is a bit awkward—after all—when you’ve been shouting your head off in Trafalgar Square the week before for the imprisonment of Mosley to urge workers to vote for a candidate who favours his release. But if you oppose, or abstain from voting for the Government candidate, you are NOT supporting the war —or the Government.

A classic example of the inevitable results of unprincipled compromise. The C.P., "using Churchill"-(? !), having in twenty-three years advised the workers to vote for each other party in turn. Labour, I.L.P., Liberal, then Conservative, and finally, Coalition, has "united” itself into nothing. It now advises workers not to vote for anybody, and has no intention of running its own candidate.

Its history might well be entitled "Unity Through Everybody—to Nowhere." Small wonder that the "Evening News,” quite unintentionally, probably sub-consciously, when giving the list of guests at a Labour M.P.'s wedding recently, placed, after Tommy Trinder, Bud Flanagan and Miss Evelyn Laye—Mr. William Gallacher, M.P.

The Socialist Party also advises electors NOT to vote for any of the candidates. They are ALL (including the I.L.P,) anti-socialist. But only until such time as the Socialist Party has sufficient support to run socialist candidates.

Beveridge Be-bunked

"1794 AND ALL THAT."
In October, 1943, the Glasgow Fabian Society held a Conference on Full Employment.

At: this meeting Sir P. J. Dollan stated that —
  "Full employment is not a new issue. Tom Paine suggested that there should be full employment in 1794. There is nothing in the Beveridge Report, except the amounts. which was not foreshadowed by Tom Paine in "The Rights of Man.” ("Forward," October 30, 1943.) 
Which is just what the Socialist Party proves in its new pamphlet, "Beveridge Reorganises Poverty."

The difference between the Fabian Society, Labour Party, I.L.P., Communists, Sir Patrick Dollan, etc., and the S.P.G.B., is that the Socialist Party concludes that— .
  "The Beveridge proposals will not solve the problem of the working class. They will level the workers' position as a whole, reducing the more favourably placed to a lower level and putting the worst paid on a less evil level. This is not a 'new world' of hope, but a re-distribution of misery.” (Page 20.) 
  The outstanding social problem of the age is "the poverty of the working class, and not just the additional burdens borne in times of unemployment, old age and sickness, burdens which incidentally Beveridge does little to lift. The poverty of the working class is due to the private ownership by the capitalists of the means of production and distribution. Socialism alone can end that poverty.” (Page 20.)
The social reformers urge the workers to continue chasing the will o' the wisps which have been suggested since 1794, with various amounts, without appreciable result.

This little pamphlet will go far towards de-bunking the Beveridge and other "Plans" as solutions of the poverty problem of the workers.

("Beveridge Reorganises Poverty" is obtainable from S.P.G.B., Rugby Chambers, 2, Rugby Street, W.C.1. Price 3d. Post free 4d.)

Kindersley Lawsuit

Dublin High Court has recently considered an action by Lord Kindersley to direct Lady Aronmore to deliver his grand son Gay to him, so that said offspring may attend Eton.

We wonder if the noble Lord, whose appeals to the rather more modest mass of the people of Britain to go without things they need and invest the money in War Savings ("Give till it hurts"), would be very deeply hurt if it were suggested that he might have saved all those heavy lawyers' and school fees—and put them in his own War Savings!

Or can't a Kindersley attend a Council School?

See Naples—and Die!

The "Evening Standard” for Wednesday, November 3. reports that the Allied Military Authorities evacuated the whole population of Naples, four hundred thousand of them, before they turned the electric current on, as they feared mines connected to the circuit.

"These were Naples’ poorest folk, the little shopkeepers, labourers, factory hands, fishermen and their families," and —here’s the point—"among them were old folk to whom, after years in dingy lanes, Naples’ superb harbour was almost n discovery.” (Our italics.)

In other words, thousunds of people in Naples are so poor—that is, are so pre-occupied with scraping an existence in Naples' slums—that they did not even KNOW' they lived in one of the world’s most beautiful harbours.

The beauty is reserved for those who can AFFORD it. Poverty is the mortal enemy of leisure—which is. the prerequisite for the appreciation of beauty.

A magnificent social vista extends before the eyes of those workers who raise themselves out of the mental slums and trudge the heights of socialist knowledge. By their own efforts they can apprehend, "see" Socialism—and LIVE.

The "Independent” Trader

Mr. Lynch, the President of the National Union of Small Shopkeepers, has sent Mr. Bevin a telegram “pointing out that 100,000 traders have had their businesses closed down during the war.” The telegram states “that traders over forty . . . have been told to sell their concerns and go down the pit.”—(“News Chronicle,” November 4.)

Mr. Lynch might have saved himself the telegraph charges. One of the effects of modern war is the acceleration of the process of the Concentration of Capital. Commerce as well as Industry is being trustified. It has become well-nigh impossible for any appreciable number of working men to achieve “independence” from employers by opening a small shop.

What this “independence” is worth, when obtained, the Hardships Tribunals (representatives of the capitalist class), who instructed small traders to “sell up and go down the pit” have shown.

Nothing can prevent the small traders from being always on the verge of "going down the pit” into the ranks of the wage-working class. Socialism—not small shops—is the way.

Crime After the War

The London evening press has published official reports of important conferences being held now by London police to make plans to deal with the wave of violent crime which is confidently anticipated after the war.

And surely, alongside the other post-war plans to consolidate Capitalism, with the Beveridge Report and the new Plan of London—Scotland Yard's Post-War Reconstruction deserves an important place.

What the police chiefs are mainly concerned with, quite naturally, is the advent of thousands of unemployed desperate men, some even perhaps in possession of arms, highly trained in all the most effective means of violent assault and killing, and inured to bloody violence.

A leading article in the Atlantion, the Atlanta Penitentiary convicts' paper, quotes Lord Wavell:
  "Field-Marshal Wavell is said to have described the modern soldier in these terms—a good soldier must be part burglar, part footpad, part athlete, part gunman, and all guts.”
  "If this is on the level, General Eisenhower is overlooking a lot of good material—and we don't mean at Harvard either.” (The Star, quoted in Forward, 16th October, 1943.)
His commanding officer claimed that Ruby Sparkes was the best soldier in his company.

The London police chiefs are probably right. Alongside of Unemployment, Disease, Invalids, Poverty and Prostitution there will probably appear their bed-fellow—Violent Crimes. Whatever they plan may catch criminals—but will not abolish the cause which makes them—Capitalism.

1,250 Cigars for Cairo Talks
  "Five hundred native servants were engaged to assist five officers and 17 other ranks of the British Army in catering for the delegates attending the Cairo conferences.

  “Three hundred lb. of tea, 37,500 eggs, 400 lb. of coffee, 7,500 lb. of bread, 500,000 cigarettes, 1,250 cigars and 2,000 tins of milk were ordered for the conference by the supervising officer, Major N. P. Jeffery, of the Army Catering Corps, who was in charge of catering services for the Eighth Army in the Western Desert. 
  “A.T.S. sergeants and corporals were brought from all parts of the Middle East to act as housekeepers for the delegations. One A.T.S. sergeant had a full-time job as personal attendant to Mine. Chiang Kai-shek.”—(“Evening Standard,” December 8, 1943.)
The banquet at Cairo was, however, exceeded by the colossal spread at Teheran, where Stalin, as usual, drank over twenty toasts in rare wines.

Well! It seems to be a pretty good instalment of “freedom from want,” if you happen to be one of the “chiefs.”

Austerity at Home

The ”News Chronicle” (December 11, 1943) reported a sale at Christie's on December 13 of fine wines, spirits and liqueurs from the Kentish home of the Countess of Limerick who died some months ago. “Among the top prices were £46 for a dozen bottles of champagne, £60 for a dozen bottles of brandy, and £48 for twelve bottles of German wine.”

“A box of 92 Corona cigars went for £39, or over 8s. each.”

Probably over-paid miners, of course, who don't know what to do with the high wages they're not used to!

Destruction Unlimited

Recently the Press has made much of the accounts by an R.A.F. pilot of the destruction of the Ruhr dams. He describes how a scientist instructed him for months—scientific experiments were made on a dam due for destruction in the Midlands. A picked team trained incessantly to fly at exactly the right height—to ensure complete demolition.

When the dams were burst the damage by flooding was colossal. Millions went down the drain.

Again, as the Allied forces pressed on into Italy the Germans decided to open the flood-gates and flood the Pontine marshes, the reclamation of which (by draining) was claimed as a major triumph of Fascism. In this case the military reason was the opposite one—defence, not attack.

Again the destruction of wealth was incalculable. In a further case, the mighty Dnieper dam, in the Ukraine, was blown up by the Russians themselves to prevent its use by the Germans. The Dnieper dam was the crowning achievement of the Soviet Government; its loss, immense.

In all these cases we see one thing clearly apparent— the destruction of what man has toiled to create by war is staggering. Why is this? The Socialist Party, learning, from Marx, pointed out years ago that Capitalism is in the daft and senile stage now.

Productivity of labour has now become so great that man can harness the rivers to his purpose.

But so long as these great works are privately owned (as they are under Capitalism, even if State controlled) their very ability to increase the supply of wealth becomes the cause of wars, for the shrinking market.

The war solves the crisis, for the time being only, by destruction.

After having converted swamps into fertile lands, or diverted rivers to assist navigation, man blows them all up, so as to start all over again.

In the same way as he digs gold out of the earth, under Capitalism, to put it down there again.

So long as humanity is divided into warring cliques (inevitable under Capitalism) we shall never get much further than making wonderful things, and blowing 'em up.

Socialism, by making the great achievements of modern engineering science the common property of all, will abolish war and the senseless destruction of what should be great boons to humanity, because crises will go with capitalist production.

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