Tuesday, March 31, 2020

'Le Programme Commun': The General Election this month in France (1973)

From the March 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

On 27 June last year a programme commun de gouvernement was signed in France between the “Socialist Party” and the “Communist Party”. These two parties, together with some left Radicals (Liberals) who later endorsed the programme, thus enter the French elections this month with a common policy which they promise to implement if elected.

In 1905 the various self-styled Socialist groups in France came together in a “United Socialist Party” under the leadership of Jean Jaurès. Adopting Marxism as its theory this party was the French equivalent of the German Social Democratic Party. In 1920 a majority of the delegates to its conferences at Tours voted to affiliate to the Third International and to become the Communist Party of France. The anti-Bolshevik minority led by Leon Blum split off calling themselves the “Section Française de l'internationale Ouvrière” (SFIO), by which name they were known until June 1971 when they joined with various left radical clubs led by François Mitterrand to become “the Socialist Party”. Mitterrand, a typical bourgeois politician under the Fourth Republic and later joint candidate of the Left against de Gaulle in the 1965 Presidential election, became the leader of this new party.

Support for Reforms
In the 1930’s the SFIO was the largest party in France calling itself socialist, the French Communist Party (PCF) having lost ground as it came more and more under Moscow’s control. During the second world war (but only after the German invasion of Russia in June 1941 of course) the PCF regained this lost ground, and has been the larger party ever since. In fact at every election since the war the PCF has consistently retained the support of about 20 per cent of the electorate.

The new PS still claims to be Marxist in inspiration and it is still possible to find references in its literature to the abolition of the wages system as an eventual, albeit very eventual, aim. In practice, however, its stands for state capitalism to be achieved gradually by a series of social reform measures. Its main theoretical difference with the PCF has been its insistence on the importance of political democracy both as a means of achieving its state capitalist aim and as an essential feature of that society. In other words, it has stood for what might loosely be called “democratic state capitalism" as opposed to the bureaucratic state capitalism on the Russian model favoured by the PCF.

When the Cold War came, while the PCF — naturally — adopted a pro-Moscow attitude, the SFIO was pro-Washington. It supported NATO and the Common Market, took part in the CIA-sponsored split in the CGT, the main trade union centre in France, and denounced the Communists as agents of Russian imperialism. As one of its leaders once put it, cruelly perhaps but accurately: “the CP is not so much on the Left as in the East”. The PCF replied in kind. The SFIO, they said, were right-wing traitors to the working class and agents of American imperialism. A clear case of the pot and the kettle calling each other black.

Own Image Recognized
Now all this is forgiven, at least on the surface. The two parties have got together and drawn up a joint programme. If they win a parliamentary majority, Mitterrand would become the Prime Minister with Communist Ministers in his Cabinet. This is not the first time the two parties have collaborated on the electoral, and the governmental, fields. In 1934 the two parties made an electoral alliance which marked the end of the Comintern’s "social fascist” policy and paved the way for the Popular Front government of 1936 under the SFIO leader Léon Blum. For a couple of years after 1945 there were Communist Ministers, first under de Gaulle and then in coalition with the SFIO and the Christian Democrats. Then in 1947 came the outbreak of the Cold War and the unceremonious dismissal of the Communist Ministers. More recently the two parties agreed to field Mitterrand as the joint candidate of the Left against de Gaulle in 1965. Then in June last year came this agreement on a common government programme. What has really made this possible, it should be noted, has been the thaw during the past decade in relations between American and Russian imperialism. This has allowed the two parties to forget their foreign-policy differences and come together with a joint programme of reforms both of them had long been independently advocating.

For the much-vaunted Common Programme is merely this: a list of promised reforms of capitalism. There is nothing in it that would not be endorsed by the Labour Party in this country, except perhaps that the Labour Party with more recent experience of governing capitalism would be more cautious about promising so much at one time. The list of reforms is familiar: retirement at 60, a 40-hour week, a new Labour Code, a minimum wage, free medical treatment, a tax on increasing land values, 700,000 houses a year, votes at 18, a National Investment Bank, price controls, abolition of capital punishment, re-introduction of proportional representation, no French nuclear weapons or tests, etc, etc, etc. The arms, aerospace, nuclear energy and drugs industries, along with underground resources, are to be nationalised with compensation. So are parts of the computer and chemical industries. And the State will take a share in financing and running certain other industries like steel, petrol, telecommunications and water supply. But, as the programme itself is at pains to point out, “an important private sector” will still survive.

Letting a Tuck In
Now, nationalisation is state capitalism not Socialism, but it is what the PCF falsely says is Socialism. So how do their leaders explain watering down their aims and not fighting on a “socialist” programme? Georges Marchais, its general secretary, has, as our quotes show, [See the bottom of the article.] been quite frank with his followers. The Common Programme, he has told them, is not and is not meant to be a socialist one, even in the false Communist Party meaning of the word.

So, if the implementation of the Common Programme would not establish “socialism” what is it supposed to establish? According to the programme — and this part reflects PCF ideology — it would establish “a genuine political and economic democracy”. So yet another “transitional stage” is being introduced between capitalism and Socialism! Marx and Engels did indeed hold that between the capture of political power by the Socialist working class and the establishment of Socialism there would need to be a political transition period during which the capitalist class was dispossessed. By Socialism and Communism (the two words meant the same to them) they meant a wageless, moneyless, Stateless society. Lenin later inserted a further stage before such a society (for which he used the word Communist only). For him this new stage, “socialism”, would be characterised by the State ownership of the means of production, equal wages, etc. Then he inserted yet another stage, “state capitalism”, where the so-called proletarian state would control private capitalist industry. Now we have yet another stage — “a genuine political and economic democracy”, a reformed capitalism run by a PCF-PS coalition.

Same Old Problems
What does all this nonsense of a moneyless, wageless, Stateless society being reached via “a genuine political and economic democracy”, “state capitalism” and "socialism” mean? Is it not the old gradualist and reformist argument that capitalism can gradually be transformed into Socialism through a series of social reforms passed by a government claiming to represent the working class? Of course it is. The PCF, and its counterparts elsewhere, in fact have long been just as reformist as the Social Democratic and Labour Parties of the world. They too suffer from the illusion that it is possible for a political party to use government power to make capitalism function in the interest of the working class. The sad thing is that in France this illusion is obviously shared by many ordinary workers who are enthusiastically backing the Common Programme and are expecting great things from its implementation.

Will the PCF-PS alliance win a parliamentary majority? This is certainly a possibility, though the electoral system which over-represents the conservative countryside works against them. But if they do win, what then? Assuming that there is no constitutional conflict with President Pompidou, a Gaullist, we would predict that the new reformist government would get off to an enthusiastic start. Some of its more popular social reforms would be implemented. But then, in time, the new government will settle down to the job of governing French capitalism and the enthusiasm will wane as the workers notice no basic difference in their daily lives. The government will come into conflict with groups of workers demanding wage increases. Ministers will begin to appeal to workers not to strike and cause difficulties for “their” government. Lagging exports or balance of payments difficulties or an international monetary crisis or a too-slow rate of growth — the everyday problems of any government of capitalism — will force Ministers to make excuses for not implementing their reform programme as quickly as they would have liked. Workers will be urged to work harder and increase productivity. The familiar pattern workers in Britain experienced under the last Labour government. For many French workers, however, this will be something new since they haven’t been under a full “Labour government” since just after the war.

Needless to say the various Trotskyist groups in France (besides fielding their own candidates in the First Ballot) are saying: “Vote for the Common Programme” just as they say “Vote Labour" here. Our advice would be different. The best thing workers in France can do in these elections is to go to the polling booths and write the words "Socialisme Mondiale” across their ballot papers.
Adam Buick

Georges Marchais quotes:
  “Does this mean installing communism or even socialism? Evidently not. A socialist society has for its basis the collective ownership of the principal means of production and exchange, and the exercise of power by the working class in alliance with other segments of the toiling population. It suffices to look at the common programme to appreciate that its achievement would not lead to the installation of such a regime in France”. Georges Marchais, speech to the national congress of the French Communist Party on 13 December, reported in The Times, 14 December 1972.
  “Obviously by applying this programme we shall not establish communism, or even socialism, in France. But we can introduce democratic and anti-monopolistic reforms of unprecedented scope. And we think that this new democracy will be a step forward, a form of transition towards socialism, which is suited to the conditions of France today”. Georges Marchais, General Secretary of the French Communist Party, in an interview with The Times, 17 November 1972.

An Open Letter to ‘Workers’ Fight’ . . . (1973)

From the March 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

I see from No. 17 of your publication Workers' Fight that you are (and I quote) “a group of revolutionary Socialists aiming to build a party which stands firmly for the interests of the working class”. That Workers' Fight stands for ‘‘a party democratically controlled by an active working class membership and which preserves its political independence”.

You say in your Statement of Aims (Where We Stand) that:
  Capitalism is a vicious system to buttress the strong against the weak . . . to keep millions in poverty so that a few may prosper . . . It is a system of massive waste and social disorganization.
And that:
  Labour Parties, Social-Democratic Parties and Communist Parties have joined capitalist governments and managed capitalism . . . The Labour Party is a capitalist party.
Finally, that:
  The only way out is for the working class to take power and bring the economy under a rational working class plan . . . Having overthrown capitalism and established social ownership of the means of production the working class will build a truly communist society in which, at last, the principle will be “From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.”
To which we say Hear! Hear! we’ll go along with most of that. The only question we would ask is: “Why have you got to form a new party for all this?” The Socialist Party of Great Britain stands for communist society. It opposes the Labour and Communist Parties, and is democratically controlled by its membership, with no leaders. What is more important, it has taken these attitudes consistently for many years, which is the guarantee that it will continue them.

You say that you:
  consider all other political groups to be seriously inadequate in theory and practice. We favour unity in action with these groups and a serious dialogue about our differences.
We also are in favour of serious dialogue about the class interests of the workers, like you, and would therefore start it off with some criticism of your "serious inadequacies” (in our view, of course).

Although your statement of aims says that "the only way out” for the workers is to overthrow capitalism and establish Communism, we find a number of aims in it which are not this. For instance, you also stand for a national Minimum Wage, for Work for the Unemployed, and you defend the nationalized industries of the U.S.S.R. and "similar” countries against capitalism. You also support the struggles of oppressed peoples against Imperialism.

Even worse, in your criticism of Socialist Worker and Workers' Press (much of which is quite reasonable) you propound your own suggestions such as:
  Cut rents; take the land and buildings off the big property owners; nationalise the banks, the building societies, and other money-lending institutions; nationalise the building industry.
Finally, and this is our chief disagreement and your “serious inadequacy”, you write:
  We believe that the Parliamentary road to Socialism is a crippling illusion. The capitalist class will not leave the stage peacefully, no ruling class ever has. Socialism can be built only by smashing the State machinery (Army, Police, Civil Service).
In our view, what you have to understand first is that demands for nationalization of the building industry or anything else are not Socialism and do not lead to it. Bismarck was nationalizing the German railways in 1870 for war against France. The loudest advocate of the nationalization of the Bank of England was "Comrade” Lord Beaverbrook, and Lord Attlee’s government kindly obliged by doing it. The first Act to nationalize Britain’s railways was introduced by Gladstone in 1844 when still a Tory.

"Work for the Unemployed and a national Minimum Wage” are not workers’ Fight but the unfortunate workers’ Plight. Liberals and Tories have supported them for years, not to mention the "capitalist” Labour Party. What has become of “to each according to his need”? You cannot square the circle. Either you are Socialists, opposed to the reform of capitalism because reforms perpetuate the capitalist system — or you will water down your socialist objective by futile demands for reforms which most capitalists would support, like "taking the land away from the landowners”.

It’s all very well to denounce the Socialist Labour League and the International Socialists for “defining capitalism out of existence”, and accusing them of making “Socialism always a distant beacon of the future”. But as long as you advocate reforms you, like them, are reformists and will never make a revolutionary party, which has to be anti-reformist.

You have got to face the facts one way or the other. Face up to the reality of the unpopularity (momentarily) of a straight clear-cut Socialist programme, or support reforms. You cannot consistently do both. Supporting rent strikes, and demonstrating against the war in Vietnam, are not Socialist policy and do not bring Socialism a second nearer. Neither is your “active working-class participation” in the Labour Party. If you join Labour parties, you are reformists.

Finally, and this is probably the most “serious inadequacy” of all, your crass ignorance of the aim and purpose of parliament. For after all, like it or not, the logical outcome of anti-parliamentarianism is illegal rebellion or insurrection. It is not a question of what the capitalist class will or will not do, but what the workers can or cannot do. And one thing it is certain they can not do is challenge the armed force of the government outside Parliament.

In your programme you state that you are intending building a party "controlled by its membership”. You do not realize this, but you got this idea from the S.P.G.B., which has always jealously guarded its Socialist integrity by ensuring that reformists cannot enter it. This idea also belongs to the question of the method of obtaining Socialism. There is no opposition between the aim, Socialism, and the method, democracy. It is not whether capitalists will be bellicose or comatose in face of a Socialist challenge, but whether a party exists which has the infallible guarantee of Socialist knowledge in the heads of its members to control the actions of its parliamentary representatives who will be mandated delegates.

It all finally boils down to this. The working class has got to learn; when it gets the knowledge, it will do the deed. I’m sorry, Workers’ Fight, but if this is the best “fight” you can put up you would do better stopping at home in bed. You have picked up a lot of quite sound ideas but failed to see that the Socialist case is a monolithic whole. So long as you continue to peddle the dilapidated fourth-hand remnants of the discredited Leninist and Trotskyist “tactics” you are not really fundamentally different from the other Trotskyist splinter groups.

Blogger's Note:
I know this can all be rather confusing but Workers' Fight was one of the earliest incarnations of what is now known as the Alliance for Workers' Liberty. The common thread through all these organisations - dating back to 1966 - is its leader, the Irish Trotskyist Sean Matgamna. By 1972/73, WF were an independent Trotskyist organisation, having just been expelled from Tony Cliff's International Socialists for persistent factionalism. At this point in Matgamma's Leninist Life, his organisation were orthodox Trotskyists but they are better known today for their - for Trotskyists - unorthodox positions in relation to the Israel/Palestine question and on the class nature of the Soviet Union.

. . . A Much More Private Letter (1973)

A Short Story from the March 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

My Dear Daphne,

It was very nice to see you the other day and to see you looking so well. Your mother and I were pleased to hear that you are settling down so well at university but since you went back I have been doing a bit of thinking (I get a lot of time for that nowadays) about some of the things you said to us.

I am probably more anxious than your mother, about the pitfalls you must be wary of in your future. You told us about all those layabouts at university, who go there only to have a rest for a few years and who do only enough work to get a pass. It made me very angry, that I am paying to keep these people in idleness. We have always taught you the value of hard work, in the moral sense, and this applies whether you are at university or in a job. It applied to me ever since I left school, all through my time in the army and in the jobs I’ve had since my demob. So when you talk about trying for a good degree and then going for a big job with a large firm, one of the stable ones which are not going to pack up, I think you are on the right lines. You will be set for life.

By the way when I took you back to university the term before last I did not notice any of those layabouts among your friends! In fact I liked the other students you introduced to me. Although they were young they seemed to have an instinctive respect for me and they were quite happy to just let me sit in your room while they got on with their chat. A pity they are not all like that. I think your idea, to make the first examination the stiffest and the last the easiest, instead of the other way round, would weed out a lot of the layabouts and make sure that universities are places for people who want to work.

I hear so many stories about what goes on at universities these days. Drugs and sex and communists stirring things up. I know you are a sensible girl. Your mother and I have told you right from the start that you must be on your guard against all men, who are interested in only one thing from you. Up to now you have taken our advice and we hope you carry on like that. You know that drugs are just filthy and you only have to start on them, take the smallest piece of cannabis for example, to get addicted and end up in an early grave. As for the communists, they are another kind of drug really and just as destructive. Just after the war, when I was still in the forces, I voted Labour because everyone was doing it then but I am glad I saw where all that would lead me. We cannot afford to relax in this free world and you in a university where the communists are so active must be really on your guard.

I am not grumbling at you because we know you are sensible and we are very proud of you. You have always listened to what we have said to you and we think that provided you watch your step over the next few years you are all set for a good career.

You were not the only visitor I had last week because Stan Bloomfield came to see me. It was mainly to clear up one or two details from the firm, like me keeping up paying into the pension fund and settling my holiday pay. I think Stan knows what it means to be told you are redundant after all those years with a place but I know he appreciates that I worked my notice properly and left the job in apple-pie order when I left. I hope soon I can think about another job and I don’t see why I shouldn’t get one at the same managerial level. Do you want any good kitchen hands at your university? (Ha ha).

I think I’ll close now. Don’t forget to write to me and come to see me again as soon as you can. If you cannot manage to come before the next holiday don’t worry too much because I shall be here for a while yet. The tablets they are giving me are making me a lot calmer and when I start the electric shock treatment next week I hope for a really big improvement but the doctors say it will be a few months before I will feel well enough to go home.
God bless, from your affectionate 


To Our Readers (1973)

Party News from the March 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

With the possibility of the Party managing to arrange a programme in the new BBC OPEN DOOR TV series, we are anxious to obtain any material which would enable us to make our approach as varied as possible. Would any members or sympathisers who have films or photographs of Party activity (e.g. Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park meetings, etc.) please advise us as soon as possible? At this stage a note of what you have, its subject, and time run if a film, would be most helpful.

Replies please to: Propaganda Committee, The Socialist Party of Great Britain, 52 Clapham High Street, London S.W.4.

Twenty Years Since Stalin (1973)

From the March 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard
 The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. (Engels)
  Our system is state capitalism . . . (Russian underground leaflet)
It is now twenty years since March 1953 when Stalin died. High time to review trends in Russia, the so-called “Socialist camp”—the prison camp society with a state-capitalist economy. A brief sketch of the Stalinist era will help to give the reader some understanding of the developments of the last twenty years.

Stalin became Lenin’s successor largely due to his success in putting his own men in key information posts. Once in power he ruthlessly eliminated the political opposition: the Trotskyists and other opposition factions followed one another into the silence of the camps or were butchered by the G.P.U.

Bolshevik despotism relied on the same instrument of oppression as had done the Tsarist state: a secret police force, especially skilled at spying on nascent opposition movements and strangling them at birth. In Tsarist times this was the Okhrana; Lenin founded its successor, the Cheka, in December 1917. In February 1922 the name changed to G.P.U. and again in 1934 to N.K.V.D. Nowadays it is called the K.G.B: tomorrow yet another euphemistic title will be coined. In a despotic or totalitarian State, such institutions will always be indispensable.

Stalin fought another, more desperate, undeclared civil war with the peasants. In a letter to Sholokhov, Stalin himself wrote that the peasants “in reality were making a ‘silent’ war against Soviet power . . . War by starvation”. During the Revolution the peasants had been able to seize land for themselves and, when land-nationalisation (collectivization) was proposed, they resisted as only peasants can. In January 1930 Stalin decreed full steam ahead with collectivization and the simultaneous elimination of the kulaks (useless to define a kulak since anyone could be labelled kulak who was awkward).

The result was chaos and years of famine, even in the best agricultural regions. Some ten million people appear to have died in the Thirties: from starvation disease or liquidation, who can say? Meat consumption dropped by 50-75 per cent, whilst the country’s grain requirements were barely satisfied. Peasants slaughtered their livestock and destroyed corn and hayricks.

These twin themes—the ruthless suppression of political opposition and appalling agricultural shortages— continue to trouble state-capitalist Russia even now.

Stalin’s purges continued even through the War. In his time (ably assisted by Communist Party bureaucrats) he eliminated masses of peasants and intellectuals, Baptists and Marxists, Jews and atheists, generals and doctors and engineers: all were grist for his mill and no-one felt safe. At the time of his death he had just launched the biggest and best-ever purge of them all, aimed mainly against the Jews. As many powerful members of the Politbureau at the time were Jewish or had Jewish connections it is reasonable to speculate that they may have had every reason for eliminating him.

After Stalin’s death in March 1953, Malenkov at first was in power; then in June Beria, head of the secret police, tried to become Stalin’s heir but was eliminated (murdered). By September Khrushchev had become First Secretary of the Party while Malenkov remained Premier. At this stage they were all still good Stalinists. Malenkov cultivated a fairly liberal image while Khrushchev allied himself with Molotov, Kaganovich and other hard-core Stalinists—as was only natural considering his remarkable and ruthless record as Party boss of the Ukraine.

By 1955 Khrushchev succeeded in ousting Malenkov and installed his own ally, Bulganin, as Premier. The new regime now adopted a more liberal image with “peaceful coexistence” abroad and an improvement in the standard of living at home. Then in February 1956 Khrushchev launched an attack on his enemies in the Party under cover of “de-Stalinisation”. This speech, made at the XXth Congress of the CPSU remained secret, restricted to Party members and key bureaucrats, and although widely published in the West, it has never been published in Russia.

The Communist Party was split internally on the de-Stalinisation issue, and after the Politbureau vote against Khrushchev in June and the Hungarian and Polish revolts (autumn 1956), the Kremlin was torn by an internal power struggle. Throughout the Khrushchev era powerful forces in the Establishment fought de-Stalinisation which represented a threat to their positions.

Khrushchev made his second anti-Stalin speech five years after the XXth Congress. In his speech to the XXIInd Congress, which was widely published in Russia and Eastern Europe, he indicted the “anti-Party faction” as responsible for Stalinist repression. A typical case of the pot calling the kettle black! This speech shocked and startled Russians. Party morale became very low and from now on Khrushchev’s position became even more precarious until in 1964, after the catastrophic crop-failure of 1963, he was finally ousted by Brezhnev and Kosygin.

During the Khrushchev decade, Party control of the arts had been, to put it mildly, erratic. Khrushchev himself authorised, indeed insisted on the publication of Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in November 1962 as part of his campaign against his party opponents. Yet Khrushchev himself declared war on avant-garde artists on December 1st. In foreign affairs the most significant factors were the Cuba crisis and worsening relations with China, culminating in the open split of June 1961.

But far more important in causing Khrushchev’s downfall was his failure in the economic sphere. Agricultural production was misdirected, the price levels for meat and milk being set too low in 1958 with resultant under-production in relation to demand. So in June 1962 Khrushchev decreed big price rises—butter prices went up 25 per cent and meat 30 per cent. The inevitable result was widespread unrest and riots in many cities, notably Novocherkassk where demonstrators were shot by armed police. Another important result was that the collectives transferred their efforts to livestock, neglecting grain production. This in turn—combined with a bad drought—resulted in a catastrophic shortage of grain in 1963. It proved necessary to import large amounts of wheat from abroad—another serious blow to Khrushchev’s prestige and an open demonstration that the most strictly State-run economy was uncontrollable, being subject to the anarchic laws of the market. Since 1917 there have been regular famines and grain shortages in Russia, the worst occurring in 1922-23, 1932, 1942, 1952, 1962-3 and the current crisis of 1972-73. It made no difference changing the boss: the system is basically uncontrollable.

The Khrushchev era then had unleashed bitter criticisms among the writers who began to smell freedom and when the State publishing houses refused their work, they started samizdat (Do-It-Yourself Publishing), refusing to be controlled by the Party. At the same time Khrushchev had failed to solve Russia’s continuing agricultural problems.

What has been happening since Khrushchev’s departure from the Kremlin? It is impossible to detect significant change either on the liberalisation issue or in agricultural policies. Just as Khrushchev was truly Stalin’s heir in his insistence that art must serve the Party’s interests, so today, in Pravda editorials on culture, we recognise the same ruling class view of art as subordinate to the interests of the State:
  Soviet artists were together with Lenin’s party and the people . . . they gave all the strength of their talent to the great cause of communism. And this active participation . . . in the construction of a new life earned for Soviet cultural workers the love and respect of the people, made them the trusty assistants of the party . . . the raising of the ideological and theoretical level of literary and artistic criticism, its militancy and party principle basis . . . To augment the glorious traditions of socialist art, leaning on the Leninist principles of party thinking and closeness to the people, to strengthen its offensive spirit—these arc a matter of honour for every Soviet artist. (Front-page editorial, Pravda, Jan. 25, 1973)
In 1966 Brezhnev-Kosygin passed two laws designed to make “spreading slanderous inventions about the Soviet State and social system”, and “disturbance of public order’’ punishable offences. These were directly aimed at the new generation of oppositionists who were disseminating attacks on the régime in samizdat, who were demonstrating in Moscow squares and even allying themselves with increasingly militant workers (see January Socialist Standard which carries a translated leaflet calling on workers to strike against the “Partocracy” which exploits them).

Since then more and more poets have been imprisoned or brainwashed in psychiatric prisons, more and more critics of the régime have been exiled or sent to those self-same concentration camps that Lenin first devised and where so many of their predecessors sowed the bitter need of frustration. The secret police is as strong as ever, and so is the Kremlin.

And that other perennial theme of crop-failures? No change there either. Today in 1973 Russian agriculture is yet again facing a crisis. Last year’s harvest was a flop: significantly the post-mortems in the Russian press ascribe this to inefficiency, misuse of machinery and waste on the farms, rather than to indifferent weather. Last year Russia had to import 28 million tons grain from various western countries—18 million tons from America alone. Yet 60 years ago, pre-Revolutionary statistics showed Russia to be a major grain exporter: “Grain exports in 1913 exceeded the grain exports of Argentina by 177 per cent., of Canada by 211 per cent, and of U.S.A. by 366 per cent.” (Bulletin of the International Agricultural Institute, Rome 1914, quoted in Posev Dec. 1972 from Tsarisme et Revolution by A. de Goulevitch, Paris 1931).

And not only was last year’s crop a failure but this year’s prospects are exceedingly precarious. The unusually late snowfall will have partly destroyed the spring corn and this, combined with extreme shortage of seed-corn in many areas, will mean a pretty poor harvest in 1973. Only too true the admission in a recent pamphlet published by the Soviet authorities that “at the stage of socialist [i.e. state capitalist] society there are not the means to satisfy man’s needs to the full” (USSR Living Standards).

We must not leave unchallenged the misuse of the term "socialism” for a state-capitalist society, a vast prison-state which treats its workers as “mere working cattle” without pity for their poverty and stoical suffering; a “Partocracy” where each and every little Party bureaucrat lines his pocket with loot; an economy which operates successfully only insofar as its wheels are greased with graft and corruption, wire-pulling, intrigue and blackmail.

One significant change there is since Stalin’s days. Russia used to be relatively immune to inflation. However this infectious disease of the capitalist system, endemic in postwar Europe and America, is now reported to be rampant in Russia. As the Eisenhower administration commented to their Kremlin opposite numbers:
  The President is aware that you operate under a system of State capitalism, and he hopes that it has been useful to you to have seen the progress of our people under our system of individual capitalism. We are sure that you have found this experience interesting.
(Daily Telegraph, 21 January 1959, quoted in SPGB Pamphlet Russia 1917-1967)
The problems of capitalism are the same the world over. Whether the Kremlin bosses recognise their system as state capitalism or not, the workers in their country are learning fast that this system has nothing to offer them. The Russian proletariat in farms and factories, the internees doing forced labour on starvation rations in the KGB concentration camp empire (about 4 million at Stalin’s death: how many now?) and the unemployed who have no unemployment pay since the regime will not admit that there is any unemployment: they have found this experience interesting indeed and they are stirring with a bitter anger. We wish the exploited people of Russia success in their struggles against the Partocracy which owns and controls the wealth of their country and which crushes them beneath its iron heel.
Charmian Skelton

We Fight G.L.C. Elections (1973)

Party News from the March 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

The E.C. have made preliminary arrangements for the Party to contest certain of the constituencies in the forthcoming Greater London Council Elections — Polling Day Thursday, April 12th. At time of going to Press, we shall be putting up candidates in the following areas: Camden — Hampstead, Camden — St. Pancras North, City of Westminster — St. Marylebone, Lambeth — Vauxhall, Streatham, Norwood and Central. In addition candidates will be put up by Haringey Branch in North London and we hope that one or two other constituencies will be contested.

These elections give us a good opportunity to state the case for Socialism amidst all the rubbish that will be turned out by other Parties. But it means work. All London members can help. Literature selling, canvassing, Manifesto distribution etc. Please contact those Branches that will be running campaigns; you will be given a job. It also means spending money. No deposit is required but printing bills, etc., have to be paid.
  1. We want your assistance.
  2. We should like a donation. Send to
The Treasurer,
52 Clapham High Street,
London, S.W.4


I.L.P. Foolery. (1920)

From the March 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

When we proclaim from our platforms that we are the only Socialist party, and expose the trickery and treachery of other organisations claiming to champion the cause of the working class, we are told that we are only hindering progress, that petty differences in details of policy should be forgotten and an effort made toward a more united action against the common foe. "After all, we are all out for one thing," is a common remark used to round off the plea.

Now this sounds very plausible and pleasing to those who find it difficult, or who are too apathetic, to go below the surface and examine things with something like thoroughness.

The Socialist Party calls for unity among the working class, but the difference between our call and the wail of the organisations which we attack and expose is that our appeal for unity is made as a result of a scientific examination of the facts of working-class experience in modern capitalist society, while theirs is, at the best, merely a manifestation of ignorant enthusiasm and impatience.

We lay it down that the condition of our class is one of wage slavery ; we recognise the antagonism of interests manifesting itself as a class struggle between those who produce but do not possess and those who possess but do not produce, between the employed and the employers, the robbed and the robbers.

This struggle is what is known as the class war, and it is upon a recognition of these fundamental principles that our actions are based.

How, then, could we ally ourselves with such a hotch-potch of confusion and calculated treachery as constitutes the I.L.P., who, at the Amsterdam International Congress in 1904, while voting for a resolution extolling the "tried and victorious policy based on the class war," declared on their return to England that the class war was a "shibboleth" and a ''reactionary and Whiggish precept, certain to 
lead the movement away from the real aims of Socialism." —"Labour Leader," 26.8.04.

Further, listen to what Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald says : "The Socialist movement knows no class, but is drawn from all classes.  . . . So I sum up the Labour Party is not a class, but a community  party."—"Labour Leader," 21.6.09.

Again : "I want the serious men of the trade unions, the brotherhoods, and similar movements, to face their duty. To such men it is enough to say 'England has need of you' and to say it in the right way."—"Daily Chronicle," 14.9.14. This was in a letter to a major in charge of a recruiting meeting.

Here we have direct repudiations of the class war and treachery of the vilest kind. Nevertheless they call themselves "Independent." Why they should tack this word on to their title the Lord High Hobo only knows. It means, seemingly, that they are independent of principle, quite free to say what they like, bargain with whom they like, betray when and where they like.

They I.L.P., however, do perform very useful functions—for the master class. They form a convenient hothouse for budding aspirants to fame and position in the Trade Union movement and the ranks of the Labour Party ; and as a means of spreading confusion among the working class, on questions which vitally affect their interests, such as politics, trade unionism, etc., there is no doubt that they merit the support which they obtain from the finances of the master class.

With these few introductory observatations I come to the pith of my argument. In glancing through the "Labour Leader" for February 12, last, we find a pronouncement urging I.L.P. branches to organise "large demonstrations" for the following objects :
  1. To protest against the monstrous terms of the Peace Treaty.
  2. To demand the drastic revision of its terms.
  3. To affirm the solidarity of the Party with the Socialist Parties of the World.
  4. To assert that the I.L.P. opposed the war because of its International policy, and stands for a JUST and LASTING Peace.

The first two items, notwithstanding the wishes of the I.L P., will be decided in accordance with the interests of the victorious capitalists. The terms of the Peace Treaty, even if they were known, are no concern of the working class whatever. It is a capitalist peace and as such concerns only the capitalist class, and they obviously, as long as they have the power, will continue to arrange things to suit their interest. The "monstrous terms" are imposed by one set of capitalists upon another set, and just as the workers of this country will have no share in the plunder, so will the hardships of the toilers of the defeated nations be not increased or diminished, whatever the terms imposed upon their masters. A man cuts his horse's rations to the lowest point it can drag its burden on, and consequently gets fined for working the animal in an unfit condition. Can the horse pay the fine? This protest is, therefore, purely a stunt on the part of the I.L P. to seize an opportunity to advertise themselves and switch the minds of the working class off the things that matter.

Item 3—It has already been shown that, by their repudiation of the class struggle the I.L.P. have alienated themselves from the Socialist movement. Their desire, therefore, to affirm their "solidarity with the Socialist parties of the world" is empty phrase-mongering.

Item 4.—The first part is a direct lie, and goes to show to what depths they are prepared to sink and how insanely credulous they consider the rank and file are.

Most of the prominent men in the I.L.P. assisted in the recruiting campaign ; moreover, the Labour Party, to whom the party are affiliated, supported the war and assisted in recruiting, and in the organisation of "patriotic" meetings.

Further, their delegates to the Conference of "Socialists" of the Allied Nations in 1915 supported the resolution that the "Socialists" were "inflexibly resolved to fight until victory is achieved." When some of the delegates protested at the 22nd Annual Conference, Mr. Bruce Glasier said "the members of the I.L.P. who were present at the gathering were not there as representatives of the party, but as members of the International Bureau."

Again, in the official I.L.P. pamphlet entitled "How the War Came," occurs the following: "Obviously the war must be finished now."

And finally, at the 23rd Annual Conference Mr. Bruce Glasier said: "They had dissociated the party from the political recruiting campaign, but they had left it to every member to recruit if he thought well to do so, and, if he thought it his duty, to ask his neighbour to recruit."

Just notice the charming "independence" that prevails. And this is the organisation which is going to achieve working-class emancipation ! The ruling class are safe as long as they can encourage such confusion of thought.

The resolutions which the I.L.P. branches are urged to move at the demonstrations referred to are just as weird and ridiculous. They state, for instance, that the meeting ''affirms its belief in the ideal of Human Brotherhood . . ." These are mere glow words. No such thing can exist under capitalism, not even in the I.L.P. They say it with their tongues in their cheeks. Then the resolutions go on to talk about securing "equal rights of social and economic development to all nations, to adjust all differences of boundary and race in the light of the permanent interest of civilisation and the mutual rights of all peoples."

There is displayed in these resolutions a gross ignorance of the laws operating under capitalism. The development of the means of production is the deciding factor, and it is only when society becomes a harmonious organism, i.e., when social, instead of private, ownership of the instruments of labour complements social production, resulting in social appropriation of the labour products, that human kind will be able to enjoy the fruits of their industry.

Until that time arrives, until the economic forces have developed to the point where the Social Rovolution becomes an inevitable necessity, the task of the Socialist Party will be to prepare the minds of the people for the great event—for the birth of the new social order; to organise the workers on the political field for the capture of the powers of government

Blazoned on its banners will be, the watch words : "Workers of the World, unite ! You have nothing  to lose but your chains ; you have a world to win."
O. C. I.

Some Socialist Party! (1920)

From the March 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following is an extract taken from an Ealing newspaper, "The Gazette," of January 24th, 1920:
The N.S.P. would not, as Lenin would, wipe out the Bourgeois or Middle Classes, in Ealing and elsewhere. It would try to teach them that social service is the highest service, . . .
We need only take its title to prove how ridiculous is the claim of the N.S.P. to be a Socialist organisation. Socialists recognise that the class struggle exists in various forms in every part of the civilised world. The exploitation of the workers is a fact whether they be white, black, brown, yellow—or green, as someone with a strong vein of sarcastic humour has suggested. Therefore the Socialist can recognise no NATIONAL differences, but must work steadily for the INTERNATIONAL emancipation of the working class.

The N.S.P. state that they have no intention of wiping out the "Bourgeois or Middle Class." Presumably in order to lay claim to the title of Socialist, one must possess at least a rudimentary knowledge of Socialist economics. Yet here is an organisation terming itself a Socialist party, that confesses to an utter ignorance of Socialist principles in the very statement by which it hopes to gain adherents.

It is obvious that if a knowledge of Socialism is lacking, the aims for which an organisation professes to strive must also be lacking of any sound and tangible foundation.

It should be quite easily understood that, under a system of society based upon the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution by the whole community, for and in the interest of the whole of the people, classes will automatically cease to exist, a fact which the so called Socialists of the N.S.P. have evidently failed to grasp.

The peculiar "Socialism" which is propagated by the N.S.P. and similar organisations, is naturally misleading to the workers who are ignorant of the principles of Socialism, and also confusing to the few who have awakened to the fact of their exploitation and are seeking the only remedy for their misery. In most cases organisations of this type are formed for the express purpose of confusing the minds of the masses, and turning them from their only means of emancipation—Socialism. They are told by glib, plausible orators that the workers' interests are really one with the interests of their exploiters the bourgeoisie, and that the antagonism which is felt toward the capitalists is one of the causes of the constant friction. If love could be fostered in the hearts of both workers and employers, peace on earth would be assured. It reminds me of the story of the lion lying down quietly with the lamb—the lamb inside the lion ! Such nonsense brought forward by the N.S.P. points to an utter ignorance of social conditions. The defects of the present system are not due to the "selfishness" or "wickedness" of one class, or the "antagonism" of the other. These things are simply the direct results of a system rotten to the core. Therefore it should be obvious to everybody that if the present system be abolished and another put in its place, a system formed for the benefit of the whole of society, instead of for a favoured few, as is that existing to-day, to the detriment of the rest of society, the effects of a defective society, i.e., "selfishness," "wickedness," "class antagonism," etc., will pass away.

Since Socialism is the only solution to the working-class "problem" the working class must make an effort to understand the means whereby such a system of society can be brought about. Practically the whole political power lies in the hands of the working class. By voting the capitalist candidates into Parliament year after year the workers are giving their exploiters the opportunity to perpetuate this system of wage-slavery. When the former have become conscious of their slave position, and have discovered that Socialism is the only remedy for their ills, they will vote a Socialist majority into Parliament. In this way will the capitalists be shorn of the power (the Army, Navy, and Police) which enables them to protect their selfish interests.

The hope of the workers lies in the study of this matter. The principles and means of attaining Socialism must become so firmly rooted in their minds that 'all the plausible vapourings of the N.S.P. and like organisations, falling upon enlightened hearers, will fail to have the effect these misleaders desire.
J. C.

The Meaning of Unemployment. (1920)

From the March 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

The most significant point about the question of unemployment is that it should be prevalent, and a subject of general attention, at the same time that increased production is being so strenuously advocated by our masters. The two things, unemployment and the need for greater production, existing side by side, are as inconsistent as the conditions so peculiar to industrial crises—increased starvation in the midst of plenty. Those who attempt to explain away the inconsistency do so by attributing it to the change from war-time to peace-time occupations. Quite recently Mr. Lloyd George has tried to make it appear that the trade unions, because they oppose his dilution scheme, are to blame for what unemployment there is. But as no occupation has, up till now, absorbed all its own unemployed, such a charge is utterly preposterous. 

That the prevailing unemployment is due to the change from war-time to peace-time occupations will not do. Unemployment, always a feature of capitalist production, had reached an acute stage long before the outbreak of war. So acute had it become that two capitalist governments, at least, had felt impelled to establish unemployed insurance. Not that the Insurance Acts really insured the workers against unemployment, or that it was ever intended that they should by the cunning politicians who engineered them. Such a course would tend to disrupt the capitalist system, because the whip of hunger which drives the workers into the mills and factories for low wages would cease to operate.

A most significant fact about the insurance Act was that those responsible for it supported it by evidence as to the appalling poverty of the working class; and indeed, that the workers who needed such an act must have been poor— desperately poor—will be the verdict of future generations.

The Act that was to deal with this degrading poverty was mean and paltry in its scope and achievement—a pill for an earthquake ; and it must be evident that along such lines as these the problem of unemployment is impossible of solution. No capitalist government will carry the scheme to the point where the unemployed can live on the donation, while, on the other hand, no capitalist government can check the development of industrial processes, which increase the number of unemployed.

But does that mean that the unemployed problem is impossible of solution ? By no means. All that it implies is that it is against the interests of the capitalist class to make an honest attempt at solution. The solution must, therefore, rest with the working class, first because they are the class that suffer, and second because the ruling class have no need or desire for a solution.

To those who refuse to credit this indifference of the ruling class toward the sufferings of the unemployed it is only necessary to point out that the chief argument used against the continuance of the unemployment dole was that some men and women were refusing jobs while it was possible to obtain the dole. That the dole in some cases was actually higher than the wages offered did not enter into the argument, though in itself a biting commentary on the system. 

Three points stand out clearly :
  1. Unemployment increases with the development of capitalism.
  2. Unemployment is not due to superficial causes like the change from war-time to peace time occupations, but is inherent in the system.
  3. It is against the interests of the ruling class to attempt a solution.
Of course, capitalist defenders will never admit these facts as being the basis of the problem. Generally they refuse to discuss them and, adopting an optimistic tone, talk endless platitudes about small beginnings, and smaller results.

The first point, that unemployment increases with the development of capitalism, is proved by the statistics published from time to time by the capitalists themselves. According to the "Daily News Year Book, " 1910, in the ten years from 1899 to 1908, the foreign trade of this country rose from 814 millions to 1,049 millions, an increase of over 200 millions, while the estimated unemployed, who in 1899 numbered 332,000, rose to 1,330,000 in 1901, the actual percentage of unemployed rising from 2.5 to 8.8 during ten years of unexampled prosperity.

To-day, in spite of what unemployment there is—and government figures only relate to those registered at the Labour Exchanges—foreign trade goes up by leaps and bounds in this country. The January report of the value of the exports shows it to be the highest on record. But against this unequalled trade prosperity has to be set the general stagnation in the rest of European countries, where, once more according to capitalist authorities, there are millions of unemployed.

To this stagnation abroad England's trade prosperity is largely due. When competition is resumed unemployment here will increase as it decreases abroad, because foreign countries will have a surplus of wealth to export as they did before the war. But with all the boasted prosperity of this country, unemployment is still extensive, far more extensive than the Premier would have us believe. Mr. Clynes, who nevertheless claims that greater output per individual will benefit the workers, proved in the House of Commons last December that "at Newcastle," one of the places where a shortage of workers was said to exist, "there were 7,000 workers unemployed, the numbers were increasing at an alarming rate, and thousands have been thrown on the verge of starvation by the withdrawal of the donation." ("Parliamentary Debates," December 17, 1919, cols. 290-291.) "Our" enormous trade prosperity, therefore, still leaves us with many thousands of unemployed, and is chiefly built up on the stagnation of foreign countries. Capitalism is still international, in spite of the quarrels between national groups of capitalists. The results of capitalism have, therefore, to be taken internationally, and the unemployed of all countries must be reckoned against the system.

The second point, that unemployment is not due to superficial causes like the change from war-time to peace-time occupations, but is inherent in the system, is partially proved by its permanency. That it increases with the development of the system is a further proof: the more capitalism we have the more unemployment we get. But the strongest proof of all is the reasoned proof, the logical deduction from the facts.

If industrial progress means that the number of workers required to produce a given quantity of wealth is constantly diminishing, there can only be one result: a progressive increase in the number of unemployed. But there can be no relief, even, for the workers of any country that might succeed in outstripping its competitors, because the capitalists of any such country would take steps to keep up the supply of labour-power from those countries which had a dangerous surplus. Which brings us to the third point.

Unemployment is necessary to capitalism. It is, therefore, against the interests of the ruling class to attempt a solution. Capitalists want enough unemployment to compel the workers to submit to their terms and conditions, but no so much as will cause desperation and unrest, with its accompanying acceptance of the Socialist explanation and remedy. Capitalist experiments in unemployed insurance are attempts to ascertain this medium and nothing more. Such schemes can only have a palliative effect of small value to the workers.

All the labour leaders, capitalist politicians, and economists who demand greater production, do so on the grounds that a larger share of foreign markets would fall to the capitalists of their country as a result. But as foreign labour-power flows into a prosperous country faster than it can be absorbed — or displaces native labour-power because it is cheaper—the conditions of the workers in the more prosperous countries would not be materially improved.

While labour-power is a commodity its owners must sell it; and no matter where it is in demand, they must offer themselves for exploitation or starve. The capitalist only buys labour-power for the purpose of exploiting the seller.

All the cant and hypocrisy that is talked or written about the good services rendered by the capitalists to the workers in finding them work cannot conceal the fact that the capitalist method of production is merely a veiled form of robbery ; and robbery, either veiled or open, is a hostile act. Capitalism, therefore, being based on the robbery of the working class by the master class, is in its very essence a system based on the antagonism of classes.

Controlling the means of wealth production and the political machine, the ruling class have the workers educated to believe in the excellence and permanence of their system. They suppress by physical force every rising of the workers against, their authority, whether such risings take the form of revolution or attempts to raise wages by withholding labour-power, as in a strike.

With the increase of unemployment due to the development of capitalism, and the commodity character of human labour-power, class antagonism becomes more pronounced. The workers see on every hand evidence of enormous prosperity in which they do not share, and every effort they make to improve their conditions, within the system, is opposed by physical force. They cannot help coming to the conclusion, therefore, that unemployment is regarded by the capitalist class as being necessary to their system, and consequently something that must be preserved. Behind all the cant and humbug of capitalist reformers is the stern determination to maintain society in its present form. Unemployment cannot be abolished within the system. Nothing remains for the workers, therefore, but to realise this fact with all it conveys, and organise with us for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a system of society where improved methods of production will not mean poverty and suffering, as now, but increased time and opportunities for enjoyment and recreation. 
F. Foan

The Thieves' Kitchen Records. (1920)

From the March 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Giveth His Only Son."
As usual, the old farce of the Kings' Speech to Parliament was carried out with mock solemnity and cobwebs, a la Dirty Dick and King Solomon. Considering that it is now some sixteen month's since the war actually ceased— the war which was to inaugurate a "beautiful new world" for the workers of this country, the Speech offers nothing but flap-doodle touching on this point, and precious little even of that. In fact, the only indication of anything tangible, in connection with this matter of "everything for nothing" for the working class, has to be read into, or got out of, the royal announcement that He (G. Wettin) has "had great pleasure in assenting to the proposal that the Prince of Wales should visit Australia and New Zealand and should take the opportunity on his return voyage of seeing some of My West Indian possessions." So it seems that the King gives his only begotten (if he hadn't begotten any others) son in order that the workers may enjoy by proxy all the delights that the "beautiful new world" has to offer, what time they are slogging into the task of increasing production to enable the pound sterling to "look the dollar in the face." May the thought sustain them in their monotonous and wearisome labours, until the young man returns and his father finds him a job of work to take some of the weight off Ole Bill's shoulder, and enable Tom Smith to let go long enough to spit on his hand— may the reflection sustain and refresh them, I say, and revive their drooping spirits, and renew their ebbing strength, and soothe their aching limbs, and charm away the pains of their cramped and pitiless occupations, for nothing else in King Capital's Gracious speech will. 

The New Forty Thieves.
In the Thieves Kitchen there were prior to the war, in addition to the old hands at the game, who had been in the business donkey's years before Blueskin and Jack Shepherd were thought of, a new  group of approximately forty, of whom it may be said that, though they were only minors in the matter of golloping up the swag, were the most active and assiduous in supporting and forwarding any scheme afoot for the robbery of the human bees, possibly for the same reason that the petty sneak thief is the most active member of other thieves' kitchens—he has to do a big business to keep up his fat. Of these forty many a year or so ago got soused in boiling oil—which is no loss to public life. But some have survived even unto this day, and their reception of the Speech was characteristic. 

More pay for lickspittles.
Mr. Adamson, the leader of the Lib-Labs, in his comic-opera role of leader of the Opposition, opened: "I desire to offer my congratulations to the mover and seconder for the excellent speeches . . ." et so on ad vomitum. That was about the limit of his "opposition." He was glad to note that the mover of the Address had "struck a very optimistic vein, and thought we would be able to overcome these difficulties [the "aftermath of the war"] in the manner in which we have been able to overcome the difficulties of the past. This is a welcoming and supporting of smug capitalist complacency which should be noted by all workers who are satisfied with the way in which "the difficulties of the past" have been overcome, and especially those workers who elected Mr. Adamson to represent THEM.

Once Bit Twice Shy.
In the debate on the Address the question of Russia arose, and in replying Mr. Liar George became really funny. "The horrors of Bolshevism have revolted the consciences of mankind," said he who has taken no step to purge British Authority of the dastardly massacre of Amritsar, "The first war on opinion was made by the Bolsheviks when they dissolved the National Assembly," wailed he who for five years has tyranised under that garrotter's outfit of noose and bludgeon and pitch-plaster — D.O.R.A. "We were bound to give the anti-Bolsheviks their chance to recover Russia. . . . We were bound by considerations of honour," cried he whose considerations of honour never prevented him breaking pledges given to his working-class dupes. "There is no government in Russia which can speak for any defined area. It is perfectly true that the Bolsheviks have over-run the Ukraine and part of the Cossack land, but they have only been there a few weeks and they have been there before. I do not say that General Denikin will drive them out, but no one can tell whether the Ukranians will tolerate them. No one can say whether the Cossacks will tolerate them in their country." So again spoke the spokesman of the Thieves' Kitchen. And it is strikingly strange how every one of his arguments might have been used with even greater force to deter him and his gang from conceding to Denikin and —what's his name, Coldchuck ?—the right to speak for, not only people of territories it was doubtful if they could hold, but of territories they did not occupy.

Of course, no member of the "Labour" Opposition had the courage to open his mouth to say these things, notwithstanding the professed Bolshevik sympathies of many of them. They, grateful dogs, respect the hand that feeds them.

Hands off Profits !
On the second day of the Debate on the Address Mr. Brace moved an amendment regretting "the absence of any proposal to nationalise the mines of the country . ." He had a pretty good turn before three o'clock, and he carried on well after four, but he contributed nothing to the cause of the workers, but something to the cause of the masters. Here are samples of his arguments:
  "An hon. Member asks me, 'Suppose it does not pay ?' But it must pay ! . . . In addition to paying interest on the Bonds it must find money towards a sinking fund to redeem the Bonds. Indeed it must find profit for national purposes. For the mines are to be worked not to produce profit for a few people, but for the whole."
So the capitalist Shylock is to have his pound of flesh —the Labour Party will see to that. The mines are to be run for profit to pay capitalist State expenses ; and to provide interest on capitalist Bonds; and to redeem those Bonds so the mines shall become the property of the whole of the capitalists instead of of a few of them. The capitalists will lose nothing—the Labour Party will see to that.

On the other hand, Mr. Brace and those for whom he spoke were thoughtful enough to provide additional shackles for the miners, for he embraced the following from the Sankey Report:
  The contracts of employment of workmen shall embody an undertaking . . . that no workman will, in consequence of any dispute, join in giving notice to determine his contract, nor will he combine to cease work, unless and until the question in dispute has been before the Local Mining Council and the District Mining Council and those Councils have failed to settle the dispute. 
That is the sort of strangle hold the Labour Party are ready to get fixed on the workers—the treacherous hounds! We have only to consider how long we have been kept in the shackles of D.O.R.A., under the pretence that the war is not yet finished, to imagine what tricks the ruling class could play with that phrase "failed to settle the dispute."

Welsh Humbug again.
The Prime Minister butted in in due course, and as usual indulged in cant so open and shameless as to suggest an utter lack of the sense of humour on his part. He wanted an illustration, and turned, of course, to the workers of Russia, who, he said "are to be told [by the State] where they are to work—not in what particular factory, but in what particular town or locality. The State is to say to them 'You are no use here ; you must go to another village, which is 100 miles away.'"

This the speaker called labour conscription. But one would think that he, Mr. Lloyd George, would be the last to drag that in, when one remembers how many thousands ol men were sent, under his tyranny, not one hundred miles but three hundred, not only to certain districts but to particular factories. He did not call that labour conscription, the canting hypocrite !

The Straight Griffin.
In the debate on Supplies on Feb. 10th Mr. Lloyd George received the lie direct regarding the whole tissue of falsehoods with which he has supported his sneak-thief, under-hand, shame-faced policy of British intervention in Russia. Lieut.-Colonel Malone, taking the Government to task for treacherously supplying arms, munitions, and forces against a people who are still technically their allies, had many things to say which no member of the Government, nor any supporter of their policy, had the courage to attempt to controvert. Here are some of Lieut -Colonel Malone's remarks :
  "I see that General Knox declared publicly a short time ago that it is no use keeping Bolsheviks in prison ; that it is much the better plan to shoot them without trial. . . Yesterday General Knox was granted the K.C.B. Was it for that he was granted the K.C.B., or was it for organising the Koltchak regime? Who were the men who surrounded Admiral Koltchak? Unelected, unnominated, unconstitutionally elected people, who had no connection with the Russian people. . ."
  "I now pass to General Denikin. I will not burden the House by repeating the terrible list of atrocities which have been reported concerning territories occupied by Gen. Denikin. I will only mention one or two." 
The Picture Reversed.
The speaker then gave details of massacres, rape, branding and other villainies committed by the Denikinites which all the elaboration of capitalist hatred, could not surpass in their charges against the Bolsheviks. He then showed, from the evidence of correspondents serving with Denikin, what sort of man the "saviour of Russia" is, and drew attention to the case of the G.O.C., North Command parading his officers and men to "listen to one of these propaganda lectures by a certain reverend gentleman, a member of the Church of England, . . which is intended to stir up hate against the Soviet population." Later the speaker squarely challenged Lr. George on his statement that the Bolsheviks had sold guns to the Germans to be used against the British. The cowards who followed wisely changed the subject. 
A. E. Jacomb

The Materialist Conception of History. by Frederick Engels. (1920)

From the March 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Further Letter on the Subject By Frederick Engels.

Translated for the “Proletarian" by Prof. J. I. Cheskis, of the University of Michigan.

A young student addressed to Engels the following questions:

1. How is it that, after the consanguineous family ceased to exist, marriage between brothers and sisters was still permitted by the Greeks, as Cornelius Nepos attests?

2. How was the fundamental principle of historical materialism understood by Marx and Engels themselves; are the production and reproduction of actual life alone the determining factors, or are they only the basis of all the other conditions acting by themselves?

Frederick Engels replied:
London, Sept. 21, 1890.

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 3rd inst. was forwarded to me at Folkestone; but not having the book I needed I could not reply. Having returned on the 12th of the same month, I found such an amount of pressing work that only to-day am I able to write a few lines. Please excuse my delay.

To your first question:— First of all you can see on p. 19 of my “Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State," the Punalua family is represented as developing so slowly that even in this century in the royal family there have been marriages between brothers and sisters. In antiquity we find examples of marriages between brothers and sisters, for instance, the Ptolemies. We must make a distinction between brothers and sisters on the mothers' side and brothers and sisters on the fathers' side. The Greek Adelphos (brother) and Adelphon (sister) are both derived from Delphos (mother), indicating thus the origin of brother and sister on the mother’s side. And from the period of the Matriarchate there has been preserved for a long time the feeling that the children of one mother but of different fathers are more closely related than the children of one father but by different mothers. The Punalua form of the family excludes only marriages among the first, not among the second, since the latter, while the Matriarchate lasted, were not even considered relatives. Cases of matrimony between brothers and sisters in Ancient Greece are limited to those in which the contracting parties are descended from different mothers, or to those of whom the parental relationship was unknown, and hence the marriage was not forbidden. This, therefore, is not absolutely in contrast with the Punalua custom. You have noticed, then, that between the Punalua period and Greek monogamy there is a jump from the Matriarchate to the Patriarchate, which changes things considerably.

According to the “Greek Antiquities" of Wachsmuth, one finds in the heroic period of Greece “no trace of scruples due to a too close relationship of the contracting parties independently of the relationship between the parents and children." (P. 156.) “ Marriage with a carnal sister was not at all scandalous in Crete." (Ibid., p. 170.) This last affirmation is based on Strabone (X) but at the present moment I cannot find this passage because of faulty division of chapters. Under the expression “carnal sister" I understand, until proof to the contrary is furnished, a sister on the part of the father.

To the second question: — 

I have interpreted your first main phrase in the following way: 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, juridical, 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, nay, even the tradition that man creates in his head, plays an important part even if not the decisive one. The Prussian State has itself been born and developed because of certain historical reasons, and, in the last instance, economic reasons. But it is very difficult to determine without pedantry that, among the many small States of northern Germany, precisely Brandenburg has been destined by economic necessity and not also by other factors (above all its complications with Poland after the Prussian conquest and hence, also, with international politics—which, besides has also been decisive in the formation of the power of the Austrian ruling family), to become that great power in which are personified the economic, linguistic, and—after the Reformation—also the religious difference between the North and South. It would be mighty difficult for one who does not want to make himself ridiculous to explain from the economic point of view the existence of each small German State of the past and present, or even the phonetic differentiation of High German which extended the geographic division formed already by the Sudetti mountains as far as the Faunus.

In the second place history forms itself in such a way that the ultimate result springs always from the conflicts of many individual wills, each of which in its turn is produced by a quantity of special conditions of life; there are thus innumerable forces which cross each other, an infinite group of parallelograms of forces, from which is derived one resultant—the historical event —which in its turn again can be considered as the product of an active power, as a whole unconsciously and involuntarily, because that which each individual wishes is prevented by every other, and that which results from it is a thing which no one has wished. In this way history runs its course like a natural process, and has substantially the same laws of motion. But, because of the fact that the individual wills—each of which wishes that to which it is impelled by its own physical constitution or exterior circumstances, i.e., in the last analysis, all economic circumstances (either its own personal circumstances or the general conditions of society)—do not reach that which they seek but are fused in one general media in a common resultant, by this fact one cannot conclude that they are equal to zero. On the contrary, each contributes to produce the resultant, and is contained in it.

I would further ask you to study the theory from its original sources and not from secondhand works; it is really much easier. One can say that Marx has written nothing in which some part of the theory is not found. An excellent example of its application in a specific way is the “Eighteenth Brumaire of L. Bonaparte." Also in “Capital" (III) are many illustrations. And also permit me to recommend to you my writings, Herr E. Duehring’sUmwalzung der Wissenchaft," and "Feuerbach und der Ausgang der Klassischen deutschen Philosophie," in which I have given the most ample illustrations of Historical Materialism which to my knowledge exists. That the young people give to the economic factor more importance than belongs to it is in part the fault of Marx and myself. Facing our adversaries we had to lay especial stress on the essential principle denied by them, and, besides, we had not always the time, place, or occasion to assign to the other factors which participate in producing the reciprocal effect, the part which belongs to them. But scarcely has one come to the representation of a particular historical period, that is, to a practical application of the theory, when things changed their aspect, and such an error was no longer permissible. It happens too often that one believes he has perfectly understood a new theory, and is able to manage it without any aid, when he has scarcely learned the first principles, and not even those correctly. This reproof I cannot spare to some of our new Marxists; and in truth it has been written by the wearer of the marvellous robe himself. [That is, by Marx.—Editor.]

To the first question:—Yesterday (I am writing these words on the 22nd of Sept.) I also found in Schomann, “Greek Antiquities," Berlin, 1855, Vol. I, p. 52, the following words, which confirm definitely the explanation given by me. “It is noteworthy that in later Greece marriages between brothers and sisters of different mothers were not considered incest."

I hope you will not be dismayed by the terrible parentheses which for the sake of brevity overflow from my pen. And I subscribe myself .
Your devoted,
F. Engels

Blogger's Note:
This letter also appeared in the April 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard.