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A Brief Exposition of Socialist Theory. (Continued.) (1920)

From the December 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard


We propose now to briefly epitomise the Socialist theory of Value, which is exhaustively and scientifically worked out by Karl Marx in "Capital."

We have already pointed out that a knowledge of what constitutes the wealth of a given period, and the method by which such wealth is obtained, is necessary in order to understand the ideas prevailing at that period. Consequently, to understand the ideas of today, we must find out how the wealth of to-day is obtained, and of what it consists.

By the term "wealth" we do not mean air, water, happiness, misery, and so on. The wealth to which we refer is economic wealth— the result obtained by applying human energy to the material provided by nature, such as food, clothing, houses, ships—articles useful to man which require producing.

Now what is the first fact connected with the nature of the wealth of modern times that comes to our notice on examining present society? In the opening lines of "Capital" Marx plunged right into the heart of the matter. He said:
  In other words the wealth of to-day appears as a multitude of useful article for sale.
These articles that are for sale have different values—one is worth so much, another is worth more, and another, again, is worth less.

To find out the cause of the difference in value, and the substance of value itself, we must separate in imagination a single commodity from the world of commodities and analize its relation to others, and also its origin and development.

A commodity, then, is an article for sale; but to be saleable it must contain two quite distinct properties: it must be useful and it must be valuable.

When we say that a commodity must be useful we do not mean useful to those who produce them. Commodity production is the production of articles that are useless to the producers but useful to others—the potential buyers. An article has as many uses as there are human wants it can satisfy. Its useful side is its capacity to satisfy these requirements. For example, steel is useful for moulding into a bayonet or a ploughshare; gold is useful for ornamenting a temple of peace or financing a war, and so forth. A useless article could not be a commodity, as it would be unsaleable— there would be no demand for it.

The valuable property of an article has nothing to do with its uses. No matter how varied the uses an article can be put to its value is not increased by a fraction. No matter how useful or essential an article may be to humanity its value is not in the least affected. For example, a diamond ring may be worth thousands of pounds whilst a piece of bread the same size would only be worth a fraction of a penny. If the value of an article had anything to do with its usefulness, the positions of the articles in question would be reversed. Further, an article can be very useful indeed, and yet contain no value. Thus a merchant could bring bottles of air upon the market — he might sell the bottles, but he certainly could not sell the air (except in very exceptional circumstances) though there is nothing more useful to mankind.

We have seen that an article, in order to figure as a commodity, must be useful and must contain value. We have already seen what constitutes the useful side of an article, and the question now arises, what constitutes the value side of an article ?

There is a common misconception abroad that the supply of and demand for commodities determines their values. This contention is easily disposed of. The relation of supply and demand is continually altering, supply at one time being greater than demand, and demand at another time being greater than supply. As a consequence of these movements there must come a time when supply and demand balance each other. What then would determine the value of an article ? Obviously not supply and demand, as the equilibration of the two would nullify their effect. Such a theory would then drive us to the absurd conclusion that the articles, at the moment supply and demand were equal, had no value! The supply and demand theory, therefore, offers no solution to value.

The value of an article is something contained in it that is only expressed when the article is put into exchange relations with other and different kind of articles. It is something different from the physical or useful properties of an article. We might look at a pair of boots for years without gaining any information as to their value. We can only find out the value of a pair of boots by putting them into exchange relation with other commodities.

The absolute value of an article cannot be determined, any more than its absolute weight. Relative weight only can be determined, and also relative value—the value of one article as compared with others. Hence the necessity for putting an article into exchange relation with another in order, by this means, to express its relative value.

As all commodities are exchangeable, though differing widely in physical characteristics and usefulness, the value property which makes them exchangeable must be one common to all commodities alike without reference to their peculiar forms or uses. Apart from their physical or useful properties there is only one other property possessed by all commodities alike, and that is—they are all the product of human labour-power applied to natural resources. It is the fact that they are all the product of human energy that enables the different kinds of articles to be put into an exchange relation with one another. Human energy is the common measurable factor of them all.

All commodities represent certain proportions of simple human energy. Skilled labour counts as a multiplication of simple energy, as in it has to be reckoned the amount of simple energy expended in making it skillful.

The average labour required to produce an article—or, to be more exact, to reproduce an article—gives it its value. Where machinery is employed in the production of one article and not in the case of another of the same kind, the value each would be determined by the value of the machine-made article. All commodities are produced for sale and competition compels producers to produce as cheaply as possible. Where out-of-date methods are used the value articles so produced only counts as the same as that of those produced by up-to-date methods —the labour that counts as value the socially necessary labour, the labour which is necessary with tha prevailing resources and technique.

As human energy is not a thing that can be put into pint measures and ladled out we must ascertain the method of measuring it. The sweat caused in producing an article cannot be measured, but the time taken to produce such an article can be measured, and this is in fact the method of arriving at value, although it is done, at present, by a process behind the backs of the producers.

Human labour is measured by time. The product of one man's labour is equal to the product of another's during the same time, assuming that they have each the same skill and follow the prevailing methods with the average results.

Broadly speaking, an article is equal in value to another that takes, on the average, the same time and skill to produce.

The value of a commodity, therefore, is determined by its cost of reproduction in human 
labour time.
(To be continued.)

Correspondence. (1920)

Letter to the Editors from the December 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

To the Editors.

Dear Sirs,

In reading your paper for the last few months one is struck with the insistence that characterises the finishing up of most of the articles, that is the capture of the political machinery by the workers, thereby obtaining control over the armed forces.

One realises that the workers' revolution will not be successful unless by the aid of the Army, Navy, and Police Force, they have stripped every vestige of power from the ruling class, thereby transforming from a functionless class to productive units of the Communist republic.

But by the mere fact of the workers getting a majority in the House of Commons and in the local council chambers will that prove all-sufficing ? Because one must bear in mind that right from your infantry officer to the more high administrative posts, are recruited from the ruling class.

Consequently, is it not more than likely that by the return to the governing bodies of a majority of revolutionaries, the "property-owning class," seeing their interest menaced, would immediately utilise the forces of the Crown to crush the workers? Undoubtedly there will be a portion of the armed forces whose sympathies will [not] be with the workers. Are they not already organising for the day ? Boy Scouts, Special Police Force, comprising of the shop-keeping element, men with a little stake in the present order.

Because the political machinery is more advanced in this country than Russia or Italy, does that imply that the transformation will be more peaceful? Circumstances seem to point to the fact that the machinery to hand will be used more efficiently by the master class here, owing to their vaster political experience.

Circumstances seem to point to the necessity of the workers themselves being armed in order to crush the armed forces of the Crown before they can be supreme.

By these few remarks I do not mean to infer that parliamentary action is useless, because in any highly organised society administrative work is necessary, for the control and direction of industry, and when such is under the control of the worker, obviously some form of parliamentary procedure is required.

But what I do imply is that the workers must be organised, primarily in the workshop, for a clear class purpose—first the suppression of the armed forces of the Crown (this necessitating, of course, an armed struggle) secondly the seizure of the land, factories, etc., by the workers and the democratic control thereof. This only shows that Parliament will only control the armed forces when the counter-revolutionary forces have been defeated.

It means that we must prepare ourselves for a hard struggle, and that at the first onset the master class will do all in their power to annul any revolutionary measures adopted by a revolutionary Parliament through the Civil Service and the officers of the Army and Navy, whose sentiments are with the powers that now be.
J. W.

Our Reply To Above.
Our correspondent's first error is in supposing that the officers of the armed forces and officials in administrative posts are all recruited from the ruling class. It is true that a few members of that class and some of their poorer relatives are employed in such positions, but the vast majority of both officers and civil servants are merely the professional sections of the slave class in society who depend upon the sale of their services for an existence, and are without any property worth mentioning. As this section extends its knowledge and understanding of social organisation they will steadily gravitate towards Socialism. By the time a majority of the working class are convinced of the need for Socialism, the number of the professional section who will have reached the same conviction will be sufficient to render these officials a doubtful factor for the master class to rely upon. Even the case of Russia, where conditions were much more unfavourable, gives us an example of this. Though large numbers of the old officials were anti-Bolshevik, they soon realised that they could not live without a purchaser for their services and they found that it was just as easy—in some cases, such as teaching, easier—to work under the new employers than it had been to work under the old ones.

Certainly the master class will endeavour to use all the organisations they can influence to oppose the revolution ; but, useful as the Boy Scouts and Special Police may be, it must be remembered that these are unarmed bodies, and even if they were armed, as the "Black and Tans" are in Ireland, they would still be far inferior to the trained forces.

Above all, however, as our correspondent admits to some degree, there is the great factor that, when the majority of the working class are ready for Socialism, the resulting impression upon the rest of society will be so strong that few outside the wealthy capitalists and such hair-brained adventurers as they may subsidise, will be found ready to offer resistance to the revolution.

Again with reference to the trained forces — these only move according to instructions from Departments of the Government, as the War Office, Admiralty, etc., and those who are in a majority in Parliament control these Departments. Hence the absolute necessity for political action on the part of the working class.

The statement of our correspondent that "circumstances appear to point to the necessity of the workers themselves being armed in order to crush the armed forces of the Crown" is a dangerous fallacy.

Where are the workers to obtain arms? And where ammunition? How and where can they train, or how be trained, in the use of arms? The days of street barricades have gone by. The high explosive shell and the aeroplane have rendered such a method ridiculous. Also the attempt to gather arms and ammunition would be illegal, and long before it would be able to reach dimensions that mattered the authorities could handle and crush the attempt by ordinary legal means.

Only by constitutional methods can the working class obtain control of the armed forces and use them to consolidate their emancipation. No workshop organisation can effect this, and useful as such organisation may be to operate the means of production during the revolution, it can only do so under the protection afforded by Parliament.
Editorial Committee

A Look Round. (1920)

From the December 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

From a recently published book, "The Mirrors of Downing Street. By a Gentleman with a Duster," which has excited a great deal of interest, I take the following quotation concerning one of our greatest and most versatile actors, Mr. David Lloyd George, the Welsh Wizard.

The occasion was the early part of the war, when those interested in its prosecution were shrieking out that if more and more munitions were not forthcoming "we" should lose the war and civilisation would be retarded for a hundred years. The government had arranged a meeting of the principal armament manufacturers with the object of persuading them to part with their trade secrets.

Quite naturally, the assembled capitalists demurred at this. They certainly wanted to win the war, but didn't care to jeopardise their advantages in any future commercial prosperity. To the insistent demands of the military and Government officials they simply returned a verdict of "nothing doing." At this despairing moment, when all appeared to be lost, our hero leaned forward in his chair, very pale, very earnest, and very quiet.
  "’Gentlemen,’ he said in a voice which produced an extraordinary hush, 'have you forgotten that your sons at this very moment are being killed—killed in hundreds and thousands? They are being killed by German guns for want of British guns. Your sons, your brothers, boys at the dawn of manhood ! They are being wiped out of life in thousands ! Gentlemen, give me guns. Don't think of your trade secrets. Think of your children. . . . Help them ! Give me those guns.' . . . His voice broke, his eyes filled with tears, and his hand, holding a piece of notepaper before him, shook like a leaf. There was not a man who heard him whose heart was not touched, and whose humanity was not quickened. The trade secrets were pooled."
#    #    #    #

Quite a contrast to his attitude towards the miners, where he denies the justice of their claim for another two shillings, and calls upon the country to "resist this attack with all its strength," is given by the writer in the same book, wherein he states that in conversation with Mr. Lloyd George during the war, he (the writer) suggested that probably one cause of the unrest existing in factories was the fact that "boys could earn fifteen or sixteen pounds a week by merely watching a machine they knew nothing about, while the skilled foremen, who alone could put those machines right, and who actually invented new tools to make the new machines of the inventors, were earning only the fixed wage of 50s. a week. 
" 'What does it matter,' Lloyd George exclaimed impatiently, ' what we pay those boys as long as we win the war? '"
#    #    #    #

The ethics of capitalism are altered to suit time and place. But property is a sacred institution anywhere and any time— under capitalism. When the war was on our "heroes," whether they knew it or not, were fighting simply in defence of capitalist property. War or no war, the same legal machinery is used to protect property against all comers, be they miners, Bolsheviks, Sinn Feiners, Americans, or what not. The point was nicely brought out the other day when an ex-soldier got fined for shooting rabbits, despite the fact that, as the soldier pointed out, he got a Mons Star for shooting Germans !

#    #    #    #

There are many people who assert that what is needed in order to bring about a better state of life is a Labour government. Others pin their [hopes on the] the efficacy of the League of Nations. Those who use their intelligence and take a longer view have faith in neither. The adoption of either or both does not threaten the existing basis of society. We have it on the authority of Mr. J. R. Clynes, M.P. that even under a Labour government a League of Nations will be necessary, although "the more we have capitalist government the greater the need for the League." (Putney, 7.11.20.)

It would thus appear that what is necessary to the administration of the political machinery of the capitalist class will be utilised also by the labour fakers in the event of their being placed in power. Does it suggest their belief in identity of interest between capital and labour ? Ask Brace.

#    #    #    #

Speaking of Labour governments, it seems we are to have one before long. Preparations are being made to pull it off at the forthcoming General Election. The unemployment situation must have affected the Government. Jobs are very scarce and the Labour Party is sore in consequence. Even the adherents of the Labour Party are beginning to lose faith in their patron saint, Mr. Lloyd George, and to wonder why it is they have been so uncharitably turned down after throwing the whole of their resources into winning the war for the British capitalists. Now they are determined that they will show the country how a government should be run.

As a preliminary we are presented with an outline of what will happen in "the England of to-morrow" which is put forward by Mr. J. H. Thomas, M.P., a prominent Labour Party official and one of capitalism's greatest assets. Mr. Thomas tells us all about it in a book which he has published under the highly apprehensive title of "When Labour Rules." After paying a handsome tribute to the Prince of Wales as "a unifying factor to the Empire as a whole" he sets out the proposals which are expected to be realised when the Labour Party comes into power. They may be taken as embodying the aspirations of that part of the British public known as "organised labour," and whose political expression is the Labour Party.

First of all there would be an hereditary constitutional Monarchy with an Upper Chamber (sigh of relief from George) ; Purchase of the Liquor Trade by the Government based on a pre-war value of 350 millions, all profits to be devoted to the lowering of taxation (broad smiles on the faces of the big-bellied landlords); Old Age Pensions at 60 ("Thank God!" exclaim the old folks) ; Nationalisation of Mines, Railways, etc., so as to promote efficiency in various supplies and reducing prices by limiting profits (chorus: "Wot ! prices coming down!)

"There will be" says Mr. Thomas, "when Labour comes into power, I hope, only one tax —income tax. . . . We should not be lavish in our expenditure for a fighting machine. But there would have to be an Army and Navy capable of backing our decisions, (note this) and these would be maintained." (Sure ! Col. Ward, Col Thorne, and other Labour militarists will want jobs, won't they?) As to finance, a capital levy would be instituted, probably realising 1,000 millions. Industrial questions to be solved by "collective bargaining between the organised workers and the employers." The fiscal policy will be Free Trade "for the sake of the workmen and the sake of peace." As regards the position of women under Labourism, legislation will be sought to abolish all night work for women in industry. It will be Labour's object "as far as possible (!) to wipe out the necessity for married women working at all. When Labour comes into power, however, women will be greatly encouraged and helped in every way to enter Parliament, to join Cabinets, even to the extent of a woman becoming Prime Minister of England if she be eminently suited to and the right person for that position."

And more to the same effect. No doubt the right persons will get the right jobs. But to those who will occupy the humbler walks in life we can offer Mr. Thomas's consolation that "there is nothing gives so great a feeling of security and pride and stability as the owning of even a small cottage."

By far the best feature of the book is its price—ten shillings—which is prohibitive.

To sum up, we find that under a system of Labour Government there will exist capital, exploitation, wage slavery, armies, navies, police, prisons, women labour, industrial problems, old age pensions, unemployment, wars, kings and queens, House of Lords, parliaments, prime ministers, profits, taxes, poverty, plutocrats and parasites of all kinds, either stated or implied.

All of which entitles one to ask in comparing it with the present capitalist system of government : "What is the difference ?" If this is all the Labour Party can do, compare it with the Socialist object to be found in our columns, then ask yourself is it worth while bolstering up these fakers even through your trade union affiliation.

#    #    #    #

More and more does the Municipal Election take on the character of a Parliamentary Election. Labels are more or less definite and the programmes are based usually on the lines of a "national" appeal rather than a local. In the recent election a great deal of attention was paid by the "non-progressives" to such questions as Bolshevism, Sinn Fein, Socialism, Pro-Germanism, High Rates and Taxes, Unemployment, ''Squandering of the People's Money,'' etc., attributing all these "evils" to the activities of Labour representatives both inside and outside the national and local administrative bodies. Whether these had any effect on the "hard-headed and clear-thinking British working men and women" to whom the appeal was made, or not, the fact remains that out of 747 candidates put up by the various Labour organisations in 70 leading boroughs, only 199 were successful. In some of the big industrial centres like Liverpool and Bradford (where 23 in each city stood for election) not a single one was returned.

Clearly something more is needed than "Labour" has to offer if the feeling of reverence for the master class and its institutions is ever going to be eradicated from the minds of that same "clear-thinking" working man.
Tom Sala

The Latest Humbug. (1920)

Editorial from the December 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is, perhaps, no other epoch in history so mean and brutal as the present. Even the days we are wont to call the "Dark Ages" have no records of men slaughtered wholesale by gas and flame. Herod has been out-Heroded by dozens of petty military chiefs. Nero earned the execration of posterity by burning a city: a modern general will gain a title and the popular applause by burning a score.

Where in the pages of history can one read of such detestable hypocrisy as the burial of the "Unknown Soldier" that took place a short time ago in the very street where the erstwhile comrades of that lifeless clay had been batoned because they dared to rebel against the prospect of starvation? Does any thinking man suggest that the capitalist class had any other idea, in organising and carrying out, with such pomp and expense, the burial of a common soldier, than hoodwinking the working class ?

Standing at the Cenotaph in "silent humility" at 11 o'clock on the Anniversary of Armistice Day were to be seen politicians whose whole political career is a record of pompous and contemptuous disregard for the lives of the working class; who had sent soldiers to shoot down strikers in their native streets, and who at that very moment were formulating plans for the calling together of scientists to assure that this country should be well supplied with poison gas at the outbreak of the next war!

Representations are being made to the Government to protect the infant dye industry against foreign competition—not because they want English frocks dyed with English dyes! That is (vide "Daily Mail," 19th Nov.) only, apparently, a secondary point. The main reason is that of the maintenance of plant for the manufacture of toxic gases! And this almost contemporary with the announcement that the League of Nations is endeavouring to prohibit the use of gas in war !

We were told at the commencement of the war that no more would be seen the spectacle of men broken in fighting "their country's battles" forced to seek charity in the streets or shelter in the workhouses. We were promised "a land fit for heroes." Our eyes were dazzled with the prospect of an England made beautiful and happy so soon as the Prussian were crushed and rendered innocuous. Yet what do we find ? Men wearing war ribbons hawking vegetables, or even begging coppers, may be met with all over the place. Certain newspapers are full of the plaints of ex-soldiers who have been swindled out of their pensions. One journalist has been going about the country as a tramp, and reports the casual wards in all parts to be full of ex-service men tramping about the land looking for work! The economic position of nearly everyone who possesses nothing but labour power is more desperate than ever it was before ! And yet Prussianism is crushed. Its arch-exponent is reduced to the expedient of sawing wood as an outlet to his feelings !

Was it, then, Prussianism that was the enemy of the working class ? Or was not the Socialist right when he told you that the capitalist system was the enemy to be fought and crushed ? Do you still place reliance on your political representatives ? Show us a capitalist politician and we will show you a fraud, a trickster, and a pot-hunter. Show us a labour leader and we will point you either a stupid ignoramus or a wilful misleader. Show us an ideal you cherish and we will show you how the capitalist class through their Press twist it to their own advantage. Even your tears and heartaches for your lost young men are used by this hypocritical class to blind you to the rottenness of the system upon which they batten and live their luxurious lives.

How, then, to escape from this murderous, slavish existence ? Do we need tell you the way again ? Or need we only urge you.to think for yourselves ? If you need encouragement go to Bethnal Green, or to the slums of Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, or whatever great town you may be near, and if you have any pity in you it will not be long before you discover the way to end the system that murders and degrades the large mass of its community in the interests of a small section, and assuages its grief-stricken millions with a circus.

The Outline of History by H. G. Wells. A Criticism. (1920)

Book Review from the December 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

This, the Magnum Opus of Mr. Wells, is a very remarkable book. It will be a useful addition to the "library" of the worker-student as undoubtedly it already is in many thousands of cases, and the work will probably have a widespread influence. Whilst woefully deficient in many respects, it is certainly the best one-man attempt at a fairly detailed "Universal History" which has come under the notice of the present writer. A "perfect" work of this kind will never be written this side of the Revolution.

The prime value of the book is as a great accumulation of historical data, orderly arranged and compressed within comparatively small compass. As a narrative it is for the most part intensely interesting. The descriptive powers, not to speak of imagination, of the writer of "The Time Machine" are, in places, exercised to the full, and the grip of the story at times approaches fascination.

The evolution of the Solar System, the earth and life, the races of men and their languages, and the evolution of writing and of primitive ideas, are all clearly and concisely dealt with according to the most recent and authoritative findings of Science. Mr. Wells is particularly good when describing the growth of inventions, discoveries, and knowledge in general.

A good sense of proportion is, in the main, shown throughout the book. The civilisation of China in particular, receives the prominence to which, by its "peculiar" character, age and expansion, it is entitled in any general account of the work of Man. Moreover Mr. Wells is continually reviewing well known facts from quite unusual points of view. He shows, for the most part, at least, a healthy disregard for conventional opinions, and especially for those which, embellish the sacred personalities of "great men." Alexander, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, and Gladstone receive some rough handling which has shocked some of the more orthodox reviewers of the book. Mr. Wells has done some useful work in pulling down some of the "tin gods" of the multitude of hero-worshippers. He has his own "heroes," nevertheless.

A very valuable and organic part of the work are the maps. They form quite an historical atlas in themselves. The same artist, Mr. Horrabin, has produced the "time charts" which are a novel and helpful inclusion, whilst his numerous line illustrations are not only really illustrative and seemingly very accurate but they are good examples of a rather severe, but eminently suitable technique in that difficult art—pen drawing.

In reviewing such a large work the line must be drawn somewhere. Therefore the following comments and criticisms are chiefly confined to some of Mr. Wells' generalisations about history and views regarding social evolution. Owing to the different paging of the several editions, all citations are to the chapters and their subsections.

#    #    #    #

Despite his sub title: "A Plain History of Life and Mankind," Mr. Wells has not made the mere telling of his story his sole, or even his primary, aim. He has a theory to expound and to prove—a theory which issues finally as a lesson and a warning to his readers.

Briefly, Mr. Wells' "theory of history" is that the evolution of the human race consists of the gradual "rise" of bestial, cruel, selfish, ignorant animals — primaeval men—living in small, independent, isolated and antagonistic family groups, to a cultured refinement, wisdom and altruism—fit citizens of one world-wide brotherhood-community. We have not yet arrived at this latter stage of perfection, but Mr. Wells says we have made enormous strides in that direction and this achievement is the next great step in human progress.

It is important to note that this evolution is the result mainly, in Mr. Wells's opinion, of the influence of Religion and Education upon the minds of men, and it is to these factors he looks for future progress.

Of course our author strains the evidence to fit his theory. Practically all historians have done the same. It is so easy; it is all but unavoidable. Many of the "facts" upon which histories are based are so uncertain in themselves, are almost always open to a variety of legitimate interpretations and still more illegitimate ones. Moreover, their immense number makes inevitable a certain selection and suppression of facts in accord with the writer's views as to their relative order of importance, which again depends upon his theoretical opinion or practical aims. In the book before us the "straining" is very obvious in parts, but on the whole is not so much in evidence as one would expect, for the author is by no means either thorough or consistent in the application of his theories.

Mr. Wells assumes that altruism and social solidarity was lacking in the earliest men. Even apart from other considerations this is rendered very improbable by the fact that recent savages possess these qualities to a marked degree. The extinct Tasmanians certainly did, and, as Mr. Wells points out, they were still in the early Paleolithic stage at the time they were discovered. The Bushmen and Australians, only a little further advanced, also contradict his view. Savages are almost invariably kind, affectionate, and loyal to their own people, but hostile to strangers and cruel to their enemies. Any survey of the races of men, such as Keane's or Hutchinson's, will prove this.

A serious and significant omission occurs when Mr. Wells fails to make any mention of the existence of the communal marriage system among primitive peoples. The discovery of this institution was one of the most revolutionary in the whole range of anthropology.

The reason for this omission is that our historian believes that the earliest and original form of human society was the single "self-centred" family group, ruled despotically by the oldest male, usually the father, until he died or one of his sons managed to kill him and rule in his stead. This is merely an extension to primitive conditions of the old "patriarchal theory." He quotes from Worthington Smith's excellent description of life in the early Stone Age, but, as this writer holds the contrary view of primitive society, Mr. Wells adds a highly hypothetical account of the supposed paleolithic family group and the conduct of its ruler, the "Old Man," borrowed from the "Primal Law" by J. J. Atkinson, who, with Andrew Lang, is the only authority mentioned who supports his view. (See Chap. IX. 2.)

Now Mr. Wells does not tell his readers that a very large number—probably the great majority—of ethnologists and sociologists, hold a totally different view of social origins. Prof. Edward Jenks, a very able thinker, says in his "History of Politics" (p. 18) "by the discoveries concerning the nature of savage society . . it has been proved, that the earliest social group, so far from being a small household of a single man and his wives, is a large and loosely connected group or 'pack' ... it could easily be shown that the origin of society in 'single families' is inherently impossible," and he refers to the view supported by Mr. Wells as "the old theory, now definitely exploded."

It is difficult to see how man could have acquired language, tools, or a developed intelligence without a considerable degree of sociability. The conclusions of modern Psychology as to the deep-rooted power of the herd-instinct and the pronounced suggestibility of the human mind also point indisputably to the gregarious nature of man.

The "Handbook to the Ethnographical Collection" of the British Museum (a cheap, well illustrated and useful book to students) states the general opinion amongst ethnologists as follows :
  "In a primitive community the individual has little importance as such. He may almost be said to belong to it body and soul, and apart from it he has neither rights nor responsibilities. Such a system is unfavourable to the development of enterprise or private initiative, but at the same time it entourages the habits of obedience, discipline and common action, upon which further social progress depends. The absorbing claims of the community are well illustrated by the primitive laws of property, according to which everything of the greatest value belongs to the clan in common." (P. 25.)
Now the above paragraph flatly contradicts Mr. Wells's assertion that "No more nonsensical expression is conceivable in sociology than the term 'primitive communism.'" (Chap. XXXVII. 13.) By the use of such totally irrelevant analogies as the "dog and his bone, the tigress and her lair," he tries to prove that primitive man was an intensely individualistic property-holder.

Many readers of his work will be unaware that in taking up this position Mr. Walls is contemptuously disregarding for the benefit of his thesis the accumulated evidence of a host of competent observers in all parts of the world, and also, for the later stages of primitive communism, a considerable mass of documentary evidence. We cannot state or discuss this evidence here. The works on the subject are numerous ; those by Morgan, Tylor, Lubbock and Maine will be profitable reading to the student. A good summary from a sound viewpoint is Lafargue's "Evolution of Property," and a great mass of evidence from all peoples and periods is contained in Prof. Letourneau's "Property, its Origin and Development."

These omissions and errors, unfortunately, give a distorting perspective to what would otherwise be an uncommonly vivid picture of primaeval humanity. So conspicuous and important are they that their occurrence is only to be explained as a result of the preconceived theoretical notions of the author.

Mr. Wells classifies more advanced human societies into two primary types: "Communities of Will" and "Communities of Faith and Obedience." The former are societies of "free" individuals, jointly and freely determining the activities of the communities to which they belong. His stock examples are the tribes of nomadic, warlike herdsmen of the great plains. Illustrations of the second type of community are the ancient States, such as those of Egypt and Babylonia, in which a monarchic and priestly government controlled the lives and commanded the allegiance and obedience of its subjects who regarded it with fearful and religious reverence.

Now, to the Marxist this classification must appear unsatisfactory, being based on nothing fundamental. It lays no stress upon the supremely important factor of interest. It should be obvious that you will find no community of will where there is no community of interest. The two conditions are interdependent. One in the absence of the other is almost inconceivable.

The tribesmen of a nomadic people could determine the activity of the community in defence, offence, or migration because their individual needs both immediate and ultimate were identical. This was easily seen and fully understood. The division of social labour had not yet reached the point at which it produces classes of oppressors and oppressed. All had inalienable "rights" in the community, membership of which was based upon actual blood-kinship. Every incentive existed to loyal action in support of the tribe.

Moreover, the fact that in a pastoral community public affairs are decided by the Council of Chiefs or assembly of tribesmen in no way alters the fact that "faith and obedience" exert a great influence on its members. The people of the tribe owe rigid obedience to the tribal custom law, and the sacred bonds of "ancestor worship" are an additional cement to that produced by unity of interest.

Now, exactly the reverse state of affairs obtained in the great communities of Egypt and Babylonia. Here diversity of occupation social function and interest brought about by progress in agriculture, handicraft, and commerce, was the cardinal feature. There were peasants, artisans, merchants, soldiers, officials, nobles, and priests, with sub-divisions of each. (Chattel slaves, very numerous, especially in Babylonia, are expressly omitted, as they are not members of the community in Mr. Wells's sense.) The bulk of the "free" town workers had their narrow but well recognised craft interests, but those in different trades even in the same locality would have little in common. There were few amongst them who were completely propertyless, and thus no proletariat existed.

In districts where a large slave population existed—especially of gang-slaves—fear of their revolt would act as a sedative to discontent amongst the "free" workers.

These great States covered an extensive territory, and their population was large. Means of communication between distant cities and districts did not exist for the common people. There was thus little possibility of widespread revolt on the part of any exploited class. Local revolts though were not unknown—there was a "strike" of labourers at Thebes in the reign of Rameses III.—and as they were bound to conflict with the politico-religious authority they show that the common people were not so servile as Mr. Wells would have us believe.

Division of interests among the masses made possible the despotic rule of the politically intelligent minority, and the common need for protection against the inroads of barbarian invaders justified it. This minority, the "ruling class," were originally successful conquerors, clan or tribal chiefs and "medicine men." They had at their back a disciplined army largely of foreign troops from conquered provinces. Tradition and superstition were contributory factors, but of secondary importance.

Turning to another aspect of this interesting question, as Mr. Wells says (Chap. XX. 2): "On the whole the common men were probably well content to live under lord or king or god and obey their bidding. It was safer. It was easier." Accustomed to his lot and aspiring to nothing higher than the standard of comfort it traditionally afforded, the average Egyptian peasant or labourer would submit in "faith and obedience" to what must often have seemed intolerable extortion and irksome obligations, rather than engage in any serious revolt against what must have seemed to him the mightiest, most impregnable power in the world. Such an act would do too much violence to his settled habits of work and thought, and all to no good purpose. Here also, then, interest, bodily and mental, is the deciding impulse.

It must not be thought that Mr. Wells entirely fails to recognise these effects of the hierarchy of classes; he does show that they are a contributory factor, but seems to think that it was the influence of priests and of the "god-king" idea which primarily caused men to surrender their "wills" in social affairs. The "god-king" certainly was a useful, indeed a necessary institution to primitive civilisation. Superstition, religious or secular, is always useful to class divided societies. It gives the ruling classes a supernatural or a moral sanction otherwise absent and thus oils the wheels of exploitation.

Mr. Wells devotes a whole chapter to the rise of classes in Egypt, Babylonia, India and China and his treatment in the main is very satisfactory. Here and there throughout the book he shows very clearly the effect of class grouping and interest as a determinant in social change.
R. W. Housley

A New Programme of Confusion. (1920)

From the December 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

The National Administrative Council are submitting a draft programme for adoption by the Independent Labour Party. The ''Labour Leader" (Nov. 11th) in publishing the programme ask for discussion and are setting apart two columns weekly for the purpose. In order to assist the rank and file who may wish to take part in this discussion a few of the most glaring absurdities are pointed out in the following lines.

Clause one states that the object of the I.L.P. is "to end the present capitalist system." Clause two states that "the industrial organisation of society in the Socialist Commonwealth must be based upon the communal ownership of land and capital." Some hitherto obscure member might gain the limelight by asking how it is possible to end the capitalist system while retaining the thing that makes it a capitalist system, i.e., capital.

The capitalist system did not exist until wealth was used generally as capital, which obviously gave it its name. Wealth is not always capital : it only becomes capital when it is used for the production of profit, in other words, for the purpose of exploitation. When society is organised on the basis of production for use wealth can no longer be used as capital, either by individuals or collectively by the State. It remains for the N.A.C. to explain how it is possible to abolish a system while retaining the principles that form the basis of that system.

It is this absurd notion, that a totally different social system can be built up on the basis of the present system, that is responsible for the next absurdity, that under Socialism there must be two separate organisations, one to represent the interests of the consumers and the other to represent the interests of the producers. If this were true it would at once dispose of one of the strongest points in favour of Socialism. The need for two organisations to represent opposing interests would reveal the fact that society was not based on principles that made the interests of each identical with those of the whole, but that antagonism of interests between classes or sections still remained.

Under a sane system of society, where the whole of the people took part in the labour necessary to satisfy their wants, each individual would be both producer and consumer, and only a marionette showman would think of setting him up in two separate organisations in order that he might oppose and support himself alternately in each. But even this unnecessary duplication of organisations is not enough. Clause four lays it down that there must be a co-ordinating authority made up of representatives of producers and consumers.

Clause five assumes a "transition period" during the existence of the present system, saying—
  "Before the final stage is reached, the Socialist movement must accept as intermediate systems only those which promote its ultimate aim : for instance, any scheme of nationalisation or municipalisation (a) must give the workers in the industry an effective control over and responsibility for its administration, (b) must tend to eliminate capitalism and prevent, the creation of new means of financial exploitation, etc. "
The N.A.C. are evidently much confused with regard to the meaning of the word system. The fact that the capitalists of a country may decide to buy out the capitalists of a given industry or service and run it collectively through the State, does not constitute a new system. It does not even disguise the old one, as anybody can see by examining the position of the workers in the Post Office and other institutions that have been either nationalised, or municipalised.

Exploitation is effected to-day by capitalists organised in companies, trusts, combines, and groups. The individual capitalist owns shares in a company or a number of companies and draws dividends according to his holding. When his company becomes amalgamated with others the tendency is to increase the security of his shares ; consequently the bigger the amalgamation the greater the security, and the biggest amalgamation is the State itself. The capitalist, however, in order that he may be assured of his dividends, must be able to control his capital, which is, for the time being, incorporated in the machinery and buildings of the company. The management of the concern is, therefore, placed in the hands of those who will run it in the interest of shareholders like himself. But whether the concern is small or large, the management must be free to run it solely in the interests of the owners; it is therefore ridiculous to suppose that the workers will be granted "effective control" over the administration of any industry. The capitalist class control because they own, but what enables them to own and control is the physical force at their command because they dominate the political machinery of the State.

The N.A.C. lays it down that the Socialist movement must only accept intermediate systems that give the workers effective control or tend to eliminate capitalism. If they wait until the ruling class offer them such systems they will wait till the crack of doom. On the other hand, if the ruling class find it to their advantage to nationalise any industry or service, the workers will be unable to prevent them doing so while they control the machinery of government.

Clause six is entitled "immediate objects" : and provides for "(a) the co-ordination and development of Trade Union organisation with a view to the securing of full working class solidarity and the obtaining of control over industry." Working-class solidarity on these lines must always be elusive because of the ever-increasing competition among the workers for jobs. But even if complete solidarity were possible control would still be beyond the reach of the workers for reasons already given.

And "(b) the strengthening and expansion of the Co-operative movement, with a view to making it the effective representative of the domestic consumer in the future Socialist Commonwealth."

Thus the number of interests that will have to be represented under Socialism continues to grow according to I.L.P notions, because the party dare not frighten away possible supporters by exposing the futility of their freak ideas—or does a freak party attract freaks?— ideas embodied in movements that can only flourish during the present system because they promise some slight measure of relief from its hardships and poverty ; though always promised without fulfilment.

Thus the N.A.C. prophesy a system made up of consumers, domestic consumers, producers and co-operators, organisations (local and national), and administrative councils representing each interest. They have not the faintest notion that when the workers have the necessary knowledge to establish Socialism, they will know how to arrange their intercourse with each other for the purpose of satisfying their material needs on the most simple and direct lines.

Production for profit is just as much the principle of the co-operative movement as it is of the capitalist system itself. The co-operative movement has been in the hands of the small capitalists for many years. But even if the ideas of its founders had been strictly followed out, and all the profits shared among working-class members, it would none the less be a system in which the producers were exploited by the members. And the fact that the producers might be members themselves would not enable them to get back anything but the smallest fraction of the results of their robbery.

The proposed international policy of the I.L.P. is embodied in clause seven, which reads as follows:
  "Realising that imperialism and war waged by capitalist governments constitute the greatest hindrances to the attainment of Socialism, the I.L.P believes that it is incumbent upon Socialists to destroy imperialism and render war impossible ; it therefore aims at the fullest development of the international working-class movement, at the most effective action by that movement for the prevention of war and the liberation of subject peoples, and at aiding by every means in its power, the victory of the working class in all lands. "
This clause proves that the N.A.C. does not yet realise that "capitalist imperialism and war" cannot be abolished until capitalism itself is abolished. This is evidenced by their reference to subject peoples. The Socialist is only concerned with the subjection of the working class, and not at all with the subjection of one capitalist State by another. Once the workers of any country have been robbed of the results of their labour it does not matter a tinker's anathema to them whether the robbers retain their plunder, or are compelled to share it with other members of the robber class.

Clause eight is entitled "Method," and is a good example of the I.L.P. method of becoming all things to all men. It reads :
  "In pursuance of these objects, the I.L.P. realises that, owing to the fact that elections under the existing British Parliamentary system frequently result in false and inadequate representation, and enables governments to manipulate and thwart the national will, it may be necessary on specific occasions for the organised workers to use extra-political means, such as direct action. "
The first part of this statement is altogether misleading. Under the British electoral system the workers have only to obtain a majority for Socialism over other parties and it is impossible to thwart them in their determination to establish it.

Then, without committing themselves to any "specific occasions," the N.A.C. angle for the Direct Actionists' support. If this clause is accepted by the workers, then a minority of labour members in the House of Commons, unable to enforce any measure of little or much importance, could cause endless suffering to the workers by a call for Direct Action.

In conclusion, this latest attempt to draw up a programme that makes clear the working-class position in modern society, together with the way to emancipation, is another miserable failure. It does not even show the common ground upon which the workers of all lands must unite. While prating about the exploitation of the workers, it neglects to show how this exploitation is effected, or on what basis society must be organised in order to end it.

If the rank and file of the I.L.P. intend to consider this new programme seriously, let them compare it with the Object and principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, when its absurdities and shortcomings will become apparent to them, and they will be fully equipped to take part in the proposed discussion.
F. Foan

One Thousand Pound Fund. (1920)

Party News from the December 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

The New Heroes. (1920)

From the December 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

The "Daily News" of October 25th published the following note and comment:
  "The estate of the late Mr. Andrew Carnegie has been finally certified at 23¼ million dollars (nominally £4,650,000).
"By law only half of this amount is available for public bequests, which are therefore reduced by ten millions during the life of the widow, unless she elects to make gifts.
"[When Mr. Carnegie's will was published in August, 1919, the estate was estimated at between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. Gifts during the testator's lifetime exceeded £70,000,000. Annuities under the will included £2,000 a year to Mr. Lloyd George, £2,000 a year to Lord Morley, £1,000 a year to Mr. John Burns, and £1,000 a year to Mr. John Burt.]"
Mr. Andrew Carnegie must have been class-conscious in a very high degree to have recognised the heroes mentioned in the liberal way he has.

John Burns, Lloyd George & Co. are once more seen in their right setting, as champions of the robber class of which Carnegie was a typical representative.

Carnegie is still thought by some to be a great benefactor of the working class, because he has bequeathed a few libraries to his fellow capitalists, to enable their wage slaves readily and cheaply to take in the mental dope which is stored on those libraries' shelves.

Yes! Carnegie was class-conscious. He recognised the necessity of keeping working class minds inoculated with the poisonous matter which comprises the bulk of the literature contained in his libraries. He also recognised the valuable services which men like Lloyd George and John Burns have rendered to him and his class. The "honest John," as some used to know him—the supporter of butcher Asquith and his shooting of the miners at Featherstone. Lloyd George, the great bamboozler, the silver-tongued betrayer.

Yes! they are the Carnegie war heroes; they were the valiant supporters of the class war, waged in full consciousness by Carnegie and his fellow capitalists. Strange as it may appear, no bequests are made to the million and one heroes who bled to death, who were blown to death, who were frozen to death in the great European war just ended, to defend the property and interests of the murdering Carnegie class, the capitalist class.

Yet perhaps it is not so strange, for fellow wage slave, Carnegie was class-conscious.

When will you. become so, and join with us in waging the only war worth while—the class war—in order to dethrone capitalism's gang of thieves and inaugurate the Socialist co-operative Commonwealth ?

Mr Cube The Economist (1951)

Tate & Lyle's Mr. Cube
From the April 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

Tate &  Lyle, Ltd., have recently had a large size advertisement appearing in the daily press. The advertisement consists of a series of cartoons entitled, “Where all the money went in 1950.”

It is an attempt to show that out of a gross income for the year amounting to £84,435,000 only £618,000 was left for net dividends to stockholders, equal to 1/7 of a farthing for each pound of sugar sold.

The advertisement states that, “ Tate & Lyle, Ltd., employ 8,500 workers.” If you divide the net dividend of £618,000 by the 8,500 workers you find it amounts to over £72 per head.

Taxation on profits amounted to £1,228,000 which again divided by the number of employees equals over £144 per head. This is used for running the capitalist state machine.

The total profits before taxation amounted to £2,196,000, wages and employees benefits totalled £3,700,000 which with the so called Prosperity Sharing Scheme made a total of £3,818,000 paid to the workers.

This can be expressed as £2,196,000 Unpaid Labour over £3,818,000 Paid Labour.

The rate of Surplus value being just over 57 per cent.

This is being generous to Mr. Cube, as one cartoon states that “£1,770,000 went in overheads and special expenses which includes money spent in self-defence.”

Special expenses can cover a multitude of sins. (One of them is the advertisement). One thing that can be certain is that the workers produced the wealth for these expenses.

The series of cartoons can easily mislead workers who do not look into the figures closely, however the expression unpaid labour over paid labour clearly shows why Mr. Cube takes such an interest in economics. —He is a bright little chap.
D. W. Lock

Blogger's Note:
Mr. Cube (see the above illustration) was a genuine cartoon character devised as a clever and effective company propaganda ploy by Tate & Lyle against the Labour Government's supposed threat to nationalize the British Sugar Industry. More details on this obscure bit of British political history can be found at the following link, Mr Cube the sugar lump.

Twixt The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea (1951)

From the April 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

Critics of the Labour Government are rapidly increasing in number. With daily increases in the cost of living, whilst wages climb at tortoise pace in pursuit; with the ever growing threat of war and the prospect of devastating atomic warfare; with some essential foodstuffs and other commodities being rationed down to infinitesimal quantities, the Labour Government stands accused of being the cause of it all. That is the fate of all politicians who undertake the job of capitalist government. The government of the day, whether it be Conservative, Liberal Labour or Coalition, always bears the brunt of criticism for the prevailing bad conditions. Socialists do not subscribe to this idea. They do not claim that the problems that confront the workers today arise because of the Labour Government, but rather, in spite of a Labour Government. These problems arise from the capitalist society in which we live and governments are powerless to prevent them.

This does not mean that a government has no power to affect the prevailing conditions. The outbreak of war may be advanced or postponed by a particular government policy. Governmental action can cause the meat ration to be increased or it can cause it to dwindle to an even less amount. One government might cause a few more houses to be built than would another or one government might impose import duties where another would remove them. One could introduce harsh anti-working-class legislation whilst another could repeal it. Although a capitalist government can modify, amend, adjust and generally tinker around with the problems that confront it, it is powerless to remove them.

Amongst the critics of the Labour Party are many erstwhile staunch supporters whose votes help to put that party in power. It is not in the least unusual these days to hear Labour Party supporters vehemently denouncing the government for doing things that should have been left undone and not doing things that should be done. They will readily admit the shortcomings of Labour ministers and oppose the Labour Government's policy. They will agree that socialism is the only solution to working class problems, but—BUT—as it is not possible to establish immediately they intend to support the lesser of two evils, the Labour Party in preference to the Conservatives. “The lesser of two evils"—how often the workers have been hoodwinked by that notion! As though one capitalist political party was even a little bit preferable to another. As though there is anything to chose between them as far as the workers are concerned. As the Irishman is reputed to have said, “The only difference between them is that they are all alike.” Looking back over the years of working class struggle, under all kinds of governments, should be sufficient evidence that the workers' position is not altered whenever there is a change of government Giving the workers the choice of two political parties, each competing for the job of administering capitalism, is like giving the Christmas goose the choice of being roasted or boiled.

If it were true that one particular party was likely to be less harmful to working class interests than another, there is still no means of telling which one it is. The German workers in 1932 selected what they considered to be the lesser evil when they elected Hindenburg as president in preference to his opponent. Hitler. But a year later Hindenburg appointed Hitler to the chancellorship of Germany and the German workers had both evils to contend with. After nearly 30 years of Labour Government in New Zealand the workers there have apparently come to the conclusion that there is a lesser evil than the Labour Government and have kicked it out. Working class supporters of the Conservative Party will, of course, claim that their party is the lesser evil. The fact of the matter is, that all capitalist governments are evils from the viewpoint of the working class, and the minor differences that exist between them are reflections of the sectional interests of the capitalist class. The promises, plans and programmes that they present at election times are only possible of fulfilment if the capitalist system allows. Whether a particular government smites the workers with a velvet gloved hand or a mailed fist depends on the capitalist needs of the moment. In times of crisis for the capitalist class it will be as ruthless with its workers as it dares and the government then in office will have to do the dirty work. If a government is at all inclined to leniency in favour of the workers, all the might of the combined sections of the capitalist class will be turned to achieve that government’s destruction. But as Labour Parties, like Conservative Parties, are parties of capitalism, they can be relied upon to serve capitalist interests in opposition to the workers. If capital needs increased production, it is the job of the existing government to see that it is increased; if capital wants wages frozen, it is the task of the government to put them in the refrigerator; if capital is forced to fight for its fields for investment and its markets, it is the job of the government to whip up the workers and send them off to kill or be killed; and if the workers embarrass capital by striking, it is the job of the government to use the troops that it controls to “ preserve law and order.”

International capital will drag governments around by their ears. The Rumanian Government, just before the last world war, was re-shuffled a number of times first at the dictates of German capitalism then at the dictates of British. The members of the political organisation known as the Iron Guard were first taken into the Rumanian Government, then turned out and later brought in again. The British Government is now leaning heavily on American Capitalism. The British army will operate under an American general and the British Atlantic fleet will take its orders from an American admiral. Because American capital wills it. Just as, where British capital holds sway, there can be found native armies officered by Britons. No matter what the politicians may say, the position would not be seriously altered if any other party formed the government.

Socialism is the solution to the workers’ problems and until they establish socialism they will have to put up with capitalism and all its attendant evils. The great need is to convince the workers of the necessity for socialism and that will not be done by telling them to support a capitalist party because it is considered to be a “ lesser evil ” than some other party. By that means they will be giving support to the capitalist class to prolong this system and delay the establishment of socialism. By supporting the capitalist parties the workers are forming the tail-end of capitalist politics. Those who urge them to do that and betraying working class interests.

The workers must be urged to break completely with the political parties of capitalism, whether openly pro-capitalist like the Conservatives or avowedly pro-labour like the Labour Party. They must be brought to realise that they must join a political party, separate from and opposed to the capitalist parties. Socialism is an immediate necessity. As long as capitalism lasts there will be wars, poverty, insecurity and all the rest of the evils that flow from this system. There is no “lesser evil ” to be found by supporting any one of the capitalist parties in preference to another.

If a man is robbed by two thieves, it is in his interest to regain his property, not to take sides with one thief or the other in their differences about the share-out of their loot, even if one of them has got a kind-looking face. When be tries to get his stolen property back he will soon find that the two robbers will sink their differences and gang up to prevent him recovering his goods. They will both be vicious and he must oppose the two of them or else find himself "between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
W. Waters

Pay As You Learn (1951)

From the April 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

It must be obvious to most that in the world today the Western and Eastern powers are antagonistic toward one another. The gymnastics of the Four- Power deputy Foreign Ministers in trying to arrange an agenda in Paris recently, both side striving to get that which is most favourable to themselves, is an example of this.

Since the end of the hot war in 1945 there have been many conferences. But under the lofty tones of Peace, Freedom and Democracy that leader writers love to tag on them, the points under discussion have been the old ones of access to markets and sources of raw materials.

At the same time however, the business of Capitalism continues. Despite the recognition by the government that Russia may in the future be an enemy of war, trade still exists between the two countries.

In point of fact the good old “Allies” themselves whilst trying to re-arm and run “business as usual ” come into conflict. On March 3rd, 1951, Mr. Strauss, Minister of Supply, and Mr. Wilson, President of the Board of Trade, journeyed to Eastbourne to speak to some 500 or 600 industrialists at the Dollar Convention, organised by the Dollar Export Board. In their speeches they were both concerned with the supply of raw materials.
  "Mr. Strauss denied that the Government had failed to guard against scarcity of raw materials.
  Long term agreements with Rhodesia and other Commonwealth countries had assured British imports of copper, aluminium, and nickel for ‘a long time ahead.'"
   "Mr. Wilson agreed that ‘the raw materials problem constitutes far and away the gravest of all the economic problems we have to face in 1951.'
    He said that upon the outcome of the current Washington talks on international allocation of raw materials very largely depended the ability of this country and its partners in the North Atlantic community to maintain industrial production and the defence effort. Anxiety over future supplies of raw materials to industry, rather than the state of the country’s balance of payments with America, has unquestionably dominated all the discussions." (Observer 4/3/1951).
The Observer's correspondent Nora Beloff reporting on the Washington talks referred to by Mr. Wilson says
   “British officials are highly sceptical of the outcome of the commodity talks now starting in Washington. They believe there is little chance that an assortment of technical committees can reconcile the split between the British and American views on the remedies.”
(Observer, 4/3/51)
These highly competent, clever types, have come to the conclusion, that, when allies are re-arming against a common enemy (guess who) it is perhaps, just a little foolish to scramble against each other for raw materials, and thus send prices bomb-high. Both Britain and America claim that they are prepared to accept controls on prices and distribution. At the same time, however, both claim that the other is responsible for the situation today. For example, America is "niggly" at the price of Malayan rubber and tin, and Australian wool The British reply is that to control prices, America would have to contract to bulk-purchase from these countries over a period of years. To this the Americans say, that Congress, which has only two years to run, could not accept anything that might tie the hands of its successors. The British representatives in pressing for long term agreements recognise that the boom period of to-day in these countries and commodities will not last for ever.

A report of the Preparedness Sub-committee U.S.A. Senate analysing domestic and world tin supplies says
  “That control of most of the world’s tin reserves was held by a relatively few British. Dutch. Belgian and Bolivian corporations with interlocking connections across national boundaries!
   The report alleges that for the past 30 years these producers had joined to restrict production so as to ensure a satisfactory price, and that frantic speculation had driven the price of tin from 75 cents just before the Korean war to nearly two dollars a pound.”
(Observer, 4/3/1951)
The report concluded, “We are no longer in a position where we must buy tin at any price." The truth of this statement appeared four days later when the City Editor of the News Chronicle (8.3.51) reported that tin had fallen by £125 to £1325 per ton.

Whilst at home the present meat ration forces vegetarianism upon us, the Australian Meat Board have just published figures for the half year ending December, 1950, showing that, compared with 1949, the exports of lamb to Britain fell from 2375,000 carcasses to 521,000. The reason of course being the high price of wool. So even the Tories and Empire wallahs (must help the mother country of our great commonwealth you know) when faced with the economic realities contained within capitalism dive in and make a kill, though not the lamb of course.

At home almost daily the Government announces further restriction and shortages, everything being subjugated to the demands of the re-armament programme. It must be a very naive person who does not comprehend that ultimately these highly costly arms will be used in another world war—whether you call yourself an aggressor or defender.

Of course as usual, “we" must all play “out” part in paying for this Defence programme. As Mr. Gaitskell like his predecessor is never tired of telling us. Trade Unions are asked not to ask for wage increases, not withstanding the increase in the cost-of- living.

If you acquiesce in the continuance of capitalism, and accept the possibility of a third world war, then some of you will pay with your lives.
Ray Guy

Reflections On Argument (1951)

From the April 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

Early in the New Year the B.B.C. started a weekly series of half-hourly talks between opposing members of the House entitled "Argument." The first contestants in the ring were Dr. Chas. Hill (Lib. Cons.) and D. Houghton (Labour). The talks were originally scheduled to run three consecutive weeks but this was extended to four "owing to the wide range of interesting matters under discussion." Next came Barbara Castle (Labour) versus Lord Hailsham, followed by Tom Driberg (Labour) versus Randolph Churchill. At the time of going to press the last team have two more weeks to run so the Arguments continue. The B.B.C. announced the series as "discussions between two controversialists from opposing sides of the House on topics of interest." The whole thing boils down to a weekly half-hour of verbal skirmishing, the theme song of which should be "Anything you can do I can do better." The modus operandi consists of making derogatory remarks in varying degrees of intensity regarding the opposing Party’s misdeeds past and present Also digging up an incorrect or indiscreet statement made by a member of the opposing Party, thus setting him at a disadvantage and generally "taking the mickey."

The series have served one useful purpose, namely to emphasise how trivial are the points of divergence between the two Parties and how little these "topics of interest" need concern the workers. The second of the Hill-Houghton talks receive attention in the February issue of the Socialist Standard. In their fourth venture a rather subdued Dr. Hill addressed Houghton as "my dear boy" almost as if he were soothing a nervous and highly-strung patient in his surgery. He suggested incentives and rewards for work "well done," and bemoaned that overtime was sometimes cancelled out by Income Tax. He pointed out that before the war, miners only worked three days a week and now they cannot work long enough. The story of boom and depression was lobbed up and discussed, as if it were a new and startling discovery.

The subject matter of the first argument between Barbara Castle and Lord Hailsham was the branding of “Red" China as an aggressor, and the lady was in a terrible twitter because “it could do no good to stick a label on China." Lord Hailsham addressed her in the tone of one humoring a wayward and fractious child. His drawling repetition of "my dear Barbara" must have caused listeners to speculate as to whether he was endeavouring to gain time in order to muster his argument or waste time because he was experiencing difficulty in formulating one. Their second talk was on the "Shortages under Socialism." We must digress a moment to once again nail the lie, whether deliberate or due to ignorance that the present Government is or ever will be, Socialist. To continue, Hailsham sneered at the “Socialist Government” and said that present day shortages were due to their inefficiency and bungling. Barbara Castle not in the least discomposed nattered away and told us several times over in various ways that the shortages were due to more of the people having more under “Socialism.”

At their third meeting they discussed that “very important subject, should W. Germany be re-armed now?” Barbara Castle gave a decided negative and Hailsham dramatically posed the question, “How long will it be before you forgive them?” (The Germans.) He then got around to the necessity of arming against Russia, and sounding very blood thirsty he averred that we should "arm and arm and arm,” whilst having talks with Russia. The lady was of the opinion that we should have talks first. Their fourth and last argument was an inquest on the “Dark days of Tory misrule,” the period between the two wars. To do Barbara Castle justice, she said she would have preferred not to dig into the past but to argue on a topical subject. However the inquest went forward and unemployment figures were quoted for that period as 14 per cent., against 1 per cent, to 1½ per cent. present day, which according to Barbara Castle was entirely due to Labour planning. Lord Hailsham begged to differ and said the lee-way of the war has taken up the slack so no credit was due. He also attacked the Government as being responsible for the “steadily deteriorating international situation.”

The first foray between Tom Driberg and Randolph Churchill posed the burning question (which is keeping us all awake at night!), whether it was right that an American Admiral shall have supreme command over the Atlantic Fleet. Tom Driberg defended his Government's policy in this matter and agreed that it was of “ vital importance.” He pointed out that the Western operational part would be under a British Admiral, and recalled that Winston Churchill put “our” Pacific Fleet under an American Admiral during the last war. Randolph Churchill scrubbed round that one and instead sobbed over our present day small Fleet which he said was entirely due to the Labour Government's lack of planning. He also deprecated Attlee's leadership as “not good enough” with America, and Driberg pointed out that he (Attlee) had succeeded in moderating American policy regarding the branding of China as an aggressor. The Chairman called the controversialists to order for making it a duet and Driberg informed the world in general that he was not going to lose his temper. However all was calm and serene at their next meeting which posed the question, “Are we better fed under Labour Government than we were before the War”? This gave Randolph Churchill a chance to take a pot shot at that sitting target, the meat ration, which he said was due to the Government's mismanagement. He admitted hardship before the war, but said it was not due to any one Party. He attacked bulk buying and said that Webb had been “unlucky” but that he had also miscalculated. Driberg said that stock piling in America, due to the Korean War, caused the meat muddle and pointed out that the world population was increasing at the rate of 20 million a year and that food production was only just making up lee-way after the destruction due to the war. Randolph Churchill put in a plea for private traders, not bulk buying and sang Lord Woolton's praises as Minister of Food during the war. He also fired a final shot at the Government by pouring scorn on their payment of millions of pounds in compensation to butchers.

Taken by and large the arguments are becoming progressively more genteel. The slight differences in policy of the two Parties become more apparent with each broadcast and this must be obvious to Labour supporters. As their first uncritical enthusiasm has died down it must become increasingly clear that however much the Government may wish to consider the interests of the workers, Capitalism is too strong for them and in addition to Party differences they are drawn into international disharmony along the road that eventually leads to war. The worker who understands the socialist position is not distracted by the stew pot of Party politics or international rivalries. These fat red herrings across the trail of politically ignorant workers postpone the day of true understanding when all workers will tread the only road that leads to peace and security for all.
F. M. Robins