Sunday, April 19, 2020

Bottom of the Class (1996)

Spot the typo.
TV Review from the April 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

BBC2 has been running a three-part series presented by that “thinking Essex Man" Tony Parsons, called Parsons On Class, in which he explored the supposedly "changing" class structure in Britain. A writer who made his name on the New Musical Express during the hey-day of punk, Parsons claimed in the blurb given out for the programme that “What we found doing this series is that the class system is as real as it ever was. It embarrasses people because it is a reminder of a Britain they think doesn’t exist anymore. But John Major got it completely wrong—we'll never have a classless society.

So spoke the soothsayer, and he had more to say besides. In the first programme Parsons fell head-over-heels in love the British aristocracy, as exemplified by the Gordon-Duff-Penningtons of Cumbria, living in a grand stately home they cannot afford to keep.

Parsons generally had a lot to say, and were informed in general that the aristocracy have had much to give society over the years, although we were never informed about this in the particular. Have they built magnificent houses, made miraculous inventions or kept society ticking along in any other ways? Certainly not, though one thing that was clear from Parsons’s programme was that they have known how to enjoy luxury to the full, and in this sense set an example to us all.

The underlying subtext to the programme was that the aristocracy are on the way out, being replaced by the rising “middle class", the class that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Parsons opined that at least five families of the landed gentry disappear from the rolls every year. This is indeed the case. But where, we are entitled to ask, has he been living? Is this really all a new phenomenon—another product of Thatcherism and the enterprise culture? Of course not. Nearly one hundred and fifty years ago Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels identified this very same changing class character of society which was sweeping away the old landed gentry and installed the hegemony of the capitalist class, the bourgeoisie:
  "The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley, feudal lies that bound man to his 'natural superiors’, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment'” (Communist Manifesto, 1848).
Large elements of the old "upper class”, more properly called the aristocracy, used their landed interests to secure a steady income for themselves as capitalists decades—and in some cases virtually centuries—ago. Those which haven’t, like the Gordon-Duff-Penningtons, are doomed to a life of social obscurity as relics from the past, merely hanging on until they are bought out by some rising capitalist with an eye on the glamour of a stately pile.

Middle of the Road
The “middle class" of semi-feudal society are now the owning class of capitalists, but this has just left the way open for people like Parsons to abuse its usage with gay abandon, equating middle income earners in capitalist society with a spurious new "middle class". Like the veritable sage on such matters that he is, Parsons commented that "A lot of people think of themselves as working class when they're not anymore. It’s a sentimental affectation . . ." The type of people he evidently had in mind when making this comment are those who work in an office, pay a mortgage, own a car and so on—and these are people, sure enough, who are neither at the top nor bottom of the income brackets. What they certainly do not constitute, however, is a specific social class properly speaking, the determinant of which is relationship to the means of living. Indeed. precisely why so many of Parsons’s “middle class" feel working class is because they know that their existence depends on selling their mental and physical energies on the market for a wage or salary, just like most of the population. They have to work in order to survive unlike the old aristocrats so beloved of Parsons or the modern capitalists who can survive without offering themselves for hire.

In many respects the very title Parsons On Class is a misnomer. As the final two programmes demonstrated, his brief was to examine social status, income differentials and lifestyles as much as class and in this the series was a back-up to style guru Peter York’s recent BBC2 programmes about the 1980s, Sloane Rangers, Yuppies and Mayfair Mercs.

One particular aside from the series stood out to exemplify the whole thing. Even though class society is here to stay in the Parsons world-view, he memorably claimed that "the class war is almost dead", subsumed by the victory of "middle-class" culture. But this is wishful thinking indeed for a man who apparently wishes to mask the class realities of capitalist society in endless discussion of lifestyles and cultural variation and whose prime example of real social mobility is a trend—involving a tiny percentage of the population— which started centuries ago. Parsons should take heed—the working class of wage and salary earners, the world over, is more numerous than ever—and we still have to a world to win. Sooner or later win it we shall with, or preferably without, his confused social commentary.
Dave Perrin

Mental illness in a sick society (1996)

John Ogdon
Theatre Review from the April 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Virtuoso by William Humble (Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and 

Socialists are not Utopians. Whilst we seek to change society so that it operates in the interests of all the people of the world and not just a small minority of capitalists, we recognise that a socialist society will still face daunting problems and challenges, some of which at present might seem insoluble.

One such challenge is mental health and, at the extreme, madness. We rightly talk of “the sick society” and there can be little doubt that the vast majority of the psychoses and neuroses which are the common experience of so many people today are associated, directly or indirectly, with the stresses and strains, the poverty and insecurity, of capitalism. People are sick, both physically and mentally, because the good health of the population must never be allowed to get in the way of the exploitation of the working class and the endless pursuit of yet more profit. In deference to profit children go hungry, old people go cold, and the unemployed eke out a chilling existence denied the essentials of life. Even the lucky ones (sic), the employed, must work harder, for longer hours and sometimes less pay in real terms, with the ever-present threat of re-structuring, voluntary redundancy, or some other euphemism for unemployment hanging over them. No wonder capitalism drives some people mad.

But beyond the victims of callous capitalism there remain those few whose illnesses seem, at least at first sight, unrelated to the world in which they live. The concert pianist, John Ogdon, was one such person. In Virtuoso, a new play by William Humble the onset, nature and treatment of his mental illness—and its impact on those around him—is sensitively and enthrallingly explored.

By any standard Ogdon was an exceptional pianist: a performer of such power and vision as arguable to warrant the label genius. Perhaps significantly his father, a teacher of English, also suffered a period of mental illness and wrote about his experiences in a book intriguingly entitled How I Became Sane. Ogdon recognising the onset of his own illness—and both threatened and encouraged by his father’s example—asks his wife after one temporary derangement "Would you be so kind as to get me a psychiatrist, please?” It is a poignant moment.

Ogdon the astonishing is counterbalanced with Ogdon the man. The latter childlike in his dependency: unsophisticated in his choice of a wimpy and milkshake in preference to lunch in an exclusive restaurant; warm and tolerant in his appreciation of music—comparing a song by Herman’s Hermits with an aria by Mozart, and toe-tapping an accompaniment to the Modern Jazz Quartet

And psychiatrists. How do they seek to understand the causes of mental illness and set about its amelioration? The limits of an overly empirical approach—one which sees human beings in reductionist terms, and imagines us little more than a complex set of stimuli and responses—are obvious. Whilst capitalist methods of production often see people as mere automatons, human beings are far too complex for their natures to be trivialised in such a monstrous way. It is only when the particularities of Ogdon’s experiences, both past and present, are shrewdly and painstakingly examined, that the possible causes of his trauma become mistily apparent, and likely treatments begin to take shape. In recognising Ogdon’s uniqueness and respecting his worth as a human being—never mind a concert pianist—the play strikes a blow for the warm, dignified way in which all people will be valued in a socialist society.

And at the heart of it all are Ogdon's singular gifts. Is it the case that genius is akin to madness? Perhaps not, but faced with the choice of returning Ogdon to sanity at the cost of losing his pianistic gifts, what should be done? The psychiatrists vote for person rather than performer— an indefensible position in a capitalist society—whilst hoping that their treatment will invalidate having to choose; and in spite of the sounds of Ogdon the performer magnificently assailing our ears with the music Rachmaninoff, Beethoven and Liszt.

Virtuoso is a warm, intelligent play, adeptly played and presented by gifted performers, designers and production staff. In the central role Oliver Ford Davies plays Ogdon with such revealing and touching honesty and integrity as almost to make you believe that he is John Ogdon. It would be difficult not to be moved by Ogdon’s plight and cheered by his recovery. Perhaps we may now have a play about the tens of thousands of ordinary people, no less worthy, whose mental illness is more simply explained—as victims of callous capitalism.
Michael Gill

Notes by the Way: Premier Blum Faces Crises (1937)

The Notes by the Way Column from the April 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

Premier Blum Faces Crises

The Popular Front Government in France is in difficulties. But at least it can be said for Blum and his Labour and Radical colleagues in the Cabinet that they have done their best to justify themselves in their short period of office. Elected on a definite programme of social reforms, they ably and energetically set about applying them. In quick succession they legislated for a 40-hour week and annual fortnightly holiday with pay, for nationalisation of the armament concerns, control of the Bank of France, and of prices. Large sums of money were allocated to public works to reduce unemployment, and civil servants had pay cuts restored. In short, Blum’s Government behaved as if it believed in its programme and was determined to apply it. In this their behaviour is in marked contrast with that of the two British Labour Governments. Nevertheless, though they tried to make the most of the possibilities of the situation, they are faced with increasing difficulties, all due to the fact that they have got to work within the framework of capitalism. They cannot abolish capitalism, because the population of France is not prepared for such a step. They must, therefore, choose between two evils, either to enforce measures opposed by the French capitalists—in which case the Government loses the votes of its capitalist supporters in Parliament, and has to resign—or to frame its programme so that capitalists will accept it—in which case it comes into conflict with working-class interests and wishes. Faced with that dilemma in the matter of further expenditure, the Blum Government has reluctantly had to retreat.

It needs to borrow in order to finance Government expenditure. It can only borrow from those who have property, i e„ the capitalists. If it does not please them with its policy and secure their confidence they refuse to lend and, indeed, had transferred much of their money abroad. The Blum Government, unless it were prepared to take over the property of capitalists generally for the community—which would be suicidal, since the majority of the population are opposed to it—had to come to terms with the capitalists.

As the City Editor of the News Chronicle put it: —
  One sympathises with the natural reluctance of a Socialist Government to pour profits into the laps of capitalists, but such feelings must give way before the pressure of circumstances.—(News Chronicle, March 6th.)
So now M. Blum has had to ask civil servants to forego expected wage increases. He is curtailing Government expenditure and deferring expected further reforms, and is allowing those who shipped their gold abroad to profit by the devaluation of the franc on bringing it back to France.

Naturally, this forced retreat is being criticised by the Communists and Trade Unionists, who should, however, have been aware from the outset that the difficulties are those which arise inevitably from the existence of a Government which thinks it can combine a working-class programme with the administration of capitalism.

The Daily Herald, organ of the British Labour Party, supports Blum’s Government, but it has to admit that the continued existence of the Government depends on the gamble that capitalism in France quickly experiences one of its periodical phases of boom. The Daily Herald editorial, on March 13th, 1937, admits that Blum’s Government “could hardly for long endure if there were to be a trade setback and a rise in unemployment.” Yet every Socialist, and even many Labourites, know that sooner or later there is bound to be that trade setback and rise in unemployment.

There is fundamentally only one way in which capitalism can be administered—the capitalist way. While social reforms can alleviate particular evils arising from capitalism for a time, it is unquestionably better that the responsibility for running the capitalist system should be left to the avowed supporters of capitalism. The workers should struggle to raise or defend their standard of living, but not attempt the impossible task of administering capitalism, or put their trust in the Parties which do this.

Putting Labour or Popular Front Governments into office merely makes them the prisoners of the capitalist class.

#    #    #    #

The Communists Road to Peace

There was a time when Communists were permitted to tell the truth about capitalism, but that was long enough ago. Now they talk flapdoodle like the statement which follows, delivered at a luncheon given by the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce at the British Industries Fair. The speaker, Mr. Maisky, Ambassador in this country of Soviet Russia: —
  He hoped that the outcome of the Fair would be strengthened commercial relations between Great Britain and other countries, for peace defended, to a very great extent on healthy and vigorous trade relations.—(Times, February 20th, 1937. Italics ours.)
The Daily Worker should let its readers have an article on this Cobdenite view of “friendly capitalist trade,” plus some extracts from Lenin’s writings in answer to it.

#    #    #    #

London Labour Party's Victory

In 1934 the London Labour Party, for the first time, obtained a majority on the London County Council. At the elections in March the Labour group increased its seats from 69 to 75, and the Municipal Reformers' seats fell from 55 to 49. The votes polled at the last three elections have been as follows: —
1931 Labour, 214,000.
         Municipal Reformers, 288,000.
1934 Labour, 340,000.
         Municipal Reformers, 300,000.
1937 Labour, 444,000.
         Municipal Reformers, 403,000.
It will be seen that this year, after three years of Labour Party rule, about 200,000 additional voters took the trouble to vote and divided themselves nearly equally between the two parties. Even so, only 43 per cent. of the electors troubled to vote, so little difference does the choice between Labour and Municipal Reform on the L.C.C. represent.

The truth is that some of the more wide-awake propertied interests in London realise that there are many problems of administration, traffic control, health services, housing, and so on, which stand a better chance of being dealt with energetically by Mr. Herbert Morrison and his party than by the Municipal Reformers. They are, therefore, prepared to support the Labour candidates, at least for the time being. The question of Socialism was never brought into the election fight, except as a red herring, by some Municipal Reformers. This dodging of real issues led to an amusing attitude on the part of the Municipal Reformers. Their leader, Mr. W. H. Webbe, quoted a recent remark made by Mr. Morrison to the effect that the Tories are to-day more a party of social reform than ever before, and that “the real issue of politics is no longer social reform versus reaction: it is more like Socialism versus social reform" (Daily Telegraph, February 8th, 1937). Having said this, one might suppose that Mr. Morrison intended to fight for Socialism against his social reform opponents. Not a bit of it. His programme was all social reform and no Socialism. As the Solicitor-General, Sir Terence O’Connor, pointed out: “It was a most remarkable document, coming from a Socialist, and they might think, as he did, that it was nothing more than a smoke-screen to gull a few more pink Liberals." (Times, February 12th, 1937)

All that can be said is that Mr. Morrison, on his social reform programme, completely outmanoeuvred the rival social reformers. For those who attach importance to such things as the triumph of one social reform group over another, it was a great and glorious victory: but it leaves capitalism fat and flourishing.

#    #    #    #

A New Stage in India

The inauguration of the new constitution in India opens up promising developments in politics and social questions. In the provincial Parliaments the Congress Party, the Party which seeks Indian independence, will be strongly represented, and will in some cases have a majority, and be able to form the Government. From a tactical point of view they will be foolish to refuse the opportunity of doing so. Whatever they may decide at the moment, they will sooner or later have to take office or see their own supporters drift away. De Valera learned this in Ireland, when his party tried the policy of staying away from Parliament.

The new constitution is an advance on the old, if only because it brings a much larger number of people into politics by giving them votes. Political interest, elections, propaganda, discussion, these are all part of the experience needed before the Indian workers will become Socialist. It is true that many of them believe that they are Socialists already. They have adopted the name, and the leader of the Congress Party, Pandit Nehru, calls himself a Socialist. He and his followers are, however, of the “not here and not now" type, of whom we have many in Europe. That is to say they claim that Socialism is the paramount issue, but they subordinate it to other issues, capitalist ones. Nehru’s contention is that Socialism must be dropped for the present, while Indian workers and peasants join hands with their own exploiters—the Indian capitalists and landlords—to win independence. The Indian Labour Journal, supporting this view, says:—
  What India needs now is soldiers of anti-imperialism and Socialists later.—(Indian Labour Journal, November 29th, 1936.)
How often have we heard this before, always as a prelude to working-class betrayal and disillusionment. It was the cunning slogan of the capitalist hacks in Germany and England during the War, and of the Nationalists in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Ireland, and in every country where local propertied interests have used nationalism as a weapon in their fight against foreign rivals. Indian independence is not at present a practical policy. If the British Empire were broken up India would only fall to some other Empire. But even if it were a practical policy, the Indian workers would find their native capitalists every whit as powerful and brutal as the foreign ones.

Actually, events will themselves force the Indian workers to read the signs of the times, despite the lead given by their Nehrus and other so-called Labour and Socialist guides. One of the principal purposes of the concession of partial Home Rule by the British ruling class to Ireland, Egypt, India, etc., is that it forces the local capitalists and their politicians to accept responsibility for maintaining capitalist law and order against the workers, and thus expose their fraternity with the British capitalists.

The British Government does this because it strengthens the basis of imperial capitalism; but it happens also to be good for the working class movement. In time it compels the Irish, Indian and Egyptian workers to recognise that their class interests make them opponents of the native capitalist class and allies of the workers of other lands.

The first salutary lesson of this kind happened in India, when the elections were barely over. The Congress Party in Bihar, supported by the local landlords, won a majority. One of the vote-catching promises in the Congress programme was reform of the system of land tenure for the benefit of the smaller peasantry. Promptly, the villagers celebrated. "their” victory by forcibly taking possession of the crops on their landlords’ fields. (Times, March 10th, 1937.) What did the landlords do? They “asked the authorities for military protection.” Thus do hard facts of the class-struggle break through the flimsy talk of Nehru about the bonds of Indian nationality.

India is on the march, and the Indian workers will ultimately triumph through Socialism and against the unsound advice of the self-styled Socialists.
Edgar Hardcastle

This Prosperity (1937)

From the April 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The depression is over and prosperity is here once again. This is the good news discovered by politicians, bankers and captains of industry and passed on to the workers in speeches and articles up and down the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, in a speech at Birmingham on January 29th said that the Midlands are “enjoying a greater prosperity than had ever been known in the history of living people.” (The Times, January 30th, 1937.) Mr. Colin Campbell, Chairman of the National Provincial Bank, Ltd., in his survey of the country’s affairs at the annual meeting of his bank, sees "prosperity firmly based on well-distributed purchasing power.” (Economist, January 30th, 1937.) Indeed, the bankers and economists are becoming alarmed at the comparative shortage of skilled labour and consequent ability of the workers to secure wage increases. The question occupying their minds is when the next slump is due to break and whether by any means they or the governments can prevent it.

Prosperity for Whom?
It need hardly be said that the prosperity which so impresses the spokesmen of the propertied class is the prosperity of that class: hence their view that higher wages due to scarcity of labour is an ”evil.” They can talk of "prosperity” with registered unemployment at 1,700,000; with 4,500,000 people, according to Sir John Orr, inadequately fed because they can only afford to spend an average of 4s. a week on food, whereas the normal Army food allowance is 7s. 3½d. a week (Daily Herald, February 13th, 1937); with millions of workers inadequately housed and overcrowded. The Times (December 22nd, 1936) admits that house building in Glasgow is actually declining, although “in that city one-third of the population is overcrowded.” “Prosperity ” with 70 per cent, of the adult population in the Rhondda Valley drawing unemployment pay or public assistance; and with an army of 1,223,478 persons in England and Wales in receipt of Poor Relief at the end of September, 1936. In Scotland there were a further 316,674 in receipt of outdoor relief alone. (See Ministry of Labour Gazette, January, 1937.)

Mr. Neville Chamberlain and his associates can bear the poverty of the working class with Christian fortitude, not to say indifference and contempt, while at the same time they are able to find £1,500- millions for new armaments over the next five years.

From Gladstone to Chamberlain 
Elsewhere in this issue we reprint an address written by Marx in 1864 in which he tore to shreds the complacency of an earlier Chancellor of the Exchequer, a similar narrow-minded representative of property, Mr. W. E. Gladstone. The one was a Liberal free-trader, the other is a Conservative protectionist; both were able to hide the facts of unemployment and needless misery under a cloud of tawdry principles of “sound finance,” and under mocking assertions of better times here and now or better times to come.

It is instructive to compare the two as examples of the type of propertied men thrown into prominence in the capitalist era, a nice blend of unimaginative brutality and dull, book-keeping efficiency.

All that divides them is their belief in or rejection of free-trade, an issue of no concern to the great mass of the population. Both so wedded to capitalism as to be unable to conceive of a rational alternative system, both dazzled by statistics, and unaware of the nature of the capitalist system they nominally controlled.

Three-quarters of a century of “ Progress ” 
What has this capitalism brought to the working class in the 73 years since 1864? Malnutrition, unemployment, pauperism and insecurity still stalk the land in spite of a yet more “intoxicating augmentation Of wealth and power,” entirely or nearly entirely confined to the propertied class. If the condition of the worst-paid workers and the unemployed is somewhat better than then, the extent of unemployment is greater, and insecurity has now come to be a permanent nightmare for grades of better-paid workers who used to believe themselves immune. It is still as true as ever that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of industrious workers are worse fed and clothed than convicts, and at or below the level of the workers who are receiving public assistance. Mr. Gladstone went into ecstasies over trade figures and tax returns. What would he have said had he lived in our time? Imports and exports in 1863 together totalled £444-millions; in 1034the total was £l,127-millions, after having reached nearly £2,000-millions in 1929; Yet even in the latter year unemployment was well over 1,000,000. In 1863 there were 80 very rich persons having taxable incomes over £50,000 a year. In 1928-9, according to official tax returns (Statistical Abstract, 1936, p. 200) there were no fewer than 575. Even during the depression in 1933-4 the number was 279. So little have death duties and income tax and social reforms interfered with the normal tendency of capitalism to make the rich richer that in 1932-3 there were more people (84) with incomes over £100,000 a year than there were with £50,000 a year in 1863.

The continued increase in powers of producing wealth has been used by capitalism to widen still further the gulf between rich and poor. Great Britain has multiplied its foreign trade, added over a million square miles to the Empire, and still the fact remains, as Marx pointed it out then, that there are hard-working thrifty men and women who have to sacrifice cleanliness and comfort in order to get a bare sufficiency of food. It has been brought home only recently again that better housing (at higher rents) for ex-slum dwellers has- meant less food and a higher death rate.

Nothing will be done by the Ruling Class
One harmful notion widely believed at present is that now for the first time the Government and public opinion are aware of poverty and undernourishment, and therefore something will be done.

It is true that in recent years there have been many official and unofficial inquiries into malnutrition, wages, unemployment, and so forth and therefore the ruling class cannot so easily be ignorant of the facts. But it will mean next to nothing. Apart from genuine concern about the low physique of recruits needed for their armed forces the ruling and propertied class will not sacrifice their wealth in order to raise the standard of living of the workers. They will yield nothing that is not forced from them by the pressure of the working class.

Do they know in 1937 that many millions of workers are under-nourished ? So they did in 1864 as Marx points out. They did nothing then, nor will they now.

Once the momentary stir has been allowed to subside the facts will be forgotten or denied by our rulers, or hidden under Chamberlain's ecstasies about prosperity. Just as The Times could boast in 1865 that the preceding years of working class misery were “an epoch of unbroken peace and unparalleled prosperity" (Evening Standard, January 13th, 1937), so our rulers will do again in defiance of continuing poverty.

The need of our times is a working class which refuses any longer to trust to capitalist promises, and determines to take action for its own emancipation.

Apply to the world of to-day the following pregnant passage from Marx's address. There could be no better statement of the truth of the Socialist condemnation of capitalism: —
   “In all countries of Europe it has now become a truth demonstrable to every unprejudiced mind, and only denied by those whose interest it is to hedge other people in a fool's paradise, that no improvement of machinery, no application of science to production, no contrivances of communication, no new colonies, no emigration, no opening of markets, no free trade, nor all of these things put together, will do away with the miseries of the industrious masses; but that on the present false base, every fresh development of the productive powers of labour must tend to deepen social contrasts and point social antagonisms."
Edgar Hardcastle

This Month's Quotation: A Catholic Archbishop (1937)

The Front Page quote from the April 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard
"The masses are ignorant and will always be so in regard to the fundamental problems of social life."
— A Catholic Archbishop

This Month's Quotation
The passage quoted is taken from a pastoral letter issued by the new Spanish Primate, Cardinal Isisoro Goma, Archbishop of Toledo. (See News Chronicle, March 16th, 1937.) The Archbishop also praises the Italian capitalists for their conquest of Abyssinia—"A work of civilisation"—and declares that "It is Spain's providential mission to save Christian civilisation from Marxism."

It Stands (1937)

From the April 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our Declaration of Principles appears in every issue of the Socialist Standard. Agreement with these principles is an essential condition for membership of the Party. Obviously, the Party attaches high importance to this document. New readers are urged to carefully ponder its Eight Points—sympathisers who agree should seriously ask themselves whether they are not shirking a duty in failing to join up. Even if comparative isolation were a bar to active work (it by no means follows—our Secretary could always suggest fruitful ideas for quiet propaganda) increase of membership is itself heartening to the Party as a whole.

The Declaration of Principles is at once a statement of FACTS, and a GUIDE to political action—the two aspects are inseparably connected —Article 8 is a Challenge and a Call.

In 1904, a small body of working men and women struggled out of the mire into which the leaders of the Social Democratic Party, allying themselves with Reformist fakes and freaks, had bogged the more or less class-conscious worker. We may add that the Communist Party is practically the old S.D.P. gazing reverently eastwards.

Basing itself firmly upon the Marxian analysis of capitalist society, with all its implications, social and political, the Socialist Party of Great Britain formulated its Declaration of Principles. For the first time in the history of the working class, a Party was formed which staked everything on the UNDERSTANDING of its class. Like the Roll given to Bunyan’s famous Pilgrim, the Declaration of Principles is a sure and certain guide to the Promised Land; the S.P.G.B. avoids high falutin’; sober statements characterise its spoken and written word. But it confidently claims that the future historian will rank The Declaration of Principles as a historic document.

The Declaration of Principles is ALIVE. Don't be deceived by its sober form. Tommy Jones, whose teacher has no difficulty in getting him to watch frog’s-spawn day by day, is convinced, in his little head, that the “ pence table," staring at him in a strait-jacket of ugly symbols, is a dead (and damned) nuisance—a simple errand for mum involving change for a bob may (painfully, perchance) bring home to him that a live reality lurks behind the table. Correct political action along main lines is indicated by the Declaration, and the possibility of serious error eliminated.

Thirty-three years has called for no change in substance or in form. While no claim is made for verbal inspiration, we assert that addition or diminution, whether of fact or of policy, will continue to be unnecessary or irrelevant. . . THE DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES STANDS.

Comparatively minor changes in the complexion of capitalist society—lipstick and greasepaint changes, Hitler for Frederick, St. Stalin for St. Nicholas, smart Social Efficiency “experts" for brutal factory overseers—all leave capitalist society at bottom what it was when Marx and Engels were writing, notwithstanding Communist blether about “phases" of (industrial) capitalism and the “building up" of “Socialism” in Russia (next firing squad, 'shun!).

Article 7 (our famous “ Hostility "clause") is a rock of offence to spurious “Socialists " . . . an acid test for Socialist understanding, this is not surprising. It is difficult for the sentimentalist to grasp the fact that sympathy with fellow-workers throughout the world, indignation against brutal suppression of free speech, whether in Germany, Spain or Russia, is consistent with that complete and unequivocal independence on the political field which is at once a safeguard against compromise of the “Popular Front” order and against war-weariness within the ranks.

Ever renewing its strength by reference to its Declaration of Principles, the S.P.G.B. has begun the inhumanly hard work of laying a path with solid four-square blocks of proletarian UNDERSTANDING across the Bog of Reformist slime. The tireless efforts of the pioneers will be crowned with success when the path is completed, and the Declaration of Principles, its work completed, stands as one of the major historical monuments of the human race.
Augustus Snellgrove

Is Another Slump on the Way? (1937)

Editorial from the April 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

Professor D. H. MacGregor, in his “Enterprise, Progress and Profit,” has proved that there is a “trade cycle,” a regular succession of booms and slumps. The Economist (March 6th, 1937) is highly gratified that this question has been settled, but is reluctant to admit that the next slump cannot be very long delayed. According to MacGregor’s reckoning, the period between slumps in this country before the war averaged 8¼ years, though running sometimes to as much as 10, and sometimes to as little as 5, years.

What the Economist does not relate is that Fourier, Marx and Engels, Hyndman and others, had grasped the essentials of the trade cycle long before MacGregor was born.

Frederick Engels wrote the following in his “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific,” in 1877: — 
  We have now, since the year 1825, gone through this five times, and at the present moment (1877) we are going through it for the sixth time. And the character of these crises is so clearly defined that Fourier hit all of them off when he described the first as “ crise pléthorique,” a crisis from plethora.
Again, in an article in the London Commonweal, March 1st, 1885, Engels said: —
  Forty years ago England stood face to face with a crisis, solvable to all appearances by force only. The immense and rapid development of manufactures had outstripped the extension of foreign markets, and the increase of demand. Every ten years the march of industry was violently interrupted by a general commercial crash, followed, after a long period of chronic depression, by a few short years of prosperity, and always ending in feverish over-production and consequent renewed collapse.
It is, after all, rather funny that the people who all agree in regarding Marx out of date should be so far behind him in understanding their own capitalist system of society.

The Last Crisis
All the bankers, politicians and business men who have been pondering over the threatened next crisis are confident that it can and will be prevented. ”Something will be done,” they say. Unfortunately, they cannot make up their minds what that something is. The Economist's most helpful thought is that “since the War in fact suspended the working of the cycle, human action can plainly suspend it—if that action is sufficiently violent and sustained.” (Economist, March 6th, 1937). But even that blighted rose has a thorn, for the writer goes on to say that “suspension is not abolition.”

While we cannot place any hopes in the ability of these gentlemen to prevent the next crisis, because that can only be done by abolishing capitalism, we are entitled to ask whether they are even competent to recognise the nature of crises. Did they, for example, recognise the inevitable approach of the last one, or understand it when it happened ? The answer is an emphatic No!

Mr. Alexander, City Editor of the Evening Standard, who informs us (Evening Standard, January 22nd, 1937) that “we shall never have a slump like that again,” is one of the many experts (another was Mr. Francis Williams, formerly City Editor, now Editor of the Daily Herald), who believed that gold would lose its value entirely as a result of the so-called abandonment of the gold standard!

The Bank Chairmen, in their speeches at the annual meetings this year all advised a return to Free Trade as a means of avoiding the next slump, as if crises did not occur just as unfailingly under Free Trade as under Protection. What were these gentlemen saying before the last crisis, which was coming to a head in 1929? In their speeches in January, 1929, they were blandly ignorant of the precipice before them. The Economist at the time (February 2nd, 1929) could record that "the first thing to strike the reader of this year’s speeches is an air of quiet confidence in the country’s industrial future.”

More than that, Mr. McKenna, Chairman of the Midland Bank, could find that “considerable progress has been made towards a more ordered and prosperous world.” The Economist added, "while recovery was certain, it would be a slow process.”

In other words, in 1929, when they were at the top of a boom, following expansion after the former crisis of 1921-22, these experts did not know it, they thought they were in a depression! The financial mountaineers who were perched on the edge of a precipice thought they were climbing out of a valley!

In January, 1930, when the crisis had already shown its symptoms for all to observe, Mr. Goodenough, of Barclays Bank, cast his eyes over the previous year and could see “some improvement” in trade, and the depressed trades showing “substantially better figures." (Economist, January 25th, 1930.)

In January, 1931, just before the full force of the crisis had struck this country, the Bank Chairmen were arguing learnedly with each other as to whether high wages, maldistribution of gold, or other causes were mainly responsible. They were, says the Economist, “by no means wholly in agreement." (Economist, January 24th, 1931.)

These are the gentlemen who are going to ward off the next crisis!

What Hopes for the Next Crisis?
The bankers advice to trust to Free Trade and discouragement of speculation as means of preventing a crisis are merely fatuous. But most of their critics are in no better case. The Editor of the Daily Herald has for years banked on freedom from the gold standard as the surest means. But he based that view on the myth of a shortage of gold. We need only recall that gold production has been mounting all over the world to record heights in defiance of the learned report of the League of Nations “ experts," who predicted a steady decline.

Another Labour Party remedy is “high wages," but it is only a few years since these same people were assuring us that “high wages" in the U.S.A. had already done the trick, and brought permanent prosperity. Henry Ford, we were told, had proved Marx wrong! Mrs. Mary Agnes Hamilton, one of the influential members of the Labour Party and I.L.P., friend of MacDonald, wrote in the Daily Herald (January 20th, 1926) about this permanent prosperity. She had visited the U.S.A., and found
  prosperity so widespread and, since the temporary setback of 1921-22, so continuous, that unemployment, except in localised and special groups . . . has vanished.
But it all came to nothing. Mr. Ford hadn’t proved Marx wrong. The “temporary setback" of 1921-22 was duly followed by the year-long “temporary setback" of 1929-1933.

Now the Daily Herald (February 5th, 1937) has found new gods, in Mr. Keynes and President Roosevelt, and applauds their proposals.
  Our Government should be at work on the idea (of economic planning). It should appoint a central planning committee at once and tell it to prepare a plan of special anti-slump public works now.
Another piece of sticking-plaster for an earthquake.

There is a further useless idea Mr. Keynes and the Labour Party have in common, the transfer of wealth from capitalists to workers by means of taxation. It is based on a fallacious theory, but we need not worry about theory, since the facts are known over a long period of years. Those facts are that income tax, death duties, excess profits taxes, etc., have completely failed to stop the accumulation of still greater fortunes in the hands of the rich, and have left the poor as they were. That is capitalism.

In short, all who cherish the hope of keeping capitalism and avoiding crises are in for yet another disappointment.

Prospects For Professions (1937)

From the April 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have often been at pains to teach the fairly obvious truth, that the private ownership of the means of production under capitalism divides the community into two antagonistic classes, but unfortunately there are still quite a number of people afflicted with the snobbish obsession that they belong to some superior body of beings graded somewhere above the working class, but not, of course, actually capitalists; it is probable, indeed, that they still call themselves the “middle class.” A reader of that technical journal, The Wireless World, recently enquired the steps he would have to take in order to succeed in the wireless industry, and a communication from a member of this self-styled “middle-class” in reply reads very interestingly: -
 With reference to “Enquirer’s” letter in a recent issue of The Wireless World, I would like to state briefly my experience as a radio engineer. 
  I went straight from school to an engineering college at the age of 18, and after three years’ study at great expense to my parents (who fondly imagined that the profession was worth while) I graduated with the usual diplomas, etc. Armed with these—and six months’ practical experience—I sallied forth, brimful of enthusiasm, to obtain a post. Soon, however, the wind was taken out of my sails, when I found that the best offer I could get was 11d. an hour (less than a common labourer) and no guarantee of a job beyond one hour. I do not think this needs further comment. Apparently radio firms make a practice of engaging men (many with university degrees) just when they are busy, and then, at an hour’s notice, consign them to the labour exchange! They appear to have no regard for the men, nor the profession. One would like to know what would happen in any other industry if highly-trained technical men were treated in this manner. It certainly does not conduce to attracting the best brains, and it is impossible to enter the industry full of enthusiasm for one’s work, and desirous of putting the best into it, when one does not know whether or not he will be wanted on his job to-morrow. I would like to inform “Enquirer” that I have worked side by side with university men, with B.Sc. degrees, who were being paid 1s. 3d. an hour. To any young man contemplating entering the radio branch of engineering, my advice is “Don’t!” Take up a branch where ability is appreciated, even if it does mean the sacrifice of a subject you love.— (Sgnd.) “ Sadly Disillusioned,” Hampstead.
So that we learn from our disillusioned friend that, in return for three years’ training, he received 11d. an hour, that the capitalists consign members of his profession, including B.Sc.s, to the labour exchange, and that this is an experience that would not be expected in any other industry.

In spite of our industrial steeplejack having soared to such heights beyond the “common labourer,” we notice he still has a great many things to learn, not the least important being that he would find conditions very similar to those in the wireless trade in other industries. We imagine, in fact, that even an ordinary man, not claiming the special competence implied by the award of engineering diplomas, would be able to realise that, given a present unemployed percentage of one man in eight, it must be quite unusual for the positions held by the remaining seven, whatever the trade, to be other than transitory.

Perhaps we may also remind our disillusioned victim that the free education given to “common labourers” and their debased confrères is enabling them to win scholarships, and that, in consequence, the ranks of the technicians and professions are being very considerably swollen. The capitalist class, whether purchasing technicians, accountants, or other trained men, or bricklayers and manual labourers, display no sense of such uneconomic and antiquated distinctions as “middle class,” “lower middle class," ”the working classes,” “labouring classes," and so on, and when they hire any of these gentlemen, hire them each and all on exactly the same terms. There are thousands of you there, and if you cannot live on thirty or forty bob a week to begin with, you may as well have a little practice on seventeen bob and perhaps that will whet your appetite. As for showing “regard” for you, you can just go to the devil.
G. M. A.

Answers to Correspondents (1937)

From the April 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

J. Pepper. We have your letter, but do not consider this is a question suitable to be dealt with in the Socialist Standard.
Editorial Committee

Sunderland (1937)

From the April 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

Residents in Sunderland who might wish to see the Socialist Standard in the public library will be interested to know that the Libraries Committee unanimously refused our offer to supply a free copy.

Lewisham Branch (1937)

Party News from the April 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

Lewisham Branch is running (fortnightly) a Course of Lessons based mainly upon the minor masterpieces of Marx and Engels, paying special attention to the "Communist Manifesto" and "Socialism, Utopian and Scientific." Active co-operation of the class by questions and discussion will be aimed at. Needless to say, non-party visitors will be welcomed, and in accordance with the unvarying practice of the Socialist Party will have equal opportunity for expression of views.

News in Review: Nkrumah falls (1966)

The News in Review column from the April 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nkrumah falls

After Nigeria, Ghana. After Ghana— where?

The African continent is crowded with newly independent states with leaders who, having come to power on the promise of freedom, have established dictatorships. Some of these have been described, with breathtaking audacity, as “One Party Democracies” or something similar. But whatever lies are used to excuse them, the fact is that these countries are dictatorships where only one political party is legal and where opponents of the regime are usually imprisoned or exiled.

The Africa which was once the plaything of the imperialists is now in a turmoil under its suppression. It may well be that Nkrumah is not the last dictator there to lose his office.

The history of independent Africa must be a great disappointment to the supporters of organisations like the Movement for Colonial Freedom, who were once so insistent that freeing Africa from European rule would give the continent a happier, more democratic way of life.

It was obvious from the outset that these organisations did not understand the problem they were dealing with. It was clear that the alternative to rule by the colonial powers was simply rule by a native government. At the best, this was the replacement of one type of suppression by another.

Sometimes it has turned out worse that that. In Dr Banda’s Nyasaland, for example, the government recently pushed through an Act which revived public executions—something abolished by the British when they occupied the country.

And sometimes, of course, it has meant outright dictatorship, with a leader surrounded by sycophants and living in continual fear of his life. This was Ghana under Nkrumah.

The African states have not yet absorbed a lesson which some of the older capitalist powers have found useful. A political opposition has its uses. It acts as a brake on a government's excesses, it is a method through which a country’s capitalist class can exert pressure on a government, and by publicising facts which are inconvenient to a government it actually keeps that government in touch with reality.

Nazi Germany, as many of its military, industrial and scientific leaders have since testified, suffered as a capitalist state because of the intricate, intolerant nature of the Hitler dictatorship. And it is hard to believe that Nkrumah would have gone to Peking if he had reason to think that his power was being undermined.

The fact that he did not realise this was, in very great part, due to the lack of an opposition in Ghana. Had there been one, it would have reflected the growing discontent with Nkrumah’s regime and with the country’s increasing economic difficulties.

The absence of a safety outlet meant that the whole thing exploded and Nkrumah, the great dictator, the redeemer, the man who thought that a dictatorship would keep him in power and would make him Africa’s man of destiny, has been hoist with his own petard.

Lord Robens said it

Lord Robens, who is chairman of the National Coal Board, is the best friend the miners ever had. Who said so? Lord Robens himself.

A couple of months ago Robens was made a Director of the Bank of England —a job which, as everyone knows, was created with the special intention of being friendly to the miners.

This elevation came after some years of Lord Robens busily closing pits and sacking tens of thousands of workers in the coal mining industry.

Of course, this process was never vulgarised with the name “sacking”. The Bank of England probably called it rationalisation. Politicians like Mr. Wilson probably call it modernisation. Lord Robens, presumably, calls it being the Miners’ best friend.

The mineworkers, however, have been doing a bit of rationalisation of their own with results which have made Lord Robens feel less than friendly.

Many of them have noticed the large scale sackings which have been carried out. They have also read in the newspapers that the National Coal Board has plans for more closures, more redundancies. Not unexpectedly, a lot of them have decided that the Coal industry holds no future for them, and they have been getting out of it.

During 1965 a total of 38,000 people left the Coal industry. But this was twenty thousand more than the Coal Board intended; they had planned to sack only eighteen thousand. The rest left on their own accord, which has caused Lord Robens to complain:
  The run out at this pace was something of a disaster for us. It has had a very adverse effect on the financial turn-out of the Board.
Now it is obviously very inconsiderate of the miners not to sit down and wait until the Coal Board decides to clear them out, and to jump the gun by going out and finding another job before everything is ready for them to be sacked like docile, boss fearing workers should be.

Perhaps they are applying the same standards as Lord Robens applies to the workings of the mines. He is interested in making a profit; they are interested in a secure wage. Perhaps they are disillusioned with nationalisation, which Lord Robens, when he was plain Alf and a member of the post war Labour Government, supported but which he is not so sure about now:
  He (Lord Robens) was in favour of rationalisation of the coal distribution trade but no nationalisation. (The Guardian 8/3/66).
Whatever the truth of this, one thing is certain. The miners who are leaving the Coal industry are doing no more than try to protect their interests in a social system which continually attacks them. Whether they succeed or not they cannot be criticised for taking the action; capitalism is a world where everyone fights for himself.

Least of all can the miners be criticised by those who so assiduously uphold capitalism, as politicians, as employers, as leaders of capitalism’s symbols of commerce and privilege. In this respect, Lord Robens lives in a very fragile glass house, and he should be the last person to throw lumps of coal.

Communist confusion

The Communist Party, which has never been famous for clear thinking, is deeper in confusion than ever.

To start with, they are hopelessly split over the quarrel between China and the Soviet Union. These two countries were, after all, once supposed to be in inseparable comradeship in the struggle for Socialism—and here they are squabbling over all the classical capitalist issues like frontiers and trade routes and spheres of influence.

For the Communist who takes seriously the claim that Socialism exists in Russia and China, the choice between the two must be next to impossible.

Then there are events like the recent trial in Russia of the writers Daniel and Sinyavsky, for allegedly criticising the Soviet regime. The Communists are in more than one mind about this.

Should they automatically condemn the two writers, as they have done in similar cases in the past, as enemies of the people, saboteurs of freedom, imperialist agents and the rest of the terminology which we all know so well by now?

Or should they agree with John Gollan, Secretary of the Communist Party in this country, when he said that “The handling of this affair has done a greater disservice to the Soviet Union than the works of Sinyavsky and Daniel”?

For a Communist who has always dutifully believed that the Soviet can do no wrong, and that the Russian government is incapable of prosecuting a man unless he is guilty (even before he has been tried) the choice here must be very difficult.

And what about the Communist Party's decision to abolish the Daily Worker and replace it this month with a paper called the Morning Star?

Is there not something honourable, to a Communist, in the word worker? Should he not be proud to sell a paper with it blazoned across the top?

Or is the Communist Party now trying to cover the association which it has always claimed with the working class movement? Has it gone in for a bit of market research and discovered something which was obvious anyway—that the history of the Daily Worker had made it, for many members of the working class, a bad joke?

Perhaps the name Morning Star is simply part of the Communist Party’s efforts to get in on the latest craze of modernisation. At their rally last month at the Festival Hall, the Communist Party were claiming loudly that they were the real modernisers of British capitalism.

They were demanding more expenditure on schools, a nationally integrated transport system, reduced arms spending. And naturally there were the usual inducements of magnificently generous pensions, family allowances and so on—generous in direct proportion to the unlikelihood of the Communist Party getting power and having to implement them.

All of this must have been very confusing to any member of the Communist Party who strayed into the hall under the impression that he belonged to an organisation that had something to do with Socialism. It must have been confusing to those who remembered the wartime days when the Communists wanted more spent on arms, and the days when, far from supporting modernisation, the Communist Party was opposing the Attlee government’s productivity drive.

Yes, all very confusing—unless we grasp a basic fact. The Communist Party, whatever it claims for itself, does not stand for Socialism and never has done. It is merely another, if rather peculiar, party which supports capitalism.

And that is exactly the reason for their changes of policy—and for the splits and arguments and confusion they cause among the party’s misguided supporters.

A boring business

Everyone knows that at election time political parties promise all sorts of rewards to people who vote for them— provided, of course, enough of them vote to get the right side into power.

From another point of view, though, the electorate deserve some sort of recognition for the tremendous effort they make to find something to distinguish the Labour Party from the Conservatives and, having found it, to make enough of an issue of it to persuade themselves to vote one way or the other.

At one time, perhaps, this was a little easier. There was a time when the Labour Party breathed the fire of revolution—or at any rate when they wanted to nationalise a few industries, which they passed off as Socialism. There was a time when the Tories stood for red-blooded Private Enterprise and for the British- Empire-On-Which-The-Sun-Never-Sets.

These were at any rate clear differences between the two parties, even if they were superficial. But even that has changed now.

Ever since the Labour Party came to power after the war, they have inexorably travelled the road which their nature and their policies laid out for them. They have grown more and more like the Tories. They have tried—how they have tried during the past few years!—to convince the electorate that they are no more than an alternative method of running capitalism, with no more nonsense about social revolution.

This has had its effect. Mr. Wilson has been openly referred as the best Conservative Prime Minister we have. Very few serious political correspondents pretended during this last election that there were
any real differences between the two sides.
  . . . no one could maintain that there is a black and white difference either in the politics or the competence of this Labour Government and its Conservative predecessor. (Robert McKenzie in The Observer). 
  If a Tory Government were returned it would either have to pursue similar economic policies or instigate an about-turn. If the first applies we might as well stick to the present lot. If the second were to happen, we should have complete confusion. (William Davis in The Guardian).
For the average voter, who wanted nothing more than to support a capitalist government, the election came down to a few simple questions.

Did he want a government which said it would build another aircraft carrier or one which said it would not? A government which said it would nationalise steel or one which said it would not? A Prime Minister who said he stood for action not words or one who said that this is a time for decision?

These were the limits of the argument between the Labour and Conservative parties. On the other issues their differences were hardly discernible and in any case both of them naturally reserved the right which all capitalist parties reserve, to change their minds when they are in office.

So the election was really all a massive sham, a choice between two similars. It was also, for anyone who is interested in the welfare of the human race and who realises the potential which lies behind the votes at an election, a terrible, frustrating bore.

Letter From New Zealand (1966)

From the April 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

In New Zealand we are accustomed to having pettifogging reforms, or irksome regulations of State operated enterprises, condemned as Socialism by people who are ignorant of what the term implies. On the other hand, we have individuals equally ignorant, who commend these things as examples of Socialist achievement.

In spite of abundant evidence to the contrary, it is also claimed that a classless society exists in New Zealand.

Our attention has been drawn to a letter published in The Guardian of 24.1.66, under the heading “Churchill and the New Zealanders”, written by Martin Baronian, of Manurewa, New Zealand. In this Mr. Baronian attempts to explain the reasons for the failure of the Churchill Memorial Fund to reach the target of £500,000.

The reasons for this failure do not concern us; the implications contained in the reasons advanced by Mr. Baronian do! We are informed that.
  “Churchill’s wealth, autocratic and aristocratic leanings were another difficulty. A classless society is naturally not attracted by social distinctions, high handedness and money self-centredly spent—the very things its own existence is meant to deny. And what possibly militated most against Churchill’s popularity was his blind side—his lack of social conscience. He is said, for instance, not to have fathered one measure which contributed to the betterment of his less fortunate fellows.
  “In a country noted for its social reforms and advancement, and where poverty, squalor and slum life are looked upon with an almost pathological horror, this amounts to the unpardonable sin”.
There is little doubt that people in New Zealand do look upon poverty, squalor and slum life with “almost pathological horror”. This does not prove however that these inseparable features of capitalism do not exist in this country.

The reports of organisations and individuals who work so hard in their efforts to ameliorate the suffering caused by these effects of capitalist society contain ample evidence that there is poverty, squalor and slum life in New Zealand.

Poverty is perhaps not so obvious in New Zealand as it is in other parts of the world and “Commonwealth". Here, it is well organised under the New Zealand Social Security scheme, which provides Pensioners without other accommodation with sufficient money to hire a room of varying degrees of dinginess. Therein the discarded producer of surplus value may suffer in obscurity.

New Zealand may be “noted for its social reforms”, but a close examination of it will provide more proof that attempts at social reform cannot solve the problems of the working class—poverty amid plenty; slums and bad housing conditions. The only solution is the establishment of that classless society which the ill-informed erroneously claim for New Zealand—Socialism.
Ron Everson, 
Socialist Party of New Zealand

50 Years Ago: Trade almighty (1966)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

The god of capitalist society is Trade.

According to its prophets, when it flourishes there is more wealth for capitalists and more work for the workers. All men, with the exception of the unemployed—who are always with us—sing its praises. When it declines there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth—with little between them to bite, in the case of the working class. There are plenty to sell and few to buy; and while the capitalist fears for his profits, the worker for his job. and one and all marvel at the mystery, not daring to seek an explanation for consequences so universal and so disastrous.

Yet, after all, what is trade? Briefly, it is the exchange of wealth. Now wealth cannot be exchanged until it is produced. It follows therefore, that exchange or trade is something which transpires after the production and before the consumption of wealth. Trade or exchange is altogether distinct from distribution. The latter is absolutely necessary in any form of society where there is division of labour.

Exchange could not exist under Socialism, because wealth would be owned in common and distribution only would be necessary. 
From the Socialist Standard, April 1916.

Catholics in confusion (1966)

From the April 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is hoped that these notes will help to demonstrate the irreconcilable conflict between Socialism and religion.

The Socialist Party stands on its recognition of the class-struggle and urges the working class to take enlightened political action to get rid of present-day society and bring about common ownership of the means of wealth production. We subscribe to the principle known as Historical Materialism which briefly holds, as Engels put it, that the way in which man organises to produce and reproduce the means of living is fundamental in determining the political and religious ideas.

This view sees men as the motive force in their own social activity and as the instruments for changing society.

Socialism arouses the workers' will to struggle, it appeals to their understanding; it demands their knowledge and confidence.

Religion blunts their faculties and turns their minds to celestial happiness. In common with other religions, Christianity makes virtues of meekness and poverty. This degrading teaching, has served well in keeping the workers docile and submissive.

“The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate ..." is a phrase which sums up the whole function of religion as the guardian of privilege. We refute religion, because the working class cannot move forward to a better society while their minds are in the chains of religion.

It is interesting to observe how the purveyors of mental poison react to the growth of materialist ideas about the world and its natural forces. Sections of the Christian faith which have for centuries hated each other, even tortured and burned one another as infidels and heretics, are now frantically seeking for ways to get together.

The primitive and hoary notions to which their history binds them are a growing source of embarrassment in the technical world of modern capitalism. The working class of the Twentieth century is a different proposition to the peasant of the Middle ages.

The mighty catholic church which once held sway over the life and death of tens of millions of people, and which for centuries was able to stamp out any challenge to its word, now cuts a very different figure. Last year the Vatican was forced to make concession after concession than in any period of its past.

After centuries of vicious persecution, for example, they declared the Jews no longer guilty of killing their “saviour”. It was hinted that a priest might be allowed to marry.

The ruling against eating meat on Fridays was set aside for Christmas, (no doubt with divine permission) this may be dropped entirely. In the same year the Pope ventured out of the Vatican and grabbed what limelight he could by posing as a man of peace. No doubt, getting out and seeing the world is good public relations and it helps to take the minds of the faithful off the thorny question of birth-control. God seems to be in a bit of a quandary over this issue.

The Holy Council have met and endlessly debated what the holy word (or rather, its latest version) would be. Infallibility has been upset by something known as “the Pill". The latest “progress” report on this issue is that the twelve bishops and fifty advisers are to bring their fertile minds to bear on the subject and hope to report in eighteen months time.

This year the Pope has just got around to changing the name of the Inquisitors whose dirty job it is to ban books. No book is to be banned in future without the author being heard.

The Index Librorum Prohibitorum lists some 5000 books which catholics are forbidden to read. The first formal condemnation of a book goes back to the year 325 a.d. when the Council of Nicaea pronounced against a book by Arius.

Eight years later Constantine ordered all of this man's books to be burnt on pain of death. In the year of 1252 Pope Innocent IV authorised the torture of heretics, and the burning of them became widespread.

The tyranny of Catholicism has lasted many centuries and taken many forms but as society outside the church develops and changes the needs of its ruling class are modified. The capitalist class to-day are the rulers of a vastly different world to that in the times more suited to the dogmas of Catholicism.
Unquestioning faith and blind submission are no longer so easy to induce. It is doubtful that the Pope to-day could be so brazen as his predecessor Leo XIII, who in 1901 in a statement on Christian democracy said:—
  We deem it our duty to put an end to the controversy by defining what catholics ought to think.
It was this same Pontiff who issued the so-called Workers’ Charter, which asserts.
   Hence it is clear that the main tenet of Socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, . . . The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property.
Christians often like to delude themselves by putting forward the proposition that Christianity could never have survived for two thousand years if it were based only on myth and superstition. But it is obvious that any organisation which preaches “the inviolability of private property” will not exist on its own; it will be supported, and made use of, by the class which owns and rules.
Harry Baldwin